Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday word, 18 Jan 15

Beyond Play
Second Sunday of the Year B (18 Jan 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
In his book, Mister Rogers Talks with Parents, Fred Rogers offered a way “to think about play.”
[Play] is as the process of finding new combinations for known things—combinations that may yield new forms of expression, new inventions, new discoveries, and new solutions. …It’s exactly what children’s play seems to be about and explains why so many people have come to think that children’s play is so important a part of childhood—and beyond.1
A “process of finding new combinations for known things—combinations that may yield new forms of expression.” Prayer does that. Things we know—Jesus, ourselves, our place in family, church and society—arrange themselves to us in new ways, new “combinations that may yield new forms of expression.” Prayer offers new forms for being in relationship with Jesus, “so important a part of childhood—and beyond.”

Today’s gospel selection narrated finding: finding Jesus and beginning a relationship with him. Pursuing Mr. Rogers’ thought can help us appreciate better this passage. Half of its eight verses involved naming.

All the gospels name Jesus in various ways. The variety is not confusion. The variety names different aspects of Jesus: his person and his deeds. As many dimensions shape us as the people we are, so with Jesus. We heard John and his disciples name Jesus in turn: Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah. In later verses another disciple named him Son of God and King of Israel.2 Why?

The disciples found Jesus attracted them. They wanted to learn him, to know him. They were willing to enter a relationship with him. Did you notice Jesus’ response? Come and see. Inviting, yes. A bit playful, too. Jesus joined them in naming; he renamed Cephas. To echo Mr. Rogers this naming-play combined and discovered.

Andrew and John thirsted for meaning. Their thirsts helped them notice they needed help. Admitting their need for help led them to John the Baptizer. To John they went for forgiveness of sins. When the Baptizer pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, two of his disciples followed Jesus. Forgiveness of sins and lamb were part of their religious atmosphere.3 Their day spent with Jesus helped them discover a new avenue to forgiveness of sins, to meaning, to friendship and more. They accepted Jesus could offer them much as their Rabbi-teacher. Discovering Jesus as Teacher meant humble self-discovery as learners: as Jesus’ disciples.

Rabbis stayed in places, even if temporarily, to study the word of God and discuss it with any who showed interest. Rabbi...where are you staying? The disciples did not ask Jesus for his address. They wanted to begin learning with Jesus as their Teacher. And they did, most of that day.

Quite a day it was. Andrew sought out his brother first and announced he had found the Messiah (which means Anointed One of God). From Lamb to Teacher to God’s Anointed One Andrew and John made new discoveries. Jesus did not prove himself to them the ways insecure people show off. Jesus allowed Andrew and his fishing partner to discover him for themselves.

Lamb to Teacher to Anointed One of God combined traditional Jewish titles in new ways. Jesus blended them in his person. Coming to see Jesus combine these titles in himself offered the disciples meaning. It was both daring and humble: they gave themselves to Jesus in the child-hood of their discipleship and beyond.

We can ask ourselves: How is Jesus naming us now? We can begin with the saints for whom we are named and the ones whose names we chose at confirmation. How is Jesus inviting us to live up to their names? We can also ask: How do we see Jesus now? Has our vision of him grown as we have? To consider those questions and others is prayer. They offer us new and honest ways to see Jesus as well as ourselves now and beyond.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask Samuel, Andrew, the Baptist or your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for proclaiming the gospel for you; thank Jesus for your life and for the vocation-mission Jesus has given you. Or, if you are discerning a vocation, thank Jesus for your life and ask Jesus to enlighten you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as our Savior and to walk more closely his way.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ gave us his prayer to guide us all to grow more familiar with Jesus and his way and put our faithful friendship with Jesus into action.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Chapter 5, 1983.
  2. Nathanael, a few verses later. John 1.49.
  3. Lamb resonated powerfully: Isaiah 53.7; Jeremiah 11.19.

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