During Lent we heard the word “repent” a lot. Let’s take a look at the word, “repent”. We usually associate the word “repent” with sin. But the deeper meaning is much bigger.
The word in Greek was “metanoia”. “Repent” is the English equivalent for “metanoia”. Metanoia meant to see things differently, to change one’s mind. When we begin to see things differently we are often faced with the need to change the way we think about something. Metanoia is a new way of thinking.
If you believe the world is flat, then when you have the opportunity to see the world from a distant satellite, or the moon, you see things differently. You have to adjust your thinking.
When you fall deeply in love with a person you believe should become your life partner, your spouse, and the person with whom you will share parenting, and your life. Everything changes.
When you see your child born, you undergo a metanoia. The world is changed, and you can never come to see things the same way as you had before.
If you were committing some grave sin, like Mary Magdalene, who had been brought before Jesus for being caught in the act of prostitution, you know you are a sinner. She knew she was about to be stoned, according to custom. Jesus intervened and told Mary, “Go and sin no more.” Her world changed immediately. She would live, not die. That was a moment of metanoia, repentance. She suddenly began to see things differently and became a follower and disciple of Jesus, and a Saint of the Church.
This former sinner experienced repentance, metanoia again at the Resurrection. The very first person to whom Jesus appeared after His Resurrection was Mary Magdalene, not the Apostles. She underwent another “metanoia” at the tomb, when she realized that Jesus was not dead, but standing right in front of her. She understood and went immediately to tell the Apostles.
The Apostles still did not understand what “rising from the dead” meant. When Jesus was crucified and buried, the apostles saw his dead body with his wounds. They saw the blood. They were having a tough time believing in the resurrection of the body that Jesus had taught, because it was a completely beyond their understanding. They had never seen anything like it.
Do not judge St. Thomas for his doubts. Instead, be grateful that his “metanoia” has been preserved in scripture. We are witnesses to his “repentance”, not from sin, but his coming to see things differently. He began to have a new way of thinking, and he could no longer think as he did the prior week. We hear him say after first hearing reports of the resurrection,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
When Jesus appears again, Thomas can see for himself. Jesus says to Thomas, showing him his wounds,
“ … do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him,
“My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him,
“Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
After the Resurrection, we see a steady stream of metanoia, “repentance”, with many coming to see things differently. The result is powerful. In metanoia the Church is born, and born again, and born again.
The challenge for each of us is to repent in the same way. When we hear the Gospel, do we allow ourselves to come to see things differently and to think in a new way?
The Acts of the Apostles was written as a record of massive, rapidly spreading metanoia wherever the Gospel was preached. The author, St. Luke, makes certain we also see the effects of metanoia, repentance. Many quickly came to see their lives and their neighbors differently. St. Luke writes,
The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, ….
We are now called to bear witness to the resurretion. Keep Jesus commandments and proclaim him to others as our Lord and God. “Do not be afraid.”
And believe in forgiveness of sins through the Church. As we heard him say, “Peace be with you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,”Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Repentance, metanoia is available to us every time we go to Confession. This metanoia is the beginning of Divine Mercy for each of us.