3rd Sunday of the Year ( A ) 2020
I am sure that like me many people love the fact that the days are getting longer. I don’t mind that it is only minutes each day because I know that we are going in the right direction. And soon we shall have long bright days. There’s something about light that is so attractive. Is it a coincidence that Christ is born into the world when the days start to get longer? I don’t think so.
We read in the gospel today that Jesus moves to Capernaum, as a result we are told, from the prophesy of Isaiah, that a ‘great light has dawned’. It’s a lovely image: not just a light, but a great light has dawned. Light tends to suggest happiness and joy. Have you seen those summer holiday ads, where you see people lazing on the beach, enjoying the sunshine, laughing and jumping into the sea. What fun these people seem to be having.
So Christ comes to Capernaum and a light shines in this lakeside town. What are Christ first words? ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand’. At first, it appears to be a bit of a dampener. The word ‘repentance’ has a certain killjoy ring about it. We hear of evangelical preachers threatening people to repent before it’s too late. There is then almost a threat about it: if you don’t repent you’ll suffer for all eternity. So, one might ask: where’s the light, the joy, the fun that Christ is supposed to bring?
I can’t really say that repentance is fun; that wouldn’t be right. But it is not a negative word, indeed it’s a very positive word. It means to turn back, and in this instance it means to turn back to God. The presumption being that we have turned away from Him. Surely no one is always turned towards God, even the saints had their off days. And if that is true of the saints what about us? Surely, we can often forget about God. We can switch off. It’s easily done. After all, we live in a secular society, God is pushed to the periphery. Our eyes and ears are bombarded with sounds and images that have nothing to do with God. Our materialistic society seduces us into thinking that happiness comes from possessing as much as possible. In such a world, it’s so easy to switch God off and to turn in to a world that offers instant pleasure and fun. Yet so often our secular society leads people to be unhappy and sad and miserable.
Christ came to teach us that a Christian can have fun, can really enjoy the good things of life. Repentance means to turn away from values that appear to offer happiness, to values that definitely offer happiness. Repentance means to begin again, which is something we can do every day, and probably need to do every day. The Lord has infinite patience with us. He keeps calling us to repent, to turn back to Him. He will do this throughtout our lives. Not just once. Never believe people who tell you that you only have one chance; that may apply in some circumstances but not with God; for God gives us endless chances. And what joy is experienced when we do turn back to Him. It is a joy that nothing in this world can give us. It is a joy that no one can take from us. Isn’t that Good News?