Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday word, 26 Apr 2009

Easter Sunday3 (26 Apr 2009)
Ac 3.13-15,17-19; Ps 4; 1Jn 2.1-5a; Lk 24.35-48
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Energetic, Enthusiastic and Alert

The 50-day Easter festival allows us to fall deeper into the mystery of our crucified and risen Messiah. Lest our spirits wilt along with petals of the lilies, we can use every reminder that our Messiah is the Living One, the author of life [we] put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. I’d like to reflect with you on our witness.

One thing witness is not is seeing the resurrection happen. No one saw it. The message of the empty tomb underscores that God alone raised [Jesus] from the dead. God did not resuscitate Jesus’ corpse. Resuscitation brings back to life a person who had slipped away from life. Resuscitation isn’t resurrection.

Resurrection is an astonishing transformation. It is God’s work beyond time and history and beyond human knowing. The message of the appearances of the risen Jesus is that people encountered the living One as truly alive and transformed beyond immediate recognition.

The first witnesses recognized Jesus by the marks of his death in his glorious flesh. Jesus helped them to see him as a living, bodily presence: “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. They became his witnesses because he encountered them.

Risen Jesus is more powerfully present by his Spirit now that Jesus no longer appears to us in surprising forms. Risen Jesus speaks to us in the word written about him. Risen Jesus consoles us in each person’s experiences of forgiveness of sins and of becoming whole. Because we are human we respond--often wordlessly yet with feeling--to risen Jesus in moments of sacrament, of community, of serving and of being served.

Luke’s narrative artistry makes the account of risen Jesus and the two disciples walking to Emmaus more attractive./1/ Yet narrative is two-way. Our experiences of connecting with Jesus in sacrament, in community, in serving and in being served bring to life Luke’s richly and subtly detailed scene.

As often happens the gospel turns things upside down. The disciples offered hospitality, prevailing on Jesus to accept it, yet the risen Lord served them, helping them to rise above their fatigue of grief, their frustration over dashed hopes and forgetting God’s promises in him.

More than anything else that may be why we connect with that resurrection appearance. Grief feels as if it will never end no matter how many times we say it will. Shattered hopes frustrate any confidence we may have in others, in ourselves, in the future. We forget God’s promises more often than we shape our lives by them.

The encounter with risen Jesus transformed the two disciples, fatigued, frustrated and forgetful, into energetic, enthusiastic and alert apostles. The more we allow risen Jesus to encounter us in sacrament, community, service and in being served, the more energetic, enthusiastic and alert apostolic witnesses we become.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week continue feeling recreated by our triune God. Ask the two disciples to welcome you and present you to Jesus. Converse with Jesus: ask Jesus to open your mind to understand the Scriptures and others’ testimony to him; tell Jesus your desire to be a more energetic, enthusiastic and alert apostle of his resurrection in how you live and work. Name what holds you back and place it in Jesus’ hands. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. To request our daily bread is an empty request until we give our Redeemer what keeps us from making room for his divine gifts.

1. The opening verses of today’s gospel selection is the hinge between that memorable scene and the appearance of risen Jesus to the gathered disciples described in the succeeding verses of this gospel selection.
Wiki-images of an ivory relief of risen Jesus appearing to his disciples and of risen Jesus walking with the two disciples are in the public domain.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday word, 19 Apr 2009

Easter Sunday2 (19 Apr 2009)
Ac 4.32-35; Ps 118; 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20.19-31
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The idealized description of the first assembly of believers in the risen Jesus does not mean we may ignore it or that it offers us nothing. Central to the description are the apostles, who with great power, bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The power of their proclamation matched risen Jesus’ power of his Holy Spirit, who transformed the first disciples, who had seen Jesus taken and killed.

The point is this: the apostles had to accept this power, which risen Jesus invites each of us to do. One way the Fourth Gospel functions leads me to suggest today’s selection invites us to see our limitations as opportunities to accept risen Jesus’ power, too.

Throughout, the Fourth Gospel refers to a beloved disciple. It never names the beloved disciple, which means that each of us, indeed all believers, may give our names to the disciple Jesus loved./1/ Love, especially Jesus’ risen love, cannot be contained by time or place. Further, being loved changes us, and being loved by risen Jesus transforms us most of all.

Some of that transformation remains unseen by others. Yet our ways of living and choosing as well as our service in the name of Jesus are glimmers that we have been transformed and continue to be transformed by our Messiah. Unless we welcome Jesus’ transforming love, we refuse to be gripped by his life-giving power. This is how Thomas figures for us.

Thomas, like many people past and present, had a nickname, the Twin./2/ Thomas is our twin, indeed the twin of all believers in Jesus. How like our twin we are! It is silly to think that only as time passed people had difficulty with welcoming the deepest reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Within a week of Jesus rising from the dead, one of his apostles was more resistant than the others. Thomas was the same apostle who had a couple weeks earlier urged them all, Let us go to die with [Jesus]./3/ Like our twin we have our exhilarating moments.

