Saturday, December 31, 2016
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Canadian novelist Robertson Davies turned a phrase that warrants repeated appreciation: “Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.” [The Manticore (Viking Press, 1976), p. 101.] It reminds that understanding is not as prized as many insist. Martyrs defy being understood—vexing to any for whom understanding is supreme.
“A somewhat dissenting voice” reviewing recently released “Silence” did not consider its numerous martyrs to be movie-extras but more central than its protagonist. The review returned Robertson Davies’ apothegm to the present to be appreciated again.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Third Advent Sunday A (11 Dec 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Isaiah, Malachi, John the Baptizer, Jesus: God entrusted to prophets God’s dream for creation. Isaiah announced that parched land would exult, blossom, even sing for joy. Those miracles would pale compared to wonders worked for vulnerable humans: the blind see; the deaf hear, the mute sing and the lame walk. They were creation’s crown. Even today God holds them in God’s heart with particular fondness.
The prophets formed a chain: each one announced God’s dream for all God had created in a prophet’s particular circumstance; each prophet prepared the way for successors, too. They kept God’s dream before God’s people. Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me, cried Prophet Malachi.
In his situation God sent God’s messenger to announce in the present what God desired to do for people who welcomed God’s intervention. The present was filled with expectation for the future: for fulfilment of God’s creative action and humans’ preparation for it.
Often for humans God’s desire often lay hidden in the present; prophets’ voices helped others recognize what lay hidden. Scripture kept prophets’ voices alive in succeeding generations; scripture also helped people understand what lay hidden. It still does. It did not work like a formula or a map as much as it kept people in conversation with God’s dream. Scripture also kept people in conversation with one another, moving toward God’s dream and preparing themselves for it.
At times the movements of God felt too slow for to bear. God’s perceived slowness dulled, even frustrated, human expectation of God’s promised intervention. When eager expectation is dulled or frustrated, powers other than God came into play. Jesus named one in today’s gospel: offence—blessed is the one who takes no offence at me.
Three things to note in Jesus’ words: one, offence opposed blessing—offence did not move with God’s desire; second, offence rose from impatience with the way God’s works; God’s power at work in Jesus to heal the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the mute to sing and the lame to walk—no longer set human hearts singing with joy and rejoicing at the splendour of our God; third, the offence lay in none of Jesus’ powerful acts; Jesus was the offence.
Jesus offended because he did not live up to human expectations of the messenger God would send. He was too meek and spoke too mildly to be God’s messenger; he befriended sinners—those other offenders; and his way offended Peter, his closest friend, because Jesus seemed to bow to Roman domination.1
Those very traits Jesus enjoyed from infancy—as did we. More compelling is this: we adore infant Jesus and our carols help us with their lyrics: Christ the babe is Lord of all; little Lord Jesus…fit us for heaven to live with you there; Come as a baby weak and poor…He opens wide the heav’nly door.2 To name a few.
We probably take offence that Jesus never grew out of his traits; that he did not force into line those who offen-ded upright behaviour. If Jesus outgrew his meekness, his universal welcome and lost touch with God who ransoms everyone and everything from the grip of powers opposed to God: we would have no messiah, no Lord, no opener of heaven when we would need them. Perhaps Advent and Christmas touch us deeply be-cause the season puts us in touch with our true selves, with our innate awe and wonder before God and God’s invitation to fearless joy. How might we claim again our true selves, our innate awe and wonder before Jesus, God’s messenger and invitation to fearless joy? One key may be the patient expectation St. James counselled: wait for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it. Patience does not contradict or neutralize eager expectation; instead it paves its way. Patience offers us something greater: practicing it—recovering it if we have outgrown it—practicing it transforms us into more alert prophets who speak in the name of our Lord.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
- Bask in the life of the Trinity.
- Ask John the Baptizer and St. James to present you to Jesus.
- Praise Jesus for being born human for us so we can become more patient, more prophetic.
- Ask Jesus for the grace of patient endurance daily to seek signs of his presence and power of his Spirit and to name them when you see them.
- Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, thy kingdom come, on our lips are at once both a plea for Jesus to return in glory and a reminder that Jesus has given us his Spirit to help us recognize the many ways his kingdom blossoms anew each day.
- Matthew 11.29 and 12.19; Matthew 11.19; Matthew 16.21-23.
- “Away in a Manger”; “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”; “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn.
Monday, December 05, 2016
“Astonishing”; “daunting”; “so important”; “impossible…from outside.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church employed those words in its brief treatment of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. That petition may be called mercy-in-action. Humans enact God’s mercy when they operate from “vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God.”
“Vital participation” in God’s mercy is slippery for humans. That slippery struggle appears in the reception of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family. Recalling their visit to refugee families in the spring, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I commented, “Religious leaders are called to remind themselves and then others that God is life and love and light.” That remains “daunting.”
___________________Wiki-image by Massimo Finizio of Bartholomew I CC BY-SA 3.0
Sunday, December 04, 2016
Second Advent Sunday A (04 Dec 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living Christian Joy
Advent alerts us and helps us focus on the new thing God is doing1: God’s desire, God’s dream for each and all humans, for human societies, for all created things and the entire universe—to create them anew each moment. Advent points our way to live more in sync with the desire of God’s heart. A few pointers are: Jesus’ urging to stay awake…be prepared2; to live peaceably3; and to live God’s joy given us.4
Living God’s joy is our Christian vocation. Pope Francis called it “the sign of a Christian.” It measures our health he has repeated: “A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. …Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions.”5 How much living has us cope with pain and tribulations; and so many elsewhere in the world face persecutions! Christian joy in the face of these and anyone’s weaknesses signals that Christian joy is a gift received, nothing you and I manufacture for ourselves. Christian joy is given us by our risen Lord.
St. Paul recognized that and urged, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another. Translation into our languages misses that St. Paul spoke friendship language. Harmony was the ancient world’s index of friendship: a friend is another self; friends share all things in common; friends are of one soul. Even the word we translate as encouragement sounded cheering, supporting influence—what friends do for one another.
Advent reminds us God is in this intimate harmony with humans: we name the mystery of God’s undying friendship, Incarnation. Jesus is God-with-us in our flesh and blood, our weaknesses and our strengths. Advent welcomes all Christians to renew and deepen our friendship with God. Friendship with God frees and empowers us to live in harmony with others; to welcome one another…as Christ welcomed [us], for the glory of God.
Friendship with God is God’s gift. We may not think John the Baptizer spoke friendship language when he called Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers. He did not refuse them a chance to befriend God. He demanded they produce good fruit as evidence of [their] repentance…and…not presume they did not need to repent because they had an inside track with Abraham, whom they loved to call their father. An exclusive friendship with Abraham blinded some to God’s desire to enlarge Abraham’s people: God can raise up children to Abraham from…stones.
God did: lepers, sinners, tax-collectors, self-centred people, Gentiles—all had hardened hearts for various reasons. In the Baptizer’s preaching they felt God inviting and softening their hearts, and they responded. To repent is to disarm totally—beat…swords into plowshares, to use Prophet Isaiah’s image. To disarm and let God in returns us to friendship with God.
Deepening our friendship with God is ongoing conversion: growing more sensitive to God’s heart; welcoming God supporting, cheering us. Christ Jesus embodied divine friendship. He helps us embody it and produce good fruit of peace and joyful endurance. Those good fruits especially keep us faithful to God-with-us and extend God’s friendship to others.
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 friendship with God.
- Ask Jesus for grace to welcome his joy and to live his faithful endurance as yours.
- Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. 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
Saturday, December 03, 2016
Francis continues to pastor individuals as pope. One was a girl of nine years. She had sent pictures to the pope. She also had cancer. Francis wrote to her. In it he echoed one from whom he takes inspiration. This week a Vatican correspondent filed the story.
___________________Wiki-image by SajoR of Coat of Arms of Francis CC BY-SA 2.5