God is Here!
Jan 23, 2017
From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." From Sunday's Gospel.
For the longest time I would read this Gospel message and think that it meant I had to change from my "sinful" ways to become more perfect so that I might become pleasing to God. If I was successful in doing this then God would bless me and I would be in a "state of grace". My perfection would prompt God's blessing. The action had more to do with me than with God. I suspect that we have been taught this way of thinking for a long time. Ultimately it makes going to confession an important action since it is there that we can "repent" repeatedly in the hope that perhaps in the days following our confession and forgiveness we might become a little more perfect.
Problematically for many we do not become more perfect so we begin avoiding the confessional since it might indicate to our pastors that we are not doing enough to become "better". I have to tell you I listen to more non-parishioner confessions than parishioners. I suspect there are those parishioners who go to St. Genevieve's or St. Paul's to avoid their pastor's judgement just as I receive those from other parishes for the same reason.
When Jesus says repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he is not asking for a change of behavior; instead he is asking for a change in the way we think. God is here and His kingdom is already unfolding in the world we live in. We either look to Him as the solution to our broken lives or we continue to live in the misery our brokenness brings us. When we see Him as the solution we see that He is accepting us as we are and loving us just as we are. His love gives us confidence and strength. We no longer have to live "up" to His expectations (and always falling short) but instead we grow in a confidence that God is abundantly present in every aspect of our lives (the good and the bad).
God is here, feeding us with His Body and Blood, pouring out His Spirit on us in Baptism and Confirmation. He reveals Himself to us in the sacramental bond of Marriage, not just on the day of marriage but every day afterward as each couple lives our their fidelity to each other. He is not just some Being far away and not involved in our lives; He is sitting next to us inviting us to interact with Him whether it is a stranger or a family member. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!
If the action of God depends on our behaviors and thoughts then we are limiting the power and influence of the Divine. Instead as Jesus announces the Good News He is telling us that God has begun a new work. He is present NOW in the immediate moment of our lives, not just at the end of our time when we are lying in our coffins. Too often I encounter those who think of the end game and hope they might make it instead of embracing the present moment with the realization that God has already changed everything. We can either recognize this reality and enter that Kingdom or continue in our ignorance thinking that somehow heaven is going to be very different from our lives here. The difference between these two realities is that in the Kingdom we are going to find our joy in the present day; if we are waiting for the kingdom to still come we are going to be frustrated with the imperfections of ourselves and others.
Listen to Jesus: Change your way of thinking: The Kingdom of heaven is here!