Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday word, 18 Feb 2007

7th Sunday C (18 Feb 2007) 1 Sm 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23; Ps 103; 1Co 15.45-49; Lk 6. 27-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Shaped By Mercy

I encounter people who desire to deepen their relationship with God. I wager people making our 9-week Ignatian Retreat desire that. Many more seek a deeper relationship with God. Some sense a deeper relationship emerging; others have greater clarity about their desire for it.

God loves people--each and every person--as they are. God does not love less the one who has no awareness of God’s loving desire for her. Nor does God love more the one who is quite clear that he wants to deepen his relation-ship with his creator and redeemer. To grow in the Spirit means to give ourselves to God creating and loving us each moment of our lives.

Personal attention to God inviting us is vital. So also is exercising our hearts to make them more supple, more grateful and welcoming of God: what personal praying as well as what public worship are about. Indeed, more supple, more grateful, more welcoming hearts allow us felt knowledge of God’s loving kindness, to grasp it as real for me. St. Ambrose expressed that briefly: “Nothing graces the Christian soul so much as mercy.” Perhaps nothing like chronic pain or chronic spiritual darkness challenge us to welcome mercy.

Divine mercy animated the future-King David’s heart even in war. The warring tone of the first reading may blind us to that. We might cheer the possibility of one of David’s lieutenants ending it by killing the king with one thrust of the spear. But David respected the king who sought David’s life: He would not harm...the Lord’s anointed. Respect participates in divine mercy.

David’s action was noble not heroic. He was no hero. David was flawed; at times he cultivated and even gave into sin. He was shadowed by God’s mercy, and he knew it. He allowed mercy to reshape how he lived.

The first Christians saw many Old Testament era figures typifying Jesus. David calling, Do not harm, typified the Jesus we seek and recognize as the divine image in flesh and blood, Jesus who embodied God. Jesus embodied and enacted God’s mercy. Jesus respected others with divine respect; he did not remain distant nor did he patronize. Jesus gave humanity unrivaled access to God. He still gives us that access as our Risen Lord, the life-giving spirit.

Today’s gospel passage offers us Jesus’ way to live, shaped by mercy. I find I need to enter Jesus’ words. If I remain outside, merely reading them, they remain only a guide, albeit a fine one, for keeping peace in my home, my work-place, the Christian community and rest of the world. I enter Jesus’ words by recalling someone who hated me, or cursed me, who begrudged me anything, who loved me only for what I could do for them. I recall the emotions triggered by a person who judged me, or berated me or refused to forgive me when I asked with all my heart to be forgiven. I enter Jesus’ words by recalling when I have behaved that way.

By doing that, I don’t dwell on past hurts but realize I grasp God’s grace helping me to trans-form the way I live as well as interact with others. I become aware that our life-giving spirit, Messiah Jesus, empowers me and motivates me to hear him speak to me. Risen Jesus reminds me at the depths of myself how he and others have loved me, blessed me, generously loved me for who I am.

This is no gimmick, my friends. It’s prayer. It is Jesus, our life-giving spirit, reminding us how our God respects us, lovingly seeing us as images of God’s own self, who creates and redeems us.

In your daily 10 minutes this week find calm in the presence of the Trinity, creating us each moment. Then ask Mary or your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Praise Jesus for giving us our Christian nonnegotiable, to forgive as we have been forgiven. Speak to Jesus in your own words about the challenge to make his merciful love the measure of your living and being. Ask Jesus for grace to incarnate more the divine mercy in order to welcome and receive Risen Jesus in the eucharist as well as in the countless ways Jesus presents himself. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer in order to cooperate with Jesus’ grace and to make you more humane than you could be on your own.
Carlos Latuff allows his copyrighted image, part of the Forgiveness Series, to be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

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