Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday word, 23 Oct 16

Thirtieth Sunday of the Year C (23 Oct 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. during 40-day Institute, Guelph, Ontario
…the Lord will rescue...and bring me safe...
...those words from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy moved me to wonder if I could join St. Paul in his conviction. Do I believe the Lord will rescue and bring me safe to enjoy God’s life? “Believe” is more than a mental nod to our triune God’s desire to save us. Christian believing welcomes and inhabits God’s desire to save us. This welcoming and inhabiting may register as focus—I let my waking thoughts return often to what God is doing for me; they may activate personal memories of being saved that I cannot explain—I savor saving memories more than search to understand them.

To live convinced God preserves us every moment notices that saving is God’s attitude, stance and disposition toward us and all creation. God’s heart becomes our attitude, our stance, our disposition. We are in God’s presence, confident God accompanies us in everything, inviting us to a more intimate relationship. God, creating and blessing us each moment, calms and centers us amid life’s chaotic storms. Our graced poise may register as feeling accompanied in doubt and dismay, clothed in joy, wrapped in relief—to name a few.

To approach this mystery head-on is not easy. Jesus helped with a parable. His familiar parable illuminates God’s heart and our hearts. Its characters open and deepen our perceptions of God saving us. Each had a different disposition. One of them truly welcomed and inhabited God’s desire to rescue and save. The other approached God differently.

The Pharisee was convinced he was not like the rest of people; humanity was a vicious lot: greedy, dishonest and adulterous. We know from our experience the Pharisee was mistaken. Who of us hasn’t felt greedy, dishonest or adulterous? We may have restrained ourselves from acting out those and other trespasses yet all of us fight temptations; and we give in to some. One’s virtues coexist with other human qualities. Blind to that the Pharisee disdained others: I am not like the rest of humanity.

He measured his difference from humanity by distinct practices of his class. Tithing was encouraged and practiced, but Pharisees were scrupulous not to omit it. Nor was anyone obliged to fast twice weekly. It was a distinct practice of Pharisees. The Pharisee’s contempt for others let him claim he surpassed others. He made himself the norm of religious practice. He told God—as if God did not know!

The tax-agent made no claims about himself. Nor did he give God a speech; he prayed, O God, be merciful to me a sinner. He was clear about that alone. He was honest. His attitude, his disposition, clearly differed from the Pharisee, who spoke [his] prayer to himself: Jesus uttered no throw-away phrases. The Pharisee had no need for God: his pious efforts—not God—were his salvation. He also had an eye on the tax-agent: not only am I not like the rest of humanity I’m not even like this tax collector. Giving God a speech while looking over his shoulder at whomever was in the temple: that’s talent! It isn’t prayer. The tax-agent did not presume to tell God anything; he only implored God’s mercy.

Jesus presents his parable to us at a fitting moment during our retreats. Do we continue to beg for the grace of each spiritual exercise? Do we catch ourselves forging ahead on our efforts alone? Is our praying more important to us than its fruits? By his parable Jesus taught a fruit of prayer: sincere prayer opens onto Jesus’ way of being humble: alert; active; and aware God accompanies us each moment so we may enjoy God’s life now and freely share it.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the tax-agent to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for being our God’s presence in our flesh and blood.
  • Ask Jesus for help to be his disciple who is more alert, active and aware of Jesus saving you and inviting you to be his heart, hands, head and feet as you journey through life.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, forgive we forgive others on our lips, shape us to live the compassion we ask Jesus to show us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


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