Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday word, 31 Dec 17

Sunday of the Christmas Octave Year B (31 Dec 2017)
Gn 15. 1-6; 21. 1-3; Ps 105; Hb 11. 8, 11-12, 17-19; Lk 2. 22-40
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
On Edge
At each Christmas festival we joyfully celebrate the beginnings of our redemption.1 While the Nativity was a singular event God prepared it from of old. God’s preparations began with Abraham and Sarah. The first covenant couple was not likely to have children; but they had their promised son. Before their first of countless children was born, Abram put his faith in the Lord, who reckoned it to him as an act of righteousness. God’s reckoning was God’s gift: Abraham did nothing to earn it; the covenant in fact was just beginning to be established between God and humans.2

Like the child to be born the covenant was pure gift. The gift of the covenant to Abraham is enduring. Even Abraham lived as though God had made to him enduring promises. He counted on God in every circumstance—even one we find impossible to explain and even intolerable.

Another edge of the covenant is days after Jesus’ birth. The presentation of Jesus took place at an edge of the temple, not where sacrifice was offered. The temple was far more than an area within four walls; it was a vast array of courts and open spaces as well as enclosed ones.3 First born sons were devoted to God—literally passed over and redeemed as God passed over and redeemed the Israelites.4 Presenting first born sons to God remind Jews of their status as God-redeemed. Jesus’ presentation was at the edge of the redemption of creation and all in it. The angel’s promise to Mary included a name for her son5: Jesus means, God saves.

At the dawn of Jesus’ life Simeon told his parents startling news about how Jesus would save: this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Mary had already sung that God dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart—those with calculating hearts; casting down rulers to lift up the lowly.6

We may not have calculating hearts, yet we often find choosing for Jesus does not come as readily as we’d like. Simeon and Anna welcomed the child with expectant hearts. They waited long years for that single day. They welcome us into the drama of Christian faith. It is less about our accomplishments and more about God’s desire to lift up us and everyone. We may have to ready ourselves to let God-in-Jesus save us; yet no matter to what lengths anyone goes to welcome Jesus, Jesus is the one who save us not ourselves.

Mary turned over in heart everything about her child: My soul magnifies the Lord7; her exultation continued quietly. Mary and the shepherds cue us that events surrounding her son are about attitude and grace not results of our effort. That may feel uncomfortable, even curiously liberating. It puts us at an edge of how we live day to day. Asking for graced help to live at faith’s edge, to live with wonder in the face of created things is not only a good way to begin a year. To live with faithful wonder imitates the Mother of God.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Rest in the love our triune God offers us.
  • Ask the shepherds and Mary to present us to her son.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise him for embodying God in human flesh, bone and emotion; thank Jesus for stirring within us desires to draw nearer to him.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to live with greater wonder in the face of creation and all it holds.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, give us this day, remind us that everything is gift, including our very selves.
  1. Roman Missal, Prayer Over the Offerings, Christmas Vigil Mass.
  2. St. Paul notes that Abraham had faith before covenant religion had come to be (Romans 4.1-25).
  3. A view of the Holy Land model may be viewed here.
  4. Exodus 13.12-14.
  5. Luke 1.31.
  6. Luke 1.51-52.
  7. Luke 1.46.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sunday word, 24 Dec 17

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God’s Personal Care
Like others I readily think from early to late: chronologically or historically. So easy is it to think of Advent that way. We do live between two comings of Jesus, his first advent and his second, his glorious return to restore all creation to its original design: everything that [God] had made…was very good.1 The church invites us to ponder the glorious return of Messiah Jesus as each church year ends and Advent begins. In a word, Christians are future oriented.

As Advent progresses and Christmas dawns we turn our gaze to the graced events that began our salvation. The gospel invites us to join Mary; she received word that all God’s promises through history would be fulfilled in her. In a word, Christians are past oriented, too.

Future and past: what of our present? Our present is our triune God. The Trinity creates each moment: our triune God holds in being all things. You and I do not know how that happens. We enjoy glimmers of greater understanding as we probe creation’s vast vistas—oceans beneath, the universe beyond. The good news—gospel—the good news assures us we can rest confidently in God-with-us without having to understand fully. Mary: How can this promise [God makes to me to bear God’s son into the world happen]; I am a virgin? The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

Overshadow is not the most helpful word. Scripture used a word that did not mean to obscure as clouds conceal the sun; it conveyed God’s action: Holy Spirit exerted creative energy within the womb of the virgin Mary. Because her son gave us his Spirit God’s ongoing creative influence is shed on us. Ongoing: every moment.

Even more astonishing to me is God’s desire to create. God created and God’s creation was very good. It is our common home.2 Humans frustrated its goodness; yet God chose to restore it in person. I will build you a house, God had promised King David. Play on home, house—for humans, for God—lineage and kingdom thread through Nathan’s prophetic message to David. God housed Godself in Mary’s womb to be born fully human and fully divine. Fully human God would personally restore creation. Not only does God in Jesus strengthen us, as Paul reminded us. Peter also encouraged: God in Jesus will personally restore, confirm, strengthen, and ground us in God’s creative desire.3

When we celebrate the beginnings of our redemption4 in a few hours we celebrate our past, future and our present all at once. A teacher I had remarked the “present makes the future past.” Something more true flows from our faith: God’s ongoing creative activity on our behalf opens every present moment onto God’s future for us and with us. As Pope Francis reminds us:
In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, know-ing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast. …At the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God…and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which with us [God] will share in unending plenitude. Even now we are journeying towards the sabbath of eternity, the new Jerusalem, towards our common home in heaven. Jesus says: “I make all things new.”5
Francis neatly express present, past and future and how faith unites them all in God’s heart of “infinite beauty.” Jesus invites us to join his renovation of everything.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week rest in the bright love our triune God extends to us moment by moment. Ask Mary to present us to her son. Chat with Jesus: praise him for embodying God in human flesh, bone and emotion; thank Jesus for calling us to join him and his mission. Ask Jesus for the grace to bear him into our “common home entrusted to us” with and for others. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his words so that living by them we may do our parts to reveal his risen glory everywhere we find ourselves.
  1. Genesis 1.31.
  2. The phrase appears 11 times throughout Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Sí! It first appears in his title: “On Care for Our Common Home.” He means planet Earth. “Planet” appears 30 times.
  3. 1Peter 5.10.
  4. The Roman Missal, Christmas Vigil Mass, Prayer over the Offerings.
  5. Laudato Sí!, 244…243.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-image Detail by PDP of Tympanum of Chartes Cathedral by © Guillaume Piolle CC BY 3.0: the 12 Apostles stand below the risen Lord; at their extreme right is King David, royal ancestor of Jesus; Annunciation to Mary PD-US

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday word, 10 Dec 17

Advent Sunday2 Year B (10 Dec 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Creation Kissed
When did our end begin? For Christians end means fulness of time, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will be at home. God’s righteousness created our original innocence. God’s righteousness and our original innocence harmonize with one another. That is what Jesus revealed by his living and announcing that God draws near. Our Christian end, that is, the fulfilment of history, began with the first arrival of Jesus.

The Advent season opens each year with a look at the fulfilment of history; then it turns our eyes to Jesus’ first arrival. Advent’s First Sunday bridges what the gospels of the final Sunday of the church year invite us to consider: the summing up all of creation in Christ Jesus and our participation in it. At Jesus’ first arrival he began his call to others to join his mission. The rest of Advent helps us look again at the way God worked Jesus’ arrival for us in human circumstances: of time; location; culture; and faith.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Those words are words of faith; they entitle the Gospel of Mark. Its first hearers would have been more astonished on hearing them than most of us today. To titles describe Jesus: Christ, that is, Messiah; and Son of God. That the God of Israel would have a son was impossible to imagine. God personally accompanied the people Israel and each person from the beginning; and God was also totally unlike people. A messiah, one God would anoint and appoint, was possible to imagine. Indeed, people had come to long for a messiah who would resemble King David and Prophet Moses. All the prophets after Moses would speak of God’s heartfelt longing to re-accompany God’s people. But that God would personally do that in flesh and blood—Jesus, God’s son—was beyond most everyone.

For the early church today’s responsorial psalm captured essentially how Jesus embodied God. God’s salvation drew near in Jesus; in Jesus: Kindness and truth met; justice and peace kissed. Truth sprang out of the earth, and God’s justice…walked the earth in a way we too may walk.

