To change direction, one first must have a new direction to go in. What happens if we do not recognize that we need to change the direction of our lives? Then God provides the directional change for us. The readings for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time provide us with the understanding how this change of direction occurs in our lives.  

This change of direction is known as a metanoia. The change of heart that is required for a complete metanoia means we are no longer in darkness and can see clearly what truly needs to change in our lives. Jesus gives us an example of changing directions. When he hears of John the Baptist being arrested, he leaves Judea and goes to Galilee. One might think Jesus was leaving Judea because it was risky for him to remain there. It was just as risky for Jesus to go to Galilee.

The history of Galilee is of a land immersed in violence and darkness as we hear in the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 8:23-9:3. These people had been overrun and enslaved by the Assyrians. They had lost everything as the direction of their lives was interrupted by violence and war. In Jesus’ own time, Galilee was a land of political instability, poverty and violence. What better place than Galilee for Jesus to begin his public ministry. Jesus proclaimed the need for a metanoia, a complete change of heart and direction. By doing so, Jesus fulfills the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:1) Jesus provides the light and the direction. 

“Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light.” (Matthew 4:15-16) Jesus is the light that illumines the hearts of the people of Galilee. Jesus preached a message of repentance, for the Kingdom of God was at hand. To prepare for the Kingdom of Heaven, a complete metanoia must take place. For a complete metanoia to occur, repentance must take place. Repentance leads to a change of heart and a change of one’s life. This is a radical change that is preceded by a sense of urgency not only to change our own lives but to change the world around us as well. A metanoia is, above all else, a conversion of heart. Once the hearts of others are converted then those who experience this complete conversion can then call others to conversion.

When Jesus approaches the shores of the Sea of Galilee, he is calling the first disciples to first experience a conversion of heart, a metanoia. They first needed to change the direction of their own lives before they could help others change the direction of their lives. The kingdom Jesus proclaims has radical implications for those who respond and to the world as well. Take for example, the call of Peter and his brother Andrew, “He said to them, come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19) What is radical is that the disciples are asked to leave behind all else that preceded their change of heart. Those first disciples experience a complete metanoia and change the direction of their lives and follow Jesus. 

We know that even the Apostles, such as Peter, had difficulties in living out their conversion of heart with complete faith and trust. Paul understood that the Church in Corinth was having that challenge and difficulty. Human frailty is such that from time to time in our lives we can fall away by sinning and doubting in the kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim and fulfill by his suffering, death and resurrection. 

To put it honestly, sometimes we change directions by going in reverse, from light to darkness. Paul urges the Church in Corinth not to allow divisions to separate them from Christ and one another, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.” (Cor.1:17) These are powerful words that challenge us to be faithful to the metanoia that has taken place in our lives. That change of heart was made possible by Jesus Christ. The Psalm reminds us of what Jesus has done for us and we are to proclaim it. “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” (Psalm 27)