Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday word, 11 Feb 2007

6th Sunday C (11 Feb 2007) Jer17:5-8; Ps 1; 1Co 15.12,16—20; Lk 6.17-26

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
What Isn’t in the Book

Scripture is God’s word clothed in human language Some people approach scripture seeking to wrestle from it some meaning, but they refuse to engage what they read in a personal way. Instead they read scripture as if it were a menu, or worse, a train schedule. Engaging scripture, God’s word clothed in human language, in a personal manner leads readers to encounter Jesus. We begin to encounter Jesus in the way we read other good literature.

Reading good stories, novels and poetry is compelling. Good literature engages us so that we do encounter characters, places, choices and actions. It’s not all in the book. “[T]he written word sparks images and evokes metaphors that get much of their meaning from the reader’s imagination and experiences. When you read a novel much of the color, sound and motion come from you.”/1/ That’s even more true when reading scripture, praying with it and from it, which we do in each sacrament, in liturgies of every kind and in personal praying; we encounter Jesus in God’s word clothed in human language through its images of color, sound, motion, aromas, tears, laughter, broken bodies, thirsting spirits, blood, water, bread, wine and oil.

Each is an occasion to encounter Living Jesus, not a dead person from the distant past. Jesus is very much more alive than when he first walked the earth, what St. Paul’s well worn phrase, Christ...raised from the dead, means. He’s alive and present in the power of his Spirit.

That means that Jesus walks with us, he breathes with us, he sighs with us, he rests with us and is content with us. He also addresses us: blessed are you and woe to you as the case may be. Jesus does not speak to us merely to hear his own voice. No! Jesus speaks to us of concrete, “personal dispositions that will be or are being reversed by God.”/2/ Blessed are you poor, yours is the Kingdom of God. Woe to you rich people, for you are receiving your consolation now. Those who are now weeping will one day laugh in God’s kingdom. Those who smugly laugh now will grieve and weep outside God’s kingdom. Those whom people reject God accepts now. Those who are accepted by humans now stand with the false prophets of earlier eras.

Jesus’ statement of his soul, his inaugural address, made clear what he knew his mission to be: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim good news to those imprisoned and excluded. Today we hear the prophet Jesus address us: blessed are you, woe to you.

Because our measure is not God’s measure, we find the norms for blessing, that is, for our inclusion in God’s kingdom, paradoxical at best. Likewise, we find the norms which exclude us from God’s kingdom unreasonable.

Neither is a surprise, knowing who we are whom Jesus addresses. We are a mix of little ones to whom Jesus was sent as well as false prophets. We encounter Jesus addressing us as we are. Jesus’ truth and “energy vibrate at the same frequency and pitch as God’s inmost being,”/3/ both pronouncing us blessed and warning us to open ourselves more to his being and healing.

That openness to ourselves means noticing what our reading-encounter with Jesus stirs within us. What does a scripture passage awaken in us? What do the words of Jesus spoken to me evoke? To consider these questions, to be open to how they move us and what they stir in us personally engages God’s word clothed in human language. A shorthand way to express this is: Whenever you read scripture, notice where and how you see yourself in it--in its characters, in its colors, in its motion, in its sounds, in its desires.

In your 10 minutes with Jesus this week, calm yourself in the presence of the Trinity. Feel your own need or anxiety or fear or joy or generosity. In your own words converse with Jesus about it. Reflect on yourself: With that one facet of yourself in mind do you hear Jesus pronounce you blessed or warn you to open yourself to his being and healing? Slowly say the Lord’s Prayer. That both engages Jesus as well as makes concrete your way to live the hours ahead of you.
/1/ Jonathan Franzen citing Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital in Franzen’s “The Reader in Exile,” How To Be Alone. Simon&Schuster Audio, 2002, 4B.

/2/ Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. The Liturgical Press. Collegeville, MN 1991, p. 111.

/3/ William R. Burrows, “Preaching and Immersion in Trinitarian Life,” Living Pulpit 11:1, 2002, p. 16.
Poor Man's Bible window (top photo) and Open_Bible image both are in the public domain.

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