3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B ~ January 21, 2024

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B ~ January 21, 2024


This Sunday we are introduced to Jesus’ public ministry to follow him in repenting for our sins and believing in him. This poem by Carol S. Wimmer (1998) really does justice to the Readings:

When I say … “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting, “I’m saved”
I’m whispering, “I get lost!”
“That is why I chose this way.

When I say … “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride
I’m confessing that I stumble,
and need someone to be my guide.

When I say … “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong,
I’m professing that I’m weak,
and pray for strength to carry on.

When I say … “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success,
I’m admitting that I’ve failed,
and cannot ever pay the debt.

When I say … “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
my flaws are way too visible
but God believes I’m worth it.

When I say … “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartaches
which is why I seek His Name.

When I say … “I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority,
I only know I’m loved!

The announcement by the Lord to repent and believe is practically invitation to surrender ourselves to the Lord completely.  Last Sunday we reflected that God calls us to come and see where he lives and how we ought to respond to his call. This invitation to repent and believe also takes us right into the heart of God who does not find any joy or happiness in the death of a sinner rather rejoices to find the lost souls. (Please read Ezekiel 33:1-12).  God’s love and forgiveness recognize that human beings, created in God’s image, are always greater than the sins they commit. Remember the question of St. Peter “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”. To Peter, forgiving the same person seven times already seemed the maximum possible. And perhaps to us it may already seem too much to do so twice. But Jesus answers, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

This reminded me about the following story, where God, who does not remember our shortcomings, failures, and sins, always shows his steadfast love and everlasting mercy because He cannot deny himself as St. Paul says. (Please read Psalm 67 & 2 Timothy 2:12-13)

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.” When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted, and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit.” Keep playing.” Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn’t recall what else the great master played. Only the classic, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Perhaps that’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life’s work can truly be beautiful. The next time we set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. we may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit.” “Keep playing.” May we feel His arms around us and know that His hands are there, helping us turn our feeble attempts into true masterpieces. Remember, God doesn’t seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips the ‘called.’ Life is more accurately measured by the lives we touch than by the things we acquire.

An amazing story to help us see why God sent Prophet Jonah to the people of Nineveh; “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you”. Prophet Jonah went with an invitation from God to make those people repent and believe in the love, forgiveness, and mercy of the Lord. Did Jonah forced them to accept invitation? Absolutely no because God does not take our free will away from us but leaves on us to accept or decline. Amazingly, all the people of Nineveh―even the king―carefully heeded Jonah’s warnings and began to repent, fast and improve their lives. So, God then gave the citizens of Nineveh another chance and did not destroy their city. Jonah was a bit miffed over this, feeling that a punishment was still deserved. God decided to explain his forgiveness through a gourd plant. Jonah sought refuge from the heat under the leaves of this gourd plant when later a worm came along and ruined it. The loss of the shady plant greatly upset the prophet. God expressively pointed out how his care for the citizens of Nineveh, people he created and loved, should clearly outweigh Jonah’s care for a mere plant―a plant that Jonah had neither grown nor tended.

The Gospel today presents to us the beginning of Jesus’ preaching/public ministry in Galilee. St Mark stresses that Jesus began to preach “after John the Baptist was arrested”. Precisely at the moment in which the prophetic voice of the Baptist, who proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God, was silenced by Herod, Jesus begins to travel the roads of his land to bring to all, especially the poor, “the gospel of God’s love and forgiveness.” He began to sow the seeds of a great hope: that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that God is among us. The Gospel itself shows us the joy and the rippling effect that this brought about: it started with Simon and Andrew, then James and John The proclamation of Jesus is like that of John, with the essential difference that Jesus no longer points to another who must come: Jesus is Himself the fulfilment of those promises; He Himself is the “good news” to believe in, to receive and to communicate to all men and women of every time that they too may entrust their life to Him. Jesus Christ in his person is the Word living and working in history: whoever hears and follows Him may enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the fulfilment of divine promises for He is the One who gives to man the Holy Spirit, the “living water” that quenches our restless heart, thirsting for life, love, freedom and peace: thirsting for God. How often do we feel, or have we felt that thirst in our hearts! He Himself revealed it to the Samaritan woman, whom he met at Jacob’s well to whom he says: “Give me a drink” which reminds us that God wants us to share our lives with him.

Holy Father Pope Francis believes that God, in becoming man, made our thirst his own, a thirst not only for water itself, but especially for a full life, a life free from the slavery of evil and death. At the same time by his Incarnation God placed his own thirst — because God too thirsts — in the heart of a man: Jesus of Nazareth. God thirsts for us, for our hearts, for our love, and placed this thirst in the heart of Jesus. Therefore, human, and divine thirst meet in Christ’s heart”. Even we could hear his cry from the Cross “I am thirsty” as well.

The other interesting point we see in the Gospel today is that Jesus not only calls the people to follow him but also to St. Peter he makes him the fisher of men. Jesus invites his disciples to experience in the present a taste of eternity: the love of God and neighbour. He does this the only way he can, God’s way, by awakening tenderness and love of mercy, by awakening compassion and opening their eyes to see reality as God does. He invites them to generate new bonds, new covenants rich in eternal life.

Pope Francis reflecting on the Gospel says “Jesus walks through the city with his disciples and begins to see, to hear, to notice those who have given up in the face of indifference, laid low by the grave sin of corruption. He begins to bring to light many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope. He calls his disciples and invites them to set out with him. He calls them to walk through to the city, but at a different pace; he teaches them to notice what they had previously overlooked, and he points out new and pressing needs. Repent, he tells them. The Kingdom of Heaven means finding in Jesus a God who gets involved with the lives of his people. He gets involved and involves others not to be afraid to make our history, a history of salvation”.

What is our response to his invitation to repent and believe? Are we still under the evil forces who could thwart our hearts not to meet and follow Jesus?  Let me conclude my reflection with inspirational story.

There was once a bunch of tiny frogs, who arranged a running competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower. A big crowd gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants.

The race began…

No one in the crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. They shouted, “Oh, way too difficult!!! They will NEVER make it to the top” and “Not a chance. The tower is too high”.

The tiny frogs began collapsing, one by one except for those who, in a fresh tempo, were climbing higher and higher….

The crowd continued to yell, “It’s too difficult! No one will make it!”

More tiny frogs got tired and gave up… But one continued higher and higher. This one wouldn’t give up! And he reached the top.

Everyone wanted to know how this one frog managed such a great feat. “ I felt you are encouraging me although I am deaf”.

To follow Jesus, we need to focus our eyes on the Lord rather listening to the world which goes against the faith.

“O LORD, you have searched me, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

“And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”(Hebrews 8:12)

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. “So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”  (1 John 1:9)

Do we believe in repentance to live a life worthy of his love?