For Sunday, January 24, 2021
3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Human beings seem to be hardwired to want to know what’s going to happen next. This is how dramas and reality television can grip us so tightly —
we simply have to stick around and watch the rest to see what’s going to happen. I find my own children sometimes asking, “So what are we going to do today, Mommy?” even though we have a fairly simple and consistent schedule each week. There seems to be a thirst to feel just a little bit in control by knowing what’s coming next.
I remember feeling this whenever we moved to a new city as a military family, navigating unfamiliar roads.
My phone’s GPS was never far from my hand as I drove, needing to know which turn to take next to feel comfortable driving in a new place.
The readings today call us to something radically different. In the first reading, God calls Jonah, but what is striking is that the call seems to imply that Jonah isn’t given all the information right away. “Set out for the great city of Nineveh and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” God doesn’t say, “Announce the message I’ve already mapped out for you word by word so you can say yes, fully knowing every turn this journey will take.” God simply says that He will tell him. So, even if it was brief, there is a sense that Jonah had a moment of just having to trust God and taking Him at His word, not knowing exactly what would come next.
What would it be like in Nineveh? How long would it take the people to turn back to God? However, this wasn’t what Jonah needed to do or know to fulfill God’s plan. He simply needed to act. He just needed to say yes and move forward with trust.
In the gospel, we hear the call of the Apostles, which take on this same tone. Jesus beckons them to simply follow him. This call doesn’t come after a long convincing discourse on how following him will practically take place. There are no lists of steps they need to complete before they can officially be his Apostles. There is just a radical call to drop their very livelihood and, in that moment, decide without knowing the course whether they will follow Jesus or not. The roads they will end up traveling with the Lord are unknown to them, and that isn’t the point. The point is that they are called by God, and in that moment, they have a decision to trust the one who is calling them, or to hesitate and feel the need to be in control and know exactly which way this “yes” will take them.
In both readings, there is another worldly response by the prophet and Apostles. Rather than following a base gut reaction to want to know all the details and what would come next, they boldly follow the call of God and trust that He would take care of the rest. This is the same call that Jesus is asking of us today. In our everyday lives, will we trust God in what He sends us, or will we try to control everything?
St. Paul gives us the encouragement we need to decide in the second reading. “The time is running out.”
His admonition is urgent, reminding us that deciding to follow Jesus isn’t something we calculate and plan every detail before acting on, like other things in life. It’s a call we respond to with trust and faith because God is good and only desires our good. The world we live in is not stable. It will not satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. It will not provide us with what our souls need to live. Jesus is saying to you and to me, “Come, follow me.” It is up to us to let go of our inclination to maintain control of every little bit of how our lives will unfold. God is trustworthy and true, and when He calls us, He will provide all the means necessary for our happiness and holiness.
Let’s be bold like the examples in the readings this weekend. Jesus is calling to us right now, today! Let’s answer that call by whatever form it comes. It could be to put down the phone during meals and be present to family. It might be to stop making excuses and help serve at the soup kitchen downtown. Maybe it’s to finally confess that really difficult sin that we’ve been struggling with. Or maybe it’s reaching out to a person who looks lonely. Whatever it is, big or small, let us have the courage to let go of our own plans and simply act by responding to Jesus’ call, “Come, follow me” with deep trust in our unfathomably loving God.