Jonah 3:1-5,10 • Ps. 62:6-14 • 1 Cor. 7:29-31 • Mark 1:14-20
The problem is the general disinterest in almost everything the Church says and does. Very close friends turn and confess without any hint of animosity toward my priestly vocation and all that it represents, “I simply am not religious.”
It is in this context that we might engage anew the question of how to get people. A colleague recently remarked that there is a book that tells us to go out and bring them in. Jonah is a striking example. He isn’t telling anyone about Jesus explicitly. He is, however, saying something very similar to what Jesus says in Mark about the fullness of time. “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The sermon was brief in part because he had time, first in the belly of a fish, and then during a day’s walk into the city, to turn the words over a few times and condense them to the essential point. Forty days and you are finished. The striking thing is that the people took this to heart, accepted the announcement, and went to work trying to save their lives. The Lord, being merciful and seeing their sackcloth, repented of the evil he said he would bring upon them. They were told in no uncertain terms that the end of all things had arrived. Death.
St. Paul is not far from this message in insisting that the time is short. “For the present form of the world is passing away.” And, of course, it is, melting before our eyes, though we exhaust every fiber of our being trying to look away. He says: Be married as if you are not married. Mourn as if you are not mourning, rejoice as if not rejoicing, possess as if not possessing. In a word, he is preaching detachment, dispossession, a lightness of being toward this world. Love, mourn, rejoice, and possess knowing that all of it, every lovely person and every exquisite thing and every worthy project, will pass away. What is the aesthetic implication of this summons to sense the end, its near arrival, the Day of the Lord? Teach me to number my days, says the psalmist, that I may apply my heart to wisdom. Like the people of Nineveh, one is prompted to change, but it is a change of view. The world and its claims become more beautiful and urgent precisely because the world is transient, not to be taken for granted.
Preach the shortness of life (death) and call people to new and living waters. Stop trying to be welcoming. Seriously address the danger and brevity of our existence and offer hope in Christ.
How does Jesus get people? He calls them and they come. They get caught in the net of his voice and cannot resist. They leave boats, possessions, and relatives and go where he is going. Eventually he sends them out to do the same, to teach and preach and heal and bring them in like fishermen.
Because I have touched upon the Great Commission, I would like to point to a detail of considerable weight in the calling of James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They are in the boat mending the nets. In order to catch fish, occasionally you have to mend nets. In order to catch people you occasionally have to mend the instruments you are using, and, when they are beyond repair, throw them out. If only there was a way, without shame or fear, to throw the entire toolbox of the Church’s tradition on the table for fresh examination.
Look It Up
Read John 1:16,19. Mittentes et Componentes. Working we throw the nets, contemplating we repair them.
Think About It
In John 1:15 Jesus is announcing something that has already happened: the Kingdom of God.