Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; I Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
Repent and believe in the Gospel…The world in its present form is passing away. The fact is, these words have always been at the very heart of the Gospel, at the very core of Christian life. We really don’t have here a lasting city. The time is in fact short. Is the end actually at hand? It’s rather hard to take seriously such overly familiar words. No one knows when the end will be. Not likely this week; but I do have a duty to stand here this morning and tell you–and to tell myself as well–that these words are necessary for us to listen to. The Word of God means what is says. Holy Scripture is saying to us: you have to deal with this.
What the Gospel message we have heard is telling us today is for us not to try to cling to what is around us, but to use everything responsibly as a means to an end and not as an end in itself. The world is here to assist us; God created the world to be the means for us to come to that place which is lasting, a place which God has prepared for us from the beginning of time. Come blessed of my Father and receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. If we make good use of all the things of the world, if we see Christ in those around us, if we clothe and feed him, comfort him, assist him in his needs, we are using the things of the world rightly. Whatever you did for the least of my brothers or sisters, you did that to me.
In the first weeks of this new year, the month of January, the Church wants to remind us what this life is all about, where we are going, as we begin another year. Use the world as not using it fully…the world in its present form is passing away. Is that what I am trying to do? Or do I perhaps really need to harken today to the Word of God, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do I have cause to repent?
The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel. This verse from today’s Gospel sums up succinctly the message of the three passages we have just heard. Jonah preached repentance in Nineveh; St. Paul told the Christians of Corinth, The time is running out…The world in its present form is passing away. St. Mark quotes the words of Jesus: The is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent…
Not the sort of words you necessarily want to hear over your Sunday morning coffee while scanning The Winchester Star or The Washington Post. These words sound disturbingly like a harangue of some crazy man marching in front of the White House, wearing a sandwich board over his shoulders and ringing a bell: “Repent! The end is near!” But it’s no lunatic who is yelling this. It is really Holy Scripture, the Word of God, which the Church places before us this morning, at this Mass. Someone might even say, what Sacred Scripture is telling us now is not at all different from what we find in the pages of The Star or The Post anyway.
So then, how do I deal with such “doomsday” preaching? We get it first from the Prophet Jonah, Forty more days and Nineveh shall be destroyed; followed by St. Paul, The time is running out…the world in its present form is passing away; and, finally, Jesus proclaims, Repent and believe in the Gospel. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Will I just ignore these words? Or will I pause and listen to what Scripture is telling me and try to deal with it? Can I feel that this is something God is saying to me now?