Catholic Women Preach launched on All Saints Day 2016, just a few months after I wrote my first WIT post on Mary Magdalene and the preaching of women in the Church.

Catholic Women Preach coordinates and makes public the voices of theologically trained Catholic women, who offer theological reflections on the lectionary readings using modern technology. The project conceives of itself as resource for priests and deacons preparing homilies, for adult formation and bible study, and for personal prayer and reflection on the lectionary and feast days. Their work duly has received publicity in America Magazine, The National Catholic Reporter, Global Sisters Report, and on Vatican Radio.

Our common lives broadly benefit from this project. Only in elevating the diversity of women’s voices – from countries such as the United States, India, Iraq, Kenya, Brazil, Australia, Ireland and Germany – will the voice of women be heard as authoritative and our churches enriched and emboldened by the contributions of women preaching, both globally and locally. By voice, I am meaning what women choose to lift up in their content and delivery, what sources women draw on to illuminate the sacred text, what stories they choose to tell, as well as simply the sound of women’s voices reverberating in church sanctuaries and the physical presence of women in such spaces. This is true for churches who officially welcome women to preach and to preside in liturgical contexts, as well as for those who do not.

Catholic Women Preach recently asked me to preach on the Sunday scriptures in light of the prophetic work of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia. What follows is the text of my preaching on this coming Sunday’s Roman lectionary readings, which coincide with the Revised Common Lectionary.

My preaching can be viewed here, or listened to as a podcast here, if you’re interested in hearing my reflections. Better yet, peruse Catholic Women Preach’s website to hear intelligent, challenging and faith-filled preaching by Catholic women from across the globe.

Some names the reader will recognize: M. Shawn Copeland, who just was named the 2018 recipient of the Catholic Theological Society of America’s John Courtney Murray S.J. Award; Simone Campbell; and Sandra Schneiders, for instance. Other names, such as my own, may be unknown. But consider taking the time to listen, to hear women’s voices as prophetic, following in the tradition rooted in Mary Magdalene, the first to preach the good news of the Risen Christ.


CWP Alyssa quote

Ez 17:22-24 / Ps 92:2-3, 13-16 / 2 Cor 5:6-10 / Mk 4:26-34

In the name of God who, through the Word and in the Spirit, creates, redeems and sanctifies. Amen.

When standing in my home region of Appalachia – one the most bio-diverse parts of our planet – one easily see how it is a right and good and joyful thing always and everywhere to give thanks to God, the creator of heaven and earth.

Dwelling in this – “one of God’s awesome cathedrals” –

We can with today’s psalmist, “Sing praise to your name, Most High, and proclaim your kindness at dawn, and your faithfulness throughout the night” (Psalm 92:2-3).

Here the vibrancy of the creation, of which our scriptures speak, manifests itself in abundance: sun-splashed leaves become stained glass, and song-birds…angelic chorus, and misty mountain haze…holy incense[1]

Here the kingdom of God, of which Christ speaks about in today’s gospel, this reign of God or dream of God, seems to be here already…almost.

And yet the integral ecology of which Pope Francis speaks, that would have us bursting out into songs in praise,[2] and where humans recognize our proper place in creation,[3] is gravely absent in the destruction of Appalachian communities and waterways and mountains.

And so we still have good reason to pray: Thy kingdom come.

Imagine with me one of my favorite ways of telling today’s gospel parable: sitting in the grass next to my urban parish’s community garden, in a circle of children who will soon plant seeds of squash and cucumber that we will later harvest in the summer and offer to the people in our city.

Sitting there in the grass with some simple Godly Play,[4] Montessori-inspired materials – just some felt and some wood, we remember that:

There was once someone who did such amazing things and who said such awesome things that people found the courage to follow him. And as they followed him, they heard him speaking of a kingdom, but it certainly wasn’t the kingdom they were living in, or like any kingdom they had ever visited, or like any one they had heard of. So one day they had to ask him: What is this kingdom of God like? And once when they asked him he said,

This kingdom of God – this dream of God for creation – is like a mustard seed, a seed so small that if it were on my finger here, we could barely see it. And one day a person took that seed and planted it in the ground. And it began to grow, and to grow, and to grow until the birds of the air came and made their nests in the tree.

In the circle of children we then wonder playfully about this story. I wonder if the person planting the seed has a name, and what that person is doing while the seed is growing. And of the tree, and the nests, and this entire whole place…what could it really be? And have we ever drawn this close to a place like this?

In this visual mystery, with seeds in our hands, we come to see that the reign of God starts so small, and yet grows so grand. We draw close to God in the mystery of it all as we come to receive the reign of God, offered by Jesus to us today in a couple of sentences about some seeds.

The spaciousness of this parable invites our participation, compels our participation.

With Paul and the Corinthians, we can claim with confidence that “We are always courageous” (2 Cor 5:6) while here in this earthly life.

When individuals respond to life calls to live close to the land and the people, embodying an integral ecology, walking by nothing more than faith and certainly not by sight (2 Cor 5:7)….Friends, we can say, “And yet we are courageous” (2 Cor 5:8).

When lay members of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia[5] craft the People’s Pastoral listening to the voice, “the magisterium of the poor and the earth,” and when they write letters against racism and child abuse, and for the protection of streams… building on decades of fidelity to Christ in this region…Friends, let us say, “We are always courageous.”

When artists create memorials to mountain eco-systems that have long been destroyed permanently by mountaintop removal[6]… Let us say, “And yet we are courageous.”

When communities organize food co-ops in food deserts, fight drug epidemics, and demand just wages and good schools… Let us say, “And we are always courageous.”

In this participation of the unfolding of divine work in our lives, let us keep humility though, and remember, in familiar terms, that

“We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development… For we are workers not master builders, ministers not messiahs, prophets of a future not our own.”[7]

Inspired by this let us take time this week to spend time in one of God’s awesome cathedrals, where trees are temple pillars. Let us draw close to the One who tells the truth at slant[8] in parable form and who compels our participation in the unfolding of the divine story. Let’s do so with courage and gratitude, wherever we are in the mundane existence of our daily lives. Amen.


[1]These words are borrowed from At Home in the Web of Life (Catholic Committee of Appalachia, 1995), as quoted in The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us (Catholic Committee of Appalachia, 2015) on page 11: “To live in these mountains and forests, and with their trees and plants and animals, is truly to dwell in Earth’s community of life, as one of God’s awesome cathedrals. In this magnificent work of God’s creation, • misty mountain haze is holy incense, • tall tree trunks are temple pillars, • sun-splashed leaves are stained glass, • and song-birds are angelic choirs.”

[2] See Pope Francis, Laudato Si [On Care for Our Common Home], sec. 11.

[3] See The Telling Takes Us Home, 36.

[4] These paragraphs describing how the preacher has presented today’s gospel with young people rely on “The Parable of the Mustard Seed” as found in Jerome Berryman’s The Complete Guide to Godly Play: Volume 3, Revised and Expanded (Church Publishing, 2017).

[5] The Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) is a faith-based network raising a prophet voice for Appalachia. Read their publications and more at https://ccappal.org/.

[6] See, for instance, the work of Christopher Santer (http://www.christophersanter.com/mountains/).

[7] The full text of this prayer by Ken Untener can be accessed at http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prophets-of-a-future-not-our-own.cfm.

[8] Cf. Emily Dickinson: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant — / Success in Circuit lies / Too bright for our infirm Delight / The Truth’s superb surprise / As Lightning to the Children eased / With explanation kind / The Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man {sic} be blind.”

 

3 thoughts

  1. I recommend Catholic Women Preach. I watch it every week and it is very very good. Thanks to all those who make it available.

    Many blessings

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