Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday word, 19 Oct 14

Who We Truly Are
29th Sunday of the Year A [World Mission Sunday] (19 Oct 2014)
Is 45. 1, 4-6; Ps 96; 1Th 1. 1-5b; Mt 22. 15-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Meaning: we want our lives to enjoy meaning. To say that expresses our desire to enjoy significant and substantial, valuable and valid living. That desire is not new, yet it is ever human. Our Catholic conviction is that Jesus offers us meaning. How do we receive it? When we allow ourselves to “encounter Jesus.” Letting Jesus meet us each moment offers us the meaning we desire and seek. Pope Francis expressed this in his concise way: The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.1 Sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness not only imprison; they dissatisfy and disrupt everyone’s joyful, valuable, valid, significant living.

Pope Francis recalled his words in his message for this weekend’s World Mission Sunday.2 He also recalled that at home and in distant places people allow sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness to dissatisfy them. How? When they let the world run them rather than run the world with the good of all at heart. Consumerism is the glaring, modern symptom of being run by the world. It used to be located in developed nations. Now that travel, trade and commerce are global few are unaffected by consumerism. Again the pope placed an earlier observation in his World Mission Sunday message: “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”3 Pope Francis did not accuse; he named results of our glaring, modern symptom: smug, grasping hearts; chasing frivolous pleasures; blunted sense of good and harmful. These also disrupt joyful, valuable, valid, significant meaning.

Why did Pope Francis give the global symptom of consumerism and its results prominent place in his message on mission and missions? To remind that Jesus is the Missionary and the Evangelizer; he offers everyone joy, significance, substance, value and validity each day. Jesus said as much: I came that people may have life and have it abundantly.4 In a word Jesus is power: the power who makes abundant life grow in everyone; he is power who liberates from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness, transforms hearts, frees us to desire true pleasures and choose what helps not harms.

Power is what the first Christians experienced from risen Jesus, his Spirit and the gospel that announced him. The first experience of the power of risen Jesus vibrated with surprise and fear; with the gift of his Spirit resurrection power registered as healings, ecstatic gifts, freedom to speak, to be joyful even in hardship and salvation from ruthless human rule and elemental6 and demonic spirits. We heard St. Paul recall the experience of the power of risen Jesus in his earliest letter to the first church he established: Our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

Power has come to us, too. The personal encounter with Jesus Pope Francis encourages helps us reconnect and stay connected to risen Jesus and his power for us. Personal encounter with Jesus helps us identify and name his power working in us, for us and through us. Personal encounter with Jesus injects vitality in our public worship, a privileged way we repay to…God what belongs to God. Personal encounter with Jesus deepens our conviction that Jesus offers meaning to all.

That is why each of us in each one’s vocation announces the gospel. Mission in each present moment means we take our turn. The experience of power in risen Jesus and his Spirit were handed on to us. Those who handed on Jesus to us did so with the gospel: hearing it preached and preaching it in return. Not only did the gospel give birth to the church, “the church is missionary by her very nature.”5 Because the church is people each baptized person is a missionary. Christian mission is multilayered. Supporting by prayer and alms efforts to make Jesus known is the layer we quickly connect with evangelizing. Mission also deepens the personal and communal connection with risen Jesus. St. Paul did it by his letters and visits to Christian churches. As we grow in our conviction Jesus lives in us, becoming who we truly are is inevitable: Christian missionaries—Christian in name and in fact; missionaries in deed and word.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask St. Paul and the other Apostles to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: thank him for inviting you to join his mission; tell him how it attracts you and how it challenges you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to stay connected with him and grace to make him known by your living.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy kingdom come, are less about the future and more about the present: as Jesus announced, the kingdom of God is at hand for you.7 Jesus commissioned numerous disciples to echo his words as they prepared his way. He speaks them to us to remind us we are his missionaries everywhere we find ourselves.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Pope Francis recalled his words in The Joy of the Gospel.
  2. Message for World Mission Sunday, section 3.
  3. Message for World Mission Sunday, section 4.
  4. John 10.10.
  5. Message for World Mission Sunday, Introduction.
  6. Colossians 2.20.
  7. Luke 10.9.

