Saturday, February 16, 2019

Mind Bursting

M
ystical fervour is not a luxury. Without it morality would become repression, asceticism, draught, docility drowsiness, religious practice a pretentious routine, or worse, fear.” 

 —Henri de Lubac, S.J.
Sacred Moments for Every Day: A Perpetual Calendar for Your Spiritual Journey, Jesuits of Upper Canada, Toronto: Novallis, 2006, 13 February.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Daily word, 13 Feb 19

Fifth Wednesday of the Year (13 Feb 2019)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 8-day retreat
Mystery and Our Mysteries
Creation of humans may readily evoke Genesis’ first presentation of creation we heard yesterday. The second account enriches images of God—and us. Contrasting the rhythms in the accounts may help. The rhythms of Chapter 1 are elegantly simple: God said…and there was; evening and morning followedthe first day1 and each succeeding one. In Chapter 1 elements are created before plants and animals then humans; and the humans are equals, male and female.

In this reading from Chapter 2 one human is created before rain watered shrub and grass from the earth. Also God Eternal2 is an artisan-creator forming a human from clay of the ground in contrast to God who only spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.”3 The humans God creates—we will hear tomorrow—speak and feel. That focuses God’s likeness in whom we are made.

Genesis Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 contrast the ideal and the actual condition of creation and us.4 That may be happening in our prayer: God may be a bit nearer our minds and hearts. We may be encountering God personally forming us and not distant from our lives. Those and more reveal God as Mystery in whom we discover ourselves. 

Mark’s gospel offers Jesus as Mystery. Jesus told his disciples, The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you.5 The mystery is no problem to solve; it is the person of Jesus. Mystery & person: we may rarely align them. It may help to consider a person each of us knows reasonably well. The person I bring to mind I cannot know fully. Another will always surprise, astonish or bewilder us: whether on occasion or, as with some, most of the time. Why would we think it different with Jesus? Part of it is how many in the gospels named Jesus.

Jesus is so often addressed as Teacher in Mark’s gospel that we may think we are supposed to understand him. Jesus, though, is a strange sort of teacher in Mark’s gospel. Rather than persuade his questioners he issued pronouncements: You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. You do many such things.6 Jesus repeated himself to his disciples when they ques-tioned him about his parable: he elaborated a bit but not much. His disciples did not need to be persuaded; yet with them Jesus deflected understanding: Are even you likewise without understanding? They were not given understanding; Jesus gave them himself! Like them we can keep receiving him in the varied way Jesus gives himself to us. Like every relationship one with Jesus evolves as it grows. 

Being with Jesus as with a friend or another we trust and who trusts us is not beyond us. We may need courage and be deliberate. When we are courageous and deliberate we enjoy a felt-knowledge, an intimate communion. Our knowing communion may escape words; it won’t escape us.

Relationship with the divine is encounter not mere head-knowledge. To encounter one who accepts us completely; who formed me from before I can remember; and who transforms me each moment offers assurance that understanding is unable to offer. Keep giving yourselves to the encounters with the Eternal One who was born in time for us; share what you feel and free yourself to be transformed by Mystery into your mystery. share what you feel to free yourself to be transformed by Mystery into your mystery. That will make your drive to Guelph worth it!

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  1. Genesis 1.3, 5.
  2. The Jewish Publication Society translation that is faithful to the Hebrew and helpful to moderns. W. Gunther Plaut & David E. Stein, eds. The Torah: A Modern Commentary, Revised. Accordance electronic ed., (New York: Union for Reform Judaism, 2006).
  3. Genesis 1.26.
  4. The Torah: A Modern Commentary, Revised, pp. 17-18.
  5. Mark 4.11.
  6. Mark 7.13 from yesterday’s gospel reading.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Subtle, Effective, Catholic


Tolkien is one of the principal people who aided me in becoming Catholic,” David Russell Mosley wrote. He also excerpted a letter Tolkien wrote to his son about how the elder Tolkien “found the light after the horrors of war.” It appeared in this month’s U.S. Catholic.

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Wiki-image by Julian Nitzsche CC BY-SA 3.0

Monday, February 11, 2019

Daily word, 11 Feb 19

Fifth Monday of the Year (11 Feb 2019) Gn 1. 1-19; Ps 104; Mk 6. 53-56
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 8-day retreat
God’s Self-Expression
Before mass: The Second Vatican Council stated something fitting: faith and science are not opposed—they are different but not opposed.1 It is fitting for us because we begin to hear faith’s view of creation. Science is about real, tangible, measurable things; faith points us to what we cannot measure and is more real, more vital.
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In our creeds we profess God makes heaven and; earth and all things visible and; invisible2: God does this daily, Psalm 104 sings. “Creation is the bodily expression of God’s spirit.”3 Creation has need of stewards. Our Creator has given us God’s self-expression not as slavish stewards but partners with God. Supporting creation, working with it for our good and the good of others, preserving it as our common home4 allow us to make a return of love to God more readily.

Creation is grand mystery. God creates every moment, and God’s motive is for us—our good: grander mystery. Poetry addresses mystery well because poetry freely sets aside physical laws and plumbs hearts; enlightens minds to notice what is always present yet readily overlooked; poetry sets hearts soaring on updrafts of joy that condors can never pilot with their magnificent wings; poetry gives humans taste and longing for every fruit of cooperation, conserving, companioning.

Clothed in human poetry Genesis speaks God to us. Indeed, the rhythm of God creating begins with speaking: When God was about to create, all was darkness and formless: God spoke, Light…God saw the good light. God separated [out] light from the darkness. God called the light day and darkness night.

God’s rhythm of speaking, seeing, separating and calling reveals desire, intention, clarity, collaboration. Light; water; land; vegetation; heavenly luminaries: all are God’s self-expression. All that existed was God’s spirit—the word we translate wind also means spirit. Creation is the bodily expression of God’s spirit; the poetic words of God creating will continue this week.

If we linger longer with God’s rhythm of self-expression and God’s desire, intention, clarity, collaboration, may we not notice God creating us on our retreats? God creates us every moment—why we exist, as Bernie reminded us here. Is our retreat living with its prayer times offering us clearer light? Are our retreats freeing us to separate essential from non-essential? to notice how we share God’s self-expression? Are we allowing God to water wastelands within, to cultivate new life and to let us see our good selves?

Noticing the manifold ways God creates us restores us to our true selves. Retreat unites us to that varied assembly of people who sought to touch the tassel on Jesus’ cloak and. . .were made well, made whole. Made well and its cousin, healed, always return us to ourselves. The self-expression God began and continues God will fully restore as surely as evening comes and morning follows. On your retreats continue to fall into the mystery of God creating you so you may feel truly alive and behold God with clearer, inmost sight.

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  1. The Church in the Modern World, Ch. III, esp. ##35-36.
  2. A teacher’s words I always remember; later they were published. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters, 2004: The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, p. 326. 
  3. Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed, respectively.
  4. Pope Francis favoured the expression in Laudato si!—13 times throughout his encyclical, subtitled On Care For Our Common Home.

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Wiki-images Hubble Peers into Storm by NASA CC BY 2.0; Sun Provides CC0 1.0

Friday, January 25, 2019

Daily word, 25 I 19

Feast of Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (25 Jan 2019)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 8-day retreat
Ongoing & Personal
What happens after crucial life-events often is affected by what went before. Conversions  are  crucial life-events; they challenge us sharply because it is not easy to change what went before: ways of living become set patterns. Conversion-living is possible when we welcome them as divine gifts: God desires us as we are so God may transform us to live as God creates us for our world. I highlight two qualities for us: the ongoing and the personal.

Ongoing means trying to live each day of conversion as if it were day one. Day-one fresh-ness loses lustre; we gravitate to the familiar to reassure us. The familiar often dulls us to creation all around us; the familiar does not waken us the way the start of conversion-living does: we see more keenly; we feel more deeply; we love more freely.

Making retreat has its freshness, and we often long for it. In our honest moments we admit we easily return to our accustomed ways. Yet that does not cancel our authentic intentions nor lessen God loving us: we are challenged. I think of St. Ignatius of Loyola growing aware of motions within him as he recovered from his battle wounds. Growing aware is to be reflective. Becoming reflective began his conversion; Ig-natius noticed he wanted to give his life to God in loving service.

When we’re challenged we need support. Ignatius told his family what he desired and it saddened them. Instead of support he was chal-lenged more. He recalled it this way: His brother led him from room to room and with much love for him pleaded with him not to throw his life away, but to acknowledge the great hopes people had placed in him and to see what he could make of himself.1

His brother did nothing bad: the Loyola wealth and privileges were good things. How that tour of his home challenged Ignatius! I am convinced Ignatius was coming to know he could not make himself valuable without God. He knew what his brother and family could not know: Ignatius knew God was finding and empower-ing him each day.

Ignatius knowing what his brother could not shines light on a second quality of conversion: it is personal. St. Paul’s account of risen Jesus meet-ing him suggests it, too. ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ The one Paul sought to destroy, no less! Jesus could not have been more direct; and only Paul hear[d] the voice of the one who spoke to him. After taking in and accepting the gracious, stunning love of risen Jesus, Paul chose to allow the pattern of Jesus self-emptying love to be the pattern of his daily existence. Daily: as if Jesus found Paul each day.

I regard all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things…I regard them as rubbish, in order to gain Christ & be found in him.2 Paul was emphatic; we translate rubbish the word Paul wrote: excrement. When we are overwhelmed we are emphatic. When love overwhelms us we more deliberately choose our emaphtic words. Being loved empowers us to live whatever comes. I blush that I lose sight that my patron saint kept ever fresh his encounter with Christ Jesus. His personal encounter with Christ Jesus empowered him to make himself what he alone could not. That consoles me: my short-sightedness does not stop me from letting myself be found again and again.

