Lanie LeBlanc OP
Barbara Cooper, OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
reflection can be here!)
Sun. 3 B
The first and second readings today seem to tell the
people of impending doom. In our time, the people of Hawaii
received such a warning of imminent destruction just
recently, thankfully in error. It initially sent them into
quite a panic, thinking the end of their lives was very
Really bad news seems to smash into our lives at times.
Challenges are there, at some level, almost always. They do
not need to dominate us or consume us, however, no matter
the intensity or constancy. We need to put events into
perspective, but we do need some help.
In our Gospel story, Jesus had just heard that John the
Baptist had been arrested, certainly not good news. He knew
that John's message was not being received favorably by
those in charge... and neither was his going to be. He did
not panic or give up, but responded with positive action.
Jesus's spoke a challenging yet saving message to those
he chose as apostles and to us, but it is truly the Good
News of our Faith: "Repent, and believe in the gospel." The
Gospel message is that our salvation has been won for us
because Jesus already paid the price for our redemption.
Jesus, by his words and actions, encouraged all not to feel
scared and helpless, but that, with some changes in our
lives, there was much better news to share with others.
Jesus called a few good people into his company and
gathered with them to spread the Good News. Don't we gather
within our homes, parishes, and work places as well as
through technology in times of trouble or when action is
needed? We certainly do... but what is the message we have
in our hearts?
Now is time to sharpen our focus to remember the real
purpose of our being. We are to serve God and share the Good
News with others. We can do this, just as Jesus did, in
We are drawing closer to Lent. Today's readings have
given us an early glimpse into how to take action to
counteract whatever it is that may have us out of balance in
our personal spiritual lives. The Kingdom of God is at hand,
within us and around us, even in the midst of seeming chaos.
Let us pray that we will be a positive part of it and work
with others to benefit from the life-giving hope and
nourishment such active membership supplies.
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time - B – January 21,
Sometimes, when events in life seem overwhelming, the
best therapy is a good laugh. So our first reading might be
made for just this time.
The general view of modern scholarship is that the Book
of Jonah was written in the post-exilic period after 530
B.C.E., by an unknown person using the prophet Jonah as the
central character. Returning to Judah, the exiles were
welcomed by ruins and destruction, much like people who
return to Mosul today to find their city flattened. The
prophet Nehemiah writes: "I asked them about the Jews that
survived, those who had escaped the captivity, and about
Jerusalem. They replied, "The survivors there in the
province who escaped captivity are in great trouble and
shame; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates
have been destroyed by fire." 4 When I heard these words I
sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying
before the God of heaven...."
Under the direction of the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah,
the people started to rebuild. They isolated themselves,
trying to find protection in building walls and expelling
anyone not of their "tribe". They rebuilt their temple,
re-established the observance of the Law along with some
favourite taboos, prayed to their god and looked down upon
anyone who was "not them". They became more and more narrow,
and restricted and...well, like the character of Jonah. The
author of the book saw the danger. Instead of threatening or
scolding, s/he used more effective methods- humour and
laughter – a good remedy for people who take themselves too
seriously and embrace a spirit of clanishness and security.
And so "the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai,
saying, "Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out
against it; for their wickedness has come up before me."
Unlike the fishers in today's Gospel, Jonah did an about
face and went in the opposite direction to Nineveh. He ran
from God. He even bought a ticket on a boat, perhaps
thinking that God couldn't find him there. Maybe he thought
God was subject to sea-sickness.
But a great storm came up, threatening to break the boat
apart. The sailors, foreigners and "heathen", prayed
fervently to their god. Jonah meanwhile, was sleeping in the
hold of the ship. The Captain had to wake him and urge him
to pray to his god for deliverance from death.
The sailors meanwhile were casting lots to find a reason
for the calamity that was overtaking them. Even after they
found out Jonah was responsible for God's anger in the
storm, and the solution was to throw him into the sea, these
"heathen" sailors first tried to get the ship to shore.
Unsuccessful, they finally agreed to throw Jonah overboard.
The storm stopped, and a big fish came by.
So far, the righteous and religious Jonah has not come
out as a shining example of discipleship: God calls, Jonah
runs away. The pagan sailors pray, Jonah sleeps and has to
be told to pray. The sailors are compassionate and reluctant
to condemn Jonah.
We all know the poor fish had to stomach Jonah for three
days. Then God delivered it from that bitter morsel and it
vomited Jonah out on dry land.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying,
"Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it
the message that I tell you." This time, Jonah thought it
prudent to obey. So off he went, telling the people of
Nineveh they would be destroyed if they didn't repent.
The people believed, and repented. When word reached the
King, "he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered
himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes." He made a decree
that all the human beings, all the other animals, even the
little puppy dogs, were to wear sackcloth, and to fast and
pray. Most important, "All shall turn from their evil ways
and from the violence that is in their hands. This of course
referred to the humans, not the donkeys, chickens or
When God saw the Ninevites had turned away from doing
evil, God didn't bring the promised calamity upon them.
Jonah was angry. "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I
was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish
at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and
merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and ready to relent from punishing." Some people just resent
others not getting their comeuppance. So Jonah found himself
a hill outside the city, and sat down to pout and hope the
city would be destroyed as he had said it would.
God caused a bush to grow by Jonah, giving him shade to
protect him from the heat of the day. This bush made Jonah
very happy. That night, a worm attacked the bush and it
withered. As the heat of the day beat down on him, Jonah
prayed again for death.
But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry
about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die."
Then the Lord said, "You are concerned about the bush, for
which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came
into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I
not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which
there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons
who do not know their right hand from their left, and also
That question ends the text of the Book of Jonah. But it
lives on. Do we who are called to follow Jesus, sent forth
to proclaim the Good News of God's Kingdom, appreciate the
grace of the Holy One in people who are "different"? A
different Country? A different faith tradition or religion?
Do we build walls, or bridges? Are our hearts open to those
who God loves, but we don't like?
Do we behave like Jonah? Or like Jesus?
Third Sunday of Ordered Time January 21
Jonah 3:1-5 & 10; Responsorial Psalm 25; 1st Corinthians
7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
What a great story this Sunday for our Kids! Their
imaginations are easily captured by images of an old ship
tossed on stormy seas and by the big fish – we think, whale
- swallowing a man and spitting him out. Unfortunately, that
part of the story of Jonah isn’t part of our reading this
Sunday. Parents may consider reading the four short chapters
of Jonah to their children this week-end. It’s a great
The Jonah story is written as an instruction about the
ways of the Lord. It answers the question, "What is God
like?" Humans are hard-wired to understand others by their
actions. Remember the words of Jesus? He advises his
disciples they should evaluate others not by their words but
by their actions. Observing God’s working in creation and in
human history we learn how God relates to his creation. Our
Responsorial Psalm is a lesson to us. We sing together these
words: "Teach me your ways, O Lord!" And God teaches us by
his work among us including and especially his Birth, the
Cross, and the Resurrection.
The Jonah story teaches us God’s attitude toward us: well
not really just to us followers of his Word. This story
tells us that God cares deeply about everyone ---- even our
enemies. That is the way of God – compassion and mercy even
to those who deny his presence. This story fights against
our usual and customary way of thinking about others,
especially those who have done us harm.
Some background can help us understand this message.
Nineveh was the capital city of ancient Assyria. That city
is ancient and it still exists – well sort of -- as the
Iraqi city Mosul. Nineveh was part of a commercial triangle
making this metropolis so huge it took three days to
traverse it. Nineveh (now called Mosul) was one point; Kalhu
(now called Nimrud) was a second point; and finally
Dur-Sharrukin (now named Khorsabad) was the final point.
These ancient cities have been ruined by war and most
recently by deliberate destruction by Isis. Nineveh and
Dur-Sharrukin were capital cities of the Assyrian Empire.
The Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel
around the year 721 B.C. The memory of that tragedy remained
with the author of Jonah who wrote this story some 271 years
later around 450 B.C. The Jews of the Southern Kingdom
remembered the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and
lusted for vengeance. With that as background, we can
understand why Jonah did not intend to obey God’s
instruction to preach repentance to Nineveh, warning them of
their impending doom. Jonah wanted nothing to do with saving
those hated conquerors. He boarded a ship bound for Tarshis,
a city in southern Spain. In those days, Tarshis was
literally the end of the earth, as far away from Nineveh as
he could imagine. We remember the story: a storm comes up;
the sailors cast lots to see who it is the gods are angry
with; the lot falls to Jonah; he is cast into the raging sea
and is swallowed by a great fish; three days later he is
spit out by the great fish on the shores of Joppa where he
first began his flight from God’s mission. If the story
stopped here, we’d be led to understand that God is
persistent, that God always gets his way. But there is more
this story wants to tell us about God.
There is symbolism hidden in the story. The name Jonah
means Dove. That is a name of affection Yahweh uses to name
his chosen people. The great fish symbolizes Babylon, the
successor of Assyria as conqueror in the Middle East.
Babylon conquered Judah, the Southern Kingdom, taking them
into exile in Babylon. The three days and three nights in
the belly of the great fish are symbols of the hiddenness of
the Jewish people held in exile in Babylon. It helps to
remember that this story is written after the return from
the Babylonian exile. Jonah’s author reaches into the memory
of the Jewish nation to place the story so they could better
relate to the message.
The story also contains satire. It refers to the stories
about the great prophet Elijah found in the book of Kings.
The events in the story of Jonah are similar but with
opposite results. Elijah failed in his mission to bring the
Northern Kingdom to repentance despite his extraordinary
efforts: Jonah brought Nineveh to repentance even though
Jonah did everything he could think of to avoid doing his
job – taking a boat to nowhere, sitting under a vine waiting
for destruction to hit Nineveh, taking three days to preach.
Elijah was pursued by Jezebel who swore she will kill him;
Jonah was welcomed in Nineveh and his message was accepted
much to his surprise. Elijah sat under a broom tree in the
desert, praying for death: Jonah sat under a vine hoping God
would forget about him letting him free to return to his
former life. Elijah was fed by a raven; Jonah was the food
of the great fish. Elijah went to the mountain of the Lord –
the place where Moses received the Law -- and rejoiced at
the whisper of God’s passing; Jonah walked away from his
success in deep depression because his nation’s enemies had
been spared the wrath of God. And lastly, the Northern
Kingdom of Israel denied their sin, their idolatry and was
destroyed by the Assyrians whose capital was Nineveh.
Nineveh recognized its sin, repented and was saved.
The story is full of details about the history of God’s
Chosen People. What can we say is the basic message of
Jonah? The Jonah story’s message is this: the ways of God
are not our ways, are not reflective of the ways of our
hearts. We do not have compassion for others; we fail to be
merciful. We hold grudges. We accept hate speech, we believe
in a caste system where people from other nations, from
other races, from other languages, of different genders are
believed to be less or greater than we. We name others with
names of derision, attempting to rob those persons of
dignity and worth. Power and wealth are how we measure the
worth of others. Our discourse is mere confrontational
diatribe, seeking only to defeat opposing views. We lack the
compassion required for fruitful dialogue in which we truly
listen to each other. We create a god of our own making and
it is a god of hatred, divisiveness, and warfare. That god
surely cannot look with compassion on those others, those
lowly, those forsaken, those poor, those of another nation,
or those of another political persuasion! Listen closely to
the story of Jonah. If you still hold such thoughts in your
minds and allow those thoughts to determine your hearts,
then consider yourselves sinful. We miss what God has in
mind for us if we fail to recognize God as the God of Mercy,
the God of Compassion, and the God who loves his creation.
We miss the standard by which God created us. We miss his
benchmark. That mark is the "maker’s mark" which measures
the depth, completeness, and wholeness (holiness) of each of
us. Jonah shouts to us that God is full of compassion and
loving kindness. Sin destroys us and if we fail to repent,
we are buried in our sin and close ourselves to the
compassion of God, the creator who gave us worth by making
each human in his image and likeness. This is not a matter
of obeying rules and precepts. It is salvation attained by
the measure of our hearts.
The gospel selection from Mark this Sunday begins with
the news that John has been imprisoned for preaching
repentance. He is measured by the powers as treasonous and
an affront to the image of Herod and the Jewish religious
leadership. John the Baptist’s preaching attracted great
crowds but failed to reach into the bastions of power and
wealth. Those who lived there put him in prison to silence
his call to repentance. It’s hard to admit we’re sinners.
It’s even harder to take the time to uncover our sinfulness.
It’s hard to repent, to turn away from our usual and
customary way of living and follow the Lord. We are
reluctant to sing our responsorial psalm as a prayer of
petition: "Teach me your ways, O Lord!" The Ways of the Lord
are a bridge too far for most of us.
The gospel tells us Jesus came into Galilee and
proclaimed the gospel of God. Gospel means "good news." The
good news Jesus preached is that God loves each one of us.
There is not a single person who is not loved and cared for
by God. This is new to the world; it is good news to
everyone – even the rejected, those on the margins.
Unfortunately, even after two thousand years, we’ve not yet
come to believe and understand the cross as the absolute
sign of the Love of God for each of us. If God so loves me,
how can I harbor vengeance against even those who do me
harm? If God so loves me, how can I do anything that makes
another small and insignificant? If God so loves me, doesn’t
he also love every other person? If we believe this good
news, then how can we tolerate violence? If we believe this
good news, how can we allow exploitation of the weak, the
poor, the widows and orphans, the immigrant, the children of
war? If we believe this good news, how can we tolerate the
misuse of the world’s resources? How can we allow injustice
to thrive? How can we think it’s great that the powerful and
wealthy take all the prizes that come from the labor of the
little people? We think God’s justice is a matter of law; a
situation where a great lawyer can manipulate a judge’s
ruling. However, God’s justice means every person has what
he/she needs to thrive and flourish.
That is the good news Jesus preaches and which he teaches
his disciples over the three years of his ministry. In that
teaching, the disciples become "fishers of men," leading all
to discipleship and to acceptance of the love of God within
themselves. If anyone thinks this is an easy assignment they
should consider applying this to their day-to-day living.
Everyone of us who follows the Way of the Christ are called
to discipleship, to be fishers of men. We don’t buy a
soap-box to preach in Hyde Park. We preach by living the Way
of Christ in all our daily relationships and work and words.
That simply means that we look at all others – no matter
their origins, no matter their gender, no matter their
language, no matter their political allegiances – with
compassion, mercy and love. This isn’t easy. Who among us
would leave the tried and true worldly way of nets, boats,
and partnerships to pursue a life of fishing for humanity?
Who has the courage to live that way as we compete for a
living for ourselves and our children? Remember the bunch
who followed Jesus until he spoke about giving his body and
blood for nourishment? They said, "Who can accept this?" And
they returned to their old ways. Those who find their
strength in the compassion, mercy, and love of God for
themselves can say, "I believe, O Lord. Help my unbelief.
Help me to treat others as you treat them."
In truth, this Sunday continues the theme of
discipleship. We pray with greater intensity and
understanding, "Teach me your ways, O Lord!"
"The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face
shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon
you kindly and give you peace!"
Carol & Dennis
CALLED AND SENT: 3RD SUNDAY B
In our various communities we are fortunately not all the
same. We have health workers, lawyers, tradespeople,
teachers and students. There are those who work more than
one job, and those who simply cannot find work. There are
adults and children, retired and semi-retired persons,
family persons and single ones, those born here and those
born overseas, sick people and healthy, carers and
cared-for. There are big picture persons and those with
attention to detail. There are passive people and there are
active ones. There are those strong on theory and those that
make things happen. There are those who talk a lot and those
that do a lot. There are those who think a great deal and
those who cannot concentrate.
For all our differences there are two things we have in
common, which we treasure. We are human beings together and
we are Christians together. We have been baptized by Jesus
(through his Church) and have become his disciples. Within
our different situations we keep striving to keep our eyes
fixed on Jesus along the road of life and keep walking in
his footsteps. What he has called us to be and to do become
clearer from today’s gospel story.
Mark (1:16-20) relates that as soon as Jesus began his
work in Galilee, he recruited Simon and his brother Andrew,
and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, to be his
companions and to work with him to make God’s loving rule
happen over everybody and everything. Mark tells us that
there and then they left their occupations and their
families to live out his call. Such was the magnetism of his
personality and the attraction of his call to mission, which
Jesus describes as making them ‘fishers of people’!
The word ‘disciple’ in the gospels means ‘learner’. We
note that his followers did not choose Jesus as their
teacher. No, he took the initiative. He chose them to learn
from him as life-long learners within a life-long
relationship with him. As they journeyed around with him,
they would experience his kindness, compassion and pastoral
care over and over again, towards thousands of sufferers in
need of healing and deliverance from physical, mental, or
emotional illness. To his followers he would tell his
parables and other most important teachings. They were to
share his life-style, sufferings and hardships. Sometimes
they, like their Leader, would even find themselves without
a roof over their heads and sleeping rough.
But despite the trust and affection Jesus gives his
disciples, they don’t come through the pages of the gospels
as larger than life heroes who effectively and efficiently
promote and expand the mission of Jesus. We note his first
choices are, in fact, a bunch of uneducated fishermen, and
the rest of his eight later choices hardly stand out as
simply the best for the job. At times they misunderstand
Jesus so badly that they come through as dull and stupid,
thick as bricks. For all that, we recognise that they are
the ones Jesus deliberately and personally chose to share
his mission of bringing in the kingdom (the rule and reign)
All this leaves you and me with a great deal of hope.
Jesus has picked us, with all our faults and failings but
with all our potential, to be on his Coming of the Kingdom
Team. Right now we are even his Team of the Century.
The first thing to emphasize about that is that he needs
us. His mission in our world will not happen without us. To
illustrate! A poor boy in a ghetto was being teased by
another boy who said, ‘If God loves you, why doesn’t he take
care of you? Why doesn’t God tell someone to bring you
shoes, a warm coat and better food?’ The little lad thought
for a moment. Then, with tears in his eyes he answered, ‘I
guess God does tell somebody, but somebody forgets.’
The beauty of the call of Jesus to each of us,
communicated by his connecting us to him at baptism, means
that each of us may think and say this:
He has chosen me not because of any merits and
achievements on my part, but simply because he loves me and
wants me on his Kingdom of God team. I have been chosen, not
because I am more virtuous, more gifted, or more suited than
someone else, but only because he loves me and wants me.
This means that for the mission of Jesus, which is the
mission of God, I have a place in God’s plan. I am someone;
I am a partner; I have a part to play; my life counts. Thank
God for that!
Gleeson CP" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Year B: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
"Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men."
Some years ago, I knew a young woman, a teacher, whose
dearest wish in life was to be married and to have a large
family. However, her first problem was that she couldn’t
find a "good man". Apparently there is a widespread shortage
of "good" men. There are lots of men around, but apparently
not many "good" men. But, eventually, when she was 32, she
found a possible candidate. After only two years of
courtship, agonised decision–making and huge telephone
bills, they were married and settled down to live happily
But, after three years of marriage, she discovered that
she could not have a child. It was a shattering blow for
her. She had a long series of medical tests which were
painful, unpleasant and expensive and which confirmed that
she would never be able to have a child.
She was shattered. She thought long and hard about
killing herself. But she decided that if God had given her
Life, He must have done so for a Reason. Desperately, she
wanted to know what that Reason was and how she could
She was so depressed that she had to stop work and go
back to her home in her home country for a long holiday.
There she was appalled and shocked by the number of homeless
children in the streets, either abandoned by their parents
or orphaned, often because their parents had died of AIDS.
She came back to Britain and her good paying job, yet
remained distraught that she, with all her love to give, had
not been given a child, while so many children of her own
people in her own home town, had no-one to care for them.
She was so angry with God that she lost her Faith, or so she
It was not until a full year later that the penny
dropped. And she and her husband returned permanently to her
home country to found an orphanage. I heard from her
recently. She wrote: "I thank my God that he did not give me
only one child; he gave me a whole orphanage."
Let us pray to the Lord that we too may become fishers of
men, women and children.
Dr Paul O’Reilly
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and
insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the
preaching you hear. Send them to
email@example.com. Deadline is Wednesday
Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.
-- Fr. John