Sunday, September 06, 2015

Sunday word, 06 Sep 15

Keeping Close
Twenty-third Sunday of the Year B (06 Sep 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus called Twelve to shadow him, to learn him and his ways. The apostles deserve credit for transferring their loyalties to Jesus. Some did it by leaving self-owned businesses—the fishermen; others left different ways that profited them to gain more from Jesus. Jesus remained patient with each of them and all of them. The apostles were not quick to learn Jesus, to know him as the Messiah, the long awaited one.

The healing of a deaf man who…could not speak plainly was not the first miracle the apostles saw Jesus perform. Ordinary folk seemed more alert to who Jesus was: He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak. They knew they echoed Prophet Isaiah. On behalf of God Isaiah used that image and others we heard to keep alive hope among the captives in Babylon: all would sing joyfully at the restoration of Israel. At the time of Jesus the prophet’s image still sang. People longed for personal restoration and the restoration of Israel by the Messiah. They reckoned the age of the Messiah as the goal of history. If human restoration was happening as Jesus healed and did other miracles, was not the time of the Messiah upon them? Was not Jesus the long-awaited Messiah?

The apostles did not have instant clarity about Jesus as others had. They would grasp Jesus’ true identity; it was not a firm grasp at first. That their grasp of Jesus’ identity would prove slippery; that it eluded those Jesus chose offers us hope. We don’t enjoy the company of Jesus as the apostles did—the way we are with one another; nor do we witness miracles that accompanied Jesus announcing the reign of God. Yet we are not alone; we do enjoy Jesus’ life in us by the power of his Spirit. Jesus continues to breathe his Spirit in everyone baptized into him and his dying and rising.

How do I access1 his power for my life? I hear someone ask. We have already: Jesus’ life flows through us each time we give food to the hungry; Jesus’ life flows through us each time we help another carry life’s burdens; Jesus’ life flows through us each time we protect others; Jesus’ life flows through us each time we don’t let externals blind us to another’s humanity and personal value.

Jesus’ Spirit empowers us to do those and every Christian action. We received his Spirit at baptism; at confirmation his Spirit shaped us more like him; his eucharist sustains his Spirit in us. Jesus gives us his Spirit not as an honor or as private gift. Jesus gives his Spirit to us to empower us to pattern our lives on Jesus’ life: Jesus lived for others as much as with others.

When our faith in Jesus and his Spirit of power within us fades; when our faith in Jesus and his Spirit of power within us seems to have vanished, we do well to recall the apostles. Their faith in Jesus grew in fits and starts though they walked with Jesus! Better than recalling them is to summon them as our faith-intercessors: they grappled with faith as we do each day. When the lamp of their faith was dim, Jesus never dismissed them; he kept close to them. Jesus keeps close to us. Jesus keeps close to us  even when we are unsure he is present with us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the apostles to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank Jesus for his Spirit, who is our power to join him and his mission to announce his good news by how we live.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to brighten, deepen and enliven our faith.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us because frequently praying it patterns our lives more after Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. “[Jesus calls us] to look beyond, to focus on the heart in order to see how much generosity everyone is capable of. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house where everyone is welcomed and no one is rejected.” Pope Francis, Lenten homily, original emphasis.

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