Sunday Sermon for January 21, 2024, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Jon 3:1-5, 10; 1 Cor 7:29-31; Mk 1:14-20

In the Gospel reading today, St. Mark synthesizes the teaching of Jesus into three short sentences: “This is the time of fulfillment.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”  The people knew something should be happening, but they were unsure of what to expect.  They were anticipating the arrival of the Messiah but, as we know, they were not clear about who or what the Messiah was going to be.  Some thought the Messiah would be a political-type figure, some were thinking along religious lines, but were still mistaken about what they thought.  God gives us the information we need, but He does not fill in all the details regarding how and when something will happen.

Jesus told us that we are to watch for the signs that would precede God’s intervention in the world.  Some of those signs are things that happen regularly (earthquakes, wars, rumors of war, etc.), so unless there was a sudden and major uptick in such events, they would hardly be reliable signs by which we could gauge the probability of something happening on the spiritual level.  Other signs that are not so frequent (signs in the sun, moon, and stars, people dying of fear due to the roaring of the oceans, etc.) might be a more accurate means of predicting that the Lord will be intervening soon.

In the second reading, we can see that St. Paul thought the Lord would be coming fairly soon.  Not only does he tell the people that time is running out, he also informs us that the world in is present form is passing away.  Both of these points are true, but the fact that we are still here and no major event has taken place in the past 2000 years tells us they were not fulfilled in or shortly after St. Paul’s time.

Nonetheless, these readings are particularly important for us today because so many people are seeing what is happening in the world and in the Church, and they are thinking that something may be coming soon.  Each of us needs to examine our own self regarding our own response to such a possibility as well as our own motive inherent in that response. 

While all the signs our Lord mentions are not yet present, a rather rapid buildup of indicators is all pointing in the same direction.  For the first time in history, the things described in the Book of Revelation are able to be done and a number of these things are already occurring.  Just as people misinterpreted who and what the Messiah would be prior to His arrival, so now people are interpreting the events taking place around us in many ways.  Some are predicting the end of the world, others are predicting a chastisement and a rapture, still others are suggesting the coming of the Antichrist.

The messages of several Marian apparitions point to the time in which we are living.  The message of Our Lady of Good Success (Quito, Ecuador) from nearly 400 years ago speaks specifically about our time.  Tragically, one has to wonder if people would respond even if someone like Jonah was raised up by God.  If St. John the Baptist was preaching today we would not only ignore him, but we would put him in a psychiatric hospital!

Many people today are simply passive about everything going on around them.  It seems that as long as we are comfortable and have our fast food and our TV we really don’t care what is taking place around us.  It is time to wake up and look at what is happening in the world.  God continues to call people, as He called the first Apostles.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John left everything behind and followed our Lord.  Many courageous and heroic souls are doing the same today.  Are you one of them?

We do not need to be afraid.  In fact, Jesus told us that when we see these things happening, we are to stand up and lift our heads because our redemption is near at hand.  The reason our Lord came was to save us from eternal condemnation.  The reason He called His Apostles was to bring the message of salvation to the whole world and, thereby, save souls. 

Now in our day, we must pray for and practice detachment, as St. Paul tells us.  But we must also make sure our motive is in union with God’s will.  It is not about us alone, or even us against “them”; God desires the salvation of all.  Pray for a love of souls because it is a time of fulfillment.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, believe in the Gospel, follow Jesus, and bring as many with you as you can.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit