Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday word, 17 Jun 18

Eleventh Sunday of the Year B (17 Jun 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Relationship Tracing
In North America a phrase captures investigating minds: Follow the money. It seems to have entered English after Bob Woodward urged Senator Sam Ervin to trace “secret campaign cash.” Tracing it got to the bottom of the 1972 Washington, D.C., Watergate burglary. I was young that summer; its events made me a tracer ever since. I did tracing of a different sort: trees; I traced trees in scripture to follow God through our readings.

On Sundays the Gospel selection fulfills the Old Testament selection. Trees are key: Ezekiel used a cedar tree to prophesy that God would save a remnant. God would transplant those the Babylonian king had forced from their homeland and restore the house of David. God desired the people Israel be a home for others: a tender shoot (remant Israel God would) plant…It shall put forth branches and bear fruit…Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath itLiving God’s desire God’s people would become majestic. It didn’t begin majestic.1

My tree-tracing led beyond our first reading and gospel. The bible symbolized people with trees and; vines. In addition to the responsorial, the First Psalm imaged a godly person like a tree: planted by streams of waters that produces its fruit in its season.2 Another psalm echoed Prophet Isaiah singing of God’s people: O God of hosts, restore us….You brought a vine out of Egypt…and planted it. You cleared out what was before it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered by its shadow, the cedars of God by its branches.3 

Trees and vine stand for people; Jesus likened us to branches on a vine—himself.4 Trees and vines bear fruit; our fruit is our behaviour and actions. We imitate Jesus who is lavish and ever-creative even when we don’t notice: people would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow [and people] know not how…the earth automatically yields fruit. It is less about knowing than about the growing-process that happens independently from us.

God’s desire for the world—kingdom image fit the ancient Mediterranean better than our world—God’s desire Jesus announced with his parables. The mustard seed containing its entire bush indicates God’s desire is among us more than we may think: seed-becoming-bush points to God independently, freely loving us into being each moment.

Jesus welcomed people to walk with him and meet this ever-planting, ever cultivating Gardener-God he called his dear Father. We understand Jesus’ welcome implies more than stepping. St. Paul used it in that richer sense: we walk by faith. Faith shapes our ways in the world—we live by faith.

Faith is our relationship with risen Jesus; our relationship with Jesus affects our lives and shapes how we are in the world. Our heartfelt stirrings let us trace other relationships in our lives. Sharing the faith of Jesus is similar: our share in Jesus’ faith lets us notice how we are with God and God with us. It’s a mutual tracing; we may allow only half of it to happen: I trace how I am with God but give little time and quiet to seek God’s presence. To seek it lets God be present to us, lets God trace us, draw us, plant the tender shoot that I am and each of us is. Any fruit our lives may bear is gift: God’s yield of fruit in me, in you, in us. We’ll never get to the bottom of God’s graciousness to us; yet savouring God’s fruitful gifts in us is more than enough.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and our patron saints to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for inviting us to join his journey of faith.
  • Ask Jesus for grace and courage to allow God to draw you, to plant you, to nourish you in this life’s garden.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer: the prayer Jesus gave us helps us savour the fruit God yields in us and share it more freely with others.
  1. Deuteronomy 7.6-7.
  2. Psalm 1.3.
  3. Psalm 80.8-11; Isaiah 5.1-7; 27.2-5. It was a favourite image of others prophets: Jeremiah; Hosea; Jesus.
  4. John 15:1-17.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-images by Liné1 Cedrus libani CC BY-SA 3.0; by Reji Jacob Mustard flower CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Sunday word, 03 Jun 18

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (B) (03 Jun 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Water-Jar Living
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus provides us with a liturgical coda before we resume the numbered Sundays of the Year. In music a coda concludes a movement and adds to the basic musical structure. This solemnity is like a coda: it urges us to give ourselves to the One whose suffering, dying, rising and exaltation to share the very life of God we’ve celebrated in the Lent-Easter season; our Messiah Jesus’ Body and Blood has shaped us and will continue to shape us differently and anew in our futures. This year our scripture selections invite us to ponder Jesus’ Eucharist by noting covenant and remembering.

Very briefly about covenant: an ancient Middle East covenant was a relationship of unequals, the greater provided for the lesser partner. In return for protection or for use of water of an oasis, say, the one who offered privileges expected loyalty as well as tribute in return. That’s the covenant-significance of the people’s acclamation to Moses, All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.

Jesus’ entire ministry prepared and shaped his disciples to live their covenant with God more wholeheartedly. Loving God and loving others summarized covenant-living. Two phrases that challenge us all.

At the end of his life, dining at their most sacred meal, Jesus transformed covenant by giving his disciples himself: he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

His phrase, blood of the covenant, would not have sounded at all strange to his disciples. Biblical covenants were ratified in blood. Blood readily evokes death in our minds, but not to the Semitic mind, to Jesus’ mind! Jesus offered his disciples himself! Jesus, who transformed the covenant, asked his followers to remember him each time they broke bread and shared a blessing cup of wine.

Ancient Middle Eastern remembering was much richer than recall. Recall retrieves a fact, a face, a phone number: in short, recall retrieves data. Our liturgical remembering is not data-recall. Our remembering here makes present an event that has occurred.

Our liturgical remembering keeps Jesus present in our midst and within us. Our liturgical remembering dissolves distance between us and Jesus and his first disciples: we eat with those who ate with Jesus at his last Passover meal. As we eat with them the new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood emerges for us. It invites us to imitate his pattern of living; more wholeheartedly and more freely to honour God and respect and care for creation, for all people, especially those in need.

The new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood, his very life we drink at his altar, invites us to that action. Our longings to act and to enjoy partners who act as Jesus are gracious gifts of our Creator and Redeemer! We’re well aware our graced longings clash with other longings: to live more conveniently; not to be bothered; desiring to be the centre of our universes. When that clash exists, when we feel it inside, when we’d rather not do the Christian thing because we’ll stand out or look odd: we will love God and others when we choose to do what may go against the culture’s tide.

When Jesus sent two of his disciples to ready their Passover meal and said to them, Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him, they would not have missed him. Why? In his culture women ordinarily drew water and carried it in jugs from wells.1 Will loving God and others always make us stand out like that human landmark for the disciples? No, but at times it will. Will we usually feel it will make us stand out? Yes; that feeling hints our new covenant is drawing us and reshaping us. When we give ourselves to our new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood—following Jesus’ lead and remembering him—we join his real presence wherever we are. I call it water-jar living: to live as human landmarks so others notice the gospel.

To help your water-jar living give Jesus 15 minutes daily this week. Rest in the love of our Triune God. Ask the disciples who prepared the Passover to present you to Jesus. Chat with him: tell Jesus what moves you most about sharing his Body and Blood; tell him how you desire to witness to his new covenant. Ask his grace to live your desire with courage. Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. When we say it we more than recall God’s love and Jesus’ counsel about praising and forgiving. Each time we pray it we let Jesus refashion us into Jesus’ presence where we live, work and play.
  1. See Genesis 24.11; 1Samuel 9.11; John 4.7.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Friday, June 01, 2018

Daily word, 01 Jun 18

Memorial of St. Justin Martyr (01 Jun 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 8-day retreat
Lighter and More Fruitful
We are growing aware that more humans can travel more lightly on our planet. To travel more lightly does not mean will discard nothing; it does mean we can discard without trashing our planet. Not to trash our planet is humane living. Pope Francis has alerted the world that care for our common home1 acts justly toward creation, participates in God’s justice for creation.

Living in humane, just ways means less trash; yet even less trash has to be removed. Trash removal I take for granted except when it is not removed as scheduled. I wondered why I take trash removal for granted. To my surprise my wondering led me wandering into our scripture selections.

Trash removal, nail-polish remover, spot remover, even surgical removal: so many removers do not help me appreciate the image Jesus offered: “mountain remover.” Mountain stood for an insurmountable problem, an obstacle; “remover” for one who overcame it.

Sometimes we create our problems. We have our phrase for it: “They’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” To read our language into scripture is risky. Jesus spoke as a Jew; when his people used mountain they generally meant problems not of their making. The “mountain remover” was God: the one who creates and sustains everyone and everything.

We prefer God operate on our schedules; when God does not we try to manipulate God, to make God serve me rather than I serve God. That is an ancient danger; Jesus saw it in the unfruitful temple business which he cleared. Bad fruit and decaying fruit trees long were symbols of unjust activity and other spiritual decay. Mark recalled Jesus justified clearing the temple by citing prophets’ words. Mark also wrote for those who did not know the prophets as Jesus and his people did. So he framed Jesus’ temple-clearing with a tree with no figs; Jesus rejected it. Neither tree nor temple yielded fruit God desired. Those who do not bear fruit of living in concert with God reject God.

That truth is not our stark, dark verdict. The Letter of Peter named godly fruit and how to express it: gracious hospitality; service; shared stewardship of creation; preaching, too. Those fruits and others invite people into closer relationship with God.

Faith relies deeply on God as the “mountain remover” as well as creator and one’s personal companion. St. Justin sought a faithful and sure companion from his youth. After an elder told him about Jesus and his good news, Justin not only found the surety for which he longed, he introduced others to the faith and explained it to those who had nothing to do with it.

Justin would echo Jesus: Have faith in God! One fruit Jesus’ prayer won’t let us overlook is forgiveness; it is a key way we allow God to work through us to remove problems in our world that we cannot remove alone. To ask our planet for forgiveness is no new-age gimmick.2 Far from it: it renews and deepens our rela-tionship with our common home; forgiveness also makes our faith more fruitful.

  1. Francis used the phrase “common home” in his Laudato Si! It appeared first in its subtitle: Our Care for Our Common Home.
  2. Francis has recalled Israel’s sabbatical Jubilee years: how each was a “a complete rest for the land (cf. Lev 25:1-4)…celebrated as a year of general forgiveness…to ensure balance and fairness in their relationships with others and with the land on which they lived and worked” (71).
Wiki-image by Fruggo Dumpster CC BY 1.0

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Holiness Exhortation

The Vatican released Rejoice and Be Glad, Francis’ most recent Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in today's world. It also released this 2:36-minute video of key themes found in the exhortation.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday word, 30 Mar 18

Good Friday (30 Mar 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Holy Week Retreat, Guelph, ON
Brought In
Each gathering around the tables of God’s word and God’s son calls us to transport ourselves to ancient Mediterranean culture. The words we hear and use and the meal we share are rooted there. We linger long enough to gather what will help us live as better friends and followers of our Messiah Jesus.

As we linger we note prophets like Isaiah and Jesus spoke with divine authority: The Lord says this! O my people! Hear me! I say to you. They did not only add language God-markers like those. They soaked their hearers in vivid images: images to announce God’s heart and echo God’s desire for people. Their images contrasted God’s heart and the hearts of God’s people as well as sounded hope for life restored. Sometimes the gateway to hope opened onto troubling vistas. An Isaian image troubles us: suffering servant. Is to suffer the way God’s friends prosper?

Yet on our highest holy days we allow Isaiah’s suffering servant to open the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. This liturgy demands greater courage because Isaiah’s images don’t relent: speechless; parched; faces hid; spurned; stricken; silent; smitten; crushed; afflicted…to death. Who would believe what we have heard? Who would believe what we have heard in the passion or see on a close look at a crucifix or the Pieta? It’s not believing with our heads; it’s knowing with our hearts; a you-are-there experience to help us be touched deep within by the mystery of divine love then leave moved and transformed.

What we heard happened. The events the church celebrates today are not merely reported; they are given us now. Isaiah spoke to his circumstances with his suffering servant oracle. His oracle was not locked in history; later generations used it. Evidence mounts that Jesus used his oracle: one who knows the evidence observed that Christian scriptures developed “[what] Jesus himself set in motion when he drew on [Isaiah] to…explain his mission and ministry, and in particular his coming violent death.”1 That means we receive a privileged communication from Jesus: privileged because it’s scripture; and present2 for us as Jesus lives his self-description to its end. It baffled, angered and frightened his disciples: we’re no different.

Like them Jesus’ humiliating death can move us and transform us; it also blesses us with hope for ourselves and beyond ourselves. That calls again for graced courage—and help. Who might help us be moved? The young woman who kept the doorto the courtyard of the high priest. Consider her as our help. Consider her for she was trustworthy, reliable, confident, kind and perceptive.

She was trustworthy and reliable because she had been given the role of porter. In her world those entrusted with doors and gates played key roles in households. She did not shirk to use her authority: she gave Peter access to the courtyard of the high priest. We too need intimate access to the events of this mystery. Who better to let us in than this reliable, confident young woman?

Each woman in the Fourth Gospel spoke confidently. The young woman at the courtyard gate did not converse with Jesus and for that reason is overlooked. Who can say she had not heard Jesus speak of himself as a porter? I am the gate. Those who enter through me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find nourishment.
3 Imagine her listening to his words! Whatever her source of  confidence: she knew who she let in that day because she met Peter’s companion. We are their companions; she will bring us in to the courtyard of this mystery unfolding in a high priest’s house to end high on a cross. She offers a new perspective and will treat us as she treated Peter: kindly.

St. John Chrysostom noted kindness in her words to Peter: “She did not ask Peter, Are you a disciple of that cheat and corrupter, but, of that man.” Jesus had passed through her gate; she perceived things would not bode well for him. Her phrase that man revealed Jesus’ plight stirred her compassion.4

Trustworthy, reliable, confident, kind, perceptive: the young woman’s qualities are worth emulating in every circumstance. Surely her silent presence boosted Jesus’ confidence to complete his mission. I suggest we follow her lead as we reverence his cross: entrust the cross to another to bring in the person next to you closer to its mystery; in that moment let yourself enter the gate of Jesus’ paschal life: let it continue to move you. Be confident the young woman stands at the doors of our hearts encouraging us, Be transformed by Jesus’ tree of life!

  1. Ben Witherington, III. Isaiah Old and New, Accordance electronic ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017), 35.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1085.
  3. John 10.9.
  4. Homily on John, 83.2.

Wiki-image Consummatum est PD; by Canaan Dulce lignum CC BY-SA 3.0