Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday word 15 Sep 2013

Aching Heart of God
24th Sunday of the Year C (15 Sep 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Crossing white water to get to the other side of a gorge is perilous; an image of one can cause us to check if our shoes leak. In tropical places monsoons make roads rivers deadly to cross because they can sweep people away. Leaking shoes is the least of their worries. Near my Jesuit community in Cleveland is a dry-land crossing: three streets flow into one intersection. Crossing there is always a brief driver’s ed class.

Crossings of many kinds confront us daily. We are wise to avoid some; we are wise to make others. One to make is crossing from our culture to the culture of Jesus. Not to make that crossing is perilous to us Christians. Crossing from our culture to the culture of Jesus is real although we do it not in a boat or car or on foot but in our imaginations. Jesus’ culture was a first-century, Mediterranean culture. We enter first-century, Mediterranean culture each time we hear Jesus speak to us from the gospel. We enter an older Mediterranean culture in the Hebrew scriptures. To cross from the 21st to Jesus’ first-century culture means letting go of our technological way of thinking. Making that crossing means being sensitive to reputation and honor: to “saving face.”

We may isolate saving face to the Far East. Yet it was and is very much part of the Middle East: Palestine, Israel and Arab states. When we are aware of that then Moses’ imploring the Lord begins to make sense. God had brought out of the land of Egypt a ragtag band. God would not willy-nilly let wrath blaze up against [God’s] own people. For God to be God, God forgives and shows mercy. Mercy is God’s reputation, God’s identity. It is divine and humane. Jesus gave new voice to it. The father in Jesus’ third, all-too-familiar parable refused to be shaped by anger. He was shaped instead by compassion. Jesus tells us: God is like that. 

He led to that parable with two briefer ones. A homemaker and a shepherd portray the anxiety that comes with loss and how anxiety can lead us to act. The shepherd risked the other ninety-nine sheep to seek the lost one; and who of us hasn’t turned office, home, playhouse or bedroom upside down to find something dear to us? Jesus tells us: God always seeks us.

Think of it! God is not satisfied without us. Chances are we don’t imagine God as anxious, let alone anxious about finding us. Yet God’s heart aches to rejoice over us as Prophet Zephaniah reminded: the Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, who will sing joyfully because of you.1 And Jesus, who gave God a body and a personality, said he came to seek and to save what was lost.2

To enter Jesus’ culture includes: imagining the Trinity feeling and longing for us; and being honest about ourselves: we are the lost our triune God seeks. Depersonalize the Trinity and we miss the Trinity longing for us. Think too much of ourselves and we refuse the divine invitation offered us.

Easy it is to shut God out of our lives. We come up short many ways when we do. Refusing God’s invitation is more perilous. In Jesus’ culture religious people refused it. God’s heart aching for all people: the Pharisees and scribes could not imagine such a humane, affectionate, prodigal God. To hear their side of things they had served God and never disobeyed God’s orders. They could not see themselves as children of Jesus’ humane, affectionate and prodigal God. Instead they saw themselves as slaves: vigilant to obey orders and resenting others with whom Jesus’ hobnobbed, dined and always welcomed.

St. Paul once was not welcoming. By his admission he was a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant. Then he made a spiritual crossing into the heart of Jesus calling him. Paul knew with his entire self Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; that his heart is vigilant for the lost. Does that have meaning for us? It means Jesus does not want us to be experts in the Catechism; Jesus desires us to live it. Like St. Paul we need to know our faith; celebrating the sacraments and growing in friendship with Jesus help us know it. Learning helps us live it better. Living faith is our goal, the goal of all Jesus’ friends.

Parents give example and lead children in living the faith.3 Catechists help young people read their lives in Jesus and his mercy, receive basic doctrine and prepare for the sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation.4 We will commission them shortly.

Example and learning. The entire parish gives example. All help each other learn in various ways. We learn from both sons in Jesus’ parable. The elder son teaches us not to let self-concern block God’s merciful love from pouring into us or anyone. The younger son did not care about “saving face.” He wanted his father to be his father. Jesus suggested God was very much like that father. The younger son teaches us returning to enjoy God’s compassion is life long.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Bask in the Trinity loving you with their love, which is better than life.5
  • Ask St. Paul to introduce you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him as friend to friend. Tell him what his mercy means to you. Jesus aches for you to tell him.
  • Ask him for the grace to communicate frequently with him, your brother and Messiah. Resolve how you can do that.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. It shapes our hearts more like Jesus’ heart and reminds us that we are not God’s slaves but daughters and sons of Jesus’ Father and ours.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Zephaniah 3.17.
  2. Luke 19:10.
  3. CIC 774 §2.
  4. See General Directory for Catechesis 232.
  5. The phrase comes from Psalm 63.4. It is unique in the Old Testament because only in this verse is anything valued more than life, and it is God’s love!
Wiki-image by Scarafax of a mid-19th-Century five points CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of Return of the Prodigal Son  public domain in the U.S.

No comments: