God Is Behind His Movement

User's Guide to Sunday, Jan. 25

Sunday, Jan. 25, is the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).


Mass Readings

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25:4-9; 1Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20


Our Take

Today’s Gospel and readings provide enormous hope, if you stop and think about it. After all, they say the human messenger of God’s word is not what really counts: It is God’s power that will prevail.

Take the Gospel, for example. Today’s Gospel recounts the rather inauspicious beginning of Christianity. Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John to his side. They will one day be the great leaders of the Church that will sweep the world.

What Jesus is doing is analogous to Alexander the Great picking his generals before amassing his enormous empire or Napoleon forming his inner circle as his ambitious plans begin.

But Jesus doesn’t choose the best and brightest; he doesn’t choose those with the greatest tactical skills or the most far-reaching education. Instead, he chooses simple fisherman, men of modest education.

What these fishermen will achieve will dwarf the accomplishments of Alexander the Great and Napoleon. They will start a revolution of concern for truth that will make modern science possible. They will build a religion of beauty that will transform the arts and make the Renaissance possible. They will start an ethical system of such moral clarity that will transform the way human beings are treated on whole continents.

And today, when Christianity continues to grow by leaps and bounds in Africa, South America and even China and India, it is clearer than ever that the talents of Peter, Andrew, James and John had next to nothing to do with it.

By picking simple fishermen of no extraordinary quality as his inner circle, Jesus assures us that God is behind his movement, not men — and he gives us hope that even we might participate in the remarkable story of salvation history.

Of course, this is something God has done all along.

Today’s first reading is the story of Jonah going to Ninevah — a nervous prophet who doesn’t want to be there, but who nonetheless starts preaching God’s message and takes the town by storm. Jonah learns what Abraham, Moses and David learned: Despite our weakness, God can work through us with amazing results.

All he asks is our willingness to participate in his plan.

In the second reading, St. Paul — a tent-maker whose religious career went nowhere before he found Jesus — tells us why.

“The world in its present form is passing away,” he says.

The age of men is waning; the age of Emmanuel, God-with-us, is on the rise.

He tells “those having wives” to “act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully.”

The new power of Christ takes precedence over all those things. And it is a power that is capable of changing everything.

Which brings us to ourselves, average, everyday Catholics, in average, everyday neighborhoods, leading average, everyday lives. Our fidelity will be powerful, too. We, too, can make an impact on the world.

We just have to meet Christ and share the experience with others.

Tom and April Hoopes write from

Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is

writer in residence at Benedictine College.