Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sunday word, 09 Dec 2012

To See Ourselves
Advent2 C (09 Dec 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The details which opened todays’s gospel may sound needless, even distracting. However, the evangelist Luke considered them important. Two reasons stand out. First, he placed himself in the tradition of earlier prophets whose records began similarly. The Book of Baruch, from which our first reading was taken, began: Now these are the words of the scroll which Baruch, son of Neriah, son of Mahseiah, son of Zedekiah, son of Hasadiah, son of Hilkiah, wrote in Babylon, in the fifth year, on the seventh day of the month at the time the Chaldeans took Jerusalem and destroyed it with fire.1 Details of events, names of parents and rulers situated prophets in specific times and places. Within the prophetic tradition, Luke attached his story of Jesus to the culture of his time: empire; regional rulers; and religious leaders. Second, that tradition helped Luke’s hearers and readers appreciate what he wrote: John was the last in the line of prophets; his words and deeds prepared the way for Messiah Jesus.

He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and Luke continued, crowds...came out to be baptized by him.2 That, too, may sound like a throwaway line, but it is not. The reason is this: that many came to John and were baptized by him indicated they responded positively to him and accepted his preaching.

When we understand what scripture means by repentance we appreciate John’s prophetic vocation to prepare the way of the Lord. To repent meant to change one’s mind and to live according to one’s change of mind. In the Acts of the Apostles, the second part of Luke’s good news, St. Paul was more clear: I preached the need to repent and turn to God, and to do works giving evidence of repentance.3

Sorrow is not the point of repentance, although a stung conscience, we know, motivates us. The point of repentance is to live in new ways, ways which reflect to others the compassion and grace God in Jesus by their Spirit lavish upon us. To deepen in ourselves their compassion and grace is our Advent goal. As the people of his day heard and responded to John the baptizer, Advent offers us a focused time to probe and ponder the words of evangelists and prophets. We probe and ponder their words with this question: where do I see myself in their words. As we note our intersections, we can do no better than the crowds who came out to be baptized by John. They asked after hearing him and recognizing themselves, “What ought we do?”4 John responded to different groups5: share with those in need; act justly and honestly; and be grateful for what one has.

Luke, an evangelist, offers us the preaching and teaching of the Baptizer, a prophet. As with  other offerings, our part is to recognize what is offered, to welcome it and to accept it. Accepting is not limited to thinking and agreeing with John’s teaching. Accepting John’s teaching means to live it as best each of us can. Living John’s teaching and preaching transforms us to live our faith clearly. Living John’s teaching and preaching transforms us to be more prophetic Christians: children, women and men who help prepare others to welcome Jesus into their lives.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause and rest in the Trinity, who creates us each moment.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for becoming human for you so you may become a truer temple of his presence and a clearer image of God, in whom we are made.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to live his faith, our Christian faith as John and he taught: sharing generously; acting honestly and justly; and expressing often gratitude for what we enjoy.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer, which was his way of living as one of us, so you and I may live more like him until he returns.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Baruch 1.1-2.
  2. Luke 3.7a.
  3. Acts 26.20.
  4. Luke 3.10. People responded to Peter, that way when he rehearsed the story of Jesus on Pentecost: Acts 2.37. Note how their consciences stung (they were cut to the heart) and motivated them to act.
  5. Crowds, soldiers, tax collectors.

Wiki-images by the Web Gallery of Art of John the Baptizer preaching and of Luke the Evangelist in the public domain in the source country {{PD-Art}} / {{PD-old-100}} and in the U.S.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for those insights.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing your inspiration.