I am stuck today by the sense of immediacy, urgency and wholehearted response in all three of today’s Scripture readings. (Did you feel it, too? I often think that the Scripture readings need to be “felt” and not only “heard” or “read.” Each of them usually has an “energy” or “dynamic” that helps us understand them.) In the first reading Jonah is commissioned by God to preach to the enormous city of Nineveh. Nineveh is so large it would take three days to travel through it, but after only one day’s travel and a message of only eight words (count them!), the whole population, great and small, believed and repented.
The early Christians believed that Christ’s return and the end of time was coming quickly. Time is getting short; a delay in responding is not possible. Paul insists in today’s letter to the Corinthians, “the time is running out;” and “the world in its present form is passing away;” and so our behavior ought to reflect that.
Mark’s Gospel tells us the story of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the call and response of the first disciples. At the invitation of Jesus, the brothers Simon and Andrew and James and John immediately abandon their boats, nets, and family business to join Jesus, to be about his “business” of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. The urgent proclamations and the immediate, wholehearted responses we read about today are pretty amazing.
These readings make me think about the things that feel urgent and immediately important to me. Perhaps some of my own plans and pet projects fall into that category. But is the “kingdom of God” that Jesus proclaimed one of those things? Is the call and invitation of Jesus to “come and see” something that I feel I need to reply to? I wonder what made the Ninevites and the first disciples willing to respond so quickly and so wholeheartedly. There must have been some reason why they were so receptive. Perhaps their lives were “ripe,” and they were finally ready to hear and receive the message; perhaps the struggles of life had worn them down and prepared them; perhaps they were tired after trying out the other calls and invitations that did not seem to fulfill their deepest hopes and desires. But now along comes Jesus. There must have been something very gripping and compelling in Jesus’ message about God’s reign and the encounter with Jesus that made them respond. They were ready and ripe for the call.
Am I feeling it? Am I “ripe” for the message of Jesus? Am I ready to respond with my whole heart, or at least a little more today that yesterday?