[COLUMN] The urgency of time

The words of this Sunday’s (January 21) Readings speak of the urgency of time. In the Second Reading, Paul tells us that “time is running out… for the world in its present form is passing away.” In the Gospel, Jesus proclaims that “the time of fulfillment” has come and the kingdom of God is at hand. Therefore, he admonishes people to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” In the First Reading, Jonah urges the people of Nineveh, the enemy of Israel and a symbol of wickedness in the ancient world, to turn from their evil ways and escape punishment from God. All the readings call for metanoia—a change of heart and a return to God.

Do we not see the relevance of these words in our present age? We long for people to return to God, for nations to cease waging war against each other, for politicians and religious leaders to unite themselves for the sake of the people they serve, and for criminals to refrain from disrupting our peaceful lives. Indeed, we recognize the urgent need for people to repent in light of many global problems: the deep division and instability in politics and religion, ongoing wars, violence, and conflicts between nations, the disregard for belief in God and engagement in faith, the evils of inequality, poverty, racism, persecution, and oppression, the ongoing danger to people’s health posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the severe environmental challenges of the climate crisis, and the growing cybersecurity threat to governments, businesses, finance, and privacy.

To bring about conversion in people’s lives, we must undertake three essential tasks. Firstly, we must continuously bring our concerns to God through prayer and worship. It is crucial to pray for God’s intervention to eradicate all evil from our society and to send forth good and inspiring leaders who can promote peace and the well-being of all people.    Additionally, we should pray for our families and ourselves, seeking growth in our intimate relationship with God and a commitment to His commandments of love, mercy, and justice. I think the pressing need for conversion is an urgent need for prayer. As we have learned from the Gospel, prayer possesses the power to move mountains, and we must never underestimate its transformative nature.

Secondly, we must persistently engage in evangelization, fearlessly proclaiming our faith in Jesus Christ through both our words and actions. We must refuse to be intimidated by any secular or ungodly forces, boldly denouncing the lies and false illusions of this world that deceive and harm the souls of our people, particularly the younger generations.

Lastly, we must not allow fear to cripple us, hindering our ability to reach out to others and have faith in our capacity to touch hearts, transform lives, and make a meaningful difference in this world. Fear is our greatest enemy, originating not from God but from Satan; it brings hopelessness, self-doubt, and anguish. Therefore, we must reject and resist it.     Instead, we should listen to the voice of God, assuring us that we are capable and empowered. We can face challenges, begin anew, and recognize the goodness and gifts within us. This requires not only self-confidence but also a profound trust in God.

During this Ordinary Time in the Church calendar, which occurs after Christmas and before Lent, let us unite in prayer for the conversion of hearts among all people so that we may embrace lives of peace, harmony, and love..

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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