3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)
January 13, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Broken yet called.
The first words of the Gospel passage this Sunday sound an ominous note, “After John had been arrested.” The long shadow of the cross is present right from the beginning of Jesus ministry. The cross figures prominently in Mark’s story of Jesus. As the first Gospel to be written down, Mark’s Gospel has been described as a Passion Narrative with a long introduction. The Passion Narrative comprises a significant part of Mark’s Gospel.
Today’s Gospel from chapter one presents the powerful and direct call of Jesus to share in his mission. At the time of Jesus, disciples sought out a master and attached themselves to the master. Jesus does something very different; he takes the initiative and summons his disciples.
Mark holds up for us as models the immediate and total response of the four. To gain the full impact of this passage however we must be aware of how Simon, James and John respond elsewhere in the Gospel. This first involvement of Peter, James and John with Jesus is only the beginning of an exciting yet tension-filled journey. These three will be present for four experiences in which Jesus most clearly reveals the power and purpose of his life: 1) healing and giving life to Peter’s mother in law, 2) healing the 12 year old daughter of Jairus, 3) the glory filled transfiguration, and 4) the message about future times in chapter 13.
At the same time, these same apostles will most seriously misunderstand their Lord and fail him at crucial points of their intimacy with him: Peter when he tries to dissuade Jesus from the cross is told: “get behind me Satan”. James and John after hearing Jesus third announcement that he must go up to Jerusalem to suffer and die, will be seeking the first places at his right and left, and in the Garden of Gethsemani they along with the other apostles will flea. Peter finally will deny that he even knows Jesus.
God seems to choose the most unlikely people to proclaim the good news. The book of Jonah tells us that at first Jonah when called to preach to Nineveh goes in the opposite direction and stresses that he is heading as far away from Nineveh as possible. But Jonah admits that he is the cause for the storm at Sea and tells the sailors to throw him overboard. We get the story of Jonah and the whale from these words: “Yahweh spoke to the fish, which then vomited Jonah on the dry land.”
It is at this point that our reading for today takes up. It is chosen in parallel to the immediate response of the first apostles. But the rest of the story of Jonah must also be heard. Jonah becomes indignant and falls into a rage when the Ninevites convert. He even prays Yahweh to “please take my life, for I might as well be dead as go on living.” In a pout Jonah leaves the city and God provides a plant to give Jonah shade for his head and soothe his ill humor. But alas, Poor Jonah a worm comes and attacks the plant and it withers. Jonah bewails the loss of his own shelter while longing for the collapse of the thousands of roofs in pagan Nineveh. The book ends with Jonah pleading the cause of vengeance while God meekly excuses himself for having pardoned the sinner. Read the whole short story.
We have been called. We have feet of clay just as Peter, James, John, Andrew and Jonah. But we are called. To what is Jesus calling me today? This simple quote from Pope Francis challenges us to realize that we are called to more than just praying about people and events in our world: