Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday word, 20 Dec 15

     Our First Moment (John the Baptizer Speaks)
          Fourth Advent Sunday C (20 Dec 2015)
              Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. 

I remember well that leap I took 
Within my mother’s womb
When Mary’s surprised greeting shook
The air at mom’s ears inside her room.
 I knew no fear.

I leapt to fly right to my Lord and cousin;
I did so without success:
My mother’s womb, my mantle then,
She raised her hand and did caress.
I shed a tear.

My tear’s been lost in inspired words
“Masked,” perhaps the better choice,
Like His many comings from the first,
To give both God and us voice.
I wonder here:

Ancient Bethlehem (means house of bread?)*
so poor and small all else had more,
Today is wracked--many weep, many dead:
God’s Lamb’s birthplace now home to war.
You see God’s tear?

God cries sadly, yes, and in delight.
Shivering with each vicious blow
More expertly struck to make light
of justice. Delighting to say, “Go.
Please, lend your ear:

“Go! As God we must hie to earth.
Men and women heavy tred;
We’ll take them onour human birth
Going gently to save the dead,
“We beg you, hear—

“—who live by war, by faction and untruth
As well as those whose lives have ended—”
This: divine delight. Less would be uncouth,
And we creation would have upended
To end your fear.

Hard as any try, and think they succeed,
From anonymous birth, which we name,
To a shameful, public death once decreed,
Mary’s Son, my Lamb’s power, none can tame.
Take heart this cheer!

His, his is a majesty subtle strong
Clothed in flesh for the sake of all.
I come to right each sorry wrong
and choose to do so from the Fall,
“From that day drear

“To now—if you’ll only give your grace.”
Hastening to my mother, mother
Hastened to hold Mary in embrace.
That eternal time was like no other.
So cast out fear!

If any be related or locked in hate,
They prepared the world with their visit
For our Lord to visit, lasting late,
And allow God in us exhibit—
Slow to appear—
Divine delight. To my Lord I didn’t fly away
As I hoped. Nonetheless, in grace we met 
In their tender visitation-kiss that day
Sav’ring before birth what God did beget.
Now pray here:

Let these hours before Christmas Day
Be the months before I saw Jesus.
Imitate my longing, infant way
So your lives, too, will rest in Jesus.

* in Hebrew. In Arabic the name means house of meat.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
Wiki-image: The Visitation PD-US

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday word, 13 Dec 15

Present and Future
Third Advent Sunday C (13 Dec 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. 
t. Paul was in prison when he wrote to his beloved Philippians. He was imprisoned because he publicly proclaimed Jesus’ good news and established it in many places.1 In his bold undertaking St. Paul spoke with authority, God’s authority that God’s Spirit gave Paul. Public messengers enjoyed authority given from the emperor and his delegates. That authority was crucial when their messages included calls to action. Announcing Jesus’ gospel included calls to action; and announcing the gospel landed Paul in prison.

As Paul began preaching to the Philippians he was persecuted in their city and thrown in prison.2 Some Philippians welcomed Paul and Jesus’ gospel; people with influence asked Paul to leave their city and not embarrass the Roman authority on which their city thrived. The few Christians stood by Paul at risk to themselves. Doing so again was risky: they struggl[ed] together [with Paul] for the faith of the gospel3 as well as sent Paul money for his needs…more than once.4

Paul was well aware that their mutual suffering for the gospel brought shame to a poor and unpopular Christian commune—the first in Europe. Paul also knew in his bones something more powerful as he sat in his prison cell from which he wrote his beloved Philippians: God was actively present for him and them. This was their real-life situation.

Knowing their situation opens our ears and helps us feel St. Paul’s words we heard moments ago: The Lord is near! Paul did call his friends to eagerly expect Jesus’ glorious return. He encouraged them to ready themselves for it by letting their kindness… be known to all—not just Paul. Advent reminds us to live the same way. St. Paul also encouraged his friends for the present: the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Paul sat in his cell and a sentence of death hovered. Guards stood at the doors of criminals dangerous to the empire.

Despite the military guard Paul knew he enjoyed another, more powerful guard—God’s peace. Paul knew God’s peace overtopped every power, every distraction, every temptation not to preach the gospel. To his friends in Philippi who struggl[ed] together [with Paul] for the faith of the gospel Paul blessed them with God’s peace. Because we also struggle together for the faith of the gospel it helps to know his words that we hear often are no bland blessing; they are power for us, too.

The Lord is near! He will return in glory; we know not when. Our Lord’s birthday is nearer now than when we began Advent. Even nearer to us—nearer than our every breath—our Messiah Jesus guards us with his peace. It was his gift to his disciples before he died.5 It was his first gift when he rose from the dead.6 Jesus shares his peace with us, and we with each other at every eucharist. We leave mass with Jesus’ peace guarding us with power to be his confident witnesses in all we do and say.

What shall we do? What shall we say? John the Baptizer gives us good advice: to live modestly; to share with whoever needs; to act honestly; and to be grateful for all we enjoy. In these ways we prepare ourselves better to celebrate the feast of our Lord’s Nativity and spread his peace that guards us always.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God embracing you with their peace.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for showering his peace on you in word, sacrament and in other graced ways.
  • Ask Jesus to help you welcome his peace: to let it guard, protect and save you.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It allows us to grow more grateful and to live the peace for which we long.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Philippians 1.7.
  2. 1Thessalonians 2.2; Acts 16.16-24.
  3. Philippians 1.27-29.
  4. Philippians 4.15-18.
  5. John 14.27.
  6. Luke 24.36; John 20.19, 21.


Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sunday word, 06 Dec 15

Welcoming God’s Future
First Advent Sunday C (29 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The tragic events of this week alert us to something sad and all too common: some in the world want to produce their brand of the future and will inflict pain and even take life to achieve their goals. Advent reminds us we have a future; it lay before us and awaits us. An insightful Jesuit forty years ago noted that the people of Advent name our future God.1 

Scripture reminds us that naming God our future is no mental trick or pious gimmick. God acts for us. The Psalmist put it well: The Lord has done great things for us! Prophet Baruch echoed that to those taken from their homes, land and temple. To people who felt they had no future Baruch declared, God will show all the earth your splendor…for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company!

Because God is our future we Advent people do not have to make the future. Indeed, our God visits us and acts for our good in daily experience—even difficult experiences cannot prevent God from gracing us. Most of all, Jesus is the pinnacle of God’s visitation; by the power of Holy Spirit Jesus continually abides with us.

Prophets helped people prepare for the future, for God. Isaiah called God’s future the way. John the Baptizer echoed Isaiah: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths! Repeated footfalls of humans and animals make paths. Yet the prophet’s image is more like a road foreman calling to a gang of workers. Many of our walking paths and roadways are paved. Paving is also a repeated action of flattening.

Advent people welcome God’s future by repeatedly enacting gospel values, values Jesus modeled for us. Enacting gospel values begins with a change of heart. The contours of a religious change of heart include an openness to God; transformation of behavior; and a reform of life. A word about each.

Openness to God is a desire for God. It is a felt need for God who gives me life each moment. God does not give me any life; God gives me my life; God gives you your lives; God gives all people their true selves. Being open to God means we find in God our true selves.

The human condition—what scripture names the way of the world—the human condition blurs our vision of ourselves and others. Because our vision of ourselves and others is blurred, we choose to behave in ways that do not depend on God’s gracious regard for us and others. Not to see our true selves leads us to choose to act in ways that we repeat again and again. When we change our hearts’ focus and dependency from the way of the world toward the way of God’s light, vision, mercy and justice we transform how we are in the world and how we act in it.

God’s light, vision, mercy and justice is God’s salvation. We do not save ourselves by effort or by the things we heap up. Being convinced that God saves us frees us to reshape and restyle how we live. Depending on God leads us to love others by our actions; to be confident partners of Jesus’ gospel and concerned partners with others and with our earth. Depending on God, falling into God as our future, enjoying a personal relationship with Jesus as well as our partnership as members of his body: these allow us to discover our true selves and to mirror for our world the true future: the salvation God desires for everyone.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God longing for you with love.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for being born human for you to save us for his gospel and life with God. 
  • Ask Jesus for grace to focus on him and model your life on the values he modeled for us.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It reminds us that all we enjoy is gift and that Jesus modeled for us a way of living that is at once human and divine.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Jesuit Karl Rahner, “The Advent Person,” The Content of Faith: The Best of Karl Rahner’s Theological Writings, New York: Crossroad, 1993, p.617. Originally published as “Advent as Antidote to Utopia,” 1974.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday word, 29 Nov 15

Focusing on Jesus
First Advent Sunday C (29 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Faithful; loving; saving. Those are qualities of our triune God. Advent calls us to let Jesus model them for us and for us to imitate those qualities as best we can. Prophets like Jeremiah and Jesus called people to count on God’s fidelity. Human trust in God’s fidelity fades. God says, I will fulfill [my] promise. Often people saw no hints of it. Seeing no hint does not mean God stops being faithful—or loving or saving.

Advent calls us to remember that Jesus is God’s promise fulfilled. Jesus, the Promised One, came not as people expected. Jesus entered our lowly humanity and revealed the loving tenderness of God’s heart.

Advent reminds us that Jesus will come again. His arrival has no timetable. The best way for us to expect Jesus’ glorious return is to live in faithful and loving ways and to count on Jesus saving us. Two things are frightfully easy: first, to behave as if everything depends on us; and second, to act as if I need no help, ever.

About the first: behaving as if everything depends on us. If I behave that way I risk thinking that I am the architect of faithful living and loving. I can get satisfied to the point of pride: I am so devoted and dependable! Pride—I’m not talking self-esteem, which is healthy, but pride: pride is all about me. If I exercise what looks like fidelity and love and do them for me instead of another I have not modeled myself on Jesus.

The second risk is acting as if I never need help. No one makes it through life without help. Some ignore any help received. When that becomes how anyone operates, then prayers to be saved by Jesus seem not to apply. If I need no help, then I would not join our Advent prayer to be made worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. If I need no help, then I would not need Jesus to guide me in [his] truth or to [his] justice. If I need no help, how can I call God my savior? If I need no help, then giving God homage in communal worship and private prayer will waste my time.

In our honest moments we know that we need help despite our knowledge and our experience. The terror abroad as well as at home reminds us in no gentle way that we cannot control everyone and everything. We can monitor our conduct. We can be more faithful and loving. We can admit we need help and ask Jesus to save us one day at a time. How might we be more faithful and loving and admit we need Jesus’ help? By keeping our eyes on Jesus as our model.

The word in the gospel we translate as be vigilant is to lose sleep. Often when say of ourselves we lost sleep, we mean we have worried excessively. That is not the only meaning: not to fall asleep at our post means we are vigilant, we keep an eye on things. Keeping eyes open is also how we learn. If a person wants to learn a craft, she closely watches an experienced practitioner. When it comes to learning how to live as Christians, Advent invites us to refocus our gaze and pattern our lives on Jesus, the model Christian.

Focusing on Jesus lets us participate in his saving action. Prophet Isaiah and St. Paul described our participation in Jesus’ saving action: Make [God’s] justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear…[and] defend the most vulnerable1; live temperately, justly, and devoutly [daily], as we await…the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.2 

God desires that all come around and be more faithful and loving. God does not desire that the appearing of the glory of our Messiah Jesus surprise us like a trap. Jesus’ return will surprise no one whose conduct is like his: blameless; single-hearted; moderate; faithful and loving.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Be aware of our triune God longing for you with love.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for being born human for you to save us for his gospel and life with God. 
  • Ask Jesus for grace to keep focused on him and his manner of living with and for others.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It reminds us that all we enjoy is gift and that Jesus modeled for us a way of living that is at once human and divine.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Isaiah 1.17.
  2. Titus 2.12-13.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday word, 22 Nov 15

Colliding Powers
Solemnity of Christ the King B (22 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
I have been in the company of Pilate and Jesus of late. I am slowly reading John L. Allen’s The Global War on Christians. I have imagined Pilate and Jesus as I read. In one country Pilate is companies that deforest the jungle and individuals who force independent farmers to leave their land. Jesus lives in those who stand up for the farmers and decry the greed that fuels companies to strip the jungle bare. A world away Pilate is the assassins of Christians who seek harmony among people and respect for their worship and in the workplace. Jesus embodies the Christians who call for that harmony and respect at the cost of their lives. These and the book’s other “dispatches from the front lines of anti-Christian persecution”1 demonstrate that power that looks out for self and power that seeks the good of others collide today as in the days of Jesus.

Today’s solemnity is about power. Pilate embodies worldly power, power that looks out for self; Jesus embodies God’s power, power for other’s good. The scriptures illustrate both with words that do not speak to us as they did to their first hearers: kingdom; dominion; throne; king; and majesty. The solemnity is not about God’s power there and power here as much as it about the collision of powers: Jesus face to face with Pilate.

Their exchange of words can mislead us to think of places instead of power. Especially, Jesus’ answer, My kingdom does not belong to this world. …my kingdom is not here. Jesus had proclaimed from the first the kingdom of heaven, the power of God2; even that the kingdom of God is within you.3 That means God’s power resides in those who welcome it.

