The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
                                                                                      January 21, 2024

                                                                                                                        Fr. Josť Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
                                                                                                                                                                           Pastor of the Church of St. Peter
Sunday Reading Meditations
                                                                                                                                                                            North St. Paul, Minnesota

In today's gospel, Jesus begins to evangelize: "This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:14).  this, too, is the time of fulfillment because Christ is among us.  The kingdom is growing like a seed, through the transformation of hearts and minds.  God is fulfilling his promises now.  We are living at a pivotal moment.  In today's second reading, St. Paul says: "The time is running out" (1 Cor 7:29).  Now is the time for conversion: "repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mk 1:15). 

In today's first reading, the people of Nineveh believed the prophet Jonah, turned from their evil ways and prevented the destruction of the city.  Jonah's prophesy was a great sign from God to lead the people to conversion.  Our conversion can save us and the world.  Repentance and faith renew us as individuals and a society.  As Elizabeth Leseur wrote, "Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world."

"The people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth" (Jn 3:5).  The fasting of the entire population saved the city from destruction.  Fasting is a powerful means to make reparation for sins.  Fasting opens us to God and others.  Through fasting, we can master our passions and grow in virtue.  Fasting renews our lives.

The Ninevites were sinners but they welcomed the call to conversion.  Are we, like the Ninevites, capable of changing our lives?  Are we capable of recognizing our sins and receiving God's mercy?  Today's Psalm says: "Good and upright is  the LORD; thus he shows the sinners the way" (Ps 25:8).

Jesus' call to repentance and faith quickly becomes personal.  Jesus invites the four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee to follow him: "Come after me, and I will make you fishes of men" (Mk 1:17).  The church was born as the community of those who welcome Jesus' invitation to repent and believe in the gospel.  The church is the place where we allow Christ to change us, as we follow him.  We cannot be the church of Christ without personal conversion to him.

Jesus' power of attraction is very impressive.  He just looked at the fishermen, invited them to come after him and "they abandoned their nets and followed him" (Mk 1: 18).

Jesus' absolute claim takes precedence over even the closest of human bonds: "They left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him" (Mk 1:20).  In the second reading, St. Paul says: "From now on let those having wives act as not having them" (1 Cor 7:29).  Christ's precedence does not mean that we must relinquish everything of this world.  As Mary Healy writes, "Not everyone is called literally to abandon their profession or family, but all are called to put everything in second priority to him."  To follow Christ does not mean to reject those whom we love, quite the opposite.  In Christ, we love more.  When we put him at the center of our affection, he gives back a hundredfold.

"This is a time of fulfillment" Christ's presence allows us to live this time as a time of fulfillment.  Now is the time of fulfillment if now is the time for our conversion.  Let us welcome Jesus' invitation: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel."  Amen.