Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sundayword, 26 Apr 15

Related to God
Fourth Sunday of Easter B (26 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

In Jesus’ time the work shepherds did was not attractive. The shepherds keeping night-watch over their flock1 at Jesus’ birth likely were hired men. Owners of sheep hired others to guard flocks; owners slept at night; they avoided the lonely tedium of a shepherd’s day. Day and night many hirelings did work few sought. Hired men did not own the sheep they watched. That helps us appreciate what Jesus’ hearers understood: many had no concern for the sheep. Eking a living had reshaped the image of shepherd.

Long before Jesus the people God had freed from bondage and led to freedom knew God as their shepherd.2 Later a shepherd boy, David, became king. Royal care was to mirror God’s care. As good shepherd Jesus fulfilled in his person God’s loving, life-giving care: the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.

Good shepherd Jesus offers us God’s life he shares with his Father. After his resurrection Peter realized Jesus’ risen life was cornerstone and foundation of creation. As cornerstone Jesus’ risen life is the measure of God’s love—for God’s son and all humans with whom God’s son joined himself.

God’s resurrection-love for Jesus recovers the way the image shepherd evoked divine love and care. By calling himself the good shepherd Jesus proclaimed he embodied divine love and care. Jesus offered himself as more than a guide: he offered himself as the truly perfect model of living and loving: freely I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

Jesus reshaped shepherd to mean giver of divine life in no vague or random way. Jesus shares his risen life with each of us as if each of us was the sole person in the universe. He does so by his Spirit, the energy of his risen life. Jesus joins us to himself in an intimate, knowing way: I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. In Jesus we are children of God.

On Jesus’ lips children is an endearing term. Children suggests we enjoy a future: to grow in our identity as beloved by Jesus, who is beloved by God. That future is our personal connection with the Easter mystery. To grow in our identity as beloved by Jesus also is the lifelong mission of each of us. The word the church uses for our mission is “vocation.” It echoes the words of St. Therese of Liseux: “LOVE…IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT’S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE—IT’S ETERNAL!”3

In his message for this World Day of Prayer for Vocations Pope Francis personalized our love-universe:“The Christian vocation is first and foremost a call to love, a love which attracts us and draws us out of ourselves. …To hear and answer the Lord’s call is not a private and completely personal matter fraught with momentary emotion.” [To hear and answer the Lord’s call] fills our lives with joy and meaning.”4

The pope addressed us all because Jesus calls all of us: the single; married; men and women who consecrate their lives by vows of chastity, poverty and obedience; clergy. Praying for vocations is universal: that all baptized into our risen Messiah and Lord may grow ever genuine, generous children of God, who witness to the new life our risen Messiah has won for us. We witness well when “all [our] activities [are] bathed in the light of the gospel.”5

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for laying down his life to share with us his risen life.
  • Ask Jesus two things: to renew us in our vocations; and to bless young people discerning their vocations so they may live their baptized “lives with joy and meaning.”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. To call God our Father joins us with Jesus and his relationship with his Abba,6 the font of life and love, the source of all we are and have.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Luke 2.8.
  2. The earliest witness, Jacob: God who has been my shepherd from my birth to this day (Genesis 48.15). The image gained lasting asso-ciation with David, to whom the Lord said…You shall be shepherd of  my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel’ (2Samuel 5.2). Matthew recalled that in his gospel (2.6).
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 826
  4. His Message on the occasion of the 52nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
  5. The Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church, 43.
  6. Matthew 14.36.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday word, 19 Apr 15

Prominent Features
Third Sunday of Easter B (19 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The fifty-day Easter festival allows us to fall deeper into the mystery of our crucified and risen Messiah. Mystery aptly names Jesus, our crucified and risen Messiah. Christian mystery is first of all a person, Jesus. As a person Christian mystery is no problem to solve. Risen Jesus lives more powerfully today by the power of his Spirit. I’d like to reflect with you on risen Jesus present with and for us by looking at three of scripture’s prominent features: empty tomb; appearances; and eating together.

An empty tomb plays prominently to signify God raised [Jesus] from the dead. God did not resuscitate Jesus’ corpse. Resuscitation brings back to life for a time someone who had slipped away from life. Resuscitation isn’t resurrection.

Resurrection is transformation—an astonishing one! In raising Jesus from death God worked in and beyond time and history. Beyond history is beyond human knowing. The women who came early to his tomb illustrated that: they…puzzl[ed] over not finding Jesus’ body. For know-ing beings not knowing disturbs greatly. In their confusion [angelic messengers]…said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here…he has been raised.1 Raised equals living.

An empty tomb is not all. Also prominent are appearances of risen Jesus. One result of his risen transformation is that people did not immediately recognize the living one present to them. The two disciples who walked with risen Jesus Easter afternoon recognized him in the breaking of bread.2 As they recounted it to the apostles and those with them Jesus appeared to them.

Jesus showed them his hands and his feet.3 He offered another side of his presence. His presence could elude recognition yet he could be known by an action—breaking bread as Jesus did. Risen Jesus showed bodily presence:“Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

The feelings and reactions of the disciples are equally important: startled and terrified and incredulous for joy and amazed. Present to them was Jesus; his bodily presence was transformed: equally real and different from theirs. Their feelings and reactions communicate they were in the presence of God. Scripture reported—as do people today—that being touched by God can be at once awesome, even worrisome or terrifying, and inviting.

Eating together is a third prominent feature of risen Jesus’ presence. 4 Risen Jesus taught his disciples that by communal meals guided and shaped by his spirit he would continue to be present to them and to all who would follow their witness. We call it Jesus’ sacramental presence. All Christian worship, all Christian living flow from the eucharistic meal and return to it.5

Today’s gospel echoes a Catholic conviction: risen Jesus is present as we dine together here. “From that time [of the disciples]…the Church has never failed to come together to celebrate the paschal mystery: reading those things which were in all the scriptures concerning him, celebrating the eucharist in which ‘the victory and triumph of his death are again made present,’ and at the same time giving thanks to God for his unspeakable gift in Christ Jesus, in praise of his glory, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”6

You and I live in the presence of risen Jesus. Risen Jesus is no dead person of the past; he is our living Messiah, Lord and Savior. We will never understand the core of our faith this side of heaven. We know that is true when we take long, loving looks at our close relationships: dear friends, spouses and family members remain mysteries to us. Yet they are real and really present with us and for us. So much more true that is of our risen Jesus!

How may we profit from noticing these prominent features? An emptiness we feel when it comes to Jesus may result because we don’t seek him as he truly is, our living Lord. In other areas of our lives we may let surface appearances distract us from what is more real. We allow both when we don’t put our hearts into the sacred meal that keeps him present to us and makes us more present to him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples to welcome you and present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; ask Jesus to open your mind to understand the Scriptures and others’ testimony to him.
  • Name what holds you back from feeling and acting risen Jesus really walks with you; then ask him to transform it into grace so you will feel him present.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. To request our daily bread is hollow until we give our risen Lord what keeps us from feeling and recognizing him present with us and for us.yourself to rest in the presence of our triune God.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Luke 24.3-6.
  2. The passage immediately before today’s gospel.
  3. Also see John 20.20.
  4. Acts 10.41. Jesus had promised they would also eat and drink in his kingdom.
  5. “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.” Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Liturgy, 10.
  6. Constitution on the Liturgy, 6.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday word, 12 Apr 15

Ambassadors of God’s World
Second Sunday of Easter B (12 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The narrator of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was intelligent and also needed to learn. Scout’s first day at school was a disaster: so disastrous she begged her father keep her home. He listened to her then said, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll learn to get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”1

The lesson needs no explaining; we have our experiences of it. “Simple” as it may be, the “trick” may not be easy: to think as another thinks challenges us; to see as another sees challenges us; to appreciate as another appreciates also challenges. They are so in our homes. With other cultures and earlier times the challenges are steeper. Scripture belongs to another culture and a very distant time. Both make climbing into it and walking around in it very challenging to us modern folk.

That challenge is also an invitation. We may not think it, yet when we come together around the tables of our triune God’s word and risen son God invites us to inhabit God’s world. Why? So we can return to our daily living and, with God’s spirit helping us, reshape it in ways more like the world in which God welcomes us, teaches us and nourishes us.

I tried to enter the world today’s scriptures described. I share with you a few impressions from my visit. I hope you find them helpful and want to ponder and savor them this week. I hope you let yourselves feel my impressions then let them shape you. 

Enter the scene of the Acts of the Apostles. Inside it I was surrounded by power, the power of the apostles. They were at the center of the community of believers. Their unity unites us. Where did they get their power? Not long before they feared for their lives: they had locked…the doors [where they] were for fear. Risen Jesus’ presence did not quell their fear at first—only after he showed them his hands and his side! Then the disciples rejoiced to recognize their Lord.

The power wasn’t theirs. Risen Jesus imparted it to them. Breath symbolizes spirit in the world of scripture. Humans created as living beings began with God breathing.2 John’s gospel imparts a deeper intimacy: Jesus breathed his spirit.  His personal, loving gift transformed disciples into bold witnesses: “We have seen the Lord!” Their witness to their absent friend was no report but eager joy: they desired that he be free of dejected fear, too. Thomas—whose name means twin3—defused the joy given him. Humans can choose not to be overcome by Holy Spirit. Jesus presented himself to Thomas so he could recognize risen Jesus for who he was: Lord and God.

Thomas is our twin. Oh, we may not say we refuse to believe; we may not intend not to believe. Yet we defuse the power Jesus imparts to us; we defuse Jesus’ spirit rather than fan its flame to fire us with eager joy and make faith the action of our lives. The First Letter of John is very clear: the love of God is this, that we keep [do] his commandments. Christian life is action.

God is love,4 the letter reminds us. It means God acts: God loves us into being and holds us in being each moment—everyone! In Christian practice those God loves into being love each person for whom the person is—not what any of us wish a person to be. We don’t do that on our own: we fear; we desire the person be what we want; or we have other agendas. We do it by God’s power. God’s spirit is nothing less than God’s power, God’s life, God’s world. Into it God invites us unceasingly. When we enter it and live what we enter, we allow others to climb into it, walk around it and enjoy now a share in God’s life.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Calm yourself to rest in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask Thomas and the other disciples to present you to risen Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; tell him your desire to let his faith be your faith; allow him to breathe on you. We have received his spirit, yet we benefit each time we feel it is Jesus’ self-gift.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to free you to live the life and love he breathes into us each moment.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so his life and love may transform us and shape us as his disciples, his ambassadors to his world that even now welcomes us and everyone.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Page 30 of this online edition.
  2. Genesis 2.7
  3. The word didymus continues in use in modern Greek.
  4. 1 John 4.16
Wiki-images: Paschal Lamb window The Disbelief of Thomas PD-US

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Face of God's Mercy

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” With that image Pope Francis began the document that proclaims the Jubilee of Mercy. Its year will commence on 08 December 2015. Its purpose: “so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.” The full text is here.
Wiki-image of Detail of Jubilee Door in Bethlem by Abraham CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter Sunday word, 05 Apr 15

“Wonderful in Our Eyes”
Easter Sunday B (05 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
appy Easter! With our greeting believing Christians abbreviate a conviction: This is the day the Lord has made. Out of the chaos of Holy Week, when God seemed to withdraw, God acted. Out of the chaos of Jesus’ passion and death, God did an absolutely new thing: God raised [Jesus] on the third day and granted that he be visibletowitnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. They were first; we, also, eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood at his table. Our communion with and in Jesus makes us his witnesses. What might that mean for us? I find a clue in the cloth that had covered his head while Jesus’ body was in his tomb. Walk with me in the steps of Peter and John that morning.

Peter and John found a tomb empty of Jesus’ body. It held burial cloths strewn around save one. That one was the cloth that had covered the face and head of the dead Jesus. It was not with the others but rolled up in a separate place. It suggests three things for us to ponder: our relationship with death; new life; and our invitation. First: our relationship with death.

Jesus was raised, he was not resuscitated. Resuscitated people resume earthly living only to die. Jesus did not resume his earthly life. Jesus lives an absolutely new way. We say in glory to mean he shares God’s life and power. The cloth rolled up in a separate place hints at that creating, exalted life: distinct from other life yet always offered each per-son. Because we have already died and risen with Jesus in baptism we can live free—separate—from death’s frighten-ing, fearful control. Yes, our bodies will die; Easter-hope reminds us we are more than our bodies.

Second: new life. The cloth thatcovered Jesus’ head in the tomb was separate from the rest that had absorbed the smell and shape of death; it was also rolled up. It is easy to imagine what John and Peter saw: a jumble of yards of linen winding-sheets used for burials. Yet the cloth that had covered [Jesus’] head was rolled up. It has the feel of a deliberate act by risen Jesus: left as a clue of God’s deliberate power. God’s passion for life blesses each person who believes in risen Jesus with the same new life, fresh vigor and sweet aroma. We name it our share now in the life to come.

Last: our invitation. Divine life within and around us often escapes our notice. The word in the gospel translated as bent down and saw suggests careful, curious inspection.1 The burial cloths could have hidden from a casual glance the rolled up cloth. Peter saw it because he went into the tomb. The lesson for us? Look within ourselves. Our careful, curious attention lets us notice our triune God at work for us.

God at work for us stretches us and offers our Christian personalities a smooth, inviting texture so important for mission. The rolled up cloth is our invitation to mission. When we notice God in Jesus by their Spirit working in us and for us we unroll for ourselves the creative life of the Trinity. As we unroll and notice we let ourselves be absorbed in their creative power—not for ourselves; Christians and Christian communities don’t exist separately or for themselves. We unroll, open, appreciate our new life in our Messiah Jesus to offer it freely to the world.

Easter and its hope and vision of Jesus alive for ever free us to appreciate ourselves, others, the entire universe in new ways; and to serve Jesus’ mission as ours.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesu this week
  • Calm yourself to rest in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary of Magdala, Peter and John to present you to our risen Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; tell him your fears, resentments, any discouragement or energies which discourage others. Focus on one; offer it to Jesus so he may take it from you, roll it up and free you of it.
  • Resolve to reach no more for what you offered Jesus and ask him for grace to keep you free from it.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer to sharpen our vision and make it like his: to see all created things as wonderful in our eyes; and have hearts like his that beat with faithful, disinterested love.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Thayer’s lexicon entry

Wiki-images: Peter and John run to the sepulchre PD-US “He Is Not Here” © Walter Rane, LDS Church, available

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Holy Thursday word, 02 Apr 15

Not Ornamental
Mass of the Lord’s Supper B (02 Apr 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When we gather around the tables of God’s word and God’s son our words never adequately express the mystery. We enter our triune God’s life and love God shares with us. We name the mystery Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The mystery feels more intense tonight and the next three days. As a way in to the mystery I will focus on a detail of the Lord’s Supper the Fourth Gospel’s remembers for us: Jesus took a towel and tied it around his waist. Why that one? Laundry.

I recently laundered kitchen towels. In the kitchen I don’t stint on using towels. I don’t want to rearrange or transfer grime from surface to surface. And thoroughly damp towels cease to dry things. Dry towels fascinate me—their physical properties: surface area; absorption; the weight of water and towels’ thirsty materials. Their properties are impressive. You and I are not here to be impressed. We are here because we are more than our physical selves; we are embodied spirits. We thirst: we desire more humane and worthy lives. As I folded kitchen towels I thought of us: Jesus responds to our thirsts; to us he has given a new fascination, a sacred appeal to the humble towel. As he said, I have given you a model to follow.

When he took a towel that night he celebrated Passover his final time Jesus transformed it. All who use towels as he did and imitate him, Jesus transforms into priestly, prophetic witnesses to him and servants of his mission. All the baptized are shaped into priestly, prophetic witnesses to him: both the priesthood of the faithful and those in ordained ministry. We exercise our priesthoods everywhere—sometimes in church. This night Jesus modeled what exercising our priesthoods looks like: If I… the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow. By doing the most menial task, Jesus tells Christians in every age no task of serving is beneath our priesthoods.

Jesus made clear service marks us as his. In remembering that the church links service with eucharist. We can say: eucharist begets service; and service leads to eucharist. The portion of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we heard this night confirms the link. In the earliest written memory of the night he was handed over, St. Paul recalled Jesus interpreted the Passover bread and cup as his self-offering, his self-service: my body for you; [my blood for you,] drink it to remember me.

Paul wrote what he received from the Lord to respond to a practice among Corinthian Christians: they did not serve one another. Paul had observed: When you meet in one place…it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, for in eating, each one goes ahead with his own supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.1 And that in a Christian community of around 200 members!2 How easy it has always been to be mindful of and even serve those beyond our circles and to neglect our blood relations as well as our sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus!

The related neglect is equally un-Christian: to serve only those like us and by Christ united to us. Christian service responds to everyone. Jesus modeled that! The night he took a towel and tied it around his waist he commanded his followers—then to this night in Greenville—to extend the pattern of his caring everywhere; Jesus gives us his Spirit so we may do it.

Jesus’ towel symbolized love in action. Love in action makes us more human and “make[s] society more human, more worthy of [each] person.”3 The next time you see a towel recall how Jesus used it for us. Let every towel remind us to fulfill his new commandment in our daily living. Let every towel ask us:
  • “Has my baptismal call to serve become ornamental, no longer vital to my life in my Savior?”
  • “Do I draw strength to serve, to live my Christian identity, by worshiping Jesus in word and sacrament?”
  • “Am I growing more curious about Jesus and longing to deepen my relationship with him?”
  • “In my personal praying do I chat with Jesus as one friend to another?”
  • Jesus’ towel questions communities not just individuals:                   “Do we continue to grow aware of what Jesus has done for us and what he longs to do for others through us?”
This is no ordinary night. Tonight we adore the one we will soon consume. We can savor him; what he has done for us; and imagine what he will do for us. Beginning tonight we can let his towel question us, encourage us, renew our fascination with him, his pattern of living, dying and rising and guide us to emulate our model for the sake of our world.

  1. 1Corinthians 11.20-21.
  2. H.H. Drake Williams III, “Obstacle for a Church Planter: Paul’s Greatest Obstacles in Planting the Church,” Not Weary of Well Doing: Essays in Honor of Cecil W. Stalnaker. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013, p. 56. [Wayne Meeks estimated 300.]
  3. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 582.