Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Requiem aeternam . . . .

Eighteen years ago today was the day before the morning of. But we didn't know it. The only ones who knew were the Islamic fundamentalists who were making the final checks on their coordinated plan.
Eighteen years ago tonight we went to bed most likely in the usual fashion. Some drifted off into deep slumber while others tossed and turned with worry. The Church ended her day in the usual way with the chanting of the Salve Regina at the end of compline. How well did the killers sleep on what would be their last night alive? Were they feeling any anticipatory guilt? I hesitate to inquire about the content of their night prayers. 
Eighteen years ago tomorrow morning we went to work, or to school, or for a run on a day off. The daily tasks had to be done. Perhaps it was garbage day. Perhaps it was the first day on a new job. 
And then our lives changed. 
Eighteen years ago tomorrow night few of us slept. 
Today, eighteen years later, we continue to pray for the murdered:
Requiem aeternam 
dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace. 
Eternal rest
grant unto them O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Side altar in the crypt church at Notre Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, France

Massed candles at Žale Cemetery in Ljubljana, Slovenia the day before All Souls Day 2016. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, September 1, 2019

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Lk 14:1,7-11

Today's gospel narrative is subtitled "Teaching on Humility."   It is unique to Luke's Gospel.  The first reading from Sirach resembles a teaching on humility that could have been lifted directly from the rule for a religious order.  St. Benedict defined twelve steps of humility across three chapters of the Rule. The first sentence of Chapter Seven of the Rule quotes today's Gospel as an introduction to those steps: "Scriptures cry out to us and say: 'Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and every one who humbles himself will be exalted.'”  The advice in all three sources is sound and worthy of meditation. 

Humility is an interesting virtue and a misunderstood one. It is one we can try to fake.  Sometimes we are successful in those efforts. However, as easy as it is to fake it is difficult to live, particularly in this day of relentless self-promotion and ubiquitous selfies--this last being one of the ugliest neologisms in English, in its sound, its execution, and its implications.

Temptations to glory, fame, and being renown for great deeds dogged Ignatius of Loyola throughout his life.  The early pages of his autobiography are fascinating and revealing.  Much of the rest of the autobiography reveals how he fought against those temptations.  Jesus' caution against self-exaltation is well-known even to many who are unaware that it comes from scripture. The banquet image is an excellent illustration of the danger of excessively high self-regard, a danger that is at epidemic levels in U.S. society today.  

While arrogating a place of honor without being asked is a blatant example of excessive self-regard, there are times when egotism  may be mistaken for humility.  True humility is not persistent self-abasement. It does, however, demand honestly admitting one's mistakes and trying to correct them. True humility does not mean deflecting or denying compliments. It means accepting them with modest gratitude and then moving on to more pressing matters. 

Compliments are an interesting phenomenon.  We learn a lot about ourselves and others by observing how we, or they, respond to them.  A compliment is an expression of regard from the speaker to the recipient of the compliment. A compliment is a verbal gift from one to another.  It is a manifestation of affection.

"That dress looks very good on you."  

"You mean this old rag?  You need to see your eye doctor."  

"That is a beautiful painting."  

"Oh, a twelve year-old could have done as well.  Better in fact."  

This kind of response is not humility.  It may seem so on the surface.  But, in reality, this kind of compliment deflection is an example of pride wearing a badly applied mask of humility. The compliment deflection is meant to encourage more reassurance and praise, ideally accompanied by a cascade of words.  "Oh no, you are soooooooo wrong. That painting is exceptionally well done.  The composition, the color, the brushstrokes . . . .'

Responding to a compliment or reacting to praise with fake humility is an attempt to manipulate others into piling on even more accolades, a few superlatives, and lots of adverbs.  More significantly, it is a rejection of the other, of the one giving the gift, on par with refusing a proffered handshake.  There is only one possible response to a compliment:  A slight smile, perhaps a nod, and  words to the effect, "Thank you, it is kind of you to say so."   

The opposite of humility is hubris, an ancient Greek word defined as: extreme pride, especially pride and ambition so great that they offend the gods and lead to one's downfall. It was hubris, rather than hunger, a desire to chomp on an apple, or the need to increase dietary fiber intake, that led to Adam and Eve being exiled from the garden. Indeed, it took very little persuasion for Satan to ignite their pride and ambition with disastrous results.  It is pride that drives one to assume a prime seat at a banquet without having been asked to take it.  Pride is the driving force behind many of the sins we commit on a regular basis.  

The distinct Carthusian Rite for the Mass uses different wording for some of the prayers of the Roman Rite.  Their admission of sin, their version of the confiteor,is stripped down and simple.  It begins: "I confess that I have sinned through pride . . . "   There is no mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. There is just a simple admission of pride. Pride is perhaps the most lethal of all sins and the driver behind many other sins. 

As I was applying to the Society, about a year before I entered, George B. Murray, SJ, MD, a psychiatrist at Mass General who was my fellowship director, among other facets of our relationship, sent me a letter I've kept with my passport and other important papers for twenty-three years.  George's description of humility is an important corrective to the humility that fishes for more praise.  He wrote: "The only thing you need in novitiate is a true vocation and humility. Humility is not kow-towing, proclaiming yer' lowness, and taking self-abasement.  Humility is based on truth, ergo the real. . . if you erred admit it to yourself (you don't have to advertise it). If you did good admit it to yourself (you don't have to advertise it)."  He dropped me off at the novitiate on August 24,1997, twenty-two years ago last week, and vested me as a priest ten years later.  Six years after that I celebrated his funeral Mass.  A brilliant man, his definition of humility determined how he lived his extraordinarily accomplished life.

True humility is realizing our pride, admitting it to ourselves, and then acting against it (agere contra) without making that contrary action obvious or making a big deal out of it. 
True humility is to follow Jesus' advice, "Take my yoke upon you,and learn from me."
Down at the Abbey of Regina Laudis for a few days to help out with Masses and benediction.  Always enjoy coming here.  Alas, the drive was a nightmare of backups and accidents.  

Summer is over (and football season has BEGUN!!!!!).  Some flower photos taken over the years. 

A formal boquet on the altar at Campion.

One of my very few successful efforts at capturing fauna in nature.  Butterflies hear me coming and they are flitting all over. 

 Gorgeous colors playing off each other. 
Small mums in a planter. 

Yeah, shooting raindrops on roses is trite.  It is.  I do it all the time. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, August 24, 2019

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 66:18-21
Ps 117
Heb 12:5-7, 11-13
Luke 13:22-30

Today's readings are neither comforting nor consoling. They will not soothe fears. They will not erase doubt.  It is much more comforting to hear blessed are the poor or I am the Good Shepherd.  Those sentiments  will have to wait for another day.  If anything, the readings from Hebrews and Luke will increase frustration; they will  force us to ask questions:  Why bother? Where is God?  

Disturbing though they may be these readings are also important. They reflect a primary reality of human life.  They reflect the lives of believers as well as those deemed to be saints, a life following Jesus is neither easy nor smooth.  We must cope with doubt and uncertainty.  Each of us must recommit daily and then continue the journey. 

A recurring theme in the recent daily gospels has been that of exclusion.  The gospels from Monday through Thursday, included variations on the themes of, many are called and few are chosen, the last shall be first and the first last.  How many will arrive at the gate?  Who will get through?  Will I make the cut?  

The first reading from Isaiah proclaims that people from other nations who hear of the True God, the God of Abraham and Moses, the only True God, will come to Jerusalem from all over the world to worship and offer sacrifice. These particular passages come from the end of the last chapter of Isaiah.  The penultimate verse of this chapter, indeed the penultimate verse of the entire Book of Isaiah is:  “And Sabbath after Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says the Lord.” 

This is key:  Worship, prayer, thanksgiving, and  observing the Sabbath; ultimately, these are what will bring us through the narrow door. 

The reading from Hebrews emphasizes that the journey is neither easy nor guaranteed to be pleasant.  It is, in fact, a difficult journey, a journey of trial, a journey in which weakness is revealed.  It is the journey of life as we experience it.  It is a journey punctuated by struggle, doubt, and error.  It is a journey of being disciplined for that error. There is no promise--there has never been a promise--that following Jesus brings a life free of challenge,  a life without sorrow, a life absent suffering or darkness, or a life in which one never feels abandoned.   

Pie in the sky preaching borders is cruelly delusional.  Discipline is painful to receive.  Discipline is painful to administer.  It alienates the one who is disciplined from the one who disciplines and vice-versa.
It may take a long time before we can look the one who disciplined us in the eye without resentment, without feeling a sting or becoming defensive.   Not one of us enjoys being criticized.  No one enjoys being disciplined even when it is deserved.  However, Hebrews includes a promise of relief:  “At the time it is administered, all discipline seems a cause for grief and not for joy.  But later it brings forth the fruit of peace and justice to those who are trained in its school.”   

We recall discipline more acutely than we do praise.  We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.  We grow more from adversity than we do in times of plenty and ease.  It is paradoxical that sometimes the farther we feel from God the closer we are to Him, the more distant Jesus seems the more likely He is walking next to us.  

In the context of this week’s readings, the gospel is a further warning against spiritual elitism, a warning against sectarianism and self-importance. . .  a warning against assuming we are God’s chosen;  His favorites, while everyone else is second class.  We have all been guilty--and will be guilty--of saying or thinking something along the lines of, “What is someone like her doing here?”  Or, in a variation on Groucho's famous statement, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that lets him in.”  

Each one of us is the potential hearer of Jesus’ statement, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from.  Away from me, you evildoers!”  We are sinners.  We are sinners loved by God to be sure, but sinners nonetheless.  This is true even of those who are deemed living saints.

Think back to when excerpts of Mother Teresa’s letters were published, letters she wanted destroyed after her death.  Some of the commentary was the fruit of reflection. Some pushed a vicious anti-religious anti-Catholic agenda.  Some critique was absurdly psychoanalytic. or, worse yet, laden with hilariously pretentious and inaccurate new age psychobabble.  

It seems that, despite appearances to the contrary, she was a woman who struggled with doubt for decades,  a perceived saint whose prayer life was often arid.  It appears that much of Mother Teresa’s life was one of frequent wailing and grinding of teeth; of working with an underlying dissatisfaction.  For many of us her letters enhanced, rather than detracted from, her reputation for holiness because they demonstrated  that though she struggled with doubt she never rejected Jesus.  

Many have struggled with doubt, with dryness, with a sense of God that existed onlybecause of His perceived absence.  Recall that Psalm  22 includes Jesus’ last words:  “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  

People will come from East and West, North and South, to take their place at the banquet of the Lord.  We are invited to that same banquet.  What matters more to each one of us?  That we are first, last, or somewhere in the middle; or is it more important that we partake of the banquet? 

The chapel in which I will give this homily at 8 AM Sunday (at this point in 9 hours).  It is the Jesuit community chapel in St. Mary's Hall, the Jesuit residence at BC.  No commute, just a short walk.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Feast of the Assumption

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Ps 45:10, 11, 12, 16
1 Cor 15:20-27
Lk 1:39-56
Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; one of three Marian feasts that are holy days obliging the faithful to attend Mass. The other two are: The Immaculate Conception on December 8 and The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on New Year’s Day. This particular feast raises questions, both relevant and irrelevant, for many of the faithful. The Feast of the Assumption raises even more questions in the less-than-faithful and the terminally sophisticated. 
The first question is why? Why do we celebrate the Feast of Mary's Assumption. 
Though decreed as dogma by Pius XII in 1950, this feast has been observed in both the Western and Eastern Churches since around the 6th Century. However, despite the early observance, there is no scriptural basis for it, solid or otherwise. A few passages of scripture are sometimes cited as indicating the Assumption. But the explanations of how they suggest the Assumption involve intricate mental and scriptural gymnastics. A second question is how? What were the biology and physics of Mary’s Assumption? As tantalizing as it might be the question is completely irrelevant. The relevant question is what does this feast mean for us today? What should Mary's assumption teach us? 
The Feast of the Assumption points the way for all followers of Jesus who imitate Mary’s fidelity to God’s will. The Assumption points the way, the destination, the arrival point, for all who can utter the same yes that Mary did at the Annunciation: 
"Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum" 
“May it be done unto me according to your word.” 
The Feast of the Assumption tells us that where Mary is—we are meant to be. 
The reading from the Book of Revelation is full of fantastical, strange, and bizarre images. The interpretation of the image of the woman is a subject of considerable debate and disagreement in scriptural and theological literature. Interpretations of this passage range from those who say that these images absolutely indicate Mary, the Mother of God, to readings suggesting that the image of the woman refers to Israel, or the Church, or Eve, or Mary; perhaps all of the above at the same time. 
Many artists have painted and sculpted these verses with very mixed results. One can clearly see the influence of this passage, for example, in paintings of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the only other feast on which we hear this reading. The best interpretative suggestion is that of scripture scholar Adele Collins who notes that it is more important to see the woman’s destiny than it is to identify her. 
Paul’s words comfort and instruct us. “Just as in Adam all die so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” Mary’s obedience stands in sharp contrast to Eve’s disobedience. Eve’s infidelity to God’s will is trumped by Mary’s fidelity. Mary is the antithesis of Eve. We heard from Luke’s Gospel. 
Magnificat anima meo Dominum
Et exsultavit spiritus meus
in Deo salutaris meo.
"My soul proclaims
the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices
in God my savior." 
Every evening members of religious orders, priests, and those who say the breviary, recite Mary’s Magnificat toward the end of vespers. The prayer does not need elaboration. It does not need explanation from the pulpit. There are lilies that should never be gilded. The Magnificat is one of them. Mary’s prayer calls for quiet contemplation in the depths of our souls; it calls for silent meditation in the stillness of our rooms. As we magnify the Lord, as we rejoice in God our savior, we will recall that God has remembered—that He will remember—His promise of mercy. 
And, as we will remind ourselves in a few moments with the Creed, Mary is where we are meant to be. 


All of the photos are from the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere in Lyon.  The outside has the appearance of a wedding cake.  The lower level chapel and the Marian chapel (with the gold Immaculate Conception on top) are lovely.  The main church was a little too blue and too many lights.  It also had a strange layout in that it was much taller than it was wide and very long.  It overlooks the entire city and is visible from almost everywhere.  

Taken from one of the bridges on the way home from class. 

Serious telephoto action

Main altar.

Bank of candles

Lighting a candle in the chapel directly underneath the gold representation of the Immaculate Conception

The view of Lyon from the ground of the Basilique

Mary the Queen.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Friday, August 9, 2019

Memorial St. Edith Stein (Sr. Teresia Benedicta à Cruce, OCD)

She disembarked from the train on August 6, 1942.  It had been a long, hot, dusty trip from Holland. Brushing the dust from the brown habit identifying her as a Carmelite nun she straightened her veil as best she could. Unlike some of the passengers, she knew it wasn't going to matter for long.  The woman was Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. Born Edith Stein in Breslau, Poland on October 12, 1891 she was now back in the country of her birth.  The station was Auschwitz. 

Stein was the youngest of eleven children born into an observant Jewish family.  Her academic brilliance was obvious at a young age. At 14 she became a teenage atheist.  Reflecting back on that period she wrote, "I consciously and deliberately stopped praying so as to rely exclusively on myself; so as to make all decisions about my life in freedom."  It would take almost seventeen years for her to discover the true meaning of freedom. 

She received a PhD in philosophy from the University of Frieburg, studying under Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology.  Two episodes during her studies moved her from the illusory freedom of atheistic self-dependence to the radical freedom possible only for those who live under the Cross of Christ. The first episode occurred when she visited the young widow of a colleague and friend killed in WW I. Though bereaved, the young widow's faith was such that she was consoling those who came to console her. This left a deep mark on Stein.  She wrote: "It was my first encounter with the cross and the divine power that it bestows on those who carry it. For the first time I was seeing with my own eyes the Church born from its redeemer's sufferings triumphant over the sting of death. That was the moment my unbelief collapsed and Christ shone forth---in the mystery of the Cross."

Shortly afterwards she was visiting friends who had a social obligation in which she could not be included.  While browsing through their library she stumbled upon the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. She read it that night in one sitting.  Upon closing it she said, "This is the truth." She was baptized at age 31 on New Year's Day 1922.

She had difficulty gaining admission to the Carmelites.  However, as the rumbling of the Nazi menace became louder, she was allowed to enter in Cologne in 1933, at age 42.  As the persecution of Jews continued to increase she was secretly moved to the Carmel in Echt, Holland in 1938 where she wrote her last work. Fittingly it was titled "The Science of the Cross. 

She dismissed plans to evacuate her to England explaining, "Do not do it.  Why should I be spared?   Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my Baptism? If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters; my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed."  She, and her sister Rosa, who had become a Catholic though not a Carmelite, were taken from Echt.  She ascended Calvary in the chambers of Auschwitz 77 years ago today.

She left behind an enormous amount of writing of which her letters are the most accessible. Released from the self-imposed shackles of atheistic pseudo-freedom she found radical freedom in the science and shadow of the cross. 

St. John Paul, II, pope, quoted her in his homily at her canonization: 

"Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. 
And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth!"

St. Edith Stein, pray for us. 

My devotion to Stein is too deep, and too personal to describe in detail here.  I'm not sure I can always understand it.  However, I have celebrated Mass every August 9 since I was ordained in 2007.  She is a saint for our time.  The healing miracle ascribed to her intervention formed the basis of my master's thesis.  

 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Feast of the Transfiguration

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14
Ps 97:1-2, 5-6,99
2 Pt 1:16-19
Lk 9:28-36

The Transfiguration draws us into a mystery that is beyond the reach of historical reconstruction, the grasp of scientific explanation, and well-beyond the possibility of geographic verification. All of these are irrelevant to the meaning of this feast. The Transfiguration represents the fulfillment of scripture, the fulfillment of a promise, and the beginning of mankind's salvation.as in the reading from Daniel: 

"The Son of Man received dominion, glory, and kingship;all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is everlasting;his kingship shall not be destroyed."

"His dominion is everlasting;
his kingship shall not be destroyed."

On this Feast we recall Jesus appearing in brilliant glory to three of his disciples while in the company of Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets.  Imagine the scene:  Dazzling light.  Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus.  Place yourself with the apostles. Stand with them on the mountain.  The tension becomes almost unbearable.  And then you hear God's voice: “This is my chosen Son, listen to him.”

"Listen to him."

The Father confirms that Jesus is who Peter had earlier confessed him to be: the Christ, the Son of God.  The Father has given you a mission: "Listen to him." 

Like the apostles, you are stunned into silence and overcome with awe.  On this day Jesus--Jesus the Nazarean, Jesus the teacher, Jesus the wonder worker, Jesus the healer was revealed in his Divinity.  

We recall another event today. That event was also marked by blinding light.  It was also overshadowed by a cloud.  It was an event which, if you place yourself at the scene, will cause stunned silence and prostration.  

August 6 is the date the Church sets aside to recall that Jesus revealed his Divinity on a mountain.  On August 6, 1945 the human race revealed its depravity at Hiroshima.  

The world would never be the same. Hiroshima captured in one event the sum total of human sin since the fall of Adam and Eve.  It took the cumulative horrors from all the wars of the past centuries, from the twentieth century, the bloodiest in history, and condensed them into a singular event.  This time God did not give mankind a mission from the cloud.  There was a terrible silence.  There was a void.  Or was there?  The voice of God was obscured by the explosion.  It was not silenced.  

Over two thousand years since Jesus' incarnation, birth, passion, death, resurrection and ascension, and seventy-four years since Hiroshima, the mandate: “listen to him” is as compelling and urgent for us as it was for the shaken apostles.  Indeed, it is more compelling because Hiroshima, and Nagasaki three days later, demonstrated a capability for destruction on a large scale that is unique to the present time, a capability that will only increase. A capability shared by too many countries.

"This is my Son; listen to him.”

"Listen to him."         

As we listen to Jesus, as we take his teaching to heart and allow that teaching to transform us, we move that much closer to the eschatological glory of  the transfigured Jesus.  If we adhere to the teaching of the Gospel, we can move from the apocalyptic destruction of the nuclear bomb, the mass-murders of the various genocides, and the concerted, systematic, and government approved attacks on morality and human life--the child and the womb and the ill elderly--that tell us that human life is ultimately without value.

The psalm reminds us as it proclaims.

"The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory."

Today was a major feast at the Charterhouse of the Transfiguration in Vermont.  Arrived there on Saturday for some of my usual work and stayed until after Mass this AM.  Thee was a hint of autumn at the 3500 ft elevation.  Football season is on the way!!!!  Penn State opens in less than a month.  

The weather was glorious.  All of the photos below are from this weekend.  I was quite busy but there was time to wander on Sunday.  Long drive back today as I left later than usual.  

The "blue hour" in the early AM.  The blue hour is a period of time--generally less than an hour--when the sun is below the horizon either before it rises or after it sets.  The physics of light result in a blue tint to everything.  This is about halfway up Equinox.  The view on this side is the valley.  shooting in the other direction is the Charterhouse.  

Lake Bardo (I think that is the name) near the guest house in which I stay when I am there.  The light fog was lifting from the lake.  Alas, there was no big fog to shoot in the early AM but it was lovely nonetheless.

That red dock is a challenge.  It is very unlevel and there is no handrail.  Always feel a little unsteady when on it. 

The irregularity of the dock is a little more apparent. 

There are wildflowers everywhere up there. 

The rowboat was on Lake Madeleine last year.  

A profusion of wildflowers

A hint of Christmas without the obese dude or anthropomorphized reindeer.

I rarely manage to capture a butterfly.  

The sun was hitting the berries just so.  Thus . . . . 

A spider web at the gift shot with mini-spectrums

Liturgical books in choir. 

Refectory set for the Sunday meal.

Sacristy being hit by the sun in just the right way. 

 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

In 1518, 27 year-old Iñigo de Loyola was struck in the leg by a canon ball during the Battle of Pamplona. He had refused to surrender to the French despite impossible odds. The French, for their part were so impressed by the man's tenacity that rather than imprisoning him, they got him back to the family castle of Loyola where he underwent a long, difficult, and, in some ways, almost impossible recovery. 
While recuperating he had only two options for reading: a Life of Christ and a book on the Lives of the Saints. With openness to the movement of the Spirit, with contrition for his past sins, and freed from the shackles of the old self, Iñigo, who now adopted the name of Ignatius, went on to write a set of spiritual exercises that have influenced uncounted and uncountable millions of people over the past 450 plus years. 
In 1540 The Society of Jesus was formally recognized as a religious order. Today, in 2019, it is firmly established throughout the world, engaged in diverse ministries and works. 
He died in Rome on this day in 1556 as the first Father General of the Society. Celebrations have been held, and will continue to be held, throughout the known world on this his Feast. The Jesuits of Boston College and Faber Community will gather this evening for Mass and a celebratory dinner. 
I've celebrated this feast in several cities in the U.S., in Taipei, Ljubljana, and N'Djamena. Greetings to my Jesuit brothers throughout the world. Happy Feast.


A bronze depiction of Iñigo after sustaining the leg wound.

The closing Mass in the Sanctuary of Loyola following the conference last month on Psychology and the Spiritual Exercises. I presented two conferences there, one on Ignatius himself and the other on Depression and Desolation in the Spiritual Exercises.  

At the last minute I decided not to concelebrate the Mass (There were lots and lots of Jesuit priests) and instead wandered with the camera. The statue of Ignatius overlooks the entire assembly.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, July 20, 2019

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gn 18:1-10a
Ps 15 2-5
Col 10:24-28
Lk 10:38-42

The responsorial psalm was psalm 15. It is short and was quoted in its entirety.
It began with a question: "Lord, who shall dwell on your holy mountain?" that the psalmist then answered: The one who walks without fault, acts with justice, speaks the truth, and does not slander.  

Who does no wrong to his brother, who casts no slur on his neighbor, who holds the godless in disdain, but honors those who fear the Lord.

The one who keeps a pledge, who takes no interest on a loan, and accepts no bribes against the innocent. 

The psalmist concluded: This one will stand firm forever.  

In his commentary on the psalms Jesuit Father Dick Clifford noted that this psalm contains ten descriptors of the ideal worshipper, ten descriptors of ideal behavior for all people. Psalm 15 describes those whose actions reflect their faith. The challenges are daunting.  

We don't always do justice. Gossip and idle chatter can lead to slander without us noticing. We breathe easier at the proscription against lending money at interest because most of us don't do it.  But, we create quid pro quo situations with others that demand exorbitant interest--the "you owe me big time" idea--that is not necessarily financial.  

The Analects of Confucius also described virtuous behavior.  Confucius lived five hundred years before Christ.  Scholars think the Analects achieved their final written form sometime around 350 B.C. The following comes from Book XII Chapter II:  "Chung-kung asked about perfect virtue.  The Master said, "It is when you go abroad, to behave to every one as if you were receiving a great guest; to employ the people as if you were assisting at a great sacrifice; do not do to others as you would not wish done to yourself."  

Chung-kung replied, "Though I am deficient in intelligence and vigor I will make it my business to practice this lesson."  

I'd like sit down with Chung-kung over beer and pizza. I already like him because, after hearing what perfect virtue entailed, he admitted, in effect, I am a sinner, but I will try.  We are in the same situation. We are deficient in knowing how to act.  We are weak when confronted with less-than-virtuous but easier options.

When we compare the first reading with the Gospel it is apparent that Abraham was much closer to virtuous behavior than was Martha.  Abraham seems to have been a master of understatement.  "Let me bring you a little food that you may refresh yourselves."  A little food?  Rolls. Beef.  Curds and milk.  It seems as if there was quite a bit of exertion put into preparing this little bit of food.  And then he hovered over his guests, waiting on them, until the meal was over.  There was no complaint about how hard he was working, or how much he was spending, or anything else.  Martha, on the other hand, worked hard but without much virtue.  While there is much allegorical interpretation of this narrative describing the difference between the contemplative and active vocations, the narrative is also instructive today in a practical way. 

Unlike Abraham, who was almost obsequious to his guests, Martha committed an appalling breech of etiquette when she dragged a guest into a sibling quarrel. Imagine telling one of your guests "make my sister to get in here and help me instead of sitting around."  Imagine saying to a dinner guest, "Maybe if you tell him, that kid of mine will do something around here.  He certainly doesn't listen to me."  

Embarrassing doesn't begin to describe the guest's feelings upon being exposed to such rudeness.  Attending to the comfort of one's guest is an essential part of hospitality. It defines hospitality. That is what Abraham did. That is what Martha failed to do.  

Martha and Mary are not either/or; it is not the choice to serve or to attend to the words of Jesus.  We are to serve AND to hear the words of Jesus. We are called to prayer AND to work. In the reality of our daily lives we are called to do both simultaneously most of the time.  Our challenge is to be disposed so that we can hear the words of Jesus in the midst of our busy-ness.

The Benedictine motto:  "Ora et labora" (Work and prayer) is illustrative.  It is not work or prayer but work and prayer. Labor and attending to Jesus' word at the same time.  It is not easy, but it is-- like the admonitions in the psalm and the advice in The Analects--an ideal toward which we must strive if we wish to stand firm forever.   

Got back from Spain and Slovenia about ten days ago.  The trip was not uncomplicated.  Every leg involved a canceled, late, or changed flight to say nothing of missed ones.  Luggage did not arrive in LJ or in Boston (the latter much less of a problem).  I also got to spend an unplanned night at Heathrow as the result of a Lufthansa error.  The good news is that they supplied a hotel room and voucher for a meal (exclusive of the beer).  The beer was good.  The burger was, well, British.  

Will be getting back into the full swing of things over the next two weeks.  Originally I thought I'd be away a bit longer.  Most of the Masses I would normally celebrate have been covered so I have a bit of free time.  Not a bad thing.  

Photos from LJ
One of the gelato stands along the river.  After taking this I got some mango gelato.  

Graffiti is everywhere.  The outdoor headwaiter's table, wine, and graffiti make an interesting combination. 

These guys were good.  Just as I took this they began playing one of Brahms' Hungarian Dances that immediately brought Looney Toons and Warner-Brother cartoons to mind.  Not only did the baby boomers have the best rock music in history, we had the best cartoons.  The cartoons use of classical music is one of the reasons I love it today.  

An outdoor bar that is a favorite photo destination. 

The inside of Vodnikov Hram restaurant near our community, 

Am a sucker for this kind of romantic photo.

Reflections from the lower level of Plečnik's colonnade.  There is at least and perhaps two restaurants down there. 

I saw this and knew I had to shoot it.  For ten minutes.  Returning twice.  Each drink is color keyed to a real drink. 

Glasses hanging upside down.  Indeed, this is the same place as the photo above.

Three doors on one of the streets.  I converted it to black and white as well.  

And this is it.  Each says something different. 

Pop's Place (beer and burgers). "Pop" is a friend.  I stopped there with a Franciscan friar to catch up.  Can't not eat fries.  They go better with beer than pizza.  

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD