The Time is short 3rd Sunday in ordinary time B 2018

Friends, "Time is short" (Mark 1:15). Salvation time is already here, and we are reminded that time is shrinking. The present form of this world is going away (1 Corinthians 7:31). As believers, we know that beyond this world’s appearances, there is a deeper and everlasting reality. The life of faith calls us to live as foreigners who are perpetually distant from the appearance of this world, who are seeking the eternal. Israel's feast of Sukkot's holiday reminds us that we are only passing through this world, as we also look forward to our real home in heaven (Heb. 11: 9-10). The days 18-25 January around the feast of the conversion of St Paul have become important days for the churches each year. It is a week of prayer for Christian unity. The conversion of St Paul, the great apostle to the nations falls this Thursday 25th January. For MSP, it is a solemnity, we have moved the celebration to next Sunday.

Already in the Old Testament, God called different people and sent them to preach his words. In the first reading (Jon 3: 1-5,10), God sent Jonah to the great city of Nineveh to preach to them. "It will be forty days, and Nineveh will be destroyed," Jonah preached to the people. When they heard the message, they converted and believed in God. They fasted and prayed. In our time, most Christians lose the importance of penance in life, to deny themselves and live only for God. God listened and showed his mercy to the people. When we hear that God regretted evil, it should also be understood as an expression that human language is limited to capture the entirety of God’s word.  God is good and cannot or do evil. Nor can God regret because he is not human.

Time is shrinking, we read in Paul (1 Corinthians 7: 29-31). The world is running towards its end. There are different levels we can read this text. We can choose to view the text as a description of a historical linear progression, or choose to read it on a deeper level as an invitation to everybody born in the world. Paul wants to emphasize the importance of time in the individual's life and why time must be taken seriously. Every day and every moment for us brings us closer to the last day. The time that has been can no person have power over. Important in this context is that everyone lives for what is essential in life. The psalmist’s words: "lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation," invite every person to ponder. Jonah was commanded by God to preach salvation for Nineveh's people and they had forty days to receive the message. Like them, we do not have all the time, but we also have our limited time. Time is crucial in this connection.

That time is important can be seen in the preaching of Jesus: "The time has come; the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel ". (Mark 1: 14-20). We can hear of Mark's exciting story of how Jesus called the first four of his apostles. We may be concerned that he calls two brothers. This cannot be a coincidence. Jesus called the first two brothers, Simon and his brother Andreas, and later the same day, he called two more brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee. There are several things in this story that we may easily pass. Jesus began to preach when he heard that John had been imprisoned. Did they know Jesus before? Did they hear about him? Was it the first time they saw Jesus? How could they leave everything and follow someone who seems to be strange? The story raises many questions. Just as Jesus left the desert for forty days, we, as strangers in the world, under the direction of the Spirit, live in the time that is.  To receive this happy message and be transformed by it, we must also have the taste of desert’s experience, loneliness and simplicity. We will discover the very special joy of being able to refrain from our time, our money and pleasures to put God and our neighbour in the center. "Repent and believe in the message" (Mark 1:15), says Jesus. As Christians, we must always be prepared to repent of all sin and selfishness.

Time is shrinking both for the Church and for the world. Time is getting shorter for believers and non-believers.  The time that shrinks involves stress and great challenges for each of us. We are tempted to give up, to change side, to choose darkness instead of light, to live righteously, in hate, cruelty to fellow human beings. In the time that is getting shorter, solid foundations weaken and falsehood gains in ascendance. For many, life seems hopelessly fragmented in all sorts of pieces that are difficult to reconcile. But if we truly live based on the dignity we have received through baptism and look at ourselves as the temple of God, as Paul says (cf. 1 Cor 3:16), then we live in freedom as the children of God that we are. As the scriptures say, only the truth liberates.

We see that most religious groups focus a lot on entertainment, to get results about the feelings of members in the attempt to spread the gospel. This Satan’s "gospel" focuses on meeting people's practical needs more than hearing and living the gospel message. Jesus is presented as a salesman who presents his products. God is ‘sold’ to the congregation. Jesus is presented as the solution to all life's problems and concerns. "Believe in Jesus and all problems will disappear". Jesus never made a cheap sale of his message and mission. Instead, he repeatedly spoke of the difficulties of discipleship (Matthew 7:14). Jesus never apologized for speaking the truth or trying to water the gospel to please people in his way of speaking. He never sought approval either from the religious leaders or Roman political establishment. In short, Jesus' life was a scandal for people and their lies and hypocrisy.  Encounter with him always resulted in two different responses: offense or belief. Jesus' family was scandalized by him (Matthew 12:48), his society (Matt 13:54 - 57, John 6:42), the religious leaders (Matt. 15:12), religious institutions (Luke 13:32), religious seekers Mark 10: 7-22), even his disciples (John 6:61). They left him saying: “who can believe what he is saying”.

