Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday word, 26 Mar 17

Lenten Sunday4 A (26 Mar 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Refashioned Spirit-Shaped
The first character of Lent is this: “it recalls baptism or prepares for it.” These past 50 years we have recovered Lent’s primary character: a catechumenate is the norm in parishes; and parishioners celebrate its various liturgies with the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults and of Children. Happy is our recovery of Lent’s primary character; in my early youth my elders and I knew only its second character, its “penitential spirit.”1

Penance reminds us that human qualities and worldly realities are not goals of Christian living: Jesus is. No penance is an end in itself; it seeks to help us stay on course to Jesus and deepen our friendly union with him. How we and Jesus are friends differs from one of us to the next. It may begin as it did with the man blind from birth. Jesus may enlighten us later in our lives, or repeatedly. The more Jesus enlightens us, clears our inward sight and frees our hearts, the more we share with Jesus—we have his attitude.2

The gospel of Jesus and the man blind from birth drips with irony: it is both sad and humorous. Sad because of the conflict in the synagogue and the fear it induced in the man’s parents and others. Sad-humorous because the leaders wanted proof and refused “to see” a man restored to sight. This gospel offers much to ponder. I call attention to what the man whose sight Jesus restored possessed: Jesus’ attitude. When he was interrogated the man used the same language Jesus spoke, soon to him, before to the woman of Samaria3 and later at his arrest and trial4: I am.

In John’s Gospel Jesus said that phrase often. People have long noted it echoes God’s name God gave Moses: tell the Israelites [enslaved in Egypt] that I AM sent me to you.5 God was clearly interested in the suffering. Jesus showed that God’s concern continues.

 In today’s gospel the man who had been blind braved his interrogators with Jesus’ language, I am (the man). He said that before he met Jesus with his seeing eyes. Noticing that triggered this new insight: healed by Jesus causes us to be like Jesus. Healed by Jesus does not cause us to mouth Jesus’ words in an empty fashion. Baptism into Jesus—our healing from world-oriented living to spirit-led godly living—causes us to act like Jesus, our healing saviour: with greater courage, feeling and generosity for and with others.

We who have been baptized recall our baptism. We don’t recall a date; we recall our daily healing by dying and rising with Christ Jesus. Baptism-healing is new each day because Jesus fortifies it daily with his eucharist. Those preparing for baptism cause us to remember, too. Their anticipation and our prayer for them deepens Jesus’ spirit-life in us so we resemble him more and more.  

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the man blind from birth to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank him for baptizing us with his Spirit to be like him.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live our baptisms for and with others with greater courage, feeling and generosity.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to grow more like him, alive with his healing Spirit.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Constitution on the Liturgy, 109 of the Second Vatican Council.
  2. Philippians 2.5; 1Corinthians 2.16.
  3. John 4.26, last Sunday’s gospel; This first use is followed by: 6.35, 41, 48, 51; 8.12, 24, 28, 42, 58; 10.7, 9, 11, 14; 11.25; 12.32; 13.19; 14.2, 6; 15.1, 5; 17.24; 18.5-6, 8.
  4. Arrest, 18.5-6, 8; trial, Mark 14.62; Luke 22.70.
  5. Exodus 3.14.

Friday, March 24, 2017

No Longer a Parlor Paper Pastime

The Japanese art of paper folding, origami, has entered the manufacturing world. From that world it is bound for outer space. CSM Staff member, Charlie Wood, describes the promises origami offers and the stubborn obstacle it faces: “‘child’s toy thing’…bias.” 
Wiki-image by Anpamore of origami camera CC BY-SA 3.0

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Christians have observed half the season of Lent. Frustration in one’s observance is not unusual. A contributor to franciscanmedia considered “Six Lenten Pitfalls. She offered relief with an “action plan” for each.
Wiki-image by Ram-Man of Lenten rose CC BY-SA 2.5

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday word, 19Mar17

Lenten Sunday3 A (19 Mar 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Les Miserables retreat, Guelph, ON
More Awake to God’s Dream
Twentieth-Century social critic Michel Focault thought this: “Despair and hopelessness are one thing, suspicion is another. And if you are suspicious, it is because, of course, you have a certain hope.”1 His thought got me thinking.

Despair and hopelessness color Les Misérables from its beginning. The human hope of revolutionaries fuelled their conviction to act. Christian hope—not human hope but a divine gift to humans—functions as counterpoint to human hope.

What of you and me? Suspicious is not how I’m here. I doubt any of you is. Instead of suspicion one or more of you may have come curious; others seeking; still others restless: it may register as longing for freedom or integration or healing or another life-giving desire. Jesus awakened in the Samaritan woman her desires.

She found remarkable that a Jewish man would want to drink water she drew. If she were suspicious it melted into interest: she engaged Jesus about her religious heritage and his; she longed for freedom: Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.

She also desired something very human: to be known. Marriage had not meet that desire. We don’t know the length of her marriages, if they were loving or dangerous. None of that matters; it didn’t matter to Jesus. It did matter to him that the Samaritan woman had no spouse in her life to share her desires. It mattered to her that Jesus seemed to know her more intimately as their conversing progressed. She left her [precious] water jar and returned to town. She told the people there, Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could this man be the Messiah?

The Samaritan woman is a model for us: a person of hope, the hope that is a gift to us. St. Paul reminded that our Christian hope is not human hope because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. This personal self-giving of God Paul had experienced. It shaped his life and his proclamation of the gospel. Nothing hindered him from living his experience of risen Messiah Jesus. He wrote at the beginning of this Letter to the Romans, I am not ashamed of the gospel.2 He used the same word about hope. Bibles usually translate it as we heard: disappoint. Not shamed is closer to Paul’s experience and the encouragement he offered: our hope does not shame because of what is most real, the love of God…poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit…given to us. Christian hope is power for living, power to stay alive. Fantine sang it with the word dream.

Daniel’s insights and your prayer and conversation have awakened much within you. I offer this: Is Jesus becoming your dream? Are you able to live unashamed of Jesus, and especially his shameful death, because you feel his closer friend? This liturgy’s word invites us to let our Christian hope empower each of us to embody God’s dream for us and all creation. Our hope is not ashamed of risen Jesus. Our hope is risen Jesus! He enlivens us to join him and live more humane and godly lives—lives drawing others to him.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Quoted here.
  2. Romans 1.16.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday word, 15 Mar 17

Lenten Wednesday2 (15Mar2017)
 Homily of Rev. Paul Panaretos, S. J., 5-day directed retreat, Guelph, ON
Mrs. Zebedee—By One Who Knew Her Well

It was never easy to read her face and know her mind. She was an energetic girl, and she caught onto things quickly. But satisfaction—and things related to it: tranquility, relief, fulfillment—never seemed to register on her bright face. Don’t get me wrong: she wasn’t a problem child. Her family was proud of her, and she was popular with other kids in the neighbourhood and excelled at her lessons. She was her own from the start.

As a young woman she excelled at her work. When she married Zebedee, she demonstrated she was strong and self-assured. Her family didn’t want her to marry the fisherman; they thought he wasn’t good enough for her. Never mind that he owned his boat and had shares in a few others. Never mind that fishermen the sea ’round so respected him and his insight and wisdom that most would have stepped out of his boat—and theirs!—to walk on water if he told them. Never mind that she would say, “We have to eat! I’m honoured to be married to a man who provides for everyone.” 

She was self-assured in their marriage, too. Don’t get me wrong: she wasn’t spoiled. After she introduced Zebedee to them, her parents stood their ground and never withheld their feelings. When their daughter became Mrs. Zebedee, they just as strongly stood by her and their new son.

As the Zebedees prospered, so did many. Mr. Z was generous: people never realized that much of their money for his fish maintained their synagogue. Mrs. Z told them. Don’t get me wrong: she wasn’t a gossip. She was very hospitable. During her hospitality once, she mentioned it. Mr. Z wished she hadn’t, and he never scolded her. Even in the face of their foibles, they were content—until their boys came along. Remember how she was never satisfied as a child? It all came back—it really had never gone; with the boys it flared.

She wanted the best for her sons—who doesn’t? Everyone admired her for that. Unknown to everyone, motherhood didn’t fulfill her. Don’t get me wrong: she was a good mom; a good mom who was driven. Others never noticed it for what it was. They thought she was self-assured, self-possessed: she always knew what she was asking. Until the day she realized she didn’t. 

Initially, she felt she had humiliated herself and her sons. They deserved particular thrones. But as she neared home, she felt her driven-burden vaporize. People noticed ever after her lovely face shone a more radiant beauty.

At home she told her husband each detail. Listening, he gazed at her as he did the day he first met her. With a wry smile she concluded, “Any rabbi understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.”* Mr. Zebedee nodded, smiled and embraced her, saying, “My wife and mother of our sons, you’re right as usual.

