Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Accept and Rejoice
Behave like God, we responded to the psalm. Those words are a mantra for every day. “But how can I do that?” you will object. “I’m not God.” True enough. Our worship recognizes that none of us is God. Our worship encourages us to behave like God. That means specifically to be compassionate, to allow our hearts to feel discomfort, loneliness, unrest and even pain which another feels.
St. Paul told the Ephesians the same thing: Be imitators of God, and St. Paul listed behaviors that did and did not imitate God: being kind; compassionate; forgiving; selflessly loving like Christ; and not being immoral, greedy; obscene; or given to suggestive talk.
St. Paul didn’t think twice about any of that. All Jews had heard that God had both given God’s heart to them, children of Abraham, and asked them to shape their hearts like God’s.
Jesus summarized it early in his preaching: become compassionate as your father is compassionate, which Jesus also clarified with concrete behaviors: do not judge...do not condemn...forgive and you will be forgiven.
How quickly humans forget the compassionate contours of God’s heart! How more quickly humans forget we are called to behave with compassionate hearts! We’re not so different from the synagogue ruler, who grew irritated at Jesus for healing that crippled daughter of Abraham on the Sabbath. If humans could loose animals on the Sabbath—permissions were given—then all the more weighty to loose human beings from what binds them.
Our hearts are in bondage of various kinds. Nonetheless, they know wonders, too. Repentance is not just a turning from sin. It is both accepting daily the visitation God’s heart makes in Jesus by their Holy Spirit, and rejoicing in it, not shamed or irritated by it.