Sunday, March 09, 2014

Sunday word, 09 Mar 2014

Dramas, Prayer, Reason
Lenten Sunday 1 A (09 Mar 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Lent immerses us in mystery. Our Catholic mystery is not a whodunit but a person, our Messiah Jesus. Jesus was fully God and fully human. We are not observers of our mystery. We are parts of it, parts of Jesus body. Lent allows us to recall clearly the human and divine contours of our mystery: sin and salvation.

How may we describe our side of the mystery? We lost right relationship with God and others. Not enjoying right relation is the result of sin. Something went wrong. It warped us and blurred the image of God in which humans are created.1 Genesis described it with its so-familiar went-wrong drama. In Eden eating was more than putting something in the mouth and swallowing. Eating dramatized personal choice and responsibility.

Human choice put things out of joint. What the first choice was we cannot not know. Genesis is not a news report. The insight of Genesis says we cannot blame God for not being in right relation with God and one another. As we heard Genesis present it God was not present at the center of the garden at that fateful human choice. That dramatic touch is easily overlooked.

A bad choice often leads to other bad choices. A series of bad choices makes it harder to make a good choice. We know that by experience. Yet our knowledge can work against us. We can obsess over the results of sin until they blind us to the rest of the mystery: God’s compassion and desire to save us, free us and restore us.2

Today the Genesis drama led to prayer.
The responsorial psalm bridged our choice and God’s choice, our sin and God’s salvation. The psalm allows us to take responsibility: Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. Then it allows us to make room for God’s desire: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. …Restore to me the joy of your salvation.

Genuine prayer and its reflection make room for God. 
St. Paul reasoned in Jesus God restored the joy of salvation to us. Just as through the first Adam…condemnation came upon all, so through the second Adam, Christ Jesus, acquittal and life came to all. God works our salvation by gift. The gist of the gift is Jesus and his choosing. Choosing right relation with God over runaway self-interest is the annual drama of Jesus tempted.

The drama of Jesus tempted reminds us the son of God was fully human. His Incarnation shouts that God does not disregard our humanity. God became one of us in Jesus. Jesus’ humanity reminds us of our humanity. We, the crown of creation, could not restore right relationship. To use contemporary lingo, restoring acquittal and life is no self-help project. Jesus chose to save us. We enjoy right relationship with God and others when we accept God’s compassionate love in Jesus then live from it and choose in line with it.

Our first experience in the church of God’s compassionate love was baptism. Each year Lent frees us to recall baptism and help others prepare for it. Baptism unites us with Jesus’ dying and rising; makes us parts of his body. Lent offers us 40 days of “closer attention to the Word of God, and more ardent prayer.”3 Both free us to fall into God’s saving love in Jesus. Lent offers us all together a chance to exercise ourselves so we can accept God’s saving love. By welcoming God’s saving love we more readily live from it and choose in line with it.

What Jesus did by his dying and what Jesus continues doing by his resurrection are real. Yes, the symptoms of sin, not being in right relation with God and others, continue: war; racism; drugs; crime; greed; poverty and pollution. Non-believers see them and throw up their hands. We walk by faith not by sight. We know our lives and the lives of those who have gone before us are hidden with Christ in God.4 As parts of Jesus and one another Lent focuses our mission: to choose and live what gives hope to others; to give them courage to look beyond the symptoms of sin so they may welcome the saving compassion of God in Jesus by their Spirit.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the life of our triune God.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: thank him for being human like us; praise him for rising from the dead and making us new creations in him: not “improved” but baptized and sealed by his Spirit as new creations.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live your baptismal vocation readily.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words on our lips not only remind us our baptisms unite us with our Messiah Jesus as his disciples here and now. His prayer guides us to live and choose as his disciples everyday.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Genesis 1.27.
  2. Accepting God’s compassion is the human side of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  3. Constitution on the Liturgy, 109 of the Second Vatican Council.
  4. 2 Corinthians 5.7 and Colossians 3.3.

Wiki-images by Richard Croft of Adam and Eve CC BY-SA 2.0 and Jesus tempted PD-US

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