January 25, 2009, Year B
Third Sunday In Ordinary Time
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: Time Is Running Out
For the world in its present form is passing away. (St. Paul)
The scriptures today reflect on the mission of Jonah, St. Paul's words about time running out and Jesus' calling together men he intends to become 'fishers of men.'
Evangelism has always been the mission of the Church. The very word 'evangelism' speaks of 'good news.' Each one of us is called to share the story of Jesus. Like the Star of Bethlehem, we are to show the way to Jesus. The news of Christ coming into the world is indeed the good news, the Gospel of life.
As we contemplate this high and holy calling, many of us are wary. Good intentioned and enthusiastic Christians can often be seen in public places handing out Chick gospel tracts depicting in cartoon style 'sinners in the hands of an angry God.' And young men going out 2 by 2 knocking on doors seeking to explain their beliefs based upon another gospel is a turn off to many of us. Channel surfing reveals any number of TV Evangelists explaining the scary details of an existence should you be 'left behind.' I even attended a wonderful production of the Story of Christmas a couple of Christmases ago that unfortunately included a graphic and detailed presentation of the Crucifixion, as though the Incarnation is deficient in telling the 'good news.' Evangelism is telling the story of Jesus, a story the world still needs to hear. And it can be told in many ways without resorting to scare tactics and threats.
There is an urgency that comes through the readings today. No doubt every one of us could say that complacency is our greatest challenge. St. Paul describes the world as limited on time. He reflects on the destructive ways of the world. These ways are so destructive that Paul states 'the world in its present form' is passing away. We must not allow our good and necessary attachments and obligations to keep us from the immediate and urgent call to 'let our light shine.'
I grew up in a church that taught Jesus is coming soon. I still believe Jesus is coming soon. This truth is borne out in Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. However, the urgency I now embrace is different from the backward and sometimes unintelligible way I first learned this truth. In my childhood church, this truth was often presented as an escape from the world. Many never cultivated their gifts and talents, thinking there was not enough time to accomplish the many good and wonderful things of life. This is a travesty that continues to be preached from the pulpit of many churches.
Today we are also called to be bold and courageous. To be sure, it takes courage and boldness to witness to what is good, true and beautiful. Today's world is racing down an uncertain road. It is dangerously courting disaster. These perilous times are marked by lust. Lust for power, lust for money, lust for sex. The stable and ancient traditions of marriage are being attacked. Respect for life in all stages is being assigned the sentence of death. In such times we must be bold and courageous in our witness to the splendor of truth.
Lastly, we must be faithful. He who is the same yesterday, today and forever asks us to remain faithful to him. In the end, when time shall be no more, the rewards of eternity will go to those who were faithful. Being faithful and true remain the virtues of real Christian life and witness. We cannot allow ourselves to be 'tossed to and fro' by every wind of doctrine. As we seek to be true to the faith as it was first revealed to the Church, we will bless the world with truth, grace and love, the indestructible pillars of the Church. The Church in these charisms evangelizes the world, being the face of Jesus to those who have never seen the Lord.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, You have given me a lifetime and a world in which to show your love. Pour your love through me and may those nearest to me see your face on mine. Amen.
Scriptures: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 25: 4-9
1 Cor. 7:29-31