“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”(Matthew 4:17)
Upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus knew it was time to begin His public ministry. Given that John the Baptist was a friend to him, Jesus felt grief but He was not depressed by it; Jesus used His grief as motivation to begin something great and beautiful; the preaching of the kingdom of God. How do you react to the death of a loved one?
In the 14th station of the cross, we pray: “You have completed your work. What is left is mine, that of my fellow men, that of your church. The teachings you could not impart, let us impart. The sufferings you could not bear let us bear. The work of love you could not do in your short life on earth, let us do. All through you, for you are all in all.” This was exactly what Jesus said to John the Baptist when he withdrew to Galilee.
Notice that Jesus borrowed John the Baptist’s very words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). Why would the Master use the same words in preaching as the messenger who did not consider himself worthy enough to untie His sandals? There must be something very important about this message of repentance. In short, it is the first Gospel, the first step we must take if we are willing to take God seriously in our lives. If we must come to God, something has to change first within us.
Darkness and light cannot coexist. We cannot have darkness within us and still hope to have fellowship with God. By going into the region of Zebulon and Naphtali, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” As a Christian, do I allow my relationship with God to shine through the dark corners of my life? Are there still things I do in secret which I am ashamed of?
One of the vices we must repent from is hatred (bitterness, malice, animosity). In today’s first reading, St. John admonishes us: “this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” (1 John 3:23). Another serious vice amongst many Christians today is worldliness. There is often a tendency for us to forget that, like the wise men, we are forever pilgrims being led by the star (Jesus) to our eternal homeland in heaven. St. John says: “They are of the world…. We are of God… he who is not of God does not listen to us.” (1 John 4:5-6)
When we allow God’s light shine within us, healing takes place in our lives. Beginning with the message of repentance, Matthew tells us that Jesus went about “healing every disease and every infirmity among the people… all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics” (Matthew 4:23-24). This is why when the four men brought their paralytic friend to Jesus, the first thing He did was to forgive the sins of the paralytic. (Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:9, Luke 5:20).
Repentance brings healing. Repentance is saying “No” to the devil so as to allow God to come into your life and where God is, sickness, disease, stagnation, demonic possession etc. cannot remain.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may my life itself be my gift to you. Amen
Bible Study: 1st John 3:22-4:6, Psalm 2 and Matthew 4:12-25).