St. Ignatius of Loyola learned to find fruit, that is, the effect or consequence of action. More important than our actions is the action of God in, with and for humans. One grows to find fruit and to offer it the more one savors one's own life and all creation. I hope my posts help you feel that finding fruit is a profitable way of living.
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. during the Spiritual Exercises Reorienting
Martha and Mary are misunderstood. Let’s recall what we know. We know they were sisters. We know they welcomed Jesus into the safety and comfort of their home. Travellers depended on hospitality of others, especially in hostile territory; the Roman road system was good, but bandits commandeered some stretches. People in some districts did not welcome everyone: aiming to take the direct way to Jerusalem Jesus tried to pass through Samaria; Samaritans did not welcome him because they did not welcome Jews. Martha and Mary’s hospitality feels more tender because the episode recalling it follows immediately after the Good Samaritan parable.
We also know hospitality in the Mediterranean world has two very important rules: first, to pay attention to the guest; and second, not to demand guests intervene in their hosts’ affairs.
Martha and Mary both received Jesus, the Prophet-Messiah. When the guest is a prophet, one’s attention is both to the person of the prophet and more to the word of God the prophet announces.
We know from Martha herself serving this time overwhelmed her. Overwhelmed yet also blessed for welcoming Jesus. Overwhelmed she tried to impress him with more than her welcome and attention. In that moment Martha violated hospitality’s second important rule: she demanded her guest settle the rivalry that emerged between her and her sister: between serving Jesus and listening to him offer God’s word.
What do we know about us? No choosing between Martha and Mary can exist for us. Why? Because each of us is both Martha and Mary. We extend our welcome to Jesus as both sisters did. In better moments we focus on the word of life Jesus revealed by his person. In more frenzied moments we perform for Jesus with more flourish than Jesus expects or desires. For us frenzy has an air of normalcy about it—experiences on my first repose day awakened me to that. We know in our bones Frenzy is in fact hostile territory: it distracts us from our true selves; it distracts us from Jesus creating, redeeming and inviting us; it confounds and distorts our relationship. Ignatius helps us reorient ourselves simply and deeply: how have I been with Christ? how am I with Christ? how can I be with Christ and want what my Creator and Redeemer wants for me? The colloquy1 not only sharpens self-awareness; it allows us to experience Christ Jesus’ life-sustaining hospitality, then model our hospitality on his.
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on Disposition Days Retreat
We of Prayer
Prophets called people to return to God and God’s ways when people had wandered from God and God’s ways. To wander from God was not new. The cycle of wandering and return existed at Israel’s beginning: breaking relationship with God; consequences; repentance; return to the relationship. Scripture preserves moments of this cycle. Prophet Baruch assisted Prophet Jeremiah during the time leading to the exile of the population of Judah to Babylon. Baruch’s correspondence sought to offer clarity to the exiles in their anguish. Baruch also sought to comfort and encourage the exiled people.
We heard Baruch give voice to the repentance moment: wetodayareflushedwithshame,wepeopleofJudahandcitizensofJerusalem…we,withourkingsandrulersandpriestsandprophets,andwithourancestors,havesinnedintheLord’ssightanddisobeyedtheLord.WehaveneitherheededthevoiceoftheLord,ourGod,norfollowedthepreceptswhichtheLordsetbeforeus.
The responsibility for wandering from God is plural: we, our, us: weareflushedwithremorse;wewithourrulers,priests…prophets,and…ourancestors;wehave…not followedwhattheLordgaveus. We, our, us glowed on the page as I read. I pondered why I noticed their gleam: perhaps North American individualism affects me more than I care to admit. Many peoples—Israel in scripture is one—identify themselves as we before they identify themselves as I. Conscious of I before we may well be why many North Americans grasp at much and care less about others God creates—humans and the earth itself.
Even individuals among we-thinking peoples are tempted to prefer and think I, me, mine. Individuals can group with that mind. Jesus lamented that entire cities rejected God’s desire; their citizens refused to want what God wanted: abundant life1 for all.
