Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday word, 29 Dec 2013

“Wordless Voice”
Holy Family A (29 December 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Today’s solemnity invites us to ponder with wonder the Holy Family so we may appreciate more deeply the love and peace the Incarnation made concrete in human history and human living. Visiting the manger reminded that Jesus entered humanity the way everyone has: he was born in need of care and grew caring to learn to be with others in need.
Out of love for us and every human being and to help us restore peace nonviolently the Word of God became human. God become flesh! As we let try to take that in it numbs our minds and arrests our hearts. It is less about understanding and more about savoring. Our Catholic heritage invites us to savor often subtle moments when our hearts skip beats because of God’s deep desires for us. So let’s savor the Holy Family as another moment of Incarnation.

The Book of Sirach presents a concrete consequence of the Incarnation, namely, patience. At every age patience marks children’s true devotion to their parents. Take care of your [parents] when [they are] old; grieve [them] not as long as [they] live[]. Even if [their] mind[s] fail, be considerate of [them]. As parents model patience with their children, they school them in true devotion at home. True devotion at home overflows all facets of life.

Patient living isn’t spectacular. Patient living is forgiving one the Lord has forgiven us, to use St. Paul’s phrasing. Christian patience is divine gift not our lone effort. We choose to cooperate with it or we don’t. That is why we need to see others model it and to think of models often. Self-help patience does not look to Jesus and his forgiving way.

When we recall that we are in Jesus we can live lives of Christian patience. We are in Jesus by our baptism. St. Paul put his message to us today in the context of baptism: In baptism you have died [and live], and your life is hidden with Christ in God.1 By hidden St. Paul meant Jesus safeguards our lives he was born to ransom for himself, his Father and their Holy Spirit. They will reveal to us our lives completely when Messiah Jesus returns in glory.

Until then, however, another Paul, Pope Paul VI, helped us savor Jesus and his family. He contemplated the life of the Holy Family. He visited Nazareth in 1964 and noted three qualities he invited us to consider. First, Nazareth’s silence. The silence the gospels share about Mary and Joseph raising Jesus encourages us to grow ever more “open to the voice of God’s inner wisdom and the counsel of [God’s] true teachers.” Parents teach first; others teach us beyond family and our homes. Second, Nazareth teaches us that family is a “community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings.” I’m sure Pope Paul had in mind the shorthand of the Second Vatican Council. It reminds us of the family’s true status: the family is a “domestic church.”

Third, the home and family involve work, discipline and selfless love. Each of these is “not an end in itself”; together they school us in patient living, which is Christlike living. Patient living is quiet, often silent, but never empty. Nor is any family without its problems, as Pope Paul was aware. Yet God works through everything for our good,2 precisely why Pope Paul could remind us that each one’s imperfect family is “beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings.”3

As we close this calendar year we might pause in its final days to recall how God has worked for our good in all things, including our painful experiences. God does not cause our painful experiences. God does actively work through them for our good and continues to create us in the divine image and likeness. Pausing that way helps us be more “open to the [wordless] voice of God’s inner wisdom.” The pause may seem insignificant. Don’t be fooled! One spiritual guide said, “If we’re too intent on our questions, we can’t hear God’s answers, which are surprising, disconcerting, and never come to us the way we expect.”4

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Hide yourself in the heart of our triune God.
  • Ask the humble shepherds to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him and his parents. Praise him for becoming human for you. Marvel that he grew up in a human family.
  • Ask him for the grace in our new year to live it more confident-ly and with Christian patience from its first day to its last.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us daily that all we enjoy is gift of Jesus, his Father and their Holy Spirit.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Colossians 3.3. He sounded this note in chapter 2.
  2. See Romans 8.28.
  3. Quotations are from an address by Pope Paul VI, 5 January 1964, in the Liturgy of the Hours, vol. 1, pp. 426-428.
  4. I met Louis Evely through his then-recent books in the 70s. This quotation is from his That Man Is You (Paulist Press, Mahway, NJ, 1964).

Wiki-images by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing of Joseph’s dream to escape to Egypt and of Return to Nazareth CC BY-SA 3.0

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