Friday, June 01, 2018

Daily word, 01 Jun 18

Memorial of St. Justin Martyr (01 Jun 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 8-day retreat
Lighter and More Fruitful
We are growing aware that more humans can travel more lightly on our planet. To travel more lightly does not mean will discard nothing; it does mean we can discard without trashing our planet. Not to trash our planet is humane living. Pope Francis has alerted the world that care for our common home1 acts justly toward creation, participates in God’s justice for creation.

Living in humane, just ways means less trash; yet even less trash has to be removed. Trash removal I take for granted except when it is not removed as scheduled. I wondered why I take trash removal for granted. To my surprise my wondering led me wandering into our scripture selections.

Trash removal, nail-polish remover, spot remover, even surgical removal: so many removers do not help me appreciate the image Jesus offered: “mountain remover.” Mountain stood for an insurmountable problem, an obstacle; “remover” for one who overcame it.

Sometimes we create our problems. We have our phrase for it: “They’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” To read our language into scripture is risky. Jesus spoke as a Jew; when his people used mountain they generally meant problems not of their making. The “mountain remover” was God: the one who creates and sustains everyone and everything.

We prefer God operate on our schedules; when God does not we try to manipulate God, to make God serve me rather than I serve God. That is an ancient danger; Jesus saw it in the unfruitful temple business which he cleared. Bad fruit and decaying fruit trees long were symbols of unjust activity and other spiritual decay. Mark recalled Jesus justified clearing the temple by citing prophets’ words. Mark also wrote for those who did not know the prophets as Jesus and his people did. So he framed Jesus’ temple-clearing with a tree with no figs; Jesus rejected it. Neither tree nor temple yielded fruit God desired. Those who do not bear fruit of living in concert with God reject God.

That truth is not our stark, dark verdict. The Letter of Peter named godly fruit and how to express it: gracious hospitality; service; shared stewardship of creation; preaching, too. Those fruits and others invite people into closer relationship with God.

Faith relies deeply on God as the “mountain remover” as well as creator and one’s personal companion. St. Justin sought a faithful and sure companion from his youth. After an elder told him about Jesus and his good news, Justin not only found the surety for which he longed, he introduced others to the faith and explained it to those who had nothing to do with it.

Justin would echo Jesus: Have faith in God! One fruit Jesus’ prayer won’t let us overlook is forgiveness; it is a key way we allow God to work through us to remove problems in our world that we cannot remove alone. To ask our planet for forgiveness is no new-age gimmick.2 Far from it: it renews and deepens our rela-tionship with our common home; forgiveness also makes our faith more fruitful.

  1. Francis used the phrase “common home” in his Laudato Si! It appeared first in its subtitle: Our Care for Our Common Home.
  2. Francis has recalled Israel’s sabbatical Jubilee years: how each was a “a complete rest for the land (cf. Lev 25:1-4)…celebrated as a year of general forgiveness…to ensure balance and fairness in their relationships with others and with the land on which they lived and worked” (71).
Wiki-image by Fruggo Dumpster CC BY 1.0

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