Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday word, 29 Nov 15

Focusing on Jesus
First Advent Sunday C (29 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Faithful; loving; saving. Those are qualities of our triune God. Advent calls us to let Jesus model them for us and for us to imitate those qualities as best we can. Prophets like Jeremiah and Jesus called people to count on God’s fidelity. Human trust in God’s fidelity fades. God says, I will fulfill [my] promise. Often people saw no hints of it. Seeing no hint does not mean God stops being faithful—or loving or saving.

Advent calls us to remember that Jesus is God’s promise fulfilled. Jesus, the Promised One, came not as people expected. Jesus entered our lowly humanity and revealed the loving tenderness of God’s heart.

Advent reminds us that Jesus will come again. His arrival has no timetable. The best way for us to expect Jesus’ glorious return is to live in faithful and loving ways and to count on Jesus saving us. Two things are frightfully easy: first, to behave as if everything depends on us; and second, to act as if I need no help, ever.

About the first: behaving as if everything depends on us. If I behave that way I risk thinking that I am the architect of faithful living and loving. I can get satisfied to the point of pride: I am so devoted and dependable! Pride—I’m not talking self-esteem, which is healthy, but pride: pride is all about me. If I exercise what looks like fidelity and love and do them for me instead of another I have not modeled myself on Jesus.

The second risk is acting as if I never need help. No one makes it through life without help. Some ignore any help received. When that becomes how anyone operates, then prayers to be saved by Jesus seem not to apply. If I need no help, then I would not join our Advent prayer to be made worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. If I need no help, then I would not need Jesus to guide me in [his] truth or to [his] justice. If I need no help, how can I call God my savior? If I need no help, then giving God homage in communal worship and private prayer will waste my time.

In our honest moments we know that we need help despite our knowledge and our experience. The terror abroad as well as at home reminds us in no gentle way that we cannot control everyone and everything. We can monitor our conduct. We can be more faithful and loving. We can admit we need help and ask Jesus to save us one day at a time. How might we be more faithful and loving and admit we need Jesus’ help? By keeping our eyes on Jesus as our model.

The word in the gospel we translate as be vigilant is to lose sleep. Often when say of ourselves we lost sleep, we mean we have worried excessively. That is not the only meaning: not to fall asleep at our post means we are vigilant, we keep an eye on things. Keeping eyes open is also how we learn. If a person wants to learn a craft, she closely watches an experienced practitioner. When it comes to learning how to live as Christians, Advent invites us to refocus our gaze and pattern our lives on Jesus, the model Christian.

Focusing on Jesus lets us participate in his saving action. Prophet Isaiah and St. Paul described our participation in Jesus’ saving action: Make [God’s] justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear…[and] defend the most vulnerable1; live temperately, justly, and devoutly [daily], as we await…the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.2 

God desires that all come around and be more faithful and loving. God does not desire that the appearing of the glory of our Messiah Jesus surprise us like a trap. Jesus’ return will surprise no one whose conduct is like his: blameless; single-hearted; moderate; faithful and loving.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God longing for you with love.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for being born human for you to save us for his gospel and life with God. 
  • Ask Jesus for grace to keep focused on him and his manner of living with and for others.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It reminds us that all we enjoy is gift and that Jesus modeled for us a way of living that is at once human and divine.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Isaiah 1.17.
  2. Titus 2.12-13.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday word, 22 Nov 15

Colliding Powers
Solemnity of Christ the King B (22 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I have been in the company of Pilate and Jesus of late. I am slowly reading John L. Allen’s The Global War on Christians. I have imagined Pilate and Jesus as I read. In one country Pilate is companies that deforest the jungle and individuals who force independent farmers to leave their land. Jesus lives in those who stand up for the farmers and decry the greed that fuels companies to strip the jungle bare. A world away Pilate is the assassins of Christians who seek harmony among people and respect for their worship and in the workplace. Jesus embodies the Christians who call for that harmony and respect at the cost of their lives. These and the book’s other “dispatches from the front lines of anti-Christian persecution”1 demonstrate that power that looks out for self and power that seeks the good of others collide today as in the days of Jesus.

Today’s solemnity is about power. Pilate embodies worldly power, power that looks out for self; Jesus embodies God’s power, power for other’s good. The scriptures illustrate both with words that do not speak to us as they did to their first hearers: kingdom; dominion; throne; king; and majesty. The solemnity is not about God’s power there and power here as much as it about the collision of powers: Jesus face to face with Pilate.

Their exchange of words can mislead us to think of places instead of power. Especially, Jesus’ answer, My kingdom does not belong to this world. …my kingdom is not here. Jesus had proclaimed from the first the kingdom of heaven, the power of God2; even that the kingdom of God is within you.3 That means God’s power resides in those who welcome it.

Pilate questioned Jesus as if he were going through the motions. He was afraid to be in the middle of a Jewish squabble.4 For Pilate—like many of Jesus’ people—Jesus was not the individual Pilate expected him to be. Pilate knew if one had power, one would fight to keep it. But Jesus told Pilate that if his were worldly power, “My attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over.” Jesus was the Long Awaited One5 but, he came not as people thought.

We reel at the fighting for power and its disastrous and deadly effects in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The collision of powers—for self, for others—is as new as it is old. One message of today’s solemnity is to allow Jesus to continue creating us as our true selves. The more we reflect the divine image in whom we are created, the more we allow the voice of Jesus speak and act through us as his agents.

Two things about letting Jesus recreate us are worth noting. First, it isn’t easy. Pope Francis recently admitted that. “It’s not easy…living in this world where temptations are many, and the ploy of a double life tempts us every day. …for us not only is it not easy, it’s impossible. [The Lord] alone is capable of doing it.”6 

That is the second: it is not our doing—the pope’s final comment: Jesus creates us. Jesus never forces us. We let Jesus create us like him. Sometimes we are freer to let Jesus create us. We want to notice what makes us freer and cultivate them. Jesus offers us himself in the Eucharist and his healing and help in his other sacraments. Celebrating the sacraments he gives us empowers us to join our voices and actions to his power. Joining ourselves to Jesus and his power we are not blasé, frightened Pilates who do little for the sake of our world. Instead we echo Jesus, the voice of real truth, and advance his power to refashion our world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for choosing to surrender himself for you and to you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to surrender to him so you and your life will be a faithful witness of his Spirit of power alive in you.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us live our royal, priestly, prophetic mission with renewed courage and conviction.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The book’s subtitle.
  2. Matthew 22.29 & Mark 12.24; Mark 9.1; Romans 1.16.
  3. Luke 17.21.
  4. John 19.8.
  5. John 1.9; 3.19; 6.14.
  6. His 17 November 2015 homily.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday word, 15 Nov 15

Our Transformation
Thirty-third Sunday of the Year B (15 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
With Halloween behind us stores are readying to immerse us in commercial Christmas. Madison Avenue plunges us into Christmas before we have a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving. Enjoyable as it can be believers know and feel Christmas drips with sanctity. The season of Advent soon to come helps us prepare ourselves to live Christmas sanctity. The church makes no abrupt shift to Advent. The liturgies of the last Sundays of the Year ease us into Advent.

These liturgies do not call attention to the season of Advent; yet their scripture readings hum with the same imagery as does Advent when it begins: they absorb us in the end of time and history and the glorious return of our Messiah Jesus. The imagery Jesus used may feel alien: darkened sun; lightless moon; stars…falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Jesus echoed prophets long before him. Even non-believers in the God of Abraham nodded agreement. Fixed in the ancient Mediterranean imagination was a fiery end of the world only to be born anew as another best possible one by the divine mind.

World’s end was a time of transformation. Like the prophets before him Jesus was more interested in individuals than a new best possible world: the Son of Man…will send out the angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. We heard Prophet Daniel describe their transformation: some shall live forever…[shining] brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.

Christian transformation is already. It is already because the Son of God has already come into our world as human like us. We praise Jesus for joining our humanity. We thank him for beginning our transformation to our true selves in baptism and nourishing them by the other sacraments.

We also expect Jesus to return with great power and glory as the Son of Man. We know not when he will return. When he does he will complete our transformation: from the earth he will raise up in the flesh those who have died, and transform our lowly body after the pattern of his own glorious body.1

Our vocation is to live as transformed by Jesus’ Spirit. Part of our transformation lets us see Jesus already in others, especially the vulnerable among us. Seeing him in others deepens our desire to greet Jesus at his glorious return.

Each day is an opportunity for our transformation in Jesus to unfold. To live as his disciples means to live rooted in Jesus, our Source of transforming life. To see others as transformed and to join the church’s mission to help others be transformed are sources of hope and of growing relationship with Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in presence of our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for transforming you in baptism and by his other sacraments.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to surrender more to him and to his Spirit’s promptings.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It was Jesus’ daily prayer of surrender to the vision of his Father and ours—a vision of our true selves created in the divine image.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Eucharistic Prayer III in Masses for the Dead, Roman Missal.
Wiki-images: Admiring the buildings of the Temple PD-US Milky Way by Rodolfo X. O. Ferreira CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sunday word, 08 Nov 15

Thirty-second Sunday of the Year B (08 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The widows in the first and third readings acted as others had told them. God commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath and the widow there to feed him.1 The widow in the gospel took her cue from the scribes. They seemed to have expected sacrificial giving even from widows who were doubly poor: not only did their poverty mean no income; widows had no husbands to speak on their behalf, part of the ancient Mediterranean culture. Jesus meant both when he observed that scribes as a class devour the houses of widows.

In the gospel Jesus did not praise the widow who put into the temple treasury…all she had, her whole livelihood. He decried that she felt a need to do that. She was more evidence he used against the scribes. Among many in the temple Jesus publicly criticized them: for their lust for recognition; reciting lengthy prayers for show; and he deplored how they treated the most vulnerable.

The scribes remind us anyone can do things for show and not sincerely. They remind us greed—for recognition, for money, for things, for power—chases us all; and that it is all too easy to take advantage of others’ generosity. Those reminders are healthy ones. I remind us of another feature of our faith.

While both widows gave all they had, God told the starving widow to feed a prophet. Because God commanded her to feed Elijah I suggest she not only reminds but encourages us notice how we rely on God, especially when challenges confront us.

God commanded her to feed Elijah, yet the widow of Zarephath had to discern and decide to use the handful of flour in her jar and a little oil in her jug—all she and her son had to sustain their lives. She chose to use what she had and rely on God’s word in the mouth of the prophet: the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah. I think her jar of flour and jug of oil hold a lesson for us. The lesson is this: those simple containers held good things that sustained life. By using them to feed Elijah the widow of Zarephath allowed God to sustain her and her son.

God’s life is present in us and “all created things.” God’s life gives “existence to them” and us; God’s life preserves all things and us. God’s life registers in us as numerous graces. St. Ignatius of Loyola observed, “we place obstacles to this grace and working of our Lord before it comes, and to [preserving and protecting it] after it comes.”2 In our honest moments we admit the saint’s observation describes  us.

We may hold too tightly to God’s life—graces—to bottle God’s life, to keep with the imagery from the widow of Zarephath. Graces are given us not to keep but to help us generate gospel-life among others and become more alive ourselves. Or we may equip our lives with filters. With them we may welcome only this manner of grace and allow only that manner of grace to touch our world through us.

Even if some of us have better images for grace and how we welcome it or block it, the widow of Zarephath makes this clear: when it comes to God’s life for us and at work through us, it is all or nothing. Otherwise, we may believe in God but not as much as we believe in ourselves; or, God is our insurance policy not our Creator, Lord and Redeemer who sustains all things in being each moment. The life of grace is one of surrender; the wound of sin makes surrender our daily challenge. Surrender to God’s life is a vital grace to desire.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in presence of our triune God.
  • Ask the widow of Zarephath to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for all the ways Jesus sustains your life and invites you to make him better known.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to surrender more to him and to his Spirit’s promptings.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It was Jesus’ daily prayer of surrender. We can have none better than his.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 1Kings 17.9. This is the verse immediately before the first one of the today’s reading.
  2. Ignatius of Loyola, “Letter to Francis Borgia…1545,” Ignatius of Loyola: Letters and Instructions, (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2006), p. 125.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Sunday word, 01 Nov 15

Our Extraordinary Friends
All Saints (01 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.—St. Francis Chapel, JCU
Here at John Carroll you get acquainted with St. Ignatius of Loyola. He came to know that Jesus befriended him. He grew aware that Jesus did not call Ignatius to serve Jesus’ mission by himself but in company with others. St. Ignatius called his mission-companions “friends in the Lord.” His companions to the present day share the grace Ignatius enjoyed. Jesuits live this grace as we realize we are not Jesuits by ourselves but with other Jesuits and our colleagues in ministry. I recall this on All Saints Day because friendship may help us better appreciate saints.

Friendship is not new to our Catholic heritage. Jesus called his disciples friends.1 Earliest Christians absorbed this truth of their world: a friend is another self.2 A thousand years later St. Aelred echoed that and taught that friendship’s mutual giving and receiving mirrored the relationship of our triune God.3 Friendship allows us to abide in God and to “grow and develop as humans.”4 Friendship helps honor the communion of saints who were human like us.

Here is a way friendship helps us. St. Paul was convinced all Christians are called to be saints.5 The church recognizes saints so we may have models of Christian living. To live our call to be saints does not mean we need to mimic saintly deeds; to be saints is to expand our hearts. Honoring the saints is not so much [about] external acts, but rather [deepening] our love…for our…greater good and…of the whole Church.6 Saints are not distant models; they are our friends linking us with Jesus, welcoming us into their number and interceding for us.

With the saints we are among extraordinary friends. Tradition has named the communion of saints the church triumphant. They triumph because of Jesus’ triumph over death. Like Jesus they became a new creation sharing God’s life. They are the new Israel: in bible imagery its twelve tribes were the nucleus of the new people of God. By the way, their number in the Book of Revelation—144,000: 12 tribes x 12 x 1000—does not exclude us; it is a way to say that all who follow Jesus are a new creation.

The letter of John we heard deepens friendly affection: we are God’s children now. God in Jesus by Holy Spirit join us one to another—on earth; awaiting heaven; and enjoying heaven. St. John lets us be confident that whatever our destiny may be like, we do know that…we shall be like God, that is, share God’s life forever.

Because Jesus has chosen us as his friends we are by his word blessed—graced even when trials of life challenge us or lacerate our lives. The saints—known and unknown—are our many friends; their lives remind us that the communion of  “friends in the Lord” is diverse. No one way of living leads us to enjoy our destiny as God’s new creation. Expanding our hearts to deepen our loving care leads us. That allows Jesus’ Spirit to fashion us now more like him and one day recreate us fully as his friends who shall be like God and share God’s life forever.

What to do with this friendship-window on the saints? I suggest you give Jesus 15 minutes each day this week. Give yourselves some quiet time and space.
  • Let yourself hear Jesus calling you his friend.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for befriending you and blessing you with all your gifts, natural and learned.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live as his friend.
  • Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It summarizes Jesus’ life, and it guides us to expand our hearts and deepen our loving care—in short, it helps us befriend our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. John 15.14-15.
  2. Acts 4.32 has a variation: friends were of one heart and soul. Earliest appearance in Orestes (partner in one soul); for Aristotle ‘Friends have one soul between them’ was part of the collective wisdom he inherited.
  3. His On Spiritual Friendship. A brief synopsis.
  4. Benedict XVI, World Day of Communications Message, 2009.
  5. Romans 1.7; 1Corinthians 1.2. Throughout his letters saints is his favored word for Christians, even those he had to reprove.
  6. Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 51.


Wiki-images: All Saints PD-US Matthew 5.6 by Norbert Schnitzler CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday word, 25 Oct 15

Allowing Mystery to Embrace
Thirtieth Sunday of the Year B (25 Oct 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Letter to the Hebrews is not read often. Major parts of it are read from beginning to end on autumn Sundays every three years. Liturgy does not expose us often to its praise of Jesus as human and divine, crucified and exalted into God’s presence. Hebrews relies on imagery little used by us moderns, especially religious sacrifice and suffering. Sacrifice feels alien to us; suffering we equate with evil. Yet with religious sacrifice and suffering Hebrews portrays Jesus as high priest. In the gospels Jesus said he would suffer.

Our Sundays have been given to Mark’s gospel most of this year. We heard Jesus speak of his suffering: he would suffer before his resurrection; suffering was the way to his resurrection and life in God’s presence. That harmony—that the Jesus of the Letter to the Hebrews is in sync with the Jesus of the gospels—that harmony suggests we try to enter as best we can the mystery of our high priest Jesus, human and divine, crucified and exalted into God’s presence for us.

The Christian truth is that Jesus is our mystery. Does that mean Jesus is far removed from us? No. Think of those we know well. We never have others all figured. We may think we do; then others surprise us by a quality or behavior not in character with the person we know. Every person, even those to whom we are close, is a mystery. So is Jesus. Jesus’ way of being with us and for us is by Holy Spirit. His Spirit surprises often those who open their hearts to Jesus. 

Letting ourselves be embraced by the mystery who is Jesus challenges our active, take-charge and get-it-done selves. Letting ourselves be embraced by the mystery who is Jesus allows Jesus to befriend us, to call us and free us from what warps us and constrains our freedom. It lets us enter his mission. It is easy to move through life in our active, take-charge and get-it-done ways to shape and try to carry out our missions. The Christian vocation seeks to put our energy and our talents at the service of Jesus’ mission. Baptism and Confirmation sustained by the Eucharist gives each of us an active role in Jesus’ mission.

Jesus called everyone to join him. Jesus desired all who joined him use their various talents to extend his gospel. The more we embrace Jesus, our high priest, the more we share his Gospel spirit.1 Gospel spirit gives mission drive to the Christian way of being in the world.

The personal decision is a daily one: do I want to live by Jesus’ Gospel spirit? Much can blind Christians to our daily decision. Desiring daily to embrace Jesus and welcome his Gospel spirit as fuel for living is our first step to being his witnesses for others and for their salvation.2

Bartimaeus is a good intercessor for us. His begging life could have dulled his desire to see. Bartimaeus knew what he wanted from Jesus; no one could silence him. When Jesus healed him Bartimaeus joined Jesus on Jesus’ way, Jesus’ mission.

Blindness can be inward. My desire to embrace Jesus and welcome his Gospel spirit may be dulled by busy time, distractions, temptation, even sin. Personal praying, communal worship, celebrating the sacraments and staying in tune with the church: those activities fire our desire to know Jesus better as our high priest, our savior who longs for our company and our efforts to extend his gospel.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Become aware of the Divine Persons embracing you in love.
  • Ask Bartimaeus to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for being our high priest—not for honor but to save us for his gospel and life with God.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to enkindle your desire to know him more closely. 
  • Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It summarizes Jesus’ life, the gospel spirit and the gospel way of living.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Vatican II, Decree on the Apostolate of the Lay Faithful, 2. 
  2. Decree on the Apostolate of the Lay Faithful, 2.
Wiki-images: Jesus giving sight to Bartimaeus PD-US Pilgrim's Way by Oliver Dixon CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday word, 18 Oct 15

From the Inside
Twenty-ninth Sunday of the Year B (18 Oct 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I used to wonder at the Zebedee’s sons and their re-quest of Jesus, Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” They asked without qualification: demand: do for us whatever we ask. I wondered because I never had the courage to demand my teachers respond to me like that. I also wondered because of the response of the other ten: they felt indignant.

I had the notion that the Twelve enjoyed close bonds as they followed Jesus. I equated following Jesus with friendship. In Jesus’ culture following Jesus—or any teacher—did not ensure friendship. One way to visualize it is links: each disciple had a link to Jesus; James and John also had their family link as sons of Zebedee; they were not closely linked to the others. Their question of Jesus linked the other disciples to each other in a way they may have not been united: they felt indignant at James and John. Feelings of anger, resentment, aggravation and displeasure are not lofty motives; they don’t pave friendship’s way.

If we set aside their feelings, we have our experiences of being linked in ways similar to the disciples. In a classroom the instructor may be the only link some students share. Or a supervisor or employer may link fellow employees. Students and employees may be civil, even kind and respectful; but they need not be friends.

That helps us appreciate the disciples. Like them we Christians to look at Jesus. He responded to James and John as he responded to others who sought his help: What do you want me to do for you? Jesus focused on their question not their motives or their pasts. To borrow an image from the Letter to the Hebrews: Jesus knew every person—each of his disciples as well as each of us—from the inside. No condescension in Jesus’ voice at the question of James and John. He felt their desire as well as their weaknesses and insecurity that drove them to seek places of honor near him.

Feeling with us our weaknesses, that is, knowing us from the inside, lets Jesus mediate for us with God in an unmatched way. To mediate was a key role of the high priest. Our high priest gives us confidence to live the pattern of his life. Living the pattern of his life shows others mercy as we have received mercy. That echoes the Letter to the Hebrews. In gospel language, the pattern of Jesus’ life, is selfless serving. In the words of Jesus’ prayer it is to forgive those who trespass against us.

We never cease to grow into the pattern of Jesus, our high priest. Selfless service; forgiving as we have been forgiven; regular prayer and worship: all are goals of Christian living.  Confidence in Jesus, confidence supplied by Jesus is the grace that fuels Christian living. Because Jesus knows us from the inside and loves us especially in our weaker moments asking each day for grace to confidently live the pattern of his life grows to be our joy. 

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Become aware of the Divine Persons embracing you in love.
  • Ask James and John to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for sharing our humanity so he may know us from the inside and help us lovingly.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live the pattern of his life with your life.
  • Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It teaches us to show to others the mercy Jesus works in us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise