Thursday, January 5, 2012

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand – Matthew 4.17

Immediately after His baptism by John in the Jordan and being tempted by the devil for forty days and nights in the wilderness, our Lord’s first public sermon was just a few words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4.17) Could the message of Christ’s Gospel be so simple? What did He mean by telling us to repent? Are we doing something wrong? Are we sinning? Are we ignoring God? And what did He mean by, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand?” If we don’t ask these questions when we hear these words, then we’re not listening.

When our Lord speaks in the Gospel we are expected to listen and take note. It is no coincidence that the clergy proclaim, “Wisdom, Let us be attentive,” before each reading of the Holy Scriptures. The reading is not just for fun, it is meant to call us to action and it demands a response from us….that is of course if we are listening.

Most of us in 2012 hear the Gospel proclaimed but never consider the words are meant for our ears. We sometimes think that the stories we hear are just nice stories about the past, but we never stop to consider what the words would mean if they were meant for us. Well the words are meant for us. God in His wisdom inspired the Evangelists to write down the basic elements of Christ’s story so that we could hear from their point of view what God wanted us to know now in 2012.

So what does it mean to repent? Repentance is “to change one’s mind or point of view or direction.” Taken spiritually, that would mean to change our mind to become more like Christ’s mind; to change our point of view to become more like Christ’s point of view; to change our direction toward God rather than away from Him. Let’s take first things first this new year…..let’s change the way we listen to the Holy Scriptures and let’s practice hearing the words as they were meant to be heard….directed toward us and expecting some sort of response.

You may be asking why the urgency? Well, that’s the rest of His first sermon. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It is now, not later, that Christ has established His kingdom. If we want to be with Him in heaven, we need to get ourselves ready NOW, and not wait any longer. Just because God hasn’t returned in over two thousand years to claim His Bride (the Church) doesn’t mean He isn’t coming tonight. And if He does come tonight, wouldn’t you want to be ready for Him?

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