In Mark’s gospel, Jesus begins his proclamation to the world, his message of salvation, with these words: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the gospel.’
The coming of Jesus marks the beginning of a new era, the era of grace and salvation. His first words are an invitation to embrace this great novelty, the actual reality of the kingdom of God which he brings within reach of all people, close to every person.
He immediately shows the way, which is to repent and believe in the gospel. This means changing one’s life radically and accepting the word that God, in and through Jesus, speaks to humanity of all times.
Repentance and faith must go hand in hand. There cannot be one without the other. Rather, both spring from contact with the living word, from the presence of Jesus who, today too, says to the crowds:Repent, and believe in the gospel
When the word of God is accepted and lived, it brings about a complete change of mentality (and that means ‘conversion’). It instils in the hearts of all – Europeans, Asians, Australians, Americans, Africans – Christ’s feelings in relation to circumstances, individuals and society.
But how can the gospel work the miracle of a profound conversion, of a new and light-giving faith? The secret lies in the mystery contained in the words of Jesus. They are not simply exhortations, suggestions, indications, directives, orders, or commands. In his words Jesus himself is present as he speaks, as he speaks to us. His Words are himself; they are Jesus.
And so in the Word, we meet him. By welcoming the Word into our hearts, as he wants it to be welcomed (that is, being ready to translate it into life), we are one with him and he is born or grows in us. This is why each one of us can and must welcome Jesus’ urgent and demanding invitation.
Repent, and believe in the gospel
Some people might consider the words of the gospel to be too high and difficult, too distant from the normal way of living and thinking. They might feel tempted not to listen and to be discouraged. But this happens if they think that they have to move the mountain of their disbelief on their own. Instead it would be enough to try and live just one Word of the gospel to find in it unexpected help, special strength, a light for their path (see Psalm 119:105). Since that Word is a presence of God, communicating with it makes people free; it purifies, converts, brings comfort and joy, and gives wisdom.
Repent, and believe in the gospel
How often this Word of Life can give light to us each day! Every time we come up against our own weakness or that of others, every time following Jesus seems to be impossible or absurd, every time problems threaten to overwhelm us, this Word can give us wings, be like a breath of fresh air, an encouragement to start again.
It would be enough to make a small, quick ‘conversion’ of our route to come out from the confines of our ego and open ourselves to God, and so experience another life, the true one.
And if it is possible for us to share this experience with friends who have also taken the gospel as their code of life, then we will see the Christian community bud or blossom again around us.
For when the Word of God is lived out and shared, it works this miracle too. It gives rise to a visible community, which becomes yeast and salt for society, witnessing to Christ in every corner of the earth.