Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday word, 28 Sep 14

Thought Experiment
26th Sunday of the Year A (28 Sep 2014)
Ez 18. 25-28; Ps 25; Phil 2. 1-11; Mt 21. 28-32
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The prophet Ezekiel preached a revolutionary message. It marked an evolutionary change in a belief the people Israel had long held. Through Prophet Ezekiel God challenged it: the word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, what is the meaning of this proverb that you recite in the land of Israel: “Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge?”1 With that proverb people claimed they were punished for sins of their ancestors’ rather than theirs. With God’s challenge the prophet preached a message of personal responsibility.

Knowing that helps us appreciate the beginning our first reading. Otherwise its opening cry,“The Lord’s way is not fair!” may mean little. Meaning paves the way for us to understand. If we focus on meaning only—especially in scripture—we run a risk: we risk treating scripture as a puzzle. If only a puzzle, then we don’t let scripture touch us and let Jesus shape us. We disciple-friends of Jesus have a word for Jesus shaping us; it is conversion.

We use that word in so many ways. We convert currencies; we convert temperatures; we convert buildings from stores to apartments; we measure energy-conversion from motion to heat, to name some. They are meanings outside us. They differ from what ongoing conversion to Jesus and to his gospel means for human lives and our world. Ongoing conversion to Jesus and to his gospel is more than choices Christians make. Ongoing Christian conversion is an attitude; it makes possible choices for Jesus and his gospel. St. Paul was specific about the attitude: be like-minded as Jesus.2 We are not alone in our daily conversion; Jesus joins us.

That is important to tell ourselves often. When it comes to making choices, especially for Jesus and his gospel, we can feel our choices are all on us. We do have our parts to play; often our parts are all we notice. The fact is Jesus joins us. I grew convinced of that years ago.

I never set out to do a thought-experiment with our second reading. Yet one day long ago I was absorbed in the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, emptying himself…not regarding equality as God something to be grasped. Those words of the Apostle help us talk about the Incarnation. I was not absorbed in a doctrine and what it meant. I was absorbed in what it cost Jesus that he emptied himself…and did not regard equality as God something to be grasped. Becoming like us in all ways but sin cost divinity any distance from humanity. God in Jesus by their Spirit joined our joys, hopes, anguish and dreams. The eternal choice of our triune God that the Second Person become a human being for us means we are never alone choosing Jesus and his gospel.

Choosing Jesus and his gospel costs us. When we do not want to it to cost us, we act as if we choose Jesus. That is like the son in his parable who said he would go…work in the vineyard but did not. Every move out of ourselves costs us. Yet cost is not always without benefit. By becoming human for us Jesus made the world his vineyard and us his brother- and sister-workers in it. Our moves toward Jesus pave the way we may come to share in his divine nature.3 Jesus chose to join his nature with ours to free us to choose Jesus and his gospel.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Place yourself in the company of the Trinity, who create you each moment and impart their life to you.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for his attitude and desire the same attitude that is also his.
  • Implore Jesus to deepen your conversion so you may be like the parable’s son, who changed his mind.
  • Close your time saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us choose him, to have his attitude and live by it daily.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Ezekiel 18.2
  2. Philippians 2.2, 5. St. Paul used a verb to communicate to his dear Philippians: be like-minded
  3. 2Peter 1.4.

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