3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON JANUARY 24, 2021 (R. 1: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; R. 2: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Gospel: Mk 1:14-20)

FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO

NOW IS THE TIME!

It is said that “Whatever you put into the first of life, you put into the whole of life,” and that “If you take a good care of the earlier part of your life, the later part of your life will take a good care of you.” For every structure, the foundation plays a very important role, an irreplaceable one.

The Christmas Season is over; we are now in the Ordinary Time of the liturgical year. For thirty years, Jesus has been away from the public with the exception of when he was missing in the temple at the age of twelve. Now, at about the age of thirty, Jesus is publicly seen in River Jordan being baptized by John the Baptist, as part of laying the foundation for the very important mission that his Father sent him to carry out here on earth. After his baptism, having been given the unction to function, Jesus continues to lay the foundation by the selection of the members of his cabinet, to help him carry out his mission.

And so, today, in the Gospel passage, we encounter the call of the first four disciples of Jesus, Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter; James and his brother, John. Jesus uses the same formula in calling them, “Come after me…” Something stands out about the response of the first disciples. It is the immediacy of their response. They left everything and followed Jesus. Their response was immediate, positive, generous and total. Similarly, in the first reading, when the people of Nineveh heard the preaching of Jonah, they immediately repented of their sins, and they did penance.

The call of the first disciples should not be understood today only in terms of the call to the Catholic priesthood and Religious life. It should rather be seen as the call to become a Christian, a follower of Christ. The good example that has been set for us by the first four apostles is the need to always respond immediately, positively, generously and totally when Christ calls us.

We are at the beginning of 2021 and I believe many of us have made our new year’s resolutions. Experience reveals that many times, not long after we make the resolutions, we forget the content of the resolutions not to talk of keeping them. The same applies to our response when Christ calls us. Many times, we want to follow Christ in special and unique ways, but we end up not following him as planned. I have a story that illustrates the origin of this challenge.

One day, Lucifer called an emergency meeting of all the demons and shared with them that there seemed to be a drastic reduction in the number of people arriving in hell fire. The meeting was meant to re-strategize for the purpose of getting more people into hell fire. The demons began to make suggestions. The first one said, “Let us go and tell human beings that there is no God and there are no demons. Just do whatever you wish, no one would care.” In response, Lucifer said, human beings are wiser than that, many of them will not believe us.” Another demon suggested, “Let us go and tell human beings that there is no heaven and that there is no hell, that life begins and ends on earth, so there are no eternal consequences for whatever they do on earth.” In response, Lucifer said, human beings are wiser than that, many of them will not believe us.” A third demon suggested,

Let us go and tell human beings that there is God, there are demons, there is heaven and there is hell. Let us tell them that those who love God and neighbors will go to heaven, while those who fail to love will go to hell. Let us tell them the need to repent, but in addition to that, let us give them a special pill that is called, “tomorrow.” The pill will work in such a way that human beings will know the right thing to do, but they will always want to leave it until tomorrow. They will know the need to apologize and the need to forgive, but they will wait until tomorrow. They will know the need to help those in need, but they will wait until tomorrow. They will know the need to push vices away and embrace virtues, they will know the need for repentance, but they will wait until tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes, they will push it to the next one, and then another tomorrow, and another tomorrow, and so they keep waiting for a tomorrow that will never come until finally death catches them by surprise.

Lucifer could not have been more proud of any other suggestion. That strategy was adopted, and that is the current mode of operation of the kingdom of darkness, the demons go around giving everyone that pill called, “tomorrow.”

And so, my dearly beloved in Christ, we need to fight back and respond like the people of Nineveh and like the first disciples of Jesus. We need to respond immediately, positively, generously and totally. If you have anything good to do, why not do it now? There is no better time to do it than now. According to Robin Roberts, “The best way to get ahead is to get started. So let’s get started!” And scripture says, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95:1).

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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