Tuesday, October 31, 2006
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J. (31 Oct 2006) Eph 5. 21-33; Ps 128; Lk 13. 18-21
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Therefore Connects and Invites
Jesus, traveling to Jerusalem, was in a situation of conflict: some accepted him, others did not. Accepting the visitiation of God in Jesus by the Holy Spirit, and accepting day by day, is real repentance. We heard before Jesus doing things that indicated the presence of the kingdom of heaven.
The woman he healed, loosed from her bondage of being bent over, was that latest, which those of us who were able to celebrate mass yesterday heard. Sometimes the inbreaking of heaven occurs in a capital-letter way. More often it happens in hidden ways. Jesus comments via two short parables--of the mustard seed and the yeast--that is so. “Therefore he spoke” them.
After planting the mustard seed is visible only in its tree-size bush. All of us know even better that yeast is visible only in the growth it causes in dough.
St. Paul knew the hidden nature of the reign of God, too, and it shaped his preaching to the Ephesians. When it came to the mystery of marriage, Paul began with what people knew and expected: wives respect your husbands. He gained a hearing before he said, Husbands love your wives.
Husbands didn’t have to love their wives because they owned them along with children and other property. Yet the reign of God often turns things upside down. So it is for the mystery that symbolizes the Christ and his Church.
Alphonsus prayed in no less an upside-down way. He described it as conversation with Jesus and Mary. During his prayer-conversation his soul would reach a state “by the grace of God, where it does not know how to be--or even can be--presumptuous, any more than a baby at the breast.”*
Alphonsus is a good intercessor for us, not only to make our praying more candid and innocent. Alphonsus, the porter at the Jesuit college in Majorca, can also intercede for us so that we strive to live as portals of heaven to one another.
* From his spiritual writings; excerpt in the Supplement to the Divine Office for the Society of Jesus, St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2002, p 90.
Monday, October 30, 2006
How important is baptism? Baptism not only begins our incorporation into Christ, which confirmation seals with Christ's Spirit and eucharist sustains everyday; baptism, and its completion by its other two sacraments of initiation, Pope Benedict illuminated, sets the "itinerary" of each Christian's life. Read Pope Benedict's Sunday Angelus message of 29 October for exactly what he means.
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Accept and Rejoice
Behave like God, we responded to the psalm. Those words are a mantra for every day. “But how can I do that?” you will object. “I’m not God.” True enough. Our worship recognizes that none of us is God. Our worship encourages us to behave like God. That means specifically to be compassionate, to allow our hearts to feel discomfort, loneliness, unrest and even pain which another feels.
St. Paul told the Ephesians the same thing: Be imitators of God, and St. Paul listed behaviors that did and did not imitate God: being kind; compassionate; forgiving; selflessly loving like Christ; and not being immoral, greedy; obscene; or given to suggestive talk.
St. Paul didn’t think twice about any of that. All Jews had heard that God had both given God’s heart to them, children of Abraham, and asked them to shape their hearts like God’s.
Jesus summarized it early in his preaching: become compassionate as your father is compassionate, which Jesus also clarified with concrete behaviors: do not judge...do not condemn...forgive and you will be forgiven.
How quickly humans forget the compassionate contours of God’s heart! How more quickly humans forget we are called to behave with compassionate hearts! We’re not so different from the synagogue ruler, who grew irritated at Jesus for healing that crippled daughter of Abraham on the Sabbath. If humans could loose animals on the Sabbath—permissions were given—then all the more weighty to loose human beings from what binds them.
Our hearts are in bondage of various kinds. Nonetheless, they know wonders, too. Repentance is not just a turning from sin. It is both accepting daily the visitation God’s heart makes in Jesus by their Holy Spirit, and rejoicing in it, not shamed or irritated by it.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Priests For Priestly People
An edge sliced at us in 2003 as all of us learned some priests and bishops failed sectors of the Catholic community in the abuse scandal of epic and reeling proportions.
I recall my own prayer and reflection three years ago. I was tugged by opposing forces: a shock and an awe. I could have absorbed a few instances of failing the community with abusive behavior, but its breadth by a small fraction of clergy and hiding it shocked me. Yet, God’s consolation and guidance abided with us. I remain in deepest awe of God consoling me and guiding me and many, many more men who have not failed but served well as priests.
As you know, I served the Archdiocese of Detroit as one of its priests for a dozen years before I entered the Society of Jesus. I thought I knew awe because I was happy as an archdiocesan priest, serving parishes full time plus giving myself to additional service in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Jesus’ invitation to complete my priesthood as a Jesuit increased my happiness, desire and willingness to serve as a priest.
I was clear about one thing early and for a long while during those dozen years as a parish priest: I needed to simplify my life and how I lived. That momentum increased to propel me to discern how God desired me to do that. God opened me to the Society of Jesus and the Society to me, so that I stand with you as a Jesuit, who served as a spiritual guide & retreat director at nearby Loyola of the Lakes Jesuit Retreat House before standing with you as one of your parish priests.
I long wanted to be a priest. Not until I became a Jesuit did I appreciate deeply that God desired me to serve as a priest. God placed that desire within me. We tend to plan our lives by ourselves. It doesn’t work that way, friends. We discern and we choose the shape to live our lives as God creates us. We don’t merely figure out what we ought to be; after we gain some clarity, we give ourselves to it.
The Letter to the Hebrews, speaking about Jesus, the Priest of priests, said what I mean very pointedly: priests are taken from among people...No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God.
God has been and is very gracious and very patient with me. God is very gracious and patient with everyone. I’ve come to know better my own weaknesses, my own sinfulness, my own ignorance. God continues to awe me because God uses my fragile being and my blindness to give God glory in Christ Jesus by their Holy Spirit.
We celebrate the priests among us. We can only do so because priests are taken from among us. Priests are not taken away from people, they are with people, seeking to serve as Christ did by teaching, by preaching his good news of death and resurrection and giving voice to God’s word as we live day to day.
In my earliest years, my mentor gave me sound advice: "Be yourself." I try to be myself in order that you may see how you share in the priesthood of Christ Jesus, how you witness to him as his priestly people.
Jesus invites us all to follow him on his way. Every Christian is consecrated by Christ to live his pattern and no other. To celebrate priesthood above all celebrates Christ, who gave his life so all might live. All priests and I appreciate your prayers.
In your daily praying this week, I encourage you to rest in the Trinity for 10 minutes each day. Begin to feel more deeply the personal love the Divine Persons have for you. Speak to one or all of them what arises on your heart when you consider the gifts they give you each day to walk more closely with them. Grow more alert to the way the Trinity invites you to live as an ambassador of Christ in your daily life. Offer your limitations, your blindness, your weakness by joining them with Jesus on the altar of his cross. Express your deepest desire to Jesus (as blind Bartimaeus expressed his desire to see). Be attentive to how Jesus responds to you, and resolve to act on it as you say, Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit now and forever, Amen.
[This week's prayer-exercise is formatted for liesurely use; link to it at Spiritual Exercise for the Week--at the left sidebar under Links and above Archives.]
Thursday, October 26, 2006
"Violence Against Children" says around 275 million children worldwide face domestic violence within the "safe" confines fo their homes.
Other forms of violence against children, although not hidden, are subtle--in every country. This following excerpt focuses on South Asia and India in particularly because it is from the Indian Social Institute based in New Dehli.
18. India has most working children, says UN (14)
NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 23: The first comprehensive global study by the United Nations on "Violence Against Children" says around 275 million children worldwide face domestic violence within the "safe" confines of their homes. The study, which took three years to complete, observes that violence against children is widely accepted as “normal” in most societies. India finds mention — in the South Asia regional study — as the country with the “largest number of working children in the world.” Official figures put it at 11.2 million while ILO estimates more than double that number at 23 million. In addition, there are almost 75 million children who do not go to schools but who are not counted in these figures, and they may also be working. The study focuses on the nature and extent of violence against children in all spheres — within their homes and families, at schools, in institutions (orphanages, detention centres), at work and within their community. It concludes that children as in the case of rape victims face violence at the hands of people they know and trust. Cases of extreme violence against children hit the headlines but the more common, daily, repeated small acts of violence go unreported and unrecognised. Moreover, “people and children themselves accept violence as an inevitable part of life.” There are startling lacunae in legislations protecting children from violence. At least 106 countries still allow physical punishment in schools and 145 countries do not ban corporal punishment in care institutions. The study commissioned by the Secretary-General and conducted by independent expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro since 2003, also makes recommendations to be implemented by member states. Prominent among these is the need for member states to appoint a children’s ombudsman or children’s rights commissioner. (Indian Express 24/10/06)
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Excessive talking should be kept out of prayer but that does not mean that one should not spend much time in prayer so long as a fervent attitude continues to accompany his prayer. To talk at length in prayer is to perform a necessary action with an excess of words. To spend much time in prayer is to knock with a persistent and holy fervour at the door of the one whom we beseech. This task is generally accomplished more through sighs than words, more through weeping than speech. He places our tears in his sight, and our sighs are not hidden from him, for he has established all things through his Word and does not seek human words.Later, St. Ignatius of Loyola emphasised feelings over time. His Examen of Consciousness (see my explanation and adaptation of it for using it daily) only takes 15 minutes which is a very slender sliver of the waking hours of one's day. Hearts, ours and God's, are not bound to measure time in the same way as minds and clocks.
[Scroll and read the longer excerpt.]
Monday, October 23, 2006
Monday and Tuesday this week is the Diocese of Cleveland Priests' Convocation, a biennial event. It is fortuitous that this year is a convocation year because Bishop Richard Lennon, the new ordinary of the Diocese of Cleveland, arrived in the spring. This will allow him to be with most of the priests and they with him in relaxed setting.
The focus of Convocation 2006 is personal spiritual direction, a non-negotiable in growing in Christian spirituality.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Baptized For Greatness
Do you notice what’s common in these phrases: guest service; sanitary engineer; personal trainer; flight attendant; downsizing; collateral damage; ethnic cleansing?
Prettied up language is what’s common. But to what end? I never feel I’m a guest of Top’s, Target or Kohl’s. I’m a customer, sometimes bewildered and usually satisfied. Language beautification also masks the menial aspects of work, which the words janitor, coach, steward & stewardess do not mask.
Language beautification may be dirty and deceive: reducing debt by sacking employees doesn’t address management problems or understand that work is integral to human dignity. And to call human suffering “collateral” or to call human extermination “cleansing” is blasphemy.
I won’t deceive you when it comes to the good news of Jesus. Jesus was clear: persecutions were part and parcel of life, and of the Christian life in particular.
The Christian life is a bittersweet life. So is any life, which has disappointments, setbacks, struggles, temptations on a routine basis, and sometimes singes us with intense suffering. Living with and for Christ recognizes that; it also invites us and all disciples to live in a new way. Our scriptures describe a few aspects of this new way of deepening discipleship:
First, we grow to realize position, prominence and influence do not guarantee greatness; serving others’ needs makes one great. Second, this is no impossible task: think of all the spouses, parents, older brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and neighbors who model selfless love to children and youth; and those same people modeling selfless love to each other. Moreover, our Creator and Redeemer Jesus was able to sympathize fully with us and what challenges our daily living because he was fully human and was tested in every way all humans are tested in life.
These enable us to live as a leaven in the mass of society. We affect it by being a sign of contradiction of the world’s way of operating for gain and for self rather than for sharing more equitably the gifts of creation entrusted to our care and safeguarding each other’s dignity. Living as this transforming leaven in society means that our vocation is to revolutionize the world with no other arms save the gospel of our Messiah Jesus.
His gospel is not divorced from the world or opposed to it. Early last week pope Benedict said, “[F]aith in God and scientific research cooperate to the same end, which can best be expressed with the words of Jesus himself: that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Commenting on Jesus’ words, the pope spoke on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Home for the Relief of Suffering, an initiative of St. Padre Pio. Saints, especially those of our day help who help us see without the filter of time or culture, show us children, women and men deeply confident in risen Jesus’ presence with them. They showed Jesus to others; they were his hands, feet, eyes and ears as Theresa of Avila sang; and Jesus encouraged them to challenge the world by living the gospel.
We are a community of blessed people. We are blessed with wealth of all varieties. Many share that wealth generously at home, in school, at work, even abroad. I am most grateful; you inspire me more than you can know. I desire that you never lose heart as you respond generously to Jesus’ personal invitations to you, which began in our baptisms.
Focused on his baptism to serve, Jesus refocused James and John and refocuses us, who want to escape suffering and inconvenience. Invite Jesus to sharpen the focus on our baptism. Set aside 10 minutes to focus each day this week. Become aware of the Divine Persons embracing you in love Praise Jesus, who modeled being baptized and lived it so well. Speak with him about the cup he drank; or converse with him about one baptismal symbol and how it shapes you: the sign of the cross; the water; the oil of chrism; the fire atop the Paschal candle; the white garment. Ask him for the grace you need to live your baptism more candidly, then resolve how you can do so one way that day. Close, slowly saying the Lord’s Prayer.
You won’t deceive yourself.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Those are valuable principles to keep in mind each day. They are very helpful in the time before elections. Read below some of the cardinals statements to the Canadian bishops' plenary conference.
Cardinal McCarrick Shares Political Wisdom
Addresses Plenary Assembly of Canadian BishopsCORNWALL, Ontario, OCT. 20, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Bishops in their role as pastors and leaders are called to show courage, clarity and love, says the retired archbishop of Washington, D.C.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said this Tuesday when commenting on "involvement in public life and the social teaching of the Church" to the Canadian bishops' conference, gathered for its plenary assembly in Cornwall. The assembly ends today.
The cardinal said that the involvement of the Church in politics is a formidable task, especially when religious points of view appear to be banned from the public sphere, and a "secular religion" imposed.
"This anti-religious construct makes no sense," stated the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Task Force on Catholics in Political Life. "Decisions that affect the national welfare of a nation cannot be arrived at without the use of ethical and moral principles and, at the very basis, these tend to come from religious values."
Catholic social doctrine helps to shed light on this, though it "has no intention of giving the Church power over the state," said Cardinal McCarrick, 76.
"Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to the faith," he continued. "Its aim is to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just and what is in accord with the nature of every human being."
The Church's objective, he said, is the formation of the consciences of those involved in politics, and to stimulate action in response to the authentic requirements of justice.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Today the United States Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of the North American Martyrs. (The online Catholic Forum offers a list of them with biographies of most of them.) In the 17th Century these Jesuits and their companions came to New France, as the region we call Canada was known. They canoed and portaged their way to the southern edges of Georgian Bay and set up a mission, which they named Ste. Marie among the Hurons. (Enjoy a photographic tour of it; the text is in German.)
Some of them made their way into what is now northern Michigan and into the state of New York. Shrines to their honor were built near Midland, Ontario, and in Auriesville, New York (also the birthplace of Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha).
The Canadian shrine stands across the street from the reconstructed mission of storied St. Marie, which the martyrs and their companions built in 1639. Both the shrine and the "outdoor museum on the Wye River welcome visitors (although the shrine closes for the winter each October). The U.S. shrine in Auriesville closed two years ago. It had earned a place in AAA guidebook and trip-tiks of upstate New York. Drivers would know when they passed by Auriesville as they made their way along the New York Thruway toll road.
The North American Martyrs are the patron saints of Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Gesu Parish in University Heights, Ohio, dedicated one of its chapels to them. Their influence is not limited to Canada, New York, Michigan and Ohio.
