32nd Sunday after Pentecost, the Sunday after Theophany,
Pericope 8, January 9/22, 2012
Now when Jesus heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee. He came and dwelt in Capernaum and began to preach, saying, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4,12-13, 17). And his preaching among those spiritually ignorant people was like a light dawning. Thus the Evangelist Matthew cited the prophet Isaiah: The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up (Matthew 4,16). Just what was this Kingdom preached by John the Baptist and after him the Lord?
This is the Kingdom proclaimed by the prophets. It is the heavenly Kingdom, the Sovereign of which is the Lord God. It is the Kingdom populated by Angels and Archangels singing praises to the Lord, the Kingdom prepared for the righteous.
The Lord came to open the doors of paradise that had been shut by sin. In order to enter the heavenly Kingdom ,the ground had to be prepared through cleansing of sins and reconciliation with God. In order to lead us into the heavenly Kingdom, which begins down here on Earth, the Lord established the Church, a Kingdom of Divine Grace, to which he entrusted the treasure of Grace.
When the Lord preached about the Heavenly Kingdom, it was approaching. Now, Repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand for every one of us. In order to enter therein, you need to make your conscience clean and keep it that way.
But is that always possible? As we read in the Gospel of St. Matthew: Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people (Matthew 4,23). Those He healed were always glad to see him, and so were the people. But wherever the Scribes and the Pharisees went they opposed the Savior's teaching. Therefore the Lord warned people: Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5,20).
The Scribes and the Pharisees were the intelligentsia of their day. This shows us that spiritual blindness is never far away. Sins and passions make a person blind. Avarice blinded Judas, who betrayed his Teacher and Lord for money. Jealousy blinded Joseph's brothers, who sold him into Egyptian slavery.
Lust for power blinded Absalom, and he rose up against his father, King David. The pride of the Russian intelligentsia lead to the Revolution, the results of which we ourselves have experienced. The Lord came into the world to heal us from our sins, a healing possible when we recognize that and come to Him in repentance.
The Lord is the true light that enlightens all mankind. He enlightens our minds, our hearts, and our conscience so that we will live by the commandments of Christ and inherit salvation and eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom.