Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wednesday word, 28 Feb 2007

1 Lenten Wednesday (28 Feb 2007) Jon 3. 1-10; Ps 51; Lk 11. 29-32
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Contradiction

The mission of a prophet is to preach the word of God in the prophet’s particular circumstances. Jonah’s circumstance was to go to a people other than his own and call it to turn from its ways to the ways of Jonah’s God.

Jesus is ever more clearly God’s prophet in his commentary on Jonah’s mission. A generation, at once Jesus’ own and for whom the God of Abraham and Moses was no alien, had estranged itself from their very same God.

Their creeping neglect of God and God’s ways made that generation perverse. Foreigners--the Ninevites--responded to the preaching of Jonah. hoping to escape divine punishment. Jesus preached God’s word of the kingdom’s closeness, and people chose to remain unmoved by it.

A foreign woman--the Queen of the South, the Queen of Sheba--had come to hear Solomon’s wisdom. Jesus proclaimed something even more wise, the word of God, but many admired only the person of Jesus and praised his mother./1/

This scene reminds us of Simeon’s prophetic description of Jesus, when he was presented in the temple: this child is be a sign that will be disputed./2/ It bids us to take advantage of the grace of Lent, and in the company of Jesus, to consider how are lives contradict Jesus’ preaching; contradict God’s word, which Jesus preached; and even contradict the kingdom entering our world as we worship here and now.
/1/ Verses 27-28 are part of this unit: ...a woman shouted from the crowd, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts that fed you.” But [Jesus] responded, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”

/2/ Luke 2.35

Photo of Jonah preaching to the Ninevites is in the public domain.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday word, 27 Feb 2007

1 Lenten Tuesday (27 Feb 2007) Is 55. 10-11; Ps 34; Mt 6. 7-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Will Scriptures Convince You?

Sought, called out, cry, cry out
: all from our responsorial, Psalm 34. None of those activities went unnoticed by the Lord. Psalm 34 sang that the Lord answered, delivered, saved, hears and rescues.

I reviewed the lectionary for Lent excluding Holy Week. In its first five weeks, minus two solemnities, which have their own readings (St. Joseph and the Annunciation), 28 daily readings are offered us. On 19 of those days at least one scripture mentions someone crying, Rescue or Save me. That’s 68%!

Indeed, all scripture is about our salvation. Yet, the direct appeal to God for rescue prevails more than we may think and especially are aware. Do we consciously and clearly and boldly cry out for God to rescue us? Or, do we feel we do not need God to rescue us, to save us, to hear us?

As Psalm 34 reminds us, our God has ears for our cry. I don’t consider that a fanciful expression but a vivid description of God and God’s heart. God’s heart always embraces us. Do we acknowledge that? If we did acknowledge that squarely, then I think we would cry out full-throated to God. Ask yourself if you more often feel, I don’t need God to rescue me now.

All of us have been with someone who needs to ask us for something, but the person has a difficult time getting to the point of it. I’ve done that. I imagine you have, too. As listeners we want to shake the person, “Just ask!” God's heart desires that we, "Just ask, just cry."

That direct asking characterized Jewish prayer. So when Jesus spoke to his disciples about the way to pray, Jesus recommended they first praise God, then ask for what they truly need. Could it be that we feel little need for God to rescue us? That could be one’s focus throughout Lent.

Photo by Cynner_SF used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday word, 26 Feb 2007

1 Lenten Monday (26 Feb 2007) Lv 19. 1-2,11-18; Ps 19; Mt 25. 31-46
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Deciding For Mercy

Shortly before the middle of his gospel, Matthew reminded the community for which he wrote that Jesus made an earlier prophet’s words programmatic for his own ministry. Hosea had announced nearly 800 years earlier God’s desire: “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” Jesus both revealed and embodied God’s steadfast love.

God’s steadfast love, and our faithful replication of it in our lives, is mercy. God is mercy. In the 19th chapter of Leviticus, of which we heard a portion as our first reading, the Lord’s self-identification appears 15 times. I am the Lord concluded the brief commentaries on the commandments to live well for God and with others. If this were the only commentary we had on the commandments, it would be enough. Enough, that is, if we did not need Jesus to be a living and human commentary on them.

Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats, near the end of Matthew’s gospel, reminds us that mercy shown others as well as refused others is shown to the Lord or refused him. Our treatment of the Lord eludes us: both the righteous and the unrighteous in the parable ask the same question: Lord, when did we see you in need?

Jesus cast this parable at the end of time, at the final judgment of humans’ lives. It is the sole standard Matthew’s Jesus offers for salvation. However, his parable is immediate and instructive for us now. It not only reminds us of who God is--steadfast, loving kindness; Jesus’ parable reminds us that each day requires us to renew our decision for his kingdom.

Lent is our opportunity to chart a new course in how we choose mercy in our daily living.
Photo by fotofill used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

Fresh Invovlement. . .

. . .in a familiar gospel scene is a daily audio prayer-site. It's worth "bookmarking" the site for personal use anytime. Today's prayer invites praying-listeners into the scene, which is the gospel on the First Monday of Lent.

While each person will shape the prayer individually, everyone can appreciate in a more concrete way the "royal law" expressed in today's first reading. The Book of Leviticus is overlooked. If anyone were to read a part of it, that part ought to be Chapter 19. All the commands issued may not have a bearing on our present circumstances. All are given with the formula, I am the Lord. Holiness participates in divine life. Our least activities can participate in divine life, or they can refuse to participate in it.

Enter today's prayer to taste holy choices yourself.

Photo by Leah Love is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday word, 25 Feb 2007

Lenten Sunday1 C (25 Feb 2007) Dt 26:4-10; Ps 91; Rm 10. 8-13; Lk 4. 1-13
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Journey of the Heart Has Practical Goals

We have entered our great spiritual exercise of Lent with its double purpose: to recall our own Christian initiation of baptism, confirmation and eucharist; and to prepare others for their own Christian initiation. Each Lent the Pope and his Vatican staff enter Lent in a focused way by having someone guide them in retreat. In 1983 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, guided the papal retreat that Lent.

The present pope noted something important as we enter Lent: the liturgical readings during the Year of Luke “suggest the theme of being on a journey.”/1/ Throughout Luke’s gospel Jesus journeyed, forming a people as he went. Lent is our annual, focused journey in concert with Christians the world over. We seek to be formed ever more deeply as Jesus’ faithful people.

That means that our Lenten journey is not a geographical one. Our Lenten journey is one of the heart, that is, the core of who a person is. Remember last Thursday’s Plain Dealer’s front page? It carried this photograph of a person being marked with ashes on Wednesday. The photo was on the fold and the full width of the front page. From boyhood I remember other, even larger photos in newspapers the day after.

The publicity given to Lent every year suggests that deep within, in our hearts, at the core of being human, people long to journey in order to reach meaning, which is true, humane and even godly. Christian initiation--when we were baptized into Christ’s death and rising; sealed by his holy Spirit to become more like him; and nourished on his body and blood each day--sets us on our journey to meaning, which is true, humane and godly.

While human living is an expansive experience of every sort, the oppressive, the uncomfortable and cries for help are as real as liberation, comfort and security are. The fact is that oppression and crying for help are embedded in the history of salvation, of our relationship with God.
When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, [who] heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression [and] brought us out of Egypt.
The cry of our ancestors in faith we make our own: Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble. As God heard the cry of the people God led out of Egypt, our faith assures us that God hears us and replies favorably, too. Do we cry out?

This is not to be escapist. Our faith is tied with the very real vagaries life hurls at us humans. Life’s violent turns trouble us in many ways, oppress us, even seduce us not to be human. The photo in last week’s Plain Dealer, the publicity Lent receives annually and the numbers of people who seek ashes traced on their foreheads convince me that something deep within beckons people to be more truly human, to connect with the divine.

Our Christian initiation grafts us onto Jesus. The temptations of Jesus remind us that temptation is human, and that we need to stand against temptation as Jesus did. His temptations also show us that, while our particulars differ from Jesus, the tempter also seduces us to assume inordinate power over creation to satisfy our appetites; over people to wrap ourselves in self-satisfaction and others’ praise; and even over God--as if that were possible!--God, who is our survival now. Those choices are precisely what Jesus rejected!

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, come before the Trinity feeling your life depends upon the divine Persons. Acknowledge Jesus as human, who knew temptation very well. Tell Jesus in your voice how you experience temptation: the dizzying ways the tempter suggests power, glory and riches to you. Ask Jesus for courageous strength to dismiss the tempter from your presence, something we need to ask often. Pray for light to alert you more to the tempter's subtle ways. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer to keep you rooted in Jesus and to guide your Lenten journey to what is more true, humane and godly.
/1/ Pope Benedict XVI, Journey to Easter: Spiritual Reflections for the Lenten Season. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, Reprint edition, 25 February 2006, p. 10.

Photo by Elevated and Photo by M Domondon are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bracing German Cadence at Jewish Meeting

Inquiring minds will satisfy themselves about this post's title when they reach the end of John L. Allen Jr.'s weekly column of mid-month. Efficient inquiring minds will scroll directly to Allen's postscript at the end of his column.

The column concerned itself with "Deep forces at work in Catholic-Jewish dialogue." It is worth a patient read to appreciate much about "Catholic identity" (itself a movement and helped me appreciate more a current trend in the church) as well as the current state of Catholic/Jewish relations.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday word, 23 Feb 2007

Friday after Ash Wednesday (23 Feb 2007) Is 58. 1-9a; Ps 51; Mt 9. 14-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Pillar Which Cleanses

Lent has three pillars: fasting; praying; and almsgiving. Both Isaiah and Jesus focus us on the first pillar of fasting. We might consider fasting as only a duty and think of its externals. We might even think fasting is an end itself.

From a medical point of view, people fast so that blood tests and even some visual exams may yield true results. Fasting is not the end; it serves to reach the goal of accurate, true results.

The goal of fasting, in Lent or anytime, is to enhance our ability to relate better with others.
This...fasting, Isaiah reminds us,
releas[es] those bound unjustly...
Set[s] free the oppressed,
break[s] every yoke;
our bread with the hungry,
shelter[s] the oppressed and the homeless,
Cloth[es] the naked when
we see them,
refuses to ignore others.
Our self-centeredness and our attachments distract us from doing these godly things. We exercise our hearts in order to sensitize ourselves to want and to choose to do these godly things. Fasting--from things or activities, as well as food--sensitizes our hearts and leads us to desire to do for others what God desires.

When we feel that we do not do them we are feeling distant from Jesus. The twinge fasting causes makes us more alert to Jesus; it helps us desire to reverse how we have distanced Jesus. Fasting assists us in our struggle with evil.

Evil is not something, and God does not create evil. No created things are evil in themselves.* We hear people speak otherwise: people are evil; that thing or that event is evil. Not so! Evil is in our attitude towards creation, that is, in our power to choose. Fasting cleanses our power to choose what is godly and to choose less often what is not. This is one reason why Lent is a “joyful season.”**

* St. Augustine was one of our earliest authorities for this. “To thee [God] there is no such thing as evil, and even in thy whole creation taken as a whole, there is not; because there is nothing from beyond it that can burst in and destroy the order which thou hast appointed for it. But in the parts of creation, some things, because they do not harmonize with others, are considered evil. Yet those same things harmonize with others and are good, and in themselves are good (Confessions, Book 7, ch. 13, section 19).

** from Lenten Preface I.
LentLogo by anajemstaht, whose permission, "My Lent logo - you can use it if you give me credit. Source was jpg," is at the flickr link.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday word, 22 Feb 2007

Chair of Peter, Feast (22 Feb 2007) 1Pt 5. 14; Ps 23; Mt 16. 1-6, 13-19
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Keys To Serve

Certain solemnities and feasts occur during Lent, and the mass of the day defers to those festivals. Today’s feast recalls that St. Peter was established as the teaching head of the church. Before Rome, Peter’s well-known center of active ministry was Antioch, the capital of the eastern Mediterranean region.

In early eras there and later, Christians observed their anniversaries of baptism, their birthdays into Christ and his church. Bishops similarly kept the anniversaries of their ordinations. Saint Leo the Great, pope in the mid-5th Century, recalled his elevation as pope in four homilies.

Saint Leo recommended that we celebrate the Chair of Saint Peter--his role as first teacher and head of the church, not a piece of furniture-- with as much joy as we recall his martyrdom. As Head of the church, Peter taught all Christians the path to martyrdom.

It is easy to forget Peter’s martyrdom or keep it on a par with his service to teach and support the apostles. The gospel recalls the authority Jesus vested in Peter. The image of the keys can help us appreciate it as the church intends.

If you give me the keys to your home and ask me to watch it while you are away, holding your keys doesn’t give me authority to redecorate your home. Nor does holding your keys give me power to sell your home. Entrusting me with your keys puts me at your service. Giving me your keys empowers me to serve you, specifically to watch your home.

Jesus gave Peter and gives to all bishops specific power: power to serve the unity of the church in their ministry of teaching. Receiving their teaching empowers us to serve, too, specifically to become clearer witnesses of Jesus’ gospel with our lives.
Photo by mharrsch is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday word, 21 Feb 2007

Ash Wednesday (21 Feb 2007) Jl 2. 12-18; Ps 51; 2Co 5. 20-6.2; Mt 6. 1-6, 16-18
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Penetrating Gaze

Something we can learn from our Jewish cousins in faith is that they are teachers without peer about pathways that are painful, harsh, cruel, without reason and seemingly endless.

Take one account of a Holocaust survior. When the Nazis separated the men and the women, Eliezer never again saw his mother or sister. We know this Eliezer as Elie Wiesel, whom I heard say that every other book he authored was a postscript to Night, his autobiography of his childhood in the Nazi death camps. All he and the others thought of was bread, not revenge--even when they ceased to feel hunger. That alone is remarkable and worth pondering.

Elie closed Night in a stunning way. He, like most residents of those unspeakable places, never could see himself. What was stunning was Elie’s first gaze into a mirror after his liberation. He saw a corpse gazing back at him. Elie closed his most important book with that moment: “The look in his eyes as they stared into mine has never left me.”

That’s a most penetrating gaze. Another is at once more penetrating and dear: God’s loving gaze. How often do we forget God’s loving gaze on us? who God sees and desires to see? How willingly do we behold the sight of our true selves? The temptation is either not to gaze long or not to gaze inwardly at all. It is more tolerable to see our bodies--even though many people would rather have other bodies. We find it sufficient to arrange our clothes than to rearrange our souls.

Lent, well practiced, is a mirror for us to behold our innermost. We all begin with the same view of ourselves marked with ashes. When I was little, and not so little, I’d run to a looking glass to see if my cruciform smudge was neater than others, bigger than others, darker than others and lasted longer than others. No different a glance than the one to make sure my buttons were even, my tie centered and my sweater square. I refused to see with God's vision, only with my too-inflated sense of my own sight.

Penitence, well practiced, exalts one’s inner sight, deepens one's respect for others; and strengthens one’s resolve to act. Penitence that is moderate and not scrupulous is well practiced. Penitential practices are important, especially amid our wanton consumerism. It’s no wonder ours is a throw-away society: we routinely exercise our imagination on the surface.

Go deeper this Lent: Ask yourself what you will see when you gaze at your sister or brother marked with ashes. Will you see dusty ashes, or will you see how the twists and turns of life pressure our bodily carbon into the diamond we call God’s image and likeness? Will you dread another 40 days of purple, or will you open yourself to feel God loving you into being? Will your deafness to or limited hearing of Jesus persist, or will you detect in each human voice and story the lenten cry, Glory and praise to you! Lord Jesus Christ? Will you disregard days lengthening, or will they foster in you the springtime of the church?

To return to the Lord with all your heart is to take action in two steps. First, behold how Jesus acted and immerse yourself in Jesus’ heart and hands, head and feet. Second, in Jesus' light, ask yourself the greater question: What will I do? “What would Jesus do?” That question can tempt us to inaction.

What will I do? We allow that question to be a wall more often than a link to Jesus. Lent, practiced well, is our opportunity to forge anew our link, our bond, our personal covenant with Jesus. Lent makes our darkness no night but gives way to the day the Lord has made and leads us closer.

Night now forms part of Wiesel’s The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, The Accident. Libraries may still have Night as a separte volume.

Ash cross by J.L.B. (enthusia) and Photo by bamakodaker both of whom allow their use under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 License.

The Character Of Lent

Ash Wednesday is today. As mentioned on page 5 in Sunday's Gesu Catholic Church bulletin, The Constitution on the Liturgy, of the Second Vatican Council, offered these two concise paragraphs to describe Lent's "twofold character":
The Lenten season has a twofold character: 1) it recalls baptism or prepares for it; 2) it stresses a penitential spirit. By these means especially, Lent readies the faithful for celebrating the paschal mystery after a period of closer attention to the Word of God, and more ardent prayer. In the liturgy itself and in liturgy-centered instructions, these baptismal and penitential themes should be more pronounced. Hence:
  • (a) Wider use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy; some elements which belonged to a now-lapsed tradition may be opportunely restored.
  • (b) The same approach holds for the penitential elements. As regards instruction, it is important to impress on the the minds of the faithful not only the social consequences of sin but also the fact that the real essence of the virtue of penance is hatred for sin as an offence against God; the role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be passed over, and the people must be exhorted to pray for sinners.
During Lent, penance should not be only internal and individual but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered according to the possibilities of the present day and of a given area, as well as of individual circumstances. Such practice should be encouraged by the authorities mentioned in Article 22 [namely: the Apostolic See, the national conferences of bishops, and as law may determine, the bishop of a diocese].
[Quotation in full of Articles 109-110; taken from The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., General Editor (N.Y.: America Press, 1966).]

Several already-baptized Candidates will enter into full communion with the Catholic Church at Gesu Parish. They, no less than we, can renew our conversion (= from non-baptized to baptized, which is sustained by Eucharist and Catholic living) in an ongoing way, one that is particular to each one's "individual circumstances" within 2007. God bless your Lent!
Top photo (baptismal font in the church of St. Mary Major in Rome) is in the public domain.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tuesday word, 20 Feb 2007

7th Tuesday of the Year (20 Feb 2007) Sir 2.1-11; Ps 37; Mk 9. 30-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Convenient Preview

While Mardi Gras is a time to enjoy, so is Lent. Our scriptures today help us prepare for Lent. While much of Sirach exhorts a noble boy to help him be a responsible, compassionate and just leader, its exhortation to wait for the Lord, the compassionate and merciful, is universal.

The Lord Jesus is the compassionate and merciful one. He upset the images and burst the boundaries of the messiah people expected. His death, about which he began to teach his disciples, was a both a murder and a salvific one. It was no matter for human understanding: perhaps we can take a cue from his first hearers, who were afraid to question him about it. Yet, they were not afraid to argue about greatness after hearing what greatness really meant.

Jesus placed a child in their midst make clear to them and to us how Jesus measured, and how we ought to measure, greatness.

Do we allow Jesus to place his arms around us? Do we draw near to Jesus? Above all, do we commit our lives to the Lord?

Jesus died and rose for us, yes. But Jesus does not force his saving power on anyone. To use the gospel imagery, you and I can argue with Jesus along the way of our lives, keeping him distant, and worse, refusing his compassionate, saving loving power.

Or, we can give ourselves more wholeheartedly to Jesus. Lenten practices help us do that better. You probably have given thought already to selecting your personal lenten practice for this year. If you have not, remember that lent is a joyful season/1/ to draw closer to Jesus, to commit our lives to the Lord with greater freshness and ardor, relying on the Lord to help us grow more compassionate.
/1/ Lenten Preface I: “Father...Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with hearts and minds renewed.”

