Sunday, March 25, 2018

NEW WEBSITE for The Liturgical Conference

Dear Preacher Friends,

Our blog has now moved to:   liturgical

When you find it, be sure to BOOKMARK that page for all the future postings.

Peace be with you,
Melinda Quivik
Editor-in-Chief, Liturgy

Friday, March 23, 2018

Preaching the Gospel through Pope Francis' Ministry

This posting from the issue of Liturgy dealing with “Pastoral Liturgy and Pope Francis,” guest-edited by Katharine Harmon, looks at Pope Francis’ approach to his ministry as a preacher.

Governing Pope Francis’ entire ministry, not least his preaching, is the call to accompany the poor as he wrote in Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”): “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.” [¶20] 

The call to the peripheries is a call to see others not as the world may see them but as God intends them to be seen. The following poem [Brian Bilston (an alias),“Refugee,”] exemplifies this reversal in perception by inviting the reader to read not only from the top down, but from bottom up.

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way 
(now read from bottom to top) 

Christians, like Saint Francis and Pope Francis, have been and now are invited by virtue of discipleship to have friends in low places, and the poetry of their lived Gospel in our top-down world reads from the bottom up. . .  

For example, two weeks into his papacy, Francis celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday at the Prison for Minors Casal del Marmo in Rome. Each year at this first of the Easter Triduum liturgies, the Gospel reading is first proclaimed and then enacted in a foot-washing ceremony.

In 2013, Francis performed this liturgical action from the bottom up—moving it from Saint Peter’s Basilica to a youth prison and washing the feet of teenagers (some in shorts and with tattoos), notably washing the feet of girls as well as boys and, most notably, washing the feet of a Muslim teenage girl.

. . . Francis has performed this liturgical action at drug rehabilitation centers, prisons, and refugee camps. Can we wager that, as Francis ministers individually at the feet of Muslims, Christians, and Hindus, and to teenagers, migrants, and the imprisoned, that the face of Christ is mirrored in a mutually transformative encounter of the pope and of those whose feet are being washed? . . .

After the washing of feet at Casal del Marmo, the pope began his characteristically short homily [see, the Pope’s sermon in Rome on Holy Thursday] by saying:

This is moving. Jesus, washing the feet of his disciples. Peter didn’t understand it at all, he refused. But Jesus explained it for him. Jesus—God—did this! He himself explains to his disciples: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. . . (John 13:12–15).

The Gospel of God in Christ is proclaimed in word and sacramental action at the very center of the lives of the poor.

Heille’s full essay is available in Liturgy 33, no. 2 available by personal subscription and through many libraries. For more, see Gregory Heille, O.P., The Preaching of Pope Francis: Missionary Discipleship and the Ministry of the Word (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015). 

Gregory Heille, O.P., “Pope Francis: Preacher,” Liturgy 33, no. 2 (2018): 3-10.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Triumph and Rejection, Both - 25 March 2018 -Sunday of the Passion / Palm Sunday

We know that Jesus was not simply riding in to Jerusalem to celebrate his messianic leadership.

We know that Jesus was riding in to betrayal and death.

We know that the reality of the reign of Christ would only be fulfilled on the morning of resurrection.

We know that the reign of God cannot be a reality in our world as long as the structures of our society continue to promote fear and hatred and violence.

We know that Christ's life and death and resurrection will continue to mock our society's values until we value human life the way God values it.

We know the triumphal entry into Jerusalem will continue to be an ironic parade until justice flows down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

We know Palm Sunday will continue to be a paradox of meaning and symbol until violence and warfare and power cease to rule our world, and in their place reigns the power of love. –– John H. Barden

Mark 14:1––15:47 or Mark 15:1-39 [40-47]

Having grown accustomed to gospel lessons as short as a few verses and rarely longer than a single chapter, this one Sunday (and Good Friday) we place an extended lesson at the heart of the liturgy. In one way, the sheer length implies the heft and gravity of the day.

. . . Make the Passion itself part of your homily. . . well proclaimed—with more than one reader if possible. Help the readers highlight details through good vocal inflection, pauses, and pronunciation. Keep the congregation involved! Invite them to hold palm branches aloft during the Passion according to centuries old customs.

