Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday word, 16 Nov 14

Never Hold Back
33rd Sunday of the Year A (16 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus was a fine storyteller. Characters in his parables represented all facets of society. He included unjust, dishonest, faithless, immoral, wicked and lazy characters. That litany is no mere attention getter; it is fact. Judges1 to religious professionals2 to property owners3 and managers4 to servants5 exemplify qualities we do not associate with Jesus or desire. Why did Jesus people his parables with them? Not because they were unjust, dishonest, faithless, immoral, wicked or lazy. Jesus wanted his hearers—and us—to act with their determination not their morals.

Jesus told parables to help us appreciate what God is like6; what the reign of God is like7; and especially to invite us to welcome the reign of God and respond to it. The response of devious people in his parables was the sort of response Jesus hoped would be ours. Take the parable we heard today.

Bibles caption this parable of Matthew The Parable of the Talents. It is not about skills; it is about money, lots and lots of money. A talent in the world of Jesus was a unit of weight, about 80 pounds. A gold talent was worth over $29,000; a silver talent almost $2,000.8 Take the modest silver talent: the man in the parable gave one servant $10,000, another $5,000 and one $2,000. The buying power of each amount in Jesus’ day was staggering.

The wealthy man was one of those shady characters in Jesus’ parables. His wealth seemed to have grown by dis-honest dealings. If he tried to hide it, one servant knew. The servant forced him to admit it: I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter. Say you plant potatoes; then I harvest them from your garden as mine. The wealthy man in Jesus’ parable played with no small potatoes! Two servants seemed like him.

Two servants worked with the money given them; each doubled it. The ever-increasing amounts of money suggest their achievements may have involved less than honest or legal dealings. But the third did not work with it; he dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. His reward? Thrown out of his master’s service.

The parable is gripping. Jesus was a fine storyteller; he had no qualms about using immoral characters in his parables. He knew many real ones. His compassionate concern included them: I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.9 Jesus noted many people risked things for one thing or another. The greatest risk takers included shady ones—something true now as then.

The value of the reign of God exceeds anything we can imagine let alone obtain. Do we risk everything for it? Or do we play ostrich and bury our heads in the sands of daily living? Two of Jesus’ parables earlier in this gospel stressed risking all is the attitude to have for the reign of God: The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy…sells all that he has and buys that field. [Or] like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.10

The reign of God is no accidental find. It is our triune God’s gift. In response it requires a lifelong quest. It involves “going for broke,” to use an image in tune with today’s gospel selection. The reign of God is not for the lazy or those who keep to themselves. It belongs to those who desire it with lively longing and witness to it by deeds beyond words:11 extending hands and arms to those in need.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for giving his life and rising for you; thank him for his determined, tireless effort to save you and join you to him and each other.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to make you his more courageous, vigorous witnesses announcing the reign of God by how you live.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Pray it with determination. His prayer focused Jesus and kept him focused on announcing the reign of God. He gave it to us to do the same in our lives.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Luke 18.1-8.
  2. Luke 18.9-14.
  3. Matthew 25.14-30. Luke casts him as a nobleman. Luke 12.16-21.
  4. Matthew 16.1-8.
  5. Matthew 25.14-30; Luke 19.12-27; Luke 12.42-48.
  6. Three parables of lost and found do that vividly.
  7. The parables of Matthew 13; 18.23-34; 20.1-16; 22.2-14; 25.
  8. Entry at Nave’s Topical Bible.
  9. The New American Bible left out the final word.
  10. Matthew 13.44-46.
  11. As next week’s gospel selection makes clear.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday word, 09 Nov 14

Reborn Holy
Dedication of St. John Lateran A (09 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The liturgical year has a simple structure. Easter is its hinge, our feast of feasts. The liturgical year revolves around Jesus’ dying, death and resurrection. We celebrate it over three days: the night of Holy Thursday through Good Friday, Holy Saturday into Easter. We tarry 50 days to soak in its mystery and join Messiah Jesus closely. The rest of the year unfolds features of Jesus’ paschal presence with us. Each Sunday is a little Easter: we celebrate his resurrection and rededicate ourselves to our Risen Lord on the Lord’s Day.

Twelve feasts, when they fall on the Lord’s Day, replace the Sunday liturgy with their liturgies. Each helps us tap into the mystery of Jesus present with us. This year we’ve celebrated four of them: Ss. Peter and Paul (in June); the Exaltation of the Cross (in September); All Souls (last week); and now the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. The Cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome is named St. John, the patron of the monks who served it.

Each diocese has its principal church. In it the bishop of the diocese presides. St. John Lateran is the pope’s church as St. Peter Cathedral in Erie is Bishop Persico’s church. We may call St. John Lateran the cathedral of cathedrals; it was dedicated in 324. At that time Rome was the emerging center of Christianity. 

As a building no cathedral is greater than those who gather in it; nor is a parish church. In our parish churches we partake in God’s word and sacraments. Here Jesus feeds us his Body. Being parts of Jesus’ body joins parishioners in communion with their diocese; dioceses form the communion of the universal church. The Lateran basilica, the cathedral of cathedrals, symbolizes our catholic, universal, identity. 

The word “church” signifies us as the Body of Christ before it signifies a building. In St. Paul’s words: we are God’s building, the temple of [our Messiah’s] body. St. Peter called us living stones: living stones…being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 We are connected with our Cornerstone Jesus. How does that begin? By Baptism. Baptism unites us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are reborn holy for holy living. We gather ’round his table to nourish and sustain our baptisms.

The baptistry of the Lateran basilica bears an ancient inscription. It reminded those who went under its waters and emerged from them what being reborn holy means:
[In this font] is born in Spirit-soaked fertility
a brood destined for another City,
begotten by God’s blowing
and borne upon this torrent
by the Church, their virgin mother.
Reborn in these depths they reach for heaven’s realm, ….
the wounds of Christ its awesome source.
Sinner, sink beneath this sacred surf
that swallows age and spits up youth. …
This spring is life that floods the world,
Sinner, shudder not at sin’s kind and number,
for those born here are holy.
Those phrases help us ask in concrete ways if we live as reborn holy. Do we reach for heaven’s realm? Or are we flab on our Christ’s Body? Do we tap into the wounds of Christ? Or do we insulate ourselves from his suffering today? Do we obsess and shudder about sin? Or do we put ourselves into Jesus’ care? Today’s feast is less an occasion to focus on a building. It’s another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to Jesus; an opportunity to enjoy felt-knowledge that we are his body reborn, destined for holy living until he returns in glory.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Consider the thrice-holy name in which you were baptized: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
  • Ask the saints whose names you bear to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus about how you feel his Spirit has begotten by God’s blowing your Christian life.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be more aware of your baptism and its Christian vocation to live reborn holy.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Prayed slowly it helps us appreciate how each thing we ask in prayer then do affects our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 1Peter 2.5.
  2. Perhaps composed by future Pope St. Leo the Great (+461) during the pontificate of Pope St. Sixtus III. The complete inscription in Latin and translation are on pages 5-6 of this brief illustrated history of the Lateran Baptistry.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Apostle of Munich

Jesuit communities and churches celebrated Rupert Mayer on 03 November. Fr. Mayer had served as a military chaplain in WWI (the first chaplain to receive the Iron Cross--for “exemplary valour”). Later he opposed the Nazis and was imprisoned. Fr. Mayer had begun a life-long ministry to the poor of Munich. Both wars interrupted his ministry. Jesuit Peter Knox detailed more about this “limping priest.”
Rupert’s Iron Cross by Andreas Praefcke CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sunday word, 02 Nov 14

Affectionate Practice
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed A (02 Nov 2014)
Wis 3. 1-9; Ps 23; Rm 5. 5-11; Jn 6. 37-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When October 24 and April 10 come and go, I feel something before I recognize it. Some years its texture is somber; other years weighty. I have felt an ache; I have felt a subtle, insistent tug. Recently a gentle assurance dawned. Those dates offer me a bittersweet peace. On October 24, 2001, and April 10, 2010, I presided and preached at the funerals of my parents. I feel their absence from me the way each was; I also feel them present to me in new, more real ways. Their absent-presence, if I may join those words, shaped my reflection with you according to our Catholic contours of practice and affection.

