Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday word, 30 Sep 2012

Not By Chance
26th Sunday of the Year B (30 Sep 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Each one’s vocation is to be a disciple of our Messiah Jesus. Misunderstanding our messiah leads to misunderstanding discipleship. The first disciples misunderstood Messiah Jesus while he was with them. He said he would be handed over to others, who would kill him then rise on the third day, but they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. Jesus taught them God’s messiah came to serve with his life.1

Today we heard they misunderstood that God’s messiah came to serve all without distinction. John spoke for all the disciples, whom Jesus sent to do his work of healing and evangelizing: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” We easily make that distinction between us and them. It’s part of our human condition and always has been. It challenged Moses early in the history of God’s people. So, when a young man quickly told Moses that two men he did not appoint were prophesying in the camp,” Joshua...who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them.” Moses’ response speaks to us and our vocation today: Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!

Baptism has made us God’s people. We were baptized into Jesus our Priest, Prophet and King.2 Baptism makes you and me prophets. Prophets are about here and now. Jesus sends us to do his work and give voice to his gospel by our deeds. How? Jesus was open, understanding, patient. Jesus was free of any need of honor. With our eyes on Jesus we live our baptisms by living the ways he modeled for us.

That singular voice in the New Testament, the Letter of James, shows us how. The Letter of James makes explicit Jesus’ desire for his church that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Equality does not ignore or erase differences. Equality among us means each person has inestimable value.

The scathing censure of the rich, who withheld from others so they might enjoy luxury and pleasure, hurts our ears. Its accusation, You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one, pierces hearts. As generous as we are each of us withholds to some degree. The ear-hurting and heart-rending words of the Letter of James remind us that living our baptism calls us to be more free to follow Jesus’ way more closely. Morals help us follow Jesus more closely.

Probing how in sync we are with Jesus and his Gospel-way means letting morals scrutinize our manners. Morals are about right and wrong and about choosing to do the lesser wrong and the more right action. Manners are about habits, customs, practices and the ways we put things to use. If we operated only from manners, we would do the lesser wrong and the more right by chance. Human habits, customs and practices are often shaped by our weakness to distinguish between us and them. We are so like the disciple John and Moses’ aide, Joshua!

James, Jesus and our Catholic tradition with its social teaching remind us morals shape our choices to do some things and not others. Jesus clothes our choosing with his Spirit. His Spirit makes us prophets. Prophets are human megaphones: their actions and lives give voice to Jesus here and now. Morals, not manners, make our actions authentic, give our actions authority. Jesus did everything with authority. With eyes on Jesus the church understands that authority functions as ministry serving all in need of God’s healing compassion. Placing God’s healing compassion to us in service of others, shapes us as more faithful, prophetic servants of our Messiah’s mission.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Become freshly aware of the Trinity anointing you to continue Jesus’ priestly, prophetic and royal work.
  • Ask Moses, who desired all God’s people to be prophets, to present you to Jesus.
  • Praise Jesus for his goodness to you.
  • Ask Jesus, “Help me be your authentic disciple and your prophetic voice in deed and word.”
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer to shape us as servants of God’s compassion and to help our gospel-actions deepen the union of heaven and earth and of human minds, hearts and lives.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Last Sunday’s gospel selection (Mark 9.30-37). Its verses immediately precede today’s.
  2. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults [RCIA], 228 [U.S. Edition]; Rite of Baptism of Children [RBC] 125; 151.
Wiki-images of Moses and Joshua worshiping in the Meeting Tent and of Jesus speaking is in the public domain in the U.S.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Letting In Outsiders

Jesuit Michael Kelly, S.J., suggests good humor is to be welcomed. It allows us to see ourselves with greater clarity and in all areas.

When I was asked by The Hoopla whether the lampooning of religion in general and priesthood and Catholicism in particular ‘hurts and crosses the line?’ my answer was simple: when it’s bad comedy! For the rest – the good stuff – it’s welcomed by me as a timely reminder of just how comic a lot of religious carry on can be.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday word, 23 Sep 2012

M and M
25th Sunday of the Year B (23 Sep 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
If the gospel words sound familiar it’s because last week’s gospel selection contained the first time Jesus said he would be rejected, handed over to [others who would] will kill him, and three days after his death...would rise. For the disciples it was an outrageous teaching. The first time Jesus spoke openly about this Peter scolded Jesus for saying it. Peter thought as humans not with the mind of God.

