Sunday, March 08, 2015

Sunday word, 08 Mar 15

Guided By God’s Heart
Third Sunday of Lent B (08 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Imagine exploring wild territory for the first time. You have a guide. A guide means several things. You’re not alone; that is consoling in conditions that can bewilder, even frighten. Guides help us see what we would not see. In the Amazon rain forest our guide pointed out what I would have overlooked: an ivy climbing many trees. From the guide I learned the tree-climber is related to our philodendron.

Guides help us train our ears to hear what we would not; they help us recognize a sound we would say is a bird when it may be a frog; or to distinguish a living sound from noise. Guides help us stay on a path, choose a safer path or a more rewarding one. After paying attention to guides we become like them: able to distinguish what had been a blur to our senses. The close attention we pay to guides shapes us to help others notice more.

That brief look at guides helps us appreciate how the people God brought…out of…slavery…in Egypt understood God’s commandments and the rest of what we call God’s law. We hear law from our American experience and stress rules: rule of law is our phrase. Those freed from slavery in Egypt and their descendants viewed the commandments as guides to live according to God’s heart.

The commandments guided the them to take on God’s qualities. The commandments fashioned relationship with God. They also forged a shared identity as God’s people. Both relationship and shared identity are not the fruit of rules, plain and simple.

Sharing God’s qualities shapes our daily living. Examples. God giving life shapes us to promote life not take it and to respect and honor others. God’s fidelity shapes us to be faithful: to keep our promises; to be truthful in all we do. God’s generosity to us frees us to be generous. Cultivating an awe of God’s generosity to us allows us to see the things of the world as gifts and to use them in cooperation rather than competition.

Those freed from slavery in Egypt and their descendants appreciated God’s law as access to God’s qualities and a guide to live God’s qualities in daily life. On it they heaped praises we made ours with the psalm. God’s law was perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, giving wisdom, rejoicing the heart, clear, enlightening, true, just, everlasting, more precious than…purest gold, sweeter than…honey. To those freed by God and their descendants God’s law exceeded rules.

Rules do not summon praise. God’s life in us and for us summons praise. Praise is a spirit action. God is spirit,1 and God created us images of God.2 That means we are spirits clothed in flesh. Our goal is to maintain the qualities of God’s heart. To maintain includes preserving; refurbishing; keeping in good condition; nurturing; professing; and living what we profess.

Jesus gives us access to God’s life not only God’s qualities of fidelity and generosity. Jesus, the power of God and the wisdom of God, revealed God’s life giving power in his person. He shares with us God’s life-renewing power by his resurrection. His self-gift of his Spirit has made us temples, treasuries of God’s life, God’s qualities, of the Spirit of Jesus.3

We—even Christianity—can work contrary to the Spirit of Jesus he has given us. The cleansing of the temple is not a history lesson for disciples of Jesus. Jesus now lives more powerfully with us by his Spirit. His power shapes us into his body. Our vocation is a rewarding challenge: to let ourselves be shaped more by his Spirit instead of by the marketplace. That means to respect and share creation though the world’s rule wants us to devour resources and hoard things. It means extending compassion instead of leaving everyone behind. It means contributing to the progress of others instead of competing for money and power as if they give us life or meaning. To be part of Jesus’ body always will be a scandal and foolishness in the marketplace. In his church Jesus entrusts himself to his sisters and brothers as God’s guiding life, power, wisdom and strength for the sake of the world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest  in  our triune God’s faithful, life-giving love.
  • Ask St.Paul and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: thank him for enduring temptations like us; praise him for imparting to us God’s life-renewing power by his resurrection.
  • Ask Jesus to fashion you more by his Spirit to show day to day his fidelity, compassion and disinterested love in which we were baptized. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so we may live the qualities of our triune God by walking more closely with Jesus in a world at odds with him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. John 4.24.
  2. Genesis 1.27.
  3. 1 Corinthians 6.19; Romans 8.11.

Wiki-images: The Ten Words on stained glass by Ji-Elle CC BY-SA 3.0; Expelling merchants from the Temple PD-US

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