Did not have time to post this yesterday. Today, 24 August, is the 18th anniversary of my entering the novitiate. Better than my birthday that will be in a few days.
Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
The readings and gospel all present a problem for preaching. The reading from the 24th chapter of Joshua is a problem because it is discontinuous. After hearing the first two verses it jumps to verses fifteen to eighteen. Joshua had led the people into the promised land. He is now a dying old man. He is making his valedictory address. From verses two to fifteen Joshua reviews the history of what God had done for his people and how he led them in their journey. We only heard that the people pledged their loyalty.
Loyalty to God was the major point of the covenant. Loyalty to the one with whom a covenant was made is always the most important element of the covenant. This includes the marriage covenant. Being loyal to God is the first commandment. In the flush of enthusiasm the people pledged that loyalty. Alas, we know they would go on to forget the covenant many times.
The reading from Ephesians is a problem because some people respond to it in hostile, defensive, angry or dismissive fashion. Or they ignore the line "Wives should be subordinate to their husbands." It is a prime example of responding negatively to something taken out of context without thought. Many forget what immediately precedes it, "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ." The letter compares the relationship between husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and His Church. Thus we hear, "even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her . . . so husbands should love their wives as their own body." We cannot separate Christ from the Church of which he is the head.
In the ideal marriage husband and wife subordinate their needs and desires to those of the other. Both must be constantly aware that loving the other means honoring, obeying, and subordinating oneself to the other in equal measure. And both are called in turn to subordinate themselves to God. As one commentary puts it, "Just as the God of old encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so Christ encounters Christian spouses in the sacrament of marriage. He remains with them so that by their mutual self-giving spouses will love each other with enduring fidelity. . . "
In the sacrament of marriage both man and woman, both woman and man, are called into a relationship of dignity and equality. The common denominator in most failed marriages is the lack or loss of the mutual self-giving and sacrifice that are crucial to marriage. The "irreconcilable differences" that seem to be the excuse for the failure of most celebrity marriages is, in fact, the result of a marital philosophy of you do your thing and I'll do mine. And don't bother me.
The problem with John's Gospel is that we need to know the previous thirty verses so as to understand what the disciples were "murmuring" about. Many of the disciples could not accept the revelation of Jesus as Bread of Life, as The Word Made Flesh. They could not accept Jesus as the revelation of the Father. It got challenging. Thus many of the disciples returned to their former ways of life and no longer followed Jesus.
Jesus even gave the twelve apostles the option to leave. But Peter, acting as their spokesman said, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." This is a radical statement of faith. We must keep it in mind because it describes the necessary growth and evolution of faith in each of us. That faith is nurtured in the triple presence of Christ: his presence in the assembly of people at prayer, his presence in the word proclaimed in scripture and in His real presence in the Eucharist.
Through most of the past week the gospel readings at Mass have focused on being called and chosen. We heard "many are called and few are chosen," "the last shall be first and the first shall be last." This gospel reading reminds us that those who are called, that those who are chosen, are free to reject the revelation that is Jesus. Many did. Many do today. Just as the Israelites forgot and rejected the covenant with God over and over, just as some of those who enter into the covenant of marriage ignore the terms of that covenant, there are those who reject the revelation of Jesus as Bread of Life, as the Word come down from Heaven.
They are to be pitied.
Some of the photos from the recent trip to California. I made one error in not taking a tripod. The opportunities for night photography are splendid. I had one lens that could mostly manage but barely.
The campus at Loyola Marymount (LMU) is beautiful. It is very spread out, dotted with palm trees and quite flat. The university sits on a bluff overlooking LA with views from the ocean to many miles to the east. The backdrop for the cityscape is mountains. I'd only been there once before, nine years ago and, because I did not have a camera at the time, did not remember much about the setting.
The chapel in which the vows was held is simple but not stripped down. Indeed, it has pews rather than chairs that would allow it to be a "multi-purpose" space. A chapel should not be a multi-purpose space. It has one purpose and one purpose only: prayer.
The entrance. There are three gothic arches over the porch area. Interesting saw-tooth pattern.
The view of the chapel from the sanctuary. The chapel was packed for the vow Mass.
The stained glass windows at eye-level along the aisle are each dedicated to a famous man though not necessarily a saint. I've always been a fan of Thomas More.
The view of the chapel from the back with the focus on the holy water font.
There is a piece of the Berlin Wall on Campus.
This cluster of houses was fascinating. It sits at the base of the bluff. The stark white broken up with blocks of primary color bring Mondrian to mind.
The view of LA from the bluff. The weather was close to perfect. There was no smoke from the forest fires to the north.
A reflection of LA in the rounded glass wall of the library.
LA by night. Why did I not think to take the tripod? I had space.
I am going on retreat on Saturday 29 August until the Sunday before Labor Day (eight days). Please keep me in your prayers. Looking forward to the silence and isolation. Will be at the Abbey.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD