Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday word, 26 Jan 2014

Won Over
Third Sunday of the Year A (26 January 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Matthew cited scripture over 50 times in his gospel. He did so not to be pious or show he knew scripture. He cited scripture to show Jesus fulfilled what prophets had announced. In today’s selection he echoed Isaiah who recalled a time of darkness in territories of the Galilee, Zebulun and Naphtali. Once enriched by mountain forests, they enjoyed a road to the sea for trade. Darkness and gloom recalled a king of Assyria invaded and carried the people captive to Assyria.1

The Roman occupation into which Jesus had been born forced a new gloom upon the Jews of Galilee and south into Jerusalem. Once an Assyrian kingdom then a Roman one darkened the lives and challenged the faith of the children of Abraham. They longed for an end to it. Matthew’s gospel proclaims the end of darkness and the dawn of a great light: Jesus.

Now a homily is not a history lesson. History studies the past. Jesus is no dead figure of the past. Jesus lives by the power of Holy Spirit. Jesus continues to send us to preach his gospel and witness to his cross and resurrection as St. Paul realized Jesus sent him. Jesus encouraged. I follow Jesus and encourage us with a brief reflection: the disciples model faith for us.

These verses of Matthew’s fourth chapter disclose something about Jesus and something about those he chose as disciples. About Jesus they indicate he realized his time had arrived. John the Baptizer had prepared his mission, Repent…the kingdom of heaven is at hand.2 He was imprisoned for his prophetic ministry. After Jesus had been baptized by John he retreated to the wilderness. He confirmed for himself he was son of God3 and continued what John began: Repent …the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Then he chose disciples. Hear “disciples,” think “interns.”

Disciples learned their mentors by staying close to them. Interns learn that way. Disciples did the work their mentors did as do interns. Jesus chose disciples to share and continue his prophetic ministry of announcing that God had drawn nearer than any could imagine.

What do these verses disclose about Andrew, Peter, James and John who had yet to meet Jesus? Their response models faith. Faith has many effects; their variety can distract from faith’s essence: faith is a disposition of our inmost selves. Faith is of the heart before the head. Faith is a gift of the Spirit.4 People demonstrate it by love.5

We will meet people with faith during this year with Matthew’s gospel. Their love made faith visible. An example: some brought Jesus a paralyzed man lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,“Take courage, my son; your sins are forgiven.”6 Their hearts were open to Jesus. Faith is felt knowledge, heart knowledge.

To repent is, too. It is not only about faults. The ancients likened it to one’s heart “being pierced.” We say, My heart melted. Our Protestant sisters and brothers are at home with another ancient metaphor for repent: “convicted.” “Convicted by one’s conscience”7 has more than a legal ring; it is convinced, won over in a heartfelt way. From the start Jesus connected his ministry with earlier prophets. He shaped it to make to repent and welcome God’s reign central to his ministry and central for his disciples.

Central means repentance and faith are joined. The disciples Jesus called modeled that. Their hearts moved from being convinced God’s reign cannot be here to recognizing it present in and with Jesus. Following Jesus, being his interns, made visible this movement of their hearts. It expressed what words cannot.

By staying close to Jesus their faith-repentance embodied his solidarity with the least: the poor; the grieving; the meek; those hungry for God’s justice; peacemakers; the merciful; the single hearted; the persecuted.8 Learning and living Jesus’ solidarity makes us his interns, too.

Like his first interns and Jesus we know gloom and darkness. Gloom and darkness do not define us. The movement of our hearts does. We live in the light who is Jesus. As his friends and interns we shine the light Jesus on shadows that block him from others, drown them in disputes and seduce them to presume God’s reign is not among us. Shining Jesus on shadows faithfully follows him daily.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week,
  • Pause to be recreated by our triune God.
  • Invite the brothers Andrew and Peter, James and John to present you to Jesus.
  • In your words ask Jesus to learn him better. See yourself with him as his intern promoting God’s reign with tender care.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to stay near him always.
  • Close slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer. His words, on earth as it is in heaven, invite our hearts to grow more supple and won over by Jesus. He creates us anew for the sake of our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 2Kings 15.29.
  2. Matthew 3.2.
  3. If you are the son of God is how the devil began to tempt Jesus. Matthew 4.1ff. Worth noting: While Jesus was on his cross passersby echoed the devil’s tempting (Matthew 27.40-43).
  4. 1Corinthians 12.9.
  5. Colossians 1.4.
  6. Matthew 9.2.
  7. Athanasius, Life of Antony 11–12, trans. Robert C. Gregg (New York: Paulist, 1980), pp. 110–11.
  8. Matthew 5.3-11: the Beatitudes. They will be preempted next Sunday because the Feast of the Presentation has readings proper to it.
Wiki-images of the calling of Andrew and Peter and the calling of James and John PD-US

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