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2nd Sunday in Advent – Homily

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:1-2)

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony …in keeping with Christ Jesus (Romans 15:5)

The “Sunday Website” at St. Louis University looks at the readings from the Second Sunday of Advent.  Their website offers some ideas concerning the true meaning of repentance, as presented by John the Baptist. It is not merely about saying “I’m sorry,” asking forgiveness and penance. John is talking about metanoia.

change of direction

Metanoia is not just about an action or an event. Metanoia is about lifestyle. It is about changing direction, conversion, transformation.  It is based on similar Old Testament concepts and involves a twofold movement of the heart:

  1. First – It involves someone who repents turns away from sin (1  Kings 8:35; Ezek 18:30) and turning toward God (Hos 6:1; Sir 17:25, 26;  Heb 6:1).
  2. Second – It entails a firm  and continued resolve to avoid them in the future. This is what  I want to focus on.

Continued resolve to a transformed lifestyle, or metanoia, involves a “what”component and a “when” component. Concerning the “what” component, let’s look at the three pairs of gifts provided in today’s first reading from Isaiah:

  • “Wisdom and Understanding” – are powers of the intellect. Here we are dealing with our minds, which is the realm of catechesis.
  • “Counsel and Might” – are powers of practical ability. Here we are dealing with our body, skills, will and actions, which is the realm of morality.
  • “Knowledge and Fear of the Lord” – are powers of piety. Here we are dealing with worship, devotion, religion, prayer and spirituality.

Juxtaposed on these are dimensions of time in our chronological and spiritual lives as outlined by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel:

  • “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This represents the beginning of our faith life after receiving the Sacraments of Initiation but also might correspond to a fallen-away Catholic who has returned with renewed vigor or a person who recently was received in the Catholic Church after having gone through R.C.I.A.
  • “His winnowing fan is in his hand; He will clear his threshing floor. This represents the middle of our journey and the place where many active Catholics find themselves. Here we’re dealing with living out the day-to-day challenges of personal morality, our calling, ministry and vocation.
  • “He will gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  Here we are looking at Catholics who have more years behind, than in front of them. It concerns our eventual demise and death as well as the “Second Coming of Christ.”

Metanoia looks at all of these components and asks:

  • What is going well in my life for which I can rejoice and give praise to God?
  • What are the areas where there is room for improvement and a focused increase of God’s grace?
  • Which component or aspects of my life DURING THIS ADVENT SEASON of 2013, is in keeping with God’s plan for me?
  • Which components are in need of some type of conversion or metanoia?

If you talk to people today about the topic of “sin,” they turn you off. But if you begin to discuss items like:

  • Lack of purpose in life
  • Loss of direction or meaning
  • Struggles with worry and anxiety
  • Shattered or troubled relationships
  • The struggle for intimacy that isn’t caught up with lust and hedonism
  • The striving to find a balance in the midst of a crazy schedule
  • Problems with body image or addictions.
  • The stifling drive to acquire more stuff
  • …. THEN you have an audience. But what are we really talking about here? We’re talking about SIN – and it’s effects!

I heard a quote this week: Don’t settle “for a life that’s less than the one you are capable of living.”- Nelson Mandela.   Was this not another way off calling people to “metanoia?  Notice that the Baptist does not merely point towards Christmas and the nativity of Jesus. He points to the Incarnation which, from the biblical perspective, is the entire “Christ event.” This includes not only his nativity but also his youth and his teen-age years (where he simultaneously fascinated the elders in the temple while REALLY making mom and dad mad at him). It includes his adult ministry when he was simultaneously highly popular and successful while scaring and angering others. It includes his suffering and death; the Resurrection and Ascension.

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:1-2)

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony …in keeping with Christ Jesus (Romans 15:5)

You cannot have Metanoia in your life on your own power. We need an incarnational relationship with Christ, ingesting Him in the Eucharist to allow that transformation – that metanoia – to incur within us so that the fruits of conversion can be seen.

Audio of the homily can be found here:

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