3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 21, 2024

Year B


Discover the deeper meaning and connections found in this week's readings, through these great commentaries written by our priests.

The Word

Explore this week's readings and hear what God is saying to us through His Word.

Liturgy notes

Find out more about how we can mark this special day in our liturgy.


See our music recommendations for the liturgy.


Fr Tom Kleinschmidt

All Sundays are special days, but what makes this particular Sunday very special is that back in 2019 Pope Francis officially instituted this 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God. He did this to help us “appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and His people”. Pope Francis writes: “Devoting a specific Sunday of the liturgical year to the Word of God can enable the Church to experience a new how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of His word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world” (Aperuit Illis2).

We find in today’s readings one of the core messages that permeates both the Old and the New Testament – the call to conversion and repentance. The Word of God truly helps us to turn away from sinful habits and with all of our mind and heart to turn back to God and to His holy will.

In the first reading God calls Jonah to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. We see in this passage the power of the message despite the weakness of the messenger. God’s Word contains within itself a very special power to transform the minds and hearts of listeners. Jonah the messenger had his own personal struggles and challenges in proclaiming the message, but he witnessed the power of the message. The people of Nineveh did in fact repent of their sinful ways beginning with the king himself, who put on sackcloth, sprinkled himself with ashes and fasted as concrete signs of repentance.

In the Psalm (25) we see how through the power of His Word God “shows sinners the way”. The Psalmist prays with great confidence: “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me.” God’s Word frees us from sin and sets us firmly on the path of God’s holy will.

In the Gospel Jesus begins His ministry with this simple, but powerful message: “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. This is one of the passages that may be used on Ash Wednesday, when the blessed ashes are sprinkled over the head of each person who comes up to receive them. “Repent” means to be sorry for our sins and to have the firm resolve to avoid future sins. “Believe in the Gospel” turns our whole mind, heart and soul to Jesus, to His life and teaching. We focus on Him, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus guides us in the truth and teaches us, thus showing sinners the way.

 We see in all of these readings how, when the Lord calls us to do something concretely(as He called Jonah and the Apostles), He is asking us to respond to this grace immediately. The second reading reminds us that time is a gift to be used well and wisely. “The world in its present form is passing away.” As much as we love this wonderful world that God created, it is slowly dying. It is passing away. Our own lives are “passing away”. This awareness lends a certain urgency to our response to God’s Word. If we put off responding to the grace of His call, then the unheeded call can very well dissipate and an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord or to further build up the Kingdom of God will be lost. The people of Nineveh responded immediately to God’s call to repentance. They had 40 days to mend their ways, but they did not wait. They acted. They responded. When Jesus called the first Apostles, they did not say: “Give us another three years and then we will come back and follow you.” No, they left their nets, their boats and their homes immediately and followed Jesus. In our faith journey, we cannot procrastinate and put things off with the idea that we will tend to them another day, because tomorrow may never come.

One last point about the effectiveness of God’s Word. We notice how Jesus meets us in the ordinariness of life. Jesus met His first disciples while they were mending their nets. It is within their situation, just as it is, that Jesus extends to Simon and Andrew, James and John, the invitation to follow Him. The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary while she was going about her daily chores in her home at Nazareth. Jesus revealed His infinite thirst to St Teresa of Calcutta while she was traveling by train from Calcutta to Darjeeling for her annual retreat. Jesus also meets us where we are at. His call might come to us in the kitchen as we are preparing lunch. It might come to us while we are driving down some High Street to do some shopping. We do not need to go to any other place to respond to Jesus’ call other than where we are at the moment. May we heed that call: “Repent and believe in the Gospel”.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Catholicism of the Catholic Church References:

CCC 51-64: God’s plan of Revelation
CCC 1427-1433: inner, ongoing conversion
CCC 1886-1889: conversion and society

Liturgy notes

Bro Duncan Smith

The Collect for the third Sunday in Ordinary Time looks like a very ordinary prayer. It is, apparently, quite simple and straightforward, superficial even, but appearances can be deceptive. Here, simplicity contains very deep things indeed.

We pray: Almighty ever-living God, direct our actions according to your good pleasure, that in the name of your beloved Son, we may abound in good works.

The whole human predicament is here revealed.

We pray for direction because we don't know the right way. We suffer from a great darkness of the mind, a massive ignorance. The light of divine grace is absolutely necessary for the illumination of our fallen human nature.

And we pray that the good pleasure of God be done, because our own desires and pleasures are treacherous guides in the darkness. In the night of Gethsemane even Jesus prayed to his Father: Thy will, not mine be done.

And so, without divine help we can do nothing in the way of good works; only in the name of Jesus can these abound, for they are more truly his than ours. We do not even need to know what he achieves in us: Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give the glory.

Music recommendations

These hymns have been picked from different sources:

Sing a new song unto the Lord (L697)

Dear Lord and Father of mankind (CFE143, L934, LHON234, TCH212)

Follow me, follow me (CFE175, L863, LHON259)

Leave your country and your people (CFE354, L867, LHON417)

O Jesus I have promised (CFE536, L875, LHON522, TCH250)

Will you come and follow me (The Summons) (CFE812, L877, LHON740)


CFE - Celebration Hymnal for Everyone

L – Laudate

LHON – Liturgical Hymns Old and New (Mayhew,  1999)

TCH – The Catholic Hymnbook (Gracewing)

Any questions?

Do you have questions about the liturgy and how we are called to participate in it? Explore how the Church councils, saints, and popes have answered this key question and many more.

Discover the Mass

Every movement of the Mass is rich in meaning but we can become over-familiar with it. Rediscover the Mass and explore how it relates to the Exodus story, where many of its rituals come from, and how it makes Jesus present to us today.