"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
January 22, 2012: The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Synopsis: Most people remember Jonah as a story about a man and a whale. But it’s really about how a devout Jew was called by God to preach a message of repentance and forgiveness to foreigners. Jonah was told to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria and sworn enemy of Israel. Much to his dismay and displeasure, the citizens of Nineveh actually heeded his message and repented, whereupon God forgave them. Jonah represents a highly nationalistic view, common at the time, that God’s love was limited to the Jews alone. The idea that God’s mercy could extend to foreigners like the Assyrians was repugnant to Jonah and many of his countrymen. The book of Jonah challenges this view. Its core message is one of mercy and forgiveness for all people.
The second reading comes from a part of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where he discusses the practical matter of how one should live as a Christian in a civilization that‘s slowly dying. He counsels married couples, virgins and widows to remain as they are and to live in accordance with the Gospel as if the present world order is passing away—because it is.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry with the words: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel!” While Jonah foreshadowed Jesus with his message of repentance and promise of forgiveness, Jesus didn’t sulk when sinners repented. He rejoiced. As St. Paul says, “God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4).
Key verse: “Good and upright is the Lord; thus he shows sinners the way” (Ps 25:8)
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “To carry out the will of the Father, Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven of earth. Now the Father’s will is to raise up men to share in his own divine life” (No. 541)
Benedict XVI: “We speak a great deal, and like to speak about evangelization and the good news in such a way as to make Christianity attractive to people. But hardly anyone dares nowadays to proclaim the prophetic message: Repent! Hardly anyone dares to make to our age this elementary evangelical appeal with which the Lord wants to induce us to acknowledge our sinfulness, to do penance and to become other than what we are” (“In the Beginning: a Catholic understanding of Creation and the Fall”).
Life application: The good news isn’t “good news” until we’ve come to terms with the “bad news”—that we’re sinners in need of God’s mercy. But the good news really is good news because it is the assurance that anyone, no matter how bad they are what they’ve done, can change, repent, turn to God, find forgiveness, start over and begin to experience the divine life.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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