Friday, February 29, 2008


Learn what this word, bissextile, means. Plus: why the ninth month is called September; and how George Washington could have been born on 11 February.

The Vulnerable Pay Again

Catholic Charities reminds that regulatory changes to Medicaid begin tomorrow. Unfortunately, people already at risk will pay the price of these changes. The message from weekly email contains a link to a recent NYT article about reactions by state governors.

February 29, 2008
Volume 3 Number 7

Medicaid Savings Will be Gained at the Cost of Services to the Vulnerable

On March 1st, regulatory changes to Medicaid will go into effect that will greatly impact low income persons receiving Medicaid. The regulatory changes will limit case management for beneficiaries leaving institutional care, force state to fragment foster care services, restrict case management for some disabled children, and limit states' flexibility to manage Medicaid funds. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) published the interim final rules on December 4, 2007.

The interim final rules seek to implement provisions approved in the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005 (P. L. 109-171). However, at a Congressional briefing held March 28, several state Medicaid directors stated their belief that the regulations go beyond what Congress approved in the DRA. They highlighted the devastating impact the rules will have on Medicaid beneficiaries, and discussed the state of targeted case management for vulnerable populations.

CMS estimates that the rules would reduce Medicaid spending by close to $15 billion over the next five years. State and local governments will have to bear the resulting financial responsibility, or be forced to cut back their Medicaid programs.

Catholic Charities USA supports a delay of the implementation of these regulations pending further evaluation. The regulations are set to go into effect on March 1st.

To view The New York Times' coverage of the Medicaid regulations, click

For more information, please contact Kellyann McClain, Policy Analyst,

Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
Sixty-Six Canal Center Plaza, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA 22314
For information about advocacy, please contact Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday word, 27 Feb 2008

Wednesday, Third Week of Lent (27 Feb 2008) Dt 4. 1,5-9; Ps 147; Mt 5. 17-19
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living Wisdom

Jesus used amen uncharacteristically and uniquely: he began statements with it. Meaning “so be it,” amen came at the end of a statement as a word of affirmation of another’s statement. Jesus used it at the beginning to affirm not another’s but his own pronouncements.

Not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter in torah will pass away depended on Jesus’ stated purpose to fulfill...the law and the prophets. By to fulfill Jesus meant to reveal, which Jesus proceeded to do in the next two dozen verses of this section on torah, that is, the law and the prophets: "You have heard it said...but I say to you...."

Jesus interpreted the law and the prophets beyond these verses. Jesus interpreted the law and the prophets by his life, ministry, dying and rising. Jesus surpassed the law and the prophets as they had been interpreted by the religious leaders of this day. The manner in which they had done that laid burdens upon people hard to carry./1/ It was by no means God’s desire to burden people but to free them to live.

Indeed, putting into practice in daily living the law and the prophets made people close to God and also attracted people to God, as Moses had said: the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’

That we ponder and more deeply appreciate Jesus’ interpretation of the law and the prophets is clear from Jesus’ farewell closing Matthew’s gospel: “Go, therefore...make disciples of all nations ...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”/2/

The One who is with us always is the same who reveals to us in each moment how we may practice more faithfully the desire of God. That desire is no less than divine life given us to share already, and to share it fully on the day when Jesus will reveal it in person. As we live it we attract others to God, often without knowing it.
/1/ Matthew 23. 4.
/2/ Matthew 28.20.
Wiki-image of Jesus preaching in the synagogue is in the public domain.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesday word, 26 Feb 2008

Tuesday, Third Week of Lent (26 Feb 2008) Dn 3.25,34-43; Ps 25; Mt 18.21-35
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Logic of Kingdom Living

Matthew’s is the gospel of the church. It was the favorite gospel of the 2d-century church, to which early church leaders alluded and from which they taught. A prominent feature in this Gospel of the Church is forgiveness.

The God of Abraham was known as a forgiving and compassionate God. Daniel recalled the covenant which God offered Abraham and called on God to abide by it. Anyone--including each of us--has access to God’s compassionate fidelity in the 25th psalm, which we echoed: Remember your mercies, O Lord! ...Remember your compassion...and show [me your] way.

Covenants bind all parties. Jesus offered us a shorthand to covenantal love, which God both offers and expects of us, when he taught us to pray: forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors/1/. Debts is a metaphor for sins: what we owe God. The metaphor makes sin concrete and not abstract. Later, when Jesus healed and forgave, he authorized the prayer he taught his disciples as well as his actions when he healed in that moment and in the future.

You recall that to the paralyzed man brought to him, Jesus said, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” Some of the scribes reacted that Jesus had blasphemed. Jesus answered, “Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk ?’”

Because no one can see sins forgiven, it is easy to say that. A visible result must follow ‘Rise and walk’ if one can both say and mean it. Because Jesus could do the more difficult thing, then surely he could do the easier. That’s the logic of Jewish religious thinking.

Forgiveness is difficult for us because it is difficult both to feel and to show the letting go, which forgiveness entails. Yet, that is of less consequence than not receiving and hearing Jesus’ invitation to inherit the kingdom prepared for [us] from the foundation of the world./3/ Forgiveness is the key to that kingdom, which turns on compassion: the compassion we receive, which we hasten to show others.
/1/ Matthew 6.12.
/2/ Matthew 9.2-6.
/3/ Matthew 25.34.
Wiki-image of Domenico's Two Debtors is in the public domain.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday word, 24 Feb 2008

Lenten Sunday3 A First Scrutiny (24Feb2008) Ex 17.1-7; Ps 95; Rm 5.1-2,5-8; Jn 4.5-42
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Thirsty Faith

I direct my reflection to our Elect, and invite everyone to listen. Why? Lent prepares people to be baptized and confirmed at Easter. As we pray for our Elect and offer them our friendship and example, we renew our own baptisms as well as the grace of our confirmations: to be conformed more to the image of our Messiah. One fruit of Lent is keener awareness that Jesus is among us and within us. Cultivating that fruit is not without challenges.

The grumbling and quarreling of the Israelites focused on the Lord God. Their liberty from slavery in Egypt landed them in the wilderness for generations. When we are without moorings, whether because we are lost or without direction for ourselves or because of illness or the death of a dear one--when our bodies lack moorings, our innermost selves, our spirits ache. We can name our own experiences of wilderness both around us and within us.

The Israelites and their human thirst tested their faith. Better, their human thirst led them to question, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” Water they received--they did not find water. God provided water from an unlikely source to help them journey in unforgiving territory. God-given waters of grace are often unexpected.

Territory that is interior is the main theatre of action for us humans.
The Fourth Gospel used spirit for one’s interior and more real landscape--Everything is mediated to us by our senses. As we heard, human thirst led the Israelites to quarrel and to test the Lord. Human thirst may even cause fatigue and a restlessness of spirit.

At Jacob’s well near the Samaritan village of Sychar, God thirsted in Jesus’ humanity. Fatigued he sat down. In the course of conversing with a woman, who came to her ancestor’s well, her physical thirst and her thirst for relief from drawing water, became her thirst for the Most Real. Her more real thirst was belief: the woman came to believe in Jesus: “Sir, I can see you are a prophet...the Messiah.”

Their exchanges in their conversation moved from H20 to living water, namely God’s life. The woman gradually grasped that Jesus spoke of something greater than well-water. Jesus invited her belief, and she became an apostle: She left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?”

My friends, who are Elect for the Easter sacraments, this scene, and others in the Fourth Gospel, reminds us that far from denigrating our humanity God in Jesus by their Spirit divinizes us. To use Catholic vocabulary long used to describe the workings of the sacramental channels of God’s life: Water is the matter, that is, what our senses grasp. Living water, God’s life, is the form, that is, the more real and more substantial gift, which slakes our more real and more substantial thirst.

The sacraments affect us, and we are to live their effects on us day to day. In your own ways each of you has known a more real and more substantial thirst than parched throats. I hope a Catholic adult or child helped you turn toward us. I hope the Gesu Parish community continues to invite your belief in the Source of living water in which three of you, not yet baptized, will enter at Easter. The baptisms of all of you will be sealed by Jesus’ Spirit so that you may live the effects God’s life exerts on you to be more like Jesus.

As an Italian priest of the Diocese of Rome said last week in an exchange with Pope Benedict: “ is true...that whoever sees the Son has seen the Father, so whoever sees us, his Church, can see Christ.”/1/ God pours God’s life into us and we become channels to God for others. I am heartened that you, our Elect, will join us to be formed by Jesus’ Holy Spirit to form others!

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, consider with open hearts the life which God overflows into your hearts. Ask the Samaritan woman to introduce you to Jesus so that you may converse with Jesus and hear him invite your loving belief in him. Tell Jesus your thirst--however insignificant it may seem. After being vulnerable with Jesus, close your time by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Its request for “daily bread” is satisfied by the eucharist, which satisfies the hunger and thirst our spirits know so well, and which Jesus seeks to quench in person.

/1/ Read the question to the pope his reply.
Wiki-images of Moses striking the rock and Jesus and woman at Jacob's well are in the public domain. Wiki-image of a baptismal pool is used according to the GFDL.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday word, 23 Feb 2008

Saturday, Second Week of Lent (23 Feb 2008) Mi 7.14-15,18-20; Ps103; Lk 15.1-3,11-32
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God, Kentucky and Lent

The psalms in particular praise God for God’s compassion and fidelity. Prophet Micah was no different. The word he chose to express God’s compassion we can better understand if we consider the verb from which it comes--Hebrew is a verbal language, active and not abstract.

