Saturday, May 31, 2014

Taking Off in Five Hours

The title explains it all.  Finally packed, things are relatively straightened out and I am semi-exhausted but ready to go.  The plan was to be exhausted upon taking off so as to sleep.  Flight leaves at 8:45 PM.  Hope for sleep by 9:30.  It will take six hours.  After the flights to Taiwan and Australia this will be a short hop.  Six hours in a plane is nothing compared to 15 from San Francisco to Taipei.  After a just under three hour layover in Paris I take the train to Lyon and a cab to the Jesuit community.  

Some photos from Penn State.  I was going to post a homily the other day but didn't have the chance to do so.  It is a bit too late so, as will be the case in France and Chad, no homily only photos.  

The first is a classroom in the Forum Building.  It was a round building with state of the art (for the time) audio-visual stuff.  Holds about 300.  This is where I had organic chemistry lectures.  Full house too.

The non-denominational chapel is the Helen Eakin Eisenhower Chapel.  President Eisenhower's brother John was president of Penn State.  I always stop in there when on campus.  Used to go to confession in a small chapel to the right of the altar.  Benedictines from St. Vincent Archabbey have been the chaplains for years. 

A view of West Halls dorm complex from the portico of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Building.  One of the very pretty parts of campus.  . . . of a very pretty campus.

The new Information Technology Building spans 322 over a walkway.  Love the reflections.  Have taken versions of this shot many times. Prior to this the entrance on 3322 that you can see marked with the two columns with Nittany Lion heads atop them, was forgettable.  There has been a major transformation. 

The last two shots are of a restaurant that was the Allen Room when I was there and for many years afterwards.  I don't know what it is called now (the food remains very good) but it will always be the Allen Room to those of us of a certain age.  

Post should be coming from Lyon in a about a week.  Took a long time to pack the camera stuff.  Classes start on Monday.  No class on Monday 9 June though I don't know why.  No class on Monday 14 July either.  Bastille Day.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Only one week left . . .

6th Sunday of Easter  
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Ps 66
1 Pt 3:15-18
Jn 14:15-21

The first reading from Acts continues to describe the rapid growth and spread of the Church in its first years.  Two week ago we heard, "It was at Antioch that they were first called Christians."   In chapter 5 of Acts we read Gamaliel's analysis regarding how to respond to the Apostles' proclamation of the Good News of Jesus, risen from the dead for our sins.  That analysis still holds,

"So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.  But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

"But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy it."

Despite the attempts of many throughout the centuries, despite the attempts in many places today, to destroy the Church, it continues because, and only because, of the Church's provenance from God.  The growth of the Church during the time of Philip, Peter and John was astonishing.  The persistence of the Church proves that it is governed by the Spirit sent by God. 

We heard in the First Letter of Peter,  "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame."  That the Church heeds this advice became quite evident in the Boston area over the past weeks.

One can, and should, take pride in the response of the Boston Catholic Church and its members to the recent blasphemous actions at Harvard, the QUOTE Black Mass UNQUOTE, as well as the pathetic defense of those who wished to sponsor or approve of the sacrilege such the Globe.  The Globe published a letter by a Miss Sarah Wuncsh, staff attorney for the Massachusetts ACLU coven, who criticized Harvard's president for ultimately censoring the abomination, using the tired free speech argument. 

Were Catholic students at Harvard to have parodied or, God-forbid even criticized, gay marriage heads would have rolled, apologies would have been forced, and at least a few of the benighted would have been put in the newly resurrected stocks on Cambridge Common for all to jeer and criticize as they passed by.  Indeed, one recalls an opinion by a former Harvard president who was forced to resign because it did not meet the standards of political correctness even though it should have come under the protection of free speech. 
The holy hour at St. Paul's attended by over 1000 was not the only one in town.  Other churches and several Jesuit communities had similar periods of prayer and reparation for Harvard's hideous, disrespectful, biased, and, if I may coin a word, religiophobic behavior.  Sacrilege was countered by prayer.  Adoration was the response to blasphemy.

The desire of Harvard to stage a sacrilegious ceremony is not entirely surprising.  It, and similar actions throughout the world, represents the fear of the revelation of the Spirit that Jesus promised in the Gospel reading.  As Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow wrote in his commentary on this particular Gospel passage, the world cannot receive the Spirit of truth because it cannot tolerate the revelation.  The revelation calls the world's values into question, inverts its hierarchies, and overturns its cherished idols. 

At the beginning of today's Gospel we heard, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments . . ." At the end we heard, "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me."  Both statements say the same thing in slightly different fashion. Obedience to his commandments is the only available means we have of
manifesting our love for Jesus.  Nothing else can or will do. Only by obeying his commandments can we manifest to the world that we live in Christ and he dwells in us. We live in troubled and troubling times.  We can only understand and respond to them if we do so in the light of the Christ's birth, passion, death, resurrection and ascension.  

Elsewhere in his commentary, Fr. Marrow wrote a superb analysis of the call to be Christian, ". . . loving with utmost generosity and utter selflessness, even to laying down of one’s life, is not uniquely Christian.  What distinguishes, or must distinguish, Christians is, when they love, they love as Christ loved them and because he loved them."  When we love like that we can do as the psalmist instructs,

"Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, "how tremendous are your deeds!"

Over the past days I've been going through the photo files to discard those that should be discarded in preparation for what is going to be a huge number of new ones.  It is not so much a concern of space on the storage drive but why hang on to redundant and poorly done photos int he first place?  In doing so I found the file of photos I took three years ago this weekend while in Melbourne.  It was late autumn at the time.  Didn't feel a whole lot different than the weather does here today though it is ostensibly spring in Boston.  

The first is the street named Royal Parade in Melbourne.  The Jesuit theologate was a bit further up the street from where I took this.  Royal Parade would remind one of Commonwealth Ave in Boston except for the fact that the cars are moving on the wrong sides of the street.  

 I enjoy taking photos of small details that would otherwise be missed.  This is one of them.  A small set of wind chimes in a house on Royal Parade.

A bit further down and across Royal Parade is the University of Melbourne.  Beautiful campus with some very old architecture.  The first is one of the cloisters surrounding a quad.

A Bible on the lectern in the chapel at the university. 

A bit further down I had to cross the busy street to get to the Victoria Market.  This was the view on the median.  Where I was going and from whence I came. 

The busy market.  I spent a lot of time there with the camera. 

Scallops waiting to be seared in a very hot pan. 

Vinegars standing in a row. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Countdown to Takeoff

5th Friday of Easter  

Acts 15:22-31
Jn 15:12-17

“I have called you friends.” 

Friendship with Jesus is like other friendships.  There is  depth but also a degree of simplicity.  Friendship with Jesus is not necessarily complicated.  It doesn’t need big mystical experiences, tear-inducing consolations at prayer or apparitions.  Friendship with Jesus involves living with him day by day, walking with and listening to him, and being nourished by his word, his body and his blood.

We walk with Jesus as we do those small things, those little gestures of love, kindness, affection and forgiveness that may, in fact, be more difficult, and are more enduring, than actually giving up our life for the other.  At times the slow death to oneself through giving to the other is more difficult than leading the charge into a burning building.    
We have to work at friendship.  It takes time.  All of us have had the experience of being so dazzled by a new acquaintance that within an unseemly short period of time we’ve decided that he or she is our new best friend and confidante, only to become disillusioned or be the one who disillusions, in an equally short period of time.  Infatuation is a dangerous and painful situation. 

True friendship with Jesus involves struggle and pain, but also joy and comfort.  Mostly joy and comfort.  A friend is not necessarily someone with whom we are equal.   We are not always on equal footing with a friend.  A friend is someone who tells us the truth no matter how painful.  But a friend is someone who takes us back no matter how often or how seriously we mess up.  The truth-telling is painful.  The strength of a friend’s love when we are more Judas Iscariot than Lazarus consoles. 

Slaves—or employees—generally don't know what the boss is up to.  No conversation.  No negotiation.  But Jesus has told us everything.  He has given us everything.  How are we to respond?

In his commentary on this passage, Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow notes that loving with utmost generosity and utter selflessness, even to laying down of one’s life, is not uniquely Christian.  What distinguishes, or must distinguish, Christians is, when they love, they love as Christ loved them and because he loved them. 
Ten days to go and I'll be singing "Up Up and Away" or at least listening to the Fifth Dimension recording of it.  I leave for Lyon, France on Saturday 31 May.  Two months later, on 29 July, it is off to N'Djamena, Chad for most of August.  There is possible side-trip to Cameroon but Chad is the main destination.  More about the whys and wherefores later.  Still a few things to get done before the trip.  Will manage at some point I'm sure.  Cut it close.  

Spent two days last weekend in Newport, RI for a bipolar disease conference.  Conference was very good.  Dinner was superb, particularly the company, and Saturday was a glorious day.  The last workshop was on treating bipolar disease in pregnant women.  That is never going to happen in this man's life so I took the camera and shot some photos in the area immediately surrounding the Hyatt Regency.  

This was the view of a bridge out of my hotel room.  Friday afternoon was misty, rainy, cool, windy and terrific for photography.

Looking down between two piers.  Getting up from a sitting position in the parking lot was not easy.  Oh to be thirty again. 

The rest are various views of boats in the harbor.  Didn't have a great deal of time to do this before beginning the hour and a half drive back to Boston.  Very gratifying trip. 

 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A few hours early

I will celebrate Mass at Carmel Terrace tomorrow morning at 9:30.  Then it is off to the airport to pick up Vincent Pham, a tertian classmate from Vietnam, who is going to be visiting for part of the week.  We are staying local as I was able to fight the urge to show him the entire east coast in four days.  Will go to BC, Gloucester, and a few other places.  Spend one afternoon into evening in Boston, most likely down by the aquarium.  
4th Monday of Easter  
12 May 2014
Acts 11:1-18
Ps 42
Jn 10:1-10

Chapter ten of John's Gospel opens with the solemn:  "Amen amen I say to you."  Jesus is alerting his hearers to listen because what he is about to say is important. 

The image of a shepherd is problematic today because almost none of us have experience with sheep or shepherds of the non-metaphorical type.  Thus, the image of the Good Shepherd has been sentimentalized beyond all reason, a sentimentalization that the paintings of Thomas Kinkaid and his ilk have done nothing to diminish.  Good shepherds do care for those entrusted to them.  But, caring for is not coddling. Caring for is not spoiling.  Caring for is not giving an award for simply showing up.  Caring for does not mean undiluted self-affirmation.  At times the shepherd must be firm, demanding and exclusive. Those who care for others must learn that the weak, the lost, those in need require compassion.  But, they also require firm limits and at times non-negotiable insistence.  Sometimes the one in authority, the one holding the position of shepherd, must be unyielding despite the whining, weeping, or childishness of the sheep. Jesus is giving a message of exclusivity here.  "I am the gate for the sheep" does not appear to give a lot of leeway for equivocation or alternate interpretations. 

As usual, when faced with preaching on John's Gospel, I turn to Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow's work.  Commenting on this chapter he notes that Jesus' "I AM" statements make a necessary claim to exclusivity.  The problem with what is called "the intolerance of the revelation" is that those who hear it may choose to appoint themselves the arbiters of who can and cannot receive the gift.   Sometimes they forget that they themselves are "the undeserving recipients of an unmerited gift" and do not have the right to determine who merits or does not merit the gift. 

Stanley comments on the final line of the gospel, "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" as follows.  To have life abundantly is to have it without limit, without the threat of termination, and without definitive severance by death.  The life that Jesus promises is not mere survival or existence without end, but the eternal life that all those who believe in him possess.  The exclusivity of Jesus' revelation is what allows us to escape the lure of those who claim to offer us better, more attractive or more genuine life.  The exclusivity of Jesus' revelation is the proof that the sentiment on the pathetic bumper sticker, "He Who Has the Most Toys When He Dies Wins" is the ultimate lie.
The only thing these photos have in common is that they were taken in Australia.  I am going through my photo files and culling.  There is going to be a huge input from June to September when I'm in France and Chad.  

A lone surfer at the end of his day.  

