Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday word, 25 Jan 15

Everything for Jesus
Third Sunday of the Year B (25 Jan 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A real estate maxim extols the virtue of place: Location is everything. Location is not only for brokers of real estate1 or of the stock market.2 Catholic worship locates scripture passages through the liturgical year. A first reaction at hearing Jonah appeal to the people of Nineveh to repent and Jesus begin his ministry the same way might be that these scriptures befit Lent. Placing them early in the Sundays of the Year the church assures us that repentance and conversion have no single season. Indeed, both are daily decisions.

Decision is what Jesus wanted when he walked the earth. Decision is what Jesus wants from each of us—daily and not just at a certain time of year or a season in our lives. Jesus wanted then and wants us now to decide for him. What does it mean to decide for Jesus? Consider our decision to cultivate friendship with someone; or consider the decision to love another who also pledges to love in mutual and lasting fidelity…in good times and in bad.3 When couples decide to espouse themselveswhen we decide to befriend others: we decide in favor of the person and for what the person hopes and envisions. So with Jesus.

Jesus announced the time of fulfillment; Jesus also embodied it and modeled it. And not by accident! The fulfillment answered prayer, especially King David’s priestly prayer:
Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.4
Not only prayer; prophecy, too. Prophets had voiced God would gather the people. Two examples:
Gather my loyal ones to me, those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice5; and 
the Lord God…who gathers the dispersed of Israel; others will I gather to them besides those already gathered.6
Jesus began God’s gathering. He began it by calling all to him. He started with his people, Israel. He made it clear that gathering those others keep at the margins—the poor, the captives, the blind, those oppressed in any way—happened because of him: Today [that very prophecy] is fulfilled in your hearing.7 Jesus also gathered others; they were not of his people yet lived in awe of God. Scripture’s word for living in awe of God is faith. Jesus was open to and amazed at others whose faith allowed God to gather them.8

All who gave themselves to Jesus decided they saw in him the fulfillment of God’s promises to gather God’s people. They deeply longed for their fulfillment. Their longing opened their eyes, their memories and their hearts to Jesus as he made the promises come to pass. Each day Jesus invites you and me to decide for him and all he desires: to gather us and all people into God’s realm.

God’s realm is no place but a way of living. God’s realm is, St. Paul urged, a matter of…righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit.9 We heard moments ago St. Paul shared Jesus’ urgency about godly living: time is running out. For us today their urgency is not about the world’s end. It is about deciding for Jesus and living our decision.

On generations down to ours God showers great patience. God’s patience in no way minimizes Jesus’ longing that we decide for him and for all he desires. We know God’s patience because Jesus demonstrated it. God’s patience gives us chances to decide for Jesus. Some may decide for Jesus for the first time. More of us may decide yet again for him. Deciding for Jesus offers new hope and new courage to align our choices and actions with Jesus’ heart. We know choices and actions speak more eloquently than words.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask Jonah, St. Paul or your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for proclaiming the gospel for you; thank Jesus for gathering you into the life he shares with his Father and Holy Spirit.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to free you to let your life draw others to him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ gave us his prayer to help us decide for Jesus each day. His prayer guides us in practical ways so our decisions share his heart, his life and his mission for the sake of the world. in the love of our triune God.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. An exchange at
  2. An entry at
  3. One option from the Rite of Marriage.
  4. 1Chronicles 16.35.
  5. Psalm 50.5.
  6. Isaiah 56.8.
  7. Luke 4.21.
  8. A centurion’s faith amazed Jesus.
  9. Romans 14.17.
Wiki-images: Jonah speaking God’s message by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing CC BY-SA 3.0; The Calling of James and John PD-US

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cleaning After Christmas?