Micah praised God, who loved deeply, who showed tender affection. Compassion is the fruit of loving deeply and showing tender affection. Luke’s gospel communicated God’s compassion with a physical word we can only translate by a phrase: to be moved to one’s bowels--which ancients considered the seat of love, mercy and pity.We know that depth of feeling. Folks from Kentucky enshrined concern and its upset in a phrase of warning. A neighbor from Kentucky told my mother, when she was distressed, “Now, now: don’t get your bowels in a stir.”

If we let go of our precise anatomical knowledge, we can appreciate God’s deep love as Israel did, and how the prophets freely used womb-imagery for God’s deep love for humans.

The way culture shaped Prophet Micah’s call to faith helps us appreciate better the emotional qualities, which resonate in Jesus’ famous parable of the lost and found son. The prodigal, extravagant, love of the father for the younger son can soothe us if we identify with that son. On the other hand, that same love, by which Jesus tried to evoke in his listeners God’s love, touches something else in us, no less deep. If we identify with the elder son, then divine love lavished on others may well evoke resentment, even fury. Those emotions blind us to what we always have: God’s prodigal love.

Resentment, which the Pharisees seemed to have in spades, prevented them from welcoming Jesus’ desire to welcome them. Resentment is insidious. It is so furtive that we are unaware of its dehumanizing effects on us. Lent seeks to reshape us as more humane than we can become by lenten practices alone. Lent welcomes us to let go of whatever keeps us from entering the festive banquet Jesus spreads before us in order to become more like God.
Wiki-image Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son is in the public domain.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pope Benedict's April Visit & Politics

Pope Benedict will visit the U.S. in the Spring. Mr. John L. Allen considers in his weekly column "that talk around the edges will focus on how Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming April 15-20 visit to the United States might be read in terms of the dynamics of an election year."

The prelude for his consideration is next week's gathering focused on the U.S. Bishops' document offered in election years.
Next week, the annual “Catholic Social Ministry Gathering” will take place in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by 19 Catholic organizations, it’s an important annual get-together for Catholics who, in one way or another, are involved in social action and political advocacy on behalf of human life, justice and peace.

Wiki-image is used according to the GFDL.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday word, 20 Feb 2008

Wednesday, Second Week of Lent (20 Feb 2008) Jer 18. 18-20; Ps 31; Mt 20. 17-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Deeply Embedded

In the culture of the Near East one person representing others was typical. Other prophets before Jeremiah and after him could remind God like Jeremiah: Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf. Those who refused to listen to Jeremiah decided to get rid of him, as if silencing him would silence God.

The parallel with Jesus is clear. For us God became human in Jesus in order to atone once for all for our wanderings from God. We heard the third and most detailed of the predictions Jesus made to his disciples that he would be rejected, “mocked and scourged and crucified... and raised on the third day.”

They did not understand. “You do not know what you are asking.” Jesus did not speak those words to the mother of James and John Zebedee but to her sons. She represented them. If one person representing others were common in the culture of the Near East, why did they not understand? Because they were swayed by exaltation rather than by selflessness.

God accepted the death of one just man to forgive the sins of many. This was deeply embedded in Jewish tradition. Any death had power to atone if bound up with repentance-- even a criminal’s. The death of any Israelite had more atoning power if he made his declaration on his death bed. The death of a righteous man was even more powerful because it was to the advantage of others.

Just or righteous means far more than innocent. Three times Pilate declared Jesus innocent: twice, I find this man not guilty/1/; once, no capital crime has been committed by him (crucifixion was capital punishment), and Herod concurred./2/ So how was Jesus the just man? Jesus forgave his executioners from his cross; and from his deathbed cross Jesus entrusted his life and mission to God: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit./3/ Jesus’ dying declaration fulfilled and demonstrated total devotion to God. This is not easy to do, especially because we are often tempted to seek our exaltation. Entrusting ourselves to God is how we participate in Jesus’ dying and rising, how Jesus raises us with him.
/1/ Luke 23.4, 14; and John 19.4, 6.
/2/ Luke 23.15.
/3/ Luke 23.46

J. Jeremias surveyed the atoning power of death in Israel in his New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus, trans. John Bowden (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), pp. 286-299.
Wiki-image of Repin's Jeremiah is in the public domain.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tuesday word, 19 Feb 2008

Tuesday, Second Week of Lent (19 Feb 2008) Is 1.10,16-20; Ps 50; Mt 23.1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
True Aim

Lent is about dispositions and attitudes: exchanging more faithful and responsive ones for those which are brittle and self-preoccupied.

Prophet Isaiah’s call vividly describes this matter of the heart: cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD.

Many are the ways to set things right, that is, to restore right relationship between us and God and us and others. Many, too, are other ways, which seduce us not to do that.

The gospel recalled two such ways. Jesus noted the scribes and Pharisees were preoccupied with authority, which they did not use to serve the growth of others but rather to oppress others in order to excel before others. As representatives of Moses because they were custodians of torah, their inclination became hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is blindness to one’s inconsistent ways.

Lent is our opportunity to become aware of the inconsistent ways we practice our faith in Jesus. Do we merely give lip-service to our Christian life? Our lenten practices can help us accept Jesus’ invitation to allow our lives to speak more eloquently than words and to praise God--not ourselves--as we make God’s justice our aim.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Marriage Survey "gives us reasons to be grateful and hopeful...raises concerns and presents...challenges." described today a "Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate...released by the U.S. bishops last week."
Joseph Kurtz, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee on Marriage and Family Life, said the findings paint "a mixed picture" and that "it gives us reasons to be grateful and hopeful. It also raises concerns and presents us with challenges."
According to the survey, 70% of currently married Catholics in the United States were either married in the Church or had their marriage blessed. A slight majority of Catholics (55%) say their views about marriage have been at least "somewhat" informed by Church teaching.
Read the Zenit article, which contains a link to "the U.S. bishops' National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage."
Wiki-image of wedding rings by Jeff Belmonte is used according to Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 .

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hurdles for Catholic Charities

Earlier this month, Mr. John L. Allen Jr. noted that Catholic identity faces challenges. In his 01 February 2008 column of "All Things Catholic," Mr. Allen began:
Without a doubt, the push for robust assertion of traditional Catholic identity is the most consequential mega-trend in the life of the church today, and it is also the core of Benedict XVI's agenda as pope. ...

Most recently, identity pressures are beginning to swell among church-run charities and social service agencies.
This is a complex issue that admits to no simple answers, although many may be tempted to use simple answers. The complexity stems in part from the different forms challenges to Catholic identity take.

The third section of his column was about the Jesuit's General Congregation, which may have reached its half-way point. The second section is about one Jesuit of note.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Deep in the Church of Texas

Mr. John L. Allen Jr. ends his weekly column, in which he explored Catholicism in Texas, with these sentences.
Texas thus offers a classic American illustration of a basic principle of religious sociology -- where there is religious ferment of any sort, there is likely to be Catholic dynamism too. Far from being threatened by pluralism, for the most part Catholicism ought to welcome it.
Mr. Allen offered examples of people who grew up Catholic encountering Evangelicals and Evangelicals encountering Catholics.

Two surprises in this week's column:
Sociologically, [Mr. Allen] discovered, there really is no such thing as "Catholicism" in Texas -- instead, there are multiple "Catholicisms."
By itself, St. Mary's [Catholic Center at Texas A&M University] therefore generates more vocations than many dioceses.
Wiki-image of All Faiths Chapel at Texas A&M is used under the GFDL.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Examples of "Hierarchy of Values" and Political Exercise

Authentic human society requires respect for justice, a just hierarchy [read order] of values, and the subordination of material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones. In particular, where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and for the grace of God to obtain social changes that may really serve each person and the whole person. Charity, which requires and makes possible the practice of justice, is the greatest social commandment.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, former-chairman of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee, recently gave examples illustrating a "just hierarchy of values" and the exercise of one's right to vote in his address to the Cathedral Club of Brooklyn (New York). The Catholic News Service listed some of his examples in its 13 February 2008 article.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thursday word, 14 Feb 2008

Thursday, First Week of Lent (14 Feb 2008) Esther 12. 14-16,23-25; Ps 138; Mt 7. 7-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Measure of All Things

Reversals abound in scripture. Jacob and Esau: the younger Jacob won the blessing of their father instead of the elder Esau. Joseph and his brothers; David chosen king instead of his seven elder brothers. The ultimate reversal, to which all others point and which is the hinge of our faith, is Jesus resurrection from the dead. All the reversals share this: God took the initiative.

The story of Esther is yet another reversal. Esther was one of the Jews living in Persia at a time when its king planned to massacre all the Jews living in the Persian empire in a single day, chosen by lot. We heard her entreat God. The lot of destruction was reversed on the enemies of the Jews. This is the point of the Book of Esther, even though its plot is vindictive.

Jesus, of course, replaced vindictiveness with kindness and respect. These are possible because God is the measure of the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus proclaimed. Our efforts are to align with God as the measure of all human existence.

At the very least we can do to others whatever we would have them do to us. That, Jesus clarified, is the law and the prophets. Jesus encourages us to do more than the minimum, namely to cultivate one’s relationship with God.

Three actions summarize our role in our relationship with God: ask, seek and knock. Not only do these apply to requests for favors or help from God as I long thought. They apply to gaining deeper felt knowledge of our Creator and Redeemer. As St. Ignatius of Loyola expressed it, we are “to seek and find God in all things.”

Whatever our generous responses to other seekers might be, how much more will our heavenly Father respond to us! Lent conditions us to live more Christian lives. No matter how we develop and increase our faith, hope and love, God in Jesus by their Spirit finishes our faith, perfects our hope and encourages us to love in the prodigal manner God loves us.
Wiki-image of a scene from the story of Esther is in the public domain.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wednesday word, 13 Feb 2008

Wednesday, First Week of Lent (13 Feb 2008) Jon 3. 1-10; Ps 51; Lk 11. 29-32
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Showing God’s Mercy Is Our Goal

The atmosphere and the feel of Lent are distinct. Even its color, reddish purple, sets it apart and calls us to consider in a focused way Jesus’ suffering and death for us. The way others care for us, support us and love us, indeed the fact that others care, support and love us, causes us to consider ourselves: am I worthy of their support? why do people want to care for me? how do I repay another’s love?

Without being maudlin or scrupulous, realizing we are loved gives us pause. That Jesus suffered insult, injury and death for us moves us to consider ourselves and how we live and opens us to the mystery of God loving us in Jesus. We face the mystery of God’s mercy.

While we are in awe of God’s tender care for us we realize our need to dispose ourselves to God’s mercy and to cooperate with it. For example, I can cry out create a clean heart for me, O God, repeatedly. God’s response to me doesn’t make it happen; I need to align myself with God’s act of loving concern.

To align myself, to reorient my attitudes, to shape a new disposition express what to repent means. Jonah traveled a great distance from the west of Nineveh (in Iraq today) to announce to it the message God communicated to Jonah. Jesus was the prophet in Luke’s gospel, who traveled from his divinity into our humanity both to announce the word of God and to accomplish it. Jesus lived among people, yet their mistrust of God and reluctance to live the covenant kept people a great distance from Jesus. This distance was not geographic, it was a heart-measure, which defies the scales on maps.

As different from us as Jesus is--as God is from humans--Jesus is also one of us. Jesus’ humanity links us with God. The message of Jesus--that the kingdom emerges in our lives--demands we reorient our lives. Prophet Jesus calls for our response to his word and to his saving act of dying and rising so that we may live lives which make returns of love to God more easily. Hearts made supple by God allow us to show to others God’s mercy to us.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday word, 11 Feb 2008

Monday, First Week of Lent (11 Feb 2008) Lv 19. 1-2,11-18; Ps 19; Mt 25. 31-46
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Royal Law*

Early in Israel’s experience of God, right relationships with others was on a par with right relationship with God. Later right relationship with God sometimes overshadowed right relationship with people. The Pharisees tended in that direction, but Jesus recalled Leviticus: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This passage from Leviticus, which closed with those words so dear to Jesus, contained the commandments with some commentary. Judging with partiality was forbidden as was withholding wages and other oppression. Oaths were forbidden and also slander and evil talk; also vengeance and grudge-holding.

This is was no addendum to or misplaced writing of the commandments. Why? Because the entire chapter of Leviticus from which we heard about a third began and ended with I am the Lord. That phrase punctuates the chapter 14 more times! No mere list: the people were to revere each other with the same covenantal love with which God revered them.

Jesus made clear that the twin of loving God, namely loving others, is the sole criterion for reward or punishment. Not only do the least occupy a privileged place in God’s heart, God’s command to revere them is, as we echoed, Spirit and life.

Kenneth Untner, the late Bishop of Saginaw, decreed that every meeting in every parish of that Michigan diocese should always include the poor: “How do our deliberations affect the poor?” Like most prophets, Bishop Untner’s edict was not welcome by many people. Yet, who ought to consider the poor with reverence if not people who claim to follow Jesus?

The least--men, women and children without influence, those whom social structures force to the margins and keep there--demand our respect. If we ever ask where God may be found, Jesus made clear that we might touch God in the least brothers [and sisters] of our Messiah.

* This is the name given to the law of liberty by the Letter of James (2.8), much of which comments on Leviticus 19.
Wiki-image used under the GFDL.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday word, 10 Feb 2008

Lenten Sunday1 A (10Feb2008) Gn 2.7-9; 3.1-7; Ps51; Rm 5.12-19; Mt 4.1-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Pillars of Life, Life-Giving Pillars

Lent has three pillars--praying, fasting and alms-giving. I want us to consider them as pillars so we can appreciate how the three work together. Pillars support buildings, bearing weight, say of a ceiling or roof. Pillars stabilize by distributing the stress weight loads on walls. Pillars can be human. We use the word “pillar” for people who hold central or responsible positions--pillars of state; pillars of the parish; pillars of the community.

Lent’s pillars have a stabilizing function. Sincerely practiced--faithfully not scrupulously--prayer, fasting and almsgiving connect us with God’s life, which Jesus embodied and their Holy Spirit communicates to us. This reconnection is both individual and social. Lenten “penance should not be only internal and individual but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered according to the possibilities of the present day and of a given area, as well as of individual circumstances.”/1/

In addition to preparing for Easter; in addition to preparing us to join those we will baptize and confirm at Easter; the pillars of Lent ground us in Jesus and the mystery of his dying and rising. The more we participate in Jesus’ paschal mystery, the more solidly we stand as Christians and give testimony to others as disciples of Jesus. Our lenten pillars help us make our Christian stand. Praying connects us with God, “as...honored ambassador[s]”/2/ Fasting focuses our spirits in a world filled with lights contrary to Jesus’ gospel, lights which blind us to our Christian vocation of reconciliation and service. Almsgiving allows us to respond externally and socially after reconnecting with God’s heart to which Jesus has given us access. Practiced together the pillars of Lent stabilize our lives as disciples of Jesus, enhancing our Christian witness.

Praying and fasting focus us and allow us to enter into the heart of God. Almsgiving helps us to shelter those in need within the divine heart we encounter afresh by praying and fasting. Almsgiving refreshes our praying and fasting with the “external and social” concerns so dear to Jesus. Jesuit Fr. Michael Barnes has expressed well in one sentence the global and social fruits of almsgiving: “Almsgiving redresses the balance in God’s creation and reminds people of the needs of the poor.”/3/

Our Christian life flows from our baptism, and the eucharist sustains our baptism. The pillars of Lent refresh our baptismal commitment and give new longing for the sacrament of the eucharist, which helps us exercise our responsible positions as contemporary colleagues of Jesus. Each of us is a Christian pillar and together--more powerful than any of us alone-- Jesus invites us to “redress[] the balance in God’s creation and remind[] [each other and everyone] of the needs of the poor.”

Each one has individual responsibilities, and together, like pillars distributing and supporting forces of a building, we heed Jesus’ invitation and live in sync with his heart for the sake of those in greater need. Bishop Lennon has asked the parishes of the Diocese of Cleveland “to open our hearts gratefully to Jesus and [respond] to his saving message. ...Catholic Charities in our Diocese is one of the most comprehensive health and human services organizations in the Nation.”/4/ I have seen beneficiaries not only of its charitable power, but also of its Catholic, social transformative power. Our meager, modest or magnanimous gifts to and our support of Catholic Charities flow from our praying and fasting. The Catholic distribution of our gifts to 64 sites and 143 programs in eight northeastern Ohio counties transforms our individual almsgiving into social, Catholic generosity none of us could do alone, and it does so throughout an entire year!

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, praise Jesus for welcoming you into his heart. Converse with Jesus about how he fasted for you, and how Jesus invites you to fast in order to become a more stabilizing pillar of the Church. Ask Jesus’ Spirit to enlighten you and your family to help you discern your gift to the 2008 Catholic Charities Appeal. All of us are its pillars, who sustain its work so dear to Jesus’ heart. Close by saying the Lord’s Prayer, which reminds us that God makes all our alms effective.
/1/ Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Article 110.
/2/ St. John Chrysostom, Homily on prayer, excerpt in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, v.2, p. 69.
/3/ Michael Barnes, S.J. “Keeping the Lenten Fast– thoughts from a dialogue with Islam,” at Thinking Faith: the Online Journal of the British Jesuits.
/4/ his 2008 Appeal, 10 February bulletin insert.
Wiki-image of Jesus in the desert is in the public domain.
Wiki-image of Sagrada Familia interior is used under the GFDL.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saturday word, 09 Feb 2008

Saturday after Ash Wednesday(09 Feb 2008) Is 58.9b-14; Ps 86; Lk 5. 27-32
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Keeping An Appointment

On Ash Wednesday Jesus reminded us not to do pious acts for show. Doing noble and holy things for show is to do them without the right reason and without sincerity. Doing noble and holy things so that others may see us do them carries the reward that others see us--which is a most shallow reward. Doing holy things with sincere hearts connects us with God, opens us to welcome God’s life--which is the most exquisite reward.

Isaiah sounded this same theme: external worship alone is not to our advantage, worship with our hearts deeply involved is. Removing oppression, false accusation and malicious speech makes our hearts more supple. Supple hearts are not hard hearts, to use the scriptural phrase. Supple hearts are bright with God’s light; they welcome God nourishing us; and they connect us with God’s life

Reconnecting with God’s life in Jesus, lavished by their Spirit, is the gift of Lent, our annual, God-given joyful season./1/ Reconnecting with God’s life is the focus of this Springtime of the church.

Reshaping our schedules in order to exercise our hearts--prayer; putting the needs of others ahead of ours then sharing our wealth with the hungry, homeless and burdened--almsgiving; and keeping ourselves focused on God’s life by specific practices--fasting: are Lent’s contours.

It takes effort. Jesus used a medical metaphor. “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” It takes effort, and often prodding, to contact a doctor and make an appointment. It takes more effort to transform unhealthy lifestyles into healthy ones. Jesus has come as our physician, phyician of our spirits, the most real dimensions of ourselves. Will we make and keep our appointments with our divine physician? Without Jesus our efforts are empty. We can’t make our hearts more supple by our efforts alone. We know that, and it doesn’t inspire us.

Lent allows us to reconnect with God’s life in Jesus. Their Spirit helps us cooperate with grace, which inspires us, makes our hearts more supple and renews the church in its Springtime.

