Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sunday word, 01 Mar 15

One Like Us
Second Sunday of Lent B (01 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Look to how you hear paraphrases1 a prophet’s warning. The New Testament gave it an important place; it stresses our need to welcome Jesus and his saving work with faith and not solely with human logic. We may express its practice in two words: faithful listening. In scripture to listen is less about ears hearing—a body’s ability—and more about personal attention: to take in; to accept; to obey. It is God’s desire for us and all disciples. We heard God announce it on the mountain of Transfiguration: Listen to…my beloved Son. Today’s worship offers us models of listening: Abraham who listened faithfully; and Peter who did not. First, Abraham.

Abraham had responded in faith when he first met God: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.2 Those words began the story of Abraham. Abraham went. Year later when he was told to bind Isaac, Abraham told Isaac, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.”3 The lectionary omits that verse from the reading. That is sad because it helps us feel Abraham’s faith at work. It guides us not to be distracted from Abraham’s faithful listening. The verse leads us to anticipate God’s faithful intervention,“Do not lay your hand on the boy…Do not do the least thing to him.” God had told Abraham before Isaac was born, My covenant I will maintain with Isaac.4

I am not saying it was easy for Abraham. Abraham personified the Psalmist words, I believed, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” Faith does not override our humanity; faith heals and completes humanity. That is true when evidence before us suggests otherwise. God is faithful even when we, like Abraham, are sorely tested.

God’s fidelity uniquely entered our history in Jesus. Before Jesus and after his time on earth many believed God would work through a messiah to save God’s people from their oppressive rulers. During and after Jesus’ ministry the rulers remained the Romans. Peter acknowledged Jesus as God’s messiah.5 Jesus told him he would suffer and die before being raised; Peter would not accept a suffering messiah: he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him.6 

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain and…was transfigured before them. Did Jesus give Peter time to cool down and come around? If he did, Peter had not changed; he remained terrified. On the mountain, as the week before, Peter wanted to control Jesus, who told Peter and the others he would suffer. On the mountain Peter wanted to control and capture in three tents the glory he beheld. On the mountain he saw Jesus as no different from Moses or Elijah, most important men of God. The voice from the cloud not only told Peter and his two partners Jesus’ identity; it tells us and what we are to do: listen to Jesus not to Peter or those who hear and consider as we are quick to do. That word alonethey saw Jesus alone? It means only: only Jesus and his pattern of living, dying and rising lived by us let us learn God’s faithfulness.

Peter’s coming to faith and his faltering make him an important model as well as intercessor for us. Coming to faith means looking directly to Jesus and listening to him more attentively. Listening to Jesus means directing our attention to him in ways both personal and communal. Not only are we like Peter coming to faith and faltering at times. Jesus accompanies us so we may be transformed like Peter: he eventually lived faith as unwaveringly as did Abraham. They both pray for us on our faith journeys.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God’s faithful, life-giving love.
  • Ask Abraham and St. Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for enduring temptations like us; thank him for revealing his Father’s fidelity to us and the human race.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to let him be our pattern of discipleship: to shape us to live more for others as he did.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so we may daily live as true disciples of Jesus in a world that often distracts us from him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Isaiah 6.9. Note f. at the link does not include St. Paul’s mixed quotation at Romans 11.8 in which he included it.
  2. Genesis 12.1.
  3. Genesis 22.8.
  4. Genesis 17.21.
  5. Mark 8.29.
  6. Mark 8.31-33.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rights or Goods?

Is it good in every instance for people to exercise any of their rights? That is a daily question, although it may not be asked every day. The production of cartoons of Prophet Mohammed and subsequent, recent events suggest the question is important. Jesuit Patrick Riordan considered the question using a 13th-Century perspective with a contemporary feel.
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Wiki-image of Map of Paris 1223 PD-US

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Spiritual Climate Change

Appreciating the earth’s climate as part of its makeup had been lost for many moderns. They also seem to be cooling toward spirituality. One point of interest in a “2014…Public Religion Research Institute…survey on attitudes toward climate change…[included] four spirituality questions.” They make a good, daily index—not only for Lent.
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Wiki-image of ANWR Coastal Plain PD-USGov

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday word, 22 Feb 15

Breaking Our Rules: Revisited
First Sunday of Lent B (22 Feb 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Last week’s gospel let me notice afresh that lepers and Jesus broke rules that kept them apart. Their rule-breaking was not license; their rule-breaking allowed the reign of God to break into our world. Jesus and the leper showed me I impose rules on myself to keep me apart from Jesus. I sought to uncover my rules, break them and draw nearer to Jesus. In few days I realized I had received my lenten focus. As you enter lent I thought to share with you how the pillars of lent are helping me apply the grace I have received.

