The common theme in the readings of today is the clarion call to repentance. In the gospel of today, Jesus began his preaching ministry. The heart of his message is “the kingdom of heaven is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.” To repent is to turn away from our former way of life; (to turn away from our selfish and egoistic way of life). When we turn away from this former way of life, we ought to turn towards another way of life; one that is better than that which we turned from. To which way then do we turn after we have repented? Notice what the responsorial psalm says, “O Lord, make me know your way.” Christ, in response to this prayer, after calling us to repentance, said, “… and believe in the gospel.” Christ asked us to believe in the Gospel because it is in the Gospel that we can know Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Therefore, Christ is calling us to repent and turn to Him.
We are called to repent from our sinful ways and turn to the gospel which opens up to us a new path of existence -the Way – and in walking along this way, we will come to know the Truth which will set us free from our bondage of sin and when we are free from our bondage of sin, we will come to have eternal life. Every call requires us to leave something behind in order to answer the call. We see this in the Gospel reading of today, when Andrew and Simon left their nets; when James and John left their father, the hired servants, the nets they were mending, their boat and followed Christ. Therefore our call to repentance requires us to leave the sinful way of life we are living now and follow Christ: He is calling us to leave behind every practices that impede our journeying with him and every unholy affiliations that contradicts the gospel truth and follow him.
This call to repentance is a call that concerns all of us. In the depth of our heart, each and every day, God calls each of us to conversion, to a deeper faith, to live more authentically and fully in that faith. How do we respond to that call? It seems there are two choices that we have: the first is to ignore the call; telling ourselves that it doesn’t concern us, because we are not sinners like the Ninevites. But then it will be foolish to think and believe such because we are all sinners; each of us fails in one degree or another to love God and to love our neighbor as we have been called to do. This is why the scripture says in Romans 3:23 that “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And also in 1John 1:8 , the scripture says that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” And so each of us need to hear and to heed this constant call to repentance.
The second response is to hear the call and to follow it; to take steps in our lives to change our behavior. We need to identify those areas of our lives that are sinful, that constantly take us away from God’s grace, to turn from that pattern of behaviour, to receive His healing and mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is and there will always be an urgency to this call to repentance. But then the devil will always convince us that there is time; that we must not repent now. This is why St. Paul is telling us in the second reading that the appointed time has grown very short; we must not continue to harden our hearts by refusing to repent nor by postponing the time to repent, because we know not when the end will be.
There is no better time to repent than today, especially as the Church dedicates today as the Sunday of the Word of God. The Pope intends it to be a day dedicated to the celebration, reflection and dissemination of the Word of God. God is calling us today to repent and believe in the Gospel, and this Gospel is the Word of God. We are called to believe in this Word and to disseminate this Word. We are to disseminate this Word by preaching it and, most importantly, by living it out in our daily life: by forgiving those who offend us (even when they do not deserve it), by loving our neighbour (even when he/she does not deserve it).
This way our actions will sound louder than our preaching voices. And this is the easiest way we can get others to accept and believe this Word. This is why Pope Paul VI, in his Evangelii Nuntiandi, says that modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to preachers, and if he does listen to preachers, it is because they are witnesses. May we, like the Ninevites in the First Reading, listen to this clarion call to repentance, may we find the need to truly repent and believe in the Gospel, and may we practice and show forth in our daily life that which we believe in our hearts. Amen
Fr. Osedumbi Ulebor is of the Catholic Diocese of Issele-Uku, Delta State.