Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sunday word, 06 Dec 15

Welcoming God’s Future
First Advent Sunday C (29 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The tragic events of this week alert us to something sad and all too common: some in the world want to produce their brand of the future and will inflict pain and even take life to achieve their goals. Advent reminds us we have a future; it lay before us and awaits us. An insightful Jesuit forty years ago noted that the people of Advent name our future God.1 

Scripture reminds us that naming God our future is no mental trick or pious gimmick. God acts for us. The Psalmist put it well: The Lord has done great things for us! Prophet Baruch echoed that to those taken from their homes, land and temple. To people who felt they had no future Baruch declared, God will show all the earth your splendor…for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company!

Because God is our future we Advent people do not have to make the future. Indeed, our God visits us and acts for our good in daily experience—even difficult experiences cannot prevent God from gracing us. Most of all, Jesus is the pinnacle of God’s visitation; by the power of Holy Spirit Jesus continually abides with us.

Prophets helped people prepare for the future, for God. Isaiah called God’s future the way. John the Baptizer echoed Isaiah: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths! Repeated footfalls of humans and animals make paths. Yet the prophet’s image is more like a road foreman calling to a gang of workers. Many of our walking paths and roadways are paved. Paving is also a repeated action of flattening.

Advent people welcome God’s future by repeatedly enacting gospel values, values Jesus modeled for us. Enacting gospel values begins with a change of heart. The contours of a religious change of heart include an openness to God; transformation of behavior; and a reform of life. A word about each.

Openness to God is a desire for God. It is a felt need for God who gives me life each moment. God does not give me any life; God gives me my life; God gives you your lives; God gives all people their true selves. Being open to God means we find in God our true selves.

The human condition—what scripture names the way of the world—the human condition blurs our vision of ourselves and others. Because our vision of ourselves and others is blurred, we choose to behave in ways that do not depend on God’s gracious regard for us and others. Not to see our true selves leads us to choose to act in ways that we repeat again and again. When we change our hearts’ focus and dependency from the way of the world toward the way of God’s light, vision, mercy and justice we transform how we are in the world and how we act in it.

God’s light, vision, mercy and justice is God’s salvation. We do not save ourselves by effort or by the things we heap up. Being convinced that God saves us frees us to reshape and restyle how we live. Depending on God leads us to love others by our actions; to be confident partners of Jesus’ gospel and concerned partners with others and with our earth. Depending on God, falling into God as our future, enjoying a personal relationship with Jesus as well as our partnership as members of his body: these allow us to discover our true selves and to mirror for our world the true future: the salvation God desires for everyone.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God longing for you with love.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for being born human for you to save us for his gospel and life with God. 
  • Ask Jesus for grace to focus on him and model your life on the values he modeled for us.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It reminds us that all we enjoy is gift and that Jesus modeled for us a way of living that is at once human and divine.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Jesuit Karl Rahner, “The Advent Person,” The Content of Faith: The Best of Karl Rahner’s Theological Writings, New York: Crossroad, 1993, p.617. Originally published as “Advent as Antidote to Utopia,” 1974.


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