Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday word, 23 Aug 2009

21st Sunday of the Year (23 Aug 2009)
Josh 24. 1-2a,15-17,18b; Ps 34; Eph 5. 21-32; Jn 6. 60-69
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Sacrament of What If ?

What if we stood at Shechem with Joshua that day, knowing the rest of the scriptures of the people of Israel—that’s 87%—would once and again call people to fidelity and deeper intimacy with God? If we knew, then Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods would come from our lips more as a prayer than a declaration.

What if we knew by personal experience the culture of the world of St. Paul, one in which the accepted order was women were less than men, not just paid less than them? (In those days women and children were property. Women played no legal role; no one would call them to give official testimony!) What if we all were eager to hear what this Saul-become-Paul, this Jew-become-Christian looked and sounded like, even what he had to say?

What if we walked in on him speaking as we heard the echo of his voice today? Respect one another, don’t think oneself greater than another: sensible; it makes for a good society. If we did walk in then, we’d have heard Paul’s words, Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. If we stood inside that time and culture, we wouldn’t disagree; at worst, we might nod off: that hotshot apostle wouldn’t be telling us anything we didn’t know.

What if we were nodding off, when Paul said, Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her sanctity? We would snap awake so fast, especially the men.
“Love our wives? What!” Or,
“This is new”; or,
“Hey, that makes them equal to us!”
And if we had been hanging around listening to Paul already while he was in town, then his words that diversity unites us in Christ Jesus would touch us deeply. The diversity of male and female helps each man and each woman know Jesus better as each one responds in love. A Canadian woman of our time observed, “Yet too many women still haven’t experienced this love, and too many men have missed the challenge.”

What if we took up that challenge more often? In our day and culture, we all move in different circles, interacting with people we know as well as people we don’t know. The many and varied people help us men and women—young and old, healthy and ailing, strong and defenseless—to discover the particular, personal ways God has created each of us to be in the world today. I affirm each one’s goodness and recall that God has great desires for you to reshape our world. I also ask you: what if you took your experiences today--all of them--and turned them over in your heart, not declaring, “See what I’ve done!” but take them out one by one in leisurely prayer, and ask, “How did I meet my Messiah Jesus today in my work; at home; at school; in the store; at the gym; on the street?”

Set aside your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week to do that. Pause to be aware that God has created you for a particular purpose. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus in your words about the variety of people in your life, and name for him the ones who give shape, meaning and purpose to your life. Ask Jesus to help you be more aware of Jesus at work for you in and through others. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The daily bread Jesus gives us includes people, flesh-and-blood sacraments. People sanctify us and help us to sanctify our world because through them we meet our Messiah Jesus by whom everyone is remade holy.
Wiki-image by Adiel Io of raising a Torah scroll is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license. Wiki-image of icon of Jesus blessing is in the public domain.

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