“I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” – Mt 3:11
Often times, it is easier to say sorry than to change one’s mind. I apologize often; and most of the time, I am genuinely sorry. This is part of what John the Baptist means by repentance. However, the Greek word for repentance, “metanoia,” means more. Literally “metá” means “beyond” and “noos” means “mind.” Hence, metanoia signifies a change of mind, a shift in mindset, a different way of seeing the world, ourselves, and others. This shift of mind triggers a conversion of heart and change in the way one relates to others, God, and self.
To my surprise, there are occasions when a conversion of mind and heart happens in me, beyond just saying sorry. I had an “allergic reaction” to a brother in the house. When I am physically near him, I feel like a bomb goes off inside. I feel agitated, annoyed, anxious, tempted to judge. I also feel bad and guilty for having these feelings. It took me some time, but slowly I learned just to let my feelings be without judging myself. I learned to embrace these negative feelings, be at peace, and actually listen to discover what might be going on within me. Gradually, I became more honest with myself and to even allow God in, to make space for God. I tried to look at my brother Jesuit with the eyes and heart of Jesus, to imagine Jesus being with him, caring for me, and loving him in his needs and struggles. I tried to pray this brother, for his well-being, even to imagine how I could cooperate with Jesus in loving the man. It took some time. But I began to notice a shift in attitude, in the way I see this Jesuit brother, with the way I relate with him. I became a bit more patient with myself, and grew to trust God more. Perhaps this is a glimpse into the baptism with “the Holy Spirit and fire” that John the Baptist announces: a conversion from rejecting my “allergic reactions”; a conversion for greater acceptance of someone quite different from myself. I am grateful for this change.
Lord, what negative feelings do you invite me to embrace and listen without judgment? Who do you invite me to greater acceptance, including accepting myself?