Tag Archives: 3 Sunday in Ordinary time

21 January 2018: Third Sunday of Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Jon 3:1-5, 10   Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9   1 Cor 7:29-31   Mk 1:14-20

Discipleship: hear, change, follow

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary readings ask us to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings encourage every RCIA participant and everyone in the entire believing community to examine his or her own call to discipleship.

In the first reading the prophet Jonah finally arrives in Nineveh and begins to preach God’s message. God spares Nineveh because its gentile people heard God’s warning (“Nineveh will be destroyed”) and changed their minds (they “believed God”) and actions (they “fasted and put on sackcloth”). The connection between the first reading and today’s gospel is the Greek verb μετανοέω (meh-tah-noh-EH-oh), which means “to convert” or “to turn away from one thing and turn toward something else” (Joh 3:10). Jesus uses this same word in preaching the good news (Mk 1:15).

In the second reading, Paul suggests that the Corinthian ekklesia live “as if not,” that is, with a sense of detachment from this world’s priorities. Paul’s apocalyptic view–that “the world is passing away” and Christ would return soon–colors his advice. Christians who know this life and world is temporary should live differently from those who are unaware of Jesus’ promise to return and to fulfill God’s kingdom.

In today’s gospel, Mark introduces Jesus’ teaching and his call to discipleship.

  • Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ teaching has three parts:
    1. “The proper time has been fulfilled.” Through the Baptizer’s preparatory preaching (Mk 1:4-8), Jesus’ baptism (Mk 1:10-11), and Jesus’ testing (Mk 1:12-13), Jesus is ready to proclaim the good news and the people are ready to hear it.
    2. “God’s reign (or kingdom) is nearby.” The Greek word translated here as “nearby” means both “near in time” and “near physically.” In Jesus’ physical presence, God’s kingdom is within reach; in Jesus’ preaching about God’s kingdom, God’s kingdom is close to being implemented in time (although not yet fully arrived, not until the parousia).
    3. “Change your hearts/minds and believe in the good news.” The metanoia that Jesus calls for, and which he demonstrates in his words and actions, is the heart of Mark’s gospel: turn away from evil and turn toward God. The believing that Jesus calls for is not a simple intellectual assertion, but trust and personal commitment, often when facing a threatening or uncertain future.
  • Jesus’ call to follow him. After someone hears Jesus’ teaching, that person is ready to be invited to “walk the road” with Jesus. Jesus calls each disciple by name. His invitation requires an immediate response. Simon, Andrew, James, and John literally drop what they are doing and follow. The Greek word translated here as “to follow” also means “to become a disciple.”



The readings confront RCIA candidates and the believing community with the reality of discipleship: hear God’s message, change our mind/heart, and immediately follow. Metanoia is at the heart of discipleship: we must change before we can follow. Jesus’ invitation begins when we hear what God asks. God’s request turns us around and changes how we see ourselves and the world. How do we respond? Do we drop everything and follow this different and unknown path? Or do we stay in our familiar boat, content to follow a safe and known way?

—Terence Sherlock


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22 January 2017: Third Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 8:23-9:3 Ps 27:1, 4, 13-14 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 Mt 4:12-23

Light comes to the shadowlands

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week’s readings foretell and fulfill the promises to people living in darkness.

In the first reading, Isaiah foretells the former northern kingdom of Israel’s deliverance from the Assyrians. This restoration will not simply lift the darkness of foreign occupation, but will bring joy to the people. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because Jesus’ ministry, which begins in today’s gospel, fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy.

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul admonishes the Corinthians for their disunity and quarrels. He hears that they are pledging loyalty to human leaders–Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas–rather than to Christ. Paul tells them that Christ didn’t send him to baptize in Paul’s name, but to preach Christ’s good news. Their disunity empties Christ’s cross of its meaning: salvation for all.

