Homily for III (3) Sunday Year B (Sunday of the Word of God). 24-01-2021 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10
Psalm: Psalm 24 (25): 4-6, 7-9
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
On this Sunday of the Word of God, we are reminded not only of the centrality of the Word of God to us as God’s children, but most importantly of its transforming power in our lives. And for us to be transformed by the Word of God, we must treat it with utmost importance, urgently giving heed to what it says. The Holy Father Pope Francis establishing this Sunday in 2019 with the motu proprio Aperuit illis (he opened their minds), emphasized the transforming character of scripture as an ecumenical tool that leads us to authentic and firm unity. In Evangelii Gaudium (joy of the gospel) he emphasizes this when he says “God’s word, listened to and celebrated, above all in the Eucharist, nourishes and inwardly strengthens Christians enabling them to offer an authentic witness to the Gospel in daily life (cf. n.174)”. This is what we see in prophet Jonah today in the first reading. As soon as he heard the word of the Lord, he obeyed promptly even though this was against his will. It was going to take him three days to go round Nineveh but with the urgency and seriousness with which he preached; the people instantly took heed of his message in just a day. They renounced their evil ways and returned back to God. God also seeing their change of heart, immediately relented from inflicting disaster on them and pardoned their iniquity. This is how life transforming the Word of God is if we give it heed. To encourage us, psalm 95 rightly says, if today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. We too can respond with prompt obedience to the Word of God, and it would not only make us His ready followers but we would be transformed into fishers of men like the disciples in the gospel reading. Ask yourself, what is your attitude to the Word of God? Remember the Word of God is constantly alive and active, that is why it acts accordingly if heeded.
In the gospel, we see Christ coming to establish the Kingdom of God, and He begins with preaching the Word of God. It is only after this that He goes on to call Simon and Andrew, James and John, and they all leave everything including family and followed Him immediately. This means that the mission ahead to be fishers of men is as important as it is urgent. For us too, nothing must come between us and God’s call which we must heed immediately. However, answering God’s call requires two things; repentance and belief in the gospel. That is, to leave our past and embrace a new and better future. And this is the first step in becoming part of His family the Church which is the new Israel today.
Christ chose to call very ordinary people – fishermen, teaching us that God does not have favourites and does not call those who are powerful and equipped, rather, He equips those He calls. So, no one no matter how insignificant in the eyes of the world, is useless in the eyes of the Creator. Whoever you are, God can still make use of you as long as you co-operate with Him. What is keeping you from answering God’s call today? Is it your sufferings or pains, worldly possessions and achievements, or is it your sins? Remember the words of Paul in Romans 8:38 ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God…’ Even you can be a very useful instrument in the hands of God as long as you are willing to heed His word and turn away from evil. He wants your co-operation in the building up of His kingdom here on earth. But are you ready and willing to co-operate with Him?
In order to co-operate with the Lord, we must heed His Word, repent and believe in Him. Repentance which is the first step means to change my way of life; my thinking, attitudes, dispositions, and this reflects in my choices so that in all I do, Christ is not just reflected but glorified as the Lord and ruler of my heart and life. On the other hand, belief in Jesus means to take Him by His Words as true because His Word is eternally true. We see repentance signified in the disciples called in the gospel today by their total and immediate abandonment of their old way of life along with their father, to settle for a new and higher way of life as fishers of men. That is, to catch people for the kingdom of God. What about you as a Christian today? Are you catching people for the kingdom of God or are you catching people for the kingdom of the world? Even if you are not getting people for God’s kingdom, do not at least prevent them from entering.
If we want to catch people for the kingdom of God, then we must take seriously the warning of St. Paul in our second reading. That is, living every day in the consciousness of the fleeting nature of the world. Being conscious that the world is passing away would make us not to settle for the values of the fleeting world, but for higher values which belong to the world that eternally endures, and that is heaven. Are you operating on worldly values or heavenly values? To know the heavenly values, we must go back to the rich fount which is the Word of God. The Word of God is truly the compass with which we can navigate through life. We must all therefore draw closer to that Word which is ever alive and active, to tap from its inexhaustible richness. St. Jerome says, ignorance of scripture is ignorance of God. Ask yourself then, how close and familiar are you with the Word of God? How often do you personally read and meditate on God’s Word? Do you know God’s Word is a real source of strength and power for us? Make hay while the sun still shines. Repent and believe in what His Word says and put it into practice and you will be saved. May the Lord give us the grace to witness to all whom we meet, the joy of His gospel, so that through us others may also come to experience the life transforming power of His Word. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.