Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday word, 30 Nov 2007

St. Andrew, Feast (30 Nov 2007) Rm 10. 9-18; Ps 19; Mt 4. 18-22
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Welcoming the Welcomer

I have a family link with St. Andrew. Tradition remembers that Andrew preached in what we call Greece and Turkey. He was crucified at Patras, a busy, Greek harbor town for ships sailing north along the west coast of Greece and northwest across the Adriatic to Italy. Patras, the place of Andrew’s death, was the place where my father was conceived. Death and life; life out of death is the core of our faith in Jesus.

St. Paul reminded us that hearing is crucial to welcoming Jesus in his word, his word that all the apostles proclaimed first by speaking. Preaching seeks above all to introduce people to our Messiah Jesus. Because the apostles had a personal encounter with Jesus, and because Jesus changed their lives, the apostles desired to let others know about Jesus. Jesus by his Spirit would encounter those who welcomed him through preaching, namely, what is heard [which] comes through the word of Christ.

From the first scripture intended God’s Messiah, the Christ, to use the Greek word for it.
St. Paul had Isaiah in mind, and he quoted Isaiah in his Letter to the Romans, as we heard: for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what was heard from us? Scripture's continual witness has been God’s desire to save us and welcome back all who welcome God’s Messiah.

Yet, people domesticated God; people thought God could not lavishly love as God does: to welcome all; to die for all in order to reunite people with God and with people. Andrew, St. John reminded us, told his brother about Jesus then brought his brother to Jesus. Peter heard his brother’s description of Jesus and was convinced enough to meet Jesus. Andrew introduced his brother to Jesus. Jesus did the rest and worked marvelously in Peter’s life.

We hear, welcome and critique preaching. It is important. Preaching only introduces us to Jesus. Jesus works marvels in us if we are willing. Jesus brings to life even what is dead within us, and makes us all a family of faith.
Flickr-image of St. Andrew by fil himself is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday word, 27 Nov 2007

34th Tuesday (27 Nov 2007) Dn 2. 31-45; Resp. Dn 3; Lk 21. 5-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Double Meaning of End

Luke, as you know, wrote two parts to evangelize Gentiles: his gospel, a portrait of Jesus; and his Acts of the Apostles, a portrait of the beginning church. He connected the two intimately: the Acts completes his gospel.

That helps us appreciate that the end Luke remembered Jesus speak about was the end of Jerusalem and its Temple. After his resurrection Jesus told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and to wait there until [they were] clothed with power from on high/1/. They did just that. Even before the Temple was destroyed, Jesus and his holy spirit superseded it. The presence of the Holy One was no longer confined to the Temple. Jesus’ disciples became temples of his spirit, empowered to do Jesus’ work of proclaiming the kingdom of God.

Messiah Jesus numbers us among those living, evangelizing temples of his spirit. We are living stones of God’s indestructible kingdom, a network of faithful people who supersede all powers. Our challenge is to live and act our part.

Jesus’ way of expressing our challenge our tradition has made well known: we are to live in the world without being of it. Perhaps we know that too well; so well that we don’t feel it as our challenging vocation.

We are human and subject to human limitation and human vagaries and vicissitudes. Yet we humans are spirits clothed in flesh,/2/ and as disciples we want to choose that the spirit dimension is never clouded by our humanity, or worse, obliterated by it.

“In the world but not of it” challenges us to live Jesus’ prayer and blessing for us. [We] are not of the world, even as [Jesus said] I am not of the world...[Father,] as you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world./3/ The end of time is not anyone’s to know save God. More important for us to concern ourselves with end’s other meaning: "purpose." Our purpose is to continue what Jesus began so that more people will be closer to the goal of Jesus’ mission: proclaiming the kingdom in deed above all, and sometimes in word.
/1/ Luke 24.49.
/2/ So St. Thomas Aquinas defined the human being.
/3/ John 17. 16 & 18.
Flickr-image by Midiman of a model of the Second Temple is used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license.

Monday, November 26, 2007

To Pray for Mideast Peace Summit in Annapolis

Tomorrow begins the Mideast peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland. After celebrating the Eucharist with the new cardinals (elevated in Saturday’s consistory) and before reciting the midday, Sunday Angelus,

Pope Benedict invited prayers for the summit. Pope Benedict encouraged U.S. Catholics to unite themselves with the day of prayer for the summit, which the U.S. Bishops named earlier.
Wiki-image of Middle East map is in the public domain.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday word, 25 Nov 2007

Christ the King C (25 Nov 2007) 2Sam 5. 1-3; Ps 122; Col 1. 12-20; Lk 23. 33-43
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Royal Living

In his ordered account Luke distinguished the people from other actors in the crucifixion of Jesus. He did so with a compact sentence: The people stood by and watched. More important than what they saw, what did you see? On the solemnity of Christ our King the liturgy of the word guides our sight and sharpens our vision. I’d like to consider briefly what we can see.

Our King is not distant but very near us and attends us. One image of being near and attending was deeply rooted in Jesus’ Jewish heritage, and it transformed royal leadership. That image was shepherd: The Lord said to [David], “You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.” For Jews the name David recalled his story: the youngest son of Jesse, who was in the fields attending his father’s flock. His father considered David’s youth made it impossible that God would choose David, a boy and a shepherd-boy at that, to be Israel’s second and most storied king. Ruling was forever qualified by shepherding, a vigilant, selfless and compassionate role. Shepherd qualifying King runs deep in our Christian tradition. Doesn’t Good Shepherd fall from our lips more often than Christ the King?

Luke invites us to see our shepherd-king performing his last earthly vigilant, selfless, compassionate acts from the throne of his cross. What can we see and hear when gazing on our shepherd-king on his cross?

First, we notice rulers, who opposed Jesus throughout his ministry, sneering at Jesus for their final time. They addressed him correctly as Messiah, Hebrew for the chosen one, the Christ of God. They couldn’t conceive of God working beyond their earthbound imaginings.

Soldiers also jeered, calling Jesus King, probably because of the sign atop his cross. They didn’t know they were correct for these enforcers of Roman domination thought all kings were shams save their Emperor. Like the rulers of the Jews, the soldiers’ earthbound imaginings enmeshed them and their hearts.

Even one of the criminals hanging on his cross reviled Jesus. His words suggest he, too, was a Jew for he insulted Jesus as God’s Christ and expected salvation by the Messiah to be just as earthbound: the Messiah would reverse Roman domination and spring him despite the criminal’s crime. Rulers, soldiers, one criminal: no crucified messiah for them!

Yet the other criminal admitted and asked. He admitted his guilt; he admitted that Jesus did nothing criminal; and he admitted and recognized what the rulers and soldiers could not: that Jesus was indeed king. We recognize what he recognized by what he asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus exercised the royal prerogative of every king in every age--even all our presidents. Jesus pardoned the criminal who asked him. More, Jesus assured him he would accompany Jesus that very day into his kingdom of Paradise.

Jesus’ pardon of the criminal at the close of the crucifixion scene bookends its opening. “Father, forgive my accusers and crucifiers, they know not what they do.” As we stand before Jesus on his cross, does his request of his Father and his reply to the criminal who asked shock us? Are we uncomfortable? Do we envy the criminal who asked? that Jesus would respond so compassionately? Does Jesus insult our sense of fairness? Does he embarrass our puny pardoning abilities?

When I consider those questions in the light of my ability, I answer, Yes, to each. Two things about Jesus’ compassion St. Paul reminded us: first, it’s beyond anyone’s ability; and second, we exercise Jesus’ compassion because it is a gift: The Father of Jesus qualified us to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light...and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son who is the forgiveness of our sins. Qualified and transferred out of love for us, not by our doing.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week pause to grow more aware of the Trinity lovingly creating you. Trace the sign of Jesus’ cross on yourself, and ask the criminal who asked Jesus' help to make you more open and honest in your prayer. Converse with Jesus in your words about his desire always to forgive and welcome you. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us imitate Jesus’ vigilance, selflessness and compassion. We extend the shepherd-kingship of Jesus to our world each time we imitate his vigilance, selflessness and compassion.

[Use this spiritual exercise through the week]

Wiki-image of David anointed king and Wiki-image of Jesus between the felons are in the public domain.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday word, 24 Nov 2007

St. Andrew Dung-Lac (24 Nov 2007) 1Mc 6. 1-13; Ps 9; Lk 20. 27-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Rising Above Anxiety

We heard the controversy of Jesus with the Sadducees on the second Sunday of this month. It’s one of a montage of controversies, debates with leaders after Jesus entered Jerusalem: about Jesus’ preaching and teaching, so Jesus told his kingship parable; the disguised “questioning” by Pharisees about paying taxes to Caesar, so Jesus asked for a coin; then this one that shows us that Judaism was not unified in beliefs about resurrection and angels. The debates became skirmishes then efforts to destroy Jesus.

Taken together these hostile encounters impress us more forcefully than any one alone. They communicate this: the leaders domesticated God’s ways and made them as earthbound and limited as themselves; Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, making clear that it was not earthbound and limited but an absolutely new way of being, which opens onto an absolutely new identity, children of God, who are children of the resurrection, heirs of God’s life.

Heirs of divine life live God’s deathless life in one of two phases, either partially or fully. It’s obvious that we live God’s life partially. We are limited. Nevertheless, God reveals in human experience. From Moses through the succession of prophets and sainted ones God spoke in many and various ways./1/ God became human in Jesus, who revealed in life and death God’s care and concern, and in his resurrection revealed in our experience our destiny as children of God and of the resurrection.

That’s why living divine life partially asks a total commitment to live in ways which testify to what is not earthbound, to what is not always in continuity with our limited vision. This has come to be called “countercultural.” The church is not against culture, it affirms all that is true and noble within cultures./2/ Yet culture is not the be-all and end-all. Living divine life, partially as we do, is not in complete continuity with our limited ways. We live differently not only to give witness; we live differently so that our hearts won’t sink with anxiety but rejoice in hope.
/1/ Hebrews 1.1.
/2/ Chapter 2 of The Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council focused on culture (paragraphs 53 through 62).
Wiki-image contains cryptic licensing information.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gentleman, Pastor, Cardinal

A consistory is the ceremony elevating bishops to cardinals. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. remarked about Archbishop Foley, a Pennsylvania native and long-time Vatican employee, who will be elevated to the College of Cardinals tomorrow.

Mr. Allen's column focused on Cardinal-designate Foley and is a bright beacon about him and the church.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday word, 21 Nov 2007

Presentation of the BVM (21 Nov 2007) 2Mc 7. 1,20-31; Ps 17; Lk 19. 11-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Exercising Faithfully

What scene in Luke’s gospel do you think follows this scene and parable of Jesus? It’s introduction is a big hint: While people were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem. Yes! Jesus’ entry into that city, hailed as king. Jesus’ parable is about his kingship, which he receives without delay: A nobleman [hear Jesus] went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.

Those who would cheer him as king were fickle; they stopped cheering him when the leaders denounced him. Jesus’ true kingship was not earthbound and the first to rule with him--to use the language of his parable--were the Twelve, who used their faithful inheritance--their royal possessions, to use the imagery of his parable.

The parable reminds us contemporary disciples to use our royal inheritance faithfully. Fidelity may cost us, as the first reading made clear. Something easy to miss is the mother’s faithful assertion that God’s creative word gives us life.

Recalling that God creates us at each moment, that God inspires us with life helps connect us with our Creator and Redeemer in all circumstances. Recalling that God creates us at each moment inspires us to exercise faithfully our royal inheritance: the life of our risen Lord, which is ours from baptism.

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary offers us hope as we recall her dedication to God. That’s what presentation ritually celebrated: dedication. This memorial helps us limited humans recall Mary’s dedication to God at her Immaculate Conception, at her birth; plus her freely faithful exercise of it at her Annunciation.

The mystery of the Incarnation is not confined to Mary, even though her role in it is unique. She is our mother, given to us by her Son from his cross. As her children we share her splendor. Not only does God create us; God sanctifies us so we are temples, wombs of Jesus’ real presence, who give birth to Jesus by our deeds.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday word, 20 Nov 2007

33d Tuesday (20 Nov 2007) 2Mc 6. 18-31; Ps 3; Lk 19. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

We heard Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus on the first Sunday of this month. I’d like us to note today that it was one memory of Jesus connecting himself and his ministry with the people Israel. Luke made the connection clear with a word, which was also a name--Abraham: Jesus said to [Zacchaeus], “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.”

The story of Abraham and the people who traced themselves to him was one of salvation. It began clearly enough when God liberated the ragtag band enslaved by the Egyptians. It was more than a physical salvation. It was an interior one. It was also not only individual; it was communal--house suggests more than a building. House suggests an assembly of people, as in the House of Commons, and also lineage, the way royal families are named: House of Windsor; House of David.

Jesus revealed God’s desire, and in revealing it Jesus fulfilled and completed it. One might say that Jesus brought everyone into God’s house, allowed all people to be related.

The consequences of our family loyalty to God and to one another can be sharp. As Jesus reminded us Sunday: You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives./1/

Our first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees paints that consequence in capital letters to be sure. Notice that its brush is one person, Eleazar; its paints are loyalty to God’s ways as the people lived them; and its canvas is courage and virtue: his death [was] a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation. Salvation for one affects everyone.

/1/ Luke 21.17-19.
Wiki-image of Abraham is used according to the terms of Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Germany and GDFL.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday word, 18 Nov 2007

33d Sunday of the Year C(18 Nov 2007) Mal 3.19-20a; Ps 98; 2Th 3. 7-12; Lk 21. 5-19
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Not Flattery But Faith Alive

People elsewhere have heard me say it. I may be saying this at Gesu Parish for the first time: if I were to live another life, I would want to be a rabbi, and for one reason. First-century rabbis used scripture to interpret scripture. They allowed scripture passages to shed light on other passages not easy to grasp. As we enter the close of the church’s calendar and prepare to begin a new one, the liturgy presents us with scripture passages not easy to understand, which focus us on ultimate concern: the end of time; the resurrection of the dead, judgment; and Messiah Jesus’ return.

Scripture paints with cataclysmic images the end of time and the world as we know it, imagery so dire that we can miss the promise offered to those who stand in awe of God, as the Prophet Malachi just reminded us: for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays. Jesus spoke this language, too. The more we appreciate this language, the more we can appreciate Jesus and his message to us.

We may think the scriptures emphasize the end of the world. But these last two weeks of the liturgical year take a subtle turn. They emphasize not the end of the world but the second coming of our Messiah. The sun of justice, promised to shine on earth, did that precisely as a human being, God’s son, Jesus. His faith is the model for our faith, his life is the pattern for our life.

