Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday word, 15 Jul 2018

Fifteenth Sunday of the Year B (15 Jul 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Gospel Transforming
Today’s Word seems to point in too many directions at once: Amos was one of the prophets; Jesus sent his apostles to prepare his way by preaching repentance; St. Paul praised and thanked God in an extended way in his letter to the Ephesians. Let me offer what the readings share and how they encourage our Christian outlook.

The first reading and the gospel share this: God chose and continues choosing unprepossessing people like us to advance God’s desire for our world. Take Amos. He was a shepherd and pruner of trees. The priest Amaziah was royal chaplain; he focused more on keeping the court cool than on God’s desire for God’s people. Then as now to keep close to God’s heart does “challenge us and [and may] demand a real change in the way [we] live.”1 God called someone open to God’s desire—Amos—to announce God’s desire instead of a professional religious line that would not promote true growth. What better way to begin than for Amos to go the king with God’s message?

Jesus called ordinary people—fishermen; an activist; one despised for colluding with Roman occupiers; another swayed by money; all seekers of God’s desire. After they had been with him a while Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick. Jesus sent them to join his work to announce God’s desire in deed: they exercised authority over unclean spirits as Jesus did; they made God’s presence felt. Both the journey and unclean spirits deserve comment.

Ancients recognized nonhuman beings and ranked them according to power: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; other gods, archangels, angels, spirits. Unclean spirits disturbed human well-being in all manners of ways. Jesus kept authorizing his apostles with power over unclean spirits throughout their tour.

We miss how extraordinary was the authority Jesus gave them if we think in our North American ways. You and I think nothing of traveling; yet in the ancient Mediterranean one would not travel unless one had to leave one’s extended family and the village: both provided a social network and the necessities of daily living. To accept Jesus’ authority challenged what the apostles knew about safety and prudently staying safe. Sending them two by two was more than a strategy. Two by two let each be for the other an extension of their apostolic family: the social network Jesus established with them.  That was more vital than being six pairs carrying Jesus’ message in six different directions at once. In a word, the apostles had all they needed both to perform the mission on which they went and to weather unexpected events along their way. Jesus made his authority their authority, something they could not give themselves.

Jesus sends us on his mission: we make him known by our choices and our actions. Like the first apostolic pairs we receive what we need. St. Paul expressed it this way: The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. While we may not feel all their effects now, they are ours. Trusting our Creator and Redeemer changes our outlook. We are what we are now; what we are now need not paralyze us from becoming who God creates each moment. We have been baptized into Christ Jesus “to bring[] the gospel and holiness to [all], and [transform all] things through the spirit of the gospel.”Our baptisms in Christ are our power and our authority to do that. 

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God.
  • Ask the apostles to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; speak any hesitation to be his apostle today.
  • Entrust ourselves to Jesus and ask for the grace to infuse our world with Jesus’ Spirit by how we live.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer: it is our going-on-mission prayer. Praying it keeps us close to the apostles, whose mission we extend as we put into practice our hope,  faith and love.
  1. Pope Francis, “On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World,” 66.
  2. Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity 2. The Abbott translation was used above.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Daily word, 28 Jun 18

Memorial of St. Irenaeus (28 Jun 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., close 8-day retreat
Acting on God’s Desire
This gospel selection concludes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; we began it at weekday masses earlier this month. It assembles sayings of Jesus into his programmatic announcement of the kingdom of heaven Jesus had come to proclaim.1 The image of kingdom does not speak to us as it did to Jesus and his contemporaries. Jesus’ image need not blind us to his intent. Jesus did not reverse God’s desire to welcome people into a sovereign relationship; today fewer people imagine God as a sovereign.

That fact challenged me: I’m a U.S. citizen, and I speak about monarchs in Canada. Canada’s relationship with the monarch of England is unlike mine: she is Canada’s queen, though her relationship with Canada has evolved. Does it help us appreciate Jesus’ intent? Two months ago Queen Elizabeth told the Commonwealth, “It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and…I am reminded of the extraordinary journey we have been on, and how much good has been achieved.”2 Her wish to continue to offer and to achieve good for the peoples of Commonwealth nations anyone can appreciate. To offer and achieve good our Creator and Redeemer desires, too. Jesus announced the divine desire in deed and word. Unlike any monarch Jesus is our access to divine desire.

His Sermon on the Mount announced the divine desire for each person, peoples together and all creation. The community to whom Matthew wrote his gospel heard risen Jesus speak directly to them. Retreat offers us rest, time, space and quiet to hear Jesus speak directly to us. The desires of God we hear Jesus announce were not of human origin. The desires Jesus announced were divine. Because they are God’s God is their measure. What God offered each of us through the words of scripture and the book of creation calls us to measure ourselves with God’s measure of compassion and kind care.

At the same time that retreat allows us to notice with keener clarity risen Jesus communicating directly to us, retreat also calls us to act on what we notice. I'll let Jesus say it: Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise [person] who built [a] house on rock. ...And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built [a] house on sand.

Jesus encourages us to act. Jesus interpreted in his person the desires God dreams for all people. What Jesus has given us on retreat is personal; it is not for us to keep private. Jesus gave us our retreat graces to help us join his mission. Each of us is pregnant with God’s graciousness. God’s graciousness given us is our personal part to play with God for our world: to use Queen Elizabeth’s phrase, God’s “sincere wish” for the sake of all creation.

I’m convinced retreat graces commence after retreat ends, and we return to our homes and day to day routines. I’m convinced that ours is to act on the graces lavished on us. We return on the Memorial of St. Irenaeus; it’s a grace for us because Irenaeus desired to win over those who scoffed at Christian truth; he was not compelled to prove them wrong. He is a great intercessor for us who have a felt-knowledge of God’s dream. God desires to win more people to God’s dreaming; God chooses us to make God’s dream more alive where we live.

  1. Matthew 4.17.
  2. The Queen opened the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) with this brief address.
Wiki-image Jesus traveling PD-US

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday word, 17 Jun 18

Eleventh Sunday of the Year B (17 Jun 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Relationship Tracing
In North America a phrase captures investigating minds: Follow the money. It seems to have entered English after Bob Woodward urged Senator Sam Ervin to trace “secret campaign cash.” Tracing it got to the bottom of the 1972 Washington, D.C., Watergate burglary. I was young that summer; its events made me a tracer ever since. I did tracing of a different sort: trees; I traced trees in scripture to follow God through our readings.

On Sundays the Gospel selection fulfills the Old Testament selection. Trees are key: Ezekiel used a cedar tree to prophesy that God would save a remnant. God would transplant those the Babylonian king had forced from their homeland and restore the house of David. God desired the people Israel be a home for others: a tender shoot (remant Israel God would) plant…It shall put forth branches and bear fruit…Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath itLiving God’s desire God’s people would become majestic. It didn’t begin majestic.1

My tree-tracing led beyond our first reading and gospel. The bible symbolized people with trees and; vines. In addition to the responsorial, the First Psalm imaged a godly person like a tree: planted by streams of waters that produces its fruit in its season.2 Another psalm echoed Prophet Isaiah singing of God’s people: O God of hosts, restore us….You brought a vine out of Egypt…and planted it. You cleared out what was before it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered by its shadow, the cedars of God by its branches.3 

Trees and vine stand for people; Jesus likened us to branches on a vine—himself.4 Trees and vines bear fruit; our fruit is our behaviour and actions. We imitate Jesus who is lavish and ever-creative even when we don’t notice: people would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow [and people] know not how…the earth automatically yields fruit. It is less about knowing than about the growing-process that happens independently from us.

God’s desire for the world—kingdom image fit the ancient Mediterranean better than our world—God’s desire Jesus announced with his parables. The mustard seed containing its entire bush indicates God’s desire is among us more than we may think: seed-becoming-bush points to God independently, freely loving us into being each moment.

Jesus welcomed people to walk with him and meet this ever-planting, ever cultivating Gardener-God he called his dear Father. We understand Jesus’ welcome implies more than stepping. St. Paul used it in that richer sense: we walk by faith. Faith shapes our ways in the world—we live by faith.

Faith is our relationship with risen Jesus; our relationship with Jesus affects our lives and shapes how we are in the world. Our heartfelt stirrings let us trace other relationships in our lives. Sharing the faith of Jesus is similar: our share in Jesus’ faith lets us notice how we are with God and God with us. It’s a mutual tracing; we may allow only half of it to happen: I trace how I am with God but give little time and quiet to seek God’s presence. To seek it lets God be present to us, lets God trace us, draw us, plant the tender shoot that I am and each of us is. Any fruit our lives may bear is gift: God’s yield of fruit in me, in you, in us. We’ll never get to the bottom of God’s graciousness to us; yet savouring God’s fruitful gifts in us is more than enough.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and our patron saints to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for inviting us to join his journey of faith.
  • Ask Jesus for grace and courage to allow God to draw you, to plant you, to nourish you in this life’s garden.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer: the prayer Jesus gave us helps us savour the fruit God yields in us and share it more freely with others.
  1. Deuteronomy 7.6-7.
  2. Psalm 1.3.
  3. Psalm 80.8-11; Isaiah 5.1-7; 27.2-5. It was a favourite image of others prophets: Jeremiah; Hosea; Jesus.
  4. John 15:1-17.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-images by Liné1 Cedrus libani CC BY-SA 3.0; by Reji Jacob Mustard flower CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Sunday word, 03 Jun 18

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (B) (03 Jun 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Water-Jar Living
The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus provides us with a liturgical coda before we resume the numbered Sundays of the Year. In music a coda concludes a movement and adds to the basic musical structure. This solemnity is like a coda: it urges us to give ourselves to the One whose suffering, dying, rising and exaltation to share the very life of God we’ve celebrated in the Lent-Easter season; our Messiah Jesus’ Body and Blood has shaped us and will continue to shape us differently and anew in our futures. This year our scripture selections invite us to ponder Jesus’ Eucharist by noting covenant and remembering.

Very briefly about covenant: an ancient Middle East covenant was a relationship of unequals, the greater provided for the lesser partner. In return for protection or for use of water of an oasis, say, the one who offered privileges expected loyalty as well as tribute in return. That’s the covenant-significance of the people’s acclamation to Moses, All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.

Jesus’ entire ministry prepared and shaped his disciples to live their covenant with God more wholeheartedly. Loving God and loving others summarized covenant-living. Two phrases that challenge us all.

At the end of his life, dining at their most sacred meal, Jesus transformed covenant by giving his disciples himself: he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

His phrase, blood of the covenant, would not have sounded at all strange to his disciples. Biblical covenants were ratified in blood. Blood readily evokes death in our minds, but not to the Semitic mind, to Jesus’ mind! Jesus offered his disciples himself! Jesus, who transformed the covenant, asked his followers to remember him each time they broke bread and shared a blessing cup of wine.

Ancient Middle Eastern remembering was much richer than recall. Recall retrieves a fact, a face, a phone number: in short, recall retrieves data. Our liturgical remembering is not data-recall. Our remembering here makes present an event that has occurred.

Our liturgical remembering keeps Jesus present in our midst and within us. Our liturgical remembering dissolves distance between us and Jesus and his first disciples: we eat with those who ate with Jesus at his last Passover meal. As we eat with them the new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood emerges for us. It invites us to imitate his pattern of living; more wholeheartedly and more freely to honour God and respect and care for creation, for all people, especially those in need.

The new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood, his very life we drink at his altar, invites us to that action. Our longings to act and to enjoy partners who act as Jesus are gracious gifts of our Creator and Redeemer! We’re well aware our graced longings clash with other longings: to live more conveniently; not to be bothered; desiring to be the centre of our universes. When that clash exists, when we feel it inside, when we’d rather not do the Christian thing because we’ll stand out or look odd: we will love God and others when we choose to do what may go against the culture’s tide.

When Jesus sent two of his disciples to ready their Passover meal and said to them, Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him, they would not have missed him. Why? In his culture women ordinarily drew water and carried it in jugs from wells.1 Will loving God and others always make us stand out like that human landmark for the disciples? No, but at times it will. Will we usually feel it will make us stand out? Yes; that feeling hints our new covenant is drawing us and reshaping us. When we give ourselves to our new covenant ratified in Jesus’ blood—following Jesus’ lead and remembering him—we join his real presence wherever we are. I call it water-jar living: to live as human landmarks so others notice the gospel.

To help your water-jar living give Jesus 15 minutes daily this week. Rest in the love of our Triune God. Ask the disciples who prepared the Passover to present you to Jesus. Chat with him: tell Jesus what moves you most about sharing his Body and Blood; tell him how you desire to witness to his new covenant. Ask his grace to live your desire with courage. Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. When we say it we more than recall God’s love and Jesus’ counsel about praising and forgiving. Each time we pray it we let Jesus refashion us into Jesus’ presence where we live, work and play.
  1. See Genesis 24.11; 1Samuel 9.11; John 4.7.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise