3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – 24 January 2021 – Bible Readings for Mass: I: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Responsorial: Psalm 25; II: I Corinthians 7:29-31; Gospel: Mark 1:14-20

In the last book of the Bible there is a message from Christ of poignant simplicity in this book of profound mystery. Jesus promises: “ Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” [Revelation 3:20-21]. Let us truly listen to and take to heart what Jesus is saying to us. Let us open our hearts to the Word of God. to actively listen to Jesus.

Pope Francis in an Apostolic Letter, sent out last September declared that the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2021, be celebrated as Sunday of the Word of God.

[Aperuit Illis; http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190930_aperuit-illis.html ]. Please read! You won’t regret it!

In his letter he refers to this reading from Revelation to remind us that God is knocking on the doors of our hearts and longs to come in, sit with us, eat with us, dialogue with each of us, in a vibrant holy relationship. Our Pope makes very clear this is not to be a one day focus upon Scripture but an opportunity to realize God is calling us, daily, to open our hearts, to listen, dialogue and grow in our relationship with the Bible and hence with God. He reminds us of the words of St. Jerome that “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” The Word of God is a treasure of eternal and infinite worth and power.

Sadly, however this treasure of God’s Word is so often ignored, overlooked, rejected or ignored. While God would knock often at our hearts there is often a reluctance to respond. The reasons are many. Fear. Doubt. Other priorities we would consider more important (or enjoyable) to which to respond. It is often a very simple problem we experience in our lives every day. We are not good listeners. Opening up our lives to Scripture is more than reading and intellectually processing the words. God would call us to an on-growing dialogue or prayer as we open our lives to the Living Word. But this dialogue, this prayer involves honest listening and responding. In our world, in the church, in our own lives we can see many sad examples of how we miss so much by not listening. Whether we are with someone we love and respect or someone we dislike or reject we so often “listen”, not to understand and allowing sharing…but to direct and move the relationship, the understandings to where we think it should be. And this can apply to our listening to the Word of God.

We have a hard time LISTENING to Jesus. So often what should be prayerful dialogue with our Savior and Lord is, instead, our mental lectures as to what we think, what we need and or want. We do the same with others as well. How often during the Liturgy of the Word or homily, or when we read a Scripture we think..”Hmm!! so-and-so should hear this! This would set them straight!” But that is not the intent of God. We are not called to be pedantic lecturers of Scripture but servants of the Living Word that bring mercy, healing and common union in Christ. We are called to be active listeners to His Word.

Pope Francis addresses this in his call for us to be and become a people of God’s Word. This theme is not new, for Francis, the Church or for the Scriptures. Referring to earlier writings he reminds us of this need to be “given over entirely to the Word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue [emphasis mine] between the Lord and his people.” [Misercordia et Misera]. We, as God’s servants are called to be Listeners who are willing to dialogue, listen, talk, respectively discuss, to see differences AND common values and to allow the unity of God’s Spirit to make us whole.

We are called by He who knocks at the door to HEAR HIS VOICE. In our Bible readings for Mass we see this dynamic vividly illustrated. In our first reading we see the Prophet Jonah (a man who struggled to listen) proclaiming the universal call to repent and turn to God to the pagan, sinful city of Nineveh floundering in excess and sin. But they listened! They allowed the Holy Spirit to speak to their sin-bound souls. They then prayed, dialogued with God as He led them in the paths of conversion. And we see this same power at work in our Gospel.

Jesus saw Andrew and the others by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus CALLED Andrew, Peter, James and John from THEIR WORKS to follow Him. They LISTENED to the Living Word of God, they followed and the rest of their lives were an ongoing dialogue of listening, learning, discussing (and yes failing at times, but growing in the freedom to be the men God was calling them to be. They faced fears, doubts, ignorance of their own and of others. But they continued to listen to the Words of Jesus. Their lives proclaimed the refrain from the Psalm of today: “Teach me your ways, O Lord”. As they listened, as they heeded God’s Word they experienced what Pope Francis shared further along in his letter. “Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.” A “unity born of listening”. This unity is no wishy-washy event. This “unity born of listening” is the very path we are called to follow, together, at every Mass. We are called, together, to actively listen to the Living Word of God. We are then called, together, to share in the holy and real sacrifice of His Body and Blood, in His holy-common-union rooted in the Word of God and empowered by the Spirit of God. We will NOT all be in the same place with our understanding, our walk, our dialogue with God. But we will be growing, not in the same place but the one Person…Jesus. He will take care of all the rest.

On this Sunday of the Word of God many are the challenges we face, as Christians, as Church. Schism and strife are real threats. We must remember from where those divisive powers would come. In the church, in our lives can we not, together, hear, Christ knocking at the doors of our lives? Can we not, Listen to His Voice, welcome Him in our midst and allow the sharing at His holy table make us whole? Or will be be too busy pointing fingers, showing how right we are instead of answering the door?