Are you ready and willing?

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:15

When we think of Jonah, our first thought is usually of him being regurgitated by a giant fish after being trapped in its belly for three days. It’s quite a dramatic tale, after all! Jesus even refers to this “sign of Jonah” in reference to the three days he would spend in the tomb — in the belly of the earth — before the resurrection (see Mt 12:38-42). 

But the climax of Jonah’s story is not being swallowed by a fish; it is the repentance of Nineveh. God sent the prophet Jonah to preach repentance to the Ninevites. And who were they? They were the enemies of Israel, people whom Jonah would have perceived as a threat. So it’s no wonder Jonah at first balked and said “no way!” He resisted for a long time God’s call to preach to these people, but when he finally did, what happened? The entire city of Nineveh immediately repented! 

The contrast couldn’t be more clear. Jonah, an Israelite, one of God’s chosen people and a prophet, resisted the will of God. But the Ninevites, Gentiles and the enemies of God’s people, responded openly and without hesitation. Appearances can often be deceptive. This is just one of many examples of God turning our expectations on their head. 

The  main theme of the book of Jonah is God’s sovereignty over all peoples and what matters most is not your tribe or ethnicity, but how ready and willing you are to follow God’s will.

We see something similar going on in the gospel for this Sunday (Mk 1:14-20). When Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John, we are told that they “immediately” abandon their nets and boats to follow him. There was no hemming and hawing. There was no making of excuses; no “let me finish up a couple of things I have going on first.” They heard the call of Christ and responded, period. 

This is the kind of open and immediate response God desires from us. In abandoning their boats and nets, the Apostles were giving up their livelihood as fishermen to follow Christ. That was a sacrifice that took a lot of trust in God for them to make. It invites us to ask, what sort of sacrifices might God be asking of us? 

In the second reading this Sunday (1 Cor 7:29-31), St. Paul talks about how following Christ changes how we relate to everything else in this world — our material possessions, our human relationships, and even with our own emotions. None of these things are bad — they are good parts of human life — but they all take a back seat in relation to the ultimate good that is God and the happiness we can only find by following God’s will. 

So this Sunday we are all challenged to ask ourselves: Do I respond to God’s call freely like the Apostles and the Ninevites? Or only reluctantly, like Jonah? How ready and willing am I to do what God wills? And what things in my life might I need to leave behind in order to do so more freely? 

May God grant you grace and discernment in responding to His call for your life.