Advise people clearly on when to stand and provide for standing. . . at least for the section from the sentencing to death to the crucifixion. Liturgical churches will have known the practice of a strong, silent pause for meditation. . . –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Hebrew Bible scholars would warn us to carefully interpret these passages with reference to Israel in exile and the postexilic teachings of Third Isaiah. The difficulty with these cautions is that the most ancient strata of Christian oral traditions entirely depend on the direct application of these passages to the interpretation of the meaning, purpose, and consequences of the death of Jesus. It is not that Jesus does not fulfill biblical prophecy in his death, but it is problematic from within the constraints of a historical-critical method, and challenges may emerge within the sphere of Jewish-Christian dialogue. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Philippians 2:5-11

The nature and spiritual actions of Christ form the basis for Christians to know and do the right things. The key phrase is “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” [linking] the exhortation. . . to the nature of Jesus as one who could have been equal to God, but “emptied himself.” The Greek concept is kenosis . . . that Jesus could have escaped death yet was “obedient to the point of death.” “Taking the form of a slave” uses the term pais, which may mean slave, servant, or young man. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

John H. Barden, a Presbyterian pastor, received the Angell Award in 2005 from the Presbyterian Writers’ Guild for his book of original folktales, ‘Postle Jack Tales (KiwE Publishing, 2004).

Jeffery VanderWilt, author of Communion with Non-Catholic Christians (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003) teaches at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Southern California.

Homily Service 39, no. 5 (2006): 9-17

Monday, March 12, 2018

Desiring Jesus - 18 March 2018 - Fifth Sunday in Lent

On this last Sunday in Lent, the last Sunday before Holy Week begins, we are challenged to preach on desire for the high priest who comes into the world to live and die and be raised from the dead, who tells us about dying in order to become something larger (single grain to wheat that has full heads––many grains), all wrapped in the mystery of the Resurrection.

The preacher must help the assembly enter into the willingness to lose established patterns in order to see or know or move into yet greater ways of living. This is not to validate suffering or encourage martyrdom. This is to become reflective about our allegiances and believe that we can detach for the sake of life abundant.

John 12:20-33

Walter Brueggeman preached on the verse, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” noting it offers the strongest rationale for a Christocentric theory of homiletic. The role of the homilist, particularly, is to offer a message that is transparent to the person of Jesus.

. . . The desire to see Jesus may have been mere curiosity, or search for some new religious or political cause célèbre. For whatever reason, the seeking crowds were sufficient in number for some authorities to exaggerate: “Look, the world has gone after him.”

There follows Jesus' teaching to a select few, presumably Phillip, Andrew and some of the other disciples. He speaks of a reversal of fortunes, one of those rare sayings recorded in all four gospels: “Those who love their life in this world lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Those who seek to lead must serve. Then follows a revelation of glory. His glorification will be the product of a similar reversal. The loss of life in abject circumstance will initiate eternal life in glory; the grain of wheat that dies will grow, bloom, and bear much fruit. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Jeremiah 31:31-34

In this season, when we focus on stories in which Jewish authorities plot Jesus' demise, it is crucial to recall how the new covenant is both like and unlike the old. It is the same God, the same promise, the same expectations, the same people. The One who brought Israel out from a land of bondage to a new place of freedom remains author of the new promise, restorer and sustainer of the people. Israel, now subject to punishment, remains the people to be loved and redeemed and transformed, the people who are to keep the law and witness to the One who saves and liberates before all the nations. None of these things change. The new does not contradict or rescind the old. The new is unlike the old simply in that God will no longer be satisfied to have the law carved in stone but will write the law on each heart. –– Scott Haldeman

Hebrews 5:5-10

[This passage] offers an extended treatise on the analogy between Jesus and Melchizedek. (Genesis 14) To understand the analogy, one must read beyond the lectionary verses. Christ, as priest, (Heb. 6: 19) is comparable to the High Priest who, on Yom Kippur, would enter the Holy of Holies to intercede before God for the forgiveness of the nation.

The early Christians knew that Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi and could not have been an Aaronic priest. Yet, they remained convinced of his having performed a proper “priestly role” throughout his saving death, resurrection, atoning and eternal presence before God. The reference to a priesthood long before Aaron, in the person of Melchizedek, who offered cereal offerings of bread and wine to the God “El,” was powerfully attractive to ancient Christians who saw in him a prototype for the saving works of Christ. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt

Jeffery VanderWilt, author of Communion with Non-Catholic Christians (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003) teaches at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Southern California.

W. Scott Haldeman is associate professor of worship at Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

Homily Service 39, no. 5 (2006): 2-8.