We have two homilies by Father Hanly for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. We have a recording and transcript for each homily.
“Come, Follow Me!”
Father Hanly’s homily for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, was delivered on Chinese New Year’s Eve.
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: First Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
This is a busy day for everybody, I’m sure, getting ready for the celebration of Chinese New Year.
Today, we have the calling of Jesus’s disciples.
It seems rather sudden. Jesus comes and he sees Peter and Andrew, his brother, and he says, “Come, follow me,” and they follow him. Then he goes on a little bit further and there are the sons of Zebedee, John and his brother James, and he says, “Follow me,” and they leave everything and follow him.
It seems quite simple. It probably wasn’t originally that simple, but Mark likes to be simple, he likes to telescope many events.
We know from John’s gospel last week that Andrew was all the way down near the Jordan where John the Baptist was probably a follower, with another unknown disciple. And they saw Jesus, and John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and they followed him, without being called.
They asked him and Jesus said, “What are you looking for?” They said, “We want to see where you live.” And he said, “Come and see.” And they not only stayed the afternoon, when Andrew came back to Galilee and spoke of Jesus, already he was very well known, and he said, “I have seen the Messiah.”
So that when Jesus returned to Galilee, and he began his mission in today’s calling, he was already somewhat familiar to all of those men that he had called.
And yet there was some kind of immediacy. It was like no turning back. Once you are called, the time has come.
What is the time?
The time has come that the Kingdom of God has come. The Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God is in your heart. The Kingdom of God is around you, it’s all around you.
And we are to go out and say, and this is what we tell everyone, “Come back to the Father! Return to the Father! Come to the Covenant! There is a Kingdom that is going to begin now with me and it will spread until the whole world hears the Good News of the gospel.” (inaudible) that kind of beginning.
Now, when you’re called by God, because, in the gospels and in the Old Testament, everybody gets called by God. It’s not that we make the first move, He makes the first move.
Remember Abraham. God calls Abraham out into the starry night, lets him look at the stars and says, “Abraham, some day, all these stars will be people who will be blessed in your name.” And so Abraham followed God. And together they opened up a whole new world. God called Abraham and Abraham said yes.
Very simple. And, down through the ages, this is the way it has been: God calls and we respond.
But in the calling we must remember that He is not only calling us to something, He’s calling us away from something.
God says, “You must leave the things of your past life. You must come away with me, Abraham. You must leave your family, your traditions, everything, and come and I will show you a new way.” So it is that Abraham leaves.
What does it mean to leave everything and follow God? It doesn’t mean…
You can do it sitting in your seat right here and now. It doesn’t mean necessarily a geographical move like Abraham. Because to leave the past, to leave… He gives a hint.
Jesus says, when he says to his disciples, “Leave your nets,” he knows they are fishermen and he says to them, “Leave your nets, and I will make you fishers of men.” “I will make you fishers of men” means, for us, in a very simple way, it means forget the things and turn to the people, to leave your fish and turn back to human beings.
This seems like it’s fairly obvious, but it isn’t. It isn’t. Because if you look at eighty-five percent of your life right now, it’s involved in things and things. And our lives get so cluttered with things that we forget, sometimes, the people. People kind of receive (inaudible) Just for moment think how much of it is you say, “I can’t do that. I don’t have time. I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that.” It’s always things, things, things.
Now, what Jesus is saying is to come with me is to turn your world around and start saying… Because I am calling you to take people more seriously than things. A society that takes people first, (inaudible). Ninety percent of all the apparatus of society is involved in things, and we get so wound up that we forget that at the heart of the message is the Kingdom of God.
And what is the Kingdom of God? It’s God’s love. And what is God’s love intended for? For building things for the apparatus of a big community? No, God’s love reaches out only to human beings. He cares for us. He loves us. He has compassion. He forgives.
And this is the simple message that all involved in their business of selling and buying, and catching and filling nets with fish. He’s saying, “I will make you fishers of human beings.”
And this is why I have come: to bring this most important message. This message (inaudible) and a message that can change, not neighborhoods, not material things, it can change the human heart.
And when they change the heart, they will change the world. Because the world will not be made up by better programs, or better buildings, or safer automobiles, etc, etc. It will only be made up by God’s love touching person after person through other human beings who he called on to love him and to travel with him.
So what is the Kingdom of the God?
Well, the Kingdom of God is very simple. The Kingdom of God is Jesus. Jesus is the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is not a territory, it’s God Himself, coming, in love, to create a family. And it is Jesus who (inaudible).
And so what he is saying to those little fishermen, he is saying, “You come with me and then I will show you the Kingdom, because you will be walking with the Kingdom, because the Kingdom is myself and what I have come to give the world.”
And, if you look at it this way, it’s quite simple.
But we have a great fear, sometimes, of what we call vocations. What do we mean then is a vocation. He calls each of us, even without moving out of Hong Kong into another place, into a foreign territory, he is calling us to look into our hearts where the real Kingdom is.
This is a kingdom of compassion. This is a kingdom of reaching out to others, especially the poor and the needy. This is a kingdom that heals. This is a kingdom that studies so that we might understand more deeply, that we might, as St Ambrose says, believe that we might understand, that we might understand that God loves us, that we might understand that Jesus has come to show us how to change ourselves and to change the world.
This is the Kingdom. And this is what God calls all of us to.
The first thing, though, you say, “Well, this is all very well, but who’s going to put the bread on the table? Who’s going to pay for the groceries? Who’s going to get my son into Harvard when he is twenty-seven years old, or whatever it is?” We’ve got all these problems, you know. We have to do a lot of things.
What’s wrong is, or what has to be set right, is not a new plan, a new library, a new teaching. It is Jesus saying to us, “I am with you and I call you to walk with me. I enter your heart but, as I enter your heart, you too are entering the heart of God. And we will walk together and talk together and eat together. No wonderful new kind of world; it’s just the old world transformed. And it’s transformed by the Kingdom of God, the presence of Jesus in each and every one of us.”
To be aware of this is not necessary. It is done whether we like it or not. For God will have his way, ultimately. His way will triumph, ultimately. But the triumph will be God’s. And the way will be God’s.
And God sent Jesus to show us the way. For Jesus is the way, he is the truth and he is the life.
What paralyses us, of course, is our own fear. Our own fear of what will become of us if we give ourselves completely into his hands. And what will become of our families? And what will become of our jobs? And what will become of all the things that we are preoccupied with?
And Jesus says the only answer is to have faith, believe in me. I am not going to change this world and you are not going to change this world, but, together, God will use us both to change this world.
My favourite passage from scripture I’m going to read to you now, and especially good, I didn’t plan it but this gospel is read on New Year’s Day, in Chinese, in the New Year’s Eve special Mass before the Tuen leen fan (Reunion Dinner for Chinese New Year).
And rightfully so because the Tuen leen fan is a sign and a symbol of the Last Supper (inaudible). It brings people together. It praises peace, harmony, unity, not only among our own families but the families of the world.
And so it is fitting that I will read to you, now, this part from St. Luke which you very seldom hear but which is at the heart of everything I have been trying to say.
Trust in God’s providence, have faith in God’s providence, trust in God’s fatherly care. That’s the beginning now this is the scripture.
“He said to [his] disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.
For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.
Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!
Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span?
If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?
Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore.
All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.
Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.’”
(Luke 12: 22-34)
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The Call of Jesus
In this beautiful homily for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly looks at what it means to be called by Jesus. He then talks about Christian Unity.
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: First Corinthians 7:29-31
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
Mark, in the Gospel, makes it sound so easy. Jesus, a total stranger, walks near this Sea of Galilee, and he sees two men there and he calls those two, and then two other men and he calls those two, and all of a sudden they have a community.
But it doesn’t happen like that, because, that’s the way the story is told, but if you read John and the other Gospel stories, you realise that they knew Jesus quite well, that he was really well known. He was known in Nazareth. He was known in Galilee. He was somebody who had a very dynamic personality and could not be ignored. He was known certainly among his own people.
So what we have here, though, is a synopsis, a kind of a telescoping of the beginning of Jesus’ public life.
And, of course, it begins with the calling of his Apostles.
Nobody wants you to think of this kind of calling of the Apostles as something that is very funny and obscure and one-time-only and all of that. Because once we realise that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he is the Word made flesh, the one who has come to heal and save and bring us all to eternity and eternal life, all of these wonderful and amazing promises, it made the people feel, yes, the Messiah has come, the chosen one of God, he has come and we are okay now.
The reason that we must kind of look upon the story as we hear it now, is because it’s the story of our life.
The writer is not interested in what happened at Galilee, he’s interested in the people that he’s talking to, like I’m talking to you now.
Where is Jesus?
How does he call?
Have you felt him?
Where does he begin his work?
Is it that he did it once in Galilee and it’s all over?
But we know that’s not true. We’re Christians, we believe that the living Lord is with us here and now and present. He is with us, and that same emphasis, and that same energy, and with that same feeling that something must be done now, because he is among us.
And what do we do?
Well, I suppose we go to a library and study about the Bible, or we do this and we do that. But he’s talking to people who can’t read and people who can’t write, and he’s talking to people who are just ordinary, like you and me.
What does he mean by calling us?
Well, it’s very, very simple, but it’s very, very drastic.
What he is calling us is: “I want you.” “Do you want us to work with you?” “I want you.” “Do you want us to learn and be different?” “I want you.”
“And what do I have to do?”
“Leave everything, everything that’s near and dear, your treasure and it all, you’ve got to leave it all.”
“Because I want you, and I need you, and your Father needs you, God needs you.”
And you say, “Impossible! I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that. I’ve got important things. I’ve got to worry about my children. I’ve got to make a living. I’ve got thousands of things that I can’t… I just can’t.”
And that’s the truth. Because what he’s asking for: “I want your life.”
What does it mean to want your life?
It means to walk with him and be with him.
It doesn’t mean to create something new. It doesn’t mean to make a big community of people who are very busy about many things.
“I want to be with you and walk with you, and I want you to share your life with me and my life with yours, and that’s what it is.”
What will happen, we don’t know. He doesn’t tell us. He doesn’t say what is going to happen in the future. He just says, “Here and now, I want you. And I’m very selfish, I don’t want to have to fight off many other people who might want you.”
If this seems cold, it isn’t, because when we decide that we want to walk with Jesus, we’re walking with the whole world. He opens up the world to us. He’s not interested in selfishness where we praise him and pray to him and love him and take care of him.
What he says is, “I want you to come with me, and together we will change the world.” That’s what he wants, together. “You’re not going to change me, I’m not going to change you, we’re going to change the world. Come follow me, be with me, love me, care for me, and in that you will find the secret.”
And what is the secret?
“That I love you, and I love these people, and I want you to be with me as we walk through life, blessed by a Father who has chosen this way to make change among us.”
But he’s not interested in politics, he’s not interested in organising, he’s not interested in these things. He’s only interested in one thing: to change the human heart.
And if you look carefully at the world in which we live, what needs to be changed certainly is not the buildings, we’ve got enough of those, or artists, we’ve got enough of those, or bankers, we’ve got even more of those. He doesn’t need…
What does he need?
What the world needs is a change of heart, a new direction, a way of reaching out so that the people that God creates fulfill what they are capable of.
And what is the one ingredient that you have to have? And it’s very simple.
You’ve got to learn to love. He’s not interested in high marks. He would say, “Do you love me?” And you say, “Well, sometimes,” or “Maybe,” or “Perhaps,” or “On Mondays and Fridays, but on the other days maybe not.” He’s not interested in that.
And his love is a very strange love.
His love is: “Oh, I feel so happy being with Jesus!” …
If you look at the lives of the saints, you’ll find that his love is a very tough love. It is reaching out. It is moving outward toward people. It is sacrificing yourself rather than looking for people to entertain you, to be with you, to make you happy.
It’s very hard?
No, it’s very easy, because you throw your life away, you see.
When I was a young man, very young, I was… I always wanted to have an ideal, something terrific, something really big. And my mother asked me, “What do you want to be?” And I knew she was trying to, kind of, find out what I would like to be, you see.
And I wasn’t ready to tell her, so I said, “A garbage man,” you know.
And she said, “A what?”
I said, “A garbage man, in Brooklyn. I live in Brooklyn, a lot of garbage, I can make a living.”
And she smiled and she said, “You can be a garbage man, but you’d better be the best garbage man in Brooklyn or you’re not welcome in my home.”
Now that’s a great answer, you know. Yes. It doesn’t matter what you do, but give your heart and soul to it.
Now that’s what Jesus was saying. When he’s calling he’s saying, “I want your heart, I want your soul, and you’ll never regret it, you never will.”
Now I’m going to change the subject, okay?
The subject is: today’s the beginning of the Week of Christian Unity. You know Christian Unity: we have a special week with Protestants and to bring them together, and we try to come closer and closer to each other. You do know that, don’t you? You know, every year this is Christian Unity Week.
How do we do that?
We’re not doing it too well. I mean there’s a lot of talk and we organise things and all that.
But, if you think of now what I said about Jesus, Jesus is interested only in one thing: that we bring people together.
He doesn’t care who they are. He hung around with riffraff most of his life, you know. I mean he hung around with people who were not accepted in the temple, he hung around with people who were outcasts, or poor, or needy, or these things.
So, when he speaks about us coming together with each other, those who believe, he means all of us. He means that we are to remember that when Jesus was… The night before he died, he said to his Father, my one wish is they be one.
One family, one community, one group of people who will, for once in the life of the world, will learn how to love, and care, and reach out, because only in that way can we change the world.
At this time, I’ll tell you this one last story, about Grandpa Gunther.
I had a Grandpa in… We moved down from Brooklyn, I was just a kid, I was only five years old, and we moved to Hicksville. Terrible name for a town, Hicksville. It’s still there though, very important town. And because my parents were from Ireland and neither of them brought any relatives with them, we had no relatives, we had lots of uncles and aunts of all different kinds. I had Jewish uncles, and Catholic uncles, and black uncles, and pink uncles, and…
Anyhow, Grandpa was one of my favourites, because he had big moustaches, you know. He was a true German from the old school: very strong Lutheran, and he wore this hat, and he had the moustaches, and he looked severe, but he was a lovely man and he loved me.
And so on Sundays he would come to pick me up. He’d pick me up because he didn’t think I should be going to the Catholic churches there. “No,” he said, “Denis, I’m going to bring you to a real church,” which was the Lutheran church.
Now Hicksville is seventy-five percent Lutheran and they were immigrants, but there’s some of them were two or three generations. But he was an immigrant, and he said, “No, your mother doesn’t know really how to raise children, so I’m going to take you on Sunday and bring you to a true church,” you see, which was the Lutheran church of Hicksville. Well, there were many Hicksville churches that were Lutheran churches.
Anyhow, he’d pick me up, and my mother was a wonderful lady, she just let him take this little five-year-old kid, and off he’d go with Grandpa, because she figured that it’s more important that I have a friend like Grandpa, right now, than what church you go to. I mean, Jesus is in all the churches, right? So she didn’t make a big deal out of it. This was very unique in our day. Most people, oh, they’d be scandalized: “Your son’s going to a Lutheran church.”
Anyhow, he’d take me there and we’d walk into the church and we’d go right up front and he’d sit down. And now the pastors were young pastors, so there was a little bit of a problem. The way they saw the Lutheran church was not exactly the way Grandpa saw it. He was thinking of the old and the past and everything.
So we’d be sitting there, and then the poor young pastor would deliver himself of the sermon, and then he would say something new and different that Grandpa didn’t like, so he’d look at me, I’d be next to him, and he’d say, “Denis.” I’d say, “Yes.” “Up!” I said, “Okay.” “Out!” And we’d walk out of the church together, you see, with everybody looking at us.
Well, that was okay, because I knew at the end of it he was going to buy me these lollipops which were very fashionable then. They were, they had like a ball, a ball of a kind of candy on one end. That’s a lollipop. But these had it on both ends, so you could put your little fist in the middle and you could lick here, and you could lick there, and you could put it in your ear, and you could drop it on the ground, and you’d pick it up and you’d rub it off.
And by the time I got home with this lollipop, I was a mess, you know. My mother sent me out very neat and tidy. When I got home she’d look with that kind of a, oh, nothing you can do about this, look on her face. And she’d send me into the bathroom and I’d have to get a bath, you see.
This went on for a very long time. It went on for, I would say, about six or seven months, until we ran out of churches that were Lutheran churches. And, finally, good old Grandpa, you know, he said, “That’s okay, Denis. I think we can trust your mother now, you know, with this part of it. So you can, from now on, go to the Catholic church, you know.”
Now this sounds like heresy, but it was my first ecumenical experience. Everybody’s talking about an ecumenical experience, you see, and I think that’s quite (inaudible). I had a loving grandpa, you know, who not only made sure that I was well fed with lollipops that had two sides on them, but also I was safe and he loved me, and I learned that religion and love go together.
It doesn’t matter if it was the Lutheran church, because they love too. And it doesn’t matter that I didn’t go to the Catholic church, because Jesus, somehow, was also in the Lutheran church.
Now I’m not going to enter into any kind of an argument about, you know, what’s right and what’s wrong about this thing. All I’m saying is this, and I think we’re learning it now, finally. Here’s what the Pope says. The present Pope’s a very, very good man.
He said, when Catholics and non-Catholics come together, okay, they shouldn’t try to convert each other. Yeah, don’t try to convert each other.
What are you supposed to do?
Listen to the other, and ask them about their church, and you will be enriched by these people’s faith. And then you, from your own heart, will speak about your own church, and they will be enriched by what you have to say about yours. And in the enrichment, you will come together and, perhaps, who knows what we can accomplish if we begin to approach this way with each other.
So, the best way to celebrate this week is to look at people all around you who are not Catholic, and begin to look upon them as converting you, not to religion, but to listen to them and understand, and you will learn so much about so many things, religious and non, and then you will understand.
When you can say in Chinese, all people are one family, and you can say it among Catholics and Protestants and everyone else. You’ve heard the expression, 天下一家, under heaven, one family. Now ultimately this is what Jesus came for: to make us one family.
And on this eve of celebrating the Chinese New Year, I would like to say yes, our job is always 天下一家, as well as loving all people, no matter where they’re from, no matter what they believe in, and listen to their stories that you and I might enrich ourselves.
And this is the way God saves the world.
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Father Hanly's sermon for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, "Come, Follow Me!" was delivered on 25th January 2009. Father Hanly's sermon for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, "The Call of Jesus" was delivered on 22nd January 2012. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.
We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.