Monday, April 28, 2008
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Intimate Give and Take
We intuitively appreciate the difference between knowing a fact and knowing someone or knowing contentment, anguish, disease, peace, forgiveness and the like. In the first we know about something. In the second we know because of the effects on us of a person, contentment, anguish, disease, peace, and forgiveness. In the original languages of the bible, the verb “to know” functions that way.
In the Fourth Gospel Jesus spoke with his disciples at great length about knowing God. God is no object with quantities to be known and recorded in a data book. God is our Creator, who desires a relationship with us, as Jesus made known in his own person. Relation-ship-knowledge affects us. We know God by God’s affects on us.
St. Ignatius Loyola had a phrase we have come to know and use: “to find God in all things.” It is relational. We know when we find God in daily experiences by the affects on us; how our hearts are opened, like the listener Lydia’s was; how our sense of purpose is refreshed; and by the actions which promote our relationship with God among others.
The knowledge we have of one another demands the we sustain our relationships, which is always a two-way street, intimate give and take. Jesus gives us his Spirit. Prayer and action on flowing from the values and examples of the gospel and the countless holy ones who have gone before us show us our part and encourage us not to fall away but to enjoy God’s life beginning now.
Wiki-image of St. Ignatius by Pierre Lopez is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
From 1st to 21st Century
The daily ministry of the first apostles involved preaching, that is, announcing risen Jesus to others by telling how they experienced him from the days he chose them to after his resurrection. They announced their word to unbelievers in the Temple and they nurtured the word among believers at table.
However, their world of 1st-century Palestine divided genders strictly. Discussion among men took place in public spaces. Women spoke in homes and in places where they gathered, for example, to get water for their homes or washed clothes. They also ate separately: men with boys older than puberty; and women with girls and all boys younger than the age of puberty. The apostles’ solution was to deputize other ministers of the word--deacons--who could go to other places than the temple to make known risen Jesus. We come upon one of them, Philip, who left Jerusalem for nearby Samaria.
The activity was centered first in Jerusalem, as Jesus had told the apostles, “wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak...you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”/1/
Empowered by Holy Spirit, Philip was extraordinarily successful. This agent of Jesus’ Spirit visited the age-old enemies of the people of Judaea and proclaimed the risen Jesus. They were persuaded by his preaching and they were convinced by the signs he was doing. Jesus told the apostles that they would do greater works than him. Jesus convinced a Samaritan woman, but Philip convinced an entire Samaritan city!
The outward movement from Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth gave birth to church and validated Jesus’ words that his followers would do greater works than he did. Pope Benedict reminded us on his visit to the United States that “increased fraternity and solidarity, a growth in mutual respect, and a renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father” are the shape these greater works have in our times./2/
Agents of Jesus’ Holy Spirit increase “fraternity and solidarity; they cultivate growth in mutual respect” as they allow Holy Spirit to work through them. While we are crucial in advancing
the gospel, Holy Spirit works through all people of good will.
Holy Spirit is not confined to our rituals nor do they control Holy Spirit. Fellowship with the apostles guaranteed that. Hence those lines are not at all insignificant: ...when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. [Peter and John] laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Their hand-laying symbolized the believer’s communion.
The Greek word we translate with fallen means that Holy Spirit takes possession of us, and we are inspired and impelled by Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit continues to use our humanity, to heal our limitations, to clarify our vision and to renew our “trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father” and risen Jesus, who are the source of Holy Spirit. Sometimes we emphasize our humanity over the Spirit’s gifts. The Spirit’s gifts work through and enhance our humanity.
Our parish discernment, years in planning, to renovate our buildings calls us to be more confident agent’s of Holy Spirit. “We believe that, as a Spirit-filled community we must promote the spiritual, liturgical, evangelical educational and ecumenical growth of our family of faith. We pledge ourselves to bring God’s Word to the world in which we live and to enliven”/3/ it. Those words of our parish Mission Statement echo the life and work of Philip. They echo Jesus’ promise that his Spirit of truth is with us always. University Heights is not hostile territory; it does need our efforts and support to bring ourselves and the gospel into the 21st century.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, let go your anxieties and concerns in the presence of the Trinity, who creates you at each moment with love. Ask for the grace to see with fresh vision and to feel with stronger devotion your “renewed trust and confidence in God.” Ask God to place you with Jesus. Converse with Jesus about your solidarity with him and with your sister- and brother parishioners so that you may give clearer witness to his gospel and help Gesu parish to do the same. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Saying it reminds us that we both announce and promote the kingdom to come.
1. Acts 1.4-8
2. Farewell Ceremony, John Fitzgerald Kennedy International Airport, New York, 20 April 2008.
3. Gesu Parish Mission Statement printed on the cover of each weekly bulletin.
Wiki-image of icon of St. Philip is in the public domain.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Don't miss the section, "Opposition," because the pope decided differently from other officials int the church. In the following section ("Signifance"), Mr. Allen noted that "Benedict has set a new standard for candor." The pope squarely faced insitutional innertia--always a powerful force--and moved it despite that force.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Before and After
The season of Easter allows us to savor Jesus’ new presence with his apostles and also with us. Jesus was straightforward about his promise: I will take you to myself, that where I am you may also be. Because the first half of today’s gospel is frequently selected for funerals, that and daily experience suggest two questions: Is this being-with-Jesus now? Or, is it after our deaths? The answer is, “Yes!” to both.
To us, limited to time and space, imagining risen Jesus as absolutely unlimited so that he is present at each moment does not come readily. Yet Jesus continually taught, touched and tarried with people in powerful ways that appealed more to imagination, heart and depth of feelings than to what we may call head knowledge. Intellect is important, but intellect shaped by feeling, heart and soul is more important. When we allow Jesus to shape our feeling, heart and soul, our knowing becomes more humane and truly Christian.
Jesus was a real person who lived at a real time and in real places we locate on maps: Palestine; Judaea; Jerusalem; the Upper Room. The Fourth Gospel offers a more important, more real geography centered on God. It named its coordinates: the world and the house of Jesus’ Father; below and above; dark and light; death and life. Jesus, in today’s scene, announced another coordinate: I am going to the Father, which is light years removed from where his opponents refused to leave; or in Jesus’ earlier words to them: Where I am going you cannot come.
Of course maps, like treasure maps or trip-tiks, are not the point. Jesus invites us beyond the confines of maps and encourages us to adopt a way of thinking and imagining both the world and his Father’s house, to which Jesus welcomes his faithful disciples; imagining both our limited existence here and now and Jesus with his Father, prepar[ing] a place for us with him.
Jesus’ risen life welcomes us into his relationship with God, whom he called his Father. Relationship is key. Jesus focused relationships forever: Jesus’ relation with God, whom he called Father; with the world--grand symbol of opposition to God’s abode; with his disciples--his family not limited or defined by blood or ethnicity.
Jesus’ relationship and prayer with his disciples took place at two moments: before his resurrection and after it. Before his glorious resurrection his disciples had limited understanding of Jesus and his words. Their imagination was not supple; it was earthbound: shadows shrouded it; and death seemed the bitter end. After his glorification their imagination soared; their memories of his words were clear; their broken hearts were healed; and they recognized him present in the power of his Spirit, who Jesus breathed on them.
Those coordinates of the world; below; dark and death did not vanish. The disciples were acutely aware that more than those existed. Places Jesus was preparing for them; above; light; and his risen life, unlimited and unending, were not only theirs. Jesus’ risen life set them on mission to communicate that life to others and to be channels to others of his gift to them of himself and his Spirit.
During Easter hearing the Acts of the Apostles, the portrait of the beginning church discovering its sense of self and mission, reminds us that Jesus’ self-gift to us of himself and his Spirit 1) shape our way of thinking and 2) encourages us to deepen our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer so that we can communicate our Creator and Redeemer to others. Healthy communication--in speech; friendship; mutual support; faith sharing; sharing resources--helps us find God more easily, hear God more clearly and follow God’s lead more readily. That is each one’s mission. It also is helps us bring others into Jesus’ presence here and now.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, first enter into the more real coordinates of the Trinity, creating you in love, calling you friend, and empowering you with Jesus’ Spirit. Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus so that you may converse with Jesus. Name the gifts with which Jesus has blessed you, and tell Jesus how you use them and how you can use them better. Using our gifts better to build up others is our loving response to God who creates us, redeems us and glorifies us at each moment. Close your 15 minutes by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which both keeps us in God’s presence and guides us on our mission which Jesus began by rising from the dead.
Wiki-images of Jesus and the apostles in Tiffany glass and of El Greco's Resurrection are in the public domain.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
WHAT: In the coming days, Congress will make important decisions on key programs that support low-income and vulnerable families. They must determine funding for programs that provide health care, home energy assistance, and child care assistance. They must make needed improvements to Food Stamps and other nutrition programs as they reauthorize the Farm Bill. They must also address the current housing crisis and economic downturn which threatens individuals and families across the country.WHY A VIRTUAL MARCH? Catholic Charities directors from communities across the country will be in Washington, D.C on April 15th to meet with legislators about poverty in our nation and what Congress must do to address it. That day, Catholic Charities USA will also host a Congressional briefing on the "Needs of Young Americans: Strategies to Reduce Poverty".
You can join us! Lend your voice and amplify the message to Congress about our common priorities by taking action TODAY!
ACTION NEEDED: Starting TODAY, click on “Take Action” and enter your zip code for a sample letter that you can customize and ask your legislators to support vulnerable children and families in America.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Mr. John L. Allen Jr. distills several points in his weekly column of last Friday. In that column Mr. Allen offered "various reflections on the United States offered by Joseph Ratzinger over the years, much of which dates from the period before his election to the papacy."
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Plural Patterns of Our Single Vocation
Pope Paul VI, 45 years ago, dedicated “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the fourth Sunday of the Easter season each year, to Vocation. I want to reflect with you on our singular vocation and ask you to become more alert to its variety: our single vocation and its plural patterns.
My mother and my father, when he was alive, always were free with my sister and me this way: they encouraged us to be ourselves; to seek what would fulfill us and give us meaning. Elaine is a teacher, which she wanted to be as long as I can remember. I wanted to be a priest as long as I can remember. In our respective roles, Elaine and I share several things: responding to others’ needs; helping people to shape their lives; being aware of individual strengths and weaknesses; respecting each person; extending genuine care and concern; mindful and observant of boundaries.
Discovering one’s way of living God’s universal call to all of us to be holy as God is holy means to discern one’s vocation, to see with our inmost eyes the particular gifts God desires to give us so that we may begin to save ourselves. The most famous psalm, which we once more made our own response, expressed this gift of the Holy Spirit as a way, a style, a manner of living: Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.
To discover the concrete, individual ways to live the universal vocation to holiness is above all to respond to God’s gift for you. A person’s response doesn’t follow a straight line. My sister began as an elementary teacher then was asked to be a school’s special education person. After many years she taught fifth graders before retiring almost three years ago.
Between my college seminary and graduate seminary studies I was a research assistant to the chief of Infectious Diseases at a large city’s general hospital. God gifted me in many ways in my interim job--work experience, managing my own housing and finances, exploring celibacy from the angle of rest and relationship, to name a few. The happiest day of my life was my ordination as a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit 23 years ago. I thought I’d be buried with all the archdiocesan priests after a life which rewarded me greatly. Professing my first vows as a Jesuit, 12 years after my ordination, crowned the happiest day of my life.
My life has not been without challenges and desolate experiences. My father died in 2001, and I am making a long goodbye to my mother, who has Alzheimer’s. My Jesuit brothers, friends and you are most supportive.
To each of you I encourage you to be yourself. Be grateful for your abilities and gifts, and acknowledge your limitations. Limitations acknowledged and shared with people you respect and trust, and who respect and trust you, open onto opportunities. Ask yourself: how can I grow more grateful for who I am, what I have and how Jesus stands with me so that [I] may have life and have it more abundantly?
To each parent I encourage you to desire your children’s happy fulfillment in holiness-- whatever expression it may be, especially to build up others, to be a man or woman for others. That seems more difficult to desire for children today.
To each of you living out your vocation to holiness in marriage, in widowhood, as a single person, I encourage you be alert to Jesus’ Spirit prompting you. Jesus’ Spirit prompts us all. Be alert to how others’ lives encourage your own manner of vocation and calls you to love more.
Jesus is our model of selfless love. The Good Shepherd is among the most ancient images of our risen Jesus, in whom each of us has already died and been raised in the waters of baptism.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week praise Jesus for his selfless love of you. Ask for the grace to deepen your personal vocation. Speak with Jesus about what gives you meaning and about what challenges you to live as his friend and follower. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which empowers us to live more authentically and to welcome with more open hands, heart, mind and soul the holiness of God, who creates us one moment at a time.
Wiki-image of the Vatican Museum's Good Shepherd is in the public domain. Wiki-image of photo of Sunlight Through Leaves by Hana Kirana is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Their exchange revealed
In terms of news flashes, one intriguing bit from the Sambi interview is that he left the door slightly open for a private encounter between the pope and victims of sexual abuse while he's in America, saying only that it's "within the field of possibility." He also asserted that speculation about Benedict reading the riot act to Catholic educators during an April 18 session at the Catholic University of America amounts to "instrumentalization" of the pope by American Catholics with theological or political axes to grind.Read more of their conversation.
"The problem is that there are too many people here who would like to be the pope," Sambi sighed, "and who attribute to themselves a strong sense of their own infallibility."
Sambi's trademark sense of humor flashed at other points, such as when I asked if he has personally briefed the boss in preparation for the visit. Smiling, Sambi replied: "I'm not paid to sit here and do nothing!"
Monday, April 07, 2008
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
On behalf of Gesu Parish and personally, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Doris, at the passing of your beloved spouse; and to you, Dori, Jim, Rob, Tom and Dan at the passing of your father. Your children, too, grieve, as do your your cousins and theirs. I want all of you grandchildren to remember how much your grandfather loved you and enjoyed being with you and with your cousins. It will be hard not to have your grandfather and great uncle in your lives as you did; however, he will continue to be with you in different and new ways, which each of you will discover.
Mary, Clara and Albert, I do not yet know a sibling’s grief. I do know your grief for your brother, Emil, is unique, and I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you three.
The Catholic church, Slovak associations and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, as well as individuals, say farewell to a faithful and devoted friend of many years. I offer a few words to console and to strengthen each of you in your grief; to help you appreciate God’s astounding compassion by noticing that Jesus’ victorious dying and rising were present in the life of Emil and in you as well./1/
I am grateful to you, Doris, and your children, for introducing me to your husband and father. Much of what you related to me reminded me of my own father. You need encouragement at this time because you will always feel his absence, which can distract you from the ways he will remain present to you in a different way.
That different way, as you have come to know more intensely these days, is through speaking about him and the memories of him your re-tellings keep very much alive. Human memory is consecrated by our memory of our risen Lord Jesus, whom recall with awe and hope at each funeral and particularly, a funeral at Easter.
The telling and retelling of Jesus’ resurrection reminded the first disciples of the risen Jesus. Their telling and retelling to people like us, who never knew the human Jesus, allowed them to enter into their memory of him, and more to encounter risen Jesus in personal ways.
Who Jesus was and what he did allow us to meet our Lord again and again. The unique feature of a Christian funeral is not that we pray for and bury someone’s body. The unique feature is that we enter into the mystery of life beyond death, for whom Jesus is our pioneer, teacher and advocate, words the scriptures use of Jesus.
Like pioneer Jesus, Emil went ahead of you and prepared the way for you. Doris and your children were his #1. No math can explain how each of you was his #1. Love, not math, steered Emil’s life, and love empowers us to do things neither math nor human logic can explain.
A crucial part of his pioneering involved meeting your needs. Of course, that involved focusing on you and others more than himself. We measure discipleship with Jesus that way: disciples are not self-centered; they take care of themselves in order to stand with and for others.
Your father, grandfather and uncle was taught you well. Good teachers support and encourage. Like his dedication, the effective, supportive way your father taught you echoed, as I mentioned yesterday at the wake, my father. Supportive, effective teachers shape us to prepare others to make their ways in the world. The learning we receive Ecclesiastes summarized well: because God...has put the timeless into our hearts... there is nothing better than to be glad and to do well during life. Emil taught well because you have so many stories, which recount how Emil echoed Jesus, who prepared his disciples to engage the world and not shrink from it.
Jesus advocated for his disciples. Jesus assured them of his ongoing care for them. Emil continues to advocate for you--his dear spouse, his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and friends--in his promised dwelling place with Jesus.
I believe the dynamic of the Easter season offers you encouragement to release Emil to our Creator and Redeemer and never lose him. Easter, which shapes Christians daily living, recalls Jesus’ risen and also is ever alert to the ways Jesus is present by his Spirit. “We honor Jesus’ absence,” wrote a contemporary believer, “when we discover the Spirit of Jesus the Servant animating us as a Christian community of faith.”/2/
Pioneer, teacher, advocate are three of Emil’s many good works which accompany him. You know many more. These three linked Emil closely with Jesus, and they encourage you, who honor Emil’s absence, to be alert to the ways Jesus desires both to console you and to be for others as Emil was for you.
/1/ Cf. Order of Christian Funerals 27.
/2/ Thomas R. Hawkins, Faithful Leadership. Cited by sojo.net in its Verse and Voice, 26 February 2008.
Wiki-image by Broederhugo is used according to the GFDL; of the Anastasis in Chora church is in the public domain.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I visited Japan when a friend completed two years of studying its language. That year happened to be my 10th reunion from graduate school. The Divinity School at Yale University has annual convocations. It combines them with class reunions. Before entering the Society of Jesus, I regularly attended the convocations. Many classmates figured I’d surely be at our 10th reunion.
I would have liked to have attended because some classmates, who didn’t make the convocations regularly, planned to attend our 10th reunion. However, I could not pass up visiting Japan with a friend, who had lived there two years. Plus, I enjoyed another dividend. A Japanese classmate could not attend our reunion because of time and family obligations. Atsuko and I decided to meet and have a 10th reunion no one else could enjoy.
