The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-B, 24 January 2021 Jonah 3:1-5, 10 >><)))*> 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 >><)))*> Mark 1:14-20
The sea evokes mixed feelings of both joy and fear at the same time. It symbolizes life itself that may be nice and lovely but difficult and dangerous too. For many people, the sea is the sign of abundant life, a source of livelihood while for some, a reminder of death and misery.
Such is the mystery of life too that at the start of the ministry of Jesus Christ, we find Mark locating its setting by the sea as we embark fully into the Ordinary Time of the liturgy.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.Mark 1:14-16
Mark wrote the first gospel account that became the framework for Matthew and Luke in writing their own versions. He was in a hurry in writing his gospel because he felt the urgency in making known the good news of Jesus Christ; thus, his gospel is also the shortest, doing away with so many other details without losing the essentials.
This we find in his brief presentation today of the beginning of Christ’s ministry set by the Sea of Galilee.
Our sea of discontent.
First thing we notice is the very nature of the coming of Jesus Christ that happens when we are in rough waters, perhaps even with a violent storm at the middle of the sea called life: After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The setting was not totally good. John had been arrested. People must have been disappointed. But, that is always the cue in God’s coming called “kairos” or fullness of time, the day of judgment.
It is when we are going through difficult situations in life when we must examine ourselves too, of the need to set aside our own plans and agenda to let go and let God.
Every here and now is the time of fulfillment, a time of God’s coming to us.
Do we have the room, the space in us to welcome him to bring us into fulfillment? Hence, the need to empty ourselves, to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, the gospel himself.
Secondly, it is when we are sailing through rough seas when we also experience within that feeling of discontentment, of emptiness when there seems to be something missing in our lives even if everything is going fine like with our career or business, relationships, or family where nobody is sick or maybe the kids have all grown up and now on their own.
There comes a time in our lives when our problem is not having any problems at all — when we are no longer contented with being happy and satisfied but longing for fulfillment.
Rejoice and be glad when feeling this way! Emptiness leads to fullness as discontentment in life is always a sign of spiritual growth if we heed the calls of Jesus when desolation is a prelude to consolation.
Like in the story of creation, out of chaos comes order, exactly the experience of the first four disciples of Jesus.
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.Mark 1:16-20
When we are sailing through rough seas in life, that is when we have to trust God more so he can do and move in our lives to achieve the great plans he had created us for. “Be still and confess that I am God!” (Ps. 46:10), so the psalmist tells us.
Money and material things were not a problem for Simon and company. They must be well to-do as they have their own fishing boats at the time, even with men hired to work for them. Opening their hearts to listen to Jesus, they must have felt deep inside them that finally, they have found direction in life, something they have been searching for a long time.
Did they understand the meaning of “fishers of men”? We have no way of knowing it but Mark tells us how upon listening to Jesus, Simon and Andrew left everything behind and followed the Lord! Imagine the great fortune they have left behind.
Even Zebedee, the father of James and John, did not complain nor run after them to at least ask them to stay behind so they would help him run their family business because he too must have been praying for his sons to grow up and mature! Recall how the mother of James and John requested Jesus the favor to have them seated beside him when reigning in his kingdom they thought to be like the kings of their time living in a palace. Or, their attitude in asking Jesus to burn down a Samaritan village that refused them passage. These instances indicate how the brothers James and John may have been like today’s typical happy-go-lucky rich kids of their time but searching for meaning in life amid the many troubles and misadventures in life.
Jesus comes to us in a similar manner, in the ordinariness and problems and struggles of our lives like when Simon and Andrew, James, and John were busy working near the Sea of Galilee. The Lord speaks to them about what they were doing as fishermen to express to them his plans to make them fishers of men.
We do not find God; it is God who finds us.
Every day, Jesus Christ is passing by, calling us, inviting us to repent and believe in his gospel, challenging us to face our responsibilities and most of all, asking us for our commitment. He never imposes but would always patiently wait for us.
We all search for meaning in life; for some, it may come early in life while for others, it might come later. But surely, our search for meaning, for God always come for sure because we were created that way by God.
In my personal experience, I have realized that we do not really find God; it is God who actually finds us! Moreover, nobody escapes God as attested by so many saints and even ordinary people we have known who have experienced conversion.
One beautiful story of God coming to us, searching for us, and saving us from storms at the middle of the sea of life is that of Jonah and the city of Nineveh in the first reading. Jonah himself tried to escape God when his ship encountered a severe storm in the middle of the sea that he was thrown out to be swallowed by a whale. Of course, it is symbolic but it tells us in a nutshell the urgency of proclaiming God’s message of conversion, of not escaping God. This we find when Jonah was surprised at how a pagan nation like Niniveh listened to his preaching that they were spared of God’s wrath and punishment.
Jonah and Niniveh both give us beautiful lessons in resolutely turning back to God and his ways without wasting any instant as well as God’s immense love and concern for everyone, offering his mercy and forgiveness no matter how serious our sins are.
The characters of Jonah and of the inhabitants of Niniveh may be exaggerated but they are very true even among us in our own days! Recently we have seen how things have gone worst in this life in almost every aspect especially since last year with the coming of COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why St. Paul’s call in the second reading is so timely: “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. For the world in its present form is passing away” (1Cor.7:29,31).
When St. Paul wrote the Corinthians telling them to act as not having wives or weep as not weeping means we have to detach ourselves from all that perish like material things as well as jobs and careers, and even this life we have. We have to focus more on things that last who is ultimately God in Jesus Christ.
Last week, I was so saddened with the news of the closing of the Makati Shangri-la Hotel next month. One of our parishioners is a young man working there as a chef since 2004. He is a very good man, always dropping by the parish after work, never missing a Sunday with his father who died last summer. When COVID-19 started, he would always attend our online Mass wherever he may be.
I texted him the night the news came out of the closure of their hotel next month. Beside is a screenshot of our chat that turned my sorrow into joy upon realizing Carlo’s deep faith in God.
That night, I thanked God in my final prayer, for letting Jesus passed by my room while chatting with Carlo, in taking care of Carlo.
Yesterday after Mass I talked to him again and he was already very upbeat, looking forward to celebrating the Mass with us more often while looking for a new job.
Let us pray this Sunday for everyone going through many hardships these days so they may remain open in their hearts, listening to Jesus who is passing by, calling them to be his fishers of men in this troubled seas. Amen.
A blessed week ahead of you!