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). 

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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. 

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

Easter Sunday Cycle C

Allelujah!!  Allelujah!! He is Risen!!

Our readings for this Sunday, Easter, the Resurrection of the Lord are here. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041722.cfm).  The readings are ABC, meaning they are used every Easter Sunday when the Mass of the Day is celebrated (versus the readings of the Vigil Mass, the evening before). 

Again, these are the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from seven different 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: 

  • April 21, 2019 Cycle C
  • April 1, 2018 Cycle B
  • 8:30 Mass on April 16, 2017 Cycle A
  • Noon Mass on March 27, 2016 Cycle C
  • 8:30 Mass on April 5, 2015 Cycle B
  • 7PM Mass on April 20, 2014 Cycle A

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The poems Fr Dennis referenced are:

The following are notes from the earlier Easter celebrations — in later years I was often serving at other St Mary’s liturgies during the day and didn’t always get to hear the homilies associated with the poems!

In 2016, we reflected on —

That we don’t know much about the actual resurrection —

  • There is nothing in scripture about it.
  • Not much else outside scripture.
  • The folded face cloth in the tomb helps John believe in the resurrection.  A robber or someone opposed to Jesus as the Messiah would not have taken such care; the cloth would have been tossed about.
  • The resurrection seems to be in the small things, in the overall fit of things.  It is not a perfect conclusion, but a sensible one, a reasonable one for a person of faith.  It leaves us “looking up.”
  • Blackbirds by Julie Cadwallader-Staub captures this with her final line “ah yes, this is how it’s meant to be.”

In 2015, we reflected on —

That Easter Sunday is a bit of a letdown from the Vigil and other Triduum masses, a less elaborate and less detailed exaltation.

  • It’s interesting to note that compared to his public ministry of healings and miracles prior to the Passion, Jesus “doesn’t do much” after the Resurrection.  He could have done fantastic things.  But other than the fish catch, there are no miracles.  Even that is not on a par with those miracles before the crucifixion or the resurrection itself.
  • It seems that all he wants to do is eat with his friends.  He seems quite content to be ordinary.
  • So … we’re going to rise, but we want to cherish what is happening all around us — food, eating, breathing, living.
  • Breathing — the miracle and depth of it in any given moment.  The Hoarfrost and Fog poem by Barton Sutter captures this beautifully.  Perhaps imagine that first breath again for Jesus.
  • We are all born again when we realize we have a God who became human so God could see things from our point of view; and he died and rose so that we could learn God’s point of view, i.e., God’s Love for us.

In 2014, we reflected on —

“In times of joy, all of us wished we possessed a tail we could wag.” W. H. Auden.

That Easter Sunday is more easily expressed in singing (or tail-wagging!) than words … and yet we try. 

  • The reign of God, the Kindom (co-opting Greg Boyle, SJ’s phrasing) that the Apostles and early Christian communities tried to live and witness in light of the mystery best captured in the gospel, its profit is … of no earthly value at all.  There is no economic profit in the Kindom.  Instead we might look to the “Invest in the millenium” stanzas of Berry’s Manifesto poem.  “Say that your main crop is the forest / that you did not plant, / that you will not live to harvest.”
  • “[P]racticing resurrection” is living life for life and love itself; there is no purpose in this world.  We have nothing to lose [in this world] because we have everything in Jesus.

For myself, I found that even the tomb of Holy Saturday begins the tail-wagging, though I’d never known there was a quote to match the feeling — let alone its source!!  And the final stanza’s reference to the resurrection fox — “making more tracks than necessary / some in the wrong direction” — was a wonderful synchronicity to my 2014 Lenten fox of Mary Oliver’s Maker of All Things – Even Healings” and currently, of course, “our” neighborhood foxes.

I struggled a bit with an image for the Resurrection.  I was not taken with (for these purposes) the Van Gogh suggestions from the SALT lectionary; tempted but not taken with Rembrandt’s Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb (is the top left angel playing marbles?)

Finally, I stumbled across a Jim Hasse, SJ prayer-poem and painting.

