On Luke the Evangelist

Homily for Sunday, February 24, 2019
Epiphany 7C
Luke 6:27–38

Åâàíãåëèñò ËóêàIf Jacob could have favorites among his sons, so can I have favorites among the books of the New Testament.  And I do have favorites, but unlike Jacob my favorites change over time.  For example, after seminary courses on the Gospel of Matthew and Paul’s letter to the Romans, I came to love the Gospel of Matthew and Paul’s letter to the Romans.  (Yes, I admit, I loved Paul’s letter to the Romans!)  When I was a brother in the Society of St. John the Evangelist, I came to love the Gospel of John.  When we lived in California, that melting-pot of spirituality, I came to love the letter to the Ephesians, as Ephesus was similarly a melting pot of spirituality.  And just last year the Gospel of Mark became my latest crush.  After years of having been my least favorite Gospel—“Come on, give us an infancy narrative;” or “Why did you write so sparsely? (Were you in a hurry?)” or, “Why did you use the word ‘immediately’ so often?”—I finally fell for Mark and his rather “Gothic” tone, his “telling it like it is.” Continue reading

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Good Medicine

Homily for Sunday, February 17, 2019
Epiphany 6C
Luke 6:17–26

In her essay “On Being Ill,” Virginia Woolf wrote that she thought it “strange… that illness had not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the primary themes of literature.”  “Novels, one would have thought,” she writes,

would have been devoted to influenza, epic poems to typhoid, odes to pneumonia, lyrics to toothache.  But no; with few exceptions… literature does its best to maintain that it’s concern is with the mind.

roger_fry_-_virginia_woolfIn 1930 when Woolf wrote her essay, she perhaps did have a point—off the top of my head I can think of only a few examples of illness in literature before 1930: The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol; mental illness in Hamlet, whether real or feigned.  And maybe the lovesick Marianne running through the rain and actually becoming sick in Sense and Sensibility.  Though in 1930 Woolf may have had a point, more recently there have been numerous writings that take illness as their theme: Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, Louise Dean’s Becoming Strangers (about Alzheimer’s) and Hilary Mantel’s superb Diary, about her experience recovering from surgery, to name but a few. Continue reading

Sympathetic Imagination

Homily for February 10, 2019
Epiphany 5C
Luke 5:1–11

Of George Eliot, the 19th century English novelist, reviewers write that she is

an acute delineator of character, a subtle humorist, a master of English, a universal observer and a comprehensive student… (Arthur George Sedgwick, The Atlantic, April, 1873)

…and also that Eliot has “perfect psychological pitch.”  “I am not sure any other writer has ever captured with such precision what it is like to be a member of our species,” writes one (Kathryn Schulz in a New York Magazine review, January 20, 2014). Continue reading

…before we knew we had begun

Homily for Sunday, February 3, 2019
Epiphany 4C
Luke 4:21–30

prideandprejudicech3detailMr. Bingley to Mr. Darcy: “Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.”

Mr. Darcy to Mr. Bingley: “I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it…”

Mr. Bingley: “Upon my honor, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I have this evening.”

Mr. Darcy: “You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room,” [he said], looking at the eldest Miss Bennet.

Mr. Bingley: “But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me… introduce you.”

Mr. Darcy: “Which do you mean?” and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me…  You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him. Continue reading

Using the Voice We Have

Homily for Sunday, January 27, 2019
Epiphany 4C
Nehemiah 8:1–3, 5–6, 8–10
Luke 4:14–21

dire_straits_1983_zagreb_3It had been a long time since I last heard Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet,” one of the band’s biggest hits.  But this past November, on Ken Bruce’s BBC music show, there was Mark Knopfler, the former lead, guitar in-hand, singing “Romeo and Juliet.”  He looked so different!  Gone was the jean jacket and the headband from the 1980’s, replaced with a sensible sweater and eye glasses.  Gone was the clean jaw line, replaced with middle-aged jowls.  Gone was the long, wavy hair—like, Gone!  And there was a look in his eyes that suggested that, over the decades, the words had taken on new meaning:  “All I do is miss you and the way we used to be…” Continue reading

Read This!!!

Homily for Sunday, January 20, 2018
Epiphany 2C
John 2:1–11

newspaper boy-lewis wickes hine

Photo Credit: Lewis Wickes Hine, 1914

This past October, Vivian Yee and Miriam Jordan of the New York Times wrote the following about Fernanda Davila, a two year-old from Honduras who had been taken from her parents at the US border and who at the time was in government custody: “The youngest child to come before the bench in federal immigration courtroom No 14,” they said, “was so small she had to be lifted into the chair.  Even the judge in her black robes breathed a soft ‘aww’ as her latest case perched on the brown leather.” Continue reading

Called to the Water

Homily for Sunday, January 13, 2019
The First Sunday After the Epiphany
Isaiah 43:1–7

“When you pass through the water, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”

JP1847I wonder what the water was like in the 17th century when some Japanese Christians were lashed to posts at low tide and left to drown as the tide returned.  Was the sea like glass, as it sometimes is, so that they could see their reflections?  Or was the surface choppy, with swirls and eddies that tugged at their ropes?  Or were there crashing waves sending spray that forcefully yanked and rubbed their skin raw against the wood?  Was the water warm, or was it cold?  Did they sing as they awaited death, as we know other Japanese martyrs did?  Did they shout encouragement to one another, as so many other martyrs have done?  Did their fellows gather on the shore, and—after the soldiers had left—swim out to pray and offer comfort?  Like the Christians who lined the road and sang as Ignatius of Antioch was led to his martyrdom in the Colosseum, did those on shore sing, their voices carrying over the water to reassure those lashed to the posts that they were not alone, that they were loved?  I wonder, what was the water like? Continue reading