Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Look at the Future of the Church. . .

. . .through the lens of three new U.S. cardinals

John L. Allen reported from Rome yesterday on the giving of the pallium to 38 archbishops elevated to cardinals. Three of them are from the United States.

Mr. Allen took the opportunity to suggest their similarities and differences as episcopal leaders in Cincinnati, Miami and Milwaukee, and what they might mean for the future of the church.

Wiki-image by Piotrus of a pallium is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Eclipse of God"

Pope Benedict led the universal church into the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul when he presided at its Evening Prayer at the Roman Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

During his homily the pope announced the formation of a new
pontifical council [it will be the 12th one], with the specific task of promoting a renewed evangelization in countries where the first proclamation of the faith already resounded, and where Churches are present of ancient foundation, but which are going through a progressive secularization of society and a sort of "eclipse of the sense of God."
In addition to the CNS story about the papal announcement, ZENIT has already translated his homily into English.
Wiki-image by Va Va Val is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike Generic 2.5 license.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday word, 27 Jun 2010

13th Sunday of the Year C (27 Jun 2010)

1Kgs 19. 16b, 19-21; 13.1; Ps 16; Gal 5. 1, 13-18; Lk 9. 51-62

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Christian Liberty

In last Sunday’s bulletin I commented that torah, often translated as law, was perceived as much more by the people of the covenant. Torah was God’s covenant, God’s revelation and God’s wisdom. For Israel all those meanings operated at once. To hear the book of the covenant; to see it processed in the synagogue from its throne; to ponder its words and its images, its decrees and its accounts: was to sense God’s presence and God’s invitation to live transformed lives.

God’s word created everything. The book of the covenant, the Sacred Writings of Israel, revealed God’s creating power, God’s restoring power. The people Israel had an expression for this revealing quality of their Sacred Writings: if it’s not in scripture, it’s not in the world. The maxim continued to be used after the rabbis, where we find it translated from Hebrew into Latin.1

This principle of the rabbis helps us appreciate that torah was considered ultimate: judge everything according to it; measure everything according to it. Could it be possible that torah, God’s revelation clothed in human words, was not ultimate, that something had taken its place? That was the issue in the Galatian church St. Paul had begun.

Paul had been raised to be zealous for torah, and he knew it well. He had been trained as a Pharisee.2 He measured everything according to God’s word clothed in human words, which even led him to persecute the church, a mistaken Jewish sect which worshiped the crucified Jesus as God’s messiah of all things!

In the act of persecuting Jesus and the infant church, the Risen One met Saul along his way. In a word he came to realize not only that Jesus was God’s messiah; Jesus was the measure of everything not torah, God’s word clothed in human words.

One can sense this liberated St. Paul: no longer enslaved to torah but yoked to the Risen One, who accompanied him with power and protection unlike before. This companionship of Risen Jesus with him moved St. Paul to announce to all the freedom he had experienced so that all might share it.

Christian liberty—a phrase which helps us not confuse our understanding of our national freedom with the freedom Risen Jesus offers—empowers us with new qualities of mind and character as well as capacities to exercise those qualities.

The origin, norm and guide to live in these new ways cannot be found in torah or in any human power. God’s Spirit is the origin, norm and guide to live these new ways: in the words of St. Paul, to whom this was revealed by the Risen One, “guided by the Spirit, [one is] not under torah.”

Jesus’ Spirit creates in us the pattern of our Messiah, both his human dispositions and his risen life. We live it as we live Jesus’ emphasis of God’s desire for the people of the covenant, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.3

In Risen Jesus we enjoy his liberty, our Christian liberty. At the same time as we enjoy it, we always fight against powers, which seek to seduce us to separate ourselves from it. This is what St. Paul meant by the flesh: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. St. Paul did not mean by the flesh a narrow category of human existence or sexual behavior. By the flesh he meant promoting oneself as powerful or important. That’s always our predicament, isn’t it? I’d rather contend with that dilemma, than think I can negotiate life by my power alone. Christian liberty makes that distinction. Christian liberty recognizes God did something altogether new in Jesus, and through his dying and rising Jesus gives us his Spirit so may enjoy already a share in his risen life as well.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week pause to become aware of the Trinity with you. Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus. In your words praise Jesus for pouring his Spirit into your inmost self and recreating in you the pattern of his living, dying and rising. Ask Jesus to increase your desire for his attitude and to live it more readily. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ phrase, daily bread, on our lips reminds us that we live by the empowering nourishment of God at each moment and not by our puny, human power.


  1. non in tora non in mundo.
  2. See Philippians 3.4-6 for Paul’s self-description.
  3. Leviticus 19.18. Jesus emphasized these words in Matthew 22.39 and Luke 10.37. St. Paul even said this law of the Messiah is the fulfillment of torah (Romans 13.8-10).
Wiki-images of an illuminated manuscript of the beginning of the Letter to the Galatians and the earliest known representation of the Trinity are in the public domain.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday word, 26 Jun 2010

12th Saturday of the Year (26Jun 2010)

Lam 2. 10-14, 18-19; Ps 74; Mt 8. 5-17

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Lifetime Process

We gain more from reading scripture when we read it as God’s personal invitation to us: an invitation to share more in God’s life; an invitation to transform our lives; an invitation to love Jesus more and follow Jesus more closely.

That point of view helps when scripture presents us with people who differ from us or with people with whom we may have few obvious intersections. Yesterday’s gospel selection presented a leper coming to Jesus. Today’s verses, which follow yesterday’s verses, present us with a centurion.

In Matthew’s Gospel those who were afflicted and those coming to faith in Jesus addressed Jesus as Lord. People who opposed Jesus called him Teacher as well as those who met Jesus but did not follow him. The phrase, “coming to faith in Jesus,” suggest process as well as ongoing commitment.

One may wonder about a centurion, at once a nonbeliever in the God of Moses and an oppressor of the Jewish people. Yet the history of the Jews was marked with God-fearers, people whose actions demonstrated respect for the God of Moses. The centurion in the gospel seems to have been such a one. He may have kept to himself and his household his religious leanings, especially because they may have caused him trouble with the emperor. Yet the Romans were a religious people, who were comfortable with many deities. Did his faith—unlike no other Jesus had witnessed in Israel—evolve and grow?

Reading this brief narrative as a personal invitation from God reminds us fully initiated Catholics that we need to cultivate our faith, help it grow by the sacraments and put it into practice daily. Responding to God’s invitation through Jesus by their Spirit is a lifetime process. Responding to God’s invitation through Jesus by their Spirit is an ongoing commitment. Recommitting ourselves daily to the gospel is challenging. It is also rewarding.

Recalling the rewards we have received offer us new courage to weather the challenges of being disciples. Recalling the rewards we have received by living the gospel helps us to desire a deeper, personal relationship with Jesus and helps us call him Lord more readily and with less embarrassment.


Wiki-image of Jesus healing Peter's mother-in-law is in the public domain.