Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sunday word, 26 Jan 2014

Won Over
Third Sunday of the Year A (26 January 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Matthew cited scripture over 50 times in his gospel. He did so not to be pious or show he knew scripture. He cited scripture to show Jesus fulfilled what prophets had announced. In today’s selection he echoed Isaiah who recalled a time of darkness in territories of the Galilee, Zebulun and Naphtali. Once enriched by mountain forests, they enjoyed a road to the sea for trade. Darkness and gloom recalled a king of Assyria invaded and carried the people captive to Assyria.1

The Roman occupation into which Jesus had been born forced a new gloom upon the Jews of Galilee and south into Jerusalem. Once an Assyrian kingdom then a Roman one darkened the lives and challenged the faith of the children of Abraham. They longed for an end to it. Matthew’s gospel proclaims the end of darkness and the dawn of a great light: Jesus.

Now a homily is not a history lesson. History studies the past. Jesus is no dead figure of the past. Jesus lives by the power of Holy Spirit. Jesus continues to send us to preach his gospel and witness to his cross and resurrection as St. Paul realized Jesus sent him. Jesus encouraged. I follow Jesus and encourage us with a brief reflection: the disciples model faith for us.

These verses of Matthew’s fourth chapter disclose something about Jesus and something about those he chose as disciples. About Jesus they indicate he realized his time had arrived. John the Baptizer had prepared his mission, Repent…the kingdom of heaven is at hand.2 He was imprisoned for his prophetic ministry. After Jesus had been baptized by John he retreated to the wilderness. He confirmed for himself he was son of God3 and continued what John began: Repent …the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Then he chose disciples. Hear “disciples,” think “interns.”

Disciples learned their mentors by staying close to them. Interns learn that way. Disciples did the work their mentors did as do interns. Jesus chose disciples to share and continue his prophetic ministry of announcing that God had drawn nearer than any could imagine.

What do these verses disclose about Andrew, Peter, James and John who had yet to meet Jesus? Their response models faith. Faith has many effects; their variety can distract from faith’s essence: faith is a disposition of our inmost selves. Faith is of the heart before the head. Faith is a gift of the Spirit.4 People demonstrate it by love.5

We will meet people with faith during this year with Matthew’s gospel. Their love made faith visible. An example: some brought Jesus a paralyzed man lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,“Take courage, my son; your sins are forgiven.”6 Their hearts were open to Jesus. Faith is felt knowledge, heart knowledge.

To repent is, too. It is not only about faults. The ancients likened it to one’s heart “being pierced.” We say, My heart melted. Our Protestant sisters and brothers are at home with another ancient metaphor for repent: “convicted.” “Convicted by one’s conscience”7 has more than a legal ring; it is convinced, won over in a heartfelt way. From the start Jesus connected his ministry with earlier prophets. He shaped it to make to repent and welcome God’s reign central to his ministry and central for his disciples.

Central means repentance and faith are joined. The disciples Jesus called modeled that. Their hearts moved from being convinced God’s reign cannot be here to recognizing it present in and with Jesus. Following Jesus, being his interns, made visible this movement of their hearts. It expressed what words cannot.

By staying close to Jesus their faith-repentance embodied his solidarity with the least: the poor; the grieving; the meek; those hungry for God’s justice; peacemakers; the merciful; the single hearted; the persecuted.8 Learning and living Jesus’ solidarity makes us his interns, too.

Like his first interns and Jesus we know gloom and darkness. Gloom and darkness do not define us. The movement of our hearts does. We live in the light who is Jesus. As his friends and interns we shine the light Jesus on shadows that block him from others, drown them in disputes and seduce them to presume God’s reign is not among us. Shining Jesus on shadows faithfully follows him daily.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week,
  • Pause to be recreated by our triune God.
  • Invite the brothers Andrew and Peter, James and John to present you to Jesus.
  • In your words ask Jesus to learn him better. See yourself with him as his intern promoting God’s reign with tender care.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to stay near him always.
  • Close slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer. His words, on earth as it is in heaven, invite our hearts to grow more supple and won over by Jesus. He creates us anew for the sake of our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 2Kings 15.29.
  2. Matthew 3.2.
  3. If you are the son of God is how the devil began to tempt Jesus. Matthew 4.1ff. Worth noting: While Jesus was on his cross passersby echoed the devil’s tempting (Matthew 27.40-43).
  4. 1Corinthians 12.9.
  5. Colossians 1.4.
  6. Matthew 9.2.
  7. Athanasius, Life of Antony 11–12, trans. Robert C. Gregg (New York: Paulist, 1980), pp. 110–11.
  8. Matthew 5.3-11: the Beatitudes. They will be preempted next Sunday because the Feast of the Presentation has readings proper to it.
Wiki-images of the calling of Andrew and Peter and the calling of James and John PD-US

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Conversion and Healing

January 25 is the Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul. In a repost for the occasion Jesuit “Marcel Uwineza…looks closely at how Paul and Luke portray the change affected in Paul on the Damascus Road.” The feast also closes the annual Prayer for Christian Unity. In Rome Pope Francis will preside at an ecumenical Evening Prayer to close the week. It “has been exploring the theme, taken from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, ‘Has Christ been divided?’” At Vatican Radio “Philippa Hitchen spoke with Rev Mary Styles, an assistant curate at All Saints Anglican parish to find out more about the ministry of healing people and communities.”
Wiki-mage by Alexander P Kapp of St. Martin’s Chapel CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday word, 19 Jan 2014

From Altar Through Us
Second Sunday of the Year A (19 January 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Last Sunday was the feast of our Lord’s baptism. Today we linger at the Jordan with John the Baptizer. To him Jesus identity was revealed: the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. How does Jesus remove sin of our world today? One way is with and by us: Jesus heals the world as we live his gospel in our culture. Let’s consider it.
Jesus announced gospel; gospel is good news. His gospel is not locked between covers of a book. It is not only words; his gospel is power.1 Jesus’ gospel takes flesh through us and all Christians in each people’s culture.2 As Jesus’ living voice his gospel helps us “distinguish between the growth of the Reign of God and the progress of [our] culture and society.” We don’t separate God’s reign and human culture; we detect growth of God’s reign among us.3 Looking at Jesus helps us see the reign of God and human cultures are not separate: Jesus joined the world; embodied the reign of God; and put the reign of God into action. As his disciples Jesus’ mission and vocation are ours.

To recall Jesus said, “My words will not pass away,” helps us appreciate that his gospel is his living voice. His gospel holds a mirror to human culture. At the same time Jesus came not to condemn cultures but to save them.4 Because you and I live in our culture, Jesus invites us to open ourselves to how his gospel helps us help our culture progress in ways that protect the vulnerable, respect dignity and serve justice and peace. His gospel offers vision to help our culture: the vision of Jesus and of those who grew to see with his vision. Human vision always needs conversion; it is not always easy. A contrast may help us appreciate the gospel’s call to convert culture.

The 1960s saw an upheaval of cultural norms. It earned the decade the name of counter-culture. Sex, drugs, rock n’ roll remain in the imaginations of us who grew up or raised families in the 60s. The 60s also saw our society progress to make discrimination illegal. Some reject what the 60s embodied. Their rejection blinds them to the growing gap between rich and poor. It also blinds to the violence of war and re-surging militarism; of violence with money, power, dishonesty; and violent and casual disregard for natural resources. Blindness to them reshapes our imaginations and redirects our affections.

Enter the gospel. It is Jesus’ voice in his church. Jesus welcomes our conversion. Conversion turns us inside out, and we see ourselves as we are. So scripture shows people who heard Jesus.  A Samaritan woman: Jesus told me everything I have done.5 Peter: Depart from me Lord, I am a sinner.6 The father of boy needing healing: Lord, help my unbelief!7 The disciples in a storm-tossed boat: Lord, save us.8 Seeing oneself honestly is at the beginning of conversion. Conversion’s genuine nod to beliefs comes later.

To see ourselves honestly is a lifelong goal. Certain aspects of culture absorb us, reshape our imaginations and redirect our affections differently from Jesus and his disciples. When we are absorbed by Jesus and put on his attitude we slowly convert our culture. Pope John Paul expressed neatly our vocation to convert culture: “Since culture is a human creation and is therefore marked by sin, it too needs to be ‘healed, ennobled and perfected.’”9

The slow, gradual conversion of our culture depends on our ongoing conversions. Our conversions flower with our baptisms. Eucharist sustains baptism and ongoing conversion. The gospel, the voice and power of Jesus in his church, invites us to see ourselves honestly and take stock. We Catholics may describe taking stock with the question: Are we absorbed more by Jesus and his disciples; or are we taken with elements of our culture, elements which need to be “healed, ennobled and perfected?”

Being absorbed and shaped by Jesus is daily conversion. Being absorbed and shaped by Jesus liberates us: from our fears flowing from our compulsions; our need to be at the center; and our need to control. As we are “healed, ennobled and perfected” our culture gradually is. The power of the Lamb of God in gospel and in sacrament flows from altar through us into our world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week,
  • Pause in the creative love of our triune God.
  • Invite John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • In your words ask Jesus to learn him better. See yourself with him promoting God’s reign among us.
  • Ask Jesus for his attitude and desire to make it yours.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, on earth as it is in heaven, on our lips voice our desire to be reshaped by Jesus and his gospel and to “be ‘healed, ennobled and perfected’” one moment, one hour, one day at a time.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Romans 1.16.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 854.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2820.
  4. See John 3.17.
  5. John 4.29.
  6. Luke 5.8.
  7. Mark 9.24.
  8. Matthew 8.25.
  9. Mission of the Redeemer, 54, his little-read encyclical in the developed world.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Corinth: Looking Ahead

During the initial Sundays of the Year the Roman Catholic lectionary offers selections of the First Letter of the Corinthians for the second readings. Jesuit Peter Edmonds walks readers through the selections. He uncovers the problems that church experienced and how St. Paul responded to them.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Geneva and Rome

Because the Vatican had signed the U.N. Convention for the Rights of the Child, it was compelled to appear before a U.N. committee and give an account of the “scale of abuse [of children by clergy] and what it was doing to prevent it.” A brief AP story appeared in newspapers. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. offers more details in his All Things Catholic post today.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday word, 12 Jan 2014

Gift and Mission
Baptism of the Lord A (12 January 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The feast of our Lord’s baptism closes the Christmas season. Its scriptures and prayers echo and crown our Advent-Christmas time of longing for God to visit in person the people God created. Allow me to splash before you some effects of the Incarnation of God; then to suggest how the Incarnation of God involves us.

I paged through the Roman Missal and noticed that Advent prayers repeatedly implored God in Jesus by their Spirit to rescue us, profit us, cleanse us, prepare us, teach us to discern wisely, gladden us and help us.1 Advent began and ended with images of quickness and eagerness on our part. Advent’s First Sunday continued to remind us that Jesus will come again; its collective prayer asked of God the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming. Advent’s last Sunday prayed, after we received communion, that we may press forward all the more eagerly to the worthy celebration of the mystery of your Son’s Nativity. 

Christmas eve saw us and the entire Church praying we may draw new vigor from celebrating the Nativity of [God’s] Only Begotten Son.2 Christmas Day masses had us praying for gladness and to share in the likeness of Christ3 and his immortality.4 All are possible because Jesus shared our mortal humanity.5

In the days after Christmas we prayed for many of the effects we longed for during Advent. Because Jesus joined our humanity we desired our life may be constantly sustained6 by him. We also desired freedom: that the newness of the Nativity in the flesh of your Only Begotten Son may set us free.7 We prayed on Epiphany that Jesus and our confession of him may be our true treasure.8

A brief review of seven weeks of our praying: prayers of those weeks contained deep desires. I splash before you the church’s praying imagery so you may feel the unity of the Advent-Christmas season. The Incarnation of God in Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to save us: God’s promised plans for our welfare and to give us a future and a hope.9 God’s plans for us are the person Jesus. The baptism of the man Jesus grew to be confirmed he was God’s son. His prophetic and liberating ministry manifested God’s Holy Spirit and power, as we heard St. Peter preach.

St. Peter grew aware that all who allowed God to move them, to impress their hearts and to act in ways in harmony with God’s justice that Jesus proclaimed are part of Jesus and his body, God’s family. Jesus had said as much10; but it took Peter time to appreciate that. Yet Peter was preaching Jesus dead and risen by his actions before he enjoyed his greater awareness. That gives us and every friend of Jesus hope.

The Incarnation of God in Jesus involves us at birth and especially our baptismal rebirth. The Incarnation of God is not a class we need to attend and pass. The Incarnation of God in Jesus is gift to us. It was the way Jesus with John could fulfill all righteousness. The Incarnation is not private. In Jesus God and humans united. First John then others Jesus invited to join and extend his mission, God’s justice/righteousness—the scriptures use one word for both.

God’s justice surpasses the best human political and economic systems. In the face of so much cruel inequity we wonder how God’s justice can be so great. Jesus showed us. He came to rescue and save us from what we do to one another. That differs from rescuing us from what we suffer. If saving us from suffering were God’s plan for our welfare, God would not have allowed his son to suffer and die. Jesus ushered in God’s justice not by being combative: not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street, break[ing]…a bruised reed or quench[ing]…a smoldering wick. Jesus joined our suffering. He did what we would not. That is his victory.

God’s Incarnation involves us as gift: no one is alone; Jesus accompanies us. God’s Incarnation also involves us as mission: Jesus invites us to accompany others with care, concern, prayer, and to act from them for those in need. Pithy phrases of Pope Francis illustrate our Christian mission. Our mission is “warming people’s hearts…walking with them in the night…dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments…mending their brokenness.”11 With us Jesus accompanies others with God’s justice. Living our mission gives others the gift of God’s justice embodied: Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask John who baptized Jesus to present you to him.
  • Marvel how he desired to live his mission fully for you. Notice how he invites you to join him.
  • Ask him for the grace of a warmer heart to live your baptism generously and be Jesus’ vigorous disciple in name and in truth.12
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’ Prayer. As you begin, recall Jesus gave us new access to his Father so we all might have a bright, new relationship with our Creator, in whose triple name we are baptized for the sake of our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. These appear consecutively in the Mass prayers for Advent in the Roman Missal.
  2. Vigil Mass of Christmas, Prayer after Communion.
  3. Midnight Mass, Prayer Over the Offerings.
  4. Mass During the Day, Prayer after Communion.
  5. Mass During the Day, Collect.
  6. December 29, Prayer after Communion.
  7. December 30, Collect.
  8. Vigil Mass of Epiphany, Prayer after Communion.
  9. See Jeremiah 29.11.
  10. Matthew 12.48-50.
  11. At his Meeting with the Bishops of Brazil, 4. July, 27, 2013. He encouraged bishops to train collaborators to act in these ways.
  12. Baptism of the Lord, Prayer after Communion.


Wiki-image of Baptism of Jesus PD-Release Wiki-image by Israel Defense Forces of Christian pilgrim baptized on Epiphany CC BY-SA 2.0