In the Gospel for this week, Jesus begins His preaching ministry. His theme, which is the same as that of John the Baptist, is “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” What is this Kingdom of God, and what does it mean to repent?
At times Jesus says, as He does in today’s Gospel, that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Other times He says that the Kingdom of God is coming, (Thy Kingdom come). At other times He says that the Kingdom is within. Although the Kingdom of God is the central message of Jesus’ preaching, it is very hard to get a firm grasp on it meaning.
Essentially, the Kingdom of God exists whenever and wherever God is King. Heaven is the Kingdom of God, because everything there operates according to the will and intention of God. The Garden of Eden, before the Fall, was the Kingdom of God, for there too, all operated according to the rule of God. If we have surrendered our lives to God and seek to live according to His will and plan for us, then the Kingdom of God is within us.
It was the original plan of God that all of the universe, and every human heart, relationship, and interaction would be according to the Kingdom of God. But through the rebellion of our first parents, and our own rebellion, we human beings rejected the Kingdom of God, and sought, instead, the Kingdom of Self. All the wickedness that we see in the world, and in our own hearts, is because of the absence of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus came to restore the Kingdom of God. He does that, not by conquering the world, and each human heart, but by invitation. To turn away from the Kingdom of Self, and choose the Kingdom of God, is to repent. The Greek word that is translated as repent is “metanoia.” Literally, it means “new mind.” To repent is to embrace a new way of thinking, of understanding, of knowing. St. Paul tells us that we must “put on the mind of Christ.” Elsewhere he says, “Your attitude must be that of Christ, who did not see equality with God something to be grasped at, but who emptied Himself, being born in the form of a slave.”
Change your mind. Change your way of seeing. Change your life. This is the message of this Gospel.
–Fr. Mike Comer