Exegesis

  

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Select Exegesis
January, 21 2018

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Rev Timothy P. Schehr

Jonah 3:1-10 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Mark 1:14-20

 

 

            Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee were familiar with the sea and how to harvest it. Peter and his bother knew just how to cast a net to get optimum results. James and John understood the value of keeping their nets in good order. One break in a net and its usefulness is greatly reduced. But once they meet Jesus they learn their skills as fishermen all over again to bring people into the kingdom of God. They learn how to cast and to mend nets of an entirely different kind.

        In the final verse of the gospel reading James and John follow Jesus leaving their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men. In chapters that follow this scene will be replaced by scenes in while Jesus is in a boat with his apostles. The sea will become a place of instruction for them. While in a boat they will hear Jesus teach. While in a boat they will witness Jesus calming a stormy sea. While in a boat they will hear Jesus chastise them for not understanding their need for spiritual bread. And while in a boat they will see Jesus walking on water. It seems even these seasoned fishermen have a lot to learn while with their Lord in a boat on the sea.

         Jonah learned a lot while he was at sea too. The first reading picks up in the middle of this prophet’s story. This is the second time God directed Jonah to go to Nineveh. This reluctant prophet tried to escape his mission the first time. Instead of crossing overland to that great city on the Tigris River, Jonah took a boat in the opposite direction. But God does not allow Jonah to run away from his work. The people of Nineveh must have their chance to hear the word of God. And so the famous great fish swallows Jonah and brings him back to where he belongs. When God calls this second time Jonah complies.

         As the reading says, Nineveh was an enormously large city. It was one of the royal cities of the Assyrian empire; its boundaries embraced an area some twelve miles in circumference. Jonah had his work cut out for him. It would take three days for him to reach all its citizens with the word of God proclaimed in its squares and plazas. But one day’s preaching was enough for this city! An amazing outcome given the fact that the prophets of Israel spent decades preaching in Jerusalem with only minimal response from the court or its people. By contrast, every last one of the citizens of Nineveh displayed sincere repentance. They chose life, and God gave them life.
It seems Jonah learned his lesson from his experiences on the sea. He knew he could not escape his responsibility to preach God’s word to a people who so needed to hear it. But of course Jonah’s journey is not yet over. The final chapter reveals that Jonah still has a lot of inner work to do. We discover his reason for avoiding Nineveh as not fear but anger. He did not think such people should receive God’s gracious mercy. He does not yet see the world as God sees it.

        Jonah could have learned a lesson or two from Paul. In the second reading the great apostle to the Gentiles urges his brothers and sisters in Corinth to stay focused on the eternal life that awaits them in heaven. The present world has its limits. They must not allow the experiences of this world to divert them from their heavenly goal. Those fishers of men Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee certainly would have agreed with that message! 

   

 

 

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