Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday word, 01 Jun 2008

9th Sunday of the Year A (01Jun2008) Dt 11. 18,26-28,32; Ps 31; Rm 3. 21-25,28; Mt 7. 21-27
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Only Adequate Measure

Matthew’s gospel long held the sobriquet, Gospel of the Church. One reason for that title is because Matthew’s portrait of Jesus bears a catechetical--teaching-- function for new Christians as well as mature ones. The clear message of the gospel selection today is that Christian action is needed as much as, if not more regularly than, words. We are not to be wooden and slavish in our Christian actions of service, worship and love. Far from it! Rather, the desire of God, which we heard in the first reading, encourages the disposition friends of Jesus ought to have and deepen: Take these words of mine into your heart and soul. Bind them at your wrist as a sign, and let them be a pendant on your forehead.

We are to adorn our inmost selves with God’s desire. To internalize God’s desire is not the final goal; we are to allow God’s desire--God’s word, grace, sacraments, loving providence for people--to shape us and form us more and more after the fashion of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. In short, we are not to tame the mystery of God’s kingdom but allow it to offer us new vision, new hope and to justify us by God’s righteousness embodied by the faith of Jesus and by his blood.

With practical examples Jesus emphasized the adorning and transforming effects on people as well as their absence. His examples guide us to act and how not to act as friends of Jesus, as agents of divine mercy in the world. We heard Jesus’ example of building a house on a sound foundation--God’s provident love--or on a shaky foundation--one’s self-reliance. The house and household, managers and masters of the house-hold figure prominently throughout Matthew’s gospel./1/ The house is one of many examples Jesus used to announce the kingdom of heaven, which continues to emerge in the world. What do house and household evoke if not shelter, family, locale of freedom, feasting, origin of growth, safety, care and maturing--to name only a few?

Of course, Jesus is not a realtor or chief-editor of Better Homes & Garden. Jesus does shelter us; is our source of faith’s freedom; invites growth, maturity and encourages us to care for those others forget or ignore; and welcomes us to feast at his table, on his body and blood. Jesus and we are custodians and heralds of no earthly defined house.

The phrase, father in heaven, permeates this section/2/, too, and suggests why adorning ourselves with God’s desires is crucial. Jesus constantly made his Father the source of reference for the kingdom he proclaimed, the household of faith, the treasure of one’s heart, the pearl of great price. In other words, God alone is the adequate measure of the kingdom, indeed of all Christian existence. God as the adequate measure of Christian existence can be both a relief and a challenge.

If I am at pains to ensure our household of faith named Gesu grows as if it were solely my doing, hearing that God is the one responsible for our growth--with and without our cooperation--I breathe a sigh of relief. On the other hand, if I were to equate my dreams for Gesu as ultimately mine or yours, then hearing that God is the only adequate measure of Christian life in all its manners challenges me to have a more modest view of myself and others.

Sometimes people serve their compulsions more readily than they adorn themselves with God’s desires and put them into practice. At other times people move through life as if the only sure foundations are of their own making, and over time come to realize how precariously their thinking and their actions rest. Jesus invites us to learn him each day, a far cry from only calling his name.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, compose yourself in the presence of the Trinity. Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus in your own words about how his faith and his blood comfort you and challenge you. Be concrete: name his most welcome comfort and his strongest challenge, which Jesus offers you. Then slowly say the Lord’s Prayer, which adorns us with godly desires and, the more we say it, helps us learn Jesus better instead of just calling, “Lord! Lord!”

/1/ Matthew 7.24-27 [today’s gospel]; 12.25-29; 13.27, 52; 20.1.
/2/ Matthew 5.16, 45, 48; 6.1, 4, 6, 14-15, 18.26, 32; 7.11, 21.

Wiki-image of the corporal works of mercy is in the public domain.

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