Saturday, October 21, 2017

Daily word, 21 Oct 17

Twenty-eighth Saturday of the Year (21 Oct 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. during the Spiritual Exercises
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At mass we read snippets of scripture of varying lengths. Reading snippets allows us to appreciate better the truth words convey. Reading snippets risks losing connection with the setting or mood that colors them. Two moods pulse at this point in Prophet Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem: hostile and charged. Hostile because Prophet Jesus had accused the scribes and Pharisees of murderous malice against earlier prophets who had voiced God’s wisdom; when they parted the religious elite held a grudge against Jesus, nursed it and plotted against him.1

How different the crowd! The crowd that followed Jesus and hung on his words grew larger—so large people stepped on one another.2 Surely the mood was tense: charged with worry about personal safety as well as an electric anticipation. Jesus addressed the moment: he taught disciples not to fear. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear.3

A consolation rests in that: anxiety and following Jesus co-exist in us, too. We may not think of it. Retreat may allow us to be more aware of anxiety then feel confused—even frightenedbecause we came on retreat to be with Jesus. If we’re anxious, Jesus accepts us that way and desires to help us. Jesus does not eliminate life’s anxiety and fear but helps us not be controlled by them.

Fear leads us to betray our values, our principles—ourselves. Fear undoes our freedom to act, to choose. Fear not only involves natural forces we can touch; it also involves spiritual forces: fear of death is perhaps our greatest. A modern Catholic reflection described us in the face of [the mystery] death. …Not only [are we] tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of [our bodies], but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. This most real fear is a spiritual force, not one we grip with our hands; and the ever-advancing marvels of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm [our] anxiety.4

Friends of Jesus appreciate this spiritual force. Our trust in Jesus and moving closer to him—our faith—calms our anxiety and offers us hope to share divine life endlessly.5 He works that in us by his Holy Spirit. Anyone can reject his gift. The scribes and Pharisees did that—slandering the Holy Spirit is how Jesus put it. Though they had rejected Prophet Jesus, conversion and repentance—even to the apostles’ word after Jesus rose from the dead—would have won them forgiveness as it has for us. But their conscious, willful rejection of the Holy Spirit closed them to Jesus’ Gift of gifts.

What can we do? Continue asking Jesus for help to open more to all his gifts; esp. his gift that allows us to be like Jesus—and Abraham before him—and place our trust in unseen power beyond what any human power can offer us.
  1. Luke 11.53-54.
  2. Luke 12.1.
  3. Luke 12.4-5.
  4. Vatican Council II, Church in the Modern World, 18.
  5. Ibid. Also Ignatius’ Principle and Foundation.
Wiki image by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing of Grumbling Pharisees CC BY-SA 3.0

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