Sunday Sermon for January 25, 2015, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Jon 3:1-5, 10; 1Cor 7:29-31; Mk 1:14-20
In the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry, the first message He spoke, as St. Mark recorded it, was that it is a time of fulfillment and that the Kingdom of God is at hand; therefore, it is necessary to repent and to believe in the Gospel. After that, He began calling some people to follow Him. That call appears to have been so compelling that those He called dropped everything and came after Him.

The Lord continues to call people to Himself; there are many conversion stories that show that the same compelling nature, the same irresistible pull is present today just as it was when our Lord called His original disciples. The call, however, is not merely to follow Him, but to repent.

There are many people today who follow movie stars, music stars, and various other personalities. Sometimes they become so enamored with these people that they begin to dress like, they follow their every move on some form of social media, and they seem to think that anything this person says or does is important.

Jesus is not looking for groupies, nor is He a guru seeking a following for some kind of personal gain. No, He loves us and is interested only in our good. He wants us to live according to what He says because He speaks the truth which will set us free. Free from what? Sin, selfishness, and Satan. Let’s admit the truth: most everything this world has to offer is empty. There is fulfillment, even in this world, when we are doing God’s will; everything else leads to a dead end.

St. Paul understood that when he said that everything he used to consider as gain, as something of great importance, he now considers as loss and as trash. By this he is not speaking about the people he loves, but about the ambition and the self will to obtain an end of some sort. Again, how many people today who have achieved their desired goal find it actually fulfilling? Certainly, there is a brief time of celebration because of the achievement, but that is followed soon after with seeking out a new goal or, at times, with a sense of disenchantment because reaching the goal did not provide what they expected.

These considerations are important for us because many of us have probably given ourselves over to worldly pursuits that are based solely on some selfish desire or on an end that we think will be fulfilling. Most often, if we are honest, we will also acknowledge that we did not seek out the will of God before setting out on our quest to achieve whatever it is that we want. If you are like most people, if you have reached your goal, you are probably looking now for something more. You will not find it by setting a new challenge for yourself.

The fact is that the Lord Himself is calling you. He is calling you to Himself, but this is not for anything He is going to get; rather, it is for what He desires for you. Before we can truly follow where He wants to lead us, we have to repent of those things that have lead us away from Him. We need a change of direction in our lives so that we will get off of the road we have chosen to follow and get on the path He has laid out before us.

It should be pretty clear to everyone that the way the world is going is not good. If we are swept up into its current we are going to be led along a path of destruction. God does not want that for us. Like the people of ancient Nineveh, we need to hear the voice of the Lord, spoken through whatever means He has chosen for us, and decide to get out of the current so that we can change our course. It may not require sitting in sackcloth and ashes, but it will require a change of mind and heart.

In the second reading today St. Paul says that time is running out and that the world is passing away. Obviously the time factor he is addressing was not regarding the end of the world. Therefore, it has to be the time for the individuals who are caught up in the world to make their choice to adjust the direction of their lives.

The world we live in is strangely similar to the world St. Paul lived in. Our time is short. The world is passing away; there is no fulfillment in what it offers. God came into this world offering fulfillment, now and for eternity. The formula for finding that fulfillment has not changed: repent, believe in the Gospel and follow Jesus.

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