Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday word, 23 Aug 15

Culture and Life
Twenty-first Sunday of the Year B (23 Aug 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The culture into which Jesus was born was not identical to ours. Similarities existed, of course: people lived in a variety of social and economic ways; human longings were deep then as now; many practiced religion, some did not; doing things for show was a human bent that has never completely disappeared; and change made people anxious.

Some differences are alien to us modern folk: ancients were suspicious of anything new; they worshipped gods in ever-increasing numbers; disease was pollution and punishment; and—the feature that confounds us—men held all the power.

Men held power over people as well as things. While love surely existed between spouses, the culture before and after Jesus championed a man’s power above love. Crisply put: in Jesus’ culture husbands did not have to love their wives.

Ephesus lived ancient Mediterranean culture in spades. St. Paul had been spelling out in his letter to Christians there—and to us—what it meant to live in love, as Christ loved us. He began with things in sync with the culture. He included wives deferring to their husbands.1 Some men may have dozed off, hearing nothing new. Until: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her. Men would have been wide awake at those words.

The gospel challenged culture then, even as it does today. The gospel applauds ways culture helps people live in harmony with Jesus and his example. The gospel challenges every culture to better itself for the sake of every person.

Even some who walked with Jesus as disciples felt his challenge sharply. They gave Jesus a generous hearing when he identified himself as the living bread come down from heaven. He did challenge common sense. When he said, The one who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and abides in me: it was too much. As a result…many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Their choice leads me to ask myself and us: are we cultural Catholics only? Do we practice without longing for Jesus to draw us closer? to deepen our faith in him? Or are we disciples for whom “faith is a force of life,” as Pope Francis describes it?2 Do we stay with Jesus and imitate his faith and try to love as selflessly as he loved? Are we generous with who we are because we are members of his body?

Jesus is a mystery, a flesh and blood mystery. So is each of us a flesh and blood mystery—even to ourselves. We would not empty the mystery a close friend, spouse, parent or sister or brother is. People close to us can trouble us at times; we don’t leave them on those accounts. Rather, we seek to learn and know each other better. Learning Jesus that way does not empty him of mystery. Learning Jesus that way makes him—mystery, challenge, all of him—more inviting and shapes us more like Jesus. For us disciples Jesus, our mystery, is our culture and our life.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Sts. Paul and Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting you to accompany him as his ambassador in speech and action. 
  • Ask him for grace to stay close to him and love as he loves.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. He gave us his words to help us act and love more like him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Ephesians 5.22.
  2. 28 June 2015 Angelus message.

Wiki-images: Jesus multiplies loaves by Béria L. Rodríguez @ Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Bread and fish mosaic by Grauesel CC BY-SA 3.0

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Sunday word, 09 Aug 15

Turning Point
Nineteenth Sunday of the Year B (09 Aug 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We can recall turning points in our lives. Some turning points offer hope for the future—graduation, a new job, reconnecting with a friend; others cut deeply—personal failure, pink-slips, illness, death of dear ones and acquaintances. Turning points affect us strongly; at times people want to run away. Our turning points help us appreciate Prophet Elijah. He had become afraid and fled for his life.1 During his turning point God’s bread nourished Elijah. God strengthened Elijah to continue his ministry and life.

Throughout the bible nourishing and strengthening describe God’s care for those who trust God. Jesus fulfilled God’s desire to nourish us in an unmatched way: the living bread come down from heaven. Our living bread is available to us in Jesus’ eucharist.

Jesus’ eucharist is his self-gift to us as he said: my body…my blood for you.2 As food and drink nourish our bodies Jesus’ self-gift to us in his eucharist nourishes our baptisms. Baptism united us with risen Jesus and sealed us with his Spirit for our salvation. His eucharist helps us put on Jesus each day. Jesus’ eucharist revives our Christian love3; his eucharist helps us think and behave in harmony with him. Sharing Jesus’ eucharist helps us grow in his friendship.4 

As our friendships with others affect how we live, think and act, sharing Jesus’ eucharist affects our daily living. Regularly sharing Jesus’ eucharist fashions us as Jesus’ presence for others. Regularly sharing Jesus’ eucharist helps us grow more free from bitterness, fury, anger, shouting…reviling and malice: things that wound individual Christians and Christian communities. Sharing Jesus’ eucharist clothes us instead with his compassion.

Regularly sharing Jesus’ eucharist offers new ways to see ourselves and others. Our vision is not limited by the familiar or the customary. Some of Jesus’ listeners that day were limited by the familiar: Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, I have come down from heaven?” Jesus’ words could find no home in them.

Faith is our word for our Christian vision. Faith frees us to see the world as God’s gift; faith frees us to see others as companions sharing life's journey; and faith frees us to see Jesus as our nourishment, our brother, our Lord, our Creator and Redeemer.

Regularly sharing Jesus’ eucharist is a turning point for us. His eucharist draws us closer and turns us to him; it also frees and empowers us to live as his presence wherever we may be.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for giving you himself in his sacrament of the eucharist to turn you closer to him.
  • Ask him for grace to feel and know his friendly presence guiding you. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us this day our daily bread, remind us our Triune God nourishes us to join Jesus’ mission for the life of our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 1Kings 19.3. Verse before today’s reading; the reading may be used at a votive mass of the Holy Eucharist (Lectionary for Ritual Masses, [976. 6]).
  2. Luke 22.19-20.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church [CIC] 1394.
  4. CIC 1395.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sunday word, 02 Aug 15

Eighteenth Sunday of the Year B (02 Aug 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
omeone wondered why we switched from Mark’s gospel to John’s gospel beginning last week. Mark’s gospel is the shortest. To spread Mark’s gospel over a church year so its conclusion is heard at the end of the church year we insert a chapter of John’s gospel; we spread it over five summer weeks. Today’s gospel let us hear Jesus call himself the bread of life.

He had fed crowds with five loaves and a couple fish. They saw him as the Prophet and sought to make him king.1 They expected God’s Prophet to wield earthly power. So Jesus left them; they sought and found Jesus. He knew why and told them: because they ate not because of the heavenly signs Jesus had done for the sick among them or the way Jesus fed them. They were confused: they thought Jesus had access to the bread of God their ancestors once enjoyed; they did not yet see him as the bread of God, the source of God’s life.

Thinking Jesus had access to the bread of life, the bread of God, they asked him for it: Sir, give us this bread always. With the whole church we recognize Jesus as the bread of life Jesus said he is. We enjoy the nourishment he offers us in the sacrament of the eucharist. It is Jesus’ pledge of life eternal for us.2

Those who sought Jesus and listened to him asked: give us this bread always. Their request echoes when we pray, Give us this day our daily bread. Jesus is our living bread; he nourishes our inmost selves. Nourishing us with himself includes Jesus giving us his Spirit.

Sharing Jesus’ Spirit can easily lead us to think of outstanding things—miracles, speaking in tongues, mystic experiences. Humane living is equally of Holy Spirit. Spirit-fruits, St. Paul reminded, are not alien, loud nor imposing: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.3

As we live shaped more by Jesus’ Spirit we live the pattern of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Celebrating the eucharist helps us live the pattern of Jesus’ life. It nourishes our baptisms, which renewed our inmost selves; when we put on the new self, created in God’s way so we may live daily in integrity and holiness of truth, and all the fruits of Jesus’ Holy Spirit. To make the pattern of Jesus’ life our pattern of living is what our world needs.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God, who creates each of us with a purpose.
  • Ask the crowds who went looking for Jesus to present you to him.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for giving you himself in his sacrament of the eucharist.
  • Ask him for grace to hunger for him and for courage to replicate his pattern of living.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Praying it does express our needs to our God. Praying Jesus’ prayer also helps us grow to make Jesus’ way of living our way of living.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Conclusion of last Sunday’s gospel.
  2. Roman Missal, Preface VI for Sundays of the Year.
  3. Galatians 5.22-23.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday word, 26 Jul 15