Yo Yo Ma said of his own art, “Am I trying to get it right?, or am I trying to find something?”  I might paraphrase that as “Am I trying to find someone?”  And, in Hasse’s prayer-poem, “Searching,” I find my resurrection this year is the insight that Jesus witnesses what life is like when we find Love Loving.  We can’t live that experience every single moment.  We’re human.  But we can have faith that we will have resurrection when we let God find us, and we find God, and like Jesus and to God’s delight, abide in Love Loving for all eternity.

Palm Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Our readings for this Sunday, Palm Sunday are here.

Again, these are my notes and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homily from the

  • Noon Mass on April 14, 2019.  

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The poem Fr Dennis references is:

Interestingly, Fr Dennis used this poem with the Palm Sunday readings of 2019 (Cycle C) and Ascension on May 28, 2017 (Cycle A).  He had it at the ready on the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (February 4, 2018, Cycle B), but chose not to use it.  He might find multiple poems during the week and was adaptive to the congregation at a particular Mass gathering, whether they seemed of a certain disposition that would make one poem or another a better or lesser fit.

  • Palm Sunday has a bit of that Ascension feeling in the opening of the gospel, called the Gospel Procession.  This is the passage that marks Palm Sunday, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  It certainly can feel triumphal (try to stop the singing, “the stones will cry out!”), but as we know …
  • The story and the liturgical readings of Palm Sunday arc quickly to the Passion, which is what is read after Isaiah’s suffering servant and other readings fitting to the Passion, not the joyful tenor of the entry to Jerusalem.
  • When we remain present to these passages, it’s hard not to think “What happened?!?” How could all this change so quickly, so horribly?  The behavior of human mobs is not the mystery in these cases, but our questions about God’s presence.
  • We don’t understand the mystery of our belief, how it comes to aid us in the times of life that seem good or bad.  The palm procession seems joyful but it is the introduction to the suffering of the Passion.  The Passion is a horror story that reveals the Love of God who creates a joyful Resurrection out of it.  God is God. God is Light, and the darkness shall not overcome it. 
  • Thomas Lux’ poem, Ode to the Joyful Ones, captures this sense of when we know — “Because you don’t have to tell them to walk toward the light.”  When we are filled with God’s Love or someone around us is, Life and Light are shared freely because that is the nature of God’s Love.
  • How do we sustain our joyful ones — the joyful one inside each of us, and those around us?  We do so by relying on Jesus to provide what we need in our daily lives, by being vulnerable with him.

Naomi Shahib Nye’s poem, Kindness, captures the swing of Palm Sunday — of how these starts and finishes amidst gaping losses can be all topsy-turvy unless you are centered in God’s Love, which bears a striking resembling to kindness quite often.

Neither here nor there, I thoroughly enjoyed this quote of Maya Angelou’s from the SALT lectionary, in honor of her April 4 birthday: 

Angelou didn’t call herself a Christian — not exactly. In an interview on the occasion of being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she put it this way:

“I’m always amazed when people walk up to me and say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ I think, ‘Already? You already got it?’ I’m working at it, which means that I try to be as kind and fair and generous and respectful and courteous to every human being.”

The SALT Lent with Van Gogh booklet went with Starry Sky, focusing on the entry to Jerusalem, and there is a richness there with the context of the painting (created during his year stay in the mental health house).  However, in my past two retreats at Manresa (shameless plug for the Individually Directed Retreat — Ignatian, silent), my director and retreat brought out Sieger Koder’s work in the foot washing and bread breaking, our two forms of the Institution of the Eucharist in the four gospels.

The gospels are worth a read specifically to confirm this:  Jesus feeds Judas and Peter and washes the feet of both of them.  He didn’t leave anyone out, perhaps not despite knowing what they would do … but all the more because of what they would do.

Fifth Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Our readings for this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Lent are here.

Again, these are my notes and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the

  • 8:30 Mass on March 13, 2016.  

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The poem Fr Dennis references is:

In 2016, we reflected on … 

  • Again, we remember our catechumens — this year of 2022, the parish has the possibility of two, so we keep them in prayer.
  • The readings feel a little different than usual.  Normally, we’re a faith of remembrance.  “Remember what God has done” is the norm.  So, why, in these readings, are we being asked to forget?  We need to keep both remembering and forgetting in our hearts, to hold the mystery.  Where there is or was no way, God makes a way.
  • In light of the gospel: Your sins are forgiven, don’t sin anymore; we can breathe a sigh of relief!  We are being given a new birth.  We are made new.
  • In the second reading, Paul’s identification with Jesus is so strong that he wants to suffer with Jesus and receive that joy.
  • Wagoner’s poem, “Lost,” is based on the teachings that Pacific northwest coast Indigenous communities gave their children on what to do if they ever got lost in the forest.  Specifically, Wagoner based it on recounting the story of a conversation between a Native American grandfather and grandson.  God is here in all that we go through, just as God was for Moses and as Jesus (as God) is here for and with us now.
  • David Wagoner died in January of 2021.  Read his NYT Obituary here.  A transplanted Midwesterner, he spent his adult life deepening in the cultures, places, and people of the Pacific Northwest.

Rainey chips in that after our refresher of Laetare Sunday, this Lenten slog to Holy Week feels like being lost in the Lenten woods. Letting go or having people and relationships or activities removed on the journey this Lent, yet trusting God to be present in this place. And when it is time, to walk on with God to a Holy Week of Passion and Resurrection.

We return to the SALT Lectionary Van Gogh image for this week of Van Gogh’s Shoes

That got me musing on these subtler themes of holy ground and holy places in Fr Dennis’ selection of David Wagoner’s poem Lost … and how we move between those moments (even within ourselves!). 

God asks Moses to remove his sandals when on the holy ground … so between those moments, we use … shoes, literal and metaphorical!  Van Gogh’s shoes look like they kept a person close to the ground but protected, as do moccasins.  (The DIA has a number of moccasins in its collection representing the communities from the East Coast to the Rockies; here are some images of the Salish-Kootenai 116th Arlee celebration, the dancers are in full regalia.)  Here is a link to a humorous Nez Perce legend on the creation of moccasins, which captures the comedy of how we humans want to move and how God ultimately would like us to move with God.  And, way back when, how God tenderly clothed us even when we chose to leave the holy ground of Eden (Gen 3:21).

So, my reflection this week will be on what I am carrying that will be let go so I can robe or shod myself with whatever new gift God is giving, one that God is giving for the next portion of the journey.  For now, I will continue to listen to the forest tell me where I am!

Fourth Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Our readings for this Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent are here.

Again, these are my notes and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the

  • Noon & 5PM Masses on March 6, 2016.  

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The poem Fr Dennis references is:

In 2016, we reflected on … a lot! 

  • The Prodigal Son Parable is tough to preach because it has been preached on and written about so much!  So, if there was something that stuck with you or jumped out, stay with that.
  • We’re in Laetare Sunday, Rejoice!  — a bit of light for all of us, and the mark of the final stretch for the catechumens.  So keep them in heart and prayer.
  • In the first reading, we’re told of another mystery of the Hebrews’ exodus that once the Israelites reached Canaan, after 40 years in the desert and however many years of eating manna provided nightly by God, they eat their first food made from their first harvest from the new land.  The manna had been one sign of their total dependence on God, in addition to other such signs like God accompanying them as the pillars of cloud and fire.  In other words, in the promised land, you can cultivate your own food.  God no longer needs to provide it.
    • Even nowadays, we still need to live, work, and provide to community; we must sow, cultivate, and harvest our food for all of us to survive.
    • And this is an important realization for us and for our catechumens: we start our journey from an inspired place, but don’t think the entire journey is going to be like this.  We have to engage and offer on our part, too, to follow God.
  • In the second reading, we are all to be ambassadors for God through words and actions.  We are reconciled to God; God continues to show mercy, but also gives us lives to live in — work, mercy, and reconciliation.  Be an ambassador of God’s Mercy.
  • Prodigal Son Parable —  a great story for the catechumens whether they were wandering (Prodigal Son) or a bit uppity (oldest son).  It is given to the Scribes and the Pharisees as an indirect answer to them because they’re likely to get lost in the story, when, in fact, it is an answer.
    • the younger son is essentially treating his father as dead when he asks for his future 1/2 of the property while his father is still alive
    • the Pharisees and Scribes would have recognized compassion and wasteful extravagance in the father’s joy and compassion to the younger son as an image of God.
  • Rainey tips in that this is one of five times a particular form of mercy is expressed through the Greek verb, σπλαγχνιση, a very visceral, deep gut, heart-rending form of compassion and is only used with Jesus or a parable character as an image of God.  It is used in the Gospel of Luke to describe the response by the Good Samaritan on seeing the wounded traveler, of the father in the Prodigal Son parable when he sees his lost son returning destitute in all ways, and Jesus meeting with the widow of Nain.  The Gospel according to Matthew (14:14), uses this verb when Jesus fed the 5000.  The Gospel according to Mark uses it when Jesus notes the people are so hungry for the Word and healing, they are like a flock without a shepherd (Mk 6:34, Mt 9:36).  This is God’s Mercy, and what we are called to be Ambassadors of.
  • Milburn’s poem, “To My Son’s Girlfriend,” shares a sense of the proprietary nature of God’s Love , what it means to be a father and a Father and grow in our understanding of God’s Mercy and Love.

Switching up from the SALT Lectionary Van Gogh this week for some spot on Rembrandt!  Maybe the parish will bring down our copy of the print of the painting version I linked to. The featured image of this week is a different sketch Rembrandt made of the same scene (and available a the Cleveland Museum of Art). I found it quite a different viewing experience from the painting!

Third Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Our readings for this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Lent are here.

Again, these are my notes and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the

  • 8:30 Mass on February 24, 2019
  • Noon Mass on February 28, 2016.  

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The poems Fr Dennis references are:

In 2019, alas, I missed the Mass, but through discussion found that Dennis included the poem because he thought it full of profound wisdom for everyone, regardless of creed.  R.S. Thomas is a Welsh poet.  He was also an Anglican priest.  The poem also captures the remarkability of Moses in turning to the burning bush in curiosity (Ex 3:3) rather than in fear.

In 2016, we reflected on —

  • the continuing theme of the readings, akin to Samuel’s “Here I am!” (or is that, “Here, I am.”?)  Where you stand is Holy Ground because of I Am
  • Our faith is captured in the burning bush (it is never consumed in the flames) and the fig tree (it is useless if it doesn’t produce fruit).
  • Moses has both Jewish and Egyptian identities, so his life and experience have a cultural and physical dynamism as they play out within him.  Perhaps these are part of what have him approach the burning bush out of curiosity.
  • Note that he does seek validation from God of “Why me?  Why choose and send me?” (Ex 3:11)  God replies I AM, the one whom the Israelites have known for generations and generations.
  • All of the above is indicative of God’s great desire to communicate with us.
    • Jesus himself as message
    • Jesus takes events that people know from their everyday lives and history to help them find God and bring God close.
    • God is larger than good and evil, so we can always turn to God, regardless of our sin and our blessings.
  • Anne Porter’s poem, “A Short Testament,” offers a sense of repentance, the change of heart, that is part of the fertile ground of growth in God and life.  The final stanza is reminiscent of the gospel in that, by fertilizing the ground and cultivating it, the tree can bear fruit.  Like us, we need the repentance of our lives to fertilize our growth in God.

In the SALT Lectionary Van Gogh Lenten reflection for this Sunday, we are encouraged to spend time with Van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms.

Second Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Our readings for this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent are here. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/031322.cfm).

These are my notes and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homily from the 5PM on February 21, 2016.  (That was an early Lent!!)

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The poem Fr Dennis references in 2016 are:

The Window by Raymond Carver

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.