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May 27, 2018

HE CAME TO CALL SINNERS

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe
Swift Share!

 


In today’s Gospel we hear the greatest challenge ever given to humanity: “Repent, and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15). With these words, Jesus inaugurates his public ministry of reconciling us with the Father. The greatest man ever issues the greatest summons ever (repentance), to God’s greatest creation ever (mankind), against the greatest human tragedy ever (sin). And on offer is the greatest reward ever (salvation), entailing the greatest transformation ever – the divinization of man.

The call to repentance summarizes Jesus’ mission on earth. This challenge is the good news – god-spell (glad tidings) or Gospel. It is an invitation laden with hope. It is Jesus speaking the truth to power about sin and repentance. This Good News is Jesus Himself, the Son in whom we see the Father as He really is. He is emphatic today that the time has arrived for God to fulfil the messianic promises spoken through the prophets. The kingdom of God is imminent but awaiting consummation, and for this we must repent and believe in the Good News. This is not just a call to change our speed or adjust our seatbelts, but a directive for a complete turnaround in our whole way of thinking and living.

The Greek word for repentance (metanoia) implies a U-turn, not just a superficial regret of one’s actions. Such a change springs from the well springs of the inner man and profoundly overhauls the totality of one’s being – intellectually, affectionally, and morally. It is not just a matter of abstaining from sin but rather an imperative for a complete of overhaul of one’s life. The consequence is a burning desire and conscious effort to lead a good, holy life. It means a change from religious formalism or external ritualism to a worship of God in spirit and in truth, and anunstinting commitment to mercy, justice, and consideration for the poor.

Dear friends, the call to repentance is at the heart of the Christian message. It was the essence of John the Baptist’s “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4). It was the message of the disciples sent out by Jesus for the first time (Mark 6:12). It was the message of Peter at the Pentecost when he tasked the people to: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). This was also St Paul’s message to the people of Athens that God“commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance is an integral component of the Gospel, and our lived Christian experience.

John the Baptist’s arrest and detention is the catalyst that ushers Jesus to the centre-stage. The voice fades as the Word becomes visible, the groomsman takes a bow for the Bridegroom. When that moment came, Jesus called his first Apostles – Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He does not make the call from afar or wait for the men to seek him, rather he comes to them right in the middle of their work. He enters their environment and “invades” their private space, he “breaches” their comfort zone. Jesus does not stay on the margins but rather wants to engage us personally, heart-to-heart.  Many religions in the world express mankind’s search for God but Christianity is all about God looking out for man. The initiative is God’s, not ours!  In the First Reading, for example, the Ninevites are living sinful lives, devoid of meaning and lasting happiness. But through Jonah, God went in search of them, because he cared so deeply about their happiness.

Similarly, in the Gospel passage, Jesus goes out to invite people into a personal relationship with God. He reaches out to the disciples because he wants to give them more meaning, purpose, and, ultimately, happiness in his Kingdom. The same Jesus comes in search of every human heart, calling us all into an everlasting friendship with him. He is always reaching out to us through the Church and through our conscience – regardless of convenience. He wants us to follow him more closely and more passionately; to repent and to become his messengers. That way we can help to bring others to repentance. We could not evangelize others unless we ourselves first repent, since no one can give that which he/she does not have. We only need to listen to Jesus today, and to leave behind our nets, our relationships, our boats – anything that hinders us from hearing and heeding the call of our Lord.

Brothers and sisters, let us make a response today, and one great facility for repentance is the Mass.  In the penitential rite we acknowledge our sins before God and our brothers and sisters. In the Gloria we pray: “You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” In the Eucharistic Prayer II, the priest says: “Have mercy on us all, we pray, that with the Blessed Virgin Mary … we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life.” In the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us our trespasses. In the Agnus Dei we pray: “Lamb of God… have mercy on us.” And just before Communion we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy … but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” So, the Mass provides us six great occasions to acknowledge our sinfulness. Let us take this to heart and, henceforth, and see the Mass as a great vehicle for repentance. In addition, going to confession at least once every month is highly recommended, and we do not have be in mortal sin to do that. Fruitful participation in the mass, regular pious confession, and a daily examination of conscience are great spiritual tools to help us meet the ultimate challenge.

May the Father of mercy and compassion help us to accept Jesus’ challenge today, to repent of our sins, and to help others to hear and respond to this ultimate challenge. Amen!

 


 

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