Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday word, 23 Dec 2012

Model of Surrender
Advent4 C (23 Dec 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Can anyone identify with this? “Many things distract me from entering Advent and preparing for Christmas.” I can. To admit distraction suggests being self-aware. To admit distraction from entering Advent and its Christmas preparation suggests being aware we are ignoring God inviting us to grow more alert to self and God in Jesus by their Spirit at work in us. Their work brings us to life now and will give us life—what we call our salvation. The Trinity gives us life. Can we give life to ourselves? Can we save our selves? Is God’s saving life in our power? Our measure of power can mislead us.

We are not the first to be misled. The passage from Prophet Micah we heard described God’s power in God’s Anointed. God chose to act so people might identify the messiah and join with him. Yet to many Jesus did not seem to fulfill the prophecy: he was gentle not firm, as the word caused some to think. He was not strong as people expected or measured strength. Nor did divine majesty blindingly radiate from him; and as far as greatness, Jesus’ origins were obscure—even scandalous.

Those who did recognize Jesus as Messiah were differently disposed from those who could not: those who recognized Jesus as Messiah were vulnerable; they acknowledged their limitations and weakness; they weren’t numbered among great ones. If they sat with us here, we probably would long to get away.

Many Micah addressed struggled long and hard against all those things they were: weak, limited, without clout, anonymous. Without power to change their circumstances they grew not to be obsessed with power. Advent invites us to grow docile that way. Our culture, indeed human nature, isn’t fond of docility of spirit. A docile spirit is not resigned nor wimpy nor whiny. Not at all! Docile means willing to learn, and not facts only but other people. Docile spirits help us focus and attend to God at work in us. In prophetic language: Behold, I come to do your will. Christians early recognized Jesus  in those words. When Christ came into the world, he said: I come to do your will. Advent reminds us how Christ came into the world: he was born of an obscure woman, neither wealthy nor powerful, who surrendered herself to an inviting, gracious God.

Yet much distracted Mary! How could she embody God into the world? How would it affect her future and Joseph, her betrothed? Her family, friends, all of Nazareth? Mary surrendered her distractions, her expectations, her fears to God who invited her. Her surrender changed history. We overheard again two effects of that change in one of history’s most intimate personal exchanges. Elizabeth proclaimed her relative blessed among feminine humanity. Elizabeth spoke not on her authority: she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Her prophetic insight was about that present moment. (Prophecy is not only about the future; it is also present as Elizabeth showed.) She also named Mary almost casually: mother of my Lord. As mother she gave God our human nature. Giving God our human nature gave Mary her mission. From the safety of home Mary set out in haste; from perplexed girl to a focused servant of an aged woman, whose dead womb was fully alive; from distracted fiancĂ©e to joyful young woman of promised blessing.

Elizabeth praised Mary because Mary believed. Note what Mary did: she hastened to Elizabeth.  Mary put her belief into action; she modeled for us that living our faith means putting belief into action. Mary aligned herself with God’s desire; then she let it shape her actions. Mary did not allow belief to be ideas: she exercised it. Belief was and is a way of living.

Micah’s prophecy—that the Messiah would be firm, mighty, radiating divinity—was no idea for Mary. She dreamed it. Mary aligned herself with God’s eternal dream for humanity, making it her deep desire. She surrendered to it, though she may never have thought to play the role in it God asked of her. Devotion to Mary includes imitating her. We all bring forth Messiah Jesus by living our faith.1 If Micah’s prophecy is just an idea for us, we would not try to surrender to God’s desire for each of us. To recall Mary hastened to serve Elizabeth frees us to respond to Advent’s invitation to surrender to prophetic language we often use all too casually. To recall Mary hastened to serve Elizabeth frees us to respond to God’s daily invitation to make Jesus present by the ways we live our faith. 

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Surrender to the Trinity’s love for you.
  • Ask Mary to present you to her son.
  • Converse with Jesus: express to him your awe that in him God shared our human nature.
  • Ask Jesus to free you more to welcome his divinity both hidden in our humanity and at work through you to make his desires come alive today.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. To pray, thy kingdom come, means to pave the way for it in ways gentle, strong, focused, prophetic and to grow more aware we are blessed even in ways we cannot see.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. See St. Ambrose, Commentary of St. Luke, Book 2.

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Wiki-image by Vassil of the Visitation was released into the public domain. Wiki-image of score for O Antiphon of 23 December is in the public domain in the U.S.

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