Monday, February 25, 2013

Lent’s Goal

Lenten practices—fasting; deeper praying; almsgiving—are not ends in themselves. They are helps to open to transformation and to something countercultural: “accepting failure.” In Lent’s opening days Jesuit Brendan Busse considered that. As Lent progresses Jesus’ story keeps inviting Christians to that exercise. 
Wiki-image of Buraco das Araras was released to the public domain.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday word, 24 Feb 2013

Christian on Purpose
Lent Sunday2 (24 Feb 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The logic for choosing scriptures on Sundays offers a continuous reading from New Testament letters and of ways Jesus embodied of Old Testament revelation. In Lent the three readings connect more to the spirit and aims of this season. While individual scripture selections reveal our triune God’s desire to transform us by immersing us more deeply into the paschal mystery, the readings together help us enter the paschal mystery, too. Here’s one way they help us.
Jesus’ died and rose early in the first century.  Jesus rose beyond time and history. Time, space, human restrictions: nothing limits our risen Lord. Jesus is active saving and forming people to be his disciples each time we breathe. The paschal mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising is ever active saving and forming us and helping us welcome others into Jesus and his paschal mystery.

My spiritual father, St. Ignatius of Loyola, described the paschal mystery as God’s eternal desire: the Trinity decided in their eternity that the Second Person should become a human being to save the human race.1 Jesus formed a people to continue his work of saving. We don’t save by our power but by Holy Spirit, the divine power Jesus makes available to us. The readings tell of God’s covenant-promise to us and our privileged role in it. St. Paul reminded us what our role is.

He did so by recalling a hymn when he wrote to the Philippians. It sang of Jesus’ paschal, saving action: he emptied himself of divinity, took our humanity to himself, and served us by his death on a cross, after which God highly exalted him by raising him to indestructible life.2 The hymn helped St. Paul present Jesus as a model for Christians to imitate. Paul had imitated Jesus: Paul worked tirelessly for the gospel and was vulnerable because of it;3 he wrote the Philippians from his prison cell.4 His coworkers also modeled themselves on Jesus.5 Paul encouraged the Philippians to have that attitude of interest for others, the attitude of Jesus, the model for all believers.6 So his encouragement could bear fruit, Paul offered himself and his coworkers to them as models to imitate.

Modeling was respect practice. Long before Jesus, Abram modeled faith by his relationship with God. Expressing their relationship the LORD credited it to him as an act of righteousness. Righteous, upright or faithful does not mean perfect. Abram was not perfect: he complained for a sign to assure him he would possess God’s promise. His mind, his senses were dark in God’s promising light. Darkness also cloaks our minds and senses at times.

Peter acted from darkness, too. Not only did he not grasp Jesus’ mission as God’s Messiah, who would suffer and die, he wanted to capture and tame the glory Jesus experienced in prayer: here let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. His darkness Luke vividly expressed: [Peter] did not know what he was saying. Rather than capture and tame God’s Messiah Peter and the disciples were told, Listen to Jesus.

To listen is more than to hear. Hearing is mechanical; listening is intentional: we do it on purpose with a purpose. Ears hear what enters. To listen is to act on what we hear.  To listen takes formation. Abram, Peter, Paul, his coworkers were formed. You and I were and are formed by Jesus’ gracious favor as his disciples. Models formed us: family; teachers; friends; pastors. Paying attention to models formed us and still forms us. Lent helps us continue our ongoing formation as Jesus’ disciples in our world and its circumstances. Lent is the church’s springtime, when those preparing for baptism count on us to be models of faithful living. Even at a distance from them, they count on us to model faith, hope and love.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in our triune God creating and forming you.
  • Ask Peter, James and John to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting you to join his mission.
  • Ask him for grace to live your baptism faithfully and freely.
  • Close saying slowly, the Lord’s Prayer: Jesus modeled praying for us so we might enjoy daily a strong foundation for mature, faithful living.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. His Spiritual Exercises, 102.
  2. Philippians 2.6-11.
  3. Philippians 2.17-18.
  4. Philippians 1.12-14.
  5. Paul sent them Timothy, Epaphroditus and Clement.
  6. Philippians 2.1-5.
Wiki-image by Marie-Lan Nguyen of Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians used by CC BY-SA 2.5. Wiki-image of the Transfiguration used by {{PD-US-no notice}}.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Time, Spiritual Exercises and Two-Thirds

Those are three differences for the conclave to elect a pope in March. A resigned pope makes a difference at the start. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. notes seven more and comments briefly on each.
Wiki-image of a 16th C. conclave ballot is in the public domain.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sunday Gospel Preview

T hinkingFaith reached into its archives for a preview of Sunday’s gospel. Luke’s memory of the Transfiguration offers several things to contemporary Christians. While pondering it in the past, Jesuit Jack Mahoney noticed that it could have happened at night. that time could “shed new light on a number of the details in the story, and could help us better understand and appreciate this passage from St Luke’s Gospel, which is chosen as the gospel for the Mass of the Second Sunday in Lent,” Fr. Mahoney recalled.
Wiki-image of icon of Transfiguration is in the public domain in the U.S.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Office Not Person

Certain functions a person may exercise are functions of the office a person holds. Papal infallibility (proclaiming unerringly in matters of faith and morals) even some Catholics associate with individual popes. Papal infallibility belongs to the office of pope and not to the person who holds that office. That confusion is abroad since the resignation of Pope Benedict. The U.S. Catholic caught some, who ought to know better, confusing large audiences.
Vectorisé par Tibidibtibo Dessiné par Jérôme BLUM used by CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday word, 17 Feb 2013

Network of Gifts
Lenten Sunday1 (17 Feb 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Entering the first week of the “season marked out in a special way by the mystery of our redemption and of the days that lead up to the paschal feast,”1 the scripture readings highlight confession. Christian churches exist to confess in word and deed. We Catholics may limit to confess to naming sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The readings remind us that confess has an older, wider, public meaning: to express faith; to own it; and to affirm it by our actions. How is praising God confessing? By worshiping God for God’s mighty acts and allowing ourselves to be transformed by them.

The bible contains nuggets of con-fession, of praising God. We heard the core nugget of the Hebrew bible. Prophet Moses2 taught the people: God brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with [stunning] power, with signs and wonders. Their exodus was no human project of escape but God’s graciousness, and it filled them with awe.

Paul’s letters contained nuggets of confession, too. We heard a famous one: confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead [and] you will be saved. No power, signs and wonders are greater than God freeing Jesus from his passion and death by raising him from death to indestructible life! That forms the confession each person is expected to make at baptism.

Our baptized lives are confessing journeys. They are not geographical ones but involve our hearts. They involve growing closer to Jesus, our model of praising God, our model of friendship with God. In our honest moments we know we are tempted to let our friendship with our triune God cool, to let our desire to praise God for our blessings shrink and to limit praising God in action to time in church.
Praising God confesses something so easy to ignore: all we are and have are God’s gifts to us. Natural abilities, particular talents, sacramental sharing in God’s life, personal graces enjoyed: all are gifts of God. To recognize that does not demand withdrawing from the world to praise God. It means, instead, to engage the world, aware that creation and personal existence are a network of gifts of which we are stewards. 

In his time in the wilderness Jesus demonstrated focused commitment to God, creation and his mission. He clung single-heartedly and lovingly to God. Jesus did not let hunger sway him: One does not live on bread alone. We let things as well as food sway us. Jesus did not let power rule him: God alone shall you serve. Power and glory often lure us. Jesus did not demand the Creator do something sensational for him: You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.

Lent does not merely remind us of Jesus’ single-hearted commitment to God. Lent invites us to renew our union with Jesus in baptism and help others prepare for it. Baptism joined us with Jesus and began our share in his Spirit, our power to confess our commitment to God in deed as well as word. Lent frees us to align our priorities as friends of Jesus; to live a more single-hearted commitment as his disciples today.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause and desire to be aware of our Triune God.
  • Ask saints and angels to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: confess your wonder that Jesus created and redeemed you; thank Jesus for equipping you with your talents; filling you with your desire to follow him; and blessing you richly.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to follow him more closely during Lent and beyond it.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer to keep us rooted in him and to guide our Lenten journey to what is more true, more humane and more godly.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Leo the Great, Lenten Sermon 6.
  2. Biblical tradition considered Moses the first and the greatest prophet as witnessed by Deuteronomy 34. 10-12. From it grew the expectation of a messiah like him.

Wiki-image by Podvinskij depicting the Exodus used by CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of Christ’s temptation released in the public domain.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lenten Voice

ThinkingFaith offers two considerations of Luke and his gospel. From its archives is a look at the temptations of Jesus in that gospel. It is the gospel selection for the First Lenten Sunday. 
The latest is by Jesuit Peter Edmonds. He “outlines the narrative [from the same gospel] that we will follow over the course of the next few weeks” of Lent. 
Wiki-image of St. Luke has been released in the public domain in the U.S.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lenten Resources

Loyola Press offers a variety of resources to enrich Lent. Visit its page entitled “Leading Others to Christ during Lent.” The links on the pages left side are worth exploring, too.

U.S. Catholic also has a wealth of resources from personal, spiritual growth to evangelizing and more.
Wiki-image of reduced speed sign has been released into the public domain.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Entering Lent

The feel, the practices, the liturgies of Lent are given. Christians need not invent them. Yet actions performed on a regular basis seem more significant when we know what’s behind them. Another metaphor: those attending a Shakespearean play find his English less daunting if they have read the script beforehand.

Jesuit and historian Norman Tanner offers a brief history of Lent at ThinkingFaith. Learning a bit about the formation of this season of joy and preparation may add to anyone’s celebration of Lent.
Wiki-image of cross of ashes has been released into the public domain.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Closer Look at Papal Resignation

Several particulars remain up in the air. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. listed:

  • Exactly when will Benedict XVI depart for Castel Gandolfo after the formal end of his papacy at 8 p.m. Rome time Feb. 28, and when exactly will he return to move into a former monastery on Vatican grounds?
  • What will happen to symbols of Benedict's papacy, such as papal ring and seal?
  • Will Benedict take part in the public ceremonies of his successor, such as the installation Mass of the new pope?
  • What will Benedict's title be after he steps down?
  • Who exactly will move in with Benedict to run his household and act as aides?
 Mr. Allen reports on “what we can say as of today in response to some of the most obvious questions.”
Wiki-image by of the ring of Benedict XVI used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Choice

Pope Benedict chose to resign for the good of the church. He noted in his resignation, “strength of mind and body are necessary [to be pope], strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Wiki-image by [1] of Benedict XVI used by CC BY-SA 2.0.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday word, 10 Feb 2013

Honest and Alert
Fifth Sunday of the Year C (10 Feb 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Some approach scripture seeking to wrestle from it a meaning or lesson with little personal significance. They pick through scripture as if it were a menu or a train schedule. A sensitive approach to scripture is different. In a sensitive, personal approach, readers desire to meet Jesus in scripture not to wrestle something from it. Like meeting others, including those with whom we are initially attracted, knowledge builds and that helps us confirm our attraction.
Today’s scriptures present us with people whom God called: Isaiah; and apostles Paul and Simon. The particulars differed; yet prophet and apostles shared a feeling of having a brush with the one who is cause of and at the core of reality. In all scripture being in the divine presence registered as honesty with self. Isaiah: I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen...the Lord of hosts! Paul: meeting the risen Lord kept him honest as he brought the gospel to others: I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle. Peter:

Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. A closer look at Simon Peter helps us appreciate both his self-honest moment and growing knowledge which helps us discern.
Astonishment at the catch of fish Simon and his colleagues made at Jesus’ invitation certainly gets our attention. It caught Simon’s attention, but it was not first. Earlier Jesus had been active in Galilee teaching and healing. Jesus even taught from Simon’s boat.1 Simon knew people were overwhelmed that Jesus taught with authority2 as well as the widespread news that he healed.3 When we meet Simon in Luke’s gospel, Jesus entered his house. He and others had spoken to Jesus about his mother-in-law and her fever. Jesus healed her and the many brought to Jesus there.4 

Hearing about, hearing firsthand then seeing Jesus heal his mother-in-law began Simon’s growing knowledge of Jesus. The great catch of fish increased Simon’s knowledge of Jesus. The miraculous catch of fish was personal. It was Simon’s brush with the divine as well as the circumstance in which Jesus chose to call him. As with Isaiah and St. Paul, honesty about one’s limitations and unworthiness before God, God transformed into confident commitment. Isaiah said, Send me! Paul preached in diffi-culties of every sort. Simon and his companions left everything and followed Jesus.

One more thing about Simon calls our attention. It helps us appreciate that God qualifies those God calls and God calls us in our humanity. Before the catch of fish and his call, Simon was tired physically, and his morale was exhausted, too. It had been a long, frustratingly unproductive night fishing. Simon was not at all hesitant to let Jesus know it: “Master, we have worked hard all night and…caught nothing. Seeing disappointment on Simon’s face and hearing it in his voice, Jesus told Simon to lower his nets again. Simon’s fatigue and sore-muscled disappointment could not extinguish his personal fascination with Jesus and attraction to him. With little heart for it, he responded to Jesus, “But at your command I will lower the nets.

Physical exhaustion as well as lessened interest in things around us change our awareness. It seems contrary, but those things can prepare us to be more alert to God. Who here hasn’t felt them, knowing neither exhaustion nor disinterest do not automatically make people desperate fanatics? Religious experience isn’t wild fantasy.

Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man. Simon’s words to Jesus in the face of his power expressed honesty. He did not berate himself, exaggerate or minimize his limitations or faults. Instead, Simon’s response revealed his awe at Jesus’ attractive, accepting quality. I liken it to sunlight: the more bright the sunlight on me, the more dark and sharply visible to me my shadow. Our faith is no mental exercise but an experience of Jesus, an encounter with Jesus, who welcomes us to be ever more our true selves not our shadow selves.

Accepting ourselves as we are at each moment is not just honesty. Accepting ourselves as we are at each moment helps us be alert to how we meet our triune God, who is active for us in all things. Having a brush with God does not happen only in a lofty or out-of-body way. Simon’s experience reminds us we may meet God in wild, wet, windswept ways as well as in calm and quiet. Accepting ourselves as we are each moment is a virtue: it strengthens us to be more receptive of self, others and God, who desires us to grow more our true selves.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of the Trinity: free yourself to be aware of our triune God and yourself.
  • Ask Simon Peter to present you to Jesus. Notice what Jesus is wearing, his face, how he welcomes you.
  • Chat with Jesus from your heart. Be alert to what Jesus awakens in you. Savor it even if it is only emerging and not fully clear to you. If the shadow of your unworthiness darkens, do not fear.
  • Take heart, and ask Jesus for grace to respond to him inviting you as you are into the light of his life and love.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Be sensitive to each word. Jesus gave us his words to abide with him and to grow more strong, focused and honest as his disciples. Jesus always empowers those he invites to join his mission.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Luke 5.3.
  2. Luke 4.31-32.
  3. Luke 4.37.
  4. Luke 4.38-42.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


How do aid agencies fund their support of people displaced by rebellion? Cooperation. Congo is one example of countries suffering from rebellion, “murder and mayhem.” The Irish Jesuit News recently posted that the “Irish Jesuit Mission linking up with all the mission offices of Europe in a joint effort to meet the challenging chaos of the Congo.” More about the appeal, the role of Jesuit Refugee Services [JRS] educating the displaced children and several photos give a feel for what is addressed in the Congo alone.

Also: Early in January an Irish Jesuit began to coordinate Jesuit rapid response for “the tortured land of Syria.” Two informative websites are offered in the announcement.
Wiki-image of flag of DRC is in the public domain.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sunday word, 03 Feb 2013

Welcome Challenge
Fourth Sunday of the Year C (03 Feb 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When consider how we act, we notice we often operate on automatic pilot: getting out of bed; making coffee; praying; pulling in the paper; getting ourselves to school and to work. We give those and many others little thought. At times we are unaware we do them—like breathing. At other times we may forget we’ve done them.

Our usual waking state isn’t the only way we are aware of the world around us; nor is it how we are more aware. We are more aware not on automatic pilot or attentively doing one of our tasks. We are more aware at certain frequencies we may call altered states of consciousness. Sometimes we enter altered states accidentally: indigestion; fever; trauma; when we’re deprived of sleep, of food, of oxygen. At other times altered states of clearer awareness occur naturally as they do in ecstatic moments; when we are sad rather than overjoyed; and when we dream.

As you know, we can intentionally alter our consciousness with alcohol and other chemicals. We also alter our conscious awareness as we relax, focus ourselves, pray, even exercise. None of those is novel; ancients knew them. Artists, poets, scientists, even preachers, make stunning connections while in altered states of awareness. Swimming opens my mind to be more receptive.

God communicates with us in all things. Humans seem more alert to God in altered states of conscious awareness. We happened on Jeremiah as he was more receptive. We heard him aware that God shaped his life in a prophetic way. Aware of the difficulty of the prophetic life, Jeremiah grew to know in his bones that I am with you to deliver you says, the Lord. Felt knowing as that fuels clear awareness and faithful action. Felt knowing as that is being aware.

God communicates with us, which is why we pray. We may not think praying alters our awareness, but it does. Giving God focused attention exercises our conscious awareness. Giving God focused attention helps us grow more alert to God inviting us to help fulfill the scriptures by our ways of living—while making coffee as well as here around Jesus’ altar-table.

Our baptism into Messiah Jesus makes us all prophets: people who proclaim with our lives the very mystery which transforms us, the death and resurrection of our Messiah Jesus. The effects of praying—which is not the same as mouthing prayers—the effects of praying make us more aware of the more real world of God’s desires for us, all people and our planet.

God’s desires both include us and reach beyond us. In moments of more clear and deep awareness, God’s desires challenge us. We may see them as challenge or as threat. What’s the challenge? What’s the threat? God is not just for me or you; or people like us; or those who side with us. God is for everyone; for people unlike us; for people holding opposite opinions; and especially for people who experience the world at its many margins.

This was Jesus’ prophetic message:

I am not only for the poor among you, I am for all the poor with every poverty;
I am not sent to release only you from bondage but for all who are constrained by every sort of bondage;
I am come not only to help you recover sight and gain deeper insight but do so for every person.

Indeed, the more blind, the more bound and the more needy have a greater claim on Jesus’ heart. If Jesus’ cosmic, prophetic message threatens us, we tend to isolate ourselves from Jesus and others. If we welcome his message as personal good news, we tend to welcome the challenge to witness to it by our deeds and our words. We witness for the sake of others and our world.

Diagnosing how we perceive Jesus’ prophetic communication opens the gospel. Those in the synagogue heard Jesus say the salvation he was bringing was not for them alone but for everyone beyond the boundaries of the Israel of his day. Jesus had announced he was a prophet like Elijah and Elisha who extended their prophetic visitation to Gentiles at the margins: Elijah was sent...only to a widow…in the land of Sidon; and of all the lepers Elisha healed only Naaman the Syrian. That Prophet Jesus addressed his message to all threatened his hearers. Threat resulted in fear so great it provoked them to fling him down the mountain on which their city stood.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Give undivided attention to our triune God.
  • Ask Elijah and Elisha to present you to Jesus.
  • Open your heart to him. Chat with Jesus about how you receive Jesus’ universal loving concern; then name what prevents you from living it.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be a credible witness to his transforming love.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Saying his words slowly helps our conscious awareness be clearer, more receptive and honest. His words transform us and enrich how we are with him and with others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise