Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Who We Truly Are
By this point in Lent we consider how we are applying ourselves to our annual program of renewing ourselves in our dead-and-risen Messiah Jesus. The built-in risk of considering how we’re applying ourselves to our Christian renewal can leave us thinking and feeling that renewal is all one’s own doing. Christian renewal depends on God’s gracious initiative not any human power. It is up to us to cooperate with God’s power, which graces us.
The first reading from Samuel dramatizes this distinction between human and divine power. God sent Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel. Samuel was confident that God would alert him some-how which of Jesse’s sons to anoint. The trouble was that not all of Jesse’s son’s stood before Samuel.
I imagine Samuel felt relief when he saw seven young men, Jesse’s sons, standing before him. Choosing a king is not an easy, casual everyday affair. It’s by no means casual when it is a mission from God.
“Fill your horn with oil [the Lord told Samuel], and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem [to anoint the] king I have chosen from among his sons.”Samuel felt that the first son, a young man of lofty stature, was the one. But God moved him to be cautious about judging by appearances and by human standards. How difficult for Samuel to put out of his mind that the future of Israel was resting in him, according to his discernment! How tortured Samuel must have felt when the last young man in front of him was not the one. What was he to do? How was he to fulfill the mission the Lord entrusted him?
A long pause, pregnant with those questions and others, surely preceded Samuel’s graced insight and question to Jesse: “Are these all the sons you have?” God does not disappoint nor let down those God sends on mission. Samuel knew that in his bones and refused to allow contrary lights to frustrate him. Christian renewal calls us to deepen our confidence in God and God’s gracious initiative. That is Samuel’s lesson to us.
The prayer of the famous, The Lord is my shepherd psalm, expressed deep confidence in each moment. While the Psalmist acknowledged darkness and its uncertainty as well as its pain as real, they were not as substantial as the brightness of God’s goodness and kindness: Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.
Jesus’ unique revelation is that he is divine goodness and kindness in flesh and blood. Far from being abstract notions or limited human feelings, the person of Jesus illumines the personal darkness we all experience in life. The encounter of Jesus and the man born blind is rich with imagery of light, water and testimony, all of which shape our celebration of baptism.
Baptism was very early named "enlightenment," and those baptized were called the "enlightened." The light of Christ, which we baptized inherit from Christ our light, is not a personal enhancement meant for private use. It is our way of living, indeed, it is our life:
Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness,but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.We don’t have light, we are light! We are light in the Lord. Can we explain that? Not at all! We do know in our bones like Samuel; we have deep, felt knowledge that our Christian vocation, we are light in the Lord for the world, really is who we are. Accepting this truth aboutut us moves people to baptism in fullness or to be received in full communion with the church.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week come before the Trinity and allow yourself to feel humbled by the lavishness of gifts and graces the Divine Persons afford you. Ask the once-blind man to present you to Jesus so you may ask Jesus to enlighten your blindness, whatever is dark, unclear or not in harmony with Jesus’ light. Beg for the grace to accept more freely and live more clearly the light you are in the Lord. Close by saying, slowly, the Lord’s Prayer so that you will brighten every shadow which eclipses the goodness and kindness flowing from God.
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