Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday word, 31 May 2010

Feast of the Visitation (31 May 2010)

Rm 12.9-16; Resp verses from Is 12; Lk 1. 39-56

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Very Old and Very Current

The church celebrates this moment in the life of Jesus in the womb of Mary, a moment after learning she would be the Mother of God. Undoubtedly Mary pondered that for a good while, but time was not so important because she had replied that she would play her part in God’s providential plan for our salvation.

The church invites us to focus on this moment often, when we pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. I want to share with you something very old and very current.

In the middle ages in Germany people praying the rosary had a custom of adding the mystery after the word, Jesus, in the Hail Mary. The example given in the history book I was reading was the scourging of Jesus. Thus: “Hail Mary...your womb Jesus, who was scourged for [me]....” I pondered that for some time, and it seemed I could appreciate the mystery more if I did that. I tried it, and I continue to do it.

Sometimes a mystery requires adaptation. The Visitation is such one. This is what has become second nature to me: “Hail Mary...your womb Jesus, with whom you hastened to Elizabeth as a model of hospitality for me. Holy Mary, Mother of God....” I realized recently that interpolation is 13 words. It doesn’t seem long at all because those words allow me to enter deeply into that mystery of the rosary.

Entering the entire paschal mystery or aspects of it, plunging into the mystery shapes us more into Christian missionaries who transform the world by sincere love, mutual affection, fervent spirit, patient endurance, showing honor, rejoic[ing] in hope, persever-[ing] in prayer and excercis[ing] hospitality.

Today as we pray for service personnel, especially those who died in active duty, the Visitation reminds us that hospitality on the international scene includes exercising diplomacy in particularly patient and prudent ways precisely to avoid the deaths of women and men who are too young to die.

The Christian mystery exercised by Mary or another saint or sainted person is no past event. It has present effects in the lives and hearts of all who open themselves to the Christian mystery. Jesus always extended hospitality, especially to those others forgot or ignored. Its no wonder because he learned such conscious care in his mother’s womb. The Christian mystery is our womb of wisdom, and gives us new birth so we may transform our world.


Wiki-image from a page in the Bodmer Codex portraying the Visitation is in the public domain.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday word, 30 May 2010

Solemnity of the Holy Trinity C (30 May 2010)

Pr 8. 22-31; Ps 8; Rm 5. 1-5; Jn 16. 12-15

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Absorbed and Transformed

Pope John XXII established this solemnity for universal celebration by the church in 1331. Some who make the history of liturgy their study classify our celebration as an “idea feast.” Rather than celebrating an event from Jesus’ life at mass, we call to mind a dogma of faith. It is not so cut and dry: we celebrate our one God creating and saving us as Three Persons.

Worship—namely, baptism and its formula; our creed, the norm of our faith; as well as an event in Jesus’ life—his promise to abide with us as he commissioned his disciples: all name the Trinity personally, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.1 Indeed, worship and scripture predated creeds! From whom did we get the creeds? From those pastors of churches and holy men of the first eight centuries, known for their holiness of life, who taught the apostolic tradition and were intimately familiar with the scriptures. To several of these the church has given the honor of “church father.”

The fathers of the church lived in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean world: places like Antioch and Constantinople in the East to Alexandria, Egypt, Rome and Lyons in the West, to name a few. They were attentive to the world about them, and they were not at all lazy with their minds. More important, they experienced life and its unpredictable ups and downs, including slander, threats, exiles, imprisonment and bodily suffering. So when they made statements as pastors and about how to speak of God they spoke from experience, not out of touch with the rigors of life. We judge them unfairly if we think they were out of touch.

The church fathers have long fascinated me by their earthiness and direct speech, even their quirkiness. Augustine, for example, came to see that he was not created to have sex freely, but as he prayed to God for the grace to be chaste, he ended his prayer with “chaste—but not yet.”2 Others were short-tempered, impatient and not given to hear clearly their rivals. Human foibles and sinfulness never rule out holiness, in the past or present.

One characteristic of the Fathers in the East—the lands of the first sees and earliest worshiping communities, to which Eastern Orthodoxy and our Eastern Churches trace themselves—draws me strongly. They were more attracted, indeed absorbed by, mystery, worship, vision and contemplation in its beholding sense.3 They felt no need to explain the mystery because words would distract people from it, prevent them from feeling its power and being transformed.

The West favored the intellect more. As a result, being intoxicated by worship and transformed by the Spirit at work in worship got muted. Intellectual rigor has its place, of course, but for us its place is always beneath mystery, worship, vision and contemplation.

So to distill four centuries into a sentence: the need came to offer Christians a way to speak accurately about the one God. The Fathers, reading scripture with great respect, care and unwavering conviction and mindful of what they passed on to the newly initiated and what all sang in worship, taught that the one God creates and saves the world each moment as three Persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. This is quirky math on gone wild: one plus one plus one equals one! Yet it’s our Christian arithmetic, and we’ve experienced our triune God not out there but personally. I doubt anyone here would “imagine plain words can precisely or truly or appropriately describe the love of the Lord... [to save us or assure our hearts].”4 So I’ll not chatter at you and delay our worship of our triune God, who transforms us as we allow it.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, enter the Trinity with worship to help you: trace the sign of the cross on yourself several times as you say the Divine Name slowly. Ask the disciples Jesus commissioned to baptize in the name of Father, Son, Holy Spirit to present you to Jesus. Ask Jesus to help you experience your baptized life in a more loving, active and generous fashion. Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Saying Jesus’ words, Our Father, reminds us Jesus revealed God personally and that like risen Jesus, his Father brings us more alive by their Spirit in us.


  1. Matthew 28.20.
  2. Paraphrasing his Confessions, 8.7.17.
  3. theoría (θεορία) in Greek. Science, which I love, in its use of the word “theory” suggests a single connotation in which ideas rank (nearly) supreme. Christians today and our modern forebears have been wooed away from mystery and beholding something for its sake.
  4. St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 25 (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), p. 218. John lived from 579 to 649.
Wiki-image of the Rublev Icon of the Holy Trinity is in the public domain.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday word, 29 May 2010

Daniel Kaminiski-Laurel Ianni wedding (29 May 2010)

Tob 8. 5-7a; 1Co 12. 31-13. 8; Mk 10. 6-9

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

For the World As Well As Each Other

Laurel and Dan, today you inaugurate your noble purpose in life. You, as well as family and friends, may be thinking Christian marriage. Yet, your noble purpose Christian marriage shapes you to do and graces you to do readily in your life together. It’s profound and not complicated, though it challenges us all. Your noble purpose is to receive each other’s love.

Giving love is much easier than receiving love. One reason is that when I show love I am in control. When I receive another’s love, I am not in control. The temptation exists when I show love to get something, to influence another or to be noticed. Receiving love—from the smallest kindness to another sharing in my joy or sorrow—happens to me as I am, deserving or not.

From the beginning of my priestly ministry I have shared that with couples as I assisted them to prepare for marriage and in homilies at their weddings. My Jesuit life—which began after I was ordained 12 years—allows me to see receiving love as a noble purpose, indeed each one’s vocation, as St. Ignatius of Loyola would remind you and your families and friends today.

I offer this to you, Dan and Laurel, because your John Carroll experience was grounded in this Ignatian vision. Think of it! Ignatius made accessible from his 16th Century to our 21st that receiving God’s living love transforms us; helps us live and love as Jesus taught us; and saves us.

We receive God’s living love in numerous ways, including: the sacraments; through prayers said for us; through the example of family and friends; and by the good done our way by people we know and people we don’t. Receiving love shapes us and equips us to show love to others.

The marriage vows which I asked you to ponder throughout your marriage preparation process can sound as though giving love is the goal of each of you. Friends, you will hear them express more than to love; they will honor each other. Marital honor is the highest esteem each spouse can show the other. Further, that mutual esteem belongs to you alone! Marital honor welcomes the spouse and the love the spouse offers. Your bodies, minds, emotions, likes and dislikes and deep desires will shape your mutual honor to be uniquely yours. Jesus recalled Genesis to describe your uniqueness as one flesh. I join to it another image favored by the apostles: your are two individuals with one heart and one mind.1

That is friendship language of the highest order, Laurel and Dan. The marriage friendship, St. Paul reminds us, puts flesh and blood on the mystery of God with Jesus together with their Holy Spirit among us. From today your married love will make the divine mystery accessible to the world in still one more way.

Because love never ends each of you will always be able to receive it from one another. As you grow in your married life together, you will notice you will receive one another’s love more steadily. As you grow in your married life, you will also notice moments when you won’t receive love so gracefully or gratefully. Take heart! Especially because love never ends, in moments of self-importance, rudeness, envy and simple irritation each of you will be able to start again to receive love gracefully.

As you gracefully welcome each other’s love, an amazing thing will happen: you will notice your love flowing beyond one another to your children; to your families and friends in new ways; as well as to strangers and people in need more freely. This will happen as you apply yourselves to your noble purposed and remain sensitive to one another and to the way God with Jesus with their Spirit works in you.

Dan and Laurel, I am proud of you, and I wish you every good thing. I congratulate you on behalf of the church. You demonstrated to me and to others, who help couples prepare for Christian marriage, that you are ready to assume your vocation. As you are patient with each other, also be eager to see the best in each other and build on it. As each of you experiences a difficulty or question or setback, endure it, not alone, but as one. For so has the God of our ancestors created you: as one for the world; for one another’s joy; and to help you savor life in your future together as well as in the age to come.


1. See Acts of the Apostles 4.32. They made theirs the ancient proverb that friends hold all thing in common. Some variations from Aristotle and others: friendship is life together; the friend is another self; friends are one soul.


Wiki-images of a 7th-century Byzantine wedding ring of the marriage prayer of Tobias and Sarah are in the public domain.