Thursday, February 11, 2010

Renewal of the heart may include awakening

The Very Rev'd Msgr. Tony Jack Howard, Pastor of St. Clement of Alexandria Liberal Catholic Church, speaks about metanoia on 13 September 2009, the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity. He says, "The Greek word for "repentance" is metanoia, often used to mean "to change your mind." In his book Writing in the Sand, which we will study during Advent, Thomas Moore asks us to understand the term as a more crucial turning away from default reality toward the kingdom of heaven." After listing the four terms of the Jesus way according to Moore — metanoia, basilea, agape and therapeia — Howard says:
"Here are the fundamentals of the Jesus philosophy. You change profoundly: You don’t just repent and feel sorry for your mistakes. You adopt an utterly unconventional point of view. You live a different reality, even though you are still working out your worldly life. Two streams now define your life: earthly concerns and a spiritual vision. This change leads to a life based on love, a love rooted in radical and profound respect for the other. Eventually you realize that your chief role in life is to heal. That is how Jesus lived and that is what the Gospels teach.

Perhaps this more radical view of metanoia is at work in the selection from St. Matthew’s gospel about the healing of "the man sick of the palsy." Remember: Jesus says to him — “Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." The Scribes think Jesus is blaspheming, so Jesus does something that has always puzzled me before; he says “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins [he turned to the sick man and said] "Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house." The power to forgive sins and the power to heal, assumed by the Scribes to be within the province of Yahweh alone, are here illustrated as coming from Jesus. "And when the multitude saw it, they marveled, and glorified God, who had given such power unto men." Not just to this one man, mind you, but "unto men." It is a gift of God given to those whose "change of heart" has opened them up, eviscerated them so that they may be filled with Spirit rather than ego, agents of healing rather than servants of self. If Moore is right in his interpretation of Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels (the subtitle of his book), then what is at work here is more than a moralistic regret for our sins and a desire to avoid punishment. We don’t just seek to be good, but to be awake. What is at work is an existential crisis, a choice to affirm a radical new life in which all of our self-serving assumptions and neuroses are burned away as we see that forgiveness of our sins brings us into a relationship with God that empowers us to love and to heal first ourselves, then our families, then our enemies — indeed, we are healed and forgiven so that we may heal and forgive."
Howard shares, "I don’t have it all worked out yet. In fact, I suspect what is going on here lies more in the realm of mystery than of logic."

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