24 January 2021
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. -Mark 1:17
Brothers and Sisters,
God chooses the most unexpected people to deliver his message. We need to look no further than today’s first reading to prove this fact.
The prophet Jonah is quite comical, even with many of the sillier puns only evident in the original Hebrew. Before we find him preaching to the Ninevites proclaimed today, Jonah was getting clear directives from the Lord: set out for Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. But Jonah, the reluctant prophet, wasn’t interested in traveling to a foreign land, hostile to Hebrews. After all, Nineveh was an unlikely place for a prophet to be successful, let alone welcomed or accepted. So, Jonah bailed and hopped on a ship headed to Tarshish (likely the same town Tarsus, which the New Testament associates with Paul). Onboard, the sea became furious, terrifying even the most experienced sailor. What does Jonah do during all the drama? He takes a nap (remind you a bit of Jesus?). His snoring was so loud that the sailors could hear it despite the crashing waves and whipping winds. Even when Jonah informs the sailors that he is the cause of the great storm and they’d be wise to get rid of him, they try everything to get to shore first. Reluctantly and at his advice, the sailors lift Jonah and throw him overboard!
Only after Jonah is swallowed alive by a great fish does he reluctantly agree to preach repentance to Nineveh. With Jonah’s compliance, God saved him from the belly of the fish. Arriving in Nineveh to a community that doesn’t know him or God, Jonah’s preaching style is badly lacking. He shows no passion for the people to get to know him or learn about the depth of God’s Word and instead lazily declares, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be [overthrown].” In our translation, it’s “destroyed,” but this word choice is a clear reference to Jonah being the one overthrown from the boat earlier. Even with his minimum effort, Jonah is remarkably successful. A comical scene ensues as the king orders his people and their beasts to wear sackcloths. Imagine dressing all those animals and forcing a complete fast, in addition to their human owners? Rather than feeling enthused by the effects of God’s Word, Jonah becomes dejected. The sailors and the Ninevites are the ones to listen and experience the graces of the Word; the prophet Jonah, yet again, closes himself off, and as a result, he’s miserable.
What can we learn from this comical Scripture account? Despite all obstacles or delivery devices, God’s Word is powerful! And if we are called, or better yet, when we are called to receive his Word we should listen and SHARE! Even if we cannot imagine any resulting success, the Word alone can move hearts.
Keep this truth in mind as we focus on the value of life, and recognize how the truth of God’s Word can transform the lost or wicked, to be brought into his flock. And how often his messenger is an imperfect vessel!
Let us give great thanks to all who zealously advocate for the dignity of human life and those who have supported women facing hardship due to unexpected pregnancies. It is critical for us as Catholics to strive to minimize and eliminate the damage to society and within our world resulting from the grave sin of abortion. The Lord has blessed humanity with a special gift of freedom, which allows for us to choose the good. May we vigorously pray that all people will come to know the Truth that, in all circumstances, choosing life is choosing the good.
We cannot forget this reality. But we also cannot lose hope in the power of God’s Word to soften hearts, as we approach each situation with pastoral care and sensitivity to the struggles and sufferings of others. As a child, I remember those evenings when we were asked not to answer the phone (honestly, most of us did not run to the phone to answer when it rang anyway). That was because my mother would answer the off-hours calls for the local Pregnancy Center. I have no idea how many lives were saved by my mom and other volunteers like her, but I know their kindness and confidence in God’s word made it possible. Let us give thanks for the great work of our local Pregnancy Centers, Columbia Pregnancy Center, and Women’s Center West located in Catonsville.
Anyone experiencing suffering or hurt from abortion is encouraged to reach out to our parish for help. Christa Weyent, our Pastoral Care Coordinator, is available with confidential support and healing! Both Fr. Rob and I are more than delighted to offer forgiveness and mercy available in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as a listening ear. For many, Project Rachel also provides an opportunity for necessary healing. Do not allow these wounds to fester – find the healing that God so passionately wants to offer.
Lastly, I encourage the entire parish to engage in the same powerful prayer and fasting that the people of Nineveh embraced. The sin of abortion is not only a personal sin but a societal sin as well, and as such, all of us ought to lend our unified efforts to move hearts. And while many of us share the deep concern for the political platform that seeks to increase access and prevalence of abortion in our nation, remember that if God can work through those in Nineveh, he can touch the heart of our President Joe Biden and our nation’s leaders. Though the political solution is not the most important, we embrace the most powerful prayer as the solution. We also need to be instruments, allowing God’s Word to touch hearts and bring conversion one person at a time. Information on how to participate in activities that support life this week, including the virtual March for Life, is below.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
Rev. Michael S. Triplett