18th Sunday of the Year C (01 Aug 2010)
Eccl 1. 2; 2. 21-23; Ps 90; Col 3. 1-5, 9-11; Lk 12. 13-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
St. Paul wrote faith communities—churches—he had established. The communities shaped his messages, which told the good news of the risen messiah Jesus; how the baptized participated in the new life of the Risen One; and how living that life reshaped relationships with the God of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, all the prophets before the prophet Jesus as well as other humans. Baptized living still means seeking to deepen the absolutely new life of the Risen One in our daily activities.
Today’s scriptures suggest two implications about deepening this new life or setting our affections1 on the life of risen Jesus in which you and I share by our baptisms. The first implication is living for others. St. Paul suggested no private rigorism to seek divine life. Rather, St. Paul recommended the community, the common union or our shared humanity. Christian life is not measured by nationality, gender, status or by insider-outsider divisions. St. Paul’s pairings of Jew/Greek, male/female, slave/free and circumcised/uncircumcised were contemporary to him and the Colossians. We can name our own: addicted/free; established/migrating, developed/developing; traditional/new age—supply your own.
The community—not private heroics or rigorism—-is both shaper and goal of seeking what is of God, what is most real: being honest in word and deed; making every effort to build up others; and being open handed as well as open hearted. Seeking what is most real, being honest with one another and not living solely for self all benefit the faith community and the global, human community.
Living without reference to others dooms us to a lonely, meaningless existence. This second implication the Book of Ecclesiastes laid bare. Vanity of vanities was not curse but the Old Testament Preacher’s way of saying how wretched life lived with no reference to others is. The Old Testament Preacher live amid advances to humans as well as age-old inclinations to making self the center of things. Those inclinations registered and still register as pride, honor and riches, to use Ignatian shorthand. The Old Testament Preacher courageously witnessed to making God the horizon to which we lean and the mystery embracing daily routines as well as astonishing wonders and searing traumas.
Jesus in his time of even more advances in travel, communication, urban planning—to name only three the Roman Empire markedly improved—preached that too. That’s the point of his parable of the rich fool. His folly was not his wealth measured in bales of barley and other grain and other goods; his folly was he thought he completely controlled his life. Not only were his harvest and its wealth to him in the market gifts of the Creator, so was his very self. Had he come to think he controlled the rains, which allowed him to store so much in his barns and silos?
When we live with no reference to God; when we refuse to allow God to be the mystery embracing daily routines as well as astonishing wonders and traumas, which sear us, we feel trapped in the futility of it all and sucked into ourselves. When we allow God to be our horizon and the mystery embracing us, we live for others with energetic freedom, the freedom of faith, faith being nothing less than Jesus’ human response to God with us, ever inviting and blessing our response.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week pause in the loving light of the Trinity, who creates you at each moment. Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus. In your words praise Jesus for sharing his risen life and his faith in the mystery who invites us beyond ourselves. Ask Jesus to renew your sense of his presence with you and deepen your awe and wonder at all God’s gifts. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Give us this day is more than a petition. Jesus’ phrase reminds us that we live moment by moment for the sake of others as Jesus lived, died and rose for each of us.
- The Greek word in Colossians 3.2 we translate as think had richer connotations from what we heard. Other versions offer: Think of what is above, not of what is on earth to Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth [Revised Standard Version]. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth [King James Version]. St. Paul conveyed a much more humane activity than mentally connecting ideas.