A Radical Change of Heart

January 24, 2021
A Radical Change of Heart

Chapter Talk – Third Sunday of the Year – January 24, 2021, cycle-B

The gospel for this third Sunday begins with the news of John the Baptist’s arrest. It follows with Jesus’ proclamation, his first words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Then the next movement in this gospel is the call of the first disciples: Simon and Andrew, James and John (Mk 1:16-20). The universal Church selected for the first reading a passage from Jonah where the prophet following the “Lord’s bidding” goes to Nineveh proclaiming a fast, asking repentance and warning there will be destruction if the people do not change (Jonah 3:1-10). The people heed the prophet’s word and repent….and then God has a change of heart: “God repented of the evil he had intended to do” (Jonah 3:10). Here we have a heart-to-heart encounter: God through the prophet and the people of Nineveh: God’s call to repent, the response of the people, and God’s act, God “repents”, he changes what he planned to do!!!! The ‘call’ of the disciples in the gospel is clearly situated in Jesus’ announcement: ‘The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe…’ Thus, in order to follow Jesus and to participate in the reign of God, there must be a radical change of heart and mind, a turning towards a new horizon, a new perspective. The ‘new wine’ of the gospel, says Jesus needs ‘new skins’ (Mk 2:22). Perhaps the immediate response of following Jesus by the first disciples begins in a rush of fervor…the ‘yes’ is there and very true. Still, the struggle will come, the demands of ‘following’ will slowly be revealed through the incarnate One, Jesus. At the core of following will be to take up one’s cross along with the great paradox: to lose one’s life for life (Mk 8:34-35). This core teaching, which Jesus will live completely, asks a major shift in orientation of mind and heart.

Pope Francis said: “Let’s consider a big obstacle to change, the existential myopia that allows us defensively to select what we see. Existential myopia is always about holding on to something we’re afraid to let go of” (Let Us Dream, p.18). Repentance is about change, about turning from an attitude or a view that is short-sighted, rigid, filled with fear, that in the Pope’s words ‘allows us to defensively select what we see’…To live the Good News of the gospel is to have this radical change in heart and mind. It involves this turn from whatever right now reduces how we see, defends what we see, creates a myopia of perspective, shrinks the horizon of the reign of God that comes in and through Jesus and his transforming Word. We don’t really follow unless we continually are open to change, change which the Spirit is prompting within each of us.

“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Why would Jesus after announcing the essential proclamation of the gospel add the words “Repent and believe”? This word repentance has a long history in the Hebrew Bible and through its prophets. In The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality we read that scholars have “sought to include the full depth of the biblical insight into the understanding of the process as a turning from and a turning toward. An emphasis has been placed on the transformational character of the total personality and on the role of God’s gift of grace within this process” (p.231). Within the call to follow, ‘repentance’ becomes a pivotal spiritual reality that we must be about in small and larger ways. A turning from a narrow, limited way of seeing life, of seeing one another and all of creation, to the all-inclusive, wide breadth and depth of how Jesus sees. Fulfillment is being offered: the reign of God has arrived…but where are we in heart and mind? Like the early disciples we have said ‘yes’…However, in our following, whatever reduces our vision and way of being needs the transformational grace to change and to heal.

In quoting again from The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, you may recognize this text that I have used before: “Bernard Lonergan’s work sets up explanatory categories of the human operations of consciousness. From within this context he explains conversion as a set of judgments and decisions that move the human person from an established horizon into a new horizon of knowing, valuing, and acting” (p.234). In Lonergan’s understanding conversion affected the “intellectual, moral and religious” aspects of human consciousness (p.234). Perhaps we can better understand the importance and urgency of this word ‘repentance’ that Jesus uses right as he begins his ministry. To ‘know, value, and act’ within this new horizon of the reign of God. The reign of God has arrived with Jesus…Now it needs you and me…all of us to incarnate the heart and mind of Jesus’ horizon, which is the immense horizon of his Father.

Our work: ‘This is the time of fulfillment’ says Jesus. This is the time to move from our established, fixed horizon to the new horizon of the reign of God…It is time indeed to take on the heart and mind of Christ and to embody the values of the reign of God which are far reaching in the dimensions of love, mercy and compassion. A new horizon, the new wine has arrived in Jesus. Repentance is about the grace God gives for transformation of one’s total personality. Let us not shun or turn away from this transformational grace so that the reign of God may be more fully alive and present in our lives.

Sr.  Kathy DeVico, Abbess

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