/1/ A phrase of Lenten Preface I.
Wiki-image of Call to repentence by a horner is in the public domain.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday word, 08 Feb 2008

Friday after Ash Wednesday (08 Feb 2008) Is 58.1-9; Ps 51; Mt 9. 14-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Makeover Not Done-Over

Lent is underway. Are we underway and exercising our spirits? Lent is annual, so it risks being “same ol’.” Lent has three pillars, fasting, almsgiving and prayer, and how much can one vary a set of three? So that we don’t lose heart at the outset of lent, I recall for us something the church recalls for us each Friday after Ash Wednesday, a homily of St. John Chrysostom.

The 4th-Century Doctor of the Church had the gift of eloquent expression--people wept and laughed during the same homily! When he preached about prayer he was candid: “I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but prayer from the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods but and night.”/1/ In a sentence St. John echoed Jesus, who exhorted us to pray sincerely as Lent began/2/, and St. Paul, who encouraged constant prayer./3/

Prayer connects one with God, “as an honored ambassador. ...It is the longing for God, love too deep for words, a gift given not by [humans] but by God’s grace.”/4/

Prayer is God’s gift! That’s important to recall, especially at the outset of Lent’s long-haul. A gift is cherished, savored, worn, practiced. While not our making, we take active roles with our gifts; so, too, with praying. St. John Chrysostom vividly portrayed our role:
Practice prayer from the beginning. Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer./5/
He vividly encourages us to redecorate, using prayer and all its action-results, to make each of us a more “splendid palace,” a more welcoming home for God to reside and to reign.

If you are unsure what to do this Lent, I suggest you attend to God and God’s desires for your Lent. Do not rush. Enter into daily quiet, if for only 15 minutes, and invite God to join you. God will and you may be surprised at the shape your Lent takes this year.
/1/ Homily on prayer, excerpt in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, v.2, p. 69
/2/ Matthew 6.5-8, which Jesus immediately followed with how to pray, verses 9-13!
/3/1Thessalonians 5.17; 1Titus 2.8; Paul recalled Jesus encouraged this: Luke 18.1; 21.36.
/4/ Homily on prayer, Liturgy of the Hours, v.2, p. 69.
/5/ Ibid., pp. 69-70.
Wiki-image of St. John Chrysostom is in the public domain.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It Can Be Done

Yale University reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 17% over two years, a January 2008 press release reported. The release links to the speech of President Richard C. Levin, who announced the reduction in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The press release also contains Yale's long-range goals and strategies to achieve them.

If a large institution can reduce emissions, then households can take courage and do likewise.
Wiki-image of New Haven seen from Yale's SML is in the public domain.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday word, 06 Feb 2008

Ash Wednesday (06 Feb 2008) Jl 2. 12-18; 2Co 5. 20-6.2; Mt 6. 1-6, 16-18
Homily of Rev. Paul Panaretos, S. J.
Window Called Et cetera

On the first day as a high-school sophomore, I sat down in English Literature. None of us knew Mr. Arabo, the teacher. Yet, in that amazing way sophomores can glean more data than NASA—almost effortlessly, too—we in-formed each other (correctly) that he was from Iraq; learned British English; and studied its literature at Cambridge.

He arrived on the dot, went to the podium at a pleasant gait, and began to call roll. After reading each name, Mr. Arabo silently looked over his half-glasses at the name’s face. When he reached my name, he said, "Pull Pa-NA-reh-tos," and surveyed the room. When his eyes found mine, he proclaimed: "Pull! You I will teach to write succinctly and concisely." That he said something more than a name stunned us all, especially me. I barely heard a thing that bright Fall day, wondering what he knew about me that I didn’t know; how he knew; and, hey! "succinctly and concisely," that’s redundant!

Tentative at the start, I enjoyed Mr. Arabo’s class and even learned about myself. He threw me curves now and again that helped me communicate not merely write. In a paper which had to explain descriptively, twice I gave three examples followed by etc., my effort to be succinct—or concise. That abbreviation won me bright red ink and the written and vocal remark: “Et cetera means you don't know any more.”

Even if we know, don’t we use etc. with threes?
1, 2, 3, etc.
Sun, moon, stars, etc.
Rest, drink plenty of fluids, call the doctor in the morning, etc.
School is more interesting than: go to class, go to the library, go to the gym, etc.

Has Jesus just told us that the Springtime of the church is alms, prayer, fasting, etc.? Surely it’s more, we hope, grasping at something; but does anybody know?

Concerning the poetry that is our spirits, Mr. Arabo was partly correct: etc. means we don't know—for we are mysteries even to ourselves. It’s not that we don't know any more. We don’t know all, right now. The Springtime of the church through almsgiving, prayer, and fasting shapes us to know what is secret from ourselves; secrets that God longs to impart to us if we only desire; secrets God longs to reward in most intimate and personal ways.

Ashes are our keys to new and burnished secrets. People know that, even though they may not express it that way, because each year people desire to be marked by ashes. Visible to all, ashes remind us ever so simply—"succinctly and concisely"—our secret rewards from God are personal but never private. That’s why we “Repent and be faithful to the gospel” together.
Wiki-image of Ashcross is used under the GFDL.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday word, 03 Feb 2008

4th Sunday of the Year A (03Feb2008) Zeph 2. 3; 3. 12-13; Ps 146; 1Co 1. 26-31; Mt 5. 1-12a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Tags for Jesus

We’ve entered again a Year of Matthew in our eucharistic worship. Matthew’s is the gospel read on Sundays this year. Traditional readings from John’s gospel in Lent and Easter will interrupt Matthew. We will resume it to its end. Matthew offers us a portrait of Jesus with a tag of I R S-- interpreter, revealer and son.

Always on the move, Jesus journeyed first from divinity into our humanity. We name his first move, Incarnation, as central to our faith. God in Jesus by their Spirit journeying into our humanity has its result: that we may journey into the heart of the Trinity.

Matthew’s account of the human infancy of Jesus echoed the exodus, that central journey in the Hebrew scriptures. It shaped Jesus into a Moses, who represented his people to God. Jesus’ baptism and his coming up from the water matched the crossing of God’s people through the sea, not adding a cloud of smoke or fire, but naming Jesus as beloved Son.

This Son is more than what we may glean from Jesus’ obvious role as teacher of God’s covenant. He taught by his words to be sure. Jesus also taught by his person and by his deeds the covenant-relationship of God with people. Risen Jesus continues to teach in and through his Holy Spirit given us.

What makes Jesus’ teaching more than we might presume from the word, teacher, or from other teachers we have known? Jesus interpreted his Father’s desire that all people share in divine blessing. The way Jesus interpreted revealed that blessing ever more clearly. Jesus did not teach and interpret a new way of living but that way that was there from the beginning; and Jesus revealed it more clearly: I have come not to abolish but to reveal./3/

Jesus revealed most clearly that the Holy One has always desired the humble of the earth, who have observed [the covenant] [and] seek justice [and] humility, as Zephaniah reminded us. In the very familiar Beatitudes Interpreter-Revealer Jesus stated the conditions for blessing. Jesus as Son forged its bond to include us. Blessed are the peacemakers; they will be called children of God. This blessing, as you noticed, is different from the others. One blessed with the land; two with the kingdom of heaven; the others with qualities of being in the world: being satisfied; receiving mercy; see[ing] God; and a share in insult and being persecuted like Jesus. Being children of God, however, is no quality. It’s our standing in the world. It’s our relationship with the God of peace, a revelation by Jesus about which people in every age have been at best reluctant, and at worst one they have renounced.

Perhaps we think the Beatitudes impossible. Yet nothing is impossible with God, to recall Angel Gabriel’s reassurance to Mary. On our better days we may think the Beatitudes are ideals. Yet they are conditions for blessedness; and blessed is what the word beatitude means. They are hard blessings, indeed; but being hard—or bittersweet or anything other than our preference—doesn’t make a blessing less a blessing.

What makes any blessing a beatitude is that it is unmerited, unearned: it is grace—total gift. Jesus kept nothing to himself, including his relationship as Son. Jesus gave himself so we might become heirs with him of his Father, the God of peace. Our relationship flows from Jesus’ desire that we enjoy it. Jesus freely bestows it. In Jesus God chose the lowly and despised of the world so that no human being might boast before God.

To hear and heed Jesus, the Son of God, is to share his relationship with his Father. Jesus is Son, interpreter, revealer. I R S has morphed into S I R, Son-Interpreter- Revealer. Son-Interpreter-Revealer sheds new light on Sir, English for the way many addressed Jesus.

This light lets us hear Jesus address us as brother and sister, welcoming us into a new relationship, our new standing in the world as heirs with him and children of his Father. In the Beatitudes Jesus invites us to take not just another look but to see ourselves as Jesus creates and redeems us each moment and to live by what we see.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, bask in the loving way the Trinity creates you each moment. Ask Mary or your patron saint to present you to Jesus, and ask for the grace to hear Jesus address you as dear brother, dear sister. Converse with Jesus about how freely or reluctantly you accept his beatitudes. Resolve to cooperate more with his grace. Last, praise Jesus for giving you a share in his relationship with his Father, the God of peace, by slowly saying his prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is our gateway to live more justly and with genuine humility more like Jesus, Son, Interpreter and Revealer.

/1/ Exodus 3.10.
/2/ Exodus 1.22-2.10.
/3/ Matthew 5.17:
to reveal is that other connotation of the Greek word which appears most often as to fulfill in our translations of words of Jesus.
Wiki-images of a door of St. Clemens, Hannover, Germany and of a Sign in Mount of Beatitudes church, Israel, are in the public domain.