Fr. Tony’s 8-Minute Homily
3B Ordinary Time
The three readings today underline our absolute need of repentance and our immediate need for a prompt response to God’s call.
Select one or two of the following illustrations to insert here. View more by clicking on the “ILLUSTRATIONS” tab above. Feel free to insert more throughout the homily if so desired (but this should not be overdone).
Scripture Lessons Summarized
Fr. Tony’s unabridged edition for this section can be found by clicking on the “COMMENTARY” tab above. Feel free to include more detail if so desired.
The first reading tells us how God had to deal with the disobedient, fleeing prophet Jonah to turn him around (convert him), so that, repenting, he would go to Nineveh to preach repentance there. The wicked people of Nineveh, however, accepted Jonah as God’s prophet at once, and promptly responded to God’s call for repentance as Jonah preached it. In the second reading, Paul urges the Christian community in Corinth to lose no time in accepting the message of the Gospel and in renewing their lives with repentance because Jesus’ second coming may occur at any moment. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus came to Galilee and began preaching, challenging people to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Just as John did, Jesus also called for repentance, meaning a change in one’s mind or in the direction of one’s life and setting new priorities. Repentance also means hating sin itself, not just being sorry for the consequences of one’s sins. Believing in the Gospel demands from the hearers a resolution to take Jesus’ words seriously, to translate them into action, and to put trust in Jesus’ authority. Jesus preached the Gospel, or Good News, that God is a loving, forgiving, caring and merciful Father Who wants to liberate us and save us from our sins through His son Jesus. By describing the call of Jesus’ first disciples, Andrew, Peter, James, and John, today’s Gospel also emphasizes how we, sinners, are to respond to God’s call with total commitment by abandoning our accustomed style of sinful life. Jesus started his public ministry immediately after John the Baptist was arrested. According to Mark, Jesus selected four fishermen, Andrew and his brother Peter with James and his brother John, right from their fishing boats. Jesus wanted these ordinary, hard-working people as assistants for his ministry because they would be very responsive and generous instruments in the hands of God.
Fr. Tony’s unabridged versions can be found by clicking on the “LIFE MESSAGES” tab above. Feel free to include more detail if so desired.
1) We need to appreciate our call to become Christ’s disciples: Every one of us is called by God, both individually, and collectively as a parish community, to continue Jesus’ mission of preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom and healing the sick. 2) We are called individually to a way of life or vocation: – a religious commitment (priest, deacon, missionary, religious Sister or Brother, marriage partner, or single person), plus a particular occupation rising from our talents (medicine, law, teaching, healing, writing, art, music, building and carpentry, homemaking, child-rearing ….). Our own unique vocation should enable us to become what God wants us to be. As St. Francis Sales puts it, we are expected to bloom where we are planted. 3) Our call, of course, begins with our Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation. It is strengthened through the years with the Eucharist and Reconciliation, healed and consoled by Anointing and, for those so called, made manifest in the sacraments of Matrimony or Holy Orders. The amazing truth is that God is relentless in calling us back to Himself even when we stray away from Him. 4) Let us be thankful to God for His Divine grace of calling us to be members of the true Church. Let us remember that it is our vocation in life as Christians to transmit Christ’s Light through our living, radiating Jesus’ unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, and humble service to all in our society.
Fr. Tony’s Illustrations
3B Ordinary Time
They abandoned their father
Columban, who died in AD 615., was the greatest of the Irish medieval monk-missionaries. A well-educated youth, he had a very passionate nature that caused him great concern. “Flight from the world is the only solution,” a holy anchoress ( a woman living enclosed in a cell abutting ad Church with a window into the Church for Mass and the Sacraments, and a window to the outside world to counsel those who came to her for advice), advised him: “flight even from your own native land.” Following her counsel, he entered the monastic life and studied the spiritual way at the feet of some of the most noted – and strictest – Irish monks. He lived in the monastery of Bangor until he was about forty-five. Then he sought permission of the abbot to head a group of monks as missionaries among the Germans. In Germanic Burgundy he founded the monastery of Annegaray, and then the more famous one of Luxeil. To the men who flocked to become monks under his tutelage, he gave a very strict rule, heavy with penalties for even slight infractions. If his followers observed so stringent a way of life at all, it was doubtless because they saw St. Columban himself observing it to the last letter. On account of political opposition, Abbot Columban moved away from Burgundy into Switzerland, and eventually into northern Italy. Here the Germanic King Agilulf gave him land for a new monastery, and the Abbot, now in his seventies, erected the Abbey of Bobbio, where he died not long afterward. When young Columban had first felt the call to become a monk, his mother had objected very strongly. To prevent his departure, she had even thrown herself across the doorway of their home. This did give the saint pause, but only for a moment. He stepped over her and went his way, never to return.
What did Zebedee the fisherman say when his sons, James and John, left him for good to follow Christ? The Scriptures do not tell us. He quite likely grumbled for a while about the fate of the family business. What did St. Columban’s mother do when he stepped over her and left? History does not tell us. Being a sensible Irishwoman, she quite likely got up, dusted off her clothes, and sought consolation in a cup of tea. Both she and Zebedee, God-fearing persons that they were, probably came to realize all the more clearly thereafter that children are a gift from God, and so He has first claim on their service. “They abandoned their father Zebedee.. . and went off in His company.” (Mk 1:20. Today’s Gospel). (Father Robert F. McNamara).
Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Four reasons why people do not catch fish
I have come to the conclusion that there are basically four reasons why people do not catch fish: (1) Some people are using the wrong bait. (2) Some people are fishing in the wrong lake, that is, they don’t know where the fish are. (3) Some people have got the right bait and they’re in the right lake, but they don’t know how to fish. (4) Then there are some people who have the right bait, and they’re in the right lake, and they know how to fish but they’re just not going fishing. The Lord Jesus came not only that we might put our Faith in Him, but that we might go fishing with Him. You see, our problem is not that we have the wrong lake. The water is full of fish. The problem is not that we have the wrong bait. We have the Gospel which can hook any fish. Our problem, I believe, is one of ignorance and apathy. There are many Christians who believe they do not know how to share the Lord Jesus, and then there are many who just don’t want to go. (Rev. Maxie Dunnam).
Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Then we can have the greatest renewal
Years ago, Richard Cardinal Cushing (b. August 24, 1895- d. Nov. 2, 1970. Archbishop of Boston 1944-10=970l created Cardinal, 1958), wrote: “If all the sleeping folks will wake up, and all the lukewarm folks will fire up, and all the disgruntled folks will sweeten up, and all the discouraged folks will cheer up, and all the depressed folks will look up, and all the estranged folks will make up, and all the gossiping folks will shut up, and all the dry bones will shake up, and all the true soldiers will stand up, and all the Church members will pray up, and if the Savior of all will be lifted up . . . then we can have the greatest renewal this world has ever known. Amen.”
Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Billy Graham was in a certain town years ago, and he wanted to mail a letter, but he had no idea where the Post Office was. So he stopped a little boy walking the street and asked him if he could direct him to the nearest Post Office. Well, the little boy said, “Yes sir, go down to the red light, turn right, go two blocks to the second red light, turn left, go one block, turn back to the right and you will be right there.” Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “Son, if you will come to the Convention Center this evening, you can hear me telling everybody how to get to Heaven.” The boy said, “Well, I don’t think I’ll be there, Mister; you don’t even know your way to the Post Office.” Well I want to tell you that Jesus not only knows the way to Heaven, He is the Way to Heaven. He not only knows how to live, He is Life more abundant. The very first command He ever gave to any disciple was: “Follow Me.” For that is where discipleship begins and ends, in following Jesus.
Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Follow the leader
Has any of you ever played “Follow the Leader?” Of course you have! I played the game when I was a child — my father played the game when he was a child — his father played the game when he was a child. Follow the Leader is a game that is played and enjoyed by children all over the world. The rules are very simple. You choose a leader and you follow him wherever he goes — and do whatever he does. In our daily lives, too, we play follow the leader. In school, in Church, in sports, in any activity we join, there are always leaders. Every day we are faced with making a choice of which leader we will follow. But we must be sure to choose a leader who will lead us in the right direction. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus selected his first disciples and instructed them to follow him as the leader. As Jesus was walking along the seashore he saw two fishermen, Peter and Andrew, and called out to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The Gospel tells us that they laid down their nets and followed Jesus. Jesus went a little farther and he saw two more men, James and John sitting in their boat mending their nets. Jesus called out to them and the Bible tells us that they left their boat and their father and followed Jesus (Mt 5:19-20). Jesus is still calling people to follow him today. He has called you and me to follow him. Now it’s up to us to decide if we will follow the Leader.
Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Fr. Tony’s Life Messages
3B Ordinary Time
Let us appreciate our call to be Christ’s disciples
Every one of us is called by God, both individually and collectively. The mission of preaching, teaching, and healing which Jesus began in Galilee is now the responsibility of the Church. Our own unique vocation and our relationship with the risen Lord are the same as that of the universal Church. Be we religious, priests, married or single people, we are all called, and in this call we become what God wants us to be. The call, of course, begins with our Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation, is strengthened throughout the years with the Eucharist and Reconciliation, healed and consoled by Anointing, and (for those so called), made manifest in Matrimony, or Holy Orders. God is relentless in calling us back to Himself, even when we stray away from Him. Perhaps, God is asking us to see His hand in unexpected changes, reminding us that we are a pilgrim people who cannot be settled down into comfortable routine! Even when the changes are, apparently, not for the better, how we deal with them is what matters.
(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Let us be thankful to God for His Divine grace of calling us to be members of the true Church
Let us make personal efforts to see in her the Light of Christ and to grow in holiness, learning the truths that are revealed through the Church and receiving her Sacraments. Let us be shining lights in the world as Christ was and make a personal effort to bring others to the truth and the light, so that they may rejoice with us in the Mystical Body of Christ, the invisible Kingdom of God.
(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
God is constantly calling each one of us to repent, to confess our sins, to do penance, and to amend our lives
I cannot receive communion if I have sinned mortally, without first confessing my sins and receiving absolution in the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) (CCC #1415). If I do receive communion while not in the state of grace, I have committed a sin of irreligion called a sacrilege which is a very serious offense against the 1st Commandment (CCC #2120). Is God calling me right now to respond to His call to repent by seeking out a priest and making a good confession?
Fr. Tony’s Commentary
3B Ordinary Time
The first reading tells us about the prophet Jonah, whose response when God first called him and told him to go to Nineveh was to take ship immediately for the furthest point he could get to in the opposite direction! Why? We don’t know. Perhaps he was scared. Or perhaps it was because he hated the Gentile people of Nineveh and thought that they were not worthy of God’s gracious mercy. In any case, Jonah ran away. God had to halt Jonah in his flight, then give him a three-day “time-out” in the belly of that great fish, before the prophet was ready to accept the Lord God’s “second chance” to obey Him and go to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. Far from being hostile, however, the people and the King of Nineveh, promptly responded to God’s word as preached by His prophet, repenting in sackcloth with a fast — just on the outside chance that the Lord God ”might” spare them! In the second reading, Paul urges the community in Corinth, and us, to lose no time accepting the message of the Gospel because Jesus’ second coming may occur at any time. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus entered Galilee and began preaching. Like John, Jesus also called for repentance. But Jesus added the Good News that the Kingdom of God was at hand. It still is, for where Jesus is, there is the Kingdom of God. Then Jesus called on his listeners to believe in the Gospel or the Good News of God’s love, mercy and salvation. When Jesus invited Simon, Andrew, James, and John to join him and help in his preaching and healing ministry, they promptly accepted his call, for discipleship is the only complete response a believer can make to that proclamation and invitation. The two greatest aspects of discipleship in Mark are being with Jesus and sharing in his mission. Disciples are invited to be with Jesus on a great spiritual journey and to share in Jesus’ mission of proclaiming God’s Kingdom in word and deed. In describing the call of Jesus’ first disciples, today’s Gospel also emphasizes how we, sinners, are to respond to Him with total commitment, abandoning our accustomed attitudes and styles of life to follow Him in thought, word, and deed.
First reading, Jonah 3:1-5 explained: The first reading shows us that we should respond promptly to God’s call for repentance. Our passage comes from the beginning of the second part (Jonah 3-4), where Jonah finally obeyed the Lord God by preaching of repentance to the Ninevites. The call to repentance delivered by Jonah to the people of Nineveh demanded they make a radical change in their manner of living. Jesus makes the same demand of us in today’s Gospel: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The Book of Jonah was written in Palestine around the 5th century BC, after the Babylonian exile. Some of the Jews were strongly nationalistic, filled with a smug sense of their superiority over all other nations. Like Jonah, they wished God would destroy the nations they perceived as His enemies. For Jonah, the Ninevites were terrible people doing terrible things. The city was notorious for its lack of morals and the idolatrous, decadent life-style of its inhabitants. The story of Jonah was intended to rebuke the Palestinians’ smallness of vision, and to teach them that God had care for other peoples besides themselves. Reading (Jonah 3:1-5, 10) we have a condensed version of the “Jonah story,” which helps us keep our focus on the workings of the Lord. The Lord “calls” and “sends” Jonah to warn the Ninevites about their need to repent and reform their lives before it is too late. The Ninevites believed the Lord’s message and responded immediately in penitential fashion, thus softening their hearts to receive God’s mercy. The first two chapters describe how God responded to Jonah’s flight from His call and the mission He had assigned the prophet: He allowed him to experience a deadly storm followed by an excruciating experience in the belly of a whale. At God’s second call to preach repentance in Nineveh, Jonah obeyed – but he was disappointed to see the ready response of that evil city to God’s message of repentance and a change of life! Jonah had not even finished the first day of his preaching journey before the people had totally turned around – doing visible penance while asking and hoping for God’s love, reconciliation and forgiveness. Contrary to Jonah’s expectations, the pagan peoples of the city “believed in God” and “renounced their evil behavior”. But perhaps the greater change, the more radical turnabout, happened in Jonah himself. Jonah had been an arrogant, bigoted, narrow-minded prophet. But he finally realized that God’s love is not limited – God’s forgiveness is not to be contained – God’s offer of salvation is for all – and we’d best not thwart it.
