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Today’s Gospel Reading:

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him.

Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea,

so that the boat was being swamped by waves;

but he was asleep.

They came and woke him, saying,

“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”

He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?”

Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea,

and there was great calm.

The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this,

whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

Matthew 8:23-27

**

“Act as if everyday were the last of your life, and each action the last you perform.”

–St. Alphonsus Liguori

**

“And so, in the redemptive economy of grace, brought about through the action of the Holy Spirit, there is a unique correspondence between the moment of the Incarnation of the Word and the moment of the birth of the Church. The person who links these two moments is Mary: Mary at Nazareth and Mary in the Upper Room at Jerusalem. In both cases her discreet yet essential presence indicates the path of ‘birth from the Holy Spirit’. Thus she who is present in the mystery of Christ as Mother becomes—by the will of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit—present in the mystery of the Church. In the Church too she continues to be a maternal presence, as is shown by the words spoken from the Cross: ‘Woman, behold your son!’; ‘Behold your mother.’”

—Pope St. John Paul II

Today’s Gospel Reading:

When Jesus saw a crowd around him,

he gave orders to cross to the other shore.

A scribe approached and said to him,

“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,

but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Another of his disciples said to him,

“Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”

But Jesus answered him, “Follow me,

and let the dead bury their dead.”

Matthew 8:18-22

Today’s Gospel Reading:

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,

he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,

and he sent messengers ahead of him.

On the way they entered a Samaritan village

to prepare for his reception there,

but they would not welcome him

because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.

When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,

“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven

to consume them?”

Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,

“I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus answered him,

“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,

but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”

But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.

But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,

but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”

To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow

and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:51-62

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,

and when he was twelve years old,

they went up according to festival custom.

After they had completed its days, as they were returning,

the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,

but his parents did not know it.

Thinking that he was in the caravan,

they journeyed for a day

and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,

but not finding him,

they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple,

sitting in the midst of the teachers,

listening to them and asking them questions,

and all who heard him were astounded

at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him,

they were astonished,

and his mother said to him,

“Son, why have you done this to us?

Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

And he said to them,

“Why were you looking for me?

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

But they did not understand what he said to them.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth,

and was obedient to them;

and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Luke 2:41-51

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes:

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them

would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert

and go after the lost one until he finds it?

And when he does find it,

he sets it on his shoulders with great joy

and, upon his arrival home,

he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,

‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’

I tell you, in