Today’s scripture urges us to ferret out the evil in and around us — the evil that is so often flashy and attractive but is ultimately an empty cheat.
The message is simple: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Jesus has tipped the course of human nature Godward by His example. To follow Him we need first to repent of our sins, to renounce the selfish pursuit of money, the glitter of fame and notoriety, the temptation to Lord it over others and to control them and use them for our own advantage. Repentance is no good if you keep doing what you’re sorry for. You have to turn your life around if you want to accept the gospel. Repentance is of the essence if we are to free ourselves of the evil within and the evil without. The evil within leads to acts of rage, hatred, jealousy, gluttony, spite and disregard for others. The evil without tends to entrap us in compromise and in all kinds of worldly temptations.
Jesus invites all humankind to let God reign in their hearts, and to do this we need to be reconciled with God and our fellow man. Many of the problems plaguing our world are traceable to the disharmony that separates mankind from God and from one another. By getting to the root cause of disharmony in our lives and in our society, we position ourselves to receive God”s grace in all areas of our lives. But, we cannot have this harmony without first repenting of our sins, and accepting the good news of the gospel. The difference between the true Christian and the false Christian is precisely this. The true Christian finds Christ in his or her life by first repenting of sin. The false Christian, on the other hand, finds himself or herself in Christ; that is, they do not repent of sin but only use Christ to serve themselves. They give lip service but not Christian service. They are neither hot nor cold.
When a delegation of Lakota Indians arrived in Washington in the late nineteenth century to negotiate with the “great white father,” they were appalled at the state of disharmony and poverty in the white man’s culture in spite of enormous wealth. The voracious lust for wealth and power created disharmony in the white man’s culture rather than harmony. What Jesus asks of us in today’s scripture is to put God’s kingdom first in our lives as a condition to avoiding such disharmony and inequality.
People often come to Church looking for Jesus but they do not find Him. Why? Because they are looking for Him for all the wrong reasons. They are looking for what they want and are not interested in what Jesus can give them. Jesus is interested in our welfare, and to avoid disappointment we need to let go of our selfish selves, and let Him into our hearts. He’ll take care of the rest if we put His kingdom and approval first in our lives.
Let us look hard at our own renewal and face up to the reality of sin and evil. We need to know our dark side so we can know where we have cheated ourselves and one another. We need to know where we have lost track of the good news of the Gospel.
Today we must make up our minds to really repent so we can follow Him.
Fr. Hugh Duffy