Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday word, 25 Jun 17

Twelfth Sunday of the Year A (25 Jun 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Everything is connected. Interactions abound though often unseen. Nature’s four fundamental forces give their names to their interactions: gravitation; strong interaction; weak interaction; electromagnetism.1

Connection is not only a modern, scientific quest. Connection and interconnection among people poets have long intuited. John Donne—also a 1617th-Century Member of Parliament and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral—intuited human interconnection. Using the image of a book he wrote, humanity
is of one author, and is one volume; when [anyone] dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated.2
He was convinced people don’t thrive in isolation: No one is an island. In 2008 his conviction was expressed with unpoetic precision: “a thousand fibers connect us to those who are present and those present throughout the generations.”3 Connection is the flip side of isolation. Can we note connecting fibres?

Physicists have laboratories to seek and find nature’s connections; a poet’s laboratory is the page awaiting her writing. On the page she distills feelings, insights and observations into words and arranges them with tender precision. We people of faith have a laboratory, too: we’re engaged in it—our laboratory is liturgy.4 Liturgy allows individuals to connect with one another and meet God on God’s terms; the word of God treasures God’s terms. At liturgy our initial reactions to its proclamation may range from confusion, distaste, distrust, resistance in various combinations. When we finally surrender to God on God’s terms we let God meet us, divine life connect with our human lives: we let ourselves be converted.

Conversion is risky because its more about God than us. We don’t find God; God finds us. The women who went to anoint the body Jesus represent us: they found the tomb empty.5 Two grieving friends that same day represent us: Jesus met them on their way.6 The risk is more keenly felt because it is not about what I have or lose or what I do or earn; it is God’s graciousness offered me. St. Paul exemplified that well: as he again set out to destroy Christians, risen Jesus met him on his way and set him apart for Jesus’ mission.7

Today’s reading from St. Paul concisely expresses our doctrine of original sin. We tend to focus on one side of this doctrine, the transgression. God, though, focuses on the gift.

Original Sin names the consequence of the first human choice to disrupt the harmony of God’s creation. That choice distorted everything about human existence. We inherit the distortion because everything is connected, “a thousand fibers connect us to those who are present and those present throughout the generations.” Original Sin describes our human condition: we are in desperate need of being returned to right relation with God, with others, with ourselves.

The name of the doctrine contains only half of the doctrine and focuses us on the transgression. The flip side of the doctrine’s name is the gift.8 The gift is a person, Jesus: he restores us to right relationship with God, with others and with ourselves. Jesus is both the gift and the one who restores us to our original holiness, to our true selves as images of God.

Do we risk being met by risen Jesus? Or do we resist being met by Jesus? Have we allowed Jesus to meet us then resist his terms: love others as you love yourself? take my yoke upon you—that is, allow me to accompany you; join you to my mission?

Physicists’ discoveries are preceded by numerous failed experiments. Poets’ gems are preceded by numerous shredded drafts and “writer’s block.” Risking conversion is a life-long process with its ups and downs, consolations and desolations. It connects us to Jesus. If we take the risk Jesus translates our lives into his better language, the powerful effects of his grace. Grace is more real than the distorting effects of original sin. The grace, Jesus’ living, dying and rising, has already begun to translate us from distortion, disharmony and isolation into clarity, concord and connection. Connecting with Jesus connects us with others in life-giving ways.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Cast your burdens onto the Trinity.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for dying and rising for you. Thank Jesus for the living gift Jesus offers you and creates within you.
  • Ask Jesus to allow you to continue to grow more connected to him; more connected with others as his disciple.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It restores our relationships with Jesus, with others and with ourselves the more we pray it.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. A wikipedia article covers the history of this physical theory.
  2. Meditation XVII from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. His more famous words from this meditation are “No man is an island.”
  3. Cited in “Quite Moments,” Catholic Digest, June 2008, p. 126. It provided no bibliographical information about its author, Violet George; an internet search was not fruitful.
  4. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (112) affirms this.
  5. Matthew 28.5-6 || Mark 16.6 || Luke 24.3.
  6. Luke 24.13-16.
  7. Acts 9.3-6.
  8. Catechism of the Catholic Church expressed it this way: “The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the reverse side’ of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all...that all need salvation, and that salvation is offered to all through Jesus Christ.” #389. St. Paul emphasized the graciousness of salvation by calling it charis, a Greek word translated by the Latin, gratis, grace. Both mean free and unearned.

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