Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday word, 21 Sep 14

Our Model Jesus
25th Sunday of the Year A (21 Sep 2014)
Is 55. 6-9; Ps 145; Phil 1. 20c-24,27a; Mt 20. 1-16a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Humans are tempted often to tame God. Few of us can say we never longed for God to fit our views, adjust to our dislikes or punish those who harm us. We are not the first nor the last to forget Prophet Isaiah’s words: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways. In his day Jesus echoed Isaiah’s words to Peter. We heard them here as August ended. Peter refused to believe Jesus when he said he would suffer and die. Jesus told him, You are not thinking the thoughts of God but human ones.1

Jesus words to Peter implied he could choose to think his thoughts or God’s thoughts. Was that possible? Is it possible for us? I can hear you ask, “If it is possible, tell us how!” I will tell you; and you will have it on good authority, the authority of St. Paul.

Early in his letter to his dearest community,2 Paul wrote how he longed for them to determine what is essential…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.3 The ability to determine what is essential was Jesus’ gift to them, his Spirit he gave them. It is so with us. To help them Paul would do something well-established in his time and culture: he would help them determine what is essential by offering them models.

We do that, too. When any of us feels it important to set an example, the example is not outside any of us; it is each of us! Each of us is a model for others; we model what is worthy or we model what is not. The first model Paul offered his beloved Philippians was Jesus, who is life. He also offered himself as a model. Paul conducted himself in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ. He did so not for his benefit but for theirs. He offered his coworkers among them, Timothy4 and Epaphroditus.5 They worked for Jesus’ gospel and the Philippians’ benefit, too.

Jesus modeled God’s generosity. He embodied it, he personalized it. Embody and personalize detail the Incarnation, central to our faith. God become human in Jesus emphasized that God’s generosity is central to gospel-faith as well. Working for the gospel of Christ Jesus Paul and his coworkers also modeled, embodied and personalized God’s generosity.

By his parable of the generous landowner Jesus expressed God is generous to everyone. For others to know that in their bones depends on you and me to model Jesus as best we can. When we do not grasp at our good fortune we imitate Jesus and his saints. When we show genuine interest in others, we imitate Jesus and his saints. When we allow the person of Jesus and his gospel to shape our choices we imitate Jesus and his saints. When we rejoice at others’ honest good fortune we imitate Jesus and his saints; we also stay alert to God’s generosity. Rejoicing at others’ good fortune drives away that temptation to envy God’s generosity. Envy poisons all relationships—including communion with Jesus we name our church.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to rest in the creative love of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask those who stood in the marketplace, waiting for someone to show interest in them, to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for modeling the generous forgiveness of his Father and ours; speak as you are—confident or timid; advantaged or bereft; closed-handed or open-handed; tell him your greatest need. 
  • Ask Jesus to increase your concern and interest in everyone; resolve to cooperate with the grace you ask.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we pray it helps us conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of our crucified and risen Messiah. Conducting ourselves in sync with his gospel transforms us into his more generous and attentive coworkers today.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Matthew 16.21.
  2. Philippians 1.8.
  3. Philippians 1.10-11.
  4. Philippians 2.20-22.
  5. Philippians 2.25-30.

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