Saturday, October 21, 2017

Daily word, 21 Oct 17

Twenty-eighth Saturday of the Year (21 Oct 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. during the Spiritual Exercises
Open More
At mass we read snippets of scripture of varying lengths. Reading snippets allows us to appreciate better the truth words convey. Reading snippets risks losing connection with the setting or mood that colors them. Two moods pulse at this point in Prophet Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem: hostile and charged. Hostile because Prophet Jesus had accused the scribes and Pharisees of murderous malice against earlier prophets who had voiced God’s wisdom; when they parted the religious elite held a grudge against Jesus, nursed it and plotted against him.1

How different the crowd! The crowd that followed Jesus and hung on his words grew larger—so large people stepped on one another.2 Surely the mood was tense: charged with worry about personal safety as well as an electric anticipation. Jesus addressed the moment: he taught disciples not to fear. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear.3

A consolation rests in that: anxiety and following Jesus co-exist in us, too. We may not think of it. Retreat may allow us to be more aware of anxiety then feel confused—even frightenedbecause we came on retreat to be with Jesus. If we’re anxious, Jesus accepts us that way and desires to help us. Jesus does not eliminate life’s anxiety and fear but helps us not be controlled by them.

Fear leads us to betray our values, our principles—ourselves. Fear undoes our freedom to act, to choose. Fear not only involves natural forces we can touch; it also involves spiritual forces: fear of death is perhaps our greatest. A modern Catholic reflection described us in the face of [the mystery] death. …Not only [are we] tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of [our bodies], but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. This most real fear is a spiritual force, not one we grip with our hands; and the ever-advancing marvels of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm [our] anxiety.4

Friends of Jesus appreciate this spiritual force. Our trust in Jesus and moving closer to him—our faith—calms our anxiety and offers us hope to share divine life endlessly.5 He works that in us by his Holy Spirit. Anyone can reject his gift. The scribes and Pharisees did that—slandering the Holy Spirit is how Jesus put it. Though they had rejected Prophet Jesus, conversion and repentance—even to the apostles’ word after Jesus rose from the dead—would have won them forgiveness as it has for us. But their conscious, willful rejection of the Holy Spirit closed them to Jesus’ Gift of gifts.

What can we do? Continue asking Jesus for help to open more to all his gifts; esp. his gift that allows us to be like Jesus—and Abraham before him—and place our trust in unseen power beyond what any human power can offer us.
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  1. Luke 11.53-54.
  2. Luke 12.1.
  3. Luke 12.4-5.
  4. Vatican Council II, Church in the Modern World, 18.
  5. Ibid. Also Ignatius’ Principle and Foundation.
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Wiki image by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing of Grumbling Pharisees CC BY-SA 3.0

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Daily word, 10 Oct 17

Twenty-seventh Tuesday of the Year (10 Oct 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. during the Spiritual Exercises
Reorienting
Martha and Mary are misunderstood. Let’s recall what we know. We know they were sisters. We know they welcomed Jesus into the safety and comfort of their home. Travellers depended on hospitality of others, especially in hostile territory; the Roman road system was good, but bandits commandeered some stretches. People in some districts did not welcome everyone: aiming to take the direct way to Jerusalem Jesus tried to pass through Samaria; Samaritans did not welcome him because they did not welcome Jews. Martha and Mary’s hospitality feels more tender because the episode recalling it follows immediately after the Good Samaritan parable.

We also know hospitality in the Mediterranean world has two very important rules: first, to pay attention to the guest; and second, not to demand guests intervene in their hosts’ affairs.

Martha and Mary both received Jesus, the Prophet-Messiah. When the guest is a prophet, one’s attention is both to the person of the prophet and more to the word of God the prophet announces.

We know from Martha herself serving this time overwhelmed her. Overwhelmed yet also blessed for welcoming Jesus. Overwhelmed she tried to impress him with more than her welcome and attention. In that moment Martha violated hospitality’s second important rule: she demanded her guest settle the rivalry that emerged between her and her sister: between serving Jesus and listening to him offer God’s word.

What do we know about us? No choosing between Martha and Mary can exist for us. Why? Because each of us is both Martha and Mary. We extend our welcome to Jesus as both sisters did. In better moments we focus on the word of life Jesus revealed by his person. In more frenzied moments we perform for Jesus with more flourish than Jesus expects or desires. For us frenzy has an air of normalcy about it—experiences on my first repose day awakened me to that. We know in our bones Frenzy is in fact hostile territory: it distracts us from our true selves; it distracts us from Jesus creating, redeeming and inviting us; it confounds and distorts our relationship. Ignatius helps us reorient ourselves simply and deeply: how have I been with Christ? how am I with Christ? how can I be with Christ and want what my Creator and Redeemer wants for me? The colloquy1 not only sharpens self-awareness; it allows us to experience Christ Jesus’ life-sustaining hospitality, then model our hospitality on his.
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  1. Spiritual Exercises [53], my paraphrase.
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Wiki-image Kitchen Piece PD-US

Friday, October 06, 2017

Daily word, 06 Oct 17

Twenty-sixth Friday of the Year (06 Oct 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on Disposition Days Retreat
We of Prayer
Prophets called people to return to God and God’s ways when people had wandered from God and God’s ways. To wander from God was not new. The cycle of wandering and return existed at Israel’s beginning: breaking relationship with God; consequences; repentance; return to the relationship. Scripture preserves moments of this cycle. Prophet Baruch assisted Prophet Jeremiah during the time leading to the exile of the population of Judah to Babylon. Baruch’s correspondence sought to offer clarity to the exiles in their anguish. Baruch also sought to comfort and encourage the exiled people.

We heard Baruch give voice to the repentance moment: we today are flushed with shame, we people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem…we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors, have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed the Lord. We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us.

The responsibility for wandering from God is plural: we, our, us: we are flushed with remorse; we with our rulers, priests…prophets, and…our ancestors; we have…not followed what the Lord gave us. We, our, us glowed on the page as I read. I pondered why I noticed their gleam: perhaps North American individualism affects me more than I care to admit. Many peoples—Israel in scripture is one—identify themselves as we before they identify themselves as I. Conscious of I before we may well be why many North Americans grasp at much and care less about others God creates—humans and the earth itself.

Even individuals among we-thinking peoples are tempted to prefer and think I, me, mine. Individuals can group with that mind. Jesus lamented that entire cities rejected God’s desire; their citizens refused to want what God wanted: abundant life1 for all.

Does my observation hold any value for us making individually directed silent retreats? I think a signal value exists: approach your prayer, imagine it as we—God and I. Bill reminded us that prayer is mutual; Yvonne encouraged us to let God show us ourselves and tell us who we are. Ignatius encouraged that we chat with those who enter our prayer: Jesus; his Abba; his mother; his Spirit; other sainted people—of the church and in our lives. Praying as we helps us notice that God has been and is nearer to us than our breathing.2 Praying as we lets us return to our triune God and abide together more closely.

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  1. Jn. 10.10.
  2. Acts 17.25.
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Wiki-image Prophet Baruch PD-US

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Daily word, 04 Oct 17

St. Francis of Assisi, Memorial (04 Oct 2017)
Neh 2. 1-8; Ps 137; Lk 9. 57-62
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on Disposition Days Retreat
Rebuild and Repair
To reform, we know, means to reshape, to change for the better, to improve and to adjust. It is both personal and what people do for organizations. At times people welcome reform; sometimes others resist it. Welcoming and resisting reform usually happen together. Often reform is unclear. That was true for St. Francis of Assisi.

His wealthy merchant father wanted Francis to be in his business; once the life of every party, Francis’ desire changed. Things hard to name pulled at Francis. We know our reasons to be here are not ones we would voice casually or to everyone. Spiritual movements within don’t lend themselves to casual conversation. Francis divested himself of his easy life and his wealthy future because that life no longer attracted. What he would do was not clear to him.

In a rundown chapel one day Francis experienced some direction. He could only describe a voice urged him: ‘Repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.’ Francis took it literally and for a while rebuilt chapels. One day he heard the gospel recalling Jesus sent his disciples to proclaim God’s reign simply and without cost. Francis realized it was not buildings that needed repair and reform but human hearts and minds and attitudes—just as Jesus urged! Francis found his reforming direction and ministry; he summarized it briefly: “be simple, humble and pure.”1 People saw Francis live those and were astonished; they attracted many to him. They desired God to heal and refashion their hearts.

Ignatius of Loyola was fond of Francis. Reading about Francis moved him to dispose his entire being to God. His disposition included various ways to keep being disposed toward Jesus and his gospel. Ignatius discovered ways to pray and habits of prayer that he offered others. Those ways and habits of Ignatius refashion and reshape us if we give ourselves to them. We may appear no different when we return home; the ways we see the world and our roles in it will be renewed. What we see and do may even astonish us.
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  1. In a letter he wrote to all the faithful.
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Wiki-image  St. Francis PD-Release

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sunday word, 01 Oct 17

Twenty-sixth Sunday of the Year A (01 Oct 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Transforming Our Hearts
Acceptance and rejection; transfer of God’s reign to others; and for those receiving the gift of God’s reign a daily effort to live by Jesus’ ways and words: Sunday gospels present those as liturgical years wind down. Matthew’s gospel has been our Sunday focus. Five themes from it: forgiveness; first and last are reversed in God’s heart; two ways of two sons sound the transfer of God’s reign; those who think they deserve it violently cling to it; those who receive it—you and me—live it or lose it. Those five themes belong to two Sundays ago, today and two Sundays ahead of us.

The parable of two sons sounds the transfer of God’s reign. One said he would do—live—as his father said; he did not. The other defied his father; he later changed his mind and did—lived—as he said. The moral Jesus made clear: public sinners changed their minds and hearts and entered the kingdom of God before the religious professionals to whom Jesus spoke his parable.

Parables provoke; they don’t explain. The shock value of this one lay in the low esteem observant people held public sinners: prostitutes as well as those who collected tribute to enrich the Roman oppressors. I can hear Jesus’ first hearers seize the voice of the prophet: Not fair! In our honest moments we silently echo the same when someone is taken ahead of us; or when someone not as deserving to get a break as us gets one. Yet are not we parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents quick to tell our young ones that life is not fair? We are correct: life is not fair; yet we do our best.

The life of faith turns not on fairness but on a gift. That gift indeed is a marvellous exchange—begun by Jesus and freely given each of us. That marvellous exchange was sung by early Christians—perhaps before St. Paul ceased persecuting Christ Jesus in his church and became his great apostle. He may have heard it often: a person with no sympathy for Christians observed they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god.1 Whenever Paul heard it, it stayed with him. He used its words in a letter to sketch Christian living: serving is the heart of community.

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves: that is the core of Paul’s principle of Christian living; he offered Jesus as the first of five examples of it. Jesus did not cling to his divinity as his advantage;  he emptied himself for the sake of everyone. He model-led humility: strong and clearly knowing his purpose, I lay down my life to take it up again.2 Dispossessed of life by his cruel death, Jesus rose to possess all things as our living Messiah.

The impact of that on early Christians was powerful: Jesus’ emptied himself and rose to possess life in God. It is the strong current of the running river we name our Christian tradition: our living tradition because Jesus lives. Parish life helps us enter Jesus’ flow of living: Christian fellowship nourished by worship actively witnesseses to Jesus. Joining Jesus’ way of living lets faithful people do their best in an unfair world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for us; thank Jesus for sharing his life and identity as one of us.
  • Ask Jesus to increase our courage to stay close to him and to let us be shaped more by his humble compassion.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Speaking his words reassures us we are intimately related to him; like him we rely on his Father and ours to shape us more like our brother, Messiah Jesus.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. Pliny, Letters 10.96-97.
  2. John 10.17.
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Friday, August 25, 2017

Matter of Time

Made public today were threats by terrorists in a new video: “We will have our vengeance,” “We will arrive in Rome.” “It may be only a matter of time,” indicated the commander of the Swiss guards.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Daily word, 24 Aug 17

Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (24 Aug 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
Honest

[Before mass:
Tradition knows Bartholomew, Son of Talmai, by his personal name: Nathaniel—gift of God. Christian tradition happily fuses together both names in one person. The Fourth Gospel was more at home with his personal name. It moves us to ask Nathaniel-Bartholomew to help us be open to welcome the personal gift God desires us to enjoy.]

This selection is from the Fourth Gospel’s first chapter. Hard to miss the naming that happened in it. Naming is prominent throughout the chapter. In its second half the Baptizer began it when he spotted Jesus walk by: Behold, the Lamb of God!1 Hearing the Baptizer two followed Jesus; one was Andrew. Both were first to name Jesus Rabbi: Rabbi, where do you dwell?2 After a day with Jesus Andrew got his brother Simon: We have found the Messiah!3—always sought, never found. We can imagine impulsive, skeptical Simon’s reaction; yet he went! When he arrived Jesus took his turn and named Simon: Peter,4 the name by which he has been known ever after.

We celebrate Nathaniel-Bartholomew’s feast with the rest of the chapter: Philip and Nathaniel named Jesus. Philip recognized Jesus as the one about whom Moses wrote and all the prophets testified. If Andrew’s names for Jesus shone as individual stars—Rabbi, Messiah—Jesus was for Philip their universe promised by Moses and the prophets. With his all-embracing name Philip sought Nathaniel and urged him to meet Jesus.

Nathaniel reacted to his companion’s urging: Can anything good come from Nazareth? Some call it his prejudice. I’m unconvinced: Mediterranean people spoke in capital letters—and still do. To me Nathaniel searched for the good. This is certain: Nathaniel was honest and open. Jesus knew before he conversed with him that Nathaniel was truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit: today Jesus might say of Nathaniel, One gets exactly what one sees. Coming into Jesus’ presence Nathaniel, who sought the good, found God: Nathaniel named Jesus Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus assured him that God would satisfy his longing.

The reaction of Nathaniel-Bartholomew graces us: we may name it “honest to God.” Retreat is a time to be honest about ourselves and honest to God. When we struggle with either or both we have Nathaniel-Bartholomew to intercede for us and to encourage our honesty. Our daily meeting with our spiritual directors helps us practice being open: to bring into the light every movement within us. Every movement,  even difficult, frightening, desolate ones, can alert us: God desires new life to break through for us.

New life may register as a new way to be with Jesus. We can trust its freshness as we feel drawn closer to Jesus; aware he holds new significance for us; feel invited to rejoin his mission. New life may be a name Jesus desires us to know—for the first time or yet again. Retreat-silence helps us be more alert to it; and Nathaniel-Bartholomew models for us and helps us be both honest to God and open to the gifts God desires each of us to enjoy—gifts that are shares now in God’s abundant life we will one day share in full.
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  1. John 1.35.
  2. John 1.38.
  3. John 1.41.
  4. John 1.42.
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Friday, August 18, 2017

Daily word, 18 Aug 17

Nineteenth Friday of the Year (18 Aug 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
God Knows
This gospel scene lets us see Jesus and the religious professionals opposed to him approach an issue differently. Divorce was controversial in Jesus’ time; two approaches1 to it had emerged. One approach was strict and unpopular; the other was lax and favoured by many. The devious way of Jesus’ opponents was on display: have Jesus side with the strict approach and people will turn on him; have Jesus side with the lax way, and we Pharisees can marshal our keen arguments and humiliate him. Shame terrified people in Jesus’ culture; no one wanted to be infected by another’s shame.

The Pharisees prided themselves as interpreters and strict keepers of torah, the ways of God given by God. Can one divorce…for any cause?—their phrase as they began to test Jesus was not lost on him; it shouted that they were enamoured by legalities. Jesus noted their legal-love choked their love of God.

Jesus approached their test as well as the prickly issue of divorce not from what was lawful but from God, God’s desired intention for humans and what God does. The gospel is confident that Jesus knew God’s intention both in creating and in marriage, two shall become one. God’s intention is key; it eluded the Pharisees distracted by what was lawful. Distracted hearts are often hard, closed. Hard hearts readily opt for easier ways, ways that may not be in sync with God’s heart. It is ever our challenge.

What Jesus did summons our hearts. Jesus did not address divorce; the Pharisees felt the issue was legally solved. Jesus did tell God’s story of creating humans and creating the purpose of marriage. Jesus told God’s story: that is key on retreat. Some retreat and hope to solve issues; issues may not be solved here. Retreat does let us see things more clearly; retreat lets us share the vision of our triune God. A way the Trinity’s vision becomes our vision happens to us when we allow our triune God to tell us our story.

Anyone is ready to tell us who we are. Several people already have: parents; teachers; friends; coworkers—even strangers. We come to believe some of them. The truth is startling: I do not know who I am, my true self. More startling is that is true for everyone. God knows the real me, the real you because God creates us each moment.2 God reveals our true selves if we allow God.

When we let ourselves become absorbed in Jesus—especially in his life, his choices, his words that scripture offers us—when we let ourselves become absorbed in Jesus we begin to notice who we truly are: who I am not who I should be. When we let ourselves be absorbed in Jesus we grow aware of who we are in God’s heart, who we can be in and for the world. To be who we truly are, who God creates each moment, is no test. To be those God creates each moment becomes our mission—possible because we discover, know and love ourselves in sync with God’s heart and in sync with our hearts.

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  1. A brief summary.
  2. I am indebted to Jesuit George Schemel and Judith Roemer for  this acute insight.
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