Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sunday word, 04 Aug 2013

Two Implications
18th Sunday of the Year (04 Aug 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
St. Paul wrote faith communities—churches he had established. The communities shaped his messages. They told the good news of the risen messiah Jesus; how the baptized participated in the new life of the Risen One; and how living that life reshaped relationships with the God of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Miriam and all the prophets before the prophet Jesus and with all humans. Baptized living still means seeking to deepen the absolutely new life of risen Jesus in us and all we do.

Today’s scriptures suggest two implications about deepening this new life or setting our affections1 on the life of risen Jesus we share by our baptisms. Implication one is to live for others. To the Colossians St. Paul suggested no private rigorism to seek divine life. He recommended the community, the common union of our shared humanity. Christian life is not measured by nationality, gender, status or insider-outsider divisions. St. Paul listed pairs of divisions contemporary to him and the Colossians: Jew/Greek; male/female; slave/free and circumcised/uncircumcised. We have ours: established/migrating; developed/developing; addicted/free; traditional/new age; healthy/ill; employed/jobless—supply yours.

Private heroics or rigorism tempt us to shape our lives and seek fulfillment. The faith community—not private heroics or rigorism—is both shaper and goal of seeking what is of God, who is most real: being honest in word and deed; making every effort to build up others; and being open handed as well as open hearted. Seeking what is most real, being honest with one another and not living solely for self benefit both the faith community and the global, human community.

Living without reference to others dooms us to a lonely, meaningless existence. This second implication the Book of Ecclesiastes laid bare. Vanity of vanities was no curse but the Old Testament Preacher’s way to say how wretched life lived with no reference to others is. The Old Testament Preacher lived amid advances to humans as well as age-old inclinations to make self the center of things. Those inclinations registered and still register as pride, honor and riches, to use Ignatian shorthand. The Old Testament Preacher was a courageous witness. He courageously witnessed to making God the horizon to which we lean and the mystery embracing daily routines as well as astonishing wonders and searing traumas.

Jesus preached that, too, in his time of even more advances in travel, communication, urban planning—to name only three the Roman Empire markedly improved. That’s the point of his parable of the rich fool. His folly was not his wealth measured in bales of barley and other grain and other goods; his folly was he thought he completely controlled his life. Not only were his harvest and its wealth to him in the market gifts of the Creator. So was his very self. Had he come to think he controlled the rains, which allowed him to store so much in his barns and silos?

When we live with no reference to God; when we refuse to allow God to be the mystery embracing daily routines as well as astonishing wonders and traumas that sear us, we feel trapped in the futility of it all and sucked into ourselves. When we allow God to be our horizon and the mystery embracing us, we live for others with energetic freedom. Not any freedom but the freedom of faith. Faith is nothing less than Jesus’ human response to God, God who is also with us, ever inviting and blessing our response.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the loving light of the Trinity, who creates you each moment. 
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • In your words praise Jesus for sharing his risen life and his faith in the mystery who invites us beyond ourselves.
  • Ask Jesus to renew your sense of his presence with you and deepen your awe and wonder at all God’s gifts.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Give us this day is more than a petition. Jesus’ phrase reminds us we live moment by moment by divine kindness and for the sake of others as Jesus lived, died and rose for each of us and all people.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The Greek word in Colossians 3.2 we translate as think had richer connotations from what we heard when it was proclaimed. Other versions offer: Think of what is above, not of what is on earth to Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth [Revised Standard Version]. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth [King James Version]. St. Paul conveyed a much more humane activity than mentally connecting ideas.
Wiki-image of 17th-C depiction of Vanitas public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image of illustration of parable of rich man Free Art License.

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