Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday word, 27 Sep 15

“Missionary of Mercy”
Twenty-sixth Sunday of the Year B (27 Sep 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Watching Pope Francis on our soil confirmed again for me that he is a living homily. Even his silence speaks. Homilies seek to stir hearts as much as deepen knowledge of faith. Hearts, after all, move us to do what we know. Francis’ authentic actions people feel. He stirs hearts. Many of us have heard other Christians and non-believers say, “I like your pope.” Francis stirs hearts longing for “renewal and growth.”1

Francis also encourages: several times he used the word in his remarks last week! Francis encourages us to enact the gospel joyfully. Open hearts and minds experience joy. Closed minds and hearts are unable to welcome joy; nor can they welcome others. Closed, narrow minds and hearts endanger even the church.

Two years ago Francis noted, “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.”2 That is nothing new. Even Moses had to put up with narrow-mindedness. God’s spirit chose not to be limited and contained only by the legitimate helpers of Moses. By God’s power and gift others joined Moses as God’s mouthpieces. A young man quickly told Moses two others had begun to prophesy. Moses was neither defensive nor anxious over rules. He responded that he and all God’s people could use every help possible: Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!

Narrow minds deafened the disciples to Jesus’ words that his mission included suffering unto death. Their narrow-mindedness led them to feel exclusive as Jesus’ comrades. They heard Jesus tell scores of people that kingdom living included showing mercy as mercy was shown them. When someone unknown to the disciples did a mighty work of mercy in the name of Jesus they tried to prevent him—to limit and contain God’s mercy. Jesus had released it in a new, powerful, authentic way, and his disciples wanted to control God’s mercy that Jesus showered on all!

To shower mercy flowed from a conviction Jesus held; it coursed through him as blood in his veins and air in his lungs. Jesus showered mercy because he was convinced a way back is possible for all. To people aware they have strayed far or a bit do not sin again3 are words enough. When sin grips and blinds people more words, direct words free them and restore vision—like those James leveled at those imprisoned in their greed: [Your corroded wealth] will devour your flesh like fire.

Pope Francis is convinced sin seeks to grip him and all; he encourages that we need help to keep free of it. Even when sin tarnishes our freedom Francis is convinced a return to freedom is possible. So convinced he stamps his mission with God’s mercy. As “missionary of mercy”4 Francis shines brighter light on the gift of freedom regained. Mercy expands minds and hearts; heals division; strengthens the weak; and renews our compassion.

The pope’s visits offer many things. He always extends the mercy of God in Jesus by Holy Spirit. Untold numbers welcome his offer. Their welcome recommends we pray for it: pray to welcome God’s mercy more readily. It may be the most transforming prayer anyone makes.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Moses, who desired God’s people all be prophets, to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for his goodness to you.
  • Ask him, “Help me be your prophetic voice and your disciple of mercy in all I do and say.”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave his prayer to shape us as servants of God’s mercy who unite heaven and earth and human minds, hearts and lives.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. His August 2013 interview to Jesuit journals.
  2. John 5.14; 8.11.
  3. His motto as he set out for Cuba before visiting the United States.

Wiki-images: Moses, Aaron and the Elders PD-US  Girl drinking by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade CC BY-SA 2.0

Friday, September 25, 2015

With Precision

Pope Francis uses particular words frequently. Some he uses with precision. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. decoded “periphery,” “fundamental-ism,” “devil’s dung” and more in a recent column.

Wiki-image by of Pope Francis CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday word, 20 Sep 15

God’s Logic
Twenty-fifth Sunday of the Year B (20 Sep 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Sunday lectionary offers three readings at mass. You know their logic: the gospel fulfills the first reading from the Hebrew scriptures; the second, New Testament reading is proclaimed in a continuous fashion from its opening to its close. Those who shaped the lectionary intentionally related the first and third readings. Now and again the second, New Testament reading shines a light on the gospel as today. Let’s see how.

The gospels paint a portrait of the life of Jesus and some of his activity during his ministry in Palestine. Places are important. Jesus and his disciples began [another] journey through Galilee. Earlier in Galilee it did not go well between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees.1 His disciples knew that. Again in Galilee Jesus spoke of his passion to come. Was being in that place unfriendly to Jesus the reason his disciples were afraid? Whatever the reason they did not face their fears.

Facing our fears is an image. We know we do not see fear; rather, we feel fear’s effects on us. When we confront fear we go within ourselves: confronting fear is personal interior work. Often we prefer not to confront fear—it is not helpful, but it is typical. The disciples reacted typically. They fled their fear by discussing among themselves…who was the greatest.

God does not value greatness as humans do. Jesus embodied God’s logic; the disciples persisted in their human logic. In God’s reasoning a great person is open. Children demonstrate openness well. They demonstrate that openness includes wonder and awe at what is before them as well as welcoming others—children see people without grown-up filters. Unless we cultivate daily wonder, awe and openness to others, our learned, grown-up filters suffocate those childlike, godly virtues: wonder, awe and openness to others.

To consider greatness in a way different from God—the way Jesus revealed by his living, dying and rising—to consider greatness in a way different from God mires us in jealousy and selfish-ambition. That is the light James shines for us on the gospel.

Drive and desire that include others help us shape fulfilling lives. If my drive and desire exclude you, then my ambition is selfish. You and others become dangers to me: I envy what you have; your reputation; your gifts. Envy urges individuals and groups to get ahead; worse, to feel good at others’ misfortune—even intend it; still worse, to get others out of the way. Who of us hasn’t removed someone with our minds? Headlines too often report others enact their thoughts just as James knew his contemporaries killed, fought, and waged  war.

We may romanticize Jesus’ teaching about greatness; James stops us. His ancient teaching mirrors headlines that confront us daily: oppression forces people to flee west in numbers we have not seen for 70 years; gang violence in our hemisphere sends others fleeing north; while here guns used in envy and fear end lives prematurely.

What to do? Jesus demonstrated our response: not to allow worldly logic of greatness land us in the mire of jealousy and selfish-ambition. Our response does not solve the problems envy sows. Our response changes our dispositions, our character. Changed character paves the way toward solutions. The disciples demonstrated the change is possible. We change when we cooperate with grace, the life and virtues offered us each day by our triune God. To cooperate with grace where we live, work, learn and play has effects that reach beyond us—reaching farther than we think.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples who allowed themselves to be changed by grace to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for modeling how to be in the world and for  his Spirit who lets us pattern our lives on his.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to enjoy healthy, balanced drive and purpose full of wonder at creation and welcome toward all. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us live each day as he lived: deeply aware our Creator gives all we need and more; and to help us love others as we long to be loved.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. The scribes first appear in Mark 2.6, the Pharisees in 2.24 as Jesus preached and healed in Galilee at the beginning of his ministry.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday word, 13 Sep 15

Faith Reshapes Us
Twenty-fourth Sunday of the Year B (13 Sep 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We will continue to hear the Letter of James on Sundays this month. In it James addressed attitudes and behaviors that faith reshapes. Several attitudes and behaviors that concerned James are modern. Reshaping them as well as not caving in to them heeds Jesus’ call to us: deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and follow Jesus. First, James’ teaching about faith.

James taught faith included more than belief. Faith responds actively to God’s work in Jesus by Holy Spirit. James pressed home that faith responding to the ongoing work of our triune God includes:
  • care of the defenseless and oppressed;1
  • rejecting discrimination in favor of mercy;2
  • limiting unchecked pursuits of pleasure and things— unchecked pursuits cause conflicts and wars;3
  • faith lets Christians be in the world but not enmeshed by its attitudes;4
  • people living faith do not oppress workers;5 and
  • faith communities remember the ill and suffering.6
Today James reminded us that to clothe and feed others belong to Christians’ faith-response.

Such concrete faith-responses let reasonable people notice that humans depend on others; sometimes more, sometimes less, but we are interdependent. That we live at all means we depend on God. God desires we live not for ourselves but as a kind of first fruits7 of a new creation. By his rising from death Jesus is the first fruits of God’s new creation.8 As Messiah Jesus invites us to his new life and modeled it for us.

When they acknowledged him as Messiah Jesus’ disciples publicly transferred their loyalties to him and to each other. They reaffirmed it when they acknowledged him as crucified Messiah—expected by no one.

Jesus did not give his disciples a test that day. When they acknowledged him as Messiah Jesus’ disciples affirmed for him his authority to invite to new life, model it and announce God’s desires. Jesus included all who follow him as doing his work: Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.9

My brother and sister and mother indicate an intimate group. Group was and is central in Middle-eastern life. Any who heard Jesus say those who joined him and advanced God’s desires are my brother and sister and mother heard an invitation to join a new family-group. To do that denied self, how one had been known in the world. The flip side of denying self was joining Jesus’ new group and gaining a new sense of self, a new identity. It was also a risk: one’s cross—to stay with Jesus’ words—but not without promise.

Jesus invites us to his promised new life, a new self, our true identity. We Western folk usually don’t hear our true identity in his call to deny oneself and take up one’s cross. We usually do not hear it as an invitation to a new group; we do hear a call to reform our lives. Yet to live our faith, to respond to God saving us by following Jesus with our deeds, reshapes us each day! One gift is this: to follow Jesus means living as his disciple is not all on me: Jesus accompanies us and graces each of us to stay close to him. When we decide to go it alone; when we choose differently from the way Jesus modeled living for others, Jesus welcomes us to rejoin him and follow afresh.

To hear Jesus and James afresh we may pray for this grace: to enjoy surer felt-knowledge that we live our faith in company with risen Messiah Jesus and one another—with all who follow Jesus. The world can know that Jesus, our God, is merciful, if we live his mercy one day at a time.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for giving us a share in his life so we may share it with others.
  • Ask Jesus to deepen your felt-knowledge that we live faith in company with risen Messiah Jesus, one another and all who follow Jesus.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to heal how we know ourselves and freely live the way of Jesus for others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. James 1.27.
  2. James 2.11ff.
  3. James 1.9-11; 3.18-4.3.
  4. James 4.13ff.
  5. James 5.1ff.
  6. James 5.13ff.
  7. James 1.18.
  8. Mark 3.35.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Sunday word, 06 Sep 15

Keeping Close
Twenty-third Sunday of the Year B (06 Sep 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus called Twelve to shadow him, to learn him and his ways. The apostles deserve credit for transferring their loyalties to Jesus. Some did it by leaving self-owned businesses—the fishermen; others left different ways that profited them to gain more from Jesus. Jesus remained patient with each of them and all of them. The apostles were not quick to learn Jesus, to know him as the Messiah, the long awaited one.

The healing of a deaf man who…could not speak plainly was not the first miracle the apostles saw Jesus perform. Ordinary folk seemed more alert to who Jesus was: He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak. They knew they echoed Prophet Isaiah. On behalf of God Isaiah used that image and others we heard to keep alive hope among the captives in Babylon: all would sing joyfully at the restoration of Israel. At the time of Jesus the prophet’s image still sang. People longed for personal restoration and the restoration of Israel by the Messiah. They reckoned the age of the Messiah as the goal of history. If human restoration was happening as Jesus healed and did other miracles, was not the time of the Messiah upon them? Was not Jesus the long-awaited Messiah?

The apostles did not have instant clarity about Jesus as others had. They would grasp Jesus’ true identity; it was not a firm grasp at first. That their grasp of Jesus’ identity would prove slippery; that it eluded those Jesus chose offers us hope. We don’t enjoy the company of Jesus as the apostles did—the way we are with one another; nor do we witness miracles that accompanied Jesus announcing the reign of God. Yet we are not alone; we do enjoy Jesus’ life in us by the power of his Spirit. Jesus continues to breathe his Spirit in everyone baptized into him and his dying and rising.

How do I access1 his power for my life? I hear someone ask. We have already: Jesus’ life flows through us each time we give food to the hungry; Jesus’ life flows through us each time we help another carry life’s burdens; Jesus’ life flows through us each time we protect others; Jesus’ life flows through us each time we don’t let externals blind us to another’s humanity and personal value.

Jesus’ Spirit empowers us to do those and every Christian action. We received his Spirit at baptism; at confirmation his Spirit shaped us more like him; his eucharist sustains his Spirit in us. Jesus gives us his Spirit not as an honor or as private gift. Jesus gives his Spirit to us to empower us to pattern our lives on Jesus’ life: Jesus lived for others as much as with others.

When our faith in Jesus and his Spirit of power within us fades; when our faith in Jesus and his Spirit of power within us seems to have vanished, we do well to recall the apostles. Their faith in Jesus grew in fits and starts though they walked with Jesus! Better than recalling them is to summon them as our faith-intercessors: they grappled with faith as we do each day. When the lamp of their faith was dim, Jesus never dismissed them; he kept close to them. Jesus keeps close to us. Jesus keeps close to us  even when we are unsure he is present with us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the apostles to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank Jesus for his Spirit, who is our power to join him and his mission to announce his good news by how we live.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to brighten, deepen and enliven our faith.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us because frequently praying it patterns our lives more after Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. “[Jesus calls us] to look beyond, to focus on the heart in order to see how much generosity everyone is capable of. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house where everyone is welcomed and no one is rejected.” Pope Francis, Lenten homily, original emphasis.