Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday word, 11 Oct 15

Setting the Gospel Free
Twenty-eighth Sunday of the Year B (11 Oct 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Jesus moved about. He met many. Not all were chance meetings. Some sought Jesus. On his way with his disciples to Jerusalem and his cross, Jesus met a rich man who eagerly sought Jesus for advice about being saved. The man did not get what he expected. His disappointment prompted the disciples to ask Jesus, “Who can be saved?” As was his custom, Jesus made the occasion a lesson for his disciples—and us.

The question of the rich man, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” touched convictions about God. Jesus laid bare one conviction in his reply:“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” The conviction is that God is the source of all that is good. Jesus desired the rich man—and us—not confuse doing good with the Source of all that is good. God’s goodness exceeds ours. We do not have the corner on goodness; we even impress on others our real or artificial goodness. began his answer to—God, Jesus reminded the rich man—and us, is the source of goodness.

By doing whatever is good we ally ourselves with the God of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Miriam and Jesus. By doing whatever is good we put ourselves on God’s side; we don’t manipulate God to our sides. We place ourselves on God’s side when we live the commands God gave us to inherit God’s life. Jesus reminded that individuals are not saved; God saves a community, a people. In his reply to the rich man’s question Jesus rehearsed the commandments concerning humans in relationship with one another. You and I inherit God’s life by how we live with others!

That is a challenge as headlines these days prove. I think we get that like the rich man did. The rest of Jesus’ answer comes less easily: exchange treasure of earth for treasure of heaven. The matter is not simply one of having nothing; rather it is drawing closer and closer to the Source of goodness, life, love and generosity. When we absorb with heart and mind what flows from God—in daily practice of goodness, love and generosity—we follow Jesus; we become his disciples anew each day. Yet to follow Jesus, to be his disciples, does not make us good. Oh, that it were that easy; but it’s not. We contend with distractions and risks as we follow Jesus.

In practice possessions are risks to promoting life, goodness, love and generosity when possessions grip us and manage us. Jesus said we are to manage possessions not be managed by them. To the rich man Jesus put it this way: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” To follow Jesus, to be his disciples, does not make us good. Being disciples challenges us to join Jesus in a countercultural move: downward mobility not upward mobility, to use modern language for accepting the cross. This lesson to surrender wealth is a hard blessing for us. 

To surrender wealth does not mean to throw our wealth on the junk heap. Surrender of wealth by love, generosity, concern for others and care for them gradually discloses God’s power: all things, including our entering God’s realm of life, are possible with God!

Two verses, early and late in this gospel selection, are key. Read together they make sharing God’s life nothing short of miraculous; they tame human ambition instead of the gospel Jesus proclaimed. The verses give us access to God’s mercy toward us: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? ...For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God!”

Pray with those two verses. When we do and keep them together in mind and heart, they don’t suffocate the wonder of creation around us and of people in our lives. To pray with those verses, to keep them together in our minds and hearts helps us not overreach ourselves or substitute our ambition for God’s merciful power. Instead they help us release the gospel into our lives and the world and not tame it or try to fashion it to our liking.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God creating us and giving us creation to make a return of love to our God more easily.
  • Ask the disciples, who listened often to Jesus, to present you to him.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for his gospel, the good news of God’s mercy for us and everyone.
  • Ask him for grace to help you continue to be his disciple more in fact than in name.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It teaches us to show to others the mercy Jesus works in us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


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