Sunday, January 03, 2016

Epiphany word, 03 Jan 16

Models for Retreat
 Solemnity of the Epiphany C (03 Jan 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. to open an 8-day retreat
We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. I suggest the magi who spoke those words are models for us. First a word to put them in their cultural context, then how they can be models. In Middle East cultures hon-or was central. If people were seen to be honorable, others gave them honor. Honor was public. From their side the magi tell an honor-story; it hinges on light.

A heavenly light, available to any with vision, had set the magi on their journey to honor the newborn king of Judea. Nothing is more public than a light of heaven. To heavenly light, available to any with vision, the magi looked with longing hearts then responded.

Scripture describes different lights: some were great1; some burned hot as the sun or lit the night as the moon; lamps brightened houses2; others flashed with brilliance and blinded.3 Lights as those may jar us. The heavenly light the magi beheld beckoned. The light that beckoned them models the light of retreat we call grace. Grace is the life of our triune God who accompanies us always and beckons us, encourages and recreates us.

In the familiar Epiphany story the magi were open to God drawing them by a star. They are the perfect foil to the frightened and raging King Herod. Fear, anger and other motions in us that imbalance us and disturb our peace are worth recognizing as retreat opens. Ask Jesus to restore your peace of soul with his peace so you can open yourself to what Jesus longs to show you and give you these days. Ask the magi, too, to remain open on your journey. They are good friends on retreat.

Recall they followed a star. Starlight is not brilliant or blinding, jarring, uninviting or even as dramatic as other lights. Yet starlight has its clarity and mild excitement. Starlight is an apt metaphor for grace. Grace offers us clarity: clarity about self; about Jesus present to us, loving, protecting and guiding us. Jesus alive for us refashions those who open themselves to him. Grace often surprises us—that’s its mild excitement. Grace can register as wild excitement; be cautious, though. The Enemy of our human nature, St. Ignatius of Loyola’s favored expression for the Tempter, disrupts us with counterfeits that are not God’s life. Our directors help us notice the difference; they do that without getting in the way of our retreats and of Jesus’ Spirit.

Enjoy your retreats! You journey in the company of the magi and countless other friends of Jesus—and with Jesus, his Father and Holy Spirit. Give to Jesus whatever distracts you and disturbs you. Welcome what Jesus longs to offer you so you may draw closer to him and share more of his life. Welcome Jesus to honor you as he desires. God bless your retreats!

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Isaiah 9.1.
  2. Matthew 5.15.
  3. Acts 22.6 & 22.11.


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