Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 25, 2015
Reading 1 Jon 3:1-5, 10
Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Reading 2 1 Cor 7:29-31
Gospel Mk 1:14-20
“REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.” Repent! Strong words spoken by Jesus in today’s Gospel.
Homilists or preachers at Masses usually take a sentence or two from one of the readings and develop a message for the congregation. A homily is intended to enhance, clarify or explain a single idea or theme. That idea is often taken from the Gospel as it is today.
Occasionally the preacher will speak on stewardship, giving us what we affectionately call the “money talk.” It generally makes us squirm when we realize we are being asked to increase our monetary support, but without it a parish, like any family, can’t survive. You can relax, this isn’t a “money talk.”
On occasion the scripture readings almost cry out for a homily that addresses an unpopular theme, as it does today. Today’s topic is REPENTANCE. As I read over all three readings for today’s Mass, that one single thought was repeated over and over. “REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.” Repent!
Why do I say this topic is so unpopular? Because each of us, being human, has turned away from God at one time or another by choosing sin. Most of us aren’t notorious, public sinners, proudly parading our sins around for the whole world to see. No! Most of us are private sneaky sinners who don’t want the rest of the world to judge or condemn us – or even to know our moral, human weaknesses. I suspect that describes most of us.
Several years ago I drove to LaCrosse, WI to visit my good friend Jim. Since I didn’t have a GPS, and I am not familiar with LaCrosse, Jim gave me directions on how to get to his home. “Stay on highway 35 right through town.
Everything went well until I found myself in the heart of downtown LaCrosse at the rush hour early on a Friday evening. I was driving cautiously, watching highway signs carefully when I realized I was in a right turn ONLY lane.
My instructions were to go straight, but since I was in the turn lane with a solid line of cars beside me, I had no choice but to turn right onto a one-way street. It took about two minutes for me to realize I was hopelessly lost.
I frantically searched for highway signs but it quickly dawned on me that I could not only NOT find highway 35, but I couldn’t even get back to the place where I had lost my way.
After what seemed like an hour of searching, in answer to my frantic prayers, I spotted a highway 35 sign ahead. I heaved a sigh of relief. I had found my way back to where I should be. I was no longer lost.
Being lost gives us a feeling of fear and panic. We struggle to find our way back to where we should be. When we choose sin and turn away from God, we know in our hearts that we need to find the way back.
I am not speaking theory; I’m speaking from my own personal experience as a very human man, who has often sought God’s forgiveness for the sins I have committed. I can speak firsthand of the feeling of relief and peace, knowing that God has shown me his limitless and unconditional love and mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation.
Yeah, yeah, don’t bother telling me that you haven’t murdered anyone, robbed a bank, committed acts of terrorism or conspired to overthrow the government. Neither have I.
Most of us have offended God and our fellow humans in less dramatic ways? How? Well, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
- Do we speak well of others or do we gossip and damage their reputations?
- Do we help people in need, or do we ignore them?
- Do we speak God’s name in prayer or do we use it cursing or swearing?
- Do we set a good example for our kids, or do we teach them our bad habits?
- Do we deal honestly with others or do we lie, cheat and steal?
- Do we value modesty and purity or do we wallow in lust and infidelity?
Many of us are married, and all of us, young or old, single or married, have relationships with others. We all know that saying “I’M SORRY” and seeking forgiveness is necessary of we are to maintain those relationships. Let’s not forget about our relationship with God. THE SAME RULE APPLIES.
One way to strengthen our relationship with God is through the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession as many of us old timers still call it. It will help guide us back to God’s loving forgiveness when we seek it. However, it isn’t just a quick fix or a magic formula that suddenly wipes away all our sins. It requires some commitment on our part:
- We need to feel and express our sorrow for our sins.
- We state our intention to try and avoid future sins.
- And finally, we ask for God’s forgiveness.
That’s repentance; that’s reconciliation; that’s renewing our loving relationship with God.
“REPENT, AND BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL.” These are Jesus’ words to us today. God invites us to repent of our sins and make the Gospel message a vibrant, guiding force in our lives.
And how do we do that? Try to imitate Jesus in everything we say and do.
That’s a real challenge, isn’t it?