Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday word, 15 Jan 16

Second Sunday of the Year A (15 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
John the Baptizer called attention to Jesus; he pointed out Jesus: Look, the Lamb of God is Jesus not I. John did not call attention to himself; John called attention to Jesus.

It is easy to gloss over that: John called attention to Jesus. We are to call attention to Jesus by our choices. It is easy to believe that the Christian goal is to focus solely on Jesus with this result: I notice nothing else—the world, others, even myself. God does call a fraction of people to such contemplative living; their praying is powerful for the world and church; yet God calls only a fraction to be in the world that way. The rest of us are in the world with a mission to change it.

That means the rest of Christians have a vocation to live in ways that announce Jesus. To choose in ways that shout, Look: notice Jesus! To act in ways that shout, Look: notice Jesus! To speak in ways that shout, Look: notice Jesus! Each individual’s vocation commences with baptism.

John’s preaching held others’ attention. Many felt he was the one on whom to hang their hopes and give their hearts. John intently called attention to Another not himself. As the church began to take root among the gentiles St. Paul felt the same risk; some treated him the way others treated John the Baptist. St. Paul wrote the Corinthians and reminded them: I give thanks [to God] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say you were baptized in my name.1 Paul baptized only one household to begin the Christian church on the Greek mainland; after that he resumed his role of preaching Christ’s cross and providing for himself.2

Preaching includes words, to be sure. Preaching Messiah Jesus goes beyond words: our choices and our actions preach him, too. When we choose to put another’s interest ahead of ours, we preach Jesus. When we act in ways that respect another’s value and dignity, we preach Jesus. When we dialogue with open minds and hearts and work together, we preach Jesus. When we live simply so that creation suffers less by our choices and at our hands, we preach Jesus. When we a willing to love, we preach Jesus. When we allow others to love us, we preach Jesus.

Nourished by his body and blood we are light to the nations just as Jesus is. Until Jesus’ return in glory the church points out Jesus; the church is each member of his body in our world.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Become aware of the Divine Persons embracing you with loving delight.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for us; thank him for welcoming us to share in his mission to make known his Father and his Father’s dream for all people, for all creation.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to announce him by all our choices, actions and speech.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us so we might point others to him.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. 1Corinthians 1.14-16.
  2. 1Corinthians 4.12; 1Thessalonians 2.9.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Sunday word, 08 Jan 17

Solemnity of the Epiphany (08 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Another Way”
Everything in scripture is for us: to help us live as friends and disciples of Jesus. The gospels do narrate Jesus’ life; they paint portraits of him with words. In addition to scenes of his life, people and especially their responses show us how to live and not live our Christian lives. The familiar account of the wise men from the east is for us. Their last response captured me: being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another way. First their dream, then their response.

Dreams were a favoured way God communicated. Before we met the wise men God had already communicated to Joseph in a dream: that he could take Mary to be his wife. After the visit of the wise men, in dreams God would com-municate to him where to take Mary and the child Jesus and flee to safety; when to return to their land; and where to live.1 The wise men searched for a true royal, one who would respond to their deepest needs: they had come to worship him. They recognized in the humble child one who surpassed in dignity every worldly monarch; and they responded with their worship and gifts.

We may say these three had had dealings with God. They were desire-dealings: their deep desires vibrated with God’s desire for them; more than focusing on a star, a star focused their individual desires and transformed them into a shared desire; this light of God caused their desires to continue to throb and overflow and emboldened them to journey far by its radiant light.

Their search was not private. At their audience with Herod they boldly asked him, Jerusalem’s scribes and priests, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him. Herod was a foreigner, a puppet-king Rome let rule Jerusalem. Everyone knew Herod was an illegiti-mate king.He feared the power that made him king, and he feared any who threatened his rule. Herod also knew that people he ruled longed for a Messiah; God had promised them one. The scribes and priests knew the scriptures, but they could not interpret their true king had arrived.2 As for Herod, he would not even let a royal title escape his lips: Go and search diligently for the child, he told the wise men. And they did.

After finding the child Jesus they were warned…not to return to Herod, [and] they left for their own country by another way. The word we translate as to warn also means to have dealings with. Our dealings with God call us to behave differently: for example, to be honest, when shading the truth may make us look better; to choose silence instead of joining in ridicule or gossip; to share our resources rather than hoarding them; to make time and space for God and others rather than just ourselves. To put into action God’s dealings with us and our dealings with God is how we are children of light. To refuse to put into action God’s dealings with us and our dealings with God is to return to darkness. St. Paul urges us, once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. To live that way is not out of reach, for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.3 

Goodness, righteousness and truth. Practicing them—that is, living another way, Jesus’ way—we reach our true homeland.4 Responding each day with that other way, Jesus’ way, also is how we shine as light of the world5 so others may see and know Jesus more clearly until his return.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the wise men to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for being born human for you; thank him for sharing his spirit with us so we may shine brightly, pointing out Jesus by out choices and actions.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to shine as his disciples throughout this year.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It is the gospel in its essence. Each time we say it we learn better Jesus and his way, and we grow more courageous to live it.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Matthew 1.20; 2.13; 2.19, 22.
  2. Jesus would say so later in his ministry: Matthew 16.3.
  3. Ephesians 5.8-9.
  4. Philippians 3.20.
  5. Matthew 5.14-16

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Sunday word, 01 Jan 17

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (01 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Relationship, Birth, Remembering
A look at liturgies of the early Roman church help us appreciate ours today. Rome’s primary and only festival of Mary native to it was the motherhood of God.1 This liturgy absorbed other themes as the feast spread and time progressed. The Second Vatican Council and the recent revision of the Roman Missal restored the original focus. Our scriptures offer us some helps to restore us and move us forward into a new year. Here are three helps.

The reading from the Book of Numbers closed with the phrases: invoke [the Lord’s] name upon the Israelites and [the Lord] will bless them. To know someone’s name meant a person was no stranger; they enjoyed a relationship. Wanting to know someone’s name recurs in scripture. When Jacob dreamed of a heavenly visitor, Jacob wanted to know the visitor’s name.2 When God sent Moses to free his people, Moses need to know the name of the One who sent him.3 With us its different: if I told you a stranger wants to lead you home, you’d be more than skeptical.

Giving a name is more sacred than knowing one. Think of parents choosing names for their children. Think of Mary and Joseph doing so for their son. Each was told name him Jesus.4 As we recall Mary today we can ask her to intercede for us truly to know ourselves as God creates us and let God enter our freedom. In each one’s freedom relationships begin and continue to grow life-giving. Our triune God desires us to look forward in the new year to deeper, more life-giving relationships with Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

A second help is Mary’s willingness. Mary’s willingly  allowed God into her freedom; that makes her a hinge: the hinge of our redemption. We call the Nativity of Jesus, the Word of God become flesh for us, the beginnings of our redemption5; and the beginnings of grace.6 Jesus’ birth makes us heirs to God’s life in Jesus by Holy Spirit. His birth revolves around Mary. She gave birth to God in our humanity; our vocation is to give birth to God. We give birth to God as we practice our faith. The faith we practice is Jesus’ faith, his relationship with God, whom he called his Abba, Father.

It is possible to live Jesus’ faith and make it ours because Jesus gives his Spirit to all who accept him. That summarized what St. Paul preached in Galatia. He preached Jesus to them. They had accepted Jesus and received his Spirit.7 Then they rejected their experience! Paul wrote them to help them accept Jesus again.

We may not reject our experience of Jesus’ Spirit; we do get distracted from it. The ways of distraction are many: some may be our choosing; the ways our world suffers may distract us; so, too, the ways our culture clamors for our attention. Our eyes on Mary offer us a third help: All who heard…what had been told them…about this child…by the shepherds…were amazed. …Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Mary’s reflective attitude is that help.

She and Joseph and their child were not in glorious circumstances; yet, she returned in her mind to the promise of her son, his birth and on the first ways God was making good on God’s promise. If anyone wants to make a Catholic resolution for 2017, Mary modeled it: revisit your experiences of Jesus’ spirited love and faith guiding you and promising to accompany you each moment of the new year. With each revisiting resolve to live out of your relationship with him.

Relationship, birth, daily remembering more than highlight Mary’s motherhood. To deepen our relationship with our triune God; to give birth to Jesus by lively faith; and daily to remember how Jesus graces us with his Spirit will keep us close to Jesus and make us more eloquent messengers of his good news in 2017.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for being born human for you; thank him for dying and rising for you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace of patient reliance on him throughout this year.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words were the fruit of his parents’ teaching and example. Praying them continues to shape us as his disciples today.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Fr. Kevin Irwin, Sunday Worship: A Planning Guide to Celebration. New York: Pueblo, 1983, p. 52.
  2. Genesis 32.30.
  3. Exodus 3.13.
  4. Joseph in Matthew’s gospel; Mary in Luke’s.
  5. Prayer after Communion, Vigil Mass of Christmas, Roman Missal.
  6. Prayer Over the Offerings today’s.
  7. Galatians 3.1-5.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

All the Best!

