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HOW TO RESPOND TO GOD'S CALL. A reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
By Fr. Donatus Okeke
Tue, 26 Jan 2021

Readings:Jonah 3:1-5.10; 1Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, on 30th September, 2019 instituted the Sunday of the Word of God to be celebrated every third Sunday in Ordinary Time. This is to reemphasize the centrality of the Word of God in our lives as Christians. Enthronement of the Holy Bible is encouraged today in all parishes. 
The Church through today's liturgy, teaches us what should characterise our answering of God's call. The readings of today, showed us how best to answer God's call.
In the First Reading, when the Ninevites heard the word of God from Jonah, they turned from their evil ways. The emphasis of this reading is not on Jonah but, on the Ninevites who responded positively and swiftly when they were called upon to repent. St. Paul in the Second Reading reminded us of the shortness of the time we have in responding to God's call. In the Gospel, St. Mark gave his own account of Jesus' call of his first disciples (this is different from St. John's account which we read last week). Jesus called two sets of brothers, who were all fishermen and they responded positively and swiftly. Jesus also inaugurated his mission in the Gospel. His mission is to bring about the Kingdom of God. The essence of his message is simple: "Repent and believe the Gospel!!!"
How to Respond to God's call: Responding to God's call demands some principles. Some of these are contained in our readings. 
1. Immediacy: Answering God's call is an immediate one. When Jonah preached to the Ninevites, they immediately repented of their evil. Jonah should have used three days to go round Nineveh but, he preached a day because, as soon as they heard the message, they repented. Simon and Andrew heard the call of Jesus and they left everything and followed him. Same with James and John sons of Zebedee. St. Paul reminded us of this same urgent response. Let us not wait further in responding to God's call. 
2. Detachment: In the Gospel, Simon and Andrew as well as James and John left their nets and father respectively and followed Jesus. St. Paul's instruction in the Second Reading equally involves detachment. The Ninevites detached themselves from food (by fasting), clothes (putting on sack) and pleasure. In answering God's call, we must avoid all unnecessary attachments to material things and distractions. 
3. Repentance: One of the key demands of Jesus for the kingdom of God is "Repentance". Jonah's preaching to the Ninevites was also on repentance. In responding to God's call, we must have to make firm change of attitude. We cannot remain our old selves. The change is not just in the name Christian but, in our behaviour.
4. Believe in the Good News: Another principle Jesus demands is to believe in the Gospel. When the Ninevites heard the message, they believed God. In Greek, "believe" and "faith" have the same root. While pistis means faith, pistueo means believe. "Pistis" is the noun, "pistueo" is the verb. It means to be convinced of something, to think to be true, to credit, to place confidence. Therefore, both "Faith" and "Believe" are necessary in answering God's call. Most Christians are not convinced, and as such, they cannot answer God's call effectively. 
5. Become Fishers of men: We must bear in mind that our calling is not just for our spiritual benefits alone but, for others. Fishers of men are those willing to cooperate with Jesus in his ministry, those willing to win souls for Jesus, those willing to help others realize their goal. 
We are called to be fishers of men. Today, Jonah, Paul, Andrew, Simon, John the Baptist, James and John all accepted to be fishers of men. Jesus continues to invite us to participate in his ministry. 
Beloved in Christ, the message of Christ is not new in our ears. How do we respond to it? Now is the appointed time to have a change of heart. Let us repent of our evil ways, avoiding all distractions and respond positively to God's call. 
May God help us!!!

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