24 January 20213 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Ordinary Time

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 1:14-20

The penitent asked, "Does God accept repentance?" The priest asked in turn, "Do you throw away dirty laundry?" "No," replied the sinner. The priest said, "Neither will God throw you away."

Anthony de Mello writes, "Jesus proclaimed the good news, yet he was rejected. Not because it was good, but because it was new. We don't want new things when they involve change and most particularly if they cause us to say, 'I was wrong.'" We are told the only person who welcomes change is a wet baby.

A Scot poet wrote a description of himself with which we can identify. "My life reminded me of a ruined temple. What strength, what proportion in some parts! What unsightly gaps, what prostrate ruins in others!"

"Repent and believe the good news" are the first words that Jesus the Christ spoke in the Gospel of Mark. So one must conclude that this brief message must be of paramount importance to Him. They are but six words and yet they continue to turn the world upside down. And they send us into denial.

I lean here on William Barclay's research.

The first word of Christ's message is that frightening word "repent." The sinner, according to Avery Dulles, has only two options - to be pardoned or to be punished. The Nazarene defines repentance as not merely saying, "I'm sorry" but also I will change my life." While God forgets the sin, He does not forget the repentant sinner. When God forgives us in the confessional, He suffers from total amnesia. Heaven, we are advised, is filled with converted sinners and the good news is there is room for billions more. But we must repent.

Christ would remind us, "No matter what your past may resemble, your future is spotless. And the saints are saints precisely because they kept on trying."

Modern culture dismisses sin. But the Nazarene does not buy into that message. A New Testament concordance contains a dozen columns on the subject of sin and only eight on love. God would remind us that He gave Moses on Mount Sinai Ten Commandments and not Ten Suggestions. He never said, "Keep my commandments unless of course you have a headache."

The second term of interest in the six word message is the good news. The news is good precisely because it brings us to the truth. Until the advent of the Teacher, people could only search for God. No less a person than the mighty Job in 23:3 shouted out in pain, "Oh, that today I might find him, that I might come to his judgment seat!" But the Nazarene says to today's Jobs, "He who sees me sees the Father."

The good news brings hope. The ancients dwelled in a culture of gloom. The Roman philosopher Seneca (3 BC-65 AD) spoke of "our helplessness in necessary things." Try as they might, people somehow could never get out of square one. They constantly found themselves behind the infamous eight ball. Their feet were forever tied together. Christ's arrival changes that scene. St Paul in Colossians 1:23 tells his readers that they must not be "shaken from the hope you gained when you heard the Gospel." Perhaps Paul's message inspired Emily Dickinson to opine that hope is the feather in the soul of each of us. The future, says Teilhard, is in the hands of those who can give people valid reasons to live and hope."

The good news offers everyone peace. Virtue and evil are constantly fighting for the upper hand in each of us. Morally we are split personalities, moral schizophrenics. St Paul identifies with our human condition in the famous words, "The good I would do that I do not. The evil I would not do that I do." This is what the Scot poet was speaking of. Yet, if we surrender ourselves to the Christ, those Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde personalities in us can at last become one worthwhile entity.

St Paul advises (Ephesians 6): "Let the shoes on your feet be the good news of peace." If we take his recommendation, our feet will become unbound. We need not fear where they will take us. We will walk over pebbles and feel no pain.

Abraham Lincoln was asked what he thought of a sermon. He replied it was good but had one defect. The preacher didn't ask us to be great. One cannot say that of Jesus in today's Gospel.

We ask the mystic, "How does one get to heaven?" She answers, "The same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice! Practice! Practice!"

Go for the golden apple. The aphorism is correct. While it's risky to go out on a limb, that's where the apple is.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Ordinary Time

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: His Time, His Story

Today’s reading point us to consider God’s call and the exigency, the necessary immediacy of our response. They begin with the journey of Jonah through Nineveh. According to the reading, Nineveh was a very large city. It would take three days to walk from one end to the other. But the Ninevites didn’t need to hear Jonah’s prophecy for three days. After a single-days walk, or as soon as they heard it, they repented. In the Gospel, Jesus call Simon and Andrew, and then James and John, and they leave their boats and follow him immediately. The strongest message of demanding an immediate response, though, flows from the second reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.

