Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday word, 29 Jun 2014

Accept, Welcome and Cultivate 
Solemnity of SS Peter & Paul,Solemnity (29 Jun 2014)
Ac 12. 1-11; Ps 34; 2Tm 4. 6-8,17-18; Mt 16. 13-19
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Apostle-martyrs, Peter and Paul, form a bedrock for Roman Christianity. For ages it hails them: Peter, who established the early Church from the remnant of Israel; Paul…outstanding preacher…and teacher of the Gentiles God invites.1 Each gave supreme witness to the Lord of their lives when they shed their blood in Rome. Their lives and ministries are so crucial that we celebrate their solemnity even when it falls on a Sundays.

I want to reflect with you on one aspect of their  lives. It is not about their greatness: their loyalty; their commitment; their generosity; their desire to proclaim Jesus in deed as well as word. That would not be as helpful. Why? Because greatness is a bar set high; and it is hard to reach. To begin where we are is more helpful. Let me reflect with you on their weakness and its root. Along the way we will notice that weakness says more about God than about us.

God creates all things at each moment. God creates humans in the divine image and likeness.2 That is our triune God’s eternal desire. You and I seek to discover God’s desire, namely, who God creates each of us to be. Discovering God’s desire challenges us. It challenges us because, in the words of Jesuit and spiritual guide William Barry, “We are not born into a world that is totally in tune with God’s purposes”3 and desires. Bible and church language name our challenge sin. Sin is our root weakness not to be in tune with God’s purposes and desires.

St. Peter realized his weakness in the presence of Jesus. At the catch of fish that filled two boats so they nearly sank, Peter said told Jesus, Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. The radiance of Jesus and his life readily reveals to us the darkness of our weaknesses. We often flounder in them. Jesus accepts our weaknesses more freely than we do. Jesus is not deterred by any weakness, including sin. To Peter and his companions he responded, Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching humans.4 Our weaknesses rarely disappear, and its root does not. St. Peter witnesses to us that we need not let our weaknesses hold us captive. In his sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus pardons our sins to free us once more.

St. Paul witnesses to us both freedom as we live with our weakness and freedom’s source. He was no stranger to weaknesses. A physical illness once occasioned preaching the gospel.5 Paul endured in part because people accepted his infirmity. Yet that weakness or another—we will never know—was more than Paul could bear even with the compassionate understanding of others. He prayed God to remove it from his life. St. Paul grew aware that God could not be defied by weakness; and he recognized God responded to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”…Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.6

Weak and strong echo dead and risen. When we do not deny our weaknesses we participate in Jesus’ death. The fruit of his dying is risen life; Jesus gives us a share in it even now to free us so we may proclaim him by our actions.

In their ways Ss. Peter and Paul accepted the compassionate love of Jesus: Peter allowed risen Jesus to guide him7; Paul welcomed Jesus to live in and through him.8 If they had not their apostolic ministries would have withered. So it is for us. Inborn weaknesses and those that visit us later in life tend to make us fight and resist. The pattern insinuates itself in our deepest selves, and we end up fighting and resisting not only weaknesses. We fight and resist others, including Jesus and his compassion for us. If I fight Jesus’ compassion, I remain captive to my sinfulness. Ss. Peter and Paul set a foundation on which all of us can stand confidently so we may accept Jesus’ compassion for us, welcome it and cultivate it daily.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Let yourself feel the Trinity recreate you lovingly in the divine image.
  • Ask Ss. Peter and Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: Praise Jesus for dying and rising for you. Thank Jesus for befriending you as his ambassador.
  • Ask Jesus to help you learn him better so you may grow in his freedom.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to assure us his compassion for us is our friendship with him. Friendship with Jesus shapes us to befriend others in his name and with his compassion.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Preface, Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, Mass During the Day.
  2. Genesis 1.26-27; Genesis 5.1-3; James 3.9.
  3. William A. Barry, S.J. Praying the Truth: Deepening Your Friendship with God through Honest Prayer Chicago: Loyola Press, 2012. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 1341-1342).
  4. Luke 5.8-10.
  5. Galatians 4.13-14.
  6. 2 Corinthians 12.7-10.
  7. John 21.15-19 is a narrative that deepens Jesus’ earlier calls for Peter to follow him.
  8. Galatians 2.20.

Wiki-images of St. Paul and of St. Peter PD-US

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday word, 22 Jun 14

More Vital Participation 
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ A (22 Jun 2014)
Dt 8. 2-3,14b-16a; Ps 147; 1Co 10. 16-17; Sequence Lauda Sion; Jn 6. 51-58
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
After Pentecost we give one Sunday to celebrate the Holy Trinity. The next we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. He is the sacrament of our unity. Let me reflect briefly with you on one aspect of our unity: sharing Jesus’ body and blood shapes our sharing in the lives of one another. St. Paul’s culture and ours offer windows to see that.

Yes, St. Paul’s time and culture and ours differ. Yet the way people choose to associate with others today is remarkably similar. Corinth was a large city. It was home to a mix of people largely because it was a port-city. It also was a gateway to the interior of its country. Sounds like Erie of old, doesn’t it? In both Corinth and Erie—then and now—people freely associated with others; often similar interests united them.

Then and now: clubs, ancient and modern; guilds of workers practicing different crafts and using the same materials; people with similar tastes in art, in music; athletes and soldiers; even the poor and sick. Then and now people with similar interests and people with different roles in society crisscrossed each other’s lives. Similar interests and needs caused people of different classes to rub shoulders.

Similar interests help us feel safe if we fear the unknown; if we distrust anything new; or if we only desire to be comfortable. We know that never to explore ensures a dull life; never to trust ensures no reward of deep satisfaction and growth; and to choose only comfort is a springboard to emotional and spiritual flabbiness. To associate only out of similar interests guarantees listless lives.

Good news exists despite all that. The good news St. Paul brought to Corinth then, the good news St. Paul offers us now is this: Jesus offers himself to us so we may lead vital lives and rub shoulders with people who are different. Chief among them are the poor, the infirm and those we keep at the margins of society as well as our hearts. We know that is true because Jesus had a tender friendship with those at the margins. Jesus’ friendship with humans was not shaped or defined by similar interests. Jesus came inviting sinners, then and now; he came setting free those in bondage, then and now.

Jesus’ friendship with humans flowed from his friendship with God. Jesus’ friendship with humans allows us to see, hear, touch God’s heart. Even better news is that Jesus refused to be the only channel of God’s heart and God’s freeing, healing love to the world. Jesus gives himself to nourish us and strengthen us so we may channel God’s freeing, healing love we enjoy to others.

Jesus gives himself: the body and blood of our Messiah Jesus are not shadowy tokens of Jesus. Jesus’ body and blood are his loving self-gift for the life of the world. Jesus’ body and blood are his life and love; they shape us more like him. We become the one who is our life! We breathe an atmosphere that flows not from similar interests or comforts but from Jesus’ very self.

Our Creator and Redeemer’s vitality is his Holy Spirit. By Holy Spirit we participate in Jesus’ friendship with God and friendship with humans. As we partake in Jesus we participate in the lives of all people as Jesus commissions us each day. Participation and fellowship were St. Paul’s friendship language.

Early Christians embodied their culture’s definition: friends are of one mind and heart.1 Jesus calls us his friends.2 Sharing Jesus’ body and blood deepens our friendship with Jesus. As St. Paul also wrote the Corinthians, we have the mind of Christ.3 Sharing his body and blood helps us exercise the mind of Christ in our daily living. In brief, Jesus’ eucharist moves us beyond ourselves to seek the good of others. That is yet another way you and I glorify Jesus.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Ask our triune God to see yourself, others and the world as God sees. 
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; share with Jesus your hunger for him, your desire to live from his mind and heart. 
  • Ask Jesus for grace to receive his body and blood with deep joy.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood transforms our request for our daily bread into power to become the one we receive: Jesus our Creator, our Redeemer, our Friend.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Acts 4.32. Chapter 4 echoes the Hellenistic common-place of friendship. It was older than Aristotle.
  2. John 15.15.
  3. 1Corinthians 2.16.

Wiki-image of Blessed Sacrament procession PD-Release and by Marie-Lan Nguyen of Doxology CC BY 2.5

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday word, 15 Jun 14

Signature Qualities
Solemnity of Holy Trinity A (15 Jun 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Holy Trinity: the phrase may sound more a puzzle than our name for God. We hear it and our minds want to make sense. Yet God is mystery; and mystery defies making sense. We celebrate instead of making sense. Our liturgical celebration of the Holy Trinity does not demand we define the persons in our triune God. Its scriptures assure us the Trinity is present to us as a community; the scriptures recall signature qualities of the community of the Trinity.

The first one is forgiving. Early in relationship with humans God revealed to Moses that God was merciful and gracious…slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity. God is forgiving.  Moses found that appealing and invited God to journey with them: do come along in our company. Echoing Moses’ invitation is worthy for us all: forgiving is ever a challenge.

Three more qualities cascaded in the second reading. The frequently used greeting at mass echoes St. Paul’s closing words to the Corinthians: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Grace and love flow among the divine Persons in their communion. Their grace and love overflow to you and me. St. Paul encouraged behaviors influenced by them. He also recalled the Christian greeting known as the holy kiss. What we know about it is this: it reminded people that all Christians enjoyed God’s grace and love. No matter today’s styles in which Christians greet each other, our goal is to incarnate all manners of genuine communion.

Forgiving, loving, gracious and in communion pave the way for saving. Saving is the characteristic desire of our triune God. One of the best known scripture verses echoes that: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. The entire Fourth Gospel revolves around that verse. In case its familiarity dulls our hearing it or our minds get distracted by its final phrase— eternal life—the Evangelist followed immediately with: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Our triune God’s saving was no accident. It is eternally intentional: God so loved. That so intensifies God’s love. God loves the entire world so much we cannot measure it! Even the qualities and actions of some that may move us to ignore or to retaliate cannot keep the Trinity from lavishing love on each person as if that person—each of us, too—were the world’s only human.

One way we give ourselves access to God’s love is the sign of the cross. When we sign ourselves with Jesus’ cross we often say the divine, triple Name: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. By signing our-selves with their names we anoint ourselves with divine love. Its signatures are forgiveness, grace and communion. We remind ourselves that the Trinity saves us by Jesus’ cross and rising. Being saved means rescued; it means protected; and it means set apart. Consecrate is the word we use to designate when our triune God rescues, protects and sets apart. When we make the sign of the cross we consecrate our-selves with their love—forgiving, gracious, communal love.

Making the sign of the cross slowly helps us grow more aware our triune God is with us. Father, Son, Holy Spirit; forgiving, gracious, communal. In those ways the Trinity loves and welcomes us to love. Feeling that moves us to celebrate our triune God not define God. Definitions are necessary and helpful; they usually don’t inspire. Jesus revealed God in inspiring ways. When he saved our world by his cross Holy Spirit raised Jesus to absolutely new and undying life. Jesus gives us his Spirit to begin to live the Trinity’s life now.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Enter the Trinity with worship to help you: trace the sign of the cross on yourself several times as you say the Divine Name slowly.
  • Ask Moses and St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for saving you by his cross and resurrection.
  • Ask him to help you live your baptized life with love that is forgiving, gracious and welcoming.
  • Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Saying Jesus’ words, Our Father, reminds us Jesus revealed God personally. Like risen Jesus, his Father brings us more alive by their Spirit at work in us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-images of icons of the Trinity and of the only-begotten Son PD-US

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In Advance of Trinity Sunday

The Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity the Sunday after Pentecost. ThinkingFaith posted a few essays from its archives. In one Jesuit James Hanvey reminds:
The name we give to God, The Trinity, marks the depth and height of the Christian knowledge and experience of who God is. It is completely unique to Christianity. Too often our understanding and experience of God as Trinity is dismissed as a mystery or presented as some sort of paradox or conundrum: ‘three persons, one God.’
Out of its depth and height” humans enjoy divine life now as grace; it is “our school of Love.
Wiki-mages by SteinbDJ Holy Trinity window CC BY 3.0

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Peres, Abbas, Francis, Bartholomew I Prayed For Peace

On Pentecost Hebrew and Arabic from the Bible and Quran as well as messages from the Presidents and the Pope sounded in the Vatican Gardens. On his recent trip to the Holy Land Pope Francis invited each president to his house, “the house of Peter,” to pray for peace. Following three moments of prayer (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) Francis, Peres and Abbas offered his message. The four-hour event is available with English translations at Salt&Light.
Wiki-mages by Vatican 5 Vatican Gardens CC BY 2.5