Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Augustine
Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.
The Gospel tells us that some people were rebuked by the Lord because, clever as they were at reading the face of the sky, they could not recognize the time for faith when the kingdom of heaven was at hand.
It was the Jews who received this reprimand, but it has also come down to us.
The Lord Jesus began his preaching of the Gospel with the admonition: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 4:17).” His forerunner, John the Baptist, began his in the same way: “Repent, ” he said, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 3:2).”
Today, for those who will not repent at the approach of the kingdom of heaven, the reproof of the Lord Jesus is the same. As he points out himself, “You cannot expect to see the kingdom of heaven coming. The kingdom of heaven,” he says elsewhere, “is within you (Lk 17:21).”
Each of us would be wise therefore to take to heart the advice of his teacher, and not waste this present time.
It is now that our Savior offers us his mercy; now, while he still spares the human race. Understand that it is in hope of our conversion that he spares us, for he desires no one’s damnation.
As for when the end of the world will be, that is God’s concern. Now is the time for faith.
Whether any of us here present will see the end of the world I know not; very likely none of us will. Even so, the time is very near for each of us, for we are mortal. There are hazards all around us.
We should be in less danger from them were we made of glass. What is more fragile than a vessel of glass? And yet it can be kept safe and last indefinitely.
Of course it is exposed to accidents, but it is not liable to old age and the suffering it brings.
We therefore are the more frail and infirm. In our weakness we are haunted by fears of all the calamities that regularly befall the human race, and if no such calamity overtakes us, still, time marches on.
We may evade the blows of fortune, but shall we evade death? We may escape perils from without but shall we escape what comes from within us? Now, suddenly, we may be attacked by any malady.
And if we are spared? Even so, old age comes at last, and nothing will delay it.
(Sermon 109, 1: PL 38, 636)
Augustine (354-430) was born at Thagaste in Africa and received a Christian education, although he was not baptized until 387. In 391 he was ordained priest and in 395 he became coadjutor bishop to Valerius of Hippo, whom he succeeded in 396.
Augustine’s theology was formulated in the course of his struggle with three heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. His writings are voluminous and his influence on subsequent theology immense.
He molded the thought of the Middle Ages down to the thirteenth century. Yet he was above all a pastor and a great spiritual writer.
**From Saint Louis University