Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Damage Control"

The writings of John L. Allen, Jr., veteran Vatican watcher, appear in various publications. His weekly column appears in e-boxes on Fridays, thanks to the National Catholic Reporter.

His column this week is divided into three parts. Each focuses on moving forward from the Muslim anger incited by a quotation Pope Benedict included in a lecture while visiting his native Germany.

Part 1 focuses on the 25 September meeting of Muslim leaders with the pope.

Part 2 is a preview of a soon-to-appear article by John Allen about what the pope needs to address in future.

Part3--admittedly a little heavy for Saturday--is a reflection of the sort that will more clearly shape the matter of faith and reason, which was the core of the pope's Regensburg lecture.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday word

Archangels Michael, Gabriel & Raphael (29 Sep 2006) Dn 7.9-10,13-14; Ps138; Jn1. 47-51
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Angelic / Apostolic

The last of the Divine Praises, which often closes a liturgy of benediction, summarizes the way we bless God today: “Blessed be God in his angels and in his saints.” Life in the church seeks to mirror the life of the Trinity, which is communion, communion of the Divine Persons. The church is a communion of sister churches. Our common vocation invites us to cultivate communion with one another and with all.

Not only does our triune God accompany this communion on earth; so, too, does the communion of saints, which includes hosts of spirits, who have praised God from all ages.

Pope St. Gregory taught that among the spirits angels are ones sent by God “to deliver some message.” Scripture names three to denote their ministry...among humans: Michael, one “who is like God?”; Gabriel, “God’s strength”; and Raphael, “God heals.”1

In our communion on earth our spirits are clothed with flesh. We are different from angels. Our bodies limit us in time and space. Limited as we are in our communion on earth, we are sent to witness to Christ with our bodies and our lives. We are "apostolic" as we also profess in our creed: we've been sent forth on this mission.

As we embark each day on our apostolic missions as friends of Jesus, today reminds us that we are part of a communion which God protects in St. Michael and heals and guides in St. Raphael. God strengthens us, too, to announce in our own ways what God’s strength, Gabriel, made known to Mary: God favors and strengthens us to make Jesus known by the ways we live and glorify him.

1. Homily 34, 8-9; in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, IV, p. 1435-6.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


"Love is inventive to the point of infinity."

St. Vincent de Paul said that. It isn't just a refreshing way to consider love. It is a most apt description of the way love acts. Love is personal, and because it is, love addresses a person, a family, a parish, indeed the world, as if for the first time.

Today is the Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul. A toast to all the men and women who make his apostolate their apostolate and assist the church to respond to the poor, who are Christ among us (cf. Matthew 25.40)!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Benedict XVI Meets With Muslim Leaders

Read the Pope's address to Muslim leaders. He reaffirmed his desire
"to express my wish to continue establishing bridges of friendship with the adherents of all religions, showing particular appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians (cf. Address to the Delegates of Other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of Other Religious Traditions, April 25, 2005)."

Tuesday word

25th Tuesday B (26 Sep 2006) Pr 21. 1-6,10-13; Ps 119; Lk 8. 19-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Faith Grown Up

Over several days we’ve been hearing chapter 8 of Luke’s gospel at mass. We concluded its first part with the two-verse selection today. The chapter began with people forming around Jesus and noted the Twelve and some women who supported Jesus out of their means. The new people of God was taking shape.

Jesus, God’s prophet and messiah, formed this people with the word of the kingdom as well as performing deeds which spoke of it. Hear the word of God and do it means making faith a way of life. In part that means to protect the germ of faith each of us has received in our hearts and to cultivate its growth.

In his parable of the sower and seed early in chapter 8, Jesus noted that the good soil are those who hear the word with a generous heart, protect it and bear fruit because of their endurance. When Jesus’ kin appear they help him sharpen his explanation.

Jesus family are those who hear the word of God and do it. His mother, Mary, indeed heard the word and welcomed it even though she could not understand it. It literally grew in her and became her son, Jesus. She protected the word before it became flesh and after with her generous heart and life.

It is wise that we call on Mary and ask her to help us endure so that we can give birth to the word of God by what we say and do.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Brief Summary About a New Poll

Many polls have attempted to clarify the connection of belief and behavior, in particular political behavior. A new Baylor University poll, of sound design according to reviewers (see the Christian Science Monitor summary), helps identify the God in which people believe.

Monday word

25th Monday B (25 Sep 2006) Pr 3. 27-34; Ps 15; Lk 8. 16-18
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Light Link

I’m wondering if many don’t notice or if they are uncomfortable with Luke’s Jesus and his emphasis on putting into practice the faith one decides to call one’s own. To decide to believe is important; it’s where believers begin. How-ever, Luke’s Jesus goes beyond deciding for faith to living it, which may put off some who consider faith is a one-time decision not a way of life. Jesus’ phrase, Take you hear, is about faith, namely arranging one’s life around Jesus and his preaching the word of the kingdom.

Jesus enlightens us to see more clearly what is real and what is illusory, to notice when we prefer the illusory over real. One way we prefer what is illusory is to refuse to allow the light of Christ given us to overflow and touch others.

Refuse no one the good on which [a person] has a claim when it is in your power to do it for [another]. That line from Proverbs may encourage us this way: Refuse no one the light of Christ. . .when it is in your power to [shine] it [on another].

In Christ’s light we realize how patient God is with us. In Christ’s light we realize how much God blesses us. It is Christ’s light which moves us to keep others from being in darkness. That is no one-time decision of the mind. It is faith in action which our Creator and Lord bids us enact daily. Christ’s light lovingly links Christ to us and us to others in order that others may encounter Christ, too. Such a loving link shatters the human definition of obligation, and empowers us to act in faith and be light.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday word, 24 September 2006

25th Sunday of Year(24 Sep 2006) Wis 2. 12,17-20; Ps 54; Jms 3. 16-4. 3; Mk 9. 30-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
From Fear to Harmony

If the gospel words sound familiar it’s because last week’s gospel selection contained the first prediction by Jesus that he would be rejected, handed over to [others who would] will kill him, and three days after his death...would rise. For the disciples this was an outrageous teaching. The first time Jesus spoke openly about this Peter rebuked Jesus for saying it. Peter was thinking as humans not with the mind of God, who works for our good through all things, especially rejection, suffering and death.

Did you notice the reaction of the Twelve at Jesus’ second prediction of his passion, death and resurrection? For them incomprehension the second time turned into apprehensive fear: neither did they understand [Jesus’] saying and they were afraid to question him.

Fear affects us in many ways. Fear rips away any veil from inner sight to disclose, among other things, our insecurities. Imagine us as Jesus’ first disciples. Imagine that we had been following him: we’re privileged to see him and hear him up close. Who would we have seen and heard? A man of God whose feet were planted on earth. One who was open, compassionate, a man of patience and gentleness, whose pattern of living was self-giving; who did not shy away from putting into practice the intentions of God’s heart, even when they clashed with our own or those engendered by the likes of envy, dissension, hatred, deception, arrogance and rage.

Fear plops us into pools like that. Fear mires us in roiling waters for which loving faithfulness and confidence in Jesus are life preservers. Jesus tosses them with good aim and none too slowly to us, but spirits of fear often blind us to his help.

Fear to question Jesus seduced the Twelve into arguing who among them was the greatest, perhaps our most vexing insecurity. We cannot fault them for we are no different: fear distorts our hearts and narrows our fields of vision, too.

We can imagine the feelings and inclinations argument produced in the Twelve. It’s good to do that because it helps us identify with one or more of them. It helps us name our own needs for conversion which will deepen our loving faithfulness and confidence in Jesus. It also helps us appreciate personally Jesus’ response, which was not one of shock, dismay, disap-pointment or loud protest.

In an excellent way Jesus responded to the fears which distracted them from hearing his teaching about his rejection, suffering and death, which led the Twelve to argue among themselves. He placed in their midst the antithesis of fear and the touchstone of openness to the world, to animals, plants, sun and sea, sky and stars, and most of all to human beings: a child.

To be childlike is akin to Jesus’ temperament and his holy Spirit. Children innately know deep truth. To be childlike is innocent, joyful, candid, reflective, and perhaps most challenging for us adults, lacks the fear of making mistakes. That’s why youngsters enjoy true freedom; why Jesus placed a child in his disciples' midst for all ages. It is from our loss of innate freedom to the spirits of the world that Christ Jesus came to save us and give us a share in his holy Spirit.

Even an inkling, a taste of this graced freedom allows us to begin to appreciate the upside down manner the Trinity chooses to work for our good one moment at a time: the least in the world, which a child embodies, are greatest; the last, even the ignored, are first; and the servant has a mastery none can give or confiscate.

A child enjoys a harmony within and without, with the world of creation and the world of imagination. In Jesus’ language this harmony is one with his divine Father who sent him. In James’ language it is pure, peaceable, lenient, attentive, merciful, impartial and without pretense. Set aside 10 minutes each day this week to praise, speak and conclude: praise the One who sent Jesus; speak with Jesus; conclude by asking Jesus to strengthen one thing which can deepen your harmony with Jesus and with one other person.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


John Allen is the current "clarifier" of Vatican news. Journalists posted to Rome are quick to consult John when they arrive and especially when thye cover a Vatican story.

His comments of this week are very instructive and helpful, as always. The post is long but divided into chunks of reasonable length. Read one a day in the coming week.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Funeral for a A Pastor

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. Jim Wright was pastor of St. Alexander Parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit for over 30 years. He decided the parish should be known as the Servant Church of St. Alexander, and the parishioners agreed to both the name and to living that name.

Jim was most hospitable. I was his guest after returning from theological studies and before my ordination for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Jim's concern for the poor, the marginalized, the ignored, the imprisoned as well as refugees shaped his life. Because he was pastor for such a span of years he affected many people. His affect on young people is both legendary, and in my view, his great legacy and gift to the church.

When I was Jim's guest I met some young people of the parish. Many of them are now spouses and parents. To Jim a youngster was as important as a bishop, a president or a generous benefactor. I recall him saying to me that Jesus taught him a great lesson when Jesus placed a child in the midst of his disciples. Jim always remembered that lesson and lived it. Yesterday, the number of young people present was felt. Some flew in from distances. As one gentleman told me as we waited to enter the cemetery chapel for the rite of commital, "We are all better for having known Fr. Jim."

Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop of Detroit, presided at Jim's funeral mass. Two other bishops and many priests joined him. Cardinal Maida was visibly moved by what he heard and saw. No one can replace Jim Wright. Everyone, especially all priests, can learn from him.

Rest in peace, Jim. May you enjoy everlasting life!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wednesday word

Korean martyrs Andrew Kim Taegon, et al. (20Sep2006) 1Co 12.31-13.13; Ps33; Lk 7.29-35
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Christian Maturity

Reacting to the great prophet Jesus, whom God raised up in the midst of people was similar to people’s reaction to the prophet John: all the people and the tax-agents had heard and justified God by being baptized with John’s baptism. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s plan for them by not being baptized by [John].

The point Jesus made with his vivid image of some piping and others not dancing, some singing a dirge and others not weeping is that whatever style a prophet adopts, complaint will always follow. In contrast to all the people and tax-agents who were aware of their own sins, shortcomings and need for healing, the religious professionals noted John’s ascetic style and wrote him off as demon-possessed. Jesus’ different style the same group maligned as sinful in variety of ways. The religious professionals even claimed to know others’ sins!

God sends us prophets, and God sustains them in order to show us the more excellent way of conversion from what makes us enemies of patient love.

Many are quick to consider christian living childish. It is not. Living lives marked by faith and hope crowned by love is most mature. Christian maturity is reluctant to look at others’ sins. Christian maturity, the more excellent way which we profess, looks at what prevents our growth and maturity in Christ and in the body of the church. The body and blood of Christ is given to us, in the words of St. Andrew Kim, the first Korean priest and pastor, “in order that we will grow and reach maturity. . .in the grace of God.”1 Graced maturity leads us not to yell and bicker but to stand united with all who suffer and with those who experience conversion of mind and heart.

1. Andrew Kim Taegon, his final exhortation, in today’s Office of Readings, The Liturgy of the Hours.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Radio Conversation About Papal Remarks

On 19 September the Diane Rehm Show hosted a conversation about the remarks and apology of Pope Benedict. John Allen was at John Carroll University Monday. He opens the Tuesday radio show and "sets the scene."

The last 20 minutes (of the 48:00 show) is devoted to callers and two other guests addressing this topic.

Tuesday word

25th Tuesday of the Year B (19 Sep 2006) 1Co 12. 12-14,27-31a; Ps 100; Lk 7. 11-17
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Challenging Grace

Two married people united in marriage strive to make one life together. Does doing that erase the uniqueness of each spouse? Not at all! We Jesuits strive to make real for us all our “close sharing of life and goods [and what makes that possible] is the eucharist at...the center [of our common life].”1 Does our common life erase our distinctions as individuals? Not at all.

Two examples from daily living that union and unity are not uniformity. Our union in Christ, begun in baptism and sustained in the Eucharist, flowers in people differently. St. Paul listed offices in the church and gifts given to people to build up the church: first, Apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of [speaking in] tongues.

Down through the ages God has visited his people in many and various ways and sent many and various prophets.

In the fullness of time God sent his son Jesus: the apostle--the title means one sent by another; the great prophet raised up for us, who worked wonders.

Jesus works through us by the power of his spirit. Baptism has made us sharers in his royal, priestly and prophetic ministries. How we exercise those christian ministries of ours changes as circumstances change. For example, young parents exercise parenthood differently from parents of grown children. Each is no less a parent.

Similarly, the ways we live in the world as ambassadors of our Messiah Jesus call on us to exercise our gifts of faith, hope and love differently, never in wooden ways but in ways compassionate and merciful. Compassion is a challenge, and we receive it daily from our Messiah Jesus. Because we receive it daily from our Messiah Jesus, his challenge graces us to make our own the pattern of his life.

1. Complementary Norm 315, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their Complementary Norms, St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pope Desires Better Relations With Islam

Pope Benedict expressed his regret at noon on Sunday. It contains the link to his address in which the quotation, which has ignited the controversy, may be found.

Pope Benedict is not at odds with the sentiment of the Second Vatican Council nor the esteem in which it held Islam and all people of Islam. The Vatican Secretary of State affirmed that in his statement on 16 September.

Monday word

25th Monday of the Year B (18 Sep 2006) 1Co 11. 17-26, 33; Ps 40; Lk 7. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Shaping Attitudes & Behaviors

I imagine each of us has at one time or another reread personal letters written to us. Letters are occasional correspondence: they contain time-sensitive material. Letters also disclose characteristics and convictions of the writers.

St. Paul wrote the church he began in Corinth in reply to questions it had sent him in a letter. Paul’s coworkers in Corinth--Sosthenes; Chloe with her household; and Timothy--also kept him informed. In fact, Chloe's house informed Paul of the factions and the quarreling/1/ which sundered the church and grieved Paul’s heart.

Rereading his letter recalls his conviction we heard at mass Saturday: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Divisions and the church are not in harmony because Jesus is one and sharing his body and blood makes us participants in him and with him and through him. Participating with Christ Jesus unites us with his real, abiding presence.

His is not a physical presence; in fact, it is more real. Physical presence is limited by time and space, and Jesus is in no way limited. Eating his sacred meal shapes behaviors and attitudes toward others. If we do not allow it to shape them, then we have participated in a ritual meal but not in Christ Jesus.

This is the church’s constant teaching. Nor was it the church’s invention. As we heard, even the God-fearing centurion recognized the power and truth of nonphysical presence: Lord, say by your word and my son will be healed. We memorialize his words before communion to grow in the conviction that Jesus’ presence is not only real: it is most real and shapes lives.

1. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren (1Co 1.11).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday word, 17 September 2006

24th Sunday of Year(17 Sep 2006) Is 50. 5-9a; Ps 116; Jms 2. 14-18; Mk 8. 27-35
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Mind of God

Albert Einstein said, “I want to know how God created the world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details.”

God does have a mind. God thinks, chooses, plans, loves and desires our loyal friendship. God has made known to us the divine mind in Christ Jesus, whose Spirit enlightens us and gives us courage to befriend God.

How we can befriend God Jesus made clear: to love our neighbors as ourselves is to love God. Those twin commandments are the measure of Christian living. Christian living, as we know well, is often tested.

Many are the powers which test it and compete for our loyalty . The prince of these powers has been named Satan, which means Accuser, Tester. God’s choice of rejection, suffering and death plus God’s way of working through them for our good we humans can’t wrap our minds around. We’re fair game for Satan’s wiles.

As fare game for Satan’s wiles we can’t fault Peter; Peter is each of us. Satan used Peter to rebuke Jesus for his outrageous teaching that he must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. Webster’s first meaning for to rebuke is to criticize sharply. The word rebuke, I discovered, comes from an Anglo-French word which means to blunt. Peter tried to blunt the sharp edge of Jesus’ faith and Jesus teaching that God’s way was through rejection, suffering and death.

How like Peter we are! We often try to blunt the sharp edges of Christian living, very often because they don’t mesh with our minds. Satan used Peter’s rebuke to weaken Jesus’ resolve, but Jesus used Peter’s rebuke to expose Satan’s deception: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Thinking leads us to act. As the ancients long held, if our thinking is cockeyed, then our actions will lack good sense and harm others. The ancients considered this truth and offered maxims, principles, codes of conduct and examples to adjust our thoughts so they would adjust our behavior.

St. James masterfully used that method of his contemporaries, and he emphasized faith not human thought. Faith is personal, mutual relationship of God with people and people with God. Like every relationship faith has helps to strengthen the bonds of that relationship. Faith binds people, who cherish God’s desires, to honor the poor. Acting on faith makes their deeds match their words about their desire for God, about their friendship with God’s Son, our Messiah Jesus.

Not to welcome the poor equally as the rich; not to honor the poor by providing for their needs from our wealth; not to respect others as if each person was our other self; not to secure peace: all of those and other omissions mock the Trinity and our faith-relationship with the Trinity. Our omissions also mock how our Triune God works.

The key to appreciating the laser-focus James puts on matching words about faith with deeds of kindness, respect, charity and God’s heartfelt care is not included in Sunday readings from the Letter of James. The key is part of the section of which we heard a few verses today. Recalling Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, a sacrifice God did not permit, James said, See: his faith was working together with his actions and by his actions his faith was perfected. It isn’t that faith and actions which flow from faith are two sides of a coin: faith and actions which flow from faith continually complete and perfect each other.

Give yourself 10, quiet minutes each day this week to praise Jesus, who has given you a share in Jesus’ own faith. Notice what moves you; notice what invitation Jesus may be offering you; notice any response which may be emerging within you. Ask James, Isaiah and Jesus to keep you open and alert to God working new life in you, and through you in others. Compared to Christian, other-centered love, which incarnates God’s mind and heart, “the rest are details.”

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Saturday word

Pope St. Cornelius & Bp. Cyprian, martyrs (16 Sep 2006) 1Co 10. 14-22; Ps 116; Lk 6. 43-49
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Freedom For

I take my cue from the response we echoed during the psalm between our readings: To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise. We direct ourselves and our gratitude to the Lord for the goodness in which we bask. The Lord is the source even of my own accomplishments.

This joyful focus on our Creator and Lord helps us appreciate St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians we just heard. He was keenly aware that among the Corinthians were two types, whom he called the strong and the weak.

The strong looked down on the weak, worry-ers about particular practices like the ones Paul addressed: sex; marriage; celibacy; diet; and ritual meals--both idol worship and eucharist. The weak needed practices different from the rest of the world. Both groups were not free, empowered, as Paul taught freedom in Christ.

The weak were not free because of their insecurity. The strong were not free because they credited themselves with achieving their security. Truly free Christians realize that God has embraced them in Christ by their Spirit and not that they have captured God.

Those secure in their relationship with Christ--the strong--ought to build up those who obsess about correct practices. The strong grow truly free the more they praise God in Christ rather than their own achievements.

St. Paul warned those who thought themselves free to take care not to participate in practices which might involve them with powers over which they had no control: not to participate with demons, in Paul’s language. Precisely what martyrs, Cornelius and Cyprian, refused.

One ought to call on the Lord and discern with the Lord’s Spirit what unites us with the Lord. One ought to call on the Lord in any need, but not as if beckoning a servant. Our petitions to the Lord make sense if we first shape our lives as sacrifices of praise, as witnesses for Jesus. Our lives will build up others, that is we will seek the good of others before our own.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday word

Our Ladyy of Sorrows (15 Sep 2006) Hb5. 7-9; Ps ; Jn 19. 25-27
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., All-school mass
Enlarging Hearts

“No pain, no gain,” the saying goes. If a Martian landed here and knew only one thing about earthlings--some have the saying, “No pain, no gain--what would you tell the Martian the saying meant? . . .Yes! all those things are right on.

Gaining, growing, learning, being kind & respectfully, being a friend of Jesus: each stretches us. The wisdom of gthe peoples of Jesus’ day knew that: their saying was: “learning is uncomfortable stretching.” This is the saying the we translate as Jesus learned. . . through what he suffered.

Jesus learned our humanity by being fully human. He stretched is heart-space to make more room for God and for people. The more we’re open to God, the more we’re open to people; the more we’re open to people, the more we’re open to God.

Jesus was this way even on the cross. Jesus gave his disciple care of his mother. His mother has great care for us. When we ask her she helps us make more room in ourelves for God and for people, too.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

One Feast, Two Memories

Today is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The oriental churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, name it the Exaltation of the Holy Cross; in order that more people can celebrate this feast, the oriental churches transfers it to the Sunday closest to today's date. This feast remembers two events.

Helena, Constantine's mother, had gone to Jerusalem like many other pilgrims who longed to be where Jesus ministered, died and rose. Tradition recalls that Helena uncovered three crosses at the place that memory preserved as Golgatha, the place of executions. She believed them to be Jesus' cross and the crosses of the two theives executed with Jesus. Her son ordered a church built over the spot, and its foundations may be seen beneath the complex of naves and sanctuaries that stand above them today.

The bishop of Jerusalem at the time brought the three crosses to a dying woman to touch. When she touched the third she was healed, and that cross was acclaimed as Christ's. It was venerated for almost 400 years, then it was stolen. When it was found and returned, it was lifted up again for the faithful to venerate.

This date has been attached to the finding and veneration of cross. It also remembers the building of Constantine's church over the place where Jesus and his criminal companions were crucified. We exalt the cross each time we trace it on ourselves. The sign of the cross is no mere gesture. It makes the cross our badge and gives us Christ's identity, making it our own.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable."

Pope Benedict said that on is German tour. During his homily at the outdoor mass in Munich the pope preceded his statement saying,
"The Gospel invites us to realize that we have a "deficit" in our capacity for perception - initially, we do not notice this deficiency as such, since everything else seems so urgent and logical; since everything seems to proceed normally, even when we no longer have eyes and ears for God and we live without him. But is it true that everything goes on as usual when God no longer is a part of our lives and our world?"
We tend to separate the gospel and social issues, although we have progressed in uniting them thanks to the Second Vatican Council. Pope Benedict called attention to our "'deficit' in our capacity for perception." Some agree that social issues and the gospel are inseparable, yet they may give priority to the social issues. The pope gave examples from the German church in his homily.

The gospel is the reason why the Catholic Church has always emphasized attention to social issues and promoted the "common good and well-being of all people, especially the poor and the vulnerable" (Part Three, Section Two, Chapter Two of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, scroll to the Seventh Commandment).

The Trinity loves us precisely because of our "deficit": "When we were lost and could not find the way to you [God], you loved us more than ever" (First Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation). The more deeply aware and the more concretely we feel their divine love for us, then more freely and courageously do we allow their love for us to overflow our selves and to touch others with it.

St. John Chrysostom, whom the church recalls today, was adamant about the interconnection of the gospel and social issues. We do well to ask him to intercede for us in order that we might dispose ourselves to the graces the Trinity offers us to keep the gospel and social issues intertwined in our time and place.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday word

23d Tuesday B (12 Sep 2006) 1Co 6. 1-11; Ps 149; Lk 6. 12-19
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Overhearing Jesus

Luke’s gospel up to this selection has shown Jesus healing and teaching: Jesus did both together. Some accepted him. Others rejected him. Some of the Pharisees, whose rejection-anger left them beside themselves, plotted to get Jesus out of their lives. Jesus extended his mystery of being God in the flesh: he appointed humans who accepted him and his message to be the ones who would proclaim it to others. The Apostles kept it alive for us by the power of the risen Lord, not their own power.

Notice how Jesus proceeded. First Jesus prayed: he discerned who would be the best of those who accepted him to continue his leadership. Notice, too, what followed Jesus’ choice of the Twelve: more healing, letting divine power go out from him. Jesus taught has he healed. Jesus taught, and the Twelve “overheard” him.

That is a profitable way to receive the gospels: like the Twelve, to overhear Jesus, to make room for him at the center of our lives. Jesus’ teaching is also healing: it transforms us if we give ourselves to him and his teaching. It’s how we’re washed...sanctified [and] justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God, as St. Paul wrote the Corinthians.

Our particulars are not identical to the Corinthians. Much overlap with them exists. Yet many of our needs are ours: for cleansing; sanctification; & behaving in ways which glorify God more with our bodies, in our relationships and by what we choose to do and not to do. The more we dispose ourselves to “overhear” Jesus like the Twelve did, the better we will learn Jesus and imitate the pattern of his life.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Monday word

23d Monday B (11 Sep 2006) 1Co 5. 1-8; Ps 5; Lk 6. 6-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Greater Than Ritual

In today’s gospel religious professionals oppose Jesus. Some of the Pharisees sought to protect torah--God’s intention for the world from its creation to the liberation and formation of God’s people, Israel--by demanding equal observance of everything in it: They held that everything obliged equally and seriously, which is why they emphasized ritual purity.

Of course things do not oblige equally. Say I promised to meet you. Say, too, that in driving to meet you I am fortunate enough to pass an accident before it shuts down traffic. Am I not obliged first to get help even if it may prevent me from meeting you at the promised time? It’s a good thing to keep my promise to you; driving to meet you it is better I get help even at the risk of being late, “timely impure.”

The point of Luke’s conflict stories is that Jesus was clear that moral actions stand above ritual, no matter how important it may be.

Yet, the Pharisees would have none of it. They sought charges to bring down Jesus, and his response to their efforts left them beside themselves in anger: they would take matters into their own hands if necessary.

Luke prepares us early in his gospel for the trial and demise of Jesus, the complete rejection of God’s prophet. But Luke also prepares for how God in Jesus will lead the New Israel by those who accept Jesus and his vocation as Paschal-sacrifical-Lamb. We’ll hear his choice tomorrow.

Have We Tried To Understand?

Even before this date five years ago, I wondered how many people tried to understand, to appreciate the peoples and cultures of Palestine, Israel and the surrounding Arab world. It is no mean task because it is a world of plurals: peoples and cultures. If nothing else, appreciating that not everyone is the same, that we cannot lump all Arabs and all Israelis (some Israelis are Arabs) is a great advance.

One book I have highly recommended is From Beirut To Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman. It appeared in 1989. The New York Times had posted Mr. Freidman 10 years in Beirut. The civil war in Lebanon forced him to leave, and so the NYT posted him in Jerusalem. The book is Mr. Friedman's journal of those years, which opened his eyes to many things and began his quest to understand--as readers of his syndicated NYT columns and Discovery-Times television shows appreciate. I believe that the average, born-here American citizen can profit much from reading From Beirut To Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman.

Lack of understanding and simplistic responses seem to have reigned these five years. In his prescient, 12 September 2001, "A Quick Reponse," Mr. Noam Chomsky closed by saying that "we have a choice: we may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to the likelihood that much worse [than the tragedy of 9/11] lies ahead."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday word, 10 September 2006

23d Sunday of Year(10 Sep 2006) Is 35. 4-7a; Ps 146; Jms 2. 1-5; Mk 7. 31-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Explicit Christians

Construction on Fairmount Blvd as well as on Cedar, beginning or ending at Miramar--depen-ding on one's driving-direction--made me alert to this story.

"It is the general desire of most citizens that their government be attentive to their needs. I live in a rural area, and last summer, a number of my neighbors began circulating a seek the repair of several of our town roads. One road was so rutted that it was washing away, while another was more pot-holes than road. The petitions were presented to the town board, which deliberated for a few months, and then finally agreed to repair one road and to craft an ordinance that would lead to the reconstruction of the other in two years.

"Now that the repaving is completed, there is general satisfaction that the town board had listened to [us] and responded adequately. Of course, swaying the opinion of three members of a town board (who are also your neighbors) is vastly easier than convincing representatives who govern at a distance."1/ The author's point was listening: the town board listened to the residents, whose roads need repair, and the town board paid attention to them.

The second reading focuses us on paying atttention and prevents us from getting distracted by the prophetic words of Isaiah, which Jesus fulfilled with a miraculous healing. That healing, like others, exceedingly astonished people.

The healings Jesus performed were signs of the reign of God, and Jesus was concerned that people become ambassadors of the reign of God and not the miracles: a reason why Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone.

In order to become ambassadors of the reign of God, each of us needs to pay attention to how God in Christ by their Spirit is planting their reign within each of us, what concrete aspects of God's reign are emerging and maturing within each of us.

To listen is only one way of paying attention. I prefer the verb to notice because it encompasses
not only hearing but seeing, feeling, realizing with our senses as well as our hearts.

Everything implied in the life of Jesus as well as in the teachings of St. Paul St. James made explicit in his letter, which is why the Letter of James has and continues to challenge Christians.

Sometimes we are mute, not because of any physical limitations, but because we have not found words and ways to voice our needs or courage to voice our Christian convictions.

At other times we may be deaf, not because of any physical limitations, but because we do not notice--on every level of meaning--others' needs and even our needs for conversion.

St. James awakens us to the miracles we can work: ways of collaborating with God's reign and God's justice making them more tangible in our neighborhoods, homes, workplaces, schools. We Catholics do this because "We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable."2/

The basis for our "right and...duty to seek the common good and well being of all" may surprise you: it's the Seventh Commandment.3/
We think of it first as not to steal. That is what not to do. Jesus, with the prophets before him, transformed it from merely not doing into acting justly, that is with God's heartfelt care.

St. Ignatius of Loyola recommended the Commandments4/ in order to take the pulse of one's life as a friend of Christ Jesus. Inspired by his word we heard I suggest this for your week ahead. Set aside 10 quiet minutes a day to be reassured God personally and lovingly notices you. Hold up the Seventh Commandment and notice how you live it by acting with God's justice for "the common good and well being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable." Notice how God's life is at work in you, how you give birth to it in others and how you can do that to glorify God more. Close with an Our Father spoken as slowly as you can. What you notice will surprise you.

1Paul Michaels, Wednesday Morning Connection for 10 September 2006, Liturgical Publications Inc.

2 Principle of Catholic Social Teaching; see

3 The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "What is set forth by the seventh commandment?

"The seventh commandment requires respect for the universal destination and distribution of goods and the private ownership of them, as well as respect for persons, their property, and the integrity of creation. The Church also finds in this Commandment the basis for her social doctrine which involves the correct way of acting in economic, social and political life, the right and the duty of human labor, justice and solidarity among nations, and love for the poor."

4/ Spiritual Exercises [239].

Saturday, September 09, 2006

As Important As If It Were in Our Backyard

The common good is a foundational principle of Catholic social teaching. Catholic social teaching. Catholic social teaching is both the perennial concern for people's social needs as the New Testament shows and a specific doctrine. This doctrine teaches justice for all, especially the poor and helpless as well as the removal by people of the symptoms of poverty and unjust structures.

When Pope John Paul II closed the Great Jubilee of 2000 he asked what the most effective witness of Jesus and his Good News might be. The pope answered his question by saying that the "charity of works ensures an unmistakable efficacy to the charity of words" (As the New Millennium Opens, no. 50). Jesus taught, after all, by deed as well as word, giving deeds higher priority.

To vote is to exercise "charity of works" because through voting we citizens have the opportunity to shape our govenments to remove symptoms of poverty and unjust structures.

Gatherings of Christians to mobilize themselves and attune their hearts to God's justice are most valuable. I received an email about one such gathering to happen miles from us. It is encouraging to know that Catholics are involved and taking John Paul's conviction to heart. It is too easy to become discouraged, cynical or even lose sight of how vital a role Catholics place in witnessing to Jesus and inviting others to share his concern. So, for everyone's info. . .

September 8, 2006

Eric McFadden, Field Director
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Catholic Congregations Host 1st Congressional District Dialogue on Faith, Values and Public Policy

Cincinnati, Ohio – A group of religious congregations and organizations will host a discussion on faith, values and public policy at St. Joseph Catholic Church in the West End on Sunday, September 10, 2006 at 7:00 pm. Councilman John Cranley will be present as a special guest, and event organizers have also extended an invitation to Congressman Steve Chabot. Both Cranley and Chabot are prominent Catholic politicians.

The sponsoring groups invite and encourage citizens of all faiths to attend the talk, which is designed to people of faith on important political issues ahead of the November elections. These organizations believe in the Christian duty to participate fully in the political process of our nation and to promote the common good through voting and other civic action.

Special guests will discuss and answer questions about the social values of their faith, which include building a just and fair society, protecting human life and dignity, and helping the poor and vulnerable. They will also reflect on their own experiences as people of faith in public life.

St. Joseph’s is located at 745 Ezzard Charles Dr., Cincinnati, OH. Off-street parking is located behind the church.

Sponsoring Congregations:
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church
St. Joseph Catholic Church
St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church
St. Vivian Catholic Church
Morning Star Missionary Baptist
Roselawn Lutheran
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

# # #

About Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good engages Catholics, the media, and Americans of all faiths in dialogue about the Catholic social tradition and its core values of justice, human dignity, and the common good. Through communications, grassroots outreach, and strategic coordination, Catholics in Alliance supports Catholic organizations that work to advance the call to faithful citizenship and the common good. It is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with offices in Washington, DC, Columbus, OH, and Boston, MA. For more information, visit

Catholic Alliance for the Common Good | 1308 19th Street NW | Washington, DC 20036
202-822-5105 | |

Friday, September 08, 2006

Feast of Mary's Birth

In addition to my homily at our Friday school mass, this recent story on Mary's house, which tradition has remembered at Ephesus, appeared in Sunday's NYT Travel section.

Birth of Mary B (08 Sep 2006) Rm 8. 28-30; Ps 13; Mt 1. 18-23
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Looking at Ants

The Church has long remembered the birthday of Jesus’ mother, Mary, on this date. Mary always reminds us of God’s purpose: to work to give people a share in God’s life. God is always looking out for that by inviting us to share God’s life even though we may not know it.

God’s looking is God loving. God loving sees human activity unfold in front of us; and God always chooses to be with us. God sealed that choice by becoming human: God chose to be born like us, choosing Mary to be the mother of Jesus, God’s son.

People wonder, “How does God know ahead of us?” No perfect, 100%, A+ answer exists. We use images to help us appreciate it. This image may sound strange at first: think of ants.

Who has ever watched ants? Are ants big?
When we look down from our height can we see the direction ants are traveling?
Will it take them a chunk of time to reach the place they’re going?

Our field of vision allows us to see in one glance the ants’ starting point, the place they are heading and everything in between, right? We see their ending point although it may take the ants a day to reach it moving on their tiny legs.

God’s loving look at the universe, at our world and history allowed God to “see” Mary and know ahead of Mary’s time she was the one to ask to be the mother of God’s son, Jesus.

God loves and sees us as we are. God knows ahead of us how we can introduce others to Jesus. We do that best by the way we respect others and the way we are with others, beginning at home, at school and everywhere we go. Mary reminds us that it is very, very good that God loves us first, and before we love God.

How can you introduce Jesus best to others? Yes, by how you respect them, and how you are with them.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

At Computer At Prayer

If you would like to use your computer to pray, the Irish Jesuits pioneered how to do it. Ten years ago a some of them, noticing how frequently people were using computers at work as well as at home, wondered if they could not help people also use their computers for prayer as well as for other work and recreation.

As Jesuits they were "raised" in Ignatius' favored method of praying for a 15-minute stretch. (That is just over a 1.5% of the waking hours of one's day [based on an 8-hour night's sleep].) His "Examen of Consciousness" goes by various names as it has been passed along. One name, which I stumbled upon over five years ago, expresses Ignatius' prayer in very accessible language: Prayer of Loving Attention.

If you have 10-15 minutes and would like a user-friendly guide to lead you in this Ignatian way of praying, then visit Sacred Space.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wednesday word, 06 September 2006

22d Wednesday of the Year B (06 Sep 2006) 1Co 3. 1-9; Ps 33; Lk 4. 38-44
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus’ Pattern Is Our Pattern

Jesus performed another healing-exorcism, this time a fever not a demon and this time from a woman, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. Luke had female counterparts to men in his gospel.

Jesus did not heal on a whim. Jesus was christened with God’s spirit: the Lord’s spirit is upon me to proclaim liberty to captives and sight to the blind. Christened with God’s spirit, Jesus was faithful to prophetic words he made his own. Christened with God’s spirit, Jesus allowed the Spirit to draw the pattern of his life, even to giving his life.

This was St. Paul’s distinctive insight: the particulars of Jesus’ earthly life are past and cannot be repeated. His historical particulars are in a way irrelevant Very relevant is the pattern of Jesus’ life: responding to the Spirit shaping his life as one of faithful attention to God and service to others.

Not only relevant: that is timeless and ever-present. It is the reason that we are to be modest when it comes to our religious practice. To make a show of our gift of Jesus’ spirit is to act as if God’s gift of Jesus’ spirit was not a gift but our achievement: the reason why Paul told the Corinthians, I planted, Apollos watered but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.

Paul promptly addressed the Corinthians’ difficulties, beginning with their jealousy and rivalry among them. Factions are the first sign people are obstinate to the spirit of Jesus. We might take Simon’s unnamed mother-in-law as our patroness: ask her to intercede for us and beg Jesus to drive away what makes us fevered and reshape us as clearer images of him today.

Who Said?

Who said the following? "We cannot say: creation or evolution. The exact formula is creation and evolution, because both respond to two different questions."

Pope Benedict XVI wrote that. It was quoted by the dean of philosophy at the Regina Apostoloruin a brief, Catholic news report.

The pope offers a reason why we balancing both creation and evolution is necessary.
"The story of the dust of the earth and the breath of God does not tell us how man originated. It tells us what he is.

"It talks about his most profound origin, it illustrates the plan that is behind him. Vice versa, the theory of evolution attempts to specify and describe biological processes.

"It does not succeed in explaining, however, the origin of the 'project' man, his interior derivation and his essence. Therefore, we are before two questions that integrate one another but do not exclude each other."
Answering every question is not our goal. Some questions can never be answered, but they can help us stand in greater awe before the mysteries of life, and the Mystery.

All scientists are not without a sense of, even a desire for Mystery. Albert Einstein said, "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."

Pope Benedict has helped us remember that humans always stand before separate and interrelated question-worlds of science and revelation. God help keep open our eyes!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tuesday word, 05 September 2006

22d Tuesday of the Year B (05 Sep 2006) 1Co 2. 10b-16; Ps 145; Lk 4. 31-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
To Have and To Use

Healings and exorcisms--in this gospel passage combined in one event--demonstrated Jesus’ authority and power. The assembly spread the news of Jesus and his authority and power far and wide. Some would accept Jesus; others would reject him.

Who a person accepted or rejected was more than Jesus. A person accepted or rejected Jesus’ holy Spirit. St. Paul preached what he had done, first rejecting Jesus then accepting him.

At the end of this early portion of his Letter to the Corinthians, unfolding for us here over the next three weeks, Paul stated that we have the mind of Christ. Paul’s conviction was thematic in his gospel.

How do we know we have Christ’s mind, Christ’s attitude? Inward transformation given outward demonstration in order to build up others and the faith community is the surest sign.

The question to ask ourselves is, “Do we adopt Christ’s attitude freely given to us and do we use it?” Not to exercise this most wonderful gracious gift of God jeapordizes one’s ongoing conversion and leaves God’s convocation--the church--poorer.

The First Parade

Nearly 10,000 laborers gathered in New York City and walked in the first Labor Day parade on 05 September 1882. They celebrated the social and economic achievements of American workers. Today, Labor Day unofficially signals the beginning of new academic years of work and study, the beginning of election campaigns in the U.S. as well as the end of the lazy days of summer. Yesterday's holiday was more than a calendar signal. It was for all of us.

The founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, noted:

”Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country. All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, or nation."

Labor for so many of us is an activity unlike that of earlier laborers. They were the ones, "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold" (Peter J. McGuire). Today as then some people exploited labor and laborers, treating labor more as a commidity and laborers as machines. Genuine labor--including but not only mere toil--is for laborers a pathway to meaning. Yesterday's annual holiday is devoted to humans everywhere, a pause in whose rest we might better appreciate our God-given meaning and discover ways to reach it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Holiday Message

Each year the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops [USCCB] issues a message for today. This year two issues wind themselves into a single strand: labor and immigration. President Bush had said long before today that numerous immigrants are doing work that many citizens do not and refuse to do. That is not unique to the U.S. On a visit to Japan 14 years ago I learned that Korean immigrants--some were illegals, who were not on official payrolls--did "dirty jobs," which the Japanese refused to do. (One less obvious one was dry-cleaning, which despite its name is hazardous in every country because of the vapors coming from the chemicals used to cleanse garments.)

This year's Labor Day Statement from our bishops focuses on immigration. It closes with these words of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio:
"The immigration debate this Labor Day challenges us to consider again who we are as a nation, how our economy treats all workers, how we welcome the 'strangers' among us. ...As believers, we are called to build bridges between the native born and newcomer, between legitimate concerns about security and national traditions of welcome, from fear and frustration to hope and action for a better tomorrow.

"Today, and years ago when my grandparents came from Italy, immigration is a human story of people yearning for work and longing for freedom. Immigrants come seeking to provide a decent living for their families, dreaming of a better life for their children, hoping to make a contribution. These are the deeply held American values we celebrate on Labor Day. The principles of our faith and the traditions of our nation call us to welcome those who share these values and hopes. They add vitality and energy, diversity and hope to our communities and our country. Together, we can build a better nation, a stronger economy and a more faithful Church."

Questions of "how" we achieve "a better nation, a stronger economy and a more faithful Church" are shaped by another foundational question that was posed to Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus answered that question of "who" with a well-known story of "how" (see Luke 10.21-37 and the Labor Day Statement).

[Catholic Update offers this condensation of a groundbreaking joint letter of U.S. and Mexican bishops addressing immigration.]

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sunday word, 22d Sunday of the YearB

22dSunday of Year B(03Sep2006)Dt4.1-2,6-8,18; Ps15; Jm1.17-18,21b-22,27; Mk7.1-8,14-15,21-23
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Vibrating With Love

As we resume hearing Mark’s gospel on the 13 Sundays left in this liturgical year, we might remind ourselves of Mark’s purpose. Mark wrote for people within the church, people who had already received the secret of God’s kingdom as gift, grace, new life. Mark’s purpose was to remind them of what they received and help them appreciate it as God’s saving work.

That is not unique to Mark’s gospel. Much of scripture has that purpose. That means that our purpose as Christians today isn’t to conquer with words but to convert the hearts of those who see what we do. This is at once truly Jewish as it is truly Christian.

Our heritage from Judaism has long impressed me but never moreso than on Easter Sunday 13 years ago. A Jewish friend came to Mass that morning. Afterward he remarked to me how much he recognized from Jewish worship. He underscored his remarks by saying how similar the procession with the gospel book, from altar to pulpit, was to the procession of the torah scroll taken from its place in the synagogue and processed to its pulpit. Evan reiterated his surprise before we left the church for my house where I cooked us breakfast. I looked him in the face and said, “Evan, we got it all from you!”

Our worship evolved from Jewish worship, just as Christians evolved from Jews. Consider fasting, daily prayers, intercessory prayers, bread & wine--Jesus, the New Passover, didn’t choose bread and wine on a whim, but because they were used every sabbath as well as Passover. Nor must I forget to mention alms.

On my first visit to my friend’s home, I noticed that he had a box on a table into which Evan deposited the change in his pocket, alms for a Jewish charity. He impressed me very much by making his compassion an action. A little thing, a habitual thing for Evan--think of each one of our personal devotions and acts of service--but a big thing for me to see it--a big thing for others who see yours.

I don't suppose my friend noticed that I noticed. I never mentioned to him for some time the effect he had on my heart. His observance of the commandments of the Lord enfleshed Moses’ words: for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, how close is the Lord, our God.

God’s commandments have people at heart: doing justice, think[ing] the truth; slander[ing] no one. That means God isn’t tucked away for Sunday or for crises or at turning points. Daily living is a path to God. Many and subtle are the temptations that suggest other paths.

Reflecting on my own temptations which derail me, I notice one thing: they lack a sense of surprise. They appear as if they were supposed to be there, as if my life were supposed to take such turns, as if they were supposed to be part of my most real, God-desired self. In fact, they are all delusions! All of our compulsions and inadequacies, our fears and self-doubts, chasing our temptations instead of standing against them delude us and don’t impress anyone.

The commands of God do not intend to constrain us--our temptations often succeed well in doing that. The commands of God seek to liberate us. They help us be doers of the word [of God] and not hearers only. They help shape hearts which are in God's orbit. When we allow ourselves to be within it, to be vulnerable to God's loving, creative presence, we are truly surprised, even set off balance. The usual surprises us; the humane appeals to us; we vibrate with love. Neither temptations nor merely hearing God's word do that.

In the 10 minutes you set aside each day this week for a quiet, reflective pause remember God creates you to learn God more intimately. As people, actions and blessings surface on your heart and mind, praise God for being open to learn God more and ask yourself, “How have I acted on the word, the story, the encounter of God by which God has invited my response?”

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bridging the Gap Dug By Hatred

In the light of yesterday's post about The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, Catholics in the Holy Lands of Israel and Palestine play an essential role.

"We are all called to work to build bridges and to uproot hatred from hearts," Archbishop Fouad Twal said. Archbishop Twal is coadjutor patriarch of Jerusalem.
[A coadutor is a bishop assisting a diocesan bishop and often having the right to succeed him. As one of the four ancient sees, Jerusalem's bishops are known as patriarchs.]

Archbishop Twal made his appeal at the recent Meeting of Friendship Among Peoples. His appeal ended with words of hope, and reminders of hope in the Holy Lands of Israel and Palestine cannot be heard often enough.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Christian Zionism can mean the Zionist Churches which began in Zion, Illinois (see this Wikipedia entry. More often it means Christians, usually of those labeled as Christian Right. Sadly, many of them know little about the context and history of the Christian scriptures--although they can readily cite chapters and verses--and the development of the foundational convictions of christian belief.

[Read a long summary of a paper that considers the development of doctrine and a more expansive look at scripture if you have time.]

Worth reading, and not too lenghty, is The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism. The statement was written by Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem, the Episcopal Bishop of Jerusalem & the Middle East and the Evangelical Lutheran Bishop of the Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. They released it released 22 August.

These leaders do us a great service by informing us in clear and accessible language about one of the thorniest matters, which has much to do with misshaping our foreign policy. Activism of any brand can grow excessive if a person is not attentive. Christian Zionism is a dangerous form of activism.

Pope Benedict warned that excessive activities--activism is one form of activity which so easily becomes excessive--
often lead to "hardness of heart," "they are no more than suffering for the spirit, loss of intelligence and dispersion of grace" (II, 3).
The Pope cited St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whom the Pope remembered on the day the Church sets aside in his honor.

Pope Benedict and the authors of the The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism remind us with concrete examples (human occupations and standing against Christian Zionism for justice) that authentic Christian witness is countercultural in the places it is most needed.