“Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Today’s gospel reading comes at the beginning of Mark (1:12-15) immediately after Jesus’ baptism by John.  Driven by the Holy Spirit into the desert, Jesus stays there for forty days alone among the wild beasts while being tempted by Satan and then ministered to by angels.  Returning to Galilee, Jesus speaks the first words of His public ministry.  “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.”  (v. 15)  He concludes with the words at the top of this entry.  First, repentance is required.  Reflection on the way we have conducted, and are currently conducting, our lives, with a thorough examination of conscience, helps us to seek forgiveness and healing for past transgressions and ask for the grace to overcome our current persistent sinful ways.  Doing this will open in us an added capacity in which we can invite Jesus to fill us, as He so longs to do.  And when Jesus fills us, the gospel fills us, because Jesus and the gospel are one (“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” [Jn 1:14]).  If any one of us is asked: “Do you believe in Jesus?” we would say “Yes!” likely without even thinking about it.  But let’s stop to think about it.  Is it enough to believe that Jesus, as is widely affirmed, was a historical figure?  How about believing that He is our Savior?  Both of these are required.  But there is more.  Jesus says we must believe in the gospel.  That is, we must conform ourselves to His example and live according to His teaching.  Some teachings are hard to follow.  Others we may find undesirable to adhere to.  Nevertheless, we must embrace the entire gospel, that is, the entire Christ.  Not just the gentle and attractive Jesus, but the Jesus who was demanding and thus scorned, reviled, plotted against, falsely accused, disfigured and tortured, and died.  Before Easter Sunday came Good Friday — as it will for all of us.  Then will we be required to give an accounting of how sincere our repentance was and, in turn, how much we believed in the gospel.

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