Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday word, 29 Jan 17

Fourth Sunday of the Year A (29 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Personal Refuge
Often a first go with Jesus’ beatitudes approaches them on our terms: our contemporary, first-world, sophisticated terms. That approach frustrates more than helps. We try to find meaning in Jesus’ hard blessings. They are hard because they conflict with our expectations: ‘I’m poor, persecuted, bereft: so I’m blessed? I sure don’t feel blessed!’ We’d rather Jesus fit our reality—as if no other way existed.

St. Paul reminded us that another way exists and is ours—God’s way in Jesus by Holy Spirit. Paul expressed the way in pairings that startle—to put it mildly. The word with which he introduced them emphasized contrast. Rather has more the feeling, Now this is how things really are with God and us:

God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus.

We are in Christ Jesus! Jesus embodied God’s compassion, and we are in risen Jesus who gives us access to God’s compassion.

Risen Jesus is our refuge. More real than our particular—often excruciating—circumstances is the person, Messiah Jesus. Jesus who is more real does not dis-count our painful circumstances. Our circumstances that diminish us or lacerate our dignity connect us with the remnant of Israel. We use the word with different meaning than what God voiced through prophets. Remnant: we hear scrap, useless remainder, leftover. What everyone overran, belittled, discarded, ignored God held dear and holds dear today. Jesus incarnated God’s heartfelt care; risen Jesus makes it available now.

A remnant found refuge in him: from Judaea and Jerusalem in the south, north to what we call Lebanon and beyond: all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics were brought to Jesus and he healed them.1 Vast in number they were belittled in the eyes of others.

Do I bring myself to Jesus? Do we bring ourselves to Jesus? Do I bring myself only in my emergencies? Or is Jesus my frequent refuge, oasis, nourishment? The question alerts me to my daily default: I want meaning more than I want a person, risen Jesus. Jesus is God’s wisdom…as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. I cannot give them to myself. Meaning cannot give me them either. Mean-ing helps me appreciate them; only Messiah Jesus can offer them to me and to you and to all.

Jesus’ blessing may not remove our circumstances. His blessing does give me a new disposition: with him, in him I can hold on to our dignity. He maintained his dignity even during insults and most undignified death. God raised up Jesus to share God’s life in God’s presence. In Jesus God does the same for us, beginning now.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for us; thank him for always caring for us even when we do not notice.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to make our refuge in him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Through it he placed himself in his Father’s care. Jesus gave his prayer to us so we may do the same.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Matthew 4.24.
Wiki-images Jesus Preaches Sermon on the Mount PD-USSpring by Gautier Poupeau CC BY 2.0 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday word, 25 Jan 17

Conversion of St. Paul, Feast (25 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
Too Real To Understand
My patron saint has been a companion from an early age. My mother recalled how she looked high and low for a statue of the Apostle Paul because I simply had to have one. Not just any statue: sacred art often depicts St. Paul holding a sword; when the sword points down it celebrates him as a martyr; when the sword points skyward it celebrates him as the Apostle to nations, who preached Christ Jesus and the power of his cross. I had to have the statue with Paul’s sword aiming upward. Such a statue graced my dresser for years; it helped me to enjoy companionship with my patron saint.

Today is not about me; it’s about you. My companion reminded me that St. Paul accompanies each Christian. He intercedes for us on retreat because he knew the need we have: to seclude ourselves for a time and do so with a purpose. We share his vocation to proclaim the Gospel to every creature; to carry [Jesus’] name to everyone. How does St. Paul help us? He reminds us retreat is God’s gift to us—our intention to come here cooperates with God’s gift to us. St. Paul also reminds that occasionally removing oneself from one’s usual pace and place leads to learn Jesus again and better. He wrote in a letter what he did when he realized God invited him to

proclaim [God’s son] to the Gentiles: I did not consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away into Arabia and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with the leaders of the apostles and of the Jerusalem church.1

St. Paul never disclosed what he did on his return to Damascus. It is reasonable to imagine he grew familiar with his new self: he had gone to Damascus with an aim to destroy Jesus’ church, a member at a time; he returned to be Jesus’ witness before all. Startlingly new!

Already your praying may have awakened you to a new thing.2 God is offering you. It may not yet be clear, but you may feel God inviting. Others may have come with some clarity concerning a desire or a need. Prayer, especially on retreat, is our opportunity to see ourselves as God sees us—with delight and loving knowledge.

Whatever is happening we don’t have to understand it; instead, we relish God’s action for us. The time to get used his new self afforded St. Paul the opportunity to be amazed at Jesus’ forgiving way and inviting Paul to be his companion on mission. In that time Paul relished what happened—he never understood it; it was too real for that. What he relished became bedrock for his life.

Our time on retreat is brief. To recognize and to relish what God is doing for us begins here. During our time after retreat God will continue what God has begun. St. Paul’s graced evolution from breathing murderous threats3 to being Jesus’ witness before all inspires us to continue to cooperate with what God is doing for each of us and to live from it.
  1. Galatians 1.16-19.
  2. Isaiah 43.19.
  3. Acts 9.1.
Wiki-image of St. Paul PD-US

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday word, 22 Jan 17

Third Sunday of the Year A (22 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Effective Remedy
The arrival of Jesus in the world was his Nativity. Not only did gospels recall light accompanied the the Nativity; the Nativity was light God shone for the world. Isaiah’s words we heard were sounded at one of the Christmas masses: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. The person of Jesus was that same light; so was his ministry. We hear the prophet’s words again. Today they are set in words that emphasize God’s desire to enlighten all peoples: Jesus embarked on his ministry by visiting the Galilee of the Gentiles. Jesus fulfilled what prophets had been given to know.

The way Jesus ministered is worth pondering. First, with John the Baptizer’s arrest Jesus came into his own: the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Matthew used that phrase to describe God’s presence Jesus announced; we’ll hear it as we follow Matthew’s gospel throughout this liturgical year. Put another way Jesus announced God’s dream for the world was dawning.

Second, Jesus ministered with others. Accomplishing tasks, announcing news, even airing grievances were done in concert with others. We who pride ourselves on individual achievement find value in team building, team work, networking and community organizing. In Jesus’ Mediterranean culture community overrode individual efforts. To aid him in his mission Jesus happened to choose fisherman first; but we know he was inclusive. He chose an activist, a minor collaborator with Rome, someone seemingly obsessed with money, two power-hungry brothers, a few quiet souls and an impulsive extrovert.

Without Jesus his chosen disciples may never have become a group. The apostolic band never would have remained together on their own. Jesus’ Holy Spirit unified them.

Holy Spirit unified all who would be baptized into Messiah Jesus. Baptism unites individuals into the body of Christ. His body was communities of Christians—from the beginning to our day. And like our day early Christians faced the challenge of dissension and fractured unity. Dissension tore the Corinthian community of Christians. Its not that Jesus’ Spirit failed them; no. Instead, some of them did not cooperate with the Spirit.

They knew divisions rather that sharing the mind of Christ and his purpose. The divisions were expressed as cliques and certain behaviours and even as rivalries centred on certain preachers. St. Paul wrote them and asked a question that expected the answer No: Is Christ divided?

The long-lived scandal is that Christians are divided. The Church invites worldwide prayer each January for the healing of divisions among Christians and a unity in risen Jesus. Pope Francis encourages one powerful remedy to disunity—common service in the name of Jesus and his gospel: “When we work, pray and serve the needy together, we are already united.”1 To cooperate with one another in good works we continue the ministry of Jesus; we promote the light of his mission and its service to all, especially those at the edges of societies. Jesus’ friends grow to be inclusive as he was. Gospel service not only draws Christians closer; gospel service cooperates with God’s dream for all. Jesus expressed it this way: that they may be one, just as we [Father] are one.2

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Become aware of the Divine Persons embracing you with loving delight.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for us; thank him for welcoming us to share in his mission to make known his Father and his Father’s dream for all people, for all creation.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to announce him by all our choices, actions and speech.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His prayer is unifying because all Christians revere it. It recognizes God is the source of all things; that includes God’s gift of Christian unity with which we cooperate to make it real and keep it real.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Summary of his address to Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
  2. John 17.11.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday word, 15 Jan 16

Second Sunday of the Year A (15 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
John the Baptizer called attention to Jesus; he pointed out Jesus: Look, the Lamb of God is Jesus not I. John did not call attention to himself; John called attention to Jesus.

It is easy to gloss over that: John called attention to Jesus. We are to call attention to Jesus by our choices. It is easy to believe that the Christian goal is to focus solely on Jesus with this result: I notice nothing else—the world, others, even myself. God does call a fraction of people to such contemplative living; their praying is powerful for the world and church; yet God calls only a fraction to be in the world that way. The rest of us are in the world with a mission to change it.

That means the rest of Christians have a vocation to live in ways that announce Jesus. To choose in ways that shout, Look: notice Jesus! To act in ways that shout, Look: notice Jesus! To speak in ways that shout, Look: notice Jesus! Each individual’s vocation commences with baptism.

John’s preaching held others’ attention. Many felt he was the one on whom to hang their hopes and give their hearts. John intently called attention to Another not himself. As the church began to take root among the gentiles St. Paul felt the same risk; some treated him the way others treated John the Baptist. St. Paul wrote the Corinthians and reminded them: I give thanks [to God] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say you were baptized in my name.1 Paul baptized only one household to begin the Christian church on the Greek mainland; after that he resumed his role of preaching Christ’s cross and providing for himself.2

Preaching includes words, to be sure. Preaching Messiah Jesus goes beyond words: our choices and our actions preach him, too. When we choose to put another’s interest ahead of ours, we preach Jesus. When we act in ways that respect another’s value and dignity, we preach Jesus. When we dialogue with open minds and hearts and work together, we preach Jesus. When we live simply so that creation suffers less by our choices and at our hands, we preach Jesus. When we a willing to love, we preach Jesus. When we allow others to love us, we preach Jesus.

Nourished by his body and blood we are light to the nations just as Jesus is. Until Jesus’ return in glory the church points out Jesus; the church is each member of his body in our world.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Become aware of the Divine Persons embracing you with loving delight.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for us; thank him for welcoming us to share in his mission to make known his Father and his Father’s dream for all people, for all creation.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to announce him by all our choices, actions and speech.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us so we might point others to him.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. 1Corinthians 1.14-16.
  2. 1Corinthians 4.12; 1Thessalonians 2.9.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Sunday word, 08 Jan 17

Solemnity of the Epiphany (08 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Another Way”
Everything in scripture is for us: to help us live as friends and disciples of Jesus. The gospels do narrate Jesus’ life; they paint portraits of him with words. In addition to scenes of his life, people and especially their responses show us how to live and not live our Christian lives. The familiar account of the wise men from the east is for us. Their last response captured me: being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another way. First their dream, then their response.

Dreams were a favoured way God communicated. Before we met the wise men God had already communicated to Joseph in a dream: that he could take Mary to be his wife. After the visit of the wise men, in dreams God would com-municate to him where to take Mary and the child Jesus and flee to safety; when to return to their land; and where to live.1 The wise men searched for a true royal, one who would respond to their deepest needs: they had come to worship him. They recognized in the humble child one who surpassed in dignity every worldly monarch; and they responded with their worship and gifts.

We may say these three had had dealings with God. They were desire-dealings: their deep desires vibrated with God’s desire for them; more than focusing on a star, a star focused their individual desires and transformed them into a shared desire; this light of God caused their desires to continue to throb and overflow and emboldened them to journey far by its radiant light.

Their search was not private. At their audience with Herod they boldly asked him, Jerusalem’s scribes and priests, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him. Herod was a foreigner, a puppet-king Rome let rule Jerusalem. Everyone knew Herod was an illegiti-mate king.He feared the power that made him king, and he feared any who threatened his rule. Herod also knew that people he ruled longed for a Messiah; God had promised them one. The scribes and priests knew the scriptures, but they could not interpret their true king had arrived.2 As for Herod, he would not even let a royal title escape his lips: Go and search diligently for the child, he told the wise men. And they did.

After finding the child Jesus they were warned…not to return to Herod, [and] they left for their own country by another way. The word we translate as to warn also means to have dealings with. Our dealings with God call us to behave differently: for example, to be honest, when shading the truth may make us look better; to choose silence instead of joining in ridicule or gossip; to share our resources rather than hoarding them; to make time and space for God and others rather than just ourselves. To put into action God’s dealings with us and our dealings with God is how we are children of light. To refuse to put into action God’s dealings with us and our dealings with God is to return to darkness. St. Paul urges us, once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. To live that way is not out of reach, for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.3 

Goodness, righteousness and truth. Practicing them—that is, living another way, Jesus’ way—we reach our true homeland.4 Responding each day with that other way, Jesus’ way, also is how we shine as light of the world5 so others may see and know Jesus more clearly until his return.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the wise men to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for being born human for you; thank him for sharing his spirit with us so we may shine brightly, pointing out Jesus by out choices and actions.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to shine as his disciples throughout this year.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It is the gospel in its essence. Each time we say it we learn better Jesus and his way, and we grow more courageous to live it.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Matthew 1.20; 2.13; 2.19, 22.
  2. Jesus would say so later in his ministry: Matthew 16.3.
  3. Ephesians 5.8-9.
  4. Philippians 3.20.
  5. Matthew 5.14-16

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Sunday word, 01 Jan 17

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God (01 Jan 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Relationship, Birth, Remembering
A look at liturgies of the early Roman church help us appreciate ours today. Rome’s primary and only festival of Mary native to it was the motherhood of God.1 This liturgy absorbed other themes as the feast spread and time progressed. The Second Vatican Council and the recent revision of the Roman Missal restored the original focus. Our scriptures offer us some helps to restore us and move us forward into a new year. Here are three helps.

The reading from the Book of Numbers closed with the phrases: invoke [the Lord’s] name upon the Israelites and [the Lord] will bless them. To know someone’s name meant a person was no stranger; they enjoyed a relationship. Wanting to know someone’s name recurs in scripture. When Jacob dreamed of a heavenly visitor, Jacob wanted to know the visitor’s name.2 When God sent Moses to free his people, Moses need to know the name of the One who sent him.3 With us its different: if I told you a stranger wants to lead you home, you’d be more than skeptical.

Giving a name is more sacred than knowing one. Think of parents choosing names for their children. Think of Mary and Joseph doing so for their son. Each was told name him Jesus.4 As we recall Mary today we can ask her to intercede for us truly to know ourselves as God creates us and let God enter our freedom. In each one’s freedom relationships begin and continue to grow life-giving. Our triune God desires us to look forward in the new year to deeper, more life-giving relationships with Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

A second help is Mary’s willingness. Mary’s willingly  allowed God into her freedom; that makes her a hinge: the hinge of our redemption. We call the Nativity of Jesus, the Word of God become flesh for us, the beginnings of our redemption5; and the beginnings of grace.6 Jesus’ birth makes us heirs to God’s life in Jesus by Holy Spirit. His birth revolves around Mary. She gave birth to God in our humanity; our vocation is to give birth to God. We give birth to God as we practice our faith. The faith we practice is Jesus’ faith, his relationship with God, whom he called his Abba, Father.

It is possible to live Jesus’ faith and make it ours because Jesus gives his Spirit to all who accept him. That summarized what St. Paul preached in Galatia. He preached Jesus to them. They had accepted Jesus and received his Spirit.7 Then they rejected their experience! Paul wrote them to help them accept Jesus again.

We may not reject our experience of Jesus’ Spirit; we do get distracted from it. The ways of distraction are many: some may be our choosing; the ways our world suffers may distract us; so, too, the ways our culture clamors for our attention. Our eyes on Mary offer us a third help: All who heard…what had been told them…about this child…by the shepherds…were amazed. …Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Mary’s reflective attitude is that help.

She and Joseph and their child were not in glorious circumstances; yet, she returned in her mind to the promise of her son, his birth and on the first ways God was making good on God’s promise. If anyone wants to make a Catholic resolution for 2017, Mary modeled it: revisit your experiences of Jesus’ spirited love and faith guiding you and promising to accompany you each moment of the new year. With each revisiting resolve to live out of your relationship with him.

Relationship, birth, daily remembering more than highlight Mary’s motherhood. To deepen our relationship with our triune God; to give birth to Jesus by lively faith; and daily to remember how Jesus graces us with his Spirit will keep us close to Jesus and make us more eloquent messengers of his good news in 2017.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for being born human for you; thank him for dying and rising for you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace of patient reliance on him throughout this year.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words were the fruit of his parents’ teaching and example. Praying them continues to shape us as his disciples today.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Fr. Kevin Irwin, Sunday Worship: A Planning Guide to Celebration. New York: Pueblo, 1983, p. 52.
  2. Genesis 32.30.
  3. Exodus 3.13.
  4. Joseph in Matthew’s gospel; Mary in Luke’s.
  5. Prayer after Communion, Vigil Mass of Christmas, Roman Missal.
  6. Prayer Over the Offerings today’s.
  7. Galatians 3.1-5.