These are my notes and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homily from the 5PM on February 21, 2016. (That was an early Lent!!)
The poem Fr Dennis references in 2016 are:
In 2016, we reflected on —
- the practice of Lent is to change ourselves … but how?, to what end? We welcome and accept the new catechumens with all the Cycle A readings, as they are among the best readings! (However, the tradition is to read the Cycle A readings when a parish has catechumens, but St Mary’s has had catechumens for so long — thank God! — we hadn’t heard the other readings, so we are more selective of when and how they Cycle A readings are read.)
- from the first reading … “three-year-old heifer …” What’s up with all these details?!? At the time, God made covenants, i.e., civil contracts with us, in their own way. In this case, the animals are cut in half and God, as smoke and fire, walks between them signifying “If I don’t keep my part — namely, that you are God’s people and Abraham gets his own land, then let me end up like these cut in half animals.
- It is one example of God descending to our level.
- The imagery of the covenant is serious (as opposed to an imperative “get it right” approach), and God is the faithful, committed one in this covenant, though we try. It echoes what we try to share with the catechumens, that this is a serious commitment on their part, and even more so on God’s part.
- In the gospel reading of the Transfiguration, we see the glory of God, so as to mark Jesus as the fulfillment of all that went before. With Abraham in the first reading, we see the cloud and torch. In the desert and Exodus, God is a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. In the Transfiguration, Jesus with priest (Moses) and prophet (Elijah) is shrouded in cloud and fire (Hebrew scripture images of God) and gleaming white (Christian scripture Resurrection).
- We’re each called to this Transfiguration, too, through our many transfigurations in our life — Lenten and otherwise.
- Moments of transcendence help us become a better people to receive our catechumens and to show mercy as an expression of God’s Mercy.
In the SALT Lectionary Van Gogh Lenten reflection for this Sunday, we are encouraged to spend time with Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
I also remember a summer daily homily reflection by Fr. Dennis on the Feast of the Transfiguration, a sharing of the experience. As a Jesuit, he studied for his PhD in Film History and Criticism at NYU. From meeting Dorothy Day at the nearby Catholic Worker House to the performing arts, God was at work in his life in New York City. On one such outing, he saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform their signature work, Revelations. As he left the theater and moved through the subway, that feeling of the dance inside him — as if he could move in such liberation — went with him as he walked, spirit dancing three feet above the ground in a body that could do no such thing.
Though we won’t stay in our moments of Transfiguration, we can celebrate and be transformed by them, as Raymond Carver writes in The Window.