By Devin Watkins
In his catechesis ahead of the Angelus prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis took his cue from the day’s Gospel (Mk 1:14-20), in which Jesus begins his public ministry after the arrest of John the Baptist.
Jesus’ preaching, said the Pope, can be summed up in these words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
He said two key themes emerge from this message: “time and conversion”.
Time of salvation
Pope Francis noted that Mark’s Gospel refers to time as “the duration of the history of salvation worked by God.”
“The time ‘fulfilled’ is that in which this salvific action reaches its pinnacle, its full realization,” he said. “It is the historical moment in which God sent His Son into the world and His Kingdom is rendered more ‘close’ than ever.”
Salvation and conversion
Yet, he added, salvation is not an automatic process. “Salvation is a gift of love,” he said. “And as such is freely given and calls for a freely given response: it calls for conversion.”
The Pope said conversion implies a change of mentality, in which we refuse to follow the way of the world.
“Sin brought into the world a mentality that tends toward the affirmation of oneself against others and against God,” he said, “and for this purpose it does not hesitate to use deceit and violence.”
The time is now
On the other hand, Jesus’ message of conversion invites us to recognize our dependence on God and His grace. It also involves cultivating a balanced attitude toward material goods, becoming welcoming and humble in our relationships, and finding fullness in serving others.
Pope Francis warned that the time we have to welcome our salvation is limited to the duration of our earthly lives, which is brief indeed.
“It is a gift of God’s infinite love, but is also the time to prove our love for Him,” said the Pope. “For this reason every moment, every instant of our existence is precious time to love God and neighbor, and thereby enter into eternal life.”
Times and seasons of life
The Pope also noted that our lives follow two rhythms: “one, measurable, made of hours, days, years; the other, composed of the seasons of our development: birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age, death.”
Faith, said Pope Francis, helps us to discover the true spiritual meaning of each of these moments of life.
He added that God reaches out to us with a specific call at each phase of our life, to which we are free to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
And the Pope urged everyone to pay attention so that we do not let Jesus pass by without responding to His call.
God’s constant call
In conclusion, Pope Francis invited us to allow the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us recognize God’s call in every season of life.
“And may she help us to convert to from the mentality of the world,” he prayed, “to that of love and service.”