We have been hearing a lot about light in our readings for the past few weeks. This theme continues this Sunday. We hear Jesus spoken of as the light of the world, who shines on those who currently sit in darkness: a message present both in the First Reading and in our Gospel. What I find interesting, though, is the words that Jesus first proclaims when he begins his ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Some of us might struggle with the reality that these are the first words that Matthew records Jesus speaking in the Gospel. We have unfortunately developed a very negative connotation of the word repentance in our culture. When we hear a call to repent, our first reaction is to think of it as a judgment, as if someone is saying “let me tell you all the things that you are doing wrong, and that you need to change if you want to be worthy of following Jesus.”
In reality, the call to repentance is a call to continuing conversion. The first Disciples, who were called to follow Jesus in today’s Gospel, were by no means perfect. However, their desire to immediately follow Jesus, the Son of God, even though they were sinful men, led them to experience the love of God, and become witnesses to the Gospel.
The same is true for us. When the light of God first shines on us, it can be painful, because we see and recognize our faults. Continuing to live in the light allows us the opportunity to purify those faults, and grow closer to God who is love. Sometimes this seems like a never-ending process. It’s similar to wearing a dark suit in a dimly lit room. We may think that our suit is clean, but as the lights get brighter, the more we can see the lint and dust present on the suit. It’s the same with our sinfulness. The closer we get to God, the more we notice even minor faults that need to be purified.
Instead of becoming discouraged by this, we can give thanks to God that his grace is at work in our lives. Through that grace, we are being led through the process of repentance and conversion, all the while growing closer to God who is love. When we approach repentance in this way, we begin to see it as a necessary part of our journey of faith. May God, who loves us even though we are still sinners, continue to help us to grow in knowledge of his love, and the presence of his grace in our lives.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Steven Huber, CSB