Friday, December 4, 2009




Each year on the Second Sunday of Advent John the Baptist strides dramatically onto the church's liturgical stage crying “Repent! Reform your lives! The kingdom is at hand!” The New Testament verb translated as “repent” is metanoiete, literally "change your heart."
This change of heart (the noun form is metanoia) is of course different for each person, and is constantly evolving for each of us with the changing circumstances of our individual lives.

The most insistent reality in my own life this Advent season is my persistent back pain. I’d like to share some reflections from my prayer journal in which I've been trying to let the pesky reality of back pain point me in the direction of conversion of heart. Maybe you'll find something here that is of use to you.

First, "conversion" involves my way of relating with God. The pain has given new energy to my prayer, keeping me more focused, more insistent and more emotionally involved with God, sometimes questioning, sometimes complaining. It’s not John of the Cross mystical union, but it’s certainly authentic and personal.

Second, metanoia involves laying low the mountains of pride. The pain is humbling me, constantly reminding me of my creaturliness -- not much room for pride and arrogance when you’re always trying to find a comfortable position in which to simply sit in a chair and read a book!

Third, a crucial step in metanoia is to admit that I’m not in charge. I often have to alter my projects and plans because of my back-- to say nothing of waiting to see if the latest injections will have any effect. The pain keeps offering me opportunities to let go and admit my total dependence on God.

Fourth, if metanoia includes a call to be more compassionate (to “feel with” others or “suffer with” them), then my back pain is helping in my conversion. My pain is making me more sensitive to the suffering of my students, my fellow monks, and my brothers and sisters around the world who are living with all different kinds of pain - physical, emotional, spiritual – every day. Every morning at Lauds I’m reminded once again of my solidarity with the millions of other members of the "Benedictus Club" (see the entry for Sept. 26, 2009)

When John shouts his call to conversion this Sunday I believe that thanks to my bad back I’ll be better prepared to hear him than I’ve been in a long time.

I hope I’ll also be prepared to respond!

No comments:

Post a Comment