Sunday, December 08, 2013

Sunday word, 08 Dec 2013

Comfort We Receive We Give
Advent Sunday 2 A (08 December 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
St. Paul’s words to the Romans crisply describe the season of Advent and our Advent outlook: we celebrate it so we might have hope. I add, to increase our hope. That is the reason the Scriptures were written. In addition to introducing us to Messiah Jesus, the writings his Spirit inspired instruct us in the Christian life. It was and is a life together. If we were asked to search the scriptures, our first reaction may well be to get a bible. For St. Paul no bible existed. The scriptures that existed for him and the first Christians we call the Old Testament. St. Paul had a hand in shaping and contributing to the bible as we think of it.

St. Paul had experienced risen Jesus. The first Christians had their experiences of him. His phrases through endurance and through the comfort of the scriptures described their experience. Their experience encouraged their hope to  experience God in all things. They experienced God embodied in one another because God became human in Jesus. Jesus became weak for us! No wonder the event of Jesus crucified and risen was folly1 to the Gentile world of power, privilege and patronage. Let’s consider their experience to see if we can find ourselves in it.

In his letter St. Paul had just mentioned one of those scriptures written ahead of time.2 He was considering Christian life together. Life together includes enduring weaknesses of one another.3 That is equally part of our daily life now as it was then. Jesus patiently endured others’ weaknesses when he walked the earth. He continues to do it in and through each member of his body. St. Paul: Christ did not please himself; but as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you fall upon me.’ The you in that scripture is God. Those opposed to Jesus could not discern that God chose to be weak, and more, to be weak as humans are. Even the most fortunate and well-off cannot save themselves.

This exchange of divinity for humanity overflows St. Paul’s letters. We fix on its short-hand name, Incarnation. Too fixed and we embrace Incarnation as a sacred museum-piece—something to admire. Incarnation is not that. Incarnation is an active verb of our triune God’s language of love. God does not please God but reaches toward us in a mutual way. By human standards it mystifies: ‘We will exchange our divinity for humanity to save humans and help them find and delight in us.’ God in Jesus by their Spirit do that each moment in the marvelous exchange that marks and reshapes the fulness of time in which you and I live. St. Paul reminds us the God of the scriptures is God working for us: the God of endurance and comfort.

The holy exchange of divinity for humanity has made the crown of creation even more wonderful and revered above all creation. Some think that to be so wonderful and revered makes us the center of the universe. No. Jesus is the center of the universe. He welcomed all with divine mercy not human fairness. Because he welcomes us none of us is a Pollyanna. His spirit empowers us to welcome one another [and all]…as Christ welcomed us, for the glory of God

God’s gloryglory in highest heaven4 we will hear and sing—is a person, Mary’s son, Jesus. Jesus is that day of the Lord Isaiah sang often. Jesus embodied reason’s powers of wisdom and understanding. Jesus keenly and clearly guided. Jesus always pointed beyond himself to God and God’s rule. Jesus’ spirit continues his work in and through us his body, his church.

As the Baptizer prepared for his first coming, you and I live Christian lives hoping all we do, the least to the greatest thing we do points to Jesus who will come again. Take this with for your week ahead: God’s action in Jesus by their Spirit is a welcoming exchange. God is with us and for us in Jesus. Jesus invites us and empowers us by his spirit to welcome others. Doing that transforms lives by offering God’s comforting welcome.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to feel our triune God welcoming you as you are with life-giving love.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for becoming human to die and rise for you; thank him for never turning his back to you and always offering himself to you in baptism and sustaining your baptism with the eucharist and other sacraments.
  • Ask him for grace to rejoice at his welcome of you and to let it open your heart.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. He gave it to us to remind us that we are like him, beloved children of God with a mission to love as he has loved us.5

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 1Corinthians 1.23.
  2. Psalm 69.10 in Romans 15.3. As he began his letter Paul shared his conviction that God promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures the good news of Jesus (1.3).
  3. Romans 15.1. Weaknesses are included in St. Paul’s phrase bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6.2). Also see Colossians 3.12-13.
  4. Luke 2.14.
  5. Living the mission of expressing our faith in love is the focus of Pope Francis’ recent exhortation to each member of the church.

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