Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sunday word, 04 Jan 2009

Epiphany of the Lord (04 Jan 2009)
Is 60. 1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3. 8. 2-3a,5-6; Mt 2. 1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Moving On Target

I served two parishes with the custom of moving statues remembering the Wise Men closer to the manger throughout Christmastime, closer and closer as Epiphany drew near.

I jested then that sometimes more care was taken to move the statues closer to Jesus than to move ourselves closer to Jesus in our daily lives. I learned I was not the first to think that. A Danish philosopher considered it long before. He contrasted the scribes and the Wise Men. The scribes had access to torah, God’s self-communication with Israel, and the Wise Men had the light of a star and its rumor of an infant monarch. The scribes stayed put, but the Wise Men moved. Before the Wise Men traveled, their hearts were in motion.

The scribes “did not accompany the Wise Men to seek him.” That always puzzled me. The philosopher noted that this puzzle diagnoses our spiritual health.
...we may be able to explain every article of our faith, yet remain spiritually motionless. The power that moved heaven and earth leaves us completely unmoved.
What a contrast! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it spurred them to set out on a long, hard journey. The scribes, meanwhile, were much better informed, much better versed. They had sat and studied the scriptures for years, like so many dons. But it didn’t make any difference. Who had the more truth? Those who followed a rumor, or those who remained sitting, satisfied with all their knowledge?/1/
Do we treat our faith as a rumor or as whimsy? Do we treat our faith as an abstract thing or a theory? Faith is much more. Faith is relationship: our relationship with Jesus, God in the flesh, with us dead and risen, and through him with others: dead; and living; and to come.

Faith links us with our God made flesh. Sometimes our link is freeing so we can be apostolic in our actions and example. At other times our faith-link places us in Jesus’ heart when we need protection, compassion and felt knowledge of Jesus loving us.

Whether our faith-relationship frees and moves us to be apostolic agents of Jesus’ gospel, or whether our faith-relationship reassures us of Jesus’ love, protection and care, or whatever way our faith-relationship unites us to Jesus as his evangelizers today, most important for our spiritual health and vitality is to keep spiritually agile and to resist being “spiritually motionless.”

Beginning 2009 is a good time to resolve to grow more spiritually agile and more alert to the motions within us: motions not in harmony with Jesus’ gospel; and motions in harmony with Jesus’ gospel. Our motions produce actions, and our actions become habits.

Several people alert to interior movements, to spiritual motions, people who use Ignatian spirituality to help them grow more alert and spiritually agile have created a website to help anyone grow on target with one’s habits.

My Habits on Target is the name of the site. Some of you know of it already because I featured it on my blog on New Year’s Day. I have made it a link on my blog to make it easy for you to visit and to grow more alert to how your relationship with Jesus calls you to move with the “power that moved heaven and earth,” God become one with us in Jesus by their Spirit so that we may become one again with God.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause and bask in the love with which the Trinity embraces you. Ask the Wise Men to present you to Jesus so that you may ask Jesus to free you from what holds you back from moving closer to Jesus in word and deed. Resolve to grow more agile in spirit this year. Thank Jesus for the ways Jesus chooses you to be his agent in the world and for the countless ways Jesus protected you in the past year. Look forward to your relationship to grow in 2009 and say the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our compass to find him in others.
1. Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations.
Wiki-image of a star cluster and of the Wise Men are in the public domain.

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