Wiki-images of disciples baptizing and render to Caesar  PD-US

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday word, 12 Oct 14

Jesus’ Invitation Never Expires
28th Sunday of the Year A (12 Oct 2014)
Is 26. 6-10a; Ps 23; Phil 4. 12.14, 19–20; Mt 22. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Parables put familiar experiences or views next to less familiar ones. The familiar helps listeners so they appreciate what is less familiar. Parables do that with vivid, life-like imagery.1 Exceptions exist for everything, parables, included. Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet has some odd features that can distract us. Let me do three things briefly: first, name the distracting features; second, ask why they are present; third, find a purpose Jesus intended.

We cannot accept all invitations we receive. We even ignore a few. Mistreating and killing those who offer invitations, though, is unreal. Feeling enraged at such violence is real, but for a king both to respond in kind and burn their city is over the top. The city was home to people innocent of the tragedy. Why did Matthew shape Jesus’ parable that way?

Parables of Jesus were retold long before Matthew and others wrote them. Matthew selected parables from his sources and shaped them into his gospel, placing some here, others there. Holy Spirit affirmed his creativity. Holy Spirit routinely works through human efforts.2

Matthew wrote his gospel after the Romans killed citizens of Jerusalem and burned it. Ancients saw in tragedies worked by humans and by nature punishment by divine powers. The long-in-coming split between Jews who did not believe in risen Jesus and those who did colored Matthew’s community. Matthew’s community readily connected the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the refusal to believe in Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

Believers in risen Jesus as Messiah and Lord saw Jesus as the parable’s son of the king. The king gave a wedding feast for his son. Why did Jesus tell this parable? Those to whom Jesus addressed his parable are key to notice Jesus’ purpose when he told it: Jesus again…spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables. Jesus addressed the parables of the previous two Sundays and today to those who rejected him and even sought to kill him3: the chief priests and elders of the people. The parable of the wedding banquet Jesus directed against the chief priests and elders of the people. Jesus’ invited all to attend the wedding banquet; the chief priests and elders refused to attend. Their hearts were hostile and hard.

The first reading and psalm invite us to focus on the banquet invitation. Prophet Isaiah: God has long desired to provide for all…a feast of rich food and choice wines. The Psalmist: God’s goodness and kindness…overflows with nourishing delight for living day to day. The famous Twenty-third Psalm uses banquet table imagery to awaken our hearts to our deep hungers, hungers only God in Jesus by their Spirit can satisfy. Why this focus? Because Jesus continues to invite all of us and everyone.

Our fast-paced, busy, even frantic, days can numb us to our desires and God’s desires for us. The intersection of God’s desires for us—who God creates each moment—and our desires to live lives with meaning and creative energy: the intersection of God’s desires for us and our deep desires to live meaningful lives is a window on each one’s fuller Christian living. Full Christian living is marked above all by generous charity. We name its practice holiness. Living this holiness [promotes]…a more human manner of living.4 Holiness does not oppose humane living; it promotes it.

Holiness is first a gift, a grace our triune God offers us. A way to connect with one’s gift of holiness is to pause and consider one’s gifts today. God creates me a Jesuit priest; God creates you with personal gifts and talents to live your vocations; God creates everyone with roles in the church of Jesus and the world. Jesus’ wedding banquet parable invites us to ask ourselves holy questions; a quiet pause helps us answer them:
  • Did I resist Jesus inviting me to draw nearer to him?
  • Did I resist Jesus desiring to be my companion today?
  • Did I harden my heart toward Jesus or another?
  • Did I go it alone and resist the merciful affection and help of Jesus, his Father and their Spirit?
  • Did I live as though God offers me no riches or rich, pure, choice nourishing help?
I placed these questions on the Spiritual Exercise of the Week blog for you to use and to help you shape holiness-questions to ask each day. With them and the merciful affection and help of Jesus, his Father and their Spirit any-one can respond more freely to Jesus’ invitation to his banquet. His invitation never expires.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for you; thank him for inviting you to share his life; consider when and how you may have resisted him or hardened your heart toward him.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to respond more freely to his constant invitation to join him and share his life.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us…our daily bread, more than ask for physical nourishment. The sustenance supplied by our triune God exceeds food. It nourishes us to live holy, humane, joyful lives that collaborate with God and others.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Visit a helpful guide to parables.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #107, succinctly expressed this.
  3. Matthew 26.4.
  4. Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, 40.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sunday word, 05 Oct 14

Interdependent and Delicate
27th Sunday of the Year A (05 Oct 2014)
Is 5. 1-7; Ps 80; Phil 4. 6-9; Mt 21. 33-43
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
To help us with a project we sometimes turn to a book or other written guide. We choose among books depending on the type of project. We choose a cookbook to guide us in planning menus. Not all cookbooks are the same. If our menu will forgo meat we may choose a vegetarian cookbook. We would reach for no cookbook if our project were renovating our kitchen—until we plan the dinner to celebrate our completed project.

The Bible guides our life projects, our daily living. The Bible is a library of short books of many varieties of styles and purposes. One style is named gospel. Gospel has a precise purpose: to pass on what Jesus proclaimed; Jesus, God’s anointed one and his dying and rising. Jesus’ dying and rising confirmed him as God’s anointed one. The Bible holds four written records of gospel. They are not identical.

To Matthew’s gospel we devote attention this year. It presents Jesus as teaching and forming those who will continue his teaching. Jesus final words make that clear: Go…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. …I am with you always, until the end of the age.1 Matthew’s Jesus taught about God and God’s desires with and by parables.

That teaching for Jesus as for Jews of his time always involved a back-and-forth. Parables aided it because parables invite listeners to enter them and to see themselves in them. Jesus taught the kingdom of heaven he announced by his parables. Some of his parables revealed what the kingdom is like2; others revealed the kingdom Jesus announced was essential and pivotal3; still others revealed people either accept or reject the kingdom Jesus announced.4

Once more Jesus addressed himself to the chief priests and the elders who rejected him and God’s reign he pro-claimed. He did so with a treasured, venerable self-image of Israel: God’s vineyard. Prophet Isaiah used it long before, and he did not need to explain it to his hearers. Prophet Isaiah witnessed that God planted the vineyard.5 God gave God’s vineyard growth6; God entrusted it to some so that many could enjoy its shade and its fruit.

Nor did Jesus need to explain it to his hearers, the chief priests and the elders of the people. They had come to control the vineyard rather than allow themselves to be parts of it. The chief priests and elders readily entered Jesus’ vineyard parable. Just as readily they realized Jesus had cast them as the greedy, violent tenants. Jesus tells it to us today. With whom do we identify when we enter Jesus’ parable? Recently when I entered Jesus’ parable I wandered the vineyard. The interweaving, interdependent, delicate vines absorbed me. I can describe the fruit of letting myself be absorbed in Jesus’ image with action-words; I admired; was in awe; revered; honored; touched carefully, holding my strength in check.

All of us hold everything in trust as God’s gifts. Each October the United States bishops ask Catholics to give national focus to human life because it crowns all God’s gifts. Later I realized the fruits of my prayer—those action-words: admire; be in awe; revere; honor—belong to the primary meanings of the verb respect. Respect Life names the U.S., Catholic focus of October. A grace for us to ask is this: Jesus, allow us to grow more sensitive to human life as delicate yet strong; your crown of creation yet interdependent with every part of it. Respecting life begins and continues one person at a time.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Place yourselves in the company of the Trinity, who create you each moment and impart their life to you.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for you; thank him for respecting your freedom.
  • Ask Jesus to help you become more sensitive to human life as delicate yet strong; his crown of creation yet interdependent with every part of it. Notice what stirs in you as you ask for that grace.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Praying Jesus’ prayer reminds us we are parts of his creation, the ones he and his Father cherish fondly—so fondly that they entrust to our care one another, every creature and all creation.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Matthew 28.19-20.
  2. Matthew 13.
  3. Matthew 24-25.
  4. Matthew 18-22.
  5. As did the Psalmist in the Responsorial Psalm.
  6. Isaiah witnessed again to that in 27.2. I, the Lord, am its keeper, I water it every moment; lest anyone harm it, night and day I guard it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday word, 28 Sep 14

Thought Experiment
26th Sunday of the Year A (28 Sep 2014)
Ez 18. 25-28; Ps 25; Phil 2. 1-11; Mt 21. 28-32
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The prophet Ezekiel preached a revolutionary message. It marked an evolutionary change in a belief the people Israel had long held. Through Prophet Ezekiel God challenged it: the word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, what is the meaning of this proverb that you recite in the land of Israel: “Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge?”1 With that proverb people claimed they were punished for sins of their ancestors’ rather than theirs. With God’s challenge the prophet preached a message of personal responsibility.

