Long ago, a young man walked up to Jesus and put a question to him: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “You know the commandments: Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not defraud. Honor your father and mother.”
“Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth,” the young man protested.
Then, Mark’s Gospel tells us, “Jesus, looking upon him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’”
And that was the one thing the young man couldn’t do. Not even for the reward of eternal life. He loved his riches too much to walk away from them.
Two thousand years later, the demands of discipleship haven’t changed. If we want to spend an eternity with Jesus, we have to let go of even the most minor sinful attachments and follow Jesus. For the rich young man, that meant turning away from his wealth. For us, it might be something entirely different. Or many things different. Either way, to inherit eternal life, we must repent and believe.
The word the Gospels use for that two-fold process of turning from sin and toward God is metanoia. Metanoia is the one word answer to the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.”
But what does metanoia look like in practice? How do we pursue it? And why don’t we hear it talked about more often?
Franciscan Magazine put those questions and more to some of Franciscan University’s resident experts on metanoia. Here’s what we learned.