Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday word, 25 Jun 17

Twelfth Sunday of the Year A (25 Jun 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Connection
Everything is connected. Interactions abound though often unseen. Nature’s four fundamental forces give their names to their interactions: gravitation; strong interaction; weak interaction; electromagnetism.1

Connection is not only a modern, scientific quest. Connection and interconnection among people poets have long intuited. John Donne—also a 1617th-Century Member of Parliament and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral—intuited human interconnection. Using the image of a book he wrote, humanity
is of one author, and is one volume; when [anyone] dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated.2
He was convinced people don’t thrive in isolation: No one is an island. In 2008 his conviction was expressed with unpoetic precision: “a thousand fibers connect us to those who are present and those present throughout the generations.”3 Connection is the flip side of isolation. Can we note connecting fibres?

Physicists have laboratories to seek and find nature’s connections; a poet’s laboratory is the page awaiting her writing. On the page she distills feelings, insights and observations into words and arranges them with tender precision. We people of faith have a laboratory, too: we’re engaged in it—our laboratory is liturgy.4 Liturgy allows individuals to connect with one another and meet God on God’s terms; the word of God treasures God’s terms. At liturgy our initial reactions to its proclamation may range from confusion, distaste, distrust, resistance in various combinations. When we finally surrender to God on God’s terms we let God meet us, divine life connect with our human lives: we let ourselves be converted.

Conversion is risky because its more about God than us. We don’t find God; God finds us. The women who went to anoint the body Jesus represent us: they found the tomb empty.5 Two grieving friends that same day represent us: Jesus met them on their way.6 The risk is more keenly felt because it is not about what I have or lose or what I do or earn; it is God’s graciousness offered me. St. Paul exemplified that well: as he again set out to destroy Christians, risen Jesus met him on his way and set him apart for Jesus’ mission.7

Today’s reading from St. Paul concisely expresses our doctrine of original sin. We tend to focus on one side of this doctrine, the transgression. God, though, focuses on the gift.

Original Sin names the consequence of the first human choice to disrupt the harmony of God’s creation. That choice distorted everything about human existence. We inherit the distortion because everything is connected, “a thousand fibers connect us to those who are present and those present throughout the generations.” Original Sin describes our human condition: we are in desperate need of being returned to right relation with God, with others, with ourselves.

The name of the doctrine contains only half of the doctrine and focuses us on the transgression. The flip side of the doctrine’s name is the gift.8 The gift is a person, Jesus: he restores us to right relationship with God, with others and with ourselves. Jesus is both the gift and the one who restores us to our original holiness, to our true selves as images of God.

Do we risk being met by risen Jesus? Or do we resist being met by Jesus? Have we allowed Jesus to meet us then resist his terms: love others as you love yourself? take my yoke upon you—that is, allow me to accompany you; join you to my mission?

Physicists’ discoveries are preceded by numerous failed experiments. Poets’ gems are preceded by numerous shredded drafts and “writer’s block.” Risking conversion is a life-long process with its ups and downs, consolations and desolations. It connects us to Jesus. If we take the risk Jesus translates our lives into his better language, the powerful effects of his grace. Grace is more real than the distorting effects of original sin. The grace, Jesus’ living, dying and rising, has already begun to translate us from distortion, disharmony and isolation into clarity, concord and connection. Connecting with Jesus connects us with others in life-giving ways.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Cast your burdens onto the Trinity.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for dying and rising for you. Thank Jesus for the living gift Jesus offers you and creates within you.
  • Ask Jesus to allow you to continue to grow more connected to him; more connected with others as his disciple.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It restores our relationships with Jesus, with others and with ourselves the more we pray it.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. A wikipedia article covers the history of this physical theory.
  2. Meditation XVII from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. http://isu.indstate.edu/ilnprof/ENG451/ISLAND/text.html His more famous words from this meditation are “No man is an island.”
  3. Cited in “Quite Moments,” Catholic Digest, June 2008, p. 126. It provided no bibliographical information about its author, Violet George; an internet search was not fruitful.
  4. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (112) affirms this.
  5. Matthew 28.5-6 || Mark 16.6 || Luke 24.3.
  6. Luke 24.13-16.
  7. Acts 9.3-6.
  8. Catechism of the Catholic Church expressed it this way: “The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the reverse side’ of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all...that all need salvation, and that salvation is offered to all through Jesus Christ.” #389. St. Paul emphasized the graciousness of salvation by calling it charis, a Greek word translated by the Latin, gratis, grace. Both mean free and unearned.
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday word, 18 Jun 17

Solemnity of the Body & Blood of Christ A (22 Jun 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Participation for Mission
Today’s celebration is named the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. Yet we celebrate more than flesh and blood. We celebrate his person not parts of him; when we are with another we sense that more is present than physical parts. Each of us is a mystery that way.

The mystery of Jesus is richer: he continues to give himself for us; in word and sacrament he is more present to us by his spirit; he invites us to share his life in action; he is the sacrament uniting us and holding us together as his body.

Risen Jesus’ continual giving and nourishing; being present to us in an abiding way; inviting us to share his life in action; his uniting each of us to himself and all of us as his body. Giving, being present, inviting us to join his reconciling project, uniting and holding us together mean we celebrate an event as well. The event is sharing life.

Sharing life with others has always challenged. St. Paul was aware of that. Inviting people into the body of risen Jesus was more than personal salvation. His favoured image, one body exceeds personal salvation. One body equals risen Jesus and all his friends in every age.

Many Corinthian Christians—as do many Christians since—were more comfortable with personal salvation than with being one body, risen Jesus’ on mission. Yes, St. Paul’s time and culture and ours differ dramatically. Yet the way people choose to associate with others today is remarkably similar. Corinth was a large city. It was home to a mix of people largely because it was a port-city. It also was a gateway to the interior of its country. Sounds like cities and town of old in many provinces, doesn’t it? In both Corinth and our cities and towns—then and now—people freely associated with others; often similar interests united them.

Then and now: clubs, ancient and modern; guilds of workers practicing different crafts and using the same materials; people with similar tastes in art, music; athletes and soldiers; even the poor and sick. Then and now people with similar interests and people with different roles in society crisscrossed each other’s lives. Similar interests and needs caused people of different classes to rub shoulders.

Similar interests help us feel safe if we fear the unknown; if we distrust anything new; or if we only desire to be comfortable. We know that never to explore ensures a dull life; never to trust ensures no reward of deep satisfaction and growth; and to choose only comfort is a springboard to emotional and spiritual flabbiness. To associate only out of similar interests guarantees listless lives.

Good news exists despite all that. The good news St. Paul brought to Corinth then, the good news St. Paul offers us now is this: The person-event who is risen Jesus giving, being present, inviting us to join him reconciling, nourishing us, uniting and holding us together frees us to trust, to desire to grow more and to enjoy apostolic energy.

Precisely to these Pope Francis has urged the world church. They are not new to the church of his Argentina:
I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. …If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life.1
Jesus gives us himself for mission. We go out as his friends to extend to others the friendship we enjoy: “the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, [mediated anew by] a community of faith.”

By the eucharist we participate in risen Jesus; we grow intimately one with him and one another. As we partake in Jesus we participate in the lives of all people—not only as Jesus did but as risen Jesus does in sending us on his mission each day.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Ask our triune God to see yourself, others and the world as God sees.
  • Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for dying and rising for you; share with Jesus your hunger for him, your desire to live from his mind and heart.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to participate in his person and his saving work with deep joy.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood transforms our request for our daily bread into power to become the one we receive: Jesus our Creator, our Redeemer, our Friend.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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  1. His The Joy of the Gospel, 49. His first apostolic exhortation is a mission statement of his ministry as Bishop of Rome.
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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday word 11Jun 17

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity A (11 June 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Living Yearning
During enjoyable moments who asks what do they mean? The joy we experienced satisfies us. We feel no need to look beyond our joy: it absorbs us within it. This absorbing is proper human. Usually we consider only a certain few get so absorbed to be united in qualities such as joy or with another person, with God. We name them mystics.

Most significant for them—and everyone’s mystic moments—is this: they sense no distinction between them and, say, their joy; between them and another. Words cannot express their experience; yet mystics try to express it for us. Julian of Norwich was one.

Julian enjoyed revelations—Showings, she named them—of the Trinity and our participation among the triune God.
It is a lofty understanding inwardly to see and to know that God, who is our maker, dwells in our soul, and it is a still loftier and greater understanding inwardly to see and to know that our soul, which is created, dwells in God’s substance. From this substance we are what we are, by God.
She experienced mutual indwelling:
I saw no difference between God and our [human self], but saw it as if it were all God. And yet my understanding accepted the fact that…God is God and our [human self] is a creature in God. For the Almighty Truth of the Trinity is our Father, for he made us and preserves us in himself; the deep wisdom of the Trinity is our mother, in whom we are enclosed; the lofty goodness of the Trinity is our Lord, and in him we are enclosed and he in us.
We are enclosed in the Father, we are enclosed in the Son, and we are enclosed in the Holy Spirit. The Father is enclosed in us—All-power, All-wisdom, and All-goodness: one God, one Lord.1 
This indwelling participation in our triune God is not easy to take. The unlimited “is enclosed in us!” We easily fear losing ourselves, our personal power. Let mystics enjoy this and keep it to themselves: it’s too much for the rest of us! Yet we Christians are who we are because we profess unlimited divinity was enclosed in a woman’s womb and was born for us. In Jesus God united human life with divine life. Matching our profession to our deeds and choices is how we Christians witness to one another and our world.

All this is living mystery. Julian’s efforts to express her showings means none of this is abstract meaning. Our Christian mystery registers as power—we participate in All-power; it registers as wisdom—we participate in All-wisdom; it register as human kindness—we participate in All-goodness. St. Paul enumerated other fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.2 These Spirit-fruits are gifts: ours because we participate in the passion, dying and rising of Jesus each moment.3

Does a down-to-earth outcome of this participation in the triune Creator exist? Pope Francis is adamant that this is it: “Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.”4 Because “everything is interconnected…genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.”5

Perhaps this a grace for us sophisticated, technological folk to yearn: that we may be overcome with joy that we are included within God—a joy that does not overwhelm us but moves us to let our thoughts, choices and actions be done in and with God. The world will be transformed more as we live what we yearn.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the communion of saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for dying, rising and giving us his Spirit; ask Jesus to help you experience we live in him as his witnesses to our world.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be overcome with his joy because we are included within God.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his  prayer to help our relationship with our Creator grow and to welcome others into it.


Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


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  1. Revelations of Divine Love in Sixteen Shewings, 54. The revealer to Julian was “Jesus Christ, our endless bliss” (1).
  2. Galatians 5.22-23.
  3. Galatians 2.19; Romans 6.6, 8-11.
  4. Laudato Si, 240.
  5. Laudato Si, 70.
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Sunday, June 04, 2017

Pentecost word, 04Jun17

Pentecost (04 Jun 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Filling Gift
A popular story has circulated to illustrate important things, less important and least important things in one’s life. Its moral urges: focus on most important things contributes to a meaningful life. The story’s essentials are a professor, students, a jar, rocks, pebbles and sand. Here’s my adaptation.

A professor enters a classroom and sets a large jar on a table before them. Silently the professor places two-inch rocks in the jar until no more can fit. “Is the jar full, class?” The students agree it is full.

The professor proceeds to add pebbles and shakes the jar so the pebbles fill the spaces between the rocks. “Is the jar full, class?” Some students agree it is full. The professor proceeds to add sand; it fills the spaces between the pebbles.

“Consider, class, that this jar is your life. The rocks are what is more important in it—all you’ll value at the end of your life: family; friends; health; fulfilling your hopes and dreams. The pebbles other things that offer you meaning: learning; your job; house; hobbies; colleagues and acquaintances. The sand represents everything else, the ‘small stuff.’ If you focus all your energy on material things and other small stuff, you will not make room for what is most important, meaningful and life-giving.1

Today’s mystery urges us to reverse the story’s obvious logic of what we perceive as large equals most important. By whatever approach we use to enter Pentecost this remains: Holy Spirit is God’s gift; it fills our inmost being and animates our lives. Take the more familiar approach we heard from the Acts of the Apostles. After 50 days Risen Jesus’ presence and power registered as a noise like a strong driving wind, tongues as of fire, and once-timid disciples boldly announcing Jesus in speech that all understood and deeds strongly felt.

Another expression of the gift of the Spirit is more mysterious and personal: On the evening [Jesus rose from the dead]…that first day of the week…Jesus breathed on them and said to them,“Receive the Holy Spirit. Its accompanying power is power to forgive. Not only is it sacramental power; it includes the power every Christian prays for in the Lord’s Prayer: to forgive as we are forgiven.
This Spirit-power is not earned, is nothing I reach. Rather, the Spirit who is God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us…while we were still weak.2

Filled by and with the Spirit is often subtle and always intrinsic, innate to us. Our baptism makes Jesus’ Spirit inseparable from us and gives us power to discern. The Letter to the Hebrews imagined the mysterious Spirit-power—finer than the sand in the professor’s valuable story and not taking up space—with its vivid image: Holy Spirit uttered by every word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting through so as to divide soul from spirit, joints from marrow. It is even able to discern the thoughts and deliberations of the heart.3

What might Pentecost offer us today? It invites us to surrender more to risen Jesus’ personal gift. The disciples did not labor to figure out what happened to them when Jesus’ Spirit filled them. They recognized Jesus had baptized them with his presence and power as he had promised4; and they let themselves by intoxicated by it with astonishing effect. Not toxic, Holy Spirit is life. Even more valuable: Jesus’ Spirit is the antidote to the pressures the world exerts; to the violence humans afflict on one another and creation; and to all that subverts life’s meaning and vitality. So none of us miss the obvious: receiving and living risen Jesus’ personal gift of his Spirit empowers us to share it so through us risen Jesus may continue to renew the face of our earth.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
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  1. One adaptation includes water. Others are animated.
  2. Romans 5.5-6a.
  3. Hebrews 4.12.
  4. Acts 1.5.
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Wiki-image The Descent of the Holy Spirit PD-US Christian Logo CorNexus com CC0 1.0

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.
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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 intently...as 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

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  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.
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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.    
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Wiki-image by takato marui of Ċ ternberg Family Tree CC BY-SA 2.0