Although we may not know how, God works for our good through all things, especially rejection, suffering and death. Today we heard the rest of the twelve also think in human terms. Their reaction was not Peter’s forceful denial; instead fear gripped them: they did not understand [Jesus’] saying and they were afraid to question him.

Let’s look past their feelings and ours for a moment and consider the Jesus we would have seen and heard? We would have noticed Jesus was a man of God with his feet planted on earth. He was open, compassionate, a man of patience and gentleness, whose way of living was self-giving. Jesus did not shrink from living the intentions of God’s heart, even when they clashed with human ones like those triggered by envy, conflict, hatred, lying, arrogance and rage. This what St. James offered us in the selection of his letter today.

James had a clear, accurate picture of Jesus in mind as he wrote. His letter is about living God’s desires for us and all people: living the reign of God Jesus announced.1 We do that by trying to do what fits God’s reign as Jesus taught and lived it. This is where the M and Ms come in. They are manners and morals.

St. James knew that some things had become usual practice among people. People had ways of doing things societies expected. Those ways were manners of doing things. Are all manners and ways of living right, healthy and good for individuals and society? No. We try to choose the right, healthy and good ways instead of those that are wrong, unhealthy and bad. Morals help us make the correct choices. Morals help us by guiding us to choose well.

With an eye on Jesus St. James helps us consider one manner and reject it: envy. Envy warps our vision. Envy works this way: A person sees the ability of other people, their possessions, talents, gifts, effort and energy as reasons to dislike both the people and their achievements. That dislike leads us to wrangle rather than befriend others. Jesus befriended even people others would not.

With his eyes on Jesus St. James got right to the point. Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? It is from the way we deal with our needs and desires. Even if I do a good and right thing—like obey my parents and superiors—even if I do a good and right thing with unloving motives, I allow envy to shape me. Its results range from disrespect and grumbling, no one hears but us, to coveting, fighting, even waging war.

Jesus found himself in different situations with people who welcomed him and people who did  not. So do we. In different situations with different people, Jesus allowed God’s desires for him and all humans to shape him. In different situations with different people, Jesus was the same: open, compassionate, a man of patience and gentleness, whose way of living was self-giving. That’s the picture St. James had in mind as he wrote. It is that picture of Jesus that Peter and the frightened disciples came to see clearly. We see that picture of Jesus more clearly as we make it our habit to allow our Catholic morals to guide and shape us throughout all our lives.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week 
  • Quietly place yourself into the heart of our triune God.
  • Ask St. James to present you to Jesus. 
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for inviting you to walk with him as one of his friends. Thank Jesus for giving you family, friends and teachers who introduce you to him.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to shape your deepest self to be more open, compassionate, patient and gentle and to have courage to befriend others.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, on earth as it is in heaven, remind us that greedy and violent things do not need to be that way, and that each of us can spread generosity, compassion and peace.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

1. See James 2.8.

Wiki-image by deror_avi of the Fifth Beatitude used by CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of Jesus with children is in the public domain in the U.S.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

More Than a Great Entrance

Jesuit Sam Sawyer described the “most memorable part of the evening” of 14 September 2012 in his “A Cardinal and a Comedian Walk into a Gym.”

Wiki-image by Anthony22 at the English language Wikipedia of Rose Hill gymnasium used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Looking Grim

From the final 20 years of the last century to the present melting of Arctic ice has continued. Yale University’s environment360 drew information from the National Snow & Ice Data Center for yesterday’s e360 story.

Wiki-image of 31 years of declining Arctic ice is in the public domain.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Missing Virtue?

Greed can be a synonym for generosity. So can several other mean-spirited qualities. Are people not cultivated the virtue of generosity in the United States? Is generosity more than philanthropy? Ignatian spirituality offers a clue to true generosity.

Ignatian theology stresses the importance of the relationship between our activity and being receptive to God’s initiative. The deepest generosity comes from God, who helps us see the world as he sees it and who gives us the inner strength to be generous.
Read the quote of Jesuit Peter Hosking in context.
Wiki-image by  AlejandroLinaresGarcia of cloister used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Census Data

The government released the data last week. Catholic Charities U.S.A. issued a letter the same day headed, “Census Poverty Data Confirms Reality Local Catholic Charities Agencies Face Every Day.” It noted:

The nation's official poverty rate in 2011 was 15.0 percent, with 46.2 million people in poverty. After three consecutive years of increases, neither the poverty rate nor the number of people in poverty were statistically different from the 2010 estimates.
What do the presidential candidates propose? Each has responded to Christian leaders calling for their approaches in future. View the response of President Obama and of Governor Romney.
Wiki-image of poverty map is in the public domain.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday word, 16 Sep 2012

24th Sunday of the Year B (16 Sep 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. [Catechetical Sunday]

Albert Einstein said, “I want to know how God created the world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details.”1

Our triune God does have a mind. The Trinity thinks, chooses, plans, loves and desires our loyal friendship. The Trinity has made known to us the divine mind in Messiah Jesus. Jesus’ Spirit enlightens us and gives us our courage to befriend our triune God.

Befriending the Trinity—having a relationship with Father, Son, Holy Spirit—is the vocation of each baptized person. All of our formation and education—think liturgy and learning—support each one’s relationship with our Creator and Redeemer. That singular relationship we call faith. Both its supports—liturgy and learning—we call catechesis.

Catechesis comes from two Greek words. One of them you know. “Kata” means down; “echo,” the Greek word you know, means to sound. We hear the word, echo, and we readily think repeated sound. The goal of catechesis is straightforward: what we hear in all our liturgy and our learning about faith we let echo down to our depths. All of us have an inborn, untaught disposition for the divine. Our worship and our learning about our faith help us deepen and cultivate our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer.

Catechesis has stages. The first is preparing for baptism whether of infants or of adults and children old enough to understand. The rest of the stages of catechesis build on each other and continue all our lives. All its stages echo our Creator and Redeemer’s call to us, “I love you,” and invite us to respond, “I love you.”

We respond in worship and by our love for others. By our twin response each of us is an agent handing on the faith by how we act, choose, pray and speak. Each parish commissions some to help others respond to their inborn disposition for God and to begin and to nourish their faith-relationship. They are called Catechists. Teachers at St. Luke and all Catholic schools share in the spirit of the gospel in all the subjects they teach. That makes them important agents who also hand on the gospel. A math teacher and a coach have power to evangelize, too.

The national theme for this weekend is “Catechists and Teachers: Agents of the New Evangelization.” A veteran catechist2 in Chicagoland likens Catechetical Agents to “travel agents.” That’s a good image. People with certain expertise help us make journeys for work and pleasure. Catechists help us journey in faith with Jesus. Their expertise helps parents prepare to baptize their children. Their expertise helps children establish their faith. Their expertise helps couples prepare to marry. Their expertise helps all of us discern ways better to live our faith.

Travel agents do us a great service. However, we are the ones who make our journeys. Catechists do us the irreplaceable service of helping us think correctly about our religious heritage. Yet we are responsible to make our journeys of faith. Journeying daily in faith means we keep growing to love Jesus more ardently and follow him more closely.3 When we give ourselves to our faith-journeys our ears, eyes and hearts are opened; our faith and actions which flow from faith complete and perfect each other; and we evangelize without thinking about it.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Compose yourself in our Triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise Jesus for giving you a share in his faith and for giving you his Spirit to live his faith. Notice what stirs in you: what invitation Jesus offers you and your response to him emerging in you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to put your faith in action.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ prayer expresses his mind. By giving us his prayer Jesus lets all of us share his mind. By praying his words, we embody his mind and make it more available to us, and through us, to others. The rest are details.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Some consider he didn’t say it. It appeared at the BBC, which is known for fact-checking.
  2. Joe Paprocki. His reflection on the theme is at his blog.
  3. A paraphrase of St. Ignatius of Loyola. See his Spiritual Exercises, Second Week, Third Prelude.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Symptom of Larger Crisis

The Health and Human Services [HSS] ruling, which has caused such havoc in the U.S., is a symptom. With the ruling, noted Boston College Law School Dean, Vincent Rougeau:

the United States has boxed itself in and is now in a very uncomfortable position, not because of the interpretation of the HHS rule, which the courts or policy-makers will no doubt work out after the election, but because of the deeper cultural and political dysfunction this controversy exposes.
Dean Rougeau contributed this to yesterday’s ThinkingFaith, the British Jesuits’ e-journal.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Still Traveling

Following tragic violence in Libya, which killed the U.S. ambassador and other State Department officers this week, and the ongoing violence in Syria, Pope Benedict travels today to Lebanon. Earlier this week John L. Allen Jr. offered four ways to frame the papal trip. Mr. Allen alluded to this essay by Jesuit Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, in which the Jesuit mentioned conversion in Lebanon and what makes the country unique when it comes to conversion.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Syrian Crisis in Numbers

A link was tweeted a week ago. Given the daily violence perpetrated against the Syrian people, the numbers have increased. Yet the post is fresh enough to give a sense of the constancy of the crimes and the world’s failure of nerve to act. Update: War is tearing apart families.

