Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday word, 20 Sep 15

God’s Logic
Twenty-fifth Sunday of the Year B (20 Sep 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Sunday lectionary offers three readings at mass. You know their logic: the gospel fulfills the first reading from the Hebrew scriptures; the second, New Testament reading is proclaimed in a continuous fashion from its opening to its close. Those who shaped the lectionary intentionally related the first and third readings. Now and again the second, New Testament reading shines a light on the gospel as today. Let’s see how.

The gospels paint a portrait of the life of Jesus and some of his activity during his ministry in Palestine. Places are important. Jesus and his disciples began [another] journey through Galilee. Earlier in Galilee it did not go well between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees.1 His disciples knew that. Again in Galilee Jesus spoke of his passion to come. Was being in that place unfriendly to Jesus the reason his disciples were afraid? Whatever the reason they did not face their fears.

Facing our fears is an image. We know we do not see fear; rather, we feel fear’s effects on us. When we confront fear we go within ourselves: confronting fear is personal interior work. Often we prefer not to confront fear—it is not helpful, but it is typical. The disciples reacted typically. They fled their fear by discussing among themselves…who was the greatest.

God does not value greatness as humans do. Jesus embodied God’s logic; the disciples persisted in their human logic. In God’s reasoning a great person is open. Children demonstrate openness well. They demonstrate that openness includes wonder and awe at what is before them as well as welcoming others—children see people without grown-up filters. Unless we cultivate daily wonder, awe and openness to others, our learned, grown-up filters suffocate those childlike, godly virtues: wonder, awe and openness to others.

To consider greatness in a way different from God—the way Jesus revealed by his living, dying and rising—to consider greatness in a way different from God mires us in jealousy and selfish-ambition. That is the light James shines for us on the gospel.

Drive and desire that include others help us shape fulfilling lives. If my drive and desire exclude you, then my ambition is selfish. You and others become dangers to me: I envy what you have; your reputation; your gifts. Envy urges individuals and groups to get ahead; worse, to feel good at others’ misfortune—even intend it; still worse, to get others out of the way. Who of us hasn’t removed someone with our minds? Headlines too often report others enact their thoughts just as James knew his contemporaries killed, fought, and waged  war.

We may romanticize Jesus’ teaching about greatness; James stops us. His ancient teaching mirrors headlines that confront us daily: oppression forces people to flee west in numbers we have not seen for 70 years; gang violence in our hemisphere sends others fleeing north; while here guns used in envy and fear end lives prematurely.

What to do? Jesus demonstrated our response: not to allow worldly logic of greatness land us in the mire of jealousy and selfish-ambition. Our response does not solve the problems envy sows. Our response changes our dispositions, our character. Changed character paves the way toward solutions. The disciples demonstrated the change is possible. We change when we cooperate with grace, the life and virtues offered us each day by our triune God. To cooperate with grace where we live, work, learn and play has effects that reach beyond us—reaching farther than we think.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples who allowed themselves to be changed by grace to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for modeling how to be in the world and for  his Spirit who lets us pattern our lives on his.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to enjoy healthy, balanced drive and purpose full of wonder at creation and welcome toward all. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us live each day as he lived: deeply aware our Creator gives all we need and more; and to help us love others as we long to be loved.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. The scribes first appear in Mark 2.6, the Pharisees in 2.24 as Jesus preached and healed in Galilee at the beginning of his ministry.

No comments: