Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday word, 29 Mar 15

Seeing Ourselves
Passion (Palm) Sunday of the Lord B (29 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Before mass we stood at the gates of Jerusalem as the Messiah King entered them. Our hearts are those very gates. How did we welcome the Messiah King? He is a very unlikely king. He was not the messiah longed for by his contemporaries; he entered their lives just the same.

Today each one’s heart is Jerusalem’s gates. Today Jesus desires to enter our hearts and abide in us. His selfless love moves us to consider ourselves. Perhaps someone is like Peter: ready to announce the faith with lips but refuses to allow one’s heart to own Jesus in his suffering. If that is anyone’s struggle, take courage: Jesus never disavowed Peter. Jesus sought him out to restore him and build his church on him and his brother apostles.

Third-century bishop, Gregory of Nazianzen, suggested each of us can find ourselves in our Messiah’s Passion. I cannot improve on his suggestion to help us:

“If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake…cease to sin. Worship him who has hung upon the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase your salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there…

“If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make [yours] the [atonement] of sins for the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.”1

In Jesus’ Passion is every sort of atmosphere of prayer: darkness; light; fear; forgiveness; pleading; denying and recognizing; fleeing and following; watching; wondering; praising.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the Trinity, who desired from their eternity to save the human race.2
  • Ask those who hailed Jesus as King to present you to Jesus.
  • Speak to Jesus: praise him as your King.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to guide you in personal darkness to be a source of his risen light and life to others.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His prayer becomes our personal connection with Jesus: he transforms how we live and how we move through life.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. From his homily, Oratio 45, in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for Fifth Lenten Saturday.
  2. Ignatius described the divine desire in his Contemplation on the Incarnation in his Spiritual Exercises, [102]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday word, 22 Mar 15

Touched by Jesus
Fifth Sunday of Lent B (22 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We profess Jesus was buried. In the Nicene Creed we say Jesus suffered death and was buried. The Apostles’ Creed lets us voice Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. With those words we profess that Jesus’ earthly life came to its awful end. The prospect of his end troubled Jesus although he knew and had told his disciples he would be put to death with cruel suffering.1 Yet his fear did not force Jesus from his mission: for this purpose…I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.

In John’s Gospel Jesus coming into the world echoes God sending his Son to save the world, as last Sunday’s gospel reminded. The Son of God fully entered our human condition with his unique mission: to save humanity and all creation. Jesus expressed his mission with the image of buried seed: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Jesus’ words were never throwaway. He signaled, Listen up, when he began sayings with Amen, amen—as we heard. His hearers lived in tune with the earth, closer than many of us sophisticated, modern folk. Buried seeds die, that is, become other than what people planted. The trans-formation is mysterious, one brimming with life—life that nourished other creatures. His disciples did not know what we do until his resurrection after his death and burial. Because they lived in tune with the earth his image—the death of a grain and its transformed, abundant, nourishing life—opened their hearts and minds for what would happen.

What registered in their hearts and minds when Jesus rose from death and met the disciples again? They felt them-selves touched by risen Jesus and his power for them. From the first they named that power holy; they soon recognized that same power as personal: Jesus had said promised them, The holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.2

This reminding reached far beyond Jesus. The disciples realized that as risen Lord Jesus was the promised new covenant Prophet Jeremiah had announced. It was no-thing less than God’s promise—covenant means promise—to be their God, to be for them. God for them answered the Psalmist’s prayer, Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. After Jesus rose from the dead he wrapped them in divine presence and joy. They readily named both Holy Spirit.

Divine joy exceeds human happiness. We rightly name joy a fruit of Holy Spirit3 because it endures even in affliction. Divine joy and human sadness exist side by side. One example: when we bury a loved one who lived a full life our sadness cannot totally conquer our joy at being touched and shaped by our loved one’s life. That joy in the midst of deep sadness is not ours but from risen Jesus.  Others may not see our joy only our tears.

So it was with Jesus. His loud cries and tears, his death and burial united him with our human condition. Because he was one with his Father and his mission, he could say, I am troubled now. …But…for this purpose [to save the world]4 that I came to this hour.

As we continue our journey this Lent we might consider what closes our hearts and minds to Jesus, to his good news. The more clearly we name what tries to close our hearts and minds and bring them into the light the better able we are to move against them. We also increase our desire and our courage to replicate in our lives the pattern of Jesus and live it with the joy his Holy Spirit gives us anew each day.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest  in  our triune God’s faithful, life-giving love.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for being God’s life sent into the world to save and to free us from what enslaves us.
  • Ask Jesus, “Renew my life of faith; increase my courage and desire to let the pattern of your life, death, burial and resurrection shape me; and give me the joy of your Holy Spirit each day.”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our daily, practical guide to live his paschal mystery and to share its saving effects even now.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. His passion predictions: Matthew 16.21-23; 17.22-23; 20.17-19 and parallels.
  2. John 14.26.
  3. Galatians 5.22.
  4. John 3.17.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sunday word, 15 Mar 15

Left to Ourselves
Fourth Sunday of Lent B (15 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

I will focus on one verse from the gospel. Before today I did not have courage to reflect on it with people gathered at the tables of God’s word and God’s son: the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. Let me begin with an experience of darkness and light.

Away from cities and towns we experience light differently. Street lamps and 24-hour shining signs nearly blind us to starlight. Away from them we see light from stars perforate the night sky from its height to horizon. Almost everywhere we have a weak sense of darkness.

I had a strong experience of it in a cavern. It was an easy walk; we barely noticed the downward slope of the gently lighted path. Our guide would pause every so often and turn on a light above. He then showed and explained what was before us. Midway our guide asked if any one feared the dark. No one did. Our guide suggested that our distance into the cavern would allow us to experience subterranean darkness. He asked any of us with flashlights to turn them off. Then he turned of the path lights and the one above us. It was a new experience. Immediately I brought my hand an inch from my nose. In that moment I had a felt-knowledge of the saying: “So dark I could not see my hand in front of my face.”

My experience gave me new appreciation for light. Even in dark places at a new moon darkness is not total. The faintest of light leaks in. If physical light is nearly ever-present, how much more is God, whom we call Light? It describes God well: Just as we see by light more than we see light, we don’t see God who creates us each moment. Light was the first thing God’s word created.1 God was the source of the light by which Israelites could see each other during the plague of dense darkness in Egypt.2 The Psalmist personalized what any could allow to remain an idea: the Lord is my light.3 The Nicene Creed allows us to echo the Psalmist, to make those words ours.

As we do that this gospel asks us if we practice what we profess. It questions us in layers:
  • God so loved the world. Do we love God?
  • God sent his Son…to save the world. Do we believe Jesus embodied God for us and our salvation?
  • Do we count on Jesus’ saving us and working now for us? St. Paul’s words help us: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ.
  • Do we let ourselves fall into God’s mercy and love for us? Or are we name-only Catholics who reduce God to our expectations or make God a problem to solve?

If we count on Jesus saving us now; if we do believe; and if we cultivate a loving, personal relationship with God; then do we live our belief in God, our confidence in Jesus’ saving us and our love for God in Jesus through their Spirit? To live our belief, our confidence and our love for our triune God means our actions match our words; it means our works reflect the divine light and shine it in the world’s darkness. It means we cooperate with the grace by which we have been saved. It means we share Jesus’ mission of bringing light to our world. Pope Francis has told us, “We have this mission. …We carry this light. If a Christian extinguishes this light, his life has no meaning: he is a Christian by name only, who does not carry light.…”4

Carrying the light of Christ is not heroic. Yes, it takes effort for left to ourselves we prefer darkness to light. This darkness is not limited to atrocious things people do to others—some even in the name of God! This darkness includes our rudeness to others, our harm to creation and people and our insensitive inactions, our sins of omission.

Jesus coming into our world shows us that God saving is a mutual enterprise: by graceGod’s role, and about it we boast so others may enjoy God’s grace of light and life; our role is to do what we are created to do: deeds of light, life, mercy and peace—deeds modeled for us by Jesus’ disinterested love and his faith in God, his Father and ours.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God’s faithful light and life-giving love.
  • Ask Nicodemus, St. Paul and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for being God’s light sent into the world to free us from what enslaves us.
  • Ask Jesus, “Release me from my cavern of darkness and give me courage to extend your mission of light, life, mercy and peace.”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer as our daily, practical guide to extend his mission he lovingly entrusts to us.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Genesis 1.3-5.
  2. Exodus 10.22-23.
  3. Psalms 27.1.
  4. Sunday Angelus, 9 February 2014.


Sunday, March 08, 2015

Sunday word, 08 Mar 15

Guided By God’s Heart
Third Sunday of Lent B (08 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Imagine exploring wild territory for the first time. You have a guide. A guide means several things. You’re not alone; that is consoling in conditions that can bewilder, even frighten. Guides help us see what we would not see. In the Amazon rain forest our guide pointed out what I would have overlooked: an ivy climbing many trees. From the guide I learned the tree-climber is related to our philodendron.

Guides help us train our ears to hear what we would not; they help us recognize a sound we would say is a bird when it may be a frog; or to distinguish a living sound from noise. Guides help us stay on a path, choose a safer path or a more rewarding one. After paying attention to guides we become like them: able to distinguish what had been a blur to our senses. The close attention we pay to guides shapes us to help others notice more.

That brief look at guides helps us appreciate how the people God brought…out of…slavery…in Egypt understood God’s commandments and the rest of what we call God’s law. We hear law from our American experience and stress rules: rule of law is our phrase. Those freed from slavery in Egypt and their descendants viewed the commandments as guides to live according to God’s heart.

The commandments guided the them to take on God’s qualities. The commandments fashioned relationship with God. They also forged a shared identity as God’s people. Both relationship and shared identity are not the fruit of rules, plain and simple.

Sharing God’s qualities shapes our daily living. Examples. God giving life shapes us to promote life not take it and to respect and honor others. God’s fidelity shapes us to be faithful: to keep our promises; to be truthful in all we do. God’s generosity to us frees us to be generous. Cultivating an awe of God’s generosity to us allows us to see the things of the world as gifts and to use them in cooperation rather than competition.

Those freed from slavery in Egypt and their descendants appreciated God’s law as access to God’s qualities and a guide to live God’s qualities in daily life. On it they heaped praises we made ours with the psalm. God’s law was perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, giving wisdom, rejoicing the heart, clear, enlightening, true, just, everlasting, more precious than…purest gold, sweeter than…honey. To those freed by God and their descendants God’s law exceeded rules.

Rules do not summon praise. God’s life in us and for us summons praise. Praise is a spirit action. God is spirit,1 and God created us images of God.2 That means we are spirits clothed in flesh. Our goal is to maintain the qualities of God’s heart. To maintain includes preserving; refurbishing; keeping in good condition; nurturing; professing; and living what we profess.

Jesus gives us access to God’s life not only God’s qualities of fidelity and generosity. Jesus, the power of God and the wisdom of God, revealed God’s life giving power in his person. He shares with us God’s life-renewing power by his resurrection. His self-gift of his Spirit has made us temples, treasuries of God’s life, God’s qualities, of the Spirit of Jesus.3

We—even Christianity—can work contrary to the Spirit of Jesus he has given us. The cleansing of the temple is not a history lesson for disciples of Jesus. Jesus now lives more powerfully with us by his Spirit. His power shapes us into his body. Our vocation is a rewarding challenge: to let ourselves be shaped more by his Spirit instead of by the marketplace. That means to respect and share creation though the world’s rule wants us to devour resources and hoard things. It means extending compassion instead of leaving everyone behind. It means contributing to the progress of others instead of competing for money and power as if they give us life or meaning. To be part of Jesus’ body always will be a scandal and foolishness in the marketplace. In his church Jesus entrusts himself to his sisters and brothers as God’s guiding life, power, wisdom and strength for the sake of the world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest  in  our triune God’s faithful, life-giving love.
  • Ask St.Paul and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: thank him for enduring temptations like us; praise him for imparting to us God’s life-renewing power by his resurrection.
  • Ask Jesus to fashion you more by his Spirit to show day to day his fidelity, compassion and disinterested love in which we were baptized. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so we may live the qualities of our triune God by walking more closely with Jesus in a world at odds with him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. John 4.24.
  2. Genesis 1.27.
  3. 1 Corinthians 6.19; Romans 8.11.

Wiki-images: The Ten Words on stained glass by Ji-Elle CC BY-SA 3.0; Expelling merchants from the Temple PD-US

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Sunday word, 01 Mar 15

One Like Us
Second Sunday of Lent B (01 Mar 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Look to how you hear paraphrases1 a prophet’s warning. The New Testament gave it an important place; it stresses our need to welcome Jesus and his saving work with faith and not solely with human logic. We may express its practice in two words: faithful listening. In scripture to listen is less about ears hearing—a body’s ability—and more about personal attention: to take in; to accept; to obey. It is God’s desire for us and all disciples. We heard God announce it on the mountain of Transfiguration: Listen to…my beloved Son. Today’s worship offers us models of listening: Abraham who listened faithfully; and Peter who did not. First, Abraham.

Abraham had responded in faith when he first met God: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.2 Those words began the story of Abraham. Abraham went. Year later when he was told to bind Isaac, Abraham told Isaac, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.”3 The lectionary omits that verse from the reading. That is sad because it helps us feel Abraham’s faith at work. It guides us not to be distracted from Abraham’s faithful listening. The verse leads us to anticipate God’s faithful intervention,“Do not lay your hand on the boy…Do not do the least thing to him.” God had told Abraham before Isaac was born, My covenant I will maintain with Isaac.4

I am not saying it was easy for Abraham. Abraham personified the Psalmist words, I believed, even when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” Faith does not override our humanity; faith heals and completes humanity. That is true when evidence before us suggests otherwise. God is faithful even when we, like Abraham, are sorely tested.

God’s fidelity uniquely entered our history in Jesus. Before Jesus and after his time on earth many believed God would work through a messiah to save God’s people from their oppressive rulers. During and after Jesus’ ministry the rulers remained the Romans. Peter acknowledged Jesus as God’s messiah.5 Jesus told him he would suffer and die before being raised; Peter would not accept a suffering messiah: he took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him.6 

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain and…was transfigured before them. Did Jesus give Peter time to cool down and come around? If he did, Peter had not changed; he remained terrified. On the mountain, as the week before, Peter wanted to control Jesus, who told Peter and the others he would suffer. On the mountain Peter wanted to control and capture in three tents the glory he beheld. On the mountain he saw Jesus as no different from Moses or Elijah, most important men of God. The voice from the cloud not only told Peter and his two partners Jesus’ identity; it tells us and what we are to do: listen to Jesus not to Peter or those who hear and consider as we are quick to do. That word alonethey saw Jesus alone? It means only: only Jesus and his pattern of living, dying and rising lived by us let us learn God’s faithfulness.

Peter’s coming to faith and his faltering make him an important model as well as intercessor for us. Coming to faith means looking directly to Jesus and listening to him more attentively. Listening to Jesus means directing our attention to him in ways both personal and communal. Not only are we like Peter coming to faith and faltering at times. Jesus accompanies us so we may be transformed like Peter: he eventually lived faith as unwaveringly as did Abraham. They both pray for us on our faith journeys.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God’s faithful, life-giving love.
  • Ask Abraham and St. Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for enduring temptations like us; thank him for revealing his Father’s fidelity to us and the human race.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to let him be our pattern of discipleship: to shape us to live more for others as he did.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer so we may daily live as true disciples of Jesus in a world that often distracts us from him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Isaiah 6.9. Note f. at the link does not include St. Paul’s mixed quotation at Romans 11.8 in which he included it.
  2. Genesis 12.1.
  3. Genesis 22.8.
  4. Genesis 17.21.
  5. Mark 8.29.
  6. Mark 8.31-33.