The following homily was preached by Deacon Michael Giuliano, MD on March 18th and 19th as part of the OLMC Lenten Mission entitled “OLMC Calls YOU To Holiness!”
Call to Repentance: 3rd Sunday in Lent, March 18th and 19th, 2017
“The time is fulfilled And the Kingdom of God Is close at hand REPENT And believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15)
I’m just curious, by show of hands when did Jesus say this during His ministry:
-Very early /// – In the middle //// -Near the end
You may be surprised to learn that in Mark’s gospel these are the very first words that Jesus speaks…
As a rule teachers usually start their class with the most important thing before they lose anyone….Jesus starts here:
“The time is fulfilled And the Kingdom of God Is close at hand REPENT And believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
So I think it is worth our time to look at these first words of Jesus and try to understand the message:
The term Kingdom of God is heard often in both the Old and New Testament. What exactly does it mean? The Old Testament speaks of it over 1000 times and notes that it is:
*DIVINE in that it would be established by & ruled by God.
*EVERLASTING because both God’s reign and this kingdom itself would have no end.
*UNIVERSAL because although it starts with the chosen people of Israel, it must extend to
include all the nations of the earth.
*SPIRITUAL in that it is more than an earthly kingdom: it is in essence a heavenly
kingdom even though it is begun on earth.
Jesus spoke of the kingdom often (33 times) and clearly told us that it is the realization of God’s sovereignty over man. The following of the will of God is above all things what is needed to bring it about:
“Not everyone that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21).
“The Kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit; whomever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others. Let us then pursue what leads to peace and building up one another” (Romans 14:17-19)
Simply put, the kingdom of God is that place where we surrender to the will of the Father and of course we have Jesus’s whole life as an example of surrender.
The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is close at hand REPENT and believe in the Gospel.
Repent: Most of us think of the word repent and think:
Voluntary sorrow because it offends God, for having done something wrong, together with the resolve to amend one’s conduct by taking the necessary means to avoid the occasions of sin. To repent is to be sorry for sin with self-condemnation.
But the word at its root actually means: to change one’s mind or to turn towards.
Jesus is talking directly to each of us and asking you to think about, “What do I need to change my mind about Lord? I ask you what are you preoccupied with right now? I know you’re in Church and you’re supposed to be listening to the Homily but really what is on your mind?
The stuff of life, your life here and now.
*WORK and all the things you need to finish for that unrealistic deadline your overbearing boss gave you?
*PEOPLE at work that know exactly how to push your buttons, or subvert you, try to get ahead?
*BILLS How am I ever going to pay that credit card bill? Mortgage, school or college tuition?
*FAMILY issues “I can’t believe I have to go to the in laws again for Sunday dinner”
*CHILDREN With soccer, baseball, ballet, basketball, piano, play dates, etc. etc. the right school and the right friends.
*CHORES The car wash, grocery shopping, gas…and a million other errands
*FUTURE Plans for going out to dinner, go on vacation, buying a car, buying those shoes I loved.
*TV, MOVIES, PHONES Billions of images coming to us on a million devices.
*HEALTH Whatever illness you’re worried about in yourself or family member, someone is sick
You’ll notice that the list we just went over really isn’t about over sin, it’s just little stuff but it is all about US. Our troubles, our needs, our wants, our new shoes, our vacation…..worries and wants…Worries and wants….worries and wants…..fill our lives.
Our Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows we are preoccupied with the stuff of this world. Just a few weeks ago we read in Matthews Gospel Jesus’s own words about this very issue:
“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?…Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? …O you of little faith? So do not worry and say. ‘What are we to wear? Or What are we to drink? Or What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:24-34)
Jesus knows our worries and our worldly wants. He is simply asking us to let them go and concentrate on the only thing that matters in the end , God’s love for us and our willingness to accept that love and live in it… Change your minds and turn to God. Simply, put God FIRST in your life, and don’t worry about the other stuff. Simple right? I can already hear all your mental BUT’S….but but but. Sounds simple but how can we do this?
I’m a big fan of C.S Lewis. He wrote a book back in the 1940’s called the Screwtape Letters where a senior devil, Screwtape, is corresponding with his demon apprentice nephew Wormwood about how to corrupt humans and stop them from following God. Screwtape advises Wormwood to always keep humans distracted and busy. It doesn’t even need to be anything sinful just distracting and noisy. Wormwood knows what is key:
“But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy (God). It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts” (Screwtape)
But today and everyday God is calling us to CHANGE our minds and put HIM first in our lives. Repentance is simply turning our attention to God….This is the beginning of the road to Holiness.
But before we can change our minds we really first need to clear our minds of all the noise and distractions that the world floods us with. Right now let’s all try to still our minds and really just think about what God is saying to us.
In today’s Gospel we hear about someone who clearly changed her mind and turned toward God. She goes from sinner and skeptic to witness and disciple in record time. But I want to focus just on one line from today: “the woman left her water jar and went into the town.” She completely changed her plans after listening to Jesus. She dropped the immediate cares of the day getting water and she turned her attention to God….she listened and repented.
Just last week Father Emmet focused on one simple but profound line from the Gospel:
“THIS IS MY BELOVED SON…LISTEN TO HIM” Again so easy to say but so hard to do. Really listening to the Lord requires us to put away our preoccupations/ our agenda / our worries and wants just like the woman at the well, and it changed everything. Where do we begin to change our minds/ change our hearts/ change our current habits? I think we should do exactly what the women at the well did, Begin with God, talk with Him and spend time with the One who loves you to eternity. Ask God! PRAY!
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you in praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions’ “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matthew 6:5-21)
So Matthews Gospel again come to the rescue. God is calling us to pray= spending time with Him. But not just pray but Pray humbly and quietly before the Lord. So many of our wants/worries are rooted in our PRIDE. God knows this and tries to help us not to be hypocrites just babbling like pagans. How often do we take time out from our day to humbly and quietly stand before our God? Sneak in a few Our Fathers in the morning in the shower, on the commute, in between work tasks, during lunch or on the way home and at the dinner table and before bed. But really pray it, don’t just say it.
We also hear some critical advice about forgiveness. We must forgive others if we are to truly turn to God … Remember just one month ago we read in Matthews Gospel “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:33-34) We need to let our anger go…quickly or it will block our turning to God
The other instruction from Matthews Gospel we just read speaks about “WHEN you fast”. It doesn’t say if you fast it says when you fast. Fasting not just from food but from all those worries and wants we have mentioned is essential if we are to change our minds and our hearts and turn to God. So our Lord instructs us how to walk the road to repentance:
- Pray , be still and quiet and listen to the Lord, humbly.
- Forgive quickly and always
- Fast often from our wants and worries
TODAY if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is close at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.”