Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday word, 12 Aug 2012

19th Sunday of the Year B (12 Aug 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Matters Most
Different forms of literature use language differently to express best what authors seek to convey. Video-literature is a good example. In movies’ visible language villains can be dressed in dark clothing; innocent people and heroes in light colors. Actions at night or in shadows may be murky, mysterious or malicious. If you’re like me and enjoy suspense films, sinister music—even a single, unresolved note colored with a touch of vibrato, “mmmmmm!”—is a clue as bright as daylight that something ominous is around the corner.
Biblical literature is similar because God’s revelation is clothed in human language. The Fourth Gospel exploits language in order both to convey meaning and deepen it. The word world in the Fourth Gospel connotes more than geography. The world includes the way of living we know well: the familiar; the customary; and what human minds can grasp.

The other realm is not familiar; it is not bound by our customs, our surroundings nor measures by social standing. That realm is the realm of God. The realm of God challenges our presumed, often comfortable, secure ways of living. God’s realm invites us to live in new ways, ways in which we grow to appreciate the standards of the world as less satisfying, less secure, less substantial. St. Paul, responding to practical concerns about living Christian lives, offered examples of ways of the world to avoid. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. Jesus, we recall, had placed them on a par with murder.1

Another aspect of the realm of God is that it is unfamiliar to our usual way of diagnosing and perceiving. The Fourth Gospel placed this conviction in the context of Jesus’ self-identification as the bread that came down from heaven. Many of those who heard him say that thought that they knew who he really was. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’” Despite Jesus’ miraculous feeding of thousands,2 they were not debating doctrine. They were presumptuous: because they knew his parents and where he grew up, they thought they knew Jesus’ origins.

When we celebrate the sacrament of Messiah Jesus’ body and blood, we shift our focus from the world—what is customary and familiar to us—to Jesus’ origins and self-giving. We focus in a more alert fashion on the presence of Jesus first in his word, which is offered to whet our appetites for his eucharist. Its God-provided nourishment sustains us in unmatched ways. An angel of the Lord provided Elijah’s bread and water, which he needed at the very moment when he gave up on his vocation and even prayed for death.

Elijah’s desolation sharpens our focus. The eucharist of our Messiah’s body and blood is communion which nourishes and strengthens us for what matters most. It is no mere part of the order of mass. Nor is the eucharist an extra, like an optional accessory to our autos or add-ons for computers.We come to share our story,”3 the song sings, that is, who we are in God as the scriptures unfold that to us and God’s passion for us. We partake of the broken bread to live the godly life to which Jesus invites us for the sake of the world. Equally important, “We come to know our rising from the dead”4—what matters most.

Yet, we humans are tempted to complain often about what matters little or not at all. In the winter, it’s the cold. In the summer, it’s the heat. Such irritations differ vastly from complaining to the point of death. We can’t compare them with parents grieving the death of children by rickets or rockets, disease or drowning. People terrorized by war’s inhumanity have a greater claim on God and a greater right to complain to God than we do about cold, heat, even the price of gas. Jesus did not come to save us from such things but from sin and its consequences.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our Triune God.
  • Ask the communion of saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Consider how Jesus is creating you to change the world.
  • Ask him for grace to have felt knowledge of what matters most and how Jesus nourishes you to change the world, one deed, one word, one day at a time.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us this day, remind us that our Triune God slakes our deep thirsts.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. See, Matthew 5. 21-22.
  2. The multiplication of loaves and fish is the context for John 6.
  3. “Song of the Body of Christ,” words by David Haas, which he arranged to a Hawaiian traditional melody.  It may be found in Gather at #613.
  4. “Song of the Body of Christ,” #18 at this iTunes Preview.
Wiki-image by BĂ©ria Lima of an azulejo of Jesus feeding thousands and Wiki-image by Walters Art Museum of life of Elijah (incl. being fed by God) are used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

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