Advent Sunday 2 A (05 December 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living the Exchange
Advent sharpens Jesus’ call to live his gospel, his good news of light dispelling darkness; of grace giving life where sin steals it; and allowing the risen life of our living Lord to transform our humanity. Gospel living is an entirely new way of being in the world and of being with others. Gospel living is possible for us because of God’s fidelity and loving-kindness, God’s truthfulness and mercy. This was the promise and hope the prophets preached.
Day after day in the temple in Jerusalem and in synagogues throughout the 1st-Century Mediterranean world truthfulness and mercy were the words people heard for God’s fidelity and loving-kindness, which made living in a new possible for humans. God’s fidelity and loving-kindness exceeded human powers and cosmic ones, too.
The prophetic words revealed the divine desire as we heard Isaiah announce it like a new Eden, where the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den. In other words, there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.
That was the startling hope and promise which formed the character of the people of the covenant. That hope and promise form our character. John the Baptizer realized they were dawning—the kingdom of heaven is at hand!—and Messiah Jesus introduced them to the world, where his hope and promise remain present in partial ways.
The kingdom of heaven’s dawning among us has consequences for how you and I live our Catholic lives. Repent was the prophetic word for that. The word meant to turn around one’s mind. Jesus expressed that by choosing others over self. It does not mean becoming a doormat for others. Recall Jesus said to his disciples after they watched him for days preach and heal, Come away...and rest a while.1 Self-care is important for disciples. Yet, it isn’t all we need.
We also need a direction in which to turn our minds. St. Paul gave the direction: we have the mind of Christ.2 The word attitude describes even better what we easily tend to confine to our heads. It involves our Messiah’s way of thinking and discriminating among thoughts, feelings, purposes, desires and then choosing our actions with one another. St. Paul gave repent its Christian dimension: Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.3
Among yourselves reveals Paul’s purpose: he wanted his gospel to help a community grow as a community. Having the same attitude as Christ Jesus means a community of people allow Jesus’ life to be the pattern of their living. St. Paul expressed himself to the Christians in Rome, as well as to us: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus [so that you may] welcome one another...as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God. St. Paul spoke in the conventional friendship language of his day: friends were other selves who thought in harmony. Friends anticipate one another; friends endure with one another; friends who are strong help those who are weak; friends stand for one another. Jesus did exactly those things for us and more! Jesus’ life and death shaped the pattern of the greatest exchange. Having the same attitude as Christ Jesus allows us to welcome one another for the glory of God and helps us eagerly anticipate the glorious return of our Messiah.
Until then you and I are light shining in one another’s darkness; we are guarantors of life lest others diminish it; and God set[s] us as a signal for the nations so that others, seeing our lives, may anticipate what we anticipate by living as grace empowers us the marvelous exchange Jesus won for us and for all.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week compose yourself in the life of the Trinity, each Divine Person freely giving and receiving from the other. Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus. Praise Jesus for transforming your life with his attitude. Ask Jesus for the grace to be a channel, a sacrament, of his life for others. Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which reshapes our attitudes, minds and hearts to be more like our Messiah, whose presence gives us hopeful endurance and whose glorious return shapes our daily living with and for each other and all people.
- Mark 6.31.
- 1Corinthians 2.16.
- Philippians 2.5.