Saturday, July 8, 2017

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zech 9:9-10
Ps 145
Rom 8:9, 11-13
Mt: 11-25-30

The first reading and the Gospel share an interesting musical juxtaposition.  Parts of both are sung  in the first part of Georg Freiderich Handel’s Messiah.  The reading from Zechariah is the basis for the soprano air “Rejoice greatly Oh daughter of Zion.”  The last three verses of the Gospel follow closely.  Verses 28 and 29, with the pronouns changed from the first to the third person, are the final two verses of the exquisite air that begins with a quotation from Isaiah (40:11)  “He shall feed His flock.”  It then continues:

"Come unto Him all ye that labor
Come unto Him that are heavy laden
And He will give you rest
Take his yoke upon you
And learn of Him
For He is meek and lowly of heart
And ye shall find rest unto your souls." 

The final verse of today's Gospel reading, "His yoke is easy and His burden is light,"  is the final chorus of the first part of this magnificent work.

One need not be a biblical scholar to recognize the relationship between Zechariah’s image of Jerusalem’s king riding “on a colt, the foal of an ass” and Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem shortly His crucifixion.  As described in Zechariah the king’s entry into Jerusalem is both triumphant and peaceful.  And indeed, Jesus' entry into Jerusalem had those overtones. 

Triumphant and peaceful are two words that don’t often appear in the same sentence.  Think about it. A donkey is useless in war, at least in a war that was fought on the ground.  Were the king to enter Jerusalem mounted on a horse, were Jesus to have entered Jerusalem on a horse, the image would have been aggressive rather than peaceful.  We know from all four Gospels that Jesus specifically instructed his disciples to bring a colt or an ass and not a horse for his entry into Jerusalem.   He was proclaiming the message of peace rather than aggression even then.  Zechariah portrays the king not only as peaceful but as humble, just as Jesus describes himself in Matthew. 

One scholar writes of the king’s humility as follows, “The future ruler will in some basic way be identified with and no different from those who consent to come under his rule.  Yet, he will have the resources and power to dominate the nations and establish worldwide peace and stability.”

“And no different from those who consent to come under his rule.” 

This reiterates a basic tenet of our faith, that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, like us in all things but sin.  This tenet is reiterated daily when, while pouring the water and wine into the chalice during the preparation of the gifts, the priest is instructed to say inaudibly,

“By the mystery of this water and wine
may we come to share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”   

One might ask why Jesus is thanking the Father for having hidden things from the wise and learned yet sharing them with the little ones?  Exactly what was being both hidden and shared at the same time? From whom?  The late Jesuit Father Dan Harrington suggested that what God has hidden from the wise and powerful but shared with the poor and lowly is the significance of Jesus’ deeds and the presence of God’s kingdom in His ministry, the unique relationship between the Father and the Son, a relationship that is open to those to whom the Son wishes to reveal the Father.  A relationship that answers Jesus’ invitation to join him.  One need not be materially poor to know what Jesus reveals to the little ones.  But one must possess the trusting faith characteristic of children.

If you have a recording of Messiah listen to it.  If you don't have a copy there are full recordings available on You Tube.  I checked.  Pay attention to the verses from today’s readings.   When you hear  “Come unto him, all ye who labor. . . .”  recall that Jesus offered an invitation to those outside His immediate circle of disciples.  An invitation to come to him so as to find rest.  Recall that Jesus offers us the same invitation today. 

The psalm proclaimed:
"The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works."

It is God’s mercy and kindness that makes His yoke easy and His burden light. 

Handel’s Messiah is a magnificent work.  The music and libretto come together in sublime unity.  From the opening, “Comfort ye, my people” to the almost overwhelming "Amen" that ends the work, we are reminded again and again of what Jesus did  for us.  Is there any reason to refuse the invitation to take his gentle yoke upon our own shoulders?  

Five days to go and I return to Boston.  Next assignment not yet clear.  Will speak with Fr. Provincial two weeks later.  The good news is that the conversation will be by phone rather than requiring me to go to New York City.  From what I've been reading about the subway woes there, my resolve to go another 15 years before visiting the city has been reinforced.  

There was no homily last week as the English language Mass has gone on summer break.  Much of our congregation is composed of Erasmus students who are the equivalent of the American semester abroad.  The students come from all over Europe.  As Slovenian is unique (there are forty dialects within the country, some of much are mutually unintelligible) they come to sv. Jože for Mass in English, the language of much of their instruction.  Last week I concelebrated at the Cathedral.  Tomorrow I will be at the Franciscan Church.  The difference is that Fr. Christian, OFM asked me to preach a five minute homily.  The one above is longer than that but I edited it harshly, kind of like drowning a puppy, to fit.  

I hope to return to LJ but nothing is certain.  There is a tantalizing offer in the U.S.  I will be back next spring to give some retreats here and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.  By the end of July I should have a good idea of the next year or six.  

Went out with the camera two nights ago about 10:00 PM.  One of the things I will miss is the absolute safety of the streets of LJ at night.  There is no way I would wander the streets of my small hometown or nearby Wilkes-Barre at 10 PM with a camera.  No way.  No how.  Same for Washington, D.C.  Maybe downtown Boston but certainly not along the Charles River.  

The Franciscan Church reflected in the Ljubljanica.  Is about a 7 minute walk from our place.    Mass tomorrow at 11:15.

I've been playing with a technique of moving the camera during a long exposure, in this case 1 second.  The movement was left to right.  The challenge is in keeping the camera more or less level. 

This is a plainly bizarre shot of the Franciscan Church and river.   It was intentionally very overexposed so as to play with it.  Works better in black and white. 

The next three photos are "Pop's Place" a burger and beer place overlooking the Ljubljanica not far from the Franciscan Church (quite possibly lunch place after Mass).  The owner is a Slovenian-American who grew up in California.  Among the best burger I've eaten in years, including at some high end restaurants.  The beef, a selected blend, is butchered on premises and ground fresh daily.  The brioche rolls (they are magic) are baked a Tom Brady bomb away across the river.  It is obvious from the taste and texture that the beef never even passed in front of a freezer to say nothing of being stored in it.   This first was taken on the opposite side of the river. 

Crossed over the bridge for this one. 

A close up of the inside.  The inside eating space is small as is true of most of the cafes here.  Slovenians eat outdoors in all kinds of weather.  The umbrellas have heating elements in the winter.  Other places have heaters below the table.  Most restaurants supply blankets or sheepskin to stay warm when eating or smoking outdoors.  I sat at the table inside and had a Grim Reaper beer a few nights ago.  Wicked bitter which is how I like my beer.  It was also ice cold, a real challenge in Europe.

Plečnik's colonnade is my favorite building in the city.  This was taken looking up toward our community which is actually downstream.  The next was taken from the opposite side of the river looking back toward the Triple Bridge and the Franciscan Church. 

Then there is Cacao.  Gelato places dot the city.  This is one of the busiest. Both indoor and outdoor options.  

This was my 'tiramisu gelato' just before I dug in. 

One of the many cobblestoned alleys.  The yellow building with the red door on the left is a Chinese restaurant.  

A bridal shop.  Finally took some nighttime shots after walking by it multiple times.  I was drawn by the graceful pattern of the security gates against the white dressed in the background.  

Am going to miss LJ.  I don't think I will ever live in a place with so much photographic potential.  If sent back it will not be a problem.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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