Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday word, 12 Apr 15

Ambassadors of God’s World
Second Sunday of Easter B (12 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The narrator of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was intelligent and also needed to learn. Scout’s first day at school was a disaster: so disastrous she begged her father keep her home. He listened to her then said, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll learn to get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”1

The lesson needs no explaining; we have our experiences of it. “Simple” as it may be, the “trick” may not be easy: to think as another thinks challenges us; to see as another sees challenges us; to appreciate as another appreciates also challenges. They are so in our homes. With other cultures and earlier times the challenges are steeper. Scripture belongs to another culture and a very distant time. Both make climbing into it and walking around in it very challenging to us modern folk.

That challenge is also an invitation. We may not think it, yet when we come together around the tables of our triune God’s word and risen son God invites us to inhabit God’s world. Why? So we can return to our daily living and, with God’s spirit helping us, reshape it in ways more like the world in which God welcomes us, teaches us and nourishes us.

I tried to enter the world today’s scriptures described. I share with you a few impressions from my visit. I hope you find them helpful and want to ponder and savor them this week. I hope you let yourselves feel my impressions then let them shape you. 

Enter the scene of the Acts of the Apostles. Inside it I was surrounded by power, the power of the apostles. They were at the center of the community of believers. Their unity unites us. Where did they get their power? Not long before they feared for their lives: they had locked…the doors [where they] were for fear. Risen Jesus’ presence did not quell their fear at first—only after he showed them his hands and his side! Then the disciples rejoiced to recognize their Lord.

The power wasn’t theirs. Risen Jesus imparted it to them. Breath symbolizes spirit in the world of scripture. Humans created as living beings began with God breathing.2 John’s gospel imparts a deeper intimacy: Jesus breathed his spirit.  His personal, loving gift transformed disciples into bold witnesses: “We have seen the Lord!” Their witness to their absent friend was no report but eager joy: they desired that he be free of dejected fear, too. Thomas—whose name means twin3—defused the joy given him. Humans can choose not to be overcome by Holy Spirit. Jesus presented himself to Thomas so he could recognize risen Jesus for who he was: Lord and God.

Thomas is our twin. Oh, we may not say we refuse to believe; we may not intend not to believe. Yet we defuse the power Jesus imparts to us; we defuse Jesus’ spirit rather than fan its flame to fire us with eager joy and make faith the action of our lives. The First Letter of John is very clear: the love of God is this, that we keep [do] his commandments. Christian life is action.

God is love,4 the letter reminds us. It means God acts: God loves us into being and holds us in being each moment—everyone! In Christian practice those God loves into being love each person for whom the person is—not what any of us wish a person to be. We don’t do that on our own: we fear; we desire the person be what we want; or we have other agendas. We do it by God’s power. God’s spirit is nothing less than God’s power, God’s life, God’s world. Into it God invites us unceasingly. When we enter it and live what we enter, we allow others to climb into it, walk around it and enjoy now a share in God’s life.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Calm yourself to rest in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask Thomas and the other disciples to present you to risen Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; tell him your desire to let his faith be your faith; allow him to breathe on you. We have received his spirit, yet we benefit each time we feel it is Jesus’ self-gift.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to free you to live the life and love he breathes into us each moment.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so his life and love may transform us and shape us as his disciples, his ambassadors to his world that even now welcomes us and everyone.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Page 30 of this online edition.
  2. Genesis 2.7
  3. The word didymus continues in use in modern Greek.
  4. 1 John 4.16
Wiki-images: Paschal Lamb window The Disbelief of Thomas PD-US

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