Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday word, 19 Jun 16

Twelfth Sunday of the Year B (19 Jun 2016)
2Sm 12. 7-10, 13; Ps 32; Gal 2. 16-19-21; Lk 7. 36-8. 3
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The final verse of our response to the reading from Zechariah invites us to renew our confidence in God; it may invite some of us to trust God in a new way. The verse sang: You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me. It invited a member of Israel to trust God through public worship; it instilled joyous confidence.

Worship’s environment is significant: we know that without thinking; so for Israel. The ark of the covenant contained the tablets of the ten words Moses received from God on Mt. Sinai. Its cover bore two cherubim. The angels at the ends of the cover faced one another with wings outstretched and touched at its center.1 

Long after the people settled from their wanderings Solomon had built the temple. Greatly enlarged cherubim stood in its holy of holies. Each stood upright about 15 feet with wings of 7.5 feet; as the wings of each touched they spanned nearly 30 feet.2 

The point isn’t the measurements. The point is the size of the cherubim: they towered over people and surrounded them. Hardly anyone saw those cherubim; scripture described them for everyone. Knowledge of them caused the psalmist to feel embraced. All Israel worshipped with the psalmist’s songs. So people sang in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. Joy suggests a feeling of intimate embrace, feeling protected, upheld by God’s right hand.

Jesus, too, felt this intimate embrace; he savored it and responded freely to it. St. Paul described his response with the phrase obedience of faith.3 Jesus confidently felt protected and upheld by God’s right hand as he told his disciples he must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. This way of the Messiah is the way of his disciples in each age—why we don’t limit this gospel to Lent. To shoulder crosses, that is, to endure life’s trials, is how we imitate our Messiah Jesus; he minced no words about suffer[ing] greatly before he would enter his glory.

St. Paul reminded us that baptism causes the faith of Jesus in us. By becoming human for us and with us Jesus gives us access to his faith: by his Spirit Jesus empowers us to respond to God as he did. Jesus’ human response to God modelled each human’s response to God. Jesus’ human response to God gives us access to confidence. More than self-assurance Christian confidence is joyous trust and conviction that we stand al-ays in God’s loving embrace; God upholds us.

Baptism began our joyous trust and conviction. The Eucharist, as well as other sacraments, sustains it and helps it grow more alive. The sacraments allow Jesus’ joyous, trusting conviction to become ours. While we can say that Jesus’ joyous, trusting conviction is ours, it is never private. Baptism and all the sacraments are not private; they belong to all who profess our Catholic faith. Baptism produces Christian unity, or to use St. Paul’s phrase, baptism causes us to belong to Christ.

We foster what baptism begins and the eucharist sustains as we notice daily the ways our triune God intimately embraces us and protects us. Our God works not only in moments of public worship. God works through human longings, desires, feelings. When our longings, desires and feelings have a texture of surprise—such as, “Now I see!” or “Why do I keep gravitating toward this?”—surprise often indicates we are in God’s right hand. The more we savor our longings, desires and feelings our responses to God will resemble more Jesus’ human response to God.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest yourself in the bright shadow of our triune God.
  • Ask St. Peter to present you to Jesus with a strong confidence.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for purifying your confidence to more like his.
  • Ask him for the grace to respond more freely to God as you walk with Jesus.
  • Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The words of Jesus, thy will be done, on our lips joyfully praise God for being ever-mindful of us. His words give us Jesus’ confidence to live more faithfully in the face of trials as well as joys.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Exodus 25.20.
  2. 2 Chronicles 3.10-13.
  3. Romans 1.5 and 16.26: obedience of faith as modeled by Jesus, who gives access (5.2) to God to all who practice his faith, bookends St. Paul’s letter.

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