January 24, 2021
The word of the Lord came to Jonah saying: "Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you." So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord's bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day's walk announcing, "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed," when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
1) Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my Savior. (Refrain:)
2) Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. (Refrain:)
3) Good and upright is the Lord; thus, he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way. (Refrain:)
I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
Dynamic Preaching: Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, TN 37922.
The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis, pp. 98 - 105, Macmillan Company, NY 1946.
More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories, by William J. Bausch, pp. 11-14. Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, CT 1993.
A Legacy of Love, from Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, pp. 117-118. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla. 1993.
The Martyrdom of Andy, from A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, pp. 50 - 54. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla. 1995. (Specifically mentions "whatsoever you do to the least...".)
Who You Are Makes a Difference, from Chicken Soup for the Soul, pp.19 - 21.
In the Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics.
Jonah knew what God wanted him to do. God wanted Jonah to conduct revival services over in Ninevah. He wanted Jonah to tell the people of Ninevah to shape up or ship out. Jonah knew what God wanted him to do. Knowing God's will was not the problem. It never is. Doing God's will is the problem. Jonah decides to run. Jonah decides to escape--to get on board a ship headed in the opposite direction from Ninevah, a ship bound for Tarshish, in Spain, the furthest point to which ships traveled in the known world at that time. The author of this little book tells us that Jonah was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. He was not the first to do that--nor the last.
- There is a story about a Rolls Royce that stopped on a skid row street. A well-dressed, refined woman got out of that fine automobile and rushed into a dilapidated hotel nearby. She inquired about a certain man who was staying there. Informed of his room, she hurried on--impervious to the stares of the other residents of this run-down establishment. Finding the man's room, she courageously opened the door, where she found a dissipated man lying on a ripped mattress on a rusty iron bed. The man was her husband. He had been born in an iron worker's family. Totally undistinguished as a young person, he squeaked into the state college where he met this coed from a very wealthy family. Despite their differences, they became fast friends. Then they became more than friends. Finally, he was emboldened to seek her hand in marriage. She accepted! With ecstasy!! He proved to be acceptable to her family and he did well in the family business. Despite the ensuing successes, however, he began to have doubts about himself--whether he belonged in such a world and whether he deserved the success that was his. His lack of self-worth was complicated by a growing attachment to alcohol. He began a tragic slide that caused him to conclude that everyone would be better off without him. Eventually, he ended up diseased and alone. Word of his problems had somehow gotten to his wife, and she made this trip to find him dying. Hugging the fallen man to her breast she wept, repeating over and over, "Ronnie, I've always loved you! Why couldn't you believe me?" (1)
There are people who still run from God. Some run off to the lakes in the summer time. Some run to a bottle of booze or drugs. Some run to lives of tedious mediocrity with no great purpose for their lives. Some run to politics or even self-satisfied religions that do not require them to heed the problems of the world around them. But the result is always the same. THERE IS NO PEACE AWAY FROM GOD. Jonah could run to the ends of the earth or even the bottom of the ocean in the belly of a fish, but without God, he would never find what he needed most--and neither will we.
And why are we running? Do we feel unworthy of God's great love? Are we afraid that God will ask us to do something that we do not want to do, like the ghost in Lewis' story? Don't we know that we cannot run from God? That is one of the lessons we learn from Jonah's experience. There is no running from God. God is our natural home. God is the source of joy, love, and peace. Without God there is no happiness. The longer we fight doing God's will, the more unhappy we'll be. The peace that we wish each other at every Mass is actually a peace that comes from the acceptance of God's will. The ghost in Lewis' story was only happy after he shed the shackles of the sin which bound him. Sometimes perhaps we feel that God could never love us after all we've done. But that couldn't be further from the truth. God wants us home in heaven with him, and we will never be truly happy anywhere else. (2)
(1. Rolls Royce and Husband.By Daer Platt, Houston, TX. From Dynamic Preaching, Seven Worlds Corporation, 310 Simmons Road, Knoxville, Tn. 37922. Used with permission.)
- However, despite all this, there are similarities between his life and Our Lord's. Both preach repentance, and just as Jonah was in the whale three days, Jesus was in the tomb for three days before his resurrection. Jonah represents the narrow and vindictive mentality of many of the Jews of the time who wanted God's mercy to be limited to them. It was unthinkable to them that nations as wicked as Assyria could earn God's forgiveness.