Jesuit missionaries insisted that evangelizing could be effective if the Jesuits and their companions learned the languages and the cultures of the peoples to whom they had been sent. Their writings inform us about North American homelands and peoples as seen by foreigners for the first time. Their intercession can help contemporary people be more creative, responsible and energetic citizens and ambassadors of good will.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The scriptures thrust forward. The scriptures today thrust the gospel forward to all people, to the nations as scripture calls the Gentiles, who peopled the lands beyond Palestine.
St. Paul, with much suffering and a non-violent response--echoing Christ Jesus--persevered so that through [him] the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.
Luke remembered Jesus sent disciples out in pairs to preach the kingdom. They went ahead of him...to every town and place he intended to visit. Once ascended, Jesus’ intention did not diminish or vanish. Once ascended, Jesus relies on us today to carry his gospel of the kingdom through us to every place we find ourselves.
Pope St. Gregory saw the pairs of disciples as Jesus “silently teaching us what we should do. . . .[Jesus] sends out his disciples out two by two, because the precept of charity is twofold--love of God and of one’s neighbor.”1
Love of God and others is reason to preach the gospel. Loving God and others by our lives preaches the gospel more effectively than words.
Speak to Jesus, as one friend to another, in the next several moments. Praise him for embodying the gospel of the kingdom of his Father. Thank him for entrusting it to you. Ask Jesus for the grace you need to day to preach it effectively by the way you live today. When we live as friends of Jesus, we make known reflections of the glorious splendor of [his] kingdom. We preach it without knowing we are bringing others nearer to it and to Jesus.
1. in Homily 17. 1-3 in Office of Readings for St. Luke, Liturgy of the Hours, vol. IV, p. 1495.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
When Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Superior-General of the Society of Jesus, visited University Heights earlier this month, he briefly addressed leaders of Jesuit institutions in northeast Ohio, who assembled in the auditorium of the Dolan Science Center, John Carroll University.
Quoting from the 1995 Jesuit General Congregation, Fr. Kolvenbach first said what partnership of the Society of Jesus with others is not:
Its decrees make it clear that “partnership with others in ministry” is not simply “a pragmatic strategy resulting from diminished Jesuit manpower.”Visit JCU's website to read Fr. Kolvenbach's address about what Jesuit partnership with others is.
Photo by Frederick Noronha, GFDF, of Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons; Rights: Permission under GNU Free Documentation License)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Freedom To Give
Do we not say that the Trinity by their Holy Spirit dwells in us? Indeed we do! In fact, to the Galatians Paul wrote the words, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” The Trinity of Divine Persons is free. We’re created in the divine image, which means we are free: free to accept or to reject any gift, including God’s gift of Holy Spirit.
I reflected on my patron, the author of Galatians, St. Paul who brought the gospel to the nations. He had been an enemy-to-the-death of Jesus’ gospel. Recall how his conversion happened. When he was on the way to imprison the church in Damascus, who met him on his way and stopped him in his tracks? Recall the scene. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When Saul asked, “Who are you, sir?” The reply was, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Not a court or magistrate; not a champion of the downtrodden, but the persecuted one himself!
This was yet another way the risen Lord gave himself, and its reward is the faith of each of us
and all those who have preceded us and all who will come after us. Jesus is the alms of all alms.
His self-gift freed Paul so that whatever turned him against Christ in his church, Paul freely embraced Christ embodied in his church and in the poor. Pride keeps us from embracing Christ; it deludes us to place ourselves first and at the center. The New Testament writings narrate and comment that “the humble are always the first to accept [Christ].”1
Alms school us in charity, helping us grow more adept in giving, and they sensitize us to doing justice, which seeks that the love of Jesus permeates families, societies, church and business.
We become free by practicing freedom. We become Christian by living Christ’s way. The more we exercise our christian freedom the more we grow as generous Christians. As it is written, for all who practice it charity is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High.2 Like Christ we become excellent offerings and messengers of the reign of God.
1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 725.
Monday, October 16, 2006
- the Sunday scripture readings; and
- the favored method of praying of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
St. Ignatius modeled and insisted his Jesuit companions do the Consciousness Examen twice a day. God and all the ways God was revealed (virtues, the commandments, the eucharist, the life of Jesus, Mary, the saints, and so forth) and the way God works in human lives are the "known weights" to which we try to bring our lives in balance.
The Consciousness Examen, or a more accessible name, Awareness Examen, has five steps spread over 10-15 minutes. [They are not equally spread over the time. In fact, if one spent all the time in step 1, one would profit from the examen. When I began learning this way of praying, I found I lingered longer in step 1 for many months. Take a week to add one step to the next: that's is a recommendation I have made which several people warmly weclomed.] Here are the five steps.
- I begin by resting in the Trinity. I relax myself, trying to focus myself on the Trinity, perhaps one Person more than the others, perhaps all of them. I use whatever helps me to become more aware of God smilingly lovingly on me.
- Then I consider my day, or a part of the day since the last time I did this Awareness Examen. In my consideration I allow graces and gifts to surface on my mind and heart; as one does I speak to God, expressing my gratitude for it, and I allow our conversation to follow its course. (I listen for the traces of how God has communicated to me earlier.)
- I consider how I lived my day by noticing choices and actions or inactions. Which one was in synch with Jesus' gospel? which was not in synch with it? I "weigh" each against Jesus manner of living and against Jesus' gospel. This need not be exhausting. Like my gifts, choices and actions will surface, too, because I am quietly in touch with God-with-me.
- I focus on one choice or action, choosing any criterion: the most challenging; the most frequent; most or least distinct, the one with which I am most or least satisfied, and so forth.
- a) If my choice was in synch with Jesus and his gospel, I praise Jesus. I ask Jesus for the grace to help strengthen my way of choosing so that I may repeat it tomorrow. b) If my choice was not in synch with Jesus and his gospel, I exress my sorrow. I ask Jesus for the grace to diminish that way of choosing has over me so that I will not repeat it tomorrow.
* * * * *
The Spiritual Exercise for the Week is based on several of these steps, especially, praising, speaking gratitude, conversing with Persons of the Trinity and desiring to live more in synch with Jesus, patterning my life on his living, dying and risisng. Its blog makes clear that the Spiritual Exercise for the Week is meant to jump-start people's praying in order that they can deepen their relationships with God. Each person will go where no pray-er has gone before!
At the end of the weekly exercise are tips for keeping track of journeying with God. Such a record has a single purpose: to assist in developing, conditioning and sanctifying one's life as a friend and disciple of Jesus today.
The 10-minute spiritual exercise for this week may be found by visiting
Enjoy your week! --Faithfully, Fr. Panaretos
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
As you know the arrangement of scriptures on Sundays and others solemnities follows a plan. The second reading is from the letters of Paul and others; and during the Easter season from the Acts of the Apostles. Each of these is read in a continuous fashion. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are read continuously, too. Each is read over one year. This is the year of Mark. The gospel of John had been the traditional gospel of Lent and Easter, and it remains so in our lectionary.
The Old Testament readings are chosen in relation to the gospels: on a given Sunday the Old Testament selection is one which Jesus fulfills in the gospel reading. Sometimes their pairing is transparent. Take next week as an example. Isaiah prophesied about the suffering servant of the Lord, who would shoulder the guilt of many. Continuing the 10th chapter of Mark’s gospel Jesus will identify himself as the Son of Man [who came]...to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Today’s first reading and gospel do not as easily betray why they might be paired. So I asked myself, “Did Jesus fulfill anything in the selection from the Book of Wisdom?” We heard its speaker pray and receive the gift of wisdom.
Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit which we the Sacrament of Confirmation encourages and strengthens in the baptized. I liken this divine gift to a window on the loving design the Trinity has for each person, each bit of dust, each drop of water, each wisp of wind. The Trinity’s loving design embraces them all together into what we know, what we don’t yet know and what we will never know.
In his earnest promise-making, Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
Messiah Jesus promised a gift now and to come to his disciples in every age, men, women and children, who pattern their lives on his life of selfless loving and giving. In a phrase Messiah Jesus makes available to us the wisdom of his cross. To live for [Jesus’] sake and for the sake of the gospel means I make my love other-centered, not self centered. I do that by exercising restraint over my whims and my hungering. To pattern our lives on the pattern of the life of our Messiah Jesus is not something we can do unaided. Doing that is my part, your part in cooperating with the grace Jesus’ faith imparts to me, to you.
To exercise restraint contemporary human-development language calls “impulse-control.” As we develop we do not indulge every desire. I am the first to say that is ever a challenge. After living seven months in Asia, I realize that impulse-control, other-centered love--name it in your way--is a steeper challenge for us in the United States than I ever imagined.
You and I are products of our cultural world. The wisdom of the world--forgive me for insulting Wisdom by using the word that way--the wisdom of the world in our age hypnotizes us by individualism; beguiles us with our bodies; preoccupies us with private rights; and co-opts us by competition to the point that life risks being cumbersome and unsatisfying at every turn, rather than a constellation of gifts created by the Trinity for us to enjoy with others, especially with those we keep on the margins of society.
The wisdom of the cross, which Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer, gives us, is a window on his loving design for creation. It also empowers us to live more freely, seeing more clearly all people as sisters and brothers in our Lord. This week in your daily praying of 10 minutes, which you set aside for yourself and Jesus, praise Jesus for creating and redeeming you by his holy cross as you slowly sign yourself with his cross. Converse with Jesus about the way he lived freely for and with others. Beg Jesus in your own words: “Jesus, grant me a deeper share of the wisdom of your cross. Help me choose it first before anything else. Help me cooperate with your wisdom with each breath I take so that I may live more freely with and for your sisters and brothers in my daily world.”
The 10-minute spiritual exercise for the week may be found in steps for easy use at
Enjoy your week! --Faithfully, Fr. Panaretos
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
To Bless Is To Do
As Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem some people gathered to join him; others, whose hearts rejected him, appeared to test him. Those of us with opportunities to go to mass during the week have been hearing both acceptance and rejection of Jesus.
Luke arranged the accepting and rejecting encounters in an alternating fashion. After being tested by others, who demanded a sign from heaven, as to how Jesus expelled a demon from a man, a woman blessed Jesus, as we heard.
Surely good for Jesus to hear; yet the air around Jesus was thick with tension. He did not reject her blessing; rather, he put in the right context. It was not enough to respond to Jesus as a person but to do two things more: to hear the word of God, which Jesus proclaimed, and to do it.
We bless Jesus and his Father and their Holy Spirit in many ways. When we bless them at mass, they send us on mission to do Jesus’ work of proclaiming the word and doing it in our lives. To use Paul’s metaphor, we have clothed ourselves with Christ. Our baptismal vocation urges us to do that by making the pattern of Christ’s living, dying and rising our own. To fail to do that is to live under a disciplinarian like fear or obligation not a living Christian faith, not living the faith of Jesus.
To make the pattern of Christ’s living, dying and rising our own is to live according to the promise of the covenant and to be truly free. The eucharist sustains what baptism has begun, and it gives us the courage we need to bless Jesus in deed and word.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
To Test or To Welcome?
What is certain? What is ultimate? What has a claim on us? Those questions, related by their value of utmost importance, can help us to appreciate what to our ears surely seems odd: Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree. St. Paul was quoting Deuteronomy. (For it is written is a speaking-way of saying, “Hear quotation marks around the following!”) Deuteronomy was part of torah. Torah, the prescription for living the covenant with the God of Israel, contained what was certain, ultimate and had a claim on every Jew.
Crucifixion was so terrifying that its horror alone was enough to make it a curse. Even
Cicero referred to it as “that plague” and considered that even the word “cross” should be far removed from the thoughts, eyes and ears of a Roman citizen./1/We do that instinctively, making coming to faith a steeper challenge for us.
For a Jew, then, a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms, yet that is what certain Jews claimed Jesus to be--and a risen, undying Messiah at that! As for non-Jews the claim of the first Christians was a horrific sham.
To accept Jesus as crucified Messiah was to let go of torah as certain, ultimate and that it had a claim on one’s life; and to accept Jesus Messiah welcomed him as certain, ultimate and that he had a claim on one’s life.
This was the challenge Paul faced personally: he was a zealous Jew, zealous for torah. This is our challenge. To accept Jesus as Messiah is to accept Jesus as certain, ultimate and having a claim on each of us. More often we don’t pray do not lead us into testing,/2/ and we test Jesus, like the others in today’s gospel. Our testing prevents Jesus from laying claim to our whole being: we use our possessions, things which distract our attention from what is ultimate, as well as our own abilities. All are gifts from Jesus, who is no longer a curse but our very life.
1. Eliud Wabukala and Grant LeMarquand quoting two ciceronian passages: In Verrem II.5.162 and Pro Rabirio 16. They consider this verse from an African context at http://www.tesm.edu/articles/lemarquand-cursed-be-everyone.html
2. Jesus’ encounter with others who test him dramatically opposes his way to pray in vv. 1-4 of this chapter.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
While some Catholics have the expertise to evangelize via the audiovisual media, more Catholics in the U.S. have the ability to profit from the gospel by listening to (podcasts) and watching (on their computers) these media productions.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [U.S.C.C.B.] has launched its Catholic Communications Campaign [abbreviated on the site as CCC-TV]. In addition to catechetical, witness and informational features, the site includes a brief reflection on the daily scriptures by a member of the clergy.
Beneath each entry is a link for viewers to choose a free, necessary player (RealPlayer; WindowsMediaPlayer; or Podcast) in order to profit from these evangelizing offering in the form they find most convenient.
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Right Road to Compassion
We believe in the Trinity and that we share in their everlasting life beginning now. While the Trinity is everlasting, humans are limited by space and time. One effect of that fact is this: while the Trinity is continually everlasting, the ways Christians live their relationship to the Trinity are not; they vary according to time, place and experience.
This is what St. Paul tells us in the Letter to the Galatians. The first to experience the risen Jesus were Jews like Jesus. The first Christians remembered Jesus’ words, “Go...baptize all nations,” which we echoed in our responsorial psalm, Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. How to do that?
Initially those first Christians, Jews themselves, did what they and what Jesus had done: they practiced the ways of Judaism though newly empowered by Jesus’ Holy Spirit. Because they did what they knew, they evangelized other Jews, and they ushered pagans to Christ through the ways of Judaism.
Jesus chose St. Paul, a Jew, to take the gospel to the nations. St. Paul knew in and by Jesus’ Spirit that becoming Jewish was not on the right road in line with the truth of the Gospel.
Concern for the poor, relying on God, the creator and lord of all, who is in control of all events, and making the pattern of our lives the pattern of Jesus’ life has roots in Judaism and also exceeds it.
The Jewish prayer, which sanctified God’s name and prayed that God’s dominion would come in one’s lifetime*, Jesus echoed in the prayer he gave his disciples in every age.
What Jesus prayed he gave to his disciples at their request. Our Lord’s Prayer demonstrates the deep relationship Jesus had with his Father. Whether one’s relationship has been solid or whether one has allowed relationship with God to grow tepid, we can always deepen our relationship with Jesus’ Father. The deeper it is, the deeper our compassion for others grows.
* the kaddish begins: “May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed. May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days...”
This prayer sanctifying God’s name has become the mourners’ prayer for the deceased. Listen to the complete prayer in Hebrew at http://www.jewfaq.org/prayer/kaddish.htm
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
What Do We Know?
The famous pair of Martha and Mary are misunderstood. What do we know? We know they were sisters. We also know they welcomed Jesus into the safety and comfort of their home. Travelers depended on hospitality of others, especially in hostile territory as Jesus was as he made his way to Jerusalem, which would be most hostile to him. The sister’s hospitality feels more tender because the episode follows immediately the Good Samaritan parable.
We also know hospitality in the Mediterranean world had two very important rules: 1) to pay attention to the guest; and 2) not to demand guests intervene in their hosts’ affairs.
Martha and Mary both received Jesus. My own experiences in Mediterranean countries help me appreciate both reception by others and leave me in awe at how attentive they are. Martha and Mary received 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.
Luke is very plain: Martha was overwhelmed with much serving. She was not neurotic as many have implied or others have diagnosed! Blessed was Martha for welcoming Jesus, but had she tried to impress him with more than her welcome and attention?
We know one more thing clearly: Martha violated hospitality when she demanded her guest, Jesus, settle the rivalry that had grown between her and her sister, between serving Jesus and listening to him deliver God’s word.
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 God Jesus revealed by his person. In our more frenzied moments we perform for Jesus with more flourish than Jesus expects. For us frenzy has an air of normalcy about it. Frenzy is in fact hostile territory: it distracts us from Jesus and it distracts us both from hearing the word Jesus is and living it.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Others followed Paul; they seemed to have considered torah--the revelation to Israel both of God’s covenantal love and the way to make the qualities of God their own--as ultimate, not Jesus Messiah. The revelation of God in Messiah Jesus and his empowering gift of their Holy Spirit fulfilled torah and reduced its former ultimate standing. Turning to a different gospel was Paul’s way of saying what the Galatians knew by experience: they turned to torah as ultimate not to Jesus Messiah. Torah revealed powers and habits which limited humans and enslaved them; Messiah Jesus and his Spirit freed them to live as children of God.
Thus Paul departed from his, and the Greek-speaking custom, of beginning a letter with some fond remembrance and thanksgiving. Turning to a different gospel in which Christ was not the ultimate norm left Paul astonished not grateful.
Jesus’ perhaps-all-too-familiar parable of the Good Samaritan expressed practicing what is ultimate. Early Christians recalled Jesus had taught by deed and word that love of neighbor was love of God. As time passed, Christians found themselves, like Jews did, in a difficult situation: who is my neighbor? Jesus responded to the who-question with a how-answer, which astonishes ultimately.
The age-old expression which many of us can recall learning, accept Christ in each person, has roots in Paul’s experience, who was received...as angel of God, as Christ Jesus. If we make our own Jesus’ compassion and live it, we are truly free and entertain angels and our Messiah Jesus even without being aware.
1. Galatians 4.14
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
No Empty Slogan
During October our church throughout the United States asks those who assemble around the tables of divine word and eucharist to allow respect for life to be a lens through which our vision of divine word and eucharist might be sharpened. This Sunday throws into bold relief our respect for life.
Certain phrases become loaded over time. Their value gets constricted. That is very true for the phrase, respect life. Sadly, it’s value is so narrow for some that its near total value is to stand against abortion. To respect life involves more than the beginning of life. Others can get so focused on another issue that the value of respect life means ending capital punishment. To respect life involves more than end-of-life issues of which capital punishment is only one. Of course one can end a life just beginning. The phrase respect life embodies much more than anyone can give attention and effort. Not to recognize that turns respect life into an empty slogan.
To respect life has two other dimensions, obvious and easy to overlook: 1) I understand respecting others’ lives by coming to respect my own life; and, 2) each moment a person lives stands between life’s beginning and end. Today’s scriptures offer ways of enlarging both dimensions.
The reminder Genesis offered is urgent for our society and many others. God created all other creatures for us because God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” God created the woman in a way unknown to the man (mystery will always encounter us; our technological sophistication blinds us to those encounters when we aren’t careful). Among all creatures the man recognized in her himself, his life--bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. That recognition did not undermine the attention to the rest of creatures, to which the man gave names.
To recognize that one creature of all is more akin than any other in no way belittles the rest. Rather, and this is the urgent message for us, to respect life includes all creation. Pope John Paul emphasized that time and again.
To recognize that one creature of all is more akin that any other requires one’s admiration and respect for one’s own life. Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: the words are no arid anatomical description; they communicate awe in the face of mystery, and esteem, affection, even deference for another.
This awe, esteem, affection and deference is what the Psalmist sang about human beings: of all God’s creatures they are a little less than the angels. The Second Person of the Trinity became exactly that, a human being for us: “for a little while” he was made “lower than the angels, that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. It’s important to note how Jesus reaffirmed our original goodness and called us back to it.
Jesus did not write a letter to the editor. Jesus did not choose to remain distant in any way. Jesus didn’t respond to the Pharisees privately. Jesus replied to the Pharisees publicly. Jesus had journeyed south through Galilee and had recently begun journeying into Judea across the Jordan to Jerusalem where he would give his life. To those who journeyed with him Jesus invited them to reshape themselves with childlike awe, esteem, affection, even deference for others.
What renewed respect will October give you in this phase of your life? Pope Benedict’s prayer intention for October is helpful: “That all those who are baptized may mature in their faith and manifest it through clear, coherent and courageous choices in life.” Each day this week devote 10 minutes to praise our Creator and Lord for giving you life; leisurely savor the awe of that grace of being alive; and be alert to how you can make “clear, coherent and courageous choices” of esteem, affection and deference for another person that very day.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Peter the Venerable wrote in the 12th century that in addressing Muslims, Christians should proceed "not as our people often do, by arms, but by words; not by force, but by reason; not in hatred, but in love."
