If Charles Dickens could write A Tale of Two Cities, I can write A Tale of Two Words.
The words are paranoia and metanoia.
Last week Jesus called us to be vigilant. If this call is taken to a neurotic extreme, it winds up in paranoia: the sense of a looming presence that is not at all reassuring, but rather induces fear and the desire to escape. Metanoia is an interior dynamism, challenging but consoling: the Gospel renders the word as "repentance." It's a step beyond the prophets' exhortations to repentance (meta can mean "beyond" in Gk), to an external action that embodies the internal transformation.
People received John's baptism of repentance as an outward sign that they wanted to live differently. They would need to sustain that choice by their actions. The effectiveness of John's baptism lay in the sincerity and effort of its recipients.
Christian baptism is a further metanoia, a deepening of interior transformation. Christ instituted the outward act of baptism as a sacrament. It does not merely point to a person's sincere desire to change; it changes him. Baptism renews the recipient as a child of God and an heir of heaven. It actually forgives original sin and personal sins (for those guilty of them).
Baptism begins a lifelong transformation. It is nourished by our continued participation in the sacraments--certainly Confirmation, which perfects baptismal grace (cf. CCC 1285ff), but also the Eucharist and Reconciliation, two supporting pillars in the life of a faithful Catholic. Baptismal life is further reinforced whenever we take in the Word of God, whether in a liturgical context or in personal prayer. And it is certainly being perfected in our firm commitment to obey the commandments and to pattern our life after the Beatitudes.
Metanoia is not supposed to be paranoia. We are not supposed to be living in fear of impending damnation. The prophet Baruch reminded us that Jerusalem (the people of God) may now remove her "robe of mourning and misery" (5:1); we can rejoice that we are "remembered by God" (5:5). That realization is perhaps the better part of conversion! St. Paul further elucidates metanoia as our recognition of, and response to, "what is of value" (Phil 1:10): namely, to know Christ and to be known by Him; to know others in Him, together forming a "partnership in the Gospel" (Phil 1:5).
Neat phrase, that: a "partnership in the Gospel" (κοινωνίᾳ (koinonia) - Communion!) is just what the Church herself is, and what every local manifestation of her is called to be--every parish, every family. Holy Guardian Angels Parish celebrated its first parish Mass on the eighth of December 1929, just over 83 years ago. With our commitment to seek deeper metanoia--as a parish, as families, and as individuals--HGA will continue to move forward, in Communion, with confidence.