Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Holiness Exhortation

The Vatican released Rejoice and Be Glad, Francis’ most recent Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness in today's world. It also released this 2:36-minute video of key themes found in the exhortation.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday word, 30 Mar 18

Good Friday (30 Mar 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Holy Week Retreat, Guelph, ON
Brought In
Each gathering around the tables of God’s word and God’s son calls us to transport ourselves to ancient Mediterranean culture. The words we hear and use and the meal we share are rooted there. We linger long enough to gather what will help us live as better friends and followers of our Messiah Jesus.

As we linger we note prophets like Isaiah and Jesus spoke with divine authority: The Lord says this! O my people! Hear me! I say to you. They did not only add language God-markers like those. They soaked their hearers in vivid images: images to announce God’s heart and echo God’s desire for people. Their images contrasted God’s heart and the hearts of God’s people as well as sounded hope for life restored. Sometimes the gateway to hope opened onto troubling vistas. An Isaian image troubles us: suffering servant. Is to suffer the way God’s friends prosper?

Yet on our highest holy days we allow Isaiah’s suffering servant to open the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. This liturgy demands greater courage because Isaiah’s images don’t relent: speechless; parched; faces hid; spurned; stricken; silent; smitten; crushed; afflicted…to death. Who would believe what we have heard? Who would believe what we have heard in the passion or see on a close look at a crucifix or the Pieta? It’s not believing with our heads; it’s knowing with our hearts; a you-are-there experience to help us be touched deep within by the mystery of divine love then leave moved and transformed.

What we heard happened. The events the church celebrates today are not merely reported; they are given us now. Isaiah spoke to his circumstances with his suffering servant oracle. His oracle was not locked in history; later generations used it. Evidence mounts that Jesus used his oracle: one who knows the evidence observed that Christian scriptures developed “[what] Jesus himself set in motion when he drew on [Isaiah] to…explain his mission and ministry, and in particular his coming violent death.”1 That means we receive a privileged communication from Jesus: privileged because it’s scripture; and present2 for us as Jesus lives his self-description to its end. It baffled, angered and frightened his disciples: we’re no different.

Like them Jesus’ humiliating death can move us and transform us; it also blesses us with hope for ourselves and beyond ourselves. That calls again for graced courage—and help. Who might help us be moved? The young woman who kept the doorto the courtyard of the high priest. Consider her as our help. Consider her for she was trustworthy, reliable, confident, kind and perceptive.

She was trustworthy and reliable because she had been given the role of porter. In her world those entrusted with doors and gates played key roles in households. She did not shirk to use her authority: she gave Peter access to the courtyard of the high priest. We too need intimate access to the events of this mystery. Who better to let us in than this reliable, confident young woman?

Each woman in the Fourth Gospel spoke confidently. The young woman at the courtyard gate did not converse with Jesus and for that reason is overlooked. Who can say she had not heard Jesus speak of himself as a porter? I am the gate. Those who enter through me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find nourishment.
3 Imagine her listening to his words! Whatever her source of  confidence: she knew who she let in that day because she met Peter’s companion. We are their companions; she will bring us in to the courtyard of this mystery unfolding in a high priest’s house to end high on a cross. She offers a new perspective and will treat us as she treated Peter: kindly.

St. John Chrysostom noted kindness in her words to Peter: “She did not ask Peter, Are you a disciple of that cheat and corrupter, but, of that man.” Jesus had passed through her gate; she perceived things would not bode well for him. Her phrase that man revealed Jesus’ plight stirred her compassion.4

Trustworthy, reliable, confident, kind, perceptive: the young woman’s qualities are worth emulating in every circumstance. Surely her silent presence boosted Jesus’ confidence to complete his mission. I suggest we follow her lead as we reverence his cross: entrust the cross to another to bring in the person next to you closer to its mystery; in that moment let yourself enter the gate of Jesus’ paschal life: let it continue to move you. Be confident the young woman stands at the doors of our hearts encouraging us, Be transformed by Jesus’ tree of life!

  1. Ben Witherington, III. Isaiah Old and New, Accordance electronic ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017), 35.
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1085.
  3. John 10.9.
  4. Homily on John, 83.2.

Wiki-image Consummatum est PD; by Canaan Dulce lignum CC BY-SA 3.0

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday word, 16 Mar 2018

Lenten Friday4 (16 Mar 2018)
Wis 2. 1a,12-22; Ps 34; Jn 7. 1-2,10,25-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., closing 5-Day Directed Retreat
As it shaped Lent the early church gave pride of place to the Fourth Gospel. In a singular way it retells the story of Jesus capturing the community’s experience of Jesus’ death-resurrection identity. The Fourth Gospel cannot separate the person of Jesus and the work of Jesus: Jesus lived to do the work of the One who sent him, an expression we already heard Wednesday, echoed today, and one we will hear again next week.

The readings today and next week from John’s gospel unfold Jesus’ return to Judea—he had been away over a year. I want to suggest a way to profit from these gospel selections as you return home and as Lent presses toward the Easter season: conversing.

Dialog unifies these selections—dialog between Jesus and leaders of the Jews. Their dialog has the feel of an interrogation or courtroom cross-examination. Jesus was no stranger to heated interrogations. Opposition to Jesus was constant; it began at a simmer. This dialog lets us know opposition had grown furious: the [leaders] of the Jews were trying to kill Jesus. We could say this furious intensity prepared Jesus for his final Good Friday cross-examinations by Caiaphas and by Pilate.

None of us is out to get Jesus. From us Jesus desires an intensity of a different sort: friendship. Can we describe our praying as intense? Has our praying been a back and forth with Jesus? Are we candid with Jesus? Do we voice ourselves in our praying? Do we question Jesus about what Jesus desires for us? Though my heart is very different from the hearts of those who opposed Jesus, I’m like them in this way: I want to speak to Jesus without holding back.

Speaking with Jesus as one friend to another was St. Ignatius’ shorthand for praying. Friendship-talking carries intensities of different sorts. Here are a few:
  • At times we identify with friends. Jesus self-identified with God and the saving work of God.
  • Friends ask us difficult questions, hear-hurting questions to use a Japanese phrase. Because friends ask them we can bear them.
  • When friends endure difficulties we can be there for them just as friends are with us in our difficult moments. Lent invites us closer to Jesus.
  • Another friendship-intensity allows us to be open with friends. Our friend Jesus welcomes us to say anything to him.
Conversing with friends affects us. Conversing with our friend Jesus does as well. Here are two ways to take with you: discovering our true selves; and appreciating Jesus’ passionate way of loving.

Questioning Jesus as we question friends and friends question us: praying of that candid sort can lead us to notice Jesus prompting us to deepen our friendship. Friends help us know ourselves better. In a similar way candidly conversing with Jesus can: reveal to us our true selves who Jesus creates each moment; and encourage us to live as our true selves.

Conversing with Jesus about his hour can help us appreciate Jesus’ energetic passion to do the desires of his Father. Conversing with Jesus about his hour converses with him about his paschal mission—his passion, death, resurrection-ascension. Our conversing gets us more in touch with Jesus’ gift of himself. We live his self-gift to us as our Christian identity. Conversing with Jesus about his hour can help us treasure anew our Christian identity: we were buried with him by baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we might walk in newness of life.1 To walk in newness of life is to pattern our lives once more on Jesus’ passion to love generously. To pattern our lives on Jesus is the fruit of the most important conversations we can enter.
  1. Romans 6.4.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Anniversary Five

Crux invited nine people to assess Pope Francis on the anniversary of being elected pope. They remark on “what’s surprised them most about the Francis papacy and what they consider to be his unfinished business.”
Wiki-image by Aleteia Image Department CC BY-SA 2.0

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday word, 12 Mar 2018

Lenten Monday4 (12 Mar 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., 5-day Directed Retreat
Patient Prayer

Spring is a time of reorganizing. Nature reorganizes itself to awaken life hidden in winter’s chill. We reorganize through the ritual of spring cleaning. Lent is the springtime of the church; it invites us to allow our triune God to organize our inmost selves around the paschal mystery of Jesus: his dying and rising.

People embark on Lent with hopes and intentions to do that. Midway many of us find a need to recommit to our hopes and intentions. Lent can dissolve into some-thing other than renewing our baptismal identity, our sacramental unity with Jesus dead and risen. One may fast, notice some outward progress and fast to lose weight; another gives alms to make a tithing goal; others pray to satisfy a guilty conscience. Lent invites us to fast, to feed the poor and to pray not as ends in themselves but to help us grow more compassionate—to imitate [God’s] kindness.1

Retreat can help us say Yes to God’s invitation to reorganize our lives. Retreat allows us to know with our hearts how God desires to create us new. God’s new creation may be a healing; it may be heartfelt knowing our true selves; it may be noticing God’s desires for us and our deep desires intersect.

A way to felt-knowledge of God creating us anew is patience: patience with ourselves and patiently letting ourselves be at least slightly absorbed in God, Jesus, Mother Mary, our patron saints and other sainted people in our lives. Patient prayer is also present-time prayer. No need to accomplish anything; rather take God at God’s word: I exult in my people. Enjoy God exulting in us so much that we notice God create us each present moment.
  1. 3rd Lenten Preface in the Roman Missal.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday word, 10 Mar 2018

Lenten Satuday3 (10 Mar 2018)
Hos 6. 1-6; Ps 51; Lk 18. 9-14
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Directed Prayer Weekend Retreat

Recall Jesus’ words to us on Ash Wednesday: …whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. …But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door….1

A hypocrite puts on an act. Scripture uses hypocrite in no flattering way. In the New Testament it means a religious or moral counterfeit. The image Jesus gives me is someone using peripheral vision improperly. Standing at street corners or in a worship space one pays undue attention to others: Do they notice me? Does she see what I’m doing? God may be in my words, but my heart is elsewhere. Any of us can see how that is possible.

Jesus made it clear in his parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector: the Pharisee well inside the synagogue; the tax collector standing afar off. Remember the Pharisee’s words? God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. That is praying with peripheral vision.

The tax collector’s prayer was such a contrast. He would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ That is praying with direct, steady vision. Jesus added that the tax collector…went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. How sweet felt the heart of the tax collector, even if he struggled still with how he lived! He savoured, too, his brave prayer of self-knowledge. True self-knowledge allowed him—and us—worthily echo the Psalmist: God I need you to give me a new spirit, a humane heart.

If true self-knowledge feels risky, you’re in the right place. Being here allows all of us to let God tell us who we are; and to welcome God into any area of our lives that needs divine help, that help we cannot give ourselves. Silent solitude helps that happen.

Silent solitude also allows us to notice challenge and assurance: Jesus will challenge us if we persist in using spiritual peripheral vision; Jesus will reassure us to see ourselves with direct, steady vision. Both Jesus’ challenge and his assurance are gifts that help us be our true selves.

  1. Matthew 6.5-6.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Sunday word, 04 Mar 18

Lent Sunday 3 (B) (04 Mar 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
True Power
Last month at Loyola House the February 8-day retreat overlapped with Ash Wednesday. On Shrove Tuesday evening spiritual directors and retreatants gathered in chapel for Taizé prayer around the cross. That communal prayer originated in a place in France of the same name. The prayer has a simple shape: the cross rests above the floor before the altar. Candles glimmer on the altar and around the cross; the cross is the heart of the prayer time. Those gathered chant psalms and words inspired by them; listen to scripture; and voice intercessions. Generous silences punctuate the evening and help us focus on the divine love our Messiah’s cross manifests.

The heart and soul of Taizé prayer welcomes people to give Jesus our burdens and allow Jesus to receive them. I find that powerful and most welcome. In the moment I am unaware how much I shoulder in life. During the hour I lost myself as well as my burdens and my sense of time; nor was I aware of others around me. I was aware of Jesus present to me and receiving me and anything I offered. At the gentle close I left with an echo of Jesus’ words: where two or three are gathered…in my name, there am I in the midst of them.1

The presence of Jesus I had not manufactured. It was his self-gift. The gift of his presence also broke the hold historical and chronological time has on me—I lost the sense of time. I wager many of us are held in its grip, too.

Its hold shapes our perceptions: past or present; important or negligible; pertinent or insignificant to us. So with Jesus’ cross: to some it may be a relic of history or of a distant culture. For others a decoration, noble and holy though it may be. Taizé prayer let me appreciate that Jesus’ cross is no decoration. It is a lightening rod: it absorbed me and my burdens; by it Jesus loves us and creates us anew. Truly his cross is power!

That was St. Paul’s gospel: we proclaim Christ crucified…Christ the power of God & the wisdom of God; he was a stumbling block to Jews because they reasoned from scripture. It is written: Cursed is anyone whose corpse hangs on tree.2 Jewish believers had to reinterpret scripture according to their experience of risen Jesus: they had experienced his power; he was no failed messiah.

Perhaps we identify more with the Greeks: for them Paul’s gospel was folly not good news. Perhaps like them we wonder, Who would give their lives that way? Yet we give our lives all the time. We give our lives to others in varying degrees. Those moments see us extend selfless love, or at least other-centered, love. At times we wonder how we do it. Although we freely choose to give ourselves more than our power propels us. St. Paul put it this way: I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.3 

Jesus is our life: that is true power! True power often registers quietly. Strength; influence; excellence of character; virtue; making significant choices; doing significant actions; moving forward while being misunderstood, ignored or insulted: each is an expression of power.

How might we live true power with Jesus’ cross?This week I learned of a young man who became Catholic 8 years ago. He wears a crucifix for three reasons: remembering; inspiration; accountability. Each is an expression of true power. He wears a crucifix, he wrote, “to remember what true love looks like; to inspire me to take up my cross daily; [so those who see it] will hold me accountable as a christian.”4

Naming ways we live Jesus’ cross is a great Lenten exercise. I re-commend it to you. Consider doing this exercise each day for 15 minutes this week.
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask St. Paul to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for us; savor Jesus’ selfless love.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to appreciate better his cross as his power that recreates us and restores us in his image. Ask that Jesus enlighten us to know better our share now in his power.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Give us our daily bread not only begs our triune God to give us what we truly need; it also begs God to nourish us with true power: we may need it more than we know.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
  1. Matthew 18.20.
  2. Deuteronomy 21.23, quoted in Galatians 3.13.
  3. Galatians 2.19-20.
  4. Ricky Jones posted “Why I wear a crucifix.”


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Motivation To Help Enter Lent

eeking motivation to enter Lent consistently this year? Consider this online retreat. “Each Monday [Tim Muldoon will] share audio reflections accompanied by suggestions for prayer and action.” (A service of Loyola Press.)