They repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Matthew 12:41
The word for repent in the original Greek NT is metanoeō. It is used some 56. It’s etymology is composed of two words. Meta means after or along with, and vous mind or thought. It means thinking differently. At the preaching of Jonah who was coughed up by a sea monster, the people were astonished and turned to God. Jesus reminds us that a far greater person was with them now. He was trying to get our minds and hearts straight on the depths of God’s care and availability for us! On the very first talk Jesus gave He proclaimed: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mk 4:17
Perhaps the best word in English for metanoeō is conversion, or turning from sin and worthless things to the wonderful God Who loves us! It takes a lifetime to turn our lives completely to God. We see this long and difficult journey in the Book of Exodus. In our first reading, we see the journey begins with God’s promise to clear our way through near-impossible odds. “As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.” Ex 14:16
It takes a tadpole 2-3 months to become frogs but it takes our whole lifetime for us to be like Christ! It takes about 19 days for a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly. There have been some very graced people in a very short time that achieved the holiness of Christ. But in one way or another, it takes a lifetime of grace and response to experience conversion.
Christ Himself told us: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” John 12:32 Christ on the Cross is God’s greatest Theophany to literally drag us to Himself.
The story is told of a priest who bought a rather large crucifix and was stopped by guards at airport. “This might have a bomb inside! We have to X-Ray it.” The priest thought if they only knew how explosive the crucifix really is! This massive act of love certainly needs to be X-Rayed by us to be thoroughly converted to God!
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.