- In a few pages of the Great Divorce (pp. 98 - 105, Macmillan Company, New York, 1946), Lewis crystallizes the debate which goes on inside each of us about doing God's will: should I, shouldn't I, how about tomorrow, etc. The entire passage is wonderful to read, but Lewis closes it with a beautiful paraphrase of a text from Paul's letter to the Hebrews.
- A few years ago before my retirement, I attended a week of training in Washington, D.C. for my job with the federal government. While there, I happened to strike up a conversation with a woman behind me whom I noticed was from Oklahoma. I asked her if she was one of the new employees who had come from all over the country to staff the Oklahoma City office after the bombing of the Federal Building there. She said that she wasn't new to the office, but had in fact been one of the survivors. She then rolled up the sleeve of her blouse to show me a scar on her arm which extended from above the wrist to above the elbow. She then told me of a conversation she had had with the mother of one of those killed in the blast. The woman's daughter had gone to work early that morning but was just preparing to leave to pick up her mother for a doctor's appointment later that morning. Why the daughter had even reported for work that day is anyone's guess. The mother said that her daughter had called her just after 9 AM to let her know that she was getting ready to leave the office to pick her up. Before hanging up the phone, the daughter said, "Mom, I love you". Before the mother could hang up the phone, she heard the blast through the phone and then the line went dead. Those were the last words her daughter ever spoke to her.
In last week's liturgy, we heard an excerpt from John's gospel which was similar to the reading in today's gospel from Mark in which Jesus calls his first disciples. In both readings, the disciples left all behind and followed the call that our Lord made to them. In today's first reading, we heard of Jonah's successful preaching in Nineveh and how their repentance brings about God's forgiveness. Now if this is all we heard from this marvelous little book (it only takes about five minutes to read it in its entirety), we would think that Jonah was a wonderful prophet of God. What this reading doesn't include from the book of Jonah makes us realize that he is anything but a willing participant in God's plan. In the first two chapters of this book is the story of Jonah's flight when God first calls him and his eventual swallowing by a whale, a story with which we should all be familiar. And if this lesson wasn't enough for him to learn, after God forgives the people in this excerpt, Jonah goes into another fit of anger, flees the city and sulks in a tent outside its walls. So we can see that Jonah is hardly a figure to be emulated and not at all like the disciples in the gospel.
Jonah's problem was that he didn't want to do what God wanted him to do. God wanted Jonah to go preach to the people of Ninevah and Jonah didn't want to go. We can understand that, can't we? There are things that God wants us to do and sometimes we have difficulty motivating ourselves to do them. Our problem is not determining God's will for us, it is motivating ourselves to do the things that we already know God wants us to do.
- Speaking of knowing God's will for us and being unwilling to follow it reminds me of a story from a book I read many years ago by my favorite author, C. S. Lewis. In one of his books called The Great Divorce, he tells several stories about ghosts who are given a chance to leave hell and go to heaven if they can just give up the sin which put them in hell in the first place. Towards the end of the book, one ghost finally has the courage to do so. But he puts up such a struggle saying that the time isn't right, he isn't feeling all that well, etc. However, finally the lizard on his shoulder that pestered him constantly is wrenched away by an angel and becomes a magnificent stallion, while the ghost becomes a glorified man. Lewis points out very effectively that all the things which control us some day will be under our control instead.
Just like the ghost in the story, we always have loads of excuses why we can't do God's will right now. But that's not what the disciples in the gospel passage did. Christ called them and "immediately", as Mark puts it, they followed him. They didn't make excuses; they didn't say that they would have to settle their affairs first. They just left everything behind and followed him.
So how do we follow answer God's call and do his will in our own lives? Well, that is something which each of us have to look into our hearts to discern. But we have probably all had times when we have behaved as Jonah did: we don’t want to do the things we know that we should do and that God wants us to do. Consider the following true story.
- An adult education teacher once gave his class an assignment to go to someone they love before the following week's class and tell them that they loved them. They would then give their report at the next class. It had to be someone to whom they had never said those words before, or at least not for a very long time.
At the next class, one man stood up and recounted his story to the class. "I was quite angry with you last week when you gave us this assignment. I felt that who were you to tell us to do something so personal? But as I was driving home, my conscience started talking to me. It was telling me that I knew exactly who I needed to say 'I love you' to. Five years ago, my father and I had a terrible argument which we have never resolved. We have avoided seeing each other unless it was absolutely necessary and even then we hardly spoke to each other. So last week by the time I had gotten home after class, I had convinced myself to tell my father that I loved him.
