It was one of those moments that I will never forget, although I admit I do not remember many of the particulars. It was January of 1990, and myself and my third theology classmates were taking our comprehensive examinations. They were something we had to get through on the way to our greatly hoped for diaconate ordinations the following May. There was a written component and an oral component. For the oral exam we were allowed to choose an area of concentration. Not surprisingly most of the fellows chose their particular areas based on their interests and where they felt most comfortable and knowledgeable, or which professors who would be questioning for the particular fields. On that basis a number of men refused to concentrate on the area of moral theology because the department chair, who would be the lead questioner, was very intimidating to us. But me? Well, I chose to go against the grain; I was young and brash and cocky. I told everyone that this professor did not scare me and that I was going the way of moral theology and that was that. However, when the moment finally came when it was time for the oral exams I found myself re-evaluating my thought process. I had been sitting in the waiting area for two hours, my scheduled exam time had passed by an hour and a half ago, and three very distraught classmates had come out of the exam room, basically saying that their experiences had been “brutal”. Of course, at this point I was wondering why I ever put myself in this situation but there was nothing I could do. Finally the door opened, I went in and sat down, and answered the first question. I guess I did okay because there was no follow up. Then came the second question, which I cannot remember at all, but I do remember that I swallowed hard and tried to form an adequate answer. I began by saying, “Because Jesus said…,” but I was immediately stopped by the intimidating professor who said, “Excellent! You are absolutely correct. So much of Catholic moral teaching comes down to the fact that it comes from the words of Jesus Himself. We do not need any more of an explanation than that. Well done have a wonderful afternoon.” I couldn’t believe what had just happened but I was in and out in less than 3 minutes! I guess they needed to make up for lost time. So I was spared the “brutal” experience of a number of my peers for whatever reason—and I learned a valuable lesson, the same lesson that the disciples were trying to learn in the Gospel today. They were learning that Jesus Himself was the Bread of Life and if they ate of this bread they would never die. And the reason they were supposed to believe this was because, “Jesus said…” They did not need any further explanation and neither do we.
*Photo of Father Maloney circa 1991