Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday word, 15 Dec 2013

One Gift Jesus Offers
Advent Sunday 3 A (15 December 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
During youthful years the time before Christmas exercised our patience. Any of us recalls that our patience was sharpened these days. I recall my boyhood patience was sharpened on excited, expectant waiting for December 25 to arrive and for all that day would hold.

That patience focused on an annual festival. Another patience, also excited and expectant, extended through successive years. As a boy I felt drawn to serve as a priest. One December 15 was the happiest day of my life. Though I was ordained, many enjoyed the fulfillment that being ordered to serve the church means to me. It began a daily anticipation to live my deep desire, my personal vocation.1 I am not unique. Spouses recall discovering your life partner was similar: your this-is-the-one moment was exciting and expectant. Young people, with your lives ahead of you, your living, learning and growing now help you discover your personal vocation.

Excitement, expectation and discovery: do those features fit the virtue of Christian patience? Did St. James have them in mind when he wrote, Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains? Have the apostle’s words Advent meaning? I answer, Yes, to those questions. Heres why

In the language of the first Christians the word for patience that St. James used had both  enduring and persevering textures. Enduring involves not letting difficulties steer us from a goal. We know life is not smooth; some of its twists are more off-putting and painful than others. Christian patience takes the long view: because certain things interrupt or distract from living as disciples of Jesus, they do not define us or our discipleship. We anticipate more than struggles. We anticipate the coming of the Lord in numerous ways now as well as his promised future return. Christian patience does not make us droids who are ever unperturbed. It means our eager anticipation never dims. The flavor of enduring we can name “abiding.”

Persevering has the flavor of plugging away. If enduring stands one’s ground then, to expand St. James’ farmer image, persevering turns that ground, nourishes it and cultivates it. We are the ground in his imagery. The Trinity’s life causes growth of great variety in each of us and all of us together as Jesus’ body. We are also the farmer. As we exercise our true, real selves we grow more patient and in awe of the precious fruit of God’s life in us. Not only that: we are to expect its growth in us just as we expect results with physical exercise. We practice what helps us grow as children of God, friends of Jesus and steer clear of what does not.

Christian patience is unique in this way: it is God’s gift not our doing.2 That is its most im-portant feature. Yes, we have our roles to play in nurturing and exercising the gift of Christian patience. Yet, it is not all on us to be patient. Jesus is our model of patience. With Jesus as our model we need not fear being patient will make us boring or make us puppets. Jesus was neither. He modeled himself on the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Jesus knew hardship, but he did not let it define or limit him. Jesus joined our humanity so we can meet him with all our senses and human powers and model ourselves on him.

Jesus is always near us. He as at the doors of our hearts ever ready to respond to us when we welcome him.3 Jesus and his closeness to us; Jesus giving us his patience; Jesus empowers us to be patient as he was and is; Christian patience and its enduring and persevering textures: all those are reason to rejoice; to be strong and unafraid. They assure us we can count on him each moment. Jesus points the ways for us to serve his name. The patience he offers—Christian patience—helps each of us attract others to him and spread the good news of him beyond ourselves, our parish and our city.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Bask in the patient love by which our triune God embraces you.
  • Ask St. James to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus who became human for you so you could grow more like him; thank him for inviting you to join his mission.
  • Ask him for grace to grow as his friend and awaken each day expecting his friendship.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. He gave it to us to help us live like him: excited to exercise our faith and to make it known by how we live.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Jesuit Herbert Alphonso wrote Discovering Your Personal Vocation: The Search for Meaning Through the Spiritual Exercises. It is one of those little books offering huge rewards for all who give themselves to it. “The truest and deepest self, this God-given uniqueness, I call the ‘personal vocation.’ …personal experience and my ministry of the Spirit have taught me that the deepest transformation in any person’s life takes place in the living out this very personal vocation” (pp. 2-3).
  2. St. Paul included patience in his catalog of gifts of Jesus’ spirit.
  3. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. James 4.8.
Wiki-images of Jesus healing PD-US; Wiki-image in the third Advent week by Eugenio Hansen, OFS CC BY-SA 3.0

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