Job 38:1, 12-21, 40:3-5
Metanoeo – Greek – To turn around, to change one’s thinking, to repent.
Today’s readings all deal with repentance. But they look at it from three different views. Before we begin, let’s look at the word "repent." We often think of repentance as connected with guilt and suffering. But the Greek word used in the New Testament that is translated as "to repent" is closer to "changing one’s thought, to reconsider, to think in a different way."
In the first reading we have God’s answer to Job after Job demanded, ‘Show me where I have sinned. If I am punished so, where is my fault?’ God answers with some difficult questions: "Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from its surface? Have you entered into the sources of the sea, or walked about in the depths of the abyss? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or have you seen the gates of darkness? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?" After hearing God’s answer, Job repents, he experiences metanoia. That is, he reconsiders his thoughts, he turns his mind around. He recognizes the narrowness of his own view. He sees that his previous way of thinking (if bad things happen to me, I must have done something wrong) does not bring him any closer to God. He vows to stop seeing the circumstances of his life from this narrow point of view.
In the second reading the psalmist is speaking after he has experienced metanoia. He sees that there is nothing he can do to escape God. He surrenders his previous way of thinking and calls on God to lead him.
To understand today’s gospel passage takes some work. Not so much intellectual struggling as plain research. If we only read the quoted verses, at first it seems as if Jesus is saying how poorly He was received in Chorizan, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (His home town!) but then, He compliments them! After His condemnation He says, "Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me…" How does this follow? Going back to the full gospel provides the answer. Jesus is addressing the 72 disciples He is sending forth to perform great deeds. It is to them that He says "Whoever listens to you listens to me." Jesus is speaking of the repentance of entire towns and lands. He is sending His disciples out to accomplish this.
It is sometimes easy to despair when it seems that everyone in our organization, our city, our country, our world is in need of repentance (a change of thinking). And yet, we see that this is possible. The Civil Rights movement in the 60’s, Ghandi’s march across India, the end of apartheid in South Africa, these all show that God can call entire nations to repentance through the work of individuals.
My prayer for today is that I listen for God’s call to repentance in my own life and that I have the courage and strength to call others by example.
Talib Huff is a volunteer at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California.