"Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand."
We might think that these words of Jesus in today's Gospel are out of place since we still have the remaining days of the joy of Christmas and New Year's celebrations. These words perhaps reluctantly remind us of the Lenten Season, which this year begins quite early: one month from today.
Perhaps the Gospel this year is placed on this month before Lent begins to give us an opportunity to review our New Year's resolutions, our blessings, our omissions of doing good, and so much more.
We often say God's ways are not our ways, and hearing this Sunday's Gospel may be a little example of this. Since the Lent Season begins earlier this year, it may be a good idea to start thinking about how we can spiritually prepare. Here is a reminder in our Gospel story: repent and follow Jesus.
We may think negatively when we hear or read the words Lent, sacrifice, penance, or repent. However, have we ever considered the different meanings of those words? In the Biblical sense, to repent (teshuva) means to return to something you've strayed or looked away from. For the Jews, in the Old Testament times, it could be a return to God, a state of moral purity, or to Israel. The Rabbis would interpret this to mean confess your sins because, in this way, you can return to God.
It seems today's Gospel is stirring us into action. And so, Jesus begins His preaching by calling the apostles to "come follow me" and "do penance for the Kingdom of God is at hand."
Perhaps, then, we will also be as Isaiah says: "… a people who sat in darkness have seen a great light."
Are we up for the challenge?
Sister Celeste Hupert, CSFN