Cycle (B) 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Jon. 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Mk. 1:14-20

The story of Jonah and the Whale is one of the oddest accounts in the Bible. God commanded Jonah to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

Jonah found this order unbearable. Nineveh was known for its wickedness. It was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel's fiercest enemies. Jonah was a stubborn fellow so did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and boarded a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh.

God did not want to leave him. God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew cast lots and found that Jonah was responsible for the storm. The waves got stronger and higher. The sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. But, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer.

Jonah was in the giant fish three days. God commanded the whale, and it vomited the reluctant prophet onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah's message and repented, wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.

Call to repentance is the message of all the prophets. Prophets called people to turn away and repent. John warned people and urged them to repent. Jesus began his ministry with an invitation to repent. Jesus invitation to repent was different from that of all the prophets. Prophets preached repentance as a means of escaping from the imminent punishment. Prophet Jonah announced that the city of Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days, there they had to repent to escape from that imminent wrath of God.

Jesus admonished the people to repent in order to prepare themselves to receive the good news. Jesus message was a good news of truth – revelation of God.

In the history of human race one of the greatest searches was the search for God. Philosophers and religious men spent their life in search of God. Rejecting worship of unresponsive idols, Abraham spent time outdoors where he senses an unseen hand directing the movements of the moon, sun, storm, and rainbow. He concludes that "God is everywhere. God is in everything. God is something we know with our hearts." Moses searched for God. God appeared to Moses in the form of Fire. The people of Israel had seen God in clouds and in fire. Prophets herd God call them. But men could only guess and grope after God. Job cried out, "O that I knew where I might find him." (Job 23:3). But with the coming of Jesus men could see clearly what God is like. No longer do they need to guess and grope.

Jesus' message was good news of hope. The ancient world was a pessimistic world. In the essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man's futile search for meaning, unity and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world. He begins by describing the absurd condition: much of our life is built on the hope for tomorrow yet tomorrow brings us closer to death and is the ultimate enemy; people live as if they didn't know about the certainty of death; once stripped of its common romanticisms, the world is a foreign, strange and inhuman place; true knowledge is impossible and rationality and science cannot explain the world: their stories ultimately end in meaningless abstractions, in metaphors. The final chapter compares the absurdity of man's life with the situation of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. In their struggle for goodness men were defeated. The message of Jesus brings hope to the hopeless heart.

Jesus called people to repent in order to receive this good news. When Jesus demanded repentance, he demanded a total change of heart. But, we often confuse two things – sorrow for the consequences of sin and sorrow for the sin itself. Manny of us feel sorry for a certain action because of the mess it gets us into, but if we can reasonably get out of it we would do it again. It is not the sin that we try to avoid but its consequence. Real repentance is that a man should avoid the sin itself.

After announcing the precepts of His Kingdom Jesus proceeded to build up His staff. The men Jesus picked up were simple folk. They did not come from school and the colleges. They did not come from the aristocracy. They were ordinary men, engaged in ordinary business of life. When Jesus called them they were engaged in their day's work. It was so with many prophets. Prophet Amos was called from the farms where he was engaged in rearing the sheep. The call of God can come to us not only in the house of God, not only in the secret places, not only in the house of God, but in the middle of the day's work. The most important aspect is our willingness to accept it.

Jesus's summoned his first disciples with the words "follow me." We should not think that Jesus stood for the first time before them and said, "Follow me." No doubt they had stood in the crowd and listened to Him. No doubt they had already felt the magic of his presence. No doubt that they had been charmed by his words of wisdom. It all began with a personal relationship. Jesus might have extended the invitation to many, but only a few accepted it. We know the story of the young man, who rejected the invitation of Jesus to follow him. When he rejected the invitation he had to renounce the place that had been reserved for him in history. Jesus invitation to follow him comes to us in the middle of our day's work. To recognize this we have repent and maintain purity of heart. If our attention is downed in the distractions of the world, if our attention is blurred by sin, there is no wonder that we will not be able to recognize his call. Jesus tells them "believe"

There was this Christian lady sitting next to a man. When he saw her pull out her Bible he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing.

After a while he turned to her and asked "You don't really believe all that stuff in there do you?"

The lady replied "Of course I do! It is the Bible."

He said "Well what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?"

She replied "Oh, Jonah. Yes I believe that; it is in the Bible. The Bible says Jonah was swallowed by a whale, and I believe it. And if it had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale, I would believe that too!"

He asked "Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?"

The lady said "Well I don't really know. I guess when I get to heaven I will ask him." "What if he isn't in heaven?" the man asked sarcastically.

"Then you can ask him when you reach the hell," replied the lady.


Lastly Jesus call was not to a life of comfortable ease, idleness and lethargic inactivity, but he invited them and offered them a task in which they would have to spend themselves and burn themselves up. His invitation was an invitation to a task where they will be able to serve others. Jesus invitation comes to us with a specific demand. We should be ready to accept the challenges.

Schembechler was the coach of the Michigan Wolverines. It's said that Schembechler used to work his players especially hard during spring practice to see what kind of young men he had, winners or quitters. He made a sign with a slogan on it and hung it above the locker room door. The sign read like this: "Those Who Stay Will Be Champions." Of course, not everyone stayed. Not everyone has what it takes to answer the call to be a champion, regardless of the field or profession. Well, you get the idea. Not everyone is cut out to play football. Not everyone will be happy as a sailor. And not everyone was called to be among Jesus' original twelve disciples. Jesus calls many, but only a few heed his summons. In most churches, only a few of the congregation are really involved in the life of the church. A few are are relatively faithful in worship, but can't truly be counted on for anything else. A few are sporadic attenders. So the fact that these first disciples were willing not only to say "yes" to the Master, but also to leave their homes and follow him is no little matter. They did not ask for explanation. They did not stop to think of their families. They did not give a thought to what they were leaving behind. But they just followed Him. As it is said, "showing up is half the battle."


Cycle (B) 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20; John 1:35-42

When it comes to rags to riches stories, there are no rags lowlier than those worn by American slaves. Rising from the shackles of slavery to extraordinary success required monumental amounts of hard work, tenacity, and passion, and Frederick Douglass had these qualities in spades. Douglass understood that nothing in life would ever be handed to him. When his master's wife, who had been teaching him the alphabet, was reprimanded for doing so by her husband, Douglass continued to learn to read by interacting with white children and working through any written materials he could find.

Then he was traded to the cruel mastery of Edward Covey, who regularly whipped Douglass.

In 1838, Douglass took his greatest risk yet and escaped from slavery to Massachusetts. Douglass soon rose to prominence, becoming an outspoken abolitionist, a spectacular orator, a bestselling author, and a newspaper publisher. Dying in 1895, Douglass had risen from slavery to become one of the most prominent and well-respected black men in the United States, and worked to rebuild broken lives.

Mother Teresa grew famous for humbly ministering to lepers, the homeless and the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. She is held inn great honour today because she dedicated her life for rebuilding the broken lives.

Today's theme is divine vocation. Everyone is called by God to be something, to do something for others with his life and with his unique gifts. Hence, today's readings remind us of our personal and corporate call to become witnesses for the Lamb of God and to lead lives of holiness and purity, and to rebuild broken lives.

What does it mean to be broken…well Webster dictionary defines it as being shattered, damaged, or crushed.

What does it mean to rebuild….reconstruct means to make extensive repair to and to remodel means to make extensive changes in. Your life can be broken in various ways…spiritually, physically, emotionally, or financially.

We see Jeremiah watching the Potter at work on a clay pot (18:3-6). It was damaged into pieces or didn't come out the way that the potter wanted. But something interesting happened here… He didn't throw that broken pot away, yet he picked up all the broken pieces and worked on it the processes that it needed to go through and made that same broken vessel into another beautiful creation.

The Lord declares "like clay in the hand of the potter so are you in my hand." Our God is capable of taking our brokenness and making us complete. Only Christ can rebuild what is broken and make it into something even better, but we must have faith that God can do that for us.

Another example is found in Nehemiah 2:17. This man of God heard about the walls of Jerusalem being broken. He also went and examined the walls himself and saw in person that they were broken. Instead of just hearing about the walls being broken and walking away and doing nothing…he headed the call and made up his mind to go and help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. But in Nehemiah 2:12 he says"…I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem." Because he knew that someone might discourage him from fulfilling God's plan for him. Just like that we may see someone struggling with something, we see first-hand their brokenness and if God stirs your heart to do something to help, then do as Nehemiah did pray, don't tell anyone, and have faith that God will enable you to complete your task. God can only use people that are willing and ready to help. That's the people God uses for his Kingdom.

Dear brothers and sisters that's our Christian responsibility that we should help up our fallen brothers and sisters, and help rebuild their broken lives in any way that God can use us. So, bring everyone to Jesus. That is what John did. When Jesus was passing by John announced "Look! There is the lamb of God." Two of His disciples followed Jesus and asked him: "Rabi, where do you live?" Jesus replied, "Come, and see."

This is our mission to invite people who want to rise from their broken life, to come and see.

Two men, who had been business partners for over twenty years, met one Sunday morning as they were leaving a restaurant. One of them asked, "Where are you going this morning?" "I'm going to play golf. What about you?" The first man responded rather apologetically, "I'm going to church." The other man said, "Why don't you give up that church stuff?" The first man asked, "What do you mean?" His partner said: "Well, we have been partners for twenty years. We have worked together, attended board meetings together, and had lunch together, and all of these twenty years you have never asked me about going to church. You have never invited me to go with you. Obviously, it doesn't mean that much to you." (John A. Stroman, God's Downward Mobility, CSS Publishing Company).

As Jesus passed by John, he happens to pass by us every day, every moment of our lives. But some obstacles prevent us from recognizing him they are – pride, greed and impurity. Jesus is calling us in many ways to rebuild our broken lives. Let's listen to his call, and invite all to come and see Him.


Cycle (B) The Epiphany of the Lord

Is 60:1-6; Eph 2:2-3, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

Some events and happenings are powerful enough to upset the life of an individual, or even to change the course of history.  In the play “Macbeth” Shakespeare shows how Macbeth’s life was influenced by the prophecy of the three witches. Macbeth was returning after a victorious battle. Then, in the wilderness, he was met by three witches. They greeted him, “Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!” This unusual greeting upset the life of Macbeth.  Macbeth and Lady Macbeth together had dreams of Macbeth becoming king. He began to involve in foul means to become the next king. It forced him to murder the king. It made him assassinate many innocent men. Thus, he lost his peace and sleep.

There are many examples in history, that show that certain prophecies and events have a profound influence on individuals, often they shook their comfort zone and made them restless.  One of the greatest examples is King Herod. When he heard that a king was born for the Jews, he felt insecure and wanted to destroy the child that was going to be his rival. He assembled all the wise men in the palace and ascertained from them that the King of Jews would come from Bethlehem.

It was in Bethlehem that Jesus was born. Bethlehem was a quiet little town six miles to the south of Jerusalem. The name Bethlehem means “The House of Bread”, and Bethlehem stood in a fertile country side, which made its name a fitting one. Bethlehem had a long history. It was there that Jacob had buried Rachael. It was there that Ruth had lived. It was the home and city of David. It was in Bethlehem that the Jews expected great David’s greater son to be born.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem there came to do him homage wise men from the East. The name given to these men is Magi. The Magi were men who were skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural science. They were good and holy men who sought for truth. We do not know for certain what brilliant star those ancient Magi saw. But it was their profession to watch the heavens, and some heavenly brilliance spoke to them of the entry of a king into the world.

It may seem extraordinary that those men should set out from the East to find a king, but the strange  thing is that,  just about the time Jesus was born, there was in the world a strange feeling of expectation of coming of a king. Even the Roman historians knew about this. So, when Jesus came the world was in an eagerness of expectation. Men were waiting for God, and the desire for God was in their hearts. It was to a waiting world that Jesus came, and the ends of the earth were gathered at his cradle. It was the first sign and symbol of the world conquest of Jesus.

If the search of the Magi was inspired by their love for truth and the desire to lay at the feet of Jesus the noblest gifts they could bring, Herod’s curiosity sprang out of jealousy. Any king would have been worried at the report that a child had been born who was to occupy his throne. But Herod was doubly disturbed.  Suspicion was a terrible flaw in his character. He was almost insanely suspicious. He had murdered his wife Mariamne, her mother, and many of his own sons. He was well aware that no one would mourn for his death, and that he was determined that some tears should be shed when he died. So he had arrested and imprisoned a collection of the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem. He gave orders that the moment he died they should all be killed. It is clear how such a man would feel when news reached him that a child was born who was destined to be king. Herod was troubled, and Jerusalem, too, was troubled. For Jerusalem well knew the steps Herod would take to eliminate the child.

Jesus’ presence has disturbed many. Zachaeus was disturbed when he met Jesus, and he declared that he was going to be a changed man. Pilot felt disturbed at the trial of Jesus. Paul was disturbed, when he met Jesus, and it forced him to amend his life. St Francis was disturbed when he met Jesus, and he spent days in silent prayers to see what Jesus wanted him to do. Today, we too should feel this disturbance when we meet Jesus. Because, he interferes with our life and demands a total change. He comes into our hearts, and opens our eyes to see things differently and truly.

In one of William J Locke’s novels there is a picture of a woman who has a lot of money, and who has spent half of lifetime on a tour of the sights and picture galleries of the world. She is weary and bored. Then she meets a Frenchman who has little of this world’s good, but who has wide knowledge and a great love of beauty. He comes with her, and in his company things are completely different. She said to him, “I never knew what things were like until you taught me how to look at them.”  So life becomes quite different when Jesus teaches us how to look at things.

Once a wealthy gentle man went to meet a doctor. He said to the doctor, “Doctor, wherever I touch in my body I have terrible pain.” The doctor examined him. But, he could not find anything wrong with his body. Being his great friend, the doctor did not want to discourage him telling that he was perfectly alright. So the doctor invited some other specialist too, and sent him for scanning and other tests. They found that all his internal organs were perfectly functioning. But, the man was annoyed and impatient. He repeated his complaint that he felt intense pain wherever he touched in his body. One of the junior attendants was angry when he heard him cursing the doctors. He said to him, “Show me, the place where you find pain.” He touched his chest, face, arm etc. and said, “You see it pains everywhere.” The attendant happened caught his finger, and the man wreathed in agony. The attendant said, “My dear man your finger is fractured. The problem is not with your body; the problem is with your finger.”

The problem of Herod was that he was filled with suspicion and jealousy. Therefore he could not accept the king of kings, when he came. Even today Jesus manifests Himself to us in various ways, but we fail to recognize him. Where does our problem lie? What hinders us from discovering Him? We should respond to the manifestations of Jesus like the wise men who hastened to Bethlehem the moment they were told that the Messiah was born. Discover his plans for us day after day, and having discovered them submit to them with joy.