Ex 22. 20-26; Ps 18; 1Th 1. 5c-10; Mt 22. 34-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
More Sensitive and More Versatile
Today’s three scripture selections focus us on serv[ing] the living and true God. What does serv[ing] the living and true God include? Let me offer four ways which that service includes.
It involves, first, initial conversion, encountering God in a way that moves me to arrange my life with God as singularly important. St. Paul, along with his contemporaries, described that with the words, turn[ing] to God from idols.
Idols are not necessarily exotic. We exalt many things too highly. We often do not realize when we arrange our lives around power, prestige, possessions or performance, to name a few. When we make such things the center of our universes, we bow before our idols.
Second, serv[ing] the living and true God is not divorced from daily living. That is spiritualistic. Serv[ing] the living and true God is in and of Jesus’ Spirit. To live according to Jesus’ Spirit means the shape of my living imitates Jesus and his living--loving God as completely as I can and loving others with the respect and care I desire.
Imitation was not aping. One learned how to be in the world by learning from and following models. Two fruits of ancient imitation were sensitivity and versatility./1/ Recalling their own enslavement helped the people of Israel to treat those on the margins with compassion. Being compassionate to widows and orphans--the phrase included any and all people at risk--was a positive command: you shall not molest or oppress...or wrong. Sensitive people sought to exercise compassion in situations for which no positive command existed.
Third, we do not exercise compassion on our own nor do we take the initiative to encounter God in our first conversion. We are powerless to do either of those on our own. As the Psalmist sang, I love you, Lord, my strength! We made those words our own in our responsorial psalm. Relying on God’s strength to help us shape our Christian identities, is crucial wherever we are and in all we do.
Last, keeping alive and fresh our initial conversion in daily living and cooperating with God’s grace gives our Christian living a particular purpose: to expect [God’s] Son from heaven, Jesus whom he raised from the dead.
The texture of expecting Jesus’ return is not fearfully watching over our shoulders. Witness is its texture! The ways we exercise Christian compassion as well as the ways we receive it are the most powerful ways all of us evangelize. Our witness to the living Risen Lord Jesus is crucial. As Pope Paul VI
said...to a group of lay people, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."/2/What Jesus revealed by fulfilling God’s desire, enshrined in the commandments, the prophets and God’s relationship with humans, is that the vocation of us all is to witness to gospel values above all others. Jesus is our model, from whom to learn greater sensitivity. Plus, we enjoy many sainted people, who show us how to live the gospel daily with greater versatility to both awaken people to their first encounters with God and deepen our ongoing conversion to God in Jesus by their Spirit.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow yourself to rest in the love with which the Trinity creates you at each moment. Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus about how your life gives witness to him and to his gospel. Ask Jesus for his strong grace in order to grow more sensitive to others and more willing to respond to them. Close your time with Jesus by saying slowly the prayer he taught us. The Lord’s Prayer is our key to fulfilling his twin commandments by which we honor God in our Christian concern for all people.
1. “The genius of Roman rhetoric resides in the use of imitation throughout the school course to create sensitivity to language and versatility in its use.” Donovan J. Ochs, “Roman Rhetoric,” in Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, Ed., Theresa Enos, p. 643. The way people communicated extended to the whole of life.
2. Pope Paul VI, Address to the Members of the Consilium de Laicis (2 October 1974), He incorporated his words in his Apostolic Exhortation, Proclamation of the Gospel, 41. The occasion was the 10th anniversary of the closing of Second Vatican Council.
Wiki-image by Merlin of a torah scroll and its jad are used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license .