The Readings give a sense of urgency for repentance. The First Reading is a call to the Ninevites, to repent or the city will be overthrown. They listened to Jonah and God spared their city. Contrast this to the Gospel where Jesus begins his ministry and gives the same message: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news. St Paul tells us this call of repentance needs a response quickly because the present form of this world is passing away. What did Paul mean by this?
God’s justice is approaching. It is coming, whether we like it or not. When it comes, there will be judgment. The call to repentance is God’s mercy in action. It is not only a call to be sorry, but a call to turn back to God, and to trust him. We see this in the response of Simon and his brother Andrew. When Jesus called them Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men, Mark tells us immediately they left their nets and followed him. There was no hesitation on their part. They knew when the kingdom of God comes, the world as they knew it will be changed. This also happened to James and John whom Jesus called as he walked a bit further.
How will the world change? It will not change by the defeat of the Romans. This is not a political conquest. But the world will change because our perspective of the world will change. The change is not in the environment or the political climate, but the change is in how we perceive things. The Ninevites thought they were the masters of the world. But when a reluctant prophet called for repentance, they saw their political power is nothing compared to the power of the God of heaven. Simon, Andrew, James and John and all the Jews expected a Messiah who will free them from the Romans. They probably responded to the call of Jesus, hoping Jesus is this political leader who will transform their society.
The call of Jesus was also a promise: I will make you fishers of men. From fishermen, to fishers of men. They will still be who they are, but their destiny has changed, because the person they follow points them to a different direction. Jesus did not tell them to do anything special or difficult. All Jesus did was tell them to come as they are and follow him. And they did.
Jesus calls us just as we are, with all our faults, with all our weaknesses, with all our fears and worries. He knows what these are, yet he calls us to follow him. But following Jesus is the first step, the second step is to allow him to make us who he wants us to be. This requires trusting Jesus and giving him authority in our lives. This is how the kingdom of God comes, not as a political conquest of the Roman empire, but a spiritual conquest of our will, where we surrender our lives to God let him do to us as he will. When we surrender our will to him, then we will see the fulfillment of the great things he has planned for us.
Repentance is not only being sorry for our sins. Repentance is turning to Jesus and letting him rule us, because when he does, then the kingdom of God has arrived in our lives.
Lord, take me as I am, with my fears, doubts, sinfulness, struggles. I surrender them to you for you to do as you will. I surrender my will to you, so you can take charge of my life. Come Lord Jesus.