The Gospel for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time begins: "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.'"
Just what does Jesus mean by "the time of fulfillment?"
The word "fulfillment" means the achievement of something desired, promised or predicted. The poet George Herbert reflects on this mystery in a poem entitled "The Pulley," He pictures God pouring out a glass of over-abundant blessings upon man, including beauty, wisdom, honor and pleasure. There was one gift that was held back, and that was "rest."
"For if I should," said he,
"Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be."
God held back the gift of "rest" so that if goodness would not lead man to God, perhaps restlessness will!
Whether you know it or not, you are drawn to a fulfillment you neither understand nor comprehend. What you see, taste, possess, own and control, controls you with restlessness. Truth, goodness and beauty elude your grasp but not your desire.
This was the search going on in the hearts of Andrew and the other disciple when they turned and followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and said: "What are you looking for?" and they said "Sir, where do you live?" He said, "Come and see." What did they find? Was it a place that they found? No, it was a person. They found there the peace and rest for which their thirsty hearts were searching.
The fulfillment we seek is the face-to-face meeting that is coming our way, when every hunger in our heart finds fulfillment in His truth, beauty, goodness, mercy and forgiveness.
Once we begin to taste it, it's meaningful to hear what follows: "Repent and believe in the Gospel." If we realize that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the hungers in our hearts, we will run full speed to Jesus, leaving behind our sins and offenses.
Do people who spend a full day working in the heat dread to take a shower at the end of the day? No, they delight in a refreshing shower and removing all the grime from their bodies. That's how we should delight in having our sins washed away in the Blood of the Lamb.
Fulfillment in Christ means replacing all the counterfeit values within us with the values of Jesus that bring rest to our weary souls. So often our efforts at perfecting ourselves get in the way because of our pride. Christ didn't come to give out rewards to people who believe they're free of sin, because no one is. He came to bathe away sin so that we can enjoy Him. The Holy Spirit is our helper and our friend, who makes conviction of sin a joyful blessing.
Let us take a look at how God works this out in the first reading. He sent Jonah to that wicked city, Nineveh. It was a proud and wealthy city, filled with crooked people with mean practices. Jonah was to go through the city, a journey of three days, proclaiming that within 40 days the city would be destroyed if people didn't repent. By the time he finished his first day, all the people in this wicked city proclaimed a fast and all of them repented.
When God saw by their actions that they turned from their evil ways, God "repented of the evil that He had threatened to do to them; He did not carry it out."
The time of fulfillment is here. Jesus calls us to be His disciples and also to reach out and invite others to join in on the journey toward Him. There's no doubt that God uses us to make disciples of others. The Holy Spirit will furnish the transforming power.
You might think that you're unworthy for this work. You are, but so were Peter, who denied Jesus, and Paul, who persecuted Christians. If you can pray, repent and talk, you can be a disciple of Jesus.
You know some Catholics who have drifted away from the practice of Sunday Mass attendance or others who are un-churched. Begin by remembering them in your daily Rosary. Speak to Jesus about them when you receive Him in Holy Communion. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Consider inviting them into a renewal movement, such as Scripture study, Cursillo, ACTS, Christ Renews His Parish, a prayer group or some other related activity. Sit with them. Help them feel comfortable. Be ready to answer their questions. Ask about their family. Offer to take their family problems to prayer.
You might want to give them a courtesy call during the week, just to see how things are going. If they sound discouraged, let them know you're praying for them and looking forward to your next meeting.
Keep your eyes fixed on your fulfillment in Jesus at the end of this life's journey. Call on the Holy Spirit daily to nurture and inspire you. There are so many rich Catholic devotions with which you can nurture your life. In addition to the Rosary there are the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy chaplet, and any number of litanies that are so nurturing. Have you thought of reading and meditating on one Psalm a day?
Do you think that when you meet Jesus at the end of your journey, you will ever regret not watching more TV?