SAY TO THEM: THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS DRAWN NEAR TO YOU. With the appearance of Jesus and his public ministry, God's plan for the salvation of our human race took on a decisive and definitive form. This fact, however, did not come with striking natural or political manifestations as had been the case when Moses organized and led the Hebrew people in the land of Egypt. Rather, the coming of the kingdom in the person of Jesus was hidden save to a few persons lowly of heart and living in humble circumstances. For most of our Lord's life this remained the case: though the Word of God had taken flesh of the Virgin Mary in view of the redemption of the entire human race, that mysterious and all-important fact was kept hidden from all persons of influence. The few who did know of his special relation to the Father and the Holy Spirit, learned it, not from the external circumstance of his life or an extraordinary behavior of his; rather, the learned it from a direct act of inspiration by God. That God sent his son to us in so ordinary a manner that those who encountered him in daily life had no concept of his true identity, surely is a profound manifestation of God's wisdom intended for our instruction.
Only gradually did it prove possible, even for those who accepted the message announced by the Lord, to grasp the central truth that in him God gives his very self. Jesus is more than God's representative: he is himself the embodiment of the kingdom of God. He is truly Emmanuel, God with us, as St. Matthew proclaims in his Gospel. Comprehending the implications of this revelation required preparation in the form of the proper disposition of heart and of instruction. Even after he completed the course of his preaching, the full significance of his person was not recognized by his disciples; they became aware of the meaning of his unity with the Father only after his resurrection with the gift of the Spirit.
As we commemorate the Feast of the Evangelist Luke today, we hear the Gospel telling of an important moment in the preparation of people's hearts for the reception of Jesus as savior. The Lord appointed seventy-two disciples and sent them on a mission to announce that the hour of their salvation is at hand. How the hearers are expected to respond is not stated here in so many words, but is evident from the rest of the Gospel accounts of our Lord's teaching, his life and his death. This message is clearly summed up at the beginning of St. Mark's version.
After John was handed over Jesus came in Galilee preaching the Gospel of God and saying that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has drawn near: be converted ( µ ) and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1: 14, 15).
What is entailed by this conversion and belief is spelled out in the pages of the New Testament, not only in the Gospel accounts, but also in the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles and the Book of Revelation. St. Luke has provided the Church not only with a complete Gospel that records the life of Jesus beginning with the Annunciation, but also with the story of the early church showing how the first Christians understood and applied the message of conversion and faith.Ever since the days of the Jerusalem church describe by Luke there have not been lacking to the
church men and women who have left us examples and explanations of their experience of conversion and belief in the words and person of Jesus. We have abundant accounts of how they understood and lived out what God required of them in order to respond to Jesus' announcement of the presence of the kingdom in his preaching and in his person. We are confronted with the same opportunities and challenges that they met with as they heard this announcement made so long ago by the Lord and repeated ever since by his disciples: the kingdom of God has drawn near; repent and believe in the Gospel.'
Let us study and meditate on their teaching and lives so that we might follow their example of belief put into practice in the form of a lifelong conversion by which we strive for purity of heart. This is the lesson of God's hidden wisdom: that those who walk humbly before God seeking his mercy and grace will know him when he comes and recognize in Jesus the living presence of the kingdom of God.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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