Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday word, 30 Nov 2008

Advent Sunday1 (30 Nov 2008)
Is 63. 16b-17,19b,64.2-7; Ps 80; 1Co 1. 3-9; Mk 13. 30-37
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We Measure Time Differently

Some may consider sobering Isaiah’s plea, which opened today’s liturgy of the word: Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants...Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come to us. If we live with an image of an angry deity rather than God, who is our Creator and Redeemer, then the prophet’s plea would be sobering, indeed even frightening.

However, we know that for us Catholics sobering words invite us to new life not to fear life. Nor are Isaiah’s words imprisoned by time and locked in the unreachable past. We pray at each mass that God would make our hearts more supple and help us walk in God’s ways. Harden[ed] hearts distort the actions which flow from them; they distance us from God, both the results of sin. Catholic worship is clear about that, which is why we pray at each mass after the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil and keep us safe in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin as we await with joy the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

We pray to walk more resolutely in God’s ways because God in Jesus by their Spirit entrusts us with a mission to be alert to the future coming of our Savior and to his continual presence with us as we extend his saving work.

Jesus did not merely tarry on earth; he formed a people to do his work until that day of his return at the end of time. No one knows that day nor can reckon its hour. People through the ages have wasted so much energy over that even though the authority about our not knowing how to reckon it is Jesus himself: of that day or of that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father./*/

The point is not about knowing or guessing. It isn’t about God keeping us out of the loop, as we’d say today. The point is so that our being alert to both the future coming of our Savior and to his continual presence with us won’t be shattered by false prophets of frantic frenzy or of apathetic disregard and unconcern.

That makes us true prophets, who bear a different set of expectations than false prophets whose number is too large. They see the future through the lenses of frantic frenzy, which lead them to fear rather than hope, and through the lenses of apathy, which make them inert rather than servants of Jesus’ name. Prophetic, Christian attitudes to self, others and the world receive expression by prophetic disciples today.

We measure time not by centuries and milennia nor by the rise and fall of nations. No. We measure time by God inviting us in Jesus and by Jesus empowering us to live our baptismal commission as his witnesses day by day.

Jesus encourages us as he encouraged his first disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert!” Jesus encourages us to have a daily concern for our mission. Obsessive focus on the day of the Lord’s second coming distracts us from our mission as prophets today. It distracts us from being aware that we are coworkers of Jesus, who seek to extend his mission and refuse to allow time and its concerns to supersede Jesus’ concerns or to diminish our concern for them.

The grace is that Jesus adapts his concerns and our mission to human time, not the other way around. The end will arrive when the mission is satisfied. That frees us to live without apathy or hysteria so that our mission-efforts will be truly effective. Jesus’ mission is the reason we are alert and eager stewards.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, yield control and bask in the love of the Trinity embracing you. Ask the communion of saints to present you to Jesus so that you may converse with him. Speak with Jesus about what worries or disturbs you about being his missionary and about what elates and energizes you when you serve in his name. Desire with all your heart to be a more eager steward of Jesus’ words and deeds. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which reminds us at the start that we are ambassadors of the kingdom of God and that God gives us all we need to be its witnesses.
* These verses are left out of the passage in the lectionary, but they are crucial to why we live on alert--alert to Jesus’ words and mission.

Wiki-image of a candle in hand is in the public domain. Wiki-image from an Advent flower shop is used according to the GFDL and the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday word, 29 Nov 2008

34th Saturday (29 Nov 2008)
Rv 22. 1-7; Ps 95; Lk 21. 34-36
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

God Adapts Mission to Time

Although the selection from the Book of Revelation and the gospel selection may seem to have in common only a view of the end of history and of time, they share rejection.

Rejection applied not only to the first-Century church, when a human regime, which ruled the western world, scoffed at Christianity and persecuted its adherents. Our contemporaries, and not only sophisticated people from developed lands, reject faith’s view of time.

The reason? Control, namely, God’s control of history. The consoling message of the Book of Revelation abides: God will shine living light when the solar source light and the lunar magnetism, drawing the tides ceases; God sets the times; God is in charge of history despite appearances to the contrary.

Also we, 21-Century people, are mesmerized by time to the point of enslavement. Time organizes more of us than we organize time. The frenetic pace many of us keep testifies to that. Even we religious are not immune. What does it mean if God keeps the time and sets the schedules? It means that human time is adapted to the mission entrusted to us by Jesus.

