Sunday, September 07, 2014

Sunday word, 07 Sep 14

Jesus’ Single Command
23rd Sunday of the Year A (7 Sep 2014)
Ez 33. 7-9; Ps 95; Rm 13. 8-10; Mt 18. 15-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
If you ever participated in a tour with a group, please raise your hand. When we are in school groups, vacation groups or pilgrimage groups, we know guides routinely address groups before they address us individually. Guides address groups; individuals ask questions; guides speak to individuals to answer their questions. That guides address us as groups and as individuals offers us felt-knowledge. Our felt-knowledge helps us appreciate better Prophet Ezekiel’s ministry.

Ezekiel ministered as a prophet after Israel’s Temple was destroyed and its people had been deported to Babylon. With their exile the People Israel existed no more. Prophets before Ezekiel regularly announced, Hear, O Israel!1 Ezekiel had no nation to speak to; he addressed individuals. Ezekiel’s ministry began a new emphasis on personal responsibility,2 as we heard: Warn the wicked one. If the person changed ways, the person was saved. If the prophet did not warn, God held the prophet responsible for the…wicked one.

Ezekiel’s ministry echoed in Jesus. Jesus built on it when he counseled how members of the community—the church—ought to help another member live again in sync with the community. The way to inform and warn was lovingly—the way Jesus did everything. Love does not mean sappy; strong and clear does not mean harsh and arrogant. Consider two features of Christian correction in practice: being human; and fidelity to Jesus.

Being human is constant over time. All Christians, ancient and modern, are human. Like ancient Christians, we are tempted to hold over others their mistakes as if we never made mistakes or gave into temptation. Jesus’ words, treat someone as you would a Gentile or a tax collector, give no license to be harsh, arrogant or hold over others their mistakes as if we never made our mistakes. Second, fidelity to Jesus does not replicate slavishly the ways of the early church. Having no contact and communication with those outside the Body of Christ is hardly possible today. They were the very ones for whom Jesus came.3 Jesus continues sending us for those who separate themselves from us and those yet to join us. What attitude are we to have?

Closing doors is not what Pope Francis recommends. He reminds us Jesus attended to everyone: people on the margins and those distant from God. With eyes on Jesus the pope recommends an attitude; from it Christian action flows. His words:
my response is always the same: dialogue,  dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress…I call this attitude of openness and availability without prejudice, social humility, and it…favours dialogue.4
Dialogue ceases when a conversation partner forgets that more than that person’s freedom is involved. Keeping the door open to those outside the Body of Christ means respecting their freedom. Keeping the door open involves more than speech. It is about attitudes first then actions that flow from them. Social humility includes the attitude of being open and the action of being available to listen before speaking.

St. Paul reminded us that among friends and disciples of Jesus one command5 is universal, to love: Love does no evil to another; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. Each of the Ten Commandments,6 each instruction of Jesus, each precept7 of our Church as well as its Social Teaching8 indicate how to act with Christian love in concrete situations. Jesus single and singular command suggest a grace for us to desire: to live more freely our individual lives in ways that build up the Body of Christ and society. 

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to savor the love our triune God lavishes on you.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank Jesus for choosing you to love as Jesus patiently loves you each moment.
  • Ask for the grace to live more freely your individual life in ways that build up the Body of Christ and society.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy will be done, is itself a prayer; it asks God’s heart to shape us and all we do with the loving attitude by which our triune God labors for us and all people.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Examples: Moses—Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deuteronomy 6.4). Isaiah—Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel (Isaiah 48.1). Jeremiah—Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel (Jeremiah 2.4). Only once did Ezekiel use this address; it appeared in his message about personal responsibility. Todays first reading returned to that message.
  2. It was present in Jeremiah, for example; it flowered with Ezekiel. Moderns find it difficult to appreciate the earlier, communal emphasis on living the covenant and transgressing it.
  3. Matthew 9.13.
  4. 2013 to leading members of Brazilian society.
  5. John 13.34.
  6. The Decalogue.
  7. The Five Precepts of the Church.
  8. From its Compendium of Social Doctrine.


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