Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Motivation To Help Enter Lent




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

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday word, 11 Feb 18

Sixth Sunday of the Year B (11 Feb 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat
Two Similarities
The people of Israel experienced the divine presence personally encountered them. Their response to the Holy One inviting them touched all their living. To stay in touch with the encounter challenged later generations. Two similarities for us: personal encounter; and staying in touch. Retreat allows us to enjoy a personal encounter with our God. Our experiences may be quieter than what the people Israel knew; quiet does not mean less real. Connect-ing with our encounter with God on retreat when we’re home challenges: our usual routines can distract us from fostering our retreat experience and living from it. Those similarities—encounter and staying touch—may help us appreciate more the healed person of the gospel; and even share a healing fruit. Let’s revisit the gospel encounter.

Religious practice established by Moses shaped Israel’s response to serious skin discolouration and disfigurement that they named leprosy. Jesus encouraged the offering Moses prescribed. Jesus did what Moses could not do: he touched the person. His physical touch had more-than-physical effect. His touch embodied God’s desire for people and announced the good news of God: Jesus’ touch signalled our triune God’s desire to restore people to one another.

We may say the one healed of leprosy began a cascading effect of announcing God’s good news. Announcing God’s good news was a fruit of the healing. Can we enjoy that same healing fruit even though our personal encounters with Jesus differ? Can we join the cascade of those who announce God’s good news? I feel we can, esp. because the one healed of leprosy is not named: the person’s healing fruit is everyone’s gift. Unnamed in scripture is not overlooked; unnamed invites us to look and see ourselves. St. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians shows how to share the fruit we receive. First, the fruit.

The more-than-physical effect of the healing was electric. The one healed of leprosy was moved to announce what Jesus had done: to proclaim it freely and to spread the word. In the gospel’s native language the words have an urgent feel: proclaim captivated with authentic authority; and spread also meant to blaze abroad. We can be sure the one healed did not whisper a polite report; nor did others. Word of God’s good news alive in Jesus crackled across countryside, villages and towns; like a brushfire fanned by winds it could not be contained.

St.Paul could not contain himself after risen Jesus touched his life. St. Paul shared God’s good news in Jesus to build up people: I try to please everyone in everything…not seeking my advantage, but that of many so they may be saved. Please everyone may leave us wondering: so we don’t “wonder” to a dead-end it helps to remember St. Paul was not addicted to approval by others; nor was his self-esteem tied to fulfilling the needs of others. He was not addicted to approval by others; nor was Paul’s self-esteem tied to fulfilling the needs of others. His pleasing excited other’s emotions to attract them to Jesus and his cross and resurrection. His vocation was not his exclusive calling. Paul wrote others: Let each of us please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For Christ did not please himself.1

Announcing Jesus in deed and word has long been called evangelizing: literally bringing good news. Christian evangelizing freely announces Jesus—his person and his actions. The emotion attached to the word is energetic: spread the message like a fire blazing forth. That emotion may  distress us: I couldn’t do that; I don’t have it in me. The truth is more this: I don’t yet realize or accept or admit in my bones that Jesus has touched me. Feel Jesus’ touch and one enjoys relationship with Jesus, receives courageous energy to announce that Jesus touched me.


True evangelizing leads to relation, namely between the personal God revealed by Jesus and humans. Retreat is our opportunity to get more personal with our triune God so our lives after retreat can attract others to Jesus and his cross and resurrection. Life after retreat begins here with Jesus touching us. Savour Jesus’ touch here. Remain here; life after retreat will arrive soon enough.
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  1. Romans 15.2-3.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
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Thursday, February 08, 2018

“Say ‘No’ to Corruption”

Pope Francis uses strong words when speaking about corruption: such as plague and death. In February’s Pope Video he encourages people of good will to discuss the issue and to denounce it as each one can.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Sunday word, 04 Feb 18

Fifth Sunday of the Year B (04 Feb 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day
Made Whole
The first readings and gospels on Sundays are paired with an intention: the gospel fulfills the first reading. The pairing is not always obvious—like today. The church gives a gift to us with today’s responsorial psalm refrain: Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted. It helps us appreciate the pairing of selections from Job and Mark’s gospel.

Job readily evokes a brokenhearted soul, full of miseries. The end of Job’s story lets us see God restoring him. Unfortunately, worship rarely uses the Book of Job; a bit of its ending—God restoring Job—is read at mass on one weekday every other year! Its no surprise our image of Job is mainly, or even only, brokenhearted and suffering.

What of us? We will contend with our challenges and sufferings this side of heaven. Some may be physically healed; others will be healed differently. Different way of healing does not mean less real. Healing is not the same as curing. Healing makes us whole in mind, body, spirit, community and environment.1 Christian healing allows us to enter the mystery of God’s heart; finding ourselves in God’s heart we are made whole, restored to our true selves. How does this happen?

I ministered with a woman who felt healed from a life marred by betrayal, violence and loss. Her ministry was effective. At midlife she was diagnosed again with cancer. She confided to me she was afraid because she felt her life was unfinished; nor did she feel right with God. Later when she had no hope of a remission let a lone a cure, she looked different: radiant even though gaunt. I’ve let go, she said; I’ve never felt peace like this. I’m ready. She was healed, not cured. Even a reconciliation she had with a significant person soon after her diagnosis was transformed: it was made whole.

That moment remains vivid: she offered me the gospel free of charge--free: that is, without condition; authentically. Until that moment my colleague was on the way to being healed. She had been separated from herself. Her distance separated her from others and God.

Job’s sufferings separated him; his story is part of the bible because he allowed his miseries to let him enter the divine mystery. Jesus human sufferings allowed him to enter the presence of God; we call his entrance resurrection. St. Paul encountered risen Messiah Jesus. His encounter healed Paul’s  energetic life; he let nothing prevent him from preaching the gospel of Jesus crucifiedand offer the gospel free of charge. He included free of charge in his letter because after Paul left Corinth others hijacked Paul’s ministry; they charged for their words and their service as charlatans did—and, I wager, still do. His phrase reminded Christians in Corinth to be alert for authentic preachers who preached like him—like my colleague announced it to me. 

Perhaps some of us are like Simon and plea on behalf of another; I am praying for the healing of a child these days. Others may be praying to be delivered from illness or another misery that distorts their lives. We share prayer that the world be delivered from violence and enjoy peace. Whatever our praying this gospel selection stretches us to keep up with Jesus. After curing Simon’s mother-in-law and others brought to him Jesus left before dawn…. Simon…searched for him andfinding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” As if to say, get back and do more wonders. Jesus answered, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”  

Jesus cured, yes; more often he healed: restored people to themselves and their community. Jesus was convinced announcing God’s desire was more valuable: people can set right their relationships with one another and with God. For Jesus curing people was a feature of announcing God’s good news for all. He refused to let himself be seen only as a wonder-worker. Some who rejected God’s good news as impossible saw him as one: the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves when Jesus was crucified, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.2 

Do we allow our miseries and setbacks to help us enter God’s heart? Or, do we insist God’s healing good news is impossible? We are probably a mixture of both. To help us know better which way we lean at a given moment give Jesus 15 minutes each day this week.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Job, St. Paul and Simon’s mother-in-law to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for dying and rising to heal us and all creation. 
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be healed and respond more freely to his constant invitation to share his life and mission.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Living his prayer as best we can begins our healing; frees us to offer the gospel in deed and word; and helps us restore our corner of creation.
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  1. Strategic Plan: Building the Science of Healing.
  2. Mark 15.31
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
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Wiki-image Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law PD-US; by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing Sun CC BY-SA 3.0

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday word, 28 Jan 18

Fourth Sunday of the Year B (28 Jan 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Welcome In
Streak and spirit: specifically, mean streak and unclean/evil spirit. Let’s see if this approach  helps us enter the gospel and not analyze it: to appropriate it rather than critique it.

