Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday word, 17 Jun 2012

Tree Language 
11th Sunday of the Year B (17 Jun 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Exile is the word used for the forced deportation of the Israelite people from their land to the lands of their conquerors. During their exile God raised prophets to remind the people God was with them, and more, God was working the return of the people to their land. Their return to the land would not happen with the violence that forced them from it. Using the image of a tree, as we heard, Prophet Ezekiel hinted God would work a new thing with them.
When we pause to think, Ezekiel’s tree language is not so foreign. We use it to describe the similarity of a child to a parent: “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” Biblical imagery has offered us more than proverbs. A tender shoot of a plant with desired flowers or fruit is the scion grafted to another plant chosen for its roots. The scion contains the genes to produce more flowers and fruit a gardener desires.
We use the word scion of human descendants, too. The tender shoot God chose was a descendant of David, who would rebuild the house and family of David.1 All kinds of winged birds, that is, peoples of the earth, would form part of the kingdom of David. People of all kinds suggested that it would be more than its former self: it would begin the messianic era.
Fast forward many generations after exile. When Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, whose mature tree was a haven for birds, his image was familiar to his first hearers. Jesus emphasized God working with parables of growth. Ancient Mediterraneans did not understand growth as we do. They were aware not of the process but of the vast difference between seeds and plants. In Jesus’ first parable of the farmer sowing seed, the phrase he knows not how emphasized that, like the new thing God did to return Jesus’ ancestors to their land and later did in Jesus, humans could not hasten or accomplish that new thing. 
God in Jesus by their Spirit works through people. God always exceeds our sophistication as well as our limitations. As a Jesuit I am reminded of the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. At their beginning and end St. Ignatius of Loyola emphasized that God began, preserves, directs and carries forward the works of what we call our “least Society of Jesus.”2 In our recent province gathering we reminded ourselves of that. We also recalled that we have our parts to play in developing God’s gift to the church and to the world. The Spirit of God needs humans to make its work palpable. We asked, like you and the rest of the members of the body of our risen Messiah, “Are we cooperating with our Creator and Redeemer? Do we use our initiative, like the farmer sowing seed who paid attention to the seasons, and put our resources to better use?”
The reign of God began to dawn with the birth of Jesus: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.3 Jesus made it public as he announced, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”;4 and, “The kingdom of God is among you.”5 Like St. Paul all of us live the tension of desiring God and fulness of life with God and of serving others. We live that tension and endure its anguish well by doing our parts but doing them in ways that never try to outstrip or outdo the surprising and always-exceeding-our-imaginations ways and workings of God in Jesus by their Spirit.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Allow yourself, body and spirit, to rest in the Trinity, who creates and redeems you.
  • Ask the saints to present you to Jesus; draw near with eagerness like those who listened to Jesus’ parables.
  • Speak to Jesus: in your words praise Jesus for including you in the kingdom he announced and lived.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to do your part to announce the good news of his gospel.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. On earth as in heaven calls us to attend to our common vocation: we allow the Spirit of Jesus to use us, to work through us so more people will come to meet Jesus as well as the gospel he announces through us and all his disciples everywhere today.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Luke 2.4.
  2. Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, ##134, 825.
  3. Luke 2.14.
  4. Matthew 3.2.
  5. Luke 17.21.
Wiki-image by Reji Jacob of Mustard Plant with Flowers and tender seeds used by CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of The Sower is in the public domain.

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