Saturday, September 24, 2016

Wedding word, 24 Sep 16

Christopher Soriano-Kelsey Rizer Wedding (24 Sep 2016)
Prv 3. 3-6, 9-10, 27, 33-34; Ps 100; 2Co 9. 6-10; Mt 7.21, 24-29
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Greater Challenge
I join all of you as guests of Chris and Kelsey. I’m Paul Panaretos, a Jesuit from the Midwest. Kelsey’s Dad and I met in graduate school. I met Gale when she and Kurt began their married life and returned East. There Kurt and I earned our degrees just behind our friend Bill Flammann. Then Kurt and Gale drove a southerly route back here and stopped and saw me in Washington, D.C., where I had worked summers. We kept in touch, and our hearts remain close despite the miles that separate us.

[Opening Prayer and Liturgy of the Word…]

Your wedding, Kelsey, is a happy reunion for me with your Mom, Megan and Eric, Bill Flamman and Christine. Thank you for thinking of Bill and me as you and Chris began planning for today. You honor us.

Chris, you mentioned during our first chat last year you felt growing to learn Kurt from Kelsey and her family. Your words stayed with me. Fascinating, isn’t it, how we learn someone through others?

The word learning is apt. I think we associate learning more with study and acquiring skills than we do with experiencing other people. Yet, it is equally true to say we learn others. It may be more true: when we are with others—as coworker, neighbor, friend, relative, beloved—we experience them. Each experience of another lets us learn a person a bit better.

Learning one another begins in each one’s family. Learning each other is vital to vowed relationships like yours. My parents’ and my sister’s marriage vows and those of others close to me confirm this continual learning I am trying to describe. So do my vows and the how they relate me to my brother Jesuits. No matter how well we learn others, people remain mysteries. Our Christian sense of that word reminds us that each is an image of God, whom we can never fully know—the reason that learning people as well as God is lifelong.

From the start scripture repeatedly described the relationship of God with humans in the language of marriage and its intimate knowing and learning. Humans discerned divine qualities God desires humans share. They enliven interpersonal relationships and deepen vowed relationships as we learn another.

Faithful love and constancy are two divine qualities in which humans participate, the Book of Proverbs reminded us. On God’s side they describe that our Creator loves us into being at each moment and never waivers in loving us. On your side you commit yourselves to love one another in ways on which each of you can depend. Your vows you will exchange express that you will love each other truly, in everything and every day. With true love you will honor God as you honor one another. The phrase refuse no kindness is more than politeness. By continuing to learn each other your repertoire of kindnesses toward each other will grow large. Married life will allow you to show kindnesses to others, too, which you have already begun. Kindness offered from generous hearts actively thanks…God and blesses God’s name.

Marriage is a life of offering. Choosing St. Paul’s words about cheerful offering, Kelsey and Chris let us know they intuit they are becoming a new creation1 to offer love and to receive love. To offer love and to receive love: I believe receiving love is more difficult. A big reason is this: when I love, I choose and I act. Receiving love is different: I take no initiative; and I’m always surprised. Only if I take another for granted am I not in awe that the person has loved me: safeguarded my dignity; accepted my limited and weak self; and still chose to show me kindness.

Chris and Kelsey, today you seal your desire to unite your love. Vowed life—your marriage and my Jesuit life—includes receiving love as well. Not to take each other for granted exercises you to receive love more gracefully. Receiving love helps us grow. Receiving love is how children grow with integrity and how they deepen it. Your family will grow because of love received by each of you as much as by love you offer each other and your children.

We Christians are convinced God graces us to receive love and to give it. To help us do both and more God offers God’s life—grace. Cheerfully receiving love as well as offering love are bedrock-ways you cooperate with God’s grace to draw you closer and to unite you. Your Christian union is a mystery because you will never lose your individual selves. You will be enriched, especially by the love you receive and the love you offer. You have a sure foundation.

God in Jesus by Holy Spirit is your foundation. God’s dream for each person and for married couples is that individuals and couples let our triune God be their rock, their foundation, their source of life. Jesus reminded us we join God’s dream by how we choose and act, not by words alone. Key choices are to offer love and to receive it from each other. Jesus revealed and modelled God’s compassionate love. Standing within God’s compassion as Jesus revealed it and offers it in his word and sacraments will let you weather life’s challenges and revel in its opportunities and joys—and do both together.

Two brief, closing bits of advice to encourage you: your authority; and live your marriage daily. First, exercise your Christian authority. The gospel recalled Jesus taught with unmatched authority that actions are more important than words. Jesus lives today. He gives his authority to Christians today. Your generosity—generously offering love and generous in the ways you receive each other’s love as well as the love and kindnesses from others—your generosity is your Christian authority. By it your married life grows one step at a time. Pope Francis calls them “steps of shared growth.”2 Shared means mutual, and mutual is both receiving and offering. Do all to help each other grow: especially generously receive each other’s love; you will grow to be better lovers, quick to show Christian charity to all you meet.

Second, live your marriage one day at a time. Other things need long range planning as you know. Weddings require planning not marriage. Your vowed life—anyone’s vowed life—is not planned, it is lived. Living it daily with receiving, giving and forgiving hearts—the very way Jesus lived—will reward you with courageous hope to look forward to every tomorrow.

Congratulations! Chris & Kelsey! God bless your future!

