Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday word, 28 Dec 14

Overflowing Lavishly
Holy Family Sunday B (28 Dec 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God’s life overflows. God’s life overflows within God. Our Catholic tradition appreciates God as a community—Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Long before the Christian appreciation of God as triune, God is always lavish. How lavish? Consider Abraham: one descendant for a childless couple was not enough: the Lord took Abram outside and said, not only will you have an heir, Abram, your descendants shall be as numerous as the stars in the sky. From the first self-introduction to the father of many nations God was lavish. Responding to God was lavish.

Two thousand years later when pilgrims arrived in Jerusalem in the days of King Herod they saw lavish buildings; they saw and heard artisans of all kinds busily constructing more. The Temple may have been the most impressive building. It teemed with people from the world over. Many of them formed God’s people.

Pilgrims to the Temple Mount fulfilled the words of the prophets: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be…exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.1 From his infancy Jesus was a pilgrim to Jerusalem many times. He had an ever-deepening felt-knowledge that he embodied the last days of God’s promise spoken by the prophets. In that graced, prophetic wisdom the child Jesus grew.

By his graced, prophetic wisdom Jesus repeatedly voiced God’s lavish, overflowing life in his teaching. By his graced, prophetic wisdom Jesus repeatedly modeled God’s lavish, overflowing life by his actions. Jesus gave his life so God’s lavish, overflowing life may be ours. God’s lavish, overflowing life raised Jesus from death and exalted him as Lord and Savior of all.

We are Jesus’ body,2 the people of God.3 Families are the building blocks of every people. For Christians the human family is a school of faith, hope and love. The family all of us have become is the church, Jesus’ body. The blood of our savior unites us. His life is his Spirit. With his Spirit pulsing in us our Catholic life is nothing less than the life of our savior. The life of our savior unites us so we may give voice in varied ways to God’s lavish, overflowing life. The life of our savior unites us so we may model God’s lavish, overflowing life by our actions of charity.

The life of the Holy Family attuned Jesus to living faith, hope and love. The life of the Holy Family was the first stages of Jesus’ life in which he grew and became strong, filled with wisdom…and the favor of God. His family and body don’t look quaintly at Jesus growing strong [filled] with wisdom…and the favor of God as though Jesus was a dead figure of long ago. Jesus is alive and present by his Spirit. We consider each stage of Jesus’ life as our goal. A French saint described our goal as our mission: to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus’ life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church.4

The church year gradually spreads before us the stages of Jesus’ life and his mysteries. Each of us may beg [Jesus] to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. How to do that? Let ourselves inhabit and move about in aspects of his mysteries. The season of Christmas offers us nearly three weeks to enter the mystery of Jesus’ nativity: his sharing our human nature so we may share his divine nature. To ask Jesus to perfect and realize his [nativity] in us and in his whole Church not only considers God joining us; it empowers us to celebrate, model and share our triune God’s lavish, overflowing life. By God’s gracious favor Jesus’ body and family do what he first did for us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the lavish love of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary to present you to her baby.
  • Take him in your arms and speak to him; marvel that God was born for you; that he experienced life as we were born and continue to grow in our lives.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as our Savior; to have a felt-knowledge that his Spirit gives us life each moment.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, on earth as…in heaven, point to the Word made flesh; his prayer urges us to let our lives speak in harmony with that very Word born for us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


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  1. Isaiah 2.2; Micah 4.1.
  2. Romans 12.5; 1Corinthians 12.27.
  3. 1Peter 2.10.
  4. St. John Eudes, quoted in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶521.
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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday word, 21 Dec 14

Witnesses Freed and Healed
Fourth Sunday of Advent B (21 Dec 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Advent liturgies frequently sound healing, freeing and saving. One response echoed in the Liturgy of the Hours appeals, Come and set us free, Lord God…and we shall be saved. Another names God as the source of our healing, freeing and saving and desires God offer them to us: Lord, show us your mercy and love…And grant us your salvation.1 Mercy and love are not add ons to our triune God; mercy and love belong to God the way air and blood keep us alive. Divine mercy and love are words that try to express God’s gracious self to God’s people. Our language does what it can to describe God, and it always limps as it does.

We all have experienced our language limping to name our triune God as the most real. I often use dreaming as an example with children. I ask if they dream, and they quickly say they do. Do things happen, and do they do things in dreams they cannot do in waking life? I ask. Again they agree. Does not being able to do in waking life what they do in dreams mean that dreams are not real? No, our dreams are very real!

As we tell our dreams to others we pause, unable to de-scribe in words some parts. Often a person resumes saying, You know how it is in dreams, and listeners readily agree. Our triune God is no dream, yet our language limps to describe God. Fortunately God intervened personally for us. Our triune God decided in their eternity that the Second Person would become a human being in order to save the human race.2 God’s desire to intervene happened long before angel Gabriel visited Mary. One of those times we heard was for David.

Did you hear God laugh moments ago? David wanted to build a secure house for the ark of the Covenant where God’s presence dwelled. “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Ha! God laughed: Would you build me a house to dwell in? David meant well. As God’s friend David desired to do for God in return for God’s favor. God desired and did for David what he could not do for himself: God established a living house, a dynasty for David: your dynasty and your kingdom shall endure forever before me.

In the fullness of time3—scripture’s phrase for the moment—God’s mercy and love was born a son of David, Mary’s child. In him God’s mercy and love became human with us and for us: to heal, free and save us and all. Angel Gabriel told Mary, You shall name him Jesus. The name Jesus means God saves. When we are healed we are freed to live in new ways. When we are healed we experience being saved. Allow me to use an image to say a final thing.

When we are sick we may receive medicines. Medicines don’t cure us; they free the body to heal itself, to return to normal functions. That image limps when it comes to our most real healing, our interior and spiritual healing: we cannot heal ourselves. We receive interior, spiritual healing, the most real healing. Jesus is our divine physician. As we surrender to the care of our physicians, our surrender to Jesus offers us our most real healing and freedom. 

Surrender is not easy for anyone. It is possible though not easy. We learn to surrender. Models helps us; intercessors help us more, and we have Mary and the communion of saints to help us. Mary is intercessor and model par excellence. Her surrender to God’s desire to save us in Jesus began our salvation. It will continue until Jesus completes it when he returns in glory. Enter the scene of her surrender to God throughout these days before Christmas and after to grow more receptive to God’s desire: our freeing, healing and saving. God’s desire is not limited to the future. God frees, heals and saves us now so our lives may witness more clearly to Jesus our Savior.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the creative love of our triune God.
  • Ask Jesus to present you to his mother.
  • Enter her room and chat with her: ask her about being troubled at the angel’s greeting. Share your troubles with her. Then ask Mary to present you to her son.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as our Savior. Praise him for saving you each moment.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to free us and heal us so we may live more like him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


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  1. Both appear throughout Evening Prayer during Advent, most recently on 19 December and 21 December. 
  2. St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises [102].
  3. Galatians 4.4 and Ephesians 1.10.
Wiki-images: King David Agnete by Agnete CC BY-SA 3.0Annuncation PD-US

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday word, 14 Dec 14

Key to Locked Doors
Third Sunday of Advent B (14 Dec 2014)

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and prominent theologian in pre-WWII Europe. He is better known for resisting the Nazis and dying as a result. Last summer I learned from a recent biography that Bonhoeffer was foremost a pastor.1 As with you and me, Pastor Bonhoeffer was all his dimensions. Throughout his life Advent may have been the church season most significant to him. Near the end of his young life he wrote a friend: “A prison cell is like our situation in Advent: one waits, hopes, does this or that—meaningless acts—but the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside. That is how I feel just now.”2

What are we to make of his image when today’s scriptures and mass prayers overflow with rejoicing and encourage us to rejoice? I have pondered that. Our Catholic both/and view of life—divine and human—emerged. Like Pastor Bonhoeffer, you and I are all our dimensions; we can delight even in difficult circumstances. We don’t delight in a difficult circumstance; we delight in help we receive or can give. We don’t delight in a difficult circumstance; we delight in another who is with us, even someone as helpless as us.

The words, “the door…can only be opened from the outside,” accurately image Advent. While we can take true and honest delight in much of ourselves, our sources of delight often are outside us: from what our senses take in; our minds and hearts appreciate; and relationships that sustain and strengthen our lives. Advent invites us to refresh our relationship with Jesus and the delight he alone gives. We yearn for Jesus’ return in glory; we recall his first Advent in our world, born a human like all humans. Jesus came from an outside, his divine life, into our humanity. That he came and will come again to bring us fully into his divine life is reason for rejoicing.

The manner of Jesus’ first Advent is also significant. He entered our humanity anonymously; he was born poor in difficult circumstances and a mangy setting. The prophetic modern monk, Thomas Merton, echoed “the outside” when he described the purpose of Jesus’ birth. Our Creator and Redeemer, he said “has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in [our world], because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others who do not belong, who are rejected by power, because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.”3

You and I exercise some power; we have some strength; we enjoy good reputation and comfortable lives. Yet we are all limited. Jesus arrived for us, too. Our shared vocation witnesses to Jesus coming from outside to help us, forgive us and steady us to walk in the singular freedom Jesus offers. We may speak our witness. More often it is unspoken, even anonymous, testimony to the help, forgiveness and freedom we received from our Messiah.

Those served by our unspoken, even anonymous testimonies to Jesus rejoice in ways we may never know. When a person in recovery needs a meeting on Sunday and finds it at a church that makes space available, that one rejoices. When a person without resources to live receives some through a shelter, food bank or kitchen, that one rejoices. When someone bewildered by unfamiliar surroundings or distressed by life finds a person to listen patiently, that one rejoices. Often small actions reflect the light who is Christ Jesus more clearly than great ones. Bringing to mind how we rejoiced when a small action by another did a great thing for us is genuine prayer. It reminds us though we are unable to see Jesus, he is just outside; he is our Key who opens the door onto our true freedom.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the creative love of our triune God.
  • Ask John the Baptizer and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you. Thank him for being born human like you and for you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as your Savior, your Key who opens you to your true self and to serve his good news.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to free us and to align ourselves with his good news each day. the creative love of our triune God.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

__________
  1. Eric Metaxas subtitled his biography Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. 
  2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas SermonsKindle location 28.
  3. Quoted in Daily Dig for December 1.
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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sunday word, 07 Dec 14

                                                              Window on Repentance
Second Sunday of Advent B (07 Dec 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
St. Ignatius of Loyola established the Society of Jesus. He is important for us Jesuits: in part because he is our founder; and in part because Jesuits identify with him in some ways. I consider St. Ignatius my spiritual father: how important he is to me. His ways of praying and of viewing the world fit me, and I try to make them mine. His conversion was rocky: his strong-willed disposition did not smooth its way; that is how I identify with him.

His conversion began while he recovered from a near-deadly battle injury. His conversion was not instantaneous; as for most people it was a process. A conversion-process purifies our human qualities; it does not erase them. Purifying our human qualities has a lot to do with the invitation by John the Baptizer to repent. St. Ignatius’ conversion lets us see how repentance purifies human qualities. Besides being strong-willed Ignatius was loyal; and he was excessively attached to achievements, including to live a new life.

Ignatius was strong-willed not ill-willed. He desired to re-fashion his life, and he resolved to do it as soon as he could leave his sickbed—and he did. Ignatius was loyal. During his months of recovery he transferred his loyalty to Jesus: Jesus was the delight and desire of Ignatius’ life. Ignatius accepted he had lived immoderately; he thought by his power alone he could refashion his life. On his sickbed he read about Jesus and the saints; “he used to say to himself: ‘Saint Dominic did this, so I have to do it too. Saint Francis did this, so I have to do it too.’”1

When he could walk again he left the family castle. He had decided to live the rest of his days in the Holy Land doing penance for his early life. His plan was interrupted. He had a reached town on his way and remained in it. He described his months there this way: “God [dealt] with him in the same way a schoolteacher deals with a child while instructing him.”2

Ever the achiever Ignatius fashioned his action-plan. It was rigorous. To stay with his schoolteacher-pupil image we may say Ignatius never entered the lesson God desired to offer him. Ignatius clung to achieving on his power his new life. He desired to live forgiven and free from his past; yet he thought he could earn forgiveness and freedom by a rigorous, austere, even harsh life.

That sort of earning-for-myself or self-saving challenged more Christians than St. Ignatius; it still does. I lean that way, a reason I identify with St. Ignatius. Yet Christian repentance is a mindset before it is an action: Christian repentance lets go attempts to save ourselves. Christian repentance allows God in Jesus by their Spirit to offer us what we cannot offer to or achieve by ourselves. The verb acknowledged in the gospel sentence,
People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem…acknowledged their sins,
is no quick glance; they agreed fully—acknowledged—their lives did not align with God’s heart. Then they accepted God’s loving kindness and let it wash over them.

From of old God offered God’s loving kindness in a container of comfort: comfort my people…speak tenderly, act according to my care. Prophet Isaiah conveyed God’s good news to all Jerusalem so all in the city bear the same good news. God personally conveyed God’s good news of comfort and care in Jesus, God’s son and our savior.

As he revealed God’s good news Jesus demonstrated God’s might registers not as force but as forgiveness and freedom. When St. Ignatius stopped relying on his self-help program, as devout as it was, and accepted God’s loving kindness, his conversion turned a corner. Accepting God’s loving kindness the saint realized was a daily, even hourly, mindset. It is so for us. Advent bids us first let go of attempts to save ourselves; then welcome Jesus and his transforming power and stake our lives on him. To welcome Jesus and his transforming power opens the way to forgiveness and freedom. It also is our way to conduct[ ]ourselves in holiness and devotion.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the creative love of our triune God.
  • Ask St. Ignatius Loyola, John the Baptizer and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you. Thank him for saving you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as your Savior and to align yourself with his good news.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to purify our humanity and to align ourselves with his good news each day.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise



__________
  1. A Pilgrims Journey: The Autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola. Translated by Fr. Joseph N. Tylenda, S.J., Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition, Kindle Locations 524-525.
  2. Ibid., Kindle Locations 888-889.
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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday word, 30 Nov 14

Advent Living
First Sunday of Advent B (30 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
As boy I thought Advent was all about Christmas. Before Christmas I noticed we let go the Gloria in Advent and that purple was prominent in church. I noticed we did both in Lent; so I thought Advent was a Lent-like preparation for Christmas—only shorter. From its early years the church in Rome never celebrated Advent as a shorter Lent. But early Christians in what today is mostly France did; and customs for Lent found a home in their Advent—and of later generations.

Customs have strong staying power. Advent customs and practices that echoed Lent confused later generations of Catholics into our times. Lent is about
decoration: underline;">doing: we involve ourselves with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Advent is about disposition: we seek to deepen our attitude of hopeful expectation in both the Second Coming of Jesus in glory and in his abiding presence with us each moment. About his presence we desire to take Jesus at his word: I am with you always until the end of the age.1 His Second Coming will be his glorious presence when he will make human bodies glorious and people divine like him.

Each present moment for us Catholics looks both to the past and to the future. We are future oriented; it’s our culture. We think of our futures; we plan ahead. The future rests in questions we ask and our concerns. We ask youngsters, “What do you want to be? What do you see yourself doing?” When we are grown and have been working our concern becomes when we will retire and that we will have enough resources. Our culture is future oriented.

Mediterranean cultures orient people to the present. The future does not grip them like us. The Spanish word maƱana and the Italian word domani literally mean tomorrow. We hear tomorrow and think of the next 24 hours. Mediterranean cultures mean that, too; but often tomorrow points to no number of hours but an unspecific future. Perry Como popularized a movie1 song: “Forget Domani.”2 Some of its lyrics make the point of its culture:
“Let’s forget about domani,For domani never comes!Tomorrow,Forget tomorrow,Let’s live for now….”
The lyrics echo Jesus’ words to those of his culture: do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.3 The culture of the disciples gave them ears to hear that message of Jesus. The present-oriented disciples also needed Jesus’ reminder to be alert and ready for the future return of their Lord, the creator and redeemer of all things. Isaiah, like other prophets, had already sounded that. His message to us today contained return, come, meet us doing right; the Psalmist also pleaded, come…save us.

We future-oriented friends of Jesus need an alert, ready, watchful, hopeful disposition. Why? To match the faith we profess: Jesus will come again in glory.4 Advent is our opportunity to renew our Christian disposition with the en-tire church. Advent focuses us on the present and the future more than the past. About the future we are to welcome the return of One we know, love and serve. Given our anxious concern for the future, we may need to join to our Advent disposition Jesus’ wisdom do not be anxious about tomorrow. Anxiety is static in our souls; it does not help us expect the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ or announce his presence and his return in glory with our lives.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God who creates and redeems us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for accompanying you even when you are unaware of him.
  • Ask Jesus to grace you with a calm spirit and an alert, ready, watchful, hopeful disposition. in the company of our triune God giving you new birth each moment.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy kingdom come, are not about a place but God’s very life. God’s life is not distant; Jesus said, the kingdom of God is within you.5 Advent helps us live the truth of his words.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. The Yellow Rolls Royce” (1964)
  2. Its lyrics may be found at Metro Lyrics.
  3. Matthew 6.34.
  4. From the Nicene Creed.
  5. Luke 17.21.
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Wiki-images: Noon Rest From Work Vincent Van Gogh PD-US Pottery disc Oriel PD-Release

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday word, 23 Nov 14

Made Not Born
Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe A (23 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Being Christian is not natural. That is apostolic teaching.  We heard moments ago how St. Paul put it: Christ has been raised from the dead. God intervened for Jesus and us so that death is not our end. Being Christian is not natural. A 3rd-Century pastor put it crisply: Christians are made not born.1 Baptism makes us Christian; it unites us to Christ Jesus; it begins our new, divine life in him. Our new life involves being “reborn” daily. Rebirth is not natural. On our own we turn to the natural; the natural is warped by sin. Regular reception of sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation, all our Catholic devotions and way of living allow us to turn in a another direction and continue to be reborn. A few examples: to focus outward—Christian—rather than inward on ourselves—natural; to turn to what gives true, lasting life—Christian—rather than fleeting, flawed pleasure—natural; to respect everyone—Christian—rather than suspect people, hate and do them violence—natural: to focus on and do the Christian instead of the natural allows us to be reborn. Today’s Solemnity is about our rebirth.

The Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, is recent among feasts of the Lord. Recent does not make it less important. The church develops its worship in response to the needs of its members. When Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity he and the church in several countries had seen some of them consider themselves superior to others. Some even acted as if they were superior. National superiority led them to distance themselves from the church or even harm it. Trying to negotiate national superiority and keep faith was a need in 1925.

That year saw Mussolini inaugurate his dictatorial rule. That year saw a group of extremists blow the roof off a church in their country’s capital during a military funeral; they killed 150 and injured more than three times the dead.2 In 1925 Hitler’s Mein Kampf 3 was published; his “fight”—in German, Kampf, inflicted worldwide disaster.

Christians—you and I—are made, united to Jesus to stand against the tyranny of natural inclinations to canonize self, antagonize others and take pleasure in both. The example of Jesus to be selfless, respect and help others and to root himself in the pleasure his Father has in creation, especially humans, jars us. Jesus’ call to us to be selfless, respect and help others and root ourselves in divine desires can shock us: Jesus, you call me to be like you? If his example jars and his invitation to follow his example shocks, nothing is wrong with us. Why?

Consider his final parable. Those who responded and helped the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill and those in prison were shocked they cared for King Jesus: Lord, when did we see you in those ways and help you? Those who did not respond and help those in need were equally shocked. Their question to the King suggests they paid attention to themselves; they turned an eye over their shoulders now and again in case the King in his regalia happened their way. When he was visible to them, then they would have helped. Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?

Our King Jesus does not impress with splendor; he does not coerce. He does not use natural power to impress or intimidate. We might say Jesus was congenitally unable to use power so natural to us—he was born of powerless parents in surroundings and conditions only normal to domesticated animals. 

Yet Jesus was fully human even as he was fully divine. He married the human and the divine in his person. He doesn’t ask us not to be human; he invites us to welcome divine power and let it make us truly human. We do that every time we help the least and minister to their needs. Each time we do we let ourselves be reborn in our King of the Universe; we let ourselves be remade in his image and by his power.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God giving you new birth each moment.
  • Ask the righteous in Jesus’ parable, those with open hearts and hands to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for giving himself and rising that you may live this moment; thank him for accompanying you even when you are unaware of him; ask him to help you remember receiving help.
  • After you savor the experience of being helped, ask Jesus for grace: grace to be generous and humane, especially when you are inclined to be neither.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His prayer begs his Father to lavish divine power on us so we may do what we think is impossible:
  • to long for God’s kingdom when natural, even petty ones, preoccupy us; 
  • to be satisfied with what we have and desire what we truly need so we may help others; and
  • to do what often seems impossible for any of us—to forgive others.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

__________
  1. Tertullian, Apology, Ch 18.
  2. St. Nedelya Church assault.
  3. His “outline[ of] his political ideology and future plans for Germany.”
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Wiki-images: Last Judgment Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. CC BY-NC 3.0; Corporal Works of Mercy PD-US

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday word, 16 Nov 14

Never Hold Back
33rd Sunday of the Year A (16 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus was a fine storyteller. Characters in his parables represented all facets of society. He included unjust, dishonest, faithless, immoral, wicked and lazy characters. That litany is no mere attention getter; it is fact. Judges1 to religious professionals2 to property owners3 and managers4 to servants5 exemplify qualities we do not associate with Jesus or desire. Why did Jesus people his parables with them? Not because they were unjust, dishonest, faithless, immoral, wicked or lazy. Jesus wanted his hearers—and us—to act with their determination not their morals.

Jesus told parables to help us appreciate what God is like6; what the reign of God is like7; and especially to invite us to welcome the reign of God and respond to it. The response of devious people in his parables was the sort of response Jesus hoped would be ours. Take the parable we heard today.

Bibles caption this parable of Matthew The Parable of the Talents. It is not about skills; it is about money, lots and lots of money. A talent in the world of Jesus was a unit of weight, about 80 pounds. A gold talent was worth over $29,000; a silver talent almost $2,000.8 Take the modest silver talent: the man in the parable gave one servant $10,000, another $5,000 and one $2,000. The buying power of each amount in Jesus’ day was staggering.

The wealthy man was one of those shady characters in Jesus’ parables. His wealth seemed to have grown by dis-honest dealings. If he tried to hide it, one servant knew. The servant forced him to admit it: I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter. Say you plant potatoes; then I harvest them from your garden as mine. The wealthy man in Jesus’ parable played with no small potatoes! Two servants seemed like him.

Two servants worked with the money given them; each doubled it. The ever-increasing amounts of money suggest their achievements may have involved less than honest or legal dealings. But the third did not work with it; he dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. His reward? Thrown out of his master’s service.

The parable is gripping. Jesus was a fine storyteller; he had no qualms about using immoral characters in his parables. He knew many real ones. His compassionate concern included them: I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.9 Jesus noted many people risked things for one thing or another. The greatest risk takers included shady ones—something true now as then.

The value of the reign of God exceeds anything we can imagine let alone obtain. Do we risk everything for it? Or do we play ostrich and bury our heads in the sands of daily living? Two of Jesus’ parables earlier in this gospel stressed risking all is the attitude to have for the reign of God: The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy…sells all that he has and buys that field. [Or] like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.10

The reign of God is no accidental find. It is our triune God’s gift. In response it requires a lifelong quest. It involves “going for broke,” to use an image in tune with today’s gospel selection. The reign of God is not for the lazy or those who keep to themselves. It belongs to those who desire it with lively longing and witness to it by deeds beyond words:11 extending hands and arms to those in need.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for giving his life and rising for you; thank him for his determined, tireless effort to save you and join you to him and each other.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to make you his more courageous, vigorous witnesses announcing the reign of God by how you live.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Pray it with determination. His prayer focused Jesus and kept him focused on announcing the reign of God. He gave it to us to do the same in our lives.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

__________
  1. Luke 18.1-8.
  2. Luke 18.9-14.
  3. Matthew 25.14-30. Luke casts him as a nobleman. Luke 12.16-21.
  4. Matthew 16.1-8.
  5. Matthew 25.14-30; Luke 19.12-27; Luke 12.42-48.
  6. Three parables of lost and found do that vividly.
  7. The parables of Matthew 13; 18.23-34; 20.1-16; 22.2-14; 25.
  8. Entry at Nave’s Topical Bible.
  9. The New American Bible left out the final word.
  10. Matthew 13.44-46.
  11. As next week’s gospel selection makes clear.
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