Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday word, 30 Aug 15

Not Always Easy
Twenty-second Sunday of the Year B (30 Aug 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We resume hearing Mark’s gospel on the 12 Sundays left in this liturgical year. We may remind ourselves of his motive for writing it: Mark wrote for people like us, people who had welcomed the mystery, the secret of God’s kingdom as gift, grace, new life. Mark sought to help them keep it fresh and help them appreciate it as God’s saving work.

Much of scripture does the same. It motivates us not to conquer with words but to convert our hearts, then those who see what we do. This is at once Jewish as it is Christian. We heard from the Book of Deuteronomy: what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? The words echo covenant life with God: so close. Covenant living had practical results: to draw people and keep them close to God; and to have that effect on others. Being so close is heart language, relationship language—close to God and others as God is close to us.

Relationship with God—entering it or not; deepening it or neglecting it; making room for it or refusing it; living it or paying lip-service to God: relationship with God involves our motives. The word is apt because a quality of a motive is a reason to do something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.

Our hearts are the seat of our motives. Jesus read the hearts of others. That is why Jesus took to task the Pharisees and some of the experts in their law: not be-cause they failed to observe many practical aspects of it but because their hearts were not in it. Their motives put themselves first, not God nor others. Their self-centered motives also closed them to God’s ongoing invitation and their ongoing transformation.

In Jesus’ words their self-centered motives moved their hearts...far from God. To use the words of James, the Pharisees were unable to humbly welcome God’s saving invitation. The result: others saw the Pharisees carefully observe God’s commandment, but the motives of the Pharisees disregard[ed] God’s commandment.

Today’s gospel alerts us that motives may disfigure our intentions; motives may distance our hearts...from God; motives may make us less open and receptive to God longingly inviting us to share God’s life for ever. To know our motives demands diligent thought and effort. How diligent? To paraphrase St. Augustine, The hairs of one’s head are more easily numbered than are the motives of one’s heart.1

To discern our motives is a large part of being human. Stop discerning our motives and we fool ourselves: we think we observe God’s commandment to love as God loves but we may disregard it. Even worse we close our hearts and minds to God’s invitation to share God’s life for ever. For ever begins now.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God creating you and inviting you to share divine life forever.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank Jesus for inviting you to join him and to make him better known by how you live.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to know yourself better and to recognize motives that keep you distant from him.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us because praying it often shapes us to do his word, rather than to hear it and quickly disregard it.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. See Confessions Book 4.14.22.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday word, 23 Aug 15

Culture and Life
Twenty-first Sunday of the Year B (23 Aug 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The culture into which Jesus was born was not identical to ours. Similarities existed, of course: people lived in a variety of social and economic ways; human longings were deep then as now; many practiced religion, some did not; doing things for show was a human bent that has never completely disappeared; and change made people anxious.

Some differences are alien to us modern folk: ancients were suspicious of anything new; they worshipped gods in ever-increasing numbers; disease was pollution and punishment; and—the feature that confounds us—men held all the power.

Men held power over people as well as things. While love surely existed between spouses, the culture before and after Jesus championed a man’s power above love. Crisply put: in Jesus’ culture husbands did not have to love their wives.

Ephesus lived ancient Mediterranean culture in spades. St. Paul had been spelling out in his letter to Christians there—and to us—what it meant to live in love, as Christ loved us. He began with things in sync with the culture. He included wives deferring to their husbands.1 Some men may have dozed off, hearing nothing new. Until: Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her. Men would have been wide awake at those words.

The gospel challenged culture then, even as it does today. The gospel applauds ways culture helps people live in harmony with Jesus and his example. The gospel challenges every culture to better itself for the sake of every person.

Even some who walked with Jesus as disciples felt his challenge sharply. They gave Jesus a generous hearing when he identified himself as the living bread come down from heaven. He did challenge common sense. When he said, The one who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and abides in me: it was too much. As a result…many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Their choice leads me to ask myself and us: are we cultural Catholics only? Do we practice without longing for Jesus to draw us closer? to deepen our faith in him? Or are we disciples for whom “faith is a force of life,” as Pope Francis describes it?2 Do we stay with Jesus and imitate his faith and try to love as selflessly as he loved? Are we generous with who we are because we are members of his body?

Jesus is a mystery, a flesh and blood mystery. So is each of us a flesh and blood mystery—even to ourselves. We would not empty the mystery a close friend, spouse, parent or sister or brother is. People close to us can trouble us at times; we don’t leave them on those accounts. Rather, we seek to learn and know each other better. Learning Jesus that way does not empty him of mystery. Learning Jesus that way makes him—mystery, challenge, all of him—more inviting and shapes us more like Jesus. For us disciples Jesus, our mystery, is our culture and our life.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Sts. Paul and Peter to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for inviting you to accompany him as his ambassador in speech and action. 
  • Ask him for grace to stay close to him and love as he loves.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. He gave us his words to help us act and love more like him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Ephesians 5.22.
  2. 28 June 2015 Angelus message.

Wiki-images: Jesus multiplies loaves by Béria L. Rodríguez @ Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Bread and fish mosaic by Grauesel CC BY-SA 3.0

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Sunday word, 09 Aug 15

Turning Point
Nineteenth Sunday of the Year B (09 Aug 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We can recall turning points in our lives. Some turning points offer hope for the future—graduation, a new job, reconnecting with a friend; others cut deeply—personal failure, pink-slips, illness, death of dear ones and acquaintances. Turning points affect us strongly; at times people want to run away. Our turning points help us appreciate Prophet Elijah. He had become afraid and fled for his life.1 During his turning point God’s bread nourished Elijah. God strengthened Elijah to continue his ministry and life.

Throughout the bible nourishing and strengthening describe God’s care for those who trust God. Jesus fulfilled God’s desire to nourish us in an unmatched way: the living bread come down from heaven. Our living bread is available to us in Jesus’ eucharist.

Jesus’ eucharist is his self-gift to us as he said: my body…my blood for you.2 As food and drink nourish our bodies Jesus’ self-gift to us in his eucharist nourishes our baptisms. Baptism united us with risen Jesus and sealed us with his Spirit for our salvation. His eucharist helps us put on Jesus each day. Jesus’ eucharist revives our Christian love3; his eucharist helps us think and behave in harmony with him. Sharing Jesus’ eucharist helps us grow in his friendship.4 

As our friendships with others affect how we live, think and act, sharing Jesus’ eucharist affects our daily living. Regularly sharing Jesus’ eucharist fashions us as Jesus’ presence for others. Regularly sharing Jesus’ eucharist helps us grow more free from bitterness, fury, anger, shouting…reviling and malice: things that wound individual Christians and Christian communities. Sharing Jesus’ eucharist clothes us instead with his compassion.

Regularly sharing Jesus’ eucharist offers new ways to see ourselves and others. Our vision is not limited by the familiar or the customary. Some of Jesus’ listeners that day were limited by the familiar: Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, I have come down from heaven?” Jesus’ words could find no home in them.

Faith is our word for our Christian vision. Faith frees us to see the world as God’s gift; faith frees us to see others as companions sharing life's journey; and faith frees us to see Jesus as our nourishment, our brother, our Lord, our Creator and Redeemer.

Regularly sharing Jesus’ eucharist is a turning point for us. His eucharist draws us closer and turns us to him; it also frees and empowers us to live as his presence wherever we may be.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for giving you himself in his sacrament of the eucharist to turn you closer to him.
  • Ask him for grace to feel and know his friendly presence guiding you. 
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us this day our daily bread, remind us our Triune God nourishes us to join Jesus’ mission for the life of our world.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. 1Kings 19.3. Verse before today’s reading; the reading may be used at a votive mass of the Holy Eucharist (Lectionary for Ritual Masses, [976. 6]).
  2. Luke 22.19-20.
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church [CIC] 1394.
  4. CIC 1395.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sunday word, 02 Aug 15

Eighteenth Sunday of the Year B (02 Aug 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
omeone wondered why we switched from Mark’s gospel to John’s gospel beginning last week. Mark’s gospel is the shortest. To spread Mark’s gospel over a church year so its conclusion is heard at the end of the church year we insert a chapter of John’s gospel; we spread it over five summer weeks. Today’s gospel let us hear Jesus call himself the bread of life.

He had fed crowds with five loaves and a couple fish. They saw him as the Prophet and sought to make him king.1 They expected God’s Prophet to wield earthly power. So Jesus left them; they sought and found Jesus. He knew why and told them: because they ate not because of the heavenly signs Jesus had done for the sick among them or the way Jesus fed them. They were confused: they thought Jesus had access to the bread of God their ancestors once enjoyed; they did not yet see him as the bread of God, the source of God’s life.

Thinking Jesus had access to the bread of life, the bread of God, they asked him for it: Sir, give us this bread always. With the whole church we recognize Jesus as the bread of life Jesus said he is. We enjoy the nourishment he offers us in the sacrament of the eucharist. It is Jesus’ pledge of life eternal for us.2

Those who sought Jesus and listened to him asked: give us this bread always. Their request echoes when we pray, Give us this day our daily bread. Jesus is our living bread; he nourishes our inmost selves. Nourishing us with himself includes Jesus giving us his Spirit.

Sharing Jesus’ Spirit can easily lead us to think of outstanding things—miracles, speaking in tongues, mystic experiences. Humane living is equally of Holy Spirit. Spirit-fruits, St. Paul reminded, are not alien, loud nor imposing: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.3

As we live shaped more by Jesus’ Spirit we live the pattern of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Celebrating the eucharist helps us live the pattern of Jesus’ life. It nourishes our baptisms, which renewed our inmost selves; when we put on the new self, created in God’s way so we may live daily in integrity and holiness of truth, and all the fruits of Jesus’ Holy Spirit. To make the pattern of Jesus’ life our pattern of living is what our world needs.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God, who creates each of us with a purpose.
  • Ask the crowds who went looking for Jesus to present you to him.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for you; thank him for giving you himself in his sacrament of the eucharist.
  • Ask him for grace to hunger for him and for courage to replicate his pattern of living.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Praying it does express our needs to our God. Praying Jesus’ prayer also helps us grow to make Jesus’ way of living our way of living.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Conclusion of last Sunday’s gospel.
  2. Roman Missal, Preface VI for Sundays of the Year.
  3. Galatians 5.22-23.