In calling us to join him on his mission means that we coworkers with him shape our attitude and our endeavors in the name of Jesus according to our vocation: to God’s call; to the words and deeds of Jesus; to our creative imitation of them in our circumstances; and to be vigilant for the gospel at all times. The challenge to do those things is coordinating our lives according to our baptismal mission.

Luke’s Jesus uniquely reminds us to be alert to his mission--our mission--so that the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch [us] by surprise like a snare snapping shut. Our focus on the end--that day--distracts us from the day-to-day counsel of Jesus about anxieties, literally, things dividing the mind./1/ Jesus warned about this throughout his ministry, introducing it vividly in his parable of the sower of the seed: people are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they fail to produce mature fruit. Being choked by them affects our mission: we fail to produce mature fruit./2/

The grace is that our Creator and Redeemer adapts his mission to human time. The end will arrive when the mission is satisfied. That frees us to live without apathy or hysteria so that our mission-efforts will be truly effective.
1. The New Testament world knew this effect of anxious interest on people by this phrase.
2. Luke 8.14; see Martha in 10.41; and Jesus encouragement to his disciples in 12. 22-26, where we easily miss the focus on self versus mission with a psychological connotation easily given to worry, the word often used to translate anxieties in verses 22, 25, 26.

Copyrighted Wiki-image is courtesy of Crew Creative, Ltd., which gave permission to reuse.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving word, 27 Nov 2008

34th Thursday Thanksgiving Day (27 Nov 2008)
Sir 50. 22-24; Ps 34; 1Co 1.3-9; Mt 11. 25-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Celebrating Our Mission

A word about the holiday and what Jesus makes distinctive about it. “The first recorded Thanksgiving observance was held on June 29, 1671, at Charlestown, Massachusetts by proclamation of the town’s governing council. ”/1/ In the next century days of thanksgiving were not limited to one day a year.

A Thanksgiving Day 200 years ago was a day set aside for prayer and fasting, not a day marked by plentiful food and drink as is today’s custom. Later in the 18th century each of the states periodically would designate a day of thanksgiving in honor of a military victory, an adoption of a state constitution or an exceptionally bountiful crop./2/

These first and later days of thanksgiving revolved around the historic first, national one proclaimed by President Washington during his first term: “A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer.”

His October 3, 1789, decree appointed the day “to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”/3/

God’s chief signal favor is no less than God’s self-gift to us in Jesus by the power of their Spirit. Jesus is God’s grace; how we are enriched in every that [we] are not lacking in any spiritual gift as [we] wait for the revelation of our Lord and Savior.

The revelation of our risen Messiah has the aspect of his final, glorious return as well as his constant communion with us. His fidelity to me moves me so that I feel awestruck as well as joyful. Awe takes our breath away, while joy is the bellows of our hearts. Both are valid responses to our God [who] is faithful. Today reminds us that our daily responses to God have a public character: we Catholics call it mission. The Second Vatican Council described our mission concretely: each of us is in “the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of our Lord Jesus and as a sign that God lives.”/4/

Jesus is the source of our life and all we have. We celebrate that today as citizens. Our distinctive role, given us by Jesus, is to nourish our world with fruits of Jesus’ spirit. “In a word [which is an ancient observation], ‘what the soul is to the body, let Christians be to the world.”/5/ Nothing is or can be more distinctive!
1. This and other quotations are at
Lumen gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), 38.
5. Letter to Diognetus, 6, by an anonymous author. This one-sentence exhortation from this letter closed the conciliar paragraph
cited above in note 4.
Wiki-image of a church interior is in the public domain.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday word, 23 Nov 2008

Solemnity of Christ the King (23 Nov 2008)
Ez 21. 4b-9; Ps xx; Phil 2. 6-11; Mt 25. 31-46
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Two Things At Once

Is it possible in our democratic day and age to profit from the solemnity of Christ Jesus our King, which closes a year of celebrating the many ways he is present with us? We can profit from it, and I suggest an approach for your reflection this week and beyond.

First, God communicates to us through the writings of 1st-century, Mediterranean authors. Those authors clothed God’s communication in their particular human language, shaped by their circumstances, culture and experience.

Their core values were "honor" and "shame." We continue to see both values operate in the Mediterranean world. News from there confuses because we don’t measure honor and shame with the same categories. Regarding honor: scripture measures it as glory: all the angels with [the Son of Man, who] will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him--is far different from any human notions we have. Regarding shame: we tend to measure it as doing something wrong or illegal rather than measuring it by the failure to put our faith into action with and for people with whom we have no bonds.

Bonds, especially of kinship to family, to leader or to the clan, figured large and still do in the Mediterranean world. Ours is a culture of the individual and of the market, good reasons why Mediterranean values confuse us.

Yet, we know that the market--and the money and possessions which accrue from the market --cannot satisfy our thirst for meaning. We also know that as lone individuals we are unable to satisfy that thirst either. Real meaning and other aspects of honor depend on others receiving and accepting us for who we are.

When we show family members and close friends that sort of acceptance we show them kindness. The bonds linking us as family shape how we treat them: it is expected. Showing kindness at home helps children learn, and us to continue to learn, how to show hospitality to others not closely bonded to us.

Hospitality--not merely offering space to another but welcoming people with respect, treating them as human companions in life--hospitality is the action by which our risen Lord measures our lives.

Christian hospitality does two things at once: first, we treat others, with whom we have no bond other than our shared humanity, as we desire to be treated; and second, by extending hospitality we welcome and offer food, drink, clothing and care to our risen Lord. By withholding hospitality we deny welcome, food, drink, clothing and care to our risen Lord. To use the core values of Jesus’ time and culture, we serve our risen Lord to our honor, or, we snub our risen Lord to our shame.

Our desire to serve our risen Lord is very alive among us at Gesu. Our soon-to-arrive Parish Service Day, our third annual one, will help 900 parishioners of all ages to directly serve our risen Lord by serving others in metropolitan Cleveland. That’s to your honor, indeed! To your greater honor is that many parishioners allowed the first Service Day in which they participated to deepen their desire to extend Christian hospitality each day of the year.

Keeping alive the desire to extend Christian hospitality in every way possible keeps our hearts supple and prepares us to enjoy the future glory our risen Lord desires to extend to us: Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the presence of the Trinity to relish that the Trinity creates you to extend Christian hospitality. Ask the communion of saints to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus about your desire to serve him. Ask Jesus to deepen that grace in you. Close your prayer by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ prayer guides us to extend Christian hospitality and shapes daily living to be a prelude to the honor and glory our risen Lord desires to extend to us.

Wiki-image of an interior view of the Sagrada Familia is used according to the GFDL. Wiki-image of sunlit cloud by Ibrahim Iujaz is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution2.0 license.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recent Remarks and the Necessity. . .

. . .of context

The cardinal's remarks have been disseminated on The same cardinal spoke by invitation about Human Vitae. The cardinal did not speak on behalf of the Vatican.

The cardinal is the American, Francis Cardinal Stafford, who works in a Vatican court.

Mr. John L. Allen Jr. in his weekly All Things Catholic has put in context the cardinal's remarks, which, due to many sound-byte reports on TV and in the press, need context in order to be appreciated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday word, 18 Nov 08

33d Tuesday (18 Nov 2008) Rv 3. 1-6, 14-22; Ps 15; Lk 19. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Before We Are Aware

The Book of Revelation sought to comfort people persecuted for their faith. It used a style of writing, which predated 1st-century Christians. Its style of writing isn’t easily or readily appreciated now mostly because of its convention of portraying humans as animals and its intricate use of numbers. Animals and numbers are not its point, despite what people down through time thought, and some think today. The opening words constantly remind that Jesus is the point: the revelation of Jesus Christ. Not only does the final book of the bible reveal about Jesus; Jesus reveals himself!

As it opens, the risen Lord Jesus spoke to several church communities about their strengths and weaknesses. Those of the church of Laodicea are faulted for their lukewarm faith-relationship with Jesus. Jesus, however, is faithful and true to them. His desire to rekindle their relationship is cast in personal terms at a meal--always a sacred moment in ancient times:
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. Jesus, in our eucharistic celebration, nourishes us before we are aware!
The gospel underscored Jesus’ desire. The familiar parable of Zacchaeus may be so familiar that we miss that Jesus was already doing what Zacchaeus desired: Zacchaeus was seeking to see who Jesus was. Jesus told the crowd that he, “the Son of Man, has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Appearances can deceive us but not Jesus. Being a tax-agent, and a chief tax-collector at that, suggested corruption. Yet Zacchaeus was an honest and generous man, which Jesus knew, calling him a descendant of Abraham.