Many go without basics or live with drastic scarcity of them. Many have too much. Having too much affects “mental health.” So points out author James Wallman (Stuffocation: Living More With Less). Here’s a brief examen he offered:

Do you have lots of stuff? Do you have more than you need or use? Do the kids have too many toys? How many pairs of shoes, DVDs, and books and magazines do you have? Is there room for cars in the garage?
His queries appear in his recent BBC essay.
Wiki-image of basement clutter CC0 1.0

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday word, 18 Jan 15

Beyond Play
Second Sunday of the Year B (18 Jan 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
In his book, Mister Rogers Talks with Parents, Fred Rogers offered a way “to think about play.”
[Play] is as the process of finding new combinations for known things—combinations that may yield new forms of expression, new inventions, new discoveries, and new solutions. …It’s exactly what children’s play seems to be about and explains why so many people have come to think that children’s play is so important a part of childhood—and beyond.1
A “process of finding new combinations for known things—combinations that may yield new forms of expression.” Prayer does that. Things we know—Jesus, ourselves, our place in family, church and society—arrange themselves to us in new ways, new “combinations that may yield new forms of expression.” Prayer offers new forms for being in relationship with Jesus, “so important a part of childhood—and beyond.”

Today’s gospel selection narrated finding: finding Jesus and beginning a relationship with him. Pursuing Mr. Rogers’ thought can help us appreciate better this passage. Half of its eight verses involved naming.

All the gospels name Jesus in various ways. The variety is not confusion. The variety names different aspects of Jesus: his person and his deeds. As many dimensions shape us as the people we are, so with Jesus. We heard John and his disciples name Jesus in turn: Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah. In later verses another disciple named him Son of God and King of Israel.2 Why?

The disciples found Jesus attracted them. They wanted to learn him, to know him. They were willing to enter a relationship with him. Did you notice Jesus’ response? Come and see. Inviting, yes. A bit playful, too. Jesus joined them in naming; he renamed Cephas. To echo Mr. Rogers this naming-play combined and discovered.

Andrew and John thirsted for meaning. Their thirsts helped them notice they needed help. Admitting their need for help led them to John the Baptizer. To John they went for forgiveness of sins. When the Baptizer pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, two of his disciples followed Jesus. Forgiveness of sins and lamb were part of their religious atmosphere.3 Their day spent with Jesus helped them discover a new avenue to forgiveness of sins, to meaning, to friendship and more. They accepted Jesus could offer them much as their Rabbi-teacher. Discovering Jesus as Teacher meant humble self-discovery as learners: as Jesus’ disciples.

Rabbis stayed in places, even if temporarily, to study the word of God and discuss it with any who showed interest. Rabbi...where are you staying? The disciples did not ask Jesus for his address. They wanted to begin learning with Jesus as their Teacher. And they did, most of that day.

Quite a day it was. Andrew sought out his brother first and announced he had found the Messiah (which means Anointed One of God). From Lamb to Teacher to God’s Anointed One Andrew and John made new discoveries. Jesus did not prove himself to them the ways insecure people show off. Jesus allowed Andrew and his fishing partner to discover him for themselves.

Lamb to Teacher to Anointed One of God combined traditional Jewish titles in new ways. Jesus blended them in his person. Coming to see Jesus combine these titles in himself offered the disciples meaning. It was both daring and humble: they gave themselves to Jesus in the child-hood of their discipleship and beyond.

We can ask ourselves: How is Jesus naming us now? We can begin with the saints for whom we are named and the ones whose names we chose at confirmation. How is Jesus inviting us to live up to their names? We can also ask: How do we see Jesus now? Has our vision of him grown as we have? To consider those questions and others is prayer. They offer us new and honest ways to see Jesus as well as ourselves now and beyond.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask Samuel, Andrew, the Baptist or your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for proclaiming the gospel for you; thank Jesus for your life and for the vocation-mission Jesus has given you. Or, if you are discerning a vocation, thank Jesus for your life and ask Jesus to enlighten you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as our Savior and to walk more closely his way.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ gave us his prayer to guide us all to grow more familiar with Jesus and his way and put our faithful friendship with Jesus into action.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Chapter 5, 1983.
  2. Nathanael, a few verses later. John 1.49.
  3. Lamb resonated powerfully: Isaiah 53.7; Jeremiah 11.19.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Gift Not Effort

Many have observed Pope Francis’ words about “yoga” and “zen.” They are being recalled now that the pope is in South Asia. The context for the words has not been recalled very much. Francis spoke them at the end of a daily homily about hardened hearts and being unfree.

Yoga and zen followed in a list that began with “catechesis” and “spiritual courses.” Yet coursework of any kind and individual effort cannot replace Holy Spirit who softens hearts and offers true freedom.
Wiki-image of Pope Francis Uploaded by Stemoc CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday word, 11 Jan 15

Our Mission: Christian Witness
The Baptism of the Lord B (11 Jan 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
As we train our minds and hearts on the Nativity of Jesus, we naturally focus on him as infant and child. Immense, immeasurable God beginning human life from infancy—as everyone does—boggles our minds. We rightly name the Incarnation and the Nativity of Jesus mysteries. By the word mystery the church does not mean a whodunnit. The word mystery speaks of God’s desire to become more available to and for people and our world.

Christian mystery is not locked into time. If it were, it would be long past. Jesus is no dead figure of the past. He lives among us by the power of his Spirit. The mysteries of his life continue to bless us with gracious power. The mysteries of Jesus’ life are his sacramental presence to us and for us.1

The Season of Christmas offers us several mysteries in which to lose ourselves, and not only the Nativity of Jesus. This season offers his Presentation in the Temple; his Epiphany; his escape from Herod’s murderous designs. As it closes the season invites us to savor his Baptism.

This pattern of our worship, of savoring many sides of his Incarnation, was born in the church’s early centuries. A bishop in Italy felt this pattern of worship reasonable. Of the Lord’s baptism he preached: 

Reason demands that this feast of the Lord’s baptism, which I think could be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Lord’s birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events.2 

The mystery of Jesus’ baptism gave birth to his public ministry. The Baptizer announced that Jesus would baptize with Holy Spirit. Who could anoint with God’s spirit if God did not make it possible? At his baptism God identified Jesus as God’s beloved Son.

In the clarifying light of the mystery of his resurrection the church soon grasped that Jesus’ life and ministry was about power to bequeath Holy Spirit to everyone: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

God’s son became human for us as Jesus of Nazareth. Risen from the dead Jesus continues to transform us and all who surrender their lives to him. The sacrament of our baptisms began of our transformation into Jesus’ divine nature. The mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation begins a personal mystery of each of us: baptism begins to make us faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting [us] in a living union with [God’s] only Son, [our] Savior.3

Savoring the mystery of Jesus’ baptism allows us to know ourselves as our triune God knows us: as sons and daughters of God; as sisters and brothers of Jesus. It is good to ask to enjoy this graced self-knowledge more. Feeling this graced self-knowledge and getting energy from it fuels our Christian witness. Having anointed us with his spirit Jesus empowers us to communicate his spirit to others and anoint them with it by deed and word. We name our power our Christian witness.

The more we witness to Jesus the more we grow as our truer and more real selves: beloved of God, his Father and ours. Our truer and more real selves are portals of his presence as we seek to do good and bring forth justice in Jesus’ strong, loving and wise way. Beginning with baptism the sacraments transform and nourish us for our mission of Christian witness each day.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask  John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Stand on the bank of the Jordan with Jesus; then speak to him: marvel that he is the son of God born for us; tell him your desire to share his spirit.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to transform you more as his witness.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ gave us his prayer to guide us daily to love God and to witness Jesus’ life-giving power to others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Pope St. Leo, Sermon 74, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC].
  2. Saint Maximus of Turin, From his Sermon on Epiphany.
  3. CCC #1129.
Wiki-images: Baptism of Jesus PD-US; Jordan baptism site by אלה פאוסט CC BY 2.5

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Sunday word, 04 Jan 15

Privileged Ways To Pay Our Homage
Solemnity of the Epiphany B (04 Jan 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage. I suggest the magi who spoke those words are models for us. Let’s compare them with the one who first heard them. The magi’s words greatly troubled Herod the king. In Middle East cultures honor was central. A troubled mind and heart of a ruler threatened a ruler’s honor because a troubled mind and heart disrupted a ruler’s poise. If Herod did not carry himself honorably, it would affect the people. It did: King Herod…was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Why was Herod troubled? He was King of Judea. He knew he had no newborn heir. So the arrival of wise men from distant nations who had come to worship the newborn king of Judea troubled the already wary king.

Herod was wary because he was a puppet king.1 The Roman emperor crowned him and let him rule. He was not Judaean at all. As a result Herod had no idea he ought to have modeled himself after King David. David shepherded his people, guiding and encouraging them to fulfill their destiny. Their destiny was God’s purpose for them: to witness by their lives so the world might know God and enjoy a relationship with God. Of Israel’s destiny of service Prophet Isaiah announced: Nations shall walk by your light…they all gather and come to you…proclaiming the praises of the Lord. Of it the Psalmist sang: All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve Israel’s God.

Their witness was their side of the covenant. God pledged it first to Abraham.2 Jesus fulfilled the covenant so all nations are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

King Herod did not live the covenant; nor did he encourage those of his kingdom to live it. He wanted to cling to the power he had. The magi’s visit troubled him because it suggested a rival was near and would grow and take his power. To cling to power Herod summoned the magi secretly. Secrecy and honor did not harmonize in his culture. If people were seen to be honorable, others gave them honor. Honor was public; it was desired; and it was bestowed by others. Secrecy did not let people see another’s behavior so they could give honor.

The Wise Men felt the secrecy-honor disconnect when summoned by Herod. A heavenly light, available to any with vision, had set them on their journey to honor the newborn king of Judea. Nothing was more public than a light of heaven. Herod’s secrecy had no aroma of honor, let alone homage. On their journey they weighed Herod’s power-hungry request to return to him. Their dream not to return to him confirmed their choice to return home another way.

The Wise Men encourage us to consider the ways we notice Jesus present to us. The Wise Men encourage us to grow more alert to the ways Jesus accompanies us and leads us. The Wise Men encourage us to let ourselves be moved to honor our Savior Jesus on our life journeys. The two great love commands have pride of place among ways to honor Jesus: loving God with all we are; and loving others the way we desire to be loved. Our communal worship and personal prayer lovingly honor our triune God. Jesus warned doing that alone is empty show. We present true gifts at our altars of praise when we honor others and honor those in need with what help we can offer. To treat Jesus’ love commands as either-or options does not honor our Savior; to treat his two commands as either-or options does not allow our Savior to honor us as his disciples and friends. We honor Jesus by following him more closely. He is our Christian poise.

Our Christian poise, the way we carry ourselves as Jesus’ friends and disciples, gets rebalanced as we love others and care for them as we journey to God and honor God with our lives along our way.3

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask the magi to present you to Jesus.
  • Look on him tenderly and speak to him: marvel that God was born for us; that Jesus continues to guide us; that Jesus deepens our desire to be his disciples.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to welcome him as our Savior and to walk more closely his way.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ gave us his prayer to guide us daily to love God wholeheartedly. We demonstrate our love for God when we shower others with the love and honor we desire to be showered on us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. See the Encyclopedia Brittanica entry, Herod.
  2. Genesis 18.18-19.
  3. This paraphrases St. Augustine’s Tractate 17.9 on John’s Gospel.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Jesus’ Human Heart

Before 2013 the Society of Jesus celebrated its name day on the Octave of Christmas. Since then it celebrates it two days later. To live up to the name, to shape his heart more like the heart of the Savior challenges each Jesuit. Jesuit Bill MacCurtain posted a brief reflection that manynot only Jesuitsenjoyed. His “The Human Heart of Jesus” is at one cosmic and down to earth.