Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday word, 28 Feb 2010

2nd Lenten Sunday C (28 Feb 2010)

Gn 15. 5-12, 17-18; Ps 27; Phil 3. 17-4. 1; Lk 9. 28b-36

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Bright Night

Over 25 years ago the Transfiguration played a powerful role in my annual retreat, so powerful I’ve never stopped feeling it. I reflect with you on one element as you continue your Lent. In the scene we just heard in the gospel I noticed on my retreat that the shadows of everyone were long. It was late in the day.

Several Lents later I noticed that day dimming into night features in today’s first reading from Genesis. When two scripture selections share a feature, especially selections read together as today, we ought to take notice. Long shadows are not merely my fancy. Luke ended the transfiguration scene and began the next with the words, On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him.1

Elsewhere gospels remind us that Jesus often prayed well into nights, and he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. On the mountain they glimpsed Jesus in glory with the two pivotal prophets of Judaism: Moses, the one who introduced the people to God and who was the measure of all prophets2; and Elijah, whose return people anticipated.3

A bright night, a light shattering darkness, expressed in poor human language divine glory. A bright night, a light of no human making shattering darkness, gives us a feel for God’s saving purpose. The Psalmist gave it a personal texture: The Lord is my light and my salvation. St. Paul gave it cosmic importance: our citizenship is in heaven where our lowly human body will give way to a glorified body, that is, we will participate in Jesus’ resurrection.

The thought of that exhausts me! If you’re like me, then trying to choose to act as if the Lord is my light and my salvation and to treat the world with a respectful freedom because I am only passing through on my way to our true destiny exhaust even more! Yes it was getting toward night on that mountain, and even without glimpsing Jesus’ glory so that Peter and his companions [who] had been overcome by sleep, [became] fully awake, Peter, the entrepreneurial fisherman-leader, may have already thought it wise to spend the night.

Many liken Peter’s murmuring to point to anyone’s reluctance to leave behind a glimpse of glory for one’s daily responsibilities. I suppose. Yet, the gospel is clear: Peter did not know what he was saying. That suggests he did not know what he and his companions beheld to want to do more than to sleep. Glory eludes us all. We might paraphrase Peter’s thoughts in our language this way: “Jesus, this brilliance is awesome, you with Moses and Elijah! Let me sleep on it to figure it out.”

We all know we do process things in our sleep. We also know that some things our minds need to process make our sleep restless. I think the divine voice, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him”—alone not the prophets, became the taproot giving new life to Peter and his companions, helping them harness their restlessness and redirect it into energetic ways to proclaim Jesus, dead and risen, the glorious messiah, who is the pioneer and perfecter of our salvation.4

Lent reconnects us with Jesus, our source of glory, now lived in part and for which we ardently hope. Lenten practices rescue us from the restlessness of impatience, intolerance and indecisive Christian living and redirect our energies so others will glimpse at least life live in a less limited way and may even possess more surely Jesus’ promise: his cross is our glory.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow the life of the Trinity to bathe you in light, inviting you into their glory. Ask Peter, James and John to present you to Jesus. Simply be in Jesus’ presence, holding a crucifix or the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we have in our homes, to help you. Ask for the grace to be in his presence often to let Jesus settle you and redirect your restlessness, fear or indecision into energy to proclaim his gospel. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Its phrase, in heaven, points not to a place but a way of being, which is even more ready to extend forgiveness than to welcome it.


  1. Luke 9.37.
  2. Deuteronomy closed, extolling Moses as unequalled: Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and against all his land, and for the might and the terrifying power that Moses exhibited in the sight of all Israel (34.10-12).
  3. A few verses earlier, Jesus was connected with this tradition that Elijah would reappear. See Luke 9.8.
  4. See Hebrews 2.10.


Wiki-image of Transfiguration illuminating an 11th Century gospel-book is in the public domain.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday word, 27 Feb 2010

Lenten Saturday Week 1 (27 Feb 2010)

Dt 26. 16-19; Ps 119; Mt 5. 43-48

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Our Purpose

One of the many advantages of side-by-side readings from both Testaments of the bible is that we see a richer tapestry of the qualities of God and our kinship with them. Though we are not identical to God, we bear a closer resemblance to God than any other created thing. That’s what image and likeness of God mean. A 4-month-old girl may bear striking resemblance to an aunt, when she was that age, but no one confuses the infant with the aunt.

The reading from Deuteronomy, using covenant language of two parties, does not allow us to collapse humans into God. Rather, it announces our purpose, using the word sacred. Sacred is a better translation of the Hebrew word than another frequent translation, holy. The Hebrew did not mean or imply pious but set apart for a particular purpose. Deuteronomy amplified the divine purpose: you are to be a people peculiarly [God’s] own, as [God] promised you.

When they did not know God, and thus could have no affection for God, God chose to rescue the ragtag band of Hebrews in Egypt, in order that they might make God known to all humans as the one creator and redeemer. One effect of their vocation allowed more people know that all humans were images and likenesses of God: all people, not believers only, as James reminded us, humans are made in the likeness of God.

People who know and have affection for God—in relationship; and friendship language is in scripture: Jesus called his disciples friends—people who know and have affection for God fulfill their vocation better the more they allow God to be the measure and goal of their affection for others, unbelievers and believers alike!

This is what the first Christians heard in the word we translate as perfect. For many the word has a sterile and an unapproachable flavor. It means the goal in the sense of finish-line. We approach it more when we live with higher human integrity and virtue.

God is the measure of our vocation to represent God. Lent schools us again in human integrity and virtue, which are in synch with God’s heart. As God exercises compassion with us, our particular purpose is to exercise compassion. Compassion makes and keeps us especially [God’s] own.


1. James 3.9. Both creation accounts in Genesis 1 & 2 speak of humans—not “believing” humans—who enjoy the divine image (Genesis 1.27).


Wiki-image of Moses and the people at Sinai is in the public domain.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Increasing Numbers. . .

. . .of Catholics worldwide

The Pontifical Yearbook for 2010 was presented to Pope Benedict on Saturday. The increases, slight as percentages, reflect not a small number of people throughout the world. Some details are summarized here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spiritual Exercises for the Pope, Curia

Each year as Lent begins the Pope and his household and cardinals and others from the different Vatican offices gather for their annual retreat. For any who wonders what they are and what shape they take, Salesian Father Enrico dal Covolo, the giver of the spiritual exercises this year, briefly explains their structure and the daily themes.
The spiritual exercises take place for the Roman Curia in the first week of Lent, from Sunday afternoon to Saturday morning. Participating in them, in addition to the Holy Father and the papal household, are cardinals and superiors of the different dicasteries.

...the structure of the exercises is made up of three meditations, two in the morning and one in the afternoon: there are 17 meditations in total, including the opening and closing ones.

The motive of the spiritual exercises is always the same, valid for all the faithful: "to put one's life in order," to use the words of the great master of spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
More may be found at this interview with Fr. dal Calvo.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Papal Cabinet

Some think of authority and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in terms of power. The Church understand authority in terms of service with a specific goal: the "nurturing and constant growth of the People of God" (Decree on the Church, 18, of the Second Vatican Council). The pope's title, now used with refreshed vigor, "servant of the servants of God," is as old as Pope Gregory the Great, whose papacy spanned the final 10 years of the 6th Century and the first five of the 7th Century. Pope Gregory used the title for himself in later correspondence.

Today the pope continues to be chosen from among the College of Cardinals. Authority placed in service of the church is the guiding principle of popes and their cabinets, the cardinals. The pope may name new cardinals late in this calendar year. According to Vatican observer, Mr. John L. Allen Jr.:
While popes are free to make anyone they want a cardinal, in general the bulk of these nominations are fairly predictable, since there are certain jobs in the church with which a cardinal’s “red hat” is more or less automatically associated. Given that the last consistory came in November 2007, the list of these “cardinals in waiting” has become fairly long.
Mr. Allen identified and explained in a recent post who they are and something about why some would or would not be named later this year.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday word, 21 Feb 2010

1st Lenten Sunday C (21 Feb 2010)

Dt 26. 4-10; Ps 91; Rm 10. 8-13-; Lk 4. 1-13

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Wider and More Public

Earlier this month Pope Benedict welcomed Lutheran Bishop Mark Hanson and the delegation accompanying him to Rome. Pope Benedict reminded them and us that work toward chuch unity is more than a human project. He said, “To build on what has been achieved together...a spiritual ecumenism should be grounded in ardent prayer and in conversion to Christ, the source of grace and truth.”1 One of Lent’s pillars for conversion is prayer.

That encounter with the pope reminded me that prayer, like ecumenism, is a relationship with Jesus. Relationships grow and develop as words become actions. Pondering the papal greeting to the Lutheran delegation reminded me that Christian churches exist to confess in word and deed. For us Catholics the first function of the word confess connotes naming sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our scripture readings remind us that confess has an older, wider and more public meaning.

In worship to confess means to declare, and people confess because they have been moved deeply and desire to thank God. For Jews the exodus from slavery in Egypt to liberation motivated them to praise God, alone and assembled in worship. The exodus was no human project of escape but God’s graciousness, which left them in awe: God brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with [stunning] power, with signs and wonders.

The second exodus, Jesus’ passing through death to totally new life and way of being, is the culmination of Lent and its sacred Triduum. Like the Jews after Moses and the first exodus, you and I may not be as awe-inspired by the dying and rising of our Messiah Jesus. The prophets’ mission to the chosen people sought to help them get in touch again with the awe of God so that it would fill them and spill over onto the lives of others with effects which were felt and life-changing. Lent is that for us.

That second exodus and St. Paul’s experience of it moved him deeply, so deeply that he became an apostle of the risen Messiah Jesus. He expressed the baptismal confession of faith as each one’s Christian vocation: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For us contemporary disciples of Jesus, heart modifies the verb believe. We are fact-oriented, logic-driven and give the head a prominence, which undercuts knowing with our hearts.

It is not a matter of head or heart but of using them together. A problem may challenge the head, but the heart is engaged when we consider what moves us to address a problem. My head helps me decide ways to behave, but my heart moves me to thank another, to ask forgiveness, to savor my gifts or to share my bounty with people in need. My head marshals evidence, but my heart lets me know when my life cries out for meaning or enjoys it.

The more alert we are to our hearts guiding our heads, the more like Jesus we grow: single-minded. Single-minded about his relationship with God and his desire to allow God’s desire to be Jesus’ desire is how Luke portrays Jesus, not only in the desert but throughout his life. One does not live on bread alone2; You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve3; and You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test4: all are scriptural norms and guides for living in relationship with God and others. Jesus’ single-mindedness is the measure of his sinlessness, which we profess and desire to imitate. Growing more single-minded, with our hearts guiding our heads, is the goal of any lenten practice.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, make a deliberate pause at least to desire to be aware of our Triune God. Ask saints and angels to present you to Jesus. Converse with Jesus confessing your wonder that Jesus created and redeemed you; thank Jesus for equipping you with your talents and filling you with your desire to follow him. Ask Jesus for the grace to follow him more closely throughout Lent and beyond it. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The word or phrase that moves you most deeply may be the clue to how Jesus is inviting you to be his apostle of his risen life for others.


  1. Benedict’s greeting was on 10 Feb 2010.
  2. Deuteronomy 8.3 recalls with wonder the way God nourished the liberated Jews on their way to their own land.
  3. Deuteronomy 6.13 recalls that other creedal statement that made Jewish monotheism unique in the ancient Mediterranean world.
  4. Deuteronomy 6.16 recalls that even in the shadow of God’s signs and wonders, some of the Chosen People persisted to create God in their image.
Wiki-images of Jesus tempted in the desert and of the triumph of Christ Jesus are in the public domain.