Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday word, 21 Oct 2012

Not To Keep
29th Sunday of the Year B (21 Oct 2012) 
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Consider what is common to these phrases: guest service; sanitary engineer; personal trainer; flight attendant; downsizing; collateral damage; ethnic cleansing?

Prettied up language is what’s common. To what end? I never feel I’m a guest of Top’s, Target or Kohl’s. I’m a customer, sometimes bewildered and usually satisfied. Language beautification also masks the menial aspects of work, which the words janitor, coach, steward and stewardess do not mask.

Language beautification may be dirty and deceive: reducing debt by sacking employees doesn’t address managing poorly or understand that work is essential to human dignity. Collateral
damage is correct on one hand—civilians die along side military personnel—but the phrase masks human suffering on the other. To call human extermination “cleansing” is blasphemy.

I won’t deceive you when it comes to the good news of Jesus. Jesus was clear: persecutions are part of life, and of the Christian life in particular. The Christian life is bittersweet like yours and mine. Each of us has disappointments, setbacks, struggles. We are routinely tempted. Sometimes life’s bitter turns singe us with intense suffering. Living with and for Jesus recognizes that; it also invites us and all disciples to live a new way. Our scriptures described a few aspects of this new way to deepen discipleship.

First, we grow to realize position, prominence and prestige do not guarantee greatness; serving others’ needs makes one great. Second, serving is no impossible task: think of all the spouses, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and neighbors who model selfless love to youth and elders. Our Creator and Redeemer Jesus crowns all our serving efforts because he sympathized fully with us and what challenges our daily living. It is easy to forget he was fully human and was tested in every way all humans are tested in life. What does his empathy do for us?

Jesus’ humanity enables us to live as leaven in the mass of society. We affect it by being signs of contradiction of the world’s way of operating for gain and for self rather than for sharing more equitably the gifts of creation entrusted to our care and safeguarding each one’s dignity. To live as this transforming leaven in society means our vocation is to revolutionize the world with no other arms save the gospel of our Messiah Jesus and his way of living.

His gospel is not divorced from the world or opposed to it. Pope Benedict recognizes that. Six years ago he said, “[F]aith in God and scientific research cooperate to the same end, which can best be expressed with the words of Jesus himself: that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”1 Commenting on Jesus’ words, the pope spoke on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Home for the Relief of Suffering, an initiative of St. Padre Pio. This year, another 50th anniversary, the pope recalled the same words in opening the Year of Faith: Let us run to Jesus, “‘towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.’”2

We run to Jesus to receive his abundant life. We receive his life not to keep but to share. Our annual Mission Sunday allows us to join saints and “Catholics worldwide to recommit [our]selves to the Church’s missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice.”3 Mission Sunday also reminds us we are a community of blessed people. We are blessed with wealth of all varieties. Many share that wealth generously at home, in school, at work, even abroad. I am most grateful; you inspire me more than you know. I desire that you never lose heart as you respond generously to Jesus personally inviting to you share his baptism.

Focused on his baptism to serve, Jesus refocused James and John and refocuses us, who want to escape suffering and inconvenience. In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, invite Jesus to sharpen the focus on our baptism.

  • Become aware of the Divine Persons embracing you in love. 
  • Ask James and John to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for modeling being baptized and living it well. Speak with him about the cup he drank; or converse with him about one baptismal symbol and how it shapes you: cross; water; oil of chrism; fire; white garment.
  • Ask him for the grace you need to live your baptism more candidly, then resolve how you can do so one way that day. 
  • Close, slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer. You won’t deceive yourself. Jesus’ words help us grow more mature as his disciples and help us put our faith in action.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. His address of 14 October 2006.
  2. His Apostolic Letter announcing the Year of Faith, “Door of Faith,” 2.
  3. Statement at the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States website.


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