Sunday Scripture reading, Jan. 24, 2021: Following God's call
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Jon 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2) 1 Cor 7:29-31
Gospel: Mk 1:14-20
In announcing a Year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis highlights the unique vocation of the man God called to be the head of the Holy Family, the husband of Mary, and the guardian of the Redeemer. While no spoken words of Joseph are recorded in the Gospels, we learn of his vocation and life through his decisions and deeds.
Actions spoke louder than words in the life of Joseph.
At first, Joseph was reluctant to take Mary as his wife and fearful for the life of the infant Jesus whom Herod wanted to kill. Yet precisely in these uncertain and dangerous situations Joseph trusted in the divine message he heard. His obedience to the divine call would bring about the unfolding of God's saving plan for the world.
In the first reading, we encounter the prophet Jonah who discovers, in stages, his vocation and call to serve God. At first, Jonah was reluctant to do the work of the Lord. He heard God call him but turned the other way, attempting to hide from the task that was given to him.
But the Lord continued to call Jonah to bring a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh, in spite of his hesitation to do so. But once Jonah accepted the divine call his ministry opened the way for a powerful outpouring of God's grace. For at the preaching of Jonah the people of Nineveh returned to God with repentance, prayer and fasting.
In choosing a messenger, God persists in calling him or her to their life's vocation.
In the Gospel, Jesus invites the people to recognize the fulfillment of God's kingdom in their midst when he says, "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel." The message of repentance and call to faith, at the heart of the preaching of St. John the Baptist, echoes across the New Testament.
And then as Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee he touches the hearts and minds of Peter and Andrew, James and John. Jesus encounters them and calls them personally to discipleship with a direct, loving invitation to "come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." St. Mark simply tells us that the disciples abandoned their nets to follow Jesus.
As we hear God's word today, the same divine call to discipleship and service is addressed to you and me. We may respond with reluctance, disbelief or indifference. Or we can respond with humble gratitude for God's call and offer, in trust, our "yes" to God, in imitation of Mary.
At baptism we too received the great dignity of being called a son or daughter of God, clothed with the garment of immortality, peace and wisdom that strengthens us to pray, "speak to me, Lord."
How does Jesus' call to follow him echo in your life today?
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Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.