The Meditations of St. Thomas Aquinas

December 19 – Penance

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt. 3:2)

  1. “Do penance, John the Baptist thus announces a certain life. As St. Augustine says, “No one, who is the master of his own will, can begin this new life, unless he repents of his old life.” Therefore, he first advises us to do penance and secondly, he announces salvation. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Like, “do penance,” by which the remission of sin is accomplished. Hence, Chrysostom [St. John Chrysostom] says, “With the birth of the Son of God, God sent a precursor into the world.”

It must be observed that it is one thing to do penance and another thing to repent. One repents who turns away from sin, but weeps not for having committed them. It must be realized that everything is referred to the intention of the mind, that is, a person must resolve not to commit sin again, and for this penance is required. To do penance, moreover, is to satisfy for sins committed. “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” (Luke 3:8). This refers to penance for sins committed after baptism. Hence Peter (Acts 2:38) says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

  1. “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Nowhere in the Old Testament is there found a promise of the kingdom of heaven. But John the Baptist was the first to announce it, for this pertained to his dignity [his identity]. Moreover, the kingdom of heaven may be considered in four ways:

First, it is called Christ Himself living in us through his grace. “For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21), for through the indwelling of grace the heavenly life is begun in us.

Secondly, Sacred Scripture is sometimes called the Kingdom of Heaven. “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you” (Matt. 21:43), that is, Sacred Scripture. It is called the kingdom because its law leads to the kingdom.

Thirdly, the Church militant on earth is called the kingdom of heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind.” (Matt. 13:47). It is called the kingdom of heaven because it was instituted after the manner of the heavenly church.

Fourthly, the kingdom of heaven is called the heavenly curia or celestial building. “many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11).  Moreover, before the time of John the Baptist, there was mention made only of the Kingdom of Jebusites, but now the Kingdom of heaven, the Church of God, is promised. (Matt. 3).

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