Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bishop Lennon: Video of News Conference

(Cleveland, Ohio) [On Wednesday, May 30, 2007,] the 231 parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland each received a letter from Bishop Richard Lennon outlining the expectations of each parish in The Vibrant Parish Life II clustering and collaboration initiative.
Read the rest of the announcment by clicking here.

Watch the video of the news conference by using the link at the top of that page.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wednesday word, 30 May 2007

8th Wednesday of the Year (30 May 2007) Sir 36.1, 4-5a, 10-17; Ps 79; Mk 10. 32-45
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
By Habit

Give new signs and work new wonders was Jesus ben Sirach’s appeal to God. Wasn’t Jesus of Nazareth the complete response to it? Didn’t the evangelists, especially Luke and Mark, repeatedly note that Jesus worked signs and wonders? Jesus amazed his disciples, and others were filled with a holy fear at what Jesus did.

We, who know the end of the story of Jesus, who know what his disciples and others did not,
often risk losing being amazed at what we do here and at how Jesus works in the daily events of our world by his Holy Spirit.

Do we ask for the grace to be amazed at our risen Messiah? Do we ask to be filled with a holy fear, with awe, as reverence for God is called? Who do we ask? Jesus’ Spirit. The confirmation prayer asked that in addition to “wisdom and understanding...right judgment and courage...and knowledge," that we receive reverence...wonder and awe” at God’s works./1/

Confirmation sealed our baptism. That initiation into the church is constant even though those sacraments are never repeated. We renew our promises frequently. We summarize baptism each time we sign ourselves with holy water. We spend our lives not only engaging Jesus but also the consequences of being united to him.

Jesus saw the initial event of his baptism, his way of life, fulfilled in his martyrdom. Before he gave witness by his death, Jesus witnessed by his life: he modeled life for his disciples in each age: “I came to serve and to give [my] life as a ransom for many.”

Becoming a better Christian, that is, a closer companion of Jesus, means giving witness by our ways of life more out of habit, even without thinking. Keeping amazed at the daily new signs and new wonders the Trinity works in our midst helps us succeed at our baptismal habit more often.
/1/ Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 234, The same prayer is used when Confirmation is celebrated with young, people
already baptized.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday word, 29 May 2007

8th Tuesday of the Year (29 May 2007) Sir 35.1-12; Ps 50; Mk 10. 28-31
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Of the Year

The liturgical calendar revolves around seasons: Advent/Christmas; Lent/Easter. The largest portion of the liturgical year has no proper season. This portion of weeks is accurately called "Of the Year." (The German Catholics call this portion the "Cycle of the Year.") Nothing is ordinary about the time between the two arrivals of Jesus: his first advent into human history; and his second when he returns in glory to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminded us Ascension Sunday. The calendar is in service of the kingdom.

During the Weekdays of the Year (as opposed to those of Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter seasons) from this Monday thru June 11, on weekdays which are not solemnities or feasts, we will hear from Mark’s gospel.

[For any planners among us: from June 12 through September 1 we’ll hear Matthew’s gospel; from September 3 through December 1 from Luke’s gospel. On December 2 we will enter Advent with its own gospel readings.]

Today is an opportunity to recall two things about Mark’s purpose. First, Mark portrayed Jesus as the Strong Man, the one who could enter the house of Satan and bind him. The image reminds us that Jesus established a new house, that is, a new way of being.

The second thing is that Mark used the word gospel as a witness to the Christian communities of his day and place not as a precise account of the life of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus shaped the individuals and households, indeed the entire household of faith in Mark’s first generation after the resurrection of Jesus. The Spirit, who makes Jesus more powerfully present in his resurrection, makes Jesus’ human life of responding to God more important than details of his life. It is to risen Jesus we turn ourselves.

Living lives shaped by heeding God’s desires, by charity, by practicing God’s justice cheerfully and in a spirit of joy is how we exercise the new strength Jesus won for us. Christian living forgoes a house, to use Jesus image, and gains many, an entire household of faith and new life even now.

Wiki-image of the German liturgical calendar is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Germany. Wiki-image from the Rossano Gospels Folio of St. Mark is in the public domain.

Monday, May 28, 2007

In Memoriam

Memorial Day is ironic. It is advertised as the beginning of the summer season. Yet its substance remembers those who sacrificed serving our country. Sacrifice connotes more than death, the ultimate sacrifice.

Today as cemeteries fill with young men and women, with the youthfulness of boys and girls and the blossoming maturation of young adults, many more "living sacrifices" walk with prostheses, crutches and canes. Others walk wounded in ways, which others cannot see.

Their pain is very real, and to most of us far beyond what we can imagine. The pain of parents, siblings, relatives, spouses, lovers and friends is equally real. The photograph on the front page of the New York Times is arresting.
[online it is the first photo in the slide show, In Memoriam, at this page of the New York Times; it may change]
It portrays tenderness; secret intimacy, which bright sunlight cannot invade; the pain of trying to get close; as well as the felt knowledge that the fiancee photographed will never get any close to her fiance this side of heaven.

What to offer her? Could any offering at all be sufficient? Certainly words cannot mitigate the young woman's pain or soften her wretched future. Yet one could offer her hope without taking away her pain but accompanying her through it.

Today, Jesuit Father Mark J. George preached a fine homily at the Gesu Parish mass on this holiday. Of Catholics' many obligations as both citizens of the Kingdom of God and of the United States, our first obligation is to be people of faith who offer hope.

"Hope serves the truth," Fr. George emphasized. His emphasis paves a way to live for others. Who knows when any of us will need another to offer hope to us?
Wiki-image of the Air Force Cross is in the public domian.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday word, 27 May 2007

Pentecost (27 May 2007) Ac 2. 1-11; Ps 104; Rm 8. 8-17; Jn 14. 15-16, 23b-26
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Intimate, Transcendent & Transforming: Our Daily Pentecost

Let me begin by taking a show-of-hands poll to determine what meaning of a familiar word people recognize first. The word is intimate, and it has three connotations. Please raise your hand if intimate suggests first to you what is “marked by a warm friendship developing through long association.” You who raised you hands now may not do so again during our poll.

Please raise you hand if intimate first suggests to you “marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity.”

Finally, please raise your hand if intimate first suggests to you “belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature.”

While we use all three, the connotation of intimate, which first floods my mind, [some / many] of you share: “marked by a warm friendship developing through long association.” However, the first connotation Webster lists is the last one in our poll: “belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature.” Our word intimate is from a Latin word meaning innermost. That connotation can help us appreciate Holy Spirit today and everyday.

Holy Spirit is personal, intimate. Jesus and St. Paul could not have been clearer or more direct: the Spirit of God dwells in you. Each of us experiences a person dear to us dwelling within us. Someone who is deceased may indwell by memory. Someone living distant from us may dwell in our hearts. We don’t mean that literally, yet we know that sort of indwelling is very, very real.

Not everything that is real can be measured, or weighed the way we measure our floors or weigh our produce. Some real things we can touch, hold, see with our eyes. They have physical dimensions. Other things exist without physical dimensions and are even more real. Respect, reputation, intuition or gut-feeling, love are more real, more substantial. How often we distinguish human value, saying we can replace things, but people are irreplaceable! Although we may not be aware of it--sort of like breathing--we know well that certain things are more valuable, that is, more real than others.

Often what is more real surpasses our senses, or the limits of our understanding, the way love and forgiveness do. What surpasses our ordinary limits and experience transcends us. Our intimate God, as revealed by Jesus and dwelling in us by their Spirit, is transcendent. Transcendent surpasses comprehension.

Our personal, intimate, transcendent God not only created us. God’s power, Holy Spirit, raised Jesus from death, as St. Paul reminded us. St. Paul literally said the spirit is life, which is more than saying that the spirit is alive, as bible translations often have it. After all, we are alive. Holy Spirit is the very source of life, as well as shaping our deepest nature.

To receive the Spirit transforms us. The Spirit empowers us to choose to act in ways consistent with Jesus and his Spirit. Jesus’ personal, intimate, transcendent Holy Spirit transforms us by keeping us focused on Jesus, remind[ing us], as Jesus said, of all that I told you. Jesus’ Spirit reminds us beyond data. Jesus’ Spirit reminds us to be Jesus’ hands, feet, eyes and heart in our world. The way Jesus and his Spirit routinely do that is through other people.

So Tim & Tanya; Dave & Leeza; Derrick & Kathleen, parents of Keera, Charles and Carolyn, you are their “first and best teachers in the ways of faith.”/1/ Holy Spirit works through you to remind, encourage and model Jesus to your children.

By baptizing them you remind us to receive Holy Spirit more and more throughout our lives, so that we can be more and more like Jesus our Messiah. We are grateful!

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, let yourself fall into the love the Trinity has for you. Ask Mary and the disciples to help you receive Jesus’ Spirit more freely. Speak in your own words to Jesus, or even to his Spirit if you are moved. Praise Jesus and his Spirit for claiming you as their own. Resolve how you can better respond to the personally intimate presence of Jesus and his Spirit; to their transcendent presence; or to their transforming presence in your life. After enjoying several minutes of pondering your response, close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer, for it reminds us how Jesus lived, prayed and served in his personally intimate and transforming way, always aware of his Father and ours. Enjoy being in touch with your true self, and the Trinity who creates you in each and every moment. Being more open to receiving Holy Spirit is our part in our own creation.
/1/ Rite of Baptism of Children, 70; also see, 5.
Wiki-image of the Goslar Holy Spirit is used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Wiki-image of Giotto's Pentecost is in the public domain.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

At 22 He Already Feels Like 40

This breaking story puts one more face on the need for patient and steady care of those who fight wars today.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"The Karol Wojtyla Theatre Festival"

Mr. John L. Allen's weekly essay brings together Pope John Paul II, New York theater and a return to Christianity.

Mr. Allen introduces readers to young, devout Catholic Peter Dobbins, who said, "The purpose of this theatre is to lead people to God." Pope John Paul could not agree more!

Postscript: "NCR just won the Catholic Press Association's General Excellence award for the 7th consecutive year!"
That note is in the upper-right margin of his article. The fine, black
print on gray background is easy to miss. That the National Catholic Reporter continues to excel is worth noting.

Wiki-image of Adam Chmielowski is in the public domain.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Touching the Future"

Every urban center with African-American needs to know about the program called, "Call Me Mister." It is currently operating at Clemson University in South Carolina, and it seeks to increase the pool of African-American males teaching children.

Photo of teacher Mark Joseph appears on the Call Me Mister homepage.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday word, 22 May 2007

Commissioning Neophytes (22 May 2007) Is 61. 1-3; Ps 25; Eph 4. 1-7, 11-13; Mt 18. 16-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Companion-Servants of Our Messiah

The tradition of welcoming people into the church is one of its oldest. It received elaborate attention in the 4th & 5th centuries east of Jerusalem and westward along a line from Milan through Rome into North Africa.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is “conversion therapy,”/1/ a liturgical process of formation not education. Because you participated in its liturgies, you stand in its venerable tradition. This Rite didn’t end with your Easter initiation; it continues so you might continue to plunge yourselves deeper into the mystery of our crucified and risen Messiah Jesus. It obliges Gesu “to lead [you] to obey the Holy Spirit more generously” [RCIA, para. 4.]

I want to begin my reflection with you with St. Paul’s words we heard moments ago:
I, [Paul], a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.
The entire chapter 4 of the Letter to the Ephesians is about our experience of Jesus’ Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the divine energy of unity and love, and all who are kissed by Jesus’ Spirit are called and empowered to forbear with one another lovingly and to preserve the unity of the spirit peacefully. To do otherwise is to insult Holy Spirit, who called you and all who have been baptized and confirmed, whose baptisms and confirmations Jesus nourishes and sustains daily with his Body and Blood.

The translation of how we do this is shallow: striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. The Greek word we translate as to strive literally means to hasten, but it isn’t of the “haste makes waste” variety. It is the same word describing Mary visiting her kinswoman Elizabeth, after Mary learned God had chosen Mary to be the Mother of the Son of God: Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste./2/ In the New Testament hasten has a focused meaning, a purpose, a personal intent. Not only was Mary focused, she was, Luke reminded us, overshadowed by Holy Spirit./3/ Holy Spirit confirms us.

Holy Spirit multiplies our desire and intensifies our sense of purpose so that striving means “to interest one’s self most earnestly.” A good example may be found in the Letter of Jude. He used the same Greek word to communicate, I was making every effort to write to you about our common salvation./4/ So make every effort to incarnate peace and unity, to complement Holy Spirit with your lives. Remember that Jesus abides with you by his Holy Spirit.

The reading from Isaiah no doubt sounded familiar. That’s because Jesus chose that very text when he preached one day in a synagogue, and we hear his choice at mass. Jesus made every effort to reveal and fulfill God’s desire. Because we share Jesus’ spirit we have power to continue his work. In fact, you are called to it with the rest of us and the whole church.

The first reading ended with words that were not familiar but are very important. The reason the final sentence, [those sealed with the oil of gladness and clothed with a glorious mantle] will be called oaks of justice, planted by the LORD to show his glory, is unfamiliar is because it is not included in the lectionary selections read at masses throughout the year.

The reason that last verse is important is because it describes both you and your Christian vocation. Jesus’ Holy Spirit strengthens you and emboldens you to stand tall and to choose each day to show [the] glory of our risen Lord by how you live.

Trees are metaphors in scripture for the Lord’s companion-servants. The prophet Zechariah beheld a vision of two olive trees. When he asked what they were, he received this answer, “These are the two anointed who stand by the LORD of the whole earth.” Zechariah realized that Prince Zerubbabel and high-priest Joshua were the two who were making every effort to fulfill and reveal God’s presence in the world as they rebuilt the temple and preserved its liturgies./5/

The visionary in the Book of Revelation also saw two olive trees. The vision of the last book of the bible is the revelation of risen Jesus. Risen Jesus personally commissioned the two olive trees to prophesy, that is, to bear witness to Jesus by their lives./6/
All of us are the two olive trees.

You have been sealed by the oil of gladness, named for Jesus’ Holy Spirit. We, who have been sealed with you, join you as prophetic witnesses to bear the promised blessing of God, Jesus, to our world. Risen Jesus is our inheritance. Risen Jesus nourishes us with himself personally in the sacrament of his body and blood. Never, however, does Jesus give us himself to hoard but to share with the world, as he said, “Go...and make disciples of all nations.

Like your experience of ritual formation, which surpasses education, you and we are commissioned to pass on our inheritance:
the vision of God, the gift of ultimate mercy, comfort for sorrow, life as children of God in the family of God’s Servant-Son, the healing of infirmities, freedom from fear, the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, treasures of heaven for those who store them there, courage to save life by losing it,/7/
and ultimately, Jesus, our promise, who asks us always remember, “I am with you always.”

Let the oil of gladness, which united you to the Roman Catholic Church, shine in your lives each day. Be strong, confident, prophetic witnesses of Jesus, who called you and commissioned you to be his disciples by “the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.” Make every effort to make more disciples for the sake of our world! Do so with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

/1/ My teacher, Benedictine Fr. Aidan Kavanagh’s phrase. Fr. Kavanagh was one of the earliest promoters of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in the United States. Fr. Kavanagh used this phrase class. It appears in his The Shape of Baptism: The Rite of Christian Initiation: Studies in the Reformed Rites of the Catholic Church, Volume I, Pueblo Publishing Co., New York, 1978, pp. 128, 186.

/2/ Luke 1.39.
/3/ Luke 1.35.
/4/ Jude 3 (this letter has only 25 verses).

/5/ Zechariah 4. 1-14
/6/ Revelation 11.3-4.

/7/ Paul S. Minear’s summary of the “many closely related expressions for [our Christian] inheritance and rescue,” which the Gospel of Matthew contains. His
The Bible and the Historian: Breaking the Silence About God in Biblical Studies. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 2002, p. 103.

The Wiki-images of: the Croix Constantinien is used the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License;
the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is used under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License; Jesus and the Apostles is in the public domain.

Monday, May 21, 2007

“Extraordinary Form of the One Roman Rite”

Mr. John L. Allen Jr., as usual, is more informative than the general press. Now that newspapers have recently printed bits about the Tridentine Liturgy, Mr. Allen's mid-May column is worth reading. In particular: Pope Benedict is not interested in moving backwards. And, for many in the Latin rite, we are unaware of the many other rites currently in use in the Roman Catholic Church.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday word, 20 May 2007

Ascension (20 May 2007) Ac 1. 1-11; Ps 47; Hb 9. 24-28; 10. 19-23; Lk 24. 46-53
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

More Powerfully Present

We know that death is final. As humans all of us know that to be true. We may escape death; we may postpone it. Yet, death is final when it claims a living body.

We, though, are more than our bodies. Our God-given selves do not end with death. Jesus’ resurrection shouts that we do not end with death. At human death “life is changed, not ended.”/1/ What is the change?

The Ascension, both the solemnity we celebrate today and also a doctrine of our faith, specifies that our change is glorification, which is to be exalted with God to share divine life for ever.

Consider Jesus. Risen Jesus was no ghost. He ate in the presence of his disciples, saying, “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”/2/ His body never lost its wounds; they were glorified with the rest of him, but the nail marks never vanished. In fact, that is how the disciples recognized him.

More, when Jesus showed them his hands and his side, the disciples rejoiced./3/ No more were his wounds hideous and painful. They guaranteed humans to whom he appeared that they saw risen Jesus. The Ascension was the taking up into heaven of risen Jesus with his real, glorified body. His Ascension, Pope St. Leo preached long ago, “terminated His presence with us in the body, to abide on the Father’s right hand until...He comes to judge the living and the dead in the same flesh in which He ascended.”/4/

Jesus abides with us by his Holy Spirit, who makes Jesus more real and more powerfully present than he was when he walked the earth. Thanks to his Holy Spirit, our Redeemer’s “visible [presence] was changed into a sacramental presence,”/5/ which we celebrate here in word, in song, with bread and wine.

Indeed, the Ascension is a feast of ourselves. Today we “commemorate and duly venerate that day on which [our human] Christ was raised above all the host of heaven, over all the ranks of angels, beyond the height of all powers, to sit with God the Father.”/6/ By ascending and being enthroned at his Father’s right hand, Jesus completed our redemption, restoring our human nature’s original dignity. That’s why we Catholics tirelessly defend human dignity from birth to death; why Catholic families are schools for godly living; why we scrutinize budgets to ensure they are moral documents; and why just social structures weave the seamless fabric we call “God’s justice.”

These and other facets of Christian life constitute living faith. Living faith actively encounters Jesus by encountering others and responding with humility and love. Sacramental presences of Jesus empower us to make Jesus present by how we live, how we choose, how we serve and how we evangelize by our deeds.

Jesus’ sacramental presence with us bids us act. The question the angelic messengers posed to the disciples when they lost sight of Jesus propelled them and propels us into action: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” Their question implies a command: “Don’t just stand there, do what Jesus taught you by his example!”

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, allow yourself to become more keenly aware of the love the Divine Persons have for you. Ponder the ways Jesus is present to you in sacramental ways: sacraments you celebrate; the sacrament of the church; the sacraments of other people. Ask the Men of Galilee, Jesus’ disciples, to present you to Jesus so you may converse with him about the many ways Jesus encounters you. As you converse with Jesus, be alert to one clearer way Jesus draws you and moves you to be Jesus’ hands, Jesus’ eyes, Jesus’ feet, Jesus’ heart. Resolve to live what you notice Jesus invites you to do in his name. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which helps us bring our faith alive and to restore human dignity one day and one person at a time.
/1/ First Preface of Christian Death.
/2/ Luke 24.39.
/3/ John 20. 20
/4/ Pope St. Leo, Homily 74, “On the Ascension.”
/5/ Ibid.
/6/ Ibid.
Both Wiki-images of the Resurrection and the Ascension are in the public domain.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday word, 18 May 2007

Rita Newton funeral (18 May 2007) Ps 23; Rv 14. 13; Jn 14. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A New Pass

On behalf of Gesu Parish and from me, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Ann and Kate, at the loss of your Mother; to you, Kevin, Robert and Rebecca at the passing of your grandmother; to you Ruby and Isabella because you will have to learn your great-grandmother in a new way; and to you, Rita’s friends and colleagues.

I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Josephine Rita Newton. I’m deeply grateful to you, Ann and Kate, for painting a loving picture of her in words, and to our Catholic faith. I venture a few words to console and to strengthen you; to help you appreciate God’s astounding compassion by noticing that Jesus’ victorious dying and rising were present in Rita’s life and live in yours./1/

Kevin recalled for us his impressions of Rita. They help us link Rita with the celebration of the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We tend to allow his paschal mystery to become abstract. Every mass celebrates the mystery which makes us who we are as Christians. And every funeral links us with that same mystery, the person of Jesus risen from the dead. Yes, funerals link us with risen Jesus in painful ways. Yet the pain of suffering and death is as much a part of living as every joy we experience.

Part of our pain flows from our loss: Rita is no longer with us as she had been. The small word, loss, is a vast, stormy experience. Risen Jesus tells us not to fear, exactly what he told his disciples. Rita, herself, heard Jesus speak to her. She endured the pain of becoming a widowed mother. She did not fear; she allowed her relationship with Jesus, his Mother and his saints to encourage her and strengthen her to raise her family. With them as friends, Rita did it well.

The church, risen Jesus’ community of believers, “inspired her,” Ann told me. Rita didn’t live her faith for herself, which is a model for us all. Rita lived her faith for others, especially her family.

Living faith means many things. To live faith means to live compassionately. Compassion includes actively listening, being approachable, sharing experience, offering advice and being sensitive to discomfort and willing to laugh. Rita enjoyed all those. Remember always: her compassion made her matriarchal in the best sense of that word, which is the way I heard you mean it, Kate.

I want to note two phases in Rita’s life which I call a new manner of making her way. The first was early in her life, the second late. The first is a distinction, the second a greater distinction.

Rita was surely born with dignity and blessed with wisdom. Her photo gracing our funeral worship aid exuded both to me when I first saw it. Her experience as the sole woman in law school, who graduated at the top of her class, must have been difficult, lonely and even painful even as it was exhilarating. I experienced a unique educational experience at a phase of my life, so I know I’m not speculating. It certainly helped me negotiate things in ways I would not otherwise be able to do. Rita built on her experience and with another woman created a partnership which flourished and served the community well.

The second and greater distinction colored the later years of her life. Rita was a lung-cancer patient, who gave new meaning to stoic and to acceptance. How? Rita never lost her elan, nor did Rita ever make anyone feel victimized or burdened by her cancer.

While cancer is nothing we’d want anyone to endure, God works in and through it. In ways we will never know now, Rita’s illness refined her faith. While both it and the passing of time did not allow Rita to look the same as when she sat for her RTA pass photo, Rita retained those qualities which elude every camera: dignity, wisdom, faith and her spirited nature.

Her RTA pass Rita used for travel around town. Through a life of many good works, to use the Spirit’s phrase, Rita has traveled into eternal life. That is truly of greater distinction because divine life will refine her faith into an unhindered encounter with risen Jesus. Her share in divine life will allow Rita to advocate on behalf of her family and friends, which is a compassion without equal.

In the days, weeks and months ahead be alert to the new way Jesus will make your mother, your grandmother, your great-grandmother, your aunt, your neighbor and friend present to you to continue to refine your faith in our risen Messiah Jesus and to increase your hope in eternal life as you live each day of your lives.

/1/ Cf. Order of Christian Funerals, 27.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday word, 15 May 2007

6Easter Tuesday (15 May 2007) Ac 16. 22-34; Ps 138; Jn 16. 5-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A Key Difference

Jesus had warned his disciples that they would be persecuted for continuing his work. For us, who can freely worship God, that is hard to appreciate. Paul and Silas were attacked, stripped, beaten and imprisoned, at the outset of Paul’s first preaching campaign in Europe.

God rewarded their faithful efforts not only by freeing them. God worked through Paul’s resourcefulness: Paul used the moment of crisis for the jailer and preached the gospel to him and his household, which responded and came to faith in God.

That calls us to remember two important things about the world. First God created the world and saw that it was good and that humans were very good. Second, a power envied this goodness. The tempter, the enemy of our human nature, as St. Ignatius was fond to name the tempter, made the world the theatre of the tempter’s operations.

The enemy of our human nature was Jesus’ principle enemy--not the world. Jesus named his archenemy the ruler of this world, as the Fourth Gospel reminded us.

Because we continue Jesus’ work, because we strive to follow Jesus, the ruler of this world, the enemy of our human nature, is also our archenemy and that of all disciples.

The way the struggle plays differs according to time, place, and even human being. The language of the Fourth Gospel about the world is ironic: as the theatre of operations of the enemy of our human nature, the world is a risky place for believers. It is risky because of Jesus’ archenemy. The world is not evil.

Remembering that difference makes clearer our way in faith. It also helps others to come to faith in God in ways that befit both God’s goodness and our own.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Benedict's priorities

John L. Allen Jr. is traveling in Brazil with Pope Benedict. After Friday's schedule Mr. Allen noted:
In effect, Benedict's message amounts to a Brazilian and Latin American application of the argument of his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth: No program of social reform will succeed if it is not anchored in the deep truths about God and the meaning of human life revealed in Jesus Christ, and transmitted through the doctrines and traditions of the Catholic church.
That was a single paragraph in his weekly column of that same day.
Wiki-image of Benedict's Coat of Arms is in the public domain.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday word, 13 May 2007

6Easter (13 May 2007) Ac 15. 1-2, 22-29; Ps 67; Rv 21. 10-14, 22-23; Jn 14. 23-29
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Best We Can Give

Visionary language speaks in capital letters. Visionary is the language of much of scripture. The second reading every third year during the Easter season teems with visionary language. In the 22 brief chapters of the Book of Revelation, the verb I saw appears more than 50 times. The Book of Revelation is one disciple's vision of heaven while in the world.

What did that disciple see? To see heaven while rooted in the world is to grow aware that godly things and people coexist with people and things opposing God. That is how it has always been, which is why preaching and hearing the gospel is important--more than that, truly life-giving!

The coexistence of the godly with what seduces us away from God is usually subtle. We humans get dulled to how different they are. We even get good at mixing the two together, like oil and water in a salad dressing. We stop shaking the dressing bottle, and what happens? the oil and vinegar quickly separate. The visionary language of the Book of Revelation stops us to notice God's action in the world.

Yet, most of the Book of Revelation strikes us as either fantastic:
The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God.
Its radiance was like that of a precious stone.
like jasper, clear as crystal. It had a massive, high wall, ...The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.
Or, it offends us as lurid:
I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names, with seven heads and ten horns.
The woman was wearing purple and scarlet and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held in her hand a gold cup that was filled with the abominable and sordid deeds of her harlotry. ...
I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. (Revelation 17. 3-4, 6)
While purple and scarlet, precious stones, and pearls may blind many to her ungodly identity, the visionary saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.

The Book of Revelation and its stark contrasts; its dreamlike, heavy layering of meaning; its repeated emphasis that God is in control of history: all are Easter language. The texture of death to life is not alien to the last book of the bible.

Motivational speakers make good use of images and contrasts. They also awaken us to what we can offer, which many await. Good mission statements crystallize imagery into words which motivate and energize. A fine example of an energizing mission statement is the one Coca Cola wrote some years ago: “Beat Pepsi!”

Robert Kennedy inspired people beyond corporations and wooed them beyond themselves: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

Jesus, on the eve of his death, encouraged his disciples to see beyond what the mortal eye can glimpse. “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our dwelling with them.” Jesus and his Father dwell with us by their Holy Spirit. To unbelievers and even some believers that is fantastic or a cruel joke. Easter invites us to see that divine love and indwelling are most real. Divine love and indwelling, which raised Jesus from death, empower us to live in this world and to side with God at work in everything.

In your daily 15 minutes with our Risen Lord this week fall into the Triune Love who creates you. Ask Mary to present you to her son so you may ask him to give you new sight and new energy to change the world with him. Close by slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer, our best guide for changing the world beginning by knowing better our needs and how much Jesus trusts and counts on us to forgive. Forgiveness is the best vision we give our world.
Wiki-image of Christ of the Apocalypse and Wiki-image of the Whore of Babylon are in the public domain.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Saturday word, 12 May 2007

5Easter Saturday (12 May 2007) Ac 16. 1-10; Ps 100; Jn 15. 18-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Widening the Circle

The words of Jesus we heard are familiar, which may help us miss something important. Jesus called his disciples friends while never ignoring that slaves are not better than [the] master. The slave-master language rings a note of separation: we will never be identical to Jesus, and we will always be in his debt for revealing God to us by his living, dying and rising. Yet, our Master did not shy from calling us friends.

Friendship in the ancient world was a spiritual bond which allowed different people to share one orbit: welcomed in one another’s heart as well as home; and able to share much mutually. Even we carry the interests of our friends in our hearts the way we carry our own.

Jesus called his disciples friends, which signaled to them and to us, that they would carry on Jesus’ work in the world. Jesus trusts us, too, to continue his revealing and saving work in our corner of the world.

Human friendship brings different people together and binds them as one. How much more close does Jesus' friendship hold us both to Jesus and to one another!

Yet friends always remain different, even if they “share one soul,” to use an ancient Greek and well-known definition of friendship in the days of the early church.

That “one soul”--we can use “Jesus’ Spirit” for whom we pray more intently these days--does not erase friends’ differences. Jesus’ Spirit allows us to live interdependently with our Messiah. Jesus’ Spirit bequeaths to us Jesus’ mission of revealing and inviting others to him. Jesus’ Spirit encourages us when persecution for the name of Jesus falls on us. Jesus’ Spirit widens the circle of his friends, which we call the community of the church. While that doesn’t begin and end with us, it involves us in crucial ways because Jesus welcomes us as friends.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday word, 11 May 2007

5Easter Friday (11 May 2007) Ac 15. 22-31; Ps 57; Jn 15. 12-17
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The Acts of the Apostles, the portrait of the infant church, contains only one decree. Because only one exists it means it is important. The church, whose members were first Jewish, like Jesus, quickly grew with people from many races and nations.

Embracing different people questioned if everything Jewish applied to people who weren’t Jewish when both believed in Jesus as Messiah and Savior. That is what the decree we heard decided to answer. Not all Jewish customs had to be practiced by non-Jews.

In fact, not to eat meat from animals sacrificed to idols, not to eat blood or use strangled animals for food and not to marry unlawfully came from Noah’s time, long before Moses and the Jewish religion Jesus grew to know and practice.

Deciding this was not easy for the apostles. It was a discernment, a decision made in line with Jesus’ Holy Spirit. That is what the only decree in the Acts of the Apostles was, and it is easy for us to miss: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond [those] necessities.”

This turning point in the Acts of the Apostles is why we are here, why we are disciples of risen Jesus. Learning the way of Jesus and loving as he loves us makes us his disciples. Sometimes it isn’t easy to learn his way and love as he loves us. Discernment is Spirit-led seeking of these so that we can be more loving, more authentic friends of Jesus each day.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Background on Brazil: Inside the papal plane

Now that Pope Benedict has arrived and begun his visit to Brazil, which coincides with the meeting of the bishops in the Conference of Latin American and the Caribbean, some may wonder what papal air-travel is like. John L. Allen Jr. offers his first-hand description.
Wiki-photo used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Pope Benedict Addresses Youth in Brazil on First Day

Pope Benedict put youth at the top of his agenda during his Brazil visit by meeting with them during his first full day. our hearts wider so that there will be room for even more love, goodness, and understanding for our brothers and sisters, and for the problems which concern not only the human community, but also the effective preservation and protection of the natural environment of which we are all a part.
Link to the pope's complete message.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Children's Health Alert: Share Your Stories Today

Children's Health Alert: Share Your Stories Today

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Poverty Campaign Focuses on Children's Health in May

Poverty Campaign

Have children who are uninsured or under-insured? Take this action.

Thursday word, 10 May 2007

5Easter Thursday (10 May 2007) Ac 15. 7-21; Ps 96; Jn 15. 9-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Where Divine and Human Intersect

We heard the second third of Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles today. Chapter 15 describes the “council of Jerusalem,” the watershed of the Acts of the Apostles. Yesterday we heard the question at hand was whether uncircumcised believers in Messiah Jesus needed to be circumcised like the first believers--all Jewish like Jesus.

Circumcision was a Jewish custom. It was deeply ingrained in Jewish experience, religious and social. Circumcision was not torah, not the heart of God as the Jewish scriptures--Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms and other Writings--revealed. Some Pharisees who became believers in Jesus as Messiah and Lord, however, made circumcision the equal of torah.

They thought that circumcising would purify foreigners who came to believe in Judaism. Peter made clear that God, who knows the heart, bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit just as he did us. He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.

In the discernment James used the prophet Amos to validate letting go of circumcision:
I [God] shall return and rebuild the fallen hut of David; from its ruins I shall rebuild it and raise it up again, so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord, even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked. Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things, known from of old.
The action of purifying is God rebuilding. God acts, the Lord who accomplishes these things, known from of old.

Discernment at the council of Jerusalem noticed God’s desires intersecting with human history and the human desire to encounter Jesus. That is a good way of appreciating discernment: seeking to notice the intersection of God’s desires with human desires.

God knows each of us from before all else. To discern how we abide in Jesus deepens Jesus’ joy in us so that []our joy may be complete. Discernment allows that to happen. That’s how vital discernment is! God in Jesus rebuilds us.
Wiki-photo used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wednesday word, 09 May 2007

5Easter Wednesday (09 May 2007) Ac 15. 1-6; Ps 122; Jn 15. 1-8
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
15 and 10

We begin Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles today. We will hear it in thirds until Friday. Chapter 15 describes the “council of Jerusalem.” Paul and Barnabas, apostles to the uncircumcised, that is, the Gentiles, visit the apostles in Jerusalem to seek an end to the opposition of the Pharisees, who wanted everyone circumcised.

We can appreciate this Chapter 15 only by reading it with Chapter 10, which we heard late last month. Peter had a vision of a large sheet let down from the opened heaven. It contained all sorts of animals that Jewish dietary laws forbade him to eat. Yet a voice commanded Peter, “Slaughter and eat.” When Peter refused, he heard the voice [speak] to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” God’s initiative makes clean.

Human response to divine initiative prepared Peter for his preaching visit to the household of a Gentile, who wanted to hear the gospel.

As Peter preached the Spirit fell on all listening to the word of the gospel. They had not been baptized, but the Spirit came to them! As a result, Peter ordered that they be baptized. This experience was at work in the complex discernment at the council of Jerusalem. Put in numbers: Chapter 10 makes sense of Chapter 15 and its decision to set aside circumcision.

No discernment happens without experience and one’s pondering over the experience. When one notices God at work, human obedience, faithful listening to God working in our experience, is the healthiest response. Discernment takes time; it’s usually messy; and it always involves others.

Those who feel the Spirit at work and who refuse to discern refuse to open themselves to the Spirit’s new creation. Those who refuse to discern, who refuse to reflect on their experience, miss the Spirit, whose action is usually subtle.

Wiki-image used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Online Announcement of Pope's New Book

Christianity at each moment encounters Jesus, risen Messiah and Lord. Pope Benedict's "long inner journey" confirms that. His Jesus of Nazareth was released in Italian, German and Polish in April. It will appear in English.

This AsiaNews announcement of Jesus of Nazareth is review-like and informative.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday word, 07 May 2007

5Easter Monday (07 May 2007) Ac 14. 5-18; Ps 115; Jn 14. 21-26
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Mc Gregor Home
Never Distant

One feature of the spreading gospel in the beginning, the Acts of the Apostles reminded us, was miracles: like Jesus who sent them to continue his work, they worked miracles. We heard one healing miracle, worked by Paul and Barnabas, in the first reading.

The bystanders reacted with amazement that verged on worship--not of the Messiah Jesus, of whom they spoke but of Paul and Barnabas! This kind of amazement is distant. It was not the faith-filled love for the Messiah Jesus.

Love of God is rarely mentioned in the New Testament. Jesus desired his disciples love him: “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Making Jesus present in our world by keeping his new command of selfless love is how we love our Messiah. It is how we personally respond to Jesus and his desire.

Humans desire to be loved. Each of knows that. Sometimes we know it because we ache for love. Sometimes we know it because we are awash in love. Jesus, our Messiah and Lord, never ceased to be fully human. Jesus desire to be loved never vanished or evaporated.

Sometimes we have only memories of love. My mother sorely misses my father, who died six years ago. Her love for him is no less real, no less strong than before his death.

At other times giving our love to Jesus is less outwardly active because we cannot function the way we once did. When we Jesuits can no longer do the missions we once did, our last mission is “to pray for the Church and for the Society of Jesus.” Active or prayerfully quiet, all Christians are able to respond to Jesus in love. Active or prayerfully quiet we refuse to let ourselves grow distant from Jesus.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday word, 06 May 2007

5Easter Sunday (06 May 2007) Ac 14. 21-27; Ps 145; Rv 21. 1-5a; Jn 13. 31-33a,34-35
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Undesired Partners

God’s revelation in Jesus is too broad to take in at a glance; too deep to taste quickly. The church invites us to savor it, and it gives us six weeks to enter more deeply the self-giving of Jesus by his death (Lent) and seven weeks to bask in Jesus self-gift as crucified and risen Messiah (Easter).

Lent and Easter are not separate. Jesus is the hinge on which both turn. Because of Jesus they intertwine and intensify each other. To appreciate that recall the gospel of the Second Sunday of Lent. The Transfiguration of Jesus allowed us to consider his passion and death from his glory. Jesus revealed his glory to some of his disciples to encourage them with grace after he had “prepared them [in words] for his approaching death.”/1/

Today’s gospel moves in the reverse: “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.” No glory in those words. Yet we, who continue celebrating Jesus’ resurrection from death to absolutely new life, can savor his dying for us from the side of glory.

Our celebration of Jesus’ dying and rising translates into practical action, namely, Jesus’ new commandment to us: “As I have [selflessly] loved you, so you also should love one another.” That is how, as Jesus announced, “all will know that you are my disciples.”

Our Christian way of living and loving also attracts others to our Christian way of living and loving. Christian knowledge is practical, effective and engages our world and people. Christian knowing is the knowing two people in relationship enjoy. Friends’ and spouses’ knowledge of each other; the knowledge children and parents have of one another; the knowledge my brother Jesuits and I strive to cultivate about one another: relationships are ways of knowing which grace our hearts not only our minds. Relationship-knowledge graces our complete selves, and it cannot be measured by tests or interviews like other knowledge can.

The proof of relationship-love is twofold: one, it is always God’s gracious initiative: as the comforting revelation of the Book of Revelation put it: [God] will dwell with [the human race] and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes.

The old order included in part that people had to go to God. What Jesus’ dying and rising made new and confirmed in time and space was that God always approaches us. God’s approach, not to mention God dwelling with humans, makes all things new.

The second proof of relationship-love is harder to swallow: suffering. Not all suffering is evil; all suffering involves change. Ask friends, lovers, spouses, families. All of us can testify that change happens, and change often is hard to bear. Change in general and some suffering in particular promote growth.

Jesus did not suffer so that we would not. He repeatedly warned we followers would suffer, too. Suffering and faith aren’t desired partners. Christian life without them is shallow. We heard how Paul and Barnabas put that: [they] exhorted [the disciples] to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

The glory in suffering is that we do not suffer alone because God joins us. That revelation of our faith make[s] all things new. God’s glory in Jesus is always ours. Easter reminds us to seek our Messiah’s glory in everything.

In your daily 15 minutes this week, become more aware of being in relationship with God. Ask Sts. Paul and Barnabas to present you to risen Jesus. Converse with Jesus about his glory and his suffering and about your share in both. Notice your feelings and emotions. Then, name one way you can more freely and joyfully live Jesus’ new commandment of selfless love. Slowly say the Lord’s Prayer to deepen your resolve to live that way throughout your day.

/1/ Preface, Second Sunday of Lent.

Wiki-images of El Greco's Resurrection and The New Jerusalem both are in the public domain.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A look ahead to Benedict in Brazil

Conferences of bishops often fall along national lines or by language. From 9-13 May, Pope Benedict will visit Brazil, in conjunction with the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM). Mr. John Allen's weekly column helps us appreciate more both the pope and the agenda of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wednesday word, 02 May 2007

St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church (02 May 2007) Ac 12. 24-13. 5a; Ps 67; Jn 12. 44-50
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Set Apart To Do the Spirit’s Work

The temptation to compartmentalize things is ever present. Life is complex; a constellation of things, a mix of desires, affections, intentions and actions. In his Acts of the Apostles Luke presented this complexity well.

In the reading today worshiping the Lord and fasting were obvious. So, too, was the fact that Antiochene church did not lack prophets and teachers. Close friendship and the cosmopolitan complexion of the church were part of Luke’s portrait, too. The church, from the beginning, has always had a social dimension. No compartmentalizing allowed. Under the guidance of Holy Spirit, the words of Jesus, “Go, into all nations. . .” was and continues to be fulfilled.

The turn toward those of other nations happened under the direct inspiration of Jesus’ Spirit, which we heard in the first-person: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.

The disciples discerned the Spirit’s desire and cooperated with it because of worship and fasting. The Trinity created each of us with a mission, a purpose in life. It may mesh with one’s career, but the Acts of the Apostles--indeed all scripture--shows that need not be the case. At times people changed careers and other paths in life in order to fulfill their mission.

Jesus is our light to help us discover in each moment how we can best fulfill our mission. We are already in the world in our particular place and time. Ours is to pray to notice the light Jesus shines on our life-paths in order that we can engage the world more closely and do the work the Spirit of Jesus gives us to do.

St. Athanasius, whom the church remembers today, hailed from another complex and diverse city, Alexandria. He defended the divinity of the Holy Spirit. We might ask him to be our intercessor to make us more susceptible to how and for what the Spirit of Jesus sends us.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

"Vengeance Time"

Vengeance Time: When Abuse Victims Squander Their Moral Authority" is Mark Sargent's balanced and accessible contribution to Commonweal. Mr. Sargent is a law-school dean, who refuses both to disrupt legal proceedings and to use the law to exact vengeance. Nor does he turn a blind eye to the tragic errors of some church personnel or their superiors.

Tuesday word, 01 May 2007

4Easter Tuesday (01 May 2007) Ac 11. 19-26; Ps 87; Jn 10. 22-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Not Alone But As One

If you take from the Easter masses you and I have celebrated these weekdays, or if you take from this homily only this fact--the Acts of the Apostles is Luke’s portrait of the church growing from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth--you will possess a kernel of scripture-truth, and I will be happy.

Luke expressed this kernel, his purpose, in chapter 1, verse 8, from the mouth of Jesus, who told his apostles before he ascended, “ will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Imagine yourself in Jerusalem, the center of it all: where salvation was accomplished in Jesus and from where the great news of his salvation would travel.

No one could do that alone. And no one could do that unless God validated their witness of the crucified and risen Messiah Jesus.

To validate their witness is precisely what Luke meant by the phrase, the hand of the Lord was with them.

As Christianity spread northwest into Syrian Antioch, Peter sent Barnabas to encourage its growth and life. Many from Cyprus settled in that city. Barnabas, Luke reminded us when he appeared in Acts, was from Cyprus. Barnabas was a perfect person for Peter to send!

To whom does God send us? To be sent, to be missioned by God does not always mean traveling long distances. To be on mission means to represent Jesus’ way wherever and with whomever we find ourselves. For Luke earth’s end was Rome. For Paul earth’s end was Spain. Everywhere they were in each present moment was their mission to witness to the risen Lord. The only difference for us is discerning how Holy Spirit visits us and empowers us to witness by our ways of living.
Wiki-photo of St. Barnabas used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.