Sunday, March 05, 2017

Sunday word, 05 Mar 17

Lenten Sunday1 A (05 Mar 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Human Pillars
Three pillars support Lent: praying, fasting and almsgiving. To consider them as pillars helps us appreciate praying, fasting and almsgiving work together. Pillars in buildings bear weight of a ceiling or roof. Pillars stabilize by distributing the stress weight loads on walls.

Lent’s pillars of fasting and almsgiving stabilize our Christian living. Sincerely practiced—faithfully not scrupulously—prayer, fasting and almsgiving open us more to God’s life: the very life Jesus embodied and his Holy Spirit communicates to us. God’s life steadies us to be our true selves: both individual and social. Lenten “penance [opens us to God’s life because it is] not…only internal and individual but also external and social.” We foster “ both [individual and social] qualities of penance…according to…[our time] and…individual circumstances.”1

In addition to preparing for this Easter; in addition to preparing us to join those the church will baptize and confirm at Easter; the pillars of Lent ground us in Jesus and the mystery of his dying and rising. The more we participate in Jesus’ paschal mystery, the more solidly we stand as Christians and give testimony to others as disciples of Jesus. Lent’s pillars help us.

  • Praying connects us with God, as Godhonored ambassador[s].”2
  • Fasting focuses our spirits in a world filled with lights contrary to Jesus’ gospel; those lights blind us to our Christian vocation of reconciliation and service.
  • Almsgiving allows us to respond externally and socially by reconnecting with God’s heart always concerned with the poor, afflicted, refugees, persecuted and marginalized. Jesus was one of them and stayed close to them.
He asks his friends to share his heart’s concern. Practiced together the pillars of Lent stabilize our lives as disciples of Jesus and ready us to give our Christian witness.

Praying and fasting focus us and allow us to enter the heart of God. Almsgiving helps us to shelter others in the divine heart we encounter afresh by praying and fasting. Almsgiving refreshes our praying and fasting with the “external and social” concerns so dear to Jesus: “Almsgiving redresses the balance in God’s creation and reminds [us] of the needs of the poor.”3

Our Christian life flows from our baptism, and the eucharist sustains our baptism. The pillars of Lent refresh our baptismal commitment; they deepen longing for the sacrament of the eucharist: it helps us exercise our responsibilities as contemporary companions of Jesus.

That means pillars can be human. We use the word pillar for people holding responsibility: pillars of state; pillars of a parish; pillars of a community. Each of us is a Christian pillar. Together we do more than any of us can do alone. Jesus knows that; he invites us together to “redress[] the balance in God’s creation and remind[] [each other and everyone] of the needs of the poor.”

Each of us has individual responsibilities, and together, like pillars distributing and supporting forces of a building, we heed Jesus’ invitation and live in sync with his heart for the sake of those in greater need. Lent helps us know ourselves as Jesus’ heart in our world today.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the heart of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise him for dying and rising for us; thank him for welcoming us into his heart.
  • Chat with Jesus about how he fasted for you, and how Jesus invites us to fast, pray and give alms in order to become a more stabilizing pillar of the Church.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us that God makes fruitful our almsgiving, praying and fasting.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Article 110.
  2. St. John Chrysostom, Homily on prayer; phrase in excerpt in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, vol2, p. 69.
  3. Michael Barnes, S.J. “Keeping the Lenten Fast–thoughts from a dialogue with Islam.”

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