Pilate questioned Jesus as if he were going through the motions. He was afraid to be in the middle of a Jewish squabble.4 For Pilate—like many of Jesus’ people—Jesus was not the individual Pilate expected him to be. Pilate knew if one had power, one would fight to keep it. But Jesus told Pilate that if his were worldly power, “My attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over.” Jesus was the Long Awaited One5 but, he came not as people thought.

We reel at the fighting for power and its disastrous and deadly effects in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The collision of powers—for self, for others—is as new as it is old. One message of today’s solemnity is to allow Jesus to continue creating us as our true selves. The more we reflect the divine image in whom we are created, the more we allow the voice of Jesus speak and act through us as his agents.

Two things about letting Jesus recreate us are worth noting. First, it isn’t easy. Pope Francis recently admitted that. “It’s not easy…living in this world where temptations are many, and the ploy of a double life tempts us every day. …for us not only is it not easy, it’s impossible. [The Lord] alone is capable of doing it.”6 

That is the second: it is not our doing—the pope’s final comment: Jesus creates us. Jesus never forces us. We let Jesus create us like him. Sometimes we are freer to let Jesus create us. We want to notice what makes us freer and cultivate them. Jesus offers us himself in the Eucharist and his healing and help in his other sacraments. Celebrating the sacraments he gives us empowers us to join our voices and actions to his power. Joining ourselves to Jesus and his power we are not blasé, frightened Pilates who do little for the sake of our world. Instead we echo Jesus, the voice of real truth, and advance his power to refashion our world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for choosing to surrender himself for you and to you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to surrender to him so you and your life will be a faithful witness of his Spirit of power alive in you.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave it to us to help us live our royal, priestly, prophetic mission with renewed courage and conviction.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. The book’s subtitle.
  2. Matthew 22.29 & Mark 12.24; Mark 9.1; Romans 1.16.
  3. Luke 17.21.
  4. John 19.8.
  5. John 1.9; 3.19; 6.14.
  6. His 17 November 2015 homily.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday word, 15 Nov 15

Our Transformation
Thirty-third Sunday of the Year B (15 Nov 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
With Halloween behind us stores are readying to immerse us in commercial Christmas. Madison Avenue plunges us into Christmas before we have a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving. Enjoyable as it can be believers know and feel Christmas drips with sanctity. The season of Advent soon to come helps us prepare ourselves to live Christmas sanctity. The church makes no abrupt shift to Advent. The liturgies of the last Sundays of the Year ease us into Advent.

These liturgies do not call attention to the season of Advent; yet their scripture readings hum with the same imagery as does Advent when it begins: they absorb us in the end of time and history and the glorious return of our Messiah Jesus. The imagery Jesus used may feel alien: darkened sun; lightless moon; stars…falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Jesus echoed prophets long before him. Even non-believers in the God of Abraham nodded agreement. Fixed in the ancient Mediterranean imagination was a fiery end of the world only to be born anew as another best possible one by the divine mind.

World’s end was a time of transformation. Like the prophets before him Jesus was more interested in individuals than a new best possible world: the Son of Man…will send out the angels and gather [his] elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. We heard Prophet Daniel describe their transformation: some shall live forever…[shining] brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.

Christian transformation is already. It is already because the Son of God has already come into our world as human like us. We praise Jesus for joining our humanity. We thank him for beginning our transformation to our true selves in baptism and nourishing them by the other sacraments.

We also expect Jesus to return with great power and glory as the Son of Man. We know not when he will return. When he does he will complete our transformation: from the earth he will raise up in the flesh those who have died, and transform our lowly body after the pattern of his own glorious body.1

Our vocation is to live as transformed by Jesus’ Spirit. Part of our transformation lets us see Jesus already in others, especially the vulnerable among us. Seeing him in others deepens our desire to greet Jesus at his glorious return.

Each day is an opportunity for our transformation in Jesus to unfold. To live as his disciples means to live rooted in Jesus, our Source of transforming life. To see others as transformed and to join the church’s mission to help others be transformed are sources of hope and of growing relationship with Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in presence of our triune God.
  • Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for dying and rising for you; thank him for transforming you in baptism and by his other sacraments.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to surrender more to him and to his Spirit’s promptings.
  • Close saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It was Jesus’ daily prayer of surrender to the vision of his Father and ours—a vision of our true selves created in the divine image.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise


  1. Eucharistic Prayer III in Masses for the Dead, Roman Missal.
Wiki-images: Admiring the buildings of the Temple PD-US Milky Way by Rodolfo X. O. Ferreira CC BY-SA 3.0