Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sundayword, 02 Dec 2012

Living Covenant
Advent1 C (02 Dec 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The prophets used the phrase, the days are coming, to speak about God acting in history among God’s people. God promised never to abandon the people of the covenant. People abandoned the covenant and its ways of living God’s justice among themselves. Jeremiah reminded a broken people that God is faithful and would fulfill the promise made to them.

To enter a covenant in the ancient Mediterranean world accepted what the covenant-offerer asked. God asked people to show compassion—God’s justice—as God had shown them in liberating them from the land of slavery and death. They accepted. Over time they behaved differently, focusing on themselves more than on God.

God’s faithfulness to promises, even when people are unfaithful, shapes the history of God with people. The scriptures announce it without end. They recall God’s faithfulness in the ever-changing experiences of people and history. They never tire calling people to live again the ways of the covenant. St. Paul summarized covenant-conduct as love. We heard him tell the Thessalonians, Abound with love for one another and for all. To others he said, remember the poor1; and, love fulfills the covenant2; and, Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility...look…also to the interests of others.3 The more we cultivate covenant-living the more readily we practice it in our circumstances. Our circumstances includes times and events that challenge us a little and those that challenge us a lot. Far from an idea to think about; covenant-living is actions to practice.

One practice is to rely on our Creator and Redeemer. Perhaps the best way to cultivate our reliance is to practice gratitude often: gratitude for the breath I am breathing and for the next breath I will take; gratitude for the singular gifts each day brings; gratitude for what protects me and strengthens me each day. Gratitude guards us against thinking we are the center of the universe. It also frees us to be openhanded and openhearted: openhanded to attend to others’ needs; and openhearted to receive the goodness others extend to us.

Gratitude also helps us take the long view. Humanly speaking, God’s compassion takes the long view. People abandoned God’s covenant in every age, but God takes the long view: God’s fidelity refused to allow the selfishness of some to invalidate the covenant or prevent the coming the new heavens and new earth. In today’s gospel Prophet Jesus spoke of that day, the coming of the kingdom in its fulness. Luke’s gospel presents Jesus as prophet; it is his gospel we will hear on Sundays through this liturgical year. The long view reminds us the dire details Jesus rehearsed are not his point; his point is the kingdom he had announced will arrive, born in its way. Its fullness will replace history and everything humans know.

Advent begins by bridging the end of time with the birth of our Creator in time. The image of midwife helps us be alert to our new covenant in our Messiah, to his encouragement not to allow any challenges to numb our attention and to invigorate our Christian living. Why a midwife? First, a midwife expects a birth, she does not rush it. Second, a midwife is prepared for unexpected turns, but she does not obsess over them. No: she remains calm so the parents may imitate her and be calm, attentive and single-minded. When the baby begins to enter the world, the midwife does what she practiced often: actions which make way for an infant—supporting, yielding, freeing and giving a new life its place in the world. Covenant-living allows us to midwife the kingdom Jesus embodied and modeled for the world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware the Trinity gives you new birth.
  • Ask Jeremiah and St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for announcing and modeling God’s reign already dawning among us; thank him for choosing you to midwife God’s reign by your way of living.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to continue becoming more practiced in your Christian living.
  • Then close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, your kingdom come, remind us we await the kingdom, we don’t create it. His prayer outlines how we anticipate it: by imitating the actions Jesus modeled for us for the sake of everyone.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Galatians 2.10.
  2. See Galatians 5.14.
  3. Philippians 2.3-4.

Wiki-image NASA of the Ecliptic is in the public domain. Wiki-image of church on Broadway at Advent was dedicated to the public domain.

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