3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Nicole Zenner
The dark and cold days of January remind me that we are now waiting for the next big holiday—the next time to celebrate with family and friends, or to have a few extra days off from work. It’s “ordinary” time. But isn’t it always the case that the most extraordinary moments and things come from the ordinary? It may be the phone call from a friend on a day that was especially trying. It may be the family all gathered around the dinner table on a Saturday night, with no TV and no cell phones. As we look at this 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, let us make sure our heart, our eyes, our ears, and our mind are open for the extraordinary ways in which God speaks to us every day.
In today’s First Reading, we see that Jonah listened to God and set out to the great city of Nineveh to do God’s will. What we don’t read today are the previous chapters where Jonah did not listen to God. Think about when you have not listened to God’s message the first, second, or maybe even fifth time. Why were you not listening? Were you too distracted by the latest world/national/local news, a demanding job, or your own agenda? I truly believe that God does speak to us every day. But our heart is not open. Our eyes look away. Our ears are closed. Imagine what our faith would be like if we listened every day. Imagine the difference we could make in our world if we listened.
What we also don’t hear in today’s version of the First Reading is that Jonah was upset that when the citizens of Nineveh repented, God chose not to carry out his threats to them. Jonah wanted retribution. God wanted to show compassion. I have definitely related to what Jonah was feeling. When the young man who shot at me told the court that he was sorry for what he did, I didn’t believe him. I wanted him to go to jail for the longest time possible to pay for the wrong he had done and hurt he had caused. When elected leaders apologize for racist comments or sexual misconduct, I struggle to believe that they have sincerely repented. But I am not the one to judge them, that is not my responsibility as a Christian. God knows if they have repented and God will then show them compassion. My responsibility is to walk in the spirit of Christ.
It is a much more difficult thing to put into practice, especially when we feel someone has been cruel and hateful. We want to scream back. We want to point out that they are wrong. We want them to hurt. We want there to be consequences for their actions or words. Walking in the spirit of Christ does not mean we remain silent. We have to speak up and speak out to oppression. But we should speak as Jesus spoke. We should act as Jesus acted. It is not easy. In today’s world, it is tiring. Every time you turn around, there seems to be another injustice that needs to be corrected. But as with any big project, you have to start small, and that starts with you. Wherever you find yourself in your faith life right now, it is okay. Take the time to evaluate where you are at and then reach out to others and walk in the spirit of Christ. If you are feeling strong in your faith, you may be the one to lift someone up and give them hope. You may be the instrument of peace between friends, co-workers, or family members. You may be the calm voice of reason in a situation cluttered with discouragement. If you are having doubts and hopelessness in your faith, reaching out to others may help you find answers and strength for the journey. You may have to reflect back on when you were first called to walk in the spirit of Christ and remember that joy, awe, and hope that you felt. Perhaps it was acts of service, forgiving someone, or simply spending some time in prayer each day that were part of your initial conversion of heart. Find your way back, because we need your voice to spread the Good News and your acts to promote peace.
I was struck by the strong statement in today’s Gospel about the disciples. “They abandoned their nets and followed him.” Wow! To turn away from the family they loved, the job they did, and the stability and familiarity they knew, all to follow a stranger. It was an ordinary day, and they were living ordinary lives. But I have to believe they opened their heart, eyes, ears, and mind and listened. What they heard was God calling them. Today, in your ordinary life, are you listening? What is God asking you to understand? To speak? To act? Today is the day to listen. Today is the day to understand. Today is the day to act. Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.