Sunday, April 02, 2017

Sunday word, 02 Apr 17

Lenten Sunday5 A (02 Apr 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Fourth Gospel presents Jesus working signs. They are seven miraculous moments: water made wine; curing a nobleman’s son; healing a paralyzed man; feeding 5000; walking on water; opening the eyes of one born blind; raising Lazarus from the dead. Lenten gospels proclaim four of them.1 We heard Jesus’ final sign before he became what we may call the eighth sign: dying on the cross and rising from the tomb.

Jesus performed his first sign at the wedding at Cana with a natural element for human pleasure. He fed thousands with bread and fish after they had listened to him all day in a lonely place. Immediately after that he walked on water to his disciples; to them he said for the first time, I am: he identified himself with the name God’s had told to Moses.2 His other signs involved healing people from infirmities and death.

Jesus revealed himself with these signs. They progressed from human pleasure to human healing. Raising Lazarus from the dead was the ultimate human healing. We name it resuscitation, another chance to live. Like Lazarus none of us will escape human death. As Jesus’ signs progressed in their healing power, so did the envy3 of the religious authorities toward Jesus.

Envy progresses, too: from jealous scrutiny, to anger, to hatred, to desire to kill whom one envies. The desire to kill, we know, people act out too often. The Fourth Gospel indicated from its start that the authorities of his people refused to know Jesus for who he was and rejected him.4 As Jesus worked one sign after another, the hostility of his opponents progressed: first they picked up stones to throw at Jesus; after raising Lazarus they schemed together to put Jesus to death.5 

This progress of the Fourth Gospel presents us with one of Lent’s several examinations of conscience: in what ways do I refuse Jesus? We have our ways. Some may isolate Jesus so he does not involve every choice, every action. Others may want proof Jesus lives now rather than a relationship with Jesus. Even we who are in relationship with Jesus often prefer to escape his desire to heal and revivify our entire selves. Jesus desires for us what he desired for his first disciples: that we might believe.

In the NT to believe has its progression: from acknowledging; to having mental persuasion; to entrusting oneself, placing oneself in the power of another. This final progression is Christian belief; it is relationship, giving ourselves to another. To commit ourselves to another causes us to hesitate. We fear losing our selves and losing our freedom. To be in relationship with Jesus lets us enjoy true freedom. His gift of true freedom releases us to be ourselves; to live in new ways. Lent seeks to help us progress in our relationships with Jesus; to discover our true selves; and to live what we have discovered?

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Lazarus to present you to Jesus.
  • Speak with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank Jesus for enlivening us with his Holy Spirit.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to move through what keeps any of us from entrusting ourselves to him and his gracious care.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, lead us not into temptation on our lips, are not restricted to wrong actions. They beg the grace to entrust ourselves more and more to the One who saved us by his dying and rising and frees us to be our true selves.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Fourth Week: Sunday, opening the eyes of one born blind; Monday, curing of the nobleman’s son; Tuesday, healing the paralyzed man; Fifth Week: Sunday, raising Lazarus from the dead.
  2. Exodus 3.14. Jesus first used the title in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well.
  3. Matthew, Mark and Luke (of a disciple) used the word.
  4. John 1.10-11.
  5. John 8.59 (of which his disciples were aware); 11.53.

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