Walking in the Footsteps: Metanoia


The station church of Saints Marcellinus and Peter is located between St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran at the intersection of two busy streets. These two saints, who are mentioned in Eucharistic Prayer #1 (The Roman Canon), were both beheaded for their faith. This small church no longer holds their remains (they were re-located to Germany in the 9th century for use in the new churches there), but it still preserves the memory of their witness to the Father’s love for all of us.

Today’s homily takes up the theme of  Lent as a season of conversion, of metanoia, of purifying our ways of thinking. The stational liturgy today asks us to admit our need for further conversion, and shows us the way back to the Father.

Learning from Our Father’s Generosity

The well-known parable of the Prodigal Son asks us to confront the attitude of the elder son present in all of us. The elder son becomes angry at the generosity shown by the father for the younger son, a son who seemed to have lived the easy life, full of pleasure and enjoyment. This anger is not just because the younger prodigal son is welcomed back; it’s because the father’s love seems disproportionate to the actions of his sons. From the elder son’s point of view, the father seems to be more generous to the younger son; in fact, he seems to love the younger son more despite what the elder son has done for the father.  “Look,” he says, “all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends!”

Are we angry because others seem to be rewarded for doing nothing? Are we angry because our burdens seem to be more difficult than others’? Are we angry because we have to follow certain rules and others don’t, and they seem happier for it? In a word, are we angry because God still hasn’t given us our due? If we have these thoughts in our hearts, we really don’t know what redemption means. We really don’t know what Jesus accomplished through his passion death and resurrection.

But we can rediscover this Lent what it means to be saved. It’s appropriate that this station church, which is always connected to this Gospel in Lent, should have a shrine over there to Lourdes. It is at Lourdes where so many people who are ill and fearfully sick come to find rest. They bring the burden of feeling abandoned by God to Mary; they bring the heavy load of being the sickest person they know to this shrine and discover with and through Mary how much they are already blessed by God; how much they have already been given by God, freely, gratuitously, out of the generosity of his fatherly heart. They learned the meaning of what the father told his elder son, “Everything I have is yours”.

Mary, pray that we your sons and daughters may come to know this Lent the gratuitousness of divine love, a love that we already possess. And pray that we may in turn give that love to others. Amen.

Written by Fr. Anthony Lickteig

Photo by Fr. Justin Huber