The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day. Reflection and Dialogue: Good beginnings; repentance, a change of mind, belief in the Gospel and in the Church.

Reflection. Repentance, change of mind, belief in the Gospel. We are at the beginning of the Yearly Cycle in the Sunday liturgy. The manner in which Jesus began his public ministry provides material for our reflection. A new age had arrived, and with it the coming of the kingdom of God for long awaited. Two basic states of soul are called for in this new situation: repentance and faith. In this context repentance does not so much mean sorrow for sin as a change of mental attitude, a change that will be in keeping with acceptance of Jesus and what belief in his person and teaching implies, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The chance in question is not from political, or any other, form of opportunism, but belief in the God of Israel who is now speaking through his Son to Israel and the wider world. Jesus had been anointed for this mission with the Spirit at his baptism.

Dialogue with contemporary society: Human wisdom and Divine Wisdom. In present-day political society Jesus is held in high regard, with his concern for the poor, the disadvantaged and the marginalized. This is all to the good. In part it is connected with the understanding which a certain section of society, especially in Europe, had of itself from the philosophical movement of the Enlightenment onwards, with emphasis on human progress without reference to God or to Jesus as Son of God. But as Paul reminds us in today’s reading, and as he will in the next few Sundays, the Gospel message is not understood through human wisdom, but through faith in Christ crucified, which is the divine wisdom made manifest. The Cross must have a central place in the life of the Church. This is a fundamental truth, worth remembering in any dialogue with modern society.

(For reflections on the Sunday and Feast Day  readings see Martin McNamara, Sunday Readings with Matthew: Interpretations and Reflections, Dublin, Veritas, 2016)

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