The Gospel in Miniature

If you were asked to summarize the message of Jesus in the Gospels in a couple of sentences, could you do it? Now before you scramble to creatively work on such a noble project, understand that Jesus himself has already done this. In three brief sentences Jesus gives us the Gospel in miniature. He sounds a kind of keynote upon which all else will be built. And it was presented in today’s Gospel for the first day in “”Ordinary Time” (tempus per anum in Latin). And what are those opening words? Today’s gospel from Mark supplies them:

Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:34)

Now these three utterances of Jesus are rich in meaning and we do well to examine them and also to rescue them from often flat and surface understandings.

  1. This is the time of fulfillment– Now the translation here lacks a little precision since the Greek (πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς) says more literally “The time is fulfilled.” It is time itself that is fulfilled or completed not just that these are fulfilling times. It is true that many things are being fulfilled (prophecies, longings, expectations) but so is time itself. Why does this matter? In a word: URGENCY. The time is now. THIS is the time. This is a critical moment and don’t let this moment pass you by. Consider perhaps if we were waiting for a train. And finally it comes! But this arrival is also a critical moment. Time to get on board! Time to act. Time to move. The time is now here. What we have waited for is present. But simply admiring the moment is not enough. Something is now expected of us. We have to act now. So this first sentence is one of urgency. Over and over again Jesus will tell parables building on this theme reminding us again and again that we know not the day or the the hour. That we must be ready (e.g. Luke 12:40; Mk 13:37; Matt 25:13, among many others). Now there is an old preacher’s story that goes like this: Three demons met with the devil to discuss their plans to bring large numbers to Hell and to be chosen head demon. The first demon said, “I will tell them there is no God.” But the devil said, “You will not get many that way for most know deep down that God does exist for he wrote His name in their hearts.” The second demon said, “I will tell them there is no hell.” But the devil said, “You will only get a few since most know deep down that hell exists and many have already made visits here.” So the third demon said, “I’m going to tell them there is no hurry!” And the devil smiled and said, “You’re the one!”    And so it is that the time is fullfilled. The long expected moment when God would act is now. It’s decision time. So choose, now. Tomorrow is not promised.
  2. The Kingdom of God is at hand – A kingdom is a place where the will of a king is manifest. Where what he says is done and is made so. A kingdom is a place where resources are directed to implementing the will of the king.  Therefore the Kingdom of God is that place or condition wherein the will of God is manifest.  It is a place where God’s power and will are tangible, real, and where resources are dedicated to carrying out God’s will. Now note that the text says it is “at hand.” It is not merely in some far off heaven, or in the distant future. It is breaking in now and is available to you and me right now. We are now able to reject the prince of this world, Satan, and enter into the Kingdom of God. A completely new life is available to us because a new ruler, Jesus, can begin to take authority over our lives if we let him. And he will begin to break the bonds of sin and this world and make us free. He will put sin to death and bring forth grace upon grace. And we will be completely transformed. This is now at hand, this is available to us. Too many people today think of holiness as “unreasonable” or “too demanding” and “unrealistic.” But Jesus simply says that a completely new life is available to us right now, a life in a new Kingdom, ruled not by the prince of this world but by the Lord Jesus Christ. We access this by faith and its effects reach us through the grace of the sacraments, prayer, the life of the Church, and the teaching of the Apostles (cfActs 2:42).  Too many Christians have lost the notion that a completely transformed and radically different way is now available to them. They are resigned to mediocrity and have low expectations about what their relationship with Jesus Christ can do for them. Perhaps too there is slothful aversion to real transformation. But Jesus died on the cross to make this kingdom available to us. Is mediocrity, worldliness, bondage to sin and spiritual boredom the best that the death of the Son of God can do? Surely not! He has given us full access to a kingdom where every virtue and, glory, joy and perfection are available to us. Enter it with high expectations! It is at hand and available!
  3. Repent– The Greek word translated here as “repent” is μετανοεῖτε (metanoeite). Now more literally this means to come to a new mind or a new way of thinking. Most people think of repenting as adopting better moral behavior. Surely μετανοεῖτε includes this but it is far richer and deeper. In scripture the “mind” is a far greater concept than the “brain” or even the intellect. The mind in scripture is the deepest part of the human person where we, think, experience, consider, have memories, deliberate and decide. Ultimately it is where we “live” where that aspect that we call the “self” IS. So the Lord is inviting us to do far more than behave well. He is calling us to a complete inner transformation of our very self, of how we think, of how we experience the world,  of how we understand the meaning of things. Clearly this will affect our beavior as well for behavior begins with thought: Sow a thought, reap a deed, sow a deed, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character, sow a character, reap a destiny. It all begins in the mind, that deep inner part of us. St. Paul links the beginning of transformation to the renewing of our minds: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2). What a glorious gift to accept from God, a transformed mind! I have greatly rejoiced in what God has done to my mind in the past 25 years. I think so much more scripturally, perceive differently, rejoice in the truth, have better priorities, love more, have greater confidence, more joy, more patience, more! Thank you Lord for the renewing of my mind! May you who have begun a good work in me bring it to completion (cf Phil 1).
  4. and believe the Gospel–  The word “Gospel” is not merely good news because it conveys good or pleasant information: The Gospel is not just informative speech but performative speech— not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform (Pope Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth, p. 47) So Jesus is teaching us to accept this performative and transformative word, to believe it’s power by basing our lives on the reality it both teaches and conveys. Belief always involves more than mere intellectual adhearance to revealed truth. It is also involves the response of the will, it brings forth real decisions from us to base our lives on its truth.

So here it is, the Gospel in Miniature. Jesus is teaching us in the opening words of his public ministry to come to accept and believe the good news that a new Kingdom and new life, and a new mind  are now available to us. We must believe and allow its in-breaking power into our lives now, not later.  If we do this we can expect remarkable and on-going transformation of both our moral life and our inner life for, as St. Paul puts it, the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom 1:16).

This song says, “A Wonderful change has come over me. He Changed my life completely….I’m not what I want to be, but I’m not what I used to be….A Wonderful change has come over me.

I am aware that not all of you like performance  Gospel Music, but the message of this song is too strong to ignore.

11 Replies to “The Gospel in Miniature”

  1. Very good article Msgr: Pope. Your quote from Mark 1: 14-15 (where I found it in both Douary Rheims and the KJV) was very clear, complete and concise. Reminds us to believe, repent, and to be ready. As a Vietnam Combat Veteran I learned every day above ground is good day (no atheist is fox holes). Your article is like Jesus parable on the 10 Virgins (Matt: 25: 1-13). Believe, stay ready and watch for the hour. Here is how I would summarize the entire Bible. Holding it in my hand I would proclaim: “This book says God is Love (1 John 1:8), it is better to put your trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man (Psalm 118:8 very center of Bible).” If I could use a resource outside the Bible I would quote from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy at Paradiso (Pt. 3) Canto XXXIII last line in book # 145 “That love which moves the sun and the other stars.”

    1. Thanks. Glad to hear that the song was appreciated. I am aware as I said that for some people this sort of Gospel singing is a little over the top. Tramaine really belts it out!

  2. Thanks for this article – I’m reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church currently – your article is a great synopsis of what I am currently studying.

  3. If you were asked to summarize the message of Jesus in the Gospels in a couple of sentences, could you do it?


  4. There are sensitive periods of time in history, change-points. The time IS fulfilled. It’s not ‘now or never,’ but timing is crucial. Today, this minute, I’m alive; the next minute I could be otherwise :). In reading the beginning words of Jesus’ ministry in Mark I’m reminded of change-points in history, times when men and women of God were challenged to mind the times and think–and act–according to that still, small voice inside, the voice of the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. Those who were obedient, changed history.. The Kingdom of God is ‘at hand,’ coming straight and true out of the chaos that surrounds us in this dense world of materiality. Allowing, giving assent to, the Word of God to spring forth from our deep mind, where the mansions of the Lord are built (remodeled, yes! with our permission always). To speak a word, His Word, to whomever and wherever we are at THIS TIME. The Kingdom of God is WITHIN. Repent, turn inward, clean house, till the garden of our thought-life, and think the thoughts of God after Him. The Word of God in Scripture, froim the inspired pulpits of His Church, is alive and active and will renew us, strengthen us, and give us Light to be co-transformers with Jesus.

    Thanks for making my day!

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