Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday word, 31 Oct 2010

31st Sunday of the Year C (31 Oct 2010)

Wis 11. 22-12. 2; Ps 145; 2Th 1. 11-2 .2; Lk 19. 1-10

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Priesthood. . .

. . .I will guess you are thinking of ordained priesthood. After all, this weekend the church in the United States prays for priests present and future. I appreciate your prayers and your many kindnesses. Yet, if you and others did not exercise your vocations, I and other priests would not have our ministry. I want to reflect with you on our relationship to priesthood.

Baptism into Jesus is the primary sacrament because all the channels of divine life flow from it. Baptism begins our transformation to be more like Jesus. We become a “new creation” by Jesus’ Spirit as the Second Vatican Council affirmed.

Christ made His brothers [and sisters], called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body. In that Body the life of Christ is poured into the believers who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ who suffered and was glorified. Through Baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.’1

What does “formed in the likeness of Christ” mean? Consider with me how we use the word people. We may mean all humans in the world; or we may mean all humans of a nation; or we may mean the humans in this neighborhood but not another neighborhood. Jesus’ ancestors and contemporaries saw themselves as belonging to God in a way unlike others. They knew God created all people, and they saw that they shared a unique relationship with God and through God with each other. One of the phrases they used to signal their unique relationship was descendants of Abraham, which we heard Jesus use in the singular when he invited Zacchaeus. That is a move from all people to a group of people. It isn’t the only move.

The church early began to see that everything the Hebrew scriptures said of God applied to Jesus. My God and king in the responsorial psalm pointed to Jesus. Baptism allows us to participate in Jesus’ ministry of prophet, priest and king2 as his people. Greek had two words for people, and the New Testament writers, who wrote in Greek, made a choice. One meant all people; the other, one’s group; we might say neighborhood and not be far from their meaning. The New Testament writer chose the one for al people. The word for all people gave us our word, laity. Baptism gives the laity, all the faithful, a prophetic character, a priestly character and a royal character. Catholics today get the first two more readily than the last. Laity enjoy royal status with the privileges and the responsibilities that go with being transformed into risen Jesus. Some may be shocked to hear that. Baptism offers something more shocking.

By being spliced into our Messiah Jesus our humanity is redeemed, and we become people we were not. As the First Letter of Peter put it:

You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of [God’s] own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy” but now you have received mercy.3

We don’t do that by our power, but by God’s merciful invitation. The shocking result of baptism is that as people of the Messiah, his faith, his compassion and his life-giving service are not for us to keep. The shocking thing about baptism is that the royal living of Jesus’ disciples imitates Jesus’ faith so they can share his compassion and his life with all. We are particularly Jesus’ disciples, and we live for and with all humans. Ordained priesthood rises from the royal living of the baptized to help you live clearly the gospel you believe.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, compose yourself in our triune God. Ask Zacchaeus to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus: praise him for inviting you to be part of him; ask Jesus to help you make him present in ever more concrete ways. Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, deliver us from evil, on our lips are not private protection. They liberate us to welcome Jesus inviting us to invite others to enjoy his risen life. We do that best as we imitate his faith and compassion.


  1. Constitution on the Church, 7.
  2. Rite of Baptism for Children, 62.
  3. 1 Peter 2. 9-10.
Wiki-images in the Brooklyn Museum open collection of Zacchaeus and on a German coat of arm, depicting Jesus as priest and king, are used according to the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday word, 24 Oct 2010

30tth Sunday of the Year C (24 Oct 2010)

Sir 35. 12-14, 16-18; Ps 34; 2Tm 4. 6-8, 16-18; Lk 18. 9-14

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The Lord Will Rescue Me...

...Those words we heard from Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy offer us a way in to today’s scriptures and to the mystery we celebrate. Do we really believe the Lord will rescue us? By “believe” I don’t mean a mental nod to the Lord’s desire to save us. By “do we believe” I mean, do we live out of the Lord’s desire to save us, does the Lord’s desire affect how we live, how we choose, how we respond to others?

To live convinced the Lord will rescue us doesn’t mean we have everything figured out. It points to our attitude, our disposition that we’re in God’s presence and God is present to us in everything, inviting us to come closer. That attitude and disposition, that we’re in God’s presence, God who creates us and blesses us each moment, calms and centers us in life’s chaotic storms. This tranquility registers as feeling accompanied in doubt and dismay, as well as in joy and relief.

The characters in Jesus’ familiar parable, the Pharisee and the tax-agent, illustrate this from one who really believed the Lord will rescue him as well as from one who didn’t believe that. Who do you think really believed and who didn’t? Consider the two points I mentioned: to believe the Lord will rescue me doesn’t mean that I have everything all figured out; it means I have an attitude, a disposition that I am in God’s loving presence.

The Pharisee was convinced that he was not like the rest of people, naming three particulars, greedy, dishonest and adulterous. Why he fasted twice weekly and tithed! We know from our experience the Pharisee was mistaken. First, who of us hasn’t felt greedy, dishonest or adulterous? We may have restrained ourselves from acting out those and other trespasses yet all of us fight temptations; and we give in to some.

While tithing was encouraged and practiced, fasting twice a week wasn’t the norm. No one was obliged to fast twice a week. The Pharisee claimed he surpassed others! The tax-agent made no claims at all. Nor did he give God a speech; he prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ He was clear about that alone. He was honest.

Second: to believe the Lord will rescue us means we have an attitude, a disposition that God accompanies us. The Pharisee was in the temple, but he spoke [his] prayer to himself. Plus, he had an eye on the tax-agent: not only am I not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—[I’m not] even like this tax collector. Giving God a speech while looking over his shoulder at whomever else was in the temple: that’s talent! It isn’t prayer. The tax-agent did not presume to tell God anything, only to implore God’s mercy.

As his simple, profound prayer showed, the tax-agent truly believed the Lord would rescue him. The Pharisee’s speech, on the other hand, showed he trusted in his efforts with their consequences—not focusing on God but on others, about whom he was suspicious. This was Jesus’ intent to point out that our own righteousness does not get us far or save us.

Trusting our efforts, as if they were not God’s gifts to us first, is a far cry from living out of the Lord’s desire to save us. To trust exclusively in our efforts is a universal human temptation. For some their efforts are their idols. Our individualistic and consumerist society makes personal efforts one’s idols subtly and too easily. Do we readily go before God asking that God save us, that God be merciful to us? The Lord will not delay in showing mercy to those who ask for it honestly. This is Jesus’ way of being humble: alert; active; and aware of God accompanying us in life. Here’s a good practice.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow yourself to grow aware of the Trinity accompanying you. Ask the tax-agent to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus: praise Jesus for being our God’s presence in our flesh & blood; ask Jesus to help you be his disciple who is more alert, active and aware of Jesus saving you and inviting you to be his heart, hands, head and feet as you journey through life. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, forgive we forgive others on our lips, shape us to live the compassion we ask Jesus to show us. Jesus’ patient love justifies us not our efforts. Putting the gift of Jesus’ patient love into action draws others, and us, closer to Jesus and one another.

Wiki-images by Johannes Böckh & Thomas Mirtsch of a fresco of the Pharisee and Tax-Collector and by Joachim Köhler of a stained-glass window detail of the Tax-Collector are used according to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.