A developed-world attitude approaches scripture with a scepticism that may be described as heady: it tries to explain what happened rather than be amazed or astonished. Amazed has the texture of being startled, at a loss for words, of feeling touched within. Its touch registers as impressed, moved, stirred, excited, inspired, awakened and more. Beyond my thoughts my heart is engaged; all of me is. We know we are more than a bundle of parts.

This mystery we humans are is always elusive. We approach it when we recognize that one-self or another has a mean streak. The phrase lacks scientific accuracy, yet its deeper accuracy satisfies: a person—self or another—is in the grip of that which is not friendly, not life-giving. A mean streak distorts personality. This is our language, and we are satisfied it communicates truth. Operations don’t remove mean streaks; they are not physical, yet we know they are real. The intervention of another delivers us with an offer of healthy life if we cooperate with the offer.

This may help us turn to the gospel. Jesus confidently spoke of God. His confidence and his expression—teaching of God & God’s desire—was attractive. His hearers noted Jesus had an authentic feel the scholars of the Mosaic law did not. The difference they noted between scribes and Jesus beckoned more; they were astonished. At a deeper level of self, deeper  than obvious knowing they were moved, stirred, excited, inspired, awakened. Would they move with that interior invitation or would they resist?

Resistance was in their midst. Resistance, opposition to all that was life-giving, to God: among them was one with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” The stakes there were not only human; they involved the divine:  the Holy One of God and spirits opposed to God.

Unclean spirit was the language of Jesus’ contemporaries. They recognized one can be in the grip of power opposed to God. It was more than human, more than a mean streak. Greater than human intervention could deliver the one in their synagogue; and Jesus delivered the person!

Again the question applied: Would they move with that interior invitation or would they resist? Would they accept the invitation Jesus voiced? To trust that God is hear now, for me, is not identical to spreading the news of what Jesus did for another.

That difference rests in two convictions: God cannot possibly be here; and God is truly here. ‘God cannot be here,’ flows from a closed self, a hardened heart in the Psalmist’s phrase; one refuses to be delivered by God to true life. An open self, a healed, supple, converted heart allows one to echo Jesus, God is truly here. We grow aware that what Jesus has…to do with us is to deliver us, free us from resisting to let him create us to be our true selves. Returning often to being astonished at Jesus’ desire for us is how we let down our defences and let Jesus in.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the communion of saints to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for revealing God’s welcome and constant care.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to reorient ourselves and open our hearts to him.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy will be done, reassure that God desires great things for us and all people.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday word, 27 Jan 18

Third Saturday of the Year (27 Jan 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day, Directed Retreat
Commitment of the Heart
A scripture-snippet may become one’s prayer during retreat. Even outside retreat hearing snippets of scripture allows us to mull over what we hear and apply it to ourselves. A snippet may be a detail that at first glance seems insignificant. Some details help us appreciate Jesus and others in scripture on the way to appreciating ourselves. Just as he was is a detail today: [the disciples] took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.

Over 3 days at mass we heard Jesus embark on his parable-teaching. What we heard over 3 days together describe a single day in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was in a boat moored at the shore for much of it. He continued to teach the Twelve and those with them until evening. After a day of preaching then coaching the Twelve came the detail just as he was. It suggests tired, hungry, a bit smelling of fish and maybe damp.

Just as he was is no throwaway line. It helps us appreciate Jesus asleep. It helps us appreciate the disciples afraid: of the violent squall; the wind and sea; that Jesus was oblivious to them; and in awe when Jesus stilled wind and sea. They did not yet know Jesus: Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey? By this episode one would expect that they would know him. The reason readers of the gospel would expect that? Because the beginning of the gospel presented Jesus as the son of God.

As the gospel unfolded the human Jesus was a spiritual force demonic spirits recognized; with a word Jesus dealt with them. The disciples had witnessed Jesus confront demonic spirits. That day in the boat Jesus commanded the elements the same way, but the disciples didn’t know Jesus: Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey? Jesus’ question to them is a refresher for us: Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?

Fear and faith: they are not enemies. Fear lets us realize faith is not about abstract ideas; it involves feelings. Fear is an unpleasant emotion that stirs when we feel for our safety and well-being. Faith is also felt: it is commitment of the heart. Faith grasps the mystery of Jesus who is life-giving spiritual power in flesh and blood.

This is not foreign. Faith in another is felt-knowledge. As a child I did not have words to say I had faith in my parents, sister and grandmother, that I trusted them; I did. I did not have words to say they were committed to me; I did feel their affectionate care. When it comes to our triune God: one may not feel God’s commitment; for another it my be unfamiliar. Faith—commitment of one’s heart: we grow into faith all life long. Like learning another person faith is relationship. Jesus demonstrated God desires a relationship with us; reciprocating just as we are delights God. The gospel shows the disciples grew in their faith in fits and starts. It is the same for us. How might we grow in faith?

Let the foreign grow familiar. Until we spend time with another the person remains foreign to us. Spend time with Jesus, the mystery of God with us. Retreat lets us do that in a steady fashion. We grow more familiar with Jesus; we get into his skin; take on his attitude; feel our hearts meet. Graces like those we receive for us; we receive them to nourish our hearts and spirits beyond retreat. Cultivating what we receive on retreat makes the familiar friendly. Foreign become familiar, and familiar become friendly let us commit our hearts to Jesus more readily—or at least desire that.

Make the foreign familiar and make the familiar friendly describe what the disciples did. When we make the foreign familiar and make the familiar friendly we learn Jesus better; we take Jesus with us; and we are more free to bring Jesus to others.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday word, 21 Jan 18

Third Sunday of the Year B (14 Jan 2018)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
New Thing
I’d like to focus on the opening words of today’s gospel selection. I quickly pass over them and get to the action of Jesus calling his first disciples. Jesus calling them, you and me is important. Focus on the words leading up the action reminds us what God’s news is about and what is costs us.

I paused at the opening words of today’s gospel selection because a word echoed: gospel. Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. With that word Mark began his portrait of Jesus: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Jesus began to announce God’s good news—gospel—as the Baptizer had: repent. The evangelist reminds that Jesus began his ministry of proclaiming the gospel of Godafter John had been arrested. That took courage; Jesus risked arrest to call for repentance. Religion and its experience involve the whole person. Our separation of religion to a private realm life intended to ensure people’s freedom to worship; over time that intention has separated us from ourselves.

God’s news that Jesus announced was about making accessible God’s creating and restoring way: the time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God has come near. Jesus used the language of his day: kingdom was a monarch’s realm; it embodied a monarch’s project for his rule. The deeper reality was not about space—God has come near as though once God was distant; the deeper reality Jesus announced was these: God was welcoming and God’s creative project was available. Welcoming and available to all were new religious textures; Jesus embodied both.

Jesus welcomed everyone. Many in his day could not afford religious practices that the religious professionals endorsed. They announced their ways with fanfare that drowned the ways scripture accommodated the poor and those less well-off. The religious professionals aped separateness—holy means set apart—rather than live differently to attract others to God. Jesus welcoming way attracted people to God.

Jesus drew people to him so they might enjoy personal assurance of God’s intimacy. He also chose people to do what he did. All Jesus required was that others repent: to open their hearts and reorient themselves to God creating each moment. This was also a risk. If it didn’t entail the possibility of arrest, it was new. In his culture novelty was suspect. Religions of every sort passed on ancient, ancestral customs and learning. In everything old was better than new.

Yet new circumstances constantly present them-selves, and people did adjust and adapt—even the religious professionals. People who began to find their voices noticed Jesus’ new ways: his were a new teaching with authority!1 They experienced God indeed is among us and for us.

Tradition and novelty coexist. It challenges us;  but Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and for all time, is forever doing a new thing.2 Repent opens us to Jesus as truly among us and guiding us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for announcing God’s welcome and constant care.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to reorient ourselves and open our hearts more to him.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy will be done, reassure that God desires great things for us and all people.
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  1. Mark 1.27.
  2. Hebrews 13.8; Isaiah 43.19.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
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Wiki-image Jesus Calls Peter and Andrew PD-US; Walking Refle-ction © Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0