Monday, April 14, 2014

Pained Remembering

The African nation of Rwanda has recalled its genocide of 20 years ago. The desire to move forward exists. Some survivors have even sat down with some who killed their families. Can they coexist [links to 1-min. trailer of film with that title]? National Geographic dedicated a series to the past tragedy and the present. The third part is “Rwanda: The Art of Remembering and Forgetting.”
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Wiki-mage by Adam Jones, Ph.D. of Genocide Memorial Church CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday word, 13 Apr 14

Mario Lanza and J.S. Bach
(While We Hail our King With Palm Branches)
Passion Sunday A (13 April 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I wager Mario Lanza and J.S. Bach rarely appear in the same sentence. The composer Bach lived and died centuries before the tenor Lanza. Separated by time they had passion in common.

Mario was full-throated “When They Beg[a]n the Beguine.” He gave his love “Only a Rose”; he lent the “Desert Song” vocal passion that made it sound more an adventure than a dry, dusty, dangerous affair its lyrics suggested.

Bach’s passion was writing music. He gave scripture musical shape so we could feel its call and respond to it. Some of his cantatas thrill with the grandeur of God; others show me my shadow made bright in God’s grandeur.

We will hail Jesus as our King. We will recall his passion that followed after hosannas faded. By his music Bach helps us feel Jesus’ passion.1 Someone2 I met described it this way: The episodes of Jesus’ passion Matthew painted in words; Bach “record[ed] in music the impact of each episode on his mind.” I add, and heart: minds alone do not interpret God’s word or respond to it.

For Bach Jesus’ Passion3 was most real, most human. When Jesus will tell his disciples, Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, Bach’s music cues most frantic, frightened voices to deny, one following another, Surely not I Lord?4

Lent prepared us to face our heart’s frenzy and fear; to see ourselves as we are at this season of our lives. If anyone has slogged through Lent, close it and make room in your heart for our most holy, potent days ahead. If anyone began Lent late, you are not disgraced. Ask Jesus to help you admit what causes you to tremble and take energy from it and Jesus. If anyone has yet to begin Lent, do not be ashamed. Walk with Jesus or just stand with him in one moment of his Passion. Allow Isaiah, St. Paul and Matthew, whose words we will hear in a moment, to present you to Jesus.

Lent isn’t dry—we are. Lent has no dust—we do. Lent isn’t dangerous—we court danger. Lent has been our key to notice passion: our suffering; the suffering of others; and now the passion of our Love, Jesus our King.
Hosanna to the Son of David!

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Bach has helped us feel Jesus’ suffering as this familiar minute of passion attests.
  2. Paul Sevier Minear (†2007), Winkley Professor of Biblical Theology Emeritus, The Divinity School, Yale University, paid close attention to the way Bach (and other artists) interpreted Scripture. His “Matthew, Evangelist and Johann, Composer” appeared in Theology Today (30) 1973, pp. 243-55. He contributed to a symposium at Yale some years ago that focused on Bach’s Matthew’s Passion.
  3. This site sketches the history of setting the Passion to music.
  4. The voices sound at 1:16 in this 2-minute video portion of “St. Matthew’s Passion.” Text and translation.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Saint for the Frontiers

From its beginnings the Society of Jesus knew itself as going out to help. The 16th century Jesuit Jerónimo Nadal captured in five words its apostolic, international, mobile and mission-orientation: “The world is our house.”

At its 2008 35th General Congregation Pope Benedict reminded the Society that “the Church needs you, counts on you, and continues to turn to you with confidence, particularly to reach geographical and spiritual places others do not reach or find it difficult to reach.” In the Congregation’s documents the word “frontiers” embraced those places.

On 03 April Jesuit Blessed José de Anchieta was canonized. The fragile man had been known as the Apostle of Brazil and still is. The Society has another patron to intercede for its ongoing ministry to find and to serve new frontiers.
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Wiki-mage by Gabrielt4e of statue of José de Anchieta CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Sunday word, 06 Apr 2014

Felt-Knowing, Surging Wonder, Being Loved
Lenten Sunda5 A (06 April 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
If you want to have or give a short description of Scripture’s purpose, here’s one in nine words:

Scripture discloses God, present to the world, by humans.

The ways they disclose God are prophetic: not narrowly “to predict” but “to reveal,” to make known. Prophet means spokesperson.

They communicated in language and actions. Their language and actions dripped with vision, symbol, poetry, parable and myth. Jesus’ remark to his disciples captures those: I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightening.1 We don’t think their way, why Scripture puzzles us to say the least. More important than our puzzling is this: by the visions the prophets beheld and heard they stood in heaven with their feet rooted on earth.

So it was for Ezekiel. God granted him a vision at the lowest point in Israel’s history. God showed him God would transform God’s defeated, deported people and give them new life. My people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Those words summarized the vision.

What was the vision? It inspired a song we know.

     Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones,
     Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones,
     Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones,
     Now hear the word of the Lord!

     Foot bone connected to the ankle bone
    Ankle bone connected to the leg bone
    Leg bone connected to the knee bone
    Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
    Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
    Hip bone connected to the back bone
    Back bone connected to the shoulder bone
    Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone
    Neck bone connected to the head bone
  Now hear the word of the Lord!

   Dese bones, dese bones are gonna walk around.
  Dese bones, dese bones are gonna walk around.
  Dese bones, dese bones are gonna walk around.
  Now hear the word of the Lord!

No anatomy lesson for Ezekiel. He saw God’s promise. God’s promises are not ones of logic but of vision. Ezekiel believed God would bring them back and by God’s spirit give them life and purpose.

Temptations not to believe have always lurked among us. We heard in her grief Martha almost succumbed to them. The dead man’s sister, said to Jesus when he ordered Lazarus tomb opened, “Lord…there will be a stench; he has been dead four days.” Jesus said…“Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” She saw!

Lazarus may have been the last “living dead” before Jesus. A vision of a valley of “living dead” with bones, sinews, flesh, skin, breath2 and lively purpose kept Martha and countless others awake not to slumber in disbelief. They were in awe of God’s life giving promises. Their awe and longing moved them to believe.

That word again: believe. To believe outstrips logic and mannered knowledge. Believing in Messiah Jesus is steeped in sacraments; it drips with vision, symbol, poetry, parable and his pattern of living. ‘I believe’ means I respond to God, to God who reveals and gives God’s self to me.3 Response language is relationship language. It speaks being touched, moved, grasped, renewed; it is the heart’s felt-knowing, surging wonder, being loved. Because it is relational it is personal. It is never private. No prophetic visions are given to a person as private property. They give access to God, who always invites others to respond to God’s life and love.

The church of Jesus—you and I—will soon recall his passion and death with deep devotion. Will we be awake with wonder and emotion at what Jesus did for each of us and all people? Will we stay connected with his dying for our very lives? That is our outlandish good news. “Outlandish” for it defies our logic. “Good” because it is the vision our triune God has had for us before time began.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Lazarus to present you to Jesus. He gave Lazarus a new lease on life and new purpose to live it.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; allow yourself to feel touched, moved, grasped, renewed or loved by his passion for you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to respond more freely to him in others.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, lead us not into temptation on our lips, are not limited to wrong actions. They beg to live awake by Jesus’ vision and to share it by our lives.


Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


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  1. Luke 10.18.
  2. Ezekiel 37.7-10.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 26.
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Friday, April 04, 2014

Everyone Is Fed

The Easter homily attributed to St. John Chrysostom emphatically welcomes all to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus: “Whoever may be spent by fasting, enjoy now your reward. …[yet] If any of you have arrived even at the eleventh hour, do not be dismayed for being late them not fear on account of tardiness.” [Video of full homily] Such hope for latecomers!

For any starting Lent late, Jesuit Nicholas King recently noted that the “strength of fasting [helps avoid the] danger of drifting into putting that at the centre of our lives which is not God, and some kind of postponement (or even cancellation) of satisfaction can be a powerful statement of who and what our God really is.”
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Wiki-mage by Thomas Bresson of crescent moon CC BY 2.0

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Never Seen ’Til Now

Ten years in the making is the 360º view at the edge of the Milky Way. Andrew Fazekas offered a post about the project. The video gives both a view and more facts.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Wins; Philly; The Border

Mr. John L. Allen Jr. commented on the visit of President Obama to Pope Francis, the visit of Pennsylvania leaders encouraging the Pope to visit Philadelphia next year and the several U.S. bishops visiting tomorrow “the US-Mexico border…our Lampedusa.”
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Wiki-mage by Jeffrey M. Vinocur of Philadelphia skyline CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday word, 30 Mar 14

Sharing Jesus’ Vision
Lenten Sunday 4 A (30 Mar 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The first mechanically printed, English bible had ample notes. People used their “study bible.”1 One of its notes appeared at a verse in today’s gospel selection:
“Religion is assaulted most by the pretence of religion: but the more it is pressed down, the more it rises up.”2
Pretense. We hear it echo its cousin, pretend: to behave in ways to make something appear to be the case when it is not. We all are familiar with that. Religion and living that flows from it are vulnerable to pretense and pretenders. Jesus faced that often in his life and ministry. Today we witnessed it with Pharisees after Jesus healed a man born blind. First a word about healing, then about the Pharisees.

We all know Jesus lived before our understanding of medicine. That means we have to let go our understanding given to us by science and technology. When we do we can begin to understand what Jesus and his peers understood healing to do. Briefly, healing in the ancient Mediterranean world restored meaning to people whose lives were lacerated by a variety of conditions. For Jesus and all Jews meaning itself flowed from God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebbekah, Jacob and Rachel, Creator of all.

God created humans male and female.3 By worship humans served God recalling the words of their Scriptures and with ritual praise and sacrifice. Illness, and even some ordinary bodily functions, made people unfit to worship. To be unable to worship put people out of balance at best. At worst it emptied their lives of meaning. When he healed Jesus restored meaning to people and their lives. We can miss that when we focus on the elimination of their symptoms or conditions.

To be blind was understood not to be whole as God had created humans. The disciples’ question about sin begins to fit. More important was the lack of meaning the blind man felt not being able to worship and being able only to beg. Even his neighbors didn’t know him. When they saw him after Jesus healed him they said:“Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said,“It is,“but others said, “No, he just looks like him.”
How we are known shapes our meaning.

The once-blind-now-seeing man held his own with the Pharisees. The seeing man allows us to notice the Pharisees were blind to Jesus, light from light4 who is light of the human race.5

In a sense we are all blind because no one see as God sees. In another sense our triune God shares the vision of God with all who desire it. We can choose to stay in darkness; yet God created us for light and to be light. Paul’s phrase children of the light is no quaint expression. To share the vision of the Trinity, who creates and redeems us, makes us people of the light. To enjoy their light frees us to live the purposes they create for us and live them with gusto for the life of the world.6

Living our Christian vocations for the life of the world shares Jesus’ mission. We don’t pretend. When we make Jesus’ mission ours we don’t assault nor do we look inward. We look beyond ourselves; we encourage others; and by respectful, unassuming Christian outreach we allow others to discover or to reclaim meaning for their lives.

Each of us grows freer to spread the light of Jesus the more we grow to echo in our words the one with clear sight received from Jesus: One thing I do know is that I all I have is Jesus’ gift: my sight; my abilities; my talents; my possessions; my personal purpose, my vocation.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the life of our triune God.
  • Ask the man born blind to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise him for enlightening you and sharing with you his vision and attitude. Consider how you live your baptism in respectful, unassuming Christian ways. Chat with Jesus about them.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to make his mission—for the life of the world—yours lived with his church.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The more we live his words which we pray, the more we put our fingerprints on Jesus’ mission and he gives us his vision and attitude.



Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


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  1. It became known as the Geneva Bible.
  2. Note on John 9.16.
  3. Genesis 1.27.
  4. From the Nicene Creed.
  5. John 1.4.
  6. John 6.51.

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Wiki-images of the blind man washing in Siloam pool and healed blind man telling his story PD-Art