  1. 2 Corinthians 5.17.
  2. His Address to Engaged Couples Preparing for Marriage, 14Feb14.
Wiki-images: by Aliaça of wedding bands CC BY-SA 4.0; by Ramon FVelasquez of wedding candle CC BY-SA 3.0

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Upcoming General Congregation

General Congregation [GC] names the highest ranking legislative body of the Society of Jesus. A GC is called at the death or resignation of the Jesuit General Superior. He may call one to handle matters he does not or cannot decide alone. Fr. Adolfo Nicolás is resigning; he already summoned a GC. It will be the 36th in the history of the Jesuits. A brief post with more facts and links is here.
Wiki-image of AMDG by Pere López CC BY-SA 3.0

Monday, August 15, 2016

Daily word, Assumption of Mary, 15 Aug 16

Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary (15 Aug 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 8-Day Directed Retreat
Being Absorbed
It is easy to fix on heaven in this solemnity. The collect recognizes both earth and heaven: We [on earth] pray [to be] attentive to the things above so we may [be] sharers of [Mary’s] glory.1 Retreat helps us be more aware we share that glorious life now—although partially. Perhaps our earthly ‘now’ blinds us, so to say, from the ‘not yet’ of God’s reign—God’s desire for the world—awaiting us. Our triune God longs for us to announce God’s desire by our actions and choices.

To be attentive to the things above focuses on God’s desire Jesus announced by his actions and choices. To be atten-tive to the things above questions us: do we cherish more the values of the world or God’s love and mercy? Does money, position, control or other ways of the world seduce us? For most of us it is not about having nothing; it is about how lightly or how tightly we hold our possessions and our prestige. Mary had little; she felt in the marrow of her bones that God’s love and mercy were the lifeblood of God’s desire not personal possessions or reputation.  Letting ourselves get absorbed in Mary may help more than doctrine—or this homily.

Who is this into whom we let ourselves be absorbed? Mary is our model and mother not because she shares the glory of her son. She is: our mother because Jesus gave her to us; our model for she valued God’s love for her and her people above all. When we let ourselves be absorbed in Mary we notice she was a virgin in a culture which valued many children over few and no children; her virginity guaranteed her little from her culture.

Perhaps easier to notice on retreat may be her unsensational encounter with God’s messenger: God’s angel brought God’s desire quietly while Mary was alone; when the angel left she responded simply—she attended Elizabeth. Her compassion overflowed her candid, lyric prayer: it united her more closely to her people to whom God had long drawn close. Simple things of great significance.

They invite us to be absorbed in Mary. Absorbed in Mary helps us see more clearly and honestly. More clearly: the grace or graces of today and the way another may be deepening or the way we may be shying away. More honestly: how we are responding to what Mary’s son offers us.

Take some time before you retire this evening: ask Jesus’ Spirit to free your mind and heart to imagine Mary visiting you. How is she dressed? Notice her complexion; the texture of her clothing. If she speaks to you note your response to her—even if it is a feeling and not words. Close with a Hail Mary. She who first shared in risen Jesus’ joy desires we deepen our hope in his joy so we may live it as ours now.
  1.  Roman Missal, the Mass of the Day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

“Recent Surge”

An increase in the number of Jesuit priests in America is attributed to the “Pope Francis effect.” The Province Express, an electronic newsletter of the Jesuit Australian Province, passed along that recent statistic yesterday.
Wiki-image of Francis at Angelus by Christoph Wagener CC BY-SA 3.0

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Daily word, 04 Aug 16

St. John Vianney, Memorial (04 Aug 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 8-day Directed Retreat
God’s Heartbeat
I’m convinced Sts. John Vianney and Ignatius Loyola enjoy one another’s company in heaven’s dwelling places.1 They reminisce how on earth both struggled with studies. Neither let his weakness or his limitations drown his desire. Both desired what God desired. God’s desire is God creating us each moment to be our true selves. A person’s deep de-sires—desires in sync with what is life-giving and fulfill-ing—draw us onward toward growing more complete. If Ignatius did not have a roommate who tutored him in Greek, he probably would never been able to earn his Master of Arts. An education was the only way for him to be who God created, a master teacher of prayer and discernment. Similarly St. John Vianney long wanted to be a priest, yet he withdrew from seminary because he could not understand Latin lectures: all lectures were in Latin. John sought private tutoring. More than being ordained John became who God created: one who, with key helpers, raised girls out of poverty; and who was the most patient and energetic confessor.2

For us our scriptures more keenly focus Christian desire language. Our desire for God and God’s creating work on our behalf is pure gift. Jeremiah expressed God’s desire; hear God address us: I will place my law within you…I will write it upon your hearts; I will be your God, and you shall be my people. …All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord. God desires intimate nearness with us; God creates us each moment with God’s longings within us. As we grow more aware of them some of our deep longings cause us to wonder, worry—even be frightened.

I can feel a question bubbling inside someone: why do we have such great difficulties when God creates us this way? Jesus put it crisply to Peter, who represents us as he represented the disciples and speaks for us: we are humanly wise not wise according to God’s heart. For Peter it revolved around suffering: Peter desired no suffering for Jesus. Later did Peter freely desire what Jesus desired: to collaborate fully with God’s heart, with God’s ever-creating, live-giving desire. What of us?

We are close to God’s heart the more we want what Jesus wants. In touch with God’s desires Jesus felt his desires more strongly, more clearly, and he lived from them. Such a relationship scripture names faith—keeping ourselves in the orbit of God’s creative, healing presence. Modelling our faith on Jesus’ faith frees us to respond to others like the One who was fully free, integrated and alive. Wanting what Jesus wants allows us to engage our corners of the world—including to struggle, to face our fears, even to suffer—by doing all things in ways fully worthy of humans. Doing all things in ways fully worthy of humans is the way the world learns God’s heart. With Jesus we are God’s beating heart in our world. We embody God’s desires for the sake of our world and one another.

  1. John 14.2.
  2. A brief synopsis of the saint the Church celebrates.
Wiki-image by Klapi of Vianney statue CC BY-SA 3.0