Praying for the departed faithful is an ancient practice of the church. The church prays “for all in Christian and catholic fellowship departed, even without mentioning… their names, under a general commemoration.”1 Each mass allows us, at once locally and universally, to plead for all the dead: Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace.2 

Another practice emerged: a day to commemorate the faithful departed. In the 11th Century a French monastery set aside the day after remembering all the saints to commemorate all the faithful departed. Its custom became universal practice. Its logic is plain: yesterday we venerate[d] in one celebration…all the saints3; it is fitting to commemorate in one celebration all the faithful departed. That logic also reminds that the saints remain patrons of those who died. At the funeral and before we bury our dead, we invoke angels and martyrs to greet them on their way:
May the angels lead you into Paradise.
May the martyrs come to greet you on the way.
May they lead you home to the holy city, to the new and eternal Jerusalem.4
Affection for the dead is as ancient as Catholic practice. In ancient times much threatened care for the dead. A 5th Century bishop wrote St. Augustine about caring for the dead. In replying St. Augustine frequently mentioned affection: the affection of the living for their loved ones and friends.5 Very significant, St. Augustine replied, is

where a person [inters] the body of his dead…because both the affection [in life] chose a spot which was holy, and after the body is there...the recalling to mind of that holy spot renews and increases the affection which had preceded.6

Affection and remembering are intimately connected. Our affection chooses and our remembering increases our affection. That is true throughout life not only after it.

Commemorating All the Faithful Departed is not only about our affection for and remembering our dead. It includes the Trinity’s affection for us and remembering us. When the Trinity remembers us their remembering surpasses our memory. When the Trinity remembers us Father, Son, Holy Spirit create us—create us each moment.

Jesus made divine remembering concrete. He showed affection. Jesus shows deep affection for his disciples of every age by giving his body and blood. They nourish us on our pilgrim way through life7; they strengthen our shared identity as created in the divine image and redeemed to be saints. Our share in his eucharist recreates us; keeps us closely connected with Jesus and one another, living and deceased; it also increases our affection for Jesus and one another, living and deceased.

Affection stirs in me each October and April. My parents are present to me in new and more real ways. As angels and martyrs welcome them, they connect me more closely with them, you, and in particular, the clergy of the diocese, for whom I am a spiritual director.

Your beloved dead remain present to you. Beloved dead: such an accurate phrase! They stir our affections, even if we never knew them. Recall the stirrings within us: when we read about a death in the newspapers; when we saw the regular, silent parade of photos and names of young soldiers on The Newshour; when we hear of thousands felled by Ebola; or within you as I began this homily. While we remember the dead and pray for their refreshment, light and peace, the dead also remember us.

Their affection for us cannot die; it increases and flourishes. So don’t allow your prayers for the dead to be a one-way street. Don’t allow your prayers for the dead numb you to the ways they remember you with affection; how they desire to present you to Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pray for the faithful departed, especially your beloved dead.
  • When you close your praying for the dead, allow them to present you to Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer.
  • Chat with Jesus about the ways your affection chooses Jesus, and Jesus’ affection chooses you.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to choose him more single-heartedly.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer out of affection for us. Slowly praying it helps us practice the church’s faith—Jesus’ faith—each day we are alive.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. St. Augustine, On the Care To Be Had for the Dead, 6.
  2. Eucharistic Prayer I. Each Eucharistic Prayer remembers the faithful departed with different wording.
  3. Collect for the Solemnity of All Saints, Roman Missal.
  4. Order of Christian Funerals 176, 203, 294, 315, 339.
  5. On the Care To Be Had for the Dead. Sixteen times in its 23 sections: Sections 5; 6 (3 times); 7 (4 times); 9 (3 times); 10; 11 (2 times); 22 (2 times).
  6. Ibid., 7
  7. Prayer after Communion, Order of Christian Funerals, 410.
Wiki-images: On All Souls Day by Klearchos Kapoutsis CC BY 2.0; resurrection of the dead PD-US

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween: Origins and Change

Jonathan P. Lomas surveys Halloween history. Writing from his cultural perspective of the United Kingdom does not prevent Mr. Lomas from informing readers beyond his land. All Saints Day, Agatha Christie, Hollywood and “asking for soul cakes” feature in his historical survey.
Scary Pumpkin icon by André Koehne CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday word, 26 Oct 14

Reawakening to the Spirit’s Gift
30th Sunday of the Year A (26 Oct 2014)
Ex 22. 20-26; Ps 18; 1Th 1. 5c-10; Mt 22. 34-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Poet Anne Lamott suggested the key texture of daily living. She expressed it this way:

Try walking around with a child who’s going, “Wow, wow! Look at that dirty dog! Look at that burned-down house! Look at that red sky!” And the child points and you look, and you see, and you start going, “Wow! Look at that huge crazy hedge! Look at that teeny little baby! Look at the scary dark cloud!” I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world–present and in awe.”1
Priest Ignatius of Loyola concurred that presence and awe are key to Christian living. For him presence and awe registered quietly. As a Jesuit novice I connected with him when he related a quiet experience of them.
The greatest consolation [Ignatius] received [when convalescing from his wounds] was from gazing at the sky and stars, and this he often did and for quite a long time. The result…was that he felt within himself a strong impulse to serve our Lord.2
I connected with him because I did that in my youth and still do. I was in awe the other night gazing at the stars; I was in awe as I was years ago.

Present and in awe describe moments in a conversion process. The child and parent poet Anne Lamott offered saw the world with clearer vision. The child saw with fresh, young eyes; the parent recovered that fresh, youthful vision. Christian conversion is vision that registers as relationship with Jesus, one’s companion and living Lord. Enjoying relationship with risen Jesus frees us to imitate him as our model. The pattern of his life becomes our pattern for living. The source of living his new life is Jesus: Jesus sharing his Spirit with us. Jesus’ Spirit empowers us to choose Jesus as our model.

Jesus did not allow his choices to be limited by the world and its allegiances. Choosing what is not limited by the world is difficult. First, we have to discern what is not readily available to our senses. Beyond that choosing what is not limited by the world or in sync with it is difficult because ridicule, hostile feelings, even persecution hover close. St. Paul expressed that with the word affliction: he reminded the Thessalonians they received the word of the gospel in great affliction. They chose to receive; and they received power to choose it and choose it again: they received the word of the gospel in great affliction by means of joy from the Holy Spirit.

Joy is one gift of Jesus’ Spirit given us. The Sacrament of Confirmation increases joy and all the Spirit’s gifts offered us.3 Confirmation also strengthens us to live as the Thessalonians: live the faith of Jesus and model it by word and action4 for others.

Another Confirmation-gift is key to its other gifts and to live baptism and its ongoing conversion: the spirit of wonder and awe in our triune God’s presence.5 This is no convenient echo of Poet Anne and Priest Ignatius. Jesus’ infuses our lives with his wonder and awe. When we reconnect with his wonder and awe we free ourselves to allow Jesus, his Father and their Spirit to touch us with their compassion and refashion us by it. By cultivating his wonder and awe in us we allow ourselves to grow more fascinated with Jesus accompanying us with compassion. Fascinated by the way Jesus accompanies and touches us frees us to extend to others his compassion to us. How to begin to grow more “present and in awe?” Take time to look at the stars, a cloud, a leaf, yourself, your spouse, your child, your parent, your sibling, your friend, your teacher, your colleague: look as if you are seeing for the first time. A great thing like reawakening to the spirit of wonder and awe in our triune God’s presence often has a modest beginning.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for revealing to you the compassion of his Father and ours by the way he lived.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to reawaken to his Spirit-gift of the spirit of wonder and awe in his presence.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Pray it as he did: in wonder and awe in his Father’s presence. Wonder and awe are key to praying and to living the faith of Jesus each day as it unfolds.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The Daily Dig 22 Oct 2014.
  2. A Pilgrims Journey, ed. Fr. Joseph N. Tylenda. Ignatius Press. 2009-07-06. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 576-578).
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1303.
  4. CCC 1303.
  5. This final gift is prayed by the one who confirms. It may be found at CCC 1299.

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.