November 5th, 2003
Ray Bucko, S.J.
Department of Sociology
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|All Saints and Blessed of the Society
Jesuit Vocation Day
Psalm 112:1-2, 4-5, 9
I was once at the Trappist Monastery in Peosta, Iowa for a few
days of retreat that ended on Pentecost Sunday. I remember the recessional
hymn to the Holy Spirit had two phrases in it: "enflame our ardor" and "cool
our desire." I turned to my Trappist friend as we walked out of the
Church and said: "Would you guys please make up your minds-which is it going
to be?" News of the talkative Jesuit's comment soon circulated among
the silent Trappists.
I feel much the same today praying over these readings. Love or hate,
which is it going to be? It seems the two expressions can't fill the
In high school in Jersey City we had to translate Catullus - "Odi et
Amo" he says at the start of one of his poems-"I love and hate."
He seemed to be dealing with the same paradox we are faced with today.
I love and I hate. Love your neighbor, hate your very self.
Honor your father and mother, hate your mother and father. This seems
like a logical conundrum worthy of a snide remark, even amidst the silence
of the Trappists!
The commonality of the readings is not in how we behave but in what should
motivate our behavior: the fulfillment of God's commandments. There
are enough contradictions in life that we are constantly faced with "mixed
emotions and mixed responses" and less than sedimentary sentiments.
Jesus asks us to assess if we can successfully be his followers.
Thus ANYTHING that distracts us from that must be rejected. To make
the point Jesus asks us to consider that we need to reject those things most
intimate to ourselves: our families, our very lives and the comforts of the
world (that cross he refers to is not a gold filled pen.)
But at the same time Paul (and in another part of the scripture Jesus himself)
tells us to love one another and to love God and to owe each other only
Have you ever loved someone so much that you were able to hate what they
were doing to themselves and were willing to tell them so even if it meant
they might hate you? Have you ever loved someone so much that you
were able to recognize and respect deep difference without having to pretend
they were not there?
In our postmodern world we tend to say everything is the same as everything
else and substitute the incredible variedness of creation with bland homogenization.
When was the last time someone said to you "it's all good?"
Maybe we can be caught up in the paradox and balance these opposites in
our lives. Maybe the Church did not make a mistake in putting these
two seemingly opposite readings so close together. Maybe I'm off the
hook here in dancing around these readings like a young Mohammed Ali.
But maybe I have to love the Scripture so much as to not try to dissolve
its paradoxes but to allow them to enliven and challenge me. Maybe
instead of neutralizing them I need to let them motivate me to finish the
tower, to win the battle, and to owe ONLY love.
Today we celebrate Jesuit Vocation Day (if I rake in 5 vocations I get
a free toaster) as well as all the Blesseds and Saints of the Society of
Jesus. Thus we invite God to challenge us in all the vocations
to which we are committed and we celebrate the lives of those who balanced
the paradoxes in the world and in their very selves for the sake of Love.
Please permit me one more story.
Another time I took a Jesuit friend who was visiting me in Chicago to visit
the Abby in Peosta for the weekend. On the way I told him how it was
the most peaceful place in the world and how I found it so easy to pray
there. When we arrived we discovered that a group of workmen were present
drilling through the concrete floors installing new plumbing in the guest
wing. As we stood in the reception area amidst the loudest sounds
I heard since I left New York City a piece of ceiling broke loose and hit
my Jesuit friend in the head.
The guest master assured us that the workers would be finished with their
work that day.
to the writer of this reflection.
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