Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween: Origins and Change

Jonathan P. Lomas surveys Halloween history. Writing from his cultural perspective of the United Kingdom does not prevent Mr. Lomas from informing readers beyond his land. All Saints Day, Agatha Christie, Hollywood and “asking for soul cakes” feature in his historical survey.
Scary Pumpkin icon by André Koehne CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday word, 26 Oct 14

Reawakening to the Spirit’s Gift
30th Sunday of the Year A (26 Oct 2014)
Ex 22. 20-26; Ps 18; 1Th 1. 5c-10; Mt 22. 34-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Poet Anne Lamott suggested the key texture of daily living. She expressed it this way:

Try walking around with a child who’s going, “Wow, wow! Look at that dirty dog! Look at that burned-down house! Look at that red sky!” And the child points and you look, and you see, and you start going, “Wow! Look at that huge crazy hedge! Look at that teeny little baby! Look at the scary dark cloud!” I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world–present and in awe.”1
Priest Ignatius of Loyola concurred that presence and awe are key to Christian living. For him presence and awe registered quietly. As a Jesuit novice I connected with him when he related a quiet experience of them.
The greatest consolation [Ignatius] received [when convalescing from his wounds] was from gazing at the sky and stars, and this he often did and for quite a long time. The result…was that he felt within himself a strong impulse to serve our Lord.2
I connected with him because I did that in my youth and still do. I was in awe the other night gazing at the stars; I was in awe as I was years ago.

Present and in awe describe moments in a conversion process. The child and parent poet Anne Lamott offered saw the world with clearer vision. The child saw with fresh, young eyes; the parent recovered that fresh, youthful vision. Christian conversion is vision that registers as relationship with Jesus, one’s companion and living Lord. Enjoying relationship with risen Jesus frees us to imitate him as our model. The pattern of his life becomes our pattern for living. The source of living his new life is Jesus: Jesus sharing his Spirit with us. Jesus’ Spirit empowers us to choose Jesus as our model.

Jesus did not allow his choices to be limited by the world and its allegiances. Choosing what is not limited by the world is difficult. First, we have to discern what is not readily available to our senses. Beyond that choosing what is not limited by the world or in sync with it is difficult because ridicule, hostile feelings, even persecution hover close. St. Paul expressed that with the word affliction: he reminded the Thessalonians they received the word of the gospel in great affliction. They chose to receive; and they received power to choose it and choose it again: they received the word of the gospel in great affliction by means of joy from the Holy Spirit.

Joy is one gift of Jesus’ Spirit given us. The Sacrament of Confirmation increases joy and all the Spirit’s gifts offered us.3 Confirmation also strengthens us to live as the Thessalonians: live the faith of Jesus and model it by word and action4 for others.

Another Confirmation-gift is key to its other gifts and to live baptism and its ongoing conversion: the spirit of wonder and awe in our triune God’s presence.5 This is no convenient echo of Poet Anne and Priest Ignatius. Jesus’ infuses our lives with his wonder and awe. When we reconnect with his wonder and awe we free ourselves to allow Jesus, his Father and their Spirit to touch us with their compassion and refashion us by it. By cultivating his wonder and awe in us we allow ourselves to grow more fascinated with Jesus accompanying us with compassion. Fascinated by the way Jesus accompanies and touches us frees us to extend to others his compassion to us. How to begin to grow more “present and in awe?” Take time to look at the stars, a cloud, a leaf, yourself, your spouse, your child, your parent, your sibling, your friend, your teacher, your colleague: look as if you are seeing for the first time. A great thing like reawakening to the spirit of wonder and awe in our triune God’s presence often has a modest beginning.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for revealing to you the compassion of his Father and ours by the way he lived.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to reawaken to his Spirit-gift of the spirit of wonder and awe in his presence.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Pray it as he did: in wonder and awe in his Father’s presence. Wonder and awe are key to praying and to living the faith of Jesus each day as it unfolds.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The Daily Dig 22 Oct 2014.
  2. A Pilgrims Journey, ed. Fr. Joseph N. Tylenda. Ignatius Press. 2009-07-06. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 576-578).
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1303.
  4. CCC 1303.
  5. This final gift is prayed by the one who confirms. It may be found at CCC 1299.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday word, 19 Oct 14

