IN THIS Sunday’s First Reading (Jonah 3:1-5, 10), God sent the prophet Jonah to a mission of preaching repentance to the people of Nineveh. Jonah responded to the call, went to Nineveh, and did as the Lord commanded him.
In the gospel (Mark 1:14-20), Jesus called four fishermen – Simon and his brother Andrew, and James and his brother John – to come after him and become “fishers of men.” These fishermen abandoned their trade and followed Jesus.
Receiving a call from the Lord is therefore the common theme in these readings. Jonah, Simon, Andrew, James and John all had the same reaction – they received God’s call and obeyed it with a sense of urgency.
Like them, we are all called by God to be a part of his kingdom. We are called to abandon our old ways and embrace his ways, to focus our attention from “catching fish” to “catching men,” to rearrange our priorities from what is worldly to what is heavenly. Like the prophet Jonah and the four fishermen, do we respond with immediacy? Do we readily say yes to God and no to evil?
This is what St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). He reminds us that time is running out. Figuratively, not literally, he says: “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 owing, and those using the world as not using it fully.” And to emphasize the reason for doing this, he says, “For the world in its present form is passing away.”
Undoubtedly, all of us have our own cares and concerns. Like the fishermen who need to fish, we need to work to make a living. We need to take care of our families, pursue material wellbeing, and strive for happiness. Aren’t these legitimate concerns? Does God really want us to abandon all of these when he calls us?
The answer is no. Obviously, he doesn’t want us to be lazy at work; to become irresponsible husbands, wives, sons, or daughters; to be destitute or sad. What God desires is for us to make him number one in our lives – our first and highest priority. And this is the key to receiving all the other good things in this life.
The following words of Jesus say it beautifully. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about our life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow o reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all (Matthew 6:25-32).” And then the following verse sums it up all, ”But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
Elsewhere, the Lord also says, “There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come” (Mark 10:29-30).
Have we already said yes to the call of God? “Behold, now is an acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).