A Commentary and Reflection on the Readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: Jonah 3:1-5, 10, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20.
Through the Liturgy, God Blesses Us By Making Us a Blessing for Others
The Liturgy of the Word for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B, begins with a reading from Jonah 3:1-5, 10 where the prophet Jonah finally fulfills the mission he was given by the Lord to “set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it” (Jonah 1:2). The Scripture informs us that Jonah was just one day into what he thought would be a three-day procession through the enormously large city of Nineveh when the people came to believe his warning from God that, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” In response, the people, great and small, proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth. When he heard the news, even the king of Nineveh rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Of course, none of this came as a surprise to Jonah, who had known all along that God was gracious and merciful, “slow to anger, abounding in kindness, repenting of punishment” (Jonah 4:2). Through his obedience to the mission God had given him, God blessed Jonah by making him a blessing for others.
The entire city of Nineveh and the three thousand baptized in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41) are the largest single-day repentance events recorded in sacred Scripture. These events serve as signs of the people who would respond to the call of Christ Jesus when we fulfill the mission He gave His Church, to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, [and] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20).
In today’s Gospel Reading from Mark 1:14-20, we return to our Advent considerations about John the Waymaker to hear that it was after “John had been arrested, [when] Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Whereas Jonah’s mission was to warn the Ninevites that they had only forty days to repent, Jesus’ call to repentance does not give a specific timeframe. However, it was prefaced by Him spending forty days in the desert to prepare for His mission.
The absence of a specific or definitive timeframe or expiration date for Jesus’ call to repentance has always troubled and confounded those living according to appointments and chronological specificities. In contrast to that lifestyle, Jesus’ Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 and the three references of Christ Jesus returning like a “thief in the night” (Cf. Matthew 24:32-44, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, and 1 Peter 3:10) serve as our warning to be prepared all times and for any time of the Lord’s final parousia. Indeed, this is the warning from the Apostle Paul in today’s Second Reading from 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, writing, “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.” The teaching here from the Apostle is not for us to neglect the things we value but, rather, to behave as if the most important thing is our salvation by being physically and emotionally free of persons, places, and objects that we cannot take with us to Heaven or Hell.
Jonah, when he was obedient to God, and John the Waymaker serve as models of excellence to a spiritual life that is devoted to the mission we are called to because they inspire us to believe that through our obedience, God will bless those whom He loves by leading them to His Son, Jesus Christ. In this way, the liturgy of the Catholic Mass comes along to teach us the way of unencumbered service to God by showing us that every procession and movement in the liturgy of the Mass leads to the altar of sacrifice. Therefore, no matter what the day or hour is and no matter what mission or vocation we have been called to complete, if we just keep moving – keep processing all of our mind, body, and soul in the direction that we have been called, God will be pleased, and He will bless us by making us a blessing to others; namely by filling us with His Son Jesus Christ, so that we might share Him with the world.
This is just one way the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us in how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.