Opera masks in Sydney.

 Vegetables in Melbourne

A still life on Royal Parade in Melbourne

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14, 22-33
Ps 16:1-2,5,7-8,9-10,11
1 Pt 1:17-21 
Lk 24:13-35

“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and proclaimed . . . . “  Is this the same man who denied Jesus three times? 

Is this the same man whose incomprehension provoked Jesus to say, “Get behind me satan?”  Peter, who swore he did not know this Jesus of Nazareth, is now proclaiming that He is risen from the dead, that He is the one of whom David spoke.  Fearful of being known as one of Jesus’ disciples while huddled around a fire, Peter is now preaching what, to many ears, was blasphemy, that this Jesus had risen from the dead, that He is the One of whom David spoke.  Talk about a makeover!

What did Peter look like as he proclaimed these words about Jesus’ mighty deeds, wonders and signs?  How did his voice sound?  What gestures did he make?  It is likely he did not resemble the cowering man in the high priest’s courtyard who said, “I do not know Him.”  Something fundamental had changed in him.  The change was not subtle. Peter was taking substantial risks as he spoke.  Were the hearts of some of his listeners burning within them as he opened this small bit of Scripture, for them?  Of course this was after Pentecost.  Filled with the Holy Spirit it is obvious that Peter now understood everything that he failed to comprehend earlier. 

The narrative of the encounter on the road to Emmaus occurs immediately after Jesus’ death, Luke’s Gospel, with its expertly set scene, is ripe for contemplation.  One can sense the two disciples’ despondency. Their weariness is palpable. There are hints of disbelief and fear as they make the long walk to Emmaus.  Are they walking away from Jerusalem because their hopes have been destroyed?  Are they retreating because Jesus was not the Messiah of their dreams? 

Exactly what were they saying while they were “conversing and debating?”  Conversing is a neutral word but debating suggests disagreement and attempts by each to change the other’s mind.  Who was winning?   They seem to have stopped talking when Jesus appeared. They were shocked that their unknown companion was unaware of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem.  Jesus’ impatience with them is palpable.  How far were they from Emmaus when He joined them?  Given that Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets and explained “what referred to him in all the Scriptures,” the conversation must have been a long one. 

The two disciples had had hopes for what the Messiah would be.  Many of these hopes were attached to the politics of the day and to Israel’s desire to be free of the yoke of Roman domination.  The wanted the one of whom David spoke to be military leader, a super-politician and a social reformer all at once.  Jesus fulfilled none of those expectations.  Given that he seemed to be apolitical it is ironic how often Jesus’ message is politicized and twisted today to promote a particular agenda on the left and the right.  We’ve not made much progress since Emmaus.  Jesus was not the Messiah Israel wanted.  He was the Messiah Israel needed.  The same is true for us:  Jesus is not the Christ we want him to be or, worse, try to force Him to be.  He is the Christ we need. 

Jesus’ two companions on the road to Emmaus made were deeply consoled after the fact.  “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” Obviously Peter’s heart was now aflame with ardor as he interpreted scripture.  In prayer we are continually on the road to Emmaus.  In prayer we are continually forced to recognize the one who joins us along the way.  We are continually meeting this stranger who we may not recognize at first.  We can live and thrive in that tension only if we can say with the psalmist:

“I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. 
You have made known to me
the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy
in your presence.”
Time is moving fast.  Three weeks form now I will be taking off from Boston heading to Paris and then a train to Lyon where I will remain for two months.  And then to N'Djamena, Chad where I will spend a month looking at, and being looked at, at the Jesuit affiliated hospital and medical school there.  It is going to be an interesting time.   I will be glad to get there but the logistics are daunting.  

Some more photos from the Triduum in Plymouth at my home church of St. Mary's. 

The altar of repose in the downstairs chapel at the church.  I had the tripod behind the pew while I was praying and every once in a while would trigger the shutter. 

Flowers in front of the altar early Holy Saturday.  I liked the less cluttered approach this year.   

The votive candles that were all changed and waiting to be lit after Mass.  The amount of heat these generate is impressive. 

The view of the church from the choir loft.  This was early Holy Saturday. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD