Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday word, 24 September 2006

25th Sunday of Year(24 Sep 2006) Wis 2. 12,17-20; Ps 54; Jms 3. 16-4. 3; Mk 9. 30-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
From Fear to Harmony

If the gospel words sound familiar it’s because last week’s gospel selection contained the first prediction by Jesus that he would be rejected, handed over to [others who would] will kill him, and three days after his death...would rise. For the disciples this was an outrageous teaching. The first time Jesus spoke openly about this Peter rebuked Jesus for saying it. Peter was thinking as humans not with the mind of God, who works for our good through all things, especially rejection, suffering and death.

Did you notice the reaction of the Twelve at Jesus’ second prediction of his passion, death and resurrection? For them incomprehension the second time turned into apprehensive fear: neither did they understand [Jesus’] saying and they were afraid to question him.

Fear affects us in many ways. Fear rips away any veil from inner sight to disclose, among other things, our insecurities. Imagine us as Jesus’ first disciples. Imagine that we had been following him: we’re privileged to see him and hear him up close. Who would we have seen and heard? A man of God whose feet were planted on earth. One who was open, compassionate, a man of patience and gentleness, whose pattern of living was self-giving; who did not shy away from putting into practice the intentions of God’s heart, even when they clashed with our own or those engendered by the likes of envy, dissension, hatred, deception, arrogance and rage.

Fear plops us into pools like that. Fear mires us in roiling waters for which loving faithfulness and confidence in Jesus are life preservers. Jesus tosses them with good aim and none too slowly to us, but spirits of fear often blind us to his help.

Fear to question Jesus seduced the Twelve into arguing who among them was the greatest, perhaps our most vexing insecurity. We cannot fault them for we are no different: fear distorts our hearts and narrows our fields of vision, too.

We can imagine the feelings and inclinations argument produced in the Twelve. It’s good to do that because it helps us identify with one or more of them. It helps us name our own needs for conversion which will deepen our loving faithfulness and confidence in Jesus. It also helps us appreciate personally Jesus’ response, which was not one of shock, dismay, disap-pointment or loud protest.

In an excellent way Jesus responded to the fears which distracted them from hearing his teaching about his rejection, suffering and death, which led the Twelve to argue among themselves. He placed in their midst the antithesis of fear and the touchstone of openness to the world, to animals, plants, sun and sea, sky and stars, and most of all to human beings: a child.

To be childlike is akin to Jesus’ temperament and his holy Spirit. Children innately know deep truth. To be childlike is innocent, joyful, candid, reflective, and perhaps most challenging for us adults, lacks the fear of making mistakes. That’s why youngsters enjoy true freedom; why Jesus placed a child in his disciples' midst for all ages. It is from our loss of innate freedom to the spirits of the world that Christ Jesus came to save us and give us a share in his holy Spirit.

Even an inkling, a taste of this graced freedom allows us to begin to appreciate the upside down manner the Trinity chooses to work for our good one moment at a time: the least in the world, which a child embodies, are greatest; the last, even the ignored, are first; and the servant has a mastery none can give or confiscate.

A child enjoys a harmony within and without, with the world of creation and the world of imagination. In Jesus’ language this harmony is one with his divine Father who sent him. In James’ language it is pure, peaceable, lenient, attentive, merciful, impartial and without pretense. Set aside 10 minutes each day this week to praise, speak and conclude: praise the One who sent Jesus; speak with Jesus; conclude by asking Jesus to strengthen one thing which can deepen your harmony with Jesus and with one other person.

No comments: