Sunday After Theophany Homily

There are a lot of new beginnings we just celebrated in the life of Jesus. We celebrated His Nativity, where the True God became a Man to personally reverse the sin of Adam and bring about our salvation. Jesus was then Circumcised, showing His submission to God’s Law, the law given to Moses. And now we celebrate the Theophany, the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Not only was this the first time that the three persons of the Holy Trinity were revealed, but is it also the beginning of Christ’s mission to teach the Good News about salvation to the whole world. And this is now a new beginning for us as well.
In both Matthew and Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus Baptism, the first thing He does is go into the wilderness to pray, to fast, and to resist the temptations of the Devil. When Jesus returns triumphant over the forces of evil, He begins His ministry, and the first thing He is recorded saying is, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus does not come to give hand-outs and go-to- heaven-for-free passes, He does not confirm us in our sin by saying that we are fine just as we are. No, the first thing Jesus says to us, is a call to action-He imperatively commands us to respond. Jesus told us elsewhere that “A servant is not greater than his master.” Jesus gives us His example, not just empty rules from a hypocritical leader. Jesus challenges us, that if indeed, we are His servants, then we are called to take action just as He was. Jesus’ first action was to consent that His pure Spirit would become part of His creation by taking-on flesh. He then consented to be obedient to His own Law. And, although He was without sin. He submitted to the Baptism of Repentance. And so too, the first thing Jesus asks of us is to take action, to Repent. Because if we are indeed His servants and are not greater than He is, then we are not exempt from the work of purification, and we are not exempt from participating in His ministry.
Just as Jesus could have refused to ascent to each of these actions, so too, we can choose to not act. And it we choose to do nothing, if we actively choose to continue a course of sin, then we will not be given salvation so easily, we will not be given the Kingdom of Heaven as an award for just showing up, rather, we need to make active decisions in our lives to follow Jesus, not to follow our own paths, or worse, not to follow the paths of the world.
But what if our present course is good, what if we have few sins in our lives, what if we are presented few occasions to sin? No matter who we are or how holy we may be, we still fall short of reflecting the perfect light of Christ in our lives. And we are still tempted by the Devil. -But each of us are called to be saints, each of us are called to devote ourselves to Christ completely, not in dribs and drabs, not by showing up once a week, but by aggressive intensional acts of repentance.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance is many things. First, it is to humble ourselves and to take an honest look into our lives and actions, and compare those actions with what Christ has taught us. We can best do this by personally reading Scripture. And if in our study, we find that our actions are not rooted in Christ’s teaching, then we must acknowledge that some of our actions are sinful, and since they are sinful, according to Christ’s teaching, and according to His Church, they must be confessed. Repentance is also a sorrow we have for our sins. After we acknowledge them, we feel a regret, we experience sorrow for having done things contrary to God and the example His Son showed us. Repentance is also a turning away, a change in action. After we have reflected on our sinful actions and express sorrow for them, we make an effort to avoid those actions in the future. We make this effort because we realize the error in these actions, we realize the sorrow they have caused us, and we want to avoid that sorrow in the future. Because if we avoid this sorrow, then we will only be left with Joy.
Each time we actively participate in repentance, we embark on a new beginning, we turn away from our sin and away from the Devil’s temptations, and we turn towards Christ. When we truly repent, we turn towards the Kingdom of Heaven, and when we do, our turning will be visible to others and our example will minister to those around us, and Christ’s Light will shine through us. If we have the Light of Christ illuminating all before us, then we will have no reason for hate or fear or jealousy or envy, we will only share the true love of God and His forgiveness that we have received with those we meet. This is the peace we seek, this is the Kingdom of Heaven, to be One, in the Body of Christ, for eternity.

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