Sunday, March 04, 2018

Sunday word, 04 Mar 18

Lent Sunday 3 (B) (04 Mar 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
True Power
Last month at Loyola House the February 8-day retreat overlapped with Ash Wednesday. On Shrove Tuesday evening spiritual directors and retreatants gathered in chapel for Taizé prayer around the cross. That communal prayer originated in a place in France of the same name. The prayer has a simple shape: the cross rests above the floor before the altar. Candles glimmer on the altar and around the cross; the cross is the heart of the prayer time. Those gathered chant psalms and words inspired by them; listen to scripture; and voice intercessions. Generous silences punctuate the evening and help us focus on the divine love our Messiah’s cross manifests.

The heart and soul of Taizé prayer welcomes people to give Jesus our burdens and allow Jesus to receive them. I find that powerful and most welcome. In the moment I am unaware how much I shoulder in life. During the hour I lost myself as well as my burdens and my sense of time; nor was I aware of others around me. I was aware of Jesus present to me and receiving me and anything I offered. At the gentle close I left with an echo of Jesus’ words: where two or three are gathered…in my name, there am I in the midst of them.1

The presence of Jesus I had not manufactured. It was his self-gift. The gift of his presence also broke the hold historical and chronological time has on me—I lost the sense of time. I wager many of us are held in its grip, too.

Its hold shapes our perceptions: past or present; important or negligible; pertinent or insignificant to us. So with Jesus’ cross: to some it may be a relic of history or of a distant culture. For others a decoration, noble and holy though it may be. Taizé prayer let me appreciate that Jesus’ cross is no decoration. It is a lightening rod: it absorbed me and my burdens; by it Jesus loves us and creates us anew. Truly his cross is power!

That was St. Paul’s gospel: we proclaim Christ crucified…Christ the power of God & the wisdom of God; he was a stumbling block to Jews because they reasoned from scripture. It is written: Cursed is anyone whose corpse hangs on tree.2 Jewish believers had to reinterpret scripture according to their experience of risen Jesus: they had experienced his power; he was no failed messiah.

Perhaps we identify more with the Greeks: for them Paul’s gospel was folly not good news. Perhaps like them we wonder, Who would give their lives that way? Yet we give our lives all the time. We give our lives to others in varying degrees. Those moments see us extend selfless love, or at least other-centered, love. At times we wonder how we do it. Although we freely choose to give ourselves more than our power propels us. St. Paul put it this way: I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.3 

Jesus is our life: that is true power! True power often registers quietly. Strength; influence; excellence of character; virtue; making significant choices; doing significant actions; moving forward while being misunderstood, ignored or insulted: each is an expression of power.

How might we live true power with Jesus’ cross?This week I learned of a young man who became Catholic 8 years ago. He wears a crucifix for three reasons: remembering; inspiration; accountability. Each is an expression of true power. He wears a crucifix, he wrote, “to remember what true love looks like; to inspire me to take up my cross daily; [so those who see it] will hold me accountable as a christian.”4

Naming ways we live Jesus’ cross is a great Lenten exercise. I re-commend it to you. Consider doing this exercise each day for 15 minutes this week.
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask St. Paul to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for us; savor Jesus’ selfless love.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to appreciate better his cross as his power that recreates us and restores us in his image. Ask that Jesus enlighten us to know better our share now in his power.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Give us our daily bread not only begs our triune God to give us what we truly need; it also begs God to nourish us with true power: we may need it more than we know.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Matthew 18.20.
  2. Deuteronomy 21.23, quoted in Galatians 3.13.
  3. Galatians 2.19-20.
  4. Ricky Jones posted “Why I wear a crucifix.”


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