Image of Mardi Gras Flag is copyrighted for free use.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Washington Weekly. . .

. . .is the name of the update by Catholic Charities U.S.A. On Saturday it announced, with greater detail than the White House statement, that President Bush signed into law a joint resolution to continue to fund "public programs."
President Signs Joint Resolution into Law, Funds Government Programs Through Fiscal Year 2007
On February 15th, the President signed into law a joint resolution (H.J. Res 20) that provides $463.5 billion to continue funding public programs through fiscal year 2007. The Senate had passed the joint resolution on February 14th and the House passed it on January 30th. The approval of this resolution was necessary since the previous Congress did not pass 9 of its 11 spending bills before it adjourned last year.

In this resolution, most programs are funded at the previous fiscal year 2006 levels. However, a few housing and education programs will receive additional money. Homeless assistance grants receive an additional $115 million. Section 8 tenant-based vouchers receive an additional $502 million over FY 2006 to preserve 70,000 vouchers currently in use, and project-based vouchers receive an additional $939 million to preserve 157,000 vouchers currently being used. The resolution also provides for a short-term fix in how funds for Section 8 tenant-based vouchers are distributed between public housing authorities across the country. Additionally, while public housing will receive an additional $300 million for operating costs, this falls more than $600 million short of what was needed to prevent loss of housing units. In education, Head Start receives an additional $103.7 million to prevent a drop in enrollment.
(Received from

Monday word, 19 Feb 2007

7th Monday of the Year (19 Feb 2007) Sir 1.1-10; Ps 93; Mk 9. 14-29
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Taught By Our Senses

The creation and the exodus are the two central features of the scriptures. Not only does Genesis narrate in language of deep cultural and spiritual significance that God created the world, the Psalms and books like Sirach rhapsodize about it: the Lord made the world firm, it is the Lord’s throne. Before all else...[the] one, wise and truly awe-inspiring...Most High all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one... created...wisdom.

The liberation God worked in the exodus from Egypt created and formed a people. The Psalms extol the exodus, also, in places too numerous to mention in a single homily. Sirach sang that the Holy One lavished godly wisdom on the Holy One’s friends.

Mark’s Jesus, the crucified Messiah, personified the truly awe-inspiring one. Matthew’s Jesus was the New Wisdom, the New Creation, whose spirit recreates us and the face of the earth.

Luke’s Jesus spoke of his final journey to Jerusalem as his personal exodus. John’s Jesus was new paschal Lamb. Plural portraits of Jesus offer us several ways of appreciating the creative and liberating power of our God.

Our Catholic, sacramental way of life allows our limited senses to appreciate the mystery of Jesus in partial, but crucial ways, which teach our minds.

We die and rise with Christ in baptism’s waters. Confirmation seals our baptism with fragrant oil named for our Messiah: chrism is Greek for messiah, anointed one. We are not Messiahs, but we are christians christened to make Christ present by our lives.

Eucharist, the new passover, is the new covenant, which sustains our new baptismal creations in Jesus’ dying and rising. Sacraments help us overcome forces that would leave us as dead. They are Jesus’ outstretched hand raising us, helping us to stand and live anew.
Creation of Light, by Gustave Doré, is in the public domain.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday word, 18 Feb 2007

7th Sunday C (18 Feb 2007) 1 Sm 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23; Ps 103; 1Co 15.45-49; Lk 6. 27-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Shaped By Mercy

I encounter people who desire to deepen their relationship with God. I wager people making our 9-week Ignatian Retreat desire that. Many more seek a deeper relationship with God. Some sense a deeper relationship emerging; others have greater clarity about their desire for it.

God loves people--each and every person--as they are. God does not love less the one who has no awareness of God’s loving desire for her. Nor does God love more the one who is quite clear that he wants to deepen his relation-ship with his creator and redeemer. To grow in the Spirit means to give ourselves to God creating and loving us each moment of our lives.

Personal attention to God inviting us is vital. So also is exercising our hearts to make them more supple, more grateful and welcoming of God: what personal praying as well as what public worship are about. Indeed, more supple, more grateful, more welcoming hearts allow us felt knowledge of God’s loving kindness, to grasp it as real for me. St. Ambrose expressed that briefly: “Nothing graces the Christian soul so much as mercy.” Perhaps nothing like chronic pain or chronic spiritual darkness challenge us to welcome mercy.

Divine mercy animated the future-King David’s heart even in war. The warring tone of the first reading may blind us to that. We might cheer the possibility of one of David’s lieutenants ending it by killing the king with one thrust of the spear. But David respected the king who sought David’s life: He would not harm...the Lord’s anointed. Respect participates in divine mercy.

David’s action was noble not heroic. He was no hero. David was flawed; at times he cultivated and even gave into sin. He was shadowed by God’s mercy, and he knew it. He allowed mercy to reshape how he lived.

The first Christians saw many Old Testament era figures typifying Jesus. David calling, Do not harm, typified the Jesus we seek and recognize as the divine image in flesh and blood, Jesus who embodied God. Jesus embodied and enacted God’s mercy. Jesus respected others with divine respect; he did not remain distant nor did he patronize. Jesus gave humanity unrivaled access to God. He still gives us that access as our Risen Lord, the life-giving spirit.

Today’s gospel passage offers us Jesus’ way to live, shaped by mercy. I find I need to enter Jesus’ words. If I remain outside, merely reading them, they remain only a guide, albeit a fine one, for keeping peace in my home, my work-place, the Christian community and rest of the world. I enter Jesus’ words by recalling someone who hated me, or cursed me, who begrudged me anything, who loved me only for what I could do for them. I recall the emotions triggered by a person who judged me, or berated me or refused to forgive me when I asked with all my heart to be forgiven. I enter Jesus’ words by recalling when I have behaved that way.

By doing that, I don’t dwell on past hurts but realize I grasp God’s grace helping me to trans-form the way I live as well as interact with others. I become aware that our life-giving spirit, Messiah Jesus, empowers me and motivates me to hear him speak to me. Risen Jesus reminds me at the depths of myself how he and others have loved me, blessed me, generously loved me for who I am.

This is no gimmick, my friends. It’s prayer. It is Jesus, our life-giving spirit, reminding us how our God respects us, lovingly seeing us as images of God’s own self, who creates and redeems us.

In your daily 10 minutes this week find calm in the presence of the Trinity, creating us each moment. Then ask Mary or your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Praise Jesus for giving us our Christian nonnegotiable, to forgive as we have been forgiven. Speak to Jesus in your own words about the challenge to make his merciful love the measure of your living and being. Ask Jesus for grace to incarnate more the divine mercy in order to welcome and receive Risen Jesus in the eucharist as well as in the countless ways Jesus presents himself. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer in order to cooperate with Jesus’ grace and to make you more humane than you could be on your own.
Carlos Latuff allows his copyrighted image, part of the Forgiveness Series, to be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Is Our Strength Depressing?

Jean Vanier offered this interview with Zenit earlier in the week.
The question is to know what one's values are. And the big question is that, if these values are focused only on success, power, etc., then one is neglecting a part of oneself, a part that is a child, a very frail woman, a vulnerable person.
Without discounting medications, he offers a humane, human and spiritual assessment of depression, something about which he knows.

Friday word, 17 February 2007

6th Friday of the Year (17 Feb 2007) Gn 11.1-9; Ps 33; Mk 8. 34-9. 1
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus Heals So That We Can Reverse

The Book of Genesis narrates the faith- understanding that humans were created in the divine image and likeness and fractured their likeness through sin. It also unfolds the consequences of sin. The consequence Genesis offers us today is that sin is both personal and societal. Humans are social beings, we know well. Our natural human need for others was distorted by sin, too. Not only do individuals seek to control others, sin also scattered [people] all over the earth.

This scattering is not only geographic, it is relational, too. Jesus’ mission was to reunite people: to heal fractured and disrupted relation-ships; to join individual and societies in healthy ways. Jesus extended and continues to extend his healing invitation by his cross. The cross reminds us that we do not heal, reunite and save ourselves by ourselves. The gospel saves us if we cooperate with it.

The more each one of us cooperates with the gospel, then in small ways we join the reversal of the scattering and, we build in unity, peace and in God’s justice.
_______________________________________________________________ has been entered into the public domain.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Regarding a Comment

On 14 February, a reader posted a comment:
I do not understand how an unconditionally loving Creator God could strike down all living creatures.
Without trying to erase the controversy, I admit that scripture challenges us in many ways. Approaching scripture as a scientific text instead of what it is, a faith document, sharpens the controversy within and even prevents human hearts from conversion.

Conversion appreciates divine mercy. In the ancient Mediterranean world, a flood story circulated. Only the Genesis version offers a moral reason for it: human wickedness (see Genesis 6.5). With the flood, Genesis brings to an end the first human epoch of Adam and Eve. After the flood, God vows never again to destroy humanity. God did not require anything of Noah and his family in order for God to do that.

God, working through nature, sealed that covenant with the rainbow. In the ancient Near East, the rainbow was seen as a divine weapon. Genesis transforms the rainbow entirely. We will never understand God's ways. We can, however, be sure of God's mercy, revealed in so many ways and revealed fully in Messiah Jesus. To focus on God's destruction of the world and nearly every living thing misses God's mercy.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Cardinal and Congress

Knowledge does not equal wisdom. Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, and Chairman, Committee for Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has
called on Congress to correct an “unfortunate and apparently unintentional loophole” in the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R. 493).
The good intention of the legislation to protect people could allow
an insurance company [to] misuse knowledge of a child’s genetic defect to raise a woman’s premiums, cancel her insurance, or even pressure her to have an abortion or cancel adoption plans for a child with special needs, because the company does not wish to cover the additional needs of a child who will develop an illness or disability.
Read a summary of Cardinal Rigali's statement. Anyone interested may link to the cardinal's complete statement as well.
Photo by The Agency is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license versions 2.5

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wednesday word, 14 Feb 2007

Ss. Cyril & Methodius, Memorial (14 Feb 2007) Gn 8. 6-13,20-22; Ps 116; Mk 8. 22-26

Before mass: Today the Church remembers Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs. Gradually, their efforts found reward: deep faith among the Slavic peoples of Europe.

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
First Person, Then Mission

Within creation things routinely unfold gradually Even things which appear suddenly to our eyes develop in stages. We might say that the earth’s forces are pregnant and give birth to floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and the like.

God worked through God’s creation and still does. It took 40 days and nights of rain to destroy the earth Noah knew. God worked through the nature God created. The waters receded gradually, too. It all touched God’s heart: God promised never to doom the earth because of humans...nor ever again [to] strike down all living beings. Instead, God swore to live by the covenant Noah renewed with God.

People after Noah failed on their side of the covenant. The Creator’s heart held us dear, which is the story of Messiah Jesus saving us.

The human side of being saved is conversion. It, too, is gradual. Mark’s gospel depicts that in the healing we heard. The man was physically blind. The apostles were blind to appreciate and to understand Messiah Jesus and the gospel he proclaimed. Believers with eyesight can still be blind. As Jesus often asked his disciples, “Do you not yet...comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?” Conversion, like creation, is a gradual, growing, brightening truth. The blind man first saw indistinctly before he saw clearly.

Our conversions are gradual healings, turnings from not comprehending to comprehending, from hard hearts to supple ones. Though we’re never totally converted, our first conversion is to Jesus’ person, the next is to his mission. Talk of gradual: we nourish conversion all our lives.
Icon of Cyril and Methodius is in the public domain.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Is interreligious dialogue an optional part of Christian living? It is not. According to Pope Benedict interreligious dialogue is "a vital need for our time." The pope concluded his brief address to members of the Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue at an audience with him at the top of the month.

Learn more why Pope Benedict is convinced that "we, Jews, Christians and Muslims are called to develop the bonds that unite us."
Image licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Monday, February 12, 2007

Where Right Is Left. . .

Labels seduce us to think narrowly--sometimes not even to think at all! Life is complex and labels don't help people to appreciate complexity. While a recent part of life, biotechnology is fiercely complex, and labels by no means help us appreciate that. As John A. Allen, Jr., observed last week:
If that's the future, one surprising consequence is that today's ideological divisions may become much less clear-cut, as opposition to the brave new world of biotechnology will stem as much from the left as the right.
The Catholic Church, as well as political entities in others parts of the world, does not fit labels that others may impose.Take a tour of the future and be surprised at how the church and political machinery in other parts of the world have been responding to biotechnological realities that the U.S. is only beginning to discuss.
DNA double-helix image is in the public domain.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday word, 11 Feb 2007

6th Sunday C (11 Feb 2007) Jer17:5-8; Ps 1; 1Co 15.12,16—20; Lk 6.17-26

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
What Isn’t in the Book

Scripture is God’s word clothed in human language Some people approach scripture seeking to wrestle from it some meaning, but they refuse to engage what they read in a personal way. Instead they read scripture as if it were a menu, or worse, a train schedule. Engaging scripture, God’s word clothed in human language, in a personal manner leads readers to encounter Jesus. We begin to encounter Jesus in the way we read other good literature.

Reading good stories, novels and poetry is compelling. Good literature engages us so that we do encounter characters, places, choices and actions. It’s not all in the book. “[T]he written word sparks images and evokes metaphors that get much of their meaning from the reader’s imagination and experiences. When you read a novel much of the color, sound and motion come from you.”/1/ That’s even more true when reading scripture, praying with it and from it, which we do in each sacrament, in liturgies of every kind and in personal praying; we encounter Jesus in God’s word clothed in human language through its images of color, sound, motion, aromas, tears, laughter, broken bodies, thirsting spirits, blood, water, bread, wine and oil.

Each is an occasion to encounter Living Jesus, not a dead person from the distant past. Jesus is very much more alive than when he first walked the earth, what St. Paul’s well worn phrase, Christ...raised from the dead, means. He’s alive and present in the power of his Spirit.

That means that Jesus walks with us, he breathes with us, he sighs with us, he rests with us and is content with us. He also addresses us: blessed are you and woe to you as the case may be. Jesus does not speak to us merely to hear his own voice. No! Jesus speaks to us of concrete, “personal dispositions that will be or are being reversed by God.”/2/ Blessed are you poor, yours is the Kingdom of God. Woe to you rich people, for you are receiving your consolation now. Those who are now weeping will one day laugh in God’s kingdom. Those who smugly laugh now will grieve and weep outside God’s kingdom. Those whom people reject God accepts now. Those who are accepted by humans now stand with the false prophets of earlier eras.

Jesus’ statement of his soul, his inaugural address, made clear what he knew his mission to be: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim good news to those imprisoned and excluded. Today we hear the prophet Jesus address us: blessed are you, woe to you.

Because our measure is not God’s measure, we find the norms for blessing, that is, for our inclusion in God’s kingdom, paradoxical at best. Likewise, we find the norms which exclude us from God’s kingdom unreasonable.

Neither is a surprise, knowing who we are whom Jesus addresses. We are a mix of little ones to whom Jesus was sent as well as false prophets. We encounter Jesus addressing us as we are. Jesus’ truth and “energy vibrate at the same frequency and pitch as God’s inmost being,”/3/ both pronouncing us blessed and warning us to open ourselves more to his being and healing.

That openness to ourselves means noticing what our reading-encounter with Jesus stirs within us. What does a scripture passage awaken in us? What do the words of Jesus spoken to me evoke? To consider these questions, to be open to how they move us and what they stir in us personally engages God’s word clothed in human language. A shorthand way to express this is: Whenever you read scripture, notice where and how you see yourself in it--in its characters, in its colors, in its motion, in its sounds, in its desires.

In your 10 minutes with Jesus this week, calm yourself in the presence of the Trinity. Feel your own need or anxiety or fear or joy or generosity. In your own words converse with Jesus about it. Reflect on yourself: With that one facet of yourself in mind do you hear Jesus pronounce you blessed or warn you to open yourself to his being and healing? Slowly say the Lord’s Prayer. That both engages Jesus as well as makes concrete your way to live the hours ahead of you.
/1/ Jonathan Franzen citing Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital in Franzen’s “The Reader in Exile,” How To Be Alone. Simon&Schuster Audio, 2002, 4B.

/2/ Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke. The Liturgical Press. Collegeville, MN 1991, p. 111.

/3/ William R. Burrows, “Preaching and Immersion in Trinitarian Life,” Living Pulpit 11:1, 2002, p. 16.
Poor Man's Bible window (top photo) and Open_Bible image both are in the public domain.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Death Penalty Violates the Gospel..."

...So began a headline earlier this week.

Its story
summarized the position of the Holy See against this all-too prevalent killing, which has become legalized.
Renewing its attack on the death penalty, the Holy See says that it is difficult to justify its use today and warns that the practice is an affront to human dignity and "the evangelical teaching of forgiveness."
The word "practice" in that paragraph echoes an earlier observation by John Allen, Jr., that certain practices are absolutely wrong. The death penalty is one of them because societies have non-lethal options at their disposal. Plus, the phrase, "affront to human dignity," brings this out of the ethereal realm of principle and theory and makes it more tangible.

People desire that others respect their dignity. The Catholic principle to respect life from conception to natural death is also Catholic practice. The full story at CathNews also indicates that laity are involved in this effort not only prelates.
Photo by • Proserpina • is licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ordinations and Proselytism

News not broadcast about Iraq: ordinations are continuing; "groups of evangelicals who arrived with the [U.S.] military" are multiplying and "are conducting aggressive proselytism even among Catholics and Orthodox and they already have 36 new churches in Baghdad alone.” This Asia News story details much more.

Friday word, 09 Feb 2007

5th Friday of the Year (09 Feb 2007) Gn 3. 1-8; Ps 32; Mk 7. 31-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Graced Learning

Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven: we proclaimed that between the readings. What are the effects of forgiveness? Our readings suggest two opposites: open versus hiding; and plain versus garbled.

Sin ruptured the open and free relationship the first humans enjoyed with God. They felt shame about their bodies; they hid them from each other. Plus, The breezy time of the day seems to have been the time the Creator visited the first humans in the garden. After eating of the tree in the middle of the garden, which the Creator had forbidden them to eat, they hid themselves from the Creator instead of visiting.

One effect of sin fractured the wholeness of humans’ bodies. Some ears were deaf to sound and some tongues could not clearly speak. The effects of Jesus’ healing the deaf man were opening his ears to sound and allowing him to speak plainly.
We will always confront sin and wrestle with its effects. However, we already enjoy forgiveness, and it gives us a taste of the wholeness we will one day enjoy when Christ’s victory mends all the ruptures of sin.

We can use these two spectra--from hiding to open and from garbled to plain--to identify the effects of sin on us. What causes me to hide from my Creator and Lord rather than open my self more and more so that I may know myself as my Creator and Lord knows me?

The second self-examination: What garbles my ability to live my faith instead of offering a clearer, keener witness to Messiah Jesus?

Did you notice that people brought to Jesus a deaf man who had a speech impediment? We cannot bring ourselves to Jesus all on our own. Grace, Jesus’ self-gift, allows us. Ours is to cooperate with grace. We hide from grace. We might ask Jesus to enlighten us to know what causes us to do that.
Image is in the public domain.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Economic Decisions Serve People

That is a criterion of Catholic morality. The U.S. Catholic bishops expressed it well over 20 years ago:
Decisions must be judged in light of what they do for the poor, what they do to the poor, and what they enable the poor to do for themselves. The fundamental moral criterion for all economic decisions, policies, and institutions is this: They must be at the service of all people, especially the poor.
[Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #24]
The news media have focused on the issue of increasing troops in Iraq. Jill Rauh pointed out at the end of last month that
the Iraq Study Group Report conclusions clearly demonstrate that nonmilitary solutions abound.
She cited the U.S. bishops' 1986 message at her posting, which is available at Catalyst, the blog of the nearly 36-year-old Center of Concern, a Jesuit initiative, pursuing God's justice for the entire globe.

