Flash

"METANOIA II" 05/23/11

May the Light of Easter, in the person of the Resurrected Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, continue to enlighten you through his Word, and shower you with the gifts and fruits of his Spirit. My plan was to follow up last weeks metanoia reflection with what must happen after metanoia, namely, a daily walk in the Father’s Vineyard, a walk with the Holy Spirit as a disciple, a mathetes of Jesus Christ.  That was my plan.  The Spirit had another!!  In researching things for the disciple/mathetes reflection, I ran across something I wrote in 2009 about metanoia.  I wrote it as part of a chapter in a book I was writing.

 

That book is being released to you now, a chapter a week, through these “reflections.”  If you are interested in learning more about your faith, I would encourage you to print these reflections, study them, look up all the bible quotes, write your thoughts on the pages, yes, mark them up and then share ideas/thoughts/experiences with myself and other Sowers, friends and family, and in a few months,  si Dios quiere, you will have a book called, “Walking in the Father’s Vineyard,” or “The Gospel of Joe,” readers choice!!

 

What is interesting about today’s metanoia reflection, is that the essential teaching remained the same, however, new Scriptures, examples, and experiences, are used to show how the transformation/encounter/metanoia can be understood and lived.  Using one of the most highly publicized scandals of 2009 as a launching point, here is another reflection on the beautiful and essential command of Jesus Christ:  METANOIA.

 

 

So Tiger Woods is human, aren't we all?  All compassion and prayer to his wife Elin in her time of pain and suffering, but to put the failings of Tiger Woods or any other person for that matter, into perspective, as Christians, let us call to mind, the words of our Savior Jesus Christ to the hypocrites, today’s and yesterdays, those who brought a woman accused of adultery before him, the arrogant and self righteous, those whose hearts are more attentive to law than to love, those who enjoy accusing others, pointing out others shortcomings and sins, "You WITHOUT sin, throw the first stone."  John 8:7.

 

As you know, no one threw a single stone, neither of rock nor of word.  However the reason I even mention Tiger Woods is not because of his sins but because of his successes.  Tiger Woods is not only one of the greatest golfers of all time but also one of our greatest athletes, in December of 2009, Tiger was named the "greatest athlete of the decade."  How does that happen?  How does a person get to such a level of excellence?

 

Like many children growing up in the United States, Tiger had the support of his family, especially his father, who trained him at an early age, gave him the tools, and encouragement to succeed, but his father could only take him to a certain level, at a certain point in time golf was no longer what Tiger’s father wanted for him, but what Tiger wanted for himself.  We must do the same with our own faith, our faith, one day needs to be ours, not our mom’s or abuelitas.

 

Golf is not a team sport, Tiger did this himself, he was alone on the golf course, he had an excellent caddie but caddies are just advisors, they do not swing the club: Tiger made the shots, Tiger made the putts, Tiger cashed the checks.  This is phenomenal, how does it happen? There are a few essentials.  Essential is the key word I want to focus on here, and by essential I mean if one facet is taken out of the equation, then the outcome changes.

 

To achieve the level of success that Tiger has attained, he must be committed to a life of physical fitness, (get in the gym and do the work) practice, (his putting, driving, sand game, and then play some golf) diet, (he cannot be living on double doubles and fries) and persevere in this routine, day after day, month after month, year after year, take any of these four "essentials" out of his life and he would not have recorded a phenomenal 97 professional victories including 14 major championships by the age of 35.

 

To be who he wanted to be, to accomplish his goals it was essential that he get up early in the morning and go to the gym, eat a balanced and healthy diet, go to the golf course and hit 1,000 golf balls, then play 18 to 36 holes of golf, and get up the next day and do it again and again and again, namely persevere in his routine.  Now here is where we connect the "essential" in Tiger Woods life and the success he has achieved to you and I and Jesus Christ.

 

A February 2008 study, by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), called “Sacraments Today: Belief and practices among US Catholics,” found that 56% of all Catholics in the US, have little or no contact with a parish, which means with their Church.  Why is this number so staggeringly high?  Many reasons: they disagree with a certain Church teaching, no one was available to anoint their grandmother in the hospital before she died so they got mad and stopped going, someone could not reserve the Church on the exact day they wanted for their wedding day, so they went to Vegas and never went back to Church, someone had an argument with a ministry leader, some say they are tired of the Church always asking for money, the list goes on and on as to why many Catholics choose to have little or no contact with their parishes.

 

In my mind however, the number one reason why Catholics do not regularly attend Mass or frequent their parishes other than for Baptisms and funerals is because they never met Jesus Christ, they have never had a personal encounter with the Lord and Savior they believe in.  They DO have faith, they do believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they just never conformed their lives to his Word and Church. (A testimony on this truth follows).

 

If any of these 56% had ever met Jesus, I believe that today, they would be serving him and actively participating in the Church, because the Catholic Church is founded by and centered on the one divine person, Jesus Christ, and once you meet Jesus, he calls you to worship him not in isolation, but as a Church, and to also serve him in others.

 

Yes, my thoughts are that those who choose to not avail themselves to the presence of Jesus Christ in the majesty of his Church and Sacraments, have never experienced his mercy, forgiveness, and love, in a personal way, they have never been introduced Jesus or taught about Jesus, in a manner in which they could know and encounter him. This is a problem, not only for those who have not encountered Jesus but also for the Church because many lapsed or inactive Catholics never return to the faith they were born and Baptized in, but are led away to other Christian denominations.

 

This truth, can be testified to by many Catholic family in a personal way, including myself, in the manner that we know how many of our family members now worship in other Christian denominations, and some even in non-Christian faiths like Buddhism or Hinduism.  In fact a May 17, 2001 article in PEW Forum on Religion and Public Life, says that “roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics.”  Ten Percent.  That is a staggering number.

 

The vast majority of the “inactive” Catholics, more than likely, have received the Sacraments of Baptism, first Holy Communion, Reconciliation, they have attended hundreds of masses, funerals, and weddings, yet they never came to know Jesus in a personal, Spirit led, life changing way.  All those years, faith, instead of being intimate and personal, their faith, just as mine was, remained routine, cultural, ritual, memorized, the faith of their parents.  Something was missing and so when they became adults, when they personally had the authority to make a choice whether to go to Church or not, whether to worship Jesus or not, they chose not, stayed away, and will continue to stay away until something really, really important happens.

 

I believe, that in order for a person to have an authentic Christian faith, and the adjective authentic may not connote to you exactly what I am trying to say, please substitute: active, biblical, disciples, personal, or realized, for authentic, but just keep reading and hopefully I can get the meaning across.  An “authentic” faith in Jesus Christ, is the Christian faith based on a life in the Holy Spirit, a life no longer lived for the “self” but the “other,” and for me personally, and after reading this hopefully for you also, this life must also be a life of Word and Sacrament, which means a life in the Church that Jesus himself founded, the Catholic Church.  Matthew 16:18

 

It is when a believer can answer “yes” to St. Paul’s brilliant question to the disciples he met in Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”  Acts 19:2.   To receive the faith of a disciple, an authentic faith, a Spirit lived and guided faith, a faith of serving others, a believer must do exactly what Jesus asks them to do in the bible.  What is that?  There are two "essentials," involved.

