Saturday, 11 July 2009

So they went out and preached that men should repent (Mk 6:7-13)

This Sunday the Gospel of Mark (6:7-13). In the Gospel we read about Jesus sending out the twelve apostles to preach the Good News to the people, he "gave them authority" (Mar 6:7 RSV) and "they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them" (Mar 6:13 RSV). There is already a lot in those few lines to dwell on, but I picked out the following line: "So they went out and preached that men should repent." (Mar 6:12 RSV)

Recently there was a comment on one of my articles that it seems to convey that I proclaim that we work our way towards Heaven, and that the spiritual life in Christ sound like one perpetual endurance test which is achieved , not by grace. As the comment painted a picture exactly opposite of what I belief, I have to review how I am writing. I guess I have tried to give a balanced reflection on this blog, aimed at a large audience, my desire is to help others also to find some of the depths of our faith, the love of Christ, in their lives. Maybe I have not painted a complete picture.

I picked the line "So they went out and preached that men should repent." (Mar 6:12 RSV) out of the gospel to try and briefly illustrate the point of "action" and my idea about this, or more what the result of Gods action is. The disciples went out to preach to the people "that men should repent", or "so that they might repent".

An encounter with God has an effect on a person. In my eyes it is not possible to truly encounter Jesus, to be able to accept His love, and live an immoral life. But we have to accept Jesus, we have to be open to His invitation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev 3:20 RSV) This relation, as any, is an interaction, not something passive....

It is not that we do something and as a result God gives us something as a "reward" for this. That is not the case: "we love, because he first loved us" (1Jo 4:19 RSV) The fullness of communion with God is love, and love is a gift. God as the source of everything and is the source of love. So it is all a gift, it is a gift of grace, everything is given to us. However, "love does not insist on its own way" (1 Cor 14:4), God does not force us to enter into this communion with Him. It is a gift, and a gift needs to be accepted. It does not mean that we work our way towards it, that we earn it (as we don't earn/deserve it) but only that we have to come forward to be embraced by the invitation, as the father embraced the prodigal son who came back to him (cf. Luke 15:20).

But now back to how this influences our lives... when we accept the invitation, when we open ourselves up to the grace of God, God starts to work in us, our hearts are slowly conforming more and more to what true love really is. I have often mentioned the importance of silence in our lives, time for some private prayer, some reflection, or just some time to spend with God. This is not so we work our way towards God, but to be in some kind of way passively, but also actively, present as Gods love slowly purifies our soul.

So when we enter on this road, and we enter in this conversation with Him, our lives change. The disciples preached so that "so that they might repent". The encounter with the Good News is one of repentance, it is one of changing our ways to become more acceptable to God. With the encounter of pure love a flame is enlightened in our own hearts too.
"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends;" (1 Cor 14:4-8)
These are the fruits of encountering pure love, of encouraging God as "God is love" (1 Jn 4:16). Accepting God in ones live sadly often means that we need to change something, and that might actually often be a problem. The Gospel sets you free from slavery, it sets you free to fully enjoy life, but this sometimes means we need to make changes in our way of live as sometimes we decide to not fully give ourselves but to hold back, and as such reject part of the gift.

I guess, that that is why a lot of people might have problems with the Church teachings, as it challenges their live and they do not want to change, but I firmly belief that these teachings are there not to annoy us, but to lead us to freedom... sometimes we need help in seeing how we can make our life better, help in unclouding our vision of what is true and false, sometimes we need to help in finding the real Truth... and again it brings us back: "so they went out and preached that men should repent." (Mar 6:12 RSV), it is the preaching of the desciples, I guess the preaching of what now is the Church...

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (Joh 8:32 RSV)

Maybe not a great end, and maybe the start of a continuation... but I better get back to my Greek...

Finally, maybe I back again of working ourselves up to God? If I am, tell me as it is not my intention, the intention is to give an open invitation to just accept the gift that is gives to us, and to enter into this relation which can only grow beyond your wildest imaginations!

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