Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday word, 11 Dec 2011

More in Unison

Advent Sunday 3 (11 Dec 2011)
Is 61:1-2a, 10-11; Resp Luke1; 1Th 5. 16-24; Jn 1. 6-8, 19-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

In my childhood the beginning of Advent seemed to mark a long time. Before I knew it Advent’s midpoint arrived. While Advent’s month of Sundays no longer seems as long, it unfolds no less quickly. We have again reached its Third Sunday. Its liturgy focuses on the coming Solemnity of our Lord’s Nativity.

The Nativity of our Lord is the beginning of redemption: Jesus embodied God, who would release humans from the bondage of sin.1 That alone moved people to rejoice. Yet the mystery of God
releasing people from sin by becoming human with us and for us fills each human life with something greater than our glad rejoicing: God’s delight over us. That has been so from the beginning of the Christian experience. In the language of our tradition we name that new life, salvation, which is nothing less than living divine life. The first Christians did not think of salvation as reserved for a distant future; they experienced salvation; they were being saved 2 by risen Jesus, as St. Paul often said, in their daily living. Being saved registered as a power to live with freedom in every circumstance.
Living Christian freedom, the liberty for which Messiah Jesus freed us,3 is what the Prayer Over the Offerings points when it calls, May the sacrifice of our worship, Lord, we pray, be offered to you unceasingly. It does not mean that we are in church 24 hours a day. It means we live the communion we offer and receive gathered as one; each of us living what we offer and receive here in our many places of living, working, learning and playing. When each of us complete[s] by how we live what was begun in [this] sacred mystery, we incarnate and advance God’s saving work in Jesus by their Spirit.
The church has extolled God’s incarnation, the union in Jesus of human and divine,4 as a marriage of humanity with God.5 As they enter into married life, human spouses “think in unison,” as Pope Benedict has observed.6 The way human spouses honor and celebrate marriage is by living their unison more readily. In the marriage of the Incarnation we Christians are to think in unison with our Savior. We begin that when we confess Jesus with our lips7 as our God and brother and act on our words. We act so as not to pay lip-service to what God does for us in Jesus by their Spirit. Jesus reminded us that our deeds confirm or negate our words.8 Today we say it is not enough to talk Christian things; witnesses to Jesus walk the Christian way. The Christian way is not a refined human way of living. The Christian way, living Christian freedom in every circumstance, flows from Jesus’ Spirit: it is of God.
John the Baptizer was one sent from God. The good news of our salvation in Messiah Jesus is alive today because of Jesus’ Spirit at work in prophets and disciples, past and present. You and I make straight the way of the Lord when we do not get in the way of the Spirit but let our lives manifest the power of Jesus’ Spirit, given us in word and sacrament.
“How do we do that?” one may ask. Another may say, “I don’t recognize the Spirit at work in me.” The Spirit is not present in the same way you and I are present to each other. However, traces of the Spirit—we might say, the fingerprints of the Spirit—are in good deeds; in expressions of gratitude for life, for people, for our faith; in the fruits of personal prayer; and in communal worship,

especially around the tables of God’s word and God’s son. When we are faithful to those practices and to others of our Catholic heritage, we begin to recognize the Spirit at work in us and in the world, and others recognize the Spirit, too.
The result: we are reshaped by the mystery of the Incarnation. We move closer to God who united with us. It is breathtaking to pause and ponder it. “By His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every person. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart.”9 Allowing our Messiah Jesus to work in us is being saved. To think in unison with our Savior is to live God’s delight over us.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Pause in the Trinity’s saving love for you.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for embodying God’s goodness and mercy for you.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to live more in unison with his words and example.
  • Close, saying slowly the Lord’s PrayerJesus’ prayer schools us to pray and live in greater harmony with others and our Savior, who is with us and who is to come.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. See Matthew 1.21, which specified the name of Jesus, which means the Lord saves.
  2. 1Corinthians 1.18 is one example from Paul. Peter too, was emphatic, 1Peter 3.21. In Revelation 12.10 the seer, John, heard no less an authority than the voice in heaven announce, “Now have salvation and power come.”
  3. Galatians 2.4 and Galatians 5.1.  
  4. John 1.14; Philippians 2.6-8; Colossians 2.9; 1Timothy 3.16; Hebrews 2.14-17.
  5. Psalm-Prayer at Evening Prayer, Monday, Week2. Recently, Pope Benedict XVI summarized this tradition in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, 13.
  6. His 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, 54.
  7. Hebrews 13.15.
  8. Luke 6.46-49 recalled a vivid parable.
  9. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution: Church in the Modern World, 22.
Wiki-images of light from a star-forming region and an artist's depiction of Holy Spirit in the Annunciation are in the public domain.

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