Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sunday word, 09 Jun 2013

Beginning Look
10th Sunday of the Year C (09 Jun 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
For five Sundays the second reading moves us through St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. As a Sunday worshiping community we will not be exposed to the Letter to the Galatians until 2016. I wish to highlight what these verses from its first chapter say about St. Paul and us.

The mood of the Letter to the Galatians is strong emotion from beginning to end. Those who put together the Sunday lectionary left out sections that communicate Paul’s outrage, exasperation and sarcasm. We resist such emotions, yet they are crucial to appreciating this letter.

Why was Paul so emotional? The Galatians had received the gospel when he was with them. They abandoned it after he had left them. Paul expressed himself this way at the beginning:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are trying to confuse you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel at odds with the one we already preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before...I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel at odds with the one you have already received, let him be accursed.1

That language of his letter and today’s selection from it lets us know Paul was no shy or tormented soul. From the beginning of his Letter to the Galatians, who began listening to others, St. Paul defended his apostleship.

Paul shattered the credentials of those who followed in his absence by calling them preachers of a different gospel, trying to confuse the Galatians and...pervert the gospel of Christ. Paul immediately presented his credentials in the verse we heard.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. ...But when God, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood.

St. Paul’s was religious language: not from a human being; through a revelation of Jesus Christ; set...apart and called... through his grace; was pleased to reveal. Paul did not offer physical, rational or expert credentials. He had a record as no typical preacher, coming to places in weakness and fear and much trembling, [and spoke] not with persuasive wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.2 Like the Galatians, we prefer strong, attractive, eloquent speakers with top-notch credentials.

But risen Jesus appointed Paul to announce his gospel to the nations of the world! Human sense would not choose a persecutor of the church of God beyond measure. Jesus is not opposed to sense and reason. He was eminently sensible and reasonable, but neither was his final authority, as we know. God, whom he called his dear Father, Author of all, was his measure of things.

In this brief look at St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, two things are important for us. First, Paul was not tormented by his former way of life. We can let even our slight flaws hold us back from being who God in Jesus by their Spirit creates us to be each moment. Paul’s experience of, his encounter with, his ever-deepening relationship with risen Jesus freed him to be exactly whom our Triune God created. We are grateful because St. Paul is why we are here. Deepening our relationships with risen Jesus allows each of us to grow free to be faithful in him.

Second, Paul’s credentials—having seen the risen Lord,3 who set [him]...apart and called [him]…through his proclaim him to the Gentiles—moves us to ask Jesus to enlighten our human ways. Relationship with Jesus is loving him who called us. Loving hearts trump keen minds often. Lovers don’t ditch their minds; they give love freer rein. St. Paul did. Today his letter encourages us more than defends him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to feel recreated by our triune God.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Hear Jesus address you lovingly, saying, Allow my Spirit to guide you and refashion your heart and your life.
  • Chat with Jesus: about how you feel his Spirit; how you are aware of him. Ask him to enlighten your heart, mind and choices.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we pray it we give voice to the heart of Jesus, who desires us to rely on him more and to allow his Spirit in us guide our choices, words and actions.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Next week: The Faith of Jesus in Galatians

Wiki-image of the beginning of the Letter to the Galatians public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image by Bischöfliche Pressestelle Hildesheim (bph) of raising of the widow's son CC BY-SA 3.0.

  1. Galatians 1.6-9.
  2. 1 Corinthians 1.3-5Paul mentions his physical condition to the Galatians in 4.13-14. 
  3. 1 Corinthians 9.1: Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?

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