*Robertson Davies, The Manticore (New York: Viking Press, 1976), p. 101: “Any theologian understands martyrdom, but only the martyr experiences the fire.”

Friday, March 10, 2017

Gospels Preview

Tradition used John’s Gospel during much of Lent and Easter. The Roman Catholic lectionary honours the tradition in its 3-year cycle of Sunday readings. Jesuit “Peter Edmonds SJ explains how hearers of this [year’s] series of readings follow Jesus from the desert to the tomb.”
Wiki-image PD-US

Monday, March 06, 2017

Not Necessarily Social

Social media may not benefit our human need to be in contact with others. A U.S. psychological study suggests that this brand of media may cause increased feeling of isolation and may even “cause feelings of envy.”  
“We do not yet know which came first—the social media use or the perceived social isolation,” said a co-author of the study.
Today’s BBC post includes a resource on keeping social media in perspective.
Wiki-image  Lonely boy by Arief Rahman Saan (Ezagren) CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Sunday word, 05 Mar 17

Lenten Sunday1 A (05 Mar 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Human Pillars
Three pillars support Lent: praying, fasting and almsgiving. To consider them as pillars helps us appreciate praying, fasting and almsgiving work together. Pillars in buildings bear weight of a ceiling or roof. Pillars stabilize by distributing the stress weight loads on walls.

Lent’s pillars of fasting and almsgiving stabilize our Christian living. Sincerely practiced—faithfully not scrupulously—prayer, fasting and almsgiving open us more to God’s life: the very life Jesus embodied and his Holy Spirit communicates to us. God’s life steadies us to be our true selves: both individual and social. Lenten “penance [opens us to God’s life because it is] not…only internal and individual but also external and social.” We foster “ both [individual and social] qualities of penance…according to…[our time] and…individual circumstances.”1

In addition to preparing for this Easter; in addition to preparing us to join those the church will baptize and confirm at Easter; the pillars of Lent ground us in Jesus and the mystery of his dying and rising. The more we participate in Jesus’ paschal mystery, the more solidly we stand as Christians and give testimony to others as disciples of Jesus. Lent’s pillars help us.

  • Praying connects us with God, as Godhonored ambassador[s].”2
  • Fasting focuses our spirits in a world filled with lights contrary to Jesus’ gospel; those lights blind us to our Christian vocation of reconciliation and service.
  • Almsgiving allows us to respond externally and socially by reconnecting with God’s heart always concerned with the poor, afflicted, refugees, persecuted and marginalized. Jesus was one of them and stayed close to them.
He asks his friends to share his heart’s concern. Practiced together the pillars of Lent stabilize our lives as disciples of Jesus and ready us to give our Christian witness.

Praying and fasting focus us and allow us to enter the heart of God. Almsgiving helps us to shelter others in the divine heart we encounter afresh by praying and fasting. Almsgiving refreshes our praying and fasting with the “external and social” concerns so dear to Jesus: “Almsgiving redresses the balance in God’s creation and reminds [us] of the needs of the poor.”3

Our Christian life flows from our baptism, and the eucharist sustains our baptism. The pillars of Lent refresh our baptismal commitment; they deepen longing for the sacrament of the eucharist: it helps us exercise our responsibilities as contemporary companions of Jesus.

That means pillars can be human. We use the word pillar for people holding responsibility: pillars of state; pillars of a parish; pillars of a community. Each of us is a Christian pillar. Together we do more than any of us can do alone. Jesus knows that; he invites us together to “redress[] the balance in God’s creation and remind[] [each other and everyone] of the needs of the poor.”

Each of us has individual responsibilities, and together, like pillars distributing and supporting forces of a building, we heed Jesus’ invitation and live in sync with his heart for the sake of those in greater need. Lent helps us know ourselves as Jesus’ heart in our world today.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the heart of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise him for dying and rising for us; thank him for welcoming us into his heart.
  • Chat with Jesus about how he fasted for you, and how Jesus invites us to fast, pray and give alms in order to become a more stabilizing pillar of the Church.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It reminds us that God makes fruitful our almsgiving, praying and fasting.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Article 110.
  2. St. John Chrysostom, Homily on prayer; phrase in excerpt in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, vol2, p. 69.
  3. Michael Barnes, S.J. “Keeping the Lenten Fast–thoughts from a dialogue with Islam.”