Here is where and how the Gospel begins. This is how the Lord comes to you, to comfort you and give you life. And this is how you are prepared for His coming.
He sends a preacher to voice His Word, which alone endures forever. Everything else will wither and fade, or be destroyed, but His Word remains. Thus, He sends a preacher to speak that eternal Word of His to your heart, in order to turn your heart to Him.
What does your heart trust? What does your heart fear? What does your heart love? Whatever it is to which your heart clings, that is your god; that is what drives you and determines your thoughts, words and deeds.
Know this, then: everything in heaven and on earth, all the world's works and all the world's ways, all of it is passing away, dead and dying.
But the Lord, the Almighty, the true and only God, the Creator of all things, He is coming: He is, and He will.
How, then, shall you meet Him? Face to face, in faith? Or with your back to Him, in fear? Forgiven? Or condemned?
What sort of person ought you to be, therefore? How should you live? But who, or what, is your god?
Repent. Look to the One who is coming, and live. If your heart is proud, humble yourself before Him. If your heart is despairing, lift up your head in hope, because your Redeemer is drawing near. If your heart is greedy and selfish, give your possessions away to the one who has nothing. If you are consumed by some lust or addiction, let go of those idols and seek the Lord where He is found.
Repent. A broken and contrite heart, the Lord will not despise. Be baptized. Or, if you are baptized, return to your Baptism. Be crucified with Christ by contrition and repentance. Be raised to newness of life through faith in His forgiveness.
Go out to the preacher whom God the Lord has sent, to hear His voice in the wilderness proclaiming His forgiveness of your sins. Return to the waters of your Baptism and enter the good land that God has promised, by going out to the "Jordan River," confessing your sins.
That is what a contrite and penitent heart does, first of all: Confess your sins, and confess the Christ, in order to live by His Word of the Gospel.
Do not take lightly or for granted, and do not let go, the significance, the strength and salvation of His voice: the proclamation of His Word, the speaking of Christ that is heard. That is the beginning of the Gospel. It is by this means that you receive Christ and are saved by His grace.
Hear and receive this comfort that is spoken to your heart. The fierceness of God's Law is for the sake of bringing you to this sweet sound of Absolution. For every sin which would destroy you has been borne by Christ and borne away. Your painful repentance unites you to His Cross and His Resurrection.
The waters of your Baptism have therefore cleansed your conscience and given you peace in the presence of God, through the forgiveness of all your sins.
And the preaching of His Gospel does what His voice declares: You are forgiven, for Jesus' sake. His Spirit has opened His Way into your heart by faith. And His Way has been opened unto you in love, to enter through Him into the new creation, the home where righteousness dwells.
Indeed, it is the milk and honey of the new heavens and the new earth which already flow for you here, in the midst of the wilderness, from the Altar of Christ, from His Cross, from His own hand, with His own voice: for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Edward T. Oakes, S.J.: An Appreciation
15 hours ago