Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday word, 12 Jul 15

“Calmly and Gently”
Fifteenth Sunday of the Year B (12 Jul 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

A key feature of Jewish prayer has been blessing God for all God has done and continues doing. To bless God is to praise God. The shortest psalm blesses God for God’s faithful loving kindness; it invites all the world to join in blessing God:
Hallelujah [that is] Praise the Lord! all you nations. Extol him, all you peoples!/His mercy for us is strong;the faithfulness of the Lord is forever. Hallelujah!
St. Paul blessed God in risen Jesus because he embodied God’s sure, faithful loving kindness1; Paul experienced risen Jesus exactly that way—not for anything Paul did.2

St. Paul began his Letter to the Ephesians with a blessing with which he and all Jews were familiar. Its simple design—praising God and naming why—was expanded as prayers saw fit. Paul blessed God for favoring humans with God’s life in Messiah Jesus. God’s life mediated by Messiah Jesus reunified people to the praise of his glory. Jesus’ active, living presence guarantees his faithful disci-ples will enjoy what Jesus had begun: both Jews who recognized Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah and the more recent believers of every nation to the praise of his glory. Holy Spirit actively sealed the promise God made in Messiah Jesus to the praise of his glory.

Paul’s blessing prayer describes our transformation: redemption as God’s possession…in Christ is nothing less. We are transformed now, even when we are unaware. Christian transformation is indeed a mystery that eludes us. The mystery is also risen and exalted Jesus actively at work by his Spirit. By praising God the way he did St. Paul outlined God’s providence.

Humans resist transformation; we can-do-Americans resist trusting God’s providence, God’s loving kindness. God’s providence is Jesus: his person and his powerful activity in and by his Spirit. Our need to be free agents makes us distrust grace, God’s life. Yet God in Jesus by their Spirit transform us that way and no other. By grace you have been saved through faith, St. Paul wrote the Ephesians, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.3

Such gifting by God is God’s way. Take Amos, a breeder of sheep. God transformed him to speak God’s word not the words of self-styled prophets who lolled at the court of the king: the Lord took me from following the flock, and…said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ What-ever resistance Amos felt he moved through it to allow himself to become God’s mouthpiece.

Amos illuminates today’s gospel. Jesus chose ordinary people as his mouthpieces, his ambassadors. Jesus chose them; they did not choose him.4 He knowingly chose fishermen, a tax-collector, a traitor, one called a fanatic—who left him alone at the end.5 By his Spirit they accomplished his mission and extended it to the ends of the earth.

When next we doubt ourselves and our role in Jesus’ mission we are wise to recall Amos and Jesus’ apostles. They were ordinary folk, talented and limited in their ways. Jesus transformed them into his ambassadors of his life, his salvation, his redemption, his glory, our inheritance.

How may we allow the Spirit of Jesus work through us as ambassadors of his salvation, his redemption, his glory, our inheritance? St. Ignatius of Loyola recommended this to someone busy and worried: “Do whatever you can, calmly and gently. Do not be anxious about the rest; leave it to God’s providence to take care of what [you] cannot provide…; for [God] wishes that our limitations and weak-ness should lean upon his strength and omnipotence and…trust that [God] in his goodness will make up for what is lacking in our imperfection and infirmity.”The most challenging part of his advice may be to act calmly and gently. Acting that way opens us to Jesus’ calm and gentleness: fruits of his Spirit.7

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Amos and the Twelve apostles to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for sending you as his ambassadors, ambassadors of his gospel.
  • Ask Jesus for this twin grace: a deeper trust in him that lets us share in his calm and his peace in all we do.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us so we may bless God before we ask for what we need—exactly what Jesus did as he lived our human life.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Romans 15:11.
  2. Acts 22.7-11; 1Corinthians 15.8-10; 2Corinthians 12.9; Ephesians 3.8-9.
  3. Ephesians 2.5, 8-9.
  4. John 15.16.
  5. Luke 6.13-16—Mark 14.50 and John 16.32.
  6. Letter 5,945 in his Letters and Instructions (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2006), pp. 607-608. Another translation here.
  7. Galatians 5.22.

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