Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 4:17).
Have you, like me, ever heard those words and cringed? Oh, no! What have I done now?
I follow that response with a long litany of sins big and small—sins for deeds that I committed and sins for deeds that I omitted. I then mentally start beating myself up, and especially for all the ways I fail as a mother. All of that is why I feel so awful when I hear the words, “Repent.” So, hearing the admonition to repent doesn’t always feel like good news.
The reason the people (even mothers!) rejoiced when Jesus told them to repent was that he always followed it with for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
What is the kingdom of heaven?
I think you could describe it a lot of ways, but the bottom line is that it’s life with Jesus.
So, who were the people looking at when they heard the announcement of the Good News—the call to repent? They looked at Jesus.
How can we possibly see the light or know the joy of repenting when we’re looking inside at all our sinfulness? The only way to know his joy and forgiveness is to look upon his face—not at our sinfulness.
This is what brings peace in the call to repentance. We must look to the Lord and let our hearts be filled with joy.
Whenever I find myself sliding into that place of gloom over my human frailty, over my sinful heart that is prone to wander, and over all the ways I fail my children, I try to remember to lift up my eyes to the Lord. It truly is Good News that Jesus has come, that he has forgiven me, that he wants me to live in his kingdom of joy and love. In fact, he wants every mother to live in the joy of his kingdom!
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing. . . (Is 9:1).