Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Eusebius of Caesarea, an early Father of the Church (ca. 265- ca. 340) and Greek historian of Christianity, comments on our gospel passage from Mark stating: “Reflect on the nature and grandeur of the one Almighty God who could associate himself with the poor of the lowly fisherman’s class. To use them to carry out God’s mission baffles all rationality. For having conceived the intention, which no one before had ever done, of spreading his own commands and teachings to all nations, and of revealing himself as the teacher of the religion of the one Almighty God to all humanity, he thought good to use the most unsophisticated and common people as ministers of his own design. Maybe God just wanted to work in the most unlikely way. For how could inarticulate folk be made able to teach, even if they were appointed teachers to only one person, much less to a multitude? How should those who were themselves without education instruct the nations?” Yes, that is just what Jesus did – he chose the unsophisticated apostles to join him in establishing a kingdom that is not of this world. Jesus would have a relatively short time, just three years, to teach the apostles and prepare them for the roles they would play in the spreading of the gospel and in the establishment of a Church.
God has a habit of choosing the unsophisticated, as our first reading from the Book of Jonah shows. Jonah was a reluctant prophet. His response when God called him and told him to go to Nineveh was to take a ship immediately for the furthest point he could get to, in the opposite direction from Nineveh! Why? We don’t know. Perhaps he was scared. Perhaps he felt inadequate. Or perhaps it was because he hated the Gentile people of Nineveh and thought that they were not worthy of God’s gracious mercy. In any case, Jonah ran away. But God’s plan would not be thwarted. God had to halt Jonah in his flight and give him a three-day “time out” in the belly of that great fish before the prophet was ready to accept the Lord God’s “second chance” and go to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. Far from being hostile, however, the people and the King of Nineveh, promptly responded to God’s word as preached by His prophet, repenting in sackcloth with a fast, just on the chance that the Lord God “might” spare them. Jonah was not the cause of the people’s repentance. It was the power of God’s word which caused the people of Nineveh to turn “from their evil way,” and it would be the power of God’s Word which would equip the apostles for whatever God had in store for them.
Jonah was an instrument in God’s hand, leading the people of Nineveh to an understanding of who God is. And nothing convinces us of the compassion, the love, the kindness, and the goodness of God like the witness of the simple apostles who leave nets, boats, and family to follow Jesus. God is not finished with his calling of people to assist in the spreading of his gospel, and he continues to call the unsophisticated and lowly of this world. The witness of men and women like Bernadette, Juan Diego, Angelo Roncalli, and Mother Theresa demonstrate God’s penchant for choosing the simple and unsophisticated. God calls us as well, not necessarily away from our occupations and family, but he calls us nevertheless, to conform our lives to his redeeming gospel and to become witnesses of his love, and kindness, and gentleness. As the psalmist states, our God is “good and upright…. He guides the humble to justice and teaches the humble his way.” When Jesus beckons, “Come after me,” we are meant to echo the response to the psalm, “Teach me your ways, O Lord.” May we be humble and simple men and women who do what countless numbers of saints have done before us, follow in the footsteps of Jesus. May we become preachers of the gospel, evangelists, both with our lives and with our lips.