Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Word of God Sunday)

Homily – Third Sunday Year B

The evangelist Mark gives only very bare details of the calling of the first four
disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John. There are lots of gaps in the story and we would like to know more. The gaps however allow each of us to
complete this story for ourselves. Without gaps, the story would be a dry
historical report. The Word of God which we celebrate today is not a one size
fits all – but is a Word addressed to each of us – for us to take up, reflect upon,
respond and make our own. No one can take our unique role in this dialogue –
the Word is addressed to everyone, and we are each invited to enter Jesus’ story.

The call of the first four disciples is puzzling at a number of levels. Why
does Jesus choose these four? We might expect that Jesus would call some
scribes who would be familiar with Scriptures and be better able to teach.
Instead, he calls four fishermen. Later in the Gospel, we learn just how little
suited they are to the task. James and John seek the best places in the kingdom, and the others become envious. They all squabble about who is the greatest.Peter is impulsive but also fearful. They all abandon Jesus, and Peter denies him. How can such an ill-equipped group respond to Jesus’ call to follow him?

Many might wonder how the fishermen could respond so enthusiastically to
Jesus’ call. The evangelist doesn’t fill in every detail, and we may presume that
the call to follow is not the first word spoken to the disciples. Just before the
account of the call there is a summary of Jesus’ general preaching which
presumably forms the context of the call of the disciples. Jesus first proclaims
the Good News of God: the time has come; the Kingdom of God has come
close. These are wonderful words. However, for the four fishermen who
recognise how far they are from God, these words are fearsome and
uncomfortable. They are unlikely to access the salvation associated with the
coming of the Kingdom. The News is Good for others but not for them.

Jesus acknowledges the situation of the fishermen when he calls on them to
repent and believe in the Good News. The invitation to repent signals that Jesus
knows that the fishermen are far from God. The invitation shows however that a
new direction is possible, that the fishermen might repent. The fishermen
themselves might be unsure. They know all too well their failings, how far they
are from God.

The word “repent” echoes in their minds. In the Scriptures they would recall
the trip of the well-known prophet Jonah to the city of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t
want to go to Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrians who had ravaged much
of Israel and deported much of the population. The command of the Lord to
preach to the Ninevites and call on them to repent was inexplicable. The Lord
sent the prophet to the greatest of Israel’s enemies. Despite Jonah’s extreme
reluctance, the people of Nineveh responded and repented at the Lord’s
command and were saved. The Lord’s command “to repent” empowered those
furthest from him to return to him and be saved. The four fishermen take hope
from this word of Jesus – repent. Although aware of their continuing faults, the
way is now open to reconnect with God. Yes, they will make mistakes and fall
short, but Jesus’ invitation to repent allows them to get up again and walk the
road of salvation. This is how the fishermen can become followers of Jesus by
constantly being open to repentance and this is how we both individually and as
church can be true followers of Jesus. The Good News is Good for all. We all
stumble but we can through repentance walk the same road with Jesus to life
and salvation.

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