“We have been summoned to attentiveness, and we have heard the word announcing the coming together of the divine and human. But what is it that enables us truly to hear and respond? How can we see the light that has been so unexpectedly and suddenly turned on? Again, we consult Jesus’ opening speech in Mark’s Gospel: ‘repent and believe the Good News.’ The word so often and so misleadingly translated as ‘repent’ is metanoiete. This Greek term is based upon two words, meta (beyond) and nous (mind or spirit), and thus, in its most basic form, it means something like ‘go beyond the mind that you have.’ The English word ‘repent’ has a moralizing overtone, suggesting a change in behavior or action, whereas Jesus’ term seems to be hinting at a change at a far more fundamental level of one’s being. Jesus urges his listeners to change their way of knowing, their way of perceiving and grasping reality, their perspective, their mode of seeing. What Jesus implies is this: a new state of affairs has arrived, the divine and human have met, but the way you customarily see is going to blind you to this novelty…Minds, eyes, ears, senses, perceptions--- all have to be opened up, turned around, revitalized. Metanoia, soul transformation, is Jesus’ first recommendation.”
“But what exactly is the problem with the way we think and see? To give an adequate answer to that question we would have to work our way through the whole of the Bible and the Christian tradition, for the attempt to name and heal spiritual blindness is one of the basic motifs of our religion. But perhaps the simple answer can be given in these terms: we see and know and perceive with a mind of fear rather than with a mind of trust. When we fear, we cling to who we are and what we have; when we are afraid, we see ourselves as the threatened center of a hostile universe, and thus we violently defend ourselves and lash out at potential adversaries. And fear--- according to so many of the biblical authors and so many of the mystics and theologians of our tradition--- is a function of living our lives at the surface level, a result of forgetting our deepest identity. At the root and ground of our being, at the ‘center’ of who we are, there is what Christianity calls ‘the image and likeness of God.’ This means that at the foundation of our existence, we are one with the divine power which continually creates and sustains the universe; we are held and cherished by the infinite love of God. When we rest in this center and realize its power, we know that, in an ultimate sense, we are safe, or, in more classical religious language, ‘saved.’ And therefore we can let go of fear and begin to live in radical trust. But when we lose sight of this rootedness in God, we live exclusively on the tiny island of the ego, and lives become dominated by fear.”
Living in radical trust, as any follower of Christ knows, must be preceded by a deep conviction and belief. But what does this entail?
“‘To believe,’ as Jesus uses the term, signals, not so much a way of knowing as a way of being known. To have faith is to allow oneself to be overwhelmed by the power of God, to permit the divine energy to reign at all levels of one’s being… ‘Believing’ the ‘Good News’…has everything to do with radical change of life and vision, with the simple (and dreadfully complex) process of allowing oneself to swim in the divine sea, to find the true self by letting go of the old center.”
This Lent, let us open ourselves to this soul transformation. Let us let go of our “old center” and allow ourselves to be known by Christ, his divine life surging through us.
Tomorrow, Father Barron will provide further insight on how to change your way of seeing yourself.