Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sunday word, 05 Jul 15

“Seeing God’s Face”
Fourteenth Sunday of the Year B (05 Jul 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Over half century ago benefactors gave property in northern Michigan to the Jesuits. Jesuits gather there, especially in summer. We connect with Jesuits that ministry locations separate. We cook and dine together and celebrate eucharist. We relax and enjoy the area’s natural beauty—individually and together. I just returned.

My brother-in-law expresses beholding natural splendor with a phrase: “seeing God’s face.” His phrase echoed in me each day I enjoyed our gift to us Jesuits. I think it opened my inmost self to our psalm response today; particularly the words
To you I lift up my eyes [O God] who are enthroned in heaven—As the eyes of servants [and maids] are on the hands of their masters [and mistresses], So are our eyes on the Lord, our God.
We may not immediately identify with the image; we are after all heirs of our self-reliant culture. The image reflects not our culture but that of the bible. In its culture heads of households provided food, shelter and other essential needs for all who lived with them, their children and help alike. Those verses of the psalm describe a healthy attitude: confident in generosity, of God and others.

The verses extend from human experience—flawed as the best human care always is—to God enthroned in heaven. Another psalm reveals God’s enthronement to be no distant, insensitive sitting: God judges the world with [God’s] justice…The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.1

To you [O God] I lift up my eyes was one of 15 psalms pilgrims sang on their way to God’s temple in Jerusalem. Not every pilgrimage was carefree. Crises of different sorts accompanied, even motivated, pilgrim journeys. The psalm that let us respond to the first reading at mass today suggests that refashioning or deepening confidence on God may well have filled those who sang it. One way someone would not depend in a healthy way on God—or others—registers as claiming things as in one’s control. One who claims control over things is called arrogant. If I am arrogant, I assume, I take for granted, gifts given me by others and God. When natural splendors give me a partial glimpse of “God’s face” but I see with haughty eyes, I remain un-awed by the Creator’s kindness to me. Not filled with awe can register as overly self-assured2 and nonchalant3—words used for arrogant in the psalm.

Aware that we are unable to supply all our needs; seeing as if for the first time things that nature surrounds us with  often, even daily; recalling when others paused to see if we were O.K.; and narrow escapes after our inattention or health changes: those and other experiences protect us from living arrogant, unhealthy self-assured and nonchalant lives.

Arrogance, unhealthy self-assured and nonchalant attitudes distance, even disconnect us, from our Creator and Redeemer. Our Creator and Redeemer favors us yet never forces. Obstinate of heart is one more way scripture describes arrogant, unhealthy self-assured, nonchalant people. Such people do not unmake prophets like Ezekiel and Jesus; even in the presence of prophets they do not respond to God’s desires and life-giving, healing power.

Very different are those who respond. St. Paul witnessed the living power of risen Jesus operate in him as Paul opened himself to Jesus; the living power of risen Jesus surged in him in his weakness and other constraints. Psalm 123—To you I lift up my eyes [O God]—names a grace to desire: a healthy dependence on God. The grace is an attitude helping us be filled with awe; notice God’s many gifts; and use them for good. That grace frees us to be ambassadors of risen Jesus and the power of his life.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the communion of saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for creating and redeeming you.
  • Ask Jesus for his grace to be in awe that Jesus creates you, everyone and all things at each moment and lavishes us with so many gifts. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words allow us to deepen our awe before God and others; it lets us look afresh at nature and other humans; it helps us grow more confident in God’s generosity and glorify God by our care for the world and others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Psalm 9.9-10.
  2. Psalm 123.4, NET version.
  3. By Mitchell Dahood, S.J., The Anchor Bible, Vol. 17A.

Wiki-images: Omena Bay by PDP; Jesus did no miracles... PD-US

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