Repent, the kingdom draws near
Gospel for December 4, 2016
Second Sunday of Advent
By Glen Argan
The sacrament of Reconciliation is one of God’s marvellous gifts. The biblical references which we use to “prove” Christ instituted the sacrament don’t point towards anything like the form of private Confession the Church has made available for several centuries now.
Yet, when my life starts running askew, and my ego takes precedence over my fidelity to the Lord, it’s time to go to Confession. Personal confession is a crucial part of turning back to God. It’s time to repent.
For me, that period is four or five weeks after my last Confession. In some situations, people avail themselves of the sacrament every week. I cannot criticize that, although I would not have much of list of sins to confess after such a short period. The grace of the sacrament seems to hold my worst impulses in check for longer than that.
After two months, however, the list has grown. If I waited a year, my life would be seriously off-kilter; my orientation in life would be much more toward mammon that toward the way of the Lord.
In Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 3.1-12), John the Baptist appears proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
In this context, what does “near” mean? Most folks, I think, would take it to mean that the public ministry of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, is about to begin. Or, they might think of it as a harbinger of the end of the world.
However, I maintain that “near” has a more existential meaning. That is, it means that, for me and for us, the kingdom of heaven is both here and almost here.
Salvation through Christ comes through his cross and resurrection. This is not something that happens every year at Easter. It happened once, for all, 2,000 years ago. We have already been saved.
Despite that, we continue to fall and fall again. We need to repent, turn to Jesus and let him pick us up, dust us off and send us on our way again. We need to participate more deeply in God’s eternal life in which we already share.
As well, the kingdom of heaven is not fully here. The fullness is coming. That does not necessarily mean the world is about to end. For sure, it means my world will soon end.
At age 64, I’m hoping the Lord will give me another 30 or so more years However, whether I live to 104 or die tomorrow, it doesn’t much matter. The real hope is for an eternity with Jesus in God. In the meantime, the best things I can do are to repent, try to live justly and mercifully, and then repent once again.
[Other readings: Isaiah 11.1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 15.4-9]