Our readings for Sunday are here.
These are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the Masses of
- September 4, 2016
- September 8, 2013
The poems Fr Dennis references in these years are:
- 2016 homily — The Skylight by Seamus Heaney and Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn by Wu Men (Hui-k’ai)
- 2013 homily — Goldenrod by Mary Oliver
In 2016, we reflected on —
- Generally, the Sunday readings are created by selecting the gospel reading (fitting to the liturgical calendar and the story of Jesus), then the 1st Reading (usually Hebrew Scriptures but Acts or Revelation during Easter), and the 2nd Reading may or may not fit.
- In the 1st Reading, a colloquial summary might be: We don’t know nothing.
- The 2nd Reading today, Paul’s Letter to Philemon? A homily in and of itself! Paul is talking about sending Onesimus, a slave, back to his owner, in part because he doesn’t want to take property without permission. But in part because the Spirit is moving him to see Onesimus as a brother, and he encourages Philemon to do the same. Nowadays? Georgetown University is one of the many trying, however poorly — even at $100 million Descendants Truth and Reconciliation Foundation — to atone for Jesuit slaveholding in the North American continent.
- In the Gospel, this is a hard gift, a challenge to all of us, to not focus on ourselves. But there’s always that small voice of “me … me … me .. don’t forget about me.” That voice keeps us from being completely free for Jesus. (rl whimsically remembers a yoga magazine likening ego to toast popping up half-done to ask if it is done.)
- But, for D2, the most interesting thing about Jesus in today’s gospel is how he teaches. Compare his manner to the rabbis who teach by quoting Hebrew Scripture. Jesus rarely does so, and even then it is often the gospel writer saying “Jesus was referring to ____.”
- In today’s gospel, “building a tower”?, “a king against another king”? Jesus is using examples from people’s every day experience to share his point, to illuminate a shared experience for others.
- This is why he/Fr Dennis uses poetry … an old truth in a new way.
- In Seamus Heaney’s The Skylight, a sonnet, a poem sharing a sudden sense of light and an “ah, yes!” moment when we experience a new way of looking at the healing of the paralytic (a different gospel reading). A sonnet is a 14 line poem with several different rhyming and meter schemes available. In The Skylight, 9 to 11 syllable lines are offered in a mixed rhyming scheme.
- Zen Master Wu Men, in “Ten thousand flowers in spring …” — if we can somehow not have our minds clouded with focus on ourselves we can see all times as the best of times in our lives. So not just in thought, word, feeling do we follow Jesus but in action.
- We can be grateful for the challenge of Jesus Christ in the gospel and receive the Spirit to do so; and may we do so in Joy.
In 2013, we reflected on —
- While the readings tend to flow in different directions, the common theme is not understanding unless God’s Spirit is in us.
- The Wisdom reading (1st reading) is very much direct in saying so
- Paul, in the Letter to Philemon (2nd reading), is not commanding Philemon to free Onesimus as if he were freed by him (Philemon in an act of a superior) but to look and be with Onesimus as if he were free. And, Philemon can only do that if he receives Onesimus in God’s Spirit.
- Luke, the gospel reading, is about carrying the cross. We tend to think, “If I’m good, everything will be fine.” But that’s just not true as we follow our vocation.
- We have our interior understanding and the skills and gifts given by God
- We have our exterior sense of God calling us
- In A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt’s depiction of Thomas More’s final goodbye to his family while he is imprisoned in the basement cells of the Tower of London, there is an exchange that captures this gospel understanding (p 83). His family was only allowed to see him on their vow to the king’s agents they would try to convince More to sign the Oath to the King that he would not sign out of conscience:
- MEG (Margaret, nicknamed Meg, his daughter from his first marriage, unusual in that More educated his daughters like sons, nearly unheard of in his day): Then if you elect to suffer [for the good you’ve done already], you elect yourself a hero.
- MORE: But since we see how [vice] commonly profits beyond [virtue], and have to choose, to be human at all … why then perhaps we must stand fast a little – even at the risk of being heroes.
- MEG: But in reason! Haven’t you done as much as God can reasonably want?
- MORE: Well … finally … it isn’t a matter of reason; finally, it’s a matter of love.
- One year we read the play together (seated reading) and watched the film. Quite interesting how both work in you, similarly yet differently as well.
- For Mary Oliver’s Goldenrod, D2 noted they are so often considered weeds, but Mary Oliver finds the celebration in them. The final stanza has them doing naturally what God wants us all to do (bend when we should bend, and rise) and ultimately, give our gold away.
And a monarch on some goldenrod, photo by Michael Barrick on Unsplash.