Saturday, October 13, 2018

Funeral Homily for Sr. Eleanor Klaber, VHM

11 October 2018
Isaiah 25: 6-9
1 Corinthians 2: 6-10
John: 15: 9-17
It would take a long time to narrate the details from the life of a woman who lived ninety-two years. It would be impossible without taking a lunch break in the case of Sister Eleanor, a woman who allowed few details or events to escape her notice or go unrecorded. Of her ninety-two years Sister lived 60 of them as a professed Visitandine, having said yes to her vocation in 1956 when she entered and professing vows in 1958. 
At Mont de Chantal in West Virginia and later here in Georgetown, Sister was something of an historian who kept a journal of everything that happened. She delighted in sharing some of those stories with me when I lived on the other side of the wall and had the opportunity to visit regularly. She was a very enthusiastic conversationalist. Sister was very much a people person. Her photo could be above the definition of "people person" in any edition of Webster's. She was very faithful to prayer, particularly prayer for priests, seminarians, and vocations to the priesthood. Father Tim, who proclaimed the gospel a few moments ago, was one of her "boys," as she called them. As a beneficiary of many of those prayers over the past eight years or so I thank her from the bottom of my heart. It is comforting to know that her prayers have gained an even greater power now. 
Sister Eleanor's decline was gradual. Her death was not unexpected as it came about as a combination of chronic diseases and the expected ravages of old age. The progression from walking unaided, to using a walker, to the wheelchair, was gradual but steady. Things moved more rapidly during the summer when she entered hospice care after being discharged from hospital. As the summer came to an end her stated goal was to live until her 92nd birthday in September. She expressed regret to Mother Berchmans that she would not be able to greet her guests at her funeral. I was not surprised to hear that when Mother shared that comment. No matter if a death is unexpected or not, whether it occurs in old age or middle age, the death of another is always sobering. For those privileged to be present at the death of another, the moment of movement from life to eternal life is awe-inspiring. 
Isaiah assured us in the first reading that the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples, that the Lord of hosts will wipe away the tears from all faces, that the Lord of hosts will destroy death forever. These words of prophecy are on the mark. They surpass the mark. The prophecy that death would be destroyed forever was brought to fulfillment in the new covenant, sealed in the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Because that covenant overthrew death, our sorrow today, our sorrow at every death, is tempered with consolation, our grief is eased with joy. However, sorrow and grief are only tempered and eased. At best the sharp edges are smoothed off a bit. Sorrow is not abolished. Grief does not magically disappear.
A death in a religious community ripples out like a pebble tossed into a pond. A sister's absence in choir, at Mass, at table, and at recreation will be impossible to ignore. In the case of Sister Eleanor, the absence of her enthusiasm about everything, and her characteristic giggle will be especially palpable. Grieving and adjusting to Sister's death will take time. There is no way to speed up the process.
Death has a different meaning for those who believe in Christ. It is no longer to be feared. It is no longer a descent into nothingness. It is not, as some pathetic cynical types like to snort, just a return to the food chain. 
As Sister's coffin was covered with the pall it was sprinkled with holy water to the words, "In the water of baptism Eleanor died with Christ and rose with him to new life." Those who die in Christ die to death itself. Those who die in Christ enter into new life after only the briefest of moments. There is a mere breath, a tiny interval, in between life to eternal life. There was just a sigh, before sister entered into something none of us can know until we too have come to the end of our lives on earth.
The late Jesuit priest-psychiatrist, Fr. Ned Cassem, wrote several short meditations on death, including this one: "Death is not depressing. It's inspiring. It makes one sad but being sad is different from being depressed. If there is a lot of sadness it is a measure of how much the person was loved." Were we to turn on a sadness meter right now the indicator would make several complete revolutions around the dial before settling into place (assuming the main-spring first didn't break first). Sr. Eleanor was loved and she was lovable. Love is her legacy, the most appropriate legacy for a Visitandine. 
A woman who took great delight in small things, she managed to carry enough supplies in the basket of her walker for an assault on Mt. Everest. I am grateful for the copy of The Imitation of Christ that Sister gave me a few years ago. It was, of course, buried somewhere in that walker basket when I visited one day. 
Death is a gift to those who are graced to be with another who is dying. Another quote from Fr. Cassem, "If you confront death with somebody you love who is dying, out of that will come learning that transforms your life. It leaves you stronger, braver, and calmer."
At her solemn profession Mass on May 15, 1961, Sister Eleanor was examined with five questions. Though edited for the sake of brevity the questions were: 
Are
 you resolved to unite yourself more closely to God? 
Are you resolved to live this life and to persevere in it forever.
Are you resolved to strive for perfection in the love of God and neighbor after the example of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal? 
Are you resolved to live a life hidden in God for the salvation of the world? 
Are you resolved to live for God alone in prayer, common life, willing penance, humble work and holiness of life? 
After Sister responded "I am so resolved" to each of the questions the priest concluded with a blessing: "May God who has begun this good work in you bring it to fulfillment before the day of Christ Jesus." Sister Eleanor was granted the blessing of bringing that good work to fulfillment. We rejoice in that gift even as we acknowledge our sorrow at her death.
Funerals are sorrowful occasions. Because we are human they cannot be otherwise. They are times of taking leave of the one who died and confronting the loss of memories each of us shared with her. You will hear in the preface, " . . . for your faithful Lord, life is changed not ended. . . " Funerals signal that life is changed for all of us. However, the sorrow of grieving is tempered by joy in knowing that though we are sinners, we are loved by God. The weight of sadness is balanced by optimism in the mystery and gift of the cross. The burden of grief is eased by faith in the future—faith in the promise of eternal life. Those who believe cannot help but take comfort in their faith in Christ; Son of God and Son of Mary, Jesus, who redeemed us from our sins, Jesus, whose death saved us from death. 
We heard Jesus' words to His apostles in the reading from John's Gospel: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . Love one another." These words are among the most difficult, poignant, and comforting in all of John's Gospel. Just as we are never separated from Jesus' love, we are never separated from the love of those we call friends. It doesn't matter if thousands of miles lay between, if dementia wrecks mind and memory, or if death has supervened, as it did on Sunday, for Sr. Eleanor May Klaber, of the Visitation of Holy Mary, the love between and among friends never ends. It never dies, succumbs to dementia, or moves away. A long life on this earth has ended for Sister Eleanor. Her new Eternal Life has begun. 
Requiem aeternam dona ea, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ea!
Eternal rest, grant unto her, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her.
______________________________________________

