Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wednesday word, 30 Jan 2008

3d Friday of the Year (30 Jan 2008) 2Sm 7. 4-17; Ps 89; Mk 4. 1-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.


In three days the Second Book of Samuel covered over 10 years at the outset of David’s reign as king of Israel. Illustrated is a triple dynamic of promise- correction-renewed promise. This divine dynamic speaks to us here and now.

We heard that after he was acclaimed king by the elders and anointed in their presence, David left Hebron and made his way about 19 miles north to Jerusalem. David took the city and made it his capital. David grew steadily more powerful, for the Lord of hosts was with him./1/ God promised to be with David, and David tried to remain faithful to God as God was to him.

To his new capital David brought the ark of God’s covenant. More than a container for the broken tablets of the Ten Commandments, the ark was the very strength and glory of God./2/ It was the mobile vanguard leading the people, the presence of God among them. In his city David set [the ark] in its place within the tent David had pitched for it./3/

To David a tent was not good enough. Speaking through Nathan, God’s prophet at David’s court, God corrected David’s reasoning. It was characteristically reverent, but it steered David away from God’s promise: The Lord...reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.

David could not build a house for the Builder of the Earth! God had no care or need for a house. The promise to abide with David surpassed a building. The house God promised David would be David’s ancestors, a royal throne, a kingdom. David’s dynasty roused longings for a Messiah, the son of David. In a surpassing and unsurpassed way Jesus fulfilled that longing.

We can distract ourselves from Jesus without realizing it when we set about doing for Jesus. Jesus does for us in his dying and rising. Jesus also desires to do for each person as each one needs at a given time: What do you want me to do for you?/4/ His question renews his promise to us. We’re wise to allow Jesus to ask us often his saving question and to allow him to act.
/1/ 2Samuel 5.10, closing Monday’s first reading.
/2/ Psalm. 78:61.
/3/ 2Samuel 6.17 in Tuesday’s first reading.
/4/ Mark 10.51; Luke 18.41
Wiki-image of
David bearing the ark of testament into Jerusalem is in the public domain.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ecumenical Drive. . .

. . .is year 'round, however, an Christian Unity receives an octave of intense prayer every 17-25 January.

This year, which will begin the Year of St. Paul come the summer, as every year, the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity closes on the Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul.

The octave had an ecumenical origin in its now 80-year history. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. was in Rome at the end of the octave, from where he reported
watching an all-star ecumenical cast mark the occasion. Although there's been no historic breakthrough on the path to reunion, collectively the week's events have offered a more hopeful counter-point to perceptions of an ecumenical "big chill."
Mr. Allen's 25 January report offers some history of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity as well correcting the misperceptions that Pope Benedict isn't interested in Christian unity.
Wiki-image of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls is in the public domain.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday word, 27 Jan 2008

3d Sunday of the Year A (27Jan2008) Is 8. 23-9.3; Ps 27; 1Co 1. 10-13,17; Mt 4. 12-23
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Mystery From the Start

Children and even peers surprise us when we learn some of their interests, interests we never associated with them. When a teacher and friend lectured in Detroit some years ago, we visited and “caught up.” When Aidan asked me what was new, I mentioned that I had been practicing aikido, a Japanese martial art. He reacted briefly, registering his surprise at something he didn’t associate with me, saying, “Madcap, Paul, simply madcap!”

Another example: my parents knew one another well. They anticipated each other. However, they surprised one another, too. It might be something spoken or a feeling or misgiving one or the other had. Their 60-year partnership in life did not, could not erase the unexpected; nor could it make each less a mystery to the other.

By “mystery” neither I nor the church mean a whodunit. Our Catholic sense of mystery refers to the essence of a person, which our limited human intelligence cannot grasp. God is mystery; and so are we. My parents remained mysteries to each other in our Catholic use of the word.

Not only are others mysteries to us; in our honest moments we realize we are mysteries to ourselves. Pope John Paul touched on that when he addressed members of the American Psychiatric Association in January 1993. In a few words he captured the “tangled workings” within the “human mystery”:
By its very nature, your work [as psychiatrists] often brings you to the threshold of the human mystery. It involves a sensitivity to the often tangled workings of the human mind and heart, and an openness to the ultimate concerns which give meaning to people’s lives. These are areas of utmost importance to the Church, and they call to mind the urgent need for a constructive dialogue between science and religion for the sake of shedding greater light on the mystery of [humans] in [their] fullness./1/
Created as images of God and because the Son of God became human for us as our Messiah Jesus, our mystery is intimately associated with his mystery, which Catholic shorthand names his dying and rising. Our celebrations of Jesus’ mystery here at his table help us associate our human mystery with his divine-human mystery.

As we begin to immerse ourselves again in Matthew’s portrait of Jesus in our Sunday celebrations, the First Gospel paints Jesus as no ordinary preacher or teacher of things on the edges of human concern. Jesus came preaching, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He was intent on making people whole.

Jesus began his ministry by going to that region that had long before been peopled by Gentiles. That swath of land had been invaded before Isaiah and its people exiled. Their captors populated what we call today northern Israel with their own people to tend it and develop it. Jesus himself said his ministry was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,/2/ yet he began and ended his ministry in Galilee, which many Jews considered on the fringe of the covenant. Indeed, Jesus was a mystery from the start!

Do we interpret lost in a geographic way? Surely not! Christian mystery is not confined to maps. A more real geography exists, the geography of the human heart. Yet the “tangled workings" of our minds and hearts blind us to Jesus and his ultimate concern: to make us whole. Jesus, the Light, dispelled darkness, welcoming us to be light for one another and for all people.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, begin by growing more aware how strongly the Trinity loves you at each moment. Ask for the grace to welcome Jesus welcoming you and inviting you to join him. Then neither ignoring nor making excuses for your limitations, allow yourself to recognize Jesus calling you and making you whole by inviting you to join him to proclaim the kingdom of heaven. Savor Jesus’ call to walk his way with him. Finally, end by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which reminds us we depend on God for everything and that we become untangled and whole as we join our mysteries with Jesus’ mystery of his dying and rising.
/1/ John Paul II, Address to Members of the American Psychiatric Association and the World Psychiatric Association, 4 January 1993. Quotation is from paragraph 2 of the pope’s 5-paragraph address.

/2/ Matthew 10.6 and 15.24 relate this strange phrase. It refuses to be easily interpreted and enhances the aura of mystery which surrounds Jesus.
Wiki-image of Jesus and Peter is in the public domain. Wiki-map of Galilee and its region of Ten Cities is used under the GDFL .

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday word, 26 Jan 2008

Ss. Timothy & Titus (26 Jan 2008) Ti 1. 1-5; Ps 96; Mk 3. 20-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Campaign Madness--Jesus’ Style

As we know, the daily lectionary groups readings by days of the week of the liturgical year, not by dates. So when January 26 falls on different days, we hear different gospel selections on the Memorial of Ss. Timothy and Titus.

Today’s gospel selection is two verses. The first reminds us what was typical early on: a crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. Our knee-jerk reaction may align with a rock-star or rising politician: we recognize one aspect of Jesus to be his charisma, his people-magnetism. The second verse doesn’t let us run with our first--perhaps only?--image of Jesus: When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said,“He is out of his mind.”

Because Jesus attracted crowds, his relatives said, “He is out of his mind.” We are still hearing the third chapter of Mark's gospel at daily mass, and already we know: religious professionals opposed him; crowds acknowledged him; his own people didn’t know what to make of him. Did they fear that if he hung around the many demon-possessed that Jesus’ kingdom-campaigning was also demon-possessed and not just his misplaced feelings?

The Greek word we translate with to seize has other connotations. In this context to restrain, to hinder, to repress come to mind. Fearing for Jesus’ well-being lest he, too, become possessed and so they wouldn’t suffer embarrassment, we can feel with his people the need to keep Jesus from his path and to repress his kingdom-capaigning.

Yet you and I know Jesus had only that mission and life. Do we live what we know? Do we live confident that we are God’s children, and like Timothy and Titus, children of St. Paul and all the apostles? The world needs us to live what we know: Jesus’ existed to proclaim the kingdom and enlists us to continue his mission.

Many people live as though God were not truthful nor makes good God’s promises. A life of faith takes to heart God, who does not lie, as St. Paul encouraged Titus. St. Paul, like Jesus, relied on his children in faith to draw on their imaginations and to risk making Jesus better known by the ways they live. To fail to do otherwise is indeed madness, and we count on each other to restrain us from giving into it.
Wiki-image of the Book of Durrow and its beginning of Mark's gospel is in the public domain.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cathedral Ministry

Last week Friday Mr. John L. Allen Jr. began his weekly column with a summary of the national “Cathedral Ministry Conference.”

Today Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon sent a letter to all priests in the diocese about an upcoming convocation of priests in the Fall.

The archbishop of San Francisco links both last week's conference and today's letter.

Archbishop George Niederauer addressed the cathedral ministry conference, and he will join and speak at the Cleveland convocation of priests later this year. If anyone wonders what sort of ministry cathedrals offer these days, Archbishop Niederauer emphasized "imagination" and "risks" in exercising it. It is the brief beginning of Mr. Allen's longer post.
Wiki-image of Cathedral, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles used according to GDFL.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Invitation To Pray With the Jesuits' General Congregation

Passing along this invitation to all interested in the success of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.

Soyez là! Be there! ¡Contamos con vosotros! Unitevi a noi!

During the General Congregation, and especially during the

second part that started on January 21 that is dealing with the future

and the commitments of the Society of Jesus in the world,

all Jesuits, with their collaborators, benefactors and friends,

can join with the delegates through prayer.

Be there, in the virtual

Prayer Room

of the General Congregation

There are two ways:

A) Each day, you can find on the webpage the prayers

that are being used by the members of the Congregation during their

meetings.These prayers can be used for personal or community prayer;

B) You can also send YOUR OWN prayers for the Congregation or for the Society

(in the language of your choice) to the following address:

The communication team will post a number of them on the site.

Thank you for your participation to the Congregation through prayer.

Wednesday word, 23 Jan 2008

2d Wednesday of the Year (23 Jan 2008) 1Sm 17. 32-33,37,40-51; Ps 144; Mk 3. 1-6
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Welcoming the Mystery

The readings at daily mass from the First Book of Samuel highlight the important moments as the era of the kings of Israel emerged. The movement throughout the book, and indeed the whole bible, is “away from God-return to God.” Before they felt the threat of the Philistines, the people had moved away from God--long David. Samuel told the people, “If you wish with your whole heart to return to the Lord, put away your foreign gods and...devote yourselves to the Lord, and worship him alone. Then he will deliver you from the power of the Philistines.”
The people did that. They fasted...confessing, “We have sinned against the Lord.”/1/

Saul moved away from God. He was weak and insignificant when God chose him as king. However, Saul relied more on his natural abilities than God. David, more weak and insignificant, relied on God. He remained weak, but he relied on God. Trusting in God David prevailed over Goliath as we heard. David prevailed over his other goliath, Saul, who, after David’s victory hunted David to kill him.

Not only was God present to David, David’s presence mediated God’s presence! As Son of David, Jesus mediated God’s presence in a greater and unparalleled way, which Mark’s gospel strongly communicates to us.

When you hear, “A reading from the Gospel of Mark,” and when you pray from it or study it, think two words: Stronger One. Jesus went into the realm of Satan to conquer Satan. The encounters with evil spirits, those who knew his identity--Son of God--show that. Along with his deeds, even Jesus’ words commanded attention. In some attention registered as awe, but in others it registered as hate, driving them to plot to put him to death because Jesus made a man whole on the sabbath.

Mystery shrouding the Stronger One many find repugnant. It makes almost all of us dizzy: the Stronger One, the Son of God, died. Jesus relied on God though he was sorely tempted to do otherwise. The mystery of Jesus, dead-and-risen, is our mystery. Jesus invites us to trust him and allow him to make us whole.
/1/ 1Samuel 7. 3-6.
Wiki-image of Osmar Schindler's David and Goliath is in the public domain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday word, 22 Jan 2008

2d Tuesday of the Year (22 Jan 2008) 1Sm 16. 1-13; Ps 89; Mk 2. 23-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Seeking the Shape of Holiness

The responsorial psalm between the scripture readings is like a hinge today. This 89th psalm extols David, who was anointed while still a youth to replace Saul. Saul’s lack of loyalty to God occasioned his rejection as king, and Saul apparently did not take it well. Samuel, who anointed Saul king, was grieving in his way, which made him reluctant to lead as God chose.
God: “How long will you grieve for Saul, whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.

Samuel: “How can I go? Saul will hear of it & kill me.”
Samuel overcame his inertia and went to those God sent him. Samuel worried when none of Jesse’s sons appeared to be God’s anointed. Unlike Saul Samuel waited on God; we can almost hear Samuel’s thought echo within: “God’s chosen must be here!” Unexpectedly, he was.

David reshaped the role of king as we echoed God: “I have found David my servant!” David served the holiness of God. The whole people’s vocation was to be holy as God is holy./1/

The shape of holiness is difficult to name. The positive command be holy is more difficult to define than a negative command like do not kill. The Sabbath showed that.

The people were to keep holy the Sabbath./2/ Legislating that wasn’t easy or simple; the largest number of commands grew around the Sabbath. Many of them defined what actions were work. Because Sabbath meant God’s rest, much human activity distracted one from rest at best or violated rest at worst. The resulting Sabbath commands grew constraining, confining and restrictive, emphasizing human work more than God’s rest and humans' participation in it.

Constraint rather than freedom focused people more on themselves than on God. Jesus recalled David’s unlawful action. After his resurrection Jesus’ followers recalled David’s freedom and Jesus’ freedom to support people first of all. The balance is tricky but the norm is clear: Humans take priority over sabbath laws. We are not to serve it but enter its rest. That experience of God helps us grow more holy. Weak David needed God’s holiness; we weak Christians do, too. It’s why we were made.
/1/ Leviticus 11. 45; 19.2; 20. 26; the last two verses begin and end the same section.
/2/ Exodus 20.8
Wiki-image of the anointing of David is in the pubblic domain.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday word, 21 Jan 2008

St. Agnes, virgin & martyr (21 Jan 2008) 1Sm 15. 16-23; Ps 50; Mk 2. 18-22
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A King’s Opposite

Until Lent begins we’ll move through the First Book of Samuel and into the Second at daily masses. Only two feasts and one memorial with their own readings will intervene. Our focus in the main will be on the beginning of the era of the kings of Israel. As we move through this phase of the history of God’s people, remember what I recalled last week:

Scriptures tell the story of people rejecting God and God’s desire, of which God never relents, to restore right relationships of people with God and with other people.We heard last week that the elders of the people demanded a king to judge them, like all the people around the Israelites. Why? The more they settled, the more they esteemed the values and ways of others, even more than those of God, who had liberated them from slavery in Egypt and formed them into a people. Scriptures recorded and interpreted what happened according to the memory of God, which their prophets and holy ones lived, and through them, kept alive for future generations.

People variously demonstrate their reliance on self rather than on God. Not entrusting themselves completely but withholding is one way. Attending and responding to God, describes religious obedience; another word is loyalty. Possessions clutched as if they were totally one’s property instead of held loosely and freely in trust frequently describe one’s reluctance to rely on God. In the narrative about Saul, the first king, taking ransom rejected God, even though Saul’s men sacrificed to God what they had confiscated. This helps us appreciate Samuel's words to Saul:
“Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission than the fat of rams.
For a sin like divination is rebellion,
and presumption is the crime of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he, too, has rejected you as ruler.”
God sought a ruler after God’s own heart, to use the words of Samuel. This would be David, who would be the ruler all Israel would extol, never forgetting his shortcomings but remembering God’s mercy to him. David would be the ancestor of Jesus, the Son of David.

The saint the church remembers today was Saul’s opposite number. St. Agnes demonstrated a freedom with her life that caused awe in all who saw her put death. She wanted to be married to no one but her Messiah Jesus. This in the 3d century of the church when a father had power over all his children, and “at the age of twelve... not of legal age,” St. Ambrose reminded us./1/ Her gender and her youth did not permit her to give testimony, her faith testified to the most real, her faithful love of her risen Savior. Hers was a wholehearted acceptance, contrasting with a rejection of God in Jesus. St. Agnes inspires us to love Jesus more.

/1/ From his description of the martyrdom of St. Agnes, found in the Liturgy of the Hours at the end of the Office of Readings this day.
Wiki-image of St. Agnes from the Roman basilica of St. Agnes is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday word, 20 Jan 2008

2d Sunday of the Year A (20 Jan 2008) Is 49.3,5-6; Ps 40; 1Co 1. 1-3; Jn 1. 29-34
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Sunday Program

Attend symphonies or sporting events, and we receive one; assemble for graduations or ordinations, and we receive one; award ceremonies and charitable galas, too: at those events and others we receive programs. The symphony program identifies the musicians and the instruments they play; they list the musical offerings, describe them, their composers and some events which occasioned them. Theater playbills offer something similar. The cry at Jacobs’ Field--can I still call it by that name?--or other venues calls, “Get your program! Can’t know the players without a program!”

When it comes to Catholic Sunday worship, the Lectionary is our program. This book contains the readings proclaimed at Sunday masses and Solemnities. Arranged in sets of three cycles, they offer us a richer fare of God’s word. The Lectionary begins with Advent-Christmas; then Lent-Easter; the Sundays of the Year; and finally other Solemnities.

The character, of course, is our Messiah, Jesus. The Lectionary boasts a supporting cast it would take too long to list. However, its players point to Jesus, supporting him or opposing him: prophets, sages, sinners and holy ones, weak humans, angels and evil spirits. Spirits, by the way, are residents outside and beyond history; spirits are real not imagined.

The birth of Messiah Jesus, which Christmas celebrates, led to his suffering and death and resurrection. Christmas, inviting us to ponder the incarnation of God within our world, closes with the Baptism of our Lord, the First Sunday of the liturgical Year. This Second Sunday of the Year continues to focus on the incarnation, preparing us to journey with Jesus yet again, proclaiming present the kingdom of heaven as he teaches, preaches and heals on his way to his death and resurrection.

Prophet Isaiah had sung of God’s Suffering Servant several times. Isaiah’s second song invited God’s faithful languishing in exile to take heart and be alert for the one whom God would send to be a saving light, not only for them, but all nations. God’s servant would be a person who was created expressly for that saving purpose, which the phrase formed me as his servant from the womb, communicates. Being a light to [all] nations so that [God’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth was not something added to Jesus’ “job description” as Messiah; it was his work in order to save the human race. It is Jesus!

John the Baptizer, herald of the Messiah, proclaimed this servant as the Lamb of God. First fruits of harvests and of livestock were offered to God. Lambs were sacrificial offerings imploring forgiveness at the fall high holy days ending with Yom Kippur; and the unblemished lamb roasted whole and eaten by a family at the spring festival of Passover recalled how God spared and saved the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt. Jesus, anointed by the Spirit of God, takes away the sins of the world, not just one group.

Annually we insert ourselves into Jesus’ program of proclaiming, healing, inviting, teaching, dying and rising. Jesus’ program is nothing less than God’s salvation. As we move through the saving action of the Trinity entering Lent, leading to Easter and its season when it arrives, then resuming to move through a single gospel-portrait of Jesus, we benefit best by noticing each Sunday with whom in the cast of characters of the Lectionary we see ourselves: prophets, sages, sinners and holy ones, weak humans, angels and evil spirits. Then we invite Jesus to meet us as we are and transform us.

Begin your 15 minutes with Jesus this week by growing aware that you are in the presence of the Trinity, who create you a moment at a time. Then ask for the grace to stand with John the Baptizer and hear him name Jesus as the Lamb of God. In your own way, walk with Jesus and converse with him, asking him to enlighten you and make you more sensitive to his message, his action and his death and resurrection. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, words which praise the light of God and petition for what we need most and how best to live our lives.
Wiki-image of Rembrandt's Mother Reading a Lectionary is in the public domain.Rebecca Kennison's Lamb of God is Dual-licensed under GFDL and Creative Commons Attribution 2.5. .

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Society of Jesus Elects New General Superior

The first news with a photograph of Jesuit Fr. Adolfo Nicolas found by To Find Fruit.

To Find Fruit suspected an Asian Jesuit would be sought to lead the Society of Jesus, but it had no guess as to from which part of Asia.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday word, 18 Jan 2008

First Friday of the Year (18 Jan 2008) 1Sm 8. 4-7,10-22a; Ps 89; Mk 2. 1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Parallel Stories

The era of the judges came to its end and the era of kings began. It came from all the elders of the people, as we heard them entreat Samuel, “appoint a king over us, as other nations have, to judge us.”

Who formed the Hebrews into a people? God. Who liberated them from Egypt? God. Who guided them and provided for their needs? God. They help us appreciate what Samuel discerned God communicate to him, “It is not you they reject, they are rejecting me as their king.”

In a way people rejecting God is the story scriptures tell: As they have treated me constantly from the day I brought them up from Egypt to this day, deserting me and worshiping strange gods, so did they treat Samuel. The scriptures tell parallel story: God always longs for and desires to save us. The need to have a king blinded the people to their complaints against kings when they had them. It blinded them to God’s provident care for them.

The greater, indeed the more real, care God provides is always a challenge for us to keep before us. God’s passionate concern for us is not as easily available to us as are the daily drudgeries and the ways we seek and even find to assist us to cope with them. Yet, we know well that even the smoothest running household or business and the less complicated life do not guarantee us happiness and fulfillment.

When we are in right relationship with the others, the world and with God, we are truly happy, and we feel more alive. Jesus came to allow people to stand in right relationship again.
On our own we are unable to stand in right relationship with others, the world and God. The word sin summarizes our human inability. Sin also names powers inimical to humans and to God, powers which beguile us into thinking we can stand in right relationship on our own. Jesus is the Stronger One, who continues to exert his power to free us from sin and empower us to stand again in right relationship no matter how frequent our failings or present our weakness.
/1/ Verse 8, omitted from the first reading.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wednesday word, 16 Jan 2008

First Wednesday of the Year (16 Jan 2008) 1Sm 3. 1-10,19-20; Ps 40; Mk 1. 29-39
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

The reading from First Samuel is read at Sunday mass once in the 3-year cycle of Sunday scripture texts. On that Sunday it’s paired with a selection from the gospel of John, in which disciples follow Jesus out of curiosity as well as faith in John the Baptizer, who pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God. Prophets make clear what our vision may miss.

During the time young Samuel was minister to the Lord under Eli, a revelation of the Lord was uncommon and vision infrequent. Nor was it the time of prophets, who pointed the way. This all-too-familiar reading reminds us that each person is responsible to be alert to how God communicates to a person and to respond.

This faith-alertness is religious obedience. Like Samuel we may not recognize God communicating right away. The reading, with its youngster and elder, in a relationship we may describe as an internship or apprenticeship, has an even more important dynamic: trust, because faith often collides with human experience.

The feeling of being chosen was so clear to young Samuel that he could only interpret it one way, by his experience: someone called him. Experience also told Samuel it could only have been Eli nearby.

Eli was not certain of things right away. Only later Eli understood that the Lord was calling the youth. So Eli said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply,‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

Faith is not limited to listening, although God can and does use the voice of others to communicate. Faithful attention is a disposition: we dispose ourselves to God, who creates us in love with a purpose. Our purpose is both communal and personal. We are all grafted on to our messiah, Jesus. Each of us has a unique role to play in the church. As our circumstances change so may our role in the church be reshaped. At each moment faith is about disposing ourselves so we may discover more clearly the purpose for which Jesus created us.
Wiki-image is in the public domain.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday word, 15 Jan 2008

First Tuesday of the Year (15 Jan 2008) 1Sm 1. 9-20; Resp 1Sm 2; Mk 1. 21-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Two Levels

Many people over the years have spoken to me about the shape of their prayer. One feature common to many is a reluctance not to pour[] out my troubles to the Lord. It takes courageous faith. I identify because I didn't pour; I used to bargain with God regarding my troubles, plus I would not ask God for favors for me.

I refrained because I feared God would let me down. God never had, but I feared it anyway. I didn’t have the courage, and I feared if I asked, God might let me down. Hannah needed no coaxing nor could any one keep her from pouring out [her] troubles to the Lord. She had faithful trust in her Lord. We need her example.

On one level courageous faith is personal: each of us shapes it and distorts it. On another level courageous faith vibrates through every atom of the universe. In other words: in addition to being personal, faith also functions on a cosmic scale. Today’s gospel selection showed us both.

Jesus began his life’s work, proclaiming the good news, the gospel of God, in deed as well as word. His sabbath synagogue-teaching demonstrated a clarity and power unmatched by his contemporaries or elders. The faithful welcomed and noted the power of his words. The religious leaders, however, were threatened.

Jesus’ healing deeds were even more powerful. In them Jesus confronted evil. The gospel presented us with his first healing, an exorcism. An unclean spirit, who kept a man in its grip, was also threatened--not by just another man but by the Holy One of God. On the level of history Jesus made clearer the desires of God. At the cosmic level an unclean spirit, a resident outside and beyond history, acknowledged Jesus as the Stronger One, who entered Satan’s realm and bound Satan.

Encountering Jesus as the Holy One of God, helps us appreciate both rejecting and accepting Jesus. The more we stand in the mystery of God’s Holy One, the more courageous our faith becomes to accept Jesus.
Wiki-image of The Exorcism is in the public domain.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday word, 14 Jan 2008

First Monday of the Year (14 Jan 2008) 1Sm 1. 1-8; Ps 116; Mk 1. 14-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A Look Ahead

Through the 24th of this month daily mass readings are taken from the First Book of Samuel and the Gospel of Mark. I offer a few remarks to help you focus and to help you appreciate to what these selections we will hear at mass point.

The two Books of Samuel revolve around three main people: Samuel, Saul and David. The two Books of Samuel rehearse a century of history of the people Israel, who began as nomads but over time ceased wandering and grew from an agricultural to a town-centered people.

Following the death of Joshua, who was the lieutenant of Moses, they began to settle and judges wielded authority. Of the 15 judges, Eli and Samuel were the final two. The first readings of the next 10 weekdays begin this transition from leadership by judges to leader-ship by kings in Israel. Judges were military leaders with administrative authority, who also exercised some priestly functions.

The consistent temptation for the people Israel was to be like their neighbors, that is, to allow themselves to be swayed by ways and values other than the ways and values of God.

The selections from Mark’s gospel will lead us through its first three chapters. Listen for three patterns. One is the power Jesus manifested in healings of different kinds. Second is the positive response of some Jesus called, which we heard today. The last pattern is the opposite of the second: others rejected Jesus. These patterns shape the gospel of Mark: the one who proclaimed the good news came to his Passion.

This shape--the life of the one who announced the kingdom moved to his Passion--is not easy for us to accept. Keep alert to the ways Jesus invites you and more alert to how you respond, accepting or rejecting Jesus’ initial invitation. Our first response to Jesus cues us to the grace we ought to ask Jesus so that we won’t give in to temptations to put Jesus at the edge of our lives. Cooperating with his graces graft us into his mystery and enrich us in the process.
Wiki-image by Michal Maňas of Samuel Greeting Saul is used under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday word, 12 Jan 2008

Saturday after Epiphany (12 Jan 2008) 1Jn 5. 14-21; Ps 149; Jn 3. 22-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Practical, Practiced and Lived

No one can know precisely the world of the Letters of John. We do know that these three letters indicate conflict within one particular community, and their conflict led to division: some went out from us./1/

Acquainted as we are with current events involving conflict within groups, leading even to bloodshed, the community of the Letters of John demonstrated something rare: those who remained prayed for those who sinned, that is, separated themselves from the community. Plus--and this was the focus of the First Letter of John--the community members sought to renew and deepen their identity, their faithful dependence on God in Jesus by their Spirit.

People of all cultures focus on outsiders more than on themselves. We do. The First Letter of John focused not on those who went out but on themselves. This letter encouraged them to renew their identity in Jesus.

Christian identity involves more than correct doctrine, as important as right believing is. Christian identity is practical, practiced and lived.
Sin is the word in this letter which means not practicing and living one’s belief that God gives life.

The deadly sin means entrusting one’s life to one’s perfect striving rather God. When we do that we separate ourselves from the community even if we physically stand inside it. Families understand that, religious orders do, too, because we’ve all experienced bodily presence yet real absence. Father Francis, a Kenyan priest in his divided homeland recently summarized how Christian identity and life shape presence: “It is not enough to kneel and pray. We tell parishioners that whatever they do, they must do something that will affect peace somehow.”/2/

The gospel gave another image. In Jewish tradition in Jesus’ time, the best man--the friend of the bridegroom--planned the wedding. He was in synch with the groom and was more prominent or less prominent as needed. We are all friends of the Messiah. Growing more in synch with Jesus is each one’s vocation. That’s worth making a New Year’s resolution.

Resolutions very often have practical sides: doing more of this or less of that; becoming trimmer; more adept; more patient; and the like. Growing more in synch with our Messiah and living more deliberately his way pay off not only for us. Living our identity affects our world, which needs Christians to engage it, pray for it and actively seek its good.
/1/ 1John 2. 19.
Wiki-image is used under the GFDL.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Wednesday word, 09 Jan 2008

Wednesday after Epiphany (09 Jan 2008) 1Jn 4. 11-18; Ps 72; Mk 6. 45-52
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our “Real Function”

God loves us first; God’s love is sheer gift: that’s the conviction the First Letter of John offers us. It’s a conviction we can never hear too often. God’s gift and its effects have a consequence for our lives: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.

Divine love surpasses the emotion we call by the same name. Divine love continues to create us. Jesus demonstrated that living in divine love, that is, living in harmony with God’s desires for us, recreates us, fashioning us more and more into our true selves, who we really are and how we are to be in the world.

Vincent Van Gogh, a minister before he was an artist, offered an image to help us appreciate that we have a true way of being in the world. He said this.

“There is the same difference in a person before and after he is in love, as there is in an unlighted lamp and one that is burning. The lamp was there and was a good lamp, but now it is shedding light (and this is its real function).”

The disciples grew to be those God had created, the first collaborators with God’s son, Jesus. They did not function that way until they had been with Jesus. Even when they saw him feeding the multitudes and walking on the sea, they were still in the dark, as Mark put it, their hearts were hardened. The more they abided with and in Jesus, the more open to Jesus’ Spirit they became.

God is with us in Jesus. How do we invite God in Jesus into our lives? Remaining in God does not mean being stuck or hiding. It means, abiding, dwelling in God. Christian love-life is mutual: welcoming God, who first loves us. We begin our side of this mutual love by pausing to notice how God is in our daily experiences.
Wiki-image of Van Gogh's "Partial First Steps" is in the public domain.

Tuesday word, 08 Jan 2008

Tuesday after Epiphany (08 Jan 2008) 1Jn 4. 7-10; Ps 72; Mk 6. 34-44
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God’s Rescuing Love

One of the gifts of the revised liturgical calendar of the Second Vatican Council is that the Christmas season is longer than 12 days. Now we can contemplate Jesus’ manifestation as God-with-us for another week. We close Christmas time with the Baptism of the Lord.

Just like our own birthdays remember but don’t reenact our births; and just like tracing on our bodies the sign of the cross with holy water and eating and drinking the eucharist remind us of our baptisms, which occured once and for all: so, too, does pondering the Incarnation remind us that God’s loved us first. We are not the children of God because of our striving; we are the children of God because of God’s loving gift. To use the encouraging words of the First Letter of John: In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that [God] loved us and sent [God’s] Son as expiation for our sins.

The Wise Men did not turn up their noses at the child of no-bodies from Nazareth. Their child filled them with awe! A star led them to know he would change the world. Later, people like St. Peter recognized Jesus as a prophet and a messiah when, among other things, he fed the multitudes. Words like Ezekiel’s echoed in Peter and others: As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark./1/

As we bask in the light of Epiphany, we may ponder, “How does Jesus desire to rescue and nourish me?” God’s self-gift in Jesus by the power of their Spirit desires to transform us in never-ending fashion. We begin by desiring God’s desire for us.
/1/ Ezekiel 34. 12.
Wiki-image of the Epifania of Roland de Mois is in the public domain.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Monday word, 07 Jan 2008

George W. Lutjen funeral (07 Jan 2008) Sir 3. 2-6,12-14; Ps 23; Jn 6. 37-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Help To Care for Your Souls and More

On behalf of Gesu Parish and personally, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, George, Peter and Christian, at the passing of your Dad. I extend them to you Ellen, Maryanne and Sandra because I learned that George was an interested but not an intrusive father-in-law.

Your children and their children grieve, too. Your PawPaw is not with you in the same way he was. Grief is slippery and elusive. I offer a few words to console and to strengthen you in your grief; to help you appreciate God’s astounding compassion by noticing that Jesus’ victorious dying and rising were present in the life of your father, father-in-law, grandfather and great-grandfather; and in you as well./1/

I am indebted to Maryanne, who painted a detailed portrait of a man who knew lofty highs and very deep lows during his life. My remarks turn around one image Maryanne offered me: George “was a silent observer [who] did not intrude on the family.”

What he, we, indeed all people, silently observe often touches humans at their core. We use the word “heart” to speak of our core. We mean more than the blood-pumping organ of our bodies. We Catholics know our core is more real than our heart, and we call our more-than-physical core, one’s “soul.” All people have souls, not only silent observers like George. Today, though, George is the focus of your memories, your hearts and our souls.

One who is in touch with one’s soul, like George, is drawn to care. You experienced his care: his interest, concern, love, desire for you to learn and to thrive. One thing I share lets me know the depth of his care: as George cared for his mother-in-law until her death, my mother cared for my father’s mother until her death.

A person in touch with his soul like George is also able to move about in the world. One may not want to travel or like the reason for it, but being in touch with his soul, George did not fear the world or refuse to engage it.

Recalling his age reminds us that George did not grow up as we have. People of George’s generation did not take travel for granted. God created the world, and being touch with our souls allows us, like George, to move within the world both to discover ourselves as well as our Creator.

Reading for people in touch with their souls--I know this from my father--is a rewarding pastime not something that passes the time. Plus, reading is a way we bring the world to us and take ourselves into the world and its issues, needs, its future and also our future.

A word about George’s soul and his future. Anyone who decided, as Maryanne told me, to let go of one’s independece for the care assisted-living offered, and who decided to hand over one’s car keys: that person is in touch with his soul! Before those moments when George revealed his decisions to you, George silently observed himself. Because he was in touch with his soul, that core of himself, he knew that his body, the robe of his soul, needed more assistance than he could offer.

Long before you knew your PawPaw, he had many silent conversations with his soul, enough that he was always on the threshhold of the Roman Catholic church. Sometimes people on the threshhold of the church know better than many of us the meaning of the Our Father and Hail Mary.

God was astoundingly present to George and George to God throughout his life. Your father, father-in-law, grandfather and great-grandfather imaged God, who routinely “silently observes us and does not intrude on” our decisions. That’s the reason Maryanne’s one image moved me. As bearer of God’s image that way, it’s no wonder that the care children afford to their parents God never forgets. Let no one scoff at kindess to a parent or to anyone as long as you live. Your kindness keeps you on the thresh-hold of God’s justice. Your father, father-in-law, grandfather and great-grandfather silently observes that with unmatched clarity. He’ll help you care even better for your souls for the sake of the world he engaged so keenly.
/1/ Cf. Order of Christian Funerals 27.
Wiki-image .

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Epiphany word, 06 Jan 2008

Epiphany A (06Jan2008) Is 60. 1-6; Ps 72; Eph 3. 2-3a,5-6; Mt 2. 1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The “Seed of Selfhood”

Liturgies during Christmastime focus us on those with Jesus: Mary and Joseph, of course, and also shepherds and magi. The first visitors were those without status and high standing--the shepherds. One well-known carol flows from those humble folk, featuring another meek and mild child, a little drummer boy. On his visit he presented the infant Jesus with all he had, his signature possession, his drum. The little drummer boy gave what symbolized himself and his unique talent, of which he was a young, good steward.

Today’s solemnity of the Epiphany widens the circle of Jesus’ visitors to include people of lofty pedigree, the magi. Those sky-watching wise men were not Jews and came from afar, drawn, guided and led by a star. Even more important the magi represent us. I suggest two things for our contemplation and consideration: 1) that we see ourselves in them; and 2) how we might begin to be good stewards of ourselves in the new year.

The first, that we pause each day this week to contemplate the magi in order to see ourselves may be obvious. We aren’t Jews, but we inherit our Christianity through them and their worship and their ways of living. We also can say we enjoy some favorable status, or at least we have good standing in our church and in our society. What may seem less obvious is why we’ve come here, and why we come week in and week out during the year. Yes, some of us we were raised to do this. Others of us have returned to church or are recent or even new members of Christ’s body in the world. No matter who we may be, we are drawn here.

Someone, some event, even something we cannot put into words drew us. We’ve followed the attraction. Isaiah prophesied, they all gather and come...sons come from afar...and daughters in the arms of their nurses. The magi gave expression to this interior gravitational pull, which the Light of light lovingly, gently, patiently exerted for their good: "We saw [the new born king of the Jews’] star at its rising and have come to do him homage."

How are we like the magi, drawn, gathered into the presence of our King? What is our desire?--to do him homage? to ask him a favor? to converse with him? to start anew? to discover ourselves? to imitate his life more? to grow in love with and for others?

Pausing daily helps us name our deep desires. Our deep desires tell us about Jesus creating us each moment; they invite us to join him on his mission and how we might begin to be good stewards of ourselves this new year. Invite Jesus to help you care for your soul. “Soul” means one’s self. My 16th-Century spiritual father, St. Ignatius of Loyola, understood that. He made “care of souls” his focused concern, as we Jesuits do to this very day.

A contemporary, Quaker theologian, Parker Palmer, learned at a young age that the human soul is the “seed of selfhood”: “In my grandfather, I actually observed something I could once take only on faith: ‘We are born with a seed of selfhood that contains the spiritual DNA of our uniqueness--an encoded birthright knowledge of who we are, why we are here and how we are related to others. We may abandon that knowledge as the years go by, but it never abandons us.’”*

Jesus, creator of our souls, never abandons us! In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, invite Jesus to sanctify your inmost self as you begin 2008. Allow the magi to help you praise the gravitational pull of Jesus, who draws you into his mystical body with real human flesh, needs, emotions, language and desires. Speak to Jesus in a way you find helps you: the Infant Jesus with his parents; the boy Jesus, growing and learning like you; the prophet; or the man on the cross. In the Light of light seek to know more clearly your unique offering for the good of others and the salvation of your soul. Force nothing, just be with Jesus. Close your 15 minutes by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which connects us with the “spiritual DNA” of Jesus. His prayer is the “spiritual DNA” of all Christian worship and stewardship.
* quoted in Context, December 2004, Part A, pp. 6-7.
Wiki-images of the Egan Nativity shepherds and the Visit of the Magi are in the public domain.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Language. . .

. . .in the New Year

Lake Superior State College surveys how people in the U.S. used English in the past year. Its 33d annual "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness" selected from nominated words sent from around the world.

The List was born on Dec. 31, 1975 when former LSSU Public Relations Director Bill Rabe and his colleagues sought "to banish overused words and phrases and issue a list on New Year's Day. Much to the delight of language enthusiasts everywhere, the list has stayed the course into a fourth decade." How many people resolve to spruce their English usage according to the insights of the List?

About perfect storm David Hollis of Hamilton, New York, said
Hands off book titles as cheap descriptors!
About decimate Dane of Flowery Branch, Georgia, observed,
The word is so overused and misused, people use it when they should be saying "annihilate." It's so bad that now there are two definitions, the real one and the one that has taken over like a weed.
The complete 2008 List is available at the university's website.
Wiki-image of Copper Harbor Lighthouse is in the public domain.