Wiki-image by VectorOpenStock of Colorful 2017 sign CC BY-SA 4.0

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Not Extras

Canadian novelist Robertson Davies turned a phrase that warrants repeated appreciation: “Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.” [The Manticore (Viking Press, 1976), p. 101.] It reminds that understanding is not as prized as many insist. Martyrs defy being understood—vexing to any for whom understanding is supreme.
     “A somewhat dissenting voice” reviewing recently released “Silence” did not consider its numerous martyrs to be movie-extras but more central than its protagonist. The review returned Robertson Davies’ apothegm to the present to be appreciated again.
Wiki-image by Hisenv of ABUNZE KAIGAM CC BY-SA 4.0

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday word, 11 Dec 16

Third Advent Sunday A (11 Dec 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Outgrowing Jesus?
Isaiah, Malachi, John the Baptizer, Jesus: God entrusted to prophets God’s dream for creation. Isaiah announced that parched land would exult, blossom, even sing for joy. Those miracles would pale compared to wonders worked for vulnerable humans: the blind see; the deaf hear, the mute sing and the lame walk. They were creation’s crown. Even today God holds them in God’s heart with particular fondness.

The prophets formed a chain: each one announced God’s dream for all God had created in a prophet’s particular circumstance; each prophet prepared the way for successors, too. They kept God’s dream before God’s people. Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me, cried Prophet Malachi.

In his situation God sent God’s messenger to announce in the present what God desired to do for people who welcomed God’s intervention. The present was filled with expectation for the future: for fulfilment of God’s creative action and humans’ preparation for it.

Often for humans God’s desire often lay hidden in the present; prophets’ voices helped others recognize what lay hidden. Scripture kept prophets’ voices alive in succeeding generations; scripture also helped people understand what lay hidden. It still does. It did not work like a formula or a map as much as it kept people in conversation with God’s dream. Scripture also kept people in conversation with one another, moving toward God’s dream and preparing themselves for it.

At times the movements of God felt too slow for to bear. God’s perceived slowness dulled, even frustrated, human expectation of God’s promised intervention. When eager expectation is dulled or frustrated, powers other than God came into play. Jesus named one in today’s gospel: offence—blessed is the one who takes no offence at me.

Three things to note in Jesus’ words: one, offence opposed blessing—offence did not move with God’s desire; second, offence rose from impatience with the way God’s works; God’s power at work in Jesus to heal the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the mute to sing and the lame to walk—no longer set human hearts singing with joy and rejoicing at the splendour of our God; third, the offence lay in none of Jesus’ powerful acts; Jesus was the offence.

Jesus offended because he did not live up to human expectations of the messenger God would send. He was too meek and spoke too mildly to be God’s messenger; he befriended sinners—those other offenders; and his way offended Peter, his closest friend, because Jesus seemed to bow to Roman domination.1

Those very traits Jesus enjoyed from infancy—as did we. More compelling is this: we adore infant Jesus and our carols help us with their lyrics: Christ the babe is Lord of all; little Lord Jesus…fit us for heaven to live with you there; Come as a baby weak and poor…He opens wide the heav’nly door.2 To name a few.

We probably take offence that Jesus never grew out of his traits; that he did not force into line those who offen-ded upright behaviour. If Jesus outgrew his meekness, his universal welcome and lost touch with God who ransoms everyone and everything from the grip of powers opposed to God: we would have no messiah, no Lord, no opener of heaven when we would need them. Perhaps Advent and Christmas touch us deeply be-cause the season puts us in touch with our true selves, with our innate awe and wonder before God and God’s invitation to fearless joy. How might we claim again our true selves, our innate awe and wonder before Jesus, God’s messenger and invitation to fearless joy?  One key may be the patient expectation St. James counselled: wait for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it. Patience does not contradict or neutralize eager expectation; instead it paves its way. Patience offers us something greater: practicing it—recovering it if we have outgrown it—practicing it transforms us into more alert prophets who speak in the name of our Lord.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Bask in the life of the Trinity.
  • Ask John the Baptizer and St. James to present you to Jesus. 
  • Praise Jesus for being born human for us so we can become more patient, more prophetic.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace of patient endurance daily to seek signs of his presence and power of his Spirit and to name them when you see them.
  • Close saying slowly the Lords Prayer. Jesus’ words, thy kingdom come, on our lips are at once both a plea for Jesus to return in glory and a reminder that Jesus has given us his Spirit to help us recognize the many ways his kingdom blossoms anew each day.
  1. Matthew 11.29 and 12.19; Matthew 11.19; Matthew 16.21-23.
  2. “Away in a Manger”; “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”; “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn.

Wiki-images: Amboy Crater in bloom by Steve Berardi CC BY-SA 2.0Voice in the Desert PD-US

Monday, December 05, 2016

Humanly Impossible

“Astonishing”; “daunting”; “so important”; “impossible…from outside.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church employed those words in its brief treatment of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. That petition may be called mercy-in-action. Humans enact God’s mercy when they operate from “vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God.” 
     “Vital participation” in God’s mercy is slippery for humans. That slippery struggle appears in the reception of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family. Recalling their visit to refugee families in the spring, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I commented, “Religious leaders are called to remind themselves and then others that God is life and love and light.” That remains “daunting.”
Wiki-image by Massimo Finizio of Bartholomew I CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday word, 04 Dec 16

Second Advent Sunday A (04 Dec 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living Christian Joy
Advent alerts us and helps us focus on the new thing God is doing1: God’s desire, God’s dream for each and all humans, for human societies, for all created things and the entire universe—to create them anew each moment. Advent points our way to live more in sync with the desire of God’s heart. A few pointers are: Jesus’ urging to stay awake…be prepared2; to live peaceably3; and to live God’s joy given us.4

Living God’s joy is our Christian vocation. Pope Francis called it “the sign of a Christian.” It measures our health he has repeated: “A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. …Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions.”5 How much living has us cope with pain and tribulations; and so many elsewhere in the world face persecutions!  Christian joy in the face of these and anyone’s weaknesses signals that Christian joy is a gift received, nothing you and I manufacture for ourselves. Christian joy is given us by our risen Lord.

St. Paul recognized that and urged, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another. Translation into our languages misses that St. Paul spoke friendship language. Harmony was the ancient world’s index of friendship: a friend is another self; friends share all things in common; friends are of one soul. Even the word we translate as encouragement sounded cheering, supporting influence—what friends do for one another.

Advent reminds us God is in this intimate harmony with humans: we name the mystery of God’s undying friendship, Incarnation. Jesus is God-with-us in our flesh and blood, our weaknesses and our strengths. Advent welcomes all Christians to renew and deepen our friendship with God. Friendship with God frees and empowers us to live in harmony with others; to welcome one another…as Christ welcomed [us], for the glory of God.

Friendship with God is God’s gift. We may not think John the Baptizer spoke friendship language when he called Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers. He did not refuse them a chance to befriend God. He demanded they produce good fruit as evidence of [their] repentance…and…not presume they did not need to repent because they had an inside track with Abraham, whom they loved to call their father. An exclusive friendship with Abraham blinded some to God’s desire to enlarge Abraham’s people: God can raise up children to Abraham from…stones.

God did: lepers, sinners, tax-collectors, self-centred people, Gentiles—all had hardened hearts for various reasons. In the Baptizer’s preaching they felt God inviting and softening their hearts, and they responded. To repent is to disarm totally—beat…swords into plowshares, to use Prophet Isaiah’s image. To disarm and let God in returns us to friendship with God.

Deepening our friendship with God is ongoing conversion: growing more sensitive to God’s heart; welcoming God supporting, cheering us. Christ Jesus embodied divine friendship. He helps us embody it and produce good fruit of peace and joyful endurance. Those good fruits especially keep us faithful to God-with-us and extend God’s friendship to others.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God longing for you with love.
  • Ask John the Baptizer 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 friendship with God.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome his joy and to live his faithful endurance as yours.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. 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 43.19; 2Corinthians 5.17, Revelation 21.5.
  2. Matthew 24:42, 44; also Romans 13.11.
  3. Isaiah 2.4 and Romans 13.13.
  4. Psalm 122 and its refrain: this and the scriptures above were announced on the 1st Sunday of Advent.
  5. One of his daily homilies. Joy pervades his witness.