The First Year of the Immediate Preparation for the Great Jubilee Year 2000

Author: Deacon John Taylor

The first year of the immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee Year 2000

In Mark's gospel Jesus started his public ministry with the message, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel."

What time was fulfilled? The time of the promises of the messiah, the time of waiting, the time of anticipation. It was now ended, God had visited His people and the kingdom of God had begun. Jesus, our king, was here. Now it wasn't exactly the kind of kingdom they had expected. That was the problem! Kingdoms have pomp and ceremony. They have powerful people who demand service, who have more "rights" than ordinary people. Kingdoms are like pyramids, with the masses at the bottom, and the higher you go, the fewer people there are, and the more privileges they have, the richer they are, the more like little gods they become.

The problem with the kingdom of God, it turns out, is that the pyramid gets turned on it's head. The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, the greatest are those who serve the needs of others. It's no wonder people who heard Jesus were confused. Here was a really radical message! Jesus even invited the sinners, the low life, the good for nothing people, to come to the banquet table, not just the good folks! I mean, how can he do that!! Now I can accept His caring for the poor materially and the poor in health. After all, I could someday be poor that way myself, but the sinners?? These guys had turned their backs on what was good and right!! And yet, there was Jesus treating them like the rest of us, eating and drinking with them and calling them to repent and change. It turns out that, in God's eyes, sin is the greatest poverty.

Scripture teaches us that God loves us all, the bad as well as the good, the sick as well as the healthy, the ugly as well as the beautiful. If we accept His word and become His disciple we can't exclude people for any reason, in fact we must, we must, reach out to them as He did. There's no choice in the matter. God doesn't exclude, so we can't either.

Talk about big decisions, this entering the kingdom of God is the biggest. You see, you can't come in part way, it's all or nothing, it's a total decision. We have to be willing to open up every area of our lives to God just to enter. We can't just say words, we have to live a new life. In effect, we have to die to ourselves and live as God tells us.

Fortunately our God is a God of love and mercy. That's why He founded a church to guide and help us. The gospel of Matthew tells us that when Peter was asked "Who do men say I am"?" and then, "who do you say I am?", Peter replied "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Our Lord said to him, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against it." The church is many things for us. It's a shelter, it's a teacher, it's a hospital, it's a place of peace and comfort. Through it we touch God, we are reborn in Baptism, we are fed in the Eucharist, we are healed of our sins, we are strengthened, and anointed and blessed in our union with one another. The church is a strange mixture of the divine and weak humanity. In it, sinful men and women meet God, serve God and share His love with one another. In it finite, imperfect creatures are given a share in His power to forgive and transform lives. Only a God of total love could! do this! Is the church perfect? Of course not! It's made up of sinners, of weak, frail humanity. The proof of God's presence isn't the holiness of everyone in it, it's the fact that in spite of the weakness of it's members, indeed of it's leaders, that it survives and thrives, that it expands and grows. The failings of Popes and Bishops and Priests shouldn't shock you. They're people, weak and prone to sin. Look and see how God can use even such poor vessels to do His will, to strengthen and guide the rest of us poor vessels. Scandals do not prove God isn't with the church, they've more often been His tools for reforming it to be better and stronger. When abuses happen, and they will, open your eyes to see what He is doing, not what 'they've done', and then please pray for everyone involved.

January 24, 1997

The seventh in a series of articles on the Jubilee Year 2000 for the parish bulletin

Deacon John Taylor, St. Mary of the Mission Parish, Opelika, Alabama

(c) copyright 1997, John E. Taylor

Note: Anyone is welcome to reprint this article as long as it is not for profit.