Jesus’ Food Is Ours
Seventeenth Sunday of the Year B (26 Jul 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Bishop Persico endorsed the suggestion to pray to the Holy Spirit this weekend throughout our diocese. We ask Holy Spirit to grace each of us and our Pastoral Planning Process.1 The recently-arrived August issue of Faith Magazine focuses our prayer: our diocese “pastoral planning [seeks] to strengthen parish ministries, enhance the life of parishes and schools, make the church more responsible as a steward of limited resources and create a stronger, more viable and capable church to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ.”2

In a word pastoral planning is about mission, Jesus’ mission. The church serves the world in Jesus’ name. After the Vatican Council closed in 1965 the church in its local incarnations worldwide has been engaged in pastoral planning. The Council realized the church was in the world, the modern world. It freed the church to touch the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of modern people.3 Jesus did the very same among his peers.

When Jesus placed himself in the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of his contemporaries, some were scandalized. They had decided he ignored or slighted God; he did not.To celebrate with the joyful; to long with those who hoped in God; to weep with the grieving; and to honor the anxious: Jesus respected the dignity of each person as created in the divine image. For that Jesus was among people, close to people, concerned for people.

Among people, close to people, concerned for people express a human hallmark: we are social. The church is social because it is an assembly of people who worship God in risen Jesus by Holy Spirit; who rejoice and grieve with each other; and who live for others in imitation of Jesus.4

The mission of the church continues Jesus’ mission. Pope Francis embodies Jesus’ mission as our example. He is joyful and full of hope; he does not turn from griefs or anxieties.5 He models how to grow more sensitive to people on the margins.

Today’s gospel reminds us that attending to the sick—as important as that is—did not absolve Jesus from nourishing the large crowd [that] followed him. The gospel clues us to that: Jesus knew what he was going to do. Pastoral planning helps us know how to act like Jesus. It considers the many faces of nourishing each and every Catholic in our diocese—strengthening Catholic education; parish life and ministries; using resources better to help us bring Jesus to everyone in ways that defend and deepen each one’s dignity.

Nourishing body and spirit is the prophetic vocation of the church. Pastoral planning is the ongoing process helping us be prophetic. Pastoral planning reawakens and reconnects us to risen Jesus and his prophetic mission. Pastoral planning equips us to live in a manner worthy of who we are: one with Jesus as his body in the world by the power of his Spirit.

Holy Spirit empowers us each moment. Holy Spirit guides us as we discern how our parish and our diocese can live more like Jesus. St. Paul sketched Jesus’ way and invites us to let ourselves be recreated to live it with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

Are those possible for us to do? The readings remind us we easily dismiss what we consider impossible. God worked through Elijah and Jesus and people received superabundantly. Creation and recreation happen by the Spirit’s power. From Jesus’ Spirit flows abundance to answer…the needs the Diocese of Erie faces. Prayer informs pastoral planning; prayer also opens us to the possibilities Holy Spirit will create anew and lavish on us and our diocese as we make Jesus present.6

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask our diocesan patron, St. Patrick, and our parish patrons, Sts. Michael and Margaret, to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting you to follow him and be his ambassadors here and now.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to enter our diocesan pastoral planning process with greater freedom.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us…our daily bread, include diocesan pastoral planning. Jesus’ food gave everyone access to God’s saving work.7 His prayer recreates us more like Jesus and empowers us to do the same work the entrusts to us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Faith Magazine, August 2015 issue, p. 23.
  2. “The Basics,” in August 2015 issue, p. 7.
  3. Its final document immediately noticed them. Church in the Modern World, 1.
  4. Philippians 2.3; 1Peter 4.10; Hebrews 13.16; 1Corinthians 12.28.
  5. For words, recall him with the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan; images of him including all abound.
  6. The Prayer-Planning-Possibilities: the motto of the current pastoral planning process.
  7. John 4.34.


Wiki-images: Jesus feeds thousands PD-US  Planning logo of Diocese of Erie

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday word, 19 Jul 15

Not What We Think
Sixteenth Sunday of the Year B (19 Jul 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We know that some words we use daily have more than single meanings. Take hot and cool. Each can mean a different way we sense temperature. In conversation their meanings change to mean something is excellent—the restaurant is cool; someone is stunningly attractive—the fashion model is hot. We rarely give words thought.

The bible, though, uses certain words with meanings very different from what we expect. One of them is peace. We think absence of war or an end to hostilities. The word peace points to both in the bible; it is not its key meaning. The bible connects peace with God. In fact, peace is God; people who experience peace experience it as God’s presence.

St. Paul put it crisply: [Christ Jesus] is our peace. To illustrate St. Paul used imagery of the temple; it was not alien to his contemporaries as it is to us. The temple was its own neighborhood1: it had large courtyards; colonnades; and a complex of buildings. A barrier surrounded the building enshrining God’s presence. Gentiles as well as Jews deemed not pure were not allowed beyond it; a sign warned Gentiles with death.

That dividing wall was established to protect God’s holy place; but it had the unintended consequence of denying access to God to those who needed it. Long before Jesus God revealed through prophets that Gentile nations would join themselves to the restored Israel.2 By dying and rising Jesus completed its restoration: he creat[ed] in himself one new person in place of the two.

Putting that enmity to death by…his cross suggests peace as we think of it. Yet hostility’s end is no human action but a divine one—creating. Christian peace is much more than end of hostility: it is God acting in Jesus by their Spirit. The Spirit gives all peoples access to the Father, who is peace and the source of peace for all peoples.

Other impressions from scripture we heard help us notice ways divine peace registers. The shepherd guided and protected sheep. Left to themselves sheep eat what is around them then lay down. They do not search for food; shepherds drive them so they have food and then rest in the calm of a meadow. Little wonder that people whose lives depended on flocks would give God the title shepherd.3Security and nourishment for people were achieved by staying near God and living God’s justice.

Famous Psalm 23 enshrines God’s activity of leading; guiding; shielding; and nourishing, on earth and beyond in God’s very presence—peace and its security. God’s presence, God’s peace who is risen Jesus, we experience sacramentally. Jesus spread[s his] table before us to nourish our Christian selves. Jesus’ eucharist deepens his teaching in us; it lets us experience his saving care then imitate his compassion.4

To summarize my impression of the Word today: we experience sacramentally the presence and person of risen Jesus, God’s son and Mary’s son. Though our experience is partial this side of heaven it is truly real, more real than anything else. Our nourishing communion with Jesus who is our peace constantly creates us and shapes us to live among others his compassion and justice for the sake of our world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the Twelve apostles to present you to Jesus. 
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; recall for him one way you have enjoyed his goodness and kindness he has offered you; savor it.
  • Ask Jesus to help you welcome his peace—his faithful, creative love—each moment.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. By praying it we allow Jesus to shape us as his apostles of peace today. Apostles of his peace today as in earlier times bring him near to those who most need him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. This diagram may help appreciate St. Paul’s imagery.
  2. Isaiah 14.1.
  3. Very early in the bible Patriarch Joseph extolled: God has been my shepherd all my life long to this day (Genesis 49.2).
  4. The NAB translates with pity the word that means moved at one’s inmost self (Mark 6.34). Jesus was more than disappointed—that other connotation of pity.
Wiki-images: Warning Inscription in the temple dividing wall, copyright Giovanni Dall’Orto; With Jesus in a deserted place PD-US

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A TV-Character and a Biblical Prophet

Sometimes people notice commentary after an event that was intended to be noticed beforehand. U.S. Catholic Blog posted a thought-and-prayer-starter last Friday. It sought to help readers think about the mission of Prophet Amos and their mission as baptized prophets. Because the postentitled “Where are the prophets?is more about the present than the past it can be read this week and beyond.
Wiki-image Papyrus Book of Amos PD-US

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday word, 12 Jul 15

“Calmly and Gently”
Fifteenth Sunday of the Year B (12 Jul 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

