Sunday, February 02, 2014

Sunday word, 02 Feb 2014

Expectant and Amazed
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord A (02 February 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Each Sunday is a feast of the Lord. Other feasts of the Lord occur through the year. When some fall on Sunday they replace the celebration of that day. The Presentation of the Lord is the year’s first to do this. It also is a feast in which the mother of the Lord plays a part. Mary guides our attention and our hearts to her son even on her feasts. I offer two things for us to consider: words addressed to Mary; and her  response.

On feasts of the Lord the People of God gathers in a meeting place. We not only meet each other when we gather in faith. God meets us.1 This has been God’s desire from the time God freed and led the Hebrews out of Egypt. They named the place of God’s presence with them the tent of meeting.2 After the people settled a temple replaced the tent. God continues to meet us as we develop. Today’s feast helps us celebrate that the former way God met humans gave way to the new and marvelously more accessible way in Jesus.

Jesus emerged in a family steeped in the traditions of Israel. To its heart, Jerusalem and its temple, Mary and Joseph went to do what parents of first-born sons did. Their customary behavior was more than their duty fulfilled; it was God’s word fulfilled to them and us. If any of us were Mary, the law of the Lord [that] every male that opens the womb shall be holy to the Lord, would be more than a duty to meet. It would echo God’s promise within us. If any of us were Mary, the words of the angel who announced God’s promise to her would resound in our hearts: the child to be born will be called holy.3
Because Mary was steeped in the traditions of Israel she was still an expectant mother. She, Joseph and many in Israel were waiting expectantly for the redemption of Jerusalem. Prophet Malachi’s words danced alive: there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek. Imagine you are Joseph: my spouse gave birth to God’s promise! Imagine your are Mary: God’s promise now is flesh of my flesh!4

God’s promise overflowed that day. Another expectant one was Simeon. To him God had promised he would see the Messiah of the Lord. Simeon had awaited expectantly for God’s consolation. His expectation shaped his faith. Anna, Mary and Joseph welcomed that Simeon recognized in the child he received in his arms not only the fulfillment of God’s promise to him but to all people: Jesus was light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.

Mary personified the people Israel in the gospel: by her God’s promise took flesh. Simeon announced Jesus as light, glory and salvation.Then Simeon interrupted his positive portrayal of Mary’s son. God’s salvation in Jesus was global; yet God’s salvation would divide Israel as Mary’s life would be run through as a sword cuts flesh. Simeon’s words to Mary separate his portrait of Jesus: part reassures; part challenges. That was Simeon’s graced knowledge. Jesus as the salvation of God would divide the very ones to whom he was sent.

How would division work? Jesus as God’s salvation would not be obvious to those with calculating hearts. Key to appreciate it is the word bibles translate as thoughts.5 The Greek word Luke used has textures of inward reasoning with oneself as well as arguing and disputing. Several people thought in scheming and devious ways against Jesus6; at times even his disciples’ hearts slipped into them.7 

In Simeon’s graced language those with calculating hearts fell. People who let their hearts be amazed at and by Jesus rose. Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna represent all whose hearts were amazed at Jesus as he grew and his life unfolded. Their response to Jesus is one for us to have and to cultivate.

Feelings of great wonder leave us longing for more. Amazing is the gracious way God meets us in Jesus: like [us] in every way! Amazing is the gracious way God meets us in Jesus in countless manners unique to each of us. Amazement at the gracious way God meets us in Jesus shapes our lives to be longing, expectant. From us and other expectant people with longing hearts, amazed and warmed by Jesus, Jesus raises a people of his own in the hearts of communities throughout the world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Place yourself in the presence of our triune God.
  • Invite Mary and Joseph to present you to Jesus. Take him in your arms as Simeon did.
  • Tell Jesus how he amazes you, especially choosing to be born, live, suffer and die for you. 
  • Ask Jesus for grace to keep being amazed at him and to let him warm your hearts.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His phrase, your will be done, on our lips is not slavish resignation. His words allow us to express in a new way to ourselves deeper trust in his Father’s gracious care when we experience any challenge, especially when we feel that everything depends on us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Exodus 25.22, 30.6.
  2. Exodus 29.42-46.
  3. Luke 1.35.
  4. Genesis 2.23.
  5. Lexicon entries gives access to these textures.
  6. Religious professionals come to mind (Luke 5.21-22; 6.8). Jesus painted one in a parable, who became his silent, greedy thinking  (12.17).
  7. Luke 9.47. Intention / reasoning of their hearts translates the same word used there.


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