Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday word, 17 Apr 16

Already and Not Yet
Fourth Sunday of Easter C (17 Apr 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The opening verses of the Fourth Gospel begin the gospel in a poetic way. The verses describe Jesus as the Word of God;1 Jesus is God’s only begotten son;2 Jesus both revealed God3 and offered life;4 Jesus continues to reveal God and offer life by his Spirit. The same verses also work as a table of contents for the gospel: later chapters expand the gospel’s opening images and convictions.

Today’s gospel selection highlighted Jesus as giver of life. Jesus gives no ordinary life but eternal life. We may quickly think “everlasting,” but the point is not time but a share in divine life. Jesus can give it because Jesus was in the beginning with God5—a cue from the gospel’s table of contents. Jesus words in today’s gospel echo that conviction: The Father and I are one.” 

Jesus words, I give them eternal life, express a second conviction, and it involves us. It involves us because I give is present—now. We already share the divine life risen Jesus offers. None of us needs anyone to tell us that our present share in divine life is partial. We are well aware the effects of sin limit us and all creation. Yet our present share in divine life begins with our desire to know6 and welcome Jesus into our lives. Our share in worship and the sacraments and our belief in his name give us new life as children of God,7 short-hand for being reborn by God.8

Jesus encouraged his first disciples and us with a promise: our already-share in his life can let us enjoy security. We may not readily hear his promise for his imagery of shepherd and sheep is not familiar to us as it was to his first hearers: no one will ever snatch them out of my hand. The word in the Fourth Gospel the lectionary translates with take. Take is neutral; Jesus’ suggested violent grasping. Ancient sheep had human and, more often, animal enemies that overpowered them. Jesus and his life given us are more powerful—even though appearances may suggest otherwise.

Along with our already-share in God’s life is a promised not yet. The community of the Book of Revelation  expressed both. It already shared God’s life as we do. Many were discriminated against and persecuted for it. Their share in divine life would not be snuffed out even if their human lives were violently ended. The Book of Revelation expressed its conviction about the security of Jesus’ life given them could not be undone. Although a great tribulation appeared to annihilate them, Jesus, the Lamb who had suffered the tribulation of his cross, will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water. In other words, Jesus would raise them to absolutely new and indestructible life like his.

In my honest moments I wonder how well I rely on the security our Good Shepherd offers; am I aware that I share already the eternal life Jesus offers? Pope St. Leo offered practical advice to face my wondering and my question: “I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action.”9 Cultivating our relationship with Jesus helps us love Jesus, our living Messiah.

By “action” St. Leo meant all the ways we embody our love for Jesus and imitate him as our model, the ways we allow Jesus’ Spirit to guide our lives in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.10 How might we do that? Begin anew each day and desire to know and welcome Jesus into our lives; share in worship and the sacraments; live in ways that respect others, protect them and creation; and act in peace to build peace. Our already is not less important than our promised not yet. Living our already is path and door to our promised future.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: Praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for how he guides you, gives you life and nourishes you with his risen life.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live out the life he offers you.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It unites us with Jesus and shapes us more like him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


No comments: