Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sunday word, 08 Jan 2012

In Motion
Epiphany B (08 Jan 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

I served two parishes with the custom of moving statues remembering the Wise Men closer to the manger throughout Christmastime, closer and closer as Epiphany drew near. I jested then that sometimes more care was taken to move the statues closer to Jesus than to move ourselves closer to Jesus in our daily lives. I learned I was not the first to think that.

A Danish philosopher considered it long before. He contrasted the scribes and the Wise Men. The scribes had access to God’s self-communication with Israel, while the Wise Men had the light of a star and its rumor of an infant monarch. Yet, the scribes stayed put; the Wise Men moved. Before the Wise Men traveled, their hearts were in motion. Their spirits were restless for truth deeper and more real than all their wisdom, and they followed their restless urgings.

The scribes, though, “did not accompany the Wise Men to seek” that Truth born in so humble, easy-to-overlook way. That always puzzled me. The philosopher noted that this puzzle diagnoses our spiritual health.
...we may be able to explain every article of our faith, yet remain spiritually motionless. The power that moved heaven and earth leaves us completely unmoved.   What a contrast! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it spurred them to set out on a long, hard journey. The scribes, meanwhile, were much better informed, much better versed. They had sat and studied the scriptures for years, like so many dons. But it didn’t make any difference. Who had the more truth? Those who followed a rumor, or those who remained sitting, satisfied with all their knowledge?1 
Do we treat our faith as a rumor or whimsy? Do we treat our faith as an abstract thing or a theory? Faith is much more. Faith is relationship: our relationship with Jesus, God in the flesh with us dead and risen, and through him with others: alive now and to come. Jesus’ Spirit guarantees our relationship. If we are fickle, Jesus will always be faithful: desiring us; longing to love us and give us himself.
Faith links us with our God made flesh. Sometimes our link is freeing so we can be apostolic in our actions and example. At other times our faith-link places us in Jesus’ heart when we need protection, compassion and felt knowledge of Jesus loving us. Whether our faith-relationship frees and moves us to be apostolic agents of Jesus’ gospel; or whether our faith-relationship reassures us of Jesus’ love, protection and care; or whatever way our faith-relationship unites us to Jesus as his evangelizers today, most important for our spiritual health and vitality is to keep spiritually agile and to resist being “spiritually motionless.”
Beginning 2012 is a good time to resolve to grow more spiritually agile and more alert to the motions within us, motions not in harmony with Jesus’ gospel and motions in harmony with Jesus’ gospel. Our interior motions produce actions, and our actions become habits.

Being alert to interior movements—to spiritual motions and to the ways they draw and pull us closer to Jesus or away from him—keeps our faith-relationship alive and our inmost selves in motion. We grow more awed each moment at each person and all creation. The rumors of creation—stars and seasons; things singular and commonplace; exotic and familiar—not only become pointers to the light and life of our Savior. You and I become brighter lights, who embody our Savior’s dispositions and desires.
Shining brightly as his disciple-friends is the fruit of lives of prayer always in motion. Praying not only reaches toward God. Pope Benedict reminded us in preaching on this feast that “[p]raying without ceasing means: never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light”2 to be light for others.
To have felt-knowledge of being enlightened by Jesus to reflect his light by your lives: give Jesus 15 minutes each day this week.
  • Pause and bask in the love with which the Trinity creates you. 
  • Ask the Wise Men to present you to Jesus so you may ask Jesus to free you from what holds you back from moving closer to Jesus in word and deed.
  • Thank Jesus for the ways Jesus chooses you to embody him in the world and for the countless ways Jesus protected you last year. 
  • Resolve to grow more agile in spirit this year. Look forward to your relationship with Jesus to grow in 2012 and 
  • Say the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our compass to find him in and with others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations.
  2. His 2012 Epiphany homily.
Wiki-image by Reinhardhauke of adoration of Magi is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of Lagoon nebula is in the public domain.

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