 

Let's go to the Word, when you seek truth/wisdom/Jesus, a good starting point is the Word of God.  The vast majority of biblical scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was the first Gospel written, near the time of the death of St Peter, who was martyred in Rome, around the year A.D. 64 or 65.  R.T. France, New International Greek Testament Commentary The Gospel of Mark, p. 37-38.

 

This being true, (some biblical scholars do not agree, but I’m good with it!) the Gospel of Mark, around A.D. 70, records Jesus’ first proclamation and commands, when, after Jesus is baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist and driven by the Spirit into the desert, after forty days in the desert Jesus begins to proclaim to the entire world his Gospel of salvation, "This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the gospel."  Mark 1:15.

 

Please take note of Jesus' first and essential command of what needs to happen to a person if they want an authentic faith, namely, they MUST "repent."  The English word "repent," is a translation of the fabulous Greek word metanoia.  Sowers and all those seeking a life in Word and Sacrament, please embrace this Greek word, memorize it, as Catholics, we are good at memorization, so now let’s apply it to the Word of God, put it into your Christian life and daily vocabulary, share this Word with other Christians, my experience is that very few Christians have been taught the importance of the Word, Jesus’ first command in the Gospel of Mark.

 

In order for inactive Catholics to become active, we must invite them, through friends and family, through Spirit guided “Welcome Back” ministries in our local parishes, by going door to door, to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, a life in the Holy Spirit, which begins with Jesus’ command, metanoia.

 

The Greek language is important for us as Christians because the most ancient of the surviving New Testament texts, are written in Greek.  The early Christian Church evangelized the world using the Greek Old Testament, called the LXX or the Septuagint, and also the Greek has nuances of grammar and meaning that do not always translate well to other languages.

 

The Greek word metanoia literally means "change of mind," and what Jesus is saying is that in order to follow him, in the manner in which Jesus asks us too, and this is important to note, we must follow Jesus’ Gospel, in the manner he commands and chooses and not make up our own personal Gospels, like I did for years, living the “The Gospel of Joe,” by adding or subtracting to the Gospel, our own personal requirements, what works for us.

 

So what Jesus is commanding is that every person, who seeks salvation, a life in the Holy Spirit, must "change the way they are thinking, and follow him, not ourselves.  This is the meaning of the word Christian, namely disciple is a Christ follower, “It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.”  Acts 11:26.  Change the way they are thinking about what?  About the choices we are making, how we live our lives.

 

Repentance is the outcome of what happens when a person takes Jesus' command, "change your minds," to their hearts, and without a change of heart, there is no metanoia.  Again, without a change of heart, there is NO metanoia.  If only our minds change, then the change is emotional/psychological and temporary, one of the senses/reason and not of the Spirit, and every metanoia is a spiritual change, a dramatic spiritual change.  For example, when a person hears, accepts, and believes the Word of God at Church or from a friend or by attending a weekend revival or retreat, and that person is really inspired and they give their life to Jesus, but when Monday morning comes around, they go right back to their old way of life, there was no metanoia, no change of spirit, simply enthusiasm, or a temporary change of mind.

 

If you are an evangelical Catholic, like all Sowers are, you have been proclaiming salvation in the name of Jesus Christ and new life in the Holy Spirit, (so you are a Pentecostal Catholic too!!!)  metanoia, to friends, family, colleagues, and strangers, you will have already experienced this truth, Jesus himself experienced this and passed this knowledge on to his disciples, “The seed is the Word of God.  Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved. Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear, receive the Word with joy, but they have no root, they believe only for a time and fall away in time of trial.”  Luke 8:11-13.

 

You see what Jesus is commanding here is not temporary or based on our emotions, or something that remains in our minds, but a total change of our personhood, who we are in our core being, our ontology, body, soul, and spirit, to the point where what we do in secret is not different from what we do in public, for this to happen, our hearts must change. We want to understand the word heart, in the manner in which Jesus as a Jewish man would have understood it, namely as signifying the entire persons being: body, soul, and spirit.

 

You see, when our minds change about how we are living, when we see our failures and shortcomings, for what they are, a grave offense against Jesus, family, friends, society, and Church, then our hearts begin to be humbled, were repent, we confess, our hearts begin a transformation of love, the spirit of the enemy is replaced with the Spirit of our Resurrected Lord, the Holy Spirit, which allows us then and only then, to be obedient to Jesus’ next command which is to believe in him, in his Gospel, and follow him and no longer ourselves.

 

Please note that in the Greek language, the words metanoia and believe, are in the imperative mood, this means that they are not suggestions, good ideas, possibilities, musings of our God, no, they are his commands, commands to all those who want to follow him, be saved, and share eternal life, meaning to live forever blessed in his kingdom, or as Pope John Paul II called it, “unending happiness.”

 

Also take note of the order in which Jesus gives these two commands.  First we must have a metanoia.  Jesus is revealing to us as believers and to the entire world, that faith begins with a change of mind and heart.  Lapsed/inactive Catholics, those that choose not to be a part of their Church, and those Catholics, like myself, whose faith was ritual, memorized, and living in my mind, only live the second command, “believe.”

 

Yes, even when I was living the Gospel of Joe, I did believe in Jesus, yes, lapsed Catholics do believe in Jesus, but a faith without metanoia: without encounter/transformation/Spirit, is a faith that allows a person to believe and follow their own Gospel, the Gospel of Jennifer, the Gospel of Luis, but not “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” Mark 1:1.  Without encountering Jesus, without faith becoming personal, without receiving the Holy Spirit, the true Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, remains in the mind and not the heart, causing a person to either stay away from the Church or live their own Gospel.

 

So what needs to change?   Depends on what your idols are. We must change the way we think and how we act, change how we are living, change what is controlling and dominating our lives: jealousies, revenge, fornication, addictions; the worldly things we are attached to cars, Tec toys, TV, possessions in general; change the foolish creeds we often live by like “Skin to win,” “Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” “He who dies with the most toys, wins,” “All I want is everything,” and anything else that keeps us away from a life committed to and purposed by Jesus, namely a life in the Spirit.

 

Metanoia is that moment in our lives when we come to the realization that the more our lives revolve around us, and the things of the world, the more we suffer.  It is the moment when we conform our lives to Jesus Christ, as opposed to living for our “selves.” St. Paul had a metanoia, a big one, a really big one, and in his letter to the Church in Corinth, he reveals what changes in a person, once they have come to know Jesus in a personal and intimate way, through metanoia, “For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore all have died.   He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 

Did you receive this Word?  “SO THAT THOSE WHO LIVE MIGHT NO LONGER LIVE FOR THEMSELVES BUT FOR HIM.”  That is metanoia.  It is the moment in our lives, when we are Spirit dominated, Spirit activated, Spirit guided, it is when we no longer live for ourselves, but the love of Christ impels us to worship him and serve him in others. St Paul speaks of this change of heart and mind to the Church in Philippi in this way, “Do nothing out selfishness or vainglory, rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but everyone for those of others.”  Philippians 2: 3-4.  Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb.

 

What is vainglory? Vainglory is empty glory, it is the glory that I seek for myself, it is the glory that you seek for yourself, that is the old me, that is the old you, we do not walk in that vineyard anymore, we have put on Christ, we are clothed in his Blood, we walk in and with his Spirit, we agree with St Paul when he asks the Church in Rome this question, “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from righteousness.  What profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed?”  Romans 6: 20-21.  Paul’s the man.  My answer to the man is zero, none, nada.

 

I received no profit from my selfishness, lust, violence, greed, and pride.  How about you?  What “profit” did you receive from your sins?  Once are minds and hearts are conformed to HIM, then Jesus says, believe in my Gospel, Jesus says the same thing to his Apostles, when on the day he sought them out, he commanded Peter, Andrew, James and John, "follow me."  More on this later.  So a realized, a biblical, an active, a personal, an authentic, a Holy Spirit led faith in Jesus Christ, is that moment in our lives when we are in a permanent state of repentance.

 

Some will think of this as impossible, a “permanent state of repentance?”  What does that mean?  How is that possible?  To understand the meaning, we cannot be translating metanoia in the English sense of the word repentance, where we think it means walking around all sad, depressed, and saying "I'm sorry," over and over again, no, it is not that, but as the Greek reveals, our minds and hearts have changed to such a degree, we become “self” aware and “other” aware because our lives are so conformed to Jesus that we are now permanently aware, through the Spirit that now dwells in us, of how right or wrong our choices are.

 

Our consciences which were once erroneous are now informed, we are now aware of our responsibilities and the consequences that can result, from all the good and bad choices we make, and that the life we lead before, was a sham, a fake, and what caused us to be so miserable, and now we will do everything in our power to not go there again.

 

 

Metanoia, will make all your words and actions important to you.  You will always be keenly aware of the consequences of your anger and your love. With a metanoia, we become permanently, “unselfish,” and everything changes: marriages, relationships, free time, what is important to you, who you fellowship with, our jobs, our emotions, will all be directed by the Holy Spirit towards Christ, who will point us to serve him in others.

 

Our addictions, our fears, our sins, no longer control all our thoughts, time, and desires, no, now Jesus does, now Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is the central focus of our entire life in a way he never was before. For the first time, the Gospels, which we have been hearing all our lives, actually have a purpose and a meaning, yes, we can understand the Gospels, the Word, in a way in which they can be lived, put into action.  For the first time in our lives we know what it is to follow Jesus Christ in the manner of his choosing and live the Gospel of mercy, forgiveness, charity, and love.  Metanoia is the moment when we no longer simply believe things about Jesus, things that stayed in our heads but never entered our hearts, but now we are acting upon what we believe.

 

Our faith in Jesus Christ now dictates what we say and how we act.  For those friends and family members who knew us before metanoia, this change is temporary. They will say, “Just give it some time, that fool will be back to his old ways, he’s said this stuff before.”  And of course they are they are right!!  In the past, because faith was in our minds and not our hearts, in times of suffering and need, we did turn to Jesus for help, we did believe in him, we did believed that we could call upon him, we would say things like, “Jesus you know I love you, sorry I have been away, do this for me and I’ll be back for good,” or “Jesus if you help me just this one time, I promise I will go to Mass every Sunday,” or “Jesus, if you do this one thing for me, I promise I will change my ways.”

 

When Jesus did help us, when he showed us his love and fidelity by not holding our  unfaithfulness against us, “if we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself,” 2 Timothy 2:13, when Jesus did come and rescue us, we did not follow up on our promises, we went right back to the Gospel of Me, to a life of selfishness, to a life led away from the Church, because our faith was not in our hearts, we only allowed Jesus into our lives when we needed him, not as a permanent experience of love and mercy, an authentic faith, a disciples faith.

 

Because of our past, it will take some time for others to believe, what we know truly happened in our lives.  There HAS been a transformation of heart, a great, great transformation of heart and self, yes our lives changed, often dramatically for those who, like myself, for years, have been bound by selfishness, drugs, violence, alcohol, and sex.  You will begin to follow Jesus and leave behind the I, me, mine, you will hear the voice of Jesus, what he teaches and commands, often for the first time, and you will begin to live his teaching and commands.

 

What Jesus is reveling to us and the entire world is that metanoia is the beginning of a new life of freedom and that new life continues daily through the Spirit, which impels us to believe in the Gospel of salvation and follow Jesus, to leave our idols of revenge, jealousy, sex, addiction, and possessions, behind and to worship God alone, serve him in others.

 

So metanoia is the beginning of our journey with Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and not the end.  Saying, "I have given my life to Jesus Christ, he died for my sins, I am saved by his Blood and Resurrection," are all true statements, but then there is tomorrow, and we must continue the transformation of mind and heart, metanoia, and follow Jesus daily, be obedient to his Word, not just one day, the day the eyes of our hearts were opened, but everyday, until that glorious day when we are judged as worthy disciples and enter his kingdom, his eternity.  A song by Stevie Wonder, can give us some insight here as to what Jesus commands in our metanoia and belief in his Gospel as Stevie wrote of his love for another, "I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow,"  Amen Stevie.

 

Do you see the point?  Love is not a one day, one time experience, no, the initial moment of love is the beginning of a relationship, a life time of love, because “God is Love,” 1 John 4:8, and therefore our relationship and love of Jesus and others must grow daily and now in and with the Holy Spirit, this love can and will grow. Yes, through this new Spirit, this Holy Spirit that now abides/dwells/lives within us as disciples, daily, we grow in love and mature in faith.

 

Jesus has been always asking to be that love in our lives, that love which grows and grows daily, and after years of saying no, through selfishness, pride, hate, revenge, and jealousy, now through our metanoia, we sing a new alleluia, we have a new Amen, we say yes to Jesus, yes Jesus come into my heart, take my life, be first in my life, I repent, I love you.

 

My personal experience is that a daily life in the Spirit, and serving others, must be lived on a daily basis because: How many days did you live in and with the wrong spirit?   How many years did it take you to become the person that today you know you did not want to be?  How many bad habits did you learn?  How many awful things and ways of life were you doing and living?  Well, if you were like me, many, too many.  It took years of selfishness and sin to make me who I wasn't in Jesus eyes.

 

So although my salvation was immediate, yes, when you come to Jesus, he is not asking for more than a contrite, a repentant heart, and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I received a pure heart and a new Spirit, because for the first time, I really meant it when I said, “and I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.”  But man I had a lifetime of selfishness and sin, a lifetime of thinking one way, a lifetime of making the wrong choices, a lifetime of the Gospel of Joe, I needed time to learn the true Gospel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

I had to learn how to live with this new heart, I had to learn what it means to live in and with this new Spirit, the one promised by the Father, through the Prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.”  Ezekiel 36:26.  Amen to the Blood, through his Blood, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus fulfills this prophesy in all those who believe and follow him.

 

I needed thousands of hours in prayer, in the Word, in the Eucharist, among new friends walking in the same Spirit, learning how serving others, serving others is foolishness to a selfish person.  In my walk in the Father’s Vineyard, I needed to unlearn all the bad habits and things I had been living and thinking before metanoia, and for me this transformation happened day by day, month by month, year by year, as it still does today, the love of Jesus acted upon me day by day, through his Church: in Word, Spirit, and Sacraments, and service, his love became a habit in my life, and now, to live without is his love is impossible to even comprehend or imagine.

 

We can learn this truth, how metanoia means a change of heart and Spirit, that needs years of prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service, (PWSS), from the Apostle, St. Paul, who Jesus personally revealed himself too on the road to Damascus, the day of St. Paul’s metanoia, the day Jesus and chose him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

 

After this revelation and subsequent transformation, St. Paul spent three years in prayer and study, learning the things of God and unlearning all the bad habits and misconceptions that he once lived by, “I did not immediately consult flesh and blood nor did I go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, rather, I went to Arabia and then returned to Damascus.  Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Kephas and remained with him for fifteen days.”  Galatians 1:16-18.  Even when the Word reveals that he went to Jerusalem to meet with Peter (Kephas), this does not mean that he ever stopped maturing in faith and spirit, through a life of PWSS.

 

St. Paul had a metanoia, he now personally knew and met Jesus, and his heart changed, he was no longer selfish, no longer persecuting the Church, his mind was awakened by the Truth to the Truth, his heart was transformed in love, he now knew that he had to conform his entire life, for ever, no matter the suffering or circumstances, to Jesus.

 

But like many of us, St. Paul had a lot of baggage, he had to learn how NOT to be a Pharisee, how not to hate Christians, how to listen to and follow the Holy Spirit, how salvation is not from a law but from a Person, a Divine Person, our Savior Jesus Christ, so he began a journey of prayer and learning, a daily journey, never going back to his former life, a lifetime in the Holy Spirit, a journey which he believed, as I believe, led him to eternal life, “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” 2 Timothy 4:8.

 

I am a witness to the majesty and immediacy of  Jesus' power coming upon a person and instantly healing them of life long addictions to violence, sex, alcohol, or drugs, I can testify to this truth, but even after a person receives that miracle, that grace, they need  daily encouragement, to STAY that way, which means learning how to daily live a life in the Spirit, which is a life of prayer, a life in the Word, a life of Sacrament, a life of serving others.

 

As I mentioned, our  transformation of heart and mind, also means that we must seek new friends, friends who walk in the same Spirit, because our old friends have not have a metanoia, most do not live with the Holy Spirit, and if we stick with our old friends who are still partying, still asking us to smoke that bud, take a couple shots of "sex on the beach," or sleep with that friend because she or he “likes you,”  it’s a tough battle to constantly fight, your faith is still in the “milk” stage, you will succumb to the enemy, who through your friends, will try to get you back.

 

Staying in the same world, with the same friends, is a sign that metanoia did not take place, just enthusiasm, because with an authentic transformation of heart, your old world will be an abomination to you, you will want to seek new friends.  You will be totally “aware,” that the things that are still important to your old friends are no longer attractive and important to you.

 

So yes, metanoia and belief in the Gospel, the following of Jesus Christ, cannot be separated, they are daily realities, know this truth, believe this truth, live this truth.  Let us now take a biblical look at what it means to follow Jesus’ second command, “believe in the gospel.”   As we will see next week, in our reflection on discipleship, as the Word reveals, Matthew 7:21, there are many believers, but fewer disciples, those who live in the Spirit and authentically follow Jesus.  Wherever Jesus is, they are.

 

A person can easily say, and I always did, that we are Christians, believers in salvation in the name of Jesus Christ only, but if our actions do not imitate our beliefs, if the words that come out of our mouths do not conform themselves to what we claim to believe, to obedience to Jesus and his Church, then we are just fooling ourselves, our families and friends, and our Church.

 

However please understand this like you understand that the government always gets paid, Jesus can never be fooled!! "If we had forgotten the name of God and stretched out our hands to a strange god, would God not have discovered this? For he knows the secrets of our hearts."  Psalm 44:22.  The prophet Jeremiah reveals, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”  Jeremiah 1:5.  Jesus himself teaches his disciples, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him,” and “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be know.”  Matthew 6:8; 10:26

 

Jesus is God, knowing our thoughts is not a really hard thing for God to do, it’s easy, it’s part of who God is and what God does.  Remember how hard it was to fool your mom when you did something wrong?  Somehow she always knew or found out that you were lying, ditching school, getting high, driving crazy, drinking, not spending the night where you said you did, with God, it's like that only way worse, like a zillion times worse, because now were not trying to fool our mom but our God.

 

Having a metanoia, let’s us know, often for the first time: ‘Don't go there, don't say one thing and live another, don't live a double life, don’t be one person in secret and in public another,’ or as the Hispanic culture so deftly describes as "dos caras."  Brothers and sisters in Christ, please "Let your "yes" mean "yes" and your "no" mean "no," so that you may not incur condemnation."  James 5:12.  I did all that, and I write this now so that you do not have to go through the same sufferings I did in order to get it right.

 

I called myself a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ in the Catholic faith but I never really was a Christian because without a metanoia, without entering into a personal relationship with Jesus, without a life in the Spirit, by changing my heart and mind to his plan and purpose for my life, my faith was as empty as my heart, I was not a Christian because I did not follow Jesus, I followed myself and anyone who follows themselves can say as often and as loud as they want to whomever will listen, "I am a Christian."  But really they're not.  Let's go to the Word.  Let's go to the bible to see what it means to believe in the gospel and be a follower of Jesus Christ, a Christian.

 

"As he was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea, they were fishermen. He said to them, come after me and I will make you fishers of men. (My thoughts: this is God's voice, a divine voice, the only voice that when heard and followed will lead a person to eternal life/salvation).  At once they left their nets and followed him. (This is metanoia, they hear God's voice, there is an interior transformation, a spiritual transformation, and they follow that voice, they leave what was most important in their lives to follow the voice of salvation).  He walked along from there and saw two brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.  He called them (Again, God's voice of mercy and salvation penetrating their hearts) and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him."  Matthew 4:18-22.

 

Notice what an authentic faith looks like:  Jesus calls, they hear his call, drop everything, change everything in their lives, and follow him.  Where is their metanoiaIn the walk, the following of Jesus.  They leave everything behind.  To leave possessions, security of a job, family, friends, literally everything behind to follow Jesus, there must have been a tremendous change of mind, which led to a change of what was most important to their hearts, life changing spiritual change.

 

Now, wherever Jesus walks, they walk with him, there is a beginning but the beginning is not the end, the Apostles stay with Jesus on a daily basis so they can be taught by their Savior, so that can come to know, in a personal way, who Jesus is, so they can unlearn the foolish things taught by the Pharisees and what impedes them from understanding and proclaiming Jesus' Gospel.

 

Again please take note of the dramatic changes that metanoia and the following of Jesus induce, because right now the Word of God is asking you and I this question: “What do we need to leave behind in order to follow Jesus in the manner in which he is asking us to?”  Jealousies, possessions, power, pride, selfishness, etc.?  Let the power of prayer in Spirit, guide your thoughts and answers.

 

We also want to note that in the Gospel of John, after Jesus is arrested, and three times, Peter has denied he is a disciple of Jesus, the Resurrected Jesus Christ appears to him, and personally asks Peter if he loves him, Peter replies “Yes,” and Jesus commands Peter to feed his sheep and to be a shepherd to them.

 

What is inspiring is that in John’s Gospel, Jesus ends this conversation with Peter, with the same command of metanoia he gave Philip, a command that Peter, Andrew, and John, had already been obedient too, “The next day he decided to go to Galilee, and found Phillip, and Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”  John 1:43, and after Jesus commands Peter to tend his sheep, he says, “And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”  John 21:19   Jesus is saying, ‘I am going back to my Father, but you must continue to follow me, I will send you the Holy Spirit to teach and guide you on the way, tend my sheep, follow me.’  He does.  They do.

 

Yes, the Apostles did follow Jesus, and in doing so, they leave all that is important behind, all that used to be first in their lives behind: their possessions, their love of the sea, their boats, their way of life, their friends and family, their leisure, their routines, their city.  This is a dramatic and life changing choice, and yes it was their choice, Jesus calls us in freedom, we can, and often do say no.

 

Are you ready to follow Jesus?  Are you ready to do what the Apostles and all his disciples did and leave everything behind: anger, possessions, greed, family, lust, friends, jealousy, that which makes you comfortable, and follow him in the manner of HIS choosing?  Say yes.  Say yes to Jesus today.  Say yes to Jesus right now.  Saying yes to Jesus and surrender your life to him, this is the only way to begin to live a life in his Spirit, the life that God has planned for you before you were in your mother’s womb, and break away from the life the enemy has planned for you.

 

Yes, there are two spiritual plans in the world for you, one is Holy and eternal, the other is evil and also eternal.  You cannot do it yourself.  Bank of America, Las Vegas, your hair dressers advice, good luck, the lottery, cannot accomplish the life long and spiritual change you are searching for, only Jesus can.  Say, "Jesus, my heart is yours, do with it what you will, I repent of all my sins, come and take from my heart all selfishness, arrogance, laziness, greed, pride, spite, and vengeance.  Take from my heart my addictions to violence, cocaine, vodka, buying stuff I do not need, and illicit sex, take all that I have placed first in my life, and replace it with your Spirit.

 

Yes Jesus, take everything that is dark and sinful in me and replace them with you, your gentleness, your wisdom, your hope, your charity, your chastity, your mercy, your forgiveness, and your love.  Today Jesus, for the first time I am willing to do what the Apostles did, what your disciples did, and leave everything behind to follow you. Today, Jesus, I put no one and nothing above you, today, in humility and love I surrender myself to you, in a spirit of trust and mercy, Jesus, I ask you to breath upon me now, yes Jesus, breath, the fire of Pentecost upon me now, yes Jesus my heart is an open vessel, remove the wounds of sin from my heart, fill me with the love of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Say these words with conviction and your life will be transformed in a way I cannot begin to describe.  Say these words and the mercy and love of Jesus Christ will flow into your heart through power and presence of the Holy Spirit.  Say these words, and join us on a spiritual journey, as we walk in the Father’s vineyard, with the Apostles, learning the things of God, as revealed by our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Please be aware that the enemy does not want you to take this walk, as he never wanted me to, telling me that everything is OK, God is happy with who you are, you're a believer and all believers get into heaven.  That is false, not all believers get into heaven, only those who believe and follow get into heaven, my life is a witness to how a person can believe in Jesus but not be saved, because their belief was not accompanied by the “following” of Jesus.

 

If we believe in Jesus, but walk a road of selfishness, hate, greed, and lust we are not walking to heaven but away from it, the Word reveals this truth, “Do you not realize that people who do evil will never inherit the kingdom of God?  Make no mistake—the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, the self-indulgent, sodomites, thieves, misers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers, none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.  (New Jerusalem Bible).

 

So, if the enemy has put in your mind something like this, "Change my mind about what?  I don't need to change my mind, I’m a believer, I'm a Christian.  I have been Baptized and Confirmed.  I go to Church most Sundays and receive the Eucharist, I don’t really hurt anybody,  I live as good of a Christian life as the next guy, I don’t need to change anything, life is good, no worries.”

 

Watch out.  This is way to subjective.  I had the same thoughts.  I was wrong about almost everything I was thinking but I could never see the truth, the truth was always right in front of me, being proclaimed to me, but I never saw it.  Why not?  Something was missing, Jesus in my heart was missing. The best way I can explain what was missing is personal, experiential.

 

I grew up as a believer; yes I can honestly say I believed everything I was taught about the Catholic Church and Jesus Christ.  I got good grades on all my religions tests. I memorized the Our Father, Glory Be, Hail Mary, Apostles Creed and more.  I believed Jesus to be the Son of God, sent to die for my sins.  I believed in the true presence of Jesus Christ in the meal of the Last Supper, the Eucharist, I went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and believed my sins were forgiven. Every Sunday when the Church professed her Creed, I proudly believed and professed these truths along with her.

 

Now here is the problem.  Although I believed everything that I was taught about Jesus and the Church, my beliefs, my faith, had no effect on my behavior, my actions. The enemy had me right where he wanted me, thinking that everything was OK, nothing is wrong, don't change a thing.  This is a horrible place to be.  I believed all these truths but truth was of no consequence, I acted in whatever way I chose, even after confession.  Why did my beliefs have no effect on my behavior?  No metanoia!! My faith was in my head and not in my heart.  The Catholic faith was never mine.  It was my mom's faith, my pastor's faith, my grandmother's faith, but it was never mine.

 

Faith was something I grew up with, not something that grew in me; it was all about routine, ritual, and memorization.  There were many truths in my head but Jesus was not in my heart.  This may be hard to believe but in all my years in the Church I had never been introduced to the person of Jesus Christ in a manner in which I could understand and personally accept.  I believed in him, but I never experienced him, his personal love or mercy.

 

I never understood the majesty of the Body and Blood, how Jesus allowed himself to be spit on, mocked, stripped naked in front of his mother and friends, crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross, so that I could be saved from my sins, receive the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit and the Church be present with him every moment of my life and cleansed and graced through his Sacraments, and after experiencing death on earth, rise to a new life in his kingdom.

 

None of those truths sunk into my heart.  For me Church was waking up too early on Sunday morning, jumping in the car and fighting for the best seats (I am one of seven children), making the sign of the cross and splashing some holy water on myself as I entered the Church, sitting the same pew, looking around to see if there were any classmates around, kneeling erect at the proper times so as not to get the "look"  from mom, hoping the priests homily was short because nothing he said ever meant anything to me, receiving Communion, saying "Amen" in a convincing fashion with my hands held properly, leaving Mass just at the right time so as not to look like you're in a hurry but soon enough to get out of that parking lot so we could get home and eat that great breakfast of French toast, bacon, and eggs, that mom would cook every Sunday.

 

Sorry if it sounds so shallow but that was it.  That was Church.  That was Jesus.   That was my "religious experience."  I never was told and was not curious enough to ask, that what we were being read during Mass was the bible.  It is no wonder, this being my experience of faith, I would often say, "Mass is boring."  Well of course it was boring, the Mass is all about Jesus Christ, the Mass is centered on the divine person who loves us and died for our sins so we can be sanctified of our sins, receive the Holy Spirit, live in his righteousness and peace on earth and at death rise to new life and live with him in eternity.

 

So if a believer has never met Jesus, if they have never experienced his love and mercy, then of course the Mass will be boring, of course you will stay away from worship, you're spending an hour with a person you've never met, that's why it was boring.  Again, Jesus was in my head and not my heart, I knew a lot about Jesus, but I never knew HIM.   So what changed and how can it change for you if your faith is one of only routine, ritual and memorization, if Jesus is in your head and not your heart, if your faith in not your own but your mom's or dad's?  How does one have a metanoia?  How does a person change the way they are thinking and come to know Jesus Christ in a personal and authentic way?  First of all not everyone needs a metanoia!!  Throughout the centuries, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of Catholics have received the Holy Spirit and Jesus into their hearts as little children.

 

They were baptized into God’s family, received the Holy Spirit,  and the  Christian faith was theirs from and early age and they continued to know, love, and serve  Jesus Christ into adulthood.  Praise the name of Jesus Christ for these people. But that wasn't me.  If you have young children now, please begin to talk and teach them about Jesus Christ.  Read what the Church teaches about families, about your responsibilities as parents, as co-creators of this family with God.

 

In our catechism, the book in which we as Catholics write down what we believe, the Church teaches this, "The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church.  It is a community of faith, hope, and charity, it assumes singular importance in the church as is evident in the New Testament." Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1656.

 

What the Church is saying here, and please do not miss the hyperbole, is that you mom and dad are the pope in your family.  The Church is asking you as parents not to abdicate your parental role as the primary teachers and examples of the Christian faith to anyone else, including C.C.D. or parochial schools.  The Church is asking you as parents to be directly and intimately involved in the spiritual lives of your children.

 

Think of it like this.  How many hours a week does your family spend in good and necessary activities like homework, soccer, baseball, music lessons, band, choir, swimming, and so forth and now please compare the hours spent on all these important aspects of your children's formation and growth, to how much time you will spend this week teaching them about the things of God, teaching them about Jesus Christ, reading and explaining the bible to them, ministering to others in need, doing works of mercy and charity?

 

Sports, education, and the arts are intrinsic to the formation of healthy adults and good citizens and the possibility of a good career but there must be a balance, it can not be all of something and no Jesus, "What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  What can one give in exchange for his life?"  Matthew 16:26.   In the big picture the question Jesus posses in this revelation is this, "What is more important, that your child gets into college or into heaven?"  We know the answer is heaven but we ACT and live like its college.

 

So not every believer will need a metanoia, but I sure did. Back to the question, "How do I have a metanoia?"  The answer is, our hearts, our spirits, must seek Jesus, we must want to be introduced to him, and in order to do that we must be able to hear his voice when he is speaking to us, just like the Apostles did.

 

Seeking Jesus is how we begin to know and then follow him.  Here is what you need to know about seeking Jesus.  You can seek Jesus by walking to him or crawling to him, he will take you either way.  Yes, we can have a metanoia by walking or crawling to Jesus, I would suggest the walk.  The first step, in a walk to Jesus is to be brutally honest with yourself.  Answer the hard questions right now.  Have you ever met Jesus?  Is the Holy Spirit or the spirit of the world guiding your day, thoughts, and actions?  Is Mass boring for you?  Do you server anyone other than yourself?  Do you have a tendency to anger or to love, to impatience or to mercy, to selfishness or to service?  What have you place above Jesus in your life.

 

If you grew up like I did, believing in Jesus but never personally knowing him, never having an authentic faith and experiencing the mercy, forgiveness, and love of a living God and Savior, then say these words, "Yes I am a Christian, a believer, I grew up in the Christian faith, but I do not know my faith, I do not know Jesus, I have never met him or received the power of his Spirit. I have never served him.  I have always sought to do things for myself first and seldom for anyone else.

 

I have heard about his mercy, forgiveness, and love but I have never experienced this, I have never had a personal relationship with him, but I seek to know him now, yes today, at this very moment, I want to know Jesus by heart and not by ritual, by heart and not head, through love and not fear, I repent of all my sins and ask to know now the mercy, forgiveness, and love of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, reveal yourself to be, Jesus, breath new life into my heart, breath the Spirit of Pentecost upon me now Jesus, I seek you, come into my heart, I love you Jesus.” Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb, Jesus Christ.

 

These words you have just spoken, are an opening for the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and transform your life, believe this and receive the Holy Spirit and without failure or hesitation, receive his Word, receive his peace, receive his mercy and love and begin to nourish your soul and spirit with as much spiritual food as you can possibly intake.  Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and begin a new life in the Word, a life with the bible, the book of the Catholic Church.

 

Yes, I encourage you to begin to nourish your soul and spirit through a relationship with Jesus Christ, in his Word, yes, seek to know and love him in his Word, the bible.  Yes, with an open, repentant and encouraged heart, begin to take time to read the Word of God.  As you read the Word, Jesus will begin to reveal to you hidden truths and mysteries about your life, his plan and purpose for your life will be made increasing evident, Jesus will make everything that you have lived in the past as a ritual and routine, come alive in your heart and mind, yes, as the Word unfolds in your daily life, Mass will NEVER be boring again, you will be saying things like this: "How did I miss this?"  "Why didn't anybody tell me that before?"  "Thank you Jesus for your Body and Blood."

 

Jesus is "The Word made flesh,"  John 1:14, and when you take time to personally read the bible, Jesus as the Word, enlightens, encourages, speaks to you in a personal way, and his love and mercy are revealed to you in a way that cannot and will not be revealed to you in any other way. At the same time, Jesus will also reveal things to you about your life that no one else can or will.

 

This is why the Catholic Church is, always has been, and always will be a Church of God's Word, and why the Word is so profoundly proclaimed at our worship services every Sunday's, yes, for those who never knew, or never understood, every Sunday Catholics listen to the Word of God being proclaimed: a reading from the Old Testament, followed by the Psalms and then a New Testament epistle followed by the proclamation of the Gospel.

 

The reason we as Catholics stand up for the Gospel is because the Gospels are the fullest revelation of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, “The Gospels have a special place, and rightly so, because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Savior.”  Vatican II, Dei Verbum, # 18.  The key understanding is that in metanoia, once you have personally encountered Jesus, once you have experienced his love and mercy, after you surrender your life to him, you need to nourish yourself daily with prayer, Word, Sacrament, acts of love and mercy.

 

Yes, for some hearts, the metanoia, the encounter of Jesus and journey with Jesus in the Holy Spirit, begins with the crawl, on our knees, and here is the bad news for anyone, who like myself walked a selfish path, in their own personal vineyard: if you have placed anything or anyone above Jesus, if your heart is filled with pride, money, lust, just basic all around selfishness, then you will more than likely end up crawling to Jesus.

 

This is actually a blessing, because many poor souls do not even get the opportunity to crawl to Jesus, but you will not think so at the time it is happening.  You see, you will never walk or crawl to Jesus, you will never seek to know Jesus, with a heart that is only filled with yourself and the world because not only will you never hear his voice of love and mercy calling you, you won't even WANT to hear his voice, because we think everything is OK, all you will want is more and more of what the world and the enemy has to offer and so you will stay right there.  Until God begins to take it all away.  For me that meant the money.

 

Yes, all those years that I claimed to be a Christian, I wasn't.   I really was an embodiment of this Word: “They claim to know God, but by their deeds they deny him.”  Titus 1:16.   I was like the Pharisees who proclaimed that they loved God, but the hidden truth of their daily lives revealed that they really loved and served themselves and not the Father.  All those years I believed in Jesus, so what, who cares, because it is not what we believe but how we live what we believe that is important in the eyes of out Lord and Savior, and I was living exactly what Jesus had warned against in his Word, "No one can serve TWO masters. You cannot serve God and money."  Matthew 6:24.

 

That was my life.  My I was money.  My ME was money.  My Mine was money.  Money was in my heart because money gave me everything I sought: clothes, cars, vacations, respect (the wrong kind of course), dinners, drugs, alcohol, the ladies.  Now here is the big thing I want you to note, understand, teach, and share with others: the only way we can hear Jesus' call to metanoia is if we STOP serving and living with the wrong gods, in the wrong spirit, and seek him.  The ONLY way to do that is to begin to empty ourselves of these false gods, yes, at a certain point in our lives those other gods must be replaced with a Person, the Divine Person of Jesus Christ, and that is exactly what happened to me, and millions and millions of others.

 

Jesus had to remove what was making me Me, and replace what I thought was normal and what everybody lived, with himself.  Why did Jesus have to do this?  Because I certainly wasn't going to do it myself, I thought things were OK, other people could not do it, I was too stubborn and set in my ways, and certainly the enemy wasn't going to empty me of himself, as Jesus said, “if satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”  Luke 11:18, so Jesus had to.

 

When Jesus began to take away everything that made me Me, what are we left with?  Not much.  If one day, everything that made you self assured, confident, happy in a worldly way, and secure in yourself, goes away, then all that is left is a shell, an empty soul.  Now here comes something very important, that I want you to share with anyone who will to through the crawl or is going through the crawl right now.

 

When you are going through this crisis in your life, what is happening is that you are being taken to your bottom, the place when we say "that's it, I've had enough, I can't live this way anymore", and everyone has a different bottom, you will know what your is.  When you have hit the bottom, yourself is being emptied of all the things that once bound you, trapped you, controlled you and literally made you their slave, their prisoner:  drugs, infidelity, alcohol, money, jealousy, spite, possessions, whatever addictions and demons that were ruining and controlling your life.

 

As your “self” is being emptied, for the first time in a long time, things that once dominated your mind, time, and heart, will no longer be important to you, yes, the bottom tells you that all the things you loved and desired are useless, literally meaningless, and now you want to change what controls your mind and passions, so an emptying of the self begins.  As this emptying begins, Jesus, who has initiated and is actively participating in this cleansing of our minds, hearts, and souls, is asking to come into your heart, yes, Jesus will ask you if he can replace all those false gods with himself, to replace what is being emptied with himself, with his mercy, hope, and love.  When you hear this voice, say yes to this voice, say YES to Jesus.

 

Also know this truth, the first spiritual gift Jesus will seek to gift you with, as you are emptying the “self,” is his first gift of Resurrection, the first gift of Pentecost, the gift of peace, “Peace be with you,” John 20:19 yes, Jesus, with all the love in his heart will seek to bestow his peace, literally his divine peace, the peace that only can come from above, from God, upon you.  Why peace?  Because Jesus knows that peace of mind and heart are the only gifts that can get you through the next attack.  What attack?  You have an eternal spiritual enemy, never forget this truth.

 

The enemy really like the old you.  So unfortunately, as you begin to empty yourself of the money, the pride, lust, hate, and addiction, the enemy, who knows he is being attacked, defeated, and cast out of you, will try to destroy you by inflicting you with one last, devastating evil spirit. Yes, as we empty ourselves of our false gods, the one who enticed us into a life of false gods, will try to fill our hearts with one horrible and malicious gift, and the worst gift satan can give us at that moment of our lives, an evil spirit of fear, the same evil spirit that was attacking the disciples and causing them to hide and be confused about Jesus’ death, “on the evening of that first day of the week , when the doors were locked, where the mathetes were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came to them and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”   John 20:19

 

Yes, at the time of your bottom, as you empty your soul of all that is dark and sinful, as your spirit seeks another way, a new Light and life, the enemy will try to fill your heart and mind with a fear so deep and compelling, it is hard to explain or imagine.  A fear so deep you are shaken to your core. This is what he did to me.  I have experienced this demon of fear first hand.  I have been afraid before.  This was different.  This was a malignant spiritual enemy, a demon, not the natural, instinctive fear, which God has given us for protection.  Let me explain the difference.

 

I grew up on a dairyfarm.  I remember one day separating this bull from the cows because he had gotten so mean that he was chasing the milkers out of the corral and just causing lots of trouble.  I had done this type of work all my life so it was natural and easy for me, but when I got that bull separated from the cows, just him and I in this small corral, all of a sudden he turn towards me, with this crazy look in his eyes, and charged.  My instinctive reaction was fear, fear is the wisdom to run, go another direction, save your life, get out of the way, so I jumped head first under the fence and he just grazed my leg with his head, I was full of manure, but I was alive, fear helped me to make a quick decision and helped save me from greater harm.

 

The fear that the enemy brings is not even remotely similar to that kind of fear, because the enemy brings a spiritual fear, he literally brings a demon of fear.  Fear is this demons name and office.  It’s job is to terrify us, to paralyze us, to lie to us, to make our faces red and our stomachs churn, to trick us into believing that this life has no beauty, no love, no hope, no one can help us, we are alone, and that is the way it will always be, it’s horrible, and in my experience the greatest spiritual battle any human being can fight. That is exactly what he did to me.  It worked.  Brother did it work.

 

His purpose is to convince us to turn away from Jesus, to go back to our old way of life, so he can bring in other spirits and destroy our minds and hearts, “When an unclean spirit goes out of someone…I shall return home…and brings back seven other demons more wicked than itself…and the last condition of that person is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26.

 

This spirit of fear will try to take us deeper into a life of ruin through drugs, violence, divorce, hate, revenge, alcohol, sex, just totally try to ruin us in only the way a true hater would want or attempt to, or even worse, convince us that life is not worth living and so we should just end it and be done with it and all this will go away.  This is the crawl.  This is the pain filled way to salvation in the name of Jesus Christ only.  But there is hope.   Believe and know this about the enemy: his only power is what we give him and he can and does make mistakes.

 

The enemy cannot force us to do anything, if Jesus cannot force us to love, certainly he will not give satan the power to force us to hate, no, our God given free will to chose is absolute and more powerful that all the enemies temptations, we can always say no, he can only lure us to failure, to sin, by tempting our disordered appetites of greed, pride, hate, jealousy, revenge, and lust.  Yes, the enemy, mr. smarty pants, is  cunning, ruthless, and hard to detect by those he possess, however, and brothers and sisters know this truth, he does not have God’s power and authority, not even close.

As a fallen and defeated angel, satans capacity, operations, and intellect, are now limited because of his defeat and being cast out of heaven, at the hands of Michael the Archangel, “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.  The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail, and there was no longer any room for them in heaven.”  Revelation 12:7-8.   The dragon is satan, he is defeated and kicked out of heaven, when you leave heaven you lose, Jesus is not going let the looser stay the same, keep the power and authority he had before his defeat, no the enemy had to leave behind: capacity, operations, and intellect, again, this means he can and will make mistakes.

 

The enemy’s severest defeat however, as the Book of Revelation also reveals, came not at the hands of Michael the Archangel, but at the hands of the Father’s Lamb, Jesus Christ, whose Blood and Resurrection, opened the gates of heaven to the saints, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed.  For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.  They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death.”  Revelation 12:10-11.

 

Put this truth to memory: only God is omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere, always), and omnipotent (all powerful), satan is NONE of these.  He does have a memory, he does know what has worked against you in the past, and attempts to use our weaknesses against us, but he does not know the future, the enemy does NOT know what you will choose, he only knows what you chose in the past, he is only able to tempt you to choose his voice, his gifts, his spirit, but he cannot force you to choose them, nor does he know the outcome of your choices before hand.

 

(FYI, the reason the enemy remains invisible to those he controls is because he is darkness, and the hearts of those he controls are filled with darkness: murder, hate, adultery, revenge, and addictions, that is what they see, yes, they see darkness as something normal, the way they live their everyday lives, and so darkness is invisible because that is their light.   Today, as you walk in the Father's vineyard, in and with the Holy Spirit, Jesus has opened the eyes of your heart, yes, you walk with new eyes, because of your new heart, and a new Light shines forth that make the enemy obvious and visible to you, because of the Light that now shines in your heart and that Light of course is Jesus Christ, all Sowers should be able to say Amen to this truth).

 

As I said, the enemy can and does make mistakes, and the mistake this fool made, while attacking me during my crawl, is that he did not account for two important victories in my life, victories that he could never steal from me: the power of prayer and the love of my family.  You see for years, literally years, as a family we got on our knees, every single night, mom and dad, my brother and sisters and said the rosary.  This was a treasure the enemy could not take or harm, “Store us treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroy, nor thieves break in and steal.”  Matthew 6:20.  The enemy is the moth, the decay, and the thief.

 

These prayers, the rosary, were the treasure in heaven that Jesus speaks of here in the bible, the treasures that no one can take from us, yes, in the person of Jesus Christ, these prayers are a source of mercy and love, to be restored at the time of our most serious trials and needs, and no one, not even satan, can take the power of prayer from us, ever.  Amen to his Blood and prayer.

 

Once the enemy was cast out of the kingdom, he lost all fellowship with God and the things of God and his kingdom, and the fact that God knows and guards all our prayers in his kingdom, is one of the enemies greatest weaknesses and one of the believers greatest strengths, “The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of an angel.”  Revelation 8: 4-5

 

This Word was fulfilled, and as a family we were obedient to the Word, because night after night, through the years, we lifted up thousands and thousands of prayers to Jesus, through the intercession of his beautiful and grace filled mother, the Virgin Mary, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.  Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward (my commentary: the adulation of others).  But when you pray, go to your inner room (your family’s living room), close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your heavenly Father who sees in secret will repay you.”  Matthew 6:5-6.

 

The second mistake the enemy made, was that he did not expect that my parents would minister to me in the way they did, meaning that in my greatest need, my darkest hour, in a time of confusion and pain, despair and depression, my parents did not criticize, rebuke, or abandon me, like the enemy hoped and expected they would, no, instead they supported, encouraged, and loved me.  Their love and support was vital to my metanoia.

 

Today, without a doubt, I know these prayers and the love of my family were an integral part of my cry of salvation to Jesus.   Jesus heard my cry for mercy.  Jesus heard my parents cry for mercy, upon me.  So for the first time in my life instead of turning back to money, or alcohol, or drugs, or the enemy, I turned to Jesus, and Jesus began to cast out my false gods and replace them with his peace and wisdom, a peace and wisdom I had never experienced before.  I started to make better choices because for the first time, I saw my actions in God's light.  For the first time ever, I could see the life I had been living was wrong, offensive and sinful, and for the first time, I wanted to change that.

 

I had never seen this before. I thought life was just all about me, my choices, my needs, my pleasure, and whoever got offended, whoever I needed to use or hurt, oh well, whatever. Once my eyes were opened to the truth, Jesus came into my heart and lived there, and his life cleansed my heart, and began to conform my mind, my way of thinking, to his Gospel.  From that moment of metanoia, Jesus, through the love and support of my family, guided me back to the Church, back to the Sacraments, back to the Body and Blood, and for the first time to a relationship with him in the Word.

 

If you have never experienced a life in the Spirit, Jesus is calling you to himself right now. If you have experienced metanoia, your first duty is to thank Jesus by proclaiming it to every man, woman, and child, you speak to.  Yes, proclaim it, let the Holy Spirit speak through you, people need hear these things, the Spirit wants to use your testimony to begin metanoia in the lives of your family, friends, and people you have not even met before.

 

This is real, ask anyone who now walks in the power of the Holy Spirit, how Jesus has used them as instruments of love and mercy, instruments of prayer and encouragement, instruments of unity and peace, instruments of salvation, in a way they NEVER WERE BEFORE.  This is God’s fidelity/plan/mercy/love/hope/peace/Church, finally being manifested to the world, by you,  to family and friends, in the way God had plan from eternity, but lay hidden, dormant in our sin and selfishness for years, that’s why you must now proclaim Jesus to everyone you meet, it’s TIME, let nothing remain hidden anymore.

 

Brothers and sister in the Father’s vineyard, you now have two weeks of metanoia.  Again, my hopes are that you print out these reflections, highlight them, read all the Scripture verses, share your thoughts/ideas/reflections/testimony with myself and others, and continue to mature in faith and spirit, until that glorious day when you hear and receive the same promise given to the good thief by Jesus, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise,” Luke 23:43.  Paradise/eternal life is the Father’s command to Jesus, John 12:50, walk daily in the Father’s vineyard to Paradise.

 

 

JFJA

 

Grace and peace,

 

Joseph