In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
In the ecclesial calendar this Sunday is called the “Sunday after the Enlightenment.” And we have all just heard the Holy Gospel, where the beginning of the preaching of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, is spoken of, which was preceded by the words: “Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Dear brothers and sisters! Why did our Lord Jesus Christ begin His preaching to people with precisely these words? We need to turn our serious attention to this in our hearts. How does the path to God begin? How does the correction of human life begin? How do we truly begin to believe? – Here the Lord Himself has given us the answer.
When the Lord appeared in the Jordan, when He revealed His Divine glory, when He came along with sinners who gathered and awaited the Baptism of John, they plunged into the Jordan as a sign that, just as water washes dirt from man, so too did these people, sinners, want to wash the dirt from their body as a sign of a change of life, as a sign of repentance. Then John the Baptist said: “I Baptize you with water, but after me comes One Who is mightier than I, Whose shoes I am even unworthy to untie, and He will Baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” John the Baptist spoke of that faith, of that flame of saving faith, which the Lord Jesus Christ will bring into the world.
And so the Lord comes and stands along with all the sinners, and reveals His glory. A voice from heaven says: “This is My Beloved Son, hearken unto Him, in Him I am well pleased.” The Holy Spirit descends. God reveals Himself. But what happens next? The Lord begins His preaching, and He begins it with the words: “Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
In our lives we also strive for God. In our lives we would like God to reveal Himself to us also, and to sanctify us, and to help us, and to be a mainstay in our lives. But what do we need, above all, to ensure that we were with God, and God were with us? Above all, we need that to which the Lord has called us: we need genuine repentance, real repentance.
“Repent!” What does “repent” mean? The word “repentance,” translated from Greek, means a change in way of life. That is, that which for us is familiar and everyday, that with which we have already gotten used to, we need to change. And, unfortunately, what for us is familiar and everyday? For us it is familiar and everyday to judge one another, familiar and everyday to get irritated, familiar and everyday to be spiritually slack, because we do not know how to pray; for us to get ourselves really to pray is something unusual, because real prayer is when the human heart, the human mind, and the human soul fully turn to God – and we see, of course, that we do not have this.
Thus, the Lord calls us to Him, calls us to the Heavenly Kingdom, which He has brought to us on earth, which has already been revealed to us, and which already exists here on earth. This Heavenly Kingdom is the Holy Orthodox Church, which has the Holy Spirit, which has the ecclesial Mysteries, and which will abide on earth for all days until the end of the ages and against which the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matthew 16:18). But only how difficult it is for us truly to become authentic sons and daughters of Christ’s Church! It is difficult, but it is the only path, the path of salvation, the path of eternal life.
God is the only mainstay that is given to us in this life. Without God, life is meaningless. And how can we be together with God, so that God was with us, that God would bless us and help us, that He would strengthen us and comfort us, so that our hope would not be ashamed, that in our hearts would be both faith and love? It was about this that the Lord spoke at the very beginning of His preaching: “Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Let us ask of the Lord God this gift of repentance. Let us ask Him that He would help us change our sinful way of life, to leave behind the sinful way of life, and to correct ourselves. The Holy Church gives us everything necessary for this. There is the Mystery of Repentance, in which we acknowledge our sins, disclose them before a priest at Confession, and they are forgiven by the Holy Spirit. There is the Mystery of Communion, in which man unites with our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, in His Precious Body and Life-Giving Blood. There is the spirit of prayer, there is the life of the Church… the Lord has done everything for us. Let us make every effort to correct ourselves, repent, and to be with Him.
To Him be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Translated from the Russian.