Wiki-image by Viktorvoigt and modified by Dove of white flag used by CC BY-SA 2.5.

Problems or Virtues?

The political races have underscored the problems facing the retirement set. Those do need to be addressed. However, are those years to be each retiree’s “20-year vacation?” Jesuit Edward Vacek wonders about that.

“Many gerontologists, under the influence of individualism, affluence and secularism, encourage retirees to enjoy to the hilt their new found release from responsibilities. Their message is a far cry from that of Christianity in the past which encouraged the elderly to practise resignation, self-sacrifice and religious trust.”    “What virtues should Christians today recommend?”
Read Fr. Vacek's suggestions.
Wiki-image by Gerrit of Chelsea Pensioners Great Hall used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Said Best

Most eloquent image for this day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

“Global Scourge”

Human “trafficking touches on some of the most uncomfortable and conflicted areas of American public discourse.” The cover story of today’s CSM is not a brief read. It does uncover incorrect statistics. It also offers clarity amidst all the “ambiguities and confusions and facts and fictions” surrounding human trafficking.

Wiki-image by Kay Chernush for the U.S. State Department of prostitutes and potential customers in Thailand used with permission.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sunday word, 09 Sep 2012

Collaborating With God
23d Sunday of the Year B (09 Sep 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Political conventions seek to accomplish many things. One of them is that candidates assure voters they have listened to us. Feeling we have been heard is important to us. Because others have listened to me, I have grown to feel listening is important to extend and not only to receive. It is not listening only; it is the broader ways we give our attention to others.
Giving attention to others is feeling with them. Scripture and our Catholic heritage call feeling with others compassion. The compassion Jesus showed attracted people to him. Pope St. Leo called it Jesus’ sacred compassion because it revealed God’s desire for people to be whole.1 Jesus extended his compassion without discrimination. He ministered to non-Jews in a region where they were in the majority and the culture was the Roman culture Jews despised.

The Letter of James reminds us our Messiah and Savior is also our model. Today’s selection focused us on paying attention as he did. For us to show compassion like Jesus does not mean that we will exceedingly astonish people as Jesus did by his miraculous healing. Jesus knew his miracles offered experiences of God’s closeness. Jesus desired people become ambassadors of God’s closeness not obsessed by any miracles. To show compassion like Jesus does mean seeing another and looking beyond gold rings and fine clothes, which attract us, and shabby clothes and poverty, which repel us.  

How do we become ambassadors of God’s closeness? We become those ambassadors when we pay attention to how God in Jesus by their Spirit are close to us, patient with us, attentive to us, creating us at each moment. Carving out moments of quiet allow us to pay attention that way and then to live from what we notice.

St. James was explicit in his letter: My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. His straightforward language always challenged. Martin Luther felt the Letter of James threatened the priority of faith. Yet, Luther could never exclude the letter from the bible. Today, James continues to challenge how we live our faith.  Praying for courage to voice our Christian convictions flows from faith. Praying to be awakened to notice our need for deeper conversion and the needs of others helps us express our faith in our Messiah Jesus.

St. James awakens us to the miracles we can work: ways of collaborating with God’s nearness and God’s justice. Collaborating with God’s nearness and God’s justice make them more tangible in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods,  and schools. We Catholics collaborate with God’s nearness and justice because, “We believe people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”2

The basis for our “right and...duty to seek the common good and well being of all” may surprise you: it’s the Seventh Commandment.3 We think of it first as not to steal. That is what not to do. Jesus and the prophets before him transformed it from merely not doing into acting justly with no partiality, that is, with God’s heartfelt care.
St. Ignatius of Loyola recommended the Commandments 4 so we may take the pulse of our lives as friends of Messiah Jesus. Inspired by his word we heard I suggest this for your week ahead. Give Jesus 15 quiet minutes a day.

  • Rest in the Trinity who personally and lovingly notices you by creating you at each moment.
  • Ask St. James to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus about how you live the Seventh Commandment; how you embody God’s justice for “the common good and well being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
  • Ask Jesus for grace to look forward to giving his name more glory.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It is after we say hallowed be thy name and complete the prayer that we have our chances to live our faith explicitly.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. From the opening of his Homily on the Beatitudes.
  2. Principle of Catholic Social Teaching; see this summary of them. 
  3. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church online, Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 2 at 506: What is set forth by the seventh commandment? “The seventh commandment requires respect for the universal destination and distribution of goods and the private ownership of them, as well as respect for persons, their property, and the integrity of creation. The Church also finds in this Commandment the basis for her social doctrine which involves the correct way of acting in economic, social and political life, the right and the duty of human labor, justice and solidarity among nations, and love for the poor.” 
  4. Spiritual Exercises [239-243].


Friday, September 07, 2012

“Antique Prejudice”

Violence against Christians in Israel is the latest. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. notes lethal violence affects “a staggering total of 150,000 martyrs every year, meaning 17 deaths every hour.” He offers three reasons why no groundswell has happened.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Lines With No Standing

E-commerce will continue to grow more profitable as this infographic presented by Stephanie Buck shows. 

Wiki-image by Aaaahandbag of cotton polo used by CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

More Like Moses

Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge (Brisbane, Australia) reminds listeners that they are more similar to Moses than they think. Give his 5:20 reflection a listen.

Play and Hate

The tragedy in Syria is harming children in ways unseen. Yes, some adults “egg them on,” but they have grown in a poisonous climate. The organization, Save the Children, mentioned in this NYT article about Syrian children, is climbing a very steep hill.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sunday word, 02 Sep 2012

22d Sunday of the Year B (02 Sep 2012)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We resume hearing Mark’s gospel on the 13 Sundays remaining in the liturgical year. Recalling Mark’s purpose can help us hear his gospel better. Mark wrote for people who had already received the secret of God’s kingdom as gift, grace, new life. He wrote for Christians. Mark reminded them of what they received and urged them to appreciate God’s saving work.

What might that mean for us? It means our purpose is not to conquer with words but to convert our hearts. That will prepare others to convert their hearts when they see what our transformed hearts lead us to do. That is in sync with Mark’s purpose. It is the essence of Christianity and of Judaism.

Our heritage from Judaism has long impressed me but never more-so than on Easter Sunday 19 years ago. A Jewish friend came to Mass that morning. Afterward he remarked he recognized much from Jewish worship. He noted how similar the procession with the gospel book, from altar to pulpit, was to the procession of the torah scroll taken from its place in the synagogue and processed to its pulpit. Evan repeated his surprise before we left church for breakfast. I looked him in the face and said, “Evan, we got it all from you!”

Our worship did evolve from Jewish worship; Christians evolved from Jews. Consider some of our other practices: fasting; daily prayers; intercessory prayers; bread & wine. Jesus, the New Passover, didn’t choose bread and wine on a whim. They were used every sabbath as well as Passover. Nor must I forget to mention alms.

On my first visit to my friend’s home, I noticed he had a box on a table into which Evan deposited the change in his pocket: alms for a Jewish charity. He made his compassion action. A little thing, a habit for Evan, was a big thing for me to see. Think of each one of our personal devotions and acts of compassion. We never know how our practice affects others. 

My friend did not notice that I noticed. I never mentioned for some time the effect he had on my heart. His observance of the commandments of the Lord embodied Moses’ words: for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, how close is the Lord, our God.

God’s commandments have people at heart. They help us do God’s justice, think the truth [and] slander no one. That means God is not tucked away for Sunday or for crises or other turning points. Living an uneventful day is a path to God. Many and subtle are the temptations that derail us and suggest we take other paths. 

When I reflect on temptations which derail me I notice they share something: they lack a sense of surprise. They seem they were supposed to be there. They appear as if my life were supposed to take such turns; as if they were supposed to be part of my God-desired self. Yet they are delusions! Chasing our temptations instead of standing against them deludes us. Chasing our compulsions, inadequacies, our fears and self-doubts delude us and constrain us.

God’s commands do not intend to constrain us. Our temptations suggest otherwise, and they often succeed to constrain us. The commands of God seek to liberate us: they help us be doers of the word [of God] and not hearers only. They help shape hearts which are in God’s orbit. When we allow ourselves to be within it; when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God’s loving, creative presence, we are truly surprised, even set off balance. When we are in God’s orbit the usual surprises us; the humane appeals to us; we vibrate with love. Neither temptations nor merely hearing God’s word do that.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask St. James to present you to Jesus.
  • Speak with Jesus: praise him for creating you and redeeming you today. As people, actions and blessings surface on your heart and mind, thank Jesus for them and ask yourself, “How did I respond?”
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to act more in sync with him and his good news as you look forward to tomorrow.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words lead us are not limited to away from temptation and evil. His words lead us express our conviction that God in Jesus blazes the trail for us to follow.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-image from Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum of Jesus and Pharisees is in the public domain. Wiki-image by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing of illustration for James, Chapters 1-2, used by CC BY-SA 3.0.