Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Our readings for Sunday are here

These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the

  • June 30, 2013

_______

The poems Fr Dennis references in these years are:

In 2013, we reflected on —

  • In the first reading,
    • the mantle is a sign of a successor — in this case, Elisha being the successor of Elijah the prophet.
    • Elijah is being kind of cranky with God in the context of this vignette.
    • Elisha is responding in an all out “Yes!” and making sure he can’t turn back by breaking the plow and burning it.
  • In the Gospel, when Jesus refers to the looking back while using one of the light plows of the time, he is likely alluding that looking back while using the plows of his day would likely create a crooked furrow.
  • In D2’s and our youth, his mom (and likely our parents) often rolled out platitudes such as “anything worth doing is worth doing well.”  In his case, because often he was lazy and could do reasonably well without much effort, and now being older, and for whatever reason for each of us — we simply cannot do everything well … but there are still some things worth doing, even if we must do so poorly.
  • Another maxim, fitting to Elisha, is nothing succeeds like success (or excess)!  There is the success and excess of this world; and the excess that is the just right response to the overflowingness of Christ’s call and God’s Love that fits in our freedom of choice; i.e., it is no slavery on part. 
  • But our response is often mixed, tinged with regret and constraint in letting go, like the varied examples in today’s gospel reading.
  • “At North Farm” evokes the “and yet” quality that captures our desire to
    • to match God’s excess toward us and “do well.”  This something, this relationship with God is very much worth doing well.
    • and yet not letting that desire interfere with the reality of our limitations and still do this meaningful something, even when we must do so “poorly.”  Because, through Christ’s unrestrained and obedient offering of excess, we are “all in” by way of the Eucharist.

So … I’m not sure I have a good fox image handy for the “Foxes have dens” quote. But I found one with a fox outside its den! I hadn’t thought about this with the passage of foxes having dens and birds having nests; but, both have dens and nests only when they are incubating or raising their young. The kits are inside the den for one or two months while the dog and vixen hunt for food and protect them, and then foxes sleep outside. The same goes for birds. I’m not sure where reflection will lead with the idea that Jesus has nowhere to rest his head, in this context.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Cycle C

Our readings for Corpus Christi Sunday are here.  Happy Father’s Day 2022!

Following are the poem, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homily from the

  • June 2, 2013, 10AM Mass

_______

The poem Fr Dennis referenced was:

In 2013, D2 shared —

  • In the reading from Genesis, Melchizadek prefigures Jesus and this is his only mention in Hebrew Scripture.  The prefigurement arises in three notable ways:
    • Both offer bread and wine
    • Melchisadek blesses Abram in doing so; Jesus offers his blessing in doing so
    • Melchisadek is a king and priest of the Most High; Jesus is son/descendant of David, king and priest
  • Our Corinthians reading of today is the (historically) oldest written reference of the Eucharist, as the Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians (53 – 54 C.E.) predates any of the written Gospel accounts (~70 C.E. –> 120 C.E.).
  • In our gospel reading (Luke 9:11b-17, the Feeding o’ the 5,000), it shares how we have the Sacraments, and they comprise sacred moments of our lives … but, also, how they also reverberate through them.  E.g., Baptism denotes new life in Christ, yet every birth is thought to be a blessing of new life as a result of the Sacrament consecrating some births.
  • And so, Jesus is God all the time through all the events of a human life, and by his becoming human, he made all these everyday events sacred.
  • Alden Nowlan’s poem captures this sense of everyday events sacred for three friends in Great Things Have Happened

This blog week feels full, so here we go!

I don’t have many memories, if any, of Corpus Christi Sunday from when I was a wee lassie.  Having left the Church in spirit by the time I was 13, that’s not surprising.  However, on my trip to Rome in 2017, as part of an intensive field trip for my Church and Mission course in pastoral studies with Loyola Chicago, a bunch of our class went to the Corpus Christi Mass and Procession (which also happened to be my birthday) with Pope Francis presiding (what a gift!!).

We arrived about one hour early at St John Lateran Church for the papal Corpus Christi Mass.  We were in the second row standing on the grass with a clear view of the outdoor altar, albeit across the road and steps, etc.  It was amazing to have such a large Mass feel so personal spiritually, though being with my Loyola peeps helped lots!  A wonderful liturgy guide was provided and a beautiful choir, shared through an incredible sound system.  There seemed like a bazillion communion ministers (and even then not everyone could receive), but being so close, we did receive.  In my notes, I had written how I can still go to that communion space. 

But, interestingly, what I remember even more now was the procession of all of us, filling the street like blood fills an artery — purposed and full of life, and following the Eucharist to the plaza of Maria Maggiore on the Via Merulana. 

I still have my candle wrapped in wax paper and wax catcher. Almost all of us had one and had it lit, as we walked the street with music from speakers along the way.  It felt like there were more people in the procession than there were at the Mass!  Christ literally walking the streets with us and in us, all in so much Love.  We all end up squishing together in the plaza of Maria Maggiore where Papá met us again.

 “We are one body, one body in Christ, and we do not stand alone.”  🙂

And that’s what it felt like, and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross made more sense for receiving that every day and mystical experience of the Body in motion.

This Friday night our parish is offering prayer in the Stations of the Cross: Through the Lens of Racism as part of the greater community’s (A2 and UM) observance of Juneteenth.  The observance of Juneteenth, the Stations, and the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ feel all the more resonant in such proximity with each other.

Also, Dad’s birthday would have been last weekend, and this weekend, of course, Father’s Day.  The following had been a stanza in a poem I wrote in the early 2010s.  Now … this excerpt is a tighter and better-fitting poem and match to my Dad’s dadditude and an “everyday sacred” moment. A joyful Father’s Day to you and yours.

Evening Mass, When All the Others Were Asleep

by Lorraine Lamey

In tribute to Seamus Heaney’s When All the Others Were Away at Mass and my Dad

My bedroom door was closest to the kitchen.

He rarely woke me in his late night sojourns —

            the shufflings of a legal brief or scrapings of sandwich-making.

But, oh! the milk jug sliding off the refrigerator shelf and

            the tink-ings of the extra-large cookie tin

            filled to the brim with Mom’s holiday sables —

            Jackie Kennedy’s recipe, you know! —

            woke me in overeager joy.

Feigning sleepiness, I fake shuffled to the kitchen table.

Why do I always remember a place already set for me?  I know there wasn’t.

We ate, crunched, dunked, and slurped cookies with cold milk

            in a companionable duet for a half-century or better.

I have not one memory of what we said or didn’t say,

            except that once we downed a half gallon of milk

            and a half gallon of cookies to match,

consuming and consumed by the sugary host and milky cup.

Solemnity of Most Holy Trinity, Cycle C

Our readings for Trinity Sunday are here

These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the

  • June 16, 2019 10AM Mass / Father’s Day, and
  • May 22, 2016, 8:30AM Mass, and

_______

The poems Fr Dennis references in these years are:

Across all years … and many celebrants, the constant acknowledgment is that the Trinity is a wondrous ministry but doesn’t package up into a homily very well!

One of the reasons for this homiletic challenge is that we have the Mass which celebrates the Trinity, but “the Trinity” is not mentioned directly in the Bible.  There are a couple “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” references in the Christian Scriptures and the Jewish ruadh occasionally referenced in the Hebrew Scriptures, but no author of any of the books writes “the Trinity.”  So the Trinity, our Triune God, is a derived theological understanding derived from personal and general revelation about and through God, that became captured in tradition of the Church.  It is one of our few conversations with God that isn’t centered in the Bible.

In 2019, we reflected on —

Alas, I do not have my notes but I recall the poem was offered for Father’s Day, unsurprisingly, but in keeping with the mystery of Love present in the Trinity.

In 2016, we reflected on —

  • In Psalm 8,
    • the focus is on God at the beginning (8:2-4) but then the rest is about us humans (8:5-9) and returns to praise of God (8:10).
    • Fr Dennis used it as a gentle reminder that glorifying God in our daily lives (praise) is one way into the Trinity; the Glory of God is a human being fully alive.
    • Also, too, owning that our extraordinariness is somehow an expression of God is a path into the mystery of the Trinity.
  • The second, the Shakespeare excerpt, is a poem that’s not a poem.  From Hamlet, like most of Shakespeare’s plays is written in meter.  BUT, this passage is text/prose and sounds like Psalm 8 — starts with praise of creation (including humans) and then focuses on human misery (Hamlet’s to be exact).
  • We can rejoice to be one of God’s creations, and because of God’s Love we can also rejoice in the world and Glory of God.

With this, I’ll offer a brief homily cameo from Fr Michael Rozier, SJ, PhD, who was then completing his PhD from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.  He spoke that relationship is fundamental to understanding God, beyond knowing or believing.  The heart of the Trinity is relational, being Three in One, One in Three.  He also offered the reminder, taken from the Proverbs reading, that part of our relationship is “taking delight” in one another.

This idea of being a community of unity, a dynamic relationship … a dance, if you will captures the sense of the Trinity, of Love Loving.  And, as I enrich my relationship, the love of the mystery and abiding in it is more and more attractive than the study or the explanation of it.  Taking delight in the Trinity as much as the Trinity takes delight in us seems a most marvelous way to pass an eternity together.

Solemnity of Pentecost, Cycle C

Come, Holy Spirit!  Allelujah!! Allelujah!!

Our readings for this Pentecost Sunday are here

These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the

  • June 9, 2019 Noon Mass
  • May 15, 2016, 10AM Mass, and
  • May 19, 2013, 10AM Mass

_______

The poems Fr Dennis references in these years are:

In 2019 and 2016, I didn’t collect any notes, mistakenly thinking since 2013 was a “complete” capture of homily and poem the latter years notes wouldn’t be missed or topped.  I’ve included a few snippets that I recall regarding the poems, or are at the least consistent with what Fr Dennis offered.

In 2019, we reflected on —

Fr Dennis re-used Laura Grace Weldon’s How to Soothe poem from Divine Mercy Sunday as an example of the Spirit as comforter.  The second poem, Portrait in Nightshade and Delayed Translation by C. Dale Young, shared a more complex aspect of the Spirit and Jesus of moving us in and beyond our own understandings — often without knowing the path, just our humanity.  And, as we are wont to forget our humanity and the humanity of others in a blur of accomplishments, goal-settings, and self-focus, this unbidden reminder of our humanity is a precious gift of the Spirit.

In 2013, we reflected on —

  • How Wilbur Rees’ poem captures that feeling of when Spirit asks too much, or when we have fallen asleep. 
  • Fr Dennis had altered the poem, originally written in ~1971 and using solidarity with people of color and immigrants as signs of our “not-so-challenging-or-close-to-you-o-God” limits and conditions on God’s Love, and switched it to “homeless.”  In a brief reading of a poem during the homily it would be difficult to explain the original language and context.  Our parish hosts a Daytime Warming Center for a month in January and supports a variety of local ministries of homelessness, so the example of a “homeless” person as God stretching us was a better fit for the brief moment of a homily.  Also, our parish has a strong accompanying and advocacy with immigrants, particularly those of Latinx identity.
  • As usual to his kindness mode, Fr Dennis did not make any mention of this.  After the fact, when I found the original version of the poem, I noted the original text and the spoken change he had made.  I did not ask him about it.  D2 pastored for a time in a predominantly African-American parish in Columbus, was known for his kindness and easy goingness, and had clearly and seamlessly incorporated Black theology and culture within his practice of Catholicism.  I didn’t ask him because all my experience of him already told me he had found the word change to be the appropriate edit to walk closely with his best friend, Jesus, and call us to reflect on how to do the same in our relationship with Christ. Too many words for how he handles Christ’s Love simply.
  • The second poem, String Quartet, captures the sense of tongues and how the Spirit made a unity of them, in contrast to the babble of the Tower of Babel.  We know we are in concert with the Holy Spirit when we are called and act in One Love, One Voice, and One Listening.  This is a Spirit in community of body and hearts, and on our lips and tongues.

On a popular culture note, in the current Obi-Wan Kenobi series, young Leia asks “Old Ben” “What does the Force feel like?” 

He replies with an analogy — “Have you ever been afraid of the dark?”  This was no small question as Leia had just been abducted across the galaxy as a 10-year-old and placed in a dark room and/or had her head covered. 

“How does it feel when you turn on the lights?” 

She says, “Safe.” 

“Yes, it feels like that,” Obi-Wan replies.

In Ignatian spirituality, the sense he describes is called consolation.  That in abiding in the Love of God, even in challenge, we have the peace … the “safety” if you will, of knowing we are in and with Christ, in Spirit.  Consolation has been thought to explain the stories of Christian martyrs whose countenance was filled with radiance and peace at their deaths (St. Stephen, Acts 6:15, Ste. Jeanne d’Arc).  I also think of US Rep. John Lewis (RIP), when asked why he was smiling in one of his civil rights arrests booking photos: Because I knew I was on the right side of history.

Unlike the STAR WARS universe, Christian Spirit is not a body measurement (no midi-Chlorian counts, sorry), nor is it a light switch, nor a wizardly incantation (no matter how much I like the consolation-type explanation of the Expecto Patronum charm that Lupin offers). 

It is the silent deep joy of being in Communion with Love Loving, a communion which may bubble out of us humans in all kinds of wonderful and unique ways.  Come, Holy Spirit!

The images for this weekend are one wondrous peony from my garden and the Peony Garden at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Nichols Arboretum.  It is celebrating 100 years with ~200 plants and 10,000 blooms at peak season.  Watching the peony and the people blooms intermingle with the buzzy flying things, four-footed friends, and each other — peacefully (albeit some of us need masks) was one of the most Spirit-filled and treasured “normal” moments in quite a while.  Beauty rang out in all directions, filling us all.  And, in that, not unlike the wonder of Pentecost for all those present.

