Sunday, September 30, 2012

Penn State in the Homily.

While the reference to Penn State in the homily below is brief it is relevant.  As I noted, the wonderfully rainy Saturday afternoon in Boston was a haze of football games.  Once the Penn State-Illinois game was over there was a lot of channel switching among the various offerings.  It is a truly great time of the year. 

We alumni and others who love and are grateful to the university are struggling, and will continue to struggle for years, some of us for the remainders of our lives.  But after the 6:30 AM Mass where I preached this homily, it became obvious that there are signs of hope and strength.  I went to the Daily Collegian (University paper) web site to read about the game.  After reading the column I noticed a box in the lower right-hand part of the screen that said "Penn State and Navy sing PSU alma mater"  and clicked on it.  At the end of the game both teams stood on the field and, with the fans, sang all four verses of the alma mater.  Tears flowed fast and furious particularly during the fourth verse which the crowd sang louder than the other three. 

"May no act of ours bring shame
To one heart that loves thy name
May our lives but swell thy fame
Dear Old State, Dear Old State." 

This end of game ritual was repeated a week later after the Temple game.   Temple is my other alma mater but there are no divided loyalties unless the med school fields a football team.  May it continue.  For many years, particularly the eighties (the decade that spawned Gordon Gekko--see homily) students changed the words for all four verses singing . . . well, I won't bother.  If you know, you know. if you don't know ask someone.  There are reasons for singing an alma mater (or a hymn) with the words as written.  May they serve as a reminder of an alumnus who blew off the entire fourth verse and single-handedly brought grief to thousands. 

Photos come from a brief overnight at Penn State back in May.  Hope to get back in December after making an 8-day retreat at Latrobe.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nm 11:25-29
Ps 19 8-14
Jas 5:1-6
Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

None of today's readings comes across as warm, fuzzy, or comforting.  There is nothing here to soothe the troubled soul.  If anything, the gospel might cause some degree of discomfort in tonight's examen.

There is an echo of the first reading in the gospel.   Both consider the question of who should prophesy, who should evangelize.  Moses replied to the concerned young man, "Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!"  In a similar vein, Jesus quieted John by saying, "For whoever is not against us is for us."  We will come back to the question of preaching, prophesying and evangelizing later.

The second reading is rife with warnings.

One of the saddest bumper stickers on the highway is the one that reads, "He who has the most toys when he dies wins."  Wins what?  Wins how?  What good are "toys," those markers of having made it in contemporary U.S. society, as one approaches death?  During life they may do nothing more than divert our attention from the things that matter.  They are useless after death.

It is important to note that having money or being able to afford nice, or even expensive, things is not inherently evil or sinful.  Wealth does not necessarily equate with sin.  Single-mindedly pursuing wealth, no matter what the cost to oneself or to others, however, does fit the equation. 

One often hears Paul's First Letter to Timothy misquoted in the saying  "Money is the root of all evil."  That is wrong.  The letter correctly reads,  "The love of money is the root of all evil."  It is the disordered affection for money, the perverse need to have the most toys, the monomaniacal desire for the biggest and best of everything, that causes evil, not the money itself. 

The best example of what James is writing about is the 1987 movie "Wall Street."  In the movie the protagonist, Gordon Gekko, spoke the unfortunate line  "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."  It too is misquoted generally as "Greed is good."  In this case the change of meaning with the misquote is insignificant.  Alas, it was a mantra for several years, an excuse for execrable behavior and feelings.  James is decrying the unfortunate greed that tramples on anyone and anything that might stand in its way.  It doesn't matter if it is the greed of the MIchael Millkens and Bernard Madoffs of this world or the greed of the local drug pushers and dealers.  As the greed driving one's actions damages and destroys others it is sin. 

In the Gospel Jesus is damning scandalous behavior in those who would call themselves his followers.  It is critical to point out that when he says, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off"  "If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out," he is using hyperbole.  Unfortunately, too many psychiatrists have had to evaluate or treat delusional patients who took this mandate literally and mutilated some part of the body or other that he or she perceived led into sin. 

These sayings are referred to as the "scandal sayings." Jesus is telling us that scandal is to be avoided at all costs.  The price of causing scandal is high.  It is high to the one who caused the scandal.  But the cost may be even higher to the many affected by the scandal.

I wrote the last half of this homily last evening after spending much of Saturday afternoon watching college football, particularly the Penn State-Illinois game.  I am a Penn State alumnus.  It is difficult to meditate on this gospel without reflecting on how the sin of one man caused dragged others into sin and triggered a scandal that will affect many for years to come.   

We are all called to evangelize in the name of Jesus.  We are all called to spread the gospel of Christ.  Many would ask how we are called to evangelize, short of getting into a pulpit, addressing a class, or publishing in theology journals.   Probably the best advice as to how to evangelize came not from St. Ignatius but from St. Francis of Assisi who wrote, "Preach the gospel at all times.  Use words only when necessary."  If we can preach the gospel in the mode recommended by Francis then we can sing with the psalmist:

"The law of the Lord is perfect
refreshing the soul;
the decree of the Lord is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple."
The day at Penn State last May was a perfect day, sunny but cool without humidity.  I was playing with the new 300 mm zoom lens.  
This is a pool and fountain in front of the Chambers Building.  I was only in there once to take a calculus final.  I hope never to enter the building again under similar circumstances.  Many years ago when I first started photography with a Canon AE-1 film camera I took multiple shots of this fountain.  
The marker that explains the Creamery.  In answer to your unasked question, YES, I did have a cone.  Best ice cream on the planet.  
The east side of Old Main Lawn.  As I said, it was a gorgeous day.  
The Old Main Bell Tower.  Amazing what one can do with a 300 mm zoom telephoto lens (Zuiko).  It is difficult to hold it steady at full zoom but, because the sun was so bright it was possible to get a good shot at a fast shutter speed at ASA 100.  
It is unlikely any other university has a library named after its football coach.  It is unlikely any other university ever received so much money for its library from its football coach.  
These shirts on sale caught my eye.  A photo of color and shape.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

No comments:

Post a Comment