Sunday, August 25, 2013


21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Campion 10 AM)
26 August 2007

Isaiah 66:18-21
Ps 117
Heb 12:5-7, 11-13
Luke 13:22-30

The Letter to the Hebrews and the Gospel for today are not soft, fuzzy, feel-good-about-myself-because-I-am-good readings.  The readings are consoling in their own way but they are not heart-warming.  While it is more comforting to hear blessed are the poor or I am the good Shepherd, we will have to wait for another Sunday.  If anything, the readings from Hebrews and Luke may force us to ask, why bother?  Where is God? 

Hebrews emphasizes that our journey is neither easy nor guaranteed to be pleasant.  It is a journey of trial and weakness revealed.  It is life as we experience it.  It is a journey of struggle, doubt, error, and being disciplined for that error.  There is no promise that following Jesus means a life free of challenge, a life without sorrow, a life absent suffering or darkness, or a sense of abandonment by God.  

Discipline is painful to receive and painful to administer.  It can alienate the one who is disciplined from the one who disciplines.  It may take a long time before we can look the one who disciplined us in the eye without resentment, without feeling a sting or becoming defensive.   No one enjoys being disciplined even when it is deserved.  However, Hebrews offers a promise of relief:  “At the time it is administered, all discipline seems a cause for grief and not joy.  But later it brings forth the fruit of peace and justice to those who are trained in its school.”  

We learn more from our mistakes than from successes.  We grow more in adversity than in times of plenty and ease.  One of the paradoxes of being human is that, sometimes, the farther we feel from God, the closer we are, the more distant Jesus seems from us, the more likely he is walking next to us. 

The gospel, particularly in the context of this week’s readings, is a warning against spiritual elitism, sectarianism, and self-importance.  It is a warning against assuming that we are God’s favorites and everyone else is second class.

The recurring theme in the Gospel readings this past week, with the excerption of the Queenship of Mary on Thursday, has been that of exclusion.  Many are called and few are chosen, the last shall be first and the first last.  They asked the questions: How many will arrive at the gate?  Who will manage to get through?  In contemporary parlance we are called to wonder, will I make the cut?

We have all been guilty of saying or thinking along the lines of, “What is someone like her doing here?”  Or, to paraphrase Groucho, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that lets him in.”  Yet, each one of us is the potential intended of Jesus’ statement, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from.  Away from me, you evildoers!”  We are sinners.  But we are sinners loved by God.  Disturbing as they are, statements such as, "Depart from me, all you evildoers!" are important reminders that reflect a primary reality of human life, even the life of believers and those deemed to be saints.  Serving God is neither easy nor smooth.

Mother Teresa's letters were published in 2007.  They were not what many expected.  Some of the voluminous commentary on those letters was the fruit of reflection.  Some pushed an undisguised anti-Catholic bias--after all she didn't support abortion as a form women's health care--and a lot was absurd, new age psychobabble.  Her letters revealed that despite appearances to the contrary she was a woman who struggled with doubt, aridity at prayer, and the perception that Jesus was absent for decades.  It appears that much of Mother Teresa’s spiritual life was one of wailing and grinding of teeth; of hard work  with an underlying sense of dissatisfaction.  Upon reflective reading, however, these letters enhance rather than detract from her reputation for holiness because though she struggled with doubt and dryness she never rejected Jesus. 

The reading from Isaiah was from the final chapter of the book.  Two verses later, we read the prophecy

"From new moon to new moon,
and from sabbath to sabbath,
All flesh shall come to worship
before me, says the Lord."

All flesh will worship the Lord because, as Psalm 117 reminds us:

"For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the Lord
endures forever."  
Boston College has a combination retreat center/conference center/villa house (in the summer) in Cohasset on the South Shore.  I hadn't been there in at least twelve years until I recently drove a few of the men who were spending some time on villa (SJ term for vacation) there.  I'd forgotten how beautiful the place was.  During novitiate we went there one Wednesday a month for a day of recollection.  The day was done in silence.  The silence began shortly after arrival and continued for six or so hours until after Mass.  Well, the silence began once we made coffee and ate the Dunkin' Donuts we'd purchased on the way down.  Though I didn't have time to take any photos when I went to retrieve the men today  I got some last week. 

The Cohasset Yacht Club is at the bottom of the driveway leading to the house.  Boats and water are great for pix.  The scene changes moment by moment. 

This is a cropped close up of the reflection below the boat in the middle.  It was rotated ninety degrees clockwise and enhanced a bit.   Aperture 3 is a coloring book for adults. 

The view from the Adirondack chair is conducive of meditation and prayer. 

 There is a small stone boathouse also equipped with chairs. 

The boathouse with some of the black and white filters pushed to the extreme.  

 The view from the balcony on the roof of the second story.

BC purchased the house forty or fifty years ago.  One won't see this kind of woodwork today.  

The grandfather clock reflects the scene on the water.  I desaturated all the color and then replaced it only on the clock face and the mirror.

A photo of a fish pond from the balcony above.  Two tall stories.  Telephoto lenses are great. 

Am very much looking forward to tomorrow morning. Will celebrate Mass in the large chapel with the twenty-two new Jesuit scholastics who are arriving at the theologate.  Am hoping that a few of them (one is already strongly considering it) will be interested in coming out here for some of their work with the retired men.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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