Today--on Jesus’ lips it meant more than 24 hours; it meant God’s season fidelity--today Jesus beckons us to deepen our relationship with him, promising to do his part each moment. He is fulfilling his promise before we are aware.
Wiki-image of Jesus calling Zacchaeus is in the public domain.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday word, 16 Nov 2008

33d Sunday of the Year A
Prv 31. 10-13,19-20,30-31; Ps 128; 1Thl 5. 1-6,8; Mt 25. 14-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Primary Colors
The way they make it sound scares you half to death.” Some conversations never fade into the background. My mother wasn’t talking about the return of our Lord Jesus. Jesus described his second coming like a thief in the night to emphasize that no one knew when; and like labor pains upon a pregnant woman to emphasize his return is inevitable. St. Paul handed on this teaching of Jesus to the Thessalonians and to his other churches.

When she said, “The way they make it sound scares you half to death,” mom spoke about the Homeland Security alerts, which have faded to the background. Those alerts, you recall, had their colors: green for Low; blue for Guarded; yellow for Elevated; orange for High; and red for Severe. My mother wasn’t alone. AOL had an online vote after an alert at that time: “Do these warnings do more harm than good? yes, they create too much panic; No, we need to know.”

In its own words: “The Department of Homeland Security would translate analysis into action in the shortest possible time,” actions for the safety of the largest numbers of citizens.

Those alerts urged our vigilance with language, not just colors. One I recall used dire language: “Sources suggest al-Qaida may favor spectacular attacks [with] High symbolic value, mass casualties, severe damage to the U.S. economy and maximum psychological trauma.”

That and other security alerts told us to be vigilant, but did they tell us how? The alerts warned something may happen yet remained vague. Remembering them helped me notice that Jesus was not vague; h was very concrete.

Nearing Jerusalem where he would be crucified at the end of his ministry, Jesus encouraged his disciples to remain vigilant. They had been seeking the Messiah, but none expected theirs to be a crucified Messiah. Jesus had particular reason to encourage vigilance and to nourish fragile hope.

From the first covenant with Abraham, God desired people and their active love. God’s desire for us was so fiercely passionate that God died for us in Jesus. People need to hear that good news. From that first covenant and its numerous renewals urged by prophets and sages from Noah to Jesus, vigilance remained one of its most important textures.

Vigilant service marked covenant love with God. God desires we put to use our skills in daily living as the parable of the three servants put in charge of their absent master’s estate made clear. Faithful use of one’s gifts paves the way to participation in the fullness of the life of the kingdom of heaven.

Covenant-people, however, do not live for themselves, extolled the sage. Concerned with her family and their household, the ideal wife reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy. The Psalmist sang husbands, too, walk in the [the Lord’s] ways, the Lord, who is especially concerned for the outcast, the downtrodden and the poor. Children learn concerned love from their parents.

Our covenant-vigilance, urged by prophets, sages, faithful folks and, above all, Jesus, is in no way vague. St. Paul transformed an image of security from his own time: let us be watchful, putting on the breastplate of faith and the love and the helmet that is hope for salvation. Faith, hope and love remain the primary colors of covenant vigilance. Faith, hope and love allow us to serve Jesus by our care for others. Faith, hope and love shape our Christian lives in specific, concrete ways.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, become aware of the Trinitys faithfully keeping you alive at each moment. Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus in your words about how you are alert to Jesus and to living his gospel. Ask Jesus for the grace to walk in his ways more readily and desire to do so. Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which guides us to practice our faith, love and hope ever more concretely each day.

Wiki-image of Christ as the Sun is in the public domain. Wiki-image of a Memorial in Rotterdam by Danja Vasiliev is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday word, 15 Nov 2008

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed of the Order of Carmel
Rm 14. 7-9,10c-12; Ps 22; Mt 25. 31-46
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Safety

It has been an ancient practice of the church to pray for the deceased. The church prays “for all in Christian and catholic fellowship departed, even without mentioning...their names, under a general commemoration.”/1/ Each mass allows the church, at once locally and universally, to solicit for all the dead: Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace./2/

We pray for them to enjoy divine refreshment. Yet we cannot know everyone to whom God offers that gift because our expectations cannot match God’s desires. The familiar parable of the son of man coming in his glory makes that clear. Both those on his right and on his left were surprised by the ways they attended and failed to attend the son of man! In life and death, in making our faith alive and in snubbing it, God always surprises us.

Our vocation is to place ourselves into the heart of our Creator and Redeemer. God will still surprise humans, especially with God’s merciful love. Placing ourselves into the heart of our Creator and Redeemer is safety for all who have been claimed by the name of Jesus. That is the tenor of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: we are to live in and for the Lord. As we heard St. Paul summarize: whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

The Carmelite souls, who lived hidden lives in prayer, found that to be their most conducive way to live in and for the Lord. They continue to pray for us. We pray for them so that they might continue to be surprised by the way the divine refreshment, light and peace continues to unfold for them.

1. St. Augustine, On the Care To Be Had for the Dead, 6.
2. Eucharistic Prayer I. Each Eucharistic Prayer remembers the faithful departed with different wording.
Wiki-image of Sagina subulata by Jerzy Opioła is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tense Situation Far From Resolution

Can a tidy resolution exist in the spheres of faith and politics? Today's portion of the annual November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] meeting demonstrated that faith addresses politics on many fronts.

Mr. John L. Allen Jr. summarized that portion of the bishops' meeting. One bishop's intervention reminded them that each of them needs both to pastor and to teach.
“A prophecy of denunciation quickly wears thin,” said Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid Coity, South Dakota. “We need a prophecy of solidarity with the communities we serve and the nation we live in, which needs healing. We must be, and be seen to be, caring pastors as well as faithful teachers.”
Bishop Cupich echoed the sentiment of Pope Benedict, when he had earlier visited Spain two years ago. Some of its governments policies are neuralgic to the teaching of the Catholic Church (same-sex marriages; liberalized divorce laws; battles over catechetical training in schools). As Mr. Allen reported then
Benedict also resisted the temptation to "go negative," ducking invitations to specifically excoriate Zapatero's policies. Asked by reporters on the papal plane about the gay marriage law, for example, Benedict said he didn't want to start off with negative things, but preferred to focus on the many healthy and happy families "which give us hope for the future," before going on to restate that marriage is based on an indissoluble bond between a man and a woman.
"Hope for the future" is to Pope Benedict--with his incisive mind and gracious, pastoral heart--a necessary aim without sacrificing Catholic teaching.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday word, 09 Nov 2008

Dedication of St. John Lateran (09 Nov 2008)
Ez 47.1-2,8-9,12; Ps 46; 1Co 3.9-11,16-17; Jn 2. 13-22
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Reborn Holy

The liturgical year has a simple structure. It revolves around our feast of feasts, Jesus' dying, death and resurrection. We celebrate it solemnly over three days, from the night of Holy Thursday and move through Good Friday, Holy Saturday into Easter. We tarry for 50 days more to soak in this mystery and unite more with our Messiah Jesus. The rest of the year unfolds aspects of Jesus’ paschal presence with us. Each Sunday is a little Easter when we rededicate ourselves to our Risen Lord.

Twelve feasts, when they fall on the Lord’s Day, replace the Sunday liturgy because they help us tap into the mystery of Jesus present with us. This year we’ve celebrated four of them: Ss. Peter and Paul (in June); the Exaltation of the Cross (in September); All Souls (last week); and now the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Rome, named St. John, who was the patron of the monks who served it.

Each diocese has its principal church, where the bishop of the diocese presides. St. John Lateran is the Pope’s church, in the same way that St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland is Bishop Lennon’s church. St. John Lateran is the cathedral of cathedrals, dedicated in 324 in Rome, then the emerging center of Christianity.

Because a cathedral is a building, it isn’t greater than than those who assemble in it. Our parish church is a building; it serves as an extension of the cathedral of this diocese and is in communion with the Lateran basilica, the cathedral of cathedrals.

The word “church” signifies people as the Body of Christ before it signifies a building. We are connected with Jesus, our Messiah, Teacher and Model. No one is born Christian.
Baptism makes us Christian. After baptism unites us to Jesus’ death and resurrection, we gather around his table to nourish and sustain our baptisms, which made us God’s building, the temple of [our Messiah’s] body.

Because many of us have no memory of our baptism, we easily forget its consequences of holy living: living and witnessing God’s desires with our lives. Even those who remember being baptized are challenged daily by the world’s desires. It was always so.

The baptistry in the Lateran basilica bears an early 5th-Century inscription which reminded those, who went under its waters for the first time and ever after, what being reborn holy means:
Here is born in Spirit-soaked fertility
a brood destined for another City,
begotten by God’s blowing
and borne upon this torrent
by the Church, their virgin mother.
Reborn in these depths they reach for heaven’s realm,
the born-but-once unknown by felicity.
This spring is life that floods the world,
the wounds of Christ its awesome source.
Sinner, sink beneath this sacred surf
that swallows age and spits up youth.
Sinner, here scour sin away down to innocence,
for they know no enmity who are by
one font, one Spirit, one faith made one.
Sinner, shudder not at sin’s kind and number,
for those born here are holy.*
Do we “reach for heaven’s realm?” Or are we flab on our Christ’s Body? Do we tap into the “wounds of Christ?” Or do we insulate ourselves from his suffering today? Do we obsess and “shudder” about sin? Or do we put ourselves into Jesus’ care? The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica is far less an occasion to focus on a building. It’s another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to Jesus; to know with keener clarity that we are his body until he returns in glory.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, consider the thrice-holy name in which you were baptized, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Ask the saints whose names you bear to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus about how you feel his Spirit has “begotten by God’s blowing” your new, Christian life. Desire to be more aware of your baptism and the Christian vocation it offers you each day. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer; slowly, in order to appreciate how each thing you do as a Christian is for the sake of the world.
* perhaps composed by Pope St. Leo the Great (+461).

Wiki-image of facade of the Basilica of St. John Lateran by Ern is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license. Wiki-image of the entrance to the Lateran Baptistry by Anthony Majanlahti is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Papal Prayers and Congratulations

Pope Benedict communicated to President-elect Obama prayers and blessings to
support you and the people of the United States in your efforts, together with all men and women of good will, to build a world of peace, solidarity and justice.
Zenit reported this on 05 November, the day after his election.

On the same day Francis Cardinal George, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a message of congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama on the occasion of his win in the presidential election Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wednesday word, 05 Nov 2008

John Pfordresher funeral (05 Nov 2008)
Wis 3. 1-9; Ps 23; 1Jn 5.1-5; Jn 14. 1-6

Homily of Rev. Paul D. Panaretos, S.J.

Warmth. Life and Mystery

On behalf of Gesu Parish and personally, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Mary, at the death of your dear husband of 55 years. In expressing our condolences to you, Jeanne, Betsy, Anne, Kate and Ray, I thank you for the ways you supported your Mom and Dad in these long months of his baffling illness. Their many moments bear bittersweet memories for you. I encourage you not to lose them because affection and remembering are intimately connected. Your children grieve, too. It will be hard for you not have your Grandpa in the same way you did; but that does not mean that you will not experience his presence in real and new ways.

You are not alone in your grief. Gesu Parish, the Catholic church and the artists’ guild bid farewell to one of ours and theirs of many years. I offer a few words to console and strengthen us in our grief; to help you appreciate God’s astounding compassion by noticing Jesus’ victorious dying and rising were present in your husband, father, grandpa and in you as well./1/

As a spouse Jack was honored to make one life with you, Mary. As a parent Jack was deeply proud of you, his children and grandchildren. Honor and parental pride are not things; they are qualities of the human spirit to which each of us gives particular shape. Honor and parental pride are two colors on the palette of many spirit-colors, and Jack painted with them in his way. God’s astounding compassion is, after all, an art of the highest order, and people are called to exercise their share of God’s compassion.

Exercising compassion makes us more humane, and it humanizes others. Exercising compassion also divinizes us, it awakens us to the divine image in which each person is created. Jack’s passion for justice was the fruit of God’s compassion for him. Living at once as human and divine is an art. Art surpasses skills and technique: spouses know that; parents know that; children know that; siblings know that; grandchildren know that; people of faith know that. All of us need reminders that we know that. Enter the artist to do that sublime act of charity for us! I offer an example.

