Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday word, 22 Feb 15

Breaking Our Rules: Revisited
First Sunday of Lent B (22 Feb 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Last week’s gospel let me notice afresh that lepers and Jesus broke rules that kept them apart. Their rule-breaking was not license; their rule-breaking allowed the reign of God to break into our world. Jesus and the leper showed me I impose rules on myself to keep me apart from Jesus. I sought to uncover my rules, break them and draw nearer to Jesus. In few days I realized I had received my lenten focus. As you enter lent I thought to share with you how the pillars of lent are helping me apply the grace I have received.

Lent’s pillars, as you know, are fasting, almsgiving and praying. To each I will attach a rule, a rule to break. First, I suggest we Christians fast from the entitlement rule. Here’s what I mean. To live generously both rewards and costs. Their costs deplete us unless we make time to replenish ourselves with rest, reflective prayer, friends, exercise and spiritual companionship. When we don’t replenish properly we risk feeling entitled.

We often replenish ourselves well. Sometimes we turn to unhealthy distractions. We withdraw into activities that are neither true exercise, rest, prayer nor companionship—human or spiritual. I know withdrawal into self instead of opening to life giving restoration. After ministering generously I can be tempted to want to be repaid in currencies of unhealthy distractions. If I don’t keep alert I become my temptations! This lent I want to guard my graces and not boast of them. Beginning to ride on graces, silently boasting of them, opens the door to the Tempter instead of keeping it shut tight against it.

How to fast from the entitlement rule? We may think of Pope Francis and exercise discretion if we feel entitled to gossip1; we may increase our visits here or any church, chapel or shrine if we feel entitled to diminish our friendship with Jesus; we may set aside two minutes each supper to name how we recognized Jesus alive during the day. Ask Jesus to help you identify your entitlement rule and how to fast from it.

Second: give alms to break the stinginess rule.
Heightened awareness about caring for the planet, promoting personal and social health and protecting the vulnerable fosters frugal behaviors: with resources; with food and ease; monitoring power over others. It is good to be sparing or economical. Yet a frugal one risks turn-ing stingy. Though it means sparing frugality itself does not close hearts. Stingy means closed-hearted; its sound is tight compared to the muted openness of frugal.

Christian stinginess focuses on Jesus-and-me to the exclusion of others. Christian stinginess considers Jesus is on my side more than I am at his. Christian stinginess clamors with the indignation of apostles in formation wanting sole rights to the power Jesus’ name bestows.2 Leaving a room or a yard better than finding it is an ecological alms; a moment helping another is a social alms; Sending a note to a younger sibling or friend is an interpersonal alms; it shapes us to edify others beyond family and friends. This Lent give alms that thwart Christian stinginess you confront.

Ignatius of Loyola befriended lent’s third pillar. His rule, or norm, for praying: chat with Jesus as one friend to another. What self-imposed rules limit our friendship with Jesus? A brief look at friendship can shed light.

Friends use their time wisely to fulfill responsibilities so they have time to devote to each other. You know and do that. What remains to do? Break rules you impose on yourself that keep Jesus from befriending you and you him. How? Two examples: If giving more time to Jesus helps your mutual befriending, then put Jesus on your calendar to be in his company.

Second: others may not venture to chat with Jesus and limit themselves to a few, albeit venerable, ways of praying. Friends who refuse to be creative around each don’t let their relationship deepen. We create without words. We communicate with more than words. When St. Paul counseled, pray without ceasing,3 words alone were not on his mind. He was a self-proclaimed tongues-speaker4 who did not advocate its inexpressible groanings5 for everyone.6  Prayer also involves images and memories. St. Paul savored Jesus choosing him as his apostle and revisited the memory often; his savoring made the moment vivid in his letters.7

Pray with more than words this lent. Uncover and break rules you impose on relating with Jesus that keep you from more intently, more intensely organizing your life around him, his vision and his desires.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in our triune God’s true rest, life-giving love.
  • Ask St. Paul and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for enduring temptations like us; ask Jesus to help you identify rules you impose on yourself that keep you distant from each other.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to break your rules so can draw nearer and be kinder, more generous and more free like him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. No prayer better appeals to God and helps us be ambassadors of the new creation in our risen Lord.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Francis repeatedly warns against gossip’s poison. Most recently, last Sunday. [Here if not yet translated into English.]
  2. See Luke 9.49. In Matthew 19.13 || Mark 10.13 the disciples mani-fest their stingy feelings when they rebuked those who brought children to Jesus.
  3. 1Thessalonians 5.17.
  4. 1Corinthians 14.18.
  5. Romans 8.26.
  6. 1Corinthians 14.19. Ch. 14 holds his reservations and qualifications.
  7. Paul opened his letters with his self-awareness and in some (1Corinthians 9 and Galatians) defended it: apostle.


Wiki-images: Jesus tempted PD-US; Noah Giving Thanks by A. Davey CC BY 2.0

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