Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Sunday, July 20, 2014
God Prays For Us
16th Sunday of the Year A (13Jul2014)
Wis 12. 13, 16-19; Ps 86; Rm 8. 26-27; Mt 13. 24-43
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Through his parables Jesus helped people appreciate what the kingdom of heaven is like. The parables we heard sharpen what is is like this way: the kingdom of heaven does not impose itself on humans in all its glory; rather, from tiny beginnings the kingdom of heaven seems to grow in its greatness and expanse.
Nor is the kingdom of heaven obvious in our present. The parable of weeds and wheat grow[ing] together suggests that. To live in the “already” of the kingdom calls for a patient courage to let risen Jesus—in the parable, Son of man—decide who is fit to enjoy the reward of kingdom life. Without that patient courage any of us is like the slaves of the householder who wanted to pull up the weeds.
How might that look in daily Christian living? In our efforts to live in sync with Jesus and his gospel values we can set the measure for living the kingdom instead of letting the kingdom be our measure and to measure us. How do we allow the kingdom to measure us? St. Paul has been helping us. He has been reminding us that the kingdom of heaven in the person of Jesus’ Spirit dwells in us.1
Jesus has given us his Spirit as our guide and help. St. Paul experienced Jesus’ Spirit was more than by our side; Jesus’ Spirit dwells in us. Paul did not mean that Jesus’ Spirit was within us in some idle fashion. Not in the least! Jesus’ Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness…[and] intercedes with inexpressible groanings. It is obvious that we are weak: sometimes in ways we share because we are human; other ways unique to each of us. No one is perfect. Also obvious: creation is not perfect;2 but the Spirit’s inexpressible groanings are not obvious. What did Paul mean?
He enjoyed a Spirit-gift we call to speak in tongues.3 He knew others had the gift. Of it he said: the one speaking in a tongue speaks not to people but to God; indeed, no one understands him, yet he is speaking mysteries by the Spirit. The Spirit offered another gift: to interpret a tongue. Then others could both understand and grow stronger in the ways of Jesus’ Spirit and the kingdom of heaven he announced.4 That is our side of praying.
Our side of praying is only one side. St. Paul noticed that God prays for us and in us. Our inability to understand does not limit God. As we heard: God, who searches our hearts, knows the desire of the Spirit, who intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
God searches our hearts and intercedes for us. Here’s the vital meaning: St. Paul witnessed to deep, pervading closeness of God and humans. Even with others who are dear to us, we know loving affection is not only communicated by words we understand. Sometimes—is it often?—words cannot express what our hearts know and communicate. Put another way: love defies logic and understanding. Not understanding is not the same as not knowing.
We call kingdom-knowing faith. Faith is a graced knowledge. It is not knowing the way we know facts. Anyway, facts are not the only real things. The most real is our triune God who creates us and holds us in being each moment. Not only do we pray in God’s presence. God in Jesus by their Spirit pray in us and for us.
One way Jesus’ Spirit intercedes for us helps us welcome patient courage to live the kingdom among us now in its mixed and messy shape. Another frees us to allow the kingdom of heaven as Jesus announced and lived it to be the measure by which we live the kingdom until he returns.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
- Rest in our triune God.
- Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
- Chat with him: praise Jesus for proclaiming the kingdom of heaven. Thank him for living it for you.
- Ask Jesus for grace to live so your life can be a vivid parable of the kingdom Jesus proclaimed, the kingdom in which Christians place their hope.
- Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught. His words, your kingdom come, are not exclusively about the future. They are about God’s emerging kingdom—emerging among us even in life’s thorniest circumstances.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
- Romans 8.9-11 from the second reading two weeks ago.
- Romans 8.20-22 from last Sunday.
- 1Corinthians 14.18.
- 1Corinthians 14.13-17.
Friday, July 18, 2014
Catholic Charities and Entergy offered Capitol Hill legislators, staffers and interns an opportunity to “understand the day-to-day life of low-income families.” The active simulation sought to increase empathy among members of Congress in the 50th year since the War on Poverty began. Robert Samuels wrote about the simulation for the Washington Post.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Seeing things from another perspective can help. The approach of another country is an example. The United Kingdom is grappling with an “Assisted Dying” bill. “This Friday (18 July 2014), [the bill] will receive its second reading in the House of Lords.” Countries are not identical, yet some issues share similarities across borders and cultures—as well as supporters and detractors. A recent post from the British Jesuits calls for a “balanced and reasoned debate” of the proposed legislation.
