“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15 NRSV).
“Now is the time! Here comes God’s Kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this Good News!” (Mark 1:15 Common English Bible)
First things first: did we begin our week with worship of The Lord? With other disciples? Did we devote ourselves, our lives, and our gifts to lifting up the Holy Church and being challenged with a new perspective on The Word?
If the answer is yes, then the week has begun on the right foot, and the tone for the coming week is potentially set. If not (with exceptions of illness or other infirmities), then there must be a better understanding of what being in the Body of Christ is about, what public worship is about, what being the Church is about.
“Believing the Gospel” and “trusting the Good News” carries much more weight than we often give credit for. Too often we are determined that this message is for “me”, while the more difficult passages that don’t seem so good-newsy (downright threatening!) is for “them” – whomever “them” may be – usually those who do not live the way we think they should. In both instances, we miss the essence of the Gospel, the “good news” as well as what it means to “repent”, which is to “change our hearts and lives” – not merely apologize.
Absent the knowledge of the Gospel, we pretty much keep to ourselves. We do as we please when we please and however it may please us. We consider ourselves “good people” by our own definitions, and we do for those we love and we may do for others beyond those we love as long as we do not have to go too far out of our way.
To “repent”, however, to “change our hearts and lives” means we cannot – must not - continue as before; such as doing only for those we love, helping others so long as it is not too inconvenient, or not engaging in public worship with and in the Church, the whole Body of Christ – warts and all! If we claim to “believe” the Gospel but our lives are largely unchanged, how can we claim to have knowledge of salvation? How can we claim to know Jesus at all if nothing about our daily routine has changed?
There is one sure way to weaken the Church, and it has nothing to do with the devil: that is when believers stay away. Withhold our hearts, withhold our efforts, withhold our gifts, and withhold all manner of our contributions. If this is our deliberate choice, what choices were made when we claim to have come to ‘believe’?
The current political climate is such that getting everyone to vote is important because so much is at stake. We encourage citizens to vote because it is how our republic is at its best. How, then, do we think the Church will be just fine without us, without all believers doing our part to “make disciples”, without our contributions (of all kinds), without our active participation? The answer is that it cannot. The strength of the Church is fully invested in those who truly “believe” and “trust”, who fully “repent” and “change their hearts and lives”.
Do we dare to notice Jesus does not say He will change our hearts and lives? No, His call is an invitation to a life we have not yet known. It is a challenge to go beyond ourselves and live into a life we had previously denied ourselves – and others! We are invited to “change our hearts and lives” by our determination to live into the Invitation. WE have to make that choice!
Each new day is an invitation into this New Life – until such time as we run out of days; and only The Lord knows when that Day is coming. But with each day that passes without our having chosen to live into that Invitation, we are cheating ourselves out of the kind of life our Lord has in store for us.
Let not another day pass without making some kind of change. Accept the Invitation, the challenge to become more today than yesterday! The Lord assures us He will lead us, but He makes no provision for following us wherever we may choose to go; for there is only one Way and one Gate. The Church is the Body of Christ, and Christ is the Head of the Body. There will we find Life – in Him and with one another.