Sunday, July 13, 2014
Sunday word, 13 Jul 14
15th Sunday of the Year A (13Jul2014)
Is 55. 10-11; Ps 65; Rm 8. 18-23; Mt 13. 1-2
8-Day Retreat with Priests @ Villa Maria, PA
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Each of us can recall a moment in our lives when we felt new, remade, reborn—choose your word which names your experience of authentic self. Today’s scriptures propose to me the word transform. To transform implies a major change in form or function. The power of God’s life is well described as transforming. Something remains, something abides after transformation happens. Take water as a way to appreciate that.
Water transforms into phases according to temperature. We know phases even if we do not call them by their technical names: liquid; solid; gas. In its liquid phase, water is called water. In its solid phase, we name water? Yes! Snow, ice. In its gaseous phase we name water? Yes again! steam or vapor. What abides in each phase? In different forms water abides.
God’s life has an endless variety of phases. We name God’s life grace. God offers us divine life and invites us to cooperate with it. As we cooperate with grace we are transformed. In the process grace remains grace; we become more our authentic selves, our “true selves” in Thomas Merton’s phrase.1
No physicist, Prophet Isaiah likened God’s gracious word to two water phases, rain and snow. They transform the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed. Where we live robust rain allows us to see transformation in color: hay-like yellow grass becomes luxuriant green before our eyes: different in color yet still grass. I chatted with some green grass—on retreat we do that without fear of sanity police. I asked, “Your tiny chlorophyl engines prefer green, don’t they?”
Retreat is an opportunity to ask what you prefer; to ask what manners of being in the world offer life. It’s your opportunity to rediscover your eager expectation; to meet anew glory—God’s life—[being] revealed for us and in us. God’s life authenticates us. Retreat is your opportunity to allow God to reveal yourself to you.
Noticing God at work for us is discernment. Noticing leisurely helps us discern. We are freer to notice what God desires to reveal, to communicate—not what we want to hear. The pairing today of prophecy and parable confirms that for me. When I come to Jesus’ parable of the sower, I tend to focus on the results: the seed’s exponential growth of a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold. Yet our triune God is more interested in us than our results. When I hear Isaiah speak for God, My word will not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it, I am in awesome wonder of our gracious God. More, I marvel God allows me to share God’s life-giving. We share it by being available to others, by life-affirming choices and by acting in humane and compassionate ways.
The pairing of prophecy and parable today confirms that God desires to reveal us to us and not results and other things outside us. What has God in Jesus by their Spirit gently and steadily been revealing to you? Are you desiring it? Desiring is cooperating with grace. Desiring makes our inmost selves already more fertile and fruitful. Stay near to God in Jesus by their Spirit. The Trinity’s life transforms our desires into authentic ways of being and living.
A Spiritual Exercise for the remainder of the Week
[The note with further reading for blog visitors]
1. “True self” and “false self” appeared in early writings and later. E.g., Seeds of Contemplation (1949) and Disputed Questions (1959). The New Man (1961), New Seeds of Contemplation (1961). Merton used them lectures, too. Jonathan Montaldo has shown that seeking the truth was the goal of Thomas Merton’s writing: To Uncage His Voice: Thomas Merton’s Inner Journey toward Parrhesia.