Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Adam Royal
January 26, 2020 – 8:30AM
The very moment John the Baptist was imprisoned, Jesus begins his ministry. From this point forward it will be preaching, healing, and miracles right up until his death. But without understanding a little bit of history and geography, we miss just how gutsy a move this was. John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing in the region of Perea. Part of John’s preaching included denouncing Herod Antipas because Herod’s marriage was not in accord with God’s law. So, Herod had the Baptist arrested. As soon as Jesus heard this, he left the wilderness and went to Galilee. Now Herod was the king of both Perea and Galilee. That is, the instant Jesus heard what Herod had done, he marched into the center of Herod’s territory and began preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” When John the Baptist was silenced for speaking the truth, the very words of God, Jesus stepped in and took up his mantel; because the only legitimate, the only loving response to tyranny and oppression is to push back. It is to refuse to be silenced, to continue speaking the truth regardless of the consequences, and Jesus would suffer the consequences.
The prophet Isaiah spoke truthfully when he said, “the people who sit in darkness”, who sit in the shadow of death, on them a great light has arisen, a new light has dawned. And that light is Jesus Christ, it is the Word of God. Jesus went to those overshadowed by darkness, to those oppressed by Herod and the political powers of the world and he became their light. He gave them hope and raised them up to a new life so that they might be victorious over the worldly powers, and ultimately even over sin and death.
We once again sit in darkness, in the shadow of death. Herod Antipas may have passed away but new Herods haven risen in his place. Once again the world is consumed by wealthy and powerful people who chase after their own narcissistic fantasies without any regard for those around them. To the worldly powers of today, human beings are merely products, merely things to be created, manipulated, and then disposed of when they are no longer deemed useful.
And we are to blame. For far too long we have kept silent. For far too long ruthless and merciless people have been allowed run this world unchecked because Christians have kept silent. It is time to stand up. It is time to take the example of Jesus seriously. Like Jesus we must step into the very centers of power and proclaim the Good News. We must ensure that the Word of God is never silenced. Rather, that it is spread to every corner of this world, to every people and land who sit in the darkness, who sit in fear and poverty and sin. It is time that we respond to the grace of God and become the light of the world. So that a new day might dawn, a day of peace and mercy.
But we cannot do this until we truly hear the words of Christ and let them take root in our hearts, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. We must repent. We must let go of our sins, our ambitions, of everything that stands between us and the love of God. We must desire the grace and mercy of God more than the evanescent pleasures of this world. Because it is then, and only then, when the word of God placed within us at baptism can truly take root and flourish. It is then that like Jesus we will become a light for this world, a light that will scatter the darkness and bring hope to all peoples. By the grace of God we too can be victorious over the worldly powers, we too can be victorious even over sin and death.
Brothers and sisters, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”