Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday word, 18 Mar 2012

Too Deep To Understand

Lent Sunday 4 (B) (18 Mar 2012)
2Ch 36. 14-16, 19-23; Ps 137; Eph 2. 4-10; Jn 3. 14-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The movement of God in our lives is easily missed unless we are alert to it. Our weekly liturgy together helps us grow more alert; it also shapes our daily, personal praying. Today’s scriptures remind us of one feature of God’s concern for us: mercy; rich in mercy. Mercy is compassionate treatment. God took personal interest in people from the beginning, and God does so today. People did not always welcome God’s compassion. Scripture brims with illustrations of humans rejecting it, even God’s chosen people.

By compassionate treatment, God desired to inspire humans, and especially God’s chosen people, to treat each other and all people that way. The Hebrew word for compassion shares the same root as “womb,” so that compassion is related to a mother’s feeling for her child.1 So the Prophet Isaiah spoke on behalf of God: [Thus says the Lord:] Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.2 Appreciating those words on a human level led God’s people to value and practice three distinguishing marks of being loved by God: showing compassion; being modest; and doing deeds of loving kindness.3 We continue that Jewish tradition.
Being loved is not something we ever totally understand. It’s too deep, so life-giving, too tender and too stirring just to understand. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. If being loved by another human is something we cannot totally understand, then we ought not be surprised that those frequently quoted words of the Fourth Gospel overwhelm us when we pause to ponder them.
Lent allows us an annual opportunity, together as God’s chosen ones, to go deeper into the paschal mystery of our Messiah Jesus; to feel anew God’s motherlike love: a love that is life-giving; a love that will never let us go; a power by which God will never let us go no matter what we may do or not do and no matter what may happen.
That, too, is something we cannot get our heads around. Yet, like parents’ love for their children, on which they rely, we rely on God loving us and treating us more gently than we feel we may deserve. That is God’s way.

Because we cannot understand it, liturgy offers us the luxury of being loved by God using all our senses. We hear God speak God’s love of us in Jesus by their Spirit in every sacrament. We sing of God’s love and express our desire to receive it. Our eyes are treated to how God so loved the world each time we see the crucifix. We feel the strong tenderness of God’s care when holy oil reassures us at crucial moments in our lives and, we take in the sweet aroma of God’s care. We taste God’s love given for us in Jesus’ body and blood.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Bask in the love the Trinity showers on you.
  • Ask Nicodemus to present you to Jesus so you may speak with him.
  • Thank Jesus for loving you. Speak to Jesus about how you welcome love and how you are showing love. Receiving love, often very challenging, shapes us into people who give love well.
  • Ask Jesus to help you welcome his love of you more freely. 
  • Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The words daily bread include all the ways God loves us. We need it so we can forgive, which is to love as God loves.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. raḥamim and reḥem, compassion and womb.
  2. Isaiah 49.15.
  3. Yevamot 79a.
Wiki-image of Afghan mother and child is in the public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image by Billy Hathorn of John 3.16 is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

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