Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday word, 23 Nov 2008

Solemnity of Christ the King (23 Nov 2008)
Ez 21. 4b-9; Ps xx; Phil 2. 6-11; Mt 25. 31-46
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Two Things At Once

Is it possible in our democratic day and age to profit from the solemnity of Christ Jesus our King, which closes a year of celebrating the many ways he is present with us? We can profit from it, and I suggest an approach for your reflection this week and beyond.

First, God communicates to us through the writings of 1st-century, Mediterranean authors. Those authors clothed God’s communication in their particular human language, shaped by their circumstances, culture and experience.

Their core values were "honor" and "shame." We continue to see both values operate in the Mediterranean world. News from there confuses because we don’t measure honor and shame with the same categories. Regarding honor: scripture measures it as glory: all the angels with [the Son of Man, who] will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him--is far different from any human notions we have. Regarding shame: we tend to measure it as doing something wrong or illegal rather than measuring it by the failure to put our faith into action with and for people with whom we have no bonds.

Bonds, especially of kinship to family, to leader or to the clan, figured large and still do in the Mediterranean world. Ours is a culture of the individual and of the market, good reasons why Mediterranean values confuse us.

Yet, we know that the market--and the money and possessions which accrue from the market --cannot satisfy our thirst for meaning. We also know that as lone individuals we are unable to satisfy that thirst either. Real meaning and other aspects of honor depend on others receiving and accepting us for who we are.

When we show family members and close friends that sort of acceptance we show them kindness. The bonds linking us as family shape how we treat them: it is expected. Showing kindness at home helps children learn, and us to continue to learn, how to show hospitality to others not closely bonded to us.

Hospitality--not merely offering space to another but welcoming people with respect, treating them as human companions in life--hospitality is the action by which our risen Lord measures our lives.

Christian hospitality does two things at once: first, we treat others, with whom we have no bond other than our shared humanity, as we desire to be treated; and second, by extending hospitality we welcome and offer food, drink, clothing and care to our risen Lord. By withholding hospitality we deny welcome, food, drink, clothing and care to our risen Lord. To use the core values of Jesus’ time and culture, we serve our risen Lord to our honor, or, we snub our risen Lord to our shame.

Our desire to serve our risen Lord is very alive among us at Gesu. Our soon-to-arrive Parish Service Day, our third annual one, will help 900 parishioners of all ages to directly serve our risen Lord by serving others in metropolitan Cleveland. That’s to your honor, indeed! To your greater honor is that many parishioners allowed the first Service Day in which they participated to deepen their desire to extend Christian hospitality each day of the year.

Keeping alive the desire to extend Christian hospitality in every way possible keeps our hearts supple and prepares us to enjoy the future glory our risen Lord desires to extend to us: Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the presence of the Trinity to relish that the Trinity creates you to extend Christian hospitality. Ask the communion of saints to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus about your desire to serve him. Ask Jesus to deepen that grace in you. Close your prayer by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ prayer guides us to extend Christian hospitality and shapes daily living to be a prelude to the honor and glory our risen Lord desires to extend to us.

Wiki-image of an interior view of the Sagrada Familia is used according to the GFDL. Wiki-image of sunlit cloud by Ibrahim Iujaz is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution2.0 license.

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