Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday word, 21 Nov 2009

Presentation of the Virgin Mary (21Nov 2009)
Zech 2. 14-17; Resp Lk 1; Mt 12. 46-50
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The Incarnation is an epicenter of our faith. The Presentation of Mary in the temple focuses us on her future as the human temple, the one who would give God’s word human nature, and fulfill God’s desire. The prophet Zechariah gave voice to it: I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. That dwelling burst the limits of human imagination, as well as hope. We’re no mere onlookers to this amazing grace. We’re part of God’s desire, indeed we’re part of God’s family. That has implications.

One implication is that we cannot think of God’s family in human terms. Jesus reshaped any thinking in both gesture and word. His gesture is easily overlooked: stretching out his hand toward his disciples. Jesus stood between—like a bridge not a wall—his disciples and his Father. Jesus continues to be that bridge by the power of their Spirit, the same spirit who overshadowed Mary and incarnated God’s word. In words Jesus amplified his gesture: my brother, sister and mother.

A second implication is that we cross the bridge, who is Jesus; in other words, our action, our cooperation with Jesus makes us and keeps us as God’s family. Jesus expressed that this way: whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.

A third implication is that Jesus, bridge and access to God, whom he called his Father, discloses this family that is both divine and human. Also, Jesus disclosed a pattern of living for members of God’s family. Accepting and desiring to replicate in one’s life the pattern of Jesus’ life accepts Jesus’ choice of a person to be part of God’s family. The scenes immediately before and after this one dramatized that.

Immediately before this scene was yet another demonstration of the religious leaders refusing to accept Jesus. They would not tolerate him! They accused Jesus of driving out a demon from a man by the power of the prince of demons not by the spirit of God./1/ Immediately after the scene we heard in today’s gospel, large crowds again come to hear Jesus and be with him./2/ Hearing was and remains the beginning of replicating in one’s life the self-giving pattern of Jesus and his confidence in his Father’s powerful presence.

Jesus’ sharing, his revealing the divine desire; our acceptance of it and living it means that God’s family, the community of the church of Jesus, is an extraordinary one. Its bonds have a greater value than human-family bonds. Human bonds are summarized by blood and personal identity as men and women. Divine bonds flow from listening and imitating Jesus. Divine bonds are fragile, too, because not listening and not imitating Jesus weaken and even shatter divine bonds.

The divine desire to dwell among us will never ebb. Mary remains for us the exemplar of hearing and heeding the divine desire and for each one who desires to be his brother, sister and mother.

1. Matthew 12.22-45.
2. Matthew 13.1-35.
Wiki-image of an icon of the Presentation of Mary is in the public domain.

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