Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday word, 30 Jun 2013

Christian Liberty
13th Sunday of the Year (30 Jun 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
In our bibles law translates Hebrew torah. Torah was perceived as much more by the People of the Covenant. Torah was God’s covenant, God’s revelation and God’s wisdom. For Israel all those meanings operated at once. Our word law is not as expansive. Abraham’s descendants heard the book of the covenant; they saw it processed in the synagogue from its throne; they pondered its words and its images, its decrees and its chronicles: all those allowed them to sense God present and inviting them to live transformed lives.

The book of that covenant, the Sacred Writings of Israel, revealed God’s creating power, God’s restoring power. The people Israel had an expression for their Sacred Writings revealing God’s creating, restoring power.: if it’s not in scripture, it’s not in the world. The maxim continued to be used after the rabbis because it is found translated from Hebrew into Latin.1 

This principle of the rabbis helps us appreciate that torah was considered ultimate. In practice: judge everything according to it; measure everything according to it. Could it be possible that torah, God’s revelation clothed in human words, was not ultimate, that something had taken its place? That was the question in the Galatian church St. Paul had begun. Earlier it had been his personal question.

Paul had been raised to be zealous for torah, and he knew it well. He had been trained as a Pharisee.2 He measured everything according to God’s word clothed in human words.It even led him to persecute the church as a mistaken Jewish sect, which worshiped the crucified Jesus as God’s messiah of all things!

In the act of persecuting Jesus in the infant church, the Risen One met Paul along his way. He met Jesus as God’s messiah. More, he came to know Jesus as the measure of everything, even torah, God’s word clothed in human words. One can sense that liberated St. Paul. He expressed that freedom in his Letter to the Galatians. No more a slave to torah, Paul was yoked to the Risen One: Risen Jesus accompanied him with power and protection unlike before. The companionship of Risen Jesus with him moved St. Paul to announce to all the freedom he had experienced so all might share it.

Christian liberty—a phrase which helps us not confuse our understanding of our national freedom with the freedom Risen Jesus offers—empowers us with new qualities of mind and character. It also empowers us to exercise those qualities. The origin, norm and guide to live the new ways of Christian liberty cannot be found in torah or in any human power. God’s Spirit is the origin, norm and guide to live these new ways: in the words of St. Paul, to whom this was revealed by the Risen One, “guided by the Spirit, [one is] not under torah.”

Jesus’ Spirit creates in us the pattern of our Messiah, both his human dispositions and his risen life. By the Spirit we live the master story Jesus. We live it as we live the way Jesus embodied God’s desire for the people of the covenant You shall love your neighbor as yourself.3 St. Paul compressed the master story of Jesus in five words: through love serve one another. Near the end of Galatians he was more specific: Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the [torah] of Christ.4

In Risen Jesus we enjoy his liberty, our Christian liberty. Even as we enjoy it, we always fight against powers, which seek to seduce us to separate ourselves from it. This is what St. Paul meant by the flesh: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. St. Paul did not mean by the flesh a narrow category of human existence or only sexual behavior. By the flesh he meant promoting oneself as powerful or important. That’s always our predicament, isn’t it? It’s a lonely one, too. Self-promotion like that risks trying to negotiate life by my power alone. Christian liberty recognizes that human power is limited. Christian liberty recognizes God’s limitless power in doing something altogether new in Jesus. Christian liberty rejoices that by his dying and rising Jesus gives us his Spirit so we may share already his risen life as well. Christian liberty looks forward to sharing Jesus’ risen life fully when he returns.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to become aware of the Trinity with you.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • In your words praise Jesus for pouring his Spirit into your inmost self and recreating in you the pattern of his living, dying and rising.
  • Ask Jesus to increase your desire for his attitude and to live it more readily.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ phrase, daily bread, on our lips reminds us that we live by the empowering nourishment of God at each moment and not by our puny, human power.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. non in tora non in mundo
  2. See Philippians 3.4-6 for Paul’s self-description.
  3. Leviticus 19.18. Jesus emphasized these words in Matthew 22.39 and Luke 10.27. St. Paul even said this law of the Messiah is the fulfillment of torah (Romans 13.8-10).
  4. Galatians 6.2.
Wiki-images of Elijah and of 11th C manuscript page of Letter to the Galatians public domain in the U.S.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Annual Visit

The Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul is the occasion for the Patriarch of Constantinople to visit or send a delegation to visit the Bishop of Rome. The former leads the See of St. Andrew, “the first one to be called” and the latter the See of St. Peter, “the first one among the Apostles.”

Patriarch Bartholomew visited Rome earlier this year to attend the installation of Pope Francis. That may have been the first time a Patriarch of Constantinople attended that event since 1054, when the churches of East and West separated.

Until that time unity persisted despite differences between East and West. The restoration of unity is the goal of the annual meeting on the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul. They were united and very different. Unity is possible.
Wiki-image of icon of Ss. Peter and Paul public domain in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

“Courtyard of Children”

Pope Francis met children arriving in Rome on a train from Milan. Join his welcome of them and learn about the Courtyard of Children.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Life and Grace: View from Australia

The Church in Australia offers a series—video and podcast—to focus on present-day “difficult issues of life.” The series seeks to offer clarity to individuals and communities so they may find healing and live more graciously.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday word, 23 Jun 2013

12th Sunday of the Year (23 Jun 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
In God’s Right Hand
The final verse of our response to the reading from Zechariah invites us to renew our confidence in God or to trust God in a new way. The verse is: You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me. Young David fleeing for his life may have inspired the psalm. Later it invited all of Israel to trust God through public worship that instilled joyous confidence.

God did not begin upholding, protecting and inviting people with David. David would be quick to say so. He and all Israel considered their first ancestor Abraham invited, upheld and protected by God. They longed for fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

The promise was blessing1 and more: an everlasting relationship with God.2 It may be hard for us to appreciate the deep assurance it offered Abraham and everyone in the ancient Mediterranean culture. In their culture sponsors, patrons, protectors were key. A familiar phrase helps us begin to feel what they felt: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Abraham embodied God’s desire to accompany, shield,3 and bless Abraham and through him all his descendants.

This consideration of Abraham and how members of Israel felt about him is no mere history lesson. To have a feel for Abraham as touchstone and linchpin of faith is a way in to the brief and tightly reasoned selection from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The name Abraham evoked response not just a person: The Lord [had] said to [him]: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land I will show you. ...I will bless you...All the families of the earth will find blessing in you. ..Abram went as the Lord directed him.4 Abraham’s story was imprinted on the hearts and memories of all who heeded his God.

Paul was Abraham’s descendant by blood. He preached Jesus, Abraham’s descendant too, responding to God in a self-giving way. His way fulfilled the promise God had made. Jesus’ dying was not his end; God raised him to indestructible life: what we mean when we profess that He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.5 We share his life now albeit in a partial way.

Partial describes our present life in the Spirit of Jesus, his promise to his disciples in every age. While we have put on Christ Jesus in baptism we are not immune to daily trials. We also struggle to replicate in our lives the story and pattern of Messiah Jesus. The pattern of his life included rejection, torture and death. Nor does partial mean deficient; it means not yet full. Just as the first tastes of food gratify hungry people, a full meal satisfies our appetites. Still, no one would call first tastes deficient.

Our share in the life of Messiah Jesus is not by blood but by promise. Messiah Jesus promised us his Spirit. Holy Spirit, not blood, unites us to Messiah Jesus in baptism. Baptism also unites us and all who share his faith-response to God. In Paul’s words, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Not by blood but something more real and powerful than blood: by Jesus Spirit each of us is Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise. The full promise, Holy Spirit, is cause for joy now and for our future and the present and future of each Christian.

Our joy links us to Abraham, first to receive God’s promise. Our joy returns us to the psalmist singing, in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. Joy at feeling God’s intimate embrace, feeling protected, held in God’s right hand. Jesus grew up to feel this intimate embrace. He savored it and responded freely to it—what obedience of faith6 means in daily living. Jesus confidently felt protected and upheld by God’s right hand as he told his disciples he must suffer greatly and be rejected...and be killed and on the third day be raised. The way of the Messiah is the way of his disciples in each age. We strain to replicate the pattern of Jesus in daily living, the pattern begun by baptism.

Baptism began graced confidence, which is greater than self-assurance. It is joyous trust and conviction that we stand always in God’s loving embrace, upheld by God’s right hand, like Jesus. The Eucharist and the other sacraments sustain what baptism began and help it grow more alive. The sacraments allow Jesus joyous, trusting conviction to be ours and help us live by it.

God upholds us in other ways, too. We may overlook God upholding us through our longings, desires and feelings. Longings, desires and feelings with a texture of surprise—such as, “Now I see!” or “Why do I keep gravitating toward this?”—often indicate we are in God’s right hand. The more we savor them, our responses to God will resemble more Jesus’ human response to God.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in the bright shadow of our triune God.
  • Ask St. Peter to present you to Jesus with a strong confidence.
  • Chat with Jesus: be aware how he is inviting you; praise him for dying and rising for you.
  • Ask him to purify your confidence to be more like his. 
  • Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The words of Jesus, thy will be done, on our lips joyfully praise God for being ever-mindful of us and give us Jesus’ confidence to live more faithfully in the face of trials as well as joys.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Next week: Galatians and Christian Liberty
  1. Genesis 12.2.
  2. Genesis 17.7.
  3. Genesis 15.1.
  4. Genesis 12.1-4.
  5. The Nicene Creed.
  6. Romans 1.5 and 16.26: obedience of faith as modeled by Jesus (5.19), who gives access (5.2) to God to all who practice his faith, bookends St. Paul’s letter.
Wiki-image of the David playing the harp public domain worldwide. Wiki-image of 11th C manuscript page of Letter to the Galatians public domain in the U.S.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

From Rome, Tehran, Rio and Back to Rome

Mr. John L. Allen Jr. considered past “parallel paths” of Rome and Tehran before looking at Iran’s recent election result. He moved on to Rio de Janeiro and other locations of Brazilian demonstrations before returning to Rome. The second miracle has been confirmed in the canonization process of Blessed John Paul II. Mr. Allen clarifies that canonization does not mean perfection.
Wiki-image of Christ the Redeemer public domain worldwide.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday word, 16 Jun 2013

The Faith of Jesus
11 Sunday of the Year C (16 Jun 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Two notes sound forcefully in today’s scriptures: forgiveness and faith. David, the greatest human king of Israel, sinned greatly. The Lord forgave him because of his sincere faith. The gospel fulfilled that scene. A woman, known to be a sinner, received Jesus’ forgiveness because her great love fueled her faith. Jesus recognized it and said to her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace. Whence came her faith? St. Paul answered that question.

In his Letter to the Galatians St. Paul insisted people enjoy right relationship with God not by external observation of commandments but by response of faith. Their response is in sync with commandments and with ways that are true, gentle, humble and wise.

St. Paul did not make that up. He had met risen Jesus. When Jesus walked the earth, faith was his human response to God. Faith grants God claim over us and all creation, seeing God’s claim as life-giving and creative: life-giving when we cannot control it; creative when all evidence suggests it is not. Jesus responded to God that way. Jesus fulfilled and revealed what commandments pointed: right relationship with God, with others. Pope Francis recently called the commandments “indications for liberty…genuine liberty that Christ taught in the Beatitudes.”1 We use the commandments to help us practice our faith and grow in freedom.

St. Paul had great reverence for the commandments and all they embodied. Anyone who would think that after his encounter with risen Jesus, Paul trashed the commandments and all they embodied misunderstands him. He did not trash them. St. Paul realized their limits: pointing the way is not the same as the way; nor do pointers to the truth reveal the whole truth.

Jesus revealed the whole truth. He was more than a pointer. The witness of Jesus was his constant response to God as the giver of life, the healer of souls and the source of strength in every trial. That response was Jesus’ own faith. The faith of Jesus was total as was Abraham’s.2 Similarly, the sinful woman’s faith fueled her great and tender love toward Jesus, so evident in her tears, her wordless washing and wiping dry his feet

On the faith of Jesus Paul and we model our faith. We direct our faith to Jesus, we place it in Jesus because Jesus and his faith, his human response to God, models our response to God, which is our faith. The measure of our response to God is our response to others; it is often on our lips: God forgive us as we forgive others.

The faith of Jesus, his human response to God, attracted that woman, who washed and dried his feet with her tears. The faith of Jesus drew the Twelve to him. The faith of Jesus drew the women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities to Jesus. All of them were not anonymous; Luke named three. That Luke did not name the woman, who washed and dried Jesus feet with her tears, allows her to represent each of us, whose names and lives are so dear to Jesus, our Creator and Model of faith

Jesus modeled human response of loving fidelity to God. Faith names our response. Christian faith imitates Jesus’ response, his human response to God, the faith of Jesus. Through Jesus Christian faith is gift. It also is action: responding to God through Jesus by their Spirit. The woman who stands for each of us was deeply moved and drawn to Jesus. She received peace and forgiveness and lived an astonishing new life. We, too, welcome Jesus, our life, who has loved [us] and given himself up for [us].

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Allow yourself to grow more aware of the Trinity desiring you to enjoy a share in divine life even as you now live in the flesh. Bask in their gift you.
  • Then ask the woman who loved much to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus about your desire to respond more sincerely to your Creator and Messiah. Ask Jesus to strengthen your commitment to imitate his faith, his human response to God.
  • Resolve to live as one saved by your faith-response, asking Jesus to be your Model and your shelter when life seems too much.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. He gave it to us because it models the way Jesus practiced his faith. When we resolve to make Jesus’ prayer our way of moving through the hours of our day, our choices and even our presence will offer Jesus’ peace to others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Next week: Baptized into Christ in Galatians and embraced by God

  1. He said that in an 08 June 2013 message “on the art of living through the Ten Commandments.”
  2. Genesis 12. Abraham figures in Galatians 3. Its summary will be proclaimed next Sunday.

Wiki-image of the beginning of the Letter to the Galatians public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image of the woman washing the feet of Jesus: public domain in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday word, 11 Jun 2013

Encouraging Ingredient
St. Barnabas, Memorial (11 Jun 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus reminded his disciples then and us today to live his gospel. When we live his gospel, our lives proclaim it. When we live his gospel, we brighten the world. When we live his gospel, we invite others to shine with their light.1 When we live his gospel, we change the world, setting it ablaze with Jesus’ presence by our presence—even if we are not aware of the effect we have. What about salt?

Just as salt is never the meal but enhances it, and the bulb is useless if it gives no light, our deeds and choices shaped by Jesus’ gospel not only shine Jesus on our world, they keep us true to the covenant with people God has sealed in Jesus. Long before Jesus people sealed covenants and contracts by dipping bread into salt and eating it. Salt stood for the covenant: “[Recall] the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel for ever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt.”2 When Jesus calls us salt of the earth, he invites us to join him and witness to him, not only preserve our covenantal relationship with him.

The practical effects of salt deepened Jesus’ imagery. Mediterranean folk knew salt more than preserved and flavored food. Salt affects actions from baking to burning. We add salt in yeast-bread dough to aid the growth of yeast. Ancient Palestinians used salt to fire their ovens. Wood in large quantities was unavailable. So they made fuel from animal dung. To make it burn, they added salt.3 If salt was old or polluted—no longer salty—it was useless to make their fuel burn.

This burning property of salt may have been one reason why it was part of the recipe for incense4 and included in grain offerings used to worship the God of the covenant with Abraham and his descendants: every cereal offering that you present to the Lord shall be seasoned with salt. Do not let the salt of the covenant of your God be lacking from your cereal offering. On every offering you shall offer salt.5

As salt encourages burning, we pray to encourage one another and everyone by our manner of living and our witness to Jesus. St. Barnabas is a fine intercessor for us to do both. His name means son of encouragement.6 The grace we pray for is to burn with zeal, at once holy and humane, to hearten, heal and transform the societies in which we and all Christians live our vocations.

  1. Commenting on your light must shine before others, St. John Chrysostom encouraged the newly baptized that Jesus called them to do this. His 4th Catechetical Homily. Paul W. Harkins, St. John Chrysostom: Baptismal Instruction (v. 31 of Ancient Christian Writers series), p. 73.
  2. 2 Chronicles 13.5; Numbers 18:19.
  3. See John Pilch’s brief description of both dung-fuel and earth-ovens in ancient Israel.
  4. Exodus 30.35
  5. Leviticus 2.13.
  6. Acts 4.36.
Wiki-image of martydom of St. Barnabas public domain in the U.S.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sunday word, 09 Jun 2013

Beginning Look
10th Sunday of the Year C (09 Jun 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
For five Sundays the second reading moves us through St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. As a Sunday worshiping community we will not be exposed to the Letter to the Galatians until 2016. I wish to highlight what these verses from its first chapter say about St. Paul and us.

The mood of the Letter to the Galatians is strong emotion from beginning to end. Those who put together the Sunday lectionary left out sections that communicate Paul’s outrage, exasperation and sarcasm. We resist such emotions, yet they are crucial to appreciating this letter.

Why was Paul so emotional? The Galatians had received the gospel when he was with them. They abandoned it after he had left them. Paul expressed himself this way at the beginning:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are trying to confuse you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel at odds with the one we already preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before...I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel at odds with the one you have already received, let him be accursed.1

That language of his letter and today’s selection from it lets us know Paul was no shy or tormented soul. From the beginning of his Letter to the Galatians, who began listening to others, St. Paul defended his apostleship.

Paul shattered the credentials of those who followed in his absence by calling them preachers of a different gospel, trying to confuse the Galatians and...pervert the gospel of Christ. Paul immediately presented his credentials in the verse we heard.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. ...But when God, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood.

St. Paul’s was religious language: not from a human being; through a revelation of Jesus Christ; set...apart and called... through his grace; was pleased to reveal. Paul did not offer physical, rational or expert credentials. He had a record as no typical preacher, coming to places in weakness and fear and much trembling, [and spoke] not with persuasive wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.2 Like the Galatians, we prefer strong, attractive, eloquent speakers with top-notch credentials.

But risen Jesus appointed Paul to announce his gospel to the nations of the world! Human sense would not choose a persecutor of the church of God beyond measure. Jesus is not opposed to sense and reason. He was eminently sensible and reasonable, but neither was his final authority, as we know. God, whom he called his dear Father, Author of all, was his measure of things.

In this brief look at St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, two things are important for us. First, Paul was not tormented by his former way of life. We can let even our slight flaws hold us back from being who God in Jesus by their Spirit creates us to be each moment. Paul’s experience of, his encounter with, his ever-deepening relationship with risen Jesus freed him to be exactly whom our Triune God created. We are grateful because St. Paul is why we are here. Deepening our relationships with risen Jesus allows each of us to grow free to be faithful in him.

Second, Paul’s credentials—having seen the risen Lord,3 who set [him]...apart and called [him]…through his proclaim him to the Gentiles—moves us to ask Jesus to enlighten our human ways. Relationship with Jesus is loving him who called us. Loving hearts trump keen minds often. Lovers don’t ditch their minds; they give love freer rein. St. Paul did. Today his letter encourages us more than defends him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to feel recreated by our triune God.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Hear Jesus address you lovingly, saying, Allow my Spirit to guide you and refashion your heart and your life.
  • Chat with Jesus: about how you feel his Spirit; how you are aware of him. Ask him to enlighten your heart, mind and choices.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we pray it we give voice to the heart of Jesus, who desires us to rely on him more and to allow his Spirit in us guide our choices, words and actions.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Next week: The Faith of Jesus in Galatians

Wiki-image of the beginning of the Letter to the Galatians public domain in the U.S. Wiki-image by Bischöfliche Pressestelle Hildesheim (bph) of raising of the widow's son CC BY-SA 3.0.

  1. Galatians 1.6-9.
  2. 1 Corinthians 1.3-5Paul mentions his physical condition to the Galatians in 4.13-14. 
  3. 1 Corinthians 9.1: Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?