Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday word, 13 Sep 15

Faith Reshapes Us
Twenty-fourth Sunday of the Year B (13 Sep 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We will continue to hear the Letter of James on Sundays this month. In it James addressed attitudes and behaviors that faith reshapes. Several attitudes and behaviors that concerned James are modern. Reshaping them as well as not caving in to them heeds Jesus’ call to us: deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and follow Jesus. First, James’ teaching about faith.

James taught faith included more than belief. Faith responds actively to God’s work in Jesus by Holy Spirit. James pressed home that faith responding to the ongoing work of our triune God includes:
  • care of the defenseless and oppressed;1
  • rejecting discrimination in favor of mercy;2
  • limiting unchecked pursuits of pleasure and things— unchecked pursuits cause conflicts and wars;3
  • faith lets Christians be in the world but not enmeshed by its attitudes;4
  • people living faith do not oppress workers;5 and
  • faith communities remember the ill and suffering.6
Today James reminded us that to clothe and feed others belong to Christians’ faith-response.

Such concrete faith-responses let reasonable people notice that humans depend on others; sometimes more, sometimes less, but we are interdependent. That we live at all means we depend on God. God desires we live not for ourselves but as a kind of first fruits7 of a new creation. By his rising from death Jesus is the first fruits of God’s new creation.8 As Messiah Jesus invites us to his new life and modeled it for us.

When they acknowledged him as Messiah Jesus’ disciples publicly transferred their loyalties to him and to each other. They reaffirmed it when they acknowledged him as crucified Messiah—expected by no one.

Jesus did not give his disciples a test that day. When they acknowledged him as Messiah Jesus’ disciples affirmed for him his authority to invite to new life, model it and announce God’s desires. Jesus included all who follow him as doing his work: Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.9

My brother and sister and mother indicate an intimate group. Group was and is central in Middle-eastern life. Any who heard Jesus say those who joined him and advanced God’s desires are my brother and sister and mother heard an invitation to join a new family-group. To do that denied self, how one had been known in the world. The flip side of denying self was joining Jesus’ new group and gaining a new sense of self, a new identity. It was also a risk: one’s cross—to stay with Jesus’ words—but not without promise.

Jesus invites us to his promised new life, a new self, our true identity. We Western folk usually don’t hear our true identity in his call to deny oneself and take up one’s cross. We usually do not hear it as an invitation to a new group; we do hear a call to reform our lives. Yet to live our faith, to respond to God saving us by following Jesus with our deeds, reshapes us each day! One gift is this: to follow Jesus means living as his disciple is not all on me: Jesus accompanies us and graces each of us to stay close to him. When we decide to go it alone; when we choose differently from the way Jesus modeled living for others, Jesus welcomes us to rejoin him and follow afresh.

To hear Jesus and James afresh we may pray for this grace: to enjoy surer felt-knowledge that we live our faith in company with risen Messiah Jesus and one another—with all who follow Jesus. The world can know that Jesus, our God, is merciful, if we live his mercy one day at a time.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for giving us a share in his life so we may share it with others.
  • Ask Jesus to deepen your felt-knowledge that we live faith in company with risen Messiah Jesus, one another and all who follow Jesus.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to heal how we know ourselves and freely live the way of Jesus for others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. James 1.27.
  2. James 2.11ff.
  3. James 1.9-11; 3.18-4.3.
  4. James 4.13ff.
  5. James 5.1ff.
  6. James 5.13ff.
  7. James 1.18.
  8. Mark 3.35.

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