Monday, March 30, 2009

Jesus' Passion

With the Fifth Week of Lent the church sharpens its focus on the passion of Jesus. The phrase paschal mystery reminds that his passion is not separate from his resurrection. The relation between the two is intrinsic: no resurrection without the passion, and the passion has no meaning with out the resurrection. The risen Lord is both dead and risen. St. Paul could not say either one: It is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us (Romans 8.34).

Yet our limited minds need to look at things separately. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I., is a helpful guide to understand better the passion of Jesus. In a still-current 2008 Catholic Update, Fr. Rolheiser both surveys the passion and highlights the message of love Jesus' passion fulfilled. He mentions Dr. Martin Luther King's experience to make Jesus' passion concrete and to illustrate its "moment of grace."
Wiki-image by Irmgard of a window depicting a scene in Gethsamane is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday word, 29 Mar 2009

Lenten Sunday5 B Scrutiny 3 (29 Mar 2009)
Ezk 37. 12-14; Ps 130; Rm 8. 8-11; Jn 11. 1-45
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Reshaped by God

Today’s third scrutiny of our Elect again shapes our Sunday celebration. As their pace of formation has increased, others of us are, to quote one parishioner I overheard last week, “excited” for you, Elect and Candidates. I’d like to offer us all a way to appreciate both our growing excitement and faith. Helping our faith to grow, Elect and Candidates, is one way you minister to us, as you know.

Your first scrutiny, a rite like the next two to help the Elect turn from sin and grow more godly, flowed from Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, a powerful image of personal and communal conversion. Today’s scrutiny, like last week’s, flowed from one of seven actions of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. We can appreciate all of them in a way the church has for centuries. Each revolves around something within our human experience, which God in Jesus by their Spirit reshaped.

Last week’s rite, in which we prayed for you who will soon be baptized, savored Jesus healing the man born blind. The lack of human sight was the matter within our human experience.

Restoring sight certainly was a sign of God’s desire for him and all people. But it was not enough. An interior sight, a graced self-knowledge, was the more real healing. The man recognized Jesus, as he said of Jesus, “He is a prophet”; and he worshiped Jesus as Lord./1/ Today it is life that Jesus restored not just sight. Jesus resuscitated Lazarus who had been dead four days. Like anyone else, Lazarus’ life would end one day. But human life is not the point; God’s life, which we name as grace, is the point. God’s life reshapes our lives so that we may live not only as credible witnesses of Jesus, as his friends and friends of one another and of the poor; divine life reshapes us so that we may live in Christian freedom. Christian freedom flows from Jesus’ Spirit dwelling in us.

How is that exciting? It is exciting when we--Elect and already fully-initiated--notice how God reshapes us, that is, how God graces us, and the concrete effects it has on us: such as being more aware of others and of our environment; having more supple hearts; desiring to make Jesus present by our presence and by our simple service; wanting to follow more closely and love Jesus more ardently./2/

We know God in Jesus by their Spirit works in us when we feel free, not fearful, to do these and other actions which make and keep us Christian. This Christian freedom is grace, pure gift. We all know how it feels to live constrained by our fears, our obsessions and our compulsions. Divine life at work in us grants us more freedom from our constraints. I see myself in Lazarus responding to Jesus command, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Here the meaning of let go has the sense of depart. At Jesus’ call Lazarus departed the realm of death. That’s obvious to our human knowing. More exciting and of our Catholic faith is that each of us is both called and by grace made more free to depart whatever hinders us from living the freedom of Christian disciples. That reassures me when I admit my sinfulness because it helps me not be overwhelmed by it. It offers us all new life and strength to practice it. You, Elect and Candidates, help us respond to Jesus. Your fresh response freshens ours.

In everyone’s daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, savor the new life of grace the Trinity offers you. Ask Lazarus to present you to Jesus. Name contours of new life our risen Lord offers you: stewardship; generosity; focused prayer; more supple hearts; the desire to make Jesus present to others; and the like. Tell Jesus if you are feaful to live them or if you feel free to live them. Ask Jesus for the grace to live more free as his witness today. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. The more we pray it from our hearts, the more free we become to make Jesus present by our lives.

1. John 9. 17, 38.
2. This last is the grace St. Ignatius of Loyola invites retreatants to make when reflecting on Jesus’ life. See his Spiritual Exercises, 104.
Wiki-image by Karl Isakson of Jesus raising Lazarus is in the public domain.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Theology of Liberation. . .

. . .again?

Names shape how people think and their expectations. The phrase theology of liberation, which arose in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, connotes many things and specifies time, place, personalities and actions. Beyond them all Jesus came to liberate people. Indeed, many of the specifics of the Latin American version of the theology of liberation flow from that conviction.

Yet Jesus liberates all people in all circumstances, in all times and all places. Can other versions of theology of liberation exist? Indeed they can. One example comes from Africa. In his column, All Things Catholic, Mr. John L. Allen Jr. expresses the difference between these two: "What African Catholicism has to offer the global church is liberation theology without the hang-up over ecclesiastical authority." Mr. Allen explains his meaning in his column. He focuses on "Health Care," "Lay Attitudes" and "Good Government."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Economy and the Younger Generation. . .

. . .specifically Generation Y

Today's Christian Science Monitor examines the impact of the economy on the 20-somethings of today. They have no less to worry about, but, writes the correspondent,
Signs suggest that the very characteristics Gen- Y-ers are often ridiculed for – self-awareness, assertiveness, relentless positivity, etc. – are what will help us emerge from this economic crisis with our livelihoods and our sanity still intact.
The article begins by recalling an image many of the "Gen- Y-ers" may have never seen. The author referred to the "Migrant Mother" by Dorothea Lange. It is well described as the "most iconic image to emerge from the devastating Depression of the which a desperate-looking woman, her face heavy with weariness, holds an infant in her arms while her other children cling to her shoulders."

The image is part of a set. The set helps us appreciate her weary distress. The CSM article reminds that what an older generation criticizes in a younger may be traits, which will help it "emerge intact."
Wiki-image of Migrant Mother is in the public domain.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday word, 22 Mar 2009

Lenten Sunday4 B, Scrutiny 2 (22 Mar 2009)
1Sm 16. 1b,6-7,10-13a; Ps 23; Eph 5. 8-14; Jn 9. 1-41
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Credible Witnesses
The significance of today’s lenten celebration flows from the second scrutiny of the Elect. We will soon celebrate their initiation at the Easter Vigil. Their initiation, like ours, is a response to divine invitation: God invites us to salvation and to full life in and with God.

A word about that word “scrutiny.” As a church word scrutiny has a precise meaning. Very early in the history of the church some men and women, who had responded to God’s invitation, desired to affiliate with the community of Jesus’ disciples. The church community made them hearers of the Word. They listened to the scriptures and were encouraged to find themselves in them. When their formation matured, and they matured in living the way of the Christian life with fidelity, the church promoted them to Hearers of the Gospel. The pace of their formation increased.

This phase was marked with frequent hand-laying, a gesture used by the apostles to impart to others peace, forgiveness, authority and Holy Spirit, who is the energy of divine life and the personality of Jesus. These were done in the presence and with the participation of those already initiated by water, chrism and the eucharist. In a phrase, a scrutiny is a rite to help the Elect turn from sin and grow in more godly.

Your scrutiny, my friends, also causes us already-initiated to consider our lives. Together we continue the call of Ash Wednesday: Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel! The prayers of today’s scrutiny tell us what turning from sin and what adhering to the gospel mean: allegiance and witness.

Lord God...Hear our prayers for these elect, whom you have called to be your adopted children. ...[deliver them] from the prince of darkness, to live always as children of the light./1/ This scrutiny, like your first, reminds us all that the Lord of light and the ruler of darkness vie for our allegiance. The difference is stark: God desired to anoint us so we all have a share in the prophetic, priestly and royal ministry of our Messiah Jesus. The ruler of darkness, however, has nothing life-giving to offer us. To paraphrase the insight of St. Ignatius of Loyola the ruler of darkness has no power to give us a moment of life./2/

The life God in Messiah Jesus by their Spirit offers us is not a possession to be contained but a gift to be shared. The messianic life of Jesus we share propels us to be witnesses, as the second prayer of today’s scrutiny reminds: Lord Jesus...let [these elect] prove to be staunch and fearless witnesses to the faith./3/

We witness by how we live the faith. St. Paul reminded us that to live our faith means to live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. That means that moral formation is even more crucial than sound instruction in Catholic doctrine. Both are necessary, and lives, which produce[] every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth, announce Jesus to others with great credibility.

Credibility is a dynamic in today’s gospel. The Pharisees, the instructors and interpreters of religious instruction needed to know. To the parents of the man born blind they said, “How does he now see?” and to the man they demanded, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

Their answers were not enough for them. They were certain Jesus was not of God. With mud and spittle, not thunder and lightning, Jesus opened his eyes. Jesus was credible even though he was not certain about Jesus’ origins. The man said to his interrogators, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.” Credibility of our faith does not hinge on our certainty. People who do not see your scrutiny but see your lives will meet Jesus without realizing it!

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, bask in the light of the Trinity. Ask the man born blind to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus about your spirit’s blindness and its sight. Offer them both to Jesus, and ask him to help you pass from darkness to light more each day. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It helps us to receive the light only our Messiah can give and to live by it both to glorify God and to save our souls.

1. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 168.
2. See A Pilgrim’s Journey, 20. Ignatius referred to himself as a “pilgrim.” [Other editions exist of his testimony to the first-generation Jesuits. They keep the same numbering scheme.]
3. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 168.

Wiki-images of St. John and of Jesus healing the blind man are in the public domain.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday word, 21 Mar 2009

Lenten Saturday3 (21 Mar 2009)
Hos 6. 1-6; Ps 51; Lk 18. 9-14
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. Checking Progress

Remember Jesus’ words to us on Ash Wednesday? …whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. …But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you./1/

A hypocrite puts on an act. Our word hypocrite is a Greek loan word meaning an actor on a stage. In the New Testament it means a religious or moral counterfeit. I don’t know if this comes to your mind, but the image Jesus gives me is that of someone adept at using peripheral vision. Standing on a street corner, in a worship space that means a person pays attention to others: ‘Do they notice me? Do they see what I’m doing? God may be in my words, but my heart is elsewhere.’ Can you see how that is possible?

Jesus made it clear in his parable about the Pharisee and the Publican, the first inside the synagogue, the second standing afar off. Remember the Pharisee’s words? God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. That is praying with peripheral vision.

Remember the publican’s prayer? He would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ That is praying with direct, steady vision. Jesus added that the publican went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. How sweet were the movements of spirit in the publican, even if he struggled still with how he lived! He savored them in the same way as his brave prayer of self-knowledge.

St. Ignatius of Loyola echoed Jesus with the first Jesuit’s practical advice for making spiritual progress. The more we give ourselves to silence, seclusion and solitude “the more fit do we make ourselves to approach and attain our Creator and Lord; and the more we unite ourselves to him in this way, the more do we dispose ourselves to receive graces and gifts from his divine and supreme goodness.”/2/

Lent is the church’s annual way we unite ourselves to our Creator and Lord, that is, to Jesus’ paschal mystery. As we pass the midpoint of Lent, we profit by checking our progress and ask if we persist in using peripheral vision or if we have allowed our lenten practices to help us see ourselves and to pray with direct, steady vision.
1. Matthew 6.5-6.
2. Spiritual Exercises, 20.
Wiki-image of the Publican is in the public domain.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Announced: Year for Priests

French parish priest, St. Jean Marie Vianney, has long been the patron of parish priests. Pope Benedict announced Monday that he would proclaim a year for priests.
The theme for the priestly year is "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests." The Pope is scheduled to open the year with a celebration of vespers June 19, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the presence of the relic of the Curé of Ars, to be brought to Rome by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, the press release stated.
Lifelong formation of priests is among the things the pope desires priests to make a personal priority in their lives.

The pope announced this "during an audience with participants of the Congregation for Clergy's plenary assembly." Some of the popes comments may be read at this link.
Wiki-image of St. Jean Vianney entombed is used according to the GFDL.

Monday, March 16, 2009

This announcement from Catholic Charities and its weekly review of capitol events.

ww logo

March 16, 2009
Volume 4 Number 9

. . .
Special Announcement Regarding Justice for Immigrants Regional Training
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Justice for Immigrants (JFI) campaign will conduct a training in the Cincinnati area on March 26-28, 2009. The purpose of the training is to convene supporters of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Michigan, strengthen and grow the support base for immigration reform, and arm supporters with updated messages and educational pieces to continue to push for CIR.

JFI has identified Ohio and the surrounding states as prime areas of opportunity to move large numbers of Catholics and Catholic federal lawmakers to support CIR.
Event information, including the agenda, may be found here.

A limited number of scholarships are available, and anyone interested in a scholarship should call 202-541-3165 to apply for one. Questions about the convening may also be directed to the same telephone number.

Please consider attending the training and/or sharing this information with your networks.
For more information, please contact Lucreda Cobbs, Senior Director of Advocacy and Civic Engagement,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday word, 15 Mar 2009

Lenten Sunday3 B (15 Mar 2009)
Ex 20. 1-7; Ps 19; 1Co 1. 22-25; Jn 2. 13-25
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
All Our Senses
The familiar gospel-scene of Jesus putting the merchants out of the temple area begins his life of ministry, following miracle at Cana. Jesus’ first of seven signs performed at Cana and the cleansing of the temple form Chapter 2 of the Fourth Gospel. In the temple episode the disciples recalled and remembered: they recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me; and when [Jesus] was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said...“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Recalling and remembering led them to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

Recalling and remembering is more than interpreting in a living way so that they could learn the meaning of both God’s word and God’s son. Recalling and remembering is how we stay close to Jesus, and how we enter repeatedly his paschal mystery. Lent is about drawing closer to Jesus and entering more deeply his paschal mystery.

Our Catholic experience communicates the paschal mystery via all our senses: fire, color and images allow our vision to remind us; words sung and proclaimed allow our hearing to remind us; bread, wine, water, oil, ashes and palms allow our taste and our touch to remind us; and even wax, incense and balsam allow our olfactory sense to remind us. Lenten practices focus on one of more of our senses so that our whole body and heart may become more deeply aware of Jesus: present, loving and living as our dead and risen Messiah.

The call to pray invites us to say more than words. To pray means Christians go beyond words to detect the presence of Jesus in our midst. Praying is not exercising our human wisdom or human strength. Praying deliberately open us to God’s wisdom and God’s strength, which registered in flesh and blood as Jesus, God’s son, who continues to be present more powerfully by his Holy Spirit.

In the beginning of God’s relationship with people, words figured large, and particularly ten words enshrining actions to do and not to do; we call them commandments but Jews even today continue to call them words, reminding people that God spoke them for their good. God’s goodness to people permeated their existence. That moved the Psalmist to cry, Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Words became flesh and blood in Jesus. One like us continued to speak for our good. Jesus still continues to speak for our good in the power of his Holy Spirit. Lent allows us to accept more willingly the particular way Jesus communicates to us now, at each moment. Lent lived well transforms us, makes us more alert to Jesus’ ongoing communication to us.

Savoring one of our senses, using one thing to get one of our five senses working--an image like a candle flame or the concentrated gleam of the tabernacle; an aroma; the taste and texture of Jesus’ Body and Blood or the moisture of holy water traced on our bodies; the vibrations of music or singing--connects us with Jesus.

