Friday, August 25, 2017

Matter of Time

Made public today were threats by terrorists in a new video: “We will have our vengeance,” “We will arrive in Rome.” “It may be only a matter of time,” indicated the commander of the Swiss guards.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Daily word, 24 Aug 17

Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (24 Aug 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat

[Before mass:
Tradition knows Bartholomew, Son of Talmai, by his personal name: Nathaniel—gift of God. Christian tradition happily fuses together both names in one person. The Fourth Gospel was more at home with his personal name. It moves us to ask Nathaniel-Bartholomew to help us be open to welcome the personal gift God desires us to enjoy.]

This selection is from the Fourth Gospel’s first chapter. Hard to miss the naming that happened in it. Naming is prominent throughout the chapter. In its second half the Baptizer began it when he spotted Jesus walk by: Behold, the Lamb of God!1 Hearing the Baptizer two followed Jesus; one was Andrew. Both were first to name Jesus Rabbi: Rabbi, where do you dwell?2 After a day with Jesus Andrew got his brother Simon: We have found the Messiah!3—always sought, never found. We can imagine impulsive, skeptical Simon’s reaction; yet he went! When he arrived Jesus took his turn and named Simon: Peter,4 the name by which he has been known ever after.

We celebrate Nathaniel-Bartholomew’s feast with the rest of the chapter: Philip and Nathaniel named Jesus. Philip recognized Jesus as the one about whom Moses wrote and all the prophets testified. If Andrew’s names for Jesus shone as individual stars—Rabbi, Messiah—Jesus was for Philip their universe promised by Moses and the prophets. With his all-embracing name Philip sought Nathaniel and urged him to meet Jesus.

Nathaniel reacted to his companion’s urging: Can anything good come from Nazareth? Some call it his prejudice. I’m unconvinced: Mediterranean people spoke in capital letters—and still do. To me Nathaniel searched for the good. This is certain: Nathaniel was honest and open. Jesus knew before he conversed with him that Nathaniel was truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit: today Jesus might say of Nathaniel, One gets exactly what one sees. Coming into Jesus’ presence Nathaniel, who sought the good, found God: Nathaniel named Jesus Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus assured him that God would satisfy his longing.

The reaction of Nathaniel-Bartholomew graces us: we may name it “honest to God.” Retreat is a time to be honest about ourselves and honest to God. When we struggle with either or both we have Nathaniel-Bartholomew to intercede for us and to encourage our honesty. Our daily meeting with our spiritual directors helps us practice being open: to bring into the light every movement within us. Every movement,  even difficult, frightening, desolate ones, can alert us: God desires new life to break through for us.

New life may register as a new way to be with Jesus. We can trust its freshness as we feel drawn closer to Jesus; aware he holds new significance for us; feel invited to rejoin his mission. New life may be a name Jesus desires us to know—for the first time or yet again. Retreat-silence helps us be more alert to it; and Nathaniel-Bartholomew models for us and helps us be both honest to God and open to the gifts God desires each of us to enjoy—gifts that are shares now in God’s abundant life we will one day share in full.
  1. John 1.35.
  2. John 1.38.
  3. John 1.41.
  4. John 1.42.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Daily word, 18 Aug 17

Nineteenth Friday of the Year (18 Aug 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
God Knows
This gospel scene lets us see Jesus and the religious professionals opposed to him approach an issue differently. Divorce was controversial in Jesus’ time; two approaches1 to it had emerged. One approach was strict and unpopular; the other was lax and favoured by many. The devious way of Jesus’ opponents was on display: have Jesus side with the strict approach and people will turn on him; have Jesus side with the lax way, and we Pharisees can marshal our keen arguments and humiliate him. Shame terrified people in Jesus’ culture; no one wanted to be infected by another’s shame.

The Pharisees prided themselves as interpreters and strict keepers of torah, the ways of God given by God. Can one divorce…for any cause?—their phrase as they began to test Jesus was not lost on him; it shouted that they were enamoured by legalities. Jesus noted their legal-love choked their love of God.

Jesus approached their test as well as the prickly issue of divorce not from what was lawful but from God, God’s desired intention for humans and what God does. The gospel is confident that Jesus knew God’s intention both in creating and in marriage, two shall become one. God’s intention is key; it eluded the Pharisees distracted by what was lawful. Distracted hearts are often hard, closed. Hard hearts readily opt for easier ways, ways that may not be in sync with God’s heart. It is ever our challenge.

What Jesus did summons our hearts. Jesus did not address divorce; the Pharisees felt the issue was legally solved. Jesus did tell God’s story of creating humans and creating the purpose of marriage. Jesus told God’s story: that is key on retreat. Some retreat and hope to solve issues; issues may not be solved here. Retreat does let us see things more clearly; retreat lets us share the vision of our triune God. A way the Trinity’s vision becomes our vision happens to us when we allow our triune God to tell us our story.

Anyone is ready to tell us who we are. Several people already have: parents; teachers; friends; coworkers—even strangers. We come to believe some of them. The truth is startling: I do not know who I am, my true self. More startling is that is true for everyone. God knows the real me, the real you because God creates us each moment.2 God reveals our true selves if we allow God.

When we let ourselves become absorbed in Jesus—especially in his life, his choices, his words that scripture offers us—when we let ourselves become absorbed in Jesus we begin to notice who we truly are: who I am not who I should be. When we let ourselves be absorbed in Jesus we grow aware of who we are in God’s heart, who we can be in and for the world. To be who we truly are, who God creates each moment, is no test. To be those God creates each moment becomes our mission—possible because we discover, know and love ourselves in sync with God’s heart and in sync with our hearts.

  1. A brief summary.
  2. I am indebted to Jesuit George Schemel and Judith Roemer for  this acute insight.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Sunday word, 06 Aug 17

Transfiguration of the Lord Year A (06 Aug 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
In Focus
The church venerates the Transfiguration of the Lord deeply; so deeply that when it falls on a Sunday it replaces that celebration. We focus twice a year on Jesus’ Transfiguration: it is the gospel on Lent’s Second Sunday; and each August 6 the church recalls it joyfully. In Lent the Transfiguration is the pivot on which turns the Great 40 Days: we recall Jesus transfigured to allow our risen Messiah accompany us as we give ourselves to deeper conversion to him and to his gospel way of living for and with others. Our August celebration of Jesus’ transfiguration lets us enter the mystery, behold Jesus anew, be touched and hear him saying [to us], Rise, and do not be afraid.

What then is this mystery? It is a gift to us as it was to Peter, James and John—and equally for Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah represented for the apostles and us the law and the prophets. Conversing with the Lord is how they put their gift at the service of those who followed Jesus and his apostles. Still these are features of the mystery.

It unfolded as an altered state of consciousness. An altered state of consciousness is not sci-fi sleight of hand to distract us from God; it is real; other cultures of the world recognized these as human experiences before science did. An altered state of consciousness is a state of awareness; it differs significantly from ordinary waking consciousness. Examples include dreaming sleep; a drug-induced condition; a trance. North Americans need altered states explained because they are not common to our culture. In the bible a vision is an altered state of consciousness; so is a deep-sleep trance: God gave one to Adam when God took his rib to create Woman1; Abraham experienced a deep-sleep when God entered a covenant with him.2 Ordinary waking consciousness does not always notice what is truly real; waking consciousness is more susceptible to illusion.

When I am under the illusion that I control every aspect of my life, then I make little room for God to let me notice what God desires me to notice; to behold myself as I truly am or others as they are. This illusion is for a U.S. citizen like me Self-reliance of the most exaggerated sort. Exaggerated self-reliance functions as cataracts dimming vision, blurring sense of self as being created by God with a purpose. Exaggerated self-reliance also is content with illusion.

Jesus desired three of his apostles not to be overwhelmed by the scandal of his suffering and murderous death. The illusion was and is that nothing is beyond death. Seeing the truly real, Jesus’ life with God—glory—helped the the three apostles to make Jesus known without being afraid. What heightened awareness is ours that helps us see ourselves with Jesus? Are we aware of Jesus inviting us, reassuring us, revealing himself to us? Are we aware of Jesus commissioning us? What do all these tell us about ourselves?

Peter, James and John remained attentive to their heightened awareness and recommended we be attentive to ours as well. The transfiguration was for them the source and root of revelation of Jesus. Turning points in our lives may hold moments of our heightened awareness; our attention to them continues to reveal Jesus to us. His loving, encouraging radiance reveals us to ourselves, who Jesus creates each moment.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Peter, James and John to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank Jesus for moments of heightened awareness that help us know him better as well as ourselves.
  • Ask Jesus to increase our awareness of his presence and to be attentive to it.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words reassures us that God creates us and supplies our needs so we make known to others Jesus who first knows us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Genesis 2.21.
  2. Genesis 15.12.

Wiki-images Transfiguration PD-US; Hibiscus PD

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Dailyword, 03 Aug 17

Seventeenth Thursday of the Year (03 Aug 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
God Labors for Us
Two images from the scriptures are related in us: dwelling and net. First, dwelling. Moses visited God on the mountain. In Moses’ absence the people lost heart; their mood caused Aaron to lose heart, too. When we lose heart our inner vision blurs, our sense of ourselves dulls; yet God loves us with God’s steadfast merciful love. To revive Aaron and the people no longer did God touch a mountain; God inhabited a dwelling among the people. By that choice God reconciled with the people; and not only then but in all the stages of their journey through life. This marked the people’s healing.

God desires the same healing, encouragement for us. By God’s healing Spirit you and I are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.1 Healed by our triune God we live as agents of reconciliation for others and for all creation.

Jesus’ image of a net thrown into the sea also applies to our role in the divine desire to restore people. His image communicates more clearly when we recall Jesus spoke to fishermen and to others who depended on those who fished. The common way to fish was to hurl a net over as wide an area as possible and cover a shoal of fish. That was strenuous work, to be sure. Only later could one measure the worth of one’s effort: separating fish into those worth selling from fish that were not. How is that related in us?

We are involved with casting the gospel net: our choices and actions even more than our words spread Jesus’ good news to others. That is our vocation; God will see to separating the catch. We are easily tempted to want to do that as well. We prefer our timing over God’s because God’s timing rarely fits ours. Coming on retreat helps us surrender ourselves to God’s timing, which is never late.

Coming on retreat helps us renew our confidence in God, who cares now for us and will manage the future. Coming on retreat frees us to let God be God and to let us be our true selves. Coming on retreat lets us rest from casting our nets; we are free to inspect the nets of our inmost selves and let God heal and mend any tears, ease tensions our false selves fashion and strengthen stretched expanses of our hearts. Coming on retreat is our courageous response to God laboring for us. Retreat gives us glimpses of how God labors for us2: God desires to share divine life and love with us; God welcomes us to let God renew our vision, rewarm our hearts and love us into the individuals God creates and redeems each moment. God extends Godself to us so that dwelling here with God will affect our world for the better.

  1. Ephesians 2.22.
  2. Spiritual Exercises [236] and link to comments by O’Brien and Ivens.
Wiki-image by BigBrotherMouse Casting a net CC BY-SA 3.0

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Bright, New Image

Pope Francis recalled that light is integral to the church’s vocation: 
“What does it mean to be Christian?” The pope asked. “It means looking at the light, continuing to profess our faith in the light, even when the world is enveloped by night and darkness.”
Francis then offered a positive connotation for a word often perceived as negative: “The life of the Church is a contamination of light.”
Wiki-image by Pirnscher Mönch of Lilienstein-sonnenaufgang CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday word, 30 Jul 17

Seventeenth Sunday of the Year A (30 Jul 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God’s Signature
I’d like to begin with St. Paul and what he wrote as the opening of the second reading: God works with all things toward the good, namely, ultimately sharing Gods’s life. Paul continued to have in view the big picture: as he put it at the beginning of his letter, the gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.1 The big picture helps us appreciate that God does not micromanage anyone’s life; rather, humans are shaped to share the identity of God’s son Jesus. As life was unfair to Jesus, who was killed on trumped up charges yet vindicated by God, we share his future; and we already do albeit partially. Appreciating this allows us to be more receptive to the surprises the gospel of Christ Jesus holds for us. 

Jesus summarized his parables to this point with the three we heard: buried treasure; the most exquisite pearl; and a dragnet. The treasure and the pearl function more as main characters than those who unearth the one and buy the other in the riskiest of ways: the treasure and the pearl both exert vigorous, magnetic energy and influence on the finders as if they were more than mere objects. To use St. Paul’s language: God collaborates through the treasure and the pearl toward the good of the humans who obtain them. Might we know better how God collaborates? 

Selling everything to purchase the pearl was a risk: the one who sold everything forfeited all security. To obtain the buried treasure was more risky. In a world in which people buried things to protect them, buying another’s field would beg an explanation: perhaps my father died and failed to tell me of the treasure he buried for the livelihood of me and our family. Let’s continue to personalize this so that one of you is the finder; your good fortune could spell disaster for me and my family. Or, if you or I tried to purchase the field to own the treasure and our motive for purchasing the field came to light, that could spell disaster for any of us: loss of reputation was an immeasurable disaster in a society in which the way a person appeared to be was the way others thought one really was.

But Jesus noted suspicion of either kind—disaster for the original owner or for the treasure finder—did not enter at all. Instead, joy—not happiness over unexpected good fortune, nor greed that fuels our warped notion of “finders keepers…”—joy overtook the discoverer of the buried treasure. Gospel joy is a divine gift, a share in divine blessedness God both enjoys and bestows: Jesus voiced it as sheer gift, [Created one], enter the joy of your [Creator].2

Joy, a signature of our Creator, indicates Jesus’ parable points beyond us and human luck or disadvantage. The field holding unknown treasure and the most exquisite pearl each emerge as flowing from Jesus as divine gifts Jesus came to announce. They hold power beyond themselves; they are more influential characters than the humans who risk by finding, selling, buying. Things do not possess such power. Jesus is the field holding unknown treasure; Jesus is the most exquisite pearl! Jesus exceeds the risks to ourselves; Jesus imparts his joy to us as well as his power of God he gives us to point to salvation in him.

Jesus risked all for God’s dream for all creation. We are shaped to share his identity, his life with God. God validates the risks we take for Jesus and for his gospel. Gospel risks leave us more complete, more alive; gospel risks we take do the same for others we encounter. We may not realize it, yet we are part of everything that God works with for the good, the goal of all creation.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the life of the Trinity.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank Jesus for sharing his life and identity as his many brothers and sisters.
  • Ask Jesus to increase our courage to stay close to him and to let us be shaped more in his image.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Speaking his words reassures us that we are intimately related to him and like him rely more on God shaping us more like our brother Messiah Jesus.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Romans 1.16.
  2. A paraphrase of Matthew 25.21, 23.
Wiki-images Hidden Treasure PD-US; Flowers PDP

Friday, July 28, 2017

Daily word, 28 Jul 17

(28 Jul 2017) Sixteenth Friday of the Year
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. closing an 8-day Directed Retreat
Staggering Goodness

Join me and try to make ours the voice of our psalm refrain: Lord, you have the words of everlasting life! It was Peter’s response to Jesus when he asked Peter and the Twelve, You do not want to leave me like the others, do you? To make Peter’s words a response to a psalm—blending New Testament and Old—splendidly shows how worship cares little about logic and very much that what is old abides ever new and what is new flows from what went before. In other words, you and I fuss over time—early, late; new, old; while worship enjoys being timeless and welcomes us into it.

For us to punctuate the psalm with Lord, you have the words of everlasting life! acknowledges our triune God; it is worship more than our reasonable judgment. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life! rejoic[es] the heart and enlighten[s] the eye. It helps us treasure the psalm’s words as God’s before ours. We treasure them as more valuable than purest gold, as more sweetly delectable than syrup or honey from the comb. Our human valuing and delights only begin to reveal God’s staggering goodness.

We can empathize with Peter and the Psalmist when we recall we have experienced people dear to us reveal themselves to us. Their self-revelations not only give us themselves; their self-revelations inform us about our hearts, our delights; they even transform for the better the ways we value the world. Such a deep, heartfelt relationship with God’s self-revelation deepens our relationship to God and God’s revelation in scripture, creation and people. We treasure God and God’s ongoing revelations to us and grow more unable to live without God embracing our hearts, enlightening our inmost eye, and guiding our daily living.

Cultivating this relationship is what our triune God wants because God desires to befriend each person. Jesus: I call you friends because all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.1 So the Hebrew bible, esp. the Prophets: they repeatedly expressed God’s desire to know each person as as spouses know one another.2 When we enjoy such deep bonds we are alert to anything that may harm them or us. We grow more sensitive to how we may drift from trusting our self-revealing God.

We are quicker to notice what comes between us and God. That acceptance is mature, not childish; we take it as a matter of fact. We take Jesus at his word that the Evil One indeed seeks to harm us and our relationship with our ever life-giving, self-revealing God. Jesus vividly named the enemy’s violence: hooks us and snatches away. (The word’s original language provides us with our harpoon.)

As we go forth resolve with one another to face down any challenge, God forbid! any misfortune, any attempt by the Evil One, any worldly anxiety and the lure of riches to choke what God has given us on retreat. Jesus told us that in the gospel. I echo Jesus because Jesus reminded me to encourage you on your way to live as his better friends.

I can hear someone object, The world into which we go will not receive us as Loyola House has. Yes, things are amiss in our world; they would not have strayed so far or even at all if friendship with our triune God had not been stretched and torn. You and I cannot prevent others from stretching and tearing—even God will not hinder another’s freedom. Each of us can cultivate our friendship with our triune God so it becomes our still sweeter treasure. By cultivating it each of us bears fruit and tastes even now God’s staggering goodness—everlasting life.
  1. John 15.15.
  2. The Hebrew word we translate as to know includes acquiring information to interpersonal intimacy, including sexual relations.
Wiki-image by George Shuklin Honeycomb CC BY-SA 1.0