One thing that all of us here have in common is the search for happiness. Everyone wants and hopes to find happiness. We may have very different ideas as to what happiness is, but we are all looking for it. The biggest problem seems to be where to find it. We will look for it in a partner, in having children, in work, in material things. When we fall in love we may think we have found it, but if we persevere in a relationship we will realize that while it is a great gift to have this other person, they won’t completely fulfill me either, because they cannot. I am asking the impossible of someone if I expect them to completely fulfill me because only God can do that. Hopefully our happiness will begin in this life and we will have many happy times, but total fulfillment is in the next life. I think that even to recognize that much is a big step. In 1858 Our Lady appeared several times to St. Bernadette in Lourdes and one of the things she said to Bernadette was, ‘I cannot promise you happiness in this life, but in the next.’ We will not have total fulfillment in this world.
When Jesus began his public ministry one of the first things he said was, ‘Repent and believe the good news’, or in today’s Gospel it says ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ What does ‘repent’ mean, and what is ‘the kingdom of heaven’ that we so often hear about? In different places Jesus says, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is among you and ‘within you.’
All of us see the world in a particular way. We have a particular mindset which is usually formed by our upbringing and our culture. We think that the way we see the world is the right way, maybe the only way. And yet if we go to a different country and culture we realize that others see it in a completely different way. There are different ways to look at the world and our way is not the only way.
The kingdom of heaven that Jesus mentioned so often, is the way of looking at the world that comes from him. Seeing the goodness and beauty in the world around us and the people around us. Learning to live the commandments of God that help us to see the world in this way. And that’s why the kingdom of heaven is within us and among us, if we choose to live as Jesus taught us, with compassion and mercy, realizing that our life is about love and service.
Why does Jesus tell us to ‘repent and believe’? To repent is to continually ask forgiveness and turn back to God since we continually stray from the path that leads to heaven. It means to change our direction and follow the way that leads to happiness, to God. To lose that is the worst thing imaginable, because it would mean losing our chance of happiness, which all of us want. That is why Jesus tells us to keep coming back and seeking the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, which He assures us awaits anyone who makes even the smallest effort to do, but to believe that we don’t need to repent is a big mistake.
‘Repent and believe in the Gospel.’