Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday word, 17 May 15

God Saves a People
Seventh Sunday of Easter B (17 May 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

A privileged, prominent image for the church is the body of Christ.1 Individual people, like individual parts of bodies, are important; they are more important as they function together. Christian function praises our triune God: we do that by worship and by loving service.

Christian designates a group, a people. Christian individuals form the group, the people, that are Christ’s body in the world. God saves a people. It has been so from the first. When Moses first met God in a burning bush, God told him, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry…I know well what they are suffering. …I have come down to rescue them.”2

In the biblical world the group was key. The opening of last Friday’s liturgy impressed that on me again. Its entrance antiphon sang: You have redeemed us, Lord, by your Blood from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us into a kingdom, priests for our God.3 God’s salvation in Jesus by their Spirit transforms groups measured by clan, language, blood and boundaries into a royal priesthood, who worships God in loving service.

This began as Jesus gathered a group of apostles. They not only followed Jesus; they ate and drank with him.4 The phrase expresses an intimate sharing of life: the apostles shared life with Jesus for the purpose of witness. Jesus gathered the apostles as twelve in number to restore the people Israel. By their witness as twelve the Spirit of risen Jesus would anoint them with his promised power and authority5 to restore and enlarge God’s people. Empowered by Jesus’ Spirit the restored Twelve would extend his mission.

The betrayal of Jesus by Judas threatened that. His betrayal fractured the number of apostles: their group began anew God saving a people in Jesus by their Spirit; their group ensured its growth. We can appreciate Peter’s urgency to restore their number to twelve. We can feel with him, who denied Jesus out of fear, Jesus’ promise enlivening him: I have prayed [for you Peter] that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.6 Peter began to do that when he restored the apostolic number—his first ministry after the ascension of Jesus.

Restoring the apostolic number also was an act of love. Christian love is more than kindness. Christian love abides in our triune God. The fruit of placing and keeping ourselves in God is amazing: by placing and keeping ourselves in God God’s love is brought to perfection in us. Peter restored the apostolic number to prepare the Twelve to receive Jesus’ Spirit so they could fashion others into the body of Christ. When we place and keep ourselves in God we allow Jesus’ Spirit to restore us as vital members of his body, who witness to him with our lives and increase the growth of his body

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for empowering you with his Spirit to make him known to the world.
  • Ask him for grace to play your role in his body with greater freedom and love.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Even personal recitation of Jesus’ prayer reminds us each of us forms Jesus’ body, the people he saves by his Spirit to extend his mission today.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. 1Corinthians 6.15; 12.12, 27; Colossians 1.24; Ephesians 4.12.
  2. Exodus 3.7-8.
  3. The Roman Missal indicates it based on Revelation 5.9-10.
  4. Acts 10.41.
  5. Promise = Holy Spirit: Acts 1.4-5; in Luke 22.30 eating and drink-ing with Jesus are joined to authority.
  6. Luke 22.32.


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