It's strange, but just making the decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest. When I told my wife, she jumped out of bed, gave me a big hug and for the first time in our married life saw me cry. We sat up half of the night talking and drinking coffee.
The next day I was up bright and early as if I had slept soundly all night. I got to the office and accomplished more in a couple of hours than I had the whole day before. At 9AM, I called my father to tell him I wanted to come over after work and talk to him. He reluctantly agreed. By 5:30, I was at the house.
When my father answered the door, I didn't waste any time. I took one step inside and blurted out 'Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.' Well, it was as if a transformation had come over him. Before my eyes, his face softened, the wrinkles seemed to disappear and he too began to cry. He reached out and hugged me, saying 'I love you too, son, but I've never been able to say it.' My mother walked by just then with tears in her eyes. I didn't stay long, but I hadn't felt that great in a long time.
Two days after my visit, my dad, who had had heart problems but hadn't told us, had an attack and ended up unconscious in the hospital. I still don't know if he'll make it. So my message to all of you in this class is: don't wait to do the things you know need to be done. If I had waited, I may never have another chance to do what I did." (1)
If this writer hadn’t been given this assignment in his class, he probably would have never reconciled with his father until it was too late to do so.
Just this past Wednesday (1/17/18), a teenage daughter lost both of her parents in an accident on Route 80 in North Jersey. She wrote this on social media:
- I miss you both so much my heart is eternally empty. I wish I could hug you and tell you I love you one more time. To my mommy, thank you for being my best friend. I will miss your amazing advice, the way you took care of me when I was sick, the smell of your perfume, and most of all the way it felt to get a hug from you. It made all pain go away but this time I can’t get one. To my daddy, thank you for being my protector. I’ll miss all your crazy stories and the way you lit up a room when you walked in. I’ll always be daddy’s little girl. My advice to everyone is to go hug your parents and tell them how much you love them because you really never know the last time you will see both of them. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to recover from this. The pain is unbearable. Just when I think my body has run out of tears, another finds its way out. This morning I wanted all of this to be a dream but it wasn’t. I’m still waiting for both of you to walk in the door and come home. I’ll never understand why God has taken both of you but I hope someday it will get easier. I love you mommy and daddy. Please give me the strength to keep going and guide us in this difficult time. Take care of each other in heaven. (2)
We all need to tell the people that we love how much we love them. We always presume that they know. But maybe they don't, and besides we need to do so before it’s too late.
God is calling us to listen to his voice, follow his commands to love one another (including by verbalizing it) and to be his light to all nations. Once we realize what God's will is in our hearts, all we need to do is put it into action. Perhaps it could be something as simple as saying I love you - three little words that could change our lives and the lives of those around us as they did for the man in our story, something that Christ told each one of us from the cross. Think about it and then follow the advice in those old Nike commercials we used to see: just do it.
Alternate second story:
- Some years ago now, I was on the train riding home from my job in Newark when I happened to pick up a copy of the New York Times which someone had left behind on one of the empty seats. This was during the first few weeks after the loss of TWA Flight 800 in New York. I read in the paper about the brother of one of those who died in the accident and who had lived with his deceased brother for years until they had had an argument six months before his death and had never spoken since. He said that he deeply regretted that he hadn’t reconciled with him before he died and that the guilt will be with him forever.
- Do It Now. Copyright 1995 by Dennis E. Mannering. (He is the author of How Good Managers Become Great Leaders, plus several audio-cassettes including Motivation In Action. He may be reached at Options Unlimited, 617 Sunrise Lane, Green Bay, WI. 54305 or 1-800-236-3445. From A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, copyright 1995 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, pp. 46-48. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Used with permission of the author.
- From Selena Rodriguez
(Copyright 2018 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
Lord Jesus, you have called us to be your disciples. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you have called us to follow your example and obey the will of the Father. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you have called us to be a light to all nations. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Our Lord has called each of us to proclaim the good news of his gospel by the way we live. With confidence that he will intercede for us, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer."
That the Spirit will guide and inspire those who have been called to lead and serve the members of the Church, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will come to put aside their differences and work for peace, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the terminally ill and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will find comfort in their belief in the good news, we pray to the Lord.
That the Holy Spirit will continue to bless all those who instruct our children in our Catholic schools, we pray to the Lord.
That the Lord will inspire us to become prophets in the lives of others through our good works, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the sight of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, you sent your Son to call us to repentance and to believe in the good news. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to faithfully follow him until we see his loving countenance in your everlasting kingdom. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.