Sunday Reflection with Father Terry Tastard - 23 January 2011

Jesus Panocrator - 6th century,  St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai

Jesus Panocrator - 6th century, St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai

Jesus showed cool, calm, courage.  Our gospel today (Matt. 4.12-23) opens with the news that John the Baptist has been arrested.  A moment, you might think, for Jesus to keep his head down, in case the nervous authorities arrest him too.  But no:  this is the very moment that Jesus chooses to launch his public ministry.  Jesus makes Capernaum his headquarters and goes around ‘the whole of Galilee’, teaching in the synagogues, healing the sick, calling for repentance and announcing the kingdom of God.  Jesus is not to be intimidated.

The call to repentance, to changing your way of life, is central to everything Jesus does.  Repentance has a thoroughly old-fashioned ring about it.  Today people talk more about ‘taking responsibility for their lives’.  They may look for counselling.  If they are celebrities they may ‘go into rehab’.  These things are right and good, and yet I find myself wondering whether they are quite enough.  To bring the light of God’s love to shine into our lives is to depend more on his power and less on our own.  Or rather, it is to ask that his grace, his power, may help us in our weakness.  It is to rely on a strength far greater than our own, and as part of this, to recognise where we have failed.  This is repentance.

The famous Serenity Prayer asks God that we may find serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.  But let’s be honest:  if we can live in this way, then in fact everything changes.  We would move beyond guilt to a life made free by the knowledge that God loves us and that his life is made known deep in our hearts.  There, within us, is the living presence of Jesus who once said that he would be like a spring of living water within us.

Repentance – change your way of life – the kingdom of God is at hand.  It sounds almost like a promise, doesn’t it?  If we have the courage to stand before God in honesty and to try to live as he showed us in Christ, then the kingdom of God will come our way.  The change need not be dramatic.  But so often it seems to me that Christian men and women have that elusive thing, meaning.  They have lives that are more purposeful.  They have the company of others on the journey.  They have the encouragement and love of God made visible through signs of bread, wine, water, light.  They have the reassurance that although we may go astray, there is always a way back.  Above all, we have the example of Christ himself who says to James and John as he says to us today, the simple words:  ‘Follow me.’  

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His latest book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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