[Yesterday's brief BBC report entitled, "Bremer quizzed over cash for Iraq," introduces the situation of "missing" money in Iraq.]
Photo by Ma-eh, who licensed it under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Soul of Christ

Ohio Parishioners of Gesu Parish in University Heights and St. Gregory Parish in Shaker Heights reading this know that large groups of them began a 9-week Ignatian Retreat last night.

For them and for everyone here is the prayer that St. Ignatius of Loyola alluded to in his first edition of the Spiritual Exercises. This 14th-century prayer was that well-known. Later editions of the Spiritual Exercises printed it in its entirety.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malevolent Enemy defend me.
In the hour of death call me,
And bid me come unto Thee.
That with Thy saints I may praise Thee.
For ever and ever.
A brief history of this prayer can help us appreciate more its popularity.
Photo by Paco from Badajoz, Spain, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

"Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled. To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit" [from the second reading in today's Office of Readings].

When in Japan in 1992 I was not yet a Jesuit. I was most impressed to stand on the shore where St. Francis Xavier, S.J., brought the Catholic faith to Japan. I was moved at this Shrine of the the Martyrs of Japan in Nagasaki. Inside is a museum of artifacts of things Catholic and about the history of the Catholic Church in Japan.

Three years later I sensed interior movements that Jesus was calling me to follow him in a way in addition to a diocesan priest, which I was for over 10 years. I and other s realized I also had the vocation to religious life as a Jesuit.

I consider Francis Xavier and Paul Miki and his companions my own companions helping me to discover my true self. I pray they continue to brighten my witness to Jesus.
Photo of the Monument to the Martyrs of Japan in Nagasaki, Japan was entered in the public domain by its author, Fg2.

". . .99% of physicians. . ."

". . .say that religious beliefs can make a positive contribution to the healing process."

Mr. Dale Fletcher, a Faith and Health Consultant, Speaker and Writer in Charlotte, NC, left a comment on my blog, Spiritual Exercise for the Week. That blog carries no comments so it won't distract from praying. This blog does allow comments [the envelope-icon containing a right-pointing arrow beneath a post links to a screen to compose a comment].

Dale's efforts seek to integrate body, mind and spirit. That's a good thing because often people don't appreciate those dimensions affect one another.

Dale's comment expressed gratitude for Spiritual Exercise for the Week, and he supplied a link to his "Introduction to Spiritual Exercises… for a Healthier Life." It contains the quotation which opened this post.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Monday word, 05 Feb 2007

St. Agatha, Memorial (05 Feb 2007) Gn 1. 1-19; Ps 104; Mk 6. 53-56
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Ultimate Goal

We begin reading from the Book of Genesis today. It’s opening verses may be so familiar that we miss their meaning. Genesis is a faith statement that the world was created; it is not about how the world was created. The Catholic church reminds us that
The world was created for the glory of God who wished to show forth and communicate his goodness, truth and beauty. The ultimate end of creation is that God, in Christ, might be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28) for his glory and for our happiness./1/
Today we hear Genesis narrate God’s creating desire bring into existence the inanimate beings. Tomorrow we will hear Genesis continue with the creation of animate beings, including us.

Psalm 104, the responsorial, turns our attention to creation. In poetic fashion its imagery is more vivid than Genesis, and even more powerful because it's addressed to God:
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory, robed in light as with a cloak

This recognition of God communicates, in poor human words, that God imparted something like the divine being from the beginning. Everything bears traces of God’s “goodness, truth and beauty.”

It is fitting to recall St. Agatha in this light of creation because she became a new creation by her martyrdom.

Tradition remembers that Agatha prayed when she was arrested, “Jesus Christ, Lord of all things! You see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am—you alone.” And in prison: “Lord, my creator, you have protected me since I was in the cradle. You have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Now receive my spirit.”/2/

To return ourselves to our Creator freely--in both life and death--is both to glorify God and our greatest happiness.
/1/ The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #53.

/2/ We only know for certain that Agatha was martyred during the Decian persecution in the 3d Century. The Roman church inserted her name in its Eucharistic prayer, with roots in the 4th and 5th Centuries.

Photo by Michael Haesel, who put it under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday word, 04 Feb 2007

5th Sunday C (04 Feb 2007) Is 6:1-2a,3-8; Ps 138; 1Co 15.1—11; Lk 5. 1-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Honest Appreciation

Some people approach scripture seeking to wrestle from it some meaning or lesson that has little personal significance. Such people read scripture as if it were a menu, or worse, a train schedule. A sensitive approach to scripture, however, is very different. In a sensitive, personal approach, readers dispose themselves to encounter Jesus.

To do that means to be honest about self in the present moment. Jesus could be standing at my shoulder, but if I am not honest with myself, my vision would be clouded, even blind. Simon Peter presents us with a model of honesty in the presence of Jesus.

The first thing to savor is that Simon was tired physically and his morale was exhausted, too. It had been a long, frustratingly unproductive night fishing. Simon was not at all hesitant to let Jesus know it: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.” Jesus desired to perform a personally directed display of power for Simon. Able to see disappointment on Simon’s face and hear it in his voice, Jesus told Simon to lower the nets again.

Simon’s fatigue and sore-muscled disappointment could not extinguish Simon’s personal fascination with Jesus and attraction to him. With little heart for it, he responded to Jesus, “but at your command I will lower the nets.”

This honest conversing with the Holy One did not debut on the shore of Lake Gennesaret. Prophets, like Isaiah, expressed honestly their fears and unworthiness: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips....” Even Mary told the angel she could not understand the divine message that she would be the mother of the Messiah because she had no sexual relations with a man. Mary also said she would accept the word of the Lord and the angel’s encouragement that nothing is impossible with God.

Simon’s response to Jesus’ power directed toward him and his colleagues was not a moral confession; instead, Simon’s response revealed his awe at Jesus’ attractive, accepting quality. It conjures sunlight for me. The more bright the sunlight on me, the more dark and sharply visible to me my shadow. Our faith is no mental exercise, it is an experience of Jesus, an encounter with Jesus who welcomes us to be ever more our true selves not our shadow selves.

