Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday word, 20 Dec 15

     Our First Moment (John the Baptizer Speaks)
          Fourth Advent Sunday C (20 Dec 2015)
              Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. 

I remember well that leap I took 
Within my mother’s womb
When Mary’s surprised greeting shook
The air at mom’s ears inside her room.
 I knew no fear.

I leapt to fly right to my Lord and cousin;
I did so without success:
My mother’s womb, my mantle then,
She raised her hand and did caress.
I shed a tear.

My tear’s been lost in inspired words
“Masked,” perhaps the better choice,
Like His many comings from the first,
To give both God and us voice.
I wonder here:

Ancient Bethlehem (means house of bread?)*
so poor and small all else had more,
Today is wracked--many weep, many dead:
God’s Lamb’s birthplace now home to war.
You see God’s tear?

God cries sadly, yes, and in delight.
Shivering with each vicious blow
More expertly struck to make light
of justice. Delighting to say, “Go.
Please, lend your ear:

“Go! As God we must hie to earth.
Men and women heavy tred;
We’ll take them onour human birth
Going gently to save the dead,
“We beg you, hear—

“—who live by war, by faction and untruth
As well as those whose lives have ended—”
This: divine delight. Less would be uncouth,
And we creation would have upended
To end your fear.

Hard as any try, and think they succeed,
From anonymous birth, which we name,
To a shameful, public death once decreed,
Mary’s Son, my Lamb’s power, none can tame.
Take heart this cheer!

His, his is a majesty subtle strong
Clothed in flesh for the sake of all.
I come to right each sorry wrong
and choose to do so from the Fall,
“From that day drear

“To now—if you’ll only give your grace.”
Hastening to my mother, mother
Hastened to hold Mary in embrace.
That eternal time was like no other.
So cast out fear!

If any be related or locked in hate,
They prepared the world with their visit
For our Lord to visit, lasting late,
And allow God in us exhibit—
Slow to appear—
Divine delight. To my Lord I didn’t fly away
As I hoped. Nonetheless, in grace we met 
In their tender visitation-kiss that day
Sav’ring before birth what God did beget.
Now pray here:

Let these hours before Christmas Day
Be the months before I saw Jesus.
Imitate my longing, infant way
So your lives, too, will rest in Jesus.

* in Hebrew. In Arabic the name means house of meat.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
Wiki-image: The Visitation PD-US

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday word, 13 Dec 15

Present and Future
Third Advent Sunday C (13 Dec 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. 
t. Paul was in prison when he wrote to his beloved Philippians. He was imprisoned because he publicly proclaimed Jesus’ good news and established it in many places.1 In his bold undertaking St. Paul spoke with authority, God’s authority that God’s Spirit gave Paul. Public messengers enjoyed authority given from the emperor and his delegates. That authority was crucial when their messages included calls to action. Announcing Jesus’ gospel included calls to action; and announcing the gospel landed Paul in prison.

As Paul began preaching to the Philippians he was persecuted in their city and thrown in prison.2 Some Philippians welcomed Paul and Jesus’ gospel; people with influence asked Paul to leave their city and not embarrass the Roman authority on which their city thrived. The few Christians stood by Paul at risk to themselves. Doing so again was risky: they struggl[ed] together [with Paul] for the faith of the gospel3 as well as sent Paul money for his needs…more than once.4

Paul was well aware that their mutual suffering for the gospel brought shame to a poor and unpopular Christian commune—the first in Europe. Paul also knew in his bones something more powerful as he sat in his prison cell from which he wrote his beloved Philippians: God was actively present for him and them. This was their real-life situation.

Knowing their situation opens our ears and helps us feel St. Paul’s words we heard moments ago: The Lord is near! Paul did call his friends to eagerly expect Jesus’ glorious return. He encouraged them to ready themselves for it by letting their kindness… be known to all—not just Paul. Advent reminds us to live the same way. St. Paul also encouraged his friends for the present: the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Paul sat in his cell and a sentence of death hovered. Guards stood at the doors of criminals dangerous to the empire.

Despite the military guard Paul knew he enjoyed another, more powerful guard—God’s peace. Paul knew God’s peace overtopped every power, every distraction, every temptation not to preach the gospel. To his friends in Philippi who struggl[ed] together [with Paul] for the faith of the gospel Paul blessed them with God’s peace. Because we also struggle together for the faith of the gospel it helps to know his words that we hear often are no bland blessing; they are power for us, too.

The Lord is near! He will return in glory; we know not when. Our Lord’s birthday is nearer now than when we began Advent. Even nearer to us—nearer than our every breath—our Messiah Jesus guards us with his peace. It was his gift to his disciples before he died.5 It was his first gift when he rose from the dead.6 Jesus shares his peace with us, and we with each other at every eucharist. We leave mass with Jesus’ peace guarding us with power to be his confident witnesses in all we do and say.

What shall we do? What shall we say? John the Baptizer gives us good advice: to live modestly; to share with whoever needs; to act honestly; and to be grateful for all we enjoy. In these ways we prepare ourselves better to celebrate the feast of our Lord’s Nativity and spread his peace that guards us always.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God embracing you with their peace.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for showering his peace on you in word, sacrament and in other graced ways.
  • Ask Jesus to help you welcome his peace: to let it guard, protect and save you.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It allows us to grow more grateful and to live the peace for which we long.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Philippians 1.7.
  2. 1Thessalonians 2.2; Acts 16.16-24.
  3. Philippians 1.27-29.
  4. Philippians 4.15-18.
  5. John 14.27.
  6. Luke 24.36; John 20.19, 21.


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sunday word, 06 Dec 15

Welcoming God’s Future
First Advent Sunday C (29 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The tragic events of this week alert us to something sad and all too common: some in the world want to produce their brand of the future and will inflict pain and even take life to achieve their goals. Advent reminds us we have a future; it lay before us and awaits us. An insightful Jesuit forty years ago noted that the people of Advent name our future God.1 

Scripture reminds us that naming God our future is no mental trick or pious gimmick. God acts for us. The Psalmist put it well: The Lord has done great things for us! Prophet Baruch echoed that to those taken from their homes, land and temple. To people who felt they had no future Baruch declared, God will show all the earth your splendor…for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company!

Because God is our future we Advent people do not have to make the future. Indeed, our God visits us and acts for our good in daily experience—even difficult experiences cannot prevent God from gracing us. Most of all, Jesus is the pinnacle of God’s visitation; by the power of Holy Spirit Jesus continually abides with us.

Prophets helped people prepare for the future, for God. Isaiah called God’s future the way. John the Baptizer echoed Isaiah: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths! Repeated footfalls of humans and animals make paths. Yet the prophet’s image is more like a road foreman calling to a gang of workers. Many of our walking paths and roadways are paved. Paving is also a repeated action of flattening.

Advent people welcome God’s future by repeatedly enacting gospel values, values Jesus modeled for us. Enacting gospel values begins with a change of heart. The contours of a religious change of heart include an openness to God; transformation of behavior; and a reform of life. A word about each.

Openness to God is a desire for God. It is a felt need for God who gives me life each moment. God does not give me any life; God gives me my life; God gives you your lives; God gives all people their true selves. Being open to God means we find in God our true selves.

The human condition—what scripture names the way of the world—the human condition blurs our vision of ourselves and others. Because our vision of ourselves and others is blurred, we choose to behave in ways that do not depend on God’s gracious regard for us and others. Not to see our true selves leads us to choose to act in ways that we repeat again and again. When we change our hearts’ focus and dependency from the way of the world toward the way of God’s light, vision, mercy and justice we transform how we are in the world and how we act in it.

God’s light, vision, mercy and justice is God’s salvation. We do not save ourselves by effort or by the things we heap up. Being convinced that God saves us frees us to reshape and restyle how we live. Depending on God leads us to love others by our actions; to be confident partners of Jesus’ gospel and concerned partners with others and with our earth. Depending on God, falling into God as our future, enjoying a personal relationship with Jesus as well as our partnership as members of his body: these allow us to discover our true selves and to mirror for our world the true future: the salvation God desires for everyone.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God longing for you with love.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for being born human for you to save us for his gospel and life with God. 
  • Ask Jesus for grace to focus on him and model your life on the values he modeled for us.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It reminds us that all we enjoy is gift and that Jesus modeled for us a way of living that is at once human and divine.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Jesuit Karl Rahner, “The Advent Person,” The Content of Faith: The Best of Karl Rahner’s Theological Writings, New York: Crossroad, 1993, p.617. Originally published as “Advent as Antidote to Utopia,” 1974.