Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday word, 29 Jan 17

Fourth Sunday of the Year A (29 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Personal Refuge
Often a first go with Jesus’ beatitudes approaches them on our terms: our contemporary, first-world, sophisticated terms. That approach frustrates more than helps. We try to find meaning in Jesus’ hard blessings. They are hard because they conflict with our expectations: ‘I’m poor, persecuted, bereft: so I’m blessed? I sure don’t feel blessed!’ We’d rather Jesus fit our reality—as if no other way existed.

St. Paul reminded us that another way exists and is ours—God’s way in Jesus by Holy Spirit. Paul expressed the way in pairings that startle—to put it mildly. The word with which he introduced them emphasized contrast. Rather has more the feeling, Now this is how things really are with God and us:

God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus.

We are in Christ Jesus! Jesus embodied God’s compassion, and we are in risen Jesus who gives us access to God’s compassion.

Risen Jesus is our refuge. More real than our particular—often excruciating—circumstances is the person, Messiah Jesus. Jesus who is more real does not dis-count our painful circumstances. Our circumstances that diminish us or lacerate our dignity connect us with the remnant of Israel. We use the word with different meaning than what God voiced through prophets. Remnant: we hear scrap, useless remainder, leftover. What everyone overran, belittled, discarded, ignored God held dear and holds dear today. Jesus incarnated God’s heartfelt care; risen Jesus makes it available now.

A remnant found refuge in him: from Judaea and Jerusalem in the south, north to what we call Lebanon and beyond: all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics were brought to Jesus and he healed them.1 Vast in number they were belittled in the eyes of others.

Do I bring myself to Jesus? Do we bring ourselves to Jesus? Do I bring myself only in my emergencies? Or is Jesus my frequent refuge, oasis, nourishment? The question alerts me to my daily default: I want meaning more than I want a person, risen Jesus. Jesus is God’s wisdom…as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. I cannot give them to myself. Meaning cannot give me them either. Mean-ing helps me appreciate them; only Messiah Jesus can offer them to me and to you and to all.

Jesus’ blessing may not remove our circumstances. His blessing does give me a new disposition: with him, in him I can hold on to our dignity. He maintained his dignity even during insults and most undignified death. God raised up Jesus to share God’s life in God’s presence. In Jesus God does the same for us, beginning now.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for us; thank him for always caring for us even when we do not notice.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to make our refuge in him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Through it he placed himself in his Father’s care. Jesus gave his prayer to us so we may do the same.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Matthew 4.24.
Wiki-images Jesus Preaches Sermon on the Mount PD-USSpring by Gautier Poupeau CC BY 2.0 

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