Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday word, 23 Jun 2013

12th Sunday of the Year (23 Jun 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
In God’s Right Hand
The final verse of our response to the reading from Zechariah invites us to renew our confidence in God or to trust God in a new way. The verse is: You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me. Young David fleeing for his life may have inspired the psalm. Later it invited all of Israel to trust God through public worship that instilled joyous confidence.

God did not begin upholding, protecting and inviting people with David. David would be quick to say so. He and all Israel considered their first ancestor Abraham invited, upheld and protected by God. They longed for fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

The promise was blessing1 and more: an everlasting relationship with God.2 It may be hard for us to appreciate the deep assurance it offered Abraham and everyone in the ancient Mediterranean culture. In their culture sponsors, patrons, protectors were key. A familiar phrase helps us begin to feel what they felt: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Abraham embodied God’s desire to accompany, shield,3 and bless Abraham and through him all his descendants.

This consideration of Abraham and how members of Israel felt about him is no mere history lesson. To have a feel for Abraham as touchstone and linchpin of faith is a way in to the brief and tightly reasoned selection from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The name Abraham evoked response not just a person: The Lord [had] said to [him]: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land I will show you. ...I will bless you...All the families of the earth will find blessing in you. ..Abram went as the Lord directed him.4 Abraham’s story was imprinted on the hearts and memories of all who heeded his God.

Paul was Abraham’s descendant by blood. He preached Jesus, Abraham’s descendant too, responding to God in a self-giving way. His way fulfilled the promise God had made. Jesus’ dying was not his end; God raised him to indestructible life: what we mean when we profess that He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.5 We share his life now albeit in a partial way.

Partial describes our present life in the Spirit of Jesus, his promise to his disciples in every age. While we have put on Christ Jesus in baptism we are not immune to daily trials. We also struggle to replicate in our lives the story and pattern of Messiah Jesus. The pattern of his life included rejection, torture and death. Nor does partial mean deficient; it means not yet full. Just as the first tastes of food gratify hungry people, a full meal satisfies our appetites. Still, no one would call first tastes deficient.

Our share in the life of Messiah Jesus is not by blood but by promise. Messiah Jesus promised us his Spirit. Holy Spirit, not blood, unites us to Messiah Jesus in baptism. Baptism also unites us and all who share his faith-response to God. In Paul’s words, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Not by blood but something more real and powerful than blood: by Jesus Spirit each of us is Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise. The full promise, Holy Spirit, is cause for joy now and for our future and the present and future of each Christian.

Our joy links us to Abraham, first to receive God’s promise. Our joy returns us to the psalmist singing, in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. Joy at feeling God’s intimate embrace, feeling protected, held in God’s right hand. Jesus grew up to feel this intimate embrace. He savored it and responded freely to it—what obedience of faith6 means in daily living. Jesus confidently felt protected and upheld by God’s right hand as he told his disciples he must suffer greatly and be rejected...and be killed and on the third day be raised. The way of the Messiah is the way of his disciples in each age. We strain to replicate the pattern of Jesus in daily living, the pattern begun by baptism.

Baptism began graced confidence, which is greater than self-assurance. It is joyous trust and conviction that we stand always in God’s loving embrace, upheld by God’s right hand, like Jesus. The Eucharist and the other sacraments sustain what baptism began and help it grow more alive. The sacraments allow Jesus joyous, trusting conviction to be ours and help us live by it.

God upholds us in other ways, too. We may overlook God upholding us through our longings, desires and feelings. Longings, desires and feelings with a texture of surprise—such as, “Now I see!” or “Why do I keep gravitating toward this?”—often indicate we are in God’s right hand. The more we savor them, our responses to God will resemble more Jesus’ human response to God.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in the bright shadow of our triune God.
  • Ask St. Peter to present you to Jesus with a strong confidence.
  • Chat with Jesus: be aware how he is inviting you; praise him for dying and rising for you.
  • Ask him to purify your confidence to be more like his. 
  • Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The words of Jesus, thy will be done, on our lips joyfully praise God for being ever-mindful of us and give us Jesus’ confidence to live more faithfully in the face of trials as well as joys.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Next week: Galatians and Christian Liberty
  1. Genesis 12.2.
  2. Genesis 17.7.
  3. Genesis 15.1.
  4. Genesis 12.1-4.
  5. The Nicene Creed.
  6. Romans 1.5 and 16.26: obedience of faith as modeled by Jesus (5.19), who gives access (5.2) to God to all who practice his faith, bookends St. Paul’s letter.
Wiki-image of the David playing the harp public domain worldwide. Wiki-image of 11th C manuscript page of Letter to the Galatians public domain in the U.S.

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