We also have a weakness for fact, for reality we can measure, see and touch. So did Thomas as we heard: Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail-marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. Thomas did come to believe by releasing his resistance.

Because we are more than our bodies we also have a desire for more than reality we can measure, see and touch. We desire to be in communion with our Creator and Redeemer, our risen Jesus, the victor over the world. While we commune with Jesus through many incarnate ways, much exists to frustrate our deeper desire. Like our twin Thomas, we have our times of denial, despair and doubt. Jesus never chastised or belittled Thomas for being himself, for being human. Nor does Jesus belittle us twins of Thomas either.

We may have a mistaken notion that the opposite of faith is doubt. Unless one is a fanatic, then doubt has no room. The ancient Roman, Cicero, described humans well: “By doubting we come at truth.”/4/ So it is! What is more true and amazing and consoling is that Jesus, our Truth, comes to us! Jesus visits us not to chastise or belittle us but to invite us to place our selves--not our minds only but ourselves--in his care and his power, his divine mercy. The memory of Thomas and many others is handed on to us to encourage us to do that and come to believe/5/ that Jesus is our Truth and our power. Faith is a life-giving process.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue feeling recreated by the life of our triune God. Ask Thomas, our model twin, to encourage you to entrust yourself to Jesus. Converse with Jesus: tell him your desire to follow him wholeheartedly. Ask Jesus for the courage to live as his disciple. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which is about God reshaping you with power so you may live from it at each moment, aware of Jesus meeting you and giving you a mission at once human and divine.

1. See John 13.23; 19.26 and Chapters 20 and 21.
2. It is peculiar that printed versions of the gospel have reverted to the Greek word for Twin, Didymus, when few hearers know Greek!
3. John 11.16.
4. Quotation #5243 from Cole's Quotables
5. This is the meaning of the Greek tense of the verb, to believe, indicating that it is a life-long process.
Wiki-images of the Incredulity of St. Thomas and a star cluster are in the public domain.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday word, 12 Apr 2009

Easter Sunday1 (12 Apr 2009)
Ac 10.34a, 37-43; Ps 118; 1Co 5:6b-8; Mk 16.1-7
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Making No Mistake
Happy Easter! Is anyone here by mistake? Are you sure? Are you here by mistake? Are you? I give you fair warning because I used to think the focus of today was Jesus, our dead and risen Messiah. Jesus’ resurrection is not a preacher’s focus only today. Jesus’ resurrection empowers all preachers to witness to the one event that reshapes the world as it reshapes people. That’s why I asked if any of us are here by mistake. Let me say first what the resurrection was not before we decide if any of us is here by mistake.

The resurrection was not a reappearance of Jesus as if Jesus never died. St. Paul was emphatic: Christ [Jesus] died!/1/ Nor was the resurrection resuscitation. Scripture mentions several resuscitations, like Lazarus, who was brought back to life by Jesus and lived his old life until he died again./2/ Like the sons of widows the prophet Elijah/3/ and Jesus/4/ restored to their mothers. Their mothers were happy but no world shaking thing happened beyond that. The resurrection, however, shook the world. It scandalized many, who looked at things in only human ways. It shattered the thoughts of the disciples of Jesus before it reshaped them.

The disciples: they remind me to ask again, “Is anyone here by mistake, thinking the resurrection focuses on Jesus?” Are you ready for the truth? The resurrection was not so much about Jesus as it was about his disciples. When my teacher said that long ago, I listened, puzzled and wanting to listen. The resurrection was less about the future of Jesus and more about the future of his disciples. Scripture makes that clear. Recall St. Paul: nearly each time he pronounced that our Messiah Jesus died, Paul followed it with for us. Likewise his resurrection was for his disciples, and it is for us, his disciples today.

In the beginning the first disciples were distraught. Human living and dying were categories they could not change by their power, why Jesus’ resurrection was unthinkable. Opponents and scoffers of what they experienced were straitjacketed by the same categories, too. What was the difference?

If you are here by mistake, then you may be shocked to know the difference was this: the disciples opened themselves to allow God to transform, refashion, reshape, recreate, reconfigure their lives whole and entire. They named the symbol of this recreation Holy Spirit. Spirit because it was personal power. Holy indicated that was a power not of human origin or human control.

Today the scandal of the resurrection doesn’t exist. The resurrection no longer shocks us. The resurrection no longer moves us the way it moved the first disciples to proclaim the utterly new thing God does in Jesus for us. What if we allowed the resurrection to grip us down to the marrow of our bones and propel us into the world to help it refashion itself as we have been refashioned, reshaped, recreated and configured anew to our Messiah? We would be the world’s leaven.

We are its leaven. Like yeast gives its life to leaven dough and give birth to a loaf, the resurrection empowers our lives to transform the world with sincerity and truth. That’s why the resurrection is more about us because Jesus died and rose for us to transform the world.

Each of us is a resurrection, a personification of Jesus for the world, partial to be sure but really a resurrection by baptism. We are empowered by his Holy Spirit to do things we cannot imagine for the sake of the world and the glory of God.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week feel recreated by the life of our triune God. Ask Mary of Magdala, the first apostle of the resurrection, to ready your heart to grow more certain that Jesus loves you as if you are the only person on the planet. Allow Jesus to enter the garden of your life as it is: dry or moist; weedy or flowery; barren or lush; with young fruit or old, gnarled stems. Converse with Jesus: tell him your desire to be fresh leaven in your home, in your school, in your neighborhood, in your parish, in your world; ask Jesus for the courage to live as his disciple. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which is about God reshaping us with power not from us but filling us daily with its new life both human and divine.

1. See the correspondence of Paul, beginning with his Letter to the Romans.
2. John 11.1-45.
3. 1Kings 17.17-24.
4. Luke 7.11-16.
Wiki-image of Mary of Magdala and the risen Jesus is in the public domain. Wiki-image by Tauʻolunga of a flowering apostle plant is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Passion Need Not Jettison Charity

Charity and Perspective: those two virtues ought to guide discussion about the Notre Dame invitation to the President to speak at its commencement. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. notes it is an event not without worries to Catholics, but it is not without hope either. Mr. Allen notes at the outset:
Inviting a pro-choice president of the United States to speak at the country’s premier Catholic university may be highly charged at the level of symbolism and political fallout, but that does not make its advisability a matter of dogma. There’s no heresy implied in either supporting or opposing the move, so Catholics ought to be able to disagree without casting one another as enemies of the faith.
Read his All Things Catholic column for both charity and perspective on this issue.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday word, 10 Apr 2009

Good Friday (10 Apr 2009)
Is 52.13-53.12; Ps 31; Hb 4.14-16;5.7-9; Jn 18.1-19.42
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Praise, Gratitude, Service: Gifts of the Cross

Today we remember that in Jesus God suffered for us and all creation. Not only did God suffer, God died. That has caused people to riot: God could not die and still be God! Throngs of people rioting about God dying may not move us. However, who here has not rioted within, and who has not endured the pains of internal revolt when God seems dead? Who of us has not writhed inside when God does not live up to our expectations? Who of us has not raged that God not only did not live up to our expectations but that God died?

Perhaps these seem silly or pointless distractions. If we live in the capital letters of high-definition and surround sound, when every scintilla of sight, sound, passion and pulse are clear, focused and palpable, God may register as a distraction. However, when we live in capital-letter worlds of suffering or of indescribable joy, when things don’t register like facts or seem as they appear, then we begin to sense God as real and challenging even if not near or vibrant.

This sketch of two worlds, the first in which we are in some semblance of control and the second in which we are not, invites us to take refuge in God our Lord, as the Psalmist sang and Jesus echoed personally in his Passion. To take refuge admits I’m not in control.

To move beyond reproach and “poor me” to affirming, You are my God. In your hands is my destiny, is each one’s passion. Today we focus on our Lord’s passion in its own capital-letter world, which high-definition and surround sound can never recapture. His cross offers us a new way to consider suffering.

Our sufferings will probably never come close to those of Jesus, or of the many in the world who suffer atrocious physical trials. The cross allows us to focus our sufferings: past and present; verbal; emotional; familial; social; those which accompany aging; and those which flow from infirmity--to name a few.

No one’s sufferings are trivial. Jesus’ courage during his passion encourages us as it reminds us that many of our personal sufferings are not of the caliber of high drama. Yet no matter their depth our wounds shape us. “Christ [Jesus] is still pained and tormented in his [sisters and brothers], made like him.”1 Jesus’ wounded glory forges an intimate bond with humans, and it reshapes each one’s suffering. The paschal mystery reshapes human feelings, sorrows, fears, sadness, suffering--and death itself.

Often we’ve heard and maybe even said, “Death is a part of life.” What kind of part? Is it possible to appreciate it? Perhaps words attributed to Chief Tecumseh can help us appreciate death--and any little death we may experience--as part of life, which acknowledges fears and abandoned feelings and gives birth to praise, gratitude and service.
Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of
death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time
to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home./2/
To the world Jesus seemed lost, forsaken, yet he was “going home.” To the world Jesus seemed silent, because he opened not his mouth, yet he overflowed with eloquence. To the world Jesus seemed a criminal, yet was heroic beyond compare, our chief high priest. Precisely why we acclaim: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you!” / “because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world!”
1. Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of the Anointing and Viaticum, 2 (see 2 Corinthians 4.17).
2. Reprinted in Sacred Journey: the Journal of Fellowship in Prayer, April 2004, p. 32.
Wiki-image by Clio20 of Crucifixion in ivory is used according the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license. Wiki-image of a crucifixion pendant is in the public domain.