Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday word, 24 Feb 2013

Christian on Purpose
Lent Sunday2 (24 Feb 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The logic for choosing scriptures on Sundays offers a continuous reading from New Testament letters and of ways Jesus embodied of Old Testament revelation. In Lent the three readings connect more to the spirit and aims of this season. While individual scripture selections reveal our triune God’s desire to transform us by immersing us more deeply into the paschal mystery, the readings together help us enter the paschal mystery, too. Here’s one way they help us.
Jesus’ died and rose early in the first century.  Jesus rose beyond time and history. Time, space, human restrictions: nothing limits our risen Lord. Jesus is active saving and forming people to be his disciples each time we breathe. The paschal mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising is ever active saving and forming us and helping us welcome others into Jesus and his paschal mystery.

My spiritual father, St. Ignatius of Loyola, described the paschal mystery as God’s eternal desire: the Trinity decided in their eternity that the Second Person should become a human being to save the human race.1 Jesus formed a people to continue his work of saving. We don’t save by our power but by Holy Spirit, the divine power Jesus makes available to us. The readings tell of God’s covenant-promise to us and our privileged role in it. St. Paul reminded us what our role is.

He did so by recalling a hymn when he wrote to the Philippians. It sang of Jesus’ paschal, saving action: he emptied himself of divinity, took our humanity to himself, and served us by his death on a cross, after which God highly exalted him by raising him to indestructible life.2 The hymn helped St. Paul present Jesus as a model for Christians to imitate. Paul had imitated Jesus: Paul worked tirelessly for the gospel and was vulnerable because of it;3 he wrote the Philippians from his prison cell.4 His coworkers also modeled themselves on Jesus.5 Paul encouraged the Philippians to have that attitude of interest for others, the attitude of Jesus, the model for all believers.6 So his encouragement could bear fruit, Paul offered himself and his coworkers to them as models to imitate.

Modeling was respect practice. Long before Jesus, Abram modeled faith by his relationship with God. Expressing their relationship the LORD credited it to him as an act of righteousness. Righteous, upright or faithful does not mean perfect. Abram was not perfect: he complained for a sign to assure him he would possess God’s promise. His mind, his senses were dark in God’s promising light. Darkness also cloaks our minds and senses at times.

Peter acted from darkness, too. Not only did he not grasp Jesus’ mission as God’s Messiah, who would suffer and die, he wanted to capture and tame the glory Jesus experienced in prayer: here let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. His darkness Luke vividly expressed: [Peter] did not know what he was saying. Rather than capture and tame God’s Messiah Peter and the disciples were told, Listen to Jesus.

To listen is more than to hear. Hearing is mechanical; listening is intentional: we do it on purpose with a purpose. Ears hear what enters. To listen is to act on what we hear.  To listen takes formation. Abram, Peter, Paul, his coworkers were formed. You and I were and are formed by Jesus’ gracious favor as his disciples. Models formed us: family; teachers; friends; pastors. Paying attention to models formed us and still forms us. Lent helps us continue our ongoing formation as Jesus’ disciples in our world and its circumstances. Lent is the church’s springtime, when those preparing for baptism count on us to be models of faithful living. Even at a distance from them, they count on us to model faith, hope and love.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in our triune God creating and forming you.
  • Ask Peter, James and John to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting you to join his mission.
  • Ask him for grace to live your baptism faithfully and freely.
  • Close saying slowly, the Lord’s Prayer: Jesus modeled praying for us so we might enjoy daily a strong foundation for mature, faithful living.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. His Spiritual Exercises, 102.
  2. Philippians 2.6-11.
  3. Philippians 2.17-18.
  4. Philippians 1.12-14.
  5. Paul sent them Timothy, Epaphroditus and Clement.
  6. Philippians 2.1-5.
Wiki-image by Marie-Lan Nguyen of Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians used by CC BY-SA 2.5. Wiki-image of the Transfiguration used by {{PD-US-no notice}}.

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