Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sunday word, 21st Sunday of the Year B

21st Sunday of the YearB(27Aug2006)Josh 24.1-2,15-17,18 Ps34; Eph 5.21-32; Jn 6.60-69
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Sacrament of What If?

What if we stood at Shechem with Joshua that day knowing the rest--that's 87%--of the scriptures of the people of Israel would call people again and again to fidelity and deeper intimacy with God? If we knew that, then Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods would come from our lips more as a prayer than a declaration. Many things tempt us to make them our gods.

What if we knew by personal experience the culture of the world of St. Paul, one in which the accepted order was women were less than men, not just paid less than them? (In that culture women and children were property. Women played no legal role; no one would call them to give official testimony!) What if we all were eager to hear what this Saul-become-Paul, this Jew-become-Christian looked and sounded like, maybe what he had to say?

What if we walked in on him speaking as we heard the echo of his voice today? Respect one another, don't think oneself greater than another: sensible; it makes for a good society. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. If we stood inside that time and culture, we couldn't disagree at best, we might nod off at worst. This hot-shot apostle wouldn't be telling us anything we didn't know.

What if we were nodding off, when Paul said, Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her sanctity? We would snap awake so fast, especially the men. Love our wives? What! would be our response. Or, This is new; or, Hey, that makes them our equals! That was what Paul realized in Christ. And if we had been hanging around listening to Paul already while he was in town, then his words about diversity is united in Christ would be personalized. The diversity of male and female helps each man and each women know Christ better as each one responds in love. As a Canadian woman expressed, "Yet too many women still haven't experienced this love and too many men have missed the challenge."

What if we took up that challenge more often? Here’s something to take with you from mass into your week. Each day set aside 10 minutes and sit with open hands. In those minutes consider your experiences up to that moment--the way God has created you in love for loving; what you may have chosen to do or not to do; people you encountered.

What if you took your experiences up to that moment--all of them--and as they surfaced in your awareness you turned them over in your heart, not declaring, "See what I have done!" but take them out one by one in leisurely prayer. As each surfaces on your heart and mind, ask, "Where did I meet Christ, and how did I respond to him?"

Growing more aware of meeting Christ in our daily experiences convinces us afresh that he is the Holy One of God. Growing more aware of meeting Christ in our daily experiences inspires mutual love. Growing more aware of meeting Christ in our daily experiences not only sanctifies us; it reminds us that we also play our part in sanctifying our world.

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