11th Saturday of the Year (19Jun 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Before the modern era ushered by the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th Centuries, those who read scripture—the Sacred Writings of Israel and later the New Testament—inhabited the world of those writings. Scripture shaped their world. From the Enlightenment readers of scripture tend to make the sacred writings fit their world.
That shift from inhabiting the world of scripture to making scripture fit our world is of earthshaking proportion. Moderns may pride themselves on not being as backward as their predecessors, but we miss much by taking that view. Our attitude is less open to the divine, precisely what both the Sacred Writing of Israel and the Church invite readers to discover and to practice in daily living.
Openness to God and how God works in and through us is not excessive optimism nor recession into spiritualism. Even some who force Sacred Writings into the 21st Century world can be either of those: overly optimistic or spiritualistic. The traditions of the Eastern Churches may help us appreciate openness to God.
Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions invite their faithful to go to church with this attitude: when they walk into church, they leave the street and enter heaven. In other words they inhabit God’s presence. When Christians have the courage to seek first the Kingdom of God and [God’s] righteousness instead of succumbing to the pressures the world exerts, which as each of us knows well, causes us much unfounded worry and anxiety, they inhabit God’s presence in a particular moment.
The seeking of the Kingdom of God is played out in acting in godly ways: being in awe of creation and especially its crown, other humans; putting the best construction on what we hear about others instead of detracting from another; taking extra steps to assist another, especially one in need; and putting our heart into private praying and communal worship instead of mouthing words.
The righteousness of God is the Kingdom of God! To inhabit as best as we can this side of heaven God’s presence, to allow God’s Spirit to transform us and shape us is to begin and to deepen our awareness that God is ultimate not the world.
The phrase that has run through Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s Gospel up to the passage we just heard, your heavenly Father, gave voice to that conviction. God is the measure of the kingdom Jesus proclaimed. If it were anything less, it would be limited, frail human fairness and judgment not the graced righteousness of God, which opens onto absolutely new life.
Our challenge is to enter and inhabit the world the Sacred Writings offer. The world they offer is nothing less than God’s life. We heard in the spatial language of the Second Book of Chronicles that to refuse to enter God’s life and allow God to empower us was to [forsake] the temple of the LORD. The behavior of those who did that was idolatry, the bible’s sin of sins.
To inhabit the world of scripture does not cause us to despise the world let alone to flee the world. Not at all! To inhabit the world of scripture puts us in touch with God’s life so that we can live and act for the sake of our world. That means we change the world beginning with ourselves and grow to have an ever deeper respect for creation, greater desire to live in God’s covenant and invite others into it so that day by day God may be all things in all things.1
1. 1 Corinthians 15.28.
Wiki-image of a page from the Codex Vaticanus is in the public domain.