Certain verses in scripture make our hearts leap up and stand at attention, though perhaps for different reasons. Sometimes we are attracted to the excitement in the exclamations: “Let there be light!” “A child is born for us!” “He is risen; he is not here!”
Exploring the Word
“TLF” used to be the ultimate acronym, long before BFF came into vogue. Carved on trees under two sets of initials—and likely encompassed by a lopsided heart shape—“TLF” meant that these two persons so designated shared True Love Forever.
What does it mean to offer a blessing? What are we doing when we engage in this most religious of activities? Because we are part of a religious tradition that sees fit to bless people, homes, ground, water, bread and wine, oil, certain hours, feasts, and seasons—and in various ethnic traditions, rosaries and scapulars, pets and cars and roller skates, and just about anything else you can haul to church—it would be good to reflect on what precisely we think we’re doing with all this blessing activity.
The narratives about Jesus by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John fit nicely into a classic American genre: the road story. Jesus and his friends leave the familiarity of home and hearth to light out for the territories, see the world in all its fascination and misery, give some help and get into some trouble, make a few allies and a few more enemies, and take the ultimate journey to the center of their society, Jerusalem, where, according to the genre, they would either triumph or be vanquished.
I had a friend who used to whistle all the time. You always knew he was coming long before you saw him because of the trilling sound that preceded him in the street or on the stair. Thank heavens he was good at it; otherwise, the effect may have been less than appealing.
For many of us, the face of our mothers is the first face of God. Because of this life-bearing and life-sustaining role of mothers, Julian of Norwich felt free to call Jesus our Mother, as he brings us to new life and feeds us with his own body and blood.
Years back I spoke to a youth group about the church. I offered them the opportunity to “vote” on the models of the church as described by Jesuit theologian Avery Dulles. I outlined each one and had the students consider the ideas privately before pledging their allegiances.
Note to preachers who want to keep their jobs and not risk their lives in the process: Don’t lift your preaching text from the Acts of the Apostles. Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, and Paul all tend to make very fine speeches reported in this work.
A man came up to me in a parish years ago after a talk I had given about scripture. He prefaced his remarks by telling me he didn’t believe in the Bible as more than fairy tales, and Jesus as more than a wisdom teacher. However . . . .
God bless the parish with soul! Even at a Catholic Mass, you can generally get a witness among such an assembly. By witness, we mean an affirmation that what the preacher says is true. A witness of this kind is basically what we intend to express by our every “amen.”