Matthew’s gospel announces the start of Jesus’ ministry, which begins after Jesus is baptized and is tempted in the desert. The place, the disciples, and acts of ministry are all significant:

  • Place. Jesus’ move from Nazareth to Capernaum, a town in the former Naphtali territory, fulfills Isaiah’s oracle about “the light rising upon Zebulun and Naphtali.” The Israelites in this region were the first Jews displaced from the Promised Land (by the Assyrians in 733 BC), and they experienced a time of darkness and death. Matthew places the start of Jesus’ ministry here to show the return of light and hope to these first-displaced Jews.
  • Disciples. The Greek word ἀκολουθέω (ah-koh-loo-THEH-oh), translated here as “follow,” means “to join (someone) on the road.” Jesus asks the fishermen not just to “come with him,” but also to “become disciples to his way.” In both the Greek and Jewish worlds, disciples chose their teachers. Jesus reverses the usual order by choosing his own disciples. Also somewhat surprising is that they “immediately” respond, leaving their livelihood and families. Their encounter with Jesus results in radical change.
  • Acts of ministry. Matthew defines Jesus’ ministry as “teaching,” “preaching,” and “healing.” Jesus teaches in the synagogues, where the community discussed God’s law (Torah) and God’s words (the prophets). Jesus preaches the same message as the Baptizer: metanoia, “change your mind/heart”–turn away from sin and turn toward God. Jesus heals the sick and weak, offering people hope and joy. Jesus’ prophetic actions announce the start of God’s messianic kingdom.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider our roles in the kingdom Jesus announces. Isaiah tells us worldly kingdoms come and go; they are sometimes good, but sometimes gloomy and joyless. God’s kingdom, inaugurated by Jesus’ ministry, will be different: God’s Law and God’s Word will rule this kingdom, full of hope and joy. God’s kingdom is open to all; all are called to be disciples to God’s way. When we encounter God, radical change can happen. Can we answer immediately? Can we allow ourselves to be chosen, rather than to choose? Can we follow a path that is not our own? Will we change our hearts and minds?

—Terence Sherlock

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24 January 2016: Third Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15 1 Cor 12:12-30 Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21


The scripture in our ears

During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. Over the next few Sundays, we will follow Jesus as he begins his ministry and calls his disciples. The readings challenge RCIA participants to change and to discipleship. This week’s readings connect scripture in Nehemiah with Jesus’ scripture fulfillment.

The first reading is from Nehemiah, a post-exile governor of Judah. Scripture scholars believe an unknown author composed this book in the late fifth or early fourth century BC. This reading dramatically portrays the priest Ezra standing amid Jerusalem’s ruins and interpreting the Law to the assembled Hebrew people. Ezra’s public reading urges his hearers to their mission: to rebuild Jerusalem(“rejoicing in the Lord is your strength”). The Lectionary editors chose this reading to complement Jesus’ reading in the Nazareth synagogue.

The second reading, from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, continues from last week. Paul writes to the Corinth ekklesia because its membership is divided over the Spirit’s gifts. Paul compares the believing community to a human body: a body has many different parts that work together to make a functioning human person. Eyes aren’t better than feet; without ears we couldn’t hear. Paul then jumps from simile (“the ekklesia is like a body”) to theology (“you are Christ’s body”). We individual ekklesia members are now Christ’s body–his presence–in the world. Each member has a specific role to play or a gift to use in building up this mystical body.

Luke’s gospel has two parts:

  • The mission of the gospel: Luke tells Theophilus (Greek for “one who loves God”–that’s us) that he has written an “orderly account” so that we “might be certain of the teachings [we] have received.” Luke uses the Greek word κατηχέω (kah-tay-KEH-oh) to describe these “teachings.” κατηχέω means literally “to sound or to echo down into the ears.” From this Greek word we get the English word catechesis. Luke writes his gospel to instruct disciples in Jesus’ “fulfillment” of scripture, as told by the apostles (“eyewitnesses”) and other evangelists (“ministers of the word.”)
  • The mission of Jesus: Luke chooses Jesus’ hometown as the place where Jesus announces his mission. Fresh from his baptism (“in the power of the Spirit”), Jesus follows his habit of going to synagogue. Maybe because Jesus is becoming famous (“praised by all”), the attendant asks him to read and comment on the lesson. Jesus chooses the Isaiah scroll that foretell him: the Spirit anoints him to preach, to heal, and to free the oppressed. Jesus, like Ezra in the first reading, then interprets what he has read: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears.”

The readings remind RCIA participants and the entire believing community that we encounter God in scripture and liturgy. Ezra proclaims and interprets the Torah for the returned exiles so they can rebuild their lives. Paul shows the Corinthians that their assembled community is Christ’s body. Luke writes his gospel to instruct disciples. Jesus announces his messianic mission in the context of a synagogue service.Are we listening in the liturgy? Do we hear the mission to which God is calling us?

—Terence Sherlock


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