Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday word, 31 Aug 14

Three Features For Our Living
22nd Sunday of the Year A (31 Aug l2014)
Jer 20. 7-9; Ps 63; Rm 12. 1-2; Mt 16. 21-27
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
As he did for the Roman Christians to whom he wrote, St. Paul encouraged us to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice…to God. Years ago his words moved me; it took me some time to appreciate the concrete way I was invited to do that. Needing time to notice how we are invited to respond to God from our freedom reminded me I am more like you than different. I thought I’d reflect briefly with you about St. Paul’s brief, full verses.

Certain nuances of sacrifice may dominate more than others for us. The uncertainty, discomfort or the pain involved in our sacrificial efforts may blind us to the freedom sacrifice involves. Jesus said, I lay down my life ….No one takes it away from me…I lay it down of my own free will.1 He spoke of sacrificing his life to save us and all people. Jesus is the measure of sacrificial freedom.

Genuine is another feature of sacrifice. If I sacrifice only because everyone else is, then my sacrifice is not genuine. Let me make up an example: my family decides to have a very simple meal once a month. We do it to grow more aware of men, women and children who lack nourishment each day. I participate then hasten to an all-you-can-eat diner; my sacrifice was not genuine. I joined the family sacrificial supper but not with my spirit and heart. “Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, [expresses] spiritual sacrifice.”2 Sacrifice is genuine when our spirits, hearts and minds are in sync with our actions. Jesus is our measure of genuine sacrifice.

In addition to free and genuine, sacrifice is worship. Our genuine sacrifices adore God, thank God, petition God and seek to deepen communion with God.3 St. Augustine put it crisply: “Every action done so as to cling to God in communion of holiness, and…achieve blessedness, is a true sacrifice.”4 Once more Jesus is our measure and pattern for deepening our communion with God.

When we talk of sacrifice we easily use language of worship. We speak of offering service to God and others. St. Paul had recalled early in his Letter to the Romans what they knew and we know: some refuse to be in relationship with God. St. Paul used worship language: they adored and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for all ages.5 St. Paul echoed his conviction as he encouraged us: to [God] be glory for all ages!…Therefore, present your bodies as a living sacrifice…to God. St. Paul used worship to encourage godly living. These were his words: to present your bodies as a living sacrifice…to God is a reasonable6 act of worship for you. His word, reasonable, included mind and soul. St. Paul always spoke to the whole person.

His encouragement today means this: the more we act according to the way we worship Jesus by our godly living, the more we make Jesus our measure and model; the more we shape ourselves according to the pattern of his life and his consciousness.

Summarizing the three features of sacrifice Jesus modeled for us: Jesus freely lived, died and rose for us; his visible actions were in sync with his mind, heart and spirit—he refused to be held prisoner by arrogance or grand schemes; and he ever desired to live in communion with God, whom he called his Father. In these two verses St. Paul sketched how we exercise the mind of Christ7; how we renew our consciousness with the consciousness of Jesus. The grace for us to desire and ask is this: to grow more free to pattern our lives after the life and consciousness of Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to recall our triune God creates you in the divine image and to become divine because Jesus became human with and for us.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise Jesus for giving you his awareness by the power of his Spirit. Consider one way Jesus’ mission attracts you and one way it challenges or even frightens you; chat with Jesus about each.
  • Ask for the grace to grow more free to pattern your life after the life and consciousness of Jesus.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us pattern our lives on his living, dying and rising. He gave it to us so we may grow more free, more genuine and in ever deepening communion with him and his Father.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. John 10.17-18.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] 2100.
  3. CCC 2099.
  4. Quoted in CCC 2099.
  5. Romans 1.25.
  6. As Thayer noted in his dictionary.
  7. 1Corinthians 2.16.


Wiki-images of Get Behind Me and Apostle Paul PD-US

Monday, August 25, 2014

In Memoriam

James Foley came from a family of deep faith. They gave it to him; Jesuits and their colleagues helped him deepen his faith. In 2011 Jim was captured and released. He wrote about prayer during that capture in his alma mater’s magazine.
Wiki-image of rosary PD-Release

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday word, 24 Aug 14

Protocol For Christian Action
21st Sunday of the Year A (24 Aug l2014)
Is 22. 19-23; Ps 138; Rm 11. 33-36; Mt 16. 13-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Shebna was master of the palace. We can appreciate his role by recalling our phrase: chief of staff. We recognize the role as part of White House and other large administrations. We may not be familiar with all chiefs of staff do. Yet if we polled ourselves we would include two important qualities: in sync with the administrator; and putting the job ahead of self. Let’s start with the job.

Having access to power can tempt anyone. Chiefs of staff have ready access to power. Coordinating staffs is their power. Shebna abused his authority; he got drunk on it. Isaiah knew his arrogance before he spoke on God’s behalf: you cut out…a tomb for yourself…on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock: you fancy yourself more than master of the palace. From the beginning—from creation to the church, the new creation, God entrusts people with power to serve. God created humans as stew-ards of all created things.1 Jesus entrusted Peter and then all the apostles2 to serve the members of the church. We all know that arrogance in any form does not serve. Shebna is our counter-example: how friends and followers of Jesus ought not act.

Another quality of good chiefs of staff: they know the temperaments of administrators. That doesn’t mean reading their minds. It means they are in sync with and know administrators’ styles of leading: how they evaluate; how they decide; how they prepare and the time they need. Good chiefs of staff fully inform administrators so they can do all their duties well. Administrators confide in their chiefs of staff. Theirs is a two-way-street relationship. 

These qualities of good chiefs of staff apply to us and all disciples and friends of Jesus. Each of us has a relationship with Jesus. We have knowledge of Jesus’ mission and how he does his work through us. Jesus gives each of us a share in build[ing] his church where we live, work and play. It means living our Christian lives faithfully and with greater devotion and zeal to serve others. How does living our faith serve? It frees others to notice  Jesus nearer to them.

Not only do we know Jesus’ mission; we know how to continue and extend it each day. We know because we have his mind, his atti-tude. We enjoy that gift because we are part of Jesus’ body, his church.3 Pope Francis recently remarked that the mind of Christ rests in the Beatitudes and Matthew 25. Memorize the Beatitudes, he said, because they are “a portrait of Jesus and his way of life.”4 The pope recalled that the portrait of Jesus on which we look is not art to behold; it is a protocol to put into action, the “protocol according to which we will be judged….”

“What will the questions be that the judge will ask?” We know them: Did we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner? In short, did we comfort any on life’s margins.5

Together the Beatitudes6 and Matthew 257 free and encourage us to be in sync with Jesus, the ways chiefs of staff are in sync with their bosses; they free us to anticipate Jesus and to build up his church, his body in the world, where we live, work and play.

I add to the pope’s practical encouragement the prayer Jesus taught us. The Lord’s Prayer also puts us in sync with Jesus’ attitude. His attitude toward others included forgiveness. Forgiving is more costly to us than giving things that support life and ease hardship. Forgiving is an antidote to arrogance, how friends and followers of Jesus ought not act.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the presence of our triune God to feel God’s creative love for you.
  • Ask Peter to present you to Jesus. Peter was so much like us in our limitations as well as our desire to know Jesus and anticipate him.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for all Jesus has done and is doing in your life. Tell Jesus your desire to know him better.
  • Ask him for grace to help you know him better and continue his mission where you live, work and play.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to stay close to him and his Father and to live our faith by lives of care and service; and to rest secure in our ever deepening felt-knowledge of Jesus, our Messiah-Savior.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Genesis 1.28. The dominion/stewardship is limited power [click on * in the verse].
  2. Matthew 18.18.
  3. 1Corinthians 2.16; Philippians 2.5.
  4. From his 06 August General Audience.
  5. That same audience.
  6. Matthew 5.3-12.
  7. Matthew 25.35-36.

Monday, August 18, 2014

More About the Suppression

Jesuit Thomas M. McCoog continued his consideration of the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773. It included house arrests of individual Jesuits “before each now-former Jesuit was released to fend for himself.”
Wiki-image of Pope Clement XIV PD-US

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday word, 17 Aug 14

Do Not Dismay
20th Sunday of the Year A (17 Aug 2014)
Is 56. 1, 6-7; Ps 67; Rm 11. 13-15, 29-32; Mt 15. 21-28
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
This gospel episode leads many to dismay at Jesus’ behavior. So we can worship and go home in peace let’s recall in Jesus’ 1st Century, Mediterranean culture honor and shame were ever in play in most public ways. Modern folks’ dismay rises when we forget Jesus was born into that culture and lived it completely. Honor and shame in his culture were about how people perceived each other.

Honor and shame are ways of being perceived by people in all cultures. Honor is the core value in Mediter-ranean culture. Say I set myself before others as a teacher. If pupils followed me, I would enjoy honor; more pupils, greater honor. If no pupils came to learn from me, their public refusal would shame me. Any shame I would feel would be my personal woe. In the Mediterranean world everything is in play in public ways. Public shame—no pupils follow a teacher—public shame is more significant, more real. Honor and shame are ways anyone was perceived by others.

Location also affected the ways people perceived others. Jesus and the Canaanite woman met in what it is Lebanon today: Sidon is near Tyre, and Tyre is even nearer to today’s Israel-Lebanon border. In Jesus’ time and earlier the region of Tyre and Sidon was home to many non-Israelites. Many of them hungered for truth and had traveled to see Jesus in Galilee.1 But because they did not follow Jewish ways, Jews considered them shameful. So the woman Jesus met began at a sore disadvantage.

Jesus may have been on his way to Sidon to visit the place where Elijah had fed a widow and her son.2 Whatever his reason for being there the Canaanite woman heard Jesus was passing through. Their meeting lets us see honor and shame in action in their 1st Century, Mediterranean culture. We saw it play in speech, touch and insult.

Jesus ignored the woman calling after him, even though she sought his attention with two titles of honor: Lord and Son of David. Men and women did not speak in public in their culture. Her disrespect of cultural rules embarrassed his disciples. They wanted to get her away. As far as Jesus was concerned, she was not part of his mission: Canaanite meant she was not part of Israel, and Jesus sought the lost ones among them.

The Canaanite woman closed any distance between: she put herself literally in his path. Doing a person homage in their culture meant embracing a person’s knees.3 Picture Jesus short of being tackled. Not only did women and men not speak in public; they did not touch. Jesus was being shamed by her word and then touch. She continued it with her final plea, “Lord, help me.”

Insult was an acceptable way to defend personal honor in their culture: it was a good offenseto use today’s sporting lingo. Dogs was a ready image to use in insult in Jesus’ culture, and he spoke in no unusual manner for his time. The Canaanite woman would not be outdone: “Please, Lord…even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Jesus recognized belief, faith, is not culture bound. Faith is power to dissolve barriers. Anyone may honor God. Whoever honors God, God honors in return. God’s honor depends on no human controls. The words of Prophet Isaiah, of whom Jesus was so fond, echoed in him: foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord...and hold to my covenant…will be acceptable to the Lord. The Canaanite woman fulfilled in her person the Psalmist’s prophecy that we made ours: May the peoples praise you, O God!

Of the many things we may take from what at first seems only cruel I offer two. First: when we feel we are not getting a hearing from Jesus, recall the Canaanite woman. Though different from Jesus and out of bounds for speaking to him, Jesus listened to her. She was persistent, too. Had she not have been, she may not have won access to him. Second: we easily consider, gauge and even disregard our faith as we would a bar of soap. Faith is no thing: it is our relationship with our triune God; God’s gift to us to honor in our 21st-Century, American fashion.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the Canaanite woman to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank Jesus for accompanying you when you are not aware of his companionship and for staying near you even when you ignore him.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to know him better and to turn to him more often. 
  • Close your time saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words give us…our daily bread include asking to be more alert to him present with us and to receive graces we may not know we need—graces to free us to live as his more faithful disciples.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Mark 3.8. Map
  2. 1Kings 17.9.
  3. Plutarch vividly described the custom (“knees” are highlighted in blue on this page).


