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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reason for urgency
Time is of the essence in each of those readings. The people of Nineveh have forty days to prepare for the end. St Paul says 'time is short' you cannot live like you used to and Jesus says 'the time has come'.
The urgency is caused by the closeness of death. All of us face death, but for those who believe in God and, in particular for those of us who recognise and believe that Jesus is God, death has a particular meaning which effects our behaviour even now. For us death is not an end but the supreme moment when the effects, the consequences, the implications of everything we have ever said or done or given or received, or loved or hated are made absolutely clear and are recognised as eternal.
To put it simply if we die having turned our backs on Jesus who is God our backs are turned on God for ever. If we die in love with Jesus who is God we are in love with God for ever. Of course that turning of our backs, that being in love can take many different forms. The urgent call remains the same repent, believe the Good news proclaimed by Jesus, as St Paul says, take stock of your lives, don't get caught up in things that end but live now in preparation for eternal life. Love God, love your neighbour, follow Jesus, forgive, love, serve.
God's call and gifts
But the three readings are also about how to understand the gifts God gives us to enable us to respond to his call and the fact that the call itself is a gift. Jonah the prophet gets really cross that God does not destroy the town of Nineveh. Later on he complains, I did everything you said, I put up with great hardship to tell them you were going to destroy them because of their sins but in the end you forgive them. Jonah must learn that he is an instrument not of God's punishment but a means of God's mercy and forgiveness. Maybe we think sometimes that following Jesus is about knowing my sins and failures rather than rejoicing in God's love and mercy.
St Paul warns about mistaking the good gifts we receive for the giver. Thinking that what we have, good health, money, the love of a good person is God, is the whole point and purpose and most important thing in our lives. And Paul includes mourning and sorrow in this. But all these things in fact point to the one who gives them or permits them and not only will they one day end but they only have any eternal meaning if they are truly part of our life as followers of Christ.
Finally in the Gospel Jesus points out that the thing which gives our life purpose and meaning, the thing that leads to true happiness and eternal life, is his gift to us of a vocation, a calling. Everyone of us have received a vocation. Maybe not to being an Apostle, but to being his follower yes. To holiness yes. To love and service and prayer and sacrifice yes. Maybe as a priest, a husband or wife, a worker, a career, maybe as an invalid, whatever, but always the heart of the call is to follow Christ, to holiness, to love and service and prayer and sacrifice. That is his great gift to us. Not our choice but his call. In responding to that call lies our happiness, on earth and for ever.
The call has been issued, the time is here, with what love does God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, long for our response.