Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday word, 29 Mar 2009

Lenten Sunday5 B Scrutiny 3 (29 Mar 2009)
Ezk 37. 12-14; Ps 130; Rm 8. 8-11; Jn 11. 1-45
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Reshaped by God

Today’s third scrutiny of our Elect again shapes our Sunday celebration. As their pace of formation has increased, others of us are, to quote one parishioner I overheard last week, “excited” for you, Elect and Candidates. I’d like to offer us all a way to appreciate both our growing excitement and faith. Helping our faith to grow, Elect and Candidates, is one way you minister to us, as you know.

Your first scrutiny, a rite like the next two to help the Elect turn from sin and grow more godly, flowed from Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, a powerful image of personal and communal conversion. Today’s scrutiny, like last week’s, flowed from one of seven actions of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. We can appreciate all of them in a way the church has for centuries. Each revolves around something within our human experience, which God in Jesus by their Spirit reshaped.

Last week’s rite, in which we prayed for you who will soon be baptized, savored Jesus healing the man born blind. The lack of human sight was the matter within our human experience.

Restoring sight certainly was a sign of God’s desire for him and all people. But it was not enough. An interior sight, a graced self-knowledge, was the more real healing. The man recognized Jesus, as he said of Jesus, “He is a prophet”; and he worshiped Jesus as Lord./1/ Today it is life that Jesus restored not just sight. Jesus resuscitated Lazarus who had been dead four days. Like anyone else, Lazarus’ life would end one day. But human life is not the point; God’s life, which we name as grace, is the point. God’s life reshapes our lives so that we may live not only as credible witnesses of Jesus, as his friends and friends of one another and of the poor; divine life reshapes us so that we may live in Christian freedom. Christian freedom flows from Jesus’ Spirit dwelling in us.

How is that exciting? It is exciting when we--Elect and already fully-initiated--notice how God reshapes us, that is, how God graces us, and the concrete effects it has on us: such as being more aware of others and of our environment; having more supple hearts; desiring to make Jesus present by our presence and by our simple service; wanting to follow more closely and love Jesus more ardently./2/

We know God in Jesus by their Spirit works in us when we feel free, not fearful, to do these and other actions which make and keep us Christian. This Christian freedom is grace, pure gift. We all know how it feels to live constrained by our fears, our obsessions and our compulsions. Divine life at work in us grants us more freedom from our constraints. I see myself in Lazarus responding to Jesus command, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Here the meaning of let go has the sense of depart. At Jesus’ call Lazarus departed the realm of death. That’s obvious to our human knowing. More exciting and of our Catholic faith is that each of us is both called and by grace made more free to depart whatever hinders us from living the freedom of Christian disciples. That reassures me when I admit my sinfulness because it helps me not be overwhelmed by it. It offers us all new life and strength to practice it. You, Elect and Candidates, help us respond to Jesus. Your fresh response freshens ours.

In everyone’s daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, savor the new life of grace the Trinity offers you. Ask Lazarus to present you to Jesus. Name contours of new life our risen Lord offers you: stewardship; generosity; focused prayer; more supple hearts; the desire to make Jesus present to others; and the like. Tell Jesus if you are feaful to live them or if you feel free to live them. Ask Jesus for the grace to live more free as his witness today. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The more we pray it from our hearts, the more free we become to make Jesus present by our lives.

1. John 9. 17, 38.
2. This last is the grace St. Ignatius of Loyola invites retreatants to make when reflecting on Jesus’ life. See his Spiritual Exercises, 104.
Wiki-image by Karl Isakson of Jesus raising Lazarus is in the public domain.

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