Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday word, 15 Jul 2007

15th Sunday of the Year (15 Jul 2007) Dt 30. 10-14; Ps 69; Col 1. 15-20; Lk 10. 25-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Moses, Captain Kirk and the NASA Effect

Those three probably sound like a strange trio. I think they’re more familiar in that they stress both limitless and nearness, making possible the impossible, beholding what the eye cannot see.

Humans prefer certainty, especially about things which we need to do, or about things for which we’re responsible. The immature voice, or worse, the cynical voice sounds this clearly: “Just tell me what I have to do. I can’t be bothered thinking about it!” “Thinking about” in order to choose then act was one signature success of the Second Vatican Council. No matter who one is among the baptized, one can no longer be Christian in the modern world without thinking or without choosing to witness the gospel to the world. In short, the Second Vatican Council continues to encourage us, “Grow up.”

Of course, we tend to remain immature or grow cynical, which to me seem contradictory because cynicism distrusts life and results not in growth but in dread. Moses was aware of that human tendency when he gave the way of the covenant. To live the covenant isn’t something beyond us so that some expert would have to go up in the sky...or cross the get it for us and tell us [how] we may carry it out. We already possess the covenant within us. We can carry it out daily with all our heart and all our soul.

That phrase implies our entire selves. It described one’s attitude toward God and people. Yet humans then also preferred certainty, something more definite, when they were obligated. The lawyer, the expert in the way of the covenant, questioned Jesus because the lawyer wanted something definite, more limited, something that wouldn’t tax his life yet count him blessed. Jesus answered the lawyer’s “who” with “how,” suggesting the more important question is, “Am I a neighbor to others?”

That question marked the often agonizing choices Captain Kirk confronted and decisions he enacted as he fulfilled his mission to explore “space: the final frontier” aboard the Starship Enterprise. One might think StarTrek was about going up in the sky, precisely what Moses said wasn’t necessary. StarTrek was less about space travel and more about relationships of humans with other planets, their inhabitants and with one another. Again & again Captain Kirk realized he and all humans were neighbors to all creatures. His question was not Who but How would he represent humanity best and be neighbor in that galaxy or that planet or guide those under his command to respect and care for each other. This, too, is our enterprise especially now that we, in fact, go up into the sky and visit the ocean depths, to science the final frontier.

The NASA effect benefits us daily, and we’re often unaware. Each time humans explore space our daily life changes eventually. Is it because we have things we once didn’t have, like: Tang; Teflon; velcro; freeze-dried foods; and pens that write when held tip up? Perhaps. I think our daily life changes because our perspective changes. When we saw the earth as a globe, whole and entire, through the window of an Apollo craft, we gained a felt knowledge of our planet we could not have had before. We ought not pooh-pooh this NASA effect of changed perspective. Nor ought we exalt it too highly.

Our blue sphere flecked with white did move an astronaut to read from Genesis. Yet its image reproduced ’round the globe has not moved people to live more humanely. The human heart remains the final frontier, and neighbors and our response to them bring it nearer to us, take us deeper into it and make the invisible Christ visible to our hearts by giving us new access to him. We make our Messiah visible by our lives.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, grow more alert to the Trinity creating you and all things. Ask the Good Samaritan or Moses to introduce you to Jesus so you may speak with him. Praise Jesus for being your new covenant and for giving you a share in his life and work. In your words tell Jesus read his words, and ask Jesus to help you to live them more clearly. Resolve to live one of them concretely in the next hours. Close your prayer time by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer, which fashions us as closer friends of Jesus and more confident neighbors, who make Jesus more clearly felt and known by others. Our neighbors, who may need us most to act as disciples, we may pass along our way and never see again.
Wiki-image of Moses receiving and giving torah is in the public domain. Wiki-photo of the StarshipEnterprise used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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