Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday word, 26 Jan 20

3rd Sunday of the Year (26 Jan 2020)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Full Spiritual Exercises
New Possibilities
Early last autumn Pope Francis gave new focus to the 3rd Sunday of the Year; he declared it “Sunday of the Word of God…devoted to the cele-ration, study and dissemination of the word of God.”1 Francis phrased his description well: 

A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers.2

You have retreated to be with God. Scripture is the privileged doorway by which God communicates to us, and we contemplate God’s self-communication. In Ignatian praying time with scripture regularly is a life-changing event. The effect can be a sea-change; to stay with the maritime metaphor: often Ignatian praying is our daily course-correction, drawing us nearer to our triune God, who is both our Goal and our Beloved.

Praying as course-correction alerts us to the journey that each disciple’s life is. Journeys always involve preparation and frequent monitoring. The scriptures alert us to new possibilities, self-awareness and growing unity. Growing  familiarity with the word offers us new awareness about God that John and Jesus offered, namely, God is near us tenderly.

After John’s successful ministry was forcibly stopped—he had been arrested—Jesus came into his ministry and realized he needed to leave home to minister effectively. Galilee was a good, strategic choice. Once the territories named had been attached to a foreign realm; by Jesus’ time the seaward road bustled with trade and Gentiles as well as Jewish residents. Also Galilean Jews were very observant; Galilee  was the “heart and soul of Jewish learning from the first and second century onwards;”3 Jewish Galileans were the “most religious Jews in the world in the time of Jesus”;4 they were more open to change,5 important because Jesus began as John did: Metanoia yourselves; Change your hearts; Reorient your lives! New awareness and metanoia mean greater fidelity to God not less.

The method of Jesus’ ministry from the first was gathering. Jesus gathered others by his speech and more by his deeds. His gathering was healing, joining, unifying. Near the sea Jesus gathered fisherman as his associates. They knew how to gather fish, Jesus would empower them to gather humans; not to confine but to impart healing forgiveness as well as his life—and this for everyone in every age.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us that early in the Jesus-movement some felt it was not enough to belong to Christ crucified. The cross was a shameful instrument of torture and death; no one would link it with divine care; better to associate oneself with an eloquent leader. We are not so different: we wear a cross with pride and are hard-pressed to appreciate its scandal, let alone how God works toward the good with everything. Our societies lure us with eloquence to set ourselves apart with every new-and-improved product or to be defined by our societies.

Jesus did not merely talk, Jesus acted. He invites us to notice him acting in us and for us. As we notice, we feel Jesus incorporate us anew into his Body, his world, his living creation; and we fall more in love with our “risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers.”

                          Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. His letter, “INSTITUTING the SUNDAY of the WORD OF GOD,” 3.
  2. Instituting, 8.
  3. L. Michael White, Galilee: Portrait of Jesus’ World.
  4. Ray Vander Laan, Rabbi and Talmidim.
  5. Eric Meyers, Galilee: Portrait of Jesus’ World.
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Monday, January 20, 2020

Dailyword, 20 Jan 20

Tuesday, 2nd Week of the Year (20 Jan 2020)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Full Spiritual Exercises
Coping with Saul-syndrome
Do any of us cope with Saul-syndrome? When we do not adequately esteem ourselves, the Saul-syndrome has gripped us. The syndrome prevents us from viewing ourselves as our triune God creates. It frequently affects us though we feel it does not. Hear again Samuel’s initial diagnosis of the syndrome: Though little in your own esteem, [Saul,] are you not leader of the tribes of Israel? That is, Israel’s first monarch did not feel deeply in relationship with God’s people whom he led. Saul focused on a ritual more than on his relationships with God and people—as though enacting a ritual command would make him right with God. Hence Samuel’s words at the end of the passage about heartfelt listening and attention: they counteract idolatry.

When relationships cease to enjoy central place we readily become preoccupied with things and activities—even holy ones—some-times rigidly: we are victimized by what we think we control. That is full blown Saul-syndrome.

We do have parts to play in Christian ritual activities. They help deepen our relationship with our Eternal God. Yet rituals can become our idols. How can we know they are turning that way? We lack joy—not happiness but joy. That was Jesus’ diagnosis when people inquired why he and his disciples did not fast. John and his disciples fasted to prepare for God’s reign. With Jesus it had begun.

God was working something marvellously new, and the religious elite prevented themselves from noticing because they fasted: more often than God had required;1 and they fasted to be noticed rather than deepen their relationship with God. They did not rejoice at God’s action but rejoiced when others noticed them fasting.2

Yet others noticed God’s new creation. Restoring one who was paralyzed to physical health and interior wholeness—healing forgiveness—and reaching out to those on the margins was revolutionary.3 In doing that restoring Jesus was not patching people, society or creation. Jesus was the finger of God4 touching, transforming, creatively caressing and restoring everything.

The original word in Jesus’ first brief parable answering those who questioned him is fullness not patch. Here’s why: we’ve purchased preshrunk fabric or clothing. Both were unavailable in 1st-C Palestine. New cloth has yet to shrink. Using it “to patch” would defeat one’s mending exercise. Similarly, misusing fasting, abusing fasting starved one from joy at what God was doing. It tore away one’s free welcome of God to be refashioned.

The First Week of the Spiritual Exercises allows us to notice God’s fullness; to feel God’s fullness acting for us and to welcome it wholeheartedly. As we do we reengage with joy; our esteem blossoms; and so does the presence of God where we are.

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  1. Leviticus 16.29note 
  2. Matthew 6.16-18.
  3. The previous two daily Gospels.
  4. Luke 11.20.
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Friday, January 17, 2020

Daily word, 17 Jan 20

Memorial, St Anthony of Egypt (17 Jan 2020)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Full Spiritual Exercises
“God’s Inworking” for Us
St. Anthony of Egypt figured at the start of monastic life. He was one of many who withdrew to the desert to enjoy solitary lives. The gospel words, Go, sell and give to the poor, Anthony took literally, as though he were to do nothing else. Even hermits are not antisocial. Others hermits prevailed on Anthony to create a network of their scattered cells. Like Francis of Assisi Anthony was wary at first; he did it and monastic life began to emerge.

He also drew many to him—like Francis of Assisi, and 20th-Century Thomas Merton. Anthony’s vocation touched others. When persecution of Christians re-emerged, Anthony supported prisoners and risked his life. Nearly 30 years later Anthony opposed the heresy of Arius. His contemporary, Athanasius, recalled Anthony had a vision that the Arians kicked  “like a herd kicks when it leaps in confusion.”1 Antony could not stand by idly.

Others recalled that “certain philosophers asked [Antony] how he could spend his time in solitude without the pleasure of reading books, he replied that nature was his great book, and amply supplied the want of others.”2 That caused me to think about and pray for you. Why? Because we invited you to begin with God’s creation. The Catechism reminds us: “Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: ‘The world was made for the glory of God.’ St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things ‘not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it.’”3

We can say our triune God loves us so much that God gives us all created things personally to communicate to us, to welcome our personal relationship with God. To crown our relationship God became human for us in Jesus. Relationship with God returns us to St. Anthony. 

Practical moral thinkers visited Anthony to mock him and his faith. They preferred logic and “demonstrative arguments.”  He asked them, “which is better, faith which comes through the inworking (of God) or demonstration by arguments?’ …they answered that faith which comes through the inworking was better and was accurate knowledge…Antony said, ‘You have answered well, for faith arises from disposition of soul. …[God’s] inworking through faith is better and stronger than your professional arguments.’”4    

St. Ignatius of Loyola urged people to let God work personally, intimately, directly with them. Ask St. Anthony to intercede for you and to help you to trust him, St. Ignatius, your patron saints and reveal how abundantly and lovingly the Trinity creates and sustains you. 

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  1. Life of Antony, 82.
  2. Butler’s Lives, online excerpt.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church 293.
  4. Life of Antony, 77

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Daily Word, 14 Jan 20

2nd Tuesday of the Year (14 Jan 2020)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Full Spiritual Exercises
Pray With Authority
The gospel acclamation moved me to encourage you and to register a personal peeve. First, encouragement: Receive the word of God, not as a human word, but as it truly is, the word of God. Although clothed in human language God’s word is always extraordinary: God graces us as we need each moment. You are being privileged to experience that as you entrust yourselves to Ignatian praying. That gives me joy, just as the acceptance of God’s word as extraordinary by the Thessalonians filled St. Paul with joy.

You don’t peeve me; a mistranslation does. Our gospel acclamation brought it to mind. Someone failed to translate correctly the Latin for Weeks of the Year—that green liturgical season outside Advent/ Christmas and Lent/Easter and then after Pentecost. Instead of ordinal—numbered Sundays—ordinary was the translation. Sadly, ordinary season or ordinary time has stuck. My high-school Latin teacher would have failed me for that!

Language shapes us as we use it and misuse it. We sophisticated people, for whom more and more is ordinary, can benefit from St. Paul’s joyful urging: Receive the word of God…as it truly is, the word of God. Not only is the word of God extraordinary. God extraordinarily listens always to us, especially as we pour out our troubles to God. Does not God astonish and amaze us when God works with others as well as with us? with delicate creatures and in daily rhythms?

As you give yourselves to Ignatian praying allow Hannah to be your model: pray honestly; pray without editing yourselves; pray tenaciously as she did. Be alert for the Eternal One’s way of reversing what we humans too quickly deem important and demote as unimportant.

As you give yourselves to Ignatian praying let Capernaum’s synagogue throng crowd your heart, so you may be more amazed at our triune God’s extraordinary care. Let Capernaum’s synagogue throng crowd your heart so you may find yourself praying with fresh authority. To pray with authority is a symptom of Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God; when words fail us the Spirit inter-cedes for us with groanings too deep for words.1 

Extraordinary at each season, in each moment. Holy Spirit allows us to be ourselves, ever growing amazingly more divine on our human journey of life.

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  1. Romans 8. 16 & 26.
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Wiki-images by: Ori229 Hannah’s Prayer CC BY-SA 4.0; Jesus heals possessed man PD-US

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday word, 10 Nov 19

32nd Sunday of the Year C (10 Nov 2019)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Alive to God
Like people of every age we read history through our culture and our norms. A result is that we tame the scriptures and much of the ancient, Middle-Eastern culture of Jesus. A cultural historian put it well: “The Middle-Eastern culture of Jesus was a rough-and-tumble world. Modern-day ‘negative campaigning’ and sharp political debates are tame in contrast.”1 Jesus’ debate with the Sadducees was more “rough-and-tumble” than hearing it may suggest.

All Jews did not believe alike. Sadducees believed only the first five books of scripture, not in the prophetic or other writings. Because resurrection from the dead was not stated in the five books of Moses they didn’t believe it. It developed a century before Jesus.We heard a Maccabean martyr testify to God’s fidelity: You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying. Note the insult on the martyr’s lips.

Insults were common; they asserted one’s standing against others. Better to show a command of language rather than shriek in pain. Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man’s courage, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing. Insults were also common among the learned. In debates with Pharisees and scribes Jesus called them hypocrites.2 Hypocrite meant actor as Jesus and his contemporaries used it. The religious professionals only acted a role; they were not attuned with God’s heart.

Sadducees conflicted with Pharisees on many fronts; one was the resurrection from the dead. When Sadducees bated Jesus over it he insulted grown men by rehearsing the facts of life: procreation is necessary for mortal humans, but life with God means absolutely new, indestructible life. Nor did Sadducees believe in angels, so Jesus aimed at their disbelief: not only are those raised from the dead like angels; they are the children of God, “a favorite Old Testament name for angels…since they share in the resurrection, a life-giving act of God.”3

Jesus also insulted the Sadducees’ priestly ability to interpret. He quoted scripture they believed.  Moses called God the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Our logic is not theirs; their logic was this: one would shame the living God by joining dead ones to God. The living God no part with death. With that logic Jesus  rebutted that Moses, in whom the Sadducees believed, would have shamed God if he joined dead ones to God. Meaningful for us is that in a way unknown to humans yet very real Abraham , Isaac and  Jacob are alive to God.

In our time and culture Jesus is not encouraging us to insult. Jesus encourages us to let our images of God be alive in ways we experience is real yet beyond us at the same time. How might that register in us? The responsorial psalm suggests confidence in God present with me and for me. I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God…and upon waking I shall be content in your presence. This is not magical or immature; it is to live the faith of Jesus, the Source of our faith.

Give Jesus 15 minutes each day this week.
  • Rest in the presence our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Thank  Jesus for dying and rising for us; thank him for the everlasting encouragement he offers us by Holy Spirit to make him present by how we live.
  • Ask for grace to live more attuned to the Spirit to help us walk with the endurance of Christ.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. Christian endurance allows us to make alive his words, on earth as it is in heaven.
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  1. John J. Pilch, The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle C (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997), pp. 161-163. A shorter form may be viewed at The Sunday Website.
  2. The word is especially concentrated in Matthew 6-7; 23. Also Luke 6.42; 12.56; 13.15; Mark 7.6.  
  3. Pilch.
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