3 Epiphany, January 21
Jonah cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (3:4). Hearing Jonah, the people of Nineveh, great and small, believed and fasted and put on sackcloth; and God saw that they had turned from their evil ways, and God repented of the calamity he was about to rain upon them. That is to say, God repented for a time. In the end, Christ will come to judge the living and the dead, the sons and daughter of great cities and nations.
When Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news,” he is announcing the judgment of the world, the demise of its cities, the fall of its nations, the emptiness of its towns, not because God hates what he has made. Rather, Christ comes to announce a new world and a new being, which he himself is. The fire of God’s love narrows to a column of flame in his eternal Son and then radiates, by the Spirit, to create sons and daughters of God and to ignite the four corners of the earth, and thus all things become new in Christ. This renewal exposes the weakness and fragility of created being. It is not enough to know that those of low estate are but a breath. One must know also that those of high estate are a delusion. Together they are lighter than a breath. God gives. God takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Christ pulls his apostles from their work as if drawing them from the sea. He hooks them by his word and leads them from the life they know to a life as yet unknown, the crucified and risen form of his being. “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people’” (Mark 1:17). Disciples are called out of this world into the enclosure of Christ. In Christ alone they find silence and hope, a rock and refuge, a place where, in safety, the heart breaks open before God (Ps. 62:5:8). Putting on Christ, one looks and sees extortion, robbery, and riches for what they are, a delusion and a road toward death (Ps. 62:10).
“The present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). Thus, even natural love and moral commitment are tempered, and in a sense deepened, by the knowledge that time ends, time is fulfilled. Love your spouse as if you have none. Mourn as though mourning will end. Rejoice in this moment. It will pass. Deal with the world, but know its terms are not final.
Christ purifies the soul by stripping it of attachments to things that never satisfy. “For God alone my soul in silence waits, for my hope is from him” (Ps. 62:5). And yet to be stripped of what impedes the full life of Christ is to put on the garment of Christ, and to be infused with the very love he has for the world.
God so loved the world that he sent his Son to draw humanity from the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay. Baptism in the triune name of the one God is a sacramental rescue, a cleansing, and a new being.
Taken from the world, which God has loved all along, the baptized are sent back into the world in love and service. They are Christ for the world, hidden in him.
Look It Up
Read Ps. 62:8.
Think About It
Give your heart first to God, and then go to the world. Silently remain in God amid all things.