So St. Paul confirmed. His opening words today bear the stamp of a faith-formula. They are much more. They are his conviction of being in the sunlight of Jesus. Jesus was raised, yes, and he was experienced by others--over 500, in fact. Plus, the risen Jesus appeared also to me, Paul. Paul gives us firsthand witness of the experience of the risen Jesus. His experience remained remarkable to him throughout his life. It had an effect within him that shaped and fueled his actions, and not his alone. His
experience almost certainly provides the context for the remarkable statement [elsewhere]: It is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ./1/
In your 10 minutes each day this week, begin by becoming more aware that you are in the attractive and inviting and bright presence of the Trinity. Then ask Simon Peter to present you to Jesus. Notice what Jesus is wearing, how he welcomes you. Speak honestly to Jesus from your heart. Be alert to what Jesus awakens in you. Savor what Jesus awakens in you even if it is only emerging and not fully clear to you. If the shadow of your unworthiness darkens, do not fear. Take heart because Jesus is calling you, as you are, into the light of his life and love. Close by saying the Lord’s Prayer slowly, being sensitive to each word. Meeting Jesus in your prayer is only the beginning. Being sensitive in your prayer will help you more readily recognize Jesus in others.

1. My teacher, Luke Timothy Johnson, is convinced, and I agree, that 2Corinthians 4.6 flows from Paul’s experience. I remember this from his Introduction to the Testament which I heard as lectures before their publication as The Writings of the New Testament, rev. ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999, 264.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

St. Blase

Information about today's saint can lead you to learning about others. In England wool-combers thought of St. Blase...well...readers can explore the link themselves.

Saturday word

Rosemarie L. Barth memorial mass (03Feb07) Ps23; Ps103; 1Jn 3.18-20; Jn 14.1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Already Behind Us

On behalf of Gesu Parish as well as personally, allow me to express our prayerful condolences at the passing of Rosemarie Barth. With a funeral in California and a memorial mass here before interring Rosemarie’s ashes at Holy Cross Cemetery, this has been a long process for you. I want to thank Mary Lee Materna for helping me enter this final farewell liturgy and for helping me get acquainted with Rosemarie.

I want us to remember that we make visible the communion of saints. The difference is that we welcome Rosemarie’s remains, while our sisters and brothers in glory welcome Rosemarie into that life we await. But that difference is not as distinct as we might first imagine.

Rosemarie; we who survive her; and the saints in glory--all of us who have been baptized into Christ already share what is essential, what is most true and real. Baptism connects us with Christ Jesus by washing us with both his death and life. That’s how baptism connects us with each other, and time, presence and absence from earth cannot weaken that connection.

We recalled, as we do at every celebration for the faithful departed, that baptism begins our more real life in Christ. We have already died in Christ and risen with Christ to our new, more real life. We live two lives now: our transitory life and our glorious life, albeit partially. Baptism and human death make us aware, as Mark Searle, who had thought long and hard about them both, put it,

that we are a people who have confronted death and survived it.... What would it mean to live with death behind us? What would it mean to be already living life-after-death, the life of the world to come?/1/

Rosemarie answered both questions with her life, which is the best way Catholics answer these questions of Christian mystery. She was idealistic, Mary Lee’s word. But Rosemarie’s ideals were not isms, and she did not leave them unpracticed. Rosemarie was as independent as she was other-centered, even selfless. She was devoted to her family. Devotion in our Catholic sense of the word is a self-gift to others in as wholehearted and loyal a way as possible.

Devotion is mutual. If any of us want proof, we need turn no further than her three loyal friends who visited her ‘til she breathed her last.

Another way Rosemarie already lived the more real life of the world to come was her felt know- ledge of loss and its pain after the death of her husband. For how many years was she acquainted with that loss, Mary Lee? "Thirty-four years." That was not a tragedy. Remember: “we Christians are a people who have confronted death and survived it.” That happened in baptism before Rosemarie, like many of us here, could remember. Each one comes to accept that by each one’s experience of loss and the pain that accompanies it.

Rosemarie surrendered herself to that pain, and like surrendering herself to dying with Christ to rise with him, she surrendered her life here when Neal needed her. She moved to California and devoted herself to Allison and caring for her.

I hope you’re getting a stronger sense of the process of death leading to new life; of already living life-after-death. We cannot enjoy it without experiencing loss and its pain. The funeral rite says it confidently: “Although this congregation will disperse in sorrow, the mercy of God will gather us together again in the joy of his kingdom.”/2/

Rosemarie has testified to us that she and we already taste the mercy of God. Because of her openness to “already living the life-after-death” she blesses you with new hope and ways of living it, too. Especially in your sadness remember that Rosemarie, your mother, your grandmother, your friend, helps you to make more clearly visible the communion of saints and more confidently “to live with death behind us” because we remain connected to Jesus, our Savior, and to Rosemarie, and both of them can never die again.

/1/ “Sunday: The Heart of the Liturgical Year,” The Church Gives Thanks and Remembers: Essays on the Liturgical Year, ed. Lawrence J. Johnson, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1984, p. 26.

/2/ Order of Christian Funerals, 198B

Photo of an Armlet with the Resurrection of Christ is in the public domain.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Name Change. . .

. . .to sharpen our sense of vocation

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Catholic churches of the Latin Rite. The Second Vatican Council reformed the calendar of liturgical celebrations. One facet of that reform made more clear the connection between the Lord Jesus and Mary, his mother.

Over 40 years ago the church celebrated today as the Purification of Mary. (Eastern Rite Catholics continue to celebrate it.) The original Greek of Luke's Gospel connects Mary's purification and Jesus' presentation in the temple:
And when the days of her cleansing were fulfilled, according to the law of Moses, they led him to Jerusalem to render to the Lord, as it was written..."Every male opening wide the womb shall be called holy unto the Lord." [2.22]
Presenting Jesus was no mere "Here's our baby, God."

Simeon, who came on the scene, filled with the Holy Spirit, described the quality of Jesus' holiness. His words are a guide to interpreting Luke's portrayal of Jesus:
“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." [2.34-35]
If an emphasis is helpful to us, it is the Presentation of Lord. It reminds us to be alert to what Jesus invites each of us to notice--in one's life and in our entire culture--contradicts his good news.

Bellini's Presentation in the Temple is in the public domain.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Courage To Witness in the Near East

In December 2005 the BBC offered a country-by-country guide to Christians in the Middle East. It mentioned at the outset that "Christian communities across the region are declining in numbers because of a combination of low birth rates, emigration and, in some places, persecution."

Now the situation is worse. Today Pope Benedict received members of Oriental Orthodox and Catholic members of the International Commission for Theological Dialogue among these churches. The pope commented:
"Indeed, Christian communities find it difficult to survive in the midst of such a volatile geopolitical panorama and are often tempted to emigrate," he continued. "In these circumstances, Christians of all traditions and communities in the Middle East are called to be courageous and steadfast in the power of the Spirit of Christ."
Use the BBC guide to make praying for these contemporary witnesses to Jesus and his church concrete.

Virgin of Lebanon photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one.