Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sunday word, 05 Oct 14

Interdependent and Delicate
27th Sunday of the Year A (05 Oct 2014)
Is 5. 1-7; Ps 80; Phil 4. 6-9; Mt 21. 33-43
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
To help us with a project we sometimes turn to a book or other written guide. We choose among books depending on the type of project. We choose a cookbook to guide us in planning menus. Not all cookbooks are the same. If our menu will forgo meat we may choose a vegetarian cookbook. We would reach for no cookbook if our project were renovating our kitchen—until we plan the dinner to celebrate our completed project.

The Bible guides our life projects, our daily living. The Bible is a library of short books of many varieties of styles and purposes. One style is named gospel. Gospel has a precise purpose: to pass on what Jesus proclaimed; Jesus, God’s anointed one and his dying and rising. Jesus’ dying and rising confirmed him as God’s anointed one. The Bible holds four written records of gospel. They are not identical.

To Matthew’s gospel we devote attention this year. It presents Jesus as teaching and forming those who will continue his teaching. Jesus final words make that clear: Go…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. …I am with you always, until the end of the age.1 Matthew’s Jesus taught about God and God’s desires with and by parables.

That teaching for Jesus as for Jews of his time always involved a back-and-forth. Parables aided it because parables invite listeners to enter them and to see themselves in them. Jesus taught the kingdom of heaven he announced by his parables. Some of his parables revealed what the kingdom is like2; others revealed the kingdom Jesus announced was essential and pivotal3; still others revealed people either accept or reject the kingdom Jesus announced.4

Once more Jesus addressed himself to the chief priests and the elders who rejected him and God’s reign he pro-claimed. He did so with a treasured, venerable self-image of Israel: God’s vineyard. Prophet Isaiah used it long before, and he did not need to explain it to his hearers. Prophet Isaiah witnessed that God planted the vineyard.5 God gave God’s vineyard growth6; God entrusted it to some so that many could enjoy its shade and its fruit.

Nor did Jesus need to explain it to his hearers, the chief priests and the elders of the people. They had come to control the vineyard rather than allow themselves to be parts of it. The chief priests and elders readily entered Jesus’ vineyard parable. Just as readily they realized Jesus had cast them as the greedy, violent tenants. Jesus tells it to us today. With whom do we identify when we enter Jesus’ parable? Recently when I entered Jesus’ parable I wandered the vineyard. The interweaving, interdependent, delicate vines absorbed me. I can describe the fruit of letting myself be absorbed in Jesus’ image with action-words; I admired; was in awe; revered; honored; touched carefully, holding my strength in check.

All of us hold everything in trust as God’s gifts. Each October the United States bishops ask Catholics to give national focus to human life because it crowns all God’s gifts. Later I realized the fruits of my prayer—those action-words: admire; be in awe; revere; honor—belong to the primary meanings of the verb respect. Respect Life names the U.S., Catholic focus of October. A grace for us to ask is this: Jesus, allow us to grow more sensitive to human life as delicate yet strong; your crown of creation yet interdependent with every part of it. Respecting life begins and continues one person at a time.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Place yourselves 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 him for becoming human for you; thank him for respecting your freedom.
  • Ask Jesus to help you become more sensitive to human life as delicate yet strong; his crown of creation yet interdependent with every part of it. Notice what stirs in you as you ask for that grace.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Praying Jesus’ prayer reminds us we are parts of his creation, the ones he and his Father cherish fondly—so fondly that they entrust to our care one another, every creature and all creation.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Matthew 28.19-20.
  2. Matthew 13.
  3. Matthew 24-25.
  4. Matthew 18-22.
  5. As did the Psalmist in the Responsorial Psalm.
  6. Isaiah witnessed again to that in 27.2. I, the Lord, am its keeper, I water it every moment; lest anyone harm it, night and day I guard it.

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