If metamorphosis is the transformation of the caterpillar to butterfly, metanoia is the conversion of heart from good, to better, and to best person.
If the change of name from Saul to Paul meant a radical conversion of heart, then we may not be able to achieve perfection but at least change to holy life with Jesus.
The radical conversion of St. Paul was not a sheer personal crusade. The conversion is a personal and communal act of love. The Acts of the Apostles 22:3-16 narrates the personal testimony of St. Paul highlighting the person who transformed him.
The high priest and the council of elders can testify to the evil ways of St. Paul. His admission of his faults but seeing it in the mercy of Jesus consistently made his conversion not a fleeting one but consistent and sustainable.
The Metanoia of St. Paul has three essential elements. First, the conversion happened in Jesus. Second, conversion happens through the help of other people, and third conversion happens when we respond positively to the call.
St. Paul writes, “On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ and he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’”
Jesus is a beautiful name that reveals the salvific action of God. Hence, Jesus means “God saves.” Jesus Christ literally means God saves through the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah. The revelation of Jesus to St. Paul started the conversion and Jesus sustained it as well.
Second, we need people to help us undergo conversion. “A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight’.”
Anna de la Cruz (not her real name) messaged me for several evenings regarding the miraculous conversion of her husband Julio. She was happy narrating the impossible conversion. She owed it to the Lord through her persistent prayer. After 30 years, God granted the daily prayer of Anna for her husband to stop gambling.
“Pachie, adi kayet sumarcheng nan sukharsina Fontok amed ad Cherway. Isunga chawatek koma ta asifachangtako ta asop-yachengen cha. Si asawak et 30 years iman ay infiagna nan sukhar ngem idwani insarchengna et yalaychena akhes ay fumachang sina ili tako. Maid iman imposibli ken Apo Dios.”
The testimony of Anna was a revelation of God’s power. She never expected her husband to change since gambling became an addiction and a lifestyle but true enough, God works in mysterious ways and in his perfect time. For the gamblers who think that conversion is impossible, cling to God and he will change your heart.
Third, our response to the grace of God is equally important. God calls each one of us to change our ways. Like St. Paul, we listen to God and allow his saving grace to operate in our lives.
We must celebrate every conversion. Hence, Jan. 25 is a feast that commemorates the conversion of Saint Paul. If we see people changing their lives, we must refrain from mocking them. Instead, we appreciate and help them. We are all in need of conversion because conversion is necessary spiritual maturity. Conversion is not a sheer product of emotions or feelings but it is a spiritual need. Conversion is not a feeling or a want. Conversion is a need. Hence, without it we cannot belong in the kingdom of God in the here and now.
In 2001, I was able to write a song with the title “Metanoia.” It’s a beautiful song that tells my personal conversion and the people whom I met during recollections and retreats.
As I celebrate the gift of life today, please join me to thank God for the life challenged, rejected, persecuted, hurt but more importantly loved by God. I pray that, conversion will also become my daily lifestyle.
To all of you who are journeying with me in my priestly mission, thank you very much and God bless you.
In metanoia, we apply the positive values of mathematics. We multiply the goodness of our life. We subtract the gray areas where frustration may put us down. We add more opportunities to learn.