In scripture a kiss signalled greeting—of family and friends; it expressed marital love; it also expressed loyalty. God kissed creation by entering it as human.  By God’s kiss friendship, love and loyalty received new status. That status and solidarity Christians ex-pressed to one another with the holy kiss.1 After the newly baptized were dressed in brilliant white robes the next ritual was the first holy kiss of greeting, a greeting repeated throughout their lives.

To celebrate the beginning of our salvation, beginnings of our redemption or beginnings of God’s grace,2 the Incarnation of God in Jesus, son of God and son of Mary two things may help us enter this mystery: losing ourselves in God’s love for creation; love so deep that God kissed creation to entered it as human. Second, we may ponder: does the Christian holy kiss shape and sustain our eager longing for new heavens and a new earth in which God’s righteousness will be at home? Every element in the story of God’s advent and birth as human can help our holy kiss purify our societies and our creation.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week

  • Pause in the bright love of our triune God who loves us enough to become human for us.
  • Ask John the Baptizer to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for embodying God in human flesh, bone and emotion; thank Jesus for calling us to join him and his mission.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to lose ourselves in his love that transforms every relationship—with creation, with others, with God.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his words as our guide to walk eagerly in his steps of his kindness, comfort, mercy and peace. His prayer reminds us we enjoy already his kindness, comfort, mercy and peace and will enjoy them fully at his glorious return.
  1. Romans 16.16; 1Corinthians 16.20; 2Corinthians 13.12; 1Thessalonians 5.26; 1Peter 5.14.
  2. From the Roman Missal: the first is from the Christmas Vigil Mass, Prayer over the Offerings; the second is from its Octave Day, Prayer over the Offerings

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sunday word, 03 Dec 17

Advent Sunday1 Year B (03 Dec 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Telling Time
We mark time in various ways. Clocks and calendars come first to mind: seconds become minutes; minutes become hours; hours become days; days become months, and so on. We mark seasons—and not only four annual divisions. We also mark seasons of our lives: infancy; childhood; youth; adult years; middle years; senior years. Turning points dot every life, too: significant events and experiences of all sorts.

Jesus and his Jewish ancestors and contemporaries marked time in an additional way: according to a previous calling and a future accounting. It began with Abram: God called him to move to a place God would disclose; God promised: I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.1 God entered into a covenant with that future people and gave them 10 words to live by: the commandments.2 

After many turning points the people felt a need and hunger for a messiah—a prophet like Moses3 and a leader like David.4 Jesus satisfied their need and hunger. Jesus called people to follow in his steps and to live the pattern of his life. Filled by the Spirit Jesus was raised by God and entered God’s living presence. This is what Jesus’ followers in every age expect. The grounds of our expectation is living as disciples of Jesus: each of us is called by Jesus to live as his disciples as faithfully as we can until his glorious return.

Marking time between two advents of Jesus is a related way we tell time: between his first advent to live a human life like ours—God in our flesh and blood; and his second advent when he will sum up everything5 and present a new creation to God.6 Telling time this way may not help us keep our usual daily schedules and follow our routines. It does bring us closer to Jesus and lets us inhabit the gospels in ways our usual telling time cannot. Telling time this way follows the coordinates of God and helps us grow more firm in faith, joyful in hope and active in charity.7 As we tell time according to God’s coordinates we live more as Jesus and his disciples lived, as Jesus urged: What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’ By Watch! Jesus means to live the gospel way.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the bright love of our triune God who faithfully creates us each moment.
  • Ask the first disciples to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise Jesus for embodying God in human flesh, bone and emotion; thank Jesus for calling us to join him and his mission.
  • Ask Jesus for the grace to run the Christian life in an eager, self-effacing way: that is, to live marked by the gospel way of firm faith, joyful hope and active charity.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his words as our guide to be alert, ready to welcome him at his glorious return.
  1. Genesis 12.1-2.
  2. Exodus 20.1-17.
  3. Deuteronomy 18.15.
  4. 2Samuel 7.8-16; Psalm 89.
  5. Ephesians 1.10.
  6. 1Corinthians 15.28.
  7. Roman Missal, “Solemn Blessing and Prayers Over the People, I.1,” Solemn Blessing for Advent.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sunday School Teacher. . .

. . .As well as former Director of the F.B.I. On the one hand, people for whom faith is alive don’t flaunt their service done in faith. On the other hand, learning such facts helps make civil servants more real to the public.
   The fact that Mr. James Comey had been both is a tidbit in an essay about the man who once “had adopted the handle @Niebuhr for his secret Twitter account.” 

Wiki-image by Rob Farrow Norman chapel CC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday word, 19 Nov 17

Thirty-third Sunday of the Year A (19 Nov 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Risking Love
These past Sunday liturgies have their distinct feel: their gospels recall Jesus offering parables with an end-time edge. The edge of the end-time is sifting: good from bad; prudent from foolish; choice for the kingdom from choice against it. One risks choosing God’s way because one is loved by God and feels it.

Risk-taking is often considered imprudent. Yet we can name risks worth taking. Risking ourselves with others in friendship, marriage, consecrated life and all of us in moments of Christian service are not always foolish choices. Continuing to do things when the tide is against us is a risk; individuals who risk learn themselves. Learning we are stronger or more patient or more courageous than we thought doesn’t change the riskiness of situations; learning we are stronger or more patient or more courageous than we imagined reveals us to ourselves.

An even greater revelation is this: our triune God risked divinity for our sakes. The Trinity risked for us! St. Ignatius of Loyola expressed it this way: aware humans readily cooperate with things that are not life-giving the Trinity decide in their eternity the Second Person would become a human being in order to save the human race.1 Their eternal decision risked Mary’s choice: she could have declined to embody divinity and give birth to Jesus, God incarnate.

I can hear someone object, Where’s the risk? Mary didn’t decline; and another, Jesus was God. Yes, and fully human, too. The mystery of an embodied God easily causes logical people to defer to divinity over humanity or humanity over divinity. The mystery holds both together—something humanly impossible for us. Yet, Jesus’ humanity has given everyone access to God.2 Like his mother Jesus also was free to decline: recall the garden? Father let this cup [of suffering] pass from me. But not my will but yours be done.3

To help us enter the coming week scripture offers us four models: the gracious wife and mother of the first reading and the honourable husband of the psalm; both revere God by embodying the ways and desires of God in each one’s life. Another model is the faithful Christian. Faithful Christians live with others as children of light. A faithful Christian is neither fanatic nor unrooted—fanatic or unrooted Christian is a contradiction; faithful Christians live in the present and breathe the atmosphere of the future: the power of Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit enlightens and enlivens us even now with the vitality of God’s desire that is dawning though not yet fully blossomed.

The final icon models how not to live. Servants of a most generous householder were given responsibilities. The use of money is one concrete responsibility. In Jesus’ parable the amounts were staggering: a talent was a unit of weight used in Jesus’ day; a talent of gold in Canada today would be worth nearly $1.6 million; a talent of silver, $21,000. The householder trusted his servants. One of them wouldn’t live up to that trust: he buried his master’s money. The parable reminds us: God trusts us; God creates us each moment. Our use of possessions symbolizes our response to God. Our self-understanding is that we are God’s treasured possession4: Jews, first,5 and all Christians.

How can we live as God’s treasured possession? By rediscovering that we are. Pope Francis offered an image to help us. He invited us to imagine “God’s boundless love” as a “sea.” Next, he invited us to “dive into” God’s love.6 Risk that dive to rediscover ourselves as children of light: loved and trusted by God and more alert to the Trinity’s love of us and freer to love others.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the company of our triune God creating us each moment.
  • Ask Mary and our patron saints to present us to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: praise him for becoming human for us; thank him for inviting us to share his life; consider when and how we have responded to our triune God’s boundless love.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to respond more freely to his love and constant invitation to share his life and mission.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us…our daily bread, more than ask for physical nourishment. The sustenance our triune God offers exceeds food. It nourishes us to live holy, humane, joyful, loving lives that extend Jesus’ mission of love with and for others.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Spiritual Exercises, 102.
  2. Romans 5.2; Ephesians 2.18; 3.12.
  3. Matthew 26.39.
  4. First in Exodus 19.5; repeated often even into 1Peter 2.9.
  5. Romans 1.162.9see also 9.4-5
  6. His 2014 Ash Wednesday homily.

Wiki-image by Andrey Mironov Parable of the Talents CC BY-SA 4.0; by kallerna Campfire and sparks CC BY-SA 3.0