Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Imagine being in the first crowds Jesus addressed after the arrest of John the Baptist, as this Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew recounts. Would you be one of the ones whose response was radical, like the first four apostles called by Jesus: immediately they followed him? Would you recognize the great light that has arisen, a sign of salvation to the Israelites in ancient times, a sign of hope for Jesus’s contemporaries who expectantly await the Messiah? Would you sign up without hesitation for the salvation he promises?
We know, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, that salvation comes at the cost of Christ crucified. Post-Crucifixion, we know that there is intense and limitless love in the death of Jesus, the death that guarantees our salvation. It may make us uncomfortable to contemplate the truth of Jesus on the Cross, yet it is a cross we must embrace – Jesus took our sins to death with him on the Cross – even as we embrace the resurrection, and the joy, that followed.
Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness, cries Isaiah. For Christians, Jesus’s coming echoes this end to chaos, when God broke the primoridal gloom and distress, opening the way to abundant joy and great rejoicing. As Jesus begins his ministry – of teaching, proclaiming, and healing – his followers are transformed both physically and spiritually, as his words offer healing of the spirit even as his actions cure their ills. They are called to believe in God’s power to save, and to rely on God’s presence as a refuge of salvation, as in Psalm 27: The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid? What a reason for joy! And, as that ministry ends, on the Cross, those same followers are called to remain united in the same mind and in the same purpose, knowing that their ultimate union will be perfect union in heaven, the loveliness of the Lord in the kingdom, now, at hand, and forever.
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.