Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday word, 18 Oct 2009

29th Sunday of the Year (18 Oct 2009)
Is 53. 10-11; Ps 33; Hb 4. 14-16; Mk 10. 35-45
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Toward Living More Faithfully

The church wants us to think differently; to think “outside the box,” as the current phrase has it. The early Christians did that more easily than we do. Our inquiring minds prefer one-to-one matches: the first among you will be the slave of all. Jesus was human. Jesus is divine.

The first example, the first among you will be the slave of all, is very difficult for us to own, so we make it an ideal rather than a practice, or we reject it altogether. To first [I must] be the slave of all we say, “I can’t do that.” Yet, that is certainly a different way of thinking.

It doesn’t get easier thinking about Jesus. It is not that Jesus has no one-to-one match, but that we can better appreciate Jesus with one match after another! Jesus was human. Jesus is divine. Jesus is our high priest. Jesus, Son of God, sympathizes with our weakness. Our Messiah was crushed with infirmity, the way he shall justify many.

The word priest to describe Jesus is not isolated in scripture’s Letter to the Hebrews. Jesus as priest seeped early into Christian vocabulary and Christian imagination. Yet it didn’t stop one early Christian pastor from describing a deacon’s task as imitating Jesus. /1/ Nor did it stop another early Christian pastor from calling Jesus the first deacon! Of course, both of them would have called Jesus priest as well.

Serving others describes well what Jesus did. Jesus’ service sought to improve, to develop the life of people. It worked this way: Jesus began what people continued. Jesus healed some and they followed Jesus, providing for him and his disciples from their means. Jesus called others to continue his work, a call that was a discreet moment yet echoed through the lives of those called and beyond them. Jesus gave new hope, new energy, new purpose to people, and with that new hope, new energy and new purpose people reoriented their lives. Jesus began, people continued; and, Jesus sustained what people continued.

This Year of the Priest includes every Catholic. It would be impossible to celebrate otherwise. It helps us think differently, more broadly, to be precise, about priests. The Second Vatican Council noted priests have three functions: to “preach the gospel and shepherd the faithful and to celebrate divine worship.”/2/ This year of priests invites Catholics to appreciate not only what they routinely see and enact with priests, mass and other liturgies. It reminds us that priests are to renew the priority they allow scripture to have on them so that their ministry will be a relationship of caring service. Caring service shapes our relationships with one another, no matter one’s particular vocation. Even the pope is called the “servant of the servants of God!”/3/

Plus, the pope is called the first missionary of the church, remembered each Mission Sunday. Christian mission is less about what any Christian controls and more about feeling in the control of, that is, enveloped and steered by something greater than self. That something is the power the earliest Christians experienced and to which they witnessed by their lives. It remains ever new, which is one reason it will always feel like it doesn’t fit and challenge us to think outside the narrow confines of our experience and imagination.

My visits to missions in Brazil, Sri Lanka and India remind me how narrow my experience and imagination is, and how others allow their lives to be guided and steered by the power of our crucified and risen Messiah. Priesthood, missionary, slave of all offer us the power of more supple imagination and bolder experience. To think differently this way is to think and to live more faithfully.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, refresh yourself in the presence of our Triune God. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus. In your words thank Jesus for the many avenues to serve in his name Gesu offers you. Ask Jesus for the grace to renew your exercise of pastoral care in one ministry and so deepen your friendship with him. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer to remind us to think differently, that is, to consider ourselves and others with the mind and attitude of Jesus./4/

1. Ignatius of Antioch: “Let the bishop preside in God’s place and presbyters take the place of the apostolic council and let the entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Magnesians, ch 6); Also, Ignatius of Antioch: “In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters [priests] as the council of God and college of Apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church” (Letter to the Trallians, ch 2; quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1554).
2. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium), 28.
3. Paul VI restored this 6th Century appellation, first used by Gregory the Great.
4. See St. Paul’ Letter to the Philippians, ch. 2-3.
Wiki-image of San Biblia church doors by Giovanni Dall'Orto, who gives permission for its use. Wiki-image of Jesus washing his disciples' feet is in the public domain.

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