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Cycle C

Our readings for this Sunday, the Ascension of the Lord are here

Ascension on Thursday, May 26, would mark forty days from Easter.  However, many dioceses in the United States (and elsewhere) moved the observance to the following Sunday (this year, May 29) to increase participation in its observance. In the 1990s, the dioceses of Australia, Canada, and the United States moved their observances to Sunday, as did England and Wales later.  However, England and Wales have since reverted to a Thursday observance.

These are my notes from Fr Dennis’ homily from the

  • May 12, 2013 Mass

_______

Fr Dennis did not reference a poem in 2013!  However …

in 2013, we reflected that —

  • The Ascension is all about Jesus.  Easter is our resurrection.  Pentecost is the Spirit in us.  But the Ascension?  Jesus!  Be happy for Jesus — He made it!  His work is over.
  • His power & Spirit now convert all things in this world to His Kindom.
  • St Ignatius has one meditation, bridging the First Week and the Second Week called The Two Standards in which one presented two kings and their standards and the choice of whom you would follow.  He ends the Spiritual Exercises with a meditation on the Ascension of Jesus in Week 4. (Spoiler Alert: Jesus is represented in the Two Standards by the king in the muck with us, whose love calls out our very best giving and being selves.)
  • RL confession — somehow and definitely NOT captured in my notes, Fr Dennis lucidly took us to the following story and insight, which I assure you made perfect heart and soul sense.  In fact I can remember the feeling of God’s Love and consolation, but not the homiletic transition.  Sorry!
  • St Ignatius’ conversion and his sharing of his story (eventually, after a long time and much prompting by his fellow Jesuits) has much charming quirkiness.  For example, when he finally succeeded in making his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Franciscans who held authority position in Christendom there, for the Church, essentially booted St Ignatius out.  However, St. Ignatius then bribed his way back in, first with a penknife and then with a pair of scissors(!),  to the place on the Mount Olivet near Bethphage that was marked as the place from where Jesus ascended.  Apparently, even back then (in 1523) there was some plaque marking the “footprints” of Jesus Christ. Ignatius wanted to return a second time to see “the direction in which the right foot was pointing and which way the left” (Tylenda transl., 2001, A Pilgrim’s Journey
  • Dennis thought that these kinds of unique quirkinesses in us are just the sort of thing our parents and our Loving God love in us, tenderly.

In that spirit … or Spirit, I found a replica of the Ascension footprints and used it as the blog image. 🙂

Sunday’s gospel passage has one of my all time favorite phrases: μετὰ χαρᾶς μεγάλης with great joy (in some translations — “exceeding great joy”). While, of course, it made sense on one level — “Jesus Ascended and we saw it!,” there are some additional layers.

With apologies to the variety of uncited theologians and historians who have helped me form this understanding: 40 days after utterly and completing abandoning Jesus in Jerusalem and running for their lives, all of the apostles and disciples went back into Jerusalem to praise Him and share the Word of Love.

At that time, there had been all kinds of “messiahs” running around. The disappearance or death of one more was not a big deal. But one historian, perhaps Josephus, noted that it was this act — the return of the disciples to the scene of the crime if you will, joyfully, filled with presence and consolation, and a scenario in which they could reasonably believe THEY would also be put to death — this is the act that convinced many of the Resurrection and Jesus as the Son of God, the promised Messiah. It is a humble reminder and compass setting across the millennia.

A Merry Ascension to you, Jesus!

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

Allelujah!! He is Risen!!

Our readings for this Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord are here

These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the

  • May 1, 2016, 10AM Mass, and
  • May 5, 2013, 10AM Mass

_______

The poems Fr Dennis references in 2016 and 2013 are:

In 2016, we reflected on —

  • The readings are meant to encourage the participation in Christian life of the new members of our community.
  • The gospel and second reading offer a sense of fullness; we should be delighted that Jesus is gone because this is the restoration of Jesus, to where he came from.
  • In the second reading from the Book of Revelation, Jerusalem is coming from the heavens because God’s very self is the fullness of the city, the very light of which is never extinguished.
  • In the first reading from Acts, “because there arose no little dissension and debate among them,” as to whether Gentiles can be in the church — Yes, they can!  However, if the Gentiles are no longer separate from the Jewish-Christians, are the Jewish-Christians still a segment of Jewish religion? What is the common ground, particularly with regard to the many Jewish rules?  This is all about the nascent community and its members trying to find their place in their world as it is and also as Christ calls us to live.
  • The NY Times obituary for Fr Daniel Berrigan, SJ included the basis for his persistent radicalism, paraphrased If I don’t have faith, then I couldn’t give myself knowing that probably nothing is going to change.
  • Ultimately, these readings are about what does it means to be “our family” in this world of the Resurrected Christ?
  • In Thomas Lynch’s poem, West Highland, he includes his sense of envy of people who seem to have it all together, but it is also a good reminder that Jesus offers Peace, not a solution.  Our focus on outcome can be a distraction from a focus on being, being in Christ — however that may manifest.  Thomas Lynch is a Michigan poet and part of a family providing undertaker and funeral services for generations now.

