My Dear Sisters and Brothers! John’s words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand” may sound like a piece of advice to improve one’s behavior or to change what is evil in one’s life. However the Prophet from Jordan was saying that prophesies of old were about to be fulfilled. Prophet Ezekiel for example some centuries earlier said in the name of God: “I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people and I will be their God.” Repentance in the Bible is not what we do but it the initiative of the Lord. Repentance (Metanoia) is not primarily about changing our actions but about allowing God to change our thinking first. If God doesn’t give us one heart, a new spirit and a heart of flesh first, we will always grumble about God’s commandments and we will also envy the unbelievers for their so called “freedom.” The repentance preached by John the Baptist was about the coming of Christ who would give people one heart, a new spirit and a heart of flesh.
Last week I saw a movie called Arrival. For those who haven’t seen the movie that a story about aliens coming to the earth. However once you pass the aliens looking like octopus, the movie faces you with a big question: “Would you decide to have a child if you knew that the child was to die of cancer?” As the story develops aliens share with humans their language which changes the way people think. The final scene shows us, what we could call repentance (metanoia) of the main female character. She says “Yes” to having a baby and to sharing even a short time with the child rather than preventing the child from ever existing. Do you think that it is simply a since fiction story? In US 90% babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted now. How many other situations we can quote which show us a need for repentance (metanoia), change of thinking? I presume that lots of people will focus on the aliens’ bit of the movie and they will miss the big human question which surfaces in the movie: How to handle the events of life which don’t fit into our image of so called perfect life?
My Dear Friends! I detect that the director of the movie expressed a deep down desire of human kind to find a means of dealing with such a challenge. At the same time he acknowledged that such a solution needs to come from beyond our own little world called the Earth. As Christians we say that the message, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ give us a new appreciation and a new approach to how we live our lives. That’s why the Church has taken to heart what John the Baptist preached about allowing Christ’s message to penetrate us. There have been lots of interesting movies produced and even more inspiring books written so far but there is only One God who by speaking to us through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, by giving us his own words can repent (metanoia) us. Only God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit can change our thinking. From that change of thinking will come the change of living.