Sunday January 24th, 2021
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Dear Pastorate Family,
This weekend’s readings give us Jonah and Jesus – both sent by God to proclaim a message of repentance. Jonah proclaimed to the people of Nineveh, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” but then the people believed God and repented and the city was spared. Jesus began His public ministry proclaiming, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” That message is still necessary today. However, it’s not only for the sake of avoiding something negative, but for the sake of gaining something positive. By repentance, we open ourselves to receive the kingdom of heaven in its fullness. But if we don’t repent, we can’t believe in the Gospel. And if we don’t believe in the Gospel, then what do we believe in? Human potential? Social progress? Democracy? The political process? Whatever we might believe in that’s NOT the Gospel won’t open us to the possibility of gaining heaven through faith in Jesus, the Savior.
Contrary to popular thought, politics is NOT the “ultimate concern” of life. The ultimate concern of life is the salvation of our soul and the souls of others. Likewise, you can’t live any sort of life you like and expect to go to heaven. Because then it doesn’t matter how you live. “Do what you like, you’ll be fine, it’s all OK.” Nothing could be further from the truth of the Gospel. The Gospel proclaims the goodness of God’s love for us, but also our need for a savior because we can’t save ourselves. Secular politics is all about setting up a secular savior. But the world doesn’t need another savior. It needs the ONE savior sent by God, the Lord Jesus. And it’s Him we’re called to believe in. How do WE need to repent of our sinful ways? Do WE believe in the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus, or a secular “gospel” of salvation through faith in a secular savior? Jesus said it best – “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
Hope in God vs. hope in others
As of this past Wednesday, we have a new President. It’s been a contentious time in the United States of America. Perhaps we’ve not felt very united. American politics is by its very nature extremely divisive. Democrats can’t stand Republicans. Republicans can’t stand Democrats. And what ends up happening? None of us can stand each other. And this is and always will be the state of the world so long as hope is placed in human beings rather than in God. As I mentioned above, the temptation is to make politics the ultimate concern of life. It’s not, and can’t be. Politics is temporal, this-worldly, but heaven is eternal, other-worldly. And none of us will live in this world forever. All of us will one day experience death, and our immortal soul will survive the death of our mortal body. And at that point, we’re no longer living in this world. But what we will have done in this world will matter deeply when we stand before the One who made us and gave us life. Will God judge us as one who sought to make peace, and thus declare us blessed? Or will God judge us as one who sought to breed division? Our ultimate concern must be the salvation of our soul and the souls of others. That doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to be indifferent to the present circumstances of social life. But it does mean that our hope should be in God, and our focus should be heaven, and then we pray for God’s will to be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. If our hope is in God and we look to Jesus as the Savior sent to us by God, we can hope to transcend the division growing all around us. But if our hope is only in other people, we’re destined to go through life miserable because our hope will never be fully realized. No human being can ever fulfill the supernatural hope we all have for the future. Only God can fulfill our hope.