The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. -Luke 11:32
The word for repent in today’s Gospel is metanoeō or metanoia. This is one of the favorite words for conversion in the Greek inspired New Testament. The verb and nounare used 56 times indicating their importance in Scripture. Jesus begins His preaching in Mt 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The word metanoeō is not the easiest word to translate into English. It is composed of two words, meta which can mean after 88 times etc. The second word is noiéō meaning to comprehend, heed:—consider. I think the meaning rather strongly indicates the need of a change of thinking or acting. You can’t pour new wine into old wine skins. The amazing mystery of God’s incarnation was utterly beyond the hopes or imagination of the people in the Hebrew scriptures. With the coming of Christ He had first to prepare their mind for the incredible move of the Father giving His Son to us!
It is interesting how Jesus was upset when even his apostles could not appreciate this great mystery, Christ is recorded in the Greek New Testament using the critical word syniēmi (sun together+ send) which means to send together or put together. The verb noeo, lit. “to direct one’s mind to a subject” shares a close relationship with the word metanoeō i.e.need to deeply understand and change our thinking.
Jesus complains in Mark 8:21 “He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand (syniēmi)?” It took even the Apostles a long time to “get it together” the beautiful reality of Christ. When Mark uses “was saying” the original Greek clearly says Jesus was often saying this! The words “not yet” show that Our Lord after so long a relationship with his disciples, they still did not comprehend His wonderful identity.
For us conversion means primarily getting our minds and hearts to realize the magnitude of the Incarnation. This will never happen unless Christ reveals this to us. “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” LK 10:22 The first step of conversion is that Christ reveals Himself to us. This we need often to humbly beg Him to show Himself to us!
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.