A key feature of Jewish prayer has been blessing God for all God has done and continues doing. To bless God is to praise God. The shortest psalm blesses God for God’s faithful loving kindness; it invites all the world to join in blessing God:
Hallelujah [that is] Praise the Lord! all you nations. Extol him, all you peoples!/His mercy for us is strong;the faithfulness of the Lord is forever. Hallelujah!
St. Paul blessed God in risen Jesus because he embodied God’s sure, faithful loving kindness1; Paul experienced risen Jesus exactly that way—not for anything Paul did.2

St. Paul began his Letter to the Ephesians with a blessing with which he and all Jews were familiar. Its simple design—praising God and naming why—was expanded as prayers saw fit. Paul blessed God for favoring humans with God’s life in Messiah Jesus. God’s life mediated by Messiah Jesus reunified people to the praise of his glory. Jesus’ active, living presence guarantees his faithful disci-ples will enjoy what Jesus had begun: both Jews who recognized Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah and the more recent believers of every nation to the praise of his glory. Holy Spirit actively sealed the promise God made in Messiah Jesus to the praise of his glory.

Paul’s blessing prayer describes our transformation: redemption as God’s possession…in Christ is nothing less. We are transformed now, even when we are unaware. Christian transformation is indeed a mystery that eludes us. The mystery is also risen and exalted Jesus actively at work by his Spirit. By praising God the way he did St. Paul outlined God’s providence.

Humans resist transformation; we can-do-Americans resist trusting God’s providence, God’s loving kindness. God’s providence is Jesus: his person and his powerful activity in and by his Spirit. Our need to be free agents makes us distrust grace, God’s life. Yet God in Jesus by their Spirit transform us that way and no other. By grace you have been saved through faith, St. Paul wrote the Ephesians, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.3

Such gifting by God is God’s way. Take Amos, a breeder of sheep. God transformed him to speak God’s word not the words of self-styled prophets who lolled at the court of the king: the Lord took me from following the flock, and…said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ What-ever resistance Amos felt he moved through it to allow himself to become God’s mouthpiece.

Amos illuminates today’s gospel. Jesus chose ordinary people as his mouthpieces, his ambassadors. Jesus chose them; they did not choose him.4 He knowingly chose fishermen, a tax-collector, a traitor, one called a fanatic—who left him alone at the end.5 By his Spirit they accomplished his mission and extended it to the ends of the earth.

When next we doubt ourselves and our role in Jesus’ mission we are wise to recall Amos and Jesus’ apostles. They were ordinary folk, talented and limited in their ways. Jesus transformed them into his ambassadors of his life, his salvation, his redemption, his glory, our inheritance.

How may we allow the Spirit of Jesus work through us as ambassadors of his salvation, his redemption, his glory, our inheritance? St. Ignatius of Loyola recommended this to someone busy and worried: “Do whatever you can, calmly and gently. Do not be anxious about the rest; leave it to God’s providence to take care of what [you] cannot provide…; for [God] wishes that our limitations and weak-ness should lean upon his strength and omnipotence and…trust that [God] in his goodness will make up for what is lacking in our imperfection and infirmity.”The most challenging part of his advice may be to act calmly and gently. Acting that way opens us to Jesus’ calm and gentleness: fruits of his Spirit.7

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Amos and the Twelve apostles to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for sending you as his ambassadors, ambassadors of his gospel.
  • Ask Jesus for this twin grace: a deeper trust in him that lets us share in his calm and his peace in all we do.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us so we may bless God before we ask for what we need—exactly what Jesus did as he lived our human life.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Romans 15:11.
  2. Acts 22.7-11; 1Corinthians 15.8-10; 2Corinthians 12.9; Ephesians 3.8-9.
  3. Ephesians 2.5, 8-9.
  4. John 15.16.
  5. Luke 6.13-16—Mark 14.50 and John 16.32.
  6. Letter 5,945 in his Letters and Instructions (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2006), pp. 607-608. Another translation here.
  7. Galatians 5.22.