Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday word, 27 Jan 2013

Embodying Mission
Third Sunday of the Year C (27 Jan 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Certain words of other languages refuse translation. For example, Panayotis is a Greek name for a man named after the Blessed Virgin. When my grandfather came from Greece and secured a job in a hotel kitchen, the chef introduced him to the man in charge of hiring. He asked my grandfather his name. After hearing my grandfather answer, Panayotis, the man said to him, “You’re name is Peter.”

Phrases, too, can be used in ways different from the meanings of the individual words. Arabs welcome guests to their home with ah-lan wa sah-lan. Ah-lan means kin and sah-lan means easy: you arrive as part of the family, may your entry here be easy.

Our religious tradition is rooted in Arabic’s cousin, Hebrew. One of its most important biblical words is torah. It gets translated as law, but that does not do it justice. Its root meaning is “to teach.” Translating torah with law limits our appreciation of it; of God, the giver of torah; of the hearers of Ezra and of Jesus; and why their hearers responded so deeply.

We cannot translate torah with an English word. Its root meaning is to teach, yet torah exceeds instruction. The best we can do to capture the sense of this untranslatable word is the phrase “rule of life.” Jews also have struggled to appreciate this. A rabbi once reminded her synagogue that this rule of life is God’s gift. What she said helps us appreciate Jesus way of life and his mission.

A gift is most tended, most cherished, when we know what it is. At its most fixed definition, Torah is the scroll that I read from, containing the five books of Moses. Moving towards a more broad understanding, Torah is also the entire Bible: the five books of Moses; the Prophets; and the Writings. At its widest and most flexible definition, Torah is the entire compendium of Jewish teaching, from the five books of Moses to the most recent commentary.
Ultimately, Torah is the blueprint that guides the Jewish people. Contained within are ethics and moral lessons; a structure for Jewish life, including holidays and life cycle celebrations. From these stories and guidelines, we have derived our world view and theology. When we are able to unwrap it and allow it to inform our lives, change us, and help us to grow into our best selves, then we have fully received the gift of Torah. ...the gift of Torah is not to be stashed away in a drawer, or unwrapped without curiosity and challenge. A scholar, whose name is unknown, wrote in the 18th century: “When one utters words of Torah, one never ceases to create spiritual potencies and new lights...”1

For the Israelites returned to their homeland after their captivity in Babylon, Ezra’s reciting and unwrapping torah moved them to tears as well as shouts of Amen! Amen! and festive celebration.

Torah is not equal to law as we hear the word. It is far richer—a guide for living. Knowing that helps us see Jesus with fresh eyes of faith. Jesus embodied torah and lived his Spirit-anointing by fulfilling, that is, performing his prophetic reminder: all of us are to have especial care for those at the margins; to liberate those who are in bondage; to enhance others’ vision; to relieve those oppressed and burdened. Jesus trusts us to continue his mission. We do it in our circumstances and in our ways.

United with Jesus you and I embody torah, as he performed it. We fulfill it little by little because all of us are anointed with Jesus’ Spirit: his gift; his lasting legacy. We translate torah not in words but by deeds. We are its witnesses. Witnesses are more valuable than the most important teachers.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in the presence of the Trinity.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: Hear him announce his good news to you. Notice what his word stirs in you, to what his word invites you. 
  • Speak to Jesus as one friend to another and ask for the grace to respond more generously to Jesus by responding more generously to others, especially anyone at the margins of your life, of society, of the Church.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words are the best translation we have for fulfilling his mission and becoming new, living lights for our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Site accessed in 2007 before Rabbi Allison Bergman Vann moved to Suburban Temple-Kol Ami.

Wiki-image by Chumchum14 of Torah scroll used by CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of Jesus preaching at Capernaum is in the public domain in the U.S.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Air Shower?

Yes. It’s not like an air guitar either. It’s a functioning shower head that “pulls air into the water stream so the water droplets are hollow.” Made in New Zealand, it’s attractive to neighboring Australia, in which all its states are “under water restrictions or permanent water efficiency measures.” Read about Oxijet.

Wiki-image of a home shower is in the public domain.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Documented: The Unexpected

Species are distinct. However, species interact in surprising ways and for reasons humans usually can only conjecture. A bottle-nosed dolphin was seen traveling with sperm whales, the slower of the two species. Megan Garber of The Atlantic posted the story. It contains a clip of the video documenting the unexpected find.


