Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday word, 19Mar17

Lenten Sunday3 A (19 Mar 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Les Miserables retreat, Guelph, ON
More Awake to God’s Dream
Twentieth-Century social critic Michel Focault thought this: “Despair and hopelessness are one thing, suspicion is another. And if you are suspicious, it is because, of course, you have a certain hope.”1 His thought got me thinking.

Despair and hopelessness color Les Misérables from its beginning. The human hope of revolutionaries fuelled their conviction to act. Christian hope—not human hope but a divine gift to humans—functions as counterpoint to human hope.

What of you and me? Suspicious is not how I’m here. I doubt any of you is. Instead of suspicion one or more of you may have come curious; others seeking; still others restless: it may register as longing for freedom or integration or healing or another life-giving desire. Jesus awakened in the Samaritan woman her desires.

She found remarkable that a Jewish man would want to drink water she drew. If she were suspicious it melted into interest: she engaged Jesus about her religious heritage and his; she longed for freedom: Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.

She also desired something very human: to be known. Marriage had not meet that desire. We don’t know the length of her marriages, if they were loving or dangerous. None of that matters; it didn’t matter to Jesus. It did matter to him that the Samaritan woman had no spouse in her life to share her desires. It mattered to her that Jesus seemed to know her more intimately as their conversing progressed. She left her [precious] water jar and returned to town. She told the people there, Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could this man be the Messiah?

The Samaritan woman is a model for us: a person of hope, the hope that is a gift to us. St. Paul reminded that our Christian hope is not human hope because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. This personal self-giving of God Paul had experienced. It shaped his life and his proclamation of the gospel. Nothing hindered him from living his experience of risen Messiah Jesus. He wrote at the beginning of this Letter to the Romans, I am not ashamed of the gospel.2 He used the same word about hope. Bibles usually translate it as we heard: disappoint. Not shamed is closer to Paul’s experience and the encouragement he offered: our hope does not shame because of what is most real, the love of God…poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…given to us. Christian hope is power for living, power to stay alive. Fantine sang it with the word dream.

Daniel’s insights and your prayer and conversation have awakened much within you. I offer this: Is Jesus becoming your dream? Are you able to live unashamed of Jesus, and especially his shameful death, because you feel his closer friend? This liturgy’s word invites us to let our Christian hope empower each of us to embody God’s dream for us and all creation. Our hope is not ashamed of risen Jesus. Our hope is risen Jesus! He enlivens us to join him and live more humane and godly lives—lives drawing others to him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Quoted here.
  2. Romans 1.16.

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