Saturday, March 30, 2013

Living Without Understanding

What eludes understanding frustrates. At Thinking Faith  Jesuit James Hanvey suggests that Holy Saturday “is a day that resists all of our attempts to understand it.” Its challenging silence reveals much.
Wiki-image by User:Djampa of the Jerusalem garden tomb used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Sepulchre

Words express meaning. Touch, sight, hearing, taste and aromas also convey meaning. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem remembers the places of Jesus death and burial. A virtual tour of it fuels imagination to enter the mystery of Christian Good Friday in ways words only limp or fail. [Orange buttons in three corners of its screen control navigation; e.g., full screen, pausing.]
Wiki-Picture of the Day of the crucifixion of Jesus is in the public domain in the U.S.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stations of the Cross

Yesterday ThinkingFaith began its series on this “very old devotion.”  Monday’s post also included a link to a scripture-based version at Pray-as-you-go.
Wiki-image of Jesus before Pilate is in the public domain.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Week Monday

Three items:
  1. One hearing of the Passion is not enough to absorb its drama.  From its archives ThinkingFaith posted Jesuit Jack Mahoney’s look at “Lucan trends [in his passion to see] how can this narrative help us to understand that Jesus ‘loved me and gave himself for me?’”
  2. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. offered “five tests of whether Pope Francis’ reform of the Vatican could be real.”
  3. Julia G. Young looked at the “possible impact of the new pope on Latin-American Catholicism.”
Wiki-image by Paul Friel of palm tree used by CC BY-SA 2.0.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday word, 24 Mar 2013

Staying Near
Passion (Palm) Sunday6 (24 Mar 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We stood at the gates of Jerusalem as the Messiah King entered it. Our hearts are those very gates. How did we welcome the Messiah King? He is a very unlikely king, unlike the messiahs for which we long, not to mention Jesus’ contemporaries.

We stand at the gates of Jerusalem because Jesus desires to enter our hearts and take possession of us. How do we respond today? Perhaps we might be like Peter and announce our faith with our lips but refuse to allow our hearts to own him in his suffering. Perhaps that is our typical struggle. Take courage because Jesus never disavowed Peter. Jesus sought him ought to restore him and build his church on him and his brother apostles.

What is your role in the Messiah’s Passion? Third-century bishop Gregory of Nazianzen suggested that each of us participate in it by finding who we are. I cannot improve on his suggestion to help us find ourselves:

“If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who has hung upon the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase your salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there. . .
“If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make you own the expiation of sins for the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.”1

Entering his passion opens onto his resurrection. Take up your cross and follow Jesus through your darkness into the light and the life Jesus desires to give you. Stay close to Jesus. Feel what he feels. Breathe with him. Weep with him. Pray with him.

Mature praise has a serving texture. Jesus’ service on the cross completed his mission to announce the reign of God in word and deed. We are united by baptism in Jesus’ death and resurrection. That means what we do is our role in his passion as much as it is in his resurrection. In serving, evangelizing, worship, personal praying and living our vocations, we take our crosses and follow our Messiah through our darkness into the light and the life Jesus desires to give us and through us to the world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Enter the heart of our triune God, who desired from their eternity to save the human race.2
  • Ask those who hailed Jesus as King to present you to Jesus.
  • In your words praise Jesus as your King.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to guide you in personal darkness to be a source of his risen light and life to others.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His prayer becomes our personal connection with Jesus, who transforms how we live and how we move through life.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. From his homily, Oratio 45, in Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for Fifth Lenten Saturday.
  2. Ignatius described the divine desire in his Contemplation on the Incarnation in his Spiritual Exercises, [102].
Wiki-images by Berthold Werner of part of the Via Dolorosa and by adriatikus of present stairs to Golgotha used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pope Neighbors

Remaining in the Vatican, instead of retiring in Bavaria, may have been another way Benedict XVI Emeritus wanted to best serve the church. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. recalled the early
consensus was that having a retired pope lurking in the background would be problematic, potentially dividing the loyalties of the church and inviting speculation about whether the pope emeritus was still pulling strings.
He offered “three reasons why having a retired pope close by may be no bad thing after all.”
Wiki-image of Castel Gandolfo panorama in the public domain.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wildly Diverse

“Few places on earth harbor as much biodiversity as the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, a 6,500-square-mile territory in eastern Ecuador.” So begins the caption of the 13.5-minute, Yale Environment 360 video. One comparison: together the U.S. and Canada are home for about 800 species of birds; the Yasuni is home to 600.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten Years Later

Today is the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Brad Knickerbocker of the CSM concludes in an article that the question, “‘Was it worth it?’ is a question impossible to answer.”
Wiki-image of U.S. tanks in Baghdad is in the public domain

Monday, March 18, 2013

Amplified for Life

M.I.T. Professor William T. Freeman and his team have amplified colors so that what can be measured can now be seen with unaided vision. “What’s really new about this research,” Professor Freeman said, “is that we’re visualizing the tiny motions...that the computer vision community has been able to measure...for some time.”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday word, 17 Mar 2013

Fresh Future
Lent Sunday5 (17 Mar 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Collect of our mass asked divine help for us to walk eagerly in that same charity in which Jesus walked. I want to reflect with you on how today’s scriptures help us appreciate the charity of Jesus and what conspires to prevent us walking eagerly in it. First: Jesus in the gospel.

On one occasion the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in test Jesus. Adultery was a capital offense in the days of Jesus and long before him. We may overlook that the same scribes and Pharisees also decided something else when they tested Jesus: they made Jesus a judge. It is curious his opponents would yield to Jesus that way. In other words, those who opposed his ministry placed themselves under his authority.

Jesus was no stranger to opposition, especially from leaders of the several Jewish groups. He bought time, a very human thing to do in times of distraction or stressful decision making. You and I catch ourselves doodling in such moments. We often use paper and pencil. People in the ancient Mediterranean did not have paper, but they bought time by doodling, too. The ground was a convenient, reusable writing surface.

When he was ready to speak, Jesus surprised the scribes and the Pharisees. He did not disagree that the woman had acted against the law of Moses. He did not disagree with its punishment. Jesus did desire a person qualified to execute the sentence the law demanded. A qualified person would be one who would not be stoned under the law; so Jesus said: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

Jesus wrote on the ground the first time when he was confronted by the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus wrote on the ground again: for whom? The woman caught in adultery. Imagine how she felt: exposed. Her accusers had made her stand in the middle. Her secret was no longer so. As she felt exposed, she also was trapped, confined by her trespass. It was all she saw for it blinded her to her accusers and to the goodness in which she, you and I are created each moment.

We, too, are blinded, rattled and overwhelmed, even in good moments. Consider a tennis champion. In a match committing an unforced error rattles her from the top of her game to its basement. If she does not shake the error’s grip, she’ll not regain her rhythm. Without that rhythm she trained long to use, her opponent will best her. When we make harmful choices in our lives, we not only regret them. We often focus on our sinfulness and blind ourselves to the goodness in which we are created. Focusing on our sinfulness also jolts us from our graced rhythm. Our graced rhythm is not perfection. None of us has already attained perfect maturity. Our graced rhythm rests in letting Jesus embrace us and live in, with and through us.
Jesus again wrote on the ground to allow the woman to regain herself. That was possible for her because she was with Jesus. Jesus wrote on the ground again for you, for me and for all people. Jesus’ compassion buys us time: graced time to stop focusing on our harmful choices and instead to see ourselves in and with Jesus. Jesus allows us to see our goodness, his goodness in which he creates us each moment. By his Spirit Jesus frees us to forget what lies behind but strain forward to what lies ahead...[our] goal…[our Messiah]...Jesus.

Today’s gospel embodied those words of St. Paul with the story of a woman to whom Jesus gave a new beginning, a fresh future. Bringing ourselves nearer to Jesus and being honest with him help us begin anew and walk confidently into our futures as his friends and disciples.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause and rest in the Trinity.
  • Ask the woman Jesus forgave to present you to him. She who was with him knows well how to encourage us to be with him.
  • Speak with Jesus: tell him your need for interior healing we name forgiveness.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to focus on him not our sinfulness.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer to help us focus on him then to match how we live with his forgiving way.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-image of detail of Jesus and woman taken in adultery is in the public domain. Wiki-image by Unterillertaler of spring snowflake in wintry ground used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Which One?

In his first address to the media, Pope Francis expressed his deep desire: “How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!” He spoke that near the end of his address, in which he told the story of which Francis came to his mind at his election.

Jesuits Consider Pope Francis

Jesuit Nicholas King shares the surprise of many of his brothers that a Jesuit has been elected pope. Fr. King answers a question many people are asking: “where can we find hope for what his papacy might bring in what we know about him already?”

Later yesterday, The NJN listed several American Jesuits and their reactions to the election of Francis. One called him “‘a Jesuit’s Jesuit.’” In Forbes an alum of one of their schools considers the pope, a Jesuit to the Rescue.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

What To Expect

In 2008 Quebec, Canada, hosted the International Eucharistic Congress. Cardinal Bergoglio, now pope, offered this catechesis: video (Spanish, French translator begins near 12:50); text (English translation).

The then-Cardinal did not avoid the philosophical language of John Paul II. He worked with it for his stated purpose:

Simply put, I propose three steps to make this catechesis a “lectio divina.”
Wiki-image by Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca of a Eucharistic chapel used by CC BY-SA 2.0.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"First" Unnecessary

About the pope of firsts: four brief points and coda.