In 2013, we reflected on —

  • D2 used the Gospel reading from Cycle B (John 15:9-17).  That we remain in God’s Love so that our joy and God’s joy in us may be complete.
  • In the poem Transportation by Kristen Lindquist, Fr Dennis found that it captures the shining from within of the Gospel Cycle B and Book of Revelation readings, how the Love of Christ will illuminate the shining from within —
    • Everyone in O’Hare is happy today / The sun shines benevolently …

With different relationship but same enthusiasm at Lindquist’s verse: I like the way [he] moves! What immediately leapt into my mind (so to speak) at the thought of illumination and transportation from within was North American hoop dance (history within link).  I had seen one particular video captured at a school, but instead, I’ve used a video link of the same young man, Nakotah LaRance, dancing at the 2016 World Championships.  In the link I share, he uses five hoops in a more rapid and creative fashion than during his dance at the elementary school, in which he used eighteen hoops (and, yes, at one point, is engaged with all at once.)  At the 2016 World Championship, he dances sage grouse, alligator, eagle, and even some moon-stepping.  🙂  The life and joy shine out of him and his dance, it resurrects and is kept alive at the same time.

And I suppose this theme of dancing — of all kinds, captures the dynamic peace in the Resurrection for me, the one created by the Lord of the Dance.

Interestingly, very early on (more detail in the history link above), the Hoop Dance Championships decided on age divisions but no gender divisions.  In 2000, Lisa Odgig (Seneca) became the first female dancer to earn the World Championship; she repeated in 2003.  She continues to dance in the open and senior divisions, but I couldn’t find a video from those early years.

The Salvador Dali image featured in this week’s entry is one of two in his New Jerusalem suite; this is image 1, entitled The Messiah; The Harbinger. You can see Golgotha and Jerusalem in the background. I chose a human community representation this time, though I am one of those who steps into nature and meets God immediately. However, Brian Matz in his book on St Gregory of Nazianzus (2016) had an insight that profoundly impacted me:

Nature is excellent for meditating on God’s invisible attributes but engagement with other people reveals God’s visible image.  Church communities help us witness the power of God’s grace to bring order out of the chaos of our lives; the church of nature cannot do that (Matz, 113).

St Gregory the Theologian taught that humans are most made in the image of God when we love other humans, especially the poor (Oration 14, Love of the Poor, c. 370 C.E./A.D.).

Easter Week 5, Fifth Sunday of Easter Cycle C

Allelujah!! He is (still) Risen!!

Our readings for this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord are here

These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homily on April 28, 2013, unknown which Sunday Mass time at St Mary’s (St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor). 

_______

The poem Fr Dennis references in 2013 is:

In 2013, we reflected on —

  • The Cycle C gospel reading is again brief.
  • From the second reading taken from the Book of Revelation, D2 found engaging the declaration from the throne “‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.'”  I (Rainey) find this simple statement powerfully resonant in St Gregory of Naziansus’ oratory in which he declared humans are most made in God’s image when we love humans, particularly when we love the poor.
  • D2 (aka Fr Dennis Dillon, SJ) paired Revelation’s “‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race'” with the Gospel’s “As I have loved you” to create the understanding that we are created/made to give, and we know this when we are giving.  But we can become locked or marooned into a “not-giving” state of doing … or being.
  • In a quote from Alice Waters, one of the prime forces of the farm-to-table food movement in the United States and noted chef, author, and restaurateur, D2 shared a simple and ordinary practice of this love, when Ms. Waters wrote:
    • Our full humanity is contingent on our hospitality: we can be complete only when we are giving something away; when we sit at the table and pass the peas to the person next to us we see that person in a whole new way.
  • The poem by Richard Wilbur is written in commemoration of what would have been Robert Frost’s 100th birthday and in a Frost-like style.  Wilbur uses a rhyming couplet with iambic meter, mostly octameter.  D2 found that the final four lines of the poem capture that gentle sense of God’s call, of when we really listen and are released from those places of “not-giving” …
    • So that the freeze was coming out,
    • As when a set mind, blessed by doubt,
    • Relaxes into mother-wit.
    • Flowers, I said, will come of it.

Easter Week 4, Good Shepherd Sunday Cycle C

Allelujah!! He is (still) Risen!!

Our readings for this Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday are here

These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homily on April 17, 2016 at the 8:30 Mass. 

_______

This post is dedicated to the many Good Shepherds of our lives who have emptied themselves and turned over their lives to Christ for the sake of the Kindom.

_______

The poem Fr Dennis references in 2016 is:

In 2016, we reflected on —

  • The Cycle C gospel reading is brief, making it difficult to get a warm sense of being part of the flock.
  • “The Father and I are one” is a very direct identity statement for Jesus to make.
  • The first reading from Acts seems more Lenten in the hostility and threat that Paul and Barnabas face, ultimately being expelled from Antioch Pisidia.  The Lenten readings are selected to help the catechumens understand the potential consequences of their faith and commitment. With the reading of excerpts from Acts in the Eastertide readings, we are reminded of the sometimes high stakes of the Way, even after the Resurrection of Jesus.
  • The post-Resurrection readings often describe persecution and the differences between the Gentiles and Jews.
  • We tend to think “our” group is loved by God but not “yours.”  Fr Dennis offered the joke in which various religious groups (all flavors) meet St. Peter at the gates of heaven and are welcomed but asked to be quiet as they pass “Room 8” (or the like), but always the same room number.  When someone finally asks “Why?”, St. Peter checks around and confides quietly to the newest member of heaven that “Room 8 is the Catholics room, and they think they’re the only ones here.”
  • All this is to say to each and every one of us:  God Loves us, As We Are.
  • Tom Hennen’s poem captures a richness about sheep we often disregard, as well as the implicit safety of holding close in the barn from the threats of a winter’s night. 
  • rl notes that: the poem captures the variety of ovine-Christian references in today’s readings with
    • the dangers of being Christian/proclaiming Christ (Acts),
    • we as God’s flock (psalm and Revelations),
    • Christ as sacrificial Lamb (Revelations), and
    • Jesus as the Good Shepherd of the reading from John’s Gospel (we know his voice and follow him).

Today’s image is a Salvadoran painted & lacquered crucifix of the Good Shepherd.  The corpus and attending figures are two-dimensional in the manner of the San Damiano crucifixes of Assisi.

The crucifix reminds me of Fr Dennis and his gentle call for us all to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and as he would wish, of his Jesuit friend, Fr Dean Brackley, SJ, who discerned he would go to El Salvador following the 1989 assassinations of fellow Jesuits and their friends, including the housekeeper and her daughter, by the Salvadoran Army.  He served as Professor of Theology and Ethics (link to Marquette Liberation Theology lectures & videos) and Director of the School for Religious Education at the Central American University, San Salvador until the year before his death in 2011.

In the original film version of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (1973), the director Norm Jewison insisted that Ted Neeley (the actor portraying Jesus) NOT be visible in the end scene at all — not as an actor boarding the bus home, certainly no resurrection in the character of Jesus, and not left on the cross. This directorial choice is one that led to some theological criticism. However, unbeknownst to all, at the end scene of landscape, a shepherd and his flock walk in silhouette against the hill, rather than easily observable against the sky like the empty cross. Apparently God decided on the final director’s cut! (Pope Paul VI loved the film and its potential to draw people to find out more about Jesus Christ.)

If you’d like a taste of North American sheep herding, you might try the film SWEETGRASS.  It is a documentary filmed over eight years and depicts one of the last private sheep drives on a federal grazing permit through federal lands. The sheep are driven to access the high sweet pastures in the Absaroka-Beartooth (Montana) lands. 

The older shepherd, the gentle-toned one is John Ahern, who passed in 2019; Pat Connolly is his younger partner on the trail.   Two of my favorite quips in the film are the coining of “sheep wreck” for the pile up of sheep in a narrow mountain trail.  And, after scaring off a night-time visit by a bear and her cubs:

John:    I know one thing worse than a bear. 

Pat:      What’s that?

John:    A wolverine.

Happy Easter to all and to all your Good Shepherds, earthly and heavenly!  🙂

Easter Week 3, Third Sunday of Easter Cycle C

Allelujah!!  He is (still) Risen!!  But we’re down to a single Allelujah now.  🙂

Our readings for this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord are here

These are the poem, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homily from one Cycle C year, 2016.  We are visiting: 

  • 10AM Mass on April 10, 2016 Cycle C

______

The poem Fr Dennis Dillon, SJ references is:

In 2016, we reflected on —

  • Jesus in the resurrection is no longer a teacher or miracle worker, but a friend who spends time and shares food with them; as noted last week — as one of us.
  • What we see witnessed by Jesus in this gospel reading is straightforward:
    • You’re going to make mistakes
    • But know you are loved by and the beloved of God
    • Tend, feed, and serve others.
  • ==> This is the resurrection in our lives and the resurrected life.

As usual, a graceful and rich, but simple homily.

I didn’t have any reflections from Fr Dennis on the poem in my notes.  Here are mine, in light of his homily. 

In the poem, No Longer a Teenager by Gerald Locklin, a father-poet recounts an adult meeting, a shared family meal, when his daughter came for a visit as a 20-year-old.  The early and stressful father-daughtering behind them, the companioning of each other is still important — “but i realized now how long it had been / since i had felt deep emotion.” 

Those emotions born of relationship and trial are all part of love … and life, whether quietly or even silently expressed in gesture (“and slid over close to me / so i could put my arm around her shoulder / until the food arrived”). 

It is so easy to go numb to or avoid darker experiences, forgetting their link to the richness of the moments full of light.  Perhaps the nature of Christ’s Resurrection and his appearances are also captured in the complexity of Locklin’s final line, “i stay alive for her.”  The Resurrection assures us that Jesus Christ, the beloved gardener of our souls, though always with us is also outside whatever tomb we may be in and “alive for [us].”

On a different note, in some Cycle C year or one of the daily gospel readings on a Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter (odd-numbered years), Fr Dennis noted some interesting twists on this passage when you look at the Ancient Greek.  (There’s a possibility this was a Fr Joe Wagner, SJ or Fr Richard D’Souza, SJ homily, but the memory seems more D2-y.) 

A small table is below, but the gist of what he noted was that Jesus moves from asking Peter the question of deep love (ἀγαπᾷς) to dear love (φιλεῖς), in other words, matching how Peter has responded to Jesus the prior two times.  The former is the unconditional Christ-like Love, while the latter (φιλεῖς) is relational, more of human than divine nature. 

Likewise the interlinear Greek passage uses “shepherd” for the translation of Ποίμαινε, rather than “tend.”  Hunh. Now that I’ve reflected on this … it’s also interesting that Jesus reduces what he asks of Peter. Much more difficult to feed lambs than it is to feed sheep! It is also a greater challenge to shepherd sheep than feed them.

One more example of our Jesus meeting us where we are.

VerseJC VerbPeter ResponseJC CommandObject of JC Verb
John 21:15ἀγαπᾷς (Love)φιλῶ (dearly love)Βόσκε (feed)ἀρνία (lambs)
John 21:16ἀγαπᾷς (Love)φιλῶ (dearly love)Ποίμαινε (shepherd)πρόβατά (sheep)
John 21:17Φιλεῖς (dearly love)φιλῶ (dearly love)Βόσκε (feed)πρόβατά (sheep)

I couldn’t find a gospel story image for this week that I liked though there are many good ones. 

And, for this, the Third Sunday of Easter, there is no Big. Catholic. Theme. 🙂

However, the tenderness of A Red, Red Rose written in Scots English in 1794 by Robert Burns has struck me as fitting of God’s Love between Divine Mercy and Good Shepherd Easter Sundays.  The version sung by the University College Dublin Chorale Scholars from their Perpetual Twilight album is ethereal. Our return love might be more akin to Both Sides Now – “we really don’t know love at all,” or just if you like popular culture or 21st century suggestions!

Easter Week 2, Divine Mercy Sunday (or Rebound Sunday) Cycle C

Allelujah!!  Allelujah!! He is (still) Risen!!

Our readings for this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday and, colloquially, as Rebound Sunday, are here. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/042422.cfm). 

These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from two different Cycle C years.  Since the readings are the same each year, we’ll enjoy a feast of the poems, some notes, and a reflection or two of my own.  The Easters we are visiting are: 

  • 5PM Mass on April 28, 2019 Cycle C
  • Noon Mass on April 3, 2016 Cycle C

______

The poems Fr Dennis references are:

In 2019, we reflected on —

  • All the Eastertide (post-Easter Sunday) gospels are Jesus’ post-resurrection experiences.
  • The first reading, always from Acts during Eastertide through Pentecost Sunday, presents the Holy Spirit’s gifts of preaching and healing.  Note that people were healed by folks placing themselves or the ones they loved where Peter’s shadow might pass over them!
  • (rl reconstruction from a shoddy note-taking moment) The ancient Greek word for being healed from spirits and physical ailments, ἐθεραπεύοντο, we recognize now as the root for our word, “therapy.”  In ancient times, it came to mean healing, cure, and treatment, but also originated from a second meaning of serving, to wait upon someone.  How often in my life has someone’s patient waiting been a healing for me?  How often is our physical, emotional, and spiritual healing a matter of engaged waiting?
  • In the gospel, Jesus offers “Peace” and reassurance (“Don’t be afraid”) to his friends.
  • RL notes that Tom Florek, SJ commented that the ancient greeting of Shalom! (Peace!) was also often accompanied with arms up and bent, hands open, and palms directed outward.  This would mean the loose sleeves of ancient times would drop down toward the elbows, and for the resurrected Christ — his wounds, in what we now call the wrists, would be showing as he reassured his friends.
  • In Laura Grace Weldon’s poem, How to Soothe, she captures this form of healing from the gospel, her father carrying frustrated babies and “walking inside to out” in the Spirit with soothing words of love and hope.

In 2016, we reflected on —

  • Only the Gospel of John has anyone at the cross, the Marys and the Beloved Disciple; the other gospels make it clear everyone ran and, at best, gathered at a distance in or around the crowd.
  • Jesus hardly ever says “Peace be with you” before the Resurrection, but it is a standard part of his greeting after the fact.  It is a simple way of modeling that taking it easy and forgiveness are the Christian standards of the Resurrection.
  • It bears considering — what did we think he would do?  Because
    • there are no teachings in the Christian scriptures about the “death experience” from the consummate teacher
    • no miracles (that we know of, beyond a big catch of fish)
    • no manifestation or appearance to Pilate or the Pharisees, i.e., Jesus doesn’t appear, say “Peace,” and eat with them.
  • What does Jesus eating all these meals signify?  Why did he do it?
    • Perhaps in part to prove he’s not a ghost
    • Perhaps, as discussed above, he wanted to be with his friends.
  • One of Us by Wendell Berry captures this sense of remembering Jesus as one of us at table — not as a miracle worker, not as a teacher … but just one of us, the ultimate act of mercy and forgiveness.
  • rl notes that we often read this later passage including Thomas in isolation from John 11:16, in which he is the only apostle to exhort that they all proceed with Jesus to Jerusalem, even to the death.  In isolation, the John 20:24 passage easily creates “Doubting Thomas.”  When I read the two together, I find “Wounded Thomas” more apt, the invisible wounds when we are so certain in our faith but the lived outcome does not match our imagined one.  No warrior-prophet-priest-king fulfilling scripture for these Jewish believers.  Instead, they witnessed a donkey-riding child welcomer, subjected to the lynching of his day, failed by systems, the mob, and followers alike.  He didn’t even defend himself.  Prophesy fulfilled?!?  I found I am more inclined to think of Thomas now as a believer who doesn’t want to suffer such anguish again until he can put Jesus to the test … as if Jesus hadn’t been already!!

Fr Eric Sundrup, SJ also had thoughts on Thomas as modeling faith as a verb rather than a static noun experience.  Let our faith be alive.  And in classic fashion, Fr Eric also offered a mnemonic to differentiate Divine Mercy Jesus (“Star Trek Jesus,” with the prism rays from his heart) from Sacred Heart of Jesus (“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Jesus,” with his enthorned heart often with symbolic drops of blood).  Funny, a bit quirky, but I never misnamed either icon image again!

This Sunday, April 24, will mark the 22nd anniversary of the Second Sunday of Easter celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.  Pope Francis will celebrate the Mass in the Church of the Holy Spirit, across the street from the Society of Jesus HQ a.k.a. The Jesuit Curia (where Fr Tom McClain, SJ now serves), and 200 meters away from St Peter’s Square.  The photo of the Jesuit Curia would have been taken from the main entrance of the Church of the Holy Spirit.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet has been available to us for almost a century.  For our continent, you might visit the film JUST MERCY or the book of the same name by Bryan Stevenson, or Nobel Prize for Literature winner Toni Morrison’s A Mercy.

For our musing this week, I’ve once again turned to Jim Hasse, SJ, and his image of the Road to Emmaus, titled The Strangers We Meet.  In this image, Jesus is depicted as Black in an African-American household, the roadwalkers look more Caucasian. It is in the vestibule of St Leo the Great in Cincinnati. It is also interesting to note that Hasse went with the scriptural interpretation that it was the married pair of disciples, Mary and Cleopas, whom Jesus met on the road! The website honors and names the 2004 models for this painting.

I mention this because when John Thorne, creator of the rotating Black Lives Memorial and UDJHS Theology Teacher, Pastor Associate Sacred Heart Church Detroit, and Director of the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance, came to speak at our parish as part of the greater Martin Luther King observance, he mentioned that it’s the shared kitchen and meal that will mark healed racial relationships, the kitchen being the inner sanctum of Black homes.  Understandably, in this country, the invitation into a Black person’s kitchen and home must be one of great trust.

In this light, Jim Hasse, SJ’s painting in this setting and the North American continent also struck me as a depiction of the mercy or compassion we hear about in The Prodigal Son and the other four instances in Christian scripture.