My classmate and I arranged to meet in Kyoto, a short train ride distant from her home. I never met her husband, who studied architecture while Atsuko and I slogged our way through Hebrew class. Their first child was born shortly before we graduated. We arranged meeting at escalators spewing passengers from underground.
As we waited for their train to arrive, I began to get nervous, and I intensified my anxiety by not sharing it with my friend. It had been 10 years, and I was used to seeing Atsuko with her hair worn a certain way and as one Japanese among Caucasians and African-Americans. It had been 10 years. Would I recognize Atsuko; and would I recognize her in a sea of Japanese train commuters?
My friend and I escaped the August heat and had a cold drink. Yet, my anxiety made my palms moist. Minutes before the train was to arrive we planted ourselves near the escalators that would bring Atsuko up from the station into daylight. As I tried to keep a relaxed appearance, my friend gently asked, “Do you think you’ll recognize her?”
In a sea of faces I caught one, then another, and another, who I wanted to be Atsuko. All were not wearing their hair as I had fixed in my mind’s eye. Finally, a lost-looking woman reached the top step of an escalator. When her face met mine she smiled. Her smile identified her as Atsuko, who was wearing her hair in a fashion I never imagined.
Our gospel is a recognition story. It was a recognition story of the risen Jesus, one of several which fill the gospels. Luke’s presentation of it details names of people, places, distances; it relates emotions of anxious, sad lows and heartwarming, joyful highs.
It helps us appreciate that risen Jesus lived in an altogether new way: a way that allowed Jesus to appear as a stranger walking and talking with people; and that ritual gestures--here, breaking bread in a community meal--opened eyes to recognize him.
While we focus on two disciples making their way from Jerusalem to nearby Emmaus, this disarming narrative involves a larger cast: the two disciples; women who told them of events that happened in the city; after the disciples had their own experience of risen Jesus, they journeyed to tell the apostles, who told the two disciples of another appearance and recognizing risen Jesus.
The telling and retelling of the resurrection of Jesus reinterprets that event at the core of our faith-life. Its retelling continues to shape us and others as people who recognize Jesus and welcome his presence in surprising ways. It was not until I narrated meeting my classmate in Japan that I realized how anxious I grew that day. With each retelling I continue to savor that inexpressible joy our two-person, 10th year reunion induced in us.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week begin by letting go of your anxieties in the presence of the Trinity. When you are calm ask the two disciples journeying to Emmaus to present you to our risen Jesus. Converse with him, asking for what you need, including feeling deeper joy at being called to love Jesus with greater affection. Ask Jesus to open your eyes to live with greater confidence that Jesus is always with you. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, in order to live daily as a forgiven and more forgiving Christian.
Wiki-images of Egorov and Caravaggio are in the public domain.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Most Important Service
The Fourth Gospel has a sacramental aspect. Its way of using the elements of water and bread evoke both baptism and eucharist. The verses today follow yesterday’s about Jesus multiplication of the loaves and serving the hungry. That was a prominent feature of what was handed to believers, who like us, did not meet the human Jesus. The Fourth Gospel reshaped that tradition: Jesus identified himself as the bread of life, which nourishes beyond satisfying human hunger to give us a share in divine life.
The tradition linked his feeding miracle with Jesus’ walking on the sea. Jesus served his disciples with words they would hear again and again after his resurrection: I am. Do not be afraid. I am was the name of God, the name which God gave Moses when God sent Moses to serve God’s people. The Fourth Gospel placed the divine name on the lips of Jesus.
It can be difficult for us to enter into the skins and souls of the disciples who saw the human Jesus walk on water, and the risen Jesus, gloriously alive, return to them. Jesus invites us to share the awe of the first disciples, and more, to feel and to know awe first hand.
Jesus served his disciples in the boat by assuring them they had nothing to fear. Jesus assures us, too. We are not able to cause this transformation from fear, reluctance, even shame to call ourselves friends of Jesus. Jesus’ Spirit, his self-gift, overshadowed the first disciples and blessed them with holy boldness.
The eucharist, Jesus’ self-gift, sustains and nourishes our share in Holy Spirit. When we surrender to and cooperate with Jesus’ Spirit, we are empowered to provide one of the most important services to one another: we can keep each other from being paralyzed and disfigured by fear and strengthen each other to live as more confident friends of Jesus.
Wiki-image of Darko Tepert's photo of detail of the Church of the Annunciation (Nazareth, Israel) is used according to Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlive 2.5 license.