Lessons taught by Jonah story: Not an historic account, but a didactic fiction, i.e., a story told in order to educate, the Jonah narrative had a double lesson for the inhabitants of Judah. First, in sending the main character of the story to foreign, pagan, Nineveh, the universality of God’s saving purpose was underscored. Second, in the bigoted persona of Jonah, the parochial and nationalistic Judahites were to recognize a caricature of themselves and to accept the challenge to broaden their concerns in order to bring them into line with God’s Will. Moreover, the value and quality of spirit attributed to the Ninevites was intended to awaken in the people of Judah an attitude of respect for and acceptance of others, who were often regarded as sub-human or as animals (dogs, swine). We notice that, when Jonah preached his short message, the Ninevites believed God (v. 5). Conversion in Nineveh was effected, not by prophetic eloquence (“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed!?!”) but by God’s power. http://www.ncrpub.org).
Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 explained: The second reading also urges us to be converted and to accept the “Good News’ preached by Jesus. Thinking that the end was near and the second coming of Jesus would happen soon, Paul preferred that no one get married and that slaves not try to gain their freedom (1 Cor 7:8, 17-24). But the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World makes clear that it is precisely through engagement with the concerns of the world that Jesus’ followers are to exercise their discipleship. Saint Paul had to be strict and detailed in his moral teaching to the Christians in Corinth because Corinth was a bawdy seaport with a typical seaport’s set of ethics and some very bizarre philosophical ideas. Hence, Paul spent all of chapter 7 on marriage and sexual morality. He told the Corinthians to live in total freedom and detachment because nothing they had, whether things or personal attachments, was permanent, and everything could disappear at a moment’s notice. Whether life is very good or very bad, nothing lasts except the fundamental values of truth and love, of freedom and justice. In the end, it is who and Whose we are, not what we have that counts. Hence, let us ask to have the freedom to follow the call of God and to be ready to go at once wherever Jesus is asking us to go.
Gospel exegesis: “The time is fulfilled.” The meaning of this verse hinges on the Greek word used for ‘time’: “The time is fulfilled…” There are two different words in Greek for ‘time’, and they carry very different meanings. Mark does not use the word ‘chronos’ for ‘time’ here; ‘chronos’ indicates a moment in historical time, a date on the calendar, an hour in the day…Instead, he uses the word ‘kairos’, which still means ‘time’ but is more to do with the eternal quality inherent in any given moment. So Jesus does not announce the historical moment in time when the kingdom of God came to earth. Instead, he is alerting us to the possibility of encountering the kingdom of God at any given moment in historical time, if we repent and believe.
Invitation to repentance: Some Bible scholars believe that after his baptism, Jesus became a disciple of John, preaching his message of repentance and baptizing others (see Jn 3:22). Over the course of time, Jesus began to discover a new ministry for himself. According to Mark, Jesus embarked upon it after John was arrested (Mk 1:14).It is highly likely that Jesus and the four followers he summoned here were not strangers. Even if they had not personally met each other before this time, they were aware of each other’s aspirations and objectives. Jesus used exactly the same words John the Baptist had used: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” The Greek word used “metanoeo” means to change one’s mind or direction. But Jesus must have used the Hebrew shûbh, or its Aramaic equivalent, which means to turn around 180 degrees, to reorient one’s whole attitude toward Yhwh in the face of his coming kingdom. It therefore includes within it the demand for faith. Thus, repentance means that we make a complete change of direction in our lives. This involves a radical conversion (metanoia), a change of direction and priorities in our lives. The mark of genuine repentance is not a sense of guilt, but a sense of sorrow, of regret for having taken a wrong turn. For Jesus, repentance is not merely saying, “I’m sorry,” but also promising, “I will change my life.” Real repentance means that a man has come, not only to be sorry for the consequences of his sin, but to hate sin itself. We often think of repentance as feeling guilty, but it is really a change of mind or direction — seeing things from a different perspective. Once we begin to see things rightly, it might follow that we will feel bad about having seen them wrongly for so long. But repentance starts with the new vision rather than the guilt feelings. By true repentance we are giving up control of our lives and throwing our sinful lives on the mercy of God. We are inviting God to do what we can’t do ourselves — namely to raise the dead — to change and recreate us. “Repent” is used in the present tense — “Keep on repenting!” “Continually be repentant!” This means that repentance must be the ongoing life of the people in the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is the theme of Jesus’ preaching. This Kingdom is any society where God’s will is done as it is done in Heaven. Hence, a person who does the will of God perfectly is already in the Kingdom of God. Being in the Kingdom offers us a new healing and freeing access to God, already to be tasted in Jesus’ own ministry. Matthew, as a devout Jew, consistently uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven,” while Mark, writing for Gentile converts, uses the phrase “Kingdom of God,” without any scruples about using God’s name. We probably shouldn’t interpret the “Kingdom of God” as Heaven where God rules. In telling us that the Kingdom has come near, Jesus is telling us that we can dwell in this Kingdom now, provided we repent or turn away from the idols that crowd our lives and do the will of God as it is done in Heaven, thus allowing God to reign in our lives.
