Third Sunday after Epiphany

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary
Jonah 3:1-5,10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20
Catholic lectionary:

Jonah 3:1-5,10

Prophecy is disturbing and requires us to transform perspectives, mindsets, and actions. It requires consistency regarding thinking, proclaiming, and practicing. Evangelisation is a practice not an elaboration discourse about God. The period of exile in the Bible, around 597 (587) to 538 BC, was a period of deep reflections and revisions by God´s people. Both by those who went to Babylon and those who remained (1 Kings 25:8-21). Two theologies emerged from this time, one focused on retribution, claiming that what the people suffered was a result of disobeying God´s Law. Therefore, as a result, God was punishing the people by inflicting suffering, defeat, and silence. The other one was focused on God´s grace, God´s love for his people. Out of this love God accompanied them, even though its decisions were harmful and in disagreement with God´s covenant. They have chosen a path that led them to this situation. 

The book of Jonah reflects a contestation against the theology of retribution. In principle, Jonah belonged to the retribution theology and was expecting God´s punishment for the evil city and its population (Nineveh). And the book is the story of change and reconfiguration of perspectives. 

During the Babylonian exile, the second Isaiah initiated an opening up of Israel to the world. Ezra and Nehemiah, on the contrary, imposed an exclusivist religious practice filled with intolerance, violence, and hatred (take a look at Ezra 9-10). The book of Jonah reacted against this project. This novel reflects the power of love – to change and to be changed. The power of persisting and not giving up when there is sin and evil. Jonah had to learn not to give up. He had to learn God´s ways, not his ways. The gospel of Matthew 18:15-18 continues this call to not give up, even when people don´t listen to God´s voice. Love is about being together even when we disagree or do bad things. 

Jonah himself had to wrestle with a forgiving and loving God. The wicked and unfaithful can change and they are loved as well. If you accompany, if you allow yourself to be together, change will come. It is the work of the prophet (the one sent by God) to bear witness, to reach out and take chances to be God’s love and forgiveness all the time. It is necessary to change the system. ALL people put on sackcloth, and this includes the king, who gave up his position to hold fast to the God of Liberation (YHWH). The kind of theology that supports and manufactures exploitative actions and thinking can change into a more connected and caring theology and practice. Convers(act)ion is pivotal in our spirituality. 

Psalm 62:5-12

This prayer is about challenging hypocrisy and wickedness. It is a prayer to open people´s eyes and minds to evil projects. It is a prayer to alert about fake news and bad theologies. It is rooted in the prophetic tradition of the Bible and, thus very blunt.

Just like us today, the psalmist seems to be living in a context of corruption, fake news, imperial theology, and exploitation, where religion was used by the political and economic system to favour and maintain the status quo of a few, to keep a society of privileges alive and solid. S/he was being threatened and had to affirm her/his faith again to keep hope and to reclaim the true face of God: rock, support, presence, and salvation. The God we believe is a God that is present and loves us no matter what.

It is a fundamental theology that is expressed in this psalm. Who is God, what God does do, and how to recognise the true God, the one who set you and me free (Exodus 3:7-10; Exodus 20:1-2). It is a good who stands for transparency, honest relations, speaking the truth to the power, and the one who has the power expressed in love, forgiveness, and presence.

We have to choose in which God we trust. The God of Exodus and Jesus or the idols presented nowadays by the dominant system that needs religion to maintain the status quo in its favour? We trust in God the Creator of ALL things, and we believe in the interconnectedness of all creation. Let’s pick a side, the side of solidarity (with nature as well). Let us pray together: “Put no confidence in extortion and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them”.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Chapter 7 of 1 Corinthians is a praise to equality in the community and within intimate relationships. We belong to each other. Ubuntu. I am because you are. When we forget that we lose our path and fall into temptation resulting in deviating from God`s love. Lots of advice to live well and to respect each other. To do to others what we would like to be done to us. 

