Sunday, November 01, 2015

Sunday word, 01 Nov 15

Our Extraordinary Friends
All Saints (01 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.—St. Francis Chapel, JCU
Here at John Carroll you get acquainted with St. Ignatius of Loyola. He came to know that Jesus befriended him. He grew aware that Jesus did not call Ignatius to serve Jesus’ mission by himself but in company with others. St. Ignatius called his mission-companions “friends in the Lord.” His companions to the present day share the grace Ignatius enjoyed. Jesuits live this grace as we realize we are not Jesuits by ourselves but with other Jesuits and our colleagues in ministry. I recall this on All Saints Day because friendship may help us better appreciate saints.

Friendship is not new to our Catholic heritage. Jesus called his disciples friends.1 Earliest Christians absorbed this truth of their world: a friend is another self.2 A thousand years later St. Aelred echoed that and taught that friendship’s mutual giving and receiving mirrored the relationship of our triune God.3 Friendship allows us to abide in God and to “grow and develop as humans.”4 Friendship helps honor the communion of saints who were human like us.

Here is a way friendship helps us. St. Paul was convinced all Christians are called to be saints.5 The church recognizes saints so we may have models of Christian living. To live our call to be saints does not mean we need to mimic saintly deeds; to be saints is to expand our hearts. Honoring the saints is not so much [about] external acts, but rather [deepening] our love…for our…greater good and…of the whole Church.6 Saints are not distant models; they are our friends linking us with Jesus, welcoming us into their number and interceding for us.

With the saints we are among extraordinary friends. Tradition has named the communion of saints the church triumphant. They triumph because of Jesus’ triumph over death. Like Jesus they became a new creation sharing God’s life. They are the new Israel: in bible imagery its twelve tribes were the nucleus of the new people of God. By the way, their number in the Book of Revelation—144,000: 12 tribes x 12 x 1000—does not exclude us; it is a way to say that all who follow Jesus are a new creation.

The letter of John we heard deepens friendly affection: we are God’s children now. God in Jesus by Holy Spirit join us one to another—on earth; awaiting heaven; and enjoying heaven. St. John lets us be confident that whatever our destiny may be like, we do know that…we shall be like God, that is, share God’s life forever.

Because Jesus has chosen us as his friends we are by his word blessed—graced even when trials of life challenge us or lacerate our lives. The saints—known and unknown—are our many friends; their lives remind us that the communion of  “friends in the Lord” is diverse. No one way of living leads us to enjoy our destiny as God’s new creation. Expanding our hearts to deepen our loving care leads us. That allows Jesus’ Spirit to fashion us now more like him and one day recreate us fully as his friends who shall be like God and share God’s life forever.

What to do with this friendship-window on the saints? I suggest you give Jesus 15 minutes each day this week. Give yourselves some quiet time and space.
  • Let yourself hear Jesus calling you his friend.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for befriending you and blessing you with all your gifts, natural and learned.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live as his friend.
  • Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It summarizes Jesus’ life, and it guides us to expand our hearts and deepen our loving care—in short, it helps us befriend our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. John 15.14-15.
  2. Acts 4.32 has a variation: friends were of one heart and soul. Earliest appearance in Orestes (partner in one soul); for Aristotle ‘Friends have one soul between them’ was part of the collective wisdom he inherited.
  3. His On Spiritual Friendship. A brief synopsis.
  4. Benedict XVI, World Day of Communications Message, 2009.
  5. Romans 1.7; 1Corinthians 1.2. Throughout his letters saints is his favored word for Christians, even those he had to reprove.
  6. Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 51.


Wiki-images: All Saints PD-US Matthew 5.6 by Norbert Schnitzler CC BY-SA 3.0

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