My eyes turn often to one of Jack’s watercolors in the parish office parlor. It’s an 8-inch by 6-inch watercolor of a view of Gesu from the Miramar sidewalk; at the viewer’s back is Fairmount Circle. The trees are bare, and snow covers the lawn and evergreens the way icing tops a cake. But the scene is by no means stark or cold. Jack painted the sky his eyes captured as a spectrum of color, which breathes his depiction of his parish with warmth, life and mystery. “Now that’s a water color sky”--to give voice to Jack’s words.

Visual knowledge is a different form of knowing than musical knowing, literary knowing or mathematical knowing. Jack’s visual artistry helps me appreciate what is always in front of my eyes so that I begin to see that nothing is ordinary. That is the charity Jack bestows on me daily. That is the charity with which he loved you his family and loved into you. His charity allows many to see extraordinarily.

In our history of faith visual artists have helped believers in every age to appreciate faith’s warmth, life and mystery, especially as they depicted scenes from the life of Jesus, Mary and the saints. Indeed, churches existed before museums, and churches were tabernacles of grace-incarnate before museums were repositories of beauty. At the end of the 6th Century, Pope Saint Gregory the Great wrote the Bishop of Marseilles: “Painting is employed in churches so that those who cannot read or write may at least read on the walls what they cannot decipher on the page.”/2/

The “page,” of course, may be a leaf of a book, the canvas Jack so often chose, or the score on which composers graph the colors of the sounds they hear before we do. The paramount page is none other than we humans. Souls, as scripture uses the word, means our selves. What we overlook or are unable to see, God is aware. God sees sparks although we see only stubble.

Jack knew that in his bones, which made you, his family, his prized “pages” on which he painted and who painted him. His art of living his faith allowed him to live and breathe as begotten by God. Our sorrow is a child of being separated from him; though separated from you and me, Jack is not lost but hidden for a time until Jesus raise[s] him on the last day and reunites us with him.

This in-between time--separated yet not lost but hidden for a time--is hard to bear. Absent-presence is our Catholic faith's irony. Jack’s keen sense of irony, allowed him to grasp our Catholic irony. It helped Jack persevere in his incapacitating illness. We knew his moods in the past months the way one knew his moods throughout his life, but they did not overtake his faith, his modesty, his patience, his dignity or his humor.

About Jack’s humor: Anne revealed to me that Jack would intentionally and consistently mispronounce names of teachers, composers or neighbors and then laugh when he was corrected. How I wished to have been a fly on the wall when he mispronounced my name!

Jack’s compassion, his sense of the right way to be in the world, his talents all shaped you, his family, and many of us. Jack gave human shape to the words from the First Letter of John: God’s children are being revealed. Christians, God’s children, are strong and gentle, loving and confident, devoted to the end. Those are marks of Jesus’ faith. Jack lived Jesus’ faith, and Jesus assures that Jack will be victorious in death. He encourages your patient endurance without him until Jesus reunites you and us with Jack for ever!

1. Cf. Order of Christian Funerals 27.
Epistulae, IX, 209, cited by Pope John Paul II in his Letter to Artists, Easter, 1999, note 7.
Wiki-images of a sky over Monmartre and of the Resurrection Chapel in Brussels are used according to the GFDL.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Monday word, 03 Nov 2008

31st Monday of the Year (03Nov2008) Phil 2. 1-4; Ps 131; Lk 14. 12-14
Homily of Rev. Paul D. Panaretos, S.J.

We Have Our Model

As Jesus moved toward Jerusalem and his death and resurrection, Luke’s gospel recalls that numerous people encountered Jesus along his way. Jesus formed them, shaped them according to his mission. His words in today’s, compact gospel scene are less about remuneration and more about prestige: do not invite your friends...[kin]...or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. The Pharisees liked money--who doesn’t?--but they were more enamored with prestige, their standing in the eyes of others.

Such self-concern infects with an all-absorbing anxiety; and all-absorbing anxiety prevents peace of mind. Peace of mind, which flows from the peace of God, St. Paul encourages in his letter to his beloved Philippians. In practice, Christians welcome God’s peace into their lives by allowing the communion with Jesus and one another to shape their living.

We heard St. Paul state this principle of Christian living in a few, short lines. Our tendencies to desire prestige-- whatever sort--tempt us to hear each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others as an add-on when its convenient. We know St. Paul meant to consider others’ interests even more than our own because we are to humbly regard others as more important than []ourselves.