It opens us to Jesus communicating to us through personal praying, works of service and the rhythms the life of the church. In particular, the liturgy is Jesus speaking, and it is us speaking, too. It is a great gift helping us to continue to recall and to remember what is most real and life-giving, the paschal mystery of our dead and risen Messiah, Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the light of the Trinity. Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus so that you may both be aware of Jesus communicating to you and express to him whatever is on your heart and mind. Resolve to be more attentive to the church’s ways and its holy things because they communicate God’s love and care for you. Ask for the grace to know more clearly how Jesus invites you to join him. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which keeps us in close communication more by deed than by word.
Wiki-image of the reception of the Ten Words is used according the GFDL. Wiki-image of Jesus cleansing the Temple is in the public domain.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Letter: Pope Benedict to Bishops of the World

The fallout was large after Pope Benedict revoked an excommunication of four priests who were "ordained validly but not legitimately." The fallout caused the pope to write a letter (in which the previously quoted phrase appeared) to the world's Roman Catholic bishops.

In the letter the pope related what he learned; what he did to "make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium of the Popes;" and his distinction between discipline and doctrine in this case.

In the third paragraph of his letter Pope Benedict drew "the distinction between individuals and institutions." The pope clarified that discipline applies to individuals. Once ministry and church institutions are involved then discipline no longer applies, doctrine does. In the pope's words:
This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.

The specific ministry in this case is that of holy orders, and the specific institution is the institute of the Society of Saint Pius X. It counts more than 700 priests and seminarians and 281 religious brothers and sisters. Asked Pope Benedict, "Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church?"

The Vatican posted the pope's letter to bishops on its website. Individual bishops have been making it available, too. It is a valuable window on how Pope Benedict learns in addition to clarifying what often is muddled by others.

[e P.S. added 14 March 2009: The Society of Pius X responded favorably to Pope Benedict, assuring him, "We Fully Share His Utmost Concern for Preaching to Our Age."]
Wiki-image of a species of ginger plant is in the public domain.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Old in New Vesture

This is a reflection on faith. Thus, the world "Old" in the title connotes not chronological age as much as "traditional." In the Catholic sense of things, "traditional" means what is handed on to others. In the Catholic sense, dead tradition (a phrase which is in use) is a contradiction. Because tradition is a handing on to others by others (parents to children, siblings to siblings; teachers to students, peers to peers), tradition is very much alive!

As people grow and change, so do their horizons of understanding and appreciation. If the language, which clothes faith's tradition, does not grow and change, it will fall by the wayside. This is partly why Blessed John XXIII decided to move on his illumination to call the Second Vatican Council. As he said: "The Gospel has yet to be discovered."

Pope Benedict offered priests of Rome some advice to help others discover the gospel and to plumb its truths:
I would like to say that it is important, on one hand, to make the great word of the faith concrete with our personal experience of faith, in our meeting with our parishioners, but also to not lose its simplicity. Naturally, great words of the tradition -- such as sacrifice of expiation, redemption of Christ's sacrifice, original sin -- are incomprehensible as such today. We cannot simply work with great formulas, [although] truths, without putting them in the context of today's world.
Adults are used to simplifying in authentic ways for the children in our care. We don't violate meaning when we do this; rather we dress it manners which will aid its understanding and appreciation at the time. This simplifying does not dilute the meaning.

So, too, with faith. Keeping alive faith's tradition and handing on to others belongs to all the baptized. The pope's words to priests in Rome benefit all Christians.
Wiki-image of one Spring is in the public domain.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Legislative & Executive: Different With Similarity

Certain initiatives flow through and out of Congress. Some actions can be executive decisions of the President. Two examples:

1. Freedom of Choice Act[FOCA] is an example of legislation. It has a long history, which has "languished," in the words of one Catholic News Service article of November last year. The Catholic Church voiced its concern and objection, should Congress pass FOCA, about forcing health care providers to provide abortions if it is against their consciences.

2. The Provider Refusal Rule is a federal Regulation, which protects hospitals, physicians, nurses and other health care providers for whom abortions contradicts their consciences. [See background with the position of the U.S. Catholic Bishops.] The Provider Refusal Rule can be rescinded by executive decision. President Obama has expressed his willingness to rescind it. The process to do so requires a 30-day "public comment" period. This one began 06 March 2009.

Registering comments with the White House may be registered at 202.456.1111; or through its switchboard, 202.456.1414.

While rescinding this rule concerns the United States, conscience is not limited by borders. A 2007 "Vatican assembly of health care professionals and others...explored how conscience plays out in the daily choices of Christian health care workers, scientists, legislators, lawyers, and others as they confront life and death issues."
Wiki-image of Daylight Moon by Joe Online is used according the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday word, 08 Mar 09

Lenten Sunday2 B (08 Mar 2009)
Gn 22. 1-2,9a,10-13,15-18; Ps 116; Rm 8. 31b-34; Mk 9. 2-10
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Clearer Than Usual

We have entered Lent. Each of us has been experimenting with a practice to help us renew our baptisms and transform our lives in and with our risen Messiah Jesus. Some of us may have found one practice, which draws us closer to Jesus and takes us deeper into his paschal mystery. Others of us may still be trying to find one practice, which draws us closer to Jesus and takes us deeper into his paschal mystery.

Lent is not about doing many things. Lent is about one thing: drawing closer to Jesus by entering into his paschal mystery. No lenten practice or any other practice to exercise our spirit is an end in itself. It is a means not the goal. The goal is Jesus and his paschal mystery and our deeper union with him. Our lenten practice ought to guide us closer to Jesus not concentrate us on any discipline. For example, if I’ve chosen to fast one day a week this Lent, then the effects on me of having a single, moderate main meal ought to make me more attentive to Jesus present in my life and inviting me to live differently.

If having a single, moderate main meal consumes me with hunger pains and prevents me from considering Jesus’ suffering, especially in the poor, the homeless the malnourished and those we put on the margin of society, then I ought to find another lenten discipline. Lent’s power causes us to feel differently about Jesus: more close; more fascinated; more in tune with his way; more in need of Jesus’ healing love; more aware of his suffering and dying in too many of the world’s little ones; and more confident in his new life given us in baptism, which the eucharist sustains and nourishes each time we celebrate it.

The difference goes beyond feelings to involve how we look at the world, how we appreciate others and God. It reshapes and transforms us. God isn’t limited to Lent to reshape us and transform us. We give ourselves more to God and others during Lent. Indeed, religions the world over long have been aware the divine transforms the human. Feeling different accompanies altered states of consciousness: awareness more intense and clearer than usual.

An anthropologist studied this and wondered if “altered states of consciousness, for the most part in traditional societies and in a sacred context, are...a rare and exotic phenomenon of interest only to specialists [or] a major aspect of human behavior that has significant impact on the functioning of human societies.” Her question leads us to ask about ourselves: do personal praying and communal worship affect me, or are they a waste of time? Do they offer me glimpses of God, or do I just imagine them? The anthropologist reassures us.

After combing through evidence from almost 500 societies “in all parts of the world...[she found] 90% are reported to have one or more institutionalized, culturally patterned forms of altered states of consciousness.”/1/ God gives us glimpses of who God is. Personal praying and communal worship are windows on God.

Today’s gospel scene preserved and handed to us a pivotal moment in Jesus’ life in which his disciples’ awareness was not routine: one hardly knew what to say; all three were...frightened; what they saw suddenly was not available to their sight. Nor was their more intense and clearer-than-usual awareness complete.

They saw something, but the gospel is not clear that they heard Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, or that they heard the voice from the cloud. They would discern what their mountaintop experience offered them after Jesus rose from the dead; but their mountaintop experience filled them with awe although its meaning lay hidden from them.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, compose yourself and step out of your world into the life and light of the Trinity. Force nothing; each time you exhale step from your world, and each time you inhale enter their life. Ask Peter, James, and John to help you be both open and attentive to what Jesus desires to offer you in those 15 minutes. Rest in what Jesus offers you: peace; tears; refreshment; feeling safe with him; invited to live both his dying and rising. Resolve to allow Jesus’ gift to affect your daily living. Close your time by saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we echo Jesus’ personal prayer, we converse with God and, God transforms us along with Jesus to be more confident in what is not routine and much more real than we imagine.

Erika Bourguignon, Religion, Altered States of Consciousness, and Social Change. Columbus, OH: Ohio University Press, 1983, p. 9.
Wiki-image of Living Shadow is used according to the GFDL. Wiki-image of the Transfiguration is in the public domain.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Pope Benedict: Q & A Artist; Also Enclyclical Preview

Pope Benedict is comfortable with the format of the Q & A. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. has commented on it in; listed some of the pope's past ones; and included a link to his latest one with priests of the Diocese of Rome.

In this same article Mr. Allen also gives a bit of a preview of the next encyclical due to appear soon. He gives more in a separate article to help anyone appreciate the upcoming encyclical, which will focus on social themes. Its title is "Charity in Truth."
Wiki-image of Pope Benedict on his arrival in the U.S. in 2008 is in the public domain.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sunday word, 01 Mar 2009

Lenten Sunday1 B (01 Mar 2009)
Gn 9. 8-15; Ps 25; 1Pt 3. 18-22; Mk 1. 12-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Each Moment

Certain images become controlling ones. They shape what comes to our minds. A red octagon suggests Stop even when we aren’t on the road. Many are the examples each of us can offer. Scriptural images, too, shape what comes to our minds. Controlling images do not always aid our full appreciation. The name Noah often conjures the flood, which destroyed creation. While the flood may be more memorable, it fails to capture completely God’s heart and God’s desire for humans.

The climax of the Genesis account of Noah and his family is not destruction or devastation but life. God’s desire for life is as broad as creation itself for all people. God established this new life by covenant at God’s initiative.

This was not lost to Christians at the beginning. Their experience of the dead-and-risen Messiah Jesus, present more powerfully then and now by his Holy Spirit, allowed them to read scripture, beginning with Genesis, with new eyes, with new minds and hearts.

The First Letter of Peter, a homily about Christian baptism, saw life in the Spirit in the water of dying with Jesus just as God promised life after the waters of the destroying flood. It saw the Church protecting people as the ark protected Noah and his family.

Because the liturgy does not offer us the First Letter of Peter as often as the Letters of Paul art and legend suggest the images of Noah and the flood are destructive. Taken together Genesis and the First Letter of Peter help us see that God’s desire is to preserve life, and more, to transform life from human to divine. That transformation begins in baptism.

The Gospel of Mark made another, more subtle Genesis-connection. Mark did not enumerate temptations of Jesus as did Matthew and Luke, who gave us our controlling images of Jesus in the desert. Instead, the First Gospel simply noted that Jesus was among wild beasts. How different the world had become because of sin: in God’s original creation no enmity existed between humans and animals!

As a result our experiences, spanning the mundane and the religious, are beset by forces inimical both to God and to us. Yet, at each moment God’s desire is to minister to us, to protect us just as God ministered and protected God’s son, Jesus. Even when to human eyes God seemed to have abandoned Jesus in death, God raised Jesus to absolutely new and indestructible life, the life of heaven as scripture names it.

This is good news, gospel, to which Jesus calls us to believe each day. Lent renews us in his good news. Entering it allows us to become more like Jesus, the new Noah, who waited patiently, confident God would save him; and not only save him but make his proclamation of the good news of salvation fruitful.

What then might Lent’s controlling image be for us this year as we enter it? We heard St. Paul offer a refreshing and restorative one on Ash Wednesday: now is a very acceptable is the day of salvation./1/ Each day is now. Many of us who heard Christopher Walker here at Gesu in the middle of February appreciate the word now in God’s sense. Each moment is now.

Each moment God invites us to live God’s life. Each moment God invites us to share by what we do the life God gives us. Each moment God invites us to allow the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of our Messiah Jesus to transform us and renew us.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, compose yourself in the life-giving love of the Trinity. Ask your patron saint to present you to Jesus so you may converse with him. Speak to Jesus about the many images which seek to control your allegiance to him and to the risen life Jesus shares with you. Resolve to focus on your baptism and its life, dignity and vocation in order to renew the way you live your Christian life. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. No better prayer so succinctly appeals to God and helps us to live as agents of the new creation in Jesus our risen Lord.

1. 2 Corinthians 6.2, which closed the Second Reading at mass that day.

Wiki-images of the Sacrifice of Noah and of Mark the Evangelist are in the public domain