Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday word, 11 Dec 16

Third Advent Sunday A (11 Dec 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Outgrowing Jesus?
Isaiah, Malachi, John the Baptizer, Jesus: God entrusted to prophets God’s dream for creation. Isaiah announced that parched land would exult, blossom, even sing for joy. Those miracles would pale compared to wonders worked for vulnerable humans: the blind see; the deaf hear, the mute sing and the lame walk. They were creation’s crown. Even today God holds them in God’s heart with particular fondness.

The prophets formed a chain: each one announced God’s dream for all God had created in a prophet’s particular circumstance; each prophet prepared the way for successors, too. They kept God’s dream before God’s people. Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me, cried Prophet Malachi.

In his situation God sent God’s messenger to announce in the present what God desired to do for people who welcomed God’s intervention. The present was filled with expectation for the future: for fulfilment of God’s creative action and humans’ preparation for it.

Often for humans God’s desire often lay hidden in the present; prophets’ voices helped others recognize what lay hidden. Scripture kept prophets’ voices alive in succeeding generations; scripture also helped people understand what lay hidden. It still does. It did not work like a formula or a map as much as it kept people in conversation with God’s dream. Scripture also kept people in conversation with one another, moving toward God’s dream and preparing themselves for it.

At times the movements of God felt too slow for to bear. God’s perceived slowness dulled, even frustrated, human expectation of God’s promised intervention. When eager expectation is dulled or frustrated, powers other than God came into play. Jesus named one in today’s gospel: offence—blessed is the one who takes no offence at me.

Three things to note in Jesus’ words: one, offence opposed blessing—offence did not move with God’s desire; second, offence rose from impatience with the way God’s works; God’s power at work in Jesus to heal the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the mute to sing and the lame to walk—no longer set human hearts singing with joy and rejoicing at the splendour of our God; third, the offence lay in none of Jesus’ powerful acts; Jesus was the offence.

Jesus offended because he did not live up to human expectations of the messenger God would send. He was too meek and spoke too mildly to be God’s messenger; he befriended sinners—those other offenders; and his way offended Peter, his closest friend, because Jesus seemed to bow to Roman domination.1

Those very traits Jesus enjoyed from infancy—as did we. More compelling is this: we adore infant Jesus and our carols help us with their lyrics: Christ the babe is Lord of all; little Lord Jesus…fit us for heaven to live with you there; Come as a baby weak and poor…He opens wide the heav’nly door.2 To name a few.

We probably take offence that Jesus never grew out of his traits; that he did not force into line those who offen-ded upright behaviour. If Jesus outgrew his meekness, his universal welcome and lost touch with God who ransoms everyone and everything from the grip of powers opposed to God: we would have no messiah, no Lord, no opener of heaven when we would need them. Perhaps Advent and Christmas touch us deeply be-cause the season puts us in touch with our true selves, with our innate awe and wonder before God and God’s invitation to fearless joy. How might we claim again our true selves, our innate awe and wonder before Jesus, God’s messenger and invitation to fearless joy?  One key may be the patient expectation St. James counselled: wait for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it. Patience does not contradict or neutralize eager expectation; instead it paves its way. Patience offers us something greater: practicing it—recovering it if we have outgrown it—practicing it transforms us into more alert prophets who speak in the name of our Lord.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Bask in the life of the Trinity.
  • Ask John the Baptizer and St. James to present you to Jesus. 
  • Praise Jesus for being born human for us so we can become more patient, more prophetic.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace of patient endurance daily to seek signs of his presence and power of his Spirit and to name them when you see them.
  • Close saying slowly the Lords Prayer. Jesus’ words, thy kingdom come, on our lips are at once both a plea for Jesus to return in glory and a reminder that Jesus has given us his Spirit to help us recognize the many ways his kingdom blossoms anew each day.
  1. Matthew 11.29 and 12.19; Matthew 11.19; Matthew 16.21-23.
  2. “Away in a Manger”; “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”; “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn.

Wiki-images: Amboy Crater in bloom by Steve Berardi CC BY-SA 2.0Voice in the Desert PD-US

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