By Sr. Anne, SSJD.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 / Psalm 62:5-12 / 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 / Mark 1:14-20
When I have heard that expression it usually was at the end of an exam session. It’s a way to get our attention, a head’s up if you will. It usually means that it is the end of something, a completion of something or reaching the limit of Chronological time.
All of the readings for today have something to tell us about the fullness of time, of repentance and belief. They also tell us something of the message or Good News of God that each messenger was called upon to proclaim and the response of those who received that message.
The reading from the Hebrew scriptures tells the story of Jonah, the messenger and the Ninevites who received God’s message. In this story, there a time limit- 40 days.
The first time God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah went the other way instead. He was seeking to flee from the presence of God. Having been given a second chance, he does what God called him to do.
“God spoke to Jonah a second time saying-cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me-proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”
Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of God. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be over thrown.”
The message from God that Jonah was to proclaim, was simply an announcement that the city would be overthrown in forty days. It was a grace period, an opportunity to repent and to change their behaviour as well as a chance to save themselves. The result was that the people of Nineveh listened and trusted God. They proclaimed a city wide fast and dressed in sackcloth to show their repentance. The people of Nineveh believed God – they believed that Jonah, the messenger, was telling the truth. The truth was that Nineveh would be overthrown in 40 days. The result was that the whole city repented.
When Jesus was beginning his ministry in Galilee, the first words he used to get people’s attention were:
“This is the time of fulfillment, the reign of God is here.”
Jesus says that the time is “fulfilled.” A decisive moment has arrived. God’s reign is at hand. Pay attention…heads up! What Jesus is proclaiming here is a Kairos type of time – a time of fulfillment – a significant time – a moment of truth – a decisive moment. A Kairos moment that divides past from the future and ushers us into a new kind of life.
The Israelites of Jesus’ day thought of God’s reign as a restoration of the power and glory that Israel had enjoyed during David’s reign. Jesus is telling of a very different kind of reign – a reign that is “at hand”- a spiritual kind of reign that is realized when we surrender our hearts to God – a reign that began with Jesus’ first coming, but will be manifested only at Jesus’ second coming. Jesus had made it clear that no one knows when he will come again – his death and resurrection ushered in a new age where it is right to live as an eschatological people, that is, a people whose vision extends to the ushering in of God’s reign on earth in all its fullness – a people who live in anticipation of what is possible.
The second part of Jesus’ message is
“Change your hearts and minds and believe the message.”
As Jesus began his ministry, he asked the people of his day to “Repent and believe in the Good News.”
Repentance is about a change of mind or direction or seeing things from a different perspective and it starts with a new vision.
To believe is to be convinced that something is true, to trust it, to have faith.
Belief makes it possible for people to live confidently in the midst of difficulty. Belief makes it possible to keep moving forward toward a seemingly impossible goal. Belief makes it possible for us to step out into the darkness, certain that God will give us sure footing.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians counselled: (from The Message translation)
“time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple – even in ordinary things- your daily routines. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts upon you. The world as you see it is on its way out.”
The fullness of time happens when things come to maturity, when there is a sense of satisfaction, a sense of completion, the feeling of integration, to be finished, to be whole, full, solid and sound.
Paul believed that the second coming of Christ was immanent. He believed that Christians should not allow themselves to be distracted by the lesser concerns of the world and that they should maintain a steady state of mind and heart. He is calling us to maintain an eschatological perspective – to appreciate the fact that Jesus’ death and resurrection ushered in a new era. Maintaining this kind of perspective gives us freedom, without succumbing to a kind of preoccupation with material things.
There are events (such as the current pandemic) that occasionally intrude in our lives and force us to think more deeply. In times of crises we quickly re-orient ourselves to that which is truly important.
This is true today as we face a pandemic of epic proportions, political and economic upheaval and the health care systems on the verge of collapse. I believe we are faced and involved in a Kairos type of time through these crises. I think it is helpful to be reminded of what St. Paul counselled various churches in his time when faced with such crises:
“Now is the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers, the night is far gone, the day is near.”
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent the Chosen One born of a woman, born under the law.”
And, there is “A plan for the fullness of time, to gather all things… things in heaven and on earth.”
Let us hear again Jesus’s words at the start of his earthly ministry:
“The time is fulfilled! The Reign of God is at hand- Repent and believe the Good News.”
So be it, Amen.