Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday word, 21 June 2009

12th Sunday of the Year (21 Jun 2009)
Jb 38. 1, 8-11; Ps 107; 2Co 5. 14-17; Mk 4. 35-41
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Honor Not Power

On the first day of this month a Passionist Priest, Fr. Thomas Berry, died. The natural world fascinated him from boyhood. Fr. Berry deeply explored the natural world and history of cultures. God is not abstract but always making self-revelation through the natural order. Fr. Berry’s First Principle (of 12) stated:
“The universe, the solar system, and planet earth in themselves and in their evolutionary emergence constitute for the human community the primary revelation of that ultimate mystery whence all things emerge into being.”/1/
I quote Fr. Berry to emphasize his point that the universe needs no context; it cannot have one for us. Individuals need contexts: family of origin; faith; spouse; personal vocation; and the like. For example, I’m a Panaretos, who is a celibate, a Jesuit, a priest. Things, too, are mediated to us via our senses in the context of our experience. Yet the universe tells its story on its own, which may be why it awes us.

Fr. Berry’s insight offers entry into today’s scriptures to help us appreciate them more. In the Sunday lectionary the first reading is chosen to harmonize with the gospel reading, in which Jesus revealed and fulfilled what God had revealed in early heroes and heroines of faith.

Job, whom we know better because of the calamities the befell his family, property and his body, sought to comprehend his grievous misfortune. That is the movement of the Book of Job. His sorrow morphed into anger, and his anger into arrogance toward God, whom Job could not dismiss from his heart and mind. We came in on Job realizing his arrogance by appreciating that God’s power is “primary,” which humans experience as akin to the sea, because our puny power cannot enclose it.

In the divine cross-examination of Job, God speaks of creating. Genesis speaks about God creating. We just heard God speak in the first person about creating. God heaped image upon image: God spoke in feminine imagery of womb as well as builder’s imagery, and where Job got hung up—like all humans—on power.

In the ancient Mediterranean world power deserved proper honor. After the divine cross-examination, Job admitted his angry arrogance. I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things...which I cannot know. ...Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes./2/ Scripture is clear that Job had no need to honor God with any thing more!

The disciples saw Jesus exert power over a stormy sea. They didn’t scratch their heads over his identity. Their question, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” did not flow from puzzling over Jesus’ identity but what honor Jesus deserved from them. Mediterranean peasants appreciated an extensive order of spirits and people who possessed power to do what ordinary humans could not do. People needed to show proper honor to such powerful beings. Not only that day on the sea, Jesus often behaved beyond his lowly human origins, always increasing his disciples’ concern to honor him properly.

A particular way people demonstrated honor was by showing loyalty. We hear faith and think propositions first; Hebrew- and Greek-speaking people thought loyalty first. Our loyalty to Jesus, as our Christian service clearly demonstrates, is not about our power. It’s about entering into new relationships with each other, with those in need, indeed with the earth itself. Jesus invites us, like God invited Job, to reconsider our loyalty to our Creator and Redeemer so we may live as the new creation, which baptism has recreated each of us and by which Jesus’ eucharist sustains our baptisms.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, quietly present yourself to our triune God. Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus so you may pledge again your loyalty to Jesus. Tell Jesus what your heart moves you say about his re-creation of you at each moment. Ask Jesus for his help to grant you peace in your tumult and awe in being created anew by him and in him. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Praying it slowly allows us to deepen our awe before God, one another and even to look afresh at our earth, its powers and its bounty given us to love God more easily and wholeheartedly./3/

1. From his “Twelve Principles for Understanding the Universe and the Role of the Human in the Universe Process.”
2. Job 42.2-6.
3. Paraphrase of St. Ignatius of Loyola: his Spiritual Exercises, [23].
Wiki-images of Job and Jesus calming a storm are in the public domain.

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