Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday word, 04 Dec 16

Second Advent Sunday A (04 Dec 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living Christian Joy
Advent alerts us and helps us focus on the new thing God is doing1: God’s desire, God’s dream for each and all humans, for human societies, for all created things and the entire universe—to create them anew each moment. Advent points our way to live more in sync with the desire of God’s heart. A few pointers are: Jesus’ urging to stay awake…be prepared2; to live peaceably3; and to live God’s joy given us.4

Living God’s joy is our Christian vocation. Pope Francis called it “the sign of a Christian.” It measures our health he has repeated: “A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. …Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions.”5 How much living has us cope with pain and tribulations; and so many elsewhere in the world face persecutions!  Christian joy in the face of these and anyone’s weaknesses signals that Christian joy is a gift received, nothing you and I manufacture for ourselves. Christian joy is given us by our risen Lord.

St. Paul recognized that and urged, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another. Translation into our languages misses that St. Paul spoke friendship language. Harmony was the ancient world’s index of friendship: a friend is another self; friends share all things in common; friends are of one soul. Even the word we translate as encouragement sounded cheering, supporting influence—what friends do for one another.

Advent reminds us God is in this intimate harmony with humans: we name the mystery of God’s undying friendship, Incarnation. Jesus is God-with-us in our flesh and blood, our weaknesses and our strengths. Advent welcomes all Christians to renew and deepen our friendship with God. Friendship with God frees and empowers us to live in harmony with others; to welcome one another…as Christ welcomed [us], for the glory of God.

Friendship with God is God’s gift. We may not think John the Baptizer spoke friendship language when he called Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers. He did not refuse them a chance to befriend God. He demanded they produce good fruit as evidence of [their] repentance…and…not presume they did not need to repent because they had an inside track with Abraham, whom they loved to call their father. An exclusive friendship with Abraham blinded some to God’s desire to enlarge Abraham’s people: God can raise up children to Abraham from…stones.

God did: lepers, sinners, tax-collectors, self-centred people, Gentiles—all had hardened hearts for various reasons. In the Baptizer’s preaching they felt God inviting and softening their hearts, and they responded. To repent is to disarm totally—beat…swords into plowshares, to use Prophet Isaiah’s image. To disarm and let God in returns us to friendship with God.

Deepening our friendship with God is ongoing conversion: growing more sensitive to God’s heart; welcoming God supporting, cheering us. Christ Jesus embodied divine friendship. He helps us embody it and produce good fruit of peace and joyful endurance. Those good fruits especially keep us faithful to God-with-us and extend God’s friendship to others.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God longing for you with love.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for being born human for you to save us for his gospel and friendship with God.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome his joy and to live his faithful endurance as yours.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us that all we enjoy is gift and that Jesus modeled for us a way of living that is at once human and divine.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Isaiah 43.19; 2Corinthians 5.17, Revelation 21.5.
  2. Matthew 24:42, 44; also Romans 13.11.
  3. Isaiah 2.4 and Romans 13.13.
  4. Psalm 122 and its refrain: this and the scriptures above were announced on the 1st Sunday of Advent.
  5. One of his daily homilies. Joy pervades his witness.

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