Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday word, 30 Aug 15

Not Always Easy
Twenty-second Sunday of the Year B (30 Aug 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We resume hearing Mark’s gospel on the 12 Sundays left in this liturgical year. We may remind ourselves of his motive for writing it: Mark wrote for people like us, people who had welcomed the mystery, the secret of God’s kingdom as gift, grace, new life. Mark sought to help them keep it fresh and help them appreciate it as God’s saving work.

Much of scripture does the same. It motivates us not to conquer with words but to convert our hearts, then those who see what we do. This is at once Jewish as it is Christian. We heard from the Book of Deuteronomy: what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? The words echo covenant life with God: so close. Covenant living had practical results: to draw people and keep them close to God; and to have that effect on others. Being so close is heart language, relationship language—close to God and others as God is close to us.

Relationship with God—entering it or not; deepening it or neglecting it; making room for it or refusing it; living it or paying lip-service to God: relationship with God involves our motives. The word is apt because a quality of a motive is a reason to do something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.

Our hearts are the seat of our motives. Jesus read the hearts of others. That is why Jesus took to task the Pharisees and some of the experts in their law: not be-cause they failed to observe many practical aspects of it but because their hearts were not in it. Their motives put themselves first, not God nor others. Their self-centered motives also closed them to God’s ongoing invitation and their ongoing transformation.

In Jesus’ words their self-centered motives moved their hearts...far from God. To use the words of James, the Pharisees were unable to humbly welcome God’s saving invitation. The result: others saw the Pharisees carefully observe God’s commandment, but the motives of the Pharisees disregard[ed] God’s commandment.

Today’s gospel alerts us that motives may disfigure our intentions; motives may distance our hearts...from God; motives may make us less open and receptive to God longingly inviting us to share God’s life for ever. To know our motives demands diligent thought and effort. How diligent? To paraphrase St. Augustine, The hairs of one’s head are more easily numbered than are the motives of one’s heart.1

To discern our motives is a large part of being human. Stop discerning our motives and we fool ourselves: we think we observe God’s commandment to love as God loves but we may disregard it. Even worse we close our hearts and minds to God’s invitation to share God’s life for ever. For ever begins now.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God creating you and inviting you to share divine life forever.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank Jesus for inviting you to join him and to make him better known by how you live.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to know yourself better and to recognize motives that keep you distant from him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us because praying it often shapes us to do his word, rather than to hear it and quickly disregard it.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. See Confessions Book 4.14.22.

No comments: