Sunday, February 01, 2015

Sunday word, 01 Feb 15

Challenging Gift
Fourth Sunday of the Year B (01 Feb 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Memory and presence are closely connected. I don’t mean casual or mechanical remembering; I mean living memory: memory of food so yummy we can taste it; memory that keeps a person powerfully near; memory that lets a past event enliven us.

Living memory is in our Christian DNA. We inherited it from Moses and all the people, Israel, our ancestors in faith. Those who went with Moses from Egypt remembered God delivered them with power so great it frightened them. They told Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die.”1 God responded graciously. Moses and others like him would continue to mediate God’s voice to the people.

Living memory of the release from slavery into freedom was their foundation for being in the world. Their living memory shaped prophecy; its authority among them; and their need to interpret its meaning in each time and place. Mark’s gospel presented us with a snapshot of worshippers in a synagogue interpreting Jesus’ authority. Mark’s entire gospel is not only brief; it is compact. It moves with its rapid momentum. It’s worth reading from start to finish. When you read it, don’t read it like a recipe or as a lesson. Read it gently and feel as you do.

One thing a feeling-reading of Mark’s gospel offers is noticing the Christ-mystery revolves around his presence. Jesus speaks but doesn’t have to. Spirits know him by his very presence. The unclean spirit in a man in the synagogue cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” The unholy know the holy—it is ever so.

Mark uniquely handled the Christ-mystery. He allowed spirits and those coming to faith to enjoy revelation of Jesus’ identity. Mark also let Jesus conceal his identity. In today’s selection Jesus is perhaps the most brief in doing so. A single word, “Quiet!” Immediately Jesus healed the man.

Those in the synagogue were not amazed to see healings. They were amazed an artisan, a carpenter, enjoyed such a powerful gift. Their amazement started a personal process: to discover who Jesus really was: God’ son, saving not frightening.

To every hearer and reader of Mark’s gospel Jesus’ identity is not concealed. We know it. Yet Mark’s gospel offers us a challenging gift. The gift is that Jesus’ identity is clear to us. The challenge is coming to know Jesus for ourselves: to enter a relationship with Jesus, the Son of God.2

The challenge cannot be met by any who treat Jesus as a distant, dead figure of the past. Jesus lives by his Spirit in us, for us and among us. He truly is who John the Baptizer said he was at the beginning of Mark’s gospel, the mightier one: “One mightier than I will come after me. …he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”3

Jesus’ power is not what humans expect. That is why Jesus told spirits who knew him and humans who experienced his healing power not to focus on it. Jesus’ power is not what we expect. Yes, entering and maintaining a relationship with Jesus challenges. Yet a relationship with Jesus rewards. Relationships enliven us. Remembering people enlivens us. Remembering Jesus means remembering a living one: Messiah and Lord. Making room in our living memory for Jesus challenges us to meet Jesus ourselves. A relationship with Jesus is most rewarding.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: thank Jesus for preaching the gospel for you in deed and word; thank Jesus for gathering you into the life he shares with his Father and Holy Spirit.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to free you to cultivate a deeper relationship with him: let Jesus be your confidante; “speak to him as one friend to another”.4
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ enjoyed an intimate relationship with his Father. He gave us his prayer to help us cultivate our relationships. His prayer is a daily action plan and unites us more closely to him and to his Father and ours.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Exodus 20.19. Moses recalled their memory in the first reading.
  2. Mark 1.1.
  3. Mark 1.7-8.
  4. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 54.

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