Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sunday word, 06 Jul 14

Freedom Rest 
14th Sunday of the Year A (06Jul2014)
Zech 9. 9-10; Ps 145; Rm 8. 9,11-13; Mt 11. 25-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Warming up before activity is important. It is not limited to strenuous exercise. Warming up is healthy for us all, not only World Cup soccer players, Grand Slam tennis players, runners and swimmers. One benefit of a warm up: it helps separate parts of our bodies work in sync. I note a connection with scripture: the grand story of our triune God’s self-revelation has many chapters, scenes and characters. All its chapters, scenes and characters work together in the merciful and gracious plan of our Creator and Redeemer.

It is easy to pigeonhole a scene and separate it from the entire story of revelation. The selection from Prophet Zechariah is an example. Each Holy Week recalls its imagery of a colt, the foal of an ass, on which Jesus entered Jerusalem. Today other imagery invites our gaze: a meek and just savior, announcing God’s peace for all.

Like other prophets Zechariah was a warmup for Jesus. Jesus not only embodied God’s desires and qualities. In Jesus all the divine desires and qualities work together. It was as if the Incarnation gave Jesus a job description not from prophets only but also from the psalms: The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness; The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all God has made.

Jesus’ job description is his vocation. His vocation is ours. We share it because Jesus handed over to us his Spirit. Spirit is his essence, his core, his heart—his life. His unique relationship with God, whom he called his dear Father,1 allowed Jesus to reveal the divine desires to us as no other prophet could.

Jesus’ gift to us of his Spirit is above and beyond our best selves. Jesus’ Spirit is the Lord and giver of [God’s] life2 to us. Our Catholic vocabulary names it supernatural. That does not mean the Spirit registers only in ways fantastic. The Pentecost scene with its tongues as of fire, driving wind and the disciples speaking in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them3 might cause us to forget another way Jesus gave his Spirit to his disciples: he breathed on them.4 His quiet way suggests Jesus’ supernatural Spirit is not opposed to our natural humanity. Not opposed: Jesus’ Spirit, the Spirit of God, dwells in us to transform us, as St. Paul reminded us.

How does Jesus’ Spirit transform us now? So we may measure according to the Spirit. In Paul’s language, Spirit means all that is open to God’s desires, to our Creator’s claim on human existence. Flesh means all that is opposed to God’s desires, to our Creator’s claim on human existence. Paul’s language is precise. Flesh does not mean “body”; flesh means all that is opposed to God. Spirit does not mean “feeling” or “idea”; spirit means all that is open to God.

Jesus personified openness to God. The mercy and graciousness of God Jesus lived in meek and humble ways. Jesus refrained from pageantry; yet we claim and worship him as Lord of heaven and earth.5 Jesus did not measure according to the world (Paul would say flesh). He measured according to what God revealed to him in his humanity as Son, as God’s Little One.

Little ones is a favored phrase on Jesus’ lips in Matthew’s Gospel.6 Jesus desires us to be little ones who are open to welcome and live by the Spirit of God. None of God’s little ones are insignificant according to the way the Spirit of God measures. Of great importance to us and to all who live according to the Spirit of God is this: God’s littles ones find their freedom and rest by living like God’s Son, God’s Little One, Jesus.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to tarry with our triune God, who create, redeem and sustain you.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: Praise and thank Jesus for creating and redeeming you. 
  • Ask Jesus to reveal to you your greatest need. For example:
  • Is your inmost self starved for quiet? Ask Jesus to anoint you with his peace.
  • Do you desire everything or unnecessary things? Ask Jesus to reveal to you what will increase your desire for his life for you.
  • Do you allow fleeting things to shape you? Ask Jesus to be more responsive to his Spirit, who transforms you, frees you and makes you his disciple.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It binds us closer to his not with chains but with a pattern of freedom: his freedom, the freedom of God’s littles ones. In his pattern we walk with Jesus and learn him better.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Little wonder the tradition calls Jesus beloved Son. The Gospels recall a heavenly voice naming Jesus with that phrase (Matthew 3.17; 17.5; Mark 1.11; 9.7; Luke 3.22). Also see John 1.14 and following.
  2. The Nicene Creed.
  3. Acts 2.2-4.
  4. John 20:22.
  5. Acts 17.24.
  6. Matthew 10.42; 18.6, 18.10, 18.14.

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