Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday word, 24 Jan 16

For Us and Beyond Us
Third Sunday of the Year C (24 Jan 2016)
Neh 8.2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Ps 19; 1Co 12. 12-30; Lk 1. 1-4; 4. 14-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The author of a novel I’m reading was absorbed with migration: fleeing home; finding home; making home. The plot revolves around a detective seeking someone in a land far away. As the detective’s plane begins to descend he realizes his destination “wasn’t a real place at all, but a question: are foreign countries merely not-home, or are they all that home is not?”1

His “question” interrupted my reading. I recalled far away places I’ve visited; that I wondered what it would be like to live in them not just visit; the ways they pulled me; and how home pulled me more.

Do not prophets act and speak because they are pulled beyond how things are to how things can be? Prophets in the Bible are pulled by no impersonal force; God chose and commissioned them to bring God’s people closer to God and in closer sync with God’s desires for humanity and creation. The reign of God is a new creation. The new creation is God present and alive in ways that familiar ways of acting and choosing often blur, warp, even defy.2 Jesus is the new creation; we are baptized into him; Jesus freely gives us access to God’s life and ways.3 Jesus’ freedom to give it shocked from the beginning.

We met Prophet Jesus again at the start of his mission of healing, teaching, lavishing God’s mercy on everyone. His people did not see things the same way. Can we blame them?

It is not easy to think beyond ourselves and our worries:
  • I want Jesus to forgive me and release me from my shame;
  • I want Jesus to liberate my relative from bondage to an addiction;
  • I want him to heal my friend and make whole a breaking relationship.

Jesus does love and care for me and my family and friends. Jesus loves and cares for every person. My worries and concerns can blind me to the loving care Jesus extends to all. That’s what happened in the synagogue in Nazareth that sabbath. Jesus told them his mission was for everyone, especially those oppressed and on life’s edges—including Gentiles.

His hearers’ attention exploded into anger: foreigners did not deserve to be in the orbit of God’s loving concern as did Jews! Jesus announced God’s loving concern. He knew God embraced everyone God creates. Jesus was too much for them.

Is Jesus too much for us? Does his compassion for everyone prevent us from welcoming his compassion for us? Do we reject his message that divine mercy extends beyond us? God’s people often rejected God’s prophets. When Jesus was an infant Holy Spirit announced through Simeon that Jesus would be no different—a sign who will be contradicted.4

This year’s Jubilee of Mercy invites us to gaze on Jesus as the face of God’s mercy.5 Divine mercy for us calls us to join Jesus and make his mission of mercy ours. The unfolding of Luke’s Gospel on Sundays this year allows us to see Jesus offer mercy and to see those who reject him as well as accept him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Fall into the mercy our triune God offers you.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for the infinite kindness he offers you each moment.
  • Ask Jesus for a twin grace: to welcome his kindness readily; and to extend it to everyone wherever we find ourselves.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, your will be done, remind us his Father desires each moment to care for us and everyone beyond us. Praying his words helps us join with that very desire and make it ours.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Amitav Ghosh, The Circle of Reason. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005, p. 269.
  2. Isaiah 43.19ff.
  3. 2Corinthians 5.17-18.
  4. Luke 2.34.
  5. The image is that of Pope Francis, when he announced the Jubilee of Mercy.

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