3RD SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME – B (Mark 1:14-20)
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For this year’s cycle B of the liturgical calendar of the Church, we take on the gospel of St. Mark in our Sunday readings. St. Mark does not have the genealogy of Jesus and His infancy narratives of St. Luke and St. Matthew, assuming that his readers already know them. His gospel starts with John the Baptist, the Baptism and temptations of Jesus. This third Sunday, St. Mark presents the beginning of the Galilean or public ministry of Jesus.
St. Mark places Galilee as the locus of the ministry of Jesus which will stamp an indelible mark to Jesus as “The Galilean”. As an opening salvo to His public ministry, Jesus proclaimed the good news of God. In the olden times, good news meant an enthronement of a new king but when Jesus announced His good news, His message was not just about a king but the coming of the kingdom of God. His very first spoken words in the gospel of St. Mark were “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is close at hand.” Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom marked the fulfillment not just of the longings of the Old Testament but the whole world as well. When He did this, He also proclaimed that He Himself is the personification of that kingdom, He is the auto-basilea!
After the proclamation, came the invitation to repent and believe in the good news. To concretize this, St. Mark presents the calling of the first disciples. The first disciples who were called were two sets of brothers Simon and Andrew, James and John. They were fishermen who later on will be called fishers of men. There was an urgency both in the call and the response and immediately they abandoned their boats and their fathers. Nothing was written about their verbal response, their feelings, no questions were asked but one thing was certain: they left everything and followed Jesus. Jesus’ call demands immediate and complete obedience.
The call of Jesus this time is not just about young men becoming priests, missionaries being sent to missions, young ladies entering the convents or monasteries. He meets us in the different shores of our lives, where we live, where we work, in all our goodness and sinfulness. There is a universal call to holiness addressed to everyone: Catholics, Muslims, Jews, even those who have and will never hear the name of Jesus. But wherever we come from, we have to “break off” (metanoeite) from the old self to welcome the Kingdom of God in our hearts. Yet this conversion is not a one-time-off experience, it continuous through life. To some this means, leaving homes and families, parting away from loved ones, giving up dreams and life’s securities. Although the responses of some are more radical than others, our following of Jesus takes a lifetime to fulfill. Our big YES is lived out in the little yeses of the ordinariness of our lives. Jesus does not expect of us to do the impossible as long as we continue to follow him. That’s what discipleship is: To follow Jesus who lives in our hearts…