This coming Sunday is the 2nd Sunday of Advent in Lectionary Cycle A. Yesterday we considered Matthew’s idea of “repentance.” Today we delve into what is an appropriate response to the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.
What should be our response to the coming of heaven? Should it be worship, praise and giving thanks? Ironically, those are good responses, but in Matthew’s gospel, not the ideal ones. Jesus never reprimands people for failing to worship or give thanks in this gospel (compare Luke 17:17-18), but he does rebuke those who have witnessed his mighty works and not repented (11:20-24). For Matthew, the ideal response seems to be repentance. We know from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew that people can worship God with their lips even when their deeds demonstrate that their hearts are far from God (15:3-9). Thus, the responsive worship of the crowds in 9:8 and 15:31 is commendable but will be in vain if performed with unrepentant hearts. It is Matthew’s warning to the overtly religious of his day, the Pharisees and Sadducees – and perhaps to us in this season of Advent – it is good to want to celebrate and praise, but make your priority repentance. Let the coming one change our lives.
Image credit: Image credit: ‘The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist in the Desert’, ca. 1635, a painting by Massimo Stanzione -1585-1656, Public Domain