Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Zimbabwe at Year's End

Zambia is a neighbor of Zimbabwe, the cholera-ridden and starving African country. It is a victim of its President Mugabe.

Jesuit Father Peter Henriot, Director of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Lusaka, Zambia, reflected earlier this month on the relationship between Zimbabwe and Zambia, as well as the impact that the current crisis is having and will continue to have on the region.

Fr. Henriot concluded his reflection with three questions. He called them his "shouts." He had met some Zambians at a meeting in South Africa, and they asked him,
"Put Zambia's problems in context and shout about Zimbabwe's problems,"...

My friends are Zimbabweans, very nationalistic; very patriotic; working for social needs of the people in church-related institutions. They can't be accused of being British lackeys!

Well, I was deeply moved by what they told me and so here are a few of my shouts. I ask you to hear these shouts and then yourselves ask the same questions I will ask at the end of this column.
If a neighbor to Zimbabwe pleaded that, then the problems of the U.S. in 2008 pale by comparison! God bless everyone in 2009!
Wiki-image of flag map of Zimbabwe is in the public domain.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Green Resolution

Resolving is part of entering each new year. "Green is the New Black," some say. Environmental activist, Josh Dorfman "believes in creating stylish, innovative and convenient solutions to environmental challenges." That is description is found in the About Josh corner of a page of a site dedicated to reducing the use of plastic water bottles.

Few bottles get recycled, which is unfortunate for the environment first and then for humans and other living creatures. Resolutions need not be complicated. Check the 1 Minute Greenovers below About Josh.

Tbis page is part of the Filter For Good website. Brita, the maker of home, tap-water filter systems, is only one sponsor. People the world over need to seek and carry water, and the water is not always potable. Those efforts make filtering tap water an easy and friendly effort to save our resources.
Wiki-image of falling water is used according to the GFDL.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Neglected Top 10

John L. Allen Jr. listed the 10 most neglected Catholic news stories of 2008 in his weekly column. The environment, the Society of Jesus, and anti-Christian violence in India number among them.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Remembering the South East Asian Tsunami

People around the world recalled the tsunami of 2005, which devastated areas of southeastern Asia. People formed living memorials today, adding to the memorials already in place like the memorial in Tamil Nadu.

Latin Patriarch's Midnight Mass Homily. . . Bethlehem last night.

Midnight Mass happened in the David's city last night. Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem presided and preached, pronouncing among other things:
Peace is a right for all men. It is also the solution for all conflicts and differences. War does not produce peace, prisons do not guarantee stability. The highest of walls do not assure security. Neither the aggressor nor the aggressed enjoy peace. Peace is a gift of God and only God can give that peace: "My peace I give to you" Jesus says. "I do not give to you as the world gives" (Jn 14:27).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas word, 25 Dec 2009

Solemnity of the Incarnation (25 Dec 2008)
Is 9. 1-6; Ps 96; Tit 2. 11-14; Lk 2. 1-15

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Wrapped and Unwrapped

Merry Christmas! Jesus injected into his preaching examples from daily living to point people to God and to God’s kingdom, which continues to dawn in our day. Following Jesus I offer you a two-way example this Christmas, wrapped and “Unwrapped.”

Wrapped we have done. We prepared gifts by covering them with colorful, festive paper. Wrapping both designates a thing as a gift and surprises the one who receives our gift.

The Giver of all gifts, our God, chose our human nature and our fragile flesh and wrapped God’s divine being in our human nature and our fragile flesh and all they entail. Sadness is one result of our human frailty. Fear is another. Fear leads to exclusion and disfigures dignity. The Giver of all gifts chose to be wrapped in our human nature and fragile flesh to free us from these and all consequences of sin and to renew our purpose and restore our hope in life. Our new purpose and new hope in life begin with our experience of the world and of the risen life promised us by God in Jesus, the Word made flesh by Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin.

God’s choice to be wrapped in our human nature recreates us, as Pope St. Leo reminded his hearers on a Christmas over 1500 years ago. “Sadness [is out of] place on the birthday of life.” He continued: the “fear of death has been swallowed up [by the incarnation]; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.” “No one is shut out from this joy”/1/: rich or poor; healthy or infirm; young or old; native or alien; wise or unwise; secure or insecure in the world. Our Christian dignity includes and elevates each one’s human dignity. Today is an occasion to remember our Christian dignity,/2/ of which Jesus’ birth reminds us as we contemplate the manger: people are more valuable than their surroundings.

As we contemplate, we remember. Christians’ memory is not exclusively a mental exercise. Christians remember best when we act on our dignity restored and enriched by God, who chose our human nature and to be wrapped in it. God in Jesus by their Spirit was wrapped in our human nature so that we might share “God’s own nature.”/3/

Until we share God’s nature completely, our role is to unwrap what God offers and to what God in Jesus invites us. What God has done in Jesus by their Spirit is no secret to keep from the world. It’s the opposite! We live to unwrap and to share the Gift, who the Giver of all gifts has become for all people: one who modeled by example; one who led by serving; one who gave himself for our sakes.

What precisely do we do when we unwrap? The Food Network offers a clue. One series on the Food Network is entitled “Unwrapped.” The show unwraps “the secrets of America’s favorite snack foods. “[One show even] ‘unwrap[ed]’ the Food Network [itself], taking viewers behind-the-scenes of [some other] series...revealing what it...takes to put [those] shows on the air./4/

When Christians unwrap, then, we follow Jesus’ example. Jesus wrapped himself in our human nature so that we might share and reveal God’s goodness to the world.

We follow Jesus’ example when we unwrap for others our joy; when we unwrap with others our confidence in Jesus and his life; and when we welcome others into our gift of joy and enhance their dignity. We reveal in our limited ways God-with-us so God will not be secret.

The Giver of all gifts, human and divine, became our gift. Wrapped in our human nature, God in Jesus by their Spirit confirms and sustains us. Wrapped in our human nature, God in Jesus by their Spirit anoints us as prophets, priests and monarchs of the new creation. Wrapped in our human nature, God in Jesus by their Spirit fashions us into a people [who is God’s] own, eager to do what is good. Wrapped in our human nature, God in Jesus by their Spirit gives us all an active vocation: to unwrap, reveal and share their goodness to us. The beginning of our vocation has much in common with the shepherds, who went to Bethlehem to see [God wrapped in our nature] which the Lord has made known to [them and to] us. Like them, what God has wrapped in our nature, we unwrap in worship, word and deed.

Merry Christmas!
1. These qualities are found in Pope St. Leo’ brief homily in the Office of Readings for today.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Foodnetwork's descriptionof that show.
Wiki-image of the Nativity is in the public domain.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday word, 21 Dec 2008

Advent Sunday4 (21 Dec 2008)
2Sm 7. 1-5,8b-12,14a,16; Ps 89; Rm 16. 25-27; Lk 1. 26-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Mutual Confidence

oday’s liturgy and its scripture selections shape our immediate preparation to celebrate our Savior’s birth. The opening prayer reminded us that our celebration of God’s birth among us also asks God to “lead us through [Jesus’ mysteries of] suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection”/1/ and our participation in it.

Through our worship God answers our pray to “lead us through [the mysteries of Jesus’] suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection.” Our worship grafts us onto the mysteries of Jesus life, death and resurrection.

I want to reflect with you briefly this morning on a contrast in the very familiar annunciation to Mary that she would be the mother of God. I do it to animate your own prayer and help you discern how God desires to favor you.

Luke’s prophecies of the births of John the Baptizer and of Jesus appealed to his hearers and readers in the 1st-Century Mediterranean world. Soaked in Greek culture they were accustomed to stories of exceptional and extraordinary people to include heavenly messengers and events. The prophecies of the births of John the Baptizer and of Jesus also resumed the history of God’s people, Israel.

The contrasts unfold in detail not only in Luke’s gospel; the liturgical celebrations throughout the year unfold them for us.

You and I are unlike our 1st-Century Mediterranean counterparts when we hear them, yet we still receive compact histories of God’s people about God working in and through them. In both prophecies of the births of John the Baptizer and of Jesus: the Lord, with different titles, is central. The contrasts revolve around the Lord God. Each contrast shouts, ‘Great was John; greater is Jesus.’

John will be great in the sight of the Lord but Jesus will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. John prepare[d] a people fit for the Lord, but Jesus will rule the people. John’s role was temporary, but Jesus’ sovereignty will [have] no end. John was a prophet, but Jesus was more than a prophet, the Son of God. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit as prophets before him, but Holy Spirit and Power of the Most High overshadow[ing] Mary made Jesus the Holy One to whom all prophets pointed./2/

Common to ancient Mediterranean prophecies of the birth of exceptional and extraordinary people were signs, which confirmed the announcements. The contrast between the two signs following Gabriel’s announcements affects us. The two signs: Zechariah, John’s father to whom Gabriel announced John’s birth, was struck mute/3/; Mary was told the fulfillment of an earlier prophecy: behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”/4/ You may quickly ask, “How does this contrast affect us?” A good question. We have experienced the answer.

Mary was the first person in the gospel to receive confidence from another person’s experience of God’s fidelity. Mutual confidence runs throughout Luke’s writings, but it isn’t confined to them. God’s fidelity to one person is our gift, it’s why we are here. How Catholics, and in particular some of us, have made known God’s fidelity inspired our Catechumens and Candidates to inquire about our Catholic worship and life and seek to become part of us.

Readers of the Sun Press and the Universe Bulletin not only learned about nearly 1000 of us uniting in our service-day, more than a few readers received confidence in their faith, and others may have begun again to notice God at work--or notice for the first time.

“Passing on the faith” is our name for sharing with others God’s fidelity to us. God’s fidelity is God’s life in us. Our relationship with God, faith, is noticing and interpreting God with us each moment. Faith isn’t merely assenting to propositions.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the love of the Trinity. Then, in your own words, thank Jesus for your faith. Ask him to increase your confidence in him and to reassure you that your faith is resilient more than it is brittle. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so that we may grow confident in our faith by the action of forgiveness, which gives us a taste now of the mysteries of Jesus’ “suffering and death [and] the glory of his resurrection.”

1. Sacramentary, Fourth Sunday of Advent.
2. For each pair above see these verse-pairs in Luke’s gospel: 1.15, 1.32; 1.17, 1.33; 1.17, 1.33; 1.15, 1.35; 1.15, 1.35.
3. Luke 1.20.
4. Luke 1.36-37.
Wiki-image of Cavallini's angel and Wiki-image of Rosetti's Annunciation are in the public domain.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Memoriam: Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.

Jesuit Avery Cardinal Dulles is being buried this week.

Fordham University, his home, will webcast his funeral live this evening.

The National Catholic Reported offered its obituary of a theologian of national stature!

May he rest in peace!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday word, 14 Dec 2008

Advent Sunday3 (14 Dec 2008)
Is 61. 1-2a,10-11; Resp Lk 1. 46ff; 1Th 5. 16-24; Jn 1. 6-8, 19-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Climate of the Heart

Recently, someone mentioned to me that talk about our Christian hope for the completion of history--our Savior’s glorious return at the end of time--was not something learned as a young person. Our Christian hope for the completion of history St. Paul proclaimed with his phrase, the coming of our Lord Jesus the Messiah. Advent continues the attention given to the Christian hope for the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus in the liturgies of the weeks before it. Even as Advent prepares us to celebrate the birthday of Jesus in Bethlehem, Jesus’ first arrival, Advent continues to recall our Christian hope of his glorious return at the end of time.

Thus, you and I live between two advents of our Messiah. Our purpose living between them is to testify to the light, Jesus’ life with us, in us and for us. We are prone to tolerate darkness more than light. If Christian light is Jesus’ life with us, in us and for us, then darkness is the absence of Jesus’ life. Humans often hamper and block Jesus' life for one another. Two ways darkness registers in daily living are dilemmas and injustices. An example each of our dilemmas and injustices.

In cities across the country, including those of northeastern Ohio, some service-businesses attract immigrants with promises of work but do not make good on their promises. Another: women, both wed and unmarried, are about to give birth far from family and without access to money and the support that is their due. The Catholic Church through various agencies helps supply basic necessities of life to people denied work and health care to anxious parents-to-be.

Today’s immigrants and anxious parents-to-be incarnate the poor, the brokenhearted, captives and prisoners, who are among us in many ways. They are not far, nor did they only inhabit the ancient Mediterranean world, like Joseph and Mary, who migrated when she was a parent-to-be and a as a young mother.

All of us fit in our own ways into the categories of the poor, the brokenhearted, captives and prisoners of whom the prophet sang. Each of us experiences inadequacy, bruised if not broken hearts, and we are held hostage by forces within and outside our selves. Within: we are enslaved by our sinful tendencies. Without: societal pressures straight-jacket us before we’re even aware they are affecting us.

Advent offers us the opportunity to acknowledge the way people, indeed populations, are held hostage, even ignored and forgotten. Icy chill isn’t limited to the air; another chill is part of the climate of the human heart. Nor does darkness drag on in our shorter hours of day-light only; more real darkness grips our hearts and minds as well. More real darkness of every kind reminds us that we need saving.

Advent is Light piercing our darkness. Advent isn’t about doom, but about both our Christian hope for the completion of history and that Jesus’ life is with us, in us and for us to help us conquer our interior and incapacitating darknesses with him. No one else is effective to warm and brighten our true selves and make us servants of Jesus’ mission.

Advent, though, is not an end in itself. Advent does not fixate on the cold, the dark, the brokenness and what robs our spirits and deprives our bodies. Far from it! Our liberty is rooted in God’s reliability. God illumines our darkness by divine and most real light.

Illumined people are God’s hands filling up the hungry, tending bruises, welcoming strangers, and setting free hostages of all sorts. With that loving attention we make real, for those who need it, God’s embrace and God’s fidelity.

Advent opens us to the glory we call Christmas, not because Jesus needs to be reborn each December, but because we need rebirth, renewal and new dispositions each day. To know our need for innermost renewal leads us to rejoice always. God desires we be renewed personally and do our part to renew our world with Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus about ways you experience him enlightening your life and welcome him into every dark corner of your heart and mind. Be as intent as you can. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer: it models Christian intention, desire and purpose. Jesus’ prayer enlighten us until he fulfills our Christian hope for the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus.

Wiki-image by Jorge Noriega Sevilla of lamp in Maranatha sanctuary is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license. Wiki-image of an icon of the Baptizer is in the public domain.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday word, 08 Dec 2008

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (08 Dec 2008)
Gn 3. 9-15,20; Ps 98; Eph 1. 3-6,11-12; Lk 1. 26-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Given and Received

Creation runs through scripture from beginning to end. Creation is a principle theme with many variations. Yesterday, the Second Letter of Peter reminded us that God assures and encourages us to look forward to new heavens and a new earth./1/ How we live, how we witness to our Savior testifies to that new creation. How we live shapes how we anticipate what has been emerging since Mary’s Son lived, died and rose to absolutely new life, promise to us. Jesus gives us a taste of that new creation in word, sacrament and service, both given and received.

Recalling Mary’s immaculate conception previews new heavens and a new earth. Mary was conceived without sin to be a fitting vessel for the Son of God. The Mother of God was full of grace for that very reason! This dogma of ours has a practical aspect because Mary’s immaculate conception blesses us with new confidence.

Hers is new confidence because confidence evaporated early in the first creation. The first stewards of creation had the noble vocation to cultivate and care for/2/ their garden-home and to name every living thing./3/ Both took confidence: a trust; a self-possession; and a feeling at home with oneself as well as with one’s surroundings. The enemy of our human nature, which Genesis depicted by a serpent to impart the subtle, crafty wiles abroad in creation, twisted trust into pride: God had given them only a single prohibition, “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat.”/4/ Pride made that tree like any other for the first human stewards. After eating it they became afraid to meet God, who accompanied them and moved with them day by day. Humans have suffered a crisis of confidence ever since. Mistrust, loss of self-composure and not feeling at home with oneself or one’s surroundings have warped humans from that time.

Yet time has always been pregnant with God’s salvation. In the fullness of time, that is to say, when the Lord made known [the Lord’s] salvation to Mary, she overcame her anxiety at the angel’s greeting and announcement that she would be the Mother of God. She was greatly troubled: the human crisis of confidence insinuated itself in her mind while she was in her own home! If that moment were to have a center, it would be the angel’s greeting, “Do not be afraid, have found favor with God.” Mary made everything--present and future--revolve around that center by taking the angel, and therefore God, at God’s word: “Let it happen to me as you say.”

Mary’s response was so compact that we might easily dismiss it as the reply of a greatly troubled girl, whose married life was soon to begin. It was anything but! Mary’s response was her unequivocal Yes, her confidence in God and God’s promise of salvation. She was different after it, and the world is different because of it. Our world counts on us and others Christians to imitate Mary’s new confidence so that we may transform our crisis to renewed faith and be witnesses by actions of new heavens and a new earth, already emerging because of Mary’s son and his life, death and resurrection. Christian faith and its incarnation by action is the Lord’s salvation, both given and received.

1. Chapter 3.13. This rests between its early mention in Isaiah 65.17 and 66.22 and the Book of Revelation (22.1), which specified it with vivid imagery.
2. Genesis 2.15.
3. Genesis 2.19.
4. Genesis 2. 16-17.
Wiki-image of the Zubaran's Immaculate Conception is in the public domain.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Advent and the Economy

Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop of Detroit, has issued a pastoral letter to the people of the Archdiocese of Detroit. It was placed today on the archdiocesan website.

Cardinal Maida introduced his three-section letter recalling that Christians are a people of hope and "the Scripture for these weeks of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany proclaim God's Word of consolation and hope, even in the midst of uncertainty, loss and suffering." While the people of Michigan are living through a crisis, which may change the state irreversibly, Christians throughout the United States, do well to remember "God's Word of consolation and hope, even in the midst of [the present economic] uncertainty."

Another reason to read it: Cardinal Maida ends each of the three sections of his pastoral letter with a few questions for "prayerful reflection." His is a great service to the people of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and by placing it on its website, a larger circle of people may profit from his service.
Wiki-image of Detroit's skyline is used according to the GFDL.

Monday, December 01, 2008

New For Advent

he Develpoment Director of the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus announced Friday in an email to Friends of the Province that in the season of Advent "we reflect on the many times Christ has already come into our lives."

Jesuit Fr. Jim Von Tobel has offered this first Advent reflection to enhance that annual exercise.