Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
January 23/24, 2021
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1Cor 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-2-
It may be surprising to hear a Lenten-like gospel at the beginning of Ordinary Time. Repent! Believe! Leave all behind and come follow me! We can imagine what those words of Jesus must have sounded like to the crowds; the crispness of his voice and the sting of his words. Many rejected them, but not all because earlier in the Gospel we are told that Jesus spoke differently than anyone else who had come before him for he spoke with authority, so some people picked up on that and responded. The apostles took it to heart and left all behind and followed him.
The same message continues to be preached. People today react like so many did 2000 years ago. Some are stung by the words and reject them; others listen and follow.
Whether we like it or not, the world in its present form is passing away, like St Paul said in the second reading, and so we must let it go. We must stop hanging on to old habits and old ways of life. We must let go of all these things and follow the Lord who shows us the way to the Father in heaven. This is what Peter, Andrew, James and John did when they heard the words of Jesus. They let go of the old and grabbed on to the new, and they never looked back.
Perhaps those of us responsible for preaching the Gospel fail to preach repentance and belief well enough. The whole purpose of preaching it is to free people to more firmly grasp the hand of the Lord, and to walk gracefully with him into God’s kingdom. The whole reason why deacons and priests and bishops preach the Gospel of repentance and faith is so you will be free to follow the Lord and inherit his promises; it is not meant to lay undeserved burdens of guilt on anyone. It is preached to free you from such burdens.
It is hard to preach repentance and belief, and hard to hear it. We are caught up in our old ways of living, our old habits, and we are afraid to let go and let God, as the old-timers in AA say. It is hard to repent and believe because we have our “boats and nets to tend and repair.”
Too often the spirit of fear, guilt and shame enters our lives. We are afraid of so many things, including being afraid of God and each other. We approach God and each other with fear. We afraid we are going to become sick and die so we isolate. We are afraid we are going to be condemned by God, so we avoid confessing our sins. We are afraid others will not accept us, so we hide in shame. We too often approach God and each other with fear.
When we harbor fear in our relationships with God and each other, when we feed the fear, we open the door to sin and evil. We open the door to the very things for which Jesus tells us we must repent! We must not open that door. We must not live in fear. Rather, as St. John Paul II so famously proclaimed “Do not be afraid! Open wide your hearts to Christ!”
Jesus calls us to repent, believe and follow because he wants us to be free from fear and to live in peace. He is our Lord. He is our companion. He is our brother. He is our merciful judge. He is our Savior. He wants to take away anything and everything that puts a barrier between us and him. To put it more simply, he wants us to let go of our sins and to grab on to his grace. He wants us to let go of the world and grab on to heaven. He wants us to confess our sins and receive the grace of the sacraments of the Church. He wants us to renounce the spirit of fear and announce our faith. He wants us to be at peace.
Every person I have met who has humbly and sincerely repented and made an act of faith has told me the same story: Fear dissolves away and peace and freedom enters.
We too have nothing to fear when we hear “repent and believe.” We really have nothing to fear in letting go of our old ways of life, our sins, for we have the assurance of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. The thing to be feared is ignoring the call to repentance and faith and remaining in fear.
Will we turn away from what keeps us from grasping the hand of the Lord? Will we follow him? Will we turn away from our sins and turn to the promise of abundant grace given to us in the sacraments? Will we believe in God’s promises, and be confident in his love? Peter, Andrew, James and John did.
For me, this is a never-ending process. I ask myself every day that question. I must make a daily decision to turn to God, let go of old ways of living and embrace the God who loves me. I pray you make the decision Peter, Andrew, James, and John made. Follow Jesus!