Believe in the “Gospel” or “Good News.” It was preeminently “Good News” that Jesus came to bring to men. The Good News is that God is our loving and forgiving Father and not a punishing judge, and that He wants to save us through His son Jesus. So St. Paul calls it the Good News of truth (Gal 2:5; Col 1:5), Good News of hope (Col 1:23), , Good News of God’s promise of salvation (Eph 1:13, 3:6), Good News of peace with God and man (Eph 6:1), and Good News of immortality (2Tim 1:10). To believe in the Good News simply means to take Jesus at his word, to believe that God is the kind of God that Jesus has told us about, and to believe that God so loves the world that He will make any sacrifice to bring us back to Himself. To believe in the “Good News” involves a total commitment – the investing of one’s whole self in God without any guarantees or preconditions.
The call of the apostles: “The evangelists were not precise chroniclers of Jesus’ words and works. Rather each inspired writer, with his own personal talents and sources, has taken the oral tradition preserved within his community and has shaped a Gospel according to his own Christological and soteriological insights, and in keeping with the pastoral situation and concerns of his readers. For this reason, the same events, e.g., Jesus’ calling of his disciples, have been presented somewhat differently by each of the evangelists.” (http://www.ncrpub.org). Just like Matthew’s, Mark’s account of this call is very brief. Jesus calls two pairs of brothers – Andrew and Peter, James and John – inviting them to become his disciples. The men respond immediately, leaving their nets, their boats, and their father “in the boat along with the hired men, (1:20),” to follow Jesus. These fishermen immediately accept Jesus’ invitation to use their skills to “fish for people.” Abandoning their nets is a way of speaking of what must be left behind when one embraces radical discipleship. Usually rabbinical students sought out their teachers and attached themselves to them. However, Jesus, as rabbi, takes the initiative and calls some probably less-than-ideal candidates to be his students. The disciples were simple fishermen with no great background. In Cicero’s ranking of occupations (De Off 1.150-51), owners of cultivated land appear first and fishermen last. What Jesus needs are ordinary folk who will give Him themselves. What Christ needs is not our ability, but our availability. What Jesus teaches His disciples is not a course of study, but a way of life to follow. Hence, Jesus offers these men the opportunity to observe him at close range on a daily basis. Perhaps Peter, Andrew, James, and John fundamentally misunderstood the call and believed it to be the way out of their poverty and powerlessness. Here was a call to a new life in which they would have power and authority and would be respected by everyone as a result.
Call to make fishers of men: There is a similar passage in Jeremiah 16:16 – “I am now sending for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall catch them”. In the ancient world fishing was a metaphor for two distinct activities: judgment and teaching. “Fishing for people” meant bringing them to justice by dragging them out of their hiding places and setting them before the judge. And “fishing” was also used of teaching people, of the process of leading them from ignorance to wisdom. Both cases involve a radical change of environment, a break with a former way of life and entrance upon a new way of life. We are the fish, and what God promises us, who are dragged out of the water in the nets to die, is a Resurrection, a new life, a new family, a new future, all under God’s control, all within the Kingdom of Heaven, which has come near in Jesus. We have very little control over our own lives, but as fish caught in the net of God’s love, we can trust that we are under God’s control. We have to believe that being captured by God’s love, that responding to the command to repent and die to self, that being raised to a new life by God, is not only right for us, but is a message we need to share with the entire world. The disciples will be trained to do precisely what Jesus is doing right now: proclaiming the Kingdom, recruiting people for it, and drawing them into a community that experiences God’s reign.