Notice the first words spoken by Jesus in Mark’s Gospel:
“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
There are three dimensions to this short proclamation. First, is that the kingdom is at hand. Think of the sun rising in the morning. Just before it clears the horizon, we can say it is at hand. It is present, but not quite yet. There exists a future anticipation of its full arrival. The kingdom is at hand.
The second dimension has to do with the word repent. It comes from the Latin, penitire, which means, cause to regret. This is the word St. Jerome used when he translated the New Testament from Greek to Latin. The original Greek word is, metanoia, and means to have a change of mind. This sheds light on the depth of meaning of the word, repent. God wants us to regret our sinful or godless habits, attitudes or activities and have a deliberate change of mind toward Him.
Thirdly, is the word, believe. It is THE word of Faith. It is the word by which we Trust God and His wisdom over our own weak and incomplete human understanding. It literally means to, Let go and let God.
These three dimensions are evident in all three readings. Jonah, we know, disobeyed God and His instructions. After spending three days in the belly of the whale, contemplating his lack of faith, he was spit up onto the shore, regretted his stubbornness, changed his mind and fulfilled his mission
The call of the first apostles has a similar tone. Anyone who has spent time on the sea (cruising on luxury ships does not count) knows that it is a harsh existence and leads to the development of a rough-around-the-edges personality. For Simon, Andrew, James and John to leave their rough-and-tumble lives as fisherman required a great metonoia as well as even greater belief and trust in the one who called them.
St. Paul doesn’t use the words repent or believe but his strong and pointed words of admonition have a similar tone. We must abandon our worldly ways, regretting our past, and make a conscious change of mind to conform our lives according to God’s Will.
There is one more aspect—a fourth dimension—in all of today’s readings: a sense of immediacy. When Jonah finally realizes what he must do, he does it immediately. The four fisherman leave their boats, immediately. St. Paul tells us in no complicated way that time is running out. The message is simple: repent, believe, change…