Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday word, 22d Sunday of the YearB

22dSunday of Year B(03Sep2006)Dt4.1-2,6-8,18; Ps15; Jm1.17-18,21b-22,27; Mk7.1-8,14-15,21-23
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Vibrating With Love

As we resume hearing Mark’s gospel on the 13 Sundays left in this liturgical year, we might remind ourselves of Mark’s purpose. Mark wrote for people within the church, people who had already received the secret of God’s kingdom as gift, grace, new life. Mark’s purpose was to remind them of what they received and help them appreciate it as God’s saving work.

That is not unique to Mark’s gospel. Much of scripture has that purpose. That means that our purpose as Christians today isn’t to conquer with words but to convert the hearts of those who see what we do. This is at once truly Jewish as it is truly Christian.

Our heritage from Judaism has long impressed me but never moreso than on Easter Sunday 13 years ago. A Jewish friend came to Mass that morning. Afterward he remarked to me how much he recognized from Jewish worship. He underscored his remarks by saying how similar the procession with the gospel book, from altar to pulpit, was to the procession of the torah scroll taken from its place in the synagogue and processed to its pulpit. Evan reiterated his surprise before we left the church for my house where I cooked us breakfast. I looked him in the face and said, “Evan, we got it all from you!”

Our worship evolved from Jewish worship, just as Christians evolved from Jews. Consider fasting, daily prayers, intercessory prayers, bread & wine--Jesus, the New Passover, didn’t choose bread and wine on a whim, but because they were used every sabbath as well as Passover. Nor must I forget to mention alms.

On my first visit to my friend’s home, I noticed that he had a box on a table into which Evan deposited the change in his pocket, alms for a Jewish charity. He impressed me very much by making his compassion an action. A little thing, a habitual thing for Evan--think of each one of our personal devotions and acts of service--but a big thing for me to see it--a big thing for others who see yours.

I don't suppose my friend noticed that I noticed. I never mentioned to him for some time the effect he had on my heart. His observance of the commandments of the Lord enfleshed Moses’ words: for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, how close is the Lord, our God.

God’s commandments have people at heart: doing justice, think[ing] the truth; slander[ing] no one. That means God isn’t tucked away for Sunday or for crises or at turning points. Daily living is a path to God. Many and subtle are the temptations that suggest other paths.

Reflecting on my own temptations which derail me, I notice one thing: they lack a sense of surprise. They appear as if they were supposed to be there, as if my life were supposed to take such turns, as if they were supposed to be part of my most real, God-desired self. In fact, they are all delusions! All of our compulsions and inadequacies, our fears and self-doubts, chasing our temptations instead of standing against them delude us and don’t impress anyone.

The commands of God do not intend to constrain us--our temptations often succeed well in doing that. The commands of God seek to liberate us. They help us be doers of the word [of God] and not hearers only. They help shape hearts which are in God's orbit. When we allow ourselves to be within it, to be vulnerable to God's loving, creative presence, we are truly surprised, even set off balance. The usual surprises us; the humane appeals to us; we vibrate with love. Neither temptations nor merely hearing God's word do that.

In the 10 minutes you set aside each day this week for a quiet, reflective pause remember God creates you to learn God more intimately. As people, actions and blessings surface on your heart and mind, praise God for being open to learn God more and ask yourself, “How have I acted on the word, the story, the encounter of God by which God has invited my response?”

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