Who We Truly Are
29th Sunday of the Year A [World Mission Sunday] (19 Oct 2014)
Is 45. 1, 4-6; Ps 96; 1Th 1. 1-5b; Mt 22. 15-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Meaning: we want our lives to enjoy meaning. To say that expresses our desire to enjoy significant and substantial, valuable and valid living. That desire is not new, yet it is ever human. Our Catholic conviction is that Jesus offers us meaning. How do we receive it? When we allow ourselves to “encounter Jesus.” Letting Jesus meet us each moment offers us the meaning we desire and seek. Pope Francis expressed this in his concise way: The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.1 Sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness not only imprison; they dissatisfy and disrupt everyone’s joyful, valuable, valid, significant living.

Pope Francis recalled his words in his message for this weekend’s World Mission Sunday.2 He also recalled that at home and in distant places people allow sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness to dissatisfy them. How? When they let the world run them rather than run the world with the good of all at heart. Consumerism is the glaring, modern symptom of being run by the world. It used to be located in developed nations. Now that travel, trade and commerce are global few are unaffected by consumerism. Again the pope placed an earlier observation in his World Mission Sunday message: “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”3 Pope Francis did not accuse; he named results of our glaring, modern symptom: smug, grasping hearts; chasing frivolous pleasures; blunted sense of good and harmful. These also disrupt joyful, valuable, valid, significant meaning.

Why did Pope Francis give the global symptom of consumerism and its results prominent place in his message on mission and missions? To remind that Jesus is the Missionary and the Evangelizer; he offers everyone joy, significance, substance, value and validity each day. Jesus said as much: I came that people may have life and have it abundantly.4 In a word Jesus is power: the power who makes abundant life grow in everyone; he is power who liberates from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness, transforms hearts, frees us to desire true pleasures and choose what helps not harms.

Power is what the first Christians experienced from risen Jesus, his Spirit and the gospel that announced him. The first experience of the power of risen Jesus vibrated with surprise and fear; with the gift of his Spirit resurrection power registered as healings, ecstatic gifts, freedom to speak, to be joyful even in hardship and salvation from ruthless human rule and elemental6 and demonic spirits. We heard St. Paul recall the experience of the power of risen Jesus in his earliest letter to the first church he established: Our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

Power has come to us, too. The personal encounter with Jesus Pope Francis encourages helps us reconnect and stay connected to risen Jesus and his power for us. Personal encounter with Jesus helps us identify and name his power working in us, for us and through us. Personal encounter with Jesus injects vitality in our public worship, a privileged way we repay to…God what belongs to God. Personal encounter with Jesus deepens our conviction that Jesus offers meaning to all.

That is why each of us in each one’s vocation announces the gospel. Mission in each present moment means we take our turn. The experience of power in risen Jesus and his Spirit were handed on to us. Those who handed on Jesus to us did so with the gospel: hearing it preached and preaching it in return. Not only did the gospel give birth to the church, “the church is missionary by her very nature.”5 Because the church is people each baptized person is a missionary. Christian mission is multilayered. Supporting by prayer and alms efforts to make Jesus known is the layer we quickly connect with evangelizing. Mission also deepens the personal and communal connection with risen Jesus. St. Paul did it by his letters and visits to Christian churches. As we grow in our conviction Jesus lives in us, becoming who we truly are is inevitable: Christian missionaries—Christian in name and in fact; missionaries in deed and word.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask St. Paul and the other Apostles to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: thank him for inviting you to join his mission; tell him how it attracts you and how it challenges you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to stay connected with him and grace to make him known by your living.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy kingdom come, are less about the future and more about the present: as Jesus announced, the kingdom of God is at hand for you.7 Jesus commissioned numerous disciples to echo his words as they prepared his way. He speaks them to us to remind us we are his missionaries everywhere we find ourselves.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Pope Francis recalled his words in The Joy of the Gospel.
  2. Message for World Mission Sunday, section 3.
  3. Message for World Mission Sunday, section 4.
  4. John 10.10.
  5. Message for World Mission Sunday, Introduction.
  6. Colossians 2.20.
  7. Luke 10.9.

Wiki-images of disciples baptizing and render to Caesar  PD-US

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday word, 12 Oct 14

Jesus’ Invitation Never Expires
28th Sunday of the Year A (12 Oct 2014)
Is 26. 6-10a; Ps 23; Phil 4. 12.14, 19–20; Mt 22. 1-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Parables put familiar experiences or views next to less familiar ones. The familiar helps listeners so they appreciate what is less familiar. Parables do that with vivid, life-like imagery.1 Exceptions exist for everything, parables, included. Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet has some odd features that can distract us. Let me do three things briefly: first, name the distracting features; second, ask why they are present; third, find a purpose Jesus intended.

We cannot accept all invitations we receive. We even ignore a few. Mistreating and killing those who offer invitations, though, is unreal. Feeling enraged at such violence is real, but for a king both to respond in kind and burn their city is over the top. The city was home to people innocent of the tragedy. Why did Matthew shape Jesus’ parable that way?

Parables of Jesus were retold long before Matthew and others wrote them. Matthew selected parables from his sources and shaped them into his gospel, placing some here, others there. Holy Spirit affirmed his creativity. Holy Spirit routinely works through human efforts.2

Matthew wrote his gospel after the Romans killed citizens of Jerusalem and burned it. Ancients saw in tragedies worked by humans and by nature punishment by divine powers. The long-in-coming split between Jews who did not believe in risen Jesus and those who did colored Matthew’s community. Matthew’s community readily connected the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the refusal to believe in Jesus as Messiah and Lord.

Believers in risen Jesus as Messiah and Lord saw Jesus as the parable’s son of the king. The king gave a wedding feast for his son. Why did Jesus tell this parable? Those to whom Jesus addressed his parable are key to notice Jesus’ purpose when he told it: Jesus again…spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables. Jesus addressed the parables of the previous two Sundays and today to those who rejected him and even sought to kill him3: the chief priests and elders of the people. The parable of the wedding banquet Jesus directed against the chief priests and elders of the people. Jesus’ invited all to attend the wedding banquet; the chief priests and elders refused to attend. Their hearts were hostile and hard.

The first reading and psalm invite us to focus on the banquet invitation. Prophet Isaiah: God has long desired to provide for all…a feast of rich food and choice wines. The Psalmist: God’s goodness and kindness…overflows with nourishing delight for living day to day. The famous Twenty-third Psalm uses banquet table imagery to awaken our hearts to our deep hungers, hungers only God in Jesus by their Spirit can satisfy. Why this focus? Because Jesus continues to invite all of us and everyone.

Our fast-paced, busy, even frantic, days can numb us to our desires and God’s desires for us. The intersection of God’s desires for us—who God creates each moment—and our desires to live lives with meaning and creative energy: the intersection of God’s desires for us and our deep desires to live meaningful lives is a window on each one’s fuller Christian living. Full Christian living is marked above all by generous charity. We name its practice holiness. Living this holiness [promotes]…a more human manner of living.4 Holiness does not oppose humane living; it promotes it.

Holiness is first a gift, a grace our triune God offers us. A way to connect with one’s gift of holiness is to pause and consider one’s gifts today. God creates me a Jesuit priest; God creates you with personal gifts and talents to live your vocations; God creates everyone with roles in the church of Jesus and the world. Jesus’ wedding banquet parable invites us to ask ourselves holy questions; a quiet pause helps us answer them:
  • Did I resist Jesus inviting me to draw nearer to him?
  • Did I resist Jesus desiring to be my companion today?
  • Did I harden my heart toward Jesus or another?
  • Did I go it alone and resist the merciful affection and help of Jesus, his Father and their Spirit?
  • Did I live as though God offers me no riches or rich, pure, choice nourishing help?
I placed these questions on the Spiritual Exercise of the Week blog for you to use and to help you shape holiness-questions to ask each day. With them and the merciful affection and help of Jesus, his Father and their Spirit any-one can respond more freely to Jesus’ invitation to his banquet. His invitation never expires.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for you; thank him for inviting you to share his life; consider when and how you may have resisted him or hardened your heart toward him.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to respond more freely to his constant invitation to join him and share his life.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us…our daily bread, more than ask for physical nourishment. The sustenance supplied by our triune God exceeds food. It nourishes us to live holy, humane, joyful lives that collaborate with God and others.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Visit a helpful guide to parables.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #107, succinctly expressed this.
  3. Matthew 26.4.
  4. Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, 40.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sunday word, 05 Oct 14

Interdependent and Delicate
27th Sunday of the Year A (05 Oct 2014)
Is 5. 1-7; Ps 80; Phil 4. 6-9; Mt 21. 33-43
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
To help us with a project we sometimes turn to a book or other written guide. We choose among books depending on the type of project. We choose a cookbook to guide us in planning menus. Not all cookbooks are the same. If our menu will forgo meat we may choose a vegetarian cookbook. We would reach for no cookbook if our project were renovating our kitchen—until we plan the dinner to celebrate our completed project.

The Bible guides our life projects, our daily living. The Bible is a library of short books of many varieties of styles and purposes. One style is named gospel. Gospel has a precise purpose: to pass on what Jesus proclaimed; Jesus, God’s anointed one and his dying and rising. Jesus’ dying and rising confirmed him as God’s anointed one. The Bible holds four written records of gospel. They are not identical.

To Matthew’s gospel we devote attention this year. It presents Jesus as teaching and forming those who will continue his teaching. Jesus final words make that clear: Go…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. …I am with you always, until the end of the age.1 Matthew’s Jesus taught about God and God’s desires with and by parables.

That teaching for Jesus as for Jews of his time always involved a back-and-forth. Parables aided it because parables invite listeners to enter them and to see themselves in them. Jesus taught the kingdom of heaven he announced by his parables. Some of his parables revealed what the kingdom is like2; others revealed the kingdom Jesus announced was essential and pivotal3; still others revealed people either accept or reject the kingdom Jesus announced.4

Once more Jesus addressed himself to the chief priests and the elders who rejected him and God’s reign he pro-claimed. He did so with a treasured, venerable self-image of Israel: God’s vineyard. Prophet Isaiah used it long before, and he did not need to explain it to his hearers. Prophet Isaiah witnessed that God planted the vineyard.5 God gave God’s vineyard growth6; God entrusted it to some so that many could enjoy its shade and its fruit.

Nor did Jesus need to explain it to his hearers, the chief priests and the elders of the people. They had come to control the vineyard rather than allow themselves to be parts of it. The chief priests and elders readily entered Jesus’ vineyard parable. Just as readily they realized Jesus had cast them as the greedy, violent tenants. Jesus tells it to us today. With whom do we identify when we enter Jesus’ parable? Recently when I entered Jesus’ parable I wandered the vineyard. The interweaving, interdependent, delicate vines absorbed me. I can describe the fruit of letting myself be absorbed in Jesus’ image with action-words; I admired; was in awe; revered; honored; touched carefully, holding my strength in check.

All of us hold everything in trust as God’s gifts. Each October the United States bishops ask Catholics to give national focus to human life because it crowns all God’s gifts. Later I realized the fruits of my prayer—those action-words: admire; be in awe; revere; honor—belong to the primary meanings of the verb respect. Respect Life names the U.S., Catholic focus of October. A grace for us to ask is this: Jesus, allow us to grow more sensitive to human life as delicate yet strong; your crown of creation yet interdependent with every part of it. Respecting life begins and continues one person at a time.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Place yourselves in the company of the Trinity, who create you each moment and impart their life to you.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for you; thank him for respecting your freedom.
  • Ask Jesus to help you become more sensitive to human life as delicate yet strong; his crown of creation yet interdependent with every part of it. Notice what stirs in you as you ask for that grace.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Praying Jesus’ prayer reminds us we are parts of his creation, the ones he and his Father cherish fondly—so fondly that they entrust to our care one another, every creature and all creation.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Matthew 28.19-20.
  2. Matthew 13.
  3. Matthew 24-25.
  4. Matthew 18-22.
  5. As did the Psalmist in the Responsorial Psalm.
  6. Isaiah witnessed again to that in 27.2. I, the Lord, am its keeper, I water it every moment; lest anyone harm it, night and day I guard it.