Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday word, 08 October 2006

27th Sunday of Year(08 Oct 2006) Gn 2. 18-24; Ps 128; Hb 2. 9-11; Mk 10. 2-16
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
No Empty Slogan

During October our church throughout the United States asks those who assemble around the tables of divine word and eucharist to allow respect for life to be a lens through which our vision of divine word and eucharist might be sharpened. This Sunday throws into bold relief our respect for life.

Certain phrases become loaded over time. Their value gets constricted. That is very true for the phrase, respect life. Sadly, it’s value is so narrow for some that its near total value is to stand against abortion. To respect life involves more than the beginning of life. Others can get so focused on another issue that the value of respect life means ending capital punishment. To respect life involves more than end-of-life issues of which capital punishment is only one. Of course one can end a life just beginning. The phrase respect life embodies much more than anyone can give attention and effort. Not to recognize that turns respect life into an empty slogan.

To respect life has two other dimensions, obvious and easy to overlook: 1) I understand respecting others’ lives by coming to respect my own life; and, 2) each moment a person lives stands between life’s beginning and end. Today’s scriptures offer ways of enlarging both dimensions.

The reminder Genesis offered is urgent for our society and many others. God created all other creatures for us because God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” God created the woman in a way unknown to the man (mystery will always encounter us; our technological sophistication blinds us to those encounters when we aren’t careful). Among all creatures the man recognized in her himself, his life--bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. That recognition did not undermine the attention to the rest of creatures, to which the man gave names.

To recognize that one creature of all is more akin than any other in no way belittles the rest. Rather, and this is the urgent message for us, to respect life includes all creation. Pope John Paul emphasized that time and again.

To recognize that one creature of all is more akin that any other requires one’s admiration and respect for one’s own life. Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: the words are no arid anatomical description; they communicate awe in the face of mystery, and esteem, affection, even deference for another.

This awe, esteem, affection and deference is what the Psalmist sang about human beings: of all God’s creatures they are a little less than the angels. The Second Person of the Trinity became exactly that, a human being for us: “for a little while” he was made “lower than the angels, that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. It’s important to note how Jesus reaffirmed our original goodness and called us back to it.

Jesus did not write a letter to the editor. Jesus did not choose to remain distant in any way. Jesus didn’t respond to the Pharisees privately. Jesus replied to the Pharisees publicly. Jesus had journeyed south through Galilee and had recently begun journeying into Judea across the Jordan to Jerusalem where he would give his life. To those who journeyed with him Jesus invited them to reshape themselves with childlike awe, esteem, affection, even deference for others.

What renewed respect will October give you in this phase of your life? Pope Benedict’s prayer intention for October is helpful: “That all those who are baptized may mature in their faith and manifest it through clear, coherent and courageous choices in life.” Each day this week devote 10 minutes to praise our Creator and Lord for giving you life; leisurely savor the awe of that grace of being alive; and be alert to how you can make “clear, coherent and courageous choices” of esteem, affection and deference for another person that very day.

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