Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday word, 21 Jun 15

Wonder and Awe at All God Creates
Twelfth Sunday of the Year B (21 Jun 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I recalled that six years ago this month Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry died.1 The natural world fascinated him from boyhood. He explored the natural world as an act of faith; his exploration led him to see that humans are intimately related to it.2 He sought to make people more aware of that.

Three days ago Pope Francis issued his encyclical on caring for creation.3 Fr. Berry was well known; Pope Francis is better known worldwide. He recognizes humans’ intimate relationship with creation, too. To focus our part in that relationship Francis recalled his namesake. St. Francis of Assisi loved creation, the pope wrote, the way “we fall in love with someone.”
[W]henever [St. Francis] would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”…for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection.4
That all creatures reveal God was not unique to Francis; he was no aberration among Christians. My spiritual father, St. Ignatius of Loyola, allowed “little things to lift his mind to God, who even in the smallest things is great.” A Jesuit who lived with Ignatius recalled that when he saw “a plant, foliage, a leaf, a flower, any kind of fruit; from the consideration of a little worm or any other animal, he raised himself above the heavens and penetrated the deepest thoughts…from each little thing he drew doctrine and the most profitable counsels for the spiritual life.”5

Pope Francis hopes we integrate our spiritual life with the rest of living. Today we recognize that caring for creation involves science. Sts. Francis, Ignatius, and Jesus, trained in a builder’s technology, remind us care of creation exceeds science, too6: it holds more than science can fathom.

Jesus is the model of Sts. Francis and Ignatius and Pope Francis. The pope recalled in his encyclical that “Jesus lived in full harmony with creation [and it caused even his disciples to react as our gospel remembered]: ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’”7 We hear them and know what they did not. Their attraction to Jesus had yet to become the commitment of faith-love. Their reaction urges us to rekindle our commitment to Jesus; to love him the way we love family and dear ones: with loyalty and faith.

Loyal, faithful loving moves us to focus on others not ourselves. That is always a challenge. Consider Job. We know him as one felled by sharp calamities. Job sought to understand them; yet they turned him on himself. His sorrow had an edge; that edge morphed into arrogance toward God; and Job could not dismiss God from his heart and mind. The first reading began God’s cross-examination of Job. In it God heaped image on image of God creating: in feminine imagery of womb as well as builder’s imagery. Job got hung up where we and all humans do—on power. Our power has limits8; to act otherwise focuses us on us. Attending to God Job moved from self-concern to awe.

Commitment to another begins in awe and wonder. Awe becomes love; love leads to relationship; relationship to respect. The movement deepens commitment. Sts. Francis, Ignatius and Jesus model that movement and free us to consider creation more reverently. Pope Francis reminds us our commitment to care for creation cares for the vulnerable.9 Science bolsters his insight. Awe and wonder at creation pave pathways to God. Not to care for creation leaves us to think and act as if each of us is the center of everything. God is our center. Acting out of awe, respect and commitment to God, others and to the least creatures lives faith in Jesus and his compassion.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Job, Sts. Francis and Ignatius to present you to Jesus so you may pledge again your loyalty to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting us to join his mission; tell him anew your commitment to him and his creation.
  • Ask Jesus for his grace to be in awe that Jesus creates you and everyone and all things at every moment.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Praying it slowly allows us to deepen our awe before God and others; it lets us look afresh at our earth, its energies and its bounty given us to love God more easily and wholeheartedly.10

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. A website is devoted to him to continue his efforts.
  2. His eleventh of “Twelve Principles for Understanding the Universe and the Role of the Human in the Universe Process.”
  3. Laudato Si. Links to what an encyclical is and helpful preview of the most recent one may be found here.
  4. Laudato Si, 11.
  5. Pedro Ribidinera’s recollection.
  6. See, for example, Laudato Si, 11 and 190.
  7. Laudato Si, 98.
  8. Laudato Si, 122, 130.
  9. Laudato Si, 10.
  10. Paraphrase of St. Ignatius of Loyola: his Spiritual Exercises, [23].


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