Friday, August 25, 2017
Thursday, August 24, 2017
Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (24 Aug 2017)
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, the Lamb of God!1 Hearing the Baptizer two followed Jesus; one was Andrew. Both were first to name Jesus Rabbi: Rabbi, where do you dwell?2 After a day with Jesus Andrew got his brother Simon: We have found the Messiah!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 the one about whom Moses wrote and all the prophets testified. If Andrew’s names for Jesus shone as individual stars—Rabbi, Messiah—Jesus was for Philip their universe promised by Moses and the prophets. With his all-embracing name Philip sought Nathaniel and urged him to meet Jesus.
Nathaniel reacted to his companion’s urging: Can anything good come from Nazareth? 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 truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit: today Jesus might say of Nathaniel, One gets exactly what one sees. Coming into Jesus’ presence Nathaniel, who sought the good, found God: Nathaniel named Jesus Son of God and King of Israel. 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 models for us and 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.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Nineteenth Friday of the Year (18 Aug 2017)
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. Can one divorce…for any cause?—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.
Jesus approached their test as well as the prickly issue of 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, two shall become one. God’s intention is key; it eluded the Pharisees distracted by what was lawful. Distracted hearts are often hard, closed. Hard hearts 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.
- A brief summary.
- I am indebted to Jesuit George Schemel and Judith Roemer for this acute insight.
Sunday, August 06, 2017
Transfiguration of the Lord Year A (06 Aug 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
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 on Lent’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 [to us], Rise, and do not be afraid.
What then is this mystery? It is a gift to us as it was to Peter, James and John—and equally for Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah represented for the apostles and us the law and the prophets. Conversing with the Lord 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.2 Ordinary waking consciousness does not always 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 attentive to their heightened awareness and recommended we be attentive to 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 to be attentive to it.
- Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words reassures us that God creates us and supplies our needs so we make known to others Jesus who first knows us.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
Thursday, August 03, 2017
Seventeenth Thursday of the Year (03 Aug 2017)
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 people lost heart; their mood caused Aaron to lose heart, too. When we lose heart our inner vision blurs, our sense of ourselves dulls; yet God loves us with God’s steadfast 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 but in all the stages of their journey 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.1 Healed 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 others who depended on those who fished. 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 later could one measure the worth of one’s effort: separating fish into those worth selling from fish 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 gives us glimpses of how God labors for us2: God desires to share divine life and love with us; God welcomes us to let God renew our vision, 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.
__________Wiki-image by BigBrotherMouse Casting a net CC BY-SA 3.0
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Pope Francis recalled that light is integral to the church’s vocation:
“What does it mean to be Christian?” The pope asked. “It means looking at the light, continuing to profess our faith in the light, even when the world is enveloped by night and darkness.”
Francis then offered a positive connotation for a word often perceived as negative: “The life of the Church is a contamination of light.”
___________________Wiki-image by Pirnscher Mönch of Lilienstein-sonnenaufgang CC BY-SA 3.0