Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sunday word, 24 Dec 17

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God’s Personal Care
Like others I readily think from early to late: chronologically or historically. So easy is it to think of Advent that way. We do live between two comings of Jesus, his first advent and his second, his glorious return to restore all creation to its original design: everything that [God] had made…was very good.1 The church invites us to ponder the glorious return of Messiah Jesus as each church year ends and Advent begins. In a word, Christians are future oriented.

As Advent progresses and Christmas dawns we turn our gaze to the graced events that began our salvation. The gospel invites us to join Mary; she received word that all God’s promises through history would be fulfilled in her. In a word, Christians are past oriented, too.

Future and past: what of our present? Our present is our triune God. The Trinity creates each moment: our triune God holds in being all things. You and I do not know how that happens. We enjoy glimmers of greater understanding as we probe creation’s vast vistas—oceans beneath, the universe beyond. The good news—gospel—the good news assures us we can rest confidently in God-with-us without having to understand fully. Mary: How can this promise [God makes to me to bear God’s son into the world happen]; I am a virgin? The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

Overshadow is not the most helpful word. Scripture used a word that did not mean to obscure as clouds conceal the sun; it conveyed God’s action: Holy Spirit exerted creative energy within the womb of the virgin Mary. Because her son gave us his Spirit God’s ongoing creative influence is shed on us. Ongoing: every moment.

Even more astonishing to me is God’s desire to create. God created and God’s creation was very good. It is our common home.2 Humans frustrated its goodness; yet God chose to restore it in person. I will build you a house, God had promised King David. Play on home, house—for humans, for God—lineage and kingdom thread through Nathan’s prophetic message to David. God housed Godself in Mary’s womb to be born fully human and fully divine. Fully human God would personally restore creation. Not only does God in Jesus strengthen us, as Paul reminded us. Peter also encouraged: God in Jesus will personally restore, confirm, strengthen, and ground us in God’s creative desire.3

When we celebrate the beginnings of our redemption4 in a few hours we celebrate our past, future and our present all at once. A teacher I had remarked the “present makes the future past.” Something more true flows from our faith: God’s ongoing creative activity on our behalf opens every present moment onto God’s future for us and with us. As Pope Francis reminds us:
In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, know-ing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast. …At the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God…and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which with us [God] will share in unending plenitude. Even now we are journeying towards the sabbath of eternity, the new Jerusalem, towards our common home in heaven. Jesus says: “I make all things new.”5
Francis neatly express present, past and future and how faith unites them all in God’s heart of “infinite beauty.” Jesus invites us to join his renovation of everything.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week rest in the bright love our triune God extends to us moment by moment. Ask Mary to present us to her son. Chat with Jesus: praise him for embodying God in human flesh, bone and emotion; thank Jesus for calling us to join him and his mission. Ask Jesus for the grace to bear him into our “common home entrusted to us” with and for others. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his words so that living by them we may do our parts to reveal his risen glory everywhere we find ourselves.
  1. Genesis 1.31.
  2. The phrase appears 11 times throughout Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Sí! It first appears in his title: “On Care for Our Common Home.” He means planet Earth. “Planet” appears 30 times.
  3. 1Peter 5.10.
  4. The Roman Missal, Christmas Vigil Mass, Prayer over the Offerings.
  5. Laudato Sí!, 244…243.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-image Detail by PDP of Tympanum of Chartes Cathedral by © Guillaume Piolle CC BY 3.0: the 12 Apostles stand below the risen Lord; at their extreme right is King David, royal ancestor of Jesus; Annunciation to Mary PD-US

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