Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday word, 21 Mar 2010

5th Lenten Sunday C (21 Mar 2010)

Is 43. 16-21; Ps 34; Phil 3. 8-14; Jn 8. 1-11

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Earthwords: Or, If the Earth Could Speak, It Might Say. . .

I recall when I was created: after light; after the dome separating one body of water from the other; after God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear.”1 My appearance was indeed something new.

With God, after all, new things dawn all the time.

God fashioned from me, dusty earth, your humankind.

As time progressed, people tilled me and tickled me; they fought over me and upon me; fell on me, bled on me, knelt and prayed on me. I sustained it all, though I fear they might have done better. Nonetheless, one new thing followed another from the first.

That first sin, the first rebellion of many against God, ushered a curse on me. Cursed be the ground because of humanity’s parents. You write history from your point of view: you recount your toil, your sweat, your aches, your pains.

How many consider my point of view?

I'm not just here. I was shaped for you.

I give constantly beyond thorns and thistles (part of the original curse).2

I remain faithful to my original purpose,

God’s original, creative purpose:

“Let the earth bring forth vegetation.”3

And I do so without disturbing your relaxation.

Thorns and thistles prickle;

silently, I weather the slice of your sickle,

but your current attitude toward me,

leaves me—I say kindly—in quite a pickle.

Which reminds me of an occasion a distant time ago.

Pharisees said a woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. How do you say it?

One plus one is. . .ah, yes! You say it takes two to tango.

I tell you I was pleased that a bed separated them from me.

I may be dirty—your word—but I’ve my honor.

The man got away, the woman did not.

The Pharisees pushed their agenda to put Jesus on the spot.

Subtle he was and daring besides.

Jesus was creation’s insides:

in touch with its original purpose like no one whose feet ever trod me.

It was hot, both in the air and in heads ’round the temple area early that day.

You’d call it dusty and hazy: I recall it clearly.

From my perspective, I was quite settled, peaceful and resting apace

’Til so many—running, dragging, kicking—jolted, jarred and upset my face.

(Like hailstorms and wars scarring my fields, grass and top layers.)

In the whirl of it all, one spot, indeed, one heart was calm in the uproar.

I’ll remember it always—for ever!—like it was less than an evening before.

During the uproar: the other-directed accusing, the testing, the waiting,

The kindest impress I ever felt—-lighter than the woman’s tear on me fading.

Jesus’ finger, the finger of God, caressed and drew me on to my original purpose:

bearer of your food; contours of your land;

from seashore to sandstone, and above all,

the support beneath your feet as you stand.

Such godly tracings! I had not felt such tracings in ages. None were as clear

Since the first waters trickled and gathered into [one] basin...that [I might] appear.

Many of your best minds—others, too—have wondered what on me Jesus wrote. Aramaic? Or Greek? Will you heed me if I use words you say? Don’t go there! Don’t!

Jesus wrote sand-script so sweet to let me know first

he was undoing the curse served

on me; on that woman; and on you.

Easter is the mystery we soon will observe.

You revel each year in it to find how you’re created anew.

Sin clings—takes root, I prefer—like a thistle or thorn.

Yet the Good News is plain—clear, it’s unadorned:

You’ve died already, each one, in baptism’s bath.

This eucharist helps us shape, reshape and retrace a new path—

You on your feet, I somewhere beneath.

Later today and throughout your coming week,

Jesus asks you, “Drop your stones.” Do hear him speak!

He comes very gently to console your own tracings,

So you’ll know what I’ve known: Jesus’ great gracings.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the presence of the Trinity. Ask the woman caught in adultery to present you to Jesus. Consider the times Jesus drew you clear: perhaps from danger; or from making an unwise choice; or kept you faithful. Praise Jesus for his care of you and ask to respond more quickly to his care of you. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Praying it with thought and care helps us follow Jesus’ lead more and to notice Jesus laying down his life for us in his everlasting covenant.


  1. Genesis 1.9.
  2. Genesis 3.17-18.
  3. Genesis 1.11.


Wiki-image of Jesus writing on the earth is in the public domain.

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