From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,

those weeping as not weeping,

those rejoicing as not rejoicing,

those buying as not owning, 

those using the world as not using it fully.

For the world in its present form is passing away.

It is very clear that we must make the best use of the time that the Lord gives us. This is a stunning contrast to the attitude of so many who set aside an hour a week for the Lord feeling that somehow or other they have kept God happy in a mere 60 minutes. God does not need our prayers for an hour a week. We do not pray to keep God happy. We pray to keep ourselves happy, and we pray for others to be happy. We need to pray, and we need to pray continually. 

We have to make the best use of our time. Our time is not our own. It belongs to God. At the beginning of the Book of Genesis, we hear that all creation was entrusted to mankind. When we think of creation, we focus on the concrete aspects of creation, those things which we can see such as the lakes and oceans, the mountains and hills, and we focus on the plants and animals God has given us to care for,, and we focus on human beings and how we can care for others through the proper use of God’s gifts of creation. There is another aspect of creation we often miss. That is time. Time is also part of creation. Time only exists in the physical world. It is entrusted to us to be used wisely.

We have to set aside time for many different activities--for sleeping, for working, for exercising and, especially, for praying. In fact, we should all have a schedule for prayer in our daily lives, a schedule that we keep. It is important also that we set aside time for relaxing. Some of us live in a state of continual stress. We need to fight off stress usually through physical activity. Either we take care of stress or stress takes care of us--and everyone around us. We have to set aside time for others, sometimes that means caring for others, but usually we simply need to be with others.

Sadly, we often waste time. We get tied up in going from one You-Tube video to another, or from one TV program to another. After a while, we look at our watches and ask, “Where did the time go?” My great fear is that God looks at me and says, “Is that the best you can do with your day?” We have a responsibility to use whatever time we have left well.

Many older people often ask, “Why am I still here?” The answer is that God has more work for us to do, more ways to use the time he gave us. The last week of August, 1988, I came to St. Ignatius to say goodbye to my mentor, Fr. John LaTondress. He was dying of cancer. He said to me, “This is not fun, you know.” He wanted it to end, but he knew that God still had a bit more work for him to do here on earth, even if that work was simply to offer up his suffering for another week or so. 

Fr. John received the blessing of knowing that his time on earth was coming to a rapid conclusion. We do not all have that blessing. Most of us do not know when our days on earth are coming to an end. We can live another 50 years, or just another 50 days. That is why we have to live our lives in a way that we are always ready to give an account for how well we use the time the Lord has given us.

To all this we have to add that when the Lord gives us a particular call, a particular mission, He calls us to address this Grace immediately. There is an exigency to His call. When we put off responding to this grace, then the unheeded call can very well dissipate and an opportunity to further the Kingdom of God will be lost. How often have others asked us a serious question at and inconvenient time. Children and Teens seem to be excellent at finding the worst times to ask a question or make a statement that needs an immediate response. Just as Mom is parking at the supermarket, her 9 year old says, “Billy’s parents are separating. Are you and Dad going to do that too?” Mom might want to put off the answer and the discussion but then the right time to respond never comes. How often I have said, “ This person is seriously ill. I must see him; I must see her,” but then I put my visit off only to learn that it is no longer possible for me to visit.

The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness thereof, we pray in Psalm 24. This world belongs to God. He has set us in this world to do his work, but He only gives us a brief time to accomplish His tasks. We pray today that we make the best use of the time He gives us.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Ordinary Time

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Ordinary Time

There are two very interesting words used in today’s Gospel reading: ‘time’ and ‘repent’ I think it would be interesting if we took a bit of a look at them. In Greek these two words are kairos and metanoia. Kairos –time; and metanoia –conversion.

Jesus said, ‘The time has come.’ For us there is only one word for time, but in Greek there are two words kairos and chronos.
Chronos means the passage of time. We use it in English when we say that someone has a chronic illness. Often this is misunderstood as meaning that they have a very serious illness but actually it means a long illness. A chronic illness is one that goes on over many years. He’s got a case of chronic arthritis, for example.
Kairos is something different and it’s the word Mark uses. It means a propitious moment, a suitable time. By Jesus saying the time has come, he means that this is the favourable moment for him to begin his ministry. This is the time appointed by God for his salvation to be made manifest to the world. The hour has come and Jesus begins his ministry.
But each of us has his or her own kairos, our own propitious moment. There is a time in each of our lives when things come to a head and we are faced with a fundamental choice. A sacred moment when Jesus confronts us with a choice –when he invites us to make a decision.
Maybe you have already experienced your particular kairos long ago. You can look back on your life and realise that at a certain age everything pointed in a particular direction and you chose the road to follow in life. Maybe over the years since then there have been many vicissitudes but I am certain that you do not regret the decision you made to deepen your life with Christ.
But maybe that hour is yet to come. Look at Saint Dismas, the one we call the good thief. His hour came at the last possible moment, but come it did. How could he have predicted that it would come as he was dying on a cross and that his neighbour up there on Calvary would be the Divine Saviour himself?
In the New Testament this word kairos is very connected with the other important word in today’s Gospel metanoia –conversionJesus says, ‘The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.’
This is probably the shortest summary anywhere of the message of Jesus and it is a call that echoes down through the centuries to us today. Jesus says to each one of us now, ‘The Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.’
Repent –Metanoia quite literally means turning around. That is what repentance means –turning around from one’s old way of life and beginning to live a new life. Ask any alcoholic or drug addict, they know exactly what this turning around means. To give up an addiction whether it be to alcohol, drugs, spending or sex, or any other addiction for that matter, absolutely requires a complete reorientation of one’s life.
It is the same with sin. If we are to try to give up being selfish, spiteful, jealous, envious, greedy or deceitful it means a complete turning around. It means going in a totally different direction.
It is no mistake that I compare sin with addiction. Sin is addictive. Ten minutes spent visiting a prison will tell you that crime is addictive, so is sin. It’s a downward spiral. It is allowing evil into your life and letting it fester there; the only cure is to call on the help of God and to walk away –to leave it behind just like those disciples left their nets on the shore.
Deep ingrained bad habits are best countered by introducing deep ingrained good habits. The addict knows this. He has to substitute going to AA for going to the pub. We have to do the same. If we don’t go to Jesus we will go to the devil.
As we have said metanoia means turning around. But not turning around to simply stop there. No, it means turning around to go in a different direction. Why else would we turn around? Just to have a look at Jesus? No that would be simply trivial.
Like those disciples it means turning around, leaving one’s former way of life and following Jesus. Turning around in order to go after him. We have to leave our nets on the ground and begin to live a new life. In this new life we live with Jesus. We spend our days always conscious of his closeness to us. We enter into a state of communion with him. In many different ways he nourishes us and draws us ever closer to himself.
It is a big challenge and maybe you feel that the time for you isn’t just yet. But that time will surely come. The kairos will arrive. The decision will have to be made. And it will have to be made soon, putting it off won’t help at all.
And once the decision is made there can be no going back. Once we start we can’t stop and return to our old ways for that would mean rejection of God.
The people of Nineveh heard Jonah’s preaching and did what he told them to do. They gave up their evil ways. The fasted and did penance in repentance of their sins and God relented and drew back his punishment.
As St Paul says this world is passing away. The years of our own lives hurtle by. A year ago seems like just yesterday. Of course, we don’t know when God will call us to himself. But we know that our lives on this earth will certainly come to an end and that our time is running out. Time is short. The hour has come for us to choose.
So, let us choose goodness, truth, wisdom and love. Let us take the Lord Jesus to be our guide. Let us go where he leads us. Let his words be on our lips. Let his thoughts be in our heads. Let his joy be in our hearts. Let his love overflow in our lives.
This is the kairos: now is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation.

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