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Scripture Reflection - January 21, 2024

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jonah 3:1-5, 10   | Psalm 25:4-9, 1 | Corinthians 7:29-31 | Mark 1:14-20

Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York Scripture Reflection

Last Sunday through the eyes of John the Evangelist we looked on as John the Baptist completed the final task of his mission and transitioned his followers to Jesus as he proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God.” As the Baptist exited from the story, we joined Jesus as he invited the questioning followers to “Come and See.”

This Sunday, Mark, our Evangelist for this liturgical year’s Ordinary Time readings, continues this theme of the call of the first disciples. Mark brings us to the shores of the Sea of Galilee where the followers are engaged in making their living as fishermen. It is a familiar and most likely the more traditional one of the stories we hear about the way Jesus extended his invitation of “Come.”

However, before Mark gets us to these disciples’ call, the lectionary selection again reminds us that Jesus is the one whom John proclaimed as Messiah. While using this reference point is key and importantly sets the context for the beginning of Jesus’ mission, the Baptist who was figured in last week’s story had effectively decreased so Jesus could increase. Why not continue to move forward from John? I am intrigued by his return and ponder if there is a more subtle reason as to why he is placed in the backdrop this Sunday.

Sunday’s gospel begins with the phrase, “Now after John was arrested...” We learn without detail that John, after his stressful time as desert prophet, did not receive the restful retirement he deserved. His reward for his dedicated ministry was to encounter hardship and suffering. The gospel accounts tell us that John willingly spent his life putting Jesus first: calling people to refocus and proclaiming the kingdom. We can infer that he was successful, although not without the great personal expense of ridicule and drawing enemies and we, who are in the position to look back, know how his story ends.

Fast forwarding to the call of the first disciples, Jesus handpicks those to whom he will entrust the future of his mission. Jesus knows us intimately. He is not looking for greatness but for ordinary everyday people ripe with a humanity full of weaknesses, a willingness to change and the quiet strength of faith. These were qualities of the Baptist and they fit the bill for those called on that day and on subsequent days throughout the gospel.

Mark uses the word immediately; he wants us to understand that putting Jesus first is an inherent part of willingness to refocus of our lives and commit to becoming followers. It is the exercise of quiet strength of faith. Those called did a 360 degree turn and left all behind and followed. Something in their hearts stirred. Their faith gave them the courage to put aside the familiar and put action behind their yes. Their faith gave them the courage to accept the challenges they encountered as they committed to the mission and learned the skills of becoming faithful ministers to the people of God. Would these followers also have had an unconscious knowing of the risks of discipleship? Would these followers have known about John’s arrest after he faithfully completed his mission?

We cannot know what was in their minds, but we do know that Scripture shows us they were up to the lifelong changes and challenges that accompanied their yes. We also know what Mark will repeatedly emphasize for us during this liturgical year: The call of Jesus stirs our “everyday” hearts and requires an unwavering yes full of faith and the ability to undertake great personal challenge and suffering. The call of Jesus will draw us from the familiar and send us to proclaim the kingdom far beyond what we can ever imagine.

Sr. BarbaraAnn Sgro, OP


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