Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday word, 25 Mar 2007

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Faith Is a Relationship

The Fourth Gospel portrays a most human Jesus throughout, something easily missed by most people, including scholars. Allow me to name a few easily overlooked human qualities. Jesus asked questions. Jesus longed for relationships; Jesus thirsted, was hungry, grew tired--recall two Sundays ago and his encounter with the woman of Samaria; Jesus spoke with real people in real places--recall that encounter and recall last week’s encounter with the man born blind, whose sight Jesus restored with his saliva-and-mud paste. Today we heard that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.

This completely human Jesus opened his life--all that he was; all his relationships; all that he did--and was filled, even overtaken, by God’s spirit. Because of his openness to God’s spirit, Jesus became the stairway connecting the realm of heaven and the realm of earth. Jesus fulfilled in his person and his work Jacob’s vision- experience of angels ascending and descending on a ladder reaching from earth to heaven./1/ In Jesus earth and heaven meet. In this meeting God’s spirit transforms flesh. The is the meaning of St. Paul’s phrase, living in the spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead.

Jesus, the gateway and point of access to God, is not a tollbooth on our journey to God. Jesus was one with his heavenly Father in life and remains one in his resurrection, which we share even now.

In John’s gospel the ministry of Jesus, all his interactions with other humans and especially Jesus’ dying and rising, point to Jesus and his unique relationship with his heavenly Father. Faith in Jesus points us to his heavenly Father constantly working in us in life-giving ways.

Christian faith is no ideology, it isn’t mental gymnastics. Look at Jesus and his faith to see what it truly is: Christian faith is a relationship with the God of life; with the God who opens graves so that corpses will rise living, never more to die; relationship with the God who promised this and will do it, as Ezekiel reassured us and Jesus demonstrated by resuscitating his friend Lazarus.

Our human death does not sunder our connection with God in Jesus by their Spirit. Our responsibility is to be open to that connection, to that faith-relationship; to cultivate it and to desire to meet Jesus in all we do and experience.

Jesus gives shape to our desire so that it is not abstract, not beyond us. Remember: faith connects us with Jesus, sharing his unique relationship with our God, whom Jesus called my heavenly Father. God is most substantial, real, true. In Catholic vocabulary of matter and form, God who is most real, forms and shapes all that is, all matter. In today’s gospel the matter is life. Resurrection is the form Jesus gives human life. “I am the resurection and the life,” Jesus told Martha. Jesus shapes, forms and transforms all who give themselves to him.

Because Jesus was completely human, we need not censor anything about ourselves. Jesus welcomes us as we are. Because Jesus was completely open to God’s spirit and gave himself to us, we stand rooted on earth with a foot inside the open door of the realm of the spirit. We experience the beginnings of the promise God made real in Jesus and extends to all people by their Holy Spirit.

In your 15 minutes you set aside each day this week to savor Jesus’ relationship with you and your relationship with him, begin by quieting yourself and be more present to the Trinity lovingly desiring you. Martha came to believe in Jesus as the resurrection and the life; ask her to help you to deepen your faith-relationship in Jesus. Ask questioning Martha to present you to Jesus so that you may converse with Jesus. Speak to Jesus in your own words about what-ever keeps your faith from growing more alive and more trusting. You may want to focus on one thing as you converse with Jesus. Open your hands and allow Jesus to take what dulls your faith and let you walk into life more free to trust Jesus more. After thanking and praising Jesus in your own words, close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer in order to reshape you and help you walk more in Jesus’ spirit and faith’s freedom.
/1/ Genesis 28.10-19.
Flickr photo by Kevin Basil used under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

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