[Excerpted from the January/February 2018 issue of Emmanuel. Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015.]
In the Gospel of Mark, as Jesus begins his public ministry he insists on the need for repentance. The Old Testament reading carries the same message, and Paul’s comments are based on a Christian detachment we all need from the values of the world. Repentance here is not a moralistic thing, as much as a total attitude of a mind and a heart formed by Jesus. The difference between Jonah and Jesus, however, is that Jesus is part of the Good News that he announces.
Tempting as it might be to continue the thoughts on vocation begun last week, the first reading makes it evident that the basic message of the Gospel is that contained in the opening statement, which is a sort of manifesto summing up the import of Jesus’ entire public ministry. The call of the disciples serves more to illustrate concretely what it means to repent and believe in the Gospel. It is not attaching oneself to timeless truths, but to the person of Christ. Mark has begun his Gospel with a summary statement of Jesus’ message: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe in the Good News!”