Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday word, 19 Apr 15

Prominent Features
Third Sunday of Easter B (19 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The fifty-day Easter festival allows us to fall deeper into the mystery of our crucified and risen Messiah. Mystery aptly names Jesus, our crucified and risen Messiah. Christian mystery is first of all a person, Jesus. As a person Christian mystery is no problem to solve. Risen Jesus lives more powerfully today by the power of his Spirit. I’d like to reflect with you on risen Jesus present with and for us by looking at three of scripture’s prominent features: empty tomb; appearances; and eating together.

An empty tomb plays prominently to signify God raised [Jesus] from the dead. God did not resuscitate Jesus’ corpse. Resuscitation brings back to life for a time someone who had slipped away from life. Resuscitation isn’t resurrection.

Resurrection is transformation—an astonishing one! In raising Jesus from death God worked in and beyond time and history. Beyond history is beyond human knowing. The women who came early to his tomb illustrated that: they…puzzl[ed] over not finding Jesus’ body. For know-ing beings not knowing disturbs greatly. In their confusion [angelic messengers]…said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here…he has been raised.1 Raised equals living.

An empty tomb is not all. Also prominent are appearances of risen Jesus. One result of his risen transformation is that people did not immediately recognize the living one present to them. The two disciples who walked with risen Jesus Easter afternoon recognized him in the breaking of bread.2 As they recounted it to the apostles and those with them Jesus appeared to them.

Jesus showed them his hands and his feet.3 He offered another side of his presence. His presence could elude recognition yet he could be known by an action—breaking bread as Jesus did. Risen Jesus showed bodily presence:“Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

The feelings and reactions of the disciples are equally important: startled and terrified and incredulous for joy and amazed. Present to them was Jesus; his bodily presence was transformed: equally real and different from theirs. Their feelings and reactions communicate they were in the presence of God. Scripture reported—as do people today—that being touched by God can be at once awesome, even worrisome or terrifying, and inviting.

Eating together is a third prominent feature of risen Jesus’ presence. 4 Risen Jesus taught his disciples that by communal meals guided and shaped by his spirit he would continue to be present to them and to all who would follow their witness. We call it Jesus’ sacramental presence. All Christian worship, all Christian living flow from the eucharistic meal and return to it.5

Today’s gospel echoes a Catholic conviction: risen Jesus is present as we dine together here. “From that time [of the disciples]…the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery: reading those things which were in all the scriptures concerning him, celebrating the eucharist in which ‘the victory and triumph of his death are again made present,’ and at the same time giving thanks to God for his unspeakable gift in Christ Jesus, in praise of his glory, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”6


You and I live in the presence of risen Jesus. Risen Jesus is no dead person of the past; he is our living Messiah, Lord and Savior. We will never understand the core of our faith this side of heaven. We know that is true when we take long, loving looks at our close relationships: dear friends, spouses and family members remain mysteries to us. Yet they are real and really present with us and for us. So much more true that is of our risen Jesus!

How may we profit from noticing these prominent features? An emptiness we feel when it comes to Jesus may result because we don’t seek him as he truly is, our living Lord. In other areas of our lives we may let surface appearances distract us from what is more real. We allow both when we don’t put our hearts into the sacred meal that keeps him present to us and makes us more present to him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples to welcome you and present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; ask Jesus to open your mind to understand the Scriptures and others’ testimony to him.
  • Name what holds you back from feeling and acting risen Jesus really walks with you; then ask him to transform it into grace so you will feel him present.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. To request our daily bread is hollow until we give our risen Lord what keeps us from feeling and recognizing him present with us and for us.yourself to rest in the presence of our triune God.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
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  1. Luke 24.3-6.
  2. The passage immediately before today’s gospel.
  3. Also see John 20.20.
  4. Acts 10.41. Jesus had promised they would also eat and drink in his kingdom.
  5. “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Liturgy, 10.
  6. Constitution on the Liturgy, 6.
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday word, 12 Apr 15

Ambassadors of God’s World
Second Sunday of Easter B (12 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The narrator of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was intelligent and also needed to learn. Scout’s first day at school was a disaster: so disastrous she begged her father keep her home. He listened to her then said, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll learn to get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”1

The lesson needs no explaining; we have our experiences of it. “Simple” as it may be, the “trick” may not be easy: to think as another thinks challenges us; to see as another sees challenges us; to appreciate as another appreciates also challenges. They are so in our homes. With other cultures and earlier times the challenges are steeper. Scripture belongs to another culture and a very distant time. Both make climbing into it and walking around in it very challenging to us modern folk.

