3rd. Sunday, Year (B)
(Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1st. Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20)
Repent and believe the Good News
That is what many believe to be not only the first Gospel’s summary of Jesus’ teaching, but also the quintessential core, marrow, and backbone of all Christian preaching:
Repent and believe the Good News of Jesus.
Now ‘repent’’ in the Christian proclamation does not mean the same as ‘regret’. Christian repentance does not look back fixedly, ever revisiting and reviewing one’s past life and lamenting, wishing it had been otherwise; but rather, once having acknowledged and wholeheartedly rejected one’s past sins, it then:
looks up, looks forward, to God, Whose goodness and truth is now -- in and through Jesus -- ready to begin the ultimate transformation not only of oneself, but also of mankind and the whole world;
looks at God in Jesus, and changing former attitudes of selfishness and pride, joyfully acknowledges with Peter, Lord, you have the words of eternal life;
looks for God in all life’s circumstances and apparently chance happenings, ever seeking to promote His glory and serve His purposes; for Jesus was sent by, and at great, great cost to, His Heavenly Father to proclaim to mankind, this supremely Good News:
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND,
and Jesus’ proclamation of that fact is also His invitation to each and every one of us to seek entry into that kingdom by Christian repentance.
In Jesus’ Good News, and Mother Church’s continuing proclamation of that Good News, God is Love and He is Life: to listen to Him is, therefore, to hear Truth; to obey Him is to practice Wisdom; to look at Him with full trust is to see Beauty and have Strength; while to experience something of His hidden presence in your personal life and self-awareness is to discover peace and taste what beatitude might be mean for you.
‘Repent’ therefore, also means turn to God and prepare yourselves to receive these gifts from Him; stop seeking to promote your own interests of worldly prestige, power, or pleasure; stop turning to and trusting in men who, like yourself, are fragile creatures of flesh and blood, inconstant by their very nature. As Our Lord Himself puts it:
Do not labour for food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.
Surely then, dear People of God, in view of all this, ‘repent’ is a fundamentally joyous word, something like ‘let yourself be renewed, refreshed, restored’, indeed and in all truth, ‘be revitalized’, ‘be set off on a new life track with sure hope to guide and all necessary power to achieve what is required of you and promised by God’. Such repentance makes our religious practice authentically human, for a human being, no matter how well placed in life, always aspires to what is more or what is better. Christian repentance means that a new horizon has dawned, a new destiny is opening up, one offering what is infinitely more and better; and how essential that is to a truly human life!
What is the tragedy of unemployment? It is not (in our society at least) so much that those without work are starving, barely able to exist, but that they have no prospects, no future to look forward to; for a human being can endure, can triumph over, almost any odds so long as he or she has an ideal, a future, to aim at, to hope for, aspire towards. Repentance – as required by Jesus and taught in Mother Church -- opens us up to that new hope, that new future, which promises not merely earthly well-being, but divine, eternal blessedness; it continually urges us to leave behind the past and to look forward, aiming ever higher.
Being a response to the proximity of the Kingdom of God, repentance is essentially coupled with divine power, and merely to regret our past sins on hearing Jesus’ call could in no way prepare us to be endowed with such power. For authentic repentance, it is absolutely necessary both to acknowledge the truth about Jesus’ very own Person as Lord and Saviour, and to believe the Good News which He reveals concerning God’s eternal plan of salvation for mankind
Repent and believe the Good News.
Such indeed is our glorious Christian and Catholic vocation: to hear Mother Church’s proclamation -- in the name of Jesus -- of God’s great goodness, beauty, and truth, and indeed His Personal love for each and every one of us; and, turning away from our sinful selves, to humbly embrace God’s offer of salvation in and through our faith in Jesus. The devils know but will not believe, and so they cannot repent:
Go into all the world and preach the Gospel …. He who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
To thus believe in and embrace with Catholic faith Jesus’ very Self and the Good News He proclaims, is to recognize – even here on earth – the truth about God’s sublime goodness and mercy; and it is impossible that one humble enough to thus truly appreciate such Beauty, should not, at the same time, be drawn almost irresistibly towards it. And there, precisely, is the root of repentance: for despite the convincing us of our own nothingness, disfigurement, and culpability, before God’s infinite Holiness and Beauty, the fact of being so irresistibly drawn by admiration, yearning, longing and desire, towards that Beauty is, as it were, a deep, deep, God-given tap root, searching out a hitherto unseen and unknown source of fresh, ‘living’ water, and all the while, urging and gently compelling us to a newly discovered calm re-appraisal of our life-situation past, present, and future, one now unshakeably based on Jesus’ Gospel call.
People of God, we should never allow ourselves to be satisfied with what may appear to be past progress or present well-being in our life. Our Christian repentance and Catholic belief should grow daily in us so that, when the call comes for us to embrace death, we might be found to be truly forgetful of self and filled with humble joy, hope, and trust in the Saviour Who first called us by His Gospel message of Good News, the Lord Who has long guided and sustained us by His Spirit of Truth and Love, the Son Who is now preparing for us a room in His Father’s house.