Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11
Ps 47
Eph 1:17-23
Mt 26:16-20

With the Ascension of the Lord we are reminded that the Easter Season is rapidly coming to an end.  In ten days, on the Feast of Pentecost, we will celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit, after His return to the Father.  The following day we will resume ordinary time. 

We have been hearing readings from the Acts of the Apostles, the early history of the church, for several weeks now.  Acts of the Apostles was written by the Evangelist Luke, which explains the meaning of the line, "In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, . . "  In Acts. the implied second book, we hear much of what the apostles did and taught following Jesus' ascension to the Father and the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is also a prayer for us, gathered here today in this place. The prayer touches on the mission Jesus gave his disciples in the gospel reading.  

“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. . . . that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory . . . and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe,”  Paul is praying that the Ephesians, he is praying that we will accept and nurture the gift we were given.

As creatures with free will, we are, of course, given a choice, or perhaps it is better to say we are given the freedom to choose whether to accept those gifts, or to reject them out of hand.  There are only two possible choices: Yes or no. There is no gray. There is only acceptance or rejection. 

Jesus' mission to the apostles was plainly stated, “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations. . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

We make disciples of all nations and of all people through our presence, through preaching and teaching, and through the example of caring for others in schools, hospitals, and orphanages.  And most importantly, we make disciples of all nations it through the celebration of the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ on the altar.  Not a symbol but the real presence. That must be the core of our preaching and our lives.   

This short gospel passage, a mere four verses, ends with one of the most consoling verses in the entire New Testament, "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.".”

What more can we want?  What more can we desire?

". . .  behold, I am with you always, 
until the end of the age." 
_______________________________________________________ 

The Archdiocese of Boston is one of the few in the U.S. that continues to observe the Ascension on Thursday, forty days after the Resurrection, with Easter Sunday counting as day number one.  Thus, the homily is up today.  Will post the homily for the 7th Sunday of Easter on Sunday.  

The photo below is from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  I had been on retreat at St. Anselm's Benedictine Abbey in D.C.  It is only a short walk from the Abbey to the Shrine  I availed myself of the opportunity two or three times during the eight days.  This was taken at the entrance to the adoration chapel.  I think it speaks for itself. 



 +Fr. Jack SJ, MD


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter


Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
Ps 66
1 Pt 3:15-18
Jn 14:15-21

Acts is Church History 101. The first reading today continues to describe the rapid growth and spread of the Church in its first years. Two weeks ago we heard, "It was at Antioch that they were first called Christians."   

Several days ago we heard Gamaliel's analysis to enemies of the Church regarding how to respond to the Apostles' proclamation of the Good News of Jesus, risen from the dead for our sins.  That analysis still holds.  He said, "So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.  For if this endeavor is of human origin, it will destroy itself.  But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” 

"But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy it." 

Despite the attempts of many throughout the centuries--and in many places today--to destroy the Church, it continues because, and only because, of the Church's provenance from God. The growth of the Church during the time of Philip, Peter and John was astonishing.  The persistence of the Church proves that it is of God. 

We heard in the First Letter of Peter, "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame."
That the Church heeds this advice became evident in Boston in May 2014 when a student group at Harvard planned a public "Black Mass," a reenactment of satanic rituals meant to mock the Catholic Church and its sacred liturgy.  (NOTE:  put 'black mass harvard may 2014' into browser for further information.  I got 82 million hits).  

One can only take pride in the response of the Boston Catholic Church and its community  to the blasphemous actions at Harvard as well as its response to the pathetic defense of those who wished to sponsor or approve of the sacrilege. This includes the Boston Globe.   The Globe published a letter by a Miss Sarah Wuncsh, staff attorney for the Massachusetts ACLU coven, who criticized Harvard's president for ultimately censoring the abomination, using the tired free speech argument, which, at least on the internet is applied only selectively.   

Were Catholic students at Harvard to have parodied or, God-forbid even criticized, any number of sexual perversions being pushed today, heads would have rolled, apologies would have been demanded, and at least a few critics would have been put in the newly resurrected stocks on Cambridge Common. 

The Church's response included a holy hour of adoration at St. Paul's Church in Harvard Square.  It was attended by over 1000. It was not the only holy hour in town.  Other churches and several Jesuit communities had similar periods of prayer and reparation for  Harvard's hideous, disrespectful, biased, and, if I may coin a word, religiophobic behavior.  

Sacrilege was countered by prayer.

Adoration was the response to blasphemy.

The desire of Harvard to stage a sacrilegious anti-Catholic ceremony is not entirely surprising.  It, and similar actions throughout the world, represent  the fear of the revelation of the Spirit that Jesus promised in the Gospel. As Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow wrote in his commentary on this particular Gospel passage, the world cannot receive the Spirit of truth because it cannot tolerate the revelation.  The revelation calls the world's values into question, inverts its hierarchies, and overturns its cherished idols.  Apparently this is a real problem at Harvard.   

The Gospel includes parentheses framing the message:  At the beginning: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments . . ." At the end:  "Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me."  Obedience to his commandments is the only available means we have of manifesting our love for Jesus.  Nothing else can or will do.  Only by obeying his commandments can we manifest to the world that we live in Christ and he dwells in us. 

As the abominable behavior of the Harvard students six years ago illustrates, we live in troubled and troubling times.  We can only understand and respond to those times, including this time of quarantine and suffering, if we do so in the light of the Christ's birth, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. 

______________________________________-

The flowers at BC has been terrific.  The cool temps kept them in bloom a lot longer than years when the spring is balmy.  Four years ago the temps were hitting the 90s in April.  nothing lasted to the end of May.  

Outside the living room window.  Open window.  Lean out.  Shoot. 



Abstract from a window in St. Mary's Hall distorting the reflected tulips

Peach tree blossoms in front yard of our satellite house.

The tree across the street. 

Tulips in front of St. Mary's Hall

Two houses away

The dogwood and the Gasson tower are at least 150 yards apart.  Shooting at the end of the telephoto range for a 40-150 compresses everything and makes it appear as if I were standing under the tree shooting up. 

Near the library. 

Alongside St. Mary's Hall

 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, May 2, 2020

4th Sunday of Easter (Vocation Sunday)

57th Day of Prayer for Vocations to the Priesthood and Vowed Religious Life 
(4th Sunday of Easter)                   

Pope Paul VI designated the Fourth Sunday of Easter as the World Day of Prayer for Vocation in 1963. Much in the Church and religious life has changed since then. One thing that hasn't changed, nor will it ever change, is the uniqueness of the vocation stories of men and women who choose to enter religious life or the diocesan priesthood.  

I am writing this homily with two underlying presuppositions: first, discerning a religious vocation takes time, prayer, conversation, and a willingness to risk it all for God; heavy emphasis on all.  Second, as is true of the vocation to marriage or any of the professions considered vocations, living one's vocation is not always smooth. Persevering in a religious vocation also requires prayer, open conversation with others, and, in a variation on risking it all, not looking back with a sense of longing for what one left behind; rather, looking back with gratitude that the sum total of one's unique life experiences, some of which may have seemed absolutely insignificant at the time, led to this particular order, congregation, monastery, or diocese; to this particular vocation.  

Vocation stories are not new.  Abram's vocation gave him a new name--Abraham--as he became the father of many nations.  One of the most beloved vocation stories from the Old Testament is  from 1 Samuel 3:3-10.  The narrative is frequently chosen as a reading at vow Masses, as it was at ours on 14 August 1999. Many will recognize the roots of the popular hymn "Here I Am Lord" within the story. 

The most important vocation story in the New Testament and, indeed, in all of recorded history, is that of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the Theotokos.  Upon hearing the angel's message she responded: 

"Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum."

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done unto me 
according to your word.”

Vocation derives from the Latin root: Voco, vocare, vocatus.  
To call.  To name.  To summon. To invite. To challenge.  There is obvious overlap in the meaning of each of these words but each also has unique resonances that help us understand the nature of a particular vocation.  What one man or woman sees as a call another may interpret as a challenge.  An invitation and a summons do not call forth the same feelings from an individual.  Each of us had to figure out the subtle shadings on our own. 

Some Vocation Stories. 

Over the past seven years I've come to know Mother Dolores Hart, and the community of Benedictine nuns at Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT.  (Except for a virus the-name-of-which-is-not-to-be-mentioned, I would have spent Holy Week there as main celebrant for the liturgies).  Mother's name will ring a bell with those of a certain age as the actress who gave Elvis his first screen kiss and one of the stars of the movie "Where the Boys Are," a movie that played a role in popularizing the idea of spring break in Florida.  Much to the chagrin of Hollywood, she entered the Abbey in 1963. She celebrated the 50th anniversary of her profession in 2016. 

Mother's definition of a vocation is spot on:  “Many people don't understand the difference between a vocation and your own idea about something.  A vocation is a call – one you don't necessarily want. The only thing I ever wanted to be was an actress. 
But I was called by God.”

"One you don't necessarily want . . . . " That resonates with many of us.  Indeed, many of us strenuously fought the sense of being called by God, until we could no longer find reasons to fight.  

The transition from Hollywood and Broadway star to Benedictine nun was not easy.  As Mother wrote about her first night at the Abbey, “I lay awake on the cot for a long time.  I reached out my arm . . .  I could touch the opposite wall . . .  I lay there, terrified by the enormity of the step I had taken. I began praying as hard as I could that, in spite of the isolation engulfing me, the love in my heart was God Himself trying to strike, if not lightning, at least a match.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  I would cry myself to sleep every night for the next three years.”  If nothing else, novitiate ain't easy.

For fans of women's basketball in general and Villanova sports in particular, the vocation story of Michelle (Shelly) Pennefather is worth knowing.  Still the holder of the basketball scoring record for both men and women at 'Nova she entered the Poor Clare Colletines in Alexandria, VA in 1991.  The PCC is an austere order in which the nuns pronounce the vow of enclosure.  They do not leave the monastery for any reason except medical emergencies.  In explaining her intention to a Villanova teammate she said. " . . . I would never choose this for myself," . . . . I would never leave my family and my friends.  But this is what I'm called to do. I know it. God is calling me. And I'm going to do it."  The echoes of Mother Dolores' 'one you don't necessarily want' are loud and clear.  


The sense of being called, summoned, or invited is the mystery behind every religious vocation.  Chase Hilgenbrink, now a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, played professional soccer in both Chile and Boston before entering Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD (just across the border with PA on Rt 15). to become a priest.  An ESPN article from 2008 when he was a beginning seminarian included the following: "Chase realized that while he was fulfilling his dream of being a professional soccer player, he didn't actually feel fulfilled. He wondered if he was meant to do something else . . . . Eventually, (he) came to a startling conclusion, . . .: I felt that [God] was calling me to the priesthood." This feeling didn't emerge overnight -- "Chase says he contemplated the possibility of becoming a priest for about 2½ years."  It does take time, if for no other reason than to get used to the idea oneself before sharing it with family and friends. 


My own vocation story began not with a bang, a blinding light, or anything else I can pinpoint.  Rather, despite a successful and thriving medical practice, nice house, adequate money and regular trips to Europe--though not Slovenia, that was a gift of being a Jesuit--there was a growing sense of emptiness, a yearning that had to be fulfilled.  I did not have the vocabulary at the time but several years ago realized that I was seeking what Jesuits call the Magis. The more.  The greater.  However, I was unable to define what the more or greater was.  That took time.  It took about fifteen years from that realization until I entered the Society (It is important to note that at no time did I feel the call to diocesan or parish priesthood.  Diocesan priesthood is a different life, a different vocation, and one to which I am neither called nor suited). 

The moment when everything fell into place is a very clear memory: The Friday morning before Thanksgiving 1992. George Murray, SJ, MD, and I were having coffee at Mass General Hospital after rounds.  Nothing unusual about that.  But then . . . at some point he cleared his throat and stammered:  "There is something I have to ask.  You don't have to answer but I have to ask.  Have you ever considered becoming a priest?  Have you thought about the Jesuits?  Have you given up on the idea?"  

George picked me up at Logan and drove me to the novitiate in Jamaica Plain on entry day in August 1997. He vested me at ordination ten years later. I celebrated and preached his funeral Mass in November 2013, six weeks after he witnessed my final vows.  

Not everyone understands a religious vocation.  I told my Department Chief at the hospital a few hours before our monthly all-staff meeting two weeks after I was accepted to the Society. 

At the end of the meeting he said, "Jack has something to tell you."  Big gulp on my part and a stammer.  The silence was absolute until someone, non-Catholic I might add said, "Congratulations . . . I think."  They did in fact get used to the idea in the six months before I left the department. My chief came to the vow Mass two years later and to our ordination eight years after that.  But, it is not always that easy. 

There are stories of ruptured friendships and broken family ties 
because a parent, sibling, friend or colleague did not accept the decision to enter. Some friends and family have refused to attend vow or ordination Masses or, as I encountered with a man from another order in another country, ever visit the community.

Many of us have been hit with arguments about throwing lives away, wasting educations, or the ever-popular whine, “But you would be an awesome parent."

The arguments, the cajoling, and the whining don't dissuade or convince. They disappoint. They hurt. They hurt a lot. 

What should one do if or when a child, sibling, relative, or friend
reveals that he or she is exploring a vocation to religious life or the priesthood?  How does one respond to learning that his best friend or her brother is going to enter a community?

First:  Don't argue, whine, or try to convince him or her that parenthood would be awesome. Don't ask WHY? with "that" tone of voice.  Second: Ask questions such as "what brought you to this decision?" Listen to the answers. Then ask more questions.   If you truly don't understand admit it.  One friend told me that he didn't understand what I was doing but would try to get used to it.  He did, as was apparent by the time I was ordained.  

Finally, on this vocation Sunday, pray that young men and women will say, with Mary our Mother, 

"Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum."

“May it be done unto me according to your word.”

May it be done unto me according to your summons, your call, your invitation.

And, finally, if you know any young man, or are yourself, wondering about becoming a
Jesuit, call me any time. I'm on Facebook.  Send a PM. 

__________________________________________________________

I frequently offer prayers of gratitude for my vocation.  It took several years to realize that it is even more important to offer prayers of gratitude for the vocations of others who have helped nurture, live, and get over the rough stops in my vocation.  George Murray was, of course, very important in all of those dimensions including the rough spots early on.  Below are photos of another Jesuit whose vocation helped drive aspects of mine and to whom I am forever grateful.  

I met Fr. Ignatius Hung Wan-liu, SJ when we overlapped in theology school.  We became friends and remained so.  Before going to Georgetown in 2002 I was allowed to spend three months in Taipei, where he had returned a few months earlier.  Had my mom not still been living I would have seriously considered asking to return to Taipei to explore the possibility of working there.  Several years later he spent part of a sabbatical at Campion Center when I was there.  

When I went to Australia for tertianship I was allowed to stop in Taipei on the way down and the way back.  The provincial had asked if I wanted to stop in Hawaii on the way home.  As I've no desire to ever go there I asked about Vietnam and Taiwan instead.  The photos below are from September 2011 during the return leg of the trip.  

Benediction at Sacred Heart Chapel in Tien Center, Taipei, Taiwan.  


Ignatius is six foot three.  I always wanted to be six feet but never quite made it.  

Took this from the vestibule to the chapel through the frosted glass doors.  

I love visiting Taipei.  It is very congested and densely populated.  Because of the mountains, over half the land is uninhabitable.  With a population of 23 million on an island the size of Maryland, people are squeezed in.   The roads are a series of rabbit warrens with avenues branching off into streets, alleys, and lanes.  With no sense of direction or Chinese language ability, it was a real challenge not so much going out as getting back.  


Just down the street from the community.  

Taken at Guting Riverside Park.  The lighted bridge is a viaduct rather than a people/traffic bridge.  Took this at 11 PM, having walked alone to Guting, a frequent destination as it was nearby, loaded with equipment including a tripod.  There are only two cities in the world in which I would wander alone along a riverfront at night:  Taipei and Ljubljana.  D.C.?  Not on your life.  

Basketball is perhaps the most international of American-born sports.  


 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, April 25, 2020

3rd Sunday of Easter

26 April 2020
Acts 2:14, 22-33
Ps 16:1-2,5,7-8,9-10,11
1 Pt 1:17-21  
Lk 24:13-35

“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, 
raised his voice and proclaimed . . . . “

Is this the same man who denied Jesus three times?  Is this the same man whose incomprehension provoked Jesus to say, “Get behind me satan?”  Is this the Peter, who a few days earlier swore he did not know this Jesus of Nazareth and is now proclaiming that He is risen from the dead?  Peter, whose nerve failed him at the first hint of threat, is now professing Jesus as the one  of whom David spoke.  Fearful of being known as one of His disciples while huddled around a fire in the courtyard during Jesus' trial, Peter is now preaching what, to many ears, was blasphemy--a capital offense at the time . He was telling all who could hear that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Talk about a makeover!  

What did Peter look like as he made these bold and dangerous statements?

It is likely he did not resemble the cowering man in the high priest’s courtyard who said, “I do not know Him.”  Something fundamental had changed.  The change was not subtle. Peter was taking an enormous risk when he spoke. Of course this was after Pentecost.  Filled with the Holy Spirit it is obvious that Peter now understood that which he had failed to comprehend earlier.  

Luke’s narrative of the encounter on the road to Emmaus, with its expertly set scene, is ripe for contemplation.  One can sense the despondency of the two men. Their weariness is palpable. There are hints of disbelief and fear as they make their way toward Emmaus.  Are they walking away from Jerusalem because their hopes have been destroyed?  Are they retreating because Jesus was not the Messiah of their dreams?  What were they “conversing and debating” about? Conversing is a neutral word but debating suggests disagreement and attempts by each to change the other’s mind.  Who was winning?   

They stopped talking when Jesus appeared. They were shocked that their unrecognized companion was not aware of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem.  Jesus’ impatience with them is palpable.  It is  approximately seven and one-half miles (or twelve and one-half kilometers) from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Jesus began with Moses and all the prophets and explained “what referred to him in all the Scriptures." The conversation must have been a long one.  

Like the entire Jewish nation the two disciples had had hopes for the Messiah.  Many of their hopes and the hopes of the entire nation were attached to the politics of the day; driven by Israel's desire to be free of the yoke of Roman domination.  They had desires for the one of whom David spoke to be a military leader, a super-politician, and a social reformer all at once. Today, in addition the skills of a five-star general and a unifying politician, we want the one of whom David spoke to have a sufficiently relaxed moral compass that endorses any action that feels good no matter the fundamental wrongness of the act. 

Jesus fulfilled none of Israel's expectations.  Jesus will fulfill none of those expectations today.  Given that he seemed to be apolitical it is ironic how often Jesus’ message is politicized and twisted to promote a particular agenda on both the left, the right, and the center. "You cannot call yourself a Christian if you do not  . . . . . . (fill in blank with  pet agenda)."  The only thing one can say about this statement is that it is breathtakingly manipulative and  on par with a comment during the last presidential campaign: "You cannot be a democratic candidate if you don't support abortion."  

Jesus was not the Messiah Israel wanted.  He was the Messiah Israel needed. Jesus is not the Christ we want Him to be.  He is not the Messiah we try to force Him to be in our attempts to remake God in our own image.  He is the Christ we need, if we only allow him to be that. 

Jesus’ two companions on the road to Emmaus were consoled after the fact.  “Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”   They immediately began the seven and one-half mile walk back to Jerusalem to share the news.  It must have been a difficult trip in the dark and cold of the desert night. 

When we pray we are on the road to Emmaus.  In prayer we are forced to recognize the One who joins us along the way.  We continually meet Him on the road though we may not recognize Him at first.  We encounter Him in a particular and intimate manner every time we partake of the Eucharistic Feast.  

Recall the dialog just before communion as the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord are elevated above the altar. 

"Behold the Lamb of God, 
Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. 
Blessed are those who are called 
to the supper of the Lamb." 

And attend to the response.

"Lord, I am not worthy 
that you should enter under my roof, 
but only say the word 
and my soul shall be healed."
Stay with both those thoughts 
for the rest of today.

He is Risen.  
He is truly Risen.  
Alleluia, Alleluia. 

________________________________
Glorious day in Boston today.  Went over to campus with camera.  Spent about two hours in and around St. Mar's Hall .  

Behind the altar at St. Mary's Hall (Jesuit Residence).  The stained glass is magnificent. 

A better depiction of the warm purples and reds.  

The main altar.

Standing at the main altar looking toward the back.

The door from the chapel to the residence.  Love the wrought iron grating between the glass panes.

the organ loft. 

The main entrance.  BC's colors are maroon and gold.  Tulips approximating that are planted annually. 

Reflecting in a window.  

Different settings of the same basic scene. 

Blossoms framing the tulips.

Loved this effect.  So, I posted another. 

+ Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Acts 2:42-47
Ps 118:2-3, 13-15, 22-24
1 Pt 1:3-9
Jn 20:19-31

Today, the Second Sunday of Easter, is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday ever since its formal promulgation by Pope John Paul, II of happy memory in 2000.   The juxtaposition of this feast and the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter is fortuitous.  Faith, Love, and Divine Mercy, are all included.  

When preaching on these readings it is tempting to focus solely on the story of Thomas, or Doubting Thomas as he is colloquially known, so as to engage in the popular indoor sport of Apostle Bashing (a very intense competition in theology schools).  But to do that would miss the deeper meaning of these readings and their interrelationship.  Today’s readings are not about doubt.  They are about faith.  Faith is not the polar opposite of doubt.  Mature faith must always contend with a degree of doubt, sometimes more and sometimes not so much, throughout life.  Faith cannot mature without struggling with doubt. 

The first reading describes the earliest coming together of the Church in the first gatherings of the faithful.  “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”  That is what we do at Mass:  the communal hearing of the Gospel and the recitation of  prayers as we prepare for the Eucharistic Banquet where we receive the True Body and Blood of our Lord.  Note the description of that earliest congregation,  “They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God.”  We are to imitate them in that. 

The second reading shines a bit of light on the Gospel:  “Although you have not seen him you love him.  Even though you do not see him now yet believe in him you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”  Peter’s letter describes a joy that is the same as that described in the first reading, a joy that is nourished by participation in this our Eucharistic feast. 

It is reasonable to suspect that in the period between the apostles telling him that Jesus had appeared to them and Jesus' actual appearance detailed in today's gospel, Thomas, despite not having seen him with the rest of the apostles, continued to love the Jesus with whom he had cast his lot so long ago. As is true of the love we maintain for a dead, spouse, parent or friend, Thomas' love for Jesus did not die on the cross. 

Periodically we must ask ourselves, what is faith?  

The definition of faith in the Letter to the Hebrews is unsurpassed, “Now faith is the conviction of things not seen.”  In his Letter to the Romans Paul reminds us that,  “Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Jesus Christ.”  That preaching of Jesus Christ does not come to us exclusively in the oral form it did at the Sermon on the Mount or in the many parables.  Jesus’ preaching comes to us in scripture, in the tradition of the Church, and in the reception of the sacraments. The first two readings are important because they tell us what it means to be a Church, what it means to be a people of faith, and what we can expect.  The gospel tells us something a bit different though complementary

A superficial reading of the Gospel's portrayal of Thomas supplies us with a tempting target.  Indeed it is too easy a target as Thomas becomes someone against whom we can compare ourselves in a self-righteous manner.  He can be used to compare and condemn others whose faith we do not feel is adequate.  Calling someone 'a doubting Thomas' is generally not a compliment. This comparison too is generally done from the position of smug self-righteousness. 

At the end of the Gospel Jesus asks a question and gives a blessing, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  It is worth pondering  in relation to ourselves.  

Neither John’s Gospel nor the synoptic gospels were meant to be albums with verbal snapshots of detailed scenes from Jesus' life.  The gospels are not a log book that traces Jesus' daily movements--there is no Captain Kirkian-like "Star Date" affixed to them.  The gospels are not a diary of Jesus’ day-to-day thoughts. The gospels  are not history in the modern understanding of the word. Any attempt to read the gospels through the lens of modern historical convention is doomed to failure and perhaps high comedy.  We can never interpret the gospels in the light of the modern concepts of history, journalism, and science without frustration and faithlessness.  The less said about novels such as The da Vinci Code the better.  

The last sentence of this Gospel passage puts the nature of the Gospels into perspective:  “Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name.” 

The Gospel proclaims one essential truth, that Jesus of Nazareth, of whom it speaks, is the Lord.  Thus, the fullness of Easter joy is contained in Thomas’ faith-filled, startled, and ultimately joyous proclamation:  "My Lord and My God."  It is why we too can gaze upon the True Body and Blood of Christ at the consecration and say with Thomas and all the Church, “My Lord and My God.”  

"Give thanks to the Lord, 
for he is good, 
his love is everlasting."

Alleluia, alleluia.
________________________________________
Photos taken at the Divine Mercy liturgy at sv. Jože in Ljubljana on the Second Sunday of Easter 2017.  

The archway at the main entrance of sv. Jože.  

Vestments are the ready. 

Sacred vessels for the Mass

Taken about an hour before the liturgy.  The church was packed with long lines for confession.  Took this photo from behind and under the altar, a favorite vantage point.   Jože Plečnik designed the altar.  Looking at much of his work in LJ it is apparent that columns were a signature element.  
 Congregants brought the candles to the image of Divine Mercy and aligned them according to color.  

From the loft.  Prior to Mass there was time for Eucharistic adoration. 

Fr. Tomaž leading the prayers of adoration.  I can't recall if the rosary was said aloud during this interval.  By the time the liturgy was over I'd walked about two-and-a-half miles. 

The entrance procession for the Mass.  The Archbishop a few minutes late.  He lives across the street.  

The Archbishop of Ljubljana.

Entrance procession for the Mass.

Wide angle view of the church.  The commies confiscated it for years and used it as a movie studio.  It was returned to the Society only 25 or so years ago.  It needs work.

Mass.


Fr. Mio Kekić at communion.  Very good man who was helpful while I lived in the community. 

Eucharistic Procession. 

 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Homily for Easter Sunday 2020

Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Ps 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Col 3:1-4
Jn 20:1-9

“This is the day the Lord has made; 
let us rejoice and be glad.” 

These joyful words from the responsorial psalm have been circling the globe and stirring the universe for hours. First in Australia, then Taiwan and the Churches of Mainland China.  After passing through Asia and Russia they were proclaimed in Poland, Slovenia and England while the East Coast of the United States was barely waking up. 

  上主        安排      一天, 
        鼓舞。
(Zhe shi  shang zhu   suo  an pan  de yi tian,  
wo men yao  huan yin  gu wu.)

By the end of this day, the joyful command from the psalms will have been repeated in: Mandarin, Fujianese, Swahili, Tagalog, Slovenian, Croatian, Portuguese, Latin, English, and every other tongue in the known world, as the news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is proclaimed yet again. 

"To je dan, ki ga je Gospod, naredil, 
veselimo se ga in se radujmo."

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles summarizes Jesus’ life, beginning with His baptism and ending with His death on the cross.  We hear the commission to the apostles to preach the message of salvation.  It is the same commission we receive: Preach the message of salvation through Jesus!  That message is the reason we are to rejoice and be glad.  Jesus is the one set apart. Those who believe in him have  forgiveness of sins through His name. 

"Este é o dia que o Senhor fez, 
vamos nos alegrar e ser felizes"

As St. Paul so memorably wrote to the Romans:  “God showed his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”  While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Jesus, fully Divine and fully human, Son of God and Son of Mary, like us in all things but sin, died for our sins, because of our sins, and to save us from those sins.  We are sinners.  But, we are sinners passionately loved by God.  We are redeemed by Jesus’ passion and death in a redemption made manifest in His resurrection from the dead.  What more can we say than?

"Oto jest dzień, który dał nam Pan. 
Weselmy się w nim i radujmy."

In the proclamation of John’s Gospel we heard of the disciple’s astonishment, confusion, sorrow, and fear upon discovering that the tomb in which Jesus had been placed was empty. The burial cloths were rolled up and lying off to the side.  The last line of this Gospel reading is instructive:  “Remember, as yet they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”  They did not yet understand.  Despite the years that they had followed Him the disciples did not really understand who this Jesus was.  But that was going to change at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended.

"Haec dies quam fecit Dominus;
exsultemus et laetemur in ea"

The apostle’s confusion and lack of understanding of Jesus mirrors our situation.  Despite Jesus’ action in our lives, we don’t always understand.  Unlike the apostles who lived the events told here in real time we have scripture and the tradition of the Church to instruct us and help us understand.  Still, we don’t always get it.  We sometimes fail to understand how great a gift Jesus is to us. We sometimes fail to appreciate the gift he gave us.  Thus, it is today, and every day, we are called to pray, to meditate on scripture and to receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ so that unlike the apostles, we will understand, we will see, and, through understanding and seeing,  we will believe. 

As the paschal candle was lit in those places where Mass was possible the  priest's words, said while inscribing the paschal candle, explain everything. 

“Christ yesterday and today
the beginning and the end. 
Alpha and Omega; 
all time belongs to him, 
and all the ages; 
to him be glory and power, 
through every age for ever.” 

“This is the day the Lord has made, 
let us rejoice and be glad.” 


Alleluia
Alleluia
Alleluia. 

_______________________________
Photos of flowers, mostly, and nature.  No commentary necessary.  Have a Blessed Easter. 
















 +Fr Jack, SJ, MD