In their greed some ministers deceive the helpless of all they own while pretending to live for the will of God. By separating emotions, opinions from facts, we can come closer to the truth. We appear to be more vulnerable to lies and fall victims of fabrications and pure conspiracy theories. Today there are many false teachers, false evangelizers, there are even those who teach falsity in the name of Jesus. These people claim that something more is required than a simple belief in the truth of the gospel. Because many false teachers are everywhere, each of us needs to examine the minds and thoughts of others to determine if they are really the children of God (1 John 41 and 1 John 2:27), especially religious leaders who claim to speak for God Peter urges us to always be prepared to give answers to the faith we confess. (1 Pet 3: 5). Jacob invites us to pray for heavenly wisdom (James 1: 5). The world's wisdom passes way (1 Corinthians 2: 6-7), however, the gospel is the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1: 21-24). As Christians, we must have Christ's mindset (1 Cor 2:16). Only by equipping ourselves with the word of God can we determine what is right or wrong by acquiring the sword of the Spirit (2 Tim 2: 25-16; 2 Pet 19-20).

We have a moral and spiritual responsibility to think correctly and not abuse our minds (Phil 4: 8 and Romans 12: 2). God gives us his spirit so that we can know what is good, acceptable and perfect (Rom.12: 2). When we meet a church or religious group, it is important to ask certain questions: Who leads or preaches? Is the glory of God in focus or something else? If money, status or material advancement is the focus, we should distance ourselves from such religious communities.

The first four apostles called today by Yeshua were all fishermen. We wonder why Jesus apparently has a penchant for fishermen. Compared with carpenters, we can see that a fisherman has no guarantee of the day's work. He throws his net with hope to catch something. Whether he catches something depends greatly on circumstance beyond his control. Maybe that's why Jesus became a carpenter instead. The life of Jesus did not depend on any coincidence. A carpenter does not need much hope. However, there is a lot of room for hope in the fishing industry. When Jesus calls a human being, it is to dependence he calls him or her. This is something that we constantly need to hear and ponder. A new life begins in you the moment you said yes to God.

Markus tells about these four disciples so that we can recognize what should happen to us. We fully understand this story when each of us instead of these four writes own name. What is happening to them? Simon and his brother leave everything to follow Jesus like Jacob and his brother John. That they left their father and followed Jesus say much that no one may take the first place in our lives except Jesus. This may cause most people in Sweden to react, given that most people in Sweden would have difficulty choosing God before their families.

Each of us is called. Do we leave everything to follow him? When God calls, he expects a response, faith and action, as some say walk the talk. This means that the one who is called must refrain from his own safety, life and death and entrust himself to God. With this, only God becomes the guarantee. Jesus wants the one called to leave the old behind and enter the new life. Removing the old is not always easy. God led his people out of Egypt, but whether Egypt would leave the people is another question.

In Scripture we find inspiration and guidance for how to live as Jesus' faithful followers and make his message to concrete reality exactly where we live. The time that shrinks is a challenge for us to draw near the meaning and the end of time aleph and tav (alpha and omega). This in fact would mean that give more time to visit the church and worship. It implies reorienting in our lives that do not give much time to things that are worldly, spend less time visiting shopping malls and shopping galleries, tuning down the desire for entertainment. It would also mean giving more of your money to the poor than for your own pleasure and enjoyment. The corporal works of mercy of the Church challenges everyone to visit the old and sick. There should be a conscious choice to choose light instead of darkness, to deepen our relationship with Christ than to spend time in bars and discos pursuing personal pleasure. Jesus has sounded the warning bell, repent and believe the gospel for the kingdom of God is near.  

God's people are "strangers" in this world; they are foreigners and live as "immigrants abroad" - they are here, but not here .... As Abraham told Chet's sons: "I'm a stranger and an outsider" among you, sell me a burial place ...”(Gen. 23: 4), and in the same way King David announces, "For we are strangers with you and our fathers, our days on earth are like a shadow and do not exist (1 Kr 29:15). Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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