The Metanoetics of Jesus

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Keith Put has come up with an interesting interpretation of Mathew’s text (Matt. 16-19) where Jesus gives the keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter. Being Derridian in his approach, he invites us to take up the important term in the passage/ periscope that gives all powers in heaven and earth to St. Peter.  He, therefore, takes up the term key and brings into the text another meaning that is associated with the word key.  We know the key as a mechanical tool that opens and closes our doors. There is also another meaning associated with the term key.  We have the musical key.  He says, ‘If we adopt such a poetic perspective, can we tease out a supplementary meaning to Jesus’ keynote address?’ In this effort to playfully arrive at a new meaning, he adopts the meaning of key not in a mechanical sense but in a musical sense. This suggests that Jesus gave Peter different tonalities to sing the refrain of redemption and different scales by which the Church can attune its confession to the content of Kerygma.  In a similar fashion, Leonard Sweet, in his book, Quantum Spirituality does raise the issue of the correct key signature that could characterise the music of the kingdom.  With an inclination towards Bach, he discusses two key signatures:  the B minor chord in which John the Baptists sings his wilderness lament and the G major Chord in which Jesus sings the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”.   The B minor expresses the guilt and repentance of the sinner while the G major produces joyful music that motivates an exuberant dance to experience of salvation.  Sweet’s two keys manifest us the modulation of John’s Dies Irae and Christ’s Hallelujah Chorus.

 One can also trace a similar Contradistiction in the work, John Caputo. Caputo distinguishes the metanoetics of Jesus and John the Baptist.  He says repentance as preached by John the Baptists focuses on phrenology ( mind and Knowledge). This reduces metanoia to the consciousness of guilt and shame which pushes the person to ‘mea culpa’.  Caputo says that this form of metanoia belongs to Levinasian  ‘Said’ as it locks the repentant into the past and allows the past to contaminate the present.   Jesus metanoia to him is a cardiology. It calls for a change of heart and forgiveness. Thus it is not closed into the ‘Said’ of the past but in the Levinasian ‘saying’ of the present.  He says, ‘with changed hearts and forgotten pasts, citizens in God’s kingdom can enjoy each day as a gift from the Father, a gift that allows for celebration and the voicing of a Felix sine culpa’, thus indicating the difference in the metanoetics of Jesus. The new metanoetics of Jesus is a free gift and builds new relationships with God and humans and humans themselves and is therefore based on celebratory extravaganza. We can see this clearly in the parable of the lost sheep, lost coin and the lost son. 

John Caputo offers the analogy of the economy to understand the metanoetics of Jesus.   His analogy is close to the wasteful economy of George Bataille and it is also called a ‘mad economy’. It is based on insane investments and assured returns but upon ledgers that are wiped clean and books that no longer need to be balanced. On the other side, the menatnoetics of John the Baptist carries on with the epicentre of the economic circle of exchange, the quid pro quo reciprocity of debt and repayment.  This means repentance requires some kind of balancing of spiritual and/or social books aiming to satisfy the calculus of the “zero-sum.”   We can in summary say that the metanoetics  of John is based on the logic of law while that of Jesus is based on the logic of grace.  While invoking the analogy of economy, Caputo borrows from Derrida’s philosophy of the pure gift as the “grounds” for the possibility and impossibility of breaking with the circular economics of an expenditure with the return.  A reciprocal economy is a closed circle of exchange where one gets according to what one brings to the table.  Derrida teaches that such a circle of exchange does not allow the economy of the free gift. The pure gift is given without the receiver being worthy of receiving the same.  We can find this gifting in the readiness to gift of his own son where Abraham displays willingness to invest without any longing for a return. Here we can see the wasteful expenditure without any return.  Again in the New Testament, we can notice that the gift of the widow becomes a wasteful expenditure that sets it out of the economy of return. The response of Jesus to it shows that that is how God acts with us and embraces our ‘pure’ gift with his free gift. 

The metanoetics of Jesus opens us to the unconditional love of God whereby God the Father sacrificed his Son just for the pure love of humanity and the world. The entire paschal mystery manifests an expenditure without return.  But it is paradoxical that such a pure love cannot be simply forgotten. It bears fruits in abundance. Thus metanoetics of Jesus is able to bear rich fruits by becoming a pure gift that is out of the economic circle of giving without the hope of return. It appears to be parallel to the doctrine of nishkama karma taught in the Bhagavad Gita of the Hindu Scriptures.  This means with self-interest we cannot hope to reach heaven. We need to become ego-less.  Perhaps the no-self theory of the Buddhists might inspire us to understand the self-emptying kenosis of Jesus.  The mystery of incarnation, therefore, belongs to the economy of pure gift. Hence, dying to ourselves, we are born again with Jesus to the life of the Kingdom.  This is why we have to be forgiving without any count. Yes, we have to live our life for-giving, loving without looking for any returns.  We need courage to embrace the logic of the kingdom of Jesus and be willing to be counted as the least. In doing so paradoxically we shall be first in the Kingdom of God. 

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao