Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday word, 17 September 2006

24th Sunday of Year(17 Sep 2006) Is 50. 5-9a; Ps 116; Jms 2. 14-18; Mk 8. 27-35
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Mind of God

Albert Einstein said, “I want to know how God created the world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details.”

God does have a mind. God thinks, chooses, plans, loves and desires our loyal friendship. God has made known to us the divine mind in Christ Jesus, whose Spirit enlightens us and gives us courage to befriend God.

How we can befriend God Jesus made clear: to love our neighbors as ourselves is to love God. Those twin commandments are the measure of Christian living. Christian living, as we know well, is often tested.

Many are the powers which test it and compete for our loyalty . The prince of these powers has been named Satan, which means Accuser, Tester. God’s choice of rejection, suffering and death plus God’s way of working through them for our good we humans can’t wrap our minds around. We’re fair game for Satan’s wiles.

As fare game for Satan’s wiles we can’t fault Peter; Peter is each of us. Satan used Peter to rebuke Jesus for his outrageous teaching that he must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. Webster’s first meaning for to rebuke is to criticize sharply. The word rebuke, I discovered, comes from an Anglo-French word which means to blunt. Peter tried to blunt the sharp edge of Jesus’ faith and Jesus teaching that God’s way was through rejection, suffering and death.

How like Peter we are! We often try to blunt the sharp edges of Christian living, very often because they don’t mesh with our minds. Satan used Peter’s rebuke to weaken Jesus’ resolve, but Jesus used Peter’s rebuke to expose Satan’s deception: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Thinking leads us to act. As the ancients long held, if our thinking is cockeyed, then our actions will lack good sense and harm others. The ancients considered this truth and offered maxims, principles, codes of conduct and examples to adjust our thoughts so they would adjust our behavior.

St. James masterfully used that method of his contemporaries, and he emphasized faith not human thought. Faith is personal, mutual relationship of God with people and people with God. Like every relationship faith has helps to strengthen the bonds of that relationship. Faith binds people, who cherish God’s desires, to honor the poor. Acting on faith makes their deeds match their words about their desire for God, about their friendship with God’s Son, our Messiah Jesus.

Not to welcome the poor equally as the rich; not to honor the poor by providing for their needs from our wealth; not to respect others as if each person was our other self; not to secure peace: all of those and other omissions mock the Trinity and our faith-relationship with the Trinity. Our omissions also mock how our Triune God works.

The key to appreciating the laser-focus James puts on matching words about faith with deeds of kindness, respect, charity and God’s heartfelt care is not included in Sunday readings from the Letter of James. The key is part of the section of which we heard a few verses today. Recalling Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, a sacrifice God did not permit, James said, See: his faith was working together with his actions and by his actions his faith was perfected. It isn’t that faith and actions which flow from faith are two sides of a coin: faith and actions which flow from faith continually complete and perfect each other.

Give yourself 10, quiet minutes each day this week to praise Jesus, who has given you a share in Jesus’ own faith. Notice what moves you; notice what invitation Jesus may be offering you; notice any response which may be emerging within you. Ask James, Isaiah and Jesus to keep you open and alert to God working new life in you, and through you in others. Compared to Christian, other-centered love, which incarnates God’s mind and heart, “the rest are details.”

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