Yes, But Not Yet

January 24, 2021   Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Sunday of the Word of God (Lectionary: 68)

Reading I   Jon 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.

Responsorial Psalm   Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
R. (4a) Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
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. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Reading II   1 Cor 7:29-31
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.

Alleluia   Mk 1:15
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   Mk 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.

By John Barrett

Today’s readings comprise the Third Week in Ordinary Time. Yet, I imagine what this week would be referred to if the Catholic Church structured its calendar not on the liturgical season, but on the social, political, and cultural climate of any given country. Surely, today’s readings - especially as I read them in light of the present moment in the United States - draw me far beyond any semblance of what constitutes “ordinary time.”

It’s frighteningly easy to think critically of a culture not my own.

That’s why I’ve traditionally empathized with Jonah on his journey to set the Ninevites straight. But as I read the prophet’s account again today, I can’t help but to think of headlines emerging not from Nineveh, but my own nation: “Violent Insurrection”; “White Supremacy”; and “Deadliest Weeks of Pandemic Coming Soon.” I never imagined I’d empathize more with the Ninevites than with Jonah. Alas, I find myself thinking critically of my own culture. I could use some prophetic voice like Jonah’s for guidance.

For that, I open my heart to a Dominican Order nun, a few ever-so-ordinary fishermen, and a poor, itinerant teacher.

Sister Barbara Reid, OP comments that “there is an urgency with regard to the time, and a totality of response is needed.” Yikes. Sister Reid poses a great challenge to me as I am one who tends to hold urgency and reluctance in constant tension. For example, it was my duty to make breakfast for my family this morning. By the time I got moving, we ate brunch! Sr. Reid would categorize me as “yes, but not yet” type of guy.

Despite the self-deprecating humor, I do not dismiss the weight of Sr. Reid’s guidance. After all, it’s not breakfast-making that’s most urgent, but Mark’s indication that “this is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Mark seems as correct now as he was when he composed his Gospel.

So, how might I respond to the urgency of the present time? How can I shift from a “yes, but not yet” type of guy to an “abandon my nets and follow” type of Christian?

The answers are at the shores of the Sea of Galilee where my friends Simon, Andrew, James, and John encountered the Son of God for the first time - the same Son of God who treads my path as heavily now as he did theirs in the first century.

The eyes of the Messiah fall upon the overlooked, the ordinary, the non-elite, the ones involved in the tireless work of the economy, and the ones alarmed by the present moment in their country. It’s in this moment that my friends shine - they meet the eyes of the eternal source of love and life and they ever so urgently abandon everything to build a relationship.

When I meet the eyes of love in my life, I hope to drop my nets and follow for I trust that it is Christ manifest in my midst. This is no “pollyanna” endeavor; rather, it’s the same movement that wrapped Simon, Andrew, James, and John up in the redeeming work of the world.

If my ears aren’t failing me, I hear Jesus inviting me to take part in that same redeeming love.

I pray that I will meet what is most urgent and respond to it with the totality of my being. I pray that Christ may break into the present moment and compel each and every one of us to a love that transforms everything.


John Barrett is a Cleveland native who spends most of his time teaching ninth grade Theology, enjoying the company of his family and friends, and fly-fishing on the Rocky River. John teaches courses on Scripture and Christology and encourages his students to approach course material with Jacob - the Old Testament figure - in mind. John encourages students to adopt Jacob’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord by wrestling with the material in front of them even if it means they leave the experience a changed person.

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