Thursday 22Friday 23Saturday 24Sunday 25Extra

"The time has come and the Kingdom of God is close at hand;
repent and believe the Good News"3rd Sunday in Ordinary time (B)

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

Dear brothers and sisters,
We are bringing to a close our Salesian Family Spirituality Days, which have brought us together in joyful celebration and reflection around the theme of the Strenna 2009 which invites us to commit ourselves to making an immense movement of people for the salvation of the young out of the Salesian Family.

This implies a change of mentality, an expansion of heart and a decisive will to walk and work together as Don Bosco wanted, bearing in mind that what matters is the growth of the Kingdom through the carrying out of our Salesian mission.

The Word of God proclaimed to us today, a Word which, like always, enlightens our life and projects it more in conformity with God's plan, can be read in perfect harmony with the spiritual and pastoral program of the Strenna.
In effect, this Sunday's liturgy features the pressing appeal of Christ to repent/convert in order to be saved: "The time has come and the Kingdom of God is close at hand; repent and believe the Good News". We find ourselves before a summary of what has been the content of Jesus' preaching. It is the fullness of time of which St Paul speaks in his Letter to the Galatians (4:4) which saw the Kingdom of God breaking in to the very person of Jesus, and for which he becomes all things to all people who are offered a chance that will not be repeated: either save your life or lose it. Therefore it is time only for conversion and accepting the Gospel.

"Time is now short"
This sense of “urgency” is already noted in the first reading, which describes Jonah's teaching at Nineveh: "another forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed". And precisely because there was no time to lose, “the citizens of Nineveh believed in God and declared a fast, putting on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least… and God relented, he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened”. Having accepted the prophet's appeal at the right moment meant salvation for themselves and their city for the Ninevites: a few moments can be decisive for the rest of one's life!

Above all this sense of “urgency” is noted in the brief Pauline passage, presented as the second reading and taken from the 1st letter to the Corinthians. From this point on in it Paul, to help his readers see better the value of virginity as a radical choice that can make one belong to the Lord “with undivided heart”, recalls that all of Christian life falls under the sign of “the provisional” and the “fleeting moment”, which do not allow for delay in deciding for God: “This what I mean, brothers, Time is growing short; those who have wives should live as though they had none; and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for…; and those who have to deal with the world, should not become engrossed in it: because the world as we know it is passing away!”.

So there is no value in life (like family, happiness, business, work etc.) that can come between God and man and “delay” our total belonging to the Lord. The “consecrated” person – which we all are by virtue of our baptism and then by virtue of religious profession or a promise – is precisely the one who has been effectively transferred beyond the illusory games of the “passing world” to be rooted in God alone. While remaining in time, the consecrated one is already beyond time because “espoused” to Christ as the definitive and absolute value! What allows him or her now to be part of the éschaton, is not a flight from things hurrying towards their end, but allowing the “fullness” of life in Christ to break into their lives, that which in Gospel terms we can say is the "kingdom of God".

This person identifies with Christ, inasmuch as he, in the mystery of the incarnation, through word and deed, brings the presence and transforming power of God amongst mankind. In Christ “the kingdom of God” has already broken into the world, even if its fulfilment will only happen when the cycle of history, which carries the ferment and partial realisation of this kingdom, will come to an end. And because the “kingdom of God” is already present in Christ, human beings can not but take up a position: they either enter or remain outside forever! Whoever rejects it or does not know how to see it, will be forever caught up in the disturbances of temporality, in the poverty of an existence without value or meaning.

This is why it is so important to bring the young to Christ and Christ to the young. Otherwise they risk drifting without compass in the sea of life and without the energy to live it fully as the gift of self.

"repent and believe the Good News"
However it is not easy to enter. If it is true that the “kingdom” is a free offering on God's part, it is also true that one enters only on the condition that we ourselves become “kingdom”, that is to say we are transformed, become capable of assimilating the gift offered us, in harmony with all the new needs proposed in that very gift, thus renewing our lives. This is what is expressed in the double invitation, or rather, command, which follows the previous affirmation: "repent and believe in the Good News". The “repentance” means a change of mentality, overturning criteria for evaluating every reality and situation (cf. the Sermon on the Mount). All this is possible only on condition that we accept the new “logic” of the kingdom, which however does not square with our rational categories or the criteria of the world. This is the meaning of Jesus' last invitation: "Believe in the Good News". Believing means completely trusting Christ and making the Gospel proposal our own.

The concrete example of a full response, underlying the urgency of the appeal and decision faced with the proposal of the kingdom as we find when standing before Christ, is made up of the following scene of the call of the first four disciples. Jesus' call takes them by surprise, like fish in the net: "Follow me, I will make you fishers of men". What strikes us about this scene is the speed with which both the call, and the response happen: "and immediately they left their nets, and followed him" It is a promptness that leaves nothing out! These men knew how to break with their past; even the family becomes second place; what is important is to “follow” Christ, become “fishers” of other people, take part in the “kingdom of God” which is close at hand, already amongst them. here is the great example that Mark wants to offer his readers as to how to accept the “kingdom of God”: “being transformed” and “believing” in the Gospel. Here is what Don Bosco is awaiting from his spiritual and apostolic family: a gesture similar to that of the group of young men who gathered in his room on the 18th December 1859, 150 years ago, and who decided to leave their dreams and plans to carry out his dream and plan: the salvation of the young. They too left everything and followed him. “Friar or no friar, I'm staying with Don Bosco”.

It is my hope that as a Salesian Family we will be capable, at the end of these Spirituality Days, of accepting this pressing invitation to conversion, to a full belonging to Christ, to accepting his Kingdom, and to mission so that others may have fullness of life in Him.


Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva
Rome, General House – 25 January 2009 


Today's Video

Today's Photos