Jesus is the model, and Jesus did nothing out of convenience. Did it tax Jesus? Absolutely--to death. But God’s peace, which none of us can understand, abided with him, and more, raised him from death to live absolutely anew. Jesus models our destiny, too, as well as how to live our Christian communion and fellowship today.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday word, 02 Nov 2008

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (02 Nov 2008)
Dn 12. 1-3; Ps 23; Col 3. 12-17; Jn 12. 23-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Practice and Affection

Each October 21st comes and goes, and I feel something before I recognize it. Some years its texture is somber; other years it registers as weighty; sometimes I feel an ache; this year it wanted my attention. Every year I am aware sometime during October 21st of a peace, which is bittersweet. On that day in 2001 I presided and preached at the funeral of my father. As I feel his absence from my life the way he was, I also feel his presence to me in a new, more real way. His absent-presence, if I may join those words, shaped my reflection with you today according to the contours of practice and affection.

It has been an ancient practice of the church to pray for the deceased. The church prays “for all in Christian and catholic fellowship departed, even without mentioning...their names, under a general commemoration.”/1/ Each mass allows the church, at once locally and universally, to solicit for all the dead: Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace./2/

In the 11th Century a French monastery set aside the day after remembering all the saints to commemorate all the faithful departed. Its custom became universal church-practice. The saints are the patrons of those who have died. That ancient belief of ours is the reason our cemeteries contain memorials to saints, bear the names of saints (St. Joseph, St. John, St. Mary as well as All Saints and All Souls are in our diocese) or the names of events in Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection (Calvary, Holy Cross, Resurrection are cemeteries in our diocese). At each funeral we especially commit the deceased to the angels and the martyrs:
May the angels lead you into Paradise.
May the martyrs come to greet you on the way.
May they lead you home to the holy city,
to the new and eternal Jerusalem.
When St. Augustine, in the 5th Century, replied to a bishop who wrote him, asking about care for the dead--something which, for many reasons, could not be presumed--St. Augustine frequently mentioned affection, the affection of the living for their loved ones and friends./3/ It is of great significance, St. Augustine replied,
where a person [inters] the body of his dead, while he [prays] for his spirit unto God, because both the affection preceding chose a spot which was holy, and after the body is there...the recalling to mind of that holy spot renews and increases the affection which had preceded./4/
Affection and remembering are intimately connected. Our affection chooses and our remembering increases our affection.

Commemorating All the Faithful Departed is not only about our affection for and remembering our dead. It’s about the Trinity’s affection for us and remembering us. When the Trinity remembers us their remembering exceeds our memory because the Trinity creates us moment by moment as they remember us.

So that would be less abstract, Jesus showed great affection for his disciples in every age by giving them his body and blood to nourish us on our pilgrim way through life/5/ and to strengthen our identities as created in the divine image and redeemed to be saints.

Our share in his eucharist recreates us; keeps us intimately connected with Jesus and one another, living and deceased, and increases our affection for Jesus and one another, living and deceased.

Affection stirs in me each October 21st. My father was my best teacher. I knew that while he was present to me in earthly life. While he is present to me in his new and more real way he teaches me in ways he could not before. As angles and martyrs welcome him, he connects me more closely with them and you.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause to feel the Trinity loving you into being and holding you in being. Ask your patron saint and someone you’ve known, who has gone ahead of you, to present you to Jesus. Speak with your Creator and Redeemer about the ways your affection chooses Jesus and Jesus’ affection chooses you. Ask for the grace to choose him more single-heartedly. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which makes us more aware of his Father’s affection for us and renews our desire to incarnate that affection by how we practice the church’s faith--Jesus’ faith--in our daily lives.

1. St. Augustine, On the Care To Be Had for the Dead, 6.
2. Eucharistic Prayer I. Each Eucharistic Prayer remembers the faithful departed with different wording.
3. Ibid., Sixteen times in its 23 sections: Sections 5; 6 (3 times); 7 (4 times); 9 (3 times); 10; 11 (2 times); 22 (2 times).
4. On the Care To Be Had for the Dead, 7.
5. Prayer after Communion, Rite of Christian Funerals.
Wiki-image by Merkurion of a church on All Soul's Day is used according to the GFDL.