Does my observation hold any value for us making individually directed silent retreats? I think a signal value exists: approach your prayer, imagine it as we—GodandI. Bill reminded us that prayer is mutual; Yvonne encouraged us to let God show us ourselves and tell us who we are. Ignatius encouraged that we chat with those who enter our prayer: Jesus; his Abba; his mother; his Spirit; other sainted people—of the church and in our lives. Praying as we helps us notice that God has been and is nearer to us than our breathing.2 Praying as we lets us return to our triune God and abide together more closely.
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on Disposition Days Retreat Rebuild and Repair
To reform, we know, means to reshape, to change for the better, to improve and to adjust. It is both personal and what people do for organizations. At times people welcome reform; sometimes others resist it. Welcoming and resisting reform usually happen together. Often reform is unclear. That was true for St. Francis of Assisi.
His wealthy merchant father wanted Francis to be in his business; once the life of every party, Francis’ desire changed. Things hard to name pulled at Francis. We know our reasons to be here are not ones we would voice casually or to everyone. Spiritual movements within don’t lend themselves to casual conversation. Francis divested himself of his easy life and his wealthy future because that life no longer attracted. What he would do was not clear to him.
In arundownchapelonedayFrancisexperienced some direction. He could only describe a voice urged him: ‘Repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.’ Francis took it literally and for a while rebuilt chapels.OnedayheheardthegospelrecallingJesussenthisdisciplestoproclaimGod’sreignsimply and without cost. Francis realized it was not buildings that needed repair and reform but human hearts and minds and attitudes—justasJesusurged!Francisfoundhisreforming direction and ministry;he summarized it briefly: “be simple, humble and pure.”1 PeoplesawFrancislivethose and were astonished; theyattractedmany to him.TheydesiredGodtohealandrefashiontheirhearts.
Ignatius of Loyola was fond of Francis. Reading about Francis moved him to dispose his entire being to God. His disposition included various ways to keep being disposed toward Jesus and his gospel. Ignatius discovered ways to pray and habits of prayer that he offered others. Those ways and habits of Ignatius refashion and reshape us if we give ourselves to them. We may appear no different when we return home; the ways we see the world and our roles in it will be renewed. What we see and do may even astonish us.
Acceptance and rejection; transfer of God’s reign to others; and for those receiving the gift of God’s reign a daily effort to live by Jesus’ ways and words: Sunday gospels present those as liturgical years wind down. Matthew’s gospel has been our Sunday focus. Five themes from it: forgiveness; first and last are reversed in God’s heart; two ways of twosons sound the transfer of God’s reign; those who think they deserve it violently cling to it; those who receive it—you and me—live it or lose it. Those five themes belong to two Sundays ago, today and two Sundays ahead of us.
The parable of twosons sounds the transfer of God’s reign. One said he would do—live—as his father said; he did not. The other defied his father; he later changedhismindand did—lived—as he said. The moral Jesus made clear: public sinners changedtheirminds and hearts and entered thekingdomofGodbefore the religious professionals to whom Jesus spoke his parable.
Parables provoke; they don’t explain. The shock value of this one lay in the low esteem observant people held public sinners: prostitutes as well as those who collected tribute to enrich the Roman oppressors. I can hear Jesus’ first hearers seize the voice of the prophet: Notfair! In our honest moments we silently echo the same when someone is taken ahead of us; or when someone not as deserving to get a break as us gets one. Yet are not we parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents quick to tell our young ones that life is not fair? We are correct: life is not fair; yet we do our best.
The life of faith turns not on fairness but on a gift. That gift indeed is a marvellous exchange—begun by Jesus and freely given each of us. That marvellous exchange was sung by early Christians—perhaps before St. Paul ceased persecuting Christ Jesus in his church and became his great apostle. He may have heard it often: a person with no sympathy for Christians observed they wereaccustomedtomeetonafixeddaybeforedawnandsingresponsivelyahymntoChristastoagod.1 Whenever Paul heard it, it stayed with him. He used its words in a letter to sketch Christian living: serving is the heart of community.
Donothingoutofselfishnessoroutofvainglory;rather,humblyregardothersasmoreimportantthanyourselves: that is the core of Paul’s principle of Christian living; he offered Jesus as the first of five examples of it. Jesus did not cling to his divinity as his advantage; he emptiedhimself for the sake of everyone. He model-led humility: strong and clearly knowing his purpose, Ilaydownmylifetotakeitupagain.2 Dispossessed of life by his cruel death, Jesus rose to possess all things as our living Messiah.
The impact of that on early Christians was powerful: Jesus’ emptiedhimself and rose to possess life in God. It is the strong current of the running river we name our Christian tradition: our living tradition because Jesus lives. Parish life helps us enter Jesus’ flow of living: Christian fellowship nourished by worship actively witnesseses to Jesus. Joining Jesus’ way of living lets faithful people do their best in an unfair world.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
Rest in our triune God.
Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank Jesus for sharing his life and identity as one of us.
Ask Jesus to increase our courage to stay close to him and to let us be shaped more by his humble compassion.
Close saying slowly theLord’sPrayer. Speaking his words reassures us we are intimately related to him; like him we rely on his Father and ours to shape us more like our brother, Messiah Jesus.
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
Tradition knows Bartholomew, Son of Talmai, by his personal name: Nathaniel—gift of God. Christian tradition happily fuses together both names in one person. The Fourth Gospel was more at home with his personal name. It moves us to ask Nathaniel-Bartholomew to help us be open to welcome the personal gift God desires us to enjoy.]
This selection is from the Fourth Gospel’s first chapter. Hard to miss the naming that happened in it. Naming is prominent throughout the chapter. In its second half the Baptizer began it when he spotted Jesus walk by: Behold, theLambofGod!1 Hearing the Baptizer two followed Jesus; one was Andrew. Both were first to name Jesus Rabbi: Rabbi,wheredoyoudwell?2 After a day with Jesus Andrew got his brother Simon: WehavefoundtheMessiah!3—always sought, never found. We can imagine impulsive, skeptical Simon’s reaction; yet he went! When he arrived Jesus took his turn and named Simon: Peter,4 the name by which he has been known ever after.
We celebrate Nathaniel-Bartholomew’s feast with the rest of the chapter: Philip and Nathaniel named Jesus. Philip recognized Jesus as theoneaboutwhomMoseswroteandalltheprophets testified. If Andrew’s names for Jesus shone as individual stars—Rabbi, Messiah—Jesus was for Philip their universe promised by Mosesandtheprophets. With his all-embracing name Philip sought Nathaniel and urged him to meet Jesus.
Nathaniel reacted to his companion’s urging: CananythinggoodcomefromNazareth? Some call it his prejudice. I’m unconvinced: Mediterranean people spoke in capital letters—and still do. To me Nathaniel searched for the good. This is certain: Nathaniel was honest and open. Jesus knew before he conversed with him that Nathaniel was trulyanIsraeliteinwhomthereisnodeceit:todayJesusmight say of Nathaniel,Onegetsexactlywhatonesees. Coming into Jesus’ presence Nathaniel, who sought the good, found God: Nathaniel named Jesus SonofGod and KingofIsrael. Jesus assured him that God would satisfy his longing.
The reaction of Nathaniel-Bartholomew graces us: we may name it “honest to God.” Retreat is a time to be honest about ourselves and honest to God. When we struggle with either or both we have Nathaniel-Bartholomew to intercede for us and to encourage our honesty. Our daily meeting with our spiritual directors helps us practice being open: to bring into the light every movement within us. Every movement, even difficult, frightening, desolate ones, can alert us: God desires new life to break through for us.
New life may register as a new way to be with Jesus. We can trust its freshness as we feel drawn closer to Jesus; aware he holds new significance for us; feel invited to rejoin his mission. New life may be a name Jesus desires us to know—for the first time or yet again. Retreat-silence helps us be more alert to it; and Nathaniel-Bartholomew modelsforusand helps us be both honest to God and open to the gifts God desires each of us to enjoy—gifts that are shares now in God’s abundant life we will one day share in full.
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
This gospel scene lets us see Jesus and the religious professionals opposed to him approach an issue differently. Divorce was controversial in Jesus’ time; two approaches1 to it had emerged. One approach was strict and unpopular; the other was lax and favoured by many. The devious way of Jesus’ opponents was on display: have Jesus side with the strict approach and people will turn on him; have Jesus side with the lax way, and we Pharisees can marshal our keen arguments and humiliate him. Shame terrified people in Jesus’ culture; no one wanted to be infected by another’s shame.
The Pharisees prided themselves as interpreters and strict keepers of torah, the ways of God given by God. Canonedivorce…foranycause?—their phrase as they began to test Jesus was not lost on him; it shouted that they were enamoured by legalities. Jesus noted their legal-love choked their love of God.
Jesusapproachedtheir test aswellasthepricklyissueof divorce not from what was lawful but from God, God’s desired intention for humans and what God does. The gospel is confident that Jesus knew God’s intention both in creating and in marriage, twoshallbecomeone. God’s intention is key; it eluded the Pharisees distracted by what was lawful. Distracted hearts are often hard, closed. Hardhearts readily opt for easier ways, ways that may not be in sync with God’s heart. It is ever our challenge.
What Jesus did summons our hearts. Jesus did not address divorce; the Pharisees felt the issue was legally solved. Jesus did tell God’s story of creating humans and creating the purpose of marriage. Jesus told God’s story: that is key on retreat. Some retreat and hope to solve issues; issues may not be solved here. Retreat does let us see things more clearly; retreat lets us share the vision of our triune God. A way the Trinity’s vision becomes our vision happens to us when we allow our triune God to tell us our story.
Anyone is ready to tell us who we are. Several people already have: parents; teachers; friends; coworkers—even strangers. We come to believe some of them. The truth is startling: I do not know who I am, my true self. More startling is that is true for everyone. God knows the real me, the real you because God creates us each moment.2 God reveals our true selves if we allow God.
When we let ourselves become absorbed in Jesus—especially in his life, his choices, his words that scripture offers us—when we let ourselves become absorbed in Jesus we begin to notice who we truly are: who I am not who I should be. When we let ourselves be absorbed in Jesus we grow aware of who we are in God’s heart, who we can be in and for the world. To be who we truly are, who God creates each moment, is no test. To be those God creates each moment becomes our mission—possible because we discover, know and love ourselves in sync with God’s heart and in sync with our hearts.
The church venerates the Transfiguration of the Lord deeply; so deeply that when it falls on a Sunday it replaces that celebration. We focus twice a year on Jesus’ Transfiguration: it is the gospel onLent’s Second Sunday; and each August 6 the church recalls it joyfully. In Lent the Transfiguration is the pivot on which turns the Great 40 Days: we recall Jesus transfigured to allow our risen Messiah accompany us as we give ourselves to deeper conversion to him and to his gospel way of living for and with others. Our August celebration of Jesus’ transfiguration lets us enter the mystery, behold Jesus anew, be touched and hear him saying[tous],Rise,anddonotbeafraid.
What then is this mystery? It is a gift to us as it was to Peter,JamesandJohn—and equally for MosesandElijah. MosesandElijah represented for the apostles and us thelawandtheprophets. ConversingwiththeLord is how they put their gift at the service of those who followed Jesus and his apostles. Still these are features of the mystery.
It unfolded as an altered state of consciousness. An altered state of consciousness is not sci-fi sleight of hand to distract us from God; it is real; other cultures of the world recognized these as human experiences before science did. An altered state of consciousness is a state of awareness; it differs significantly from ordinary waking consciousness. Examples include dreaming sleep; a drug-induced condition; a trance. North Americans need altered states explained because they are not common to our culture. In the bible a vision is an altered state of consciousness; so is a deep-sleep trance: God gave one to Adam when God took his rib to create Woman1; Abraham experienced a deep-sleep when God entered a covenant with him.2Ordinary waking consciousness does notalways notice what is truly real; waking consciousness is more susceptible to illusion.
