Follow Jesus Without Delay

User’s Guide to Sunday, Jan. 24

May we make a firm amendment of life to follow Jesus in all that we do.
May we make a firm amendment of life to follow Jesus in all that we do. (photo: Josh Applegate / Unsplash)

Sunday, Jan. 24, is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B). Mass Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20.

In the cycle of readings for the liturgical year, St. Mark’s Gospel predominates the Gospel readings for Year B. The shortest of the Gospels and with the simplest Greek, it was often ignored by biblical commentators over the centuries. However, its power today lies in its bare-boned presentation of the Good News. 

One of the central themes of St. Mark’s Gospel is the identity of Jesus, who, throughout, tells those he heals and delivers from demons not to tell anyone who he is. But the Gospel also includes challenges to those who have discovered who Jesus claims to be. The first challenge is how we are going to respond to the revelation that Jesus is the Savior, and the second is when we are going to respond. Today’s readings bring out these vital questions.

In the first, we hear of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh, where he was to announce to the people of the city that they were to be destroyed in 40 days for their wickedness. Though the city was so large it took three days to cross, after only one day of Jonah announcing the news, the people “proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” As a result of their rapid repentance, God had mercy on them. 

The second reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians tells us that the follower of Christ should be detached from things of this world. St. Paul says that those who have wives should act as though they do not have wives, but we know from St. Paul’s other teachings and the context here that he does not mean this literally. Rather, this is an admonition to the Christians in Corinth, who are struggling with attachment to wealth and other things, to eschew those attachments so that they might live with “adherence to the Lord without distraction” (verse 35).

So it is that, in the Gospel reading, St. Mark tells us of the calling of Simon and Andrew as well as James and John. The Lord tells them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The original Greek includes the word “immediately,” describing how and when they responded, and so, in each case, they dropped everything immediately and followed Jesus. 

These readings each remind us that, as we consider who the Lord is in our lives, several questions should continue to ring in our minds and hearts. How will we respond to Jesus’ invitation to us? Do we choose to believe? Will we accept Jesus as the Lord of our lives, more important than our wealth, our jobs or even our family? And when will we respond? Will we, like the Ninevites, quickly repent and turn our lives around? Will we, like Sts. Peter, Andrew, James and John, immediately drop everything, or will we delay?

From the time of St. Mark’s writing, Christians have been asking themselves these questions in a world that seeks to distract us from the transcendent. Let us pray, then, that we can respond like the Psalmist today, who says, “Teach me your ways, O Lord” and make a firm amendment of life to follow Jesus in all that we do.