Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Jonah 3:1-5,10 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Mark 1:14-20
When I was young, I thought religious sisters and priests were called to be holy and lay people were called to be good. I was also pretty certain that Catholics had cornered the market on both goodness and holiness. I have discovered that goodness is a mark of humanness. It is inherent in our very being. Non-believers all over the world obey the natural law. They know the difference between good and evil and are generally moral beings who choose what is good over what is evil.
Aiming for holiness is a bit more complicated and not limited to those who are called to priesthood or consecrated life. Our belief in Jesus Christ calls all of us to holiness. Our choices center around what is good and what is better.
Simon and Andrew were good men, simple fishermen casting their nets and providing for their families. They were ordinary men leading ordinary lives. “Come after me,” the Lord says and they are faced with a more serious decision. They had to choose between the good and ordinary life that they knew and one they had yet to discover. Would this be better? There is little doubt that they knew of the Lord and were already taken by his message. Why then were they still fishing? Simon and Andrew had already lived long enough to know that we often have to give up one thing to achieve another. Confronted with the Lord himself they made a decision. “Immediately,” the Gospel says, “they abandoned their nets.”
Life seems to be a continual story of people holding tightly onto the things they have and still trying to reach out for what they want. We Christians, too, often think that we can have the world and its possessions and the Lord, too.
Today’s liturgy reminds us of the choices the Lord offers to each of us. He calls us to be his followers. At the same time, the readings remind us of the cost of our discipleship. We can no longer live as we have. We must reform our lives. The fact that we are called to proclaim is in favor of the poor who are starving all over the world. We are called to feed them. The sackcloth we are asked to wear is the cloth that announces we are willing to do without the costly trappings of American affluence so that others may have the necessities of life.
The poverty that surrounds us is an affront to our consciences. The deep needs of the world sometimes distract us. We forget that the need to rid ourselves of too much is as great as the need that others have for the bare necessities of life. We must empty our hands so that we can embrace the Lord. It is this “emptying” for which the Lord has called. This is one of the ways in which we respond to the call to reform our lives. But it is not enough to rid ourselves of too many possessions. We need to change our minds, to reject the ideas that oppose the Gospel. Sometimes that is more difficult than ridding ourselves of what is material.
We remember today the things we are reluctant to lose. With the courage that comes from being with one another, we promise to let go so that we can reach out for the Lord.