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“Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:15)

In many books I’ve read about Catholicism, this point is emphasized by many different writers. It speaks of faith as a concrete and conscious decision. The mercy of God does not give us the license to do whatever we want. Rather, we are invited to choose to believe and to change our attitudes and behaviors accordingly.

The passage above from the beginning of Mark’s gospel is the proclamation that Jesus makes as he enters Galilee after the arrest of John the Baptist. He is calling for people to take action, to take a look at their life and to make changes. The change required is action based on belief in the good news that Jesus preached. I’ve heard it said that when you listen to Jesus’ message, you cannot take it lightly. You need to decide for yourself if He is a liar, a lunatic or the Son of God. He preached that God loves you, but He also said that you need to love everyone as you love yourself. So do you smile lovingly when someone cuts in front of you on the highway? It’s not as simple as it sounds. Jesus’ actions during His time on earth are examples for us to follow today. They are not suggestions, but rather illustrations of what our behavior should be. Do we take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus?

It’s very easy to be faithful when it emotionally feels good. But often the moment of truth is when difficulties arise. Sometimes we can stand tall, but do we also pat ourselves on the back for doing so? When we fall short of living a life based on the gospel, do we take ownership for our mistakes, acknowledging them and repenting once again?

The journey of faith is one day at a time. We may not see the progress we are making when we look forward.  Rarely can we can see how far we have come, or how far we need to go. We should not think of difficult times as a test that we need to pass or fail. Consider them an opportunity to practice our commitment to live the gospel. Regardless of the ups and downs along the way, the direction should  always be forward; to continue to seek God by choosing to live a life according to God’s plan.

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