Sunday, February 07, 2016

Sunday word, 07 Feb 16

Our Brush with God
Fifth Sunday of the Year C (07 Feb 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. to John Carroll Univ. students
In the gospels those with hard hearts, closed hearts considered Jesus dangerous. Others with open, supple hearts were attracted to Jesus. Of course, some in both groups changed: either accepting Jesus or leaving his company. Our relationships with Jesus are uneven. If any of us feels Jesus is not attractive at times, it may tell us more about ourselves than about Jesus: it might be that we are honest with ourselves as much as Jesus invites us to join him and his mission. Tonight’s scriptures offer us three examples.

The readings present us with people God called: Isaiah; and apostles Paul and Simon. The particulars differed; yet prophet and apostles shared this: they felt they had a brush with the Cause and Core of reality—God. Scripture echoes that being in the divine presence functions as a mirror for self: one honestly sees oneself.
  • Isaiah: I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen...the Lord of hosts!
  • Paul: meeting the risen Lord kept him honest as he brought the gospel to others: I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle…but the grace of God…is with me.
  • Peter: Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.
A closer look at Simon Peter helps us appreciate both his self-honest moment and his readiness to follow Jesus who invited him.  A closer look also offers us deeper knowledge of ourselves and of our vocations.

Astonishment at the catch of fish Simon and his colleagues made at Jesus’ invitation certainly gets our attention. It caught Simon’s attention, but it was not first to catch his attention. Earlier Jesus had toured Galilee teaching and healing. Jesus even taught from Simon’s boat.1 Simon knew many were impressed by Jesus: those who heard Jesus teach with authority2; and others who heard the widespread news that Jesus healed.3 When we meet Simon in Luke’s gospel, Jesus entered his house. He and others had spoken to Jesus about his mother-in-law and her fever. Jesus healed her and the many brought to Jesus there.4 

Hearing about, hearing firsthand then seeing Jesus heal his mother-in-law was a process for Simon: it let him know Jesus ever better. The great catch of fish deepened Simon’s knowledge of Jesus. The miraculous catch of fish was personal: it was Simon’s brush with the divine; also it was the event in which Jesus chose to call him. As with Isaiah and St. Paul, honesty about one’s limitations and unworthiness was no symptom of low self-esteem. Their honesty before God God transformed into confident commitment.
  • Isaiah said, Send me!
  • Paul preached in difficulties of every sort.
  • Simon and his partners left everything and followed Jesus.

Is their a lesson for us in this? Here’s one: Accepting ourselves as we are is not just honesty. Accepting ourselves as we are each moment keeps our hearts supple and open. Accepting ourselves—trying to see ourselves as Jesus sees us—helps us be alert as we meet Jesus. Jesus always invites us to deeper friendship with him; he stands by us in all things. Keeping close to Jesus is our brush with God. It happens not only in a lofty or out-of-body way or even a heroic way. Simon’s experience reminds us we meet God in wild, wet, windswept ways as well as in calm, quiet and our dark and difficult times. Accepting ourselves—trying to see ourselves as Jesus sees us—is a gift: it strengthens us to welcome ourselves, others and God. Our triune God desires us to grow into our true selves.

Here’s a way to stay close to Jesus.
  • Pause 15 minutes and rest in our triune God: free yourself of your cares and concerns as best you can.
  • Ask Simon Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus from your heart. Praise him for dying and rising for you; be alert to what Jesus awakens in you. Savor it.
  • If the shadow of your unworthiness darkens, do not fear. Take heart, and ask Jesus for grace to respond to him inviting you as you are into the light of his life and love.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Notice each word. Jesus gave us his prayer to stay near him and to grow more strong and more focused and honest as his disciples. Jesus always empowers those he invites to join his mission.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Luke 5.3.
  2. Luke 4.31-32.
  3. Luke 4.37.
  4. Luke 4.38-42.

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