Of course, it is important to note Paul`s mentality regarding the Parusia. He lived very much within a context of apocalypses, of the end of all, of the second coming of Jesus. For him, especially in his first letters, Jesus is about to come again and we will be all in heaven. He changed his mind in Romans for instance and the Gospels made sure to correct him on this.  

These verses are alerting all that time is short and the end is near. Focus on Jesus and his words and practices is pivotal to Christian life and the Christian community. He predicts what John`s Gospel affirms, that we don`t belong to the world (the way the world was configured) but to heaven (where God and his angels are and belong to). And where is God, where is Jesus? Here and now, in the concreteness of the community. Matthew`s gospel will reaffirm what Paul said in 1 Cor 12 and Rom 12: the community is the sacrament of Resurrected Christ present in the world. If we want to be with God we are in community. If we want to encounter Jesus, the community is the proof and sacrament of his real presence in the world. 

Mark 1:14-20

The Gospel of Mark, the first of the canonical ones, was written in a period of turmoil in the Roman Empire. The community was under much pressure and devastated, making faith in Jesus to be weakening. They began doubting the value and purpose of that “way” – following Jesus. So, they started questioning again “Who is Jesus?”- considering many figures were presenting themselves as the Messiah – and “What does it mean to follow him…?”. 

The Gospel of Mark is the first attempt to reply to those deep concerns of the community and to provide security and perspective for the ongoing situation. Gospel means “Good News” and the question was/is “What Good News is Jesus, and later the Christian Communities, presenting? After starting by affirming that the καιρὸς, (kairos, the right time, the right opportunity presented) is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is ἐγγίζω (proximity, at hand), the author presents Jesus calling people to follow him. He needs disciples, he can’t do what he was meant to do alone. Community is of the essence here. In order to reveal the kingdom (it is already there) it is necessary to walk together and to understand the Gospel/Jesus. 


This Sunday that we celebrate the feast of Jesus’s baptism starts a conversation and a calling to be with God and to recognise that God is with us, no matter what, no matter where. There is no such a thing as Godless place. Even the sin can’t separate us from God’s love and presence (Romans 8:31-38). We have to make sure the world knows this. We don’t bring the Kingdom of God, we are called to be it to ourselves and, mostly, to others. We are called to be a safe place for those living in distress, pain, sin, war, isolation, violence, stigmatised, poverty, and exclusion. We are called. Are we hearing this call to be more, to understand that God raised me up… to be more that I can be (song Raised me up)? 

The liturgy of the weeks following the Baptism of Jesus is to keep reminding us who is Jesus (there are lots of fake Jesus around) and what we are called for. Also, to whom and with whom we do community and practice justice, love, and mercy. We have our eyes, ears, and mind open to see, realise and hear the need to have more people in Jesus’s ministry which is to reveal God’s presence and mercy and to reveal his Kingdom. And here the word reveal is very important. It is there already, but something(s) is(are) prevented from being seen and being true. 

It is outrageous how religious groups and empires are using the Bible and producing discourse (theologies) to justify murder, violence, exclusion, ethnical cleansing, and privileges. We are called and sent out to fish for people (Mark 1:17). We need more baptised people to be enrolled in Jesus’ project. This is we baptise, nurture, and teach new believers (Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion): to be agents of change in the world and to change agents in the world. 

The gospel of Mark makes us smile and gives us strength. The Jesus of our faith cares about humanity and all creation because he is the parable of the Kingdom of God, which is near, you can almost touch it. His “way” attracted many people to him. The women probably were with him from the beginning and men were called to join and many accepted. They chose to join a completely different lifestyle and mindset. They had to work hard together as a community, continually and carefully fine-tuning how they presented the Kingdom of God as near and present. 

Let’s pay more attention to what it means to “fish people” and be more proactive globally and locally to spread the good news: make the kingdom of God reality here and now. Amen. 


The Blessing (attributed to Saint Francis):

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts…
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace…
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy…
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor…

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Paulo Ueti

Theological Adviser and Latin America Regional Director. © The Anglican Alliance 2024.

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