Wiki-image of a dolphin is in the public domain.

Monday, January 21, 2013


The New Oxford American Dictionary defines the word: “failing or unable to cope with the demands of a normal social environment.” Martin Luther King Jr. asked what is normal. He saw that not all things considered to be acceptable are normal. With Yale students he shared his need to be maladjusted. Several Yale students read some of his words he had spoken in New Haven.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday word, 20 Jan 2013

Friend to Friend
Second Sunday of the Year C (20 Jan 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Epiphany manifested Jesus as Savior and King of all nations. His Baptism manifested him as God’s beloved son. We begin the Sundays of the Year—the numbered Sundays of the church year—with Jesus manifesting himself in power by the first miracle John’s gospel remembers.

The wedding at Cana: all of us, young and old, know its story. Do we appreciate its ending? Jesus [changed water into wine] as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him. Let me highlight two things important for us and all believers.

First, Jesus was not born to reveal all his glory by turning water into wine. Jesus revealed all his glory when he died on the cross, lifting up all things to himself.1 The second is more significant for us believers; it was the disciples’ reaction: they began to believe in him.

In Jesus the power of a new creation dawned. The disciples saw him as the gateway to God’s transforming power. That attracted the disciples.  Attraction is not the same as trusting belief. A relationship of trusting belief God had spoken through Isaiah. To God the reformed people of Israel was God’s Delight and Espoused. The ties holding together spouses have always been sacred avenues to deepen their relationship. Attraction may be beyond them, but deepening their friendship is their life’s work. Attraction gives way to intimate, shared knowledge.

Thinking of spouses helps us value faith as a relationship. Making one life together, spouses give themselves to each other. Faith allows us to give ourselves to our triune God; God is always giving God to us. Faith happens when we give ourselves to God. The faith-relationship allows us to share ourselves with God in Jesus by their Spirit as the Trinity share themselves with us.2

The disciples showed us by their reaction to Jesus that by believing they began to entrust themselves to Jesus. We measure our friendships in that way: we give ourselves to family and close friends. So with faith. We can measure our faith life by checking how we entrust ourselves to Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer.

Measuring and growing our friendship with Jesus is vital. Pope Benedict remembered that as he baptized 20 infants last week. “The journey of faith that today begins for these children [rests] on a certainty, the experience that there is nothing greater than knowing Christ and communicating friendship with him to others; only...this friendship...really [discloses] the extraordinary possibilities of the human condition and [let’s us] experience that which is beautiful and that which frees.”3

St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, advised we communicate with Jesus best as “one friend to another.”4 Friendship with Jesus is the reason I entered the Jesuits. Friendship with Jesus, like human friendships, rests on honesty. Honest sharing shapes us. Honest sharing with Jesus, who is always honest with us, shapes everyone’s personal vocation. Each one’s personal vocation is God’s desire for each of us. We discover it; we uncover it as we grow. When we uncover it, we help it continue to grow.

St. Ignatius offered an uncomplicated method to help us uncover and to grow our friendship with Jesus. It moves this way: we quiet ourselves in the presence of the Trinity; then we become aware of the gifts the Trinity lavished on us today. We allow a gift or event or a word or image from scripture to capture and focus us on Jesus. Focused on Jesus we consider ways we avoided living his gospel and express sorrow; and we consider ways we lived his gospel, and we express our gratitude to Jesus. We resolve to live as more honest friends of Jesus by living as his disciples in our world today.

This method5 works, helping us give ourselves to Jesus. You’ve noticed in the ten months I’ve been with you, I end each Sunday homily with a form of this Ignatian style of praying. I shaped it to help us give ourselves to Jesus Sunday to Sunday and deepen our friendship with him, his Father and their Spirit.

I’ve created a blog, Spiritual Exercise of the Week, to help anyone do this. Last Friday I adjusted the site so that it is number four in a Google search for Spiritual Exercise of the Week. It will allow you to move through my suggestion to give Jesus 15 minutes a day this week. Fifteen minutes is 1.5% of the waking hours of a day: a slender sliver of time with Jesus. Jesus’ friendship frees us to live as his disciples in our world today. Friendship with Jesus is believing him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause and rest in the Trinity who creates us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the disciples at the wedding feast to present you to Jesus. 
  • Chat with him: Speak to Jesus as one friend to another and give yourself to him. Friends do that. Praise him for his faithfulness to you. 
  • Ask him for grace to give yourself and your life to Jesus with greater confidence.
  • Close your time by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words begin, continue and strengthen his friendship with us; they help us befriend him and live in ways that invite others to be his friends. That is each person’s vocation no matter what shape a person’s life takes.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. John 12.32.
  2. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #150.
  3. Homily, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sistine Chapel, Sunday, 13 January 2013.
  4. See the bottom of this webpage for Ignatius’ words. Jesuit Fr. David Fleming wrote an essay about those words; it began: “The underlying dynamic of Ignatian prayer is that of a conversation.”
  5. One shorthand list of its five-steps also has comments and links to assist anyone.

Wiki-image of the wedding at Cana is in the public domain in the U.SWiki-image of water into wine by © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Nice Not Enough

Nice doesn’t make the news. Or, in Lisa Miller’s observation, “Why can’t we all just get along is not a story.” In her recent contribution to the  Washington Post On Faith page, Ms. Miller suggested why the “religious right” makes the news and the “religious left” does not, and what the latter group can do to make its causes newsworthy.

Wiki-image of newspaper vending machine has been released into the public domain.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Elephant

Jesuit Father Greg Boyle has been working with youth at risk for over 20 years in Los Angeles. He established Homeboy Industries: it is now coed; is a multifaceted ministry; and trains young people for work. When Fr. Boyle cautioned that seeing the shootings and deaths in Newton, Connecticut, last month, from a distant, “aerial view” prevents reaching solutions, his long experience increases his credibility.

“When we take our views lower, we know we need to address guns and we need to address mental illness,” Fr. Boyle said. “The elephant in the room is mental health, which is something I see more and more with the gang population with whom I work.”
Fr. Boyle is not alone. In her response to that massacre forensic psychologist, Karen Franklin, noted that U.S. “culture...glorifies violence.” That blunts outrage and prevents outrage from leading to concrete solutions. Instead, the country indulges in “more hand-wringing.”
Wiki-image by Bbjeter of makeshift memorial at Sandy Hook used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Near and Far

One person with responsibility for the murders of Jesuits in El Salvador in 1989 is nearer in being brought to justice.

Sadly, after a shooting tragedy that riveted the U.S. last month, the number of those killed by people with guns in a 30-day period soared.
Wiki-image by Heulwolf of Black Sea shore used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Monday, January 14, 2013

History of a Union

Once a year news stories are devoted to “Orthodox Christmas.” The stories include a photo or two, mention the different date and, usually, the Julian calendar. On any day little space is given to the history of Orthodoxy in the U.S. A brief essay, focusing on people instead of dates and posted at CNEWA, is a great introduction to the complex origin of the Orthodox Church in America: from “Orthodoxy arrives” to “a new Church.”

Wiki-image by Andrew Gould of Holy Ascension church used by CC BY-SA 2.0.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday word, 13 Jan 2013

Favored Bookends
The Lord’s Baptism C (13 Jan 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
With the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism we close the Christmas season. I want to reflect with you on a word in the original language of Luke’s gospel that bookends the season.

Christmas allowed us to rejoice that in Jesus God became human for us. His birth fulfilled ages of longing for God’s gracious promise. Angels announced his birth to ritually impure people—to shepherds.1 The blood and death of sheep, which shepherds were in contact for long stretches, made them unfit to attend temple. We make shepherds more appealing than they were. They were not the only ritually impure ones, but they did an isolating work with property that did not belong to them. They were nearby where Jesus was born; God works in and through all creation not only those we approve or expect.

Jesus was born in an occupied land. In occupied Palestine the Romans crushed everyone’s liberty. People on the margins felt the conquerors’ crush more severely. Isolation from others and from celebrating their deepest aspiration with others in temple and synagogue did not help them cope. God favored them with the announcement of the birth of the Messiah: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.2 It is not human favor, but God’s favor. Anyone can do a good turn. Humans tend to approve whom and what they like; God favors all. God favored the ritually impure shepherds, people others kept at a distance and looked at with disdain. And with whom did Jesus spend time? With those who were ritually impure and anyone marginalized by religious practice or by human measure. Jesus embodied what God through angels announced at Jesus’ birth: God favored the marginalized with a peace that registered as a security, confidence and tranquility humans could neither offer nor seize.

Before Jesus began his prophetic ministry of fulfillment, he was baptized. It was an ancient Jewish practice.3 Jesus’ baptism was his adult epiphany. As Luke recalled it we overheard God’s favor announced again. Better, we had a glimpse of an inner, personal experience of Jesus in communication we call prayer. Words hint at it. If we recall describing one of our nighttime dreams to another person, we recall we never communicate it as we experienced it; we can’t. We hint at our dream: it was like; as the dreamer I felt like; and when words fail us, we say, “You know how it is in dreams.”

So Jesus’ baptism. Its language of heaven was opened alerts us to no human activity but divine action. Its language of bodily form like a dove hints at the intense presence of God’s spirit experienced by Mary’s adult son. Its language of the holy Spirit descended on Jesus echoes the Spirit coming upon Mary: it overshadowed4 her, that is, abided with her wherever she was. At Jesus’ birth God favored those no none would expect, the ritually impure shepherds. As Jesus was about to begin his ministry God
confirmed God’s desire to fulfill the deepest human longings in and through his Son. Jesus would not overlook anyone others did: You are my beloved Son; I favor you. God’s favor is what the hearers of this gospel heard. It’s the same word: the verb as God spoke; the noun as angels announced God’s favor to those in great need of it.

Divine favor bookends the Christmas season: at its beginning, Jesus’ birth; at its commencement of the Sunday celebrations of the year, his baptism. The church celebrates Jesus’ birthday because his birth began the fulfillment of God’s promise for which people had long hoped.We celebrate his baptism which inaugurated how Jesus fulfilled God’s gracious promise. Though Christmas comes once a year, each and every day is our opportunity to bask in God’s favor: God in Jesus by their Spirit chooses us; our triune God desires us; our triune God desires to be our freedom from what binds us; our triune God desires we grow more alert to God favoring us so many ways. God favors us through people we least suspect not only those we do. We align ourselves with God’s favor as we continue growing as a community of disciples, who announce God’s favor to each person and our world by extending a still more inviting welcome to others wherever we may be.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Ask the Trinity to renew and deepen your sense of our triune God favoring you.
  • Ask Mary, Joseph and John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus to watch him be baptized for you.
  • As you watch chat with Jesus: express what rises on your heart as you watch him be baptized for you.
  • Beg for the grace to live your baptism with renewed courage and in inviting ways.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us each time we say it Jesus desires us to model his inviting, welcoming way. His words, our daily bread, include his Spirit he gives us to do that.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Luke 2.9-15.
  2. Luke 2.14, the gospel at Christmas Mass During the Night.
  3. For example, see this Jewish Encyclopedia entry.
  4. Luke 1.35.
  5. The celebration of Jesus’ birth celebrates “the beginnings of our redemption” (Prayer over the Offerings, Vigil Mass of Christmas, Roman Missal).

Wiki-image of angelic announcement to shepherds used by {PD-old-100}. Wiki-image of an icon of the baptism of Jesus is in the public domain.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Movie Review

It may be a thinking person’s movie. The review of “The Life of Pi” by ThinkingFaith confirms that. Yet, who would want to miss the colors, action and effects the movie offers? All of them are demonstrated in the trailer included in the online review.


Wiki-image by Chandana12 of Mahi beach at sunset used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Underground Art

The phrase suggests fringe visual expression. Some art underground is far from fringe. Earlier this week London’s tube system turned 150 years. Its art underground quickly became mainstream. The font on its signs was created for it, and the font bears the name of its creator today. Lloyd Alter created a captioned slideshow illustrating the “incredible design influence” of London’s Underground. 
Wiki-image by Sunil060902 of Sudbury Town roundel used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Monday, January 07, 2013


Though the Twelfth Day of Christmas has passed, its season continues through the Baptism of the Lord. Yesterday focused on the magi journeying to find the newborn King. Each person journeys in every age. The magi were led on their journey by a star. Was it a star? More important, does it continue to shine for contemporary travelers? Jesuit Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory was asked about the Star of Bethlehem. He began his answer by reminding that the question “has hidden within it all sorts of wildly wrong assumptions.”  


Wiki-image of Jerusalem sky was entered into the public domain by Zwergelstern.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Sunday word, 06 Jan 2013

Epiphany C (06 Jan 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Epiphany is a Greek word. It means striking appearance.1 Christians first focused on the appearance of risen Jesus, his epiphany in which he conquered death so it would not have the final word about humans. Baptism was how they united others with his dying and rising. It made sense to baptize because early Christians recalled Jesus’ baptism as his first epiphany during his life. It also recalled his epiphany at Cana, when he turned water into wine for the sake of human delight. Today was celebrated by the early church east of Rome as a day of baptism.

By the time Epiphany had arrived in Rome other signs outshone water. The star is perhaps most famous. Ancient chronicles mentioned stars at the births of significant people.2 In the Bible stars are mentioned frequently in praise of God.3 Stars are part of the cast of light. In Genesis light was created first.4 Today Isaiah reminded us the divine light shines not so we may see but so we may live our days in harmony with God’s justice and proclaiming the praises of the Lord. Because of Jesus’ Incarnation and his life with us by his Spirit, the shining radiance of divine light is not limited to leaders—kings [shall walk] by your shining radiance; it brightens each of us.

The shining radiance imparts to us the desires of our triune God. When our deep desires mesh with our God’s desires for us, our ways of living clearly express love for God and for others. A second Epiphany sign is the magi. They desired to find and to adore the newborn king of the Jews. Their journey of discovery is one more Epiphany sign. It was not all light. Fear, also, played its part. Herod feared to lose power so he resorted to secrecy and conniving. The magi felt something amiss, though they knew not what. In their deepest selves—dreams speak to our deepest selves—their fear of Herod they realized was not unfounded. So they did not return to him to be part of his schemes.

Those signs converge in Jesus, the light to the nations.5 His light was divine radiance, and the wise men of non-Jewish races remind us Jesus was incarnated for all. The church, the body of Christ and sacrament of God’s communion with all people, unites itself closely with migrating peoples6 in every land where the church lives. Too many people journey to survive another day, as in Syria. Too many people journey to live free of corruption and the violence of today’s Herods and puppets of drug lords, as in Mexico. Each of us can add other groups elsewhere in the world. We celebrate Jesus as our Messiah, and he is. Jesus is not our exclusive property. Epiphany allows us to celebrate with Christmas joy that Jesus is Messiah for all.

All of us gathered here are migrants, too. As Catholics ours is a journey of faith. We seek in our lives God’s shining radiance. We desire to live by it as companions of Jesus. We desire our lives to be in harmony with God’s justice, proclaiming the praises of the Lord in deed and word. We have our fears, as well. Talking with Jesus about them as well as entrusting our fears to him helps us notice which of our fears are unfounded and which are not. When I recall people journeying to live another day or even another hour, I realize my distress pales by comparison.

The Year of Faith suggests that we resolve in 2013 to deepen our conviction of Jesus present to us and to all people as Messiah. It also suggests we resolve to be more alert to our Messiah’s shining radiance alive in us to make us his more courageous and inviting disciples.

To feel being enlightened by Jesus to reflect his light by your lives: give Jesus 15 minutes each day this week:
  • Pause and bask in the love with which the Trinity creates you
  • Ask the magi to present you to Jesus
  • Chat with Jesus: 
thank Jesus for the ways Jesus chooses you to embody him in the world and for the countless ways Jesus protected you last year;
ask Jesus to free you from what holds you back from journeying closer to him in word and deed.
  • Resolve to grow more alert in faith. Look forward to your relationship with Jesus to grow in 2013 then
  • Slowly say the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our compass to find him in and with others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The entry in Thayer’s Lexicon and in LSJ.
  2. Julius Caesar is one example, and a star was the herald of his death and moved his contemporaries to consider him a god.
  3. Some by name as in Amos 5.8 and Job 9.9. A page at OpenBible lists over three dozen citations for stars.
  4. Genesis 1.3.
  5. The collect of the Roman Missal echoes that conviction. “Light of the nations” began the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
  6. Today begins National Migration Week.
Wiki-image by Henryk Kowalewski of Star Merope used by CC BY-SA 2.5. Wiki-image by 3268zauber of Three Kings used by CC BY-SA 3.0.