While our human judgment suffers from a deep fallibility, God’s judgment is subject to no such imperfection. Throughout the Sacred Scriptures, God asks his prophets to go and report to people that he will judge them. Jonah goes to the Ninevites. Elijah tells king Ahab that “the dogs shall lick up [his] blood” for his crimes (1 Kgs 21:19). John the Baptist demands that the Jewish people repent for their sins. These are not instances of fallible human judgment. Rather, God uses human agents to proclaim to his people the reality of his judgment, in order to try to convince the wayward to change. Divine judgment is coming. Now is the time for repentance.
Jesus, too, demands repentance, but he makes an explicit promise. “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). The kingdom of God, expanded upon by Jesus in so many parables throughout the Gospels (the pearl of great price, mustard seed, treasure hidden in a field), is the promise of a life governed by God, ordered by God, healed by God—a life with God. It is that which makes our earthly lives worth living as they become mysteriously entwined with eternity.
We have repented, we continue to repent, and we must also preach repentance. This is not always comfortable, but it is essential. We may be accused of being judgmental, but more properly we are relaying the reality of God’s judgment. The world needs to know that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). Time is short. We must live with urgency. The kingdom is here, the king is here: Rejoice, repent. Our God is merciful: “for he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands give healing” (Job 5:18). Turn from your delusions, your belief that your desires and your will provide you grounds from which to critique God and his law. Live in freedom. Repent. See the great gift held out to you. Reject what causes you to reject this gift. It is not too late, now is the time.
Image: Michelangelo Cerquozzi, Saint John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness