Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday word, 28 Jan 18

Fourth Sunday of the Year B (28 Jan 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Welcome In
Streak and spirit: specifically, mean streak and unclean/evil spirit. Let’s see if this approach  helps us enter the gospel and not analyze it: to appropriate it rather than critique it.

A developed-world attitude approaches scripture with a scepticism that may be described as heady: it tries to explain what happened rather than be amazed or astonished. Amazed has the texture of being startled, at a loss for words, of feeling touched within. Its touch registers as impressed, moved, stirred, excited, inspired, awakened and more. Beyond my thoughts my heart is engaged; all of me is. We know we are more than a bundle of parts.

This mystery we humans are is always elusive. We approach it when we recognize that one-self or another has a mean streak. The phrase lacks scientific accuracy, yet its deeper accuracy satisfies: a person—self or another—is in the grip of that which is not friendly, not life-giving. A mean streak distorts personality. This is our language, and we are satisfied it communicates truth. Operations don’t remove mean streaks; they are not physical, yet we know they are real. The intervention of another delivers us with an offer of healthy life if we cooperate with the offer.

This may help us turn to the gospel. Jesus confidently spoke of God. His confidence and his expression—teaching of God & God’s desire—was attractive. His hearers noted Jesus had an authentic feel the scholars of the Mosaic law did not. The difference they noted between scribes and Jesus beckoned more; they were astonished. At a deeper level of self, deeper  than obvious knowing they were moved, stirred, excited, inspired, awakened. Would they move with that interior invitation or would they resist?

Resistance was in their midst. Resistance, opposition to all that was life-giving, to God: among them was one with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” The stakes there were not only human; they involved the divine:  the Holy One of God and spirits opposed to God.

Unclean spirit was the language of Jesus’ contemporaries. They recognized one can be in the grip of power opposed to God. It was more than human, more than a mean streak. Greater than human intervention could deliver the one in their synagogue; and Jesus delivered the person!

Again the question applied: Would they move with that interior invitation or would they resist? Would they accept the invitation Jesus voiced? To trust that God is hear now, for me, is not identical to spreading the news of what Jesus did for another.

That difference rests in two convictions: God cannot possibly be here; and God is truly here. ‘God cannot be here,’ flows from a closed self, a hardened heart in the Psalmist’s phrase; one refuses to be delivered by God to true life. An open self, a healed, supple, converted heart allows one to echo Jesus, God is truly here. We grow aware that what Jesus has…to do with us is to deliver us, free us from resisting to let him create us to be our true selves. Returning often to being astonished at Jesus’ desire for us is how we let down our defences and let Jesus in.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the communion of saints to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for revealing God’s welcome and constant care.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to reorient ourselves and open our hearts to him.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy will be done, reassure that God desires great things for us and all people.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday word, 27 Jan 18

Third Saturday of the Year (27 Jan 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day, Directed Retreat
Commitment of the Heart
A scripture-snippet may become one’s prayer during retreat. Even outside retreat hearing snippets of scripture allows us to mull over what we hear and apply it to ourselves. A snippet may be a detail that at first glance seems insignificant. Some details help us appreciate Jesus and others in scripture on the way to appreciating ourselves. Just as he was is a detail today: [the disciples] took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.

Over 3 days at mass we heard Jesus embark on his parable-teaching. What we heard over 3 days together describe a single day in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was in a boat moored at the shore for much of it. He continued to teach the Twelve and those with them until evening. After a day of preaching then coaching the Twelve came the detail just as he was. It suggests tired, hungry, a bit smelling of fish and maybe damp.

Just as he was is no throwaway line. It helps us appreciate Jesus asleep. It helps us appreciate the disciples afraid: of the violent squall; the wind and sea; that Jesus was oblivious to them; and in awe when Jesus stilled wind and sea. They did not yet know Jesus: Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey? By this episode one would expect that they would know him. The reason readers of the gospel would expect that? Because the beginning of the gospel presented Jesus as the son of God.

As the gospel unfolded the human Jesus was a spiritual force demonic spirits recognized; with a word Jesus dealt with them. The disciples had witnessed Jesus confront demonic spirits. That day in the boat Jesus commanded the elements the same way, but the disciples didn’t know Jesus: Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey? Jesus’ question to them is a refresher for us: Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?

Fear and faith: they are not enemies. Fear lets us realize faith is not about abstract ideas; it involves feelings. Fear is an unpleasant emotion that stirs when we feel for our safety and well-being. Faith is also felt: it is commitment of the heart. Faith grasps the mystery of Jesus who is life-giving spiritual power in flesh and blood.

This is not foreign. Faith in another is felt-knowledge. As a child I did not have words to say I had faith in my parents, sister and grandmother, that I trusted them; I did. I did not have words to say they were committed to me; I did feel their affectionate care. When it comes to our triune God: one may not feel God’s commitment; for another it my be unfamiliar. Faith—commitment of one’s heart: we grow into faith all life long. Like learning another person faith is relationship. Jesus demonstrated God desires a relationship with us; reciprocating just as we are delights God. The gospel shows the disciples grew in their faith in fits and starts. It is the same for us. How might we grow in faith?

Let the foreign grow familiar. Until we spend time with another the person remains foreign to us. Spend time with Jesus, the mystery of God with us. Retreat lets us do that in a steady fashion. We grow more familiar with Jesus; we get into his skin; take on his attitude; feel our hearts meet. Graces like those we receive for us; we receive them to nourish our hearts and spirits beyond retreat. Cultivating what we receive on retreat makes the familiar friendly. Foreign become familiar, and familiar become friendly let us commit our hearts to Jesus more readily—or at least desire that.

Make the foreign familiar and make the familiar friendly describe what the disciples did. When we make the foreign familiar and make the familiar friendly we learn Jesus better; we take Jesus with us; and we are more free to bring Jesus to others.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday word, 21 Jan 18

Third Sunday of the Year B (14 Jan 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
New Thing
I’d like to focus on the opening words of today’s gospel selection. I quickly pass over them and get to the action of Jesus calling his first disciples. Jesus calling them, you and me is important. Focus on the words leading up the action reminds us what God’s news is about and what is costs us.

I paused at the opening words of today’s gospel selection because a word echoed: gospel. Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. With that word Mark began his portrait of Jesus: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Jesus began to announce God’s good news—gospel—as the Baptizer had: repent. The evangelist reminds that Jesus began his ministry of proclaiming the gospel of Godafter John had been arrested. That took courage; Jesus risked arrest to call for repentance. Religion and its experience involve the whole person. Our separation of religion to a private realm life intended to ensure people’s freedom to worship; over time that intention has separated us from ourselves.

God’s news that Jesus announced was about making accessible God’s creating and restoring way: the time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God has come near. Jesus used the language of his day: kingdom was a monarch’s realm; it embodied a monarch’s project for his rule. The deeper reality was not about space—God has come near as though once God was distant; the deeper reality Jesus announced was these: God was welcoming and God’s creative project was available. Welcoming and available to all were new religious textures; Jesus embodied both.

Jesus welcomed everyone. Many in his day could not afford religious practices that the religious professionals endorsed. They announced their ways with fanfare that drowned the ways scripture accommodated the poor and those less well-off. The religious professionals aped separateness—holy means set apart—rather than live differently to attract others to God. Jesus welcoming way attracted people to God.

Jesus drew people to him so they might enjoy personal assurance of God’s intimacy. He also chose people to do what he did. All Jesus required was that others repent: to open their hearts and reorient themselves to God creating each moment. This was also a risk. If it didn’t entail the possibility of arrest, it was new. In his culture novelty was suspect. Religions of every sort passed on ancient, ancestral customs and learning. In everything old was better than new.

