Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Challenges

The title given the column commands attention: “Memorial Day needs more war stories.” It rides atop Michael Garvey’s reflections for today in U.S. Catholic. Three challenges offer themselves: 1) to enter the stories—the columnists or one’s own—and not take sides; 2) to be touched by an element of a story; and 3) to read with an eye to seeing oneself. Feeling the power of a story is easier than inhabiting a story so it’s power can transform.
Wiki-image by Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York of Memorial Day Flag Folding CC BY 2.0

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday word, 28 May 17

Ascension Sunday A (28 May 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., on 8-day and Soil and Soul retreats
Befriending People and Our Earth
I easily forget two things: the Ascension of Jesus is about us as well as Jesus; his Ascension was not the first leave-taking Scripture offers. Scripture contains other leave-takings in which people be-gan anew, announced God’s desires and fulfilled their lives. One example was Moses: his dying allowed Joshua to succeed him.1 Another was Elijah: he was taken up into heaven2 so his protege, Elisha, could receive a double portion of his mentor’s prophetic spirit.3 God’s spirit empowered Joshua and Elisha after their mentors left them. Likewise, Jesus’ successors received the fullness of his Spirit when he ascended.

Even when a gift is given leave-takings are difficult. That’s why we sympathize with the disciples gazing heavenward, looking Jesus was lifted up...from their sight. Because we know how their mission would unfold—that they would continue Jesus’ work—the angel’s question feels appropriate: Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking at the sky? The angelic question propelled the disciples to prepare for their mission to proclaim Jesus as Messiah—to continue what Jesus had begun.

The angel’s question reminds me the Ascension of Jesus is about us as well as Jesus: we are the contemporary successors of Jesus’ first followers. Someone may object, How can we succeed his first followers when we never saw, heard and walked with Jesus as they did? That’s my temptation, too. Physical presence isn’t everything. Jesus’ physical presence made him available only to those immediately with him in space and time. Entering God’s presence—what ascension tries to convey—risen Jesus “began to be indescribably more present in his divinity to those from whom he was further removed in his humanity.”4 Those words of an early pastor echo our faith-conviction that physical presence isn’t everything. The same truth—Jesus is “indescribably more present in his divinity” to us who never have known the human Jesus—encourages us to let risen and ascended Jesus free and empower us to fulfill our lives as stewards of the earth and friends of everyone.  To celebrate Jesus’ Ascension on retreat invites us to be freshly aware of the way his Spirit reassures us and refashions us as risen Jesus’ witnesses in our time where we live.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Deuteronomy 34.9.
  2. 2 Kings 2.1; 11-13.
  3. 2 Kings 2.9-12.
  4. His Sermon 2, 1-4 on the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 15, 2017

International Day of Families

Today is the 24th UN-proclaimed day focusing attention on the family. Its theme this year is “Families, education and well-being.” Jesuit Nicholas Austin noted that Pope Francis’ exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is “a word of encouragement…and above all another example of the discerning way of proceeding that the pope has modelled.    
Wiki-image by takato marui of Ċ ternberg Family Tree CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Sunday word, 07 May 2017

Easter Sunday4 A (07 May 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Smart Culture
Recent research offers surprises about sheep. Pondering the research as one living by faith deepens one of Pope Francis’ very frequent word-images. First, the research.

The myth that sheep are dumb has long infected us. As a result many are surprised to hear that Jesus’ words—the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them—was recognized by those who first heard him. Sheep of different flocks were often kept in a common sheepfold. Several Palestinian shepherds could call their sheep, sheep would go to specific shepherds.

Recent studies have indicated sheep recognize faces as well as voices: sheep recognize human faces as well as faces of other sheep!1 Vision and hearing—and intelligence, too! Yes, someone ex-plored that. “She discovered that sheep can learn how to navigate out of a complex maze. The en-ticing sight of their fellow sheep friends awaiting them at the finish helped them reach the exit.”2 The animal we may have thought to be dumb is smarter than we thought.

This new information deepened my appreciation for the oft’-repeated phrase on the lips of Pope Francis: “personal encounter.” His namesake, Francis of Assisi, had a personal encounter with its Sultan. Pope Francis visited Egypt late last month because he desires a personal encounter with Islam.3 Francis continues to do as he speaks. He is convinced that these encounters are for us and not leaders only. For Francis personal encounter is a culture: “If we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter.”4 

Disciples of Jesus are intelligent and offer much to the church and the world. We leaders who serve you ought to be heartened by your wisdom and energy. Helping one another see the face of Jesus in each other and in every other person and remember him is how we all reach “slowly, gently, little by little…that culture of encounter.” Doing good together participates in God’s culture entrusted to us, the Incarnation: divine becoming human and human becoming divine. For exactly this Jesus died, rose and offers us his Spirit every moment.

When we help each other see Jesus we help each other see the honourable one: Jesus was no  villain. The more we look to Jesus the more we share his honour; we become people of honour: we honour others and help them grow that way—all of us doing good. Coming to live together in the presence of God happens over many lifetimes of doing good together. Living together in the presence of God is God’s gift to humans, the gift for which we long.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Invite the communion of saints to present you to Our Good Shepherd.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank him for modelling doing good and looking out for everyone.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to help us look out for others.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Hallowing God’s name is more than praying; it deepens our reverence for others and for ourselves.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. This BBC piece contains links to related news and research.
  2. Quoted in the same BBC piece above.
  3. One example of many who recalled that moment.
  4. From a weekday homily on salvation and Jesus’ insistence that his disciples ought not stop anyone from doing good in his name. The homily gathered international attention. The pope’s words and one helpful comment.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


Three hundred undersea cables transmit nearly all internet data. Business Insider produced a two-minute video depicting the routes of the cables and their stopping points. A standout stat: laying a single cable “takes several months & costs hundreds of million dollars.”