When I am under the illusion that I control every aspect of my life, then I make little room for God to let me notice what God desires me to notice; to behold myself as I truly am or others as they are. This illusion is for a U.S. citizen like me Self-reliance of the most exaggerated sort. Exaggerated self-reliance functions as cataracts dimming vision, blurring sense of self as being created by God with a purpose. Exaggerated self-reliance also is content with illusion.
Jesus desired three of his apostles not to be overwhelmed by the scandal of his suffering and murderous death. The illusion was and is that nothing is beyond death. Seeing the truly real, Jesus’ life with God—glory—helped the the three apostles to make Jesus known without being afraid. What heightened awareness is ours that helps us see ourselves with Jesus? Are we aware of Jesus inviting us, reassuring us, revealing himself to us? Are we aware of Jesus commissioning us? What do all these tell us about ourselves?
Peter, James and John remained attentiveto their heightened awareness and recommended we be attentiveto ours as well. The transfiguration was for them the source and root of revelation of Jesus. Turning points in our lives may hold moments of our heightened awareness; our attention to them continues to reveal Jesus to us. His loving, encouraging radiance reveals us to ourselves, who Jesus creates each moment.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
Rest in our triune God.
Ask Peter, James and John to present you to Jesus.
Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank Jesus for moments of heightened awareness that help us know him better as well as ourselves.
Ask Jesus to increase our awareness of his presence and tobeattentivetoit.
Close saying slowly the Lord’sPrayer. His words reassures us that God creates us and supplies our needs so we make known to others Jesus who first knows us.
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
God Labors for Us
Two images from the scriptures are related in us: dwelling and net. First, dwelling. Moses visited God on the mountain. In Moses’ absence the peoplelostheart;theirmoodcausedAarontoloseheart, too.Whenweloseheartourinnervisionblurs,oursenseofourselvesdulls;yetGodlovesuswithGod’ssteadfast merciful love.To revive Aaron and the people no longer did God touch a mountain; God inhabited a dwelling among the people. By that choice God reconciled with the people; and not only then butinallthestagesoftheirjourney through life. This marked the people’s healing.
God desires the same healing,encouragement for us.By God’s healing Spirit you and I are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.1Healed by our triune God we live as agents of reconciliation for others and for all creation.
Jesus’ image of a net thrown into the sea also applies to our role in the divine desire to restore people. His image communicates more clearly when we recall Jesus spoke to fishermen and to otherswhodependedonthose whofished. The common way to fish was to hurl a net over as wide an area as possible and cover a shoal of fish. That was strenuous work, to be sure. Only latercouldonemeasuretheworthofone’seffort: separatingfishintothoseworthsellingfromfish that were not. How is that related in us?
We are involved with casting the gospel net: our choices and actions even more than our words spread Jesus’ good news to others. That is our vocation; God will see to separating the catch. We are easily tempted to want to do that as well. We prefer our timing over God’s because God’s timing rarely fits ours. Coming on retreat helps us surrender ourselves to God’s timing, which is never late.
Coming on retreat helps us renew our confidence in God, who cares now for us and will manage the future. Coming on retreat frees us to let God be God and to let us be our true selves. Coming on retreat lets us rest from casting our nets; we are free to inspect the nets of our inmost selves and let God heal and mend any tears, ease tensions our false selves fashion and strengthen stretched expanses of our hearts. Coming on retreat is our courageous response to God laboring for us. Retreat givesusglimpsesofhowGodlaborsforus2:God desires tosharedivinelifeandlovewithus;GodwelcomesustoletGodrenewourvision,rewarm our hearts and love us into the individuals God creates and redeems each moment. God extends Godself to us so that dwelling here with God will affect our world for the better.