Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday word, 12 Feb 17

Sixth Sunday of the Year A (12 Feb 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day directed retreat
Getting to the Heart
Recall riding in car with a friend and enjoying each other’s company. We take turns chatting. At an unplanned moment both of us fall silent. We are fine with the silence, so fine that neither of us feels any need to break it or wants to. Familiar, no? It is one felt-knowledge of solitude: being with another undisturbed, at peace, and for some moments at least, we desire to maintain that peaceful solitude.

That inner movement of enjoying another’s company hints at retreat solitude—coming to rest in God. That grace is available to each of us; we are experiencing it. We have experienced other movements, too, and we will. Retreat is filled with movements of every sort. Very real interior movements fill our living day to day. St. Paul and his contemporaries comfortably named interior movements spirits. By whatever name they are constant: because they are St. Paul encourages us to sift them and hold on to the good ones, those of God.1

Holding on and living from interior movements of God, in sync with God’s heart spills beyond us to others. When we live from interior movements in sync with God’s heart we are God’s presence where we are. We need help to sift those movements, hold them gently and live from them. Jesus personally helps by modelling for us how to be God’s presence.

One shape his modelling took was this: people noticed Jesus’ deeds and words were in sync. He was authentic; why so many came to him. They heard him: I have come not to abolish [God’s ways or the prophets] but to fulfill; they desired to pattern their living more in sync with God. How did Jesus come to fulfill and accomplish God’s ways? Jesus revealed it: he showed the true, full meaning of God’s desire for humans in daily living.

In matters of harming another and violating someone’s trust, Jesus urged that our interior dispositions match our outward action. If they mismatch—I seethe inside with envy over you, yet always speak honeyed words to you—if they mismatch I will remain soul-sick, unable to accept God’s healing love.

Regarding the prohibitions Jesus knew around oath-taking and divorce, he urged: Cling to God’s desire, don’t distort it. In our 21st-Century endeavours we are wise to fix our hearts on God’s heart and be slow to justify ourselves or our actions or to bow to the court of human opinion.

In all human relationships Jesus demanded exceeding the norms for healthy, life-giving interaction. I don’t hide behind one norm so I may deprive others of  respect, honour, care, love they rightly enjoy. Do unto others. . . is not merely the Golden Norm; it’s golden because after urging it Jesus added, This is God’s ways and the prophets!2

Interior movements and dispositions, outward action are ever in dialogue. Jesus let his relationship with God anchor him in that dialogue. Jesus sifted interior movements. Gently holding those of God—the genuine movements—helped Jesus shape himself and his actions to be in sync with God’s heart.

What movements have we been noticing? Keep bringing them to prayer; talk to God about them. Bring them into the light of our conversations with our retreat directors. Honour all interior motions: even difficult interior motions invite our courage and hope: courage to know them for what they are; and confident God’s life is near, longing to dawn in our hearts. Desire it! Ask God that God’s life keep shaping us as friends and companions of Jesus.


Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. 1Thessalonians 5.21; also 1John 4.1.
  2. Matthew 7.12.
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