Saturday, August 18, 2018

Daily word, 18 Aug 18

Nineteenth Saturday of the Year (18 Aug 2018) 
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
In  dramas on stage, in film, in novels: a message as it unfolds speaks more powerfully than the set, costumes, time. As they unfold scriptures communicate God’s essential message. Circumstances historical, cultural and social are helpful; so great is their distance from us they cannot help us as we would like; surely not as much as the unfolding of God’s message in specific writings.

Our gospel selection began to unfold on Tuesday. Jesus welcoming children to his disciples’ chagrin follows two recent moments: Jesus more than encouraged disciples to be childlike—unless you change—conduct yourselves with childlike openness and wonder—you will never enter the realm of God;1 then immediately after Jesus spoke of forgive-ness and marriage—Thursday and Friday’s gospel selections—people brought…children…to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray.

Bernie noted on Tuesday that chapters 18 & 19 in the First Gospel the voice of Jesus addressed Matthew’s church community and each one since. The leading image—childlike openness—shapes how we are to be, to keep disposing ourselves. As we grow up we grow out of childlike openness; we may even feel outgrowing it is our destiny. Jesus says our destiny rests in recovering our openness and wonder so we may receive creation as gift.

To cultivate childlike openness requires help. I do offer my willingness and my desire, but alone I cannot cultivate it; I need to be blessed. Blessing shares in the life of our triune God. Parents in the gospel seemed to act on their instinct to help their children: they brought Jesus their children for him to bless. Worship deepened their instinct.

Every Yom Kippur parents bless their children2 by “placing both their hands on [each] child’s head.” Many parents did this every Sabbath.3 The oral tradition preserved recalled that people asked blessings of righteous ones—often elders: a righteous person would “pray for [children] to merit Torah and good deeds. …and to teach that they were pleasant and their deeds hand-some and white to heaven.”4 Parents recognized Jesus lived the covenant of God with God’s people and practiced good deeds; sure reasons to ask him to pray their children would be like him.

We might savour today how we found ourselves in Messiah Jesus’ presence these days. That may be sufficient. Some may be moved to consider how to cultivate at home what being in risen Jesus’ presence on retreat has opened or unfolded for us. Nothing may be said at all; one may bring oneself to Jesus and simply be with the embodiment of God, be with the one who is ever ready to bless us and bless our lives and “to teach that [we are] pleasant” to Jesus and feel more alive with his Spirit.

  1. Matthew 18.3.
  2. Erev Yom Kippur blessing. The Day was instituted at Leviticus 16.29-30
  3. Shloma Majeski, Chapter Seven: The Blessings and Prayers Of a Rebbe. The Sabbath Prayer from “Fiddler on the Roof” is a window on parents praying for their daughters.
  4. Tractate Soferim 18.5. A period during the 1st and into 2nd Centuries.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday word, 12 Aug 18

Nineteenth Sunday of the Year B (12 Aug 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day directed retreat
Experiencing God
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 we want to flee them. Our turning points help us appreciate Prophet Elijah. He had miraculously manifested God’s power, but it earned him royal wrath. Afraid he fled for his life.1 During his turning point God’s bread nourished Elijah. God strengthened Elijah to continue his ministry and life.

With nourishing and strengthening the bible describes 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—our life in him. His eucharist helps us put on Jesus each day. Jesus’ eucharist revives our Christian love3; his eucharist helps us think, choose and act in harmony with him. Sharing Jesus’ eucharist helps us grow in his friendship.4 

As our friendships with others shape how we choose, 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 grow more free from bitterness, fury, anger, shouting…reviling and malice: things that wound individuals and communities. Sharing Jesus’ eucharist clothes us 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 fashions a home for Jesus’ words and Jesus’ encouragement. Faith frees us to see the world as God’s gift; to see others as companions sharing life’s journey; and to see Jesus as our nourishment, our brother, our Messiah, our Creator and Redeemer.

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

The oft-sung words of our responsorial psalm teach us to find out by experience: taste and see [God’s] goodness. Like the psalm retreat is our song of experience: experiencing God guiding, nourishing and strengthening us; our experience of God turning toward us and our turning toward God.

  1. Kings 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 [CCC] 1394.
  4. CCC 1395.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


Thursday, August 09, 2018

Brief Video Introduces Ignatian Spiritual Exercises

A concise resume of Ignatian Spirituality with links is here. Those in North America may explore U.S. retreat centres; and Loyola House Retreats and Ignatian Training in Guelph, Ontario.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Daily word, 03 Aug 18

Seventeenth Friday of the Year (03 Aug 2018) Jer 26. 1-9; Ps 69; Mk 13. 54-58
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
Learning God Anew
I continue learning the Psalms, especially how New Testament writers used them: they helped make sense of their experience of Jesus as human and as risen messiah. Psalm 69 helped greatly. New Testament writers extensively cited Psalm 69 and alluded to it.1 The responsorial is part of Psalm 69. It shows us a pattern in Jesus’ life; one Jesus transformed for us. First, the Psalmist’s experience of that pattern.

The Psalmist enumerated several dangerous circumstances and prayed God, Answer and rescue me from them. The greatest danger may go unnoticed by us because our cultures differ from ancient Mediterranean culture. Both insult and outcast are among the greatest dangers anyone in that culture could face. Both are faces of shame. The bible’s culture was hypersensitive to honour and shame: it was more important to be seen as honourable in the cultural world of the bible. If I was not honourable, but I lived in a way so you did not see my dishonour I could survive—and maybe more than survive. If you knew my dishonourable self—even one action: that I could not survive.

I’ve learned that well about Jesus’ culture to tell you, but I cannot feel what it was like or is like. Many of us share that inability to get inside the skin of those who walked with Jesus. The result? We diagnose the Psalmist as suffering some emotional imbalance, or worse, warped self-esteem; we miss the heart of God the Psalmist knew and appealed to: In your great kindness answer me with your constant help, O God. An abundant kindness and unmatched fidelity to help.

The insult heaped on the Psalmist flowed from the Psalmist’s love for God’s house in Jerusalem, the temple. Insults were directed at God by some who belittled the temple and its liturgy; but the Psalmist defended the temple and was slandered too. How could the Psalmist be so constant a defender of God and the temple? The Psalmist told us: zeal for your house consumes me. The cost was terrible: he was disowned! That is the meaning behind what we translate as stranger…outcast. To be disowned in any culture lacerates one’s deepest self; in biblical culture it was a death-sentence.

The pattern of righteous suffering fit Jesus and his passion; it also bore a distinct, lasting difference. In life Jesus’ zeal did not beget vengeance: he was compassionate even from his cross. Although others unjustly stole his life God more than returned it to him in his resurrection and ongoing risen life. Christian zeal for God is one with com-passion for others. It is possible for us by staying in relationship with risen Jesus. Relationship with risen Jesus is faith. Retreats rekindle our faith.

If we want our zeal to be more Christian take Thomas Merton’s advice: “Go into [retreat]…not to escape other[s] but in order to find them in God.”2 Along the way we find ourselves with God: God favouring us with God’s great kindness and constant help.

  1. Only Psalm 22 exceeds it in the number of citations and allusions. Both psalm originally were laments in sorely troubled circum-stances. Ben Witherington III, Psalms Old and New, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017), p. 151.
  2. New Seeds for Contemplation (NY: New Directions, 1962), p. 53.
Wiki-image by chiron3636 Turbulence CC BY 2.0

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Daily word, 26 Jul 18

Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the BVM, Feast (in Canada) (26 Jul 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
Legacy of Faith
The character of their daughter shows us the kind of people Joachim and Anne were. Mary’s “strong character…in making decisions, her continuous practice of prayer, her devotion to the [life] of her faith, her steadiness at moments of crisis, and her devotion to her relatives—all indicate a close-knit, loving family.”Similarly, Jesus grew to have a human character shaped in no small measure by Mary and Joseph.

Tradition long recognized that all creation is indebted to…Joachim and Anne: their daughter provided hu-man nature to God so God in Jesus could save it.2 The disciples of Jesus were indebted to him, especially for imparting knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven. Their knowledge was key because the disciples were to continue Jesus’ mission; he told them how: 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 everything that I have commanded you.3

You and I continue to be taught by the Spirit4 of Jesus—the reason we see and hear in blessed ways that contrast with other teachers. Nothing and no time can limit the Spirit; often the gift of retreat is our felt-knowledge of Jesus’ self-gift. The fruit of being taught by the Spirit retreat makes clearer for us: we have the mind [the attitude] of Christ Jesus.5

All spirit-gifts are personal. To have the attitude of Christ is the gift that makes us like the disciples: Jesus’ gift of his spirit makes us apostolic. To have the gift of Jesus’ spirit betroths each of us to Jesus and empowers us to make new Christians in our turn. To have the attitude of Christ sets us on a public, royal mission: Jesus’ spirit makes us prophetic—we notice God more readily and desire to be more in sync with God. As we note the particular ways God graced us this retreat recall we freely received them to give a human face to God’s life, mercy, fidelity and justice. The same is the legacy of Joachim and Anne, Mary and Joseph, Jesus and all Christians who have helped us choose the legacy of faith and discover our ways to extend the victory of the cross.6

  1. Franciscan Media on Sts. Joachim and Anne.
  2. On the Birth of Mary, Homily 6 by St. John Damascene; the name Jesus means God saves.
  3. Matthew 28.19-20.
  4. 1Corinthians 2.13.
  5. 1Corinthians 2.16; [Philippians 2.5].
  6. Liturgy of the Hours, Intercessions, Morning Prayer, 15th Friday of the Year.

Wiki-image by Shivsharan Trasi Sunlight breaking through trees CC BY-SA 4.0

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Daily word, 21 Jul 18

Fifteenth Saturday of the Year (21 Jul 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
Three Windows
etreat invites us to get in touch with our emotions—with the deeper, rest of ourselves. Our scriptures offer us three windows to help us do that. Prophet Micah, a psalm and Pharisees. Micah was a contemporary of Prophet Isaiah. Jerusalem was central to each one’s ministry. Isaiah was a native of Jerusalem; Micah was not: and not from another city but from the foothills of Judea. Micah was resisted and mocked more sharply because he was an outsider as well as a prophet, especially when he sounded punishment. When he sounded salvation some wagged their heads suspicious of his words. Are we trusting God? God’s word to us as God embraces us on retreat?

Window2: the Church prays our responsorial psalm monthly. God will not forget the poor is one of its refrains.1 It offers me close felt-connection with Pope Francis. At his election another cardinal said to him, “Don’t forget about the poor,” Francis recalled. “And that’s how in my heart came the name Francis of Assisi [to take as pope].”2 Feeling connected to Pope Francis and his mission increases my sensitivity to the poor. Do we notice God connecting with us? How are we responding?

Window3: Others connect with Francis in various ways. The ways often stir greater affection for God. The gospel selection offers a contrast: religious professionals rejecting God’s desire with hearts full of malice. In a synagogue Jesus had just healed a man’s withered hand.3 The Pharisees could not absorb the wonder of the moment. They bolted from the synagogue; with their hated rivals, the Herodians,4 they conspired how to put Jesus to death. Theirs was strong hatred of Jesus!

Jesus held out hope for Pharisees: those who hate strongly can turn to love strongly. You and I may not hate, but other emotions can distance us from God. What is our emotional temperature? are we warming to God, to Jesus, to Mary? Don’t fear emotions; welcome Jesus or his mother or other sainted people to join you as you are. As we get in touch with them we get in touch with our true selves.

  1. Office of Readings, Tuesday, Week 1 of the 4-Week Psalter.
  2. Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes.
  3. Matthew 12.9-13.
  4. Mark 3.6.