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Gospel Encouragement – 3rd Sunday of the Year

Dear sisters and brothers,

I shared at Mass during the week that I’d watched a documentary about Greta Thunberg, and how there were similarities between her sense of mission, and the reception she’d received, and Jesus’ mission and reception by the authorities 2,000 years ago.  As I read today’s first reading from the Book of Jonah that documentary came to mind again.  One of the scenes showed how Greta and her father had sailed to the United Nations in New York on a racing catamaran.  I always knew that they appeared flimsy, but I hadn’t realised how flimsy they appeared when being hurled about on the enormous waves of an Atlantic storm.  It appeared that at any moment Greta, her father and the captain would be catapulted into the sea and certain death.  Hence, the reminder of Jonah.

Now, I know that today’s first reading doesn’t focus on that bit of the story, but with Jonah you can’t really think of one part of the story without the other. In this parable, God has commissioned Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn them that certain destruction is coming their way, and because he is terrified of the reception he will receive, Jonah runs in the opposite direction, even to the point of risking death on the high seas.  However, God uses a great storm at sea to set Jonah back on the right path.  When Jonah chooses to do as God wants two things happen.  Firstly, the people respond far better than Jonah had imagined they would and, secondly, Jonah finds contentment in having fulfilled the mission that God has given him.

In our Gospel reading it appears that we have exactly the opposite situation.  By contrast, when Jesus calls the first apostles to follow him, they do so immediately, with no questions being asked.  They trust in his mission and the sense of purpose that he gives to them.  However, we know that they had their Jonah moment to.  When the reality of the Cross hit them that trust deserted them and they fled in the opposite direction as well.  It was only in encountering the risen Lord and opening their hearts to his Holy Spirit that their sense of mission and purpose took deep root in their hearts, their spirits, their lives.

And that is why St Paul, in his first letter to the people of Corinth that we hear from today, is so insistent on being ready because “time is growing short”.  We each have our mission, we each have a God given purpose to our lives, which is unique to each of us, and he wants us to fulfil it because it is in doing that that we will find the greatest contentment and joy.  He lists the way in which we can prioritise family over God, pleasure over God, possessions over God, business over God, even grief over God, but in doing so he’s reminding us to flip this perspective over.  He’s asking us to give God, and his purpose for our lives, priority over family, pleasure, possessions, business, grief or whatever else we may allow to take centre stage, because these things will not give us the contentment and real, deep joy that we were made to know.  Only building a loving friendship with Jesus day by day and responding to his call upon our lives can do that.  Why, because he wants only the best for us and knows how we can get it. And, as the one who created us from nothing, with a specific and unique purpose in mind for each of us, he knows how to help us achieve that contentment and joy.  Not by running away from our life’s purpose and mission, but by allowing the Holy Spirit of the risen Jesus to take the most important place in our lives more and more each day.  As the apostles and Our Lady did at Pentecost, let us open our spirits to the Holy Spirit today, and each day of our lives.

With every blessing,

Simon