Jesuit Superior’s Statement on Papal Election

On the election of Pope Francis on 13 March 2013 Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, General Superior of the Society of Jesus, issued this statementBartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch [Orthodox], congratulated the new Bishop of Rome.
Wiki-image by Gagorski of coat of arms of Pope Francis when Cardinal used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Elected Pope Francis I

Jorge Cardinal Maria Bergoglio
Wiki-image by Aibdescalzo of Pope Francis I used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio Elected Pope

“The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’” [CCC 882] The new pope, a Jesuit, enters into great responsibility.
Wiki-image of flag of Vatican City State used by CC0 1.0.

Fraternal Relationships in the Bible

Sunday’s gospel related the two brothers in Jesus’ parable of their prodigal father. It invites hearers to personal transformation. Jesuit “James Crampsey SJ suggests that if we study the fraternal relationships that are described in the Book of Genesis, we might find a new lens through which we can read [Jesus’] parable.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lenten Evening Reflection

Parishes offer varieties of ways into Lent and to sustain Lent. One parish has invited men and women to lead Evening Prayer during Lent and offer their reflections in the context of communal prayer.

Unseen and Overlooked
Evening Prayer, Lent Sunday4 (10 Mar 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. at St. Catherine Parish, Du Bois, PA
If I were to live another life, I would want to be a rabbi. Here’s the reason. From the first-century rabbis used scripture to interpret scripture. They let a passage of God’s word shine light on another passage of God’s word not easy to grasp. By doing that rabbis connected scripture with their present times and circumstances.

I assure you I do not want to live in the first-century. I want greater fluency in scripture so I may let it illumine my life. Why scripture? My desire dawned on me when I studied New Testament Interpretation. I took the course after studying the Old Testament. As I listened to my lecturer, I appreciated the Old Testament more richly. I heard the New Testament comment on the Hebrew scriptures. New Testament writers reflected on the first scriptures after experiencing risen Jesus as their Messiah and Lord. That means our reading and hearing of New Testament makes us all rabbis. Our liturgical worship does as well.

Liturgies of the word, as you’ve noticed, give us two or more scriptures. By being together one scripture comments on others. In the Liturgy of the Hours antiphons frame the psalms and canticles. Antiphons for the morning Song of Zechariah and the evening Song of Mary are verses of gospel of the day. I want to reflect with you on an effect I notice today’s gospel verses, closing Jesus’ parable of the prodigal father and lost sons, have on hearing Mary’s song of praise.

Each of us has personal images of Mary, not to mention devotions to Mary. The doctrine of her sinlessness as well as centuries of art also shape how any of us pictures Mary. A poll among us would show many of us think of Mary as any one or combination of these: quiet; innocent; reserved; hesitant, even reluctant; reflective; shy; introverted; prayerful; learned; devout; dutiful; compliant; youthful; sensible—add yours.

Few people have one quality, though one quality may predominate. As times change and a person experiences life more, another quality may predominate. Mary’s overlooked quality is boldness. She was bold to visit Elizabeth. Mary was bold to hasten to attend to her cousin who needed assistance in her last three months of pregnancy. Mary would face again her Yes to her divine pregnancy. She did not fathom it when the angel Gabriel first told her, so her presence daily with another divinely pregnant woman would deepen the mystery.

Mary’s travel to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah1 early in her pregnancy was risky: risk of dangers anyone faced going from Galilee toward Jerusalem; as well as risk to the embryo implanting within her womb. Yet Mary boldly defied both risks and others we will never know. The human risks paled next to the faith-risk: staking one’s life on God’s promises. Mary was bold, bolder than we are. Do we take God seriously? Do we take God at God’s word? Are we convinced that God has: dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart; has lifted up the lowly; has filled the hungry with good things; has sent the rich empty away; that God is always remembering God’s mercy?

Mary boldly praised God not only for how God had favored her. What God had done for Mary, she sang God was doing for those who fear him in every generation of people who would bless her. Mary, whom God chose for her self-admitted lowliness, boldly believed God, and she blessed God with her praise.

A reading of Mary’s song makes it hard to miss God’s action. Mary’s song summarized God’s action through the history of God’s people. God reverses: slaves were freed;2 a second-born twin gained the inheritance3; the youngest shepherd-son shepherded the people Israel4; captives in foreign lands became powerful among their captors5; and lifeless loins of Abraham6 and Zechariah7 and dead wombs of Sarah8 and Elizabeth9 pulsed with life and gave birth. God’s reversing actions always offer freedom and richer life in spite of human frailty, stupidity and selfishness. As mind-bending those reversals Mary echoes in her song, they are nothing compared to what they point. Enter the verse from today’s gospel at mass: My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was right that we should celebrate and rejoice because your brother was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.