Wiki-images of Canaanite woman PD-US / and by Heretiq of ancient column remains CC BY-SA 2.5

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday word, 10 Aug 14

Going Deeper
19th Sunday of the Year A (10 Aug 2012)
1Kg 19. 9a,11-13a; Ps 85; Rm 9. 1-5; Mt 14. 22-33
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus was practical. When people gathered on a shore to hear him Jesus got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.1 His disciples were practical, too. To get to the other side of a lake they took [Jesus] with them in the boat just as he was....A violent squall came up and waves [broke] over the boat, so that it [filled] up. Jesus [slept]. They woke him…“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”2

Again leaving a lakeside town in a boat, another violent storm befell them. In their fear The disciples…woke [Jesus], saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”3 

Now we heard Jesus and his disciples were in yet another boat in another storm. Jesus saved Peter outside the boat and the disciples in it. When the two of them returned to the boat, the disciples did Jesus homage and said,“Truly, you are the Son of God!”

Its easy to notice the three responses by the disciples are not identical. That makes them worth our attention.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
“Truly, you are the Son of God!”

More important than their difference is to what their difference points: that the disciples grew to appreciate Jesus and his identity.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
“Truly, you are the Son of God!”

Each response followed a crisis in their lives. Each response followed being with Jesus a bit longer. The more they had been with Jesus, the more they recognized who he was. The ways they addressed Jesus show us their gradual enlightenment: from Teacher to Lord to God’s son. Their tone of speaking those titles is more revealing and also enlightens us.

They reproached Jesus harshly the first time:
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

The second time they acknowledged Jesus as more than a teacher and implored his help:
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”

The third time was a moment of worship.
“Truly, you are the Son of God!”

In the first two I hear their voices screaming over the howling wind and pounding waves. In the third the awe in their quieter voices shattered the stunning silence. The deepening appreciation of the disciples for Jesus and for his identity is one more witness that Jesus is with us. Like the disciples we don’t fully fathom his mystery. Like them Jesus commits himself to us each moment: in the stormy times of our lives and when all seems to go smoothly.

Scripture alone does not deepen our appreciation of Jesus and his identity. Scripture recalls the disciples ways of addressing Jesus; prayer frees us to imagine their voices. Both witness to their deepening intimacy with Jesus: Teacher; Lord; Son of God. In stormy, difficult, uncertain and heart-breaking moments deep affection often registers as reliance: we rely on those committed to us. Weathering those moments with their presence often moves us to deepen our affection and renew our commitment. So does our faith-life invite us to deepen our relationship with Jesus and renew our commitment to him. We do both by personal prayer, public worship and Christian charity and service.

Placing ourselves in this gospel—getting inside it—can move us to ask, Who is Jesus for me? I can hear you say, Jesus is Teacher, Lord and Son of God. Jesus is all three. As all three he is our brother, too, like us in every way save sin.4 If he were not, Christianity may not have lasted thousands of years, especially in crisis times. That he is our brother moves us to draw ever nearer to him in our time.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise and thank Jesus for dying and rising for you; consider who Jesus is for you and tell him. How to do that?
  • Notice how you address Jesus:
  • Is Jesus your savior; your redeemer; your creator; your companion; your Lord; your Teacher; your friend?
  • Do you call Jesus by name in your need?
  • Ask Jesus for grace to know him better.
  • Close your time by saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Praying his words sincerely gives us his attitude. The more attentive we are to the attitude of Jesus, the more we rely on Jesus. Relying on Jesus allows us to grow closer to him and be his more faithful disciples.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Matthew 13.2.
  2. Mark 4.35-38.
  3. Matthew 8.24-25.
  4. Hebrews 2.17 with 4.15.
Wiki-images of Jesus Stilling the Tempest PD-US and by Andreas Fjellmann of Lake Kinnaret CC BY-SA 3.0

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Restored on This Date

Two hundred years ago on 7 August Pope Pius VII restored the Society of Jesus. It had been suppressed by papal pronouncement in 1773. Several factors in European countries led to its suppression. The factors ranged widely, including: philosophy of government; monetary reform; dress; and, of course, power. Jesuit Thomas M. McCoog briefly details them and others in four countries. He does so in his “Jesuit Restoration - Part One: The Jesuits in Europe before 1769.”
Wiki-image by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. of Pius VII coins CC BY-SA 3.0

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Preserved a Hundred Years

Yesterday marked the centenary of the First World War. During it Jesuits served as military chaplains.  One of them, Leslie Walker, preserved images of a front in “northern France.” Some art of Fr. Walker art may be accessed within the ThinkingFaith post.
Update: YaleNews is also remembering the Great War. 
Wiki-image of WWI Memorial PD-Release