Sister Eleanor was a Visitation Sister for 60 years.  I got to know her when I was at G'town.  She was a delightful woman for whom I was spiritual director for about a year or two and then visited whenever possible when I got to D.C.  From the reports of the other sisters I know she prayed for my daily for several years.  She also asked me to celebrate her funeral Mass, a request she transmitted to the superior when she was dying.  

The photos below are from Walden pond.  I took a Chinese diocesan priest there.  The morning weather was not pretty but suddenly autumn arrived:  The temp dropped, the humidity disappeared, and the sky cleared to what you see in the photos.  Great day.  Fr. Peter noted that when he was studying English the teacher gave them an essay on Walden Pond to read.  He enjoyed the trip.  There were very few people there, I think because of the miserable weather until just an hour before we arrived.  More were arriving as we left.  

A mock-up of Thoreau's cabin at the parking lot across the street from the pond.  It is not large.

The inside of the cabin.  Most of it. 

Fr. Peter.   This is all of the cabin.

Two fishermen.  Walden is open for fishing, swimming, and boating without motors.  NO jet skis. 

Fr. Peter.  It was cold.  I'd packed an extra sweatshirt. 

A still life.  Note the Patriots coffee cup (for tea). 

The leaves have not yet peaked.  Probably next weekend. 

Very few people.  Passed perhaps a dozen while we were there. 

Nat King Cole singing "Autumn Leaves."  Stay with that thought.

This guy was playing computer games on his phone. 

Some manipulation made it look a lot later in the day than it was. 

Another "late day shot

 Blue heron.  I don't normally shoot birds.  He took off but I didn't get much of a shot.

The sky was perfect, unlike a few hours earlier. 

A red leaf on a stone background. 

Walden is only about 2 miles around.  We took it slow walking mostly along the beach. 

Leaf floating in the water. 

An almost-silhouette.  I took this to recreate a similar photo from Australia years ago. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Monday, October 1, 2018

An Anniversary or Two

1 October 2013 was a spectacularly beautiful October day that was sunny and  dry. It included a sky with scattered puffy clouds and a gentle breeze.  It could not have been any better.  Two days after returning from an eight-day retreat at St. Joseph Trappist Abbey in Spencer, MA two days earlier I was waiting in front of the Campion Center infirmary to meet Adolfo Nicolás SJ, Father General of the Society of Jesus. He had just begun a visitation of the Society's educational institutions for Jesuits in formation in the U.S.  At Campion he was going to visit the men in the infirmary, address the men of the New England Province, and celebrate Mass.  During the Mass he would receive my final vows as a Jesuit. 

Unlike other religious orders in which vows are pronounced after the homily a Jesuit pronounces his vows, both first and final, immediately before communion kneeling in front of the Body and Blood of Christ.  

No more than thirty days before his final vows a man is required to make an eight-day retreat, a general confession, and write and probate  his will, thus relieving himself of all property.  He must also write three copies of the vows on special acid-free paper.  Those who have experienced my penmanship will not be surprised to learn that I practiced a lot before writing on the papers that would be sent to the community file, the provincial file, and to Rome. 

All the details had been checked and rechecked.  The confession was made. (The notes I'd written for that 90 minute marathon were soaked in water, compressed into a ball, and hurled into the middle of a pond on the monastery grounds.) The retreat had been splendid.  Everything was ready.  

There are moments of the vows that I remember with clarity and others that seem, even now, a bit surreal. Fr. Provincial Sheehan and I concelebrated Mass with Fr. General.  Just before the Our Father I moved from behind the altar to a prie-dieupositioned in front of the altar on which one of the three copies of the vows was resting.  I knelt and, after the congregation of about 200 Jesuits and a few others recalled its unworthiness to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord, began to read the vow formula.  After receiving communion I returned to my chair.  

Following Mass Fr. General, seven other SJs, and I returned to the sacristy where it was time to kneel for the "simple vows," five additional vows that are made in the sacristy in the presence of other Jesuits.  Usually it is all the SJs in attendance.  Given the number at the Mass that was going to be impossible.  As I explained, getting two hundred Jesuits to be quiet at the same time would prove to be a difficult task anyway.  After Fr. General, who received those vows as well, the most important witness was George Murray, SJ, MD who had been my fellowship director in consultation psychiatry at MGH some fifteen years earlier. He had accompanied me every step of the way from picking me up at Logan on entry day in 1997 to vesting me at ordination in 2007.  Six weeks later he was dead.  I celebrated and preached his funeral Mass.  

There is one other 1 October anniversary to be noted.  Today is the anniversary of the death of Fr. Jimmy Martin, SJ, a native of Plymouth, PA (yes, dear Old Shawnee).  To my knowledge Jimmy and I are the only two men to have entered the Society from Plymouth. What makes Jimmy's death memorable is that he died at age 105 years, 1 month, and 1 day.  He was mostly compos mentisuntil the last few months before his death.  

Despite having moved from Plymouth to Hanover when he was nine and then later to Philly where he graduated from St. Joe's Prep, he retained fond memories of Plymouth.  His mom had belonged to the Ebenezer Baptist Church on Gaylord Ave.   According to him, his father was walking by one day and heard a woman's beautiful voice singing.  He met her, they dated, and he proposed.  His mom converted prior to marriage.  In another conversation Jimmy told me how he had learned to play tennis on the courts behind the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.  I'd completely forgotten about those courts as they had been replaced by parking many years earlier.  

There is much to write about Jimmy.  He was a delight.  His death was peaceful.  He'd developed pneumonia over the weekend and remained unresponsive most of the time.  At about 5:30 on Monday afternoon the nurses in the infirmary called.  They felt that death was imminent.  I examined him.  It was. I went to the chapel where Mass was just ending to inform the superior.  He announced Jimmy's impending death.  Twenty men went from the chapel to his room (it was large).  One of the men began the prayers for the dying. Just as Phil intoned the final amen Jimmy heaved a deep sigh and his soul departed.  I pronounced him dead and then went for a walk, the better to mull over his long life.  

I am grateful that the two anniversaries coincide as Jimmy's example of fidelity to Jesuit life for 86 years (!!!!!!) is an example inextricably bound to my final vow anniversary. I am grateful for both.  
___________________________________________________

Photos of final vows and the man who, at the time the photo was taken, was the oldest Jesuit in the world. 

The vow program.  Because Father General was receiving the vows there was a photographer present.  He was excellent and completely unobtrusive.  I don't remember seeing him in the sacristy despite the tiny size.  



 The beginning of Mass at the end of what was a rather long procession.

Provincial Myles Sheehan, SJ proclaiming the gospel during the Mass.

Father General giving the homily.

I may be the only Jesuit in the New England Province who pronounced first vows, celebrated his first Mass, and pronounced final vows in the same chapel.

Pronouncing vows.

Pronouncing the simple vows.  Good view of the back of Murray's head

Father General signing the vow documents.  By the time we were done each of us had signed six times.

Signing the documents.

Father General speaking with Murray.  This is the last photo ever taken of him.  The photographer's presence is only apparent in the flash in the mirror.

Jimmy Martin, SJ was only 103 when this photo was taken in 2005.



 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Feast of the Nativity of the BVM
Micah 5:1-4a
Ps 13
Matthew 1-16, 18-23

“From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel
whose origin is from of old from ancient times.”  

The first reading gives the reason for proclaiming the genealogy according to Matthew, a Gospel reading that is frequently a problem all around.  

The long list of names strikes terror in the hearts of preachers and confusion in the minds of hearers.   It is almost like the jokes about reading the phone book.  Why proclaim it?  There is no plot, no message and no point.  However, those are three misconceptions.  All three are grossly in error.  There is a compressed plot, a strong message, and a crucial point. The genealogies in scripture tell us a great deal. 

Only a dyed in the wool fundamentalist  would consider the genealogy an historical record, complete with birth certificates to confirm each name.  
Only a fool would try to reconcile each and every name with some sort of historical record.  No, there was no send-in-a-blood-sample-and-get-your-DNA- profile craze in the Ancient Near East.

Though difficult for the modern reader the genealogy teaches an important lesson.  It brings the entirety of Old Testament history and thought into the Gospel. It demonstrates something one hears in scripture class: If you want to know and understand Jesus, read the Old Testament,  because one cannot understand the New Testament without knowing the Old.  There is no possible refutation of that claim. 

Matthew’s genealogy begins with Abraham and moves down to David.  (David is the one Micah means when he says, “whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”)  It then continues down through David’s line to Jesus’ perceived father on earth, Joseph and his wife Mary whose Nativity we celebrate today.  

For Matthew’s Jewish-Christian community this genealogy had very important social, political, and religious implications.  He includes the names of three women and the mention of a fourth (whose name is no mystery). The four women are so different that it is almost impossible to find a common thread among them: 

Tamar—who seduced her father-in-law Judah and bore Perez and Zerah

Rahab—a prostitute who protected Joshua’s spies and thus saved herself and her family when Joshua’s troops laid waste to Jericho

Ruth—a righteous woman devoted to her mother-in-law Naomi, who remained with her after her (Ruth's) widowhood.

Bathsheeba—the one whose name goes unmentioned, was the wife of Uriah the Hittite.   She conceived her first child in an adulterous relationship with David.  

The fifth woman in the genealogy is Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the Theotokos, the Mother of God.  

We know nothing of her genealogy except through the undocumented tradition that her parents were named Joachim and Ann.  Mary would have been anonymous except for one yes.  Today we celebrate the birth of the woman whose fiat, whose yes, changed the history of the universe

"Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum."

“Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”

These words will echo down universe until the end of time, and will continue to echo beyond the end of time. Thus, we plead:  Pray for us O holy Mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  
____________________________________________________

The photos of various depictions of the the BVM come from several parts of the world, two from France, one from Taiwan, and two from the U.S.  Had I the time I could come up with many more but that would require combing through many files.  Some of these have already been posted here but it seemed reasonable to do so again. 

The statue of Mary at Campion Center in Weston, MA.  

Mary overlooking the harbor in Cohasset, MA as the sun sets. 

Mary with child in the Jesuit chapel at Tien Educational Center in Taipei, Taiwan.  The photo was taken in January 2011 while I was on the way to Australia for tertianship. 

The Cathedral of St. Jean in Lyon, France.  The splashes of color on the wall are from the primarily red and blue stained glass above and behind me. 

Once more in Lyon, this time in the chapel at the Jesuit residence on Rue Sala.  A photo like this is the reason to carry a camera at all times.  
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, August 19, 2018

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time  
Prov 9:1-6
Ps 33
Eph 5:15-20
Jn 6:51-58

Last Saturday,  August 11, 2018, a ritual that is over 450 years old was reenacted in several cities across the U.S.  Following the entrance procession Mass went on as usual until just before communion.  After the Lamb of God a Jesuit provincial stood at the altar.  He elevated the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord  in front of the congregation that solemnly repeated the words,  "O Lord, I am not worthy . . . ." as usual.  But then he remained in place.  One by one black clad young men approached the altar.  Each man knelt alone, gazed at the Body and Blood of Our Lord for some moments, and then began to read from a document he had hand written a few days earlier:  “Almighty and eternal God.  I understand how unworthy I am in your divine sight.  Yet I am strengthened by your infinite compassion and mercy, and I am moved by the desire to serve you. . . . “  

He continued for a few more sentences.  The newly vowed man then partook of the banquet that Jesus brought to its fullest expression, the Eucharistic banquet, the same banquet in which we will share in a few minutes.  When he returned to his place he was no longer a novice. He was now, and would remain, a perpetually vowed Jesuit.  Nineteen years and five days ago, 14 August 2018,  I read the same vow formula that, except for being in English rather than Latin, has not changed in centuries.  

The Jesuit vow Mass is unusual because rather than pronouncing vows after the homily as in other orders, we pronounce our vows kneeling in front of the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord, just as St. Ignatius of Loyola and his original companions did on August 15, 1534.  

Images of a banquet, food, and drink are prominent in today's readings and gospel.

The first reading describes the banquet that Wisdom has prepared for all who choose to partake of it True wisdom comes from God, who gave humans, and only humans, not dogs, or cats, or other lower animals no matter how much we anthropomorphize them, hearts capable of discerning good from evil.  He gave us, and only us, hearts capable of choosing to return God’s love with love, and hearts that are equally capable of rejecting God's love.  A few verses after the end of this reading one reads:  “The beginning of Wisdom is fear of the Lord; and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  There is no possible counter-argument. 

The reading from Ephesians gives important advice.  “Do not drug yourselves with wine.”  

Paul is not referring only to drinkable wine, a little chardonnay here and some merlot there. He is referring to the wine of power, the wine of money, the wine of sensual pleasure, and the resulting intoxications that cloud one's judgment.  Paul is referring to the drunkenness that takes one’s mind from discerning God’s will.  He is describing the inebriation that destroys the gifts of Wisdom. How many lives have been damaged by those who are drunk on their own greed and intoxicated by their lust for power and possessions?  Contrast this drunkenness on the wine of power, compare the gluttony at the banquet of money with the Gospel.  

Jesus tells the crowds:   “I am the living bread that came down from heaven:  Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  At the end He reiterates.  “This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Jesus wants to guide us on a challenging journey of faith.  A journey for which we are nourished only at the Eucharistic Banquet.  Unlike the wine of power and greed, unlike the junk food of position, unlike the saturated fat diet of privilege, partaking in the banquet of the Eucharist, hearing and obeying the Word of God, brings us to eternal life.  

However, there is one thing we must never forget.  Jesus is NOT promising that our lives will be free of pain and suffering.  Jesus is not promising that we won’t die; sometimes peacefully sometimes after a prolonged and difficult struggle. Jesus is not promising that those we love won’t die; be it before their time or after a long life. We all must die if we are to know eternal life. Eternal life is only possible through the Living Word, eternal life comes only through Jesus the Son of God. It is only possible because Jesus gave Himself for our salvation.  Eternal life is possible only if we avail ourselves of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

In a few moments, just as those brand new Jesuit scholastics did last Saturday, you will kneel and gaze up at the Body and Blood of Christ. 

You will hear the words:
”Behold the Lamb of God.
Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called
to the supper of the Lamb." 

You are being invited to the banquet of Wisdom.
You are being invited to the banquet that leads to eternal life. 
You need only respond: 

Amen.  

So be it.
______________________________________________ 

Most of the boys at camp making the flag pole for the 'camp flag.' 

The flag.  It was fascinating to watch the boys cooperating as they began with a large tree branch, stripped it, and eventually raised the flag. 

A silhouette of tourists at the summit of Višarje

The kids eating lunch at a farm about one mile down a ski slope from the summit of the mountain they walked down. No way I could have done that.  Riding down in a 4wd vehicle was an interesting experience.  We went very slowly. 

Three reasonably newborn calves.  Apparently they were sent into time out. 

Smoking ricotta cheese.  I've never heard of this but it sounds good. 

The farmer makes the cheese from the cow's milk he obtains daily.  This is the windowsill in his cheesemaking room.

The pot in which the milk was heated to a very specific temperature so as to make ricotta.

This explains everything about being young.  The girls ambled off at the beginning of the scavenger hunt.  The boys took off like rockets.

The kids left crumbs.  I missed lunch completely.  Had a beer instead. 

A last photo of the flag pole work. 




Saturday, August 11, 2018

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:4-8
Ps 34
Eph 4:30-5:2
Jn 6:41-51

"Taste and see, the goodness of the Lord"

The psalm response begins with two imperative verbs. The subject of an imperative verb isn’t stated but is understood to be you.  You taste the goodness of the Lord. You see the goodness of the Lord. It is probably best that the you is understood  rather than stated.  Various emphases could dramatically affect the sense of the statement. 

Taste is a complex word with multiple meanings and shades of meaning.  In medicine it means one of the five basic senses served by a complicated neural pathway.  In everyday life it means, among other things, not wearing plaid, stripes, and polka dots together unless you are a fashion designer. It may mean to experience something as in a taste of one’s own medicine; a statement that always frightens me.  And of course it can mean to sample something such as the soup to determine if there is enough salt.

Taste has specific meanings in scripture. It sometimes means to absorb nourishment in a way that it is closer to the meaning of to eat.  Thus, in response to Jonah’s preaching the King of the Ninevites proclaimed a fast when he decreed:  “Let neither man nor beast nor herd nor flock taste anything . . .”  The psalm tells us that taste includes discerning moral values, and savoring the knowledge of God, enjoying the delights of our lives here on earth and anticipating the joys of heaven.   

Elijah is an important figure in scripture.  He had tasted the delights of the Lord. He had discerned the moral laws of the Lord.   He was fearless in his prophesying  to those who had fallen from the worship of the true God, to those who had forgotten the covenant.  

In the reading from Kings Elijah was in deep despair. He had fled the wrath of Jezebel. He prayed for death. He had given up hope.  He had lost faith.  He was despondent.  When he woke from sleep he ate only after the angel commanded him.  He then set off on a journey of 40 days.  

The Jewish Study Biblenotes that  an unburdened man could walk from 15 to 25 miles a day.  Thus, in 40 days Elijah covered between 600 and 1000 miles on foot.  To put it into context, if Elijah walked 800 miles he covered the distance from Boston to Detroit.   What went through his mind during that arduous trek?  What goes through ourminds during the 40-day journeys we are forced to take on foot during our lives?  Chemotherapy. Chronic pain.  Loss. The diminishment of aging.  Are we able to taste and see the goodness of the Lord as Elijah did in spite of the despair?  

Elijah was a prophet pursued.  In today’s Gospel we are reminded that Jesus was—and remains—misunderstood  by those who purportedly believe and by those who militantly do not believe. 

A few weeks ago we heard Matthew’s Gospel in which the crowd asked,  “Where did this man get such wisdom and might deeds?  Is he not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother named Mary?” Today we hear once more what is called the “prejudice of familiarity.” There are also hints of the “prejudice of theology” and “the bias of philosophy”

The crowd’s incredulity makes sense.  How can Jesus, an ordinary guy in their experience, son of Joseph and Mary, make the claim, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”?  If nothing else their theology prevented them from accepting such a claim, a claim that their theological understanding would determine to be blasphemous.

In his commentary on this passage from his superb book: The Gospel of John: A Reading the late Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow writes:  “In expressing their justifiable reaction, the Jews . . . illustrate the absurdity of all those who put their trust in philosophical argument and theological reasoning to compel belief in Jesus Christ.  For, . . there is no argument that cannot be overturned by counterargument, and no theological reasoning that cannot, sooner or later, be reduced to absurdity." 

It is a brash statement. Fr. Marrow continues: "The ONLY way to accept Jesus’ claim is faith. Every other way being a rejection. You either believe he 'came down from heaven' or you do not. Knowing his father and mother has nothing to do with accepting or rejecting the revelation."

Toward the end of the Gospel, Jesus begins a statement with Amen, amen, a signal that what He is about to say is important.  And it is important:  “Whoever eats this bread will live forever;and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The life that Jesus promises will not be under the sway of death.  That life will not be interrupted by the act of dying.

In a few minutes you will hear me repeat the words: 

"Take this all of you and eat of it:
for this is my body 
which will be given up for you." 

And shortly afterwards we will taste, we will see, and we will experience the goodness of the Lord. 
_____________________________________________
I think I've finally bounced back from jet lag.  It was a bear.  Normally I do a lot better returning to the U.S. from Europe but that was not the case this trip.  A very busy week coming up.  Will be covering at a parish in Westport, MA for part of the week.  Because of the distance will spend several nights down there rather than trying to commute.  

The photos are a result of wandering in Slovenia on some nice days.  

The first is from the base of the castle looking down on Congress Square.  The church is referred to as the Ursuline Church as it is attached to their convent.  


Looking across the Ljubljanica Riveron a Sunday afternoon in the spring.

Descending from the castle on the side opposite where I ascended.  The his was very steep and cobblestoned.  One day I saw a woman getting ready to walk up in three-inch heels.  It was not going to be a pleasant experience.  I've no idea what the trip down would be like.  

Symmetry in the windows of an apartment interrupted only by the randomness of the open panes.

Up close and personal with Ljubljanski Grad (Ljubljana Castle)

A table arrangement.  There is an elegance to the tables at the many outdoor cafes that is often lacking in the U.S.  

One of the many cobblestoned alleys.  

Flower baskets are suspended everywhere in the city. 

Another outdoor table.  For some reason I am fascinated by empty tables still holding the used glasses.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD