— The Lord’s Day —

Week 3: Sunday

Pondering Jesus’ victorious Word

ANTIPHON (For the First Scrutiny)
Come to the waters, you who are thirsty, says the Lord; you who have no money, come and drink joyfully. (Isaiah 55:1).

COLLECT (For the First Scrutiny)
Grant, we pray, O Lord
that these chosen ones may come worthily and wisely
to the confession of Your praise,
so that in accordance with that first dignity
which they lost by Original Sin
they may be fashioned anew through your glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (For the First Scrutiny)
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95:8).

SCRIPTURE EXCERPT (For the First Scrutiny)
“Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in Him. When the Samaritans came to Him, they invited Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in Him because of His word, and they said to the woman, "We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world. (John 4:39-42)”


Many Sunday reflections that appear on this blog take their cue from a word or two contained in the particular Sunday’s proclamation. Given the possibility that you may listen to God’s Word from a different Lectionary cycle this Sunday because of the First Scrutiny, I thought it appropriate to offer the following that will express a common insight among the Readings from the current Lectionary cycle (B) [and cycle C as well], Lectionary cycle A, the First Scrutiny and the Season of Lent.

A few weeks ago, ashes were imposed as the Gospel imperative was sounded before our very eyes: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” That same imperative had been proclaimed weeks earlier on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent (μετανοεῖτε, metanoeite), and believe (πιστεύετε, pisteuete) in the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15).” These form Jesus’ first commandments and first actions in light of the announcement of the Kingdom (Reign) of God. Because the Kingdom of God is at hand, repenting and believing are not only appropriate actions, they are imperatives for the disciples of Jesus.

What can be said about repenting and believing? Volumes. On one hand, the fact that much can be said about repenting and believing is a good thing. There are all sorts of ways that the Lord draws us to Himself and we certainly want to be careful about any improper human restrictions on the Father’s mercy, forgiveness and the ways of believing. Yet on the other hand, because much can be said about repenting and believing, our language concerning these often degenerates to the point of using repenting to describe repenting because we really find it hard to express a core meaning. Along these lines there is also the concern of a meaning or description’s depth. Sometimes our approach to biblical challenges is superficial and surface-level; sometimes due to sloth but other times due to a lack of knowledge of a biblical word’s meaning in the context of the Sacred Text.

The command μετανοεῖτε is a compound of the Greek prefix μετα (meta, “beyond”) and the Greek noun νοος (noos, “mind”). Literally, μετάνοια is “going beyond the mind” suggesting an action “from the heart.” This is certainly the way of living that the Divine Lawgiver had in mind when the Decalogue was offered to the Chosen People (Year B readings). The 10 prescriptions of the Covenant were not intended to be a mindless checklist of do’s and don’ts that ‘earned points with God,’ but a norm for experiencing true peace and happiness lived from the heart. The season of Lent is not a time of begrudgingly ‘giving something up’ because it is Lent and that’s what I have always done. Lent’s echo of Jesus’ command to embrace μετάνοια is a summons to live the Kingdom from the heart. The woman of Samaria certainly undergoes μετάνοια as she is drawn from an attitude of hostility and indifference towards Jesus to becoming an evangelizer herself. In the Prayer over the Elect (First Scrutiny), the Church prays that each opens his/her heart to the Lord.

As important as “from the heart” is in exploring the depth of μετάνοια, I was fortunate to stumble upon a description of μετάνοια years ago put forth by the Jesuit philosopher-theologian, Bernard Lonergan in his work, Method in Theology. Over the years, I have – with due respect and deference to Fr Lonergan – tailored the description in view of additional patristic and theological insights. With that in mind, I have found the following helpful as a starting point to ponder Jesus’ summons to His followers:

μετάνοια is a Grace initiated and sustained response to the Kingdom of God that is a radical transformation actively engaging all dimensions and levels of human living. μετάνοια consciously acknowledges that life is an interlocking and interdependent series of changes and developments expressive of relational living with God, others, the true self and all of creation. μετάνοια further involves transforming apprehensions (how one sees the world), sensitizing conscience and moral criteria (values) all as a continuous straining forward to receive the ‘call up’ from God the Father in Christ Jesus Our Lord through the Grace of the Holy Spirit.

Yes there is much to ponder in the description of what seems is to be simple and “from the heart.” Yet the affects and effects of Original Sin often limit what we think needs to be done in terms of repenting … if I just change this or change that – I will be fine, I will be done. The truth is that this side of the grave the work of μετάνοια is never done. As the Lord’s Grace leads us onward and upward, μετάνοια is an affirmation not only of transformation that needs to occur, but more so the discovery of abundant riches of the Father’s loving mercy poured into our lives as Gift.