34th Saturday of the Year (28Nov 2009)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Alert Not Charmed
Because many of us celebrate mass between Sundays we have noticed the prophet Daniel’s message this last week of the liturgical year had one theme with different expressions. The theme was power, human and godly, earthly and heavenly. Rather than working in concert with godly power, human power had grown arrogant. Arrogant in kings, who led others into captivity—the context of the Book of Daniel; arrogant in the kingdoms themselves depicted by beasts, which caricatured power wielded by humans.
A caricature exaggerates striking characteristics to make a point. In Daniel’s vision he beheld beasts devouring and crushing...and trampling humans and the rest of creation, rather than preserving, strengthening and building creation in the manner of true stewards. The beastly features opposed humans, whom God created in the divine image, and humane stewardship.
Stewardship involves of creation,1 especially its crown, humans. Power that abuses does not harmonize with God’s kingdom. In proclaiming the kingdom, Jesus emphasized the harmony of human and divine, and God’s initiative to help people to become realigned with God in deed and word: our vocation daily until Jesus’ return.
Luke’s Jesus offered no timetable of events before the return of the son of Man, a sobriquet in circulation before Daniel’s time. Instead, he encouraged an alert vigilance not an idle one; a calm and even approach to the world; and to pray for strength to persevere in that approach.
The distractions of daily life need not be only its anxieties. Earlier in his teaching, Jesus remarked that even the pleasures of daily life can choke the word [of God] so that it does not come to maturity in human behavior or language.2
A parallel with safety is apt. Safety pros teach that the more familiar our surroundings, the less alert we are to potential hazards. Similarly, in our desires we don't notice insidious dangers. Insidious dangers may have harmful effects equal to those coming from a visible, external source, even a beastly one, to exploit Daniel’s vision. Yet Jesus encouraged a vigilance to free us not make us paranoid; a vigilance that would offer us strength; a vigilance that would make us confident so that we can stand firm with head held high3 whenever the son of Man may come.
For us who live in secure comfort, Jesus may encourage us to employ alert vigilance lest life charm us to forget God has given all things to us so we may exercise holy stewardship not become puffed up by any power we have. To be alert that way to exercise holy stewardship is not to be a caricature-Christian but to truly and effectively minister to each other.
- This is dear to Pope Benedict. It has been his General Intention this entire month.
- So Jesus explained part of the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8.14.
- See Luke 21.28, which is part of Jesus’ parable and his interpretation and teaching in these final verses of this chapter.