Knowing that helps us appreciate the beginning our first reading. Otherwise its opening cry,“The Lord’s way is not fair!” may mean little. Meaning paves the way for us to understand. If we focus on meaning only—especially in scripture—we run a risk: we risk treating scripture as a puzzle. If only a puzzle, then we don’t let scripture touch us and let Jesus shape us. We disciple-friends of Jesus have a word for Jesus shaping us; it is conversion.

We use that word in so many ways. We convert currencies; we convert temperatures; we convert buildings from stores to apartments; we measure energy-conversion from motion to heat, to name some. They are meanings outside us. They differ from what ongoing conversion to Jesus and to his gospel means for human lives and our world. Ongoing conversion to Jesus and to his gospel is more than choices Christians make. Ongoing Christian conversion is an attitude; it makes possible choices for Jesus and his gospel. St. Paul was specific about the attitude: be like-minded as Jesus.2 We are not alone in our daily conversion; Jesus joins us.

That is important to tell ourselves often. When it comes to making choices, especially for Jesus and his gospel, we can feel our choices are all on us. We do have our parts to play; often our parts are all we notice. The fact is Jesus joins us. I grew convinced of that years ago.

I never set out to do a thought-experiment with our second reading. Yet one day long ago I was absorbed in the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, emptying himself…not regarding equality as God something to be grasped. Those words of the Apostle help us talk about the Incarnation. I was not absorbed in a doctrine and what it meant. I was absorbed in what it cost Jesus that he emptied himself…and did not regard equality as God something to be grasped. Becoming like us in all ways but sin cost divinity any distance from humanity. God in Jesus by their Spirit joined our joys, hopes, anguish and dreams. The eternal choice of our triune God that the Second Person become a human being for us means we are never alone choosing Jesus and his gospel.

Choosing Jesus and his gospel costs us. When we do not want to it to cost us, we act as if we choose Jesus. That is like the son in his parable who said he would go…work in the vineyard but did not. Every move out of ourselves costs us. Yet cost is not always without benefit. By becoming human for us Jesus made the world his vineyard and us his brother- and sister-workers in it. Our moves toward Jesus pave the way we may come to share in his divine nature.3 Jesus chose to join his nature with ours to free us to choose Jesus and his gospel.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Place yourself in the company of the Trinity, who create you each moment and impart their life to you.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for his attitude and desire the same attitude that is also his.
  • Implore Jesus to deepen your conversion so you may be like the parable’s son, who changed his mind.
  • Close your time saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us choose him, to have his attitude and live by it daily.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Ezekiel 18.2
  2. Philippians 2.2, 5. St. Paul used a verb to communicate to his dear Philippians: be like-minded
  3. 2Peter 1.4.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday word, 21 Sep 14

Our Model Jesus
25th Sunday of the Year A (21 Sep 2014)
Is 55. 6-9; Ps 145; Phil 1. 20c-24,27a; Mt 20. 1-16a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Humans are tempted often to tame God. Few of us can say we never longed for God to fit our views, adjust to our dislikes or punish those who harm us. We are not the first nor the last to forget Prophet Isaiah’s words: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways. In his day Jesus echoed Isaiah’s words to Peter. We heard them here as August ended. Peter refused to believe Jesus when he said he would suffer and die. Jesus told him, You are not thinking the thoughts of God but human ones.1

Jesus words to Peter implied he could choose to think his thoughts or God’s thoughts. Was that possible? Is it possible for us? I can hear you ask, “If it is possible, tell us how!” I will tell you; and you will have it on good authority, the authority of St. Paul.

Early in his letter to his dearest community,2 Paul wrote how he longed for them to determine what is essential…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.3 The ability to determine what is essential was Jesus’ gift to them, his Spirit he gave them. It is so with us. To help them Paul would do something well-established in his time and culture: he would help them determine what is essential by offering them models.

We do that, too. When any of us feels it important to set an example, the example is not outside any of us; it is each of us! Each of us is a model for others; we model what is worthy or we model what is not. The first model Paul offered his beloved Philippians was Jesus, who is life. He also offered himself as a model. Paul conducted himself in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ. He did so not for his benefit but for theirs. He offered his coworkers among them, Timothy4 and Epaphroditus.5 They worked for Jesus’ gospel and the Philippians’ benefit, too.

Jesus modeled God’s generosity. He embodied it, he personalized it. Embody and personalize detail the Incarnation, central to our faith. God become human in Jesus emphasized that God’s generosity is central to gospel-faith as well. Working for the gospel of Christ Jesus Paul and his coworkers also modeled, embodied and personalized God’s generosity.

By his parable of the generous landowner Jesus expressed God is generous to everyone. For others to know that in their bones depends on you and me to model Jesus as best we can. When we do not grasp at our good fortune we imitate Jesus and his saints. When we show genuine interest in others, we imitate Jesus and his saints. When we allow the person of Jesus and his gospel to shape our choices we imitate Jesus and his saints. When we rejoice at others’ honest good fortune we imitate Jesus and his saints; we also stay alert to God’s generosity. Rejoicing at others’ good fortune drives away that temptation to envy God’s generosity. Envy poisons all relationships—including communion with Jesus we name our church.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to rest in the creative love of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask those who stood in the marketplace, waiting for someone to show interest in them, to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for modeling the generous forgiveness of his Father and ours; speak as you are—confident or timid; advantaged or bereft; closed-handed or open-handed; tell him your greatest need. 
  • Ask Jesus to increase your concern and interest in everyone; resolve to cooperate with the grace you ask.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we pray it helps us conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of our crucified and risen Messiah. Conducting ourselves in sync with his gospel transforms us into his more generous and attentive coworkers today.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Matthew 16.21.
  2. Philippians 1.8.
  3. Philippians 1.10-11.
  4. Philippians 2.20-22.
  5. Philippians 2.25-30.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday word, 14 Sep 14

Nothing More Noble
Exaltation of the Holy Cross A (14 Sep 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our responsorial psalm called us to remember: Do not forget the works of the Lord! The Lord’s work we recall today is the cross. His cross is our badge, our insignia. When you hear me echo the psalm, “Do not forget,” shout, “We remember!” Let’s practice that. …Now we can begin.

Jerusalem was destroyed two generations after Jesus rose from the dead. The places of his death and resurrection faded in the shadowy mists of time and memory. The 4th-Century Emperor Constantine and his mother shared a deep desire to speak by action, Do not forget!”

St. Helena went to Jerusalem and sought places where Jesus lived and walked. In Jerusalem a pagan temple was atop the place of Jesus’ tomb. She said to herself, Do not forget!” She had it torn down. Her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. In building builders found three crosses. A memory has it: the cross on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. Jesus heals us by transforming us. Do not forget!”

From that moment people venerated his cross. An ancient eye-witness on Good Friday in the basilica recalled the veneration liturgy. Its wood was taken out of its silver chest. It was placed on a table with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus. The eyewitness recalled: “all the people pass by one by one, all bowing themselves, they touch the Cross and the title, first with their foreheads and then with their eyes; then they kiss the Cross & pass….”
1 We do that, too; so we Do not forget!”

Our images and replicas of the holy cross are things of beauty. They lead our processions; they shield our hearts. Yet the tree on which Jesus died was not for beauty but for torture: Do not forget!” Crosses horrified the first Christians and many others: Do not forget!” But appearance did not stop the first Christians from echoing Jesus; he called the cross his glory. Do not forget!”

Today the cross does not threaten us. We freely make crosses beautiful and noble. Sadly some in the world do not tolerate the cross. Do not forget!” Nothing is more noble than the cross we trace on ourselves. Do not forget!” When we trace the cross on ourselves, we allow God in Jesus by their Spirit to transform us. Do not forget!” We are crucified with our Messiah,2 Do not forget!” We still live our human lives, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.3 Do not forget!”

Our life of faith is no theory; it is not abstract. Do not forget!” Our life of faith affects our world! Do not forget!” Our life of faith is for our world! Do not forget!” Our life of faith changes our world beginning with the ways we choose to live in it! Do not forget!”

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God who decided from their eternity that the Second Person become one of us to save humans and enlighten us.
  • Ask St. Paul, St. Helena and your patron saint to welcome you into the bright shadow of Jesus’ cross.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for giving his life so you may have life eternal.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to remember with your heart and feel more deeply Jesus’ died and rose for you. Do not forget!”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us so we would carry his works with us and do them by the power of his Spirit. Do not forget!”

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The Pilgrimage of Etheria. M.L. McClure and C. L. Feltoe, ed. and trans. London: SPCK, 1919, pp 74-75. 
  2. Galatians 2.19.
  3. Galatians 2.20—I rendered Paul’s testimony plural for this homily. 


Sunday, September 07, 2014

Sunday word, 07 Sep 14

Jesus’ Single Command
23rd Sunday of the Year A (7 Sep 2014)
Ez 33. 7-9; Ps 95; Rm 13. 8-10; Mt 18. 15-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
If you ever participated in a tour with a group, please raise your hand. When we are in school groups, vacation groups or pilgrimage groups, we know guides routinely address groups before they address us individually. Guides address groups; individuals ask questions; guides speak to individuals to answer their questions. That guides address us as groups and as individuals offers us felt-knowledge. Our felt-knowledge helps us appreciate better Prophet Ezekiel’s ministry.

Ezekiel ministered as a prophet after Israel’s Temple was destroyed and its people had been deported to Babylon. With their exile the People Israel existed no more. Prophets before Ezekiel regularly announced, Hear, O Israel!1 Ezekiel had no nation to speak to; he addressed individuals. Ezekiel’s ministry began a new emphasis on personal responsibility,2 as we heard: Warn the wicked one. If the person changed ways, the person was saved. If the prophet did not warn, God held the prophet responsible for the…wicked one.

Ezekiel’s ministry echoed in Jesus. Jesus built on it when he counseled how members of the community—the church—ought to help another member live again in sync with the community. The way to inform and warn was lovingly—the way Jesus did everything. Love does not mean sappy; strong and clear does not mean harsh and arrogant. Consider two features of Christian correction in practice: being human; and fidelity to Jesus.

Being human is constant over time. All Christians, ancient and modern, are human. Like ancient Christians, we are tempted to hold over others their mistakes as if we never made mistakes or gave into temptation. Jesus’ words, treat someone as you would a Gentile or a tax collector, give no license to be harsh, arrogant or hold over others their mistakes as if we never made our mistakes. Second, fidelity to Jesus does not replicate slavishly the ways of the early church. Having no contact and communication with those outside the Body of Christ is hardly possible today. They were the very ones for whom Jesus came.3 Jesus continues sending us for those who separate themselves from us and those yet to join us. What attitude are we to have?

Closing doors is not what Pope Francis recommends. He reminds us Jesus attended to everyone: people on the margins and those distant from God. With eyes on Jesus the pope recommends an attitude; from it Christian action flows. His words:
my response is always the same: dialogue,  dialogue, dialogue. It is the only way for individuals, families and societies to grow, the only way for the life of peoples to progress…I call this attitude of openness and availability without prejudice, social humility, and it…favours dialogue.4
Dialogue ceases when a conversation partner forgets that more than that person’s freedom is involved. Keeping the door open to those outside the Body of Christ means respecting their freedom. Keeping the door open involves more than speech. It is about attitudes first then actions that flow from them. Social humility includes the attitude of being open and the action of being available to listen before speaking.

St. Paul reminded us that among friends and disciples of Jesus one command5 is universal, to love: Love does no evil to another; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. Each of the Ten Commandments,6 each instruction of Jesus, each precept7 of our Church as well as its Social Teaching8 indicate how to act with Christian love in concrete situations. Jesus single and singular command suggest a grace for us to desire: to live more freely our individual lives in ways that build up the Body of Christ and society. 

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to savor the love our triune God lavishes on you.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank Jesus for choosing you to love as Jesus patiently loves you each moment.
  • Ask for the grace to live more freely your individual life in ways that build up the Body of Christ and society.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy will be done, is itself a prayer; it asks God’s heart to shape us and all we do with the loving attitude by which our triune God labors for us and all people.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Examples: Moses—Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deuteronomy 6.4). Isaiah—Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel (Isaiah 48.1). Jeremiah—Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel (Jeremiah 2.4). Only once did Ezekiel use this address; it appeared in his message about personal responsibility. Todays first reading returned to that message.
  2. It was present in Jeremiah, for example; it flowered with Ezekiel. Moderns find it difficult to appreciate the earlier, communal emphasis on living the covenant and transgressing it.
  3. Matthew 9.13.
  4. 2013 to leading members of Brazilian society.
  5. John 13.34.
  6. The Decalogue.
  7. The Five Precepts of the Church.
  8. From its Compendium of Social Doctrine.