Repent!—Sunday after Theophany

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.

Many cultures and religions, dear brothers and sisters, have a mid-winter festival of light.  On the dark days and long nights light is brought out in defiance against the chaos and danger of the night.

the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.

Christ has come and we see not just a light but a great light such that even those who are in the misery of the shadow of death, even in the darkest darkness, light is flowing in: it is glorious and brilliant.  And he comes to you here today and offers you light, his great light.  But he comes as light and what I thought at first was a friendly light, a playful light, becomes fierce to look at and I turn back to the darkness.  I cannot bear to look at him because it requires repentance and purification.  And I would rather live with the illness than face the treatment to make me well.

To repent is to take responsibility for my own failings, no longer to ascribe blame to others but to take responsibility for what I have done.  It is painful, it hurts, and all too easily I believe it impossible.

But I am not alone.  I can look to the lives of the saints who tell me even a little repentance gives grace.  And I repent a little.  I want to look to the light but I find it too painful yet my small repentance enables me to catch a glimpse: and it is beautiful.  And I repent again and catch a greater glimpse.  And if I can learn to repent, more and more, I may gaze upon my heart’s desire and live no longer in the shadow of death—caught between the fear of the night and fear of the Sun of Righteousness—but in the light and life of my Saviour.

My dear brothers and sisters, Christ’s light is waiting for you.  But we need to change, we need to repent: each one of us needs to learn to turn towards the Lord that we may be worthy inheritors of all the promises of God.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

To the Light of the World, Jesus Christ our true Saviour and God, be all glory, honour and might, together with his Father who is without beginning and the All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit.  Amen.

Brethren, grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (in saying, “He ascended, ” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
— Ephesians 4:7–13

At that time, when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
— Matthew 4:12–17