Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sunday word, 02 Mar 14

Becoming More Free
Eighth Sunday of the Year A (02 Mar 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Take a few moments, close your eyes and think of someone who influenced you. A person may have awakened in you something you did not know you possessed. Someone may have helped you see in a new way. [pause]

Some who influenced me were teachers. In high-school one encouraged me not to give up my dream for my life; events were pushing me to do that. A graduate school professor was so clear she made difficult things less unnerving. Another made his passion for learning Jesus contagious.

To encourage; to strengthen to persevere; to share enthusiasm and help it grow: those are but a few ways people positively affect us. Classroom teachers are not the only people who affect us in positive ways, as you know. Whoever it may be, we feel connected. One contour of our connection registers as trust. I trusted the teachers I mentioned, my parents, my mentor in parish ministry and another colleague in ministry. How to describe my trust? If any of them told me to play in traffic, I would. My words may be over the top, but they hint at the deep connection with trusted others.

Recall again the person who positively affected you. Feeling the connection offers us a way to hear today’s gospel selection. Jesus addressed his words to his disciples. His disciples heard him as people closely connected to him. They recognized Jesus desired a relationship with them. They responded to his compassion for them, to his direct way of speaking and his connection with God, whom he called his dear Father. In a phrase: Jesus affected them in positive ways. Jesus desired that his disciples enjoy his connection with God. What could be more positive?

The disciples’ situation was not totally unlike ours. They needed food; so do we. They needed clothing; so do we. They were weak and vulnerable; so are we. Meeting our needs can make us anxious like Jesus’ disciples. God knows our needs as God knew the needs of Jesus’ disciples: your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Because of God’s loving knowledge, Jesus forbade his disciples to give in to anxiety.

Anxiety, we know from experiencing it, not only eats at us. Anxiety commands our attention. If we give in to it it masters us. Full, focused attention of the kind that moves us and shapes our desires is devotion. Devotion is not strictly a religious word. When we are devoted to anything we give ourselves to it. Not only anxiety and other emotions, we can give ourselves to possessions. The result? They control us. Before we know it we are possessed even though we think we are possessing; and because we are possessed we don’t realize we grasp for more or that we are not free. It’s so subtle! Jesus exposed this subtle deception with his warning: people cannot serve two masters [we] will hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and possessions.

Not only is God supreme; Jesus revealed God supremely cares for us. God loves us and knows our needs. Possessions and emotions do not. God’s knowledge and concern for us is God’s providence. Jesus used a human image for it: your heavenly father. Our trust in God’s parental concern makes us children of God. Our relationship, our devotion to God offers us victory over ordinary anxiety and of being gripped and driven by possessions.

Jesus desires we enjoy his connection with God. I hear you object: I am human and concern about surviving, about tomorrow and for family is human. His disciples objected at first hearing, too. After Jesus died and rose they connected more with his teaching. They recalled Jesus trusted his Father more than himself. As he hung on his cross Jesus did not give in to the taunts of the religious professionals,“Save yourself! If you are the son of God, come down from the cross!”1 They remembered Jesus’ words about daily needs and being anxious. They remembered for us as well as for them that to be human is not all on us. Jesus’ Father is truly present to us with tender care.

We welcome God’s care by our human trust. Jesus did not force himself on his disciples or anyone. Nor does his Father force his concern and care on us. We grow genuinely human, more humane and more free as we grow more connected with Jesus and his desire to welcome his Father’s care for us and for all. Living faith begins as a personal relationship with Jesus; Like any relationship it is a challenge. Friendship with Jesus affects us in positive ways if we let it.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: Praise him for revealing God’s care for you.
  • Ask Jesus to help you trust his Father’s care for you.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Its first words invites us to give ourselves to his Father and ours.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Matthew 27.40.


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