Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday word, 15 Mar 15

Left to Ourselves
Fourth Sunday of Lent B (15 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

I will focus on one verse from the gospel. Before today I did not have courage to reflect on it with people gathered at the tables of God’s word and God’s son: the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. Let me begin with an experience of darkness and light.

Away from cities and towns we experience light differently. Street lamps and 24-hour shining signs nearly blind us to starlight. Away from them we see light from stars perforate the night sky from its height to horizon. Almost everywhere we have a weak sense of darkness.

I had a strong experience of it in a cavern. It was an easy walk; we barely noticed the downward slope of the gently lighted path. Our guide would pause every so often and turn on a light above. He then showed and explained what was before us. Midway our guide asked if any one feared the dark. No one did. Our guide suggested that our distance into the cavern would allow us to experience subterranean darkness. He asked any of us with flashlights to turn them off. Then he turned of the path lights and the one above us. It was a new experience. Immediately I brought my hand an inch from my nose. In that moment I had a felt-knowledge of the saying: “So dark I could not see my hand in front of my face.”

My experience gave me new appreciation for light. Even in dark places at a new moon darkness is not total. The faintest of light leaks in. If physical light is nearly ever-present, how much more is God, whom we call Light? It describes God well: Just as we see by light more than we see light, we don’t see God who creates us each moment. Light was the first thing God’s word created.1 God was the source of the light by which Israelites could see each other during the plague of dense darkness in Egypt.2 The Psalmist personalized what any could allow to remain an idea: the Lord is my light.3 The Nicene Creed allows us to echo the Psalmist, to make those words ours.

As we do that this gospel asks us if we practice what we profess. It questions us in layers:
  • God so loved the world. Do we love God?
  • God sent his Son…to save the world. Do we believe Jesus embodied God for us and our salvation?
  • Do we count on Jesus’ saving us and working now for us? St. Paul’s words help us: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.
  • Do we let ourselves fall into God’s mercy and love for us? Or are we name-only Catholics who reduce God to our expectations or make God a problem to solve?

If we count on Jesus saving us now; if we do believe; and if we cultivate a loving, personal relationship with God; then do we live our belief in God, our confidence in Jesus’ saving us and our love for God in Jesus through their Spirit? To live our belief, our confidence and our love for our triune God means our actions match our words; it means our works reflect the divine light and shine it in the world’s darkness. It means we cooperate with the grace by which we have been saved. It means we share Jesus’ mission of bringing light to our world. Pope Francis has told us, “We have this mission. …We carry this light. If a Christian extinguishes this light, his life has no meaning: he is a Christian by name only, who does not carry light.…”4

Carrying the light of Christ is not heroic. Yes, it takes effort for left to ourselves we prefer darkness to light. This darkness is not limited to atrocious things people do to others—some even in the name of God! This darkness includes our rudeness to others, our harm to creation and people and our insensitive inactions, our sins of omission.

Jesus coming into our world shows us that God saving is a mutual enterprise: by graceGod’s role, and about it we boast so others may enjoy God’s grace of light and life; our role is to do what we are created to do: deeds of light, life, mercy and peace—deeds modeled for us by Jesus’ disinterested love and his faith in God, his Father and ours.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God’s faithful light and life-giving love.
  • Ask Nicodemus, St. Paul and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for being God’s light sent into the world to free us from what enslaves us.
  • Ask Jesus, “Release me from my cavern of darkness and give me courage to extend your mission of light, life, mercy and peace.”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our daily, practical guide to extend his mission he lovingly entrusts to us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Genesis 1.3-5.
  2. Exodus 10.22-23.
  3. Psalms 27.1.
  4. Sunday Angelus, 9 February 2014.


1 comment:

Sydney said...

I agree with your direction to rest in the light and find courage - for me resistance is what keeps me from finding flow with God.