Model and pattern suggest the action so highly esteemed in the ancient Mediterranean world, imitation. St. Paul was in synch with his time when he wrote the church at Thessalonica, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us--himself and his coworkers, who emulated Jesus. In emulating Jesus, they were out of synch with the world because Jesus was in the world’s view a pitiable failure. Why would Paul pattern his life on Jesus’ life? Because Paul trusted Jesus. Why did some Thessalonians emulate Paul? Because they trusted Paul. People imitate people they trust--from their gestures to their life-choices.

Thus, one question for reflection and prayer this week is, How much do I trust Jesus? We can be more concrete by asking, How do I resist imitating Jesus?

Luke’s Jesus does not talk about the end of world and its destruction. He talks about the destruction and demise of the Temple and its city of Jerusalem, something people can get their heads around. His warnings to his disciples, they were to later see Jesus enact. Allow me to summarize what they saw and what we know in five questions and each gets a Yes-answer. Please respond loudly. Was not Jesus handed over? Was not Jesus led before a king and a governor? Did not Jesus stand before them not knowing their questions beforehand? Did not his family of disciples desert him? To them, confused and terrified, did not Jesus’ death feel like the end of the world?

It felt that way, yet it wasn’t. Just like Jerusalem’s temple, Jesus warned his disciples that wars and insurrections are not the end, they must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end. We may have carbon-copy feelings to theirs, caused not least by current events. All the more to hear and heed Jesus. No one but God knows the end of the world and of anyone’s life. How much energy many people expend on and fret about both! That energy diverts our focus from Jesus and from imitating him and his sainted ones down through the ages.

So, does looking at these readings alongside one another enhance each one’s chance to live a more alert, authentic and apostolic life? The rabbi in me nods in the affirmative. How much we allow politicians to hijack our faith; how drably we live it; how much we fret about church buildings and our own houses: each is an index of how we resist to trust Jesus, our brother, God and Mary’s son. Trust allows us to imitate the saints, who incorporated Jesus’ own faith into their hearts, minds and living.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus first ask Mary and the saints to present you to him so that you may converse with Jesus about your trust in Jesus and Jesus’ great trust in you. Be concrete about trusting and resisting Jesus, as well as noticing how Jesus trusts you. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us pattern our lives and our faith on Jesus’ life and Jesus’ faith. That allows us to dawn in the lives of people we encounter and shine Jesus’ justice to dispel, or at least brighten, their darkness.

[To do this spiritual exercise through the week]
Wiki-image of young prophet is in the public domain. Wiki-image of Sun From Clouds is used according to the GNU Free Documentation license.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

No Better Nor Worse

The opening words of Mr. John L. Allen Jr.'s weekly "All Things Catholic" encourage one to read on:
Perhaps it's a measure of how badly the image of American Catholicism has been tarnished as a result of the sexual abuse crisis that so many bishops, meeting in Baltimore Nov. 12-15, could seem relieved at the news that the church's record on the abuse of minors is actually no better, but also no worse, than anybody else's.
He includes some bishops' comments.
Wiki-image of Mr. Allen with Pope Benedict is used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday word

St. Roch Gonalez, S.J. and Companions (16 Nov 2007) Wis 13. 1-9; Ps 19; Lk 17. 26-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
To Hold or To Grasp?

The kingdom of God is among you! That well summarizes Jesus ministry in Luke’s gospel. The kingdom is not a place; it is God’s power to sustain life and to transform it. Jesus contrasted earthbound life with kingdom-life. That’s what Jesus’ words, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage in the time of Noah; the days of Lot: they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building. This last series of words connotes possessions, and possessions ought never overwhelm relationships, even human ones.

Freedom with possessions opens our way to true, right relationship with God. Right relationship with God demands ongoing conversion. Jesus earlier welcomed a disciple to follow him, and warned, don’t look back./1/ More than turning around, that meant looking forward into a new way to be in the world. In today’s gospel selection, Jesus is more clear.

The image he offered of people rushing about a house in a disaster, looking for precious things, invites us to pose this question to ourselves: what keeps the kingdom of God from being most precious? Invoking Lot’s wife allowed Jesus to make that question pointed and critical.

What keeps the kingdom of God from being most precious to me? That’s a most important question for us to ask prayerfully. It’s so important that to pose and ponder it we need the help of Jesus’ Spirit, whom Jesus promised us.

When it comes to the kingdom of God Jesus proclaimed, timing is not important; conversion is. To hold our lives as gifts, not grasping them as our possessions, allows us, with God’s help, to keep them alive. Holding and cherishing the kingdom of God as a gift also trains our vision to become kingdom-vision.

/1/ Luke 9.62.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Birth Centennary of Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

Jesuit Fr. Pedro Arrupe became the 28th General Superior of the Society of Jesus in 1965. He guided the Society during the years between sessions of the Second Vatican Council and afterward. TIME Magazine featured him on the cover of its 23 April 1973 issue.

Fr. Arrupe suffered a debilitating stroke in August 1981 and endured it with patience for over 9 years until his death in February 1991. He composed this prayer after his stroke:
More than ever I find myself in the hands of God.
This is what I have wanted all my life from my youth.

But now there is a difference;
the initiative is entirely with God.

It is indeed a profound spiritual experience
to know and feel myself so totally in God's hands.

* * *

The forward of an Orbis Book of Pedro Arrupe: Essential Writings noted that he "was a spiritual master in the line of John the Baptist." Fr. Arrupe always pointed to Jesus.

Jesuit houses, parishes, schools and other works remember him in particular ways.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Preview of U.S. Bishops' Fall Meeting

Last Friday Mr. John L. Allen Jr. offered his preview of the fall meeting of the U.S. Bishops' Fall meeting. Mr. Allen will post reports daily during the 3-day meeting.

Mr. Allen's preview announced
Over the last decade, the conference has experienced three important realignments in its theology, operations, and structures.
He concisely explains each before mentioning a few items on the bishops' agenda.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday word, 11 Nov 2007

32d Sunday of the Year C(11 Nov 2007) 2Mc 7.1-2,9-14; Ps 17; 2Th 2. 16-3.5; Lk 20. 27-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Christian Imagination and Sensibility

We get used to things. We easily grow accustomed, becoming less mindful of things in our lives. Take running water. It’s rare that we don’t have it. The same with electricity. Both are virtual constants, and it’s easy not to be mindful that other people are not as blessed. When I lived in Sri Lanka our house enjoyed running water and electricity. However, we experienced several interruptions of both. During monsoon season, when rains poured straight down for entire nights--enough for all the world! I decided--mudslides brought down poles and their electric lines. Water pumps ceased. At times when power was not interrupted, we lost running water. It was too much to understand. I grew more sensitive to water and electricity as limited commodities and more grateful for them both.

We get used to words and expressions, too. Often the frequency of hearing them dulls us to their meanings. Love and hate are convenient examples. Our casual use of them empties them of their meanings. Other words buzz but make little impact when we hear or say them. Buzzwords: that’s the fate of much of our Christian vocabulary. Today’s scripture selections seek to rescue one: resurrection.

Resurrection is not resuscitation. Resuscitated people, in scripture and in our lives, come back to life, which death tried to claim too soon. Resurrection is absolutely new, astonishingly new life: divine life. If death discontinues human life, then resurrection in no way continues human life. Resurrection is God’s life given us. Now we enjoy it partially; one day we’ll enjoy it fully.

The first Christians had no secure grasp on resurrection. Resurrection grasped them, they were caught up by it. It was the atmosphere they breathed, the transforming life they lived. Before it was an experience, resurrection was a hope, one not every Jew shared. It was a late doctrine and a contested one as we heard in the gospel: Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and questioned Jesus.

The Sadducees, a group about half as old as the Pharisees, held only to the written scriptures, not the Pharisees’ oral tradition of interpreting them. The hope in resurrection was a belief of the Pharisees. It grew after intense persecutions Jews suffered long before Jesus. The Second Book of Maccabees sought to give faith-meaning to resurrection. We share three convictions our first reading announced: God will raise us up to live again forever; our glorified bodies will be whole, no matter what we may have suffered; and for those who defy God there will be no resurrection to this divine, unlimited life.

Can we understand that? Of course, not! Does our faith encourage us to believe and hope in resurrection? Of course! Yet for many reasons--not a mindful use of the word resurrection for starters--our imaginations narrow like Sadducees, who mocked life of the children of God, limiting it to descent and human birth. One antidote to narrow religious imaginations is our sacramental life. Our sacramental life broadens our imaginations.

Our sacramental life is neither a head trip nor a postgraduate theology class. Our sacramental life exploits all our senses in order to expand and make more supple our religious imaginations and sensibility. That’s why fire, water, oil, bread, wine, colors, music and song, touch, processions, kneeling, standing, signing and other gestures are all ’round us. Words play a lesser role than liturgy’s grand symphony of the senses.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause and feel the Trinity accompanying you. Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus to converse with him about his life and feel it within you and all ’round you. Request of Jesus the grace to see with his vision; to hear with his attention; to notice everything our Creator fashioned and fashions for us. Praise and thank Jesus for all your gifts, especially his promised life in you. Close slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer, which aligns us more with Jesus’ attitude, makes us more humane, broadens our Christian imagination and deepens our religious sensibilities. Those qualities make us vital disciples.

[Using this spiritual exercise throughout the week.]
Wiki-images: of Jesus speaking to the young man is in the public domain; the Lourdes cathedral procession is used under the terms of the Free Art license.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Saturday word, 10 Nov 2007

St. Leo the Great, Memorial (10 Nov 2007) Rm 16. 3-9,16,22-27; Ps 145; Lk 16. 9-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living Thanksgiving

Today ends the church’s weekday reading at mass St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Its continuous reading, with the exception of solmenities and feasts with their proper readings, allowed us to hear a healthy portion of St. Paul at his pastoral best. He summarized both his aware-ness of and his relationship with risen Jesus as his introduction to the members of the church at Rome, which he intended to visit after he completed his mission bearing some contribution for the poor among the holy ones in Jerusalem./1/ Other Gentiles churches with intimate relationships with St. Paul did this charity.

As he closed his letter, St. Paul commended Phoebe, a woman who was more than kind to him. Phoebe was a benefactor of his ministry./2/ Then, he named more in his large cast of coworkers in his Gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ. St. Paul was no lone-ranger! He confirms my own conviction I expressed earlier in this series: faith is deeply personal but it is never private.

St. Paul had encountered risen Jesus as Messiah and Lord. His personal awakening and commissioning by risen Jesus set him on this ministry to the Gentiles to make risen Jesus known as Messiah and Lord. He was for St. Paul the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings. We heard these weeks how St. Paul combed the oracles of God in the Hebrew scriptures he knew intimately. St. Paul had begun his letter this way./3/ Even as he began he was clear that his vocation was responding to the command of the eternal God to make known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith./4/

Faith was no concept to give assent for St. Paul. This attentiveness--obedience--was to Jesus’ own faith, the faith of Jesus./5/ To live faithfully means to replicate in our lives the pattern of Jesus: his attitude, his mind, his response to God, whom he called his dear Father. All creation reveals God to us. Indeed, creation is divine gift to help us make our return to God with thanksgiving, which is our way of living. St. Paul lived the faith, which Jesus first brought to life among us.

/1/ Chapter 15. 28, 26, respectively.
/2/ Chapter 16. 1-2, which the Lectionary oddly omits.
/3/ Chapter 1.2.
/4/ See Chapter 1. 5-9.
/5/ Chapter 3. Also see my note /2/ on 03November earlier in this series.

The weekday Lectionary, presenting the Letter to the Romans at daily masses every other October and November, challenged me to clarify St. Paul and to inspire us contemporary Catholics to live Jesus’ faith more eloquently. I have labeled each homily with “Romans” to make them easy to revisit.
Wiki-image of St. Leo meeting Attila is in the public domain.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Anniversary of the First-Ranking Church

Today the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Anniversary of the Lateran Basilica of St. John. The inscription translates: Sacred Lateran Church, Mother and Head of the Churches of the City and the World. This is the cathedral of Rome, the building where the chair of its bishop, the pope, is located.

The Lateranus family once owned the land before it was ceded to Emperor Constantine. The Lateran Basilica became the cathedral of Rome. This feast, once celebrated only in Rome, extended to the western Christian world. In a sense it is a festival of Christian people, who are living stones arranged as the Lord's temple.
Wiki-image is used under the GNU Free Documentation license.

Thursday word, 08 Nov 2007

31st Thursday of the Year (08 Nov 2007) Rm 14. 7-12; Ps 27; Lk 15. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Giving Glory and Thanksgiving

For St. Paul Christian love is expressed in relation to our crucified and risen Messiah: As Christ is the goal of the law/torah,/1/ Christians replicating his living in their lives means Christian love is the fulfilling of the law/torah./2/ Our living is “for others,” even as our Messiah’s living, dying and rising was and is for us.

To help us make it more concrete, St. Paul offered an image of clothing oneself: put on the Lord Jesus Christ./3/ The implication of putting on our Messiah Jesus meant not assuming the arrogant, puffed-up ways which characterize idolatry and all sin. Their concrete results are quarreling division and jealousy./4/

The resurrection of Jesus gives us new birth to his absolutely new life. This conviction St. Paul had announced loudly and clearly in his letter. In him we have a new lease on living. In fact our Savior’s risen life affects the universe, or in St. Paul’s words, Jesus is Lord of both the dead and the living.

Because we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, we unite ourselves with him. We are the Lord’s in St. Paul’s brief, potent phrase.

We are in relationship with our Messiah because first he relates to us as we are. Our relationship with risen Jesus shapes our relationship with others. As Jesus was and is for us, we seek to be for others, so that whatever we do deepens our relationship with others and glorifies and gives thanks to God/5/ at each moment.

This part of St. Paul’s letter has universal application. It reminds us that we are related to one another because by grace we stand in relation to our crucified and risen Messiah. Our Christian vocation seeks to be in right relationship with our Messiah and with others.
/1/ Chapter 10. 4.
/2/ Chapter 13. 10, in yesterday’s Lectionary selection.
/3/ Chapter 13.14.
/4/ Chapter 13.13 ends with these bad fruits of the works of darkness in 13.12.
/5/ Chapter 14.6.
Wiki-image of St. Paul is in the public domain.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wednesday word, 07 Nov 2007

31st Wednesday of the Year (07 Nov 2007) Rm 13. 8-10; Ps 112; Lk 14. 25-33
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
For Others

St. Paul shared with other moral teachers and religious leaders of his day a need to reassure his hearers that he was no renegade--among Jews and the Jewish- Christian movement mavericks were not uncommon. His mastery of torah, that is, all God’s oracles in the scriptures about the Messiah, which he combed and presented in his Letter to the Romans, showed he took God’s way of working seriously. Moreover, St. Paul aligned himself with Jesus and his teachings. St. Paul reminded his hearers that Jesus was in line with the commandments, and that the commandments sought to help people live in love.

St. Paul cited what Jesus himself cited in scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself./1/ St. Paul repeated/2/ his shorthand of the power of Christian love: love is the fulfilling of the law/torah. Earlier St. Paul had said that Christ is the goal of the law/torah./3/ Because we are one with our Messiah/4/, the more we have his attitude the closer to our goal we will be.

Christian love is more spacious than emotional love. Christian love is “for others.” It leads us beyond ourselves and calls us to respond freely as a daughter or son of God. Christians testify to the future of the world when God in Christ by their Spirit will deliver them from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God./5/.

The word corruption was opposed to genesis, origin or birth. God brought birth out of Jesus’ death, a birth to an absolutely new and imperishable life. Jesus freely gave his life. Christians seek to live his freedom, to replicate it in their lives. Love, which both enlarges our capacity for freedom and disposes us to live out of it, shapes our lives to be for others. “For others” is the superior norm by which Christians discern how to be in the world.

But I get ahead of St. Paul. Tomorrow we shall hear him say that and to accept others because God has accepted us together with God’s son.

/1/ Leviticus 19. 18, which Jesus cited (Matthew 22. 39 and parallels).
/2/ Galatians 5. 14 was the first place.
/3/ Chapter 10. 4.
/4/ Chapter 12. 5, in yesterday’s Lectionary selection.
/5/ Chapter 8. 21.

Wiki-image of torah scroll is in the public domain.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tuesday word, 06 Nov 2007

31st Tuesday of the Year (06 Nov 2007) Rm 12. 5-16ab; Ps 131; Lk 14. 15-24
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Personal and Communal

Throughout his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul functioned as a religious person not as a philosopher. He noted what God had done and discerned how God continued to act, indeed, create the world, through Jesus’ death and resurrection. God and God’s ways were central for St. Paul. A philosopher’s center of reference is self: my intelligence can grasp and critique all around me.

Noting God’s way and learning from it, esp. God’s justice, God’s mercy, God’s desire to save all,/1/ is not for dummies. It requires human intelligence which knows its limits: God ways surprise us. Welcoming God’s surprise, grace, respects God and ourselves. Indeed, religious service is possible by inner transformation/2/, which happens as we respond to Jesus’ invitation and align more with his attitude.

This life-project is at once personal and communal. As you’ve heard me encourage: faith is personal but never private.

St. Paul encouraged the church in Rome he intended to visit--and he encourages us hearing his letter--to exercise our gifts and discerning powers with and for the community, the Body of Christ. Just as one mind steers one human body, the mind and attitude of our Messiah, steers the community of whom we are individually parts of him and one another. Thus, serving one another with our gifts serves Jesus.

The list of practical encouragement which we heard--love sincerely, hold..what is good, be fervent, rejoice in hope, contribute, exercise hospitality, and bless--Paul crowned with do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. In his day that was a counter-cultural directive, and it probably is in our day. In his day such an attitude was disdained as not noble and free. Yet that was Jesus’ attitude and his way./3/ Jesus is the ultimately free person. St. Paul encourages us to adopt true, Christian, freedom. Our world is in great need for us to exercise not power but the most real freedom, Christian freedom.

/1/ St. Paul devoted Chapter 9-11 to this. His conclusion, yesterday’s first reading, resumed God’s justice, mercy and desire to save all. This is God’s recreation of humans by Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us and prays in us and for us (Chapter 8. 26-28).
/2/ Chapter 12. 1-2, which the Lectionary oddly does not allow us to hear throughout the daily reading of Romans.
/3/ Philippians 2. 5-11 also sings of this attitude, which St. Paul expressed in compact form here.

Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunday word, 04 Nov 2007

31st Sunday of the Year C(04 Nov 2007) Wis 11. 22-12.2; Ps 145; 2Th 1. 11-2.2; Lk 19. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Imprinted With Jesus and His Desire

Cultures differ. We know that, but not everyone. A culture is a set of patterns of human activity with certain symbol-codes, which give meaning to human actions. Cultures encourage some actions and discourage others.

Cultural patterns get deeply imprinted so that we barely give them thought. Take greeting another person in our culture. We are quick to extend a hand to another, who takes it just as quickly. The phrase, “they gave their hands in greeting,” conjures up an action about which we have no doubt. That action is? Yes! Shaking hands.

Not every culture greets the way we do. With hands folded the Japanese bow to one another, and the junior person bows more deeply to the senior in age or rank. During my month in Japan its symbolic gesture of greeting never came immediately; I automatically offered my hand. It became an instinctive twitch to offer it, reminding me I truly belonged to my culture.

In Greece, which I began visiting in the 1970s, extending a hand in greeting wasn’t done on first meeting. When our cultural imprinting moved me to extend my hand in greeting, a Greek would look at it and at me with uncertainty. No Greek, though, failed to converse and help me. Clasping hands was reserved for friends.

I mention this to help you appreciate more the many conflicts and confrontations the religious professionals had with Jesus, who so often dined with people his culture considered ungodly at best or even opposed to God at worst.

Friendship in Jesus’ day was taken most seriously indeed. Table fellowship was as serious an undertaking as sex. People didn’t eat with just anyone! Eating symbolized a unity with another with whom you shared your soul, your heart, your mind. Tax-collectors were considered sinners because they extorted in collusion with the Roman colonizers and oppressors of their own, God’s people. "Tax-collectors" is a symbol-code for sinners in gospel culture. Religious culture contains a community’s experience; it is the agent of the community’s expressions of faithfulness and faithlessness./1/

God had revealed through Moses ritual ways of restoring right relationship with God and with others. God’s heart desires reconciliation. Many obsessed about the rituals with a disastrous a result: they lost any feeling for God’s heart.

People, who felt they were not in right relationship with God and who desired to reconcile, streamed to Jesus. His encounter with Zacchaeus opens our eyes to God’s desire: in Jesus God sought people to reconcile them! God takes this initiative perhaps more often than people.

Jesus extended this divine initiative in many ways, notably staying at their houses and sharing their meals. Both of those human actions of familiarity, reserved for good friends, Jesus transformed into divine searching and experiences of divine generosity. Coming to our Lord’s table and sharing in his Eucharist reminds us that our risen Lord welcomes all. Sharing his Eucharist empowers us to embody the divine desire to reconcile and welcome all--in short, to grow more worthy of our divine calling as living witnesses of God’s heart.

Ease into your 15 minutes with Jesus this week by composing yourself in the call the Trinity extends each moment to you: “We love you as you are and invite you to grow more confident as the stewards of all we have created.” Ask Zacchaeus, who longed to see who Jesus was, help you notice Jesus addressing you. Converse with Jesus, asking Jesus to help you feel more deeply his forgiveness and, working through you, to extend his generosity to others. Consider one way you can extend his generosity to others and resolve to put it in action. Close your time with Jesus by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which reimprints within us our Christian culture each time we pray it.

[Using this spiritual exercise throughout the week.]
/1/ Scripture contains the cultural patterns of a people, a time and a place far removed from ours. Joseph V. Crockett has written:
Scripture is taught so that persons may become formed and transformed into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. The aim is for learners to claim the life of Jesus as their own and to embrace an identity in the fullness of their lives. But the formative and transformative processes must not ignore the cultural context through which identity emerges or faith is expressed. Culture is the container of a community's experience and the agent of the community’s expressions of faithfulness and faithlessness.
(His Teaching Scripture from an African-American Perspective is out of print. and voice emailed this quotation 30 Oct 2007.)
Wiki-image of Jesus calling Zacchaeus is in the public domain. The Wiki-image of the Zacchaeus-sycamore is used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Catholic Awakening: "Signs of life in Latin America"

The weekly column of John L. Allen Jr. covers lots of ground in surveying the Catholic Church in South America. He offers vignettes, which help U.S. Catholics better appreciate how liberation theology currently functions.

Saturday word, 03 Nov 2007

30th Saturday of the Year (03 Nov 2007) Rm 11. 1-2,11-12,25-29; Ps 94; Lk 14. 1, 7-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
More Than Human Vision

At the beginning of his Letter to the Romans St. Paul announced that the good news is the power of salvation for all who have faith./1/ He was specific: the shape of faith is the faith of Jesus/2/, who called God his dear Father. Convinced, too, was St. Paul, that God shows no paritiality/3/ in saving faithful people.

St. Paul, trained in torah and the traditions of his people, was in a bind: has God rejected his people? He began to unfold the implications of both the universality of faith and the particular ways God works in human history, which in Paul’s moment meant for the Jew first then the Greek./4/

God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew, we heard him begin. How did St. Paul know that? He reread the promises to know more clearly how the messiah entered the world. The lectionary didn’t allow us hear some clues St. Paul found for the messiah and God’s fidelity.

To appreciate St. Paul’s objective, we need to hear that messiah was unique to Jews in the Mediterranean world of St. Paul. Loss and restoration and their hope in that pattern no one else shared. This hope plus his own personal encounter with risen Jesus led St. Paul to see with religious vision beyond individuals and beneath borders, namely, that Jews are Israel in part and when the full number of the Gentiles comes in...all Israel will be saved.

St. Paul continued to elaborate on the way God extended the gift of salvation in Jesus by their Spirit beginning through God’s beloved people--the Jews--extending salvation by means of faith to all. That has two implications for us now.

First, it means to be alert to God’s Holy Spirit praying in and for us and working for our good/5/, that is, our salvation. Second, it means asking Holy Spirit to grace our vision in order to see what human vision cannot. That is our vocation as faithful disciples of our Messiah.

/1/ Chapter 1.16.
/2/ Chapter 3. Usually translated as
faith in Jesus. These translations here “fly in the face of grammatical and literary considerations [of the Greek language], and they entirely miss the direction of Paul’s argument” (Luke Timothy Johnson, Reading Romans: A Literary and Theological Commentary. NY: Crossroad, p. 59.) I have been following my teacher throughout this series.
/3/ Chapter 2.11.
/4/ Chapter 1.16.
/5/ Chapter 8. 26-28.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Souls' Day

I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," said the Spirit, "let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them." (Revelation 14. 13)
Wiki-image of All Souls' Day by
William Bouguereau is in the public domain.