Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday word, 11 Feb 18

Sixth Sunday of the Year B (11 Feb 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
Two Similarities
The people of Israel experienced the divine presence personally encountered them. Their response to the Holy One inviting them touched all their living. To stay in touch with the encounter challenged later generations. Two similarities for us: personal encounter; and staying in touch. Retreat allows us to enjoy a personal encounter with our God. Our experiences may be quieter than what the people Israel knew; quiet does not mean less real. Connect-ing with our encounter with God on retreat when we’re home challenges: our usual routines can distract us from fostering our retreat experience and living from it. Those similarities—encounter and staying touch—may help us appreciate more the healed person of the gospel; and even share a healing fruit. Let’s revisit the gospel encounter.

Religious practice established by Moses shaped Israel’s response to serious skin discolouration and disfigurement that they named leprosy. Jesus encouraged the offering Moses prescribed. Jesus did what Moses could not do: he touched the person. His physical touch had more-than-physical effect. His touch embodied God’s desire for people and announced the good news of God: Jesus’ touch signalled our triune God’s desire to restore people to one another.

We may say the one healed of leprosy began a cascading effect of announcing God’s good news. Announcing God’s good news was a fruit of the healing. Can we enjoy that same healing fruit even though our personal encounters with Jesus differ? Can we join the cascade of those who announce God’s good news? I feel we can, esp. because the one healed of leprosy is not named: the person’s healing fruit is everyone’s gift. Unnamed in scripture is not overlooked; unnamed invites us to look and see ourselves. St. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians shows how to share the fruit we receive. First, the fruit.

The more-than-physical effect of the healing was electric. The one healed of leprosy was moved to announce what Jesus had done: to proclaim it freely and to spread the word. In the gospel’s native language the words have an urgent feel: proclaim captivated with authentic authority; and spread also meant to blaze abroad. We can be sure the one healed did not whisper a polite report; nor did others. Word of God’s good news alive in Jesus crackled across countryside, villages and towns; like a brushfire fanned by winds it could not be contained.

St.Paul could not contain himself after risen Jesus touched his life. St. Paul shared God’s good news in Jesus to build up people: I try to please everyone in everything…not seeking my advantage, but that of many so they may be saved. Please everyone may leave us wondering: so we don’t “wonder” to a dead-end it helps to remember St. Paul was not addicted to approval by others; nor was his self-esteem tied to fulfilling the needs of others. He was not addicted to approval by others; nor was Paul’s self-esteem tied to fulfilling the needs of others. His pleasing excited other’s emotions to attract them to Jesus and his cross and resurrection. His vocation was not his exclusive calling. Paul wrote others: Let each of us please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For Christ did not please himself.1

Announcing Jesus in deed and word has long been called evangelizing: literally bringing good news. Christian evangelizing freely announces Jesus—his person and his actions. The emotion attached to the word is energetic: spread the message like a fire blazing forth. That emotion may  distress us: I couldn’t do that; I don’t have it in me. The truth is more this: I don’t yet realize or accept or admit in my bones that Jesus has touched me. Feel Jesus’ touch and one enjoys relationship with Jesus, receives courageous energy to announce that Jesus touched me.

True evangelizing leads to relation, namely between the personal God revealed by Jesus and humans. Retreat is our opportunity to get more personal with our triune God so our lives after retreat can attract others to Jesus and his cross and resurrection. Life after retreat begins here with Jesus touching us. Savour Jesus’ touch here. Remain here; life after retreat will arrive soon enough.
  1. Romans 15.2-3.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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