Thursday, January 7, 2010

Metanoia- Important Word For Our Lives

In the recent Catholic Peace Weekly , a priest with a doctorate in missiology mentioned his experience with a man in his religion class. The student had made a success of life, he was in his sixties, a model student sitting in the front row. However, on the face of the man he saw discontent. "Why is it that those in the upper classes don't exchange greetings with us , why is there so much 'do this and do that', I don't understand! Isn't this something that the school should deal with?" He was very critical and always complaining but there came a change.

This came about at the daily Mass they had at the school: each one of the students would express their thoughts on the readings and relate it to their lives. One day a man expressed himself in the following way:

"I am a person who by studying on my own was able to get a high position in government. I was a happy man , all was well . Suddenly a great misfortune entered my life. The son, I was greatly attached to, died in an accident while in the army. That incident was too much for me. I hated God and could not go to Church. Those that killed my son I could not forgive. It was during this time that I began to reflect on what God wanted from me. I gained some courage and decided to come to this school. I am still crying over the loss of my son but I have forgiven all those involved and looking forward to what I can do in the parish and society."

The man in his sixties complained and grumbled less. From his mouth you heard the words: "I don't know. " He was always a good student but now he reacted with the students in a different way. He was the first one to greet the students and color returned to his face. The sharing he heard at Mass brought change in his life.

The column starting in the Catholic Paper is written by a priest who has studied mission theology and is stressing that we have to experience God in our lives if we want to be a bearer of his message. We have to be open to God's graces, and the experiences of others, this will change and enable us to give what we have received.

In recent years I have begun to realize that the the word repentance , penance, remorse and the like, are words that we translate into English from the Greek word metanoia, which means a change of heart. The words we use, both in Korean and English- penance and sorrow of heart, are static words, it doesn't necessarily move from sadness to action. Metanoia is a very active word, requiring a change in what we were, to something we were not. Using the word metanoia for the words we use for repentance in the Scriptures would help to bring about a change in our thinking, a feeling of incompleteness. The day is probably not too far away when metanoia will begin to appear in our dictionaries. "To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often." (Cardinal Newman)

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