Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday word, 15 Mar 2008

Because 19 March falls during Holy Week, this solemnity has been transferred to this date.
Solemnity of St. Joseph 2Sm7.4-5a,12-14a,16; Ps89; Rm 4.13,16-18,22; Mt 1. 16,18-21,24a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Unexpected and Unimagined

In my own prayer, and more importantly, in the prayer of others, which I’m privileged to over-hear as a spiritual guide, I’m more convinced of the complete gift God’s love is. God’s self-gift has many textures, many manifestations and as many concrete effects as there are people. We can name some we’ve experienced. I’d like to reflect with you on one of those many textures, that of surprise.

Perhaps in a moment of your prayer and reflection, when you did not expect it: you noticed with greater clarity; you entertained a memory dwelling deep within; you desired relationship with your Creator and Redeemer in a way you hadn’t before. Whatever your experience, the strains of surprise--at your clarity, your memory, your desire for God--probably mark it, or at least stain it. Grace very often functions that way.

Grace, God’s self-gift, lets us know that God has a sense of humor. We speak that phrase not a few times: God has a sense of humor. True enough; however, what kind of humor?

The reading from the prophet Samuel lets us see that God’s humor isn’t whimsical, capricious, hilarious or sarcastic. King David had fallen into the trap power and security offer. David wanted to build a house for God. God promises to build for David a house: no building but both a kingdom and David’s line of ancestors. God’s humor is indulgent favor, and God desires to lavish it on all.

God’s house is God’s loving kindness incarnated in God’s covenant. God’s humor is giving us what we neither expect nor deserve. It is the righteousness of faith which we heard Paul extol. Moreover, God’s indulgent favor abided among humanity from Abraham to David before Jesus, God’s greatest favor.

As the heir of Joseph, that righteous man and David’s ancestor, Jesus incarnated God’s promise, no building but very much a home. The beginnings of Jesus’ infant life made clear that no building was the point; relationship was the point: the relationship of Mary and God, Mary and Joseph, Joseph and God. They suggest we look at our relationships. Mary and Joseph suggest that we look at our praying as our relationship with God, which gives birth to and sustains all other relationships.

Humor has us look at something else. Humor connects one thing with another in an unexpected way. God respects human nature more than we do. Consider Joseph’s dream, which involved both humor and human nature. God expressed the divine desire in Joseph’s dream. Human language limps to describe the gracious surprise of God, yet the experience of a dream makes sense because we all know dreams. Plus, we all know that dreams make twists toward surprising new connections. We only need to act on those connections, which make us more important than the dream.

Joseph realized the humor, God’s intention, with which we so often are at odds. We do well to pay attention to our own dreams, both our sleeping dreams and our waking ones.

Joseph imagined God to be that wholly Other, the blessed One for whom he and numerous people longed. Joseph did not rule out the unexpected way God chose to intervene in human history. Do we do that? If we do, then we ought to turn often to Joseph and beg him to obtain for us the grace to be more open; and the grace to keep our opening spirits ever supple. More often we will not imagine how God will do that for us. Do not be afraid, friends: that’s how grace often registers in us: unexpected and unimagined.
Wiki-images of King David and of St. Joseph's dream are in the public domain.

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