In the Gospel today (Luke 21:5-21), Jesus tells his disciples that they will suffer in this life because of His name. Indeed, they will be persecuted for believing and practicing their faith in Him. In this sense, they will suffer the trials that He Himself suffered in life. They will be hated, ridiculed, falsely accused and rejected. Some will even be imprisoned and killed for their faith in Jesus. As a result, they will all, more or less, suffer persecution for Him in this life as His disciples. In fact, by receiving the divine grace of His Passion in Baptism, their sufferings acquire a Christian meaning. They become a participation in the saving action of Jesus Christ (CCC 1262-1267, 1505, 1521). For this reason, St. Paul regularly reminds his hearers to fulfill their baptismal vocation to Christian discipleship by becoming configured to the Crucified Christ. For Paul, this means learning to respond virtuously to their sufferings in life. As Jesus says, all his disciples will be persecuted for His name. They will all have certain occasions in life to suffer such trials. Consequently, the question is not “if” they will suffer, but “how’ they will suffer. The choice is theirs. Will they bear their crosses freely and lovingly after the image of Christ? Will they use their sufferings virtuously to build up His Body, the Church, in charity? Or will they respond to them immorally by freely choosing to become angry, unloving people in relationship to God and their neighbors? In this sense, they can suffer well or badly. In his preaching, Jesus calls his disciples to prepare for His glorious return on the Last Day by freely and lovingly bearing their trials to the end. In doing so, they will safeguard their life of charity in Christ for all eternity.
If you’re like me, you’re still in shock that Fr. Konkel has died. I would have never imagined he would have died just four years after stepping down from being pastor. But rather than dwell on the sadness of death, I prefer to remember the good things about Fr. Konkel.
I first got to know Fr. Konkel when I came to Holy Rosary Parish for my preaching summer in 1997 as a Dominican student brother. Almost immediately, I became aware of Fr. Konkel’s love for the performing arts when he took me and another student brother to see The Pirates of Penzance at the Houston Ballet. Fr. Konkel and I also went to musicals, plays, and symphonies at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. We even got Fr. Boley Brenda, O.P., who liked staying home, to accompany us one time to see 42nd Street. We had a great evening together.
Returning to Holy Rosary in 2009, Fr. Konkel and I did fewer things together, yet I still enjoyed the banter we shared. I affectionately called him “the Great Gatsby,” because of the socialite that he was. I called his cats, which he adored, “the Aristocats” and “the Sophisticats.” Fr. Konkel enjoyed reading The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and the New York Times Book Review. He enjoyed watching PBS’s Antiques Roadshow and anything showing on HGTV. He enjoyed going out to dinner with friends and playing dice with the usual suspects Marion Bell, Thelma Sanchez, and Kathleen McEvoy. He continued to enjoy the performing arts. You could say I enjoyed watching Fr. Konkel enjoy life.
I feel greatly indebted to Fr. Konkel for the legacy he left at Holy Rosary: the land he acquired for the parish, the buildings he built, the rectory he renovated, and the people he welcomed to the parish. I have some big shoes to fill following Fr. Konkel as pastor. I hope he will continue guiding me from his heavenly place. Rest in peace, dear brother.