Reflections on the Readings
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 22, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Time Is Short
"I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short...for the form of this world is passing away." - St. Paul
Paul speaks of the end of time and how near it may be. From the beginning of the Church there have been wars and famines and pestilence and persecution, all of which have fueled expectations that time is short. Not long after Pentecost, immediate persecution of the people of the Way broke out. And the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by Titus, the son of the Roman Emperor, Vespasian, were regarded as 'signs of the times.' And merciless persecution and martyrdom like under the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, further persuaded the early Church that the appointed time was surely near.
The blessed hope is a hope we should reflect on as deeply as did the early Church - embracing the promise that it is. In this reflection I attempt to guide us into the patient endurance of the Church and the urgency and mandate she possesses to bring Christ to the world - while there is still time. As the early Church observed Jesus ascend into heaven, two men in white apparel said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) It is for this the Apostle Paul sought to convey some sense of urgency to the Church at Corinth. We do well to take heed.
Throughout history the Church has learned in every generation that the servant is not greater than her Master. "If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you," says the Lord of the Church. Our heroes are those who have 'fought the good fight and finished the race and kept the faith' for there awaits a crown of righteousness for everyone who will endure until the end. (2 Timothy 4:7, 8)
Patiently the Church goes into all the world understanding that 'one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day with the Lord.' And persecution and martyrdom has not diminished the zeal and fervency of the Church's evangelization. It is not convenience that propels the Church into the world but rather conviction and her Lord's calling upon her for he who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap. (Eccl. 11:4) In 'season and out of season' the light of the people of God shines showing the way to the Father's house and Table. In the open and welcoming arms of the Church is salvation; now is the acceptable time; today is the day of salvation!
Throughout 1 Corinthians 7, Paul gives a vigorous defense of marriage. However, Paul teaches us not to have undue attachment to things that will cease when time shall be no more. He exhorts us not to be distracted by the joys or the trials of life. Paul warns us against the human propensity to see one's worth in what this world gives - this world is not our destiny and it is 'passing away.' In marriage or in singleness, a proper understanding is that we are in the world, but we are not of it. We are to hold onto the goods and the good things of this life with our eyes fixed on things above.
For two thousand years the Church has possessed a sense of urgency by going into all the world with the healing love of Jesus. In the first reading, it is necessary and urgent that Jonah preach to the city of Nineveh. Because of his three day preaching campaign, the people of Nineveh fasted and prayed and repented of their evil ways. Without Jonah's obedience those people would have perished under the judgement of God. But the people turned from their wicked ways and God looked graciously upon them. It is the same grace that comes to the world through us.
It is Jesus who first preaches the gospel of God and says, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel." These words remain the inspiration of all that the Church does to reach every generation with the gospel. The gospel is Good News! When John was arrested and incarcerated, he sent two of his disciples to Jesus with this question: "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" And Jesus said, "Go tell John the Good News! Tell him what you have seen and heard. Tell him that the blind see, and the lame walk. Tell him that the lepers are cleansed and the deaf can hear again. Tell him that the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. Then whisper in his ear, 'And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.'" (see Luke 18-23)
In the Gospel today Jesus calls men to join him in announcing the fullness of time and the kingdom of God. He calls Simon and his brother Andrew and James and John, the sons of Zebedee to follow him and to become fishers of men. To them he revealed his kingdom of love and mercy and then he sent them into all the world to preach in his name the merciful love of God. His name has been proclaimed in the pristine halls of palaces and in the lowest ghettos of human suffering.
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven he gave his fledgling Church the Great Commission. (Matthew 28: 16-20) In that moment he promised that he would never leave us nor forsake us saying, "I am with you always, to the close of the age." Jesus is near us in the poor among us. He is close to us in the brothers and sisters we have in the family of God. Christ is beside us in the care we take to help our families grow in holiness. Jesus comes to us in the sacraments of confession and marriage and holy orders. This morning Jesus comes to us in this bread which is his body and this wine which is his blood. This is a special time to be aware of Christ in us the hope of glory. For now is salvation nearer than we we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:11-14) Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com