Let yourselves be found by our triune God these days. Continue giving yourselves to God on your retreats so you may enjoy an intimate knowledge of our God. Knowing God intimately shows us ourselves and empowers us to live and love in ways that may surprise us. Our witness to Christ Jesus may not be as memorable as the witness of St. Paul; our witness may not be startling as those baptized by the first apostles. Yet the humblest witness to Christ Jesus that Jesus gives birth in us will affect others in ongoing, deeply personal ways.

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  1. A Pilgrim’s Journey: The Autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola, 12.
  2. Philippians 3.8-9a; Thayer’s entry for rubbish.
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Detail, Conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio by Alvesgaspar CC BY-SA 4.0; Guelph2017-98 © Damian Doyle, used with permission.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday word, 20 Jan 19

Second Sunday of the Year B (20 Jan 2019)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Transforming Gift
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Before mass:
Christian mysteries invite us to ponder them repeatedly. God joining humanity is the mystery of Incarnation.
God’s self-revelation as born in history we pondered as Nativity;
God’s self-revelation as light for all people we pondered as Epiphany;
God’s self-revelation loving us into holiness we pondered as Jesus’ Baptism;

Ancient tradition, alive in the Eastern church, fused the wedding at Cana with God’s self-revelation. The lectionary selection of the wedding at Cana allows us to join our early roots today..
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John began his gospel with In the beginning was the Word. The phrase links us to the universe of the creating Word as Genesis opened. John identified Jesus as God’s Word who creates; his gospel recounts God transforming creation in Jesus.

Genesis recounted the Creator acting with pur-pose day by day—1st day, 2nd day.… John casually dated the outset of his gospel—the next day, the next day, the next day. With disciples around him Jesus attended a wedding at Cana. It was no casual event! Jesus changed water into wine, and the gospel recalled the wedding at Cana happened on the third day. Two things about it.

To run out of wine at a wedding celebration wounded the dignity of the bride and groom and their families. Jesus’ miracle rescued their dignity and allowed everyone to take pleasure at their marriage. We cannot help recalling Jesus’ miracle of transforming wine into his life-blood for our benefit. On the third day reminds us only risen Jesus does this. His resurrection transforms all.

Someone may object: things are still the same; many human hearts appear cold; the world is in a sad way. Transforming is not the same as trans-formed. Transforming suggests living process. Think of our bodies: they have changed from the time we slept to when we awoke then poured our morning beverage to now. Our skin constant-ly sheds its cells and renews them. Inside us is more mind-blowing: some 100 million new red blood cells are being formed in our bodies every minute!1

Although our bodies are constantly transform-ing our identities continue; we recognize our-selves and others recognize us. Yet deep within us a gift unfolds: Prophet Isaiah used images of vindication and God delighting in us, marrying us. A divine gift unfolds in us because we do not vindicate ourselves: God desires us as we are so God may transform us to live as God creates us each moment. God never forces. Christian transformation happens only with our consent: do we want what God wants?

As our messiah and savior, Jesus transforms us from people with no future to people whose future is Jesus and his promise of life. As our messiah and savior, Jesus transforms us from people with no name, gives us a new name, My Delight, and sends us to brighten our world with his light ablaze within us and manifest by every deed we do in his name.

The change Jesus works in us by his word and his sacraments is no mere rearrangement as we’d rearrange furniture, and it’s more astounding than 100 million new red blood cells forming in our bodies every minute. The change Jesus works in us by his word and his sacraments is life-altering, third day transformation. Each of us is a new creation not just in the realm of the spirit. Pope Benedict once contrasted what it was not with what it was; he said: 

“Being Christian is more than a cosmetic opera-tion that embellishes life...it is a new beginning and rebirth, death and resurrection. ...It is not purely spiritual but involves the body, the cosmos, and extends to the new earth and to the new heavens.”2

Worthy words to hear early in the year. Our third day living seeks more clearly this far-reach-ing, unmatched experience and relationship: Jesus delights in us and nourishes us with his word and himself so we may bring him to our world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the recreating light and life of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary to present you to her son.
  • Chat with Jesus: ask him to give us new or renewed purpose as his disciples and to help us welcome a new measure of his life for the sake of our world.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to notice more clearly the life he gives us and to practice it.
  • Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. Praying give us this day our daily bread prays to be transformed: transformed by putting on the attitude of Jesus more courageously and wearing it in practice: by example; in our deeds; in our choices as well as speech.

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  1. Calculated from the per-second estimate of John M. Higgins, M.D. “About 2 million cells enter the bloodstream from the bone marrow of a typical healthy human adult every second.”
  2. From the pope’s catechesis on the sacraments of 10 Dec 2008.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
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Wiki-images surprise at water drawn wine PD-US; desert sunrise by Jessie Eastland
tp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 3.0