Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday word 31 Mar 19

Lenten Sunday4 C (31 Mar 2016)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Met on the Road and at Home
“Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.”1 Pope Francis said that as he canonized a saint of the Americas. His words also describe for us the dynamic of today’s well-known parable.

Well-known does not always mean well understood. An informal survey among us could reveal different understandings of the purpose for the feast. Take a moment to decide its purpose. || The parable offers three reasons to celebrate. The compassionate father offered the first: Let us eat and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and has come back to life again; he was lost, and has been found.

A neighbourhood boy—translated as servant, but they were all busy preparing a lavish feast; and the word also means child—offered the elder son the second reason: Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he received him back in peace. In peace, someone may ask? The bible Jesus and the apostles knew had been translated into Greek. The word translated as safe and sound translated the Hebrew word shalom in some traveling narratives.2 Shalom means completeness which is far more than safe and sound. An altar in Palestine was named the Eternal One is Peace3; and the Eternal God is more and offers more than physical health.

The elder son raged at their father with his definition: He refused to recognize his brother and accused him of more than reckless living; he raged, When this son of yours came, who has consumed your estate with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ For him is a very different reason than the compassionate father and the neighbourhood boy offered. The father celebrated so the town could rejoice at his success at finding his son. The one who rejected his compassionate love threw himself into it. The neighbourhood boy knew the peace had been restored to father and younger son. In fact a Middle Eastern father would normally be stern and not compassionate, demanding and not forgiving of an insult to drop dead—give me now the share of my inheritance.

By likening himself to a “motherly father”4 Jesus was letting the Pharisees and their scribes know that God’s ways are not human ways5; his eating with sinners was Jesus catching sight of them and running to them; going out and pleading with them.

Catching sight…and running was how the father exercised compassion for the younger son. Going out and pleading was how the father exercised compassion for the elder son. Do we recognize ourselves as individuals God hastens to meet and accompany with compassion? What is our response to divine compassion? Do we let go our self-help schemes and fall into God’s compassion and let it restore us? Do we injure our relationship with God by slaving for God rather than loving God by loving others and welcoming God’s tender love?

Younger son, elder son: neither one enjoyed a filial rela-tionship with their father. One wanted it all on his terms; one also rejected love and lived as a slave. One intimately acquainted with Jesus’ parable put it crisply:  
“Grace is not only amazing; for certain types it is infuriating, and [the elder son] is one of those types.”6
Lent allows us to discover which type we are and to meet Jesus on the road of his compassionate love.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Allow our triune God to reach us and meet us.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus. 
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank him for giving us this Lent so we may meet him anew and find our true selves.
  • Ask him for grace to draw near to Jesus and celebrate his joy by how we choose and live.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Its phrases, your kingdom come, your will be done, express a desire not to grasp greedily nor flee Jesus’ loving care; and a desire to extend ourselves to others when we feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to do so.
  1. From his Homily, Canonization of Blessed Fr. Junípero Serra.
  2. Moses in LXX Exodus 4.18; David sending young men on a mission in LXX 1Samuel 25.6 (twice). Dr. Ken Bailey mentioned this translation of shalom in his study of this parable.
  3. Judges 6.24.
  4. Phrase of Dr. Ken Bailey from his video series on this parable.
  5. Isaiah 55.8-9; Ezekiel 18.29; Malachi 2.9.
  6. Dr. Ken Bailey, Prodigal Son Parable: Part 4 at 4:08.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
Wiki-images Return of the Prodigal Son PD-US; Guelph2017-99 © Damian Doyle, used with permission.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday word, 15 Mar 19

1st Lenten Friday (15 Mar 2019)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 5-day retreat
Jesus’ Standard
Over 200 times in the Bible the word righteousness appears. In the bible one who is righteous acts according to a proper standard, namely according to God’s heart. Jesus boldly urged his disciples to measure their actions by the standard of God’s heart. Many of the religious professionals used a visible standard. The Pharisees, especially, were more zealous to observe religious commands than to enjoy a heartfelt relationship with the Creator. Put another way: the Pharisees’ standard was commandments not their Giver.

It took no genius or learned skill to measure according to God’s heart. It did take faith, that proof of things not seen.1 To measure according to what we can see is easier. Some measuring is clear. For example, prohibitions are manifestly clear: do not kill. Many positive actions, though, require further interpretation and consideration how to practice them; an example, Honor your parents. The way I honoured my parents as a child was not the same way I honoured them as a teen or as an adult.

One can sincerely measure even with the wrong measure. Pharisees measured sincerely, as did Jesus: their standards differed markedly. Reshaping myself to notice I’m reaching for the wrong measure is ever a challenge. It’s easy to overlook Jesus’ persevering patience with the Pharisees—with that side of me that would rather follow my standard instead of God’s.

God’s righteousness is a gift I can be less concerned to receive—especially if I don’t cultivate a relationship with the Eternal Giver of the gift. A 1992 World in Brief item illustrated the misdirected zeal that can result.
Tenants let three apartments in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak burn while they asked a rabbi whether a call to the fire department on the Sabbath would violate Jewish tenets. Observant Jews are forbidden to use telephones on the Sabbath because to do so would involve breaking an electric current, which is considered a form of work. They are, however, permitted to break the Sabbath in case of an emergency. In the half an hour it took the rabbi to say yes, the fire spread to two neighboring apartments. No one was hurt in the blaze.2
Questioning the sincerity of those Observant Jews is wrongheaded. The news item allows us to appreciate that zeal to execute commands properly ought to be tempered with greater zeal for the good of others—each day of the week. Jesus formulated it famously: the Sabbath was made for humans; humans were not made [subservient to] the Sabbath.3

Take as you go the way Jesus was with you. Cultivate it daily. Continue to make Jesus’ patient, kind, open manner your standard. Jesus put people first. Commands helped him do that; commands never became the goal. Lent can help us be more like Jesus. Be more like Jesus: for some that can be a revolution in their hearts and minds. For others it may be a reminder. Which ever it may be, reminder or revolution: reconciliation, kindness with another and sincere openness to all creation make the altar the place to celebrate having done those noble and holy deeds and to strengthen us to continue doing them.

  1. Hebrews 11.1.
  2. Los Angeles Times Staff and wire reports, accessed 2019-12March .
  3. Mark 2.27
Wiki-images Jesus Teaching from the Mountain PD-US; Jesuit Chapel, Monmarte, Paris by Robin Craig, used with permission.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Saturday word, 09 Mar 19

Saturday after Ash Wednesday (09 Mar 2019)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Weekend retreat
Lenten Pleasure
On Ash Wednesday Jesus reminded us not to do pious acts for show. Doing noble and holy things for show is to do them without the right reason and without sincerity. Others seeing us do noble and holy things is our reward, and it is a most shallow reward. Doing holy things with sincere hearts connects us with God, opens us to welcome God’s life—which is the most exquisite reward.

Isaiah sounded this same theme: external worship alone is not to our advantage, worship with our hearts deeply involved is. Removing oppression, false accusation and malicious speech makes our hearts more supple. Supple hearts are not hard hearts, to use the scriptural phrase. Supple hearts are bright with God’s light; they welcome God nourishing us; and they connect us with God’s life.

Reconnecting with God’s life in Messiah Jesus, lavished by the Spirit, is the gift of Lent, our annual, God-given season of joy.1 Reconnecting with God’s life is our goal in the church’s Springtime.

Reshaping our schedules in order to exercise our hearts—prayer; putting the needs of others ahead of ours then sharing our wealth with the hungry, homeless and burdened—almsgiving; and keeping ourselves focused on God’s life by specific practices—fasting: are Lent’s contours.

Lent’s contours are not burdens; they are neither punitive nor crippling. Lent’s contours are exercises that return us and keep us in sync with God’s heart. Three words in today’s scripture selections confirm that God’s heart is light, supple and joyful. The words are: delight; gladden; and pleasure.

Exercising ourselves so we may be in sync with God’s heart frees us to delight in God, God’s creating ways as well as in others and ourselves. As Prophet Isaiah noted divine delight nourishes us. The Psalmist encouraged us to open ourselves so being in sync with God’s heart may gladden our inmost selves. God takes pleasure when people turn in that direction; the acclamation before the gospel echoed Prophet Ezekiel speaking on God’s behalf: I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked…but rather in their conversion.

Lent allows us to reconnect with God’s life in Messiah Jesus. Jesus’ Spirit helps us cooperate with God’s life offered us. Keep alert to how your hearts are growing more supple on your retreat and as you progress through Lent.

  1. Lenten Preface I.
Wiki-image For the poor by Deror_avi CC BY-SA 4.0; Guelph2017-1 © Damian Doyle, used with permission.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Sunday word, 03 Mar 19

Eighth Sunday of the Year C (03 Mar 2019)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Often on Our Lips
You may recall an announcement last fall: Le Grand K is being retired in May. Le Grand K is the world’s standard kilogram. Described by Simon Winchester and reported by the BBC, “the highly polished cylinder of solid metal…has defined the kilogram for over a century.”1 Kilogram redefinitions are rare; technological need prompts them. A measure more precise than Le Grand K is needed both for accuracy and for fairness in exchange wherever one is: Guelph or Geneva, Kamloops or Cameroon.

In May electro-magnetic activity will define the kilo. The definition is a function of distance and part of a fraction of a second. The distance is a metre. The metre was introduced at the end of the French Revolu-tion. It replaced the foot, which was a fraction of forearm (half-yard), and the thumb (inch). The original metre was a platinum rod put in marble. Copies were placed around Paris to standardize distance.

As humans knew more we redefined the metre: platinum length gave way to measuring radiation from another ultra-heated metal. “A certain specific number of these tiny wavelengths was… formally declared to be the metre.”2 Thirty-three years later measuring wavelengths was replaced by more accurately measured frequencies emitted from a gas.

All this reminds us that we redefine physical measures. We gather for mass not maths and physics because we want to take stock of our spiritual measure. Jesus helps us. The gospel word we translate measureby the measure you use to measure, you will be measured in return—is a standard; the word gives us our word metre.3

Instead of length Jesus used the image of a standard basket for measuring grain: filled, then shaken to hold more; then pressed down to hold still more. The way each human measures God will measure back to us. To be measured in the parlance of the bible has God as subject. When people heard this gospel proclaimed they understood: by the measure you use to measure, you will be measured [by God] in return. Jesus invites us to take our hearts’ measure and gives us his standard to do it: God’s compassion.

Jesus defined God’s compassion in last Sunday’s gospel: God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.4 God shows all compassion. God is the standard measure of compassion; Jesus is the ripe fruit of God’s compassion. Living with Jesus frees us to be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.5 God’s compassion as a Christian standard under-girds all Jesus continued to speak in today’s gospel. Compassion frees us to know with our hearts. Compassionate, God-like hearts free us to act in ways that are sweet like ripe fruit—a good person out of the store of [compassion] produces good.

Our standard of compassion—God’s compassion—is not locked in a vault the way Le Grand K spent its life. Nor is God’s compassion reser-ved to those able to measure nano-frequencies radiating from an element. Our compassion-standard is frequently on our lips: God, forgive us our sins, as we also forgive those who sin against us. Measuring, judging, with God’s heart builds up and never belittles. Living, breathing and enacting compassion transforms the world, beginning where each of us finds ourselves.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week rest in our triune God. Ask Mary to present us to her son. Chat with Jesus: ask him to give us new or renewed purpose as his disciples and to help us welcome a new measure of his life for the sake of our world. Ask Jesus for the grace to feel more deeply his compassion for us and to practice it. Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. Praying forgive us…as we forgive others transforms us into fruit that is sweet and shows others we measure with the heart of God.

  1. The 16Nov2018 posting of the BBC Focus Magazine.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Metre.
  4. Luke 6.35.
  5. Luke 6.36.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise