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Sunday, June 4, 2023

A Homily with San Francisco House Church; Friday, June 2, 2023 ~ Elaine Pfaff ARCWP

Homily: Elaine Pfaff ARCWP

It was in the early 70's, shortly after a spiritual breakthrough along with its distressing impact, that I awoke with a mysterious word clearly spoken in my mind ---> Ecclesiasticus, the word said.  I would later discover that Ecclesiasticus is another name for the Book of Sirach from which our first reading is taken following the Lectionary for today.  Quite a serendipity for me and for us (!) I think.  I believe we, who usually live 3,000 miles apart, are being personally addressed in this moment.

This particular passage presents us with the spiritual legacy of our ancestors in faith and  family.  We are being invited to open to spiritual presence of our ancestors in what we traditionally call the Communion of Saints.  Whether or not they always demonstrated saintly behavior – we have only to look to the ancestry of Jesus of Nazareth for encouragement of all kinds of branches in the family tree!  We who are their progeny are heirs and beneficiaries of their human love as well as the whole Love that goes beyond us all.

Ecclesiasticus was written originally in Hebrew in the second century BCE and was translated into Greek by the author's grandson.  It is a deuterocanonical work, that is, it is accepted in the Roman Catholic canon but it remains noncanonical for Jews and Protestants. The Book of Sirach, Ecclesiasticus, appears in the Hebrew Scriptures (a preferred term for Old Testament) and is in the genre of Wisdom Literature.  It is a collection of moral teachings based in partriarchy and the dualism of Greek thought, that is a separation of mind and body that appeals to a hierarchy of being.  Here it's helpful to think of the etymology of the word hierarchy, which in its purest sense means assuring co-operation through all its parts.   

I love the opportunity to tease it out the purest and widest meanings in our inherited language for a feminist interpretation, an  important work of our time in ecclesial circles.  Ecclesiasticus, means – literally -  Book of the Church.  And so, we can ask ourselves, who is left out of that Church book – then and now?   And why?  And we can say with courage and conviction – that's why we're here, with a prophetic vision of an all inclusive church that correctly identifies all of us.

So, let's go on to the Gospel today with its pressing demands that are most baffling on the surface --->  that of including nature in expectations of  fig trees to bloom out of season in time for breakfast and commanding mountains to jump into the sea.  What really are we given here, other than the injunction to expect miracles outside the laws of nature?  

Along with these questions, I like to think of the writings that may have been recorded as early as  the Gospel of Mark, which is the earliest of the canonicaal Gospels, as you know.  What was the wider witness of those people who were left out of the Canon?   One of those witnessing groups, most likely in modern day Turkey, left us a Coptic language manuscript  called  The Acts of Paul and Thecla.  It was practically unknown until its publication in 1906.  Now here's a clear example of erasing women from the scene and attempting to leave us out of the “church book.”


Thecla, a young woman who counter-culturally claims her own autonomy -  refusing a marriage that was threatening to be oppressive, receives Paul's witness, and subsequently acts independently to heal and perform miracles. She baptizes herself.  We're told she miraculously survives a pyre in which she was bound for her execution by fire.  She faces wild beasts, and,  bound to the lioness, who licks her feet, again foils her would-be executioners. With very little life expectancy in her society, Thecla lives on to old age, despite her standing up to government authorities and overcoming Paul's negligence as an ally and mentor.  

We're brought to a rich interpretation of these fantastic stories as we approach them non literally as beacons to truth.  That we can in deed expect that we will be fed as we release (“forgive”) others to mutually include them in Earth's harvest.  That we can be present to one another even through time and space.  That our problems can shift from mountains to streams flowing when we're opened to grace.  And that we'll survive and flourish even when we feel surrounded by the wildest of beasts.  

For reflection & homily sharing

How are you aware of your ancestors?  What are the times in your life that you received their help from beyond?

What is your reaction to Thecla's story?

How does Jesus' curse of the fig tree affect you?

How is Thecla a Christ figure?

Readings and Homily 

Readings: Sirach 44: 1, 2, 4, 8, 11; Psalm composed with words by Linda Hogan,; Mark 11: 12-26

Readings for Eucharistic Liturgy ~ Friday June 2, 2023

House Church in San Francisco

Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

                                A Reading from the Book of Sirach {44: 1, 2, 4, 8, 11}

 Now we will praise our great heroes and heroines, the ancestors of our people from times long past.  Our God gave them greatness of honor, they too reflected to greatness of God in ancient times. Some led the people through their wisdom … teaching … from their wealth of understanding.  Some left behind them renown, and their stories are told to this day.  They passed down their treasures to their descendants, their inheritance to future generations.  Their progeny will last for all time and respect for their names will never die.  Their bodies are at peace [and] their names will continue forever.

Inspired words ~    {RAmen; Let it be so !


Our Psalm today is a quote by Linda Hogan and the Response is God delights in us 

Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me

{RGod delights in us !

Be still, they say

{RGod delights in us !

Watch and listen

{RGod delights in us ! 

You are the result of the love of thousands  

{RGod delights in us !  

The Gospel is from Mark 11: 12-26, partially *paraphrased from The Message translation

*As Jesus and the followers left Bethany where Mary lived, they approached a fig tree in full leaf but before the season for figs.  The disciples heard Jesus curse the fig tree for not yielding them fruit when they were hungry.  The tree did, in fact, wither and die.

They arrived at Jerusalem.  Immediately on entering the Temple Jesus started throwing out everyone who had set up shop there, buying and selling.  He kicked over the tables 

of the bankers and the stalls of the pigeon merchants. .. and then he taught them, quoting this text: 'My house was designated a house of prayer for the nations.  You've turned it into a hang-out for thieves!”

The high priests ad religious scholars heard what was going on and plotted how they might get rid of him.  They panicked, for the entire crowd was carried away by his teaching.

*The next morning, while walking along the road they saw the cursed fig tree shriveled up to a stick.

Jesus was matter-of-fact and said, “Embrace this God-life.  Really embrace it and nothing will be too much for you … You can even tell this mountain to go jump in the lake … and it's as good as done.  That's why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything … as you embrace this God-life, and you'll get God's everything.  

*And when you pray, forgive those who have hurt you.

Inspired words ~     {R}  Amen ! Let it be so!  

What is the “mountain” in your life now?  How do you wish to respond to its challenge?

In what ways do you present as Christ figure? 


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