Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday word, 31 May 2009

Pentecost B (31 May 2009)
Ac 2. 1-11; Ps 104; 1Co 12. 3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20. 19-23
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Giving Voice to Jesus’ Heart

If we don’t use a language, we lose it, the saying goes. That saying is true. We hear the word language, and our first thought is what people speak: English; Spanish; Greek; Arabic; Hungarian; French; German or Sinhalese. Language is speech. However, language is more than the spoken word. Artists speak with colors and shapes, shades and hues. Musicians speak by moving air through vocal chords, or through reeds, pipes of every shape or by striking instruments. Mathematicians speak with numbers and with contours. Lovers speak with their hearts and their actions, more than words, allow others to understand their heart-language.

Musicians need to practice their language and they do by devoting time and energy to playing instruments, which include the human voice. Non-musicians appreciate music by devoting time to listen to music of every sort.

Artists practice their language by applying colors to canvas and to paper repeatedly. Non-artists appreciate their art by spending time wandering through museums and drinking in the plastic arts their eyes behold.

Mathematicians practice their language endlessly arranging numbers or imagining and drawing geometric shapes, looking for patterns to emerge. Non-mathematicians need to know how to give and get money when making purchases and how to do other calculations which allow us to take care of homes and autos and how to feed families and friends.

Pentecost celebrates the language of God’s heart. God created us and all humans in the image of God. Because we are prone to interpret images by our standards, God became flesh and blood for us in Jesus to focus clearly and unmistakably the divine heart and God’s desires for creation. Holy Spirit, the personality of Jesus and divine energy of his Father, continues to impart to us the divine language through manifold gifts.

How does Holy Spirit impart the divine language and communicate the divine desires? When it comes to heart-language, poetry expresses it better than prose or numbers or other rational communication. The Sequence, the hymn before the gospel today, is our helpful poetry:

Where you are not, [one] has naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;

On our dryness pour Thy dew;

Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;

Melt the frozen, warm the chill;

Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful who adore

And confess you, evermore
In your sev’nfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;

Give them Thy salvation, Lord;

Give them joys that never end

The emphasis is on receiving the Spirit via its sev’nfold gift. In language terminology that is hearing the Spirit, who speaks in manifold ways. That is exactly what the scene in the Acts of the Apostles described. Holy Spirit used the speech of the apostles to communicate wonder God had worked in Jesus by raising Jesus from death. “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?”

Because the language of God’s heart exceeds spoken language, Jesus was direct: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We know we have received Jesus’ Spirit when we are transformed and act as Jesus’ hand, feet, eyes and heart for our world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue to feel recreated by our triune God. Ask Mary and the disciples to present you to Jesus. Hear Jesus address you lovingly and say, “Receive [my] Holy Spirit. Allow my Spirit to refashion your heart and your life.” Speak to Jesus how you feel his Spirit, and speak your desires and your fears and your hopes. Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. Each time we pray it we give voice to the heart of Jesus, who desires us to rely on him more and to live so that others hear his voice through our actions.

1. This translation of the entire text of Veni, Sancte Spiritus is attribted to the 13th Century Archbishop of Canterbury.
Wiki-image of Pentecost is in the public domain.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Papal Message for World Communications Day

2009 marks the 43d World Communications Day. The papal message noting it was subtitled, "New Technologies, New Relationships. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."

Early in his message Pope Benedict named three new technologies: "mobile telephones and computers...and...the internet." The pope recognized that young people have capitalized on them and
have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions. Many benefits flow from this new culture of communication: families are able to maintain contact across great distances; students and researchers have more immediate and easier access to documents, sources and scientific discoveries, hence they can work collaboratively from different locations; moreover, the interactive nature of many of the new media facilitates more dynamic forms of learning and communication, thereby contributing to social progress.
"Social progress" has been a recurring theme of popes. In the modern era Popes Leo XIII noted the changes in labor technologies, both their ability to enhance progress as well as the dangers inherent if they were allowed to control and objectify humans. He devoted an encyclical (a circular letter of a pope to the faithful, and in modern times, extended to "people of good will") "of new things" (opening words in the Latin) that were affecting capital and labor, caused, in part, by then-new new technologies.

In the last century Pope Paul VI devoted an encyclical to "The Progress of Peoples."

[Encyclicals are long: one-screen summaries are available for The Progress of Peoples--Summary and Of New Things--Summary are helpful.]

What began in the 18th and 19th Centuries in Europe and the United States as development, although not everyone shared its effects, had become worldwide in the 20th Century. Pope Paul noted this world-wide feature. Even in the 16th Century, the Age of Exploration, development was limited to the stronger and wealthier nations. Those nations took for themselves the resources of new-found lands, inhabited by native peoples. The practice continues into the present.

In his message this year Pope Benedict emphasized the "many benefits" of communications technologies: "communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions." This blessing of the internet comes from a pope fully aware of the harmful things present in the new communication (indeed, all) technologies.

In a lecture given shortly before World Communications Day, 24 May 2009, Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Frederico Lombardi, S.J., both echoed Pope Benedict's emphasis on friendship and dialogue, and recalled when Fr. Lombardi directed a television broadcast for Pope John Paul II, who was amazed at its power and cried, "Blessed be television!"

God works with the internet to promote communion among all peoples. The church does not desire to be estranged from the net.
Wiki-image of Mat Honan's photo is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday word, 26 May 2009

St. Philip Neri, Memorial (26 May 2009)
Ac 20.1-8; Ps 68; Jn 17. 1-11a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Future Now

Today’s gospel began Jesus’ solemn prayer at the Last Supper. We will hear it through to its conclusion as the gospels at mass tomorrow and Thursday. It is a remarkable blessing because Jesus’ prayer states that the disciples already possessed eternal life/1/ and glory/2/ and were being consecrated/3/ by the love of God in them as it abided in Jesus./4/

One thing making his blessing remarkable is that the disciples shared in Jesus’ glory in the present moment! That is equally true of disciples in each age. Even more remarkable was the fact that the disciples shared Jesus’ eternal life, glory and consecration before Jesus was exalted on the cross!

That the future was already present boggles our minds. We are linear thinkers, after all and our thinking moves in one way, from past to present to future. Jumbling the order is upsetting, to say the least. Worship at the altar, however, jumbles the order without end.

The eucharist, we profess, makes the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, present at each altar. We profess, too, to share in the divine life now, even though we have yet to share it fully. Fulness in the future does not make divine life more real. More available, perhaps, but not more real. Yet in the present everything, human and divine, is available to us in part not in full.

Today’s Memorial of St. Philip Neri, suggests to me that prayer, especially the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, transposes future, present and past. We ought not try to constrain prayer to our routine approach to time; rather, we do best to follow prayers lead. Philip is known for bringing priests into prayerful fraternity with the goal of guiding others to live their baptisms fully.

Philip may be less known for prolonged ecstasies while saying mass. As one biography sketched, his “[altar] server sometimes used to absent himself for two hours and then come back when the saint returned to normal.”5 Jesus’ Last Supper prayer causes me smile and wonder, not at Philip’s ecstasy, but at what is “normal”: routine existence or being possessed by God’s glory.

1. John 17.3--today’s gospel selection.
2. John 17.22--Thursday’s gospel selection.
3. John 17.19--Tuesday’s gospel selection.
4. John 17.26--Thursday’s gospel selection.
5. See this first entry of five.
Wiki-image of St. Philip Neri is in the public domain.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday word, 25 May 2009

Seventh Easter Monday [U.S. Memorial Day] (25 May 2009)
Ac 19.1-8; Ps 68; Jn 16. 29-33
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Two Needs
Even as the Acts of the Apostles suggests the ineluctable movement of Jesus’ Spirit among people to spread his gospel and to upbuild the church, Luke’s account recognized the movement of the Spirit was not without twists and turns. We heard one of them.

Believers in the great cultural center of Ephesus only knew the baptism of John. It introduced people to reforming their lives. Spirit baptism, the baptism Jesus commissioned his followers to practice, empowered people to lived reformed lives not just reform their lives.

All of us know the difference from experience. We set new directions for our lives in a variety of areas--exercise; diet; choosing to read more than watching TV; offering time at a shelter; making a point to keep in touch with people; setting aside time with family; you can others.

We set new directions for our lives, and it isn’t long that we find ourselves veering back to a patterns we wanted to change! Reforming our lives is one thing, indeed; living reformed lives is not easy. Perseverance is truly saintly. Perseverance returns us to a life-giving path from which we’ve strayed or never really began.

The paths I mentioned are human. Those I mentioned and those you name as yours challenge us to exploit our human potential to the advantage of each individual and society. We accept Jesus’ Spirit as part of our lives so that, along with our humanity, the image of God in whom we have been created may shine more clearly to each person and in society. Welcoming Jesus’ Spirit is not without twists and turns. We do it reluctantly sometimes; at other times we drink in Jesus’ Spirit; sometimes we even spit out the Spirit, who earlier had slaked thirsts so hard to name yet so very real.

Memorial Day reminds us of twists and turns that threats to society have posed and continue to pose. War’s greatest threat to individuals is death. The death of combatants snuffs out lives too young. Their deaths tear them from loved ones with a finality defying description. Today, war kills more noncombatants than before.

This wrenching pain felt by people had long found an outlet in both spontaneous and planned expressions of remembering and honoring the dead in our nation’s Civil War. Like many streams meeting to form a river, those spontaneous and planned expressions of remembering and honoring the dead gave birth to Memorial Day.

Some say that when Congress passed the Holiday Act of 1971, moving Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May, its meaning drowned in a three-day weekend. Our human need to honor those who gave their lives in serving our country runs deep. Another need, at once human and divine, calls us.

Pope Paul VI, expressed it before the United Nations General Assembly in October 1965, in that era when nations felt greater need to end the threat of war. Pope Paul made his impassioned plea and pledge: “No more war, war never again!” Other popes have repeated it and clothed it in their words.

People can reform their lives so that they shun battlefields of territory as well as of the heart. Yet, we need power from beyond ourselves to live peacefully and to cultivate peace. We Catholics, joined by other Christians, know that Jesus’ Spirit empowers us to live peacefully and to cultivate peace.

Honoring our dead does not challenge us, that is, it comes naturally. Living the pledge of “No more war, war never again!” does not come naturally. Our war-dead, like the survivors of war, want our honor of them to include living the pledge of peace. We honor them well when we also call on Jesus’ Spirit, and desire to grow more familiar with the Power, who empowers us to wage and to live peace.
Wiki-image is used according to the GFDL.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday word, 24 May 2009

Ascension (24 May 2009)
Ac 1. 1-11; Ps 47; Eph 4.1-13; Mk 16. 15-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Looking Forward

The Ascension of Jesus is more about us than about Jesus. That was true for the first disciples, too. To them Jesus had said, “Go into the whole world and proclaim his good news to every creature.” Jesus would abide with them through his Spirit, in a more real way than if they could see him as they had when he was with them.

Ascension is the enthronement of Jesus as Messiah, Lord and Redeemer of the universe. The beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, which opened our liturgy of the word, presented Jesus’ ascension as his enthronement and as something more: the commissioning by Jesus of his successors to continue his prophetic and redeeming work, which he had begun.

That is why we can say that the Ascension is more about us, his contemporary successors, than it is about Jesus. If Jesus had remained physically present, he would have been available only to those immediately present to him in space and time. Scripture contains other leave-takings so that people could begin their ministry, announce God’s desires and fulfill their lives.

One example was Moses, who had to leave for Joshua to succeed him. Joshua, son of Nun, was filled with the spirit of wisdom, since Moses had laid his hands upon him; and so the Israelites gave him their obedience, thus carrying out the Lord’s command to Moses./1/

Another example was Elijah, who was taken up into heaven,/2/ so that his protege, Elisha, could receive a double portion of his mentor’s prophetic spirit./3/ Both Joshua and Elisha were empowered by the spirit after their mentors left them.

Likewise, Jesus’ successors received the promise of Holy Spirit at his ascension. However, leave-takings of every sort are difficult, even when a gift is given. That’s why we sympathize with the disciples gazing heavenward, looking Jesus was lifted up...from their sight.

Because we know how their mission would unfold and that they would continue Jesus’ work, the angel’s question was more than appropriate. “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” It propelled the disciples to begin to proclaim Jesus as Messiah.

Today is a turning point, then, from looking back to looking forward. We have spent six weeks looking back and savoring the resurrection of Jesus. Today we look forward to our role in the proclamation of his gospel and begin to recall how Jesus’ Spirit empowers us to preach Jesus, dead and risen, with our lives. We look forward to taking up again the mantle, which makes us successors of Jesus and apostles to our world.

Because our mantle is Jesus’ Holy Spirit, the Spirit infuses us with his power and life. We don’t wear the Spirit; the Spirit refashions and reshapes us into witnesses for one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, the source of Jesus’ life for the world.

We join the parents and godparents of Jemma Ann D’Amico, Eugene William Richter and Carly Sandra Heflin as they begin to give witness to their children born anew in Jesus. We are fortunate that you chose to baptize your children with us at this mass: you remind everyone more eloquently than I could say what it means to look forward to giving witness to the good news of our risen Lord Jesus by how we live.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue to feel recreated by our triune God. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Converse with Jesus about your life and the ways you give witness to his gospel with your life. Ask for the grace to be more alert to the prompting of Jesus’ Spirit equip you for building up the body of Christ in your lifetime. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus gave us to know in practical ways each day how to live as his successors.

1. Deuteronomy 34.9.
2. 2 Kings 2.1; 11-13.
3. 2 Kings 2.9.
Wiki-image of Benjamin West's Ascension of Jesus is in the public domain. Wiki-image of Juergen Kappenberg's photo of a column remembering Ascension and Pentecost is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday word, 23 May 2009

Sixth Easter Saturday (23 May 2009)
Ac 18.23-28; Ps 47; Jn 16. 23b-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Asking Hour

In the Fourth Gospel, the word hour fell from Jesus’ lips with a particular meaning. His hour was the time of his glorification on the cross, of being lifted up to draw all people to himself./1/ That was the time when Jesus no longer spoke in figures but most clearly about [his] Father and his vocation.

The gift of Holy Spirit made the disciples representatives of Jesus and empowered them to continue his ministry in different places and different times. One thing, though, would not be different. Jesus’ disciples would encounter opposition even to death./2/ An hour would come for each disciple; and that would be the time to ask the Father for anything, which would strengthen the disciple’s resolve and keep the disciple single-minded in serving in Jesus’ name.

Chances are that we hear Jesus say anything for any time. That is not faithful to Jesus’ words; we will share, each in each one’s way, in Jesus’ hour. Our share in Jesus’ hour seals God’s love for us. Our share in Jesus’ hour makes God’s love visible to others.

How do others see God’s love? Faith in God and union with Jesus in his church enlightens eyes. Yet, even people without faith or reject it and the church are not unmoved when disciples make God’s love visible. For some it may take a long time to come to faith or to the church of Jesus. Sharing Jesus’ hour is never done in vain. It is the most powerful way that we bring strength to other disciples.

1. John 12.32.
2. See John 13.36.
Wiki-image of the triumph of Jesus the Messiah is in the public domain .

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday word, 17 May 2009

Easter Sunday6 (17 May 2009)
Ac 10.25-26,34-35,44-48; Ps 98; 1Jn 4.11-16; Jn 17. 11b-19
[Because Ascension is celebrated on Sunday, the 2d reading and gospel may be taken from the 7th Sunday of Easter]

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Universal Not Ethnic

We may be tempted in the Easter season to think danger had passed for the church with the resurrection of Jesus. God had validated the ministry, the life and dying of Jesus by raising him from death. Yet dangers faced the early disciples in many forms. However, the most dangerous step did not come from outside the church but from within: reaching out to those who were not Jews to include them in the promises God made first to Abraham.

To make the move from an ethnic religion to a universal one--from Judaism to Christianity--dripped with fear, anxiety, contention and debate among the apostles. The Acts of the Apostles presented the promises God made first to Abraham as the gift of Holy Spirit. A key lesson was that no one--not even an apostle--can domesticate the Spirit of God. It began with a vision while Peter was praying.

Our first reading brought us onto the scene after Peter had had a vision/1/ of various foods, many of which were not kosher. When he refused to eat, a voice in his vision bade him to eat, which perplexed him greatly. His vision threatened his identity as a Jew and all the symbolism of Judaism. It was no hunger-induced vision as his next encounter proved: Cornelius and his household were similar to the non-kosher foods of his vision: Jews didn’t mix with gentiles./2/ Yet what did Peter’s vision mean?

Peter began to understand that risen Jesus’ command to him and the apostles, to preach the forgiveness of sins in [Jesus’] name to all the nations/3/ did not mean within boundaries but to include all peoples; in other words, to be a universal gospel not an ethnic one. In the house of Cornelius, Peter put it this way: “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears [God] and acts uprightly is acceptable to [God].” That was astonishing for Peter, a Jew, to say when we recall that only the Jews awaited a messiah.

Peter was grasping as he spoke that to which his vision had called and prepared him. How would it unfold? As Peter grasped and as he spoke, the holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. ...astounded that the gift of the holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also [before baptism!], caused Peter to call out in awe, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the holy Spirit even as we have!”

Gentiles and Jewish-Christians shared the gift of God’s Spirit! The implications of living that shared gift the early church would discover and wrangle over at all levels. The bond of God’s Spirit, not a bond of human making, not only united all who believed in Jesus as Messiah and Lord. It challenged, and it continues to challenge believers to accept who God accepts and to do so wholeheartedly. God abides in us to help us accept that challenge.

God abides in us by God’s Spirit. We are to foster unbroken fellowship with one another. That is how we abide in God and with each other. We are able to do this by the gift of God’s Spirit, which makes Christian love much more than a feeling and a human power. Not only with one another: we are to extend ourselves so that others may respond to God who is impartial, universal and who desires God’s people to grow more like Jesus, who revealed God’s love in flesh and blood. Abiding in divine love changes how we act, live and choose. We may perceive that change as most dangerous to ourselves and difficult to undertake. That’s why Jesus gave us his Spirit.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue to feel recreated by our triune God. Ask Peter and Cornelius, who both desired to live as friends of Jesus and for Jesus to consecrate their lives, to present you to Jesus. Converse with Jesus, asking him to strengthen your relationship with Jesus and to encourage you to let go of what hinders your relationship with Jesus. Ask for the grace to act, live and choose in ways which harmonize with Jesus’ gospel. Close your prayer by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we pray it we re-consecrate ourselves to Jesus, and Jesus consecrates us in the truth of his risen life as apostles to our world.

1. The Greek word in Acts 10.10 ekstasis, from which we get our word ecstatic. Its root meaning is a change of state, here in a way of approaching the world with one’s mind that is not the usual way. The verse makes clear that Peter was not ecstatic as the word may suggest to us; instead he was hungry and wished to eat, and he was at prayer even as the meal was being prepared.
2. See Acts 10.19. The entire chapter of simultaneous visions and then Holy Spirit falling on Cornelius and his household before they were baptized is a splendid narrative depicting discernment.
3. Luke 24.47.
Wiki-image of the baptism of Cornelius is in the public domain. Wiki-image--photograph by Giovanni Dall'Orto--of Jesus teaching his apostles is in the public domain.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday word, 16 May 2009

St. Simon Stock, Carmelite(16 May 2009)
Eph 6.10-13,18; Ps 1; Jn 15. 9-17

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
England, Elijah and a Pilgrim

Today Carmelites celebrate the Englishman, St. Simon Stock. In the 13th Century during the crusades Simon made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He met hermits on Mount. Carmel. Mount Carmel is a ridge of mountains, rising 1740 feet above the sea. It is a continuation of the hills of Samaria, which divided Galilee to the north from Judea to the south./1/

Mount Carmel drops steeply into the Mediterranean. Caves dot its cliffs, which provided shelter for people who left the world to live in prayerful solitude. The hermits Simon met remembered Elijah and his followers. When it became too dangerous for pilgrims and natives because of the crusades, Simon returned to England with some of the hermits.

To live they begged, like the Franciscans and Dominicans, orders familiar to the people. The mendicant Carmelites--new way of living for them--elected Simon as their Superior-general.

As their order began to grow Simon established new houses. The shift from solitary to communal living was not easy. That shift was difficult for the Carmelites, who sought to live solitary lives. Also, the established orders resented the newcomers and their devotion to Mary.

That may surprise us, yet that is how it was. Introducing something new plays on human insecurity and challenges accepted ways. When Simon withdrew from everything for some relief from the problems vexing him and the Carmelites, Simon beheld Mary presenting him with a brown scapular to protect him and all Carmelites from “eternal fire. It shall be a sign of peace and a safeguard in times of danger.”/2/ Mary depends on her son’s mediation, and she offered Simon relief through her maternal care so that Simon would depend on Jesus’ mediating love, too.

Simon's story is not a familiar one to us “non-Carmelites,” which is why I rehearsed it. God works in surprising ways to help people save their souls. An Englishman in the Holy Land met hermits who continued to remember Elijah, not only Simon’s help to salvation but others’ as well. People resented them and without realizing it resented God’s ongoing efforts to save the world.

That is not what Jesus encouraged, as we heard in the gospel, but to abide in [his] love. Grow[ing] strong in the Lord, to use St. Paul’s phrase, is not a brash effort. Grow[ing] strong in the Lord is a discerning effort, which seeks to notice God moving in all things, the new as well as the familiar. That requires humility, something that St. Simon Stock had and encourages all Jesus’ friends to cultivate and to nourish no matter anyone’s vocation.

1. Find Mount Carmel and its ridge at D 5 on this map.
2. This timeline contains the full quotation at 1251 on the timelime.
Wiki-image of St. Simon Strock receiving the scapular from Mary is in the public domain.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuesday word, 12 May 2009

Easter Tuesday 5 (12 May 2009)
Ac 14. 19-28; Ps 145; Jn 14. 27-31a
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Witness to Truth and Life

We are aware in our nation that many are put death: captial punishment and abortion are enemies of truth and life. Abroad many die by violence we cannot imagine. Each one is a crime against life and truth. Yet it is Truth and Life, who we continue to celebrate particularly this season. It is also clear to me that same Risen Jesus is present in all who die. In them Risen Jesus shows us his wounds today.

It was like that from Easter night, when the disciples recognized Risen Jesus by his wounds; when they were harried and wounded in Jerusalem; to Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians. Today’s passage of Acts focuses Jesus’ farewell, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives as mandate and warning. God seeks peace through those who are related to God as Jesus was: attuned to God; aligned with God’s heart; and—dreadfully difficult to hold in view but clearly present in Jesus before his resurrection—accepting suffering for others and with others.

In this last, Risen Jesus’ gift–mandate also warns us not to shun our duty to mediate God’s peace to persecutors. Put another way: courageously always stand for Truth and Life. Will we be stoned? More than likely, no. Surely, though, our hearts will be bruised; our reputations wrinkled (if not ruined); and our lives will be ever different.

As the Letter to the Hebrews said: In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood./1/ But struggle—bloody or no—belongs to us all. Our greatest struggle has the greatest suffering-for-others power: witness—to give it and to be it. Pity that the lectionary omitted Jesus’ final words in the last verse we heard: Get up, let us go. Today and until Risen Jesus’ returns, let us go is witness.

1. Hebrews 12.4.
Wiki-image of the Antioch Chalice is in the public domain.

Pope's Royal Guide

Not on the itinerary Sunday was Jordan's King Abdullah II, who gave Pope Benedict a personal tour of an area around the Jordan River. Jordan's
King Abdullah is planning to build five Christian churches near the historical site some refer to as the birth of Christianity. And one of the expected consequences of the Holy Father's visit to the location is that pilgrims will rediscover its significance.
[Source: ZENIT]
The pope blessed two foundations of those future churches, one Latin rite, the other Greek-Melkite.
Wiki-image of the Rift Valley is in the public domain.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pope Benedict Aims at Both Past and Future

Pope Benedict continues his visit to the Middle East. He remembered the Holocaust's victims at both the Tel Aviv airport and later at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. posted again as he accompanies the papal tour; he noted:
With Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looking on, Benedict XVI prayed that "both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders."

That comment comes at a time when Netanyahu's new government is sending mixed signals about its commitment to Palestinian statehood.

Mr. Allen's post included remarks by the pope to Israeli leaders as well as "ordinary families of Israel."


Wiki-image of multi-language mosaic at Yad Vashem is used according to the GFDL.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday word, 10 May 2009

Easter Sunday5 (10 May 2009)
Ac 9.26-31; Ps 22; 1 Jn 3.18-24; Jn 15. 1-8
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Organic View

While waiting for my early morning dental cleaning last week, I perused an article about gardening. It featured a balcony-garden plan, advertising a large planter-box more versatile and attractive than a terra-cotta alternative. “Not if one likes earthenware,” I thought. However, the author seemed not to prefer earthenware.

Today’s scripture selections remind us that God prefers what is earthy, namely us humans. In a few verses, Luke rehearsed the history of Saul who became Paul. God had chosen the former murderous enemy of the church to be God’s instrument on behalf of it. Yet the disciples, to whom Barnabas brought Saul, feared him. What they knew prevented them from believing God’s preference for Saul and God’s Spirit at work reshaping him to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul’s story became a story shared as Barnabas related it to the disciples. Barnabas was called the son of consolation, and he lived his name by rescuing Paul and dispelling the fear, which gripped the disciples. Barnabas was not the sole agent of consolation. He was the choice of Holy Spirit on that occasion. The consolation of the Holy Spirit gave growth to the church through him.

Jesus, like rabbis before him, named Holy Spirit Consoler. That’s what Paraclete means. What effect does Holy Spirit’s consolation have? One is boldness. As Barnabas described Paul, the former murderer of disciples of Jesus had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. The disciples recognized themselves in Paul because they had been frightened to proclaim Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Holy boldness is a gift of Holy Spirit, and it allows us to love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

Spiritual consolation also allows us to see differently, or better, to see with the vision of our Messiah and Lord. We need to be careful with this effect lest we think that have Jesus in our pocket instead of trying to measure up to the vision of Jesus, to which the church is called.

For a long time the church acted presumptuously instead of allowing Jesus’ vision to be its measure. Today’s gospel and the way the church saw itself until the Second Vatican Council provide us with one example.

The church had moved away from its evangelical beginnings and came to see itself as led by Jesus, then as the hierarchy and then the hierarchy leading the laity. The bishops gathered in Council in the 1960s began with that plan. As they prayed and discussed they set it aside in favor of teaching that the church is led by Jesus, then seeing the People of God, and then naming how God’s people relate with the world and one another, as hierarchy and laity./1/

Jesus had thought that organic way not the way that had become the standard way of thinking among Catholics. I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. ...Abide in me, as I abide in you. ...I am the vine, you are the branches. [Those who] abide in me and I in [them] will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. It allows the church to see authority as servant-leadership, which Jesus modeled, and which Catholics have recovered, thanks to the Second Vatican Council.

Holy Spirit is the energy of our growth as branches grafted to Jesus, our vine. Our limitations as earthen vessels are opportunities for Jesus, his Father and their Holy Spirit to give growth to the People of God and to the world through us. Our spiritual reshaping affects more than us. It is the beginning of bearing fruit, for the sake of our world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue to fee recreated by the life of our triune God. Ask St. Barnabas to present you to Jesus. Converse with Jesus, naming ways that you abide in him and ways that you separate yourself from him. Ask for the grace to join yourself to Jesus more completely. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we pray it helps us measure up to Jesus’ vision and praise Jesus in deed and truth.

1. The Second Vatican Council expressed the mystery of the vine and branches as: Jesus; people of God; and roles in the church in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium). The Council expressed the church’s relationship with the world in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes).
Wiki-image of vine and branches by Bernt Rostad
is used according to Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday word, 03 May 2009

Easter Sunday4 (03 May 2009)
Ac 4.8-12; Ps 118; 1Jn 3.1-2; Jn 10. 11-18
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Universal and Particular

The imagery of shepherd and Jesus’ self-designation as the good shepherd invite us to consider Jesus as our anchor for each of us personally as well as for the church. A word about our Shepherd, and a word about us.

As good shepherd Jesus is more than a guide. Jesus offers us the life he shares with his Father. We heard him remind us that he his this life’s cornerstone and foundation: This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. What we name as resurrection is the measure of God’s love for Jesus, the son.

God’s resurrection-love for Jesus widens the meaning of shepherd. By calling himself the good shepherd, Jesus was not merely speaking in human terms. His self-designation means he is the true and perfect guide and model of living and loving: Freely I lay down my life in order to take it up again. He desired all sharers in his life and love may come to know God, whom he called his dear Father.

Jesus reshaped shepherd to mean giver of divine life and not in any random way. Jesus shares his risen life with each of us as if each of us was the sole person in the universe. By his Spirit, the energy of his risen life, Jesus joins us to himself with intimate knowledge: I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. In Jesus you and I become children of God.

Far from belittling, children is an endearing term. Unlike the word sheep, children suggests our future is to grow in our identity as beloved by Jesus, who is beloved by God. This well describes the dynamic of the Easter mystery. It is also the lifelong task of each of us. The word the church uses for our task is “vocation.”

Pope Benedict this year has focused vocation this way: “Faith in the divine initiative--the human response.”/1/ Vocation has two dimensions, universal and particular. The universal dimension is easily lost. The universal call to holiness/2/ is the vocation of all the baptized. We seek to infuse with “religious values” all our “earthly activities.”/3/

The particular dimension applies to each one’s life path: single; married; men and women in consecrated life, who take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience; and priests and bishops.
All Christians are to “stimulate our concern for cultivating this [earth]” on our pilgrimage to the “new earth” awaiting us./4/

Praying for vocations is at once universal: that all baptized into our risen Messiah and Lord may become more generous children of God, whose lives witness to the new life our risen Messiah has won for us. Praying for vocations is also particular: that each person will faithfully live as God has created each of us. Praying for vocations also requests God to grace young people to preach the message of our Good Shepherd by lives as consecrated religious or to preach it in word and sacrament so that all the activities of the faithful will be bathed in the light of the gospel.”/5/

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue to feel recreated by our triune God. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Consider you life as it has been, as it is and as you desire it to be; then entrust your life to Jesus and ask that he consecrate it to his service and glory. Ask Jesus to enlighten your mind and heart so that your personal vocation may invite others to respond to the divine energy risen Jesus reveals in his church. Close by saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us appreciate better what we are sent into the world to do each day.

1. His Message on the occasion of the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
2. The title of Chapter 5 of the Decree on the Church (Lumen gentium) of the Second Vatican Council. The chapter devoted itself to following Jesus in daily life.
3.The Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church, 43.
4. Ibid., 39.
5. Ibid., 43.
Wiki-image by PetrusSilesius of the main portal of Berlin-Charlottenburg's Sacred Heart Church is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Saturday word, 02 May 2009

Elizabeth Walsh-Kevin Frey wedding (02 May 2009)
Tobit 8. 5-7a; Ps 128; Colossians 3.12-17; John 15. 12-16
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. A New Image

Elizabeth and Kevin, you give us an opportunity to appreciate more God’s word as we join in your celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony. While that’s true at every wedding, you chose scriptures that are not often heard together. Like all choices yours echo who you are. They also shine a light on Christian marriage.

In choosing the selection from the Book of Tobit, you confess that God has brought you together and you implore God to favor you with continued help in your mutual enterprise. God offers you the Sacrament of Matrimony to do that. The grace of this sacrament sets you on your course in life as two individuals striving to make one life together. In addition to the mundane challenges of married life, the Sacrament of Matrimony offers you divine help to save each other’s souls by growing in holiness marked by married fidelity and sharing your faith with others, above all your children.

You will grow to know at once intimately and concretely that the gift of your faith, while deeply personal, is not private. You have already begun to realize that by your faithful and caring ways by which you have begun learning one another.

Your married life, incarnated by your lives and your home, will share in the mystery, unity and fruitful love between our risen Jesus and his church./1/ Together you are an image of the church.

What does it mean to be an image of the church? First, it means, Kevin, you bring Elizabeth closer to Jesus by revealing divine love in your person; and Elizabeth, you bring Kevin closer to Jesus by revealing divine love in your person. To reveal Jesus to each other is down to earth, most practical as well as a great grace, as St. Paul expressed it. Using a clothing-metaphor, St. Paul realized this great grace is one with our humanity.

So adorn yourselves in heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another, if one as a grievance against another. I pray you enjoy many years in which to put on love, your bond of perfecting one another.

To be an image of the church also means that you learn both to receive love from each other and to give love--in all those myriad ways St. Paul named, as well as ways you will discover on your own. How you learn both to give and to receive love from each other will allow you to move with greater Christian poise among people. People may not know how to name what they sense, but they will feel something unique, for you will be revealing Jesus to them even without saying a word.

Third, to be an image of the church means that affection is true communication. In your married relationship, as I mentioned in one of several conversations we enjoyed, everything is a medium of communication. Besides words, silence, time, eating, laughing, crying, challenging, money and sex are ways you will communicate. Your affection for each other is unique and belongs solely to you both. In the future, your children will school you in showing affection and communicating in ways that will gratify you and challenge you to be more loving than you have yet to imagine.

The Sacrament of Matrimony doesn’t only offer you the opportunity to become an image of the church, an image of Jesus’ compassion. The Sacrament of Matrimony graces you to be a “domestic church,”/2/ to incarnate Jesus by your life and love for the sake of our world. Jesus’ compassion is your vocation of married maturity, which flows from your baptismal maturity. To continue to grow more mature requires keeping near Jesus.

The Sacrament of Matrimony graces you to do that. Staying connected with the church graces you to do that. Living the Christian life, beginning with each other in those practical ways St. Paul listed, graces you to grow more mature in and with Jesus.

Kevin and Elizabeth, the Sacrament of Matrimony deepens your relationship with Jesus, who calls his faithful followers friends. Christian friendship is more than closeness, it is a mutual sharing in the mission of his gospel and revealing Jesus more clearly by your lives. You married love uniquely reveals Jesus in a world that so needs apostles of his presence.

I’m proud of you both and delighted in your future. I’m grateful to you for being honest with one another. I congratulate you personally and on behalf of the church, who rejoices that you have agreed to save each other day by day and to reveal Jesus by your married life and love to us, who know you, as well as to people who do not.

1. Rite of Marriage, 11.
2. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Church (Lumen gentium), 11.
Wiki image by Wolfgang Sauber of symbols of marriage is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license. Wiki-image of a 7th-century gold wedding ring is in the public domain.