Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday word, 01 Jun 2007

St. Justin, martyr (01 Jun 2007) Sir 44. 1, 9-13; Ps 149; Mk 11. 11-26
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Trash and Trees

We take trash removal for granted until ours is not removed. Trash becomes a dangerous problem when it isn’t removed for days or weeks, which happens during strikes and even disasters which interrupt services.

Because we have trash removal, nail polish remover, spot remover and even surgical removal we may not be able to appreciate the Jewish phrase current in Jesus time and before, “mountain remover.” Mountain was used as a metaphor for a problem; “remover” for one who solved it.

Sometimes we create our problems as our phrase attests: “They’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” When they used mountain the Jews generally meant problems not of their making. The “mountain remover” was God. Faith in God, the giver of the Covenant, the one who promised to sustain the people, cast human cares on God. Sometimes people tried to manipulate God, the danger Jesus saw in the unfruitful temple business, which he cleared.

Bad fruit and decaying fruit trees had long been symbols of spiritual decay and unjust activity. Jesus justified clearing the temple by citing ancient, prophetic statements. Should anyone not believe them, Mark framed the temple-cleansing scene with a tree that bore no figs, which Jesus cursed, and with the scene of Jesus and the disciples walking by it after the temple cleansing seeing the fig tree withered to its roots.

Faith deeply relies on God as the “mountain remover” as well as one’s personal companion. St. Justin sought a faithful and sure companion from his youth. After an elder told him about Jesus and his good news, Justin not only found the certainty for which he longed, he introduced others to the faith and explained it to those who had nothing to do with it.

Justin would echo Jesus: Have faith in God! Forgiveness is a key way we allow God to work through us to remove problems in our world. It guarantees our fruitfulness of faith.

Flickr photo of fig tree by njhdiver used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license.

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