Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday word, 30 Nov 14

Advent Living
First Sunday of Advent B (30 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
As boy I thought Advent was all about Christmas. Before Christmas I noticed we let go the Gloria in Advent and that purple was prominent in church. I noticed we did both in Lent; so I thought Advent was a Lent-like preparation for Christmas—only shorter. From its early years the church in Rome never celebrated Advent as a shorter Lent. But early Christians in what today is mostly France did; and customs for Lent found a home in their Advent—and of later generations.

Customs have strong staying power. Advent customs and practices that echoed Lent confused later generations of Catholics into our times. Lent is about
decoration: underline;">doing: we involve ourselves with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Advent is about disposition: we seek to deepen our attitude of hopeful expectation in both the Second Coming of Jesus in glory and in his abiding presence with us each moment. About his presence we desire to take Jesus at his word: I am with you always until the end of the age.1 His Second Coming will be his glorious presence when he will make human bodies glorious and people divine like him.

Each present moment for us Catholics looks both to the past and to the future. We are future oriented; it’s our culture. We think of our futures; we plan ahead. The future rests in questions we ask and our concerns. We ask youngsters, “What do you want to be? What do you see yourself doing?” When we are grown and have been working our concern becomes when we will retire and that we will have enough resources. Our culture is future oriented.

Mediterranean cultures orient people to the present. The future does not grip them like us. The Spanish word maƱana and the Italian word domani literally mean tomorrow. We hear tomorrow and think of the next 24 hours. Mediterranean cultures mean that, too; but often tomorrow points to no number of hours but an unspecific future. Perry Como popularized a movie1 song: “Forget Domani.”2 Some of its lyrics make the point of its culture:
“Let’s forget about domani,For domani never comes!Tomorrow,Forget tomorrow,Let’s live for now….”
The lyrics echo Jesus’ words to those of his culture: do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.3 The culture of the disciples gave them ears to hear that message of Jesus. The present-oriented disciples also needed Jesus’ reminder to be alert and ready for the future return of their Lord, the creator and redeemer of all things. Isaiah, like other prophets, had already sounded that. His message to us today contained return, come, meet us doing right; the Psalmist also pleaded, come…save us.

We future-oriented friends of Jesus need an alert, ready, watchful, hopeful disposition. Why? To match the faith we profess: Jesus will come again in glory.4 Advent is our opportunity to renew our Christian disposition with the en-tire church. Advent focuses us on the present and the future more than the past. About the future we are to welcome the return of One we know, love and serve. Given our anxious concern for the future, we may need to join to our Advent disposition Jesus’ wisdom do not be anxious about tomorrow. Anxiety is static in our souls; it does not help us expect the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ or announce his presence and his return in glory with our lives.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God who creates and redeems us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for accompanying you even when you are unaware of him.
  • Ask Jesus to grace you with a calm spirit and an alert, ready, watchful, hopeful disposition. in the company of our triune God giving you new birth each moment.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy kingdom come, are not about a place but God’s very life. God’s life is not distant; Jesus said, the kingdom of God is within you.5 Advent helps us live the truth of his words.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. The Yellow Rolls Royce” (1964)
  2. Its lyrics may be found at Metro Lyrics.
  3. Matthew 6.34.
  4. From the Nicene Creed.
  5. Luke 17.21.
Wiki-images: Noon Rest From Work Vincent Van Gogh PD-US Pottery disc Oriel PD-Release

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday word, 23 Nov 14

Made Not Born
Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe A (23 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Being Christian is not natural. That is apostolic teaching.  We heard moments ago how St. Paul put it: Christ has been raised from the dead. God intervened for Jesus and us so that death is not our end. Being Christian is not natural. A 3rd-Century pastor put it crisply: Christians are made not born.1 Baptism makes us Christian; it unites us to Christ Jesus; it begins our new, divine life in him. Our new life involves being “reborn” daily. Rebirth is not natural. On our own we turn to the natural; the natural is warped by sin. Regular reception of sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation, all our Catholic devotions and way of living allow us to turn in a another direction and continue to be reborn. A few examples: to focus outward—Christian—rather than inward on ourselves—natural; to turn to what gives true, lasting life—Christian—rather than fleeting, flawed pleasure—natural; to respect everyone—Christian—rather than suspect people, hate and do them violence—natural: to focus on and do the Christian instead of the natural allows us to be reborn. Today’s Solemnity is about our rebirth.

The Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, is recent among feasts of the Lord. Recent does not make it less important. The church develops its worship in response to the needs of its members. When Pope Pius XI instituted the Solemnity he and the church in several countries had seen some of them consider themselves superior to others. Some even acted as if they were superior. National superiority led them to distance themselves from the church or even harm it. Trying to negotiate national superiority and keep faith was a need in 1925.

That year saw Mussolini inaugurate his dictatorial rule. That year saw a group of extremists blow the roof off a church in their country’s capital during a military funeral; they killed 150 and injured more than three times the dead.2 In 1925 Hitler’s Mein Kampf 3 was published; his “fight”—in German, Kampf, inflicted worldwide disaster.

Christians—you and I—are made, united to Jesus to stand against the tyranny of natural inclinations to canonize self, antagonize others and take pleasure in both. The example of Jesus to be selfless, respect and help others and to root himself in the pleasure his Father has in creation, especially humans, jars us. Jesus’ call to us to be selfless, respect and help others and root ourselves in divine desires can shock us: Jesus, you call me to be like you? If his example jars and his invitation to follow his example shocks, nothing is wrong with us. Why?

Consider his final parable. Those who responded and helped the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ill and those in prison were shocked they cared for King Jesus: Lord, when did we see you in those ways and help you? Those who did not respond and help those in need were equally shocked. Their question to the King suggests they paid attention to themselves; they turned an eye over their shoulders now and again in case the King in his regalia happened their way. When he was visible to them, then they would have helped. Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?

Our King Jesus does not impress with splendor; he does not coerce. He does not use natural power to impress or intimidate. We might say Jesus was congenitally unable to use power so natural to us—he was born of powerless parents in surroundings and conditions only normal to domesticated animals. 

Yet Jesus was fully human even as he was fully divine. He married the human and the divine in his person. He doesn’t ask us not to be human; he invites us to welcome divine power and let it make us truly human. We do that every time we help the least and minister to their needs. Each time we do we let ourselves be reborn in our King of the Universe; we let ourselves be remade in his image and by his power.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God giving you new birth each moment.
  • Ask the righteous in Jesus’ parable, those with open hearts and hands to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for giving himself and rising that you may live this moment; thank him for accompanying you even when you are unaware of him; ask him to help you remember receiving help.
  • After you savor the experience of being helped, ask Jesus for grace: grace to be generous and humane, especially when you are inclined to be neither.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His prayer begs his Father to lavish divine power on us so we may do what we think is impossible:
  • to long for God’s kingdom when natural, even petty ones, preoccupy us; 
  • to be satisfied with what we have and desire what we truly need so we may help others; and
  • to do what often seems impossible for any of us—to forgive others.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Tertullian, Apology, Ch 18.
  2. St. Nedelya Church assault.
  3. His “outline[ of] his political ideology and future plans for Germany.”

Wiki-images: Last Judgment Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. CC BY-NC 3.0; Corporal Works of Mercy PD-US

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday word, 16 Nov 14

Never Hold Back
33rd Sunday of the Year A (16 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Jesus was a fine storyteller. Characters in his parables represented all facets of society. He included unjust, dishonest, faithless, immoral, wicked and lazy characters. That litany is no mere attention getter; it is fact. Judges1 to religious professionals2 to property owners3 and managers4 to servants5 exemplify qualities we do not associate with Jesus or desire. Why did Jesus people his parables with them? Not because they were unjust, dishonest, faithless, immoral, wicked or lazy. Jesus wanted his hearers—and us—to act with their determination not their morals.

Jesus told parables to help us appreciate what God is like6; what the reign of God is like7; and especially to invite us to welcome the reign of God and respond to it. The response of devious people in his parables was the sort of response Jesus hoped would be ours. Take the parable we heard today.

Bibles caption this parable of Matthew The Parable of the Talents. It is not about skills; it is about money, lots and lots of money. A talent in the world of Jesus was a unit of weight, about 80 pounds. A gold talent was worth over $29,000; a silver talent almost $2,000.8 Take the modest silver talent: the man in the parable gave one servant $10,000, another $5,000 and one $2,000. The buying power of each amount in Jesus’ day was staggering.

The wealthy man was one of those shady characters in Jesus’ parables. His wealth seemed to have grown by dis-honest dealings. If he tried to hide it, one servant knew. The servant forced him to admit it: I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter. Say you plant potatoes; then I harvest them from your garden as mine. The wealthy man in Jesus’ parable played with no small potatoes! Two servants seemed like him.

Two servants worked with the money given them; each doubled it. The ever-increasing amounts of money suggest their achievements may have involved less than honest or legal dealings. But the third did not work with it; he dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. His reward? Thrown out of his master’s service.

The parable is gripping. Jesus was a fine storyteller; he had no qualms about using immoral characters in his parables. He knew many real ones. His compassionate concern included them: I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.9 Jesus noted many people risked things for one thing or another. The greatest risk takers included shady ones—something true now as then.

The value of the reign of God exceeds anything we can imagine let alone obtain. Do we risk everything for it? Or do we play ostrich and bury our heads in the sands of daily living? Two of Jesus’ parables earlier in this gospel stressed risking all is the attitude to have for the reign of God: The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy…sells all that he has and buys that field. [Or] like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.10

The reign of God is no accidental find. It is our triune God’s gift. In response it requires a lifelong quest. It involves “going for broke,” to use an image in tune with today’s gospel selection. The reign of God is not for the lazy or those who keep to themselves. It belongs to those who desire it with lively longing and witness to it by deeds beyond words:11 extending hands and arms to those in need.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating you each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for giving his life and rising for you; thank him for his determined, tireless effort to save you and join you to him and each other.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to make you his more courageous, vigorous witnesses announcing the reign of God by how you live.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Pray it with determination. His prayer focused Jesus and kept him focused on announcing the reign of God. He gave it to us to do the same in our lives.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Luke 18.1-8.
  2. Luke 18.9-14.
  3. Matthew 25.14-30. Luke casts him as a nobleman. Luke 12.16-21.
  4. Matthew 16.1-8.
  5. Matthew 25.14-30; Luke 19.12-27; Luke 12.42-48.
  6. Three parables of lost and found do that vividly.
  7. The parables of Matthew 13; 18.23-34; 20.1-16; 22.2-14; 25.
  8. Entry at Nave’s Topical Bible.
  9. The New American Bible left out the final word.
  10. Matthew 13.44-46.
  11. As next week’s gospel selection makes clear.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday word, 09 Nov 14

Reborn Holy
Dedication of St. John Lateran A (09 Nov 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The liturgical year has a simple structure. Easter is its hinge, our feast of feasts. The liturgical year revolves around Jesus’ dying, death and resurrection. We celebrate it over three days: the night of Holy Thursday through Good Friday, Holy Saturday into Easter. We tarry 50 days to soak in its mystery and join Messiah Jesus closely. The rest of the year unfolds features of Jesus’ paschal presence with us. Each Sunday is a little Easter: we celebrate his resurrection and rededicate ourselves to our Risen Lord on the Lord’s Day.

Twelve feasts, when they fall on the Lord’s Day, replace the Sunday liturgy with their liturgies. Each helps us tap into the mystery of Jesus present with us. This year we’ve celebrated four of them: Ss. Peter and Paul (in June); the Exaltation of the Cross (in September); All Souls (last week); and now the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. The Cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome is named St. John, the patron of the monks who served it.

Each diocese has its principal church. In it the bishop of the diocese presides. St. John Lateran is the pope’s church as St. Peter Cathedral in Erie is Bishop Persico’s church. We may call St. John Lateran the cathedral of cathedrals; it was dedicated in 324. At that time Rome was the emerging center of Christianity. 

As a building no cathedral is greater than those who gather in it; nor is a parish church. In our parish churches we partake in God’s word and sacraments. Here Jesus feeds us his Body. Being parts of Jesus’ body joins parishioners in communion with their diocese; dioceses form the communion of the universal church. The Lateran basilica, the cathedral of cathedrals, symbolizes our catholic, universal, identity. 

The word “church” signifies us as the Body of Christ before it signifies a building. In St. Paul’s words: we are God’s building, the temple of [our Messiah’s] body. St. Peter called us living stones: living stones…being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 We are connected with our Cornerstone Jesus. How does that begin? By Baptism. Baptism unites us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are reborn holy for holy living. We gather ’round his table to nourish and sustain our baptisms.

The baptistry of the Lateran basilica bears an ancient inscription. It reminded those who went under its waters and emerged from them what being reborn holy means:
[In this font] is born in Spirit-soaked fertility
a brood destined for another City,
begotten by God’s blowing
and borne upon this torrent
by the Church, their virgin mother.
Reborn in these depths they reach for heaven’s realm, ….
the wounds of Christ its awesome source.
Sinner, sink beneath this sacred surf
that swallows age and spits up youth. …
This spring is life that floods the world,
Sinner, shudder not at sin’s kind and number,
for those born here are holy.
Those phrases help us ask in concrete ways if we live as reborn holy. Do we reach for heaven’s realm? Or are we flab on our Christ’s Body? Do we tap into the wounds of Christ? Or do we insulate ourselves from his suffering today? Do we obsess and shudder about sin? Or do we put ourselves into Jesus’ care? Today’s feast is less an occasion to focus on a building. It’s another opportunity to rededicate ourselves to Jesus; an opportunity to enjoy felt-knowledge that we are his body reborn, destined for holy living until he returns in glory.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Consider the thrice-holy name in which you were baptized: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
  • Ask the saints whose names you bear to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus about how you feel his Spirit has begotten by God’s blowing your Christian life.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be more aware of your baptism and its Christian vocation to live reborn holy.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Prayed slowly it helps us appreciate how each thing we ask in prayer then do affects our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 1Peter 2.5.
  2. Perhaps composed by future Pope St. Leo the Great (+461) during the pontificate of Pope St. Sixtus III. The complete inscription in Latin and translation are on pages 5-6 of this brief illustrated history of the Lateran Baptistry.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Apostle of Munich

Jesuit communities and churches celebrated Rupert Mayer on 03 November. Fr. Mayer had served as a military chaplain in WWI (the first chaplain to receive the Iron Cross--for “exemplary valour”). Later he opposed the Nazis and was imprisoned. Fr. Mayer had begun a life-long ministry to the poor of Munich. Both wars interrupted his ministry. Jesuit Peter Knox detailed more about this “limping priest.”
Rupert’s Iron Cross by Andreas Praefcke CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sunday word, 02 Nov 14

Affectionate Practice
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed A (02 Nov 2014)
Wis 3. 1-9; Ps 23; Rm 5. 5-11; Jn 6. 37-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
When October 24 and April 10 come and go, I feel something before I recognize it. Some years its texture is somber; other years weighty. I have felt an ache; I have felt a subtle, insistent tug. Recently a gentle assurance dawned. Those dates offer me a bittersweet peace. On October 24, 2001, and April 10, 2010, I presided and preached at the funerals of my parents. I feel their absence from me the way each was; I also feel them present to me in new, more real ways. Their absent-presence, if I may join those words, shaped my reflection with you according to our Catholic contours of practice and affection.

Praying for the departed faithful is an ancient practice of the church. The church prays “for all in Christian and catholic fellowship departed, even without mentioning… their names, under a general commemoration.”1 Each mass allows us, at once locally and universally, to plead for all the dead: Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace.2 

Another practice emerged: a day to commemorate the faithful departed. In the 11th Century a French monastery set aside the day after remembering all the saints to commemorate all the faithful departed. Its custom became universal practice. Its logic is plain: yesterday we venerate[d] in one celebration…all the saints3; it is fitting to commemorate in one celebration all the faithful departed. That logic also reminds that the saints remain patrons of those who died. At the funeral and before we bury our dead, we invoke angels and martyrs to greet them on their way:
May the angels lead you into Paradise.
May the martyrs come to greet you on the way.
May they lead you home to the holy city, to the new and eternal Jerusalem.4
Affection for the dead is as ancient as Catholic practice. In ancient times much threatened care for the dead. A 5th Century bishop wrote St. Augustine about caring for the dead. In replying St. Augustine frequently mentioned affection: the affection of the living for their loved ones and friends.5 Very significant, St. Augustine replied, is

where a person [inters] the body of his dead…because both the affection [in life] chose a spot which was holy, and after the body is there...the recalling to mind of that holy spot renews and increases the affection which had preceded.6

Affection and remembering are intimately connected. Our affection chooses and our remembering increases our affection. That is true throughout life not only after it.

Commemorating All the Faithful Departed is not only about our affection for and remembering our dead. It includes the Trinity’s affection for us and remembering us. When the Trinity remembers us their remembering surpasses our memory. When the Trinity remembers us Father, Son, Holy Spirit create us—create us each moment.

Jesus made divine remembering concrete. He showed affection. Jesus shows deep affection for his disciples of every age by giving his body and blood. They nourish us on our pilgrim way through life7; they strengthen our shared identity as created in the divine image and redeemed to be saints. Our share in his eucharist recreates us; keeps us closely connected with Jesus and one another, living and deceased; it also increases our affection for Jesus and one another, living and deceased.

Affection stirs in me each October and April. My parents are present to me in new and more real ways. As angels and martyrs welcome them, they connect me more closely with them, you, and in particular, the clergy of the diocese, for whom I am a spiritual director.

Your beloved dead remain present to you. Beloved dead: such an accurate phrase! They stir our affections, even if we never knew them. Recall the stirrings within us: when we read about a death in the newspapers; when we saw the regular, silent parade of photos and names of young soldiers on The Newshour; when we hear of thousands felled by Ebola; or within you as I began this homily. While we remember the dead and pray for their refreshment, light and peace, the dead also remember us.

Their affection for us cannot die; it increases and flourishes. So don’t allow your prayers for the dead to be a one-way street. Don’t allow your prayers for the dead numb you to the ways they remember you with affection; how they desire to present you to Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pray for the faithful departed, especially your beloved dead.
  • When you close your praying for the dead, allow them to present you to Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer.
  • Chat with Jesus about the ways your affection chooses Jesus, and Jesus’ affection chooses you.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to choose him more single-heartedly.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer out of affection for us. Slowly praying it helps us practice the church’s faith—Jesus’ faith—each day we are alive.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. St. Augustine, On the Care To Be Had for the Dead, 6.
  2. Eucharistic Prayer I. Each Eucharistic Prayer remembers the faithful departed with different wording.
  3. Collect for the Solemnity of All Saints, Roman Missal.
  4. Order of Christian Funerals 176, 203, 294, 315, 339.
  5. On the Care To Be Had for the Dead. Sixteen times in its 23 sections: Sections 5; 6 (3 times); 7 (4 times); 9 (3 times); 10; 11 (2 times); 22 (2 times).
  6. Ibid., 7
  7. Prayer after Communion, Order of Christian Funerals, 410.
Wiki-images: On All Souls Day by Klearchos Kapoutsis CC BY 2.0; resurrection of the dead PD-US