Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday word, 21 Dec 14

Witnesses Freed and Healed
Fourth Sunday of Advent B (21 Dec 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Advent liturgies frequently sound healing, freeing and saving. One response echoed in the Liturgy of the Hours appeals, Come and set us free, Lord God…and we shall be saved. Another names God as the source of our healing, freeing and saving and desires God offer them to us: Lord, show us your mercy and love…And grant us your salvation.1 Mercy and love are not add ons to our triune God; mercy and love belong to God the way air and blood keep us alive. Divine mercy and love are words that try to express God’s gracious self to God’s people. Our language does what it can to describe God, and it always limps as it does.

We all have experienced our language limping to name our triune God as the most real. I often use dreaming as an example with children. I ask if they dream, and they quickly say they do. Do things happen, and do they do things in dreams they cannot do in waking life? I ask. Again they agree. Does not being able to do in waking life what they do in dreams mean that dreams are not real? No, our dreams are very real!

As we tell our dreams to others we pause, unable to de-scribe in words some parts. Often a person resumes saying, You know how it is in dreams, and listeners readily agree. Our triune God is no dream, yet our language limps to describe God. Fortunately God intervened personally for us. Our triune God decided in their eternity that the Second Person would become a human being in order to save the human race.2 God’s desire to intervene happened long before angel Gabriel visited Mary. One of those times we heard was for David.

Did you hear God laugh moments ago? David wanted to build a secure house for the ark of the Covenant where God’s presence dwelled. “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Ha! God laughed: Would you build me a house to dwell in? David meant well. As God’s friend David desired to do for God in return for God’s favor. God desired and did for David what he could not do for himself: God established a living house, a dynasty for David: your dynasty and your kingdom shall endure forever before me.

In the fullness of time3—scripture’s phrase for the moment—God’s mercy and love was born a son of David, Mary’s child. In him God’s mercy and love became human with us and for us: to heal, free and save us and all. Angel Gabriel told Mary, You shall name him Jesus. The name Jesus means God saves. When we are healed we are freed to live in new ways. When we are healed we experience being saved. Allow me to use an image to say a final thing.

When we are sick we may receive medicines. Medicines don’t cure us; they free the body to heal itself, to return to normal functions. That image limps when it comes to our most real healing, our interior and spiritual healing: we cannot heal ourselves. We receive interior, spiritual healing, the most real healing. Jesus is our divine physician. As we surrender to the care of our physicians, our surrender to Jesus offers us our most real healing and freedom. 

Surrender is not easy for anyone. It is possible though not easy. We learn to surrender. Models helps us; intercessors help us more, and we have Mary and the communion of saints to help us. Mary is intercessor and model par excellence. Her surrender to God’s desire to save us in Jesus began our salvation. It will continue until Jesus completes it when he returns in glory. Enter the scene of her surrender to God throughout these days before Christmas and after to grow more receptive to God’s desire: our freeing, healing and saving. God’s desire is not limited to the future. God frees, heals and saves us now so our lives may witness more clearly to Jesus our Savior.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the creative love of our triune God.
  • Ask Jesus to present you to his mother.
  • Enter her room and chat with her: ask her about being troubled at the angel’s greeting. Share your troubles with her. Then ask Mary to present you to her son.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as our Savior. Praise him for saving you each moment.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to free us and heal us so we may live more like him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Both appear throughout Evening Prayer during Advent, most recently on 19 December and 21 December. 
  2. St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises [102].
  3. Galatians 4.4 and Ephesians 1.10.
Wiki-images: King David Agnete by Agnete CC BY-SA 3.0Annuncation PD-US

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