Repent and Believe in the Gospel
We see the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Scripture scholars tell us that us the first words of his ministry define it. What are they? Repent and believe in the Gospel!
What does that mean? Often times we only hear the first word. Repent. Of course we need to understand it. It means to have a change of heart and to choose to follow a different path. Obviously, the focus is to turn from the path to sin. Jesus reminds us that you cannot just turn from sin you have to replace sin with something or you will return to sin even more and be deeper into it. All people hear is, repent. Turn from sin. So then what do we do next? Believe in the Gospel.
The reason why the two are together is you cannot do one without the other. If you want to fully experience Christ, know him, allow Him to make you fully human, fully alive, turn from sin. You cannot comprehend the Gospel or know Christ if you are still embracing sin. The more you turn from sin the more you will comprehend the gift of salvation Christ gives to us by his death and resurrection. If you do not turn from sin, you will not comprehend anything of the Gospel and you will look at it as either nice stories or a demanding rule book.
So this is why we need a strong understanding of sin. It is not so that we can be judged worthy of Heaven someday but rather so that we can see more clearly the Christ who saves us and understand more deeply the truth that sets us free.
Let us look at it this way. Sin forces you to focus on yourself and the more deeply you are rooted in sin, the more deeply you are self-focused. So you cannot comprehend the Gospel because the Gospel is rooted in Jesus’ self giving of himself to us. So you can only understand the Gospel within the context of how it applies to you in your sin. Sin will be your priority and you will make all your decisions based upon it.
When I was away from the Church in my late teens and my very early twenties, I was focused on drinking and that consumed my life. I thought I was doing fine but I was not doing fine at all. I knew I had a problem when the NAVY would not allow me to have beer with my breakfast.
When I quit drinking, I realized that my whole life was spent inside a bottle. Everything revolved around alcohol. If I just quit drinking, I would not fully comprehend the tremendous gift that is the Gospel. I would not have a powerful faith in Christ that completely changed my life.
However, that faith led me to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a human being that I could never comprehend in my sinful life or in my life outside of the Church. That understanding continues to grow over the now forty years since I returned to the Church.
One of the most powerful teachings learned is from the words of St. Maximilian Kolbe and I have been teaching on the radio. He taught W+w=S. What that means is that when our will matches God’s will that is the formula for holiness.
The more we understand, the more we experience a deeper appreciation for the reality of the Gospel which goes far, far beyond our faith as a code of conduct. It really is a deep profound relationship with Christ. The more we understand our faith through the words of the Gospel, the more we grow to a deeper understanding of just who we are and just who we are destined to become if we turn from sin.
This is also why the whole concept of teaching people not to sin so that they won’t go to Hell is just so superficial. It is rather turn from sin, embrace the Gospel that you become fully what you are destined to be by Jesus death and resurrection.
If you embrace your sins, then you are lost in them and your destiny is to be enslaved by them in death.
However, the more we recognize sin, confess it and seek the Gospels the clearer we see the light of Christ in the Gospel.
This changes our whole way of being and the whole orientation of everything we do. It affects our prayer and deepens our whole experience of humanity because we root ourselves in Christ.
Every joy, every sadness, every accomplishment and every difficultly we see through our embrace of the Gospel.
St. Maximilian Kolbe died in the concentration camps in fact in Auschwitz. I always wondered how God in his love and mercy could have allowed anyone including this holy man to encounter such evil. Today I realize that St Maximilian Kolbe had a deep profound vision of truth that not only allowed him to suffer as a prisoner in Auschwitz but to be an agent of light to other prisoners in the darkness of Auschwitz. Why because he embraced the Gospel that Jesus preaches today.
Repentance of our sins means recognizing them and turning from them so that we may more fully embrace the gospel. This is why not taking sin seriously is a problem. It is like walking around with sun glasses on and believing they make no difference. So we must have a healthy sense of sin not just so that we can be in a state of grace but so that we can see more clearly the Lord acting in our life and leading us daily more closely to him in holiness.
Repent and believe in the Good news. You cannot do one without the other, however if you do both you will experience the light of the Gospel in ways that are beyond your imagination.