- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

January 21, 2018

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1 – 5, 10; Ps 25; 1 Cor 7: 29 – 31; Mark 1: 14 – 20

Gathering as people of faith to worship our God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, we will confess that belief in the creed. “I believe in the Father almighty…in one Lord Jesus Christ…in the Holy Spirit…in the holy, catholic and apostolic Church” – all expanded with some phrases, some sentences that name, express and clarify the depth and extent of this belief.

We know that belief, faith in God, is much, much more than words – no matter how pious, or sacred or theological those words are. We can stand here this morning and chant or listen to these words and how I actually live has little or nothing to do with what I profess. Someone has called this “cheap faith.”

Believing that Jesus Christ, anointed by the Holy Spirit and sent by the Father, is the Lord of my life has to mean that I take to heart His words, that I make every effort to live His teaching, that my acts, words, thoughts find favor with Him – as the conclusion Psalm 19 states so clearly: “May the spoken words of my mouth, the thoughts of my heart win favor in your sight, O Lord, my rescuer, my rock!”

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus’ word to us: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Repent and believe are never superficial actions, never just pious practices limited to Lent – to repent from what is detrimental to my soul and to believe into God’s truth…into God Himself is the journey of a lifetime…the spiritual work of a lifetime…I believe we can call it “soul work”…work that has eternal implications…therefore, never to be taken lightly.

To repent is much more than a change in externals – it means a change in attitude, a change in a way of thinking – such repentance demands that I/you recognize the need for such change and seek it through prayer. To believe in God means coming to know God not as a list of facts memorized from a book but as MY Lord, MY Friend, MY Lover, MY Soul Mate – MY God whom I come to know through His Sacred Word, through the Holy Eucharist, through the Church.

“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” What is behind these words of Jesus? All of us have experiences that we have found curious or puzzling? And surely we’ve thought or even asked, “What was that all about?” I believe we can ask the Lord Jesus that question: “In this call, this command to repentance, to belief…what is behind this…what moves you, Lord, to ask this of us?

I believe the Lord Jesus would quickly and readily reply: “Don’t you know that your God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit desires you?” God desires you, me, all people – all that our God does, all that our God wills, all His providence, all His mercy – everything about our God – is directed to our eternal life. Jesus stated it, “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance.” In our reception of the Most Holy Eucharist, we receive our Lord with desire because He invites and receives us with desire – a desire that is so passionate, so ardent, so encompassing that it is beyond words – what could be more silent that the moment or Holy Communion and what could be clearer of God’s desire for me, you.

Repentance and belief are our way of expressing desire, of making it real, actual – our Catholic way of life without desire is devoid of life. Belief without desire is to have missed the boat, to be ignorant of the heart of faith, to reduce belief to some words and some rituals.

One last thought – it is not by chance that St. Mark reports Jesus’ command for repentance and belief and then tells us of the call of the first apostles. He clearly desired these men to follow Him and they, in turn, were moved to follow Him – His call, gracious desire touched their depths. We are called, desired by the Lord – no less than these men. Perhaps, our prayer might be – Lord, convince me of your desire for me and make this precious desire rule my life.