February 1997

The Word of Life, taken from Scripture, is offered each month as a guide and inspiration for daily living.

"Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15)

In Mark's Gospel, Jesus begins his proclamation to the world, his message of salvation, with these words: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel."

The coming of Jesus marks the beginning of a new era, the era of grace and salvation. His first words are an invitation to embrace this great news, the reality of the Kingdom of God which he brings within the reach of all people, close to every person.

And he immediately indicates the way: repent and believe in the Gospel, that is , radically change your life and accept the word that God, in and through Jesus, is addressing to the people of all times. Repentance and faith must go hand in hand: there cannot be one without the other; rather, both spring forth from contact with the living word, from the presence of Jesus who today, too, repeats to the crowds:

"Repent and believe in the Gospel"

The word of God accepted and lived out brings about a complete change of mentality (= repentance). It instills in the hearts of all - Europeans, Asians, Australians, Americans, Africans - the sentiments of Christ towards all circumstances, individuals and society.

But how can the Gospel work the miracle of a profound conversion, of a new and luminous faith? The secret lies in the mystery contained in the words of Jesus. They are not simply exhortations, suggestions, indications, directives, orders or commands. Jesus himself is present in his words to us. His words are Jesus himself.

It is therefore possible to encounter Jesus in his word. And in welcoming the word into our hearts, as he wants it to be welcomed (that is, being ready to translate it into life) we are one with him and he is born or grows within us. This is why each one of us can and must welcome this pressing and demanding invitation of Jesus.

"Repent and believe in the Gospel"

Some people might consider the words of the Gospel to be too lofty, difficult, too distant from their life and thought; they may be tempted to reject them or to become discouraged. This may happen if they think they have to move the mountain of their own disbelief by themselves. If, instead, they made the effort to put into practice just one word of the Gospel, they would find unexpected help, unique strength, and "a lamp unto their feet" (cf. Ps 119:105). Precisely because each word of the Gospel is a presence of God, communicating with it makes us free, it purifies us, converts us, brings comfort and joy, and gives wisdom.

"Repent and believe in the Gospel"

How often these words can be light for us during our day! Every time we run up against our own weakness or that of others, every time it seems impossible to follow Jesus, or even absurd, every time problems threaten to overwhelm us, these words can give us "wings;" they can be like a breath of fresh air, a stimulus to begin anew.

A Small, quick "change of course" might be enough to break through the confines of our ego and open us up to God; it might be what it takes to experience another life, the true one.

Moreover, if we are able to share this experience with friends whose code of life is the Gospel, we will see the Christian community come to life or re-flower around us.

The word of God, when it is lived and shared, works this miracle, too: it gives rise to a real community which, in turn, becomes leaven and salt for all of society by witnessing to Christ in every corner of the globe.

Chiara Lubich