Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday word, 27 Apr 14

Breathe On Me
Easter Sunday2 A (27 April 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Peter wrote his letter to Christians dispersed far and wide.1 By witnessing to Paschal Jesus he encouraged them and their faith.2 We are far from Jerusalem and the holy events of Jesus’ passion, dying and rising. Peter addresses us and our faith. We heard why: Peter desires us to enjoy genuine faith like the first and later friends of risen Jesus.

In the phrase, genuineness of your faith, genuine implies tested. Peter considered genuine faith’s vitality and value more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire. As a gift of Jesus’ Spirit faith cannot perish. Yet your personal faith and mine will whither if we do not cherish and cultivate it. Not a few things conspire so that we neither cherish nor cultivate it.

One conspirator is grief. It can isolate us from our faith. An example: A widowed spouse is sharply pained to be alone anywhere—church, too. Grief challenges faith. Widowed people let go their familiar way of being in the world to pass through and beyond grief and hold on to faith.

Today’s gospel is awash with grief. Grief choked the disciples after Jesus’ cruel death. Fear pulsed, too: the disciples wept and worried behind locked doors. Risen Jesus shattered their isolation.

When Jesus did that Thomas was not with them. It matters not why. He grieved, too. Was it survivor’s grief? Days before Jesus had decided to revisit the area around Jerusalem; its people had turned on him. Disciples tried to persuade Jesus not to go. Not Thomas. He was the one who had said, “Let us also go to die with him.”3 Jesus had died; Thomas survived. His grief pierced deeper because he had abandoned Jesus with the rest.

What changed the disciples from grief-racked, frightened individuals to the company of lively friends4 Jesus had invited together? He breathed on them. Breath for them evoked God. The disciples were steeped in their Jewish scriptures. At the beginning the Creator blew into the first human’s nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being.5 Job, that embodiment of grief, proclaimed, “The spirit of God made me, the breath of the Almighty keeps me alive.6 The Fourth Evangelist shared that vivid imagery. He also discerned risen Jesus is the absolutely new creation, who recreates everyone, even those who think it hopeless or impossible. Jesus’ personal invitation to Thomas confirmed it. Jesus’ personal invitation—to Thomas and us—breathes his recreating Spirit of ever new, abundant and overflowing life.

Risen Jesus remained faithful to his disciples though they had not been faithful to him: they fled at his arrest. When he breathed on them his Spirit his disciples recovered their faith. Notice: Jesus was not with them in the familiar way they had enjoyed. Nor would Jesus stay with them bodily in his glorified way. He would abide with them by his Spirit. They had to keep connected with Jesus’ Spirit. They did so in four ways. Their ways forever shape us, the church.

Their first way was the breaking of bread and the prayers. For us that has grown to mean all the sacramental life of Jesus’ body, his church.

They shared their property and possessions so no one was in need. We practice Christian charity and service so need victimizes fewer people and all people may savor their human dignity.

Third was their regular gathering in the temple area. We are blessed with all St. Luke Parish offers. Our parish exists because we are here and keep it alive and thriving.

Last was exultation and sincerity of heart. Christians are joyful or they are not Christians.7 Love, joy, generosity…faithfulness are fruits8 of Jesus’ Spirit. He always breathes on us his Spirit.

We all tire; some of us grieve. Tired or grieving we may feel differently: I will give each a voice. 
“I’d rather not be in church”; or,
“I’d rather not be bothered to help the poor”; or,
“I don’t think today I’ll celebrate the Eucharist [or another sacrament]”; or
“I’ll be a sourpuss9 like my boss, my neighbor [add whomever you are around day to day].

Holding dear the ways the first disciples kept connected with risen Jesus’ Spirit, we can overcome our inertia of fatigue or grief. Holding dear their ways helps us appreciate sacraments, personal praying, Christian charity and regular communal worship for what they are: neither luxuries nor  add ons when convenient but ways to cherish and cultivate Jesus’ faith breathed into us. By faith we share his life-giving Spirit. His faith is genuine for his cross tested and proved it. By his resurrection it never perishes. Freely and reliably risen Jesus breathes his faith into us. We enjoy it as long as we cherish and cultivate it. In Sts. Popes John XXIII and John Paul II we have two intercessors from today forward to help us do those and “not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ.10

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Thomas to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for breathing on you to fill you with his Spirit.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be like the disciples and work actively to stay connected with his Spirit.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Sincerely praying his prayer shapes us more as his joyful, generous, prayerful and sacramental sisters and brothers.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 1Peter 1.1. This map helps us see “far and wide.”
  2. 1Peter 5.12.
  3. John 11.7 and 11.16.
  4. John 15.13-15.
  5. Genesis 2.7.
  6. Job 33.4.
  7. Of this Pope Francis is convinced.
  8. Galatians 5.22.
  9. The word summarizes “Christian faces have more in common with pickled peppers” (above note 7). It re-appeared to translate the same meaning in the pope’s recent Apostolic Exhortation.
  10. Pope Francis, Homily at their Canonization.


No comments: