20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Last Saturday, August 11, 2018, a ritual that is over 450 years old was reenacted in several cities across the U.S. Following the entrance procession Mass went on as usual until just before communion. After the Lamb of God a Jesuit provincial stood at the altar. He elevated the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord in front of the congregation that solemnly repeated the words, "O Lord, I am not worthy . . . ." as usual. But then he remained in place. One by one black clad young men approached the altar. Each man knelt alone, gazed at the Body and Blood of Our Lord for some moments, and then began to read from a document he had hand written a few days earlier: “Almighty and eternal God. I understand how unworthy I am in your divine sight. Yet I am strengthened by your infinite compassion and mercy, and I am moved by the desire to serve you. . . . “
He continued for a few more sentences. The newly vowed man then partook of the banquet that Jesus brought to its fullest expression, the Eucharistic banquet, the same banquet in which we will share in a few minutes. When he returned to his place he was no longer a novice. He was now, and would remain, a perpetually vowed Jesuit. Nineteen years and five days ago, 14 August 2018, I read the same vow formula that, except for being in English rather than Latin, has not changed in centuries.
The Jesuit vow Mass is unusual because rather than pronouncing vows after the homily as in other orders, we pronounce our vows kneeling in front of the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord, just as St. Ignatius of Loyola and his original companions did on August 15, 1534.
Images of a banquet, food, and drink are prominent in today's readings and gospel.
The first reading describes the banquet that Wisdom has prepared for all who choose to partake of it True wisdom comes from God, who gave humans, and only humans, not dogs, or cats, or other lower animals no matter how much we anthropomorphize them, hearts capable of discerning good from evil. He gave us, and only us, hearts capable of choosing to return God’s love with love, and hearts that are equally capable of rejecting God's love. A few verses after the end of this reading one reads: “The beginning of Wisdom is fear of the Lord; and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” There is no possible counter-argument.
The reading from Ephesians gives important advice. “Do not drug yourselves with wine.”
Paul is not referring only to drinkable wine, a little chardonnay here and some merlot there. He is referring to the wine of power, the wine of money, the wine of sensual pleasure, and the resulting intoxications that cloud one's judgment. Paul is referring to the drunkenness that takes one’s mind from discerning God’s will. He is describing the inebriation that destroys the gifts of Wisdom. How many lives have been damaged by those who are drunk on their own greed and intoxicated by their lust for power and possessions? Contrast this drunkenness on the wine of power, compare the gluttony at the banquet of money with the Gospel.
Jesus tells the crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven: Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” At the end He reiterates. “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
Jesus wants to guide us on a challenging journey of faith. A journey for which we are nourished only at the Eucharistic Banquet. Unlike the wine of power and greed, unlike the junk food of position, unlike the saturated fat diet of privilege, partaking in the banquet of the Eucharist, hearing and obeying the Word of God, brings us to eternal life.
However, there is one thing we must never forget. Jesus is NOT promising that our lives will be free of pain and suffering. Jesus is not promising that we won’t die; sometimes peacefully sometimes after a prolonged and difficult struggle. Jesus is not promising that those we love won’t die; be it before their time or after a long life. We all must die if we are to know eternal life. Eternal life is only possible through the Living Word, eternal life comes only through Jesus the Son of God. It is only possible because Jesus gave Himself for our salvation. Eternal life is possible only if we avail ourselves of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
In a few moments, just as those brand new Jesuit scholastics did last Saturday, you will kneel and gaze up at the Body and Blood of Christ.
You will hear the words:
”Behold the Lamb of God.
Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called
to the supper of the Lamb."
You are being invited to the banquet of Wisdom.
You are being invited to the banquet that leads to eternal life.
You need only respond:
So be it.
Most of the boys at camp making the flag pole for the 'camp flag.'
The flag. It was fascinating to watch the boys cooperating as they began with a large tree branch, stripped it, and eventually raised the flag.
A silhouette of tourists at the summit of Višarje
The kids eating lunch at a farm about one mile down a ski slope from the summit of the mountain they walked down. No way I could have done that. Riding down in a 4wd vehicle was an interesting experience. We went very slowly.
Three reasonably newborn calves. Apparently they were sent into time out.
Smoking ricotta cheese. I've never heard of this but it sounds good.
The farmer makes the cheese from the cow's milk he obtains daily. This is the windowsill in his cheesemaking room.
The pot in which the milk was heated to a very specific temperature so as to make ricotta.
This explains everything about being young. The girls ambled off at the beginning of the scavenger hunt. The boys took off like rockets.
The kids left crumbs. I missed lunch completely. Had a beer instead.
A last photo of the flag pole work.