(The brief post includes an historical note about hospice care. A term, “Motor Neurone Disease,” may not be familiar; this link may prove helpful.)
Sunday, July 13, 2014
15th Sunday of the Year A (13Jul2014)
Is 55. 10-11; Ps 65; Rm 8. 18-23; Mt 13. 1-2
8-Day Retreat with Priests @ Villa Maria, PA
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Each of us can recall a moment in our lives when we felt new, remade, reborn—choose your word which names your experience of authentic self. Today’s scriptures propose to me the word transform. To transform implies a major change in form or function. The power of God’s life is well described as transforming. Something remains, something abides after transformation happens. Take water as a way to appreciate that.
Water transforms into phases according to temperature. We know phases even if we do not call them by their technical names: liquid; solid; gas. In its liquid phase, water is called water. In its solid phase, we name water? Yes! Snow, ice. In its gaseous phase we name water? Yes again! steam or vapor. What abides in each phase? In different forms water abides.
God’s life has an endless variety of phases. We name God’s life grace. God offers us divine life and invites us to cooperate with it. As we cooperate with grace we are transformed. In the process grace remains grace; we become more our authentic selves, our “true selves” in Thomas Merton’s phrase.1
No physicist, Prophet Isaiah likened God’s gracious word to two water phases, rain and snow. They transform the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed. Where we live robust rain allows us to see transformation in color: hay-like yellow grass becomes luxuriant green before our eyes: different in color yet still grass. I chatted with some green grass—on retreat we do that without fear of sanity police. I asked, “Your tiny chlorophyl engines prefer green, don’t they?”
Retreat is an opportunity to ask what you prefer; to ask what manners of being in the world offer life. It’s your opportunity to rediscover your eager expectation; to meet anew glory—God’s life—[being] revealed for us and in us. God’s life authenticates us. Retreat is your opportunity to allow God to reveal yourself to you.
Noticing God at work for us is discernment. Noticing leisurely helps us discern. We are freer to notice what God desires to reveal, to communicate—not what we want to hear. The pairing today of prophecy and parable confirms that for me. When I come to Jesus’ parable of the sower, I tend to focus on the results: the seed’s exponential growth of a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold. Yet our triune God is more interested in us than our results. When I hear Isaiah speak for God, My word will not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it, I am in awesome wonder of our gracious God. More, I marvel God allows me to share God’s life-giving. We share it by being available to others, by life-affirming choices and by acting in humane and compassionate ways.
The pairing of prophecy and parable today confirms that God desires to reveal us to us and not results and other things outside us. What has God in Jesus by their Spirit gently and steadily been revealing to you? Are you desiring it? Desiring is cooperating with grace. Desiring makes our inmost selves already more fertile and fruitful. Stay near to God in Jesus by their Spirit. The Trinity’s life transforms our desires into authentic ways of being and living.
A Spiritual Exercise for the remainder of the Week
[The note with further reading for blog visitors]
1. “True self” and “false self” appeared in early writings and later. E.g., Seeds of Contemplation (1949) and Disputed Questions (1959). The New Man (1961), New Seeds of Contemplation (1961). Merton used them lectures, too. Jonathan Montaldo has shown that seeking the truth was the goal of Thomas Merton’s writing: To Uncage His Voice: Thomas Merton’s Inner Journey toward Parrhesia.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
14th Sunday of the Year A (06Jul2014)
Zech 9. 9-10; Ps 145; Rm 8. 9,11-13; Mt 11. 25-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Warming up before activity is important. It is not limited to strenuous exercise. Warming up is healthy for us all, not only World Cup soccer players, Grand Slam tennis players, runners and swimmers. One benefit of a warm up: it helps separate parts of our bodies work in sync. I note a connection with scripture: the grand story of our triune God’s self-revelation has many chapters, scenes and characters. All its chapters, scenes and characters work together in the merciful and gracious plan of our Creator and Redeemer.
It is easy to pigeonhole a scene and separate it from the entire story of revelation. The selection from Prophet Zechariah is an example. Each Holy Week recalls its imagery of a colt, the foal of an ass, on which Jesus entered Jerusalem. Today other imagery invites our gaze: a meek and just savior, announcing God’s peace for all.
Like other prophets Zechariah was a warmup for Jesus. Jesus not only embodied God’s desires and qualities. In Jesus all the divine desires and qualities work together. It was as if the Incarnation gave Jesus a job description not from prophets only but also from the psalms: The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness; The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all God has made.
Jesus’ job description is his vocation. His vocation is ours. We share it because Jesus handed over to us his Spirit. Spirit is his essence, his core, his heart—his life. His unique relationship with God, whom he called his dear Father,1 allowed Jesus to reveal the divine desires to us as no other prophet could.
Jesus’ gift to us of his Spirit is above and beyond our best selves. Jesus’ Spirit is the Lord and giver of [God’s] life2 to us. Our Catholic vocabulary names it supernatural. That does not mean the Spirit registers only in ways fantastic. The Pentecost scene with its tongues as of fire, driving wind and the disciples speaking in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them3 might cause us to forget another way Jesus gave his Spirit to his disciples: he breathed on them.4 His quiet way suggests Jesus’ supernatural Spirit is not opposed to our natural humanity. Not opposed: Jesus’ Spirit, the Spirit of God, dwells in us to transform us, as St. Paul reminded us.
How does Jesus’ Spirit transform us now? So we may measure according to the Spirit. In Paul’s language, Spirit means all that is open to God’s desires, to our Creator’s claim on human existence. Flesh means all that is opposed to God’s desires, to our Creator’s claim on human existence. Paul’s language is precise. Flesh does not mean “body”; flesh means all that is opposed to God. Spirit does not mean “feeling” or “idea”; spirit means all that is open to God.
Jesus personified openness to God. The mercy and graciousness of God Jesus lived in meek and humble ways. Jesus refrained from pageantry; yet we claim and worship him as Lord of heaven and earth.5 Jesus did not measure according to the world (Paul would say flesh). He measured according to what God revealed to him in his humanity as Son, as God’s Little One.
Little ones is a favored phrase on Jesus’ lips in Matthew’s Gospel.6 Jesus desires us to be little ones who are open to welcome and live by the Spirit of God. None of God’s little ones are insignificant according to the way the Spirit of God measures. Of great importance to us and to all who live according to the Spirit of God is this: God’s littles ones find their freedom and rest by living like God’s Son, God’s Little One, Jesus.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week
- Pause to tarry with our triune God, who create, redeem and sustain you.
- Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
- Chat with him: Praise and thank Jesus for creating and redeeming you.
- Ask Jesus to reveal to you your greatest need. For example:
- Is your inmost self starved for quiet? Ask Jesus to anoint you with his peace.
- Do you desire everything or unnecessary things? Ask Jesus to reveal to you what will increase your desire for his life for you.
- Do you allow fleeting things to shape you? Ask Jesus to be more responsive to his Spirit, who transforms you, frees you and makes you his disciple.
- Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It binds us closer to his not with chains but with a pattern of freedom: his freedom, the freedom of God’s littles ones. In his pattern we walk with Jesus and learn him better.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
- Little wonder the tradition calls Jesus beloved Son. The Gospels recall a heavenly voice naming Jesus with that phrase (Matthew 3.17; 17.5; Mark 1.11; 9.7; Luke 3.22). Also see John 1.14 and following.
- The Nicene Creed.
- Acts 2.2-4.
- John 20:22.
- Acts 17.24.
- Matthew 10.42; 18.6, 18.10, 18.14.
Saturday, July 05, 2014
Why did St. Paul write a letter to the church in Rome? Jesuit Peter Edmonds explores that question. Along the way he helps readers better understand it. The Roman Catholic and Revised Common lectionaries offer selections from the Letter to the Romans almost to summer’s end. Fr. Edmonds calls Romans a “letter for all seasons.”
________________________________Wiki-mages by John Salmon of St. Paul window CC BY-SA 2.0
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Once again Ignatian Spirituality hosts 31 Days with St. Ignatius. A decal-link to it is on the right-hand of this blog throughout July. A variety of articles, blog posts and videos celebrate the giver of a rich spirituality to the world.