“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes this pronouncement after the arrest of John the Baptist and before he calls his first disciples. Now, he is ready to begin his ministry and announce the Good News.
Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John leave everything behind to follow Jesus when he calls them. As poor fishermen, they may have been waiting for this moment of imminent change and fulfillment, without consciously knowing it. The word of God spoke to them, and they responded immediately.
In the first reading, the people of Nineveh hear God’s word through the reluctant prophet Jonah, and they respond immediately also. Their repentance leads God to spare them.
The second reading also has a warning, “For the world in its present form is passing away.” As we read the news, it certainly seems like now is a time of change and full of challenges. How do we respond in faith and listen to God? Do we feel the urgency to make the necessary changes to respond to these challenges?
There are many prophets today who are calling on us to follow the Gospel and respond compassionately to those who are suffering. Unfortunately, they are often ignored or vilified for being bearers of bad news. We prefer not to change our ways as the people of Nineveh did; we do not want to lower our carbon footprints, learn to live nonviolently, and stop using people and the planet for profit.
As a Maryknoll Lay Missioner at the Border in El Paso, TX, I saw thousands of migrants hoping to find safety and a better life in the United States, but who often were met with hostility and fear. The migrants making the perilous journey north have faith they will find a new life ahead of them. Instead of responding with compassion, our political leaders instead choose to use migrants to score political points. They ignore situations of violence and poverty that have caused migrants to leave their home countries.
There are so many other challenges also confronting our world today. But as Pope Francis says in many of his encyclicals and homilies, we need to work together for solutions and listen to God’s word. All the issues are connected and will not be resolved without involving and consulting all of God’s people. These challenges require immediate responses and a change from the status quo.
Remember, Jesus said in the Gospel that the kingdom of God is at hand. This is a hopeful prophecy that can lead us out of despair and to action. As Pope Francis said in Fratelli Tutti: “I invite everyone to renewed hope, for hope ‘speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning. Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love … Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile’. Let us continue, then, to advance along the paths of hope.”
Like the disciples or the people of Nineveh, we too can be people who move toward a life of fulfillment and great things by listening to and acting on the Good News.
Maryknoll Lay Missioner Deborah Northern, from Warsaw, VA, has served as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner for 24 years in Tanzania and El Salvador. She currently serves in the U.S.-Mexico border in ministries that include hospitality for migrants in shelters and coordinating immersion trips for others to learn about migration.
Featured image: Asylum-seeking migrants’ families go under a barbed wire fence while being escorted by a local church group to the location where they turn themselves in to the U.S. Border Patrol, after crossing the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico, in Roma, Texas, April 16, 2021. The U.S. Department of Justice sues Texas over its floating barriers on the Rio Grande. (OSV News/Go Nakamura, Reuters)