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If we are serious about the faith, we must take the first step – repentance

Third Sunday of the Year: Jonah 3:1-5 & 10; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mk 1:14-20

By on Saturday, 21 January 2012

“Lord, make me know your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.” The psalmist’s prayer expresses the fundamental longing of every would-be disciple. It expresses a desire not only to know about the Lord but, more importantly, to walk in his truth. The disciple is willing to change his or her life in order to become like the Master.

The Prophet Jonah’s mission to Nineveh, the great city, underlines repentance as the first step in discipleship.

Nineveh represented to Israel everything that was incompatible with a life dedicated to the service of God. The vast city was synonymous with sin and self-indulgent arrogance. Jonah’s mission was to proclaim the repentance that alone could prevent the judgment that was to come.

It would be foolish to deny that there are parallels between Nineveh and the more materialistic aspects of a modern life-style. If we are serious about a faith that is not only proclaimed, but also lived as a disciples of Jesus Christ, we, like the citizens of Nineveh, must take the first step. That first step is repentance. “And the people of Nineveh believed in God: they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.”

Repentance, a willingness to change sinful attitudes, leads to what we could never achieve of ourselves. Throughout the gospels Jesus called his disciples first to repentance and then to the faith that had the power to transform their lives. “The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.”

That our response to God’s call can never be a purely intellectual exercise is demonstrated in the call of the first disciples. Walking by the Sea of Galilee Jesus encountered Simon and Andrew, James and John. It was a moment of grace that demanded commitment. The time had come. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

It is amazing that such a seemingly casual encounter was the prelude to life-changing decisions. “At once they left their nets and followed him.”

This moment of grace, seized by these first disciples, opened their lives to the grace of God, a grace that would make them apostles and foundations of the faith.

Let us pray for the humility to recognise those moments in life when the Lord is calling. Rather than let such moments pass us by, letting us respond to them in prayer. It is in such moments, with those first disciples, that we encounter the God who can bring about in us, and within his Church, infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.

Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians, while at first challenging, describes an important aspect of discipleship. He counsels that those who have wives should live as though they had none, those who mourn should live as if there was nothing to mourn, and so the list goes on.

Fundamentally, Paul was stating that the disciple can never become so engrossed in his own world that there is no space for the life that is Christ and his kingdom. He asks the disciple: what is the fundamental preoccupation of your life? Do you see in each moment only what concerns yourself?

Is there any space for the will of God?