Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
"Repent and believe the good news!"
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5.10.
The story of Jonah is meant to make a point - that sometimes we need to repent, and that it isn’t impossible to do so. Nineveh was a famously wicked city, and Jonah was understandably reluctant to go anywhere near it with the message of repentance (hence all the business with the whale as he ran away). But when he does go to Nineveh, he is as surprised as anyone that they hear and act on his message. This is a simple story: do not allow the simplicity to blunt the effect of your reading. Think about phrases like “...it took three days to cross it...”, imagine what it means, and read accordingly! Save your special emphasis for two important events: the people listening to Jonah (“...and the people of Nineveh believed in God...”) and God relenting. These are the keys to the reading, and link us to the Gospel where we will hear Jesus preaching repentance as Jonah did.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
What seems a rather gloomy reading is a lot deeper than might first appear. Paul is not just telling us to wander round with miserable expressions on our faces: he wants us to realise that the world we now inhabit is not the world we will spend eternity in. We should be careful not to pin our hopes on the passing things of this passing world, because that is a path to serious disappointment. The world that is coming will turn everything upside down - those who mourn will have nothing to mourn about, but those who spend all their time enjoying themselves will have nothing to laugh about. Take your time with this reading: it is a list, so you can pause between each of the double items on the list. The first and last words of the reading explain why Paul is talking like this – “our time is short...” and “this world is passing away.” It is important that the congregation hears these words, to make sense of the rest of the reading. Particularly underline the phrase “should not become engrossed in it.” Even though we must live in “the world”, it must not take over all our awareness.