Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday

An overwhelming feeling of reverence, fear, and wonder.

We hear the words 'The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ' 
with reverence.

We stand gazing at Jesus dying on the cross, 
in fear.

We depart the sealed tomb,
in anxious wonder.

An overwhelming feeling of reverence, fear and wonder.

we can only respond to God’s love for us sinners. . .

with awe.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, April 6, 2014

5th Sunday of Lent (Passion Sunday)

Ez 37:12-14
Ps 130
Rom 8:8-11
Jn 11:1-45

These are extraordinary and almost overwhelming readings that deserve prolonged meditation.  Ezekiel begins with a promise: "Thus says the Lord God: I will open your graves and have you rise from them." The Jewish Study Bible gives a succinct commentary on this passage:  “Traditional Jewish exegetes find here the idea of the resurrection of the dead before the day of judgment, a fundamental belief of rabbinic Judaism ascribed to Moses.”   Obviously, resurrection is not a new or exclusively Christian belief. 

Paul comments on the cost of sin and announces good news.  Although the body is dead because of sin; if Christ is in us the spirit is alive because of righteousness.  What more could we want? 

Psalm 130—De profundis—is one of the most beautiful and evocative hymns in the entire psalter.  We call to the Lord out of the depths, the depths of sin, the tomb in which we find ourselves again and again.  We call to the Lord who hears our plea; the Lord who forgives our sins. 

Thus, the cinematically detailed story of Lazarus is our story—a  story of being brought back to life in Christ through the forgiveness of sins—until the final resurrection of the dead. 

Jesus, fully human, weeps at Lazarus’ tomb.  Jesus, fully God commands Lazarus to come forth from that tomb.  This same Jesus, fully human, wept over Jerusalem as he weeps over us.  This same Jesus, fully God, commanded Lazarus to come forth from the tomb, the son of the widow of Nain to rise from his stretcher, and the daughter of the official to get up from her bed, just as he calls us to eternal life. 

In his commentary on this Gospel Stanley Marrow necessarily points out the fundamental difference between Lazarus and the others who were brought back to life ONLY to have to die again later; and Jesus, who rises from the dead NEVER to die again. 

If Lazarus is us so is Martha.  The same Martha who complained to Jesus about Mary now makes a profound act of faith,  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”  And then the climax of this narrative in Jesus statement:  “I am the resurrection and life; whoever believes in me will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” 

It is not that we will not physically die.  Jesus did not come to save us from the reality of being human, a reality that must include physical death. That death may be through a process that is sudden and without warning.

Death may come as a slow but easy passage from this life, or death may be the welcome relief at the end of a prolonged period of pain, suffering, and decay.  What Jesus is promising is that, in Stanley’s words, “the eternal life which we possess here and now cannot and will not be interrupted even by death.” 

We cry to the Lord out of the depths of our souls.  The Lord answers with kindness and plenteous redemption.  What more could we want?


Glorious spring day.  Finally.  Apparently a lot of rain coming tomorrow night but I can live with that.  It isn't snow.  Can really live with that.  My homily for Palm Sunday here at Campion and for St. Mary's in Plymouth on Good Friday is done.  The homily will follow the proclamation of the Passion.  It is 63 words.  Anything more than 100 words commenting on the Passion Narrative is worse than gilding the lily.  As I can feel a nap coming on very quickly it is time to post a few photos and grab a quick nap.  

The photos are another series of chairs.  There is something evocative about an empty chair.  Each one has a story unique to its location.  

A desk chair in a room that a Jesuit being assigned to Campion had just moved out of. 

 That chair has very different associations than the chairs on the porch at the villa house in Cohasset. 

These chairs have a different reason for being than the lounge chairs at the Norseman Motel in Ogunquit, Maine. 

And these are different from the two chairs overlooking Brace's Rock at the retreat house in Gloucester. 

These last chairs are fascinating.  They are in the chapel of the Jesuit residence at Fu-jen University just outside Taipei.  They are lined up with precision making the photo through several rows possible.  I was doing an abdominal crunch to get this photo.  I also captured my bare feet.  Cropped those out. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Thursday, April 3, 2014

4th Thursday of Lent

Time is moving fast.  Very fast.  Ash Wednesday seems as if it were yesterday.  The calendar suggests it wasn't.  

A Jesuit novice arrived in the community yesterday morning for five weeks of "experiment" (SJ s have a unique meaning attached to the word experiment).  Nice guy.  I will be his immediate contact here.  With a 22 year-old in the community our average age has dropped to 80.  Spring may have come east with him.  We have finally had two gloriously sunny days that suggest, no they scream, IT IS SPRING!!!!!!!
4th  Thursday of Lent
3 April 2014
Ex 32:7-14
Ps 106:19-23
Jn 5:31-47

In his commentary on this Gospel, Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow wrote that Jesus has no other purpose except to carry out the will of the One who sent him.  The revelation of Jesus is not found in studies of His psychology. Nor is not found in His goodness, meekness, gentleness, wisdom, or any of the qualities we look for as we try to find what some call the Historical Jesus.  The revelation of Jesus is found in the perfection of his obedience to the Father.  Jesus is wholly at the service of the Father, even to the point of dying on the cross.  Jesus words and his example of fidelity to the Father’s will stand in stark contrast to our own inability to obey God's will in any more than fleeting fashion—on a good day.

The Israelites in the desert are us, and we are them, becoming depraved and worshipping a molten calf—though in the modern U.S. we are more prone to worshipping the golden retriever.  We are prone to making an idol of money, or power, or the newest hot thing in the world of spirituality as in  “I’m spiritual but not religious.”

As a people who place the highest premium on autonomy and who worship self-determination, obedience to the will of God is not a valued commodity.  It is only through Moses’ reminder of the covenant God struck with His people that the Israelites were saved from destruction. “They forgot the God who had saved them, who had done great deeds in Egypt, wondrous deeds in the land of Ham, terrible things at the Red Sea”

And so it is with us. We forget. Perhaps we don’t even really believe that God has done great and wondrous deeds for us.  The Gospel of Dives and Lazarus ends with the warning: “Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’“

In today’s Gospel Jesus says to the Israelites as he says to us: “. . .if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

In whom do we believe? 
There is only one correct answer. 
 Haven't had any time to get out with the camera.  I spent all of last week at a review of internal medicine course in Lancaster, PA to prepare to reactivate my MA medical license.  Time to go back to work.  The weather was grim.  No reason to take the camera out of the bag.  Drove to Penn State at the end of the conference only to find more of the same weather.  Some how I managed to drive back con Sunday in a narrow "envelope" of tolerable weather with only mist but no rain.  That changed a few hours after I got back to Campion.  Now it is time to catch up with reality. 

Below are photos of two common objects that have undergone such dramatic transformation since I was young that they are no longer recognizable in their modern incarnations.  The typewriter and the non-digital (i.e. film) camera. 

The typewriter first.  I learned to type on the offspring of this one.  It was huge.  We sat on stools above the keyboard.  Never bent the wrists.  They were amazing machines.  Tremendous key action and feel.  The best typewriter I ever used was the IBM Selectric that used a typing ball.  It wasn't the ball so much as the feel of the keyboard.  It was a great.  

The typewriter photos were from the small museum at the Sevenhill Winery.  Computers are great but I miss the aerobic aspect of typing on those old beasts. 

The cameras were in the antique store between Port Lincoln and Coffin Bay.  We've come a real long way. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Second Thursday of Lent

I am posting a bit early for Thursday.  Will celebrate Mass for the Carmelites of the Aged and Infirm Thursday morning at 7:45 AM and again on Friday.  On Friday I will then head to PA for 52 hours of continuing medical education.  Am preparing to reactivate licenses in MA and PA.  Need 100 hours before I can send in the application.  Fifty-two hours in "class" from Sunday at 4 PM to Friday at noon.  As I don't need all of the hours to go over the 100 mark there are one or two things I will skip, perhaps four or five hours worth.  While I don't need all the credits I will most likely need a beer.

The parable in the Gospel is that of Dives and Lazarus.  The British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams wrote a very pretty tone poem on this reading.  I've listened to it multiple times but am not sure it is sufficiently programmatic that I can recognize the parable in the music.  Nonetheless, it is pleasant.

Jer 17:5-10
Ps 1:1-2, 2,3,4 and 6
Lk 16:19-31

This particular parable, The Rich Man and Lazarus, is unique to Luke’s Gospel.  It is sometimes referred to as the parable of Dives and Lazarus.  The names are important though only one of them appears in Luke’s Gospel.

Lazarus, the poor man’s name, is derived from the Hebrew El azar which means, “God has helped.”  Obviously the name is no accident.  “When the poor man died he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.”  God indeed had helped him. Tradition, rather than Luke, gave the rich man the name Dives.  Dives is a Latin adjective for rich.  Thus Dives and Lazarus:  The Rich Man and the “One God has helped.” 

The first part of the parable describes a reversal of fortune.  Lazarus, the poor man, was carried to Abraham’s bosom while after his death, Dives, the man who had it all, was tormented in the netherworld.  The second half of the parable is a conversation between the rich man and Abraham.  It is an instructive conversation.  

Dives is not portrayed here as a particularly wicked man.  He is not malevolent.  He dressed well.  He ate a rich diet.  He was comfortable, a man enjoying the rewards of his hard work.  The rich man was not evil.  He was oblivious.  He was oblivious to the suffering around him.  He didn’t notice it.  Lazarus—like the poor in our streets today—was part of the landscape, passed by, stepped over or avoided by crossing the street.  The rich man bore him no real hostility   Lazarus was simply there.   Unseen.  Ignored.

Dives is not without merit.  He accepts that Lazarus cannot cross the chasm to ease his thirst without protest, argument or pleading.  But he wants to prevent his still living brothers, who are apparently as oblivious as he was, from suffering the same fate.  It can’t be done.  If his brothers won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.  Just like Dives and his brothers we have Moses and the Prophets.  Unlike this rich man and his brothers we also have Jesus who did rise from the dead.  Why do we not listen either?
The urge to prayer is universal.  All religions have modes of prayer and prayers that are characteristic.  Some are more well-known than others.  The first is a man and a woman in the adoration chapel at the National Shrine in D.C.  I posted this before but this is a bit of a reworking with Aperture 3. 

A very old Jesuit in Australia at prayer before the evening community Mass. 

A much younger Jesuit doing his evening meditation at Sevenhill, SA, Australia.

A couple at prayer in Longshan Temple in the old section of Taipei.  This was New Year's Eve 2010.  Ignatius and I wisely decided against going to Taipei 101, once the tallest building in the world.  There were approximately 2 million people there.  

This is the Nan Tien Monastery Berkley, NSW, Australia not too far from Wollangong.  It is a Taiwanese Buddhist monastery, the largest monastery in the southern hemisphere.  Here a nun is ringing one of the bells with what looks like a sawed off telephone pole.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, March 8, 2014

1st Sunday of Lent: Lead Us Not to the Test . . .

"Lead us not to the test" is an alternative translation for "Lead us not into temptation."  It makes sense given the roots of the word temptation.  I'm not ready to change my mode of praying the Our Father, but it is good to keep the alternative meanings or roots of the temptation in mind while praying. 

Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Ps 51:3-4,5-6,12-13,17
Rom 5:12-19
Mt 4:1-11

 “Come let us worship the Lord who for our sake endured temptation and suffering.”   Every morning during Lent the Divine Office begins with these words. Temptation and suffering.  Two words that help define what it means to be human.  Two words that characterize the human condition.  The two things in which Jesus was like us and also unlike us. 

Though the word temptation generally suggests a negative context its Latin, Hebrew, and Greek  roots are neutral and suggest “trying” “testing” or “proving.”  That is what we heard in today’s Gospel.  The evil one tested Jesus' fidelity to the Father.  Temptation tests our own fidelity to God and His law.

The first reading, one of the most familiar of all Old Testament stories, recounts the fall.  Adam and Eve were put to the test.  Did they trust God or did they not?    

The apple, as the fruit in the garden is frequently depicted or described, is a good symbol for sin. It is a metaphor that explains the ease with which we sin, impulsively, casually, and quickly.  Think about it.   Unlike an orange, a banana, a mango, or most other fruits that one might find in a garden, an apple is quick, easy and convenient.  No need to peel, cut, or anything else.  No one just bites into a pineapple.  But . . . .grab an apple and feast.  When done toss the core into a bush. 

The real kicker in this story of Adam and Eve is that they weren’t even hungry.  Their sin was so banal as to almost make it laughable.   Except it wasn’t laughable.  Most of our sins are committed under equally banal circumstances.   But they are no laughing matter.

Some sins require planning.  An adulterous affair.  Robbing a Bank of America branch.  Selling crystal meth.  How often, however, do we sin simply because the opportunity is there?  Because we want it?  Because, as the unfortunate 60’s motto went, If it feels good do it?  It wasn’t an apple that did us in.  It was human freedom.  Adam and Eve couldn't handle it.  We can't handle it.

The last verses tell us of the personal cost of sin: shame and embarrassment, particularly if we’re caught.   Being caught in sin is never pleasant.   The shame tells us what it means to a responsible adult.  The embarrassment hammers home the realization that we are sinners.   We are sinners because we are free.  Free to choose and free to act on that choice.  Adam and Eve were free, a state which is unique to human beings.  Among all creatures only humans are free.  Only humans are gifted with insight. The ability to plan far into the future, and knowledge of potential outcomes is for humans only.  How we manage that freedom is tested on a daily basis.

Human freedom is generally misunderstood.  It is not freedom from restrictions, rules, and responsibility—but  rather freedom for.  Freedom  is not the opportunity to choose anything whatsoever in the manner of a BC freshman in the dorm.
Freedom is not the ability to adopt an individual or idiosyncratic attitude towards this or that.  Human freedom is the freedom of self-understanding.  Human freedom is the possibility of saying yes or no to oneself. It is the possibility of deciding for or against oneself.  Human freedom is the opportunity to choose or to reject sin and to act on that choice.   Adam and Eve chose and acted.  Wrongly it turns out but they were and remained free.  We have the same freedom.  Jesus had that same freedom. This is where he was both like and unlike us.  Like us in being tempted but unlike us in not sinning.

Each of the temptations satan presented to Jesus were tests of his willingness to rely on God.  Each of the temptations tested Jesus’ obedience to his Father.  Unlike Adam who was disobedient to God’s command Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will; obedient  even to accepting death on the cross. 

The temptations satan dangled in front of Jesus, who was hungry from fasting, tired from prayer, and disoriented from being in the desert are the same temptations that dance in front of our eyes when we are hungry, tired, and disoriented, when we are dissatisfied with the status quo.

In the first test satan tempts a hungry Jesus with bread.  “C’mon, take care of yourself.  You can be self-sufficient.  Just do it.” It's more than bread here.  The temptation to self-sufficiency,  to taking care of number one, and only number one, looms large in our lives.  

The second temptation is to put God to the test.  “Hey Jesus, it’s a quid pro quo.  You jump and the Father saves you.  If not . . . welllllll.”  God is not a marionetteer who pulls our strings to make us dance.  Nor is God a marionette that we control.  “If this or that happens I will no longer believe in God.”  That is the type of thought process characteristic of a three year-old, a very immature three year-old. 

The third temptation is the classic Faustian bargain.  Sell your soul.  Worship me and look at the power I will give you.  Power.  Prestige.  Money.  Control.  You too can have the most toys when you die. These idols have replaced God in too many lives. 

With His replies to satan, all of which are direct quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy,  Jesus chose to be faithful and obedient to God the Father.  And in so doing made it possible for us to imitate Him. 

The responsorial psalm is Psalm 51, the great penitential psalm known as the Miserere that is recited every Friday in the Divine Office.  Read it at home.  It is short.  Let the words sink in.  Let it speak to you. 

"I acknowledge my offenses."

"A clean heart create for me O God."

"Give me back the joy of your salvation."

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise." 

“Come let us worship the Lord who for our sake endured temptation and suffering.”  
It was sunny and reasonably warm today.  Celebrated the 6:30 AM Mass in the community and then puttered about my room.  Lousy sleep last night so I had no desire to go out with the camera.  Tomorrow I have the 7:30 AM Mass at St. Joseph in Lincoln, MA, about 3 miles away.  Of course my body will think it is the 6:30 AM Mass due to the onset of EDST.  My mom loved the day the clocks switched.  I am of the opposite opinion.  All week I will feel like a minor case of jet lag.  

The photos are from the chapel here at Campion.  The first is looking from the door of the sacristy on the right toward the back of the chapel.

This is a detail at the top of the altar. 

The right sacristy is something of a storage area.  It was actually a disaster area.  Ignatius worked very hard to straighten it out for me.  Unlike me he has the ability to look at a mess a see a California Closet type of arrangement.  And then he did it.  These were a few leftovers.

One of the most amazing things he did was to get all the wax off all the candelabras and candle holders.  And arrange the chaos of candles.  It turns out we have a lot more than we expected.  These look terrific

The left sacristy is the vesting sacristy.  It is also where the sacred vessels are kept, the hosts, the wine, the vestments and so on.  It is also where I pronounced simple vows after the final vows Mass in October.  It is Our custom to pronounce those vows and sign the vow documents in the sacristy rather than the altar. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD