Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday word, 13 Dec 15

Present and Future
Third Advent Sunday C (13 Dec 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. 
t. Paul was in prison when he wrote to his beloved Philippians. He was imprisoned because he publicly proclaimed Jesus’ good news and established it in many places.1 In his bold undertaking St. Paul spoke with authority, God’s authority that God’s Spirit gave Paul. Public messengers enjoyed authority given from the emperor and his delegates. That authority was crucial when their messages included calls to action. Announcing Jesus’ gospel included calls to action; and announcing the gospel landed Paul in prison.

As Paul began preaching to the Philippians he was persecuted in their city and thrown in prison.2 Some Philippians welcomed Paul and Jesus’ gospel; people with influence asked Paul to leave their city and not embarrass the Roman authority on which their city thrived. The few Christians stood by Paul at risk to themselves. Doing so again was risky: they struggl[ed] together [with Paul] for the faith of the gospel3 as well as sent Paul money for his needs…more than once.4

Paul was well aware that their mutual suffering for the gospel brought shame to a poor and unpopular Christian commune—the first in Europe. Paul also knew in his bones something more powerful as he sat in his prison cell from which he wrote his beloved Philippians: God was actively present for him and them. This was their real-life situation.

Knowing their situation opens our ears and helps us feel St. Paul’s words we heard moments ago: The Lord is near! Paul did call his friends to eagerly expect Jesus’ glorious return. He encouraged them to ready themselves for it by letting their kindness… be known to all—not just Paul. Advent reminds us to live the same way. St. Paul also encouraged his friends for the present: the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Paul sat in his cell and a sentence of death hovered. Guards stood at the doors of criminals dangerous to the empire.

Despite the military guard Paul knew he enjoyed another, more powerful guard—God’s peace. Paul knew God’s peace overtopped every power, every distraction, every temptation not to preach the gospel. To his friends in Philippi who struggl[ed] together [with Paul] for the faith of the gospel Paul blessed them with God’s peace. Because we also struggle together for the faith of the gospel it helps to know his words that we hear often are no bland blessing; they are power for us, too.

The Lord is near! He will return in glory; we know not when. Our Lord’s birthday is nearer now than when we began Advent. Even nearer to us—nearer than our every breath—our Messiah Jesus guards us with his peace. It was his gift to his disciples before he died.5 It was his first gift when he rose from the dead.6 Jesus shares his peace with us, and we with each other at every eucharist. We leave mass with Jesus’ peace guarding us with power to be his confident witnesses in all we do and say.

What shall we do? What shall we say? John the Baptizer gives us good advice: to live modestly; to share with whoever needs; to act honestly; and to be grateful for all we enjoy. In these ways we prepare ourselves better to celebrate the feast of our Lord’s Nativity and spread his peace that guards us always.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God embracing you with their peace.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for showering his peace on you in word, sacrament and in other graced ways.
  • Ask Jesus to help you welcome his peace: to let it guard, protect and save you.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It allows us to grow more grateful and to live the peace for which we long.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Philippians 1.7.
  2. 1Thessalonians 2.2; Acts 16.16-24.
  3. Philippians 1.27-29.
  4. Philippians 4.15-18.
  5. John 14.27.
  6. Luke 24.36; John 20.19, 21.


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