Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday word, 10 Mar 2013

Being Found
Lent Sunday4 (10 Mar 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Few would miss strains of the Book of Exodus in the first reading. We met the Israelites in the first reading after they had crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. One of the first things they did was to renew the Passover meal. By doing so they renewed their identity as the people the Lord chose as peculiarly his own.

We identify with Messiah Jesus, our New Passover. We are in Christ, to use St. Paul’s phrase. We are baptized into our Messiah, and we live through him, with him, in him.1 Our Passover in Christ has concrete consequences. Ash Wednesday reminded us of two of them with these words from St. Paul we heard again: one, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us to each person and every corner of creation; and two, we become the righteousness of God in Jesus, our Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God. We may phrase God’s appeal this way: How is the Trinity sending us as ambassadors for our Messiah in our relationships? How is Lent helping us respond more freely to the Trinity sending us as ambassadors of our Messiah in our relationships?

The consequences of being in Jesus are concrete. We recognize them when we gaze gently and reverently at our world and our relationships. We do not always live what we recognize. One of John Steinbeck’s characters voiced that in words which convict me. “It has always seemed strange to me [that] the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”2 We recognize virtues of sane living, and we get lost trying to live them.

The familiar—perhaps too familiar—parable of the prodigal father and his two sons helps us see that being lost is not only spatial or geographical. It is personal. Tax collectors and sinnerslost to their own people and to themselves—were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes, law worshipers who did not walk their talk, were lost and did not know. They began to complain...that Jesus welcomes and communes with sinners. So to them Jesus addressed his parable. In it Jesus disclosed what God is like. Like the father of the two sons, God is prodigal with divine love: lavish; extravagant; excessive; immoderate. No moderation exists with God, who is love. Yet we expect God to be fair instead of prodigal.

Jesus also disclosed what humans are like. Like the younger son we grasp greedily, and we flee. Like the older son we stay yet are lost to love offered. The father bore the insult of the younger son’s demand to give him what he would inherit before his father died. The father respected that son’s wish, and he also respected his freedom. When the older son refused to enter the celebration for his brother’s safe return, their father sought him. The parable helps us see where we stand, how we are lost, how we are found. Accompanying Jesus closer to Jerusalem allows us to welcome the Trinity reaching out to us with utmost patience, respect and loving kindness in our Messiah Jesus. In doing that, We become the righteousness of God in him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Allow the Trinity to reach out to you and savor the patient ways our Triune God respects you.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Simply be in Jesus’ presence; holding a crucifix may help you.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace you need: to draw near to Jesus so you may live more courageously through him, with him, in him; or to go out as Jesus’ courageous ambassador of his faith, hope and love.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It’s phrase, lead us not into temptation, expresses our desire not to grasp greedily and flee Jesus’ loving care; and our desire to extend ourselves to others when that causes us to feel uncomfortable.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The phrase begins the doxology closing each eucharistic prayer in the Roman Missal.
  2. Doc in Cannery Row (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), p. 131. It first appeared in 1945.

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