Father Valan Arockiaswamy

Father Valan

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Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

Jan 21, 2024 Views 309 Listen 2 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of of the Prophet Jonah (3:1-5, 10)

The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying: "Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you." So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord's bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day's walk announcing, "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." When the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, He repented of the evil that He had threatened to do to them; He did not carry it out.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

(R) Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me in your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. (R)

Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. (R)

Good and upright is the Lord; thus He shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice and teaches the lowly His way. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (7:29-30)

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.


A reading from the Gospel according to Mark (1:14-20)

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


Today's gospel text consists of two parts: a summary of Jesus' preaching and a story on the calling of four disciples, Mark (1:14-15); John (1:16-20).

Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, about six miles south of Jerusalem, and grew up in Nazareth, which is located in the region of Galilee, Matthew (2:1); Luke (2:51). When He was about 30 years old, He went to the Jordan River, possibly near Bethany and across Jordan, to be baptized by John the Baptist, Luke (3:23); Matthew (3:13); Mark (1:9). After His baptism, Jesus went into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time fasting and praying, Matthew (4:1-11); Luke (4:1-13). Shortly after that, He returned to Galilee and began preaching "the gospel of God", Mark (1:14).

The word "gospel" is a contraction from Old English, "goodspel", or "godspel", meaning "good message" or "good story" or "good news." It is a literal translation of the Greek word "euangelion" which means "good news". When we say "gospel" we refer to the "good news" brought by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, from God the Father to humankind.

What was the good news? The good news was that God would establish His kingdom upon the earth under Jesus Christ as King, who will bring peace, security, prosperity and joy to all mankind, Psalm (46:9); Isaiah (35:1); Micah (4:4). So, Jesus began His divine mission, by proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "This is the time of the fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand".

From the time that Adam and Eve first sinned against God, God set in motion a plan to redeem mankind and, through the prophets of Israel, had told the people over the centuries that He would send a "Messiah" as their Saviour and Redeemer. John the Baptist was the last prophet who came to prepare the way for the Messiah. And now God, who had assumed a human nature and became a man in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, appeared before the people of Israel and announced that the time to fulfil His promise has finally come.

Not only did Jesus come to announce the soon-to-come Kingdom of God, in particular to those whom God the Father calls, but also to instruct people on God's requirements to enter and become a part of the kingdom, John (6:44). The first requirement He stated is "Repent", Mark (1:15b). To "repent" is to turn away from sin and to turn to God. It means "a radical change of heart", "a change of attitude", "a change of mindset". It goes beyond human guilt and sorrow, 2 Corinthians (7:10). The second requirement He stated is "Believe in the gospel", Mark (1:15b). "To believe" means "to trust" or "have faith". "To believe in the gospel" therefore, simply means to take Jesus at His word; to believe that the time has come and the kingdom of God is near, and that God would fulfil all His promises. Thus, Jesus called on the people to truly repent and believe in Him, for the forgiveness of their sins.

Thereafter, as Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew "casting their nets into the sea", and James and his brother John "mending their nets in a boat". Here, it is interesting to note whom Jesus picked out as his first followers - who they were and what they were doing when Jesus called them and how He called them, and what he offered them.

  • Who were they? They were not rabbis, not scholars, not synagogue officials nor priests. They were fishermen. Jesus chose these ordinary people to be His most loyal companions.
  • What were they doing when Jesus called them? Much of a fisherman's day was spent catching fish and mending or washing his nets. These men were occupied with just that when Jesus came to them. It was so with many a prophet. Most prophets were also of humble origins - peasants, shepherds and farmers.
  • How did Jesus call them? Jesus invited them to "follow" Him, Mark (1:17). He was no stranger to them. At the Jordan River, John the Baptist had already identified and introduced Him as "the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world", John (1:29, 36). You may remember last week that we read about John the Baptist's disciples, Andrew and another, probably John, the son of Zebedee, after hearing John's declaration, followed Jesus and stayed with him, Mark (1:19a). Then, Andrew sought out his brother, Simon, and brought him to Jesus, John (1:35-40). So, certainly they had already talked to Jesus and listened to Him. Hence, when Jesus called them to "follow" Him, they left their boat, their nets, and all the fish they caught, plus their father Zebedee and others, and followed Jesus immediately, wholeheartedly and without reservation, Mark (1:17a).
  • What did Jesus offer them? Jesus gave them a special task different from the one they were involved. He told them that He would make them "fishers of men", Mark (1:17b). In essence, He was saying that He would teach them how to catch people, instead of catching fish. It was a task to which the men dedicated their whole life and, in the end, died for His sake and for the sake of their fellow human beings. So, Jesus did not call them to a life of ease, pleasure and self-absorption but to one of service and sacrifice.

What is the message for us?

  • We may have heard today's gospel many times before and still have gone away not believing in Jesus Christ. Today, we are given another opportunity to believe and proclaim that, over two thousand years ago, God became truly human and shared the life with the people of His time. He was fully God and fully human, and He has ushered in the kingdom of God through His birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension; and when He returns again, the kingdom of God will come to its fulfilment at last, John (14:1-4); Mark (13:32-33); Matthew (24:43-44). Meanwhile and in keeping with Christ's direction, we as His disciples must continue to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom of God and make disciples of people from throughout the world, teaching them exactly what Jesus taught, Mark (16:15); Matthew (24:14. 28:19-20).
  • Jesus' call to repentance is still a clarion call for us to repent and to leave our complacent and compromised self-ruled behaviour, and to turn back to God. Let us rid of all that hampers us, of all that prevents us from seeing and believing in the "good news" of Jesus Christ. As part of His Good News, Jesus has said so many things which we all desperately want to hear.

    For example, He said, "Forgive and you will be forgiven", Luke (6:37). He said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you", Matthew (7:7). He said, "Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon my name, I will do it", John (14:13). He said, "The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day", John (6:54). He said, "If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him", Luke (11:13). Jesus has indeed said many more good things. Today, let us ask God to forgive us for not believing in these good news of His Son, Jesus Christ.

  • The Bible is filled with accounts of God calling individuals to carry out His purposes. Moreover, the way God calls has been varied through history and has been different from person to person. He calls us not only in the house of God, in the secret place, but also in the middle of the day's work and in conversation with others. God is all around us. Let us, therefore, be open to God's call in our life and be alert to recognize His voice when we hear it. If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts, Psalms (95).
  • Being a disciple of Jesus Christ does not require exceptional talent. These ordinary men wholly gave themselves to Him and He made them accomplish so much in the world through their preaching and witnessing to the gospel. So, when Christ calls us by His grace, we must not only remember what we are, but we must also think of what He can make us into. If we receive the call just like the four fishermen by faith and respond by wholly giving ourselves to God, He can accomplish great things through us.

Let us bear in mind that God calls us to follow Him so that we may not only transform our lives but also the world around us, as John writes Jesus saying, "I am the Light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have light and life", John (8:12).

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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