Dead Ancestors & the Bread of Life

“Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, but they died.” (John 6:49)

What a morbid thing to say!

The ancestors, our ancestors, the original pilgrims seeking the Promised Land, freed from slavery, bearing the Commandments in the Ark. The Almighty showed His love and providence not only by dividing the Red Sea for them, but also by feeding them Himself, directly from heaven.

Alas, poor YorickWe have no identity; we have no holy Scriptures; we would have had no ancient Temple and no Holy of Holies in it—were it not for the venerable ancestors, who walked alongside Moses, arrayed as the twelve tribes of Israel.

But they died.

What a cynical thing to say!

Worms slither and cavort along the creases of their rotting bones. Their tibias and fibias serve as rollercoasters and waterslides for the earthworms.

How lovely!

How could our Lord Jesus Christ speak so coarsely? “They died.” The original Chosen People, who sang to the Lord as He covered Himself in glory, with Miriam dancing, tambourine in hand. “They died.” They ate manna in the desert. But then what happened? They died.

“I am the bread of life,” saith the Lord.

Do we go too far to say that the Mass is a matter of life and death?

billie-jean-jacksonLet’s consider some of the great exploits of the 20th century. Einstein discovered the Theory of Relativity. But what happened to him? He _____. The Wright brothers gave us the airplane; Henry Ford mass-produced the automobile; Steve Jobs gave us Apple Computer, Inc. But, wouldn’t you know it! They all _____. Josef Stalin took over half of Europe, but… Neil Armstrong walked on the moon! Wow! Then… Michael Jackson went mult-multi-platinum and then ______.

Hard. It’s a hard business. People live through beautiful springs and smell the roses in the garden and eat lots of delicious omelets and fruits and berries and such things, but, before you know it,…

My point is: the Mass is a matter of life and death. The Bread of Life lives, never to die more. The Father draws us to Him, so that we might truly live.

Meditation on the Call of the King

St. Ignatius Loyola discovered that a person can grow closer to Christ by using the power of the imagination.

As one of his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius proposes that we first envision the most captivating leader imaginable.

We imagine someone with a clear sense of purpose, a beautiful and noble plan. Someone embarking on an adventure requiring great self-sacrifice. This leader personally invites us to join the enterprise. He promises us an equal share in the labor and in the fruits of its success.

Maybe we could take the fields of business or science as an example. Let’s each imagine our favorite entrepreneur coming to us personally to invite us to join his or her company, right as it was just starting up. It could be Henry Ford, or Walt Disney, or Steve Jobs, or any other great market visionary. “Work with me, share my life, and you will share in the rewards.”

Continue reading “Meditation on the Call of the King”

What We Want

It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

Who said it? Right. Steve Jobs.

Apple Computer convened no focus groups in developing the iPad. “If you ask people what they want, and then build it, by the time you’re done, they want something else.”

I am not presenting an iPad info-mercial.

In fact, I imagine I will live the rest of my life perfectly well without owning one. When I looked at my brother’s iPad during our vacation, I experienced a desire for one of my own. But a minute later I saw a piece of pepperoni pizza and went through the same thing.

But I think Steve Jobs’ insight is profound. We do not know what we want. I mean we do. But we don’t.

Shakespeare’s plays are full of young ladies who tear up letters from suitors, but then try to piece the scraps together again. Or who say to a knight, “I wonder why you still be talking,” only to go on to say to him a few scenes later, “Love on. I will requite thee.” Or who say to a father about an engagement he has arranged, “Father, you wish me married to one half-lunatic?!” but then later call the same lunatic her “lord, king, and governor.”*

We know that we want. Not sure exactly what. We’ll know it when we see it. Maybe.

It is not the consumers’ job to know what they want. Are we really so fickle?

Well, we can and we should work on this. Govern ourselves with reason. Do I want such-and-such? Perhaps. But what about a reason why I need it? Am I even allowed to have it? Probably better to wait and see if I still want it later. An educated person puts his or her desires in good order.

But Steve Jobs’ statement penetrates even deeper, albeit unwittingly.
Today’s gospel reading paints a picture of confusion surrounding Christ. He heals and casts out demons. A larger and larger crowd swarms around Him. They want something from Him. But what exactly?

He slips away. “I was sent to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God.”

It is not our job to know what we want, because what we want exceeds our capacity to know. We want God. We want the One we do not know. Nothing will truly satisfy our desire, except the infinite One Who so un-satisfyingly escapes our every effort to grasp Him.

So let’s just try to relax. We will know and see and have the One we want when He is good and ready to be known and seen and possessed by us. In the meantime, let’s faithfully obey His loving commandments and prayerfully beg for His mercy and help.

* The reader who names the three plays referred to here wins undying glory. [HINT: The ladies are Julia, Beatrice, and Katherina.]