Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday word, 29 Apr 2012

Love Creates and Sends
Easter Sunday4 (29 Apr 2012)
Ac 4.8-12; Ps 118; 1Jn 3.1-2; Jn 10. 11-18
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

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 is 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 you and I name as resurrection is the measure of God’s love for Jesus, the son; and through him all humans. 
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 truly 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 we 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. That well describes the Easter mystery’s dynamic. To grow in our identity as beloved by Jesus also is the lifelong mission of each of us. The word the church uses for our mission is “vocation.”
Pope Benedict this year has focused vocation this way: Vocations are experiences of “the Gift of the Love of God.”1 God’s love is universal. Our limitations make its universal aspect easy to overlook. Loving all people into being, God invites humans with a universal call to holiness.2 It is the vocation of all the baptized. We seek to infuse with “religious values” all our “earthly activities.”3 

Vocation has a particular dimension, too. It applies to each one’s life path: single; married; men and women in consecrated life, who take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience; as well as clergy. All of us 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
  • Allow yourself to feel recreated by our triune God.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Consider your life as it has been, as it is and as you desire it to be; then entrust your life to Jesus and ask him to consecrate it to his service and glory.
  • Ask Jesus to enlighten your mind and heart so your personal vocation may invite others to respond to the divine energy risen Jesus reveals in his church.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us appreciate better what we are sent into the world to do each day.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. His Message on the occasion of the 49th 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-images by Bwag of a Good Shepherd statue and by Nheyob of Assumption Chapel mosaic are used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Neuroscience and Spiritual Experience

The tweet, leading to the article by Dr. Kevin Nelson, M.D., was an apt quote from C.S. Lewis: “Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought.” Dr. Nelson has been exploring “the processes of spiritual sensation” for over 30 years. He asks if faith can reside in the brain.


Wiki-image by Jens Langner of a brain PET scan has been released into the public domain.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tourism’s Pastoral Care

Pope Benedict released a message to the World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism meeting this week in a tourist destination. The pope cites God, beauty and relaxation among other aspects of this human activity. One quote:
Tourism, together with vacations and free time, is a privileged occasion for physical and spiritual renewal; it facilitates the coming together of people from different cultural backgrounds and offers the opportunity of drawing close to nature and hence opening the way to listening and contemplation, tolerance and peace, dialogue and harmony in the midst of diversity. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Catholic or Catholic Background?

Shakespeare’s birthday does not go unmissed. Twitter has a hashtag for it: #HappyBirthdayShakespeare. Jesuit Thomas McCoog shares his thoughts on the question of the bard’s denomination.
Wiki-image by GreenLane of Stratford rail station used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sundayword, 22 Apr 2012

Energetic, Enthusiastic and Alert
Easter Sunday3 (22Apr 2012)
Ac 3.13-15,17-19; Ps 4; 1Jn 2.1-5a; Lk 24.35-48
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The fifty-day Easter festival allows us to fall deeper into the mystery of our crucified and risen Messiah. Lest our spirits wilt along with petals of the lilies, we can use every reminder that our Messiah is the Living One, the author of life [humans] put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. I’d like to reflect with you on our witness.
One thing resurrection-witness is not is seeing the resurrection happen. No one saw it. The message of the empty tomb emphasizes God alone raised [Jesus] from the dead. God did not resuscitate Jesus’ corpse. Resuscitation brings back to life a person who had slipped away from life. Resuscitation isn’t resurrection.

Resurrection is an astonishing transformation. It is God’s work in and beyond time and history and beyond human knowing. The message of the appearances of risen Jesus is that people encountered the living One as truly alive and transformed beyond immediate recognition. 
The first witnesses recognized Jesus by the marks of his death in his glorious flesh. Jesus helped them to see him as a living, bodily presence: “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. They became his witnesses because he encountered them.
Risen Jesus is more powerfully present by his Spirit now that Jesus no longer appears to us in a surprising bodily form. Risen Jesus speaks to us in the word written about him. Risen Jesus consoles us in each one’s experiences of forgiveness of sins and of becoming whole. Because we are human we respond—often wordlessly yet with feeling—to risen Jesus in moments of sacrament, of hearing scripture and of community, of serving and of being served.
How have we allowed scripture’s word about Jesus speak to us? How have we welcomed it? Have we opened our hearts so Jesus may transform us? How have we tasted forgiveness, healing and growth? Our welcome of his word; our change of heart; our tastes of forgiveness of sins, healing and growing whole; and our moments of sacrament, of community, of serving and of being served are but a few ways we encounter risen Jesus. They begin and sustain our relationship with Jesus, of living his love in the world. Not to live his love, John’s letter reminded us, is to commit sin, to betray our witness, to refuse to be consoled by his Spirit.

We refuse risen Jesus’ consolation when we prefer to wallow in sadness; when we allow ourselves to be swayed by sin; when we allow the dark circumstances of the world—news headlines, failures in church, home and business—to sap our desire for transformation and for doing good. In those ways we resist risen Jesus’ consoling transformation of our hearts and minds, our spirits and our bodies. The enemy of our human nature uses dark circumstances of the world to distract us from the gladness risen Jesus desires to plant in [each] heart. Risen Jesus transforms and accompanies us giving us his gladness so we may be light in the world’s darkness. The more we allow risen Jesus to accompany us in word, sacrament, community, service and in being served, the more energetic, enthusiastic and alert apostolic witnesses we become.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Desire to feel recreated by our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples to welcome you and present you to Jesus. 
  • Converse with Jesus: ask Jesus to open your mind to understand the Scriptures and others’ testimony to him; tell Jesus your desire to be a more energetic, enthusiastic and alert apostle of his resurrection by how you live and work.
  • Name what holds you back and place it in Jesus’ hands to transform it into grace for you.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. To request our daily bread is an empty request until we give our Redeemer what keeps us from making room for his consoling, divine gifts.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Power Solution?

While many in many countries suffer regular power blackouts (“euphe-mistically called ‘power-holidays’” in India), Yale researches reported, “A new kind of generator could supply electricity for more than a half billion people using energy from rivers flowing into oceans.” The “salinity gradient” could make that possible. Learn about it here.
Wiki-image by Merlin of Poland’s Solina dam used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday word, 15 Apr 2012

Water and Blood
Easter Sunday2 (15 Apr 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I once closed a retreat on the Second Easter Sunday. I told the retreatants that after basking in God’s love they prepared to return to the blood, sweat and tears of daily life. I joined that phrase with Jesus so that whenever they used it or heard it again it could be a portal of grace for them. I offer you that as well.
Holy Week reminded us that in Jesus the Trinity poured their divinity into our humanity. Jesus was God in our flesh, sharing our human condition. The First Letter of John pointed us in the direction of that truth: This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. To help us appreciate more this stunning truth, the Letter to the Hebrews elaborated: In the days when he was in the flesh, [Jesus] offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.1

We easily forget Jesus was one with our humanity. That Jesus sweat and wept tears may astonish, even scandalize people more sharply. Indeed, Jesus came through water: Jesus experienced our humanity fully and completely. To reflect on Jesus questions us: do we give ourselves fully to our humanity? or do we live it only partially?
In baptism we died with Messiah Jesus and rose with him in his Easter life. So we, too, came through water. Jesus was baptized by John. Jesus’ baptism assured him of his mission as Messiah to save the human race. Our baptisms in Jesus also question us: how fully do we live our baptismal union with Jesus? How much of ourselves do we hold back?
Jesus did not hold back. Jesus gave himself to his mission. Jesus’ mission led to giving his life even though it led to a disgraceful death. Yet Jesus Christ [came], not by water alone, but by water and blood. His cries and tears were not a sham, nor were they for show. They flowed from him because he gave his life for us completely in death. God did not prevent his death, but God transformed his corpse into the source of life for all people.
One reason, a striking one, for our tears and perspiration is fear. Our fear severely impairs our spirits, the health of our emotions and our bodies. Human fear does more. Human fear, as the gospel noted in a phrase easy to miss, locks doors. Fear walls out others, and it keeps us from giving ourselves. The one who was dead and now more alive than anyone or anything, Jesus, is not only greater than fear, he is the bringer of peace and the cause of rejoicing.
Risen Jesus came in water: his baptism began the joy of his mission of announcing the reign of God. Joy registers also as tears of relief and delight, which the apostles knew before we did. Risen Jesus also came in blood for he bore the marks of his death. Not only did he want Thomas to touch his wounds,
risen Jesus wants us to touch his wounds with our believing and our behavior. We, who have reentered the world in the water of our baptism, are called to join our lives to our Messiah’s mission by sharing  our faith and working for the common good of all.
Our reentry in water cannot be repeated. Baptized Jesus calls us to enter the world each day, giving ourselves to the power of his Spirit. Risen Jesus is more powerfully present by his Spirit. The apostles demonstrated that because they were more powerful witnesses after Risen Jesus no longer appeared to them: with great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Their witness was their leadership.

That none was in need among them authorized their spiritual leadership. That took their blood, sweat and tears. Jesus continues to come through the water of our tears and sweat as well as the blood of our life projects. Jesus’ blood, sweat and tears, culminating in the week of his passion, graced the world with the power of his Spirit and the joy of his risen life. Each day we live is the day the Lord has made [for us to] be glad and rejoice.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Bask in the love of the Trinity creating you.
  • Ask the apostles to present you to Jesus.
  • In your words, praise Jesus for dying and rising for you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live your humanity and your baptismal vocation fully.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Praying his prayer sanctifies our blood, sweat and tears, and it infuses them with evangelizing power for our sakes and the sake of our world.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Hebrews 5.7.


Wiki-images of Jesus wept and of  Jesus appearing to Thomas were released by the copyright holders into the public domain.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter Saturday

As they begin to contemplate Jesus’ resurrection, Ignatius of Loyola invited people making the Spiritual Exercises to consider risen Jesus appearing to his mother. Although not in Scripture, that Jesus did so has a long history in the Christian tradition from early saints (like Ignatius of Antioch, Ambrose and Anselm) to later ones (Franciscan Bernardine of Siena and Ignatius of Loyola). Ignatius passed along the tradition he had received, which has roots in the entire church, both East and West.
Mary had received Jesus as her infant as well has his corpse when it was freed from the cross. That her risen son would first visit her is not counterintuitive. On the day of the week honoring Mary, considering that scene is most apt. Becky Eldredge helps people enter it at her post dotMagis blog.
Wiki-image of Mandelbrot set was released into the public domain.

Friday, April 13, 2012

“With God in Russia”

That was the title of Jesuit Walter Ciszek’s account of his imprisonment in the former Soviet Union.
The Vatican recently gave formal approval for Fr. Ciszek’s cause for canonization to proceed. The Pennsylvania-born priest spent five years in the notorious Moscow prison, Lubyanka, and later in Siberian work camps. He developed a deep reliance and belief in the providence of God, and risked his life ministering to his fellow prisoners.
That is America Magazine’s intro to its 24-minute podcast about Fr. Ciszek with Tim Reidy and James Martin, S.J.
Wiki-image of Walter Ciszek’s grave was released into the public domain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Wednesday

Christ is risen! Not only does the church celebrate that mystery for 50 days, the first eight (Easter’s Octave) are celebrated with the status of Easter Day. Jesuit James Hanvey considered both “the mystery and strangeness of the Resurrection.” Of its strangeness he noted:
The Resurrection is the great scandal at the heart of our faith. It is God’s work done, not in some flash of blinding glory, but when no one was looking. ...It is a work which changes everything, even the way in which we now know God. 
Read more at his Thinking Faith, Easter Tuesday post.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Easter Reflection

Happy Easter! Visiting with Jesuits and with family. In a reflection at Ignatian Life 
Michelle Francl-Donnay recalled that the road to the Resurrection was jagged. 
The beauty of what had been grown in Galilee would not deter [the Divine Persons] from the path they had committed to at the Annunciation. Not the healing of those in pain, not the joy of the entrance into Jerusalem.  It would not be a benign process, it would leave shards strewn from Gethsemane to Calvary.
Read her post, Easter’s shattering reality.”

Friday, April 06, 2012

Seven Last Words

Often the last words of one who dies are imbued with meaning to those who survive the deceased. The gospels offer Jesus’ dying words, and the Christian community has treasured them. Seven people, from different denominations, consider them in this U.S. Catholic post.
Wiki-image by Hajotthu at the German language Wikipedia of Hermannsburg crucifix used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Triduum Begins

Gabe Huck considers how to enter it.
What gets us in? The gathered church does something this night it doesn’t do all the rest of the year. Perhaps that tells us: Pay attention. Here is the way we enter. We’re going into our three holiest days by taking off shoes and stockings and using soap and water and towels.
His reflection is part of Holy Week resources at U.S. Catholic.
Wiki-image of  Lorenzetti’s washing of the feet is in the public domain.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Meaning of the Passion

The Passion of the Lord is often considered as something that happened to Jesus thousands of years ago. The church remembers it solemnly each year as embracing each person. Jesuit Paul Coutinho considers two meanings of the passion. The second engages us.
...the Passion is Good News in action. The Good News that Jesus came to give us is freedom—not freedom from suffering, sickness, and death, but freedom that we experience in suffering, in sickness, and in the face of death.
Read both meanings in their context here.
Wiki-image of detail of Jesus’ Agony in the Garden is in the public domain.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Symbols Atop Symbols

As Christians celebrate Holy Week, they recall Jesus in various ways. King, Servant and Priest emerge in the Passion narratives, heard on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, and the liturgies in which they are proclaimed. Jesuit Peter Edmonds asks and uncovers, “How, through these Scriptures, do we meet Jesus as our Servant, Priest and King?” in his ThinkingFaith post, Celebrating the Passion of the Lord.
Wiki-image by Saliko of crucifixion in ivory used according to CC BY-SA 3.0.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Review of Trip to Mexico and Cuba

While media covered several parts of the recent papal trip to those countries, Mr. John L. Allen Jr. named and commented on several strands during it, including
clericalism, politics and the “the small God who’s close to me and who shows me the values of my life,” in his All Things Catholic of last Friday.
Wiki-image of flag-map of Cuba has been released into the public domain.