SUNDAY AFTER THEOPHANY 2022 (Matt.4:12-17)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

All the preaching of Christ, the Church, and even John the Baptist can be summed up in a single word: repentance. As we heard in today’s Gospel reading, Christ began his preaching with repentance, and he also ended it with repentance. After His Resurrection, Jesus commanded the Apostles to proclaim repentance in His name to all the nations. Jesus began His preaching, as we heard this morning, in Capernaum of Galilee, and said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 4:17). Of course, in the beginning, repentance was preached to people who did not know the true God and worshiped the creation, such as idols, the sun, the moon, the stars, and demonic spirits. However, the Church οf Christ continues to this day even to call upon its baptized members to repent. Why? Because “we all stumble in many things” as James the Brother of the Lord wrote (James 3:2). And Job asks, “Who shall be pure from uncleanness? No one. Even if his life is but one day upon the earth” (Job 14:4-5). And the Apostle John writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Even the Great Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul, says that he is the first among sinners, whom Christ has come to save (I Tim.1:15). Brothers and Sisters, if the Apostle Paul had such an opinion of himself, despite the fact that he had ascended to the third heaven while he was still alive on earth, then how much more ought we to feel our own sinfulness!

Dear ones, there are many types of sins. Some are obvious, some are very subtle. Some we recognize right away; others may take us years to recognize in ourselves. We should know, however, that all sins, regardless of how serious they may be, are forgiven by God. The only sins that are not forgiven are those that are unconfessed, those unrepented-of. (I know, my grammar here is terrible!) This is because lack of repentance prevents the Grace of the Holy Spirit to act in us. Let’s make sure that we will never fall into this sin! Lack of repentance is death and loss for us. He who doesn’t repent doesn’t understand the seriousness of his sins. They cling to his soul like great leaden weights, like the chains and locks of Jacob Marley. Such a person doesn’t ask for God’s grace, so he is not forgiven. What does James say? “You don’t have because you don’t ask!” (James 4:2-3). Our loving and merciful God forgives those who deeply feel their sinfulness, and with tears, plead for divine grace. In other words, these are the persons, who repent.

Repentance is precisely this: to regret and be sad about all that you have done against God’s will. St. Nektarios of Aegina says: “Repentance signifies regret, a change of mind ("nous" in Greek). The distinguishing marks of repentance are contrition, tears, aversion towards sin, and love of the good.” Repentance is a “podvig,” a “spiritual struggle” which is appointed to us all. It is only by repentance that the “new man” becomes manifest in us. Only by repentance can we find the Kingdom of Heaven and salvation. Lack of repentance reveals a reckless person, a careless person, a person who has “received his soul in vain” (Psalm 23:4, LXX). Repentance characterizes a wise person, a person concerned about their salvation and eternal life. 

My dear Brothers and Sisters, our Lord Jesus Christ condescended to come down to earth, take on our flesh, be born in a cave, be baptized in the Jordan, walk, preach, perform miracles, be abused, arrested, and nailed to a cross in order to make us new creatures. He did it to free us from demonic passions and bonds. He did it that we might be liberated from “miserable sin” and rather to become the sweet “fragrance of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15). This is why He calls us to repentance. Let us therefore, repent, in order to approach Him more and more closely, so that we may become spiritually renewed and “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4: 23- 24). Amen.


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