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

  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.

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

  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.

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.