Sunday, April 19, 2015

Metanoia; 3rd Sunday of Easter

   I think it is fair to say that this past week we had a fantastic Parish Mission with Fr Leo Patalinghug. How many of you got to see him? All 3 days? Personally it was great to see this sanctuary filled to capacity for such an event! If you missed these evenings, do not despair, because for the last few days I have been trying really hard to come out with a way to share the message of these 3 days and I think I figure a way to do this. Sadly, if I want to keep my homily under 10 minutes, unlike Fr leo, I will not be able to show my own cooking skills…  If I were to compress Fr Leo’s  message into one easily digestible idea, believe or not, I can do this with just one word “metanoia”.
    Now this Greek word is not an easy word to translate into English. In today's readings this word is translated as “repent!” or “repentance” In fact, it is no accident that we hear this word twice in today’s readings, since it is a word used often by the Lord and the apostles.
     Now, we know that “repentance” is an action we take after  we have already done something wrong. It is the result of regret and guilt, and it involves our commitment to do something to repair the damage we have done. However this is not what Metanoia actually means. In fact this is not one word but a combination of two words; the first, “meta”  is the name of the markers used in a racetrack to indicate where the runners had to turn, and “noia” which means to have mental knowledge (noia-Know), so this word literally means “To know where are we supposed to turn”.
  So when in today’s two readings St Peter says “Repent that your sins may be forgiven” and the the Lord says in the Gospel “repentance would be preached in his name” they are not talking about feeling sorry for our sins but they are encouraging us to open our eyes and realize we need to turn our way of live around, from what was before into completely new direction.
  If you think about it, this is the same message Fr Leo brought to St Michael’s this past week. The first night he spoke specifically to our young people. He talked about how easy it is to sin and how difficult is to be good, and he demonstrated how in a group once one member decides to turn around and do good, this decision affects the whole group. All it takes is for one person to engage in this reorientation of one's life.
   The second night he dedicated to our Blessed Mother. He used her as an example of faith and trust. Turning around our lives will always be a scary process, because we really have no idea where the Lord is going to take us. Mary could not have known how much her life would change after finding herself as an unwed-mother and later as Simeon told her that “a sword would pierce her heart”. As scary of these things sound, she trusted God’s word, and always was open to God’s plan for her.
  On the third night Fr Leo showed us how we do not have to turn around our lives alone, how we have the sacraments especially reconciliation and the Eucharist to support us and guide us in this process.
    I’m telling you my brothers and sisters these 3 days were a fantastic opportunity for us experience “metanoia” in the way the Lord wants us too. Now there is one thing which I feel Father Leo left unsaid. How do we know if we are going the right way? After all change for the sake of change is never good. The worst think it could happen is that we decide to reorient our lives into a direction which is not what the Good Lord wants for us. Well I think this is where today’s second reading comes into play.  In this reading we hear St John telling “His children” that they have an advocate in Jesus who died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. But then he gives us the key to help us determine if we need to turn around our lives into a new direction he said: “The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.” and then he goes further. he says “ Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them.”
   Metanoia could be a scary thing, it is very easy to fool ourselves by thinking that we do not have to reorient our lives, it is very easy to lie to ourselves and to others making them and us think that we are OK. But the key is to make sure we are following Jesus commandments. And what is the easiest way to do this? By engaging in what the Church calls and “examination of conscience”.
   Now I have no time to tell you how to do a good examination of conscience, but there are some good resources online to guide you on this, and you can always make an appointment with a priest and he will help you. The point is, we all need to do this periodically if we want to follow the message of metanoia, of transformation and reorientation of our lives.
  I think last week’s mission was a complete success, but now it is up to us to built on what Father Leo accomplished, to take a good look at our lives and re-orient our whole being. Because when we do this, to use again the words of St John in the second reading “the love of God will be truly perfected in us.” God bless you.

Palm Sunday

    A few weeks ago I got a very strange text message from one of my daughters. She wanted me to tell her what color was the dress in a picture she was sending me; Maybe you know the picture and the dress I’m talking about. … and perhaps your own family like mine spend a couple of days arguing about “It is white and Gold...No it is Blue and black!”. The thing is...Regardless of what color this dress was, every one who saw it saw something completely different although they were all looking at the same picture of the same dress.
  Just now as we do every year, we heard the passion story as it was told by the Gospel of St Mark. I would venture to say that, today, like when that white and gold and blue and black dress almost break the Internet, each one of us heard a different story. For some this was the same long, boring story we have to endure every Palm Sunday. For others this story brought to mind images from the many movies they have seem about the passion of our Lord. Perhaps;  others, when they heard these words, might have remembered images of long gone Palm Sundays, from a time in which Churches presented Passion Plays with real Romans costumes and a real Cross.
  Regardless of what was our reaction to this long reading, today I would like to issue a challenge to all of you: Do you think you are brave and strong enough to, during this Holy week, especially during Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, to voluntarily forget all those tired images we recycle every year, and really pay attention to what will be happening  these days?  How about if we make a effort, this year to really enter into this story with all of our senses, all of our mind, all of our heart? Starting today lets really make an effort to hear the readings, to smell the incense, to see the fire in the candles and tapers, to really taste the wine and the bread. Let us make a conscientious effort to live these days like Jesus and the apostles lived then. Who knows, maybe we will discover new meanings for the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, for Jesus death on the Cross Holy Friday, for the new birth of baptism by those joining the Christian Church on Holy Saturday, for Jesus resurrection on Easter morning.
   If there is one thing that, sometimes white and gold, sometimes blue and black, dress proved is that usually we settle for the first thing our senses perceive and end up seen what we want to see. How about if this week we force ourselves not to settle, and make an effort to discover the true meaning of Holy Week?  Again I challenge you… are you strong enough?