Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday word, 26 Feb 2012

Root Image 
Lent Sunday 1 (B) (26 Feb 2012) 
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Certain images become controlling ones. They shape what comes to our minds. A red octagon suggests Stop even when we aren’t on the road. Scriptural images, too, shape what comes to our minds. Controlling images do not always aid our full appreciation. The name Noah often conjures the flood, which destroyed creation.  While the flood may be more memorable, it fails to capture God’s heart and God’s desire for humans. Something Noah did offers us a more useful image.

After the deluge Noah released a dove from the ark. When it returned Noah knew waters still covered the earth. Later, when he released it, it returned with an olive branch: waters were receding. Finally, the dove did not return. It could build its nest, and Noah and his family went forth to build their homes.1
The climax of the Genesis account of Noah and his family is not destruction or devastation but life. God’s desire for life for all people is as broad as creation. God established this new life by covenant at God’s initiative. The name Noah and the word dove share the same Hebrew root. Noah sent the dove to learn if earth had surface. God sent forth Noah to live God’s covenant of life and to live it.
The dove was Noah’s indicator to leave the ark and enter the covenant God offered. You and I are God’s indicators: the way we live God’s covenant and embody God’s desire for all to thrive, not merely to survive, allow us to recall God’s desire for humans and help others to find refuge in it and make it appealing to live it, too. We were baptized for that.
The First Letter of Peter, a homily about Christian baptism, saw God’s promised life after the waters of the destroying flood fulfilled in the life of the Spirit in the water of dying with Jesus. It saw the Church protecting people as the ark protected Noah and his family.
Because the liturgy does not offer us the First Letter of Peter as often as the Letters of Paul, art and legend suggest the images of Noah and the flood are destructive. Read together Genesis and the First Letter of Peter help us know God’s desire is to preserve life, and more, to transform life from human to divine. As a dove indicated to Noah it was time to dwell again on the earth, how you and I live our baptisms indicates God abides with the world through us in Jesus by their Spirit.
Being the presence of our risen Messiah for others is challenging, especially in our culture. Some of its messages and values are indifferent, at best, even hostile to Genesis and the gospel. Mark’s Good News made another, more subtle Genesis-connection. Mark did not enumerate temptations of Jesus as did Matthew and Luke, who gave us our controlling images of Jesus in the desert. Instead, the First Gospel noted that Jesus was among wild beasts. How different the world had become because of sin: in God’s original creation no enmity existed between humans and animals! We are to live God’s covenant not by force but by example, even persuasive, graceful cunning. Jesus’ words echo Noah and our vocation as God’s indicators: Be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.2

Though forces inimical both to God and to the gospel may beset us, God ministers to us, to protect us just as God ministered and protected God’s Son. Though to human eyes God seemed to have abandoned Jesus in death, God raised Jesus to absolutely new and indestructible life, the life of heaven as scripture names it. It is not merely to have faith; it is taking refuge in the covenant instead of cultural forces inimical to it.
That is the good news, gospel, to which Jesus calls us to enter and put on daily. Lent renews us in his good news. Entering it allows us to become more like Jesus, the new Noah, who waited patiently, confident God would save him; and not only save him but make fruitful his proclamation of the good news of salvation.
What then might Lent’s controlling image be for us this year as we enter it? We heard St. Paul offer a refreshing and restorative one Ash Wednesday: now is a very acceptable time…now is the day of salvation.3 Each day is now. Each moment is now. Each moment God invites us to live God’s life. Each moment God invites us to indicate and share by what we do the life God gives us. Each moment God invites us to allow the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of our Messiah Jesus to transform us and renew us as courageous disciples.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Compose yourself in the life-giving love of the Trinity.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus so you may converse with him.
  • Speak to Jesus about the many images which seek to control your allegiance to him and to the risen life Jesus shares with you.
  • Resolve to focus on your baptism and its life, dignity and vocation so you may renew the way you live your Christian life.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. No better prayer so succinctly appeals to God and helps us to live as agents of the new creation in Jesus, our risen Lord.

Link to this Sunday’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Genesis 8.8-12.
  2. Matthew 10.16.
  3. 2Corinthians 6.2, which closed the Second Reading at mass that day.
Wiki-image of Noah sending the dove is in the public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image of Jesus in the desert is in the public domain.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oscar Eve, Nun and Elvis

Light reading for Saturday comes from the New York Daily
News. The column’s title: “Dolores Hart, who kissed Elvis Presley, is now a nun in Oscar-nominated documentary.” The column.
Wiki-image of scene from King Creole is in the public domain.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Exploring Seven Deadly Sins

From Thinking Faith:

During the penitential season of Lent, Thinking Faith will be reflecting upon the ‘seven deadly sins’ by relating each to an illustrative film. In this introductory article, Nicholas Austin SJ looks at the powerful thriller Seven and examines the history of the seven deadly sins, asking what accounts for their perennial attraction.

Wiki-image of seven is in the public domain.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday word, 22 Feb 2012

Not For Loners 
Ash Wednesday (22 Feb 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The first character of Lent is baptism: recalling our baptism and helping others prepare for it. The second character is a spirit of penance.1 Penance isn’t punitive; it’s an array of disciplines we use to help us focus more clearly on baptism and Christian living according to God’s measure and not by human measure. First, consider with me preparing others for baptism. I will close with a comment on God’s measure.
Preparing people for baptism belongs to the community of the church. The community is the first minister of initiation because baptism is “the responsibility of all the baptized.”2 Lent involves us all together. It is personal but never private.

Just like relationship with God is personal, it is never private: 
God missions each of us to give witness to God by our deeds as well as our words and worship. 

Just like spurning relationship with God or rupturing it by my sin is personal, it is never private: when my relationship with God is shallow, I am not a vibrant witness to God. Just like a grace God may give you is personal, it is never private: God blesses you in concrete ways so you may give more vibrant witness to God for others.

“Not private” is the essence of Joel’s prophetic message we heard: call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast. Together we return to [God] with []our whole heart. We accompany each other on our journey to God. Lent is a time when the community’s role is greatly important. Lent is not for loners. “During Lent, penance should not be only internal and individual but also external and social.”3 
If Joel made the communal nature of penance clear, St. Paul handed us our lenten vocation: we are ambassadors. God...appeal[s] through us, and Lent helps us shape our lives so that we make Jesus appealing to others and more appealing to one another.
We don’t make Jesus attractive if we leave out his struggles, his temptations, his fear and his sufferings and death. Temptations to picture Jesus as a non-suffering Messiah, as someone who did not count on others, measure Jesus by human standards not God’s standards.
The gospel reminded us of Jesus’ words about piety—not slavish, church behavior but putting devotion into practice. Heavenly Father, the one seeing in secret, the one who is hidden was Jesus’ point of reference. Jesus did not chart a plan humans can accomplish completely and on their own. No. Jesus invites us to overcome our great temptation to fashion Christian living on our terms and, instead, allow God to shape our praying, our almsgiving and our fasting so we may become better ambassadors of mercy, of praise and of the paschal life Jesus calls us to rediscover in a deeper way this Lent.

  1. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Liturgy, 109.
  2. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 9.
  3. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Liturgy, 110.
Wiki-image of ash cross is in the public domainWiki-image by Maglanist at wikipedia of desert oasis is used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shrove Video

An Ignatian Prayer Adventure is beginning for Lent this year. Jesuit Fr. Paul Campbell explains it in the video below.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Refugees, Presidents, Remembering

Caritas Lebanon prepares to welcome more Syrian refugees. The death toll, since the Syrian government began its offensive against its people 11 months ago, exceeds 8, 500 by a recent report. Almost as many refugees have arrived in Lebanon, according to Najla Chahda, Director of Caritas Lebanon’s Migrant Center. The link contains an audio interview.

The U.S. celebrates Presidents Day. The CSM released some little known facts about George Washington.
The untimely death in Syria of NYT columnist and Pulitzer winner, Anthony Shadid, leaves a large hole. Mr. Shadid’s “closest Iraqui friend and journalism colleague” remembers him.
Wiki-image by Reaky of Washington signature is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday word, 19 Feb 2012

Lively Unity 
7th Sunday of the Year B (19 Feb 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks feels himself a “naturalist and a physician both.” He wrote, “I am equally interested in diseases and people; perhaps, too, that I am equally, if inadequately, a theorist and dramatist, am equally drawn to the scientific and the romantic, and continually see both in the human condition, not least in that quintessential human condition of sickness—animals get diseases, but only man falls radically into sickness.”1 

His equal interest in diseases and people has allowed Dr. Sacks to focus on the “suffering, afflicted, fighting, human subject…a ‘who’ as well as a ‘what,’ a real person, a patient, in relation to disease—in relation to the physical.”2 His inclination and his insight about himself and others intersect with our Christian conviction about humans: each person is a lively unity.
This detour, I think, helps us appreciate the scriptures today. God always notices us as people, as embodied spirits. Our spirit—our kinship with God, being created in the divine image—and our body, which God assumed in Jesus so that by our body our Creator may have closer kinship with us: spirit and body form a lively unity. Jesus embodied the divine concern when he cured a man’s paralysis and healed his core self. Cure of infirmity: Rise, pick up your mat and go home; and, healing the unseen self: Your sins are forgiven.
Jesus knew the difference between curing and healing. Each of us is more than weakness or strength; physical, mental or emotional infirmity or health. More than that, body and spirit constantly interact. If a passing cold or flu causes grown people to sigh, “I need my bed,” or, “I want my mother,” then with greater intensity can a chronic condition dampen a sense of self and distort one’s sense of worth.
Jesus was keenly aware of that body-spirit interaction. Jesus was also aware that spirit—our kinship with God, the divine image—is the humanizing part of our lively unity.3 Jesus addressed spirit first when he spoke to the paralyzed man: Child, your sins are forgiven. His words scandalized some of his hearers, who considered Jesus to have usurped God’s role. His words moved others, beginning with the paralyzed man, who saw God working, saving in Jesus. A physical condition was cured, and a spirit-condition was healed that day. More telling than the healing are the attitudes toward Jesus. To the scribes he blasphemed God; to the many God was with Jesus.

Those who judged Jesus a blasphemer did not see as Jesus saw: a person with paralysis. Those who glorified God shared the divine vision. They saw again how Jesus responded to people not only to conditions and diseases. In Dr. Sacks’ language, Jesus did not focus on diseases but on people, who fall “radically into sickness.” Sickness is more than ailing bodies.
Many who live with chronic conditions are not blinded to their true selves, their spirits. Some come, not easily, to enjoy delights the rest of us cannot see; which is why we marvel at them. This gospel moves each of us to ask, What is my attitude toward Jesus? Jesus fulfilled in his deeds, words and person the prophet’s announcement: I [God] am doing something new. Not Madison Avenue new-and-improved but of an order beyond imagining. The effects of sin, that rupture between our true selves and God and one another, dim our vision or even blind us to God announcing life-giving news to us and among us.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Allow yourself, body and spirit, to rest in the Trinity, who creates and redeems you.
  • Ask the saints to present you to Jesus, as the friends of the paralyzed man presented him.
  • Speak to Jesus by telling him the story of yourself: not a chronicle but the way you would introduce your parent or child, your spouse or sibling or friend to Jesus. Speaking your story makes you a real person to yourself as well as to another.
  • Ask Jesus for grace honestly to reveal yourself. Give yourself to Jesus.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. On earth as in heaven calls us to attend to our embodied spirits, our true identity. The more we do, the more we grow aware of Jesus with us and among us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales. © 1970, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985 by Oliver Sacks. All rights reserved. pdf version, accessed 11 Feb 2012, p. 3.
  2. Ibid.
  3. St. Paul used the phrases inner human and outer human in speaking about spirit and body: 2 Corinthians 4.16. Procopius of Gaza (c. 465-528) used hidden and seen of this unity: “God the Father’s Power, himself a person...has fashioned man also, who was created to resemble God’s own image and likeness and has a nature which is partly seen and partly hidden from our eyes.” (From his Commenatry on Proverbs.)
Wiki-image of the healed paralyzed man is in the public domain. Wiki-image by Euro88 of Glendalough portal is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Textbooks are heavy, expensive and revised often. Tablets and e-readers make eTextbooks possible. released an infographic, which aids in understanding this young and growing phenomenon.  
Wiki-image by Asahiko of Japanese textbooks is used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.