God’s greatest reversal, of course, is Jesus raised from death. Jesus, like prophets before him, resuscitated others who would die again. Resurrection is not that. Resurrection is birth to absolutely new and indestructible life. Resurrection is the God-given hope of each of us. Do we live from our hope? We do when we make Mary’s song ours. We make her song ours by inhabiting the world her words summon and portray. Inhabiting God’s world of reversing action frees us from walking death. Lenten practices help us count on God helping us grow freer from what enslaves us; grow concerned about and help others instead of focusing on ourselves; grow more hungry for and do good things; and perhaps our greatest challenge, to accept God kindly accepts us as we are. Beginning as we are opens on to becoming those whom God creates each moment. We cannot become unless we accept ourselves. It is always bold to do that.

Mary remained with [Elizabeth] about three months and then returned to her home. As we let her song echo deeper in us, we realize Mary returned to more than a building or her address. Her true homecoming? Mary accepted herself and saw herself as God her Savior looked upon her even before she was born. Making her song ours frees us to be at home with ourselves, accept God embracing us with God’s compassion and live more boldly the compassion who creates us constantly. Our true homecomings reshape our world until our risen Lord returns.

  1. Luke 1.39.
  2. Exodus 3 onward.
  3. Genesis 25.29-34; 27.1-28.9.
  4. 1Samuel 16.1-13.
  5. Examples are Joseph and Daniel.
  6. Genesis 15.1-6.
  7. Luke 1.7.
  8. Genesis 16.1-3.
  9. Luke 1.5-7.
Wiki-image of rabbi used by {{PD-old-100}}Wiki-image of the Madonna of the Magnificat detail is in the public domain.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday word, 10 Mar 2013

Being Found
Lent Sunday4 (10 Mar 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Few would miss strains of the Book of Exodus in the first reading. We met the Israelites in the first reading after they had crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. One of the first things they did was to renew the Passover meal. By doing so they renewed their identity as the people the Lord chose as peculiarly his own.

We identify with Messiah Jesus, our New Passover. We are in Christ, to use St. Paul’s phrase. We are baptized into our Messiah, and we live through him, with him, in him.1 Our Passover in Christ has concrete consequences. Ash Wednesday reminded us of two of them with these words from St. Paul we heard again: one, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us to each person and every corner of creation; and two, we become the righteousness of God in Jesus, our Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God. We may phrase God’s appeal this way: How is the Trinity sending us as ambassadors for our Messiah in our relationships? How is Lent helping us respond more freely to the Trinity sending us as ambassadors of our Messiah in our relationships?

The consequences of being in Jesus are concrete. We recognize them when we gaze gently and reverently at our world and our relationships. We do not always live what we recognize. One of John Steinbeck’s characters voiced that in words which convict me. “It has always seemed strange to me [that] the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”2 We recognize virtues of sane living, and we get lost trying to live them.

The familiar—perhaps too familiar—parable of the prodigal father and his two sons helps us see that being lost is not only spatial or geographical. It is personal. Tax collectors and sinnerslost to their own people and to themselves—were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes, law worshipers who did not walk their talk, were lost and did not know. They began to complain...that Jesus welcomes and communes with sinners. So to them Jesus addressed his parable. In it Jesus disclosed what God is like. Like the father of the two sons, God is prodigal with divine love: lavish; extravagant; excessive; immoderate. No moderation exists with God, who is love. Yet we expect God to be fair instead of prodigal.

Jesus also disclosed what humans are like. Like the younger son we grasp greedily, and we flee. Like the older son we stay yet are lost to love offered. The father bore the insult of the younger son’s demand to give him what he would inherit before his father died. The father respected that son’s wish, and he also respected his freedom. When the older son refused to enter the celebration for his brother’s safe return, their father sought him. The parable helps us see where we stand, how we are lost, how we are found. Accompanying Jesus closer to Jerusalem allows us to welcome the Trinity reaching out to us with utmost patience, respect and loving kindness in our Messiah Jesus. In doing that, We become the righteousness of God in him.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Allow the Trinity to reach out to you and savor the patient ways our Triune God respects you.
  • Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus.
  • Simply be in Jesus’ presence; holding a crucifix may help you.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace you need: to draw near to Jesus so you may live more courageously through him, with him, in him; or to go out as Jesus’ courageous ambassador of his faith, hope and love.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It’s phrase, lead us not into temptation, expresses our desire not to grasp greedily and flee Jesus’ loving care; and our desire to extend ourselves to others when that causes us to feel uncomfortable.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The phrase begins the doxology closing each eucharistic prayer in the Roman Missal.
  2. Doc in Cannery Row (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), p. 131. It first appeared in 1945.