God has overlooked the time of ignorance, but now He demands that all people everywhere repent. 

Today we hear the account of the start of Jesus’ public ministry from St. Mark. We heard the account from St. John last week.

As you may recall, we did a bit of a riff on the age-old group dance, the Hokey-Pokey, wherein we were urged to put our whole selves in and to not just leave them there, but to get to work announcing God’s Kingdom. To be active in calling others for the Lord.

Our active engagement follows the model which we heard in the gospel: Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus, as he consistently does, wastes no time. His mission was urgent and His time limited. So is ours. We have much to do for God.

In our readings and gospel, we see people responding exactly that way. They drop everything to do as God asks. The people of Nineveh repent. Paul urges the Corinthians to focus on Kingdom tasks and not to be distracted by anything else. The people Jesus calls respond by leaving the worldly behind to focus on the work of the Kingdom, to be “fishers of men.”

In each of these cases there is an urgency that the people get. In the aha moment they are saying: ‘I get it, I must do this now. No time to delay. Nothing else is important.’

I would like to focus a bit on our Alleluia verse because it wraps this all up very well. 

The verse comes from Acts 17:30. Paul is in Athens, not one of his most successful missionary journeys. Yet on a hill near the Acropolis which was a public meeting place he calls people to Jesus and speaks of Jesus’ promised resurrection. He speaks of God’s demand on them.

Paul, like always, is being bold and the people, like those nowadays, want nothing to do with a God Who has demands. In fact, we can practically hear them whispering – who is this God to demand anything of me! Even among those who were kind of receptive their response speaks volumes: “We should like to hear you on this some other time.”

God does overlook the past, but once we are converted, have come to faith in Jesus, He places a demand on us, to announce the kingdom and bring people to repentance and salvation. ‘I get it, I must do this now. No time to delay. Nothing else is important.’

Strength of Faith

She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

Over the months of Ordinary Time, a time dedicated to growth, we focus on how we live out the Christian faith, how we walk in Strength of Faith. Remember, we are focusing on our Strength of Faith.

Today we experience two examples of strength of faith, that of Jarius whose daughter was at the point of death, and the woman afflicted with hemorrhages over many years.

Notice in these two examples, Jesus was not the first one either of these people turned to. 

The Gospel recounts that the woman had suffered for years and suffered even further under the hands of many doctors, even spending all she had looking for a cure. Jarius’ daughter certainly grew sicker and sicker, and it wasn’t until she was a death’s door that her father pled with Jesus.

These examples are instructive for us at two levels. The first is that we tend to search for our own solutions. Money can solve it. Experts and consultants can get the job done. If only I do this or that. Then we reach the end of all our efforts and finally turn to Jesus. Perhaps we even fear turning to Him and must sneak up on Him for that which we need. We need to change that. The second instruction, even though these people waited and tried relying on themselves, once they approached Jesus in faith, Jesus answered them. He did not rebuke or turn them away.

The overriding lesson, why wait? Why delay? As Jesus asked the disciples in the boat last week, Where’s your faith.

As we focus our efforts on our strength of faith, let us practice turning to Jesus first. Before we ring the alarm bell, before we invite the consultants and spend the dollars, let us place faith and trust in Him. He will see us through our troubles and struggles, He will guide the hands of the doctors, He will break the chains and snares of the evil one who seeks our destruction. Faith indeed works tremendous miracles.

Also notice Jesus Himself acts in strength of faith.

People came and said: “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” In great faith what did Jesus do? He disregarded the message that was reported. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”  Once they arrived, they found commotion, weeping, and wailing. Jesus responded by speaking truth and received nothing but ridicule. Yet, He proceeded in strength of faith.

As we work on growing in our strength of faith, as we live out our Christian lives, let us also disregard ridicule, naysayers, and those who wail in panic searching for answers. Living the gospel faith, relying on Jesus, we will overcome all things in the strength that is eternally ours.