Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sunday word, 03 March 2013

No Easy Virtue
Lent Sunday3 (03 Mar 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Human history records tragedies of all sorts. Tragedies happened before humans kept records. Jesus’ days resembled history before and since. People quickly connect tragedies with human sinfulness. In our memory, when the space shuttle, Challenger, exploded before the eyes of millions; when the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed; when the Twin Towers were destroyed some preachers twisted their charge to proclaim God’s word, and they blamed groups or behaviors for the tragedies.

To blame that way operates from flawed thinking: that humans will always progress. We do not, and we know that from our simple mistakes as well as our shameful errors of judgment and behavior. Preachers who twist their preaching charge in painful ways, fail to speak God’s word and announce God’s desires. Oh, some may have cited scripture in their blame of a group or a behavior. We recall last Sunday the enemy of our human nature cited scripture in trying to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. The enemy and the pastors I recalled used scripture to advance their desires instead of God’s desires.

Jesus’ day was no different. A gruesome headline played into that ever-contemporary connection people make of tragedies with human sinfulness. Some told Jesus the headline. His response to it suggested human sinfulness dominated the conversation. Jesus recalled another headline. A falling tower was an accident and different from Pilate’s intentional act of mixing human and animal blood in sacrifices. The accident caused loss of life, a cost greater than Pilate’s intentional interference with Galilean worship. To both headlines Jesus asked and Jesus told.

Jesus asked, “Do you think that because [Galileans suffered and 18 people were killed] they were greater sinners…than everyone else?” In each age some would like to think they were because it supplies a reason. Unresolved events unnerve us. Not only unexplained events and behaviors; the unknowable mystery of God ever challenges us. That confronted Jesus’ contemporaries and us. To help us meet our challenge and consider God’s side not only our side, Jesus told a parable of an unfruitful tree.

An unfruitful tree frustrated a landowner. Frustration and anger led him to decide rashly. His gardener courageously faced the owner’s frustration and anger and persuaded him to be patient with the mysteries of earth and growth. Like any good steward or helper, the gardener did not tell the owner what to do. He persuaded him to act with patience.

Patience is no easy virtue. “Patience is a virtue, have it if you can; it’s seldom in a woman and never in a man,” Grandma told me often with a smile. No easy virtue for us ought not fool us to think God is not patient. Jesus’ parable detailed God as patient. It was also God’s self-revelation to Moses: the Lord said, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt...I have heard their cry...I know well what they are suffering.”

Patience means to suffer with. Lenten practices help us recall in a felt way that God deals with us with tender patience. Our Lenten practices help us share God’s patient care and live it. Jesus embodied divine patience; joining Jesus allows us to embody and personalize it. By what we say and do all of us share in preaching God’s word and desires. Lent helps us grow quick to feel with and for others and grow slower to judge. When we fail to act with patience and when we judge others we are under a cloud. We also put others under a cloud instead of gracing them with the light of Christian charity.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Pause to remember our triune God is patient with us always.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise and thank him for embodying God’s desires and allowing us to embody them for and with others.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be slow to judge and quick to stand in another’s shoes.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. We learn and receive God’s forgiveness the more we forgive others and ourselves.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-images of tower above pool of Siloam and of Moses and burning bush in the public domain in the source country {{PD-Art}} / {{PD-old-100}} and in the U.S.

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