They would have excelled more had they treated Isalm "as a living religion." Cardinal Dulles explained the meaning of that phrase. Treating Isalm "as a living religion" is our project, too.
Friday, October 06, 2006
The fourth congress will be in Brussels, and its name is "Proposing the Gospel." At Brussels, the Church risks being hidden by other multiple centers of interest. So we wish to make the Church at Brussels more visible, to show its place and value," wrote Godfried Cardinal Danneels [photo], archbishop of Malines-Brussels, in a brief message announcing "Proposing the Gospel."
Multiple centers of interest pull people, indeed. Sixty-five percent of Brussels' population of 2.5 million are baptized Catholics, but only 5% practice their faith!
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Communion: The diversity of the laity cannot be minimized. Diversity does not oppose union, unity, communion. St. Paul used the image of citizens:
So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2. 19-22).Mission: The universal vocation of Christians is to introduce Christ to others by the ways they live. The Second Vatican Council echoed Jesus' image of leaven.
They are called [where they live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life] by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 31).
The Society of Jesus remains keenly aware that this season of the church is the season of the laity. The Society of Jesus, touching humanity by means of its diverse apostolic works, affords people many opportunities to be leaven and to sanctify the world in, through and for Christ. Yesterday afternoon at John Carroll University, Fr. Kolvenbach thanked a number of Jesuit collaborators in leadership roles in his name and the name of the entire Society of Jesus.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
This afternoon Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior-General of the Society of Jesus, will visit this part of the Detroit Province. In addition to speaking and meeting with a variety of people over two days, Fr. Kolvenbach will receive the profession of final vows of two Detroit Province Jesuits, Fr. Timothy Kesicki (currently President of St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland) and Fr. James Prehn (currently Principal of Walsh Jesuit High School, Cuyahoga Falls).
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Four Questions and One
The Book of Job wrestled with the mystery of suffering and ends with Job discovering--what was present all the time--more expansive and deeper awareness of the presence of God. First of all, human suffering is a mystery. The why question, why do people suffer? is not much help and really distracts us from God and the revelation to us that we “have been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery.”1
We want to rush beyond the suffering of the moment. The reading today about a grieving Job reminds us that the only way beyond suffering is to go through it. I wrote four letters of condolences yesterday to priest friends and shared that I discovered that when my father died in 2001. Part of grieving, part of any suffering, is being very deliberate about what is happening and about everything I am feeling.
Being deliberate is key to living a life that resembles the pattern of Jesus life. Replicating in our individual lives the pattern of Jesus’ life makes a Christian life.
[Jesus] deliberately set himself to travel to Jerusalem. Luke’s gospel constantly reminds us that Jesus’ travel to Jerusalem is prophetic (if we were the first hearers, we would not fail to hear echoes of the prophet Elijah in particular). Jesus spoke the word of God on his way: some rejected what they heard; others heard and became part of the people.
How deliberate are we? Do we apologize for mysteries around us, suffering included? Do we apologize for being a friend of Jesus, one of his contemporary disciples? Do we neglect to cultivate our prophetic ministry which is one of the graces of baptism? Or are we deliberate Christians, who imitate the pattern of Jesus’ life with our lives?
1. Gaudium et spes, 18, The Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
That beings are present in two realms, the world and in the realm of the divine, is very ancient. It’s much older than the bible. In the tradition of Israel, the spirits God charged to protect humans have been named guardian angels.
They, like all angels, minister before the Trinity. They also minister by accompanying people during their lives. We may never be aware of their presence although we might become aware of some of the effects of their presence to us.
One spirit, the Book of Job reminded us, had the mission of roaming the earth and patrolling it. God permitted that Testing Angel (that’s the meaning of the name Satan) to see how much Job counted on God.
Was that Satan Job’s guardian angel? If angels protect us, their protection leads us to rely more on the Holy One, who created and sent angels on their guarding missions. Job certainly forged a fresh, stronger relationship with his Creator & Lord of the universe.
The psalmist sang, God gave his angels charge over you to protect you in all your ways./1/ We don’t understand our own ways all the time; we may never understand God’s ways. Our faith reminds us that God’s merciful love overflows personally to guard us always/2/ and works through all things for our lasting good. One way the Creator's personal love for us overflows is via angels. Their protecting ministry touches us with God’s glory, which they worship eternally, and helps us do so in our limited ways.
1. Psalm 91.11
2. see Psalm 40.11b (RSV): let thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness ever preserve me! Also, United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Washington, D.C.: USCCB Publishing, 2006, p. 62.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Saturday evening I attended the third annual fundraiser for a mission in Honduras. It affords the opportunity of young people and adults to visit a people in great need and to share love, one human for another. As people described their affiliation with this missionary venture--many had visited (some more than once); others had not but assisted and promoted the venture from the greater Cleveland area--they reminded me of my visit 15 years ago to the mission in Recife, Brazil, which the Archdiocese of Detroit began and continues to sponor.
From my first moments I was deeply impressed by how wealthy the people are in hospitality, in faith and in joy. It was, to borrow a phrase of one person who described her visit to Honduras, "a life-altering experience" for me. It continues to nourish my life each day, even when I am unware that it does.
Many citizens of developed countries have a difficult time articulating what they feel, experience and return home with from visits to less developed countries. The message on tourism is worth thoughtful consideration. As you read, notice where you see yourself in it.