Yet new circumstances constantly present them-selves, and people did adjust and adapt—even the religious professionals. People who began to find their voices noticed Jesus’ new ways: his were a new teaching with authority!1 They experienced God indeed is among us and for us.

Tradition and novelty coexist. It challenges us;  but Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and for all time, is forever doing a new thing.2 Repent opens us to Jesus as truly among us and guiding us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for announcing God’s welcome and constant care.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to reorient ourselves and open our hearts more to him.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy will be done, reassure that God desires great things for us and all people.
  1. Mark 1.27.
  2. Hebrews 13.8; Isaiah 43.19.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-image Jesus Calls Peter and Andrew PD-US; Walking Refle-ction © Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday word, 14 Jan 18

Second Sunday of the Year B (14 Jan 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Attraction and Calling
The Sunday liturgies allow one gospel to unfold throughout a year. From the earliest days of Christian worship the Gospel of John was read in much of Lent and Easter; it still is. The church has given a year each to the other three. This year is the Gospel of Mark; but we just heard from the Gospel of John!

The reason is this: Mark’s is the shortest gospel. Not counting the Sundays of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter the Sundays of the Year number 34. Mark’s gospel is too short to cover the Sundays of the Year. Selections of John’s Gospel supplement the shortest gospel to cover all the Sundays of the Year. It is not mere filler: it also testifies to Jesus, whose human birth in time we celebrated once again. We have considered again that he, too, was born with a purpose. Each liturgical year allows us to feel more keenly that Jesus ministers to us and people of every age and place. This gospel lets us notice two of those ways: attracting and calling.

Jesus makes his appearance in the second-half verses of the first chapter of John’s Gospel: he is an adult who began his ministry by attracting and calling disciples. A disciple wanted more than to learn what a rabbi knew; a disciple was more than a student and a rabbi more than a teacher. A disciple wanted to live like and be like the one that the disciple admired. Some admirers of great ones who lived the scriptures were turned away—they didn’t have the potential. Some were called, follow me. Nor did many rabbis seek and call disciples; that made Jesus an exceptional rabbi.

Andrew and his friend were attracted to Jesus: Rabbi…where are you staying? They wanted to join Jesus to live like him. Jesus did not turn them away. Jesus recognized the potential Andrew and his friend had for the mission Jesus had.

Calling and being called also involved naming. Andrew and his friend identify Jesus as a great one who lived scripture: rabbi is a title of respect. Andrew also renamed Jesus to his brother: when he sought Simon after spending time with Jesus Andrew identified Jesus to his brother as Messiah, God’s anointed. On meeting Simon Jesus named him Kephas, rock.

A detail adds to this disciple-calling/naming. The common Hebrew name Simon meant he has heard. How does this detail help us? Divine calling can be direct: as it was for Samuel in the first reading. God can also call through others: John pointed out Jesus to Andrew; later Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus. Most of us have been introduced to Jesus by our ancestors in faith. A gospel portrait of Jesus, an icon or image of Jesus, even a prayer we heard or learned may have fostered in us an attraction to Jesus.

Attraction and calling are two sides of the coin we call discipleship. Disciples desired to be like the ones they admired. Worship and personal praying allow us to go beyond admiring Jesus; worship and personal praying allow us to be absorbed in Jesus. Being absorbed in Jesus lets us be aware that as his body was the temple—the locus of divine presence—so are we. To be absorbed in Jesus is, as St. Paul wrote the Corinthians and others, to have the mind of Christ.1 To have the mind or attitude of our Messiah is a beginning; making it attractive to others by our Christian living is our lifelong vocation.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Andrew, Simon Peter and John to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for inviting us to share his life; consider what attracts us to Jesus.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to respond more freely to his constant invitation to share his life and mission.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. The prayer he gave us helps us share his mind and attitude and to live it.
  1. 1Corinthians 2.16; in Philippians 2.5 attitude well captures Paul’s meaning.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Monday, January 01, 2018