Of course all of us gathered here came to know God through our parents. As we grew up, our parents, grandparents, relatives and friends continued to encourage us to attend Mass and other spiritual gatherings. The question that follows after hearing the word of God is: “How should one respond to the challenge of the breaking good-news of God’s Kingdom?” As St. James says: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only… (James 1:22).”
In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus calling his first disciples. They left everything and followed him to proclaim the kingdom of God, which is the mission of Jesus. When we say “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15), “at hand” is intentionally ambiguous, meaning either here or there—or both—because God’s kingdom is not a place, but a way of life, what the world could look like and would look like, if we were living according to God’s gracious saving and loving plan.
Each one of us can say, with Jesus’ coming into the world the loving rule of God has come near, but not yet here with us. We experience another rule in us that opposes God’s, namely the rule of sin/evil. So Jesus again and again invites us to come under the loving rule of God by abandoning all unloving and ungodly ways. “Kingdom of God” does not refer to a place or a territory but a new quality of life to be lived with God’s own values.
God’s values must be the rule of our lives and not worldly or selfish values. When we submit ourselves to God’s loving rule in our lives and accept the gospel’s way of life, the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power to live that way of life. A change in us or a reshaping/reorientation of our lives is essential to experience the nearness of God’s Kingdom. Hence, one’s proper response to God and his Kingdom coming so near to us is to ‘repent’ by opening our hearts to Jesus’ gospel-way of loving service.
The root-cause of all unloving ways is the way we think. Therefore, today Jesus invites us again to change the way we think. With God’s grace and strength, we have to try hard to replace our negative or evil thoughts with positive or good thoughts. Repentance means to change our way of thinking, attitude and life’s choices, so that Christ can be the Lord and Master of our hearts, rather than sin, selfishness, and greed.
Let us be like the Ninevites, after hearing the Good News of God, they fasted and repented.
Fr. Peter Patrick