Sunday, March 06, 2016

Sunday word, 06 Mar 16

Sharing God’s Joy and Liberty
Lenten Sunday4 C (06 Mar 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When first freed and ever after God’s people celebrated: the Book of Joshua remembered their first celebration in their land. Surely that celebration was more joyful than before they arrived in their home—at least their joy was freer than in the wilderness. The brief statement, they celebrated the Passover, alerted me to God’s joy and newfound freedom in one of Jesus’ most touching parables.

The parable of the lost son follows two briefer lost-and-found parables. Both made the same point: God rejoices when someone lost is found. Jesus expressed it crisply: more joy in heaven and the angels of God [rejoice] over one sinner who repents.1 Heaven is God’s realm and angels serve God: both phrases share one conviction: God rejoices.

Jesus told the three lost-and-found parables to the Pharisees and scribes because they grumbled at him,“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Seeing the way sinners were being found and finding their true selves, the guardians of God’s ways among people ought to have shared God’s joy and celebrated it. Pharisees and scribes were lost, too: lost in their ultra-careful efforts to observe God’s ways among people. Their fussy efforts blinded them to God’s joy; blind to God’s joy, they could not share and celebrate it.

The elder son in the lost son parable functioned as a mirror: Jesus held it up so Pharisees and scribes could see themselves, come to their senses and find themselves alive in God’s liberty rather than imprisoned in their puny selves. God desires us to live as freely as we can. Grim human striving imprisons us.

We may think our grasping will free us; we may think that making ourselves number one with little care for others will free us to become our true selves. Neither frees as the lost son learned. He cared little about the commandment to honor parents: he demanded his share of [his father’s] estate while his father was very much alive and caring for it, his sons and all who worked for him. The younger son went to a distant land as if his family were in his way; when a famine affected him and all around he behaved as if local citizens were in his way.

When he came to himself the younger son was willing to have shelter and food as his father’s servant. Coming to himself moved him to return to his father. His father would have nothing subservient for his son—he did not give him a chance to finish the prepared speech his younger son had rehearsed. God treats us the same way. Do we come to our senses, or are we stuck in envy and resentment and refuse to enter God’s joy?

We share God’s liberty when we enter God’s joy and celebrate it. Otherwise God’s liberty remains an idea and not our invitation to be find our true selves. Our lenten practices help us cooperate with grace more freely instead of relying on our efforts only. Relying on our efforts alone makes us old before our time, suffocates our hearts and constrains our lives in prisons of fear.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Allow our triune God to reach out to you.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you;  thank him for giving you this Lent so we may find him and our true selves.
  • Ask him for grace to draw near to Jesus and celebrate his joy by how you choose and live.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It’s phrase, lead us not into temptation, expresses our desire not to grasp greedily and flee Jesus’ loving care; and our desire to extend ourselves to others when we feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to do so.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Luke 15. 7, 10.

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