Summary: We need to constantly see God’s creation and all that is in it with new eyes.
Third Sunday of Lent - Year C
March 11th, 2007
* Exod. 3:1-8a, 13-15
* 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 10-12
* Lk. 13:1-9
Seeing With New Eyes
In English, most of us understand the word "repent" in a very limited way. We often use this word as if it had only one small, restricted meaning. Repent seems to imply regret for some wrong that we committed. Repentance, understood in this way, means to change a particular behaviour that is sinful.
Biblically, this is not quite what is meant. In the gospels, the particular word used for repentance is metanoia. Literally, this means to do an about face, to turn around, to go in an entirely new direction.
Many of us are familiar with a famous passage in Thomas Merton where he describes a revelation he had one day while standing on the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville. Among complete strangers in the middle of a shopping district on a very ordinary day, Merton had the sense that his eyes, ears, and tongue were suddenly attached to a bigger soul: "I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all of those people, that they were mine, and I, theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness ... Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin, nor desire, nor self-knowledge, can reach the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only we could all see each other that way all the time! There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose that the big problem would be that we would all fall down and worship each other."
Everything Is Sacred
If we think that God is "out there", we will have no chance of understanding the experience that Thomas Merton had. Merton’s experience seems to be very similar to Moses’ experience. Moses stood in wonder before the burning bush when he heard God call out to him, saying: Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.
Everything is sacred. All ground, all of creation, all of life, all living things and people. When we talk about repentance as "metanoia," as facing a new direction, then learning to see everything as sacred could surely be called a basic act of repentance. Life is different for those who can see that God is hidden in all of creation.
If we think that God is "out there", then we are not seeing rightly and so we end up not living rightly. If we don’t see the divine image in all of earthly reality, then we will continue to pollute the earth, kill the unborn, treat animals as disposable things, create more garbage than our world can handle, use people instead of loving them. The burning bush can be found everywhere because God is the author of everything that is.
Preparing For The Gift
But how do we come to see in this new way? I wish I could give you an easy answer to this question. This new way of seeing all of creation and all of life is a gift from God. It seems that the best we can do is to prepare ourselves to receive the gift so that when it does come our way, we will be able to receive it. For example, Thomas Merton was a person who spent a great deal of time in silence and solitude. It’s almost certain that during those times he was allowing the Lord to prepare him to see in a new way.
But let’s imagine a different scenario for Thomas Merton. What if Thomas had developed the habit of watching TV every night, turning it on during the day, too, to catch a few soap operas? I wonder if he would have had the same experience on that street corner.
Try this for just a week: turn off the TV and listen to the silence. A whole different awareness comes to you. It is like new ground begins to clear inside you, where God now has the space to plant a new direction for your life. Now, I’m not condemning TV, music, or any other hobby. But don’t be afraid to ask: does my TV or hobby eventually block out my awareness of the bigger world of life around me.
Fig Tree And Fruit
The parable of the fig tree is asking the same question: What is my life producing? The fig tree gets condemned because it simply failed to produce what it was created to produce: figs! What were YOU created to produce? At every age and stage of your life, what are your unique gifts, placed into you by God? The main way we discover this is by quietly reflecting on our lives, and by asking God to show us the truth about who we are.