Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday word, 31 Dec 17

Sunday of the Christmas Octave Year B (31 Dec 2017)
Gn 15. 1-6; 21. 1-3; Ps 105; Hb 11. 8, 11-12, 17-19; Lk 2. 22-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
On Edge
At each Christmas festival we joyfully celebrate the beginnings of our redemption.1 While the Nativity was a singular event God prepared it from of old. God’s preparations began with Abraham and Sarah. The first covenant couple was not likely to have children; but they had their promised son. Before their first of countless children was born, Abram put his faith in the Lord, who reckoned it to him as an act of righteousness. God’s reckoning was God’s gift: Abraham did nothing to earn it; the covenant in fact was just beginning to be established between God and humans.2

Like the child to be born the covenant was pure gift. The gift of the covenant to Abraham is enduring. Even Abraham lived as though God had made to him enduring promises. He counted on God in every circumstance—even one we find impossible to explain and even intolerable.

Another edge of the covenant is days after Jesus’ birth. The presentation of Jesus took place at an edge of the temple, not where sacrifice was offered. The temple was far more than an area within four walls; it was a vast array of courts and open spaces as well as enclosed ones.3 First born sons were devoted to God—literally passed over and redeemed as God passed over and redeemed the Israelites.4 Presenting first born sons to God remind Jews of their status as God-redeemed. Jesus’ presentation was at the edge of the redemption of creation and all in it. The angel’s promise to Mary included a name for her son5: Jesus means, God saves.

At the dawn of Jesus’ life Simeon told his parents startling news about how Jesus would save: this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Mary had already sung that God dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart—those with calculating hearts; casting down rulers to lift up the lowly.6

We may not have calculating hearts, yet we often find choosing for Jesus does not come as readily as we’d like. Simeon and Anna welcomed the child with expectant hearts. They waited long years for that single day. They welcome us into the drama of Christian faith. It is less about our accomplishments and more about God’s desire to lift up us and everyone. We may have to ready ourselves to let God-in-Jesus save us; yet no matter to what lengths anyone goes to welcome Jesus, Jesus is the one who save us not ourselves.

Mary turned over in heart everything about her child: My soul magnifies the Lord7; her exultation continued quietly. Mary and the shepherds cue us that events surrounding her son are about attitude and grace not results of our effort. That may feel uncomfortable, even curiously liberating. It puts us at an edge of how we live day to day. Asking for graced help to live at faith’s edge, to live with wonder in the face of created things is not only a good way to begin a year. To live with faithful wonder imitates the Mother of God.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in the love our triune God offers us.
  • Ask the shepherds and Mary to present us to her son.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for embodying God in human flesh, bone and emotion; thank Jesus for stirring within us desires to draw nearer to him.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live with greater wonder in the face of creation and all it holds.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, give us this day, remind us that everything is gift, including our very selves.
  1. Roman Missal, Prayer Over the Offerings, Christmas Vigil Mass.
  2. St. Paul notes that Abraham had faith before covenant religion had come to be (Romans 4.1-25).
  3. A view of the Holy Land model may be viewed here.
  4. Exodus 13.12-14.
  5. Luke 1.31.
  6. Luke 1.51-52.
  7. Luke 1.46.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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