by Father Mike Stubbs
Many of us anxiously wait for the arrival of spring. Some look forward to the beginning of the baseball season. Others look even further out, to the coming of summer and the vacation that it brings.
In Sunday’s Gospel reading, though, Mk 1:14-20, Jesus announces that the most important season of all, the season of God’s grace, has already arrived: “This is the time of fulfillment.” The gist of that statement is: “The season is here for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
And what specifically has God promised? To rule over us with peace and justice. To bring about paradise on earth. That is why Jesus says: “The kingdom of God is at hand.”
It is the answer to our prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
In response to this announcement, Jesus instructs us: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The word translated as “repent,” literally means “a change of heart.”
Jesus calls for a change in our attitude and behavior, in response to the news that God’s kingdom is at hand. Repentance involves a turning away from sin. It equally involves turning toward God, and toward God’s will. We often think of it in negative terms, but there is a positive side to it, especially here.
Jesus further calls us to “believe in the gospel,” that is to say, to believe in the good news of his announcement.
Our belief in his announcement is the first step. Otherwise, none of it will matter to us.
The announcement that Jesus makes at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, which we hear as Sunday’s Gospel reading, lays out the core of Jesus’ preaching.
All of Jesus’ teachings and parables in the rest of Mark’s Gospel served to illustrate it. That is why his parables ordinarily begin with these words or similar words: “The kingdom is God is like. . . .”
His teachings show us what our relationship to God, and our relationships with others, will look like if we believe in his announcement about the kingdom. Our attitude and our behavior will change.
We may look ahead to other events in our lives, to the beginning of spring or the start of the baseball season. But Jesus encourages us to focus on what we have at our fingertips, what is close to us, what is within our grasp:
“The kingdom of God is at hand.”