Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Wednesday word, 04 Jul 2007

13th Wednesday of the Year (04 Jul 2007) Genesis 2. 4b-9,15; Psalm 34; Luke 22. 24-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Turning Tables

Independence Day celebrates our national freedom from a monarchy that oppressed the first colonists, beginning in Europe--the reason why they left it. Britain even reached across the Atlantic with domineering laws and influence.

The event leading to our independence was the American Revolution: the colonists turned the tables on the British government, wresting itself to live freely and to uphold freedom, which remains the mantra and stated purpose of our government today. Jesus compliments and transforms our independence. We “Catholic independents” strive to depend more and more on the Trinity, who creates and redeems us. As Catholic independents on our Independence Day, we recall our vocation is to live more under the influence of the gospel. I want to reflect with you on what that means in our lives.

Living under the influence of Jesus’ gospel is revolutionary. Living under the influence of Jesus’ gospel turns tables, too, first within our hearts. We name that ongoing conversion. Then with renewed hearts we consider the tables of the world and which of them needs to be turned for the sake of the poor and the vulnerable; and other tables turned to promote human dignity and to foster peace and progress among peoples.

On the one hand this is our God-given, human vocation. We are stewards of the entire world, which God entrusted us to cultivate and care for it. Christian stewardship always sees people in every scene and every situation. As stewards nothing is solely ours; rather it is in our care to promote people, to foster human dignity. If nature is beautiful--except for the places humans have scarred--then, the gospel reminds us that human dignity is glorious, indeed godly. Christian stewardship seeks to help people to “live the experience of self-giving and of the formation of...authentic human community [which is] oriented towards [our] final destiny, which is God”/1/.

Authentic humanity is a unity of our two characteristics of body and spirit. Our bodies link us to the world, and our senses mediate everything to us. Our spirit, the image and likeness of God, gives us life and opens us beyond mere human striving. The likeness of God does not despise our bodies; it also opens us beyond “a mere materialism that considers [our] spirit a mere manifestation of” our bodies./2/

Body and spirit are in the fore of our worship. Worship reminds us of our God, who lovingly entrusts to each of us our vocations as stewards of the earth and guardians of human dignity. Jesus is our model. At the last supper, Jesus taught his disciples at table by turning the table, asking: who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? Then Jesus turned the table: I am among you as the one who serves. Jesus’ revolutionary leadership does not take up arms, nor does it act with any other violence. It isn’t concerned with being first or last but being as the youngest. In Jesus’ words: let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. Who is the youngest?

The youngest is especially favored by God. The bible is filled with them. The younger like Jacob; the younger like Joseph and Ephraim; the youngest like Benjamin and the youngest like David; and like the lost, younger son in Jesus’ parable of the Lost Son and Prodigal Father. The dream of God was for them: Nevertheless, his younger brother shall surpass him, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations./3/ The youngest also are the poor and vulnerable of every age.

Our human striving moves us to be the elder ones reclining at table. Jesus, our model, invites us to imitate him and “to wait on tables.” While hospitality is a hallmark of Christian life, we imitate Jesus, our model, best when we promote human dignity and foster peace and progress among peoples by the ways we live. That is how we make our faith alive and active. The more we help to shape a society that invites each person to participate in it, the more we imitate Jesus, the model of our faith and the pioneer of our salvation.
/1/ Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, © 2004 Libreria Editrice Vaticana, #47. Online version:

/2/ Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #129.

/3/ Genesis 48.19--of Ephraim, but it summarizes well the others.
Wiki-Images from the Hubble Space Telescope and Hildegard's, The Trinity is the True Unity, are in the public domain.

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