Sunday, September 24, 2017

Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 55:6-9
Ps 145
Phil 1:20c-24, 27a
Mt 20:1-16a
No Fair! The ref missed a foul!  
Mooooooommmmmmmmm! She got a bigger piece of cake than me. Unfair!
It’s not fair! Why does it always rain on MY weekend off ?!?
Sound familiar? It should. We become sensitized to fair and unfair, we become overly sensitized to fair vs. unfair, early in life, certainly before third grade. For some special interest groups whining “no fair” or looking for evidence of unfairness falls somewhere between a hobby and an art form if not a billy club with which to beat others over the head. But fair is a relative concept. Even more than that, fair is a human concept. Fair is an idea defined by human vocabulary. It does not apply to God.
The gospel parable is one with which we can identify. Four groups of workers are recruited for manual labor at various times of the day, from early in the workday to an hour before its end. It is easy to understand the excitement on the part of the first group to be hired. The last group was paid first. AND they were paid a full day’s wages. We can almost hear the first group thinking or saying among themselves, “Wow! Time and a half!! Double time!!! Bonus city!!! Bingo!!!!” And, we can identify with their annoyance bordering on fury that they were paid no more than those who worked an abbreviated day. Of course they were paid no less. But, that didn’t stop them from whining “No fair.” 
That should be cause for great rejoicing. The first reading helps explain. 
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” 
God is beyond the concepts of fair and unfair. In our understanding, fair means that each gets what he or she deserves. No more and no less. Human ideas and concepts such as the difference between fair and unfair cannot be projected onto God. God transcends our descriptions. God cannot be contained by our pitiful human vocabulary when it attempts to describe that which is indescribable. We can never know God’s mind. God showed that He is not fair by sending His only Son to redeem us from our sins. God showed how unfair He is by sending Jesus to free us from the snare of death. Only through God’s unfairness could we hope to have eternal life. God showed how unfair He is in the life of Our Blessed Mother Mary who said, “may it be done unto me according to Your word.” She, who was conceived without sin, endured the same sorrows, the same unfairness that we do in our daily lives. 
Because Jesus came into this world to suffer and die for our sake we know that God is not fair. Because Jesus came into this world to suffer and die for our sake we know that God is magnanimous. We know that God is overwhelmingly generous. God is so far beyond fair that the term no longer has any meaning in reference to Him. God is not fair because He offers redemption to all of us, small time sinners and chronic mortal sinners. That redemption is available regardless of income, size of house, make of car, or zip code. True, we have to ask. Yes, we must repent our sins. But that option is open to everyone. God is there to forgive, to give us the same wage, redemption from sin, the same wage, the defeat of death, the same wage, life eternal, no matter how many hours we worked in the vineyard. 
“Let the scoundrel forsake his way, 
and the wicked his thoughts;
let him turn to the Lord for mercy
to our God, who is generous in forgiving”
We should be as unfair as God is when it comes to forgiveness. Grudges. Vendettas. Gossip. Slander. We are adept at all of them. We can be slighted or hurt by someone and remember every detail of that slight. Forever. We are skilled at non-forgiveness. Plotting revenge is a popular indoor sport. But that is not God’s way. 
Jesus summarizes much of human behavior when He asks, “Are you envious because I am generous?” The answer is yes, unless we are the recipients of more generosity than everyone else. Then we feel we deserve it. But do we truly deserve what God has done for us? Are we truly worthy recipients of what Paul wrote in the Letter to the Romans? ”While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” If God were fair, if God gave us what we truly deserved, no more and no less, Jesus would never have died for our sins. 
“The Lord is near to all who call upon him.” 
The Lord is near to all, not only to the wealthy not only to the powerful. The Lord is near to all. He offers redemption to all. He offers love to all. Without exception. 
It is not fair.  
Thank God.


The photos are from St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA.  I made my diaconate and priestly ordination retreats here.  Hospitable community, a beautiful setting in Western PA, and fine liturgy.   Would like to get back there this autumn for a few days and a chance to visit a friend who is a student at St. Vincent University.   

The holy oils

The monastic church.  Was the site of Arnold Palmer's funeral. 

The crucifix.  

The last two are the sacristy.  The albs are for concelebration.  All monk priests concelebrate the conventual Mass.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

24th Friday in Ordinary Time

1 Tim 6:2c-12
Ps 49

One hears the most well-known verse from the first reading misquoted most of the time.  Contrary to popular belief, money is not the root of all evil. The letter to Timothy reads:  "For the love of money is the root of all evils."  The distinction is crucial.

At worst, money as money, money as currency, is neutral.  Human attachment to it and the desire for more and more of it, however, is not neutral.  It can be abnormal to the point of pathology.  The love of money is the root of all the evils that one can name and a few evils that have yet to be discovered.  The reading notes: "those who want to be rich" fall into temptation, they give in to many foolish and harmful desires that lead to ruin, destruction and loss of faith. Many lotto winners have learned this through very painful experience.

Money is not intrinsically evil.  But, when love of money, when an insane desire for more and more of it, when obsession with amassing more than anyone else, becomes life's goal, one is lost.  One is lost to God.  One is lost to family and friends.  One is lost to oneself.  Consider the headlines from past years and local stories that never quite made the headlines, though they might have had a quick mention in the Metro section. 

The nationally sensational stories and the stories of merely local interest, share the same common denominator, they share the same dynamicof love of money as the driving force behind sin. 

Bernie Madoff. No need to elaborate on the evil the man perpetrated as the result of greed. Sixty-four billion dollars scammed.  The lives of many changed and ruined.

The woman who steals from the volunteer fire company.  No need to elaborate.  Same greed and desire for money.  A few thousand dollars stolen.  A lesser number of lives changed and ruined, but lives changed and ruined nonetheless.

The sins differ only in the amount of money taken and the degree of news coverage.  The sinful desires, the obsession, and the selfish disregard for others are identical.  It is merely a matter of scale and amount.  Mr. Madoff is in prison on a 150-year sentence.  Both sons are dead, one from cancer and the other from suicide.  His wife is a pariah.  The woman in prison for embezzlement is separated from her children for a few years.  The kids must live with the stigma of mother who is a felon.   And she too will be a pariah when released.

I would make a small edit to the Letter to Timothy involving just three letters and swapping prepositions. Instead of " . . . the love of money is the root of all evils" substitute " . . . the lust for money is the root of all evils." It is a more accurate description of the blind drive to sin.

Heed the psalmist's warning,
"For when he dies, he shall take none of it;
his wealth shall not follow him down. . .
He shall join the circle of his forebears
who shall never more see light."

No weekend Mass scheduled, a distinct rarity.  Much to be done and I am grateful for the free time.  I will probably celebrate a private Mass and then attack the list of things to do, a list that includes watching Penn State-Iowa tomorrow night.  

The reading from 1 Timothy has fascinated me for a long time.  It is a good illustration how a misquote as explained in the homily, can change meaning and allow one to use the misquoted line as a club with which to beat others into submission to one's agenda.  

The photos are from September 2013 and taken in a eight-day span that ended on 29 September.  I was on my final vow retreat.  It was a spectacular time to be doing it as the leaves were changing on a day-by-day basis.  

The monastic cemetery is just outside the cloister walk.  

The road extends for close to a mile.  There is another of about the same length extending in the other direction.  One is the north road and the other the south.  Given my extreme directional impairment I have no idea which is which.

A detail of the glass in a library door.

Sometimes the play of light on the most mundane of things, in this case a storage area in a small hall can result in a lovely image.   Rule of photography:  pay attention to small details that would otherwise be missed.

Busy as a bee.  

This combination of shape, color, and texture fits with my definition of autumn. 

Sunrise looking toward the general direction of the town of Spencer.  I left for Weston a few hours later on 29 September.  Pronounced final vows on 1 October.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Memorial of Sts. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions

Andrew Kim Taegon (1821-1846) and Paul Chong Hasang (1795-1839) probably never met.   But they, along with 92 other Korean martyrs and a handful of foreign missionaries, became “Canonization Classmates”  when they were canonized by John Paul II during a visit to Korea 1984. Their stories merit contemplation.

Andrew was the son of Blessed Ignatius Kim a convert who was martyred when Andrew was 18.  Baptized at the age of 15  Andrew traveled 6000 miles to Macao where he entered the seminary.  Following ordination six years later he returned to Korea.  Part of his mission was to help other missionaries enter Korea via the water-route and thus avoid border guards.  He was tortured and then beheaded at the age of 25, two years after ordination. 

Paul was a married lay-missioner.  He traveled to China often as a servant in the Korean diplomatic corps.  He contacted bishops in China to plead for more priests.  He went so far as to contact Pope Gregory X with the result that the Korean diocese was declared valid.  His brief biography notes that he reunited scattered Christians following persecutions and encouraged them to keep and live their faith.  One of the great founders of the Korean Church, he died during a persecution in 1839.

Those named as companions were tortured and killed during various persecutions in the 19th century. The details of the tortures are nauseating to read about, even for a physician. 

Because he was a priest,  Andrew Kim was an anomaly in the Korean Church. Because he was a layman, Paul Chong was the norm.  As John Paul II put it in his canonization homily: “The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by laypeople. This fledgling church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast of 10,000 martyrs. The death of these many martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today’s splendid flowering of the Church in Korea.

Today their undying spirit sustains the Christians of the Church of Silence in the north of this tragically divided land.”  Despite inhumane persecution the lamp of the early Korean Church burned brightly on its lampstand.  The Korean martyrs, almost all of them laymen and women, never hid the gospel under a bushel basket.  They took up the cross and followed.  The result is a vibrant Church, bursting at the seams with vocations to the religious life and priesthood.

Today we pray for the Church in Korea.  And we pray that in time, the people of the North will be freed from the shackles of cruel dictatorship.

I haven't left the country, a serious temptation, but have been on the road a lot.  Upon returning from LJ I was given permission to purchase a new camera.  First non-used one I've gotten.  It took some time to get used to and learn.  More of a challenge was learning to use the new photo processing software needed to download the photos.  The old software, Aperture 3, does not recognize the RAW photos from the new camera.  And, as Apple has stopped updating Aperture, it won't recognize them.  After trying out multiple programs on free trials I settle on a fairly complex one.  The photo work is intuitive the storage process is not.  Way too much time yesterday working on learning it but it is coming.  By the end of the day I'd stopped swearing.  A good sign.  

One more road trip in the offing and then it is time to move to Boston College, about eight miles down Rt. 30 from here.  Perhaps not even that far.  Nonetheless, it will be a different milieu.  

One of the events here at Campion was remodeling and rededicating the daily Mass chapel.  The old chapel was not exactly ugly but it certainly wasn't pretty.  Everything was beige and light wood, the tabernacle was very poorly placed, and, well, I could go on at length.  The work was done in house.  It was also done beautifully.  

Our Lady of Montserrat to whom the chapel is dedicated.  

A straight ahead shot taken after dark.

Two angled views using wide-angle.  The lighting is much improved.  Floors were refinished and no longer squeak.   The tabernacle was moved from a corner to a place of greater prominence, as it should be. 

The empty tabernacle prior to blessing the chapel. 

I never noticed this Jesuit seal before despite it having been on the old tabernacle.  Everything in the chapel was beige or neutral wood.  The seal disappeared into it.  

The water in the pitchers was poured into the holy water font.  Every wall was sprinkled with water as part of the dedication.

Father Superior Walter Smith, SJ proceeding around the chapel while sprinkling the walls. 

The chrism used to anoint the altar. 

The back of the chapel.  This too was made much more attractive. 

Reception in the rotunda. 

Fr. Jack, SJ, MD