Lent’s pillars, as you know, are fasting, almsgiving and praying. To each I will attach a rule, a rule to break. First, I suggest we Christians fast from the entitlement rule. Here’s what I mean. To live generously both rewards and costs. Their costs deplete us unless we make time to replenish ourselves with rest, reflective prayer, friends, exercise and spiritual companionship. When we don’t replenish properly we risk feeling entitled.

We often replenish ourselves well. Sometimes we turn to unhealthy distractions. We withdraw into activities that are neither true exercise, rest, prayer nor companionship—human or spiritual. I know withdrawal into self instead of opening to life giving restoration. After ministering generously I can be tempted to want to be repaid in currencies of unhealthy distractions. If I don’t keep alert I become my temptations! This lent I want to guard my graces and not boast of them. Beginning to ride on graces, silently boasting of them, opens the door to the Tempter instead of keeping it shut tight against it.

How to fast from the entitlement rule? We may think of Pope Francis and exercise discretion if we feel entitled to gossip1; we may increase our visits here or any church, chapel or shrine if we feel entitled to diminish our friendship with Jesus; we may set aside two minutes each supper to name how we recognized Jesus alive during the day. Ask Jesus to help you identify your entitlement rule and how to fast from it.

Second: give alms to break the stinginess rule.
Heightened awareness about caring for the planet, promoting personal and social health and protecting the vulnerable fosters frugal behaviors: with resources; with food and ease; monitoring power over others. It is good to be sparing or economical. Yet a frugal one risks turn-ing stingy. Though it means sparing frugality itself does not close hearts. Stingy means closed-hearted; its sound is tight compared to the muted openness of frugal.

Christian stinginess focuses on Jesus-and-me to the exclusion of others. Christian stinginess considers Jesus is on my side more than I am at his. Christian stinginess clamors with the indignation of apostles in formation wanting sole rights to the power Jesus’ name bestows.2 Leaving a room or a yard better than finding it is an ecological alms; a moment helping another is a social alms; Sending a note to a younger sibling or friend is an interpersonal alms; it shapes us to edify others beyond family and friends. This Lent give alms that thwart Christian stinginess you confront.

Ignatius of Loyola befriended lent’s third pillar. His rule, or norm, for praying: chat with Jesus as one friend to another. What self-imposed rules limit our friendship with Jesus? A brief look at friendship can shed light.

Friends use their time wisely to fulfill responsibilities so they have time to devote to each other. You know and do that. What remains to do? Break rules you impose on yourself that keep Jesus from befriending you and you him. How? Two examples: If giving more time to Jesus helps your mutual befriending, then put Jesus on your calendar to be in his company.

Second: others may not venture to chat with Jesus and limit themselves to a few, albeit venerable, ways of praying. Friends who refuse to be creative around each don’t let their relationship deepen. We create without words. We communicate with more than words. When St. Paul counseled, pray without ceasing,3 words alone were not on his mind. He was a self-proclaimed tongues-speaker4 who did not advocate its inexpressible groanings5 for everyone.6  Prayer also involves images and memories. St. Paul savored Jesus choosing him as his apostle and revisited the memory often; his savoring made the moment vivid in his letters.7

Pray with more than words this lent. Uncover and break rules you impose on relating with Jesus that keep you from more intently, more intensely organizing your life around him, his vision and his desires.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in our triune God’s true rest, life-giving love.
  • Ask St. Paul and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for enduring temptations like us; ask Jesus to help you identify rules you impose on yourself that keep you distant from each other.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to break your rules so can draw nearer and be kinder, more generous and more free like him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. No prayer better appeals to God and helps us be ambassadors of the new creation in our risen Lord.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Francis repeatedly warns against gossip’s poison. Most recently, last Sunday. [Here if not yet translated into English.]
  2. See Luke 9.49. In Matthew 19.13 || Mark 10.13 the disciples mani-fest their stingy feelings when they rebuked those who brought children to Jesus.
  3. 1Thessalonians 5.17.
  4. 1Corinthians 14.18.
  5. Romans 8.26.
  6. 1Corinthians 14.19. Ch. 14 holds his reservations and qualifications.
  7. Paul opened his letters with his self-awareness and in some (1Corinthians 9 and Galatians) defended it: apostle.

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Wiki-images: Jesus tempted PD-US; Noah Giving Thanks by A. Davey CC BY 2.0

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday word, 15 Feb 15

Breaking
Sixth Sunday of the Year B (15 Feb 2015)
Lv 13. 1-2, 44-46; Ps 32; 1Co 10. 31-11. 1; Mk 1. 40-45
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Modern minds discount old ways, practices and customs. Knowledge, after all, has freed us from prisons of misunderstanding and ignorance. Our desire to know belongs to being human; yet no one can know everything. An example: medical science keeps making breakthroughs and the human brain still holds secrets, like the purpose of sleep, of dreaming and the nature of brain disorders.

One attitude bows before knowledge as if it were fundamental or life’s goal or even divine. If knowledge is not fundamental, what is? Mystery. “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”1 So Albert Einstein wrote. The revolutionary scientist reminded people to be humble before creation: humble before the sky’s expanse of stars; before nature’s powers; and before another human.

Mystery to religious folk is power, energy that affects them deeply: so deeply they organize their lives around it. Mark’s gospel presents Jesus to us as the Christ-mystery. As he announced the reign of God Jesus re-patterned creation according to God’s desire; his actions amazed everyone.2

The desire God held for creation humans had disrupted by sin. Its presence in the world is no secret. To pretend sin is not present strengthens sin’s deceiving, warping sway. From its beginning the law of Moses sought to guide humans away from sin’s deceiving scourge.

Scourge forms the root of the word in the Hebrew bible we translate with leprosy. We know what Moses referred to is not the disease3 we think of when we hear leprosy. The point is not correct or incorrect knowledge of the disease—as if correct, modern knowledge makes us greater than Moses. The point is two effects on people: that of the scourge of the skin…blotch which develop[ed] into a scaly infection; and Jesus’ compassion for those suffering it.

The effect of that blotch or scab on the skin made people unclean. Being unclean kept people from approaching one another and God. For a person with biblical leprosy to dwell apart outside the town was a vicious quarantine.

To be shunned was a death sentence to Mediterranean people. They were gregarious; their culture oriented them to groups more than ours. If our need for social interaction were a liquid that would fill quart jars, then Mediterranean peoples’ need would overflow our jars many times over. That continues in Mediterranean lands today: people flock to central squares or to harbors in the cool of the evening and socialize as they walk.

Being apart was torture. The leper languished living apart. Living apart caused greater anguish than the sore of leprosy that separated him. Separate and apart from others the leper still learned of Jesus. People have wondered how. Greater astonishment is this: the leper broke a rule to reach Jesus. [He] came to Jesus. He knelt and begged him…“If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus also broke a rule. Moved with compassion, Jesus…touched him and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” A lesson rests there.

Our lesson is not license to do wrong or be excessive. Our lesson calls us to search our inmost selves and uncover self-imposed rules that keep us apart from Jesus. What may this search look like? One may distance himself from Jesus when circumstances challenge or wound self-esteem. Proving ourselves is not always as prudent as asking Jesus’ help. Or a search may reveal one chronically distances herself from Jesus. Jesus longs we come close: Follow me. What can we do to learn Jesus better? Or our search may reveal we do not let Jesus amaze us. To ask that the grace of wonder resurge in us may be one of the more urgent prayers most of us can make.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Compose yourself in the Trinity’s healing love.
  • Ask the leper of the gospel to present you to Jesus with the same reverent  courage.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for announcing God’s all-embracing love; tell Jesus what you do to isolate yourself from Jesus and from others. 
  • Beg Jesus to touch your wound with his wounds to make you whole. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so we may remind ourselves God desires us to seek God’s healing help so we may become whole and to help others become whole.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. His 1931 essay, “The World As I See It.”
  2. Mark 1.27; 10.24, 32. The latter two show the disciples remained amazed at the one they followed. The word also carried the nuance of alarm and fright. See 16.5, 6: rather than resolve the Christ-mystery, Jesus’ resurrection intensified it. 
  3. Hansen’s disease.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Far-reaching

Reporting on the newly designated cardinals has emphasized Pope Francis rebalanced power in the College of Cardinals. Power had been centered in Europe and North America. Jesuit Jim McDermott took pains to let the cardinals-designate speak for themselves. Many responded to his “seven simple questions..about their sense of the church today, their hopes, their faith.”
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Wiki-image of cardinal’s biretta by Nickel Chromo CC BY-SA 2.5 IT

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Sunday word, 08 Feb 15

Jesus: God’s Good News, Our Good News
Fifth Sunday of the Year B (08 Feb 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The church desires Catholics to hear more selections from scripture when we worship. To help us do that the church redesigned its books of scripture selections used at worship. We hear more scripture than Catholics did 50 years ago but nothing near all of it. The Book of Job highlights that. The Book of Job has just over a 1000 verses. On Sundays we hear only 11 of them—every three years! We just heard half of them for the year.1

The six verses of the Book of Job the church offers us are important. I suggest two things: today’s verses recommend we be real; and being real includes eagerly inviting Jesus to accompany our living. First, Job.


Who cannot identify with Job? Who of us has never felt one’s life on earth [is] a drudgery? Who has never voiced Job’s sentiment one time or another? Who hasn’t felt some days that our expected work and responsibilities weigh on us; that their pressure makes us feel we are hirelings, even enslaved? Who hasn’t had a sleepless, troubled night? Whose nights—not to mention some days—have not dragged on one time or another? Who does not long for hope, varieties of goodness2 and meaning? Job described our humanity when he bemoaned a moment in his life.

We identify with Job because we are human. The absence of hope, goodness and meaning, as well as our longing for them on the best days: their absence and our longing for them are part of being alive. The absence of hope, goodness and meaning gnaw at our deepest selves before we are aware of it. Our longing for hope, goodness and meaning clothes us with our humanity.

The few verses from the Book of Job call us to be realistic; to admit human longing and human suffering are real for us and everyone. Human longing and human suffering belong to daily living. Though they are not physical, hope, goodness, meaning are real. They describe our spirit.

Each of us is body and spirit. The body is readily available; the spirit is not. We often talk about our spirit with physical imagery; even as we do we know our imagery doesn’t entirely capture spirit. If Job crisply listed symptoms of our suffering, the Psalmist diagnosed us with a word: brokenhearted. The Psalmist also summarized the condition of each and everyone: we all have wounds.

Into our wounded confusion Jesus came to heal us. Jesus came to heal us as one of us. Jesus knew confusion as we do: when hope begins to vanish; when joy bows to sadness; and when fading hope and flustered joy undermine meaningful living. St. Paul experienced risen Jesus rescue him and restore meaning, hope and joy to his living. Risen Jesus was good news to Paul. Don’t let good news, ring trite; replace it with gospel. Yes, it means good news. Gospel is less about Jesus; it is Jesus! God’s good news for all.

St. Paul modeled keeping Jesus in our lives. Preaching Jesus did that for him. He preached Jesus, as he said, so I may have a share in Jesus. To share in Jesus is to share his mission. Jesus joined us to announce the reign of God was now active among us; to cure diseases; and to drive out demons. In a time when we control diseases and even let some out of our control, Jesus driving out demons can distract us from reality. We humans are wounded in body—diseases; that’s plain enough. Our spirits are also wounded. In scripture demons name powers that hurt our inmost selves. Those powers still exist. Detecting them is less easy than many diseases. Jesus came for the sake of all in our total humanity, body and spirit.

Sharing Jesus is not private. Our deeply personal sharing in Jesus heals; it also hands us our mission. We know God’s creation will be restored as a new heaven and a new earth.3 Our expectation of a new earth…stimulate[s] our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now points to the present dawning of the new age.4 Jesus began it and continues it with us and through us so everyone may enjoy renewed hope, deeper joy and lives full of meaning.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the creative love of our triune God.
  • Ask St. Paul and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for announcing the reign of God unfolding among us and for healing our complete selves; thank Jesus for inviting us to share his mission.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to invite him more eagerly into your life and accompany you each moment.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, thy kingdom come, do not deprive us of wholesome living nor erase any confusion or anxiety we suffer. Jesus’ words remind us we are not totally self-sufficient. To pray, thy kingdom come, opens us to invite into our lives the one who embodies God’s kingdom and welcomes us in it—Jesus our savior.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Statistics for Roman Catholic lectionaries; selections of scriptures on given Sundays.
  2. The word, we translate with happiness, includes hospitality, loyalty, old age, beauty, excellence. For more of its expansive meaning.
  3. Revelation 21.1; 2Peter 3.13.
  4. Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World, ¶39.

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Wiki-images: Job by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing CC BY-SA 3.0Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law PD-US

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Sunday word, 01 Feb 15

Challenging Gift
Fourth Sunday of the Year B (01 Feb 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Memory and presence are closely connected. I don’t mean casual or mechanical remembering; I mean living memory: memory of food so yummy we can taste it; memory that keeps a person powerfully near; memory that lets a past event enliven us.

Living memory is in our Christian DNA. We inherited it from Moses and all the people, Israel, our ancestors in faith. Those who went with Moses from Egypt remembered God delivered them with power so great it frightened them. They told Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die.”1 God responded graciously. Moses and others like him would continue to mediate God’s voice to the people.

Living memory of the release from slavery into freedom was their foundation for being in the world. Their living memory shaped prophecy; its authority among them; and their need to interpret its meaning in each time and place. Mark’s gospel presented us with a snapshot of worshippers in a synagogue interpreting Jesus’ authority. Mark’s entire gospel is not only brief; it is compact. It moves with its rapid momentum. It’s worth reading from start to finish. When you read it, don’t read it like a recipe or as a lesson. Read it gently and feel as you do.

One thing a feeling-reading of Mark’s gospel offers is noticing the Christ-mystery revolves around his presence. Jesus speaks but doesn’t have to. Spirits know him by his very presence. The unclean spirit in a man in the synagogue cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” The unholy know the holy—it is ever so.

Mark uniquely handled the Christ-mystery. He allowed spirits and those coming to faith to enjoy revelation of Jesus’ identity. Mark also let Jesus conceal his identity. In today’s selection Jesus is perhaps the most brief in doing so. A single word, “Quiet!” Immediately Jesus healed the man.

Those in the synagogue were not amazed to see healings. They were amazed an artisan, a carpenter, enjoyed such a powerful gift. Their amazement started a personal process: to discover who Jesus really was: God’ son, saving not frightening.

To every hearer and reader of Mark’s gospel Jesus’ identity is not concealed. We know it. Yet Mark’s gospel offers us a challenging gift. The gift is that Jesus’ identity is clear to us. The challenge is coming to know Jesus for ourselves: to enter a relationship with Jesus, the Son of God.2

The challenge cannot be met by any who treat Jesus as a distant, dead figure of the past. Jesus lives by his Spirit in us, for us and among us. He truly is who John the Baptizer said he was at the beginning of Mark’s gospel, the mightier one: “One mightier than I will come after me. …he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”3

Jesus’ power is not what humans expect. That is why Jesus told spirits who knew him and humans who experienced his healing power not to focus on it. Jesus’ power is not what we expect. Yes, entering and maintaining a relationship with Jesus challenges. Yet a relationship with Jesus rewards. Relationships enliven us. Remembering people enlivens us. Remembering Jesus means remembering a living one: Messiah and Lord. Making room in our living memory for Jesus challenges us to meet Jesus ourselves. A relationship with Jesus is most rewarding.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: thank Jesus for preaching the gospel for you in deed and word; thank Jesus for gathering you into the life he shares with his Father and Holy Spirit.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to free you to cultivate a deeper relationship with him: let Jesus be your confidante; “speak to him as one friend to another”.4
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ enjoyed an intimate relationship with his Father. He gave us his prayer to help us cultivate our relationships. His prayer is a daily action plan and unites us more closely to him and to his Father and ours.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Exodus 20.19. Moses recalled their memory in the first reading.
  2. Mark 1.1.
  3. Mark 1.7-8.
  4. St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 54.
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