Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday word, 30 Jul 17

Seventeenth Sunday of the Year A (30 Jul 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God’s Signature
I’d like to begin with St. Paul and what he wrote as the opening of the second reading: God works with all things toward the good, namely, ultimately sharing Gods’s life. Paul continued to have in view the big picture: as he put it at the beginning of his letter, the gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.1 The big picture helps us appreciate that God does not micromanage anyone’s life; rather, humans are shaped to share the identity of God’s son Jesus. As life was unfair to Jesus, who was killed on trumped up charges yet vindicated by God, we share his future; and we already do albeit partially. Appreciating this allows us to be more receptive to the surprises the gospel of Christ Jesus holds for us. 

Jesus summarized his parables to this point with the three we heard: buried treasure; the most exquisite pearl; and a dragnet. The treasure and the pearl function more as main characters than those who unearth the one and buy the other in the riskiest of ways: the treasure and the pearl both exert vigorous, magnetic energy and influence on the finders as if they were more than mere objects. To use St. Paul’s language: God collaborates through the treasure and the pearl toward the good of the humans who obtain them. Might we know better how God collaborates? 

Selling everything to purchase the pearl was a risk: the one who sold everything forfeited all security. To obtain the buried treasure was more risky. In a world in which people buried things to protect them, buying another’s field would beg an explanation: perhaps my father died and failed to tell me of the treasure he buried for the livelihood of me and our family. Let’s continue to personalize this so that one of you is the finder; your good fortune could spell disaster for me and my family. Or, if you or I tried to purchase the field to own the treasure and our motive for purchasing the field came to light, that could spell disaster for any of us: loss of reputation was an immeasurable disaster in a society in which the way a person appeared to be was the way others thought one really was.

But Jesus noted suspicion of either kind—disaster for the original owner or for the treasure finder—did not enter at all. Instead, joy—not happiness over unexpected good fortune, nor greed that fuels our warped notion of “finders keepers…”—joy overtook the discoverer of the buried treasure. Gospel joy is a divine gift, a share in divine blessedness God both enjoys and bestows: Jesus voiced it as sheer gift, [Created one], enter the joy of your [Creator].2

Joy, a signature of our Creator, indicates Jesus’ parable points beyond us and human luck or disadvantage. The field holding unknown treasure and the most exquisite pearl each emerge as flowing from Jesus as divine gifts Jesus came to announce. They hold power beyond themselves; they are more influential characters than the humans who risk by finding, selling, buying. Things do not possess such power. Jesus is the field holding unknown treasure; Jesus is the most exquisite pearl! Jesus exceeds the risks to ourselves; Jesus imparts his joy to us as well as his power of God he gives us to point to salvation in him.

Jesus risked all for God’s dream for all creation. We are shaped to share his identity, his life with God. God validates the risks we take for Jesus and for his gospel. Gospel risks leave us more complete, more alive; gospel risks we take do the same for others we encounter. We may not realize it, yet we are part of everything that God works with for the good, the goal of all creation.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the life of the Trinity.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank Jesus for sharing his life and identity as his many brothers and sisters.
  • Ask Jesus to increase our courage to stay close to him and to let us be shaped more in his image.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Speaking his words reassures us that we are intimately related to him and like him rely more on God shaping us more like our brother Messiah Jesus.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Romans 1.16.
  2. A paraphrase of Matthew 25.21, 23.
Wiki-images Hidden Treasure PD-US; Flowers PDP

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