Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday word, 18 Aug 2013

Overlooked Prayer
20th Sunday of the Year (18 Aug 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Yesterday I read something I had misplaced: a memoir of a Jesuit who has ministered in Micronesia since the early 1960s. The area of small Pacific islands covers an area the size of the United States. From about mid-19th Century Micronesia has been mission land. It numbers fewer than 180,000 people. Though they and their culture taught him much, Fr. Hezel wondered if thousands of years of individual Jesuit and other missioners’ service was in proportion to their number.

As he wondered, Fr. Hezel recalled a statue of St. Ignatius in our headquarters in Rome. I have been privileged to see it: Ignatius, hand stretched heavenward, stands on a base bearing words to Jesuits of all times, places and ministries, “Go, set all things ablaze.” No matter if it be a million people, 180,000, even one, Father realized, Jesus rejects no one.1

St. Ignatius echoed Jesus and his desire: I came to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing! To join Jesus and make his desire ours are the vocation of every friend of Jesus, every Christian. Casting fire in scripture points to God’s healing of creation. Jesus de-sired his mission announcing the reign of God would be effective. Luke’s gospel also associated fire with Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit empowers and guarantees all Christian witness and action.

Being Christian witnesses and actors at home, school, work, in our parish and neighborhood is not always easy. At times some oppose our Christian witness. Jesus knew from experience it would cause division. Earlier prophets knew that. The brief selection about Jeremiah dramatically demonstrated it. Accusations that standing on God’s side is unpatriotic are older than Jeremiah! Standing with Jesus continues to divide people.

We tend to consider division outside us: they versus us. Before it’s outside division is interior and personal. An example: our grim human striving flows from a “civil war within”2 us. A vivid image of an early pastor to express how sin fractures us. Does sin mean we are not fit witnesses of Jesus and the kingdom he announced and lived? No. Jesus said he came to call sinners.3 Not only for their renewal but so they would continue his witness and action.

Jesus has called each of us to continue his witness and action. When that “civil war in” us distracts and demoralizes us the Psalmist’s words are ours to shout: Lord, come to my aid! The Lord heard the Psalmist and set his feet on solid ground. Lord, come to my aid! Its good to make that plea often in a day so we might courageously rely on Jesus, God’s son, who embodies the reign of God.

To cry, Lord, come to my aid! reminds us Jesus knew personally what standing for the gospel and God’s reign costs. It cost Jesus his life. His death was not the end of his story. His death eludes our logic; it may even repulse us. Yet, Jesus’ death opened on to absolutely new life.

To cry, Lord, come to my aid! joins us with Jesus. He endured his suffering and death in order that [we] may not grow weary and lose heart in standing for his gospel with our lives. Probably none of us will resist[] to the point of shedding blood for the gospel. Yet each of our lives will bear some scar for being ambassadors of Christian witness and peace: a heartbreak; failing at something; being misunderstood; foregoing one good for a greater one. Physical scars are tissue formed during healing. Christian scars remind us Jesus has come to our aid. He heals us and invites us to join him to enlighten our world by our witness to him. None of us needs go far to accomplish that.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Bask in the loving light our triune God shines on you.
  • Ask the martyrs of every age to present you to Jesus so you may converse with him as his disciple, friend and companion.
  • Chat with Jesus about his gospel mission: tell him your desire to stand faithful to it and to Jesus. Resolve to accept Jesus and allow him to heal and empower you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to hold on to your resolve.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. To say it from the heart calls the Lord to come to our aid. It also teaches us how to live like Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Francis X. Hezel’s account, “Life at the Edge of the World,” filled the quarterly, STUDIES in Jesuit Spirituality, 41/4 Winter 2009.
  2. Gregory of Nyssa, Treatise on Christian Perfection, excerpt in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours.
  3. Matthew 9.13.

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