Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Not Flattery But Faith Alive
People elsewhere have heard me say it. I may be saying this at Gesu Parish for the first time: if I were to live another life, I would want to be a rabbi, and for one reason. First-century rabbis used scripture to interpret scripture. They allowed scripture passages to shed light on other passages not easy to grasp. As we enter the close of the church’s calendar and prepare to begin a new one, the liturgy presents us with scripture passages not easy to understand, which focus us on ultimate concern: the end of time; the resurrection of the dead, judgment; and Messiah Jesus’ return.
Scripture paints with cataclysmic images the end of time and the world as we know it, imagery so dire that we can miss the promise offered to those who stand in awe of God, as the Prophet Malachi just reminded us: for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. Jesus spoke this language, too. The more we appreciate this language, the more we can appreciate Jesus and his message to us.
We may think the scriptures emphasize the end of the world. But these last two weeks of the liturgical year take a subtle turn. They emphasize not the end of the world but the second coming of our Messiah. The sun of justice, promised to shine on earth, did that precisely as a human being, God’s son, Jesus. His faith is the model for our faith, his life is the pattern for our life.
Model and pattern suggest the action so highly esteemed in the ancient Mediterranean world, imitation. St. Paul was in synch with his time when he wrote the church at Thessalonica, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us--himself and his coworkers, who emulated Jesus. In emulating Jesus, they were out of synch with the world because Jesus was in the world’s view a pitiable failure. Why would Paul pattern his life on Jesus’ life? Because Paul trusted Jesus. Why did some Thessalonians emulate Paul? Because they trusted Paul. People imitate people they trust--from their gestures to their life-choices.
Thus, one question for reflection and prayer this week is, How much do I trust Jesus? We can be more concrete by asking, How do I resist imitating Jesus?
Luke’s Jesus does not talk about the end of world and its destruction. He talks about the destruction and demise of the Temple and its city of Jerusalem, something people can get their heads around. His warnings to his disciples, they were to later see Jesus enact. Allow me to summarize what they saw and what we know in five questions and each gets a Yes-answer. Please respond loudly. Was not Jesus handed over? Was not Jesus led before a king and a governor? Did not Jesus stand before them not knowing their questions beforehand? Did not his family of disciples desert him? To them, confused and terrified, did not Jesus’ death feel like the end of the world?
It felt that way, yet it wasn’t. Just like Jerusalem’s temple, Jesus warned his disciples that wars and insurrections are not the end, they must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end. We may have carbon-copy feelings to theirs, caused not least by current events. All the more to hear and heed Jesus. No one but God knows the end of the world and of anyone’s life. How much energy many people expend on and fret about both! That energy diverts our focus from Jesus and from imitating him and his sainted ones down through the ages.
So, does looking at these readings alongside one another enhance each one’s chance to live a more alert, authentic and apostolic life? The rabbi in me nods in the affirmative. How much we allow politicians to hijack our faith; how drably we live it; how much we fret about church buildings and our own houses: each is an index of how we resist to trust Jesus, our brother, God and Mary’s son. Trust allows us to imitate the saints, who incorporated Jesus’ own faith into their hearts, minds and living.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus first ask Mary and the saints to present you to him so that you may converse with Jesus about your trust in Jesus and Jesus’ great trust in you. Be concrete about trusting and resisting Jesus, as well as noticing how Jesus trusts you. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us pattern our lives and our faith on Jesus’ life and Jesus’ faith. That allows us to dawn in the lives of people we encounter and shine Jesus’ justice to dispel, or at least brighten, their darkness.
Wiki-image of young prophet is in the public domain. Wiki-image of Sun From Clouds is used according to the GNU Free Documentation license.