That challenge is also an invitation. We may not think it, yet when we come together around the tables of our triune God’s word and risen son God invites us to inhabit God’s world. Why? So we can return to our daily living and, with God’s spirit helping us, reshape it in ways more like the world in which God welcomes us, teaches us and nourishes us.

I tried to enter the world today’s scriptures described. I share with you a few impressions from my visit. I hope you find them helpful and want to ponder and savor them this week. I hope you let yourselves feel my impressions then let them shape you. 

Enter the scene of the Acts of the Apostles. Inside it I was surrounded by power, the power of the apostles. They were at the center of the community of believers. Their unity unites us. Where did they get their power? Not long before they feared for their lives: they had locked…the doors [where they] were for fear. Risen Jesus’ presence did not quell their fear at first—only after he showed them his hands and his side! Then the disciples rejoiced to recognize their Lord.

The power wasn’t theirs. Risen Jesus imparted it to them. Breath symbolizes spirit in the world of scripture. Humans created as living beings began with God breathing.2 John’s gospel imparts a deeper intimacy: Jesus breathed his spirit.  His personal, loving gift transformed disciples into bold witnesses: “We have seen the Lord!” Their witness to their absent friend was no report but eager joy: they desired that he be free of dejected fear, too. Thomas—whose name means twin3—defused the joy given him. Humans can choose not to be overcome by Holy Spirit. Jesus presented himself to Thomas so he could recognize risen Jesus for who he was: Lord and God.

Thomas is our twin. Oh, we may not say we refuse to believe; we may not intend not to believe. Yet we defuse the power Jesus imparts to us; we defuse Jesus’ spirit rather than fan its flame to fire us with eager joy and make faith the action of our lives. The First Letter of John is very clear: the love of God is this, that we keep [do] his commandments. Christian life is action.

God is love,4 the letter reminds us. It means God acts: God loves us into being and holds us in being each moment—everyone! In Christian practice those God loves into being love each person for whom the person is—not what any of us wish a person to be. We don’t do that on our own: we fear; we desire the person be what we want; or we have other agendas. We do it by God’s power. God’s spirit is nothing less than God’s power, God’s life, God’s world. Into it God invites us unceasingly. When we enter it and live what we enter, we allow others to climb into it, walk around it and enjoy now a share in God’s life.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Calm yourself to rest in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask Thomas and the other disciples to present you to risen Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; tell him your desire to let his faith be your faith; allow him to breathe on you. We have received his spirit, yet we benefit each time we feel it is Jesus’ self-gift.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to free you to live the life and love he breathes into us each moment.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so his life and love may transform us and shape us as his disciples, his ambassadors to his world that even now welcomes us and everyone.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Page 30 of this online edition.
  2. Genesis 2.7
  3. The word didymus continues in use in modern Greek.
  4. 1 John 4.16
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Wiki-images: Paschal Lamb window The Disbelief of Thomas PD-US

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Face of God's Mercy

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” With that image Pope Francis began the document that proclaims the Jubilee of Mercy. Its year will commence on 08 December 2015. Its purpose: “so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.” The full text is here.
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Wiki-image of Detail of Jubilee Door in Bethlem by Abraham CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Sunday word, 05 Apr 15

“Wonderful in Our Eyes”
Easter Sunday B (05 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
H
appy Easter! With our greeting believing Christians abbreviate a conviction: This is the day the Lord has made. Out of the chaos of Holy Week, when God seemed to withdraw, God acted. Out of the chaos of Jesus’ passion and death, God did an absolutely new thing: God raised [Jesus] on the third day and granted that he be visibletowitnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. They were first; we, also, eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood at his table. Our communion with and in Jesus makes us his witnesses. What might that mean for us? I find a clue in the cloth that had covered his head while Jesus’ body was in his tomb. Walk with me in the steps of Peter and John that morning.

Peter and John found a tomb empty of Jesus’ body. It held burial cloths strewn around save one. That one was the cloth that had covered the face and head of the dead Jesus. It was not with the others but rolled up in a separate place. It suggests three things for us to ponder: our relationship with death; new life; and our invitation. First: our relationship with death.


Jesus was raised, he was not resuscitated. Resuscitated people resume earthly living only to die. Jesus did not resume his earthly life. Jesus lives an absolutely new way. We say in glory to mean he shares God’s life and power. The cloth rolled up in a separate place hints at that creating, exalted life: distinct from other life yet always offered each per-son. Because we have already died and risen with Jesus in baptism we can live free—separate—from death’s frighten-ing, fearful control. Yes, our bodies will die; Easter-hope reminds us we are more than our bodies.

Second: new life. The cloth thatcovered Jesus’ head in the tomb was separate from the rest that had absorbed the smell and shape of death; it was also rolled up. It is easy to imagine what John and Peter saw: a jumble of yards of linen winding-sheets used for burials. Yet the cloth that had covered [Jesus’] head was rolled up. It has the feel of a deliberate act by risen Jesus: left as a clue of God’s deliberate power. God’s passion for life blesses each person who believes in risen Jesus with the same new life, fresh vigor and sweet aroma. We name it our share now in the life to come.

Last: our invitation. Divine life within and around us often escapes our notice. The word in the gospel translated as bent down and saw suggests careful, curious inspection.1 The burial cloths could have hidden from a casual glance the rolled up cloth. Peter saw it because he went into the tomb. The lesson for us? Look within ourselves. Our careful, curious attention lets us notice our triune God at work for us.

God at work for us stretches us and offers our Christian personalities a smooth, inviting texture so important for mission. The rolled up cloth is our invitation to mission. When we notice God in Jesus by their Spirit working in us and for us we unroll for ourselves the creative life of the Trinity. As we unroll and notice we let ourselves be absorbed in their creative power—not for ourselves; Christians and Christian communities don’t exist separately or for themselves. We unroll, open, appreciate our new life in our Messiah Jesus to offer it freely to the world.

Easter and its hope and vision of Jesus alive for ever free us to appreciate ourselves, others, the entire universe in new ways; and to serve Jesus’ mission as ours.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesu this week
  • Calm yourself to rest in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary of Magdala, Peter and John to present you to our risen Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; tell him your fears, resentments, any discouragement or energies which discourage others. Focus on one; offer it to Jesus so he may take it from you, roll it up and free you of it.
  • Resolve to reach no more for what you offered Jesus and ask him for grace to keep you free from it.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer to sharpen our vision and make it like his: to see all created things as wonderful in our eyes; and have hearts like his that beat with faithful, disinterested love.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Thayer’s lexicon entry
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Wiki-images: Peter and John run to the sepulchre PD-US “He Is Not Here” © Walter Rane, LDS Church, available

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Holy Thursday word, 02 Apr 15

Not Ornamental
Mass of the Lord’s Supper B (02 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When we gather around the tables of God’s word and God’s son our words never adequately express the mystery. We enter our triune God’s life and love God shares with us. We name the mystery Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The mystery feels more intense tonight and the next three days. As a way in to the mystery I will focus on a detail of the Lord’s Supper the Fourth Gospel’s remembers for us: Jesus took a towel and tied it around his waist. Why that one? Laundry.

I recently laundered kitchen towels. In the kitchen I don’t stint on using towels. I don’t want to rearrange or transfer grime from surface to surface. And thoroughly damp towels cease to dry things. Dry towels fascinate me—their physical properties: surface area; absorption; the weight of water and towels’ thirsty materials. Their properties are impressive. You and I are not here to be impressed. We are here because we are more than our physical selves; we are embodied spirits. We thirst: we desire more humane and worthy lives. As I folded kitchen towels I thought of us: Jesus responds to our thirsts; to us he has given a new fascination, a sacred appeal to the humble towel. As he said, I have given you a model to follow.

When he took a towel that night he celebrated Passover his final time Jesus transformed it. All who use towels as he did and imitate him, Jesus transforms into priestly, prophetic witnesses to him and servants of his mission. All the baptized are shaped into priestly, prophetic witnesses to him: both the priesthood of the faithful and those in ordained ministry. We exercise our priesthoods everywhere—sometimes in church. This night Jesus modeled what exercising our priesthoods looks like: If I… the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow. By doing the most menial task, Jesus tells Christians in every age no task of serving is beneath our priesthoods.

Jesus made clear service marks us as his. In remembering that the church links service with eucharist. We can say: eucharist begets service; and service leads to eucharist. The portion of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we heard this night confirms the link. In the earliest written memory of the night he was handed over, St. Paul recalled Jesus interpreted the Passover bread and cup as his self-offering, his self-service: my body for you; [my blood for you,] drink it to remember me.

Paul wrote what he received from the Lord to respond to a practice among Corinthian Christians: they did not serve one another. Paul had observed: When you meet in one place…it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.1 And that in a Christian community of around 200 members!2 How easy it has always been to be mindful of and even serve those beyond our circles and to neglect our blood relations as well as our sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus!

The related neglect is equally un-Christian: to serve only those like us and by Christ united to us. Christian service responds to everyone. Jesus modeled that! The night he took a towel and tied it around his waist he commanded his followers—then to this night in Greenville—to extend the pattern of his caring everywhere; Jesus gives us his Spirit so we may do it.

Jesus’ towel symbolized love in action. Love in action makes us more human and “make[s] society more human, more worthy of [each] person.”3 The next time you see a towel recall how Jesus used it for us. Let every towel remind us to fulfill his new commandment in our daily living. Let every towel ask us:
  • “Has my baptismal call to serve become ornamental, no longer vital to my life in my Savior?”
  • “Do I draw strength to serve, to live my Christian identity, by worshiping Jesus in word and sacrament?”
  • “Am I growing more curious about Jesus and longing to deepen my relationship with him?”
  • “In my personal praying do I chat with Jesus as one friend to another?”
  • Jesus’ towel questions communities not just individuals:                   “Do we continue to grow aware of what Jesus has done for us and what he longs to do for others through us?”
This is no ordinary night. Tonight we adore the one we will soon consume. We can savor him; what he has done for us; and imagine what he will do for us. Beginning tonight we can let his towel question us, encourage us, renew our fascination with him, his pattern of living, dying and rising and guide us to emulate our model for the sake of our world.

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  1. 1Corinthians 11.20-21.
  2. H.H. Drake Williams III, “Obstacle for a Church Planter: Paul’s Greatest Obstacles in Planting the Church,” Not Weary of Well Doing: Essays in Honor of Cecil W. Stalnaker. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013, p. 56. [Wayne Meeks estimated 300.]
  3. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 582.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday word, 29 Mar 15

Seeing Ourselves
Passion (Palm) Sunday of the Lord B (29 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Before mass we stood at the gates of Jerusalem as the Messiah King entered them. Our hearts are those very gates. How did we welcome the Messiah King? He is a very unlikely king. He was not the messiah longed for by his contemporaries; he entered their lives just the same.


Today each one’s heart is Jerusalem’s gates. Today Jesus desires to enter our hearts and abide in us. His selfless love moves us to consider ourselves. Perhaps someone is like Peter: ready to announce the faith with lips but refuses to allow one’s heart to own Jesus in his suffering. If that is anyone’s struggle, take courage: Jesus never disavowed Peter. Jesus sought him out to restore him and build his church on him and his brother apostles.

Third-century bishop, Gregory of Nazianzen, suggested each of us can find ourselves in our Messiah’s Passion. I cannot improve on his suggestion to help us:

“If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake…cease to sin. Worship him who has hung upon the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase your salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there…


“If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make [yours] the [atonement] of sins for the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.”1

In Jesus’ Passion is every sort of atmosphere of prayer: darkness; light; fear; forgiveness; pleading; denying and recognizing; fleeing and following; watching; wondering; praising.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the Trinity, who desired from their eternity to save the human race.2
  • Ask those who hailed Jesus as King to present you to Jesus.
  • Speak to Jesus: praise him as your King.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to guide you in personal darkness to be a source of his risen light and life to others.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His prayer becomes our personal connection with Jesus: he transforms how we live and how we move through life.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. From his homily, Oratio 45, in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for Fifth Lenten Saturday.
  2. Ignatius described the divine desire in his Contemplation on the Incarnation in his Spiritual Exercises, [102]
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday word, 22 Mar 15

Touched by Jesus
Fifth Sunday of Lent B (22 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We profess Jesus was buried. In the Nicene Creed we say Jesus suffered death and was buried. The Apostles’ Creed lets us voice Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. With those words we profess that Jesus’ earthly life came to its awful end. The prospect of his end troubled Jesus although he knew and had told his disciples he would be put to death with cruel suffering.1 Yet his fear did not force Jesus from his mission: for this purpose…I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.

In John’s Gospel Jesus coming into the world echoes God sending his Son to save the world, as last Sunday’s gospel reminded. The Son of God fully entered our human condition with his unique mission: to save humanity and all creation. Jesus expressed his mission with the image of buried seed: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Jesus’ words were never throwaway. He signaled, Listen up, when he began sayings with Amen, amen—as we heard. His hearers lived in tune with the earth, closer than many of us sophisticated, modern folk. Buried seeds die, that is, become other than what people planted. The trans-formation is mysterious, one brimming with life—life that nourished other creatures. His disciples did not know what we do until his resurrection after his death and burial. Because they lived in tune with the earth his image—the death of a grain and its transformed, abundant, nourishing life—opened their hearts and minds for what would happen.

What registered in their hearts and minds when Jesus rose from death and met the disciples again? They felt them-selves touched by risen Jesus and his power for them. From the first they named that power holy; they soon recognized that same power as personal: Jesus had said promised them, The holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.2

This reminding reached far beyond Jesus. The disciples realized that as risen Lord Jesus was the promised new covenant Prophet Jeremiah had announced. It was no-thing less than God’s promise—covenant means promise—to be their God, to be for them. God for them answered the Psalmist’s prayer, Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. After Jesus rose from the dead he wrapped them in divine presence and joy. They readily named both Holy Spirit.

Divine joy exceeds human happiness. We rightly name joy a fruit of Holy Spirit3 because it endures even in affliction. Divine joy and human sadness exist side by side. One example: when we bury a loved one who lived a full life our sadness cannot totally conquer our joy at being touched and shaped by our loved one’s life. That joy in the midst of deep sadness is not ours but from risen Jesus.  Others may not see our joy only our tears.

So it was with Jesus. His loud cries and tears, his death and burial united him with our human condition. Because he was one with his Father and his mission, he could say, I am troubled now. …But…for this purpose [to save the world]4 that I came to this hour.

As we continue our journey this Lent we might consider what closes our hearts and minds to Jesus, to his good news. The more clearly we name what tries to close our hearts and minds and bring them into the light the better able we are to move against them. We also increase our desire and our courage to replicate in our lives the pattern of Jesus and live it with the joy his Holy Spirit gives us anew each day.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest  in  our triune God’s faithful, life-giving love.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for being God’s life sent into the world to save and to free us from what enslaves us.
  • Ask Jesus, “Renew my life of faith; increase my courage and desire to let the pattern of your life, death, burial and resurrection shape me; and give me the joy of your Holy Spirit each day.”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our daily, practical guide to live his paschal mystery and to share its saving effects even now.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. His passion predictions: Matthew 16.21-23; 17.22-23; 20.17-19 and parallels.
  2. John 14.26.
  3. Galatians 5.22.
  4. John 3.17.
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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday word, 15 Mar 15

Left to Ourselves
Fourth Sunday of Lent B (15 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

I will focus on one verse from the gospel. Before today I did not have courage to reflect on it with people gathered at the tables of God’s word and God’s son: the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. Let me begin with an experience of darkness and light.

Away from cities and towns we experience light differently. Street lamps and 24-hour shining signs nearly blind us to starlight. Away from them we see light from stars perforate the night sky from its height to horizon. Almost everywhere we have a weak sense of darkness.

I had a strong experience of it in a cavern. It was an easy walk; we barely noticed the downward slope of the gently lighted path. Our guide would pause every so often and turn on a light above. He then showed and explained what was before us. Midway our guide asked if any one feared the dark. No one did. Our guide suggested that our distance into the cavern would allow us to experience subterranean darkness. He asked any of us with flashlights to turn them off. Then he turned of the path lights and the one above us. It was a new experience. Immediately I brought my hand an inch from my nose. In that moment I had a felt-knowledge of the saying: “So dark I could not see my hand in front of my face.”

My experience gave me new appreciation for light. Even in dark places at a new moon darkness is not total. The faintest of light leaks in. If physical light is nearly ever-present, how much more is God, whom we call Light? It describes God well: Just as we see by light more than we see light, we don’t see God who creates us each moment. Light was the first thing God’s word created.1 God was the source of the light by which Israelites could see each other during the plague of dense darkness in Egypt.2 The Psalmist personalized what any could allow to remain an idea: the Lord is my light.3 The Nicene Creed allows us to echo the Psalmist, to make those words ours.

As we do that this gospel asks us if we practice what we profess. It questions us in layers:
  • God so loved the world. Do we love God?
  • God sent his Son…to save the world. Do we believe Jesus embodied God for us and our salvation?
  • Do we count on Jesus’ saving us and working now for us? St. Paul’s words help us: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.
  • Do we let ourselves fall into God’s mercy and love for us? Or are we name-only Catholics who reduce God to our expectations or make God a problem to solve?

If we count on Jesus saving us now; if we do believe; and if we cultivate a loving, personal relationship with God; then do we live our belief in God, our confidence in Jesus’ saving us and our love for God in Jesus through their Spirit? To live our belief, our confidence and our love for our triune God means our actions match our words; it means our works reflect the divine light and shine it in the world’s darkness. It means we cooperate with the grace by which we have been saved. It means we share Jesus’ mission of bringing light to our world. Pope Francis has told us, “We have this mission. …We carry this light. If a Christian extinguishes this light, his life has no meaning: he is a Christian by name only, who does not carry light.…”4

Carrying the light of Christ is not heroic. Yes, it takes effort for left to ourselves we prefer darkness to light. This darkness is not limited to atrocious things people do to others—some even in the name of God! This darkness includes our rudeness to others, our harm to creation and people and our insensitive inactions, our sins of omission.

Jesus coming into our world shows us that God saving is a mutual enterprise: by graceGod’s role, and about it we boast so others may enjoy God’s grace of light and life; our role is to do what we are created to do: deeds of light, life, mercy and peace—deeds modeled for us by Jesus’ disinterested love and his faith in God, his Father and ours.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God’s faithful light and life-giving love.
  • Ask Nicodemus, St. Paul and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for being God’s light sent into the world to free us from what enslaves us.
  • Ask Jesus, “Release me from my cavern of darkness and give me courage to extend your mission of light, life, mercy and peace.”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our daily, practical guide to extend his mission he lovingly entrusts to us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Genesis 1.3-5.
  2. Exodus 10.22-23.
  3. Psalms 27.1.
  4. Sunday Angelus, 9 February 2014.

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