Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday word, 10 Jul 16

Following Hearts
Fifteenth Sunday of the Year B (10 Jul 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

For a long while I heard today’s gospel unaware of a few features. They helped me appreciate the parable that may be the most moving Jesus told. The features are: locale; motive; and humane. First, locale.

The exchange between the scholar of God’s law and Jesus happened in Samaria. Not long before in the gospel Jesus had begun to make his way to Jerusalem. He chose to pass through one of its towns, but the Samaritans refused to let him.1 Samaria was the locale in which Jesus told his parable as he traveled.

Travel in Jesus’ world was not impossible. The Romans maintained a vast network of roads; some were dangerous. In the locale of Samaria hilly roads ascending to Jerusalem were lonely. Robbers patrolled them—Jesus was not being fanciful. Organized villains were common—gangs, gets at Jesus’ meaning.

The second feature is motive. In that risky territory the scholar of God’s law approached Jesus with a hostile heart: he stood up to test Jesus. Making distinctions in God’s law had become more important than God’s desires to many religious professionals by Jesus’ time. I suppose they thought it an art; sadly their practice wounded many innocent, good-hearted and generous people. When the scholar’s test ended so quickly he kept the spotlight on him: he wanted to justify himself. He asked Jesus his question, Who is my neighbor? His question points to the third feature: being humane.

We could leave worship today thinking the man who fell victim to robbers was saved by someone with nothing to lose: the Samaritan did not have to worry about ritual purity as the priest and Levite did. But that misses Jesus’ intent. He had affirmed the scholar’s insistence that loving God and loving humans were one love: do [so] and you will live, Jesus told him. The Samaritan risked losing his life when he chose not to pass by on the opposite side as the other travelers had. Robbers could have waited for someone to get a closer look at the dying man. More, the Samaritan traveler was moved with compassion when he saw the man lying there. Those who were part of God’s people, heirs of the covenant—represented by priest and Levite—seemed to have lost their humane and human selves: intense suffering left them unmoved: the man was naked, beaten and half-dead!

Acting in humane ways flows from our hearts. God’s desire for us to be in covenant-relationship with God is within us. Christian love does not pick and choose. Every human is our opportunity to love God or ignore God. That is true for every Christian wherever we may be. Other motives outside us may paralyze our hearts: no keen sense that friends of Jesus show God love by sincerely responding to others; the world’s motive to get ahead may overwhelm our Christian senses; or we may allow fear to inhibit responses our hearts truly desire. Acting in humane ways flows from our hearts. As Moses reminded, we have only to carry it out. I dare add this: asking for grace to make our hearts freer allows us to carry out God’s desires today.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest our triune God.
  • Ask the Good Samaritan to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting us to join him as ambassadors of his healing love.
  • Ask him for grace to make our hearts more supple and free.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us that we exercise our hearts to grow like Jesus’ heart in little ways as well as ones of greater moment.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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Luke 9.51-53; the beginning of the gospel two weeks ago.

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Monday, July 04, 2016

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Sunday word, 03 Jul 16

Falling
Fourteenth Sunday of the Year B (03 Jul 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus and the 70 disciples were in hostile territory, Samaria. The Samaritans had just refused Jesus direct passage through them to Jerusalem.1 Sending them into hostile territory explains Jesus’ insistence that they travel light. It also held genuine possibility that people who heard them proclaim the kingdom of God would refuse to listen to the disciples as they refused and rejected Jesus; they could even harm them.

This hostile situation helps us appreciate what Jesus told them on their return: I saw Satan as he fell, like a bolt of lightening from the sky. Did Jesus speak figuratively? Did Jesus mean exactly what he said? Does Satan continue to fall?

It suits our modern sesnsiblititites to say that scripture is more figurative than real. We are comfortable with facts and not as comfortable with truth. We even limit truth to facts. If we can’t measure a thing, we may safely discount it. In our honest moments, though, we know facts do not have so much power. When we fell in love, facts were not the reason. In our honest moments, we admit facts alone cannot fulfill our deep longings. In our honest moments, we admit however much Jesus and his kingdom proclamation confuses or confounds us, we continue to worship him and long for him.

Our honest awareness points to much more than figurative language on the part of Jesus and his disciples down the ages to this moment. Jesus did see Satan fall; Satan fell already before time. Scripture speaks of time past, time present and time to come. God evicted Satan from the realm of God—what scripture communicates by the sky. In the present of Jesus and his disciples, Satan fell because of they proclaimed what Jesus did, the kingdom of God, and healed in his name. Since the disciples, every action on behalf of God’s kingdom and in Jesus’ name has caused Satan to fall. In word every action on behalf of God’s kingdom and in Jesus’ name continues God’s war on the enemy of our human nature.

The risks to the disciples highlight that their action was other-centered. Life of the kingdom of God now has the same contour. The enemy of our human nature is self-centered and seduces us to put ourselves at the center. Perhaps the most exhausting and riskiest front in God’s war is trying to be other-centered. Traveling light, as the disciples were advised to do, may mean for us to choose to live in ways that do not attach to things; instead we put them to use for ourselves and for others. Focusing on the essentials does not mean being in the world as a hermit; focusing on the essentials does mean seeing all things as gifts given us so we may follow Jesus more easily, more wholeheartedly and more faithfully.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting you to extend his mission and protecting us by his word and sacraments.
  • Ask him for grace to respond more freely to Jesus’ heart as you walk with him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The words of Jesus, thy will be done, on our lips focus us on his mission of extending the kingdom of God by our choices and our actions.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Luke 9.53, part of last Sunday’s gospel.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Daily word, 28 Jun 16

St. Irenaeus (28 Jun 2016) Am 3. 1-8; 4. 11-12; Ps 5; Mt 8. 23-27
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 8-day retreat
Staying
An apt grace at this point in retreats may be named staying. The person who directed one of my early retreats recommended I beg for it.You may have heard your director in one way or another urge you to stay in your retreat and not dwell on what may await you. Our typically faster paced ways in the world recommend that urging; we need it when the enemy of our human nature distracts us with our usual ways we are in the world. Savoring helps us cooperate with the staying-grace. Keep savoring, relishing, luxuriating in, keep appreciating God’s life offered you today. Even spiritual “desolation is a new life waiting to break through” in us.1

Savoring lets us be more aware or newly aware God in Jesus by Holy Spirit creates us each moment. Our felt knowledge that God creates us now is worth savoring. It is each one’s personal relationship with our triune God. Moments ago we heard that graced-self knowledge expressed in prophetic language: You alone have I known. Lending God his voice, Amos reminded God’s people then—and us now—they were not trivia before God but God’s intimates. Our relationship with God and God with us shapes our way to live in the world with responsibilities as well as freedom.

Clearer vision of our responsibilities and our loyalties lets us notice they are not all equal; some are more significant. That clarity helps us notice our freedom as Jesus’ dear ones. Our freedom is his, the freedom he enjoyed as God’s Beloved. Jesus entrusts his freedom to us. Savoring it helps it be our second nature. Prophet Amos invites us to relish our freedom in Jesus—despite his harsh message to Israel.

Amos began his message with questions; his hearers knew the answers. I got lost in two of them: lions roar when they sight prey; and they growl contentedly over their nourishment.2 Lost in his image let me notice: praying seeks divine nourishment. Our seeking opens on to relishing nourishment received. Amos and Ignatius together suggest each of us ask: Have I purred contentedly over my graces? Do we stay in the contentment Gods consolation offers us? Contentment may not have come readily for some us; we may have had to hike a trail away from the house so we could thunder at God in dismay or whoop over noticing God sustaining us, freeing us—again or for the first time.

Staying with and relishing our nourishing graces engages our true selves. When he prayed Ignatius would seek God’s nourishing life for him this way: ‘Ignatius would tell God what worried him, what he desired, or what he wanted to find out.’3 Ignatian praying frees us to do the same and more: esp. to feel awe and express “surging emotion” for the ways the Trinity creates and sustains us.4

Asking for this graced felt-knowledge, savouring it when we receive it and revisiting it free us. We are free to feel Jesus creating us, to feel Jesus saving us from the storms of our making and ones beyond our control. Being saved allows us to hear the endearing name by which Jesus calls each of us, “You of little faith, I am here for you; rely on me.”

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  1. William Broderick, S.J. “First Week: Rules of Discernment,” Way Suppl. 48 (1983), p. 35.
  2. For the common wisdom that allowed hearers to understand Amos, see, for example, Is 5.29; 31.4; Ps 104.21.
  3. Annmiek van Campen used present tense verbs (tells, desires, wants) to describe Ignatius praying in “The Mystical Way of Images and Choice,” Way Suppl. 103 (2002), p.10.
  4. Spiritual Exercises [SpEx] 60.1; also see 50.6.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Wondering at BREXIT?

The vote to leave the EU came from a polarized electorate in the U.K.’s Its division will not quickly disappear. The Editor of Thinking Faith suggests that the road ahead must be paved with generosity if it is to lead to the common good.”
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Wiki-image of Exit sign PD-Release

Thursday, June 23, 2016

“Take the Long View”

Pope Francis has critics who paint him as awful for the church—and worse. Fr. Dwight Longenecker has described them as “wild-mannered.” In a post yesterday he reminds readers that Francis is not one of the few “stinkers” that has occupied the Chair of Peter (they were about 4% of the total number). Francis-watchers do better to notice “the gifts he brings to” today’s church. 
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Wiki-image by Jebulon of Dusk at Saint-Peter Basilica, Vittorio-Emmanuele II bridge, and Tiber river CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday word, 19 Jun 16

Embracing
Twelfth Sunday of the Year B (19 Jun 2016)
2Sm 12. 7-10, 13; Ps 32; Gal 2. 16-19-21; Lk 7. 36-8. 3
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The final verse of our response to the reading from Zechariah invites us to renew our confidence in God; it may invite some of us to trust God in a new way. The verse sang: You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me. It invited a member of Israel to trust God through public worship; it instilled joyous confidence.

Worship’s environment is significant: we know that without thinking; so for Israel. The ark of the covenant contained the tablets of the ten words Moses received from God on Mt. Sinai. Its cover bore two cherubim. The angels at the ends of the cover faced one another with wings outstretched and touched at its center.1 

Long after the people settled from their wanderings Solomon had built the temple. Greatly enlarged cherubim stood in its holy of holies. Each stood upright about 15 feet with wings of 7.5 feet; as the wings of each touched they spanned nearly 30 feet.2 

The point isn’t the measurements. The point is the size of the cherubim: they towered over people and surrounded them. Hardly anyone saw those cherubim; scripture described them for everyone. Knowledge of them caused the psalmist to feel embraced. All Israel worshipped with the psalmist’s songs. So people sang in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. Joy suggests a feeling of intimate embrace, feeling protected, upheld by God’s right hand.

Jesus, too, felt this intimate embrace; he savored it and responded freely to it. St. Paul described his response with the phrase obedience of faith.3 Jesus confidently felt protected and upheld by God’s right hand as he told his disciples he must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. This way of the Messiah is the way of his disciples in each age—why we don’t limit this gospel to Lent. To shoulder crosses, that is, to endure life’s trials, is how we imitate our Messiah Jesus; he minced no words about suffer[ing] greatly before he would enter his glory.

St. Paul reminded us that baptism causes the faith of Jesus in us. By becoming human for us and with us Jesus gives us access to his faith: by his Spirit Jesus empowers us to respond to God as he did. Jesus’ human response to God modelled each human’s response to God. Jesus’ human response to God gives us access to confidence. More than self-assurance Christian confidence is joyous trust and conviction that we stand al-ays in God’s loving embrace; God upholds us.

Baptism began our joyous trust and conviction. The Eucharist, as well as other sacraments, sustains it and helps it grow more alive. The sacraments allow Jesus’ joyous, trusting conviction to become ours. While we can say that Jesus’ joyous, trusting conviction is ours, it is never private. Baptism and all the sacraments are not private; they belong to all who profess our Catholic faith. Baptism produces Christian unity, or to use St. Paul’s phrase, baptism causes us to belong to Christ.

We foster what baptism begins and the eucharist sustains as we notice daily the ways our triune God intimately embraces us and protects us. Our God works not only in moments of public worship. God works through human longings, desires, feelings. When our longings, desires and feelings have a texture of surprise—such as, “Now I see!” or “Why do I keep gravitating toward this?”—surprise often indicates we are in God’s right hand. The more we savor our longings, desires and feelings our responses to God will resemble more Jesus’ human response to God.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest yourself in the bright shadow of our triune God.
  • Ask St. Peter to present you to Jesus with a strong confidence.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for purifying your confidence to more like his.
  • Ask him for the grace to respond more freely to God as you walk with Jesus.
  • Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The words of Jesus, thy will be done, on our lips joyfully praise God for being ever-mindful of us. His words give us Jesus’ confidence to live more faithfully in the face of trials as well as joys.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
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  1. Exodus 25.20.
  2. 2 Chronicles 3.10-13.
  3. Romans 1.5 and 16.26: obedience of faith as modeled by Jesus, who gives access (5.2) to God to all who practice his faith, bookends St. Paul’s letter.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

“Modern Warfare Destroys Your Brain”

The effects of explosive blasts has long been considered more psychological than physical. Keen minds have challenged that. Many scoffed at their insights even as late as the last decade of last century. Now a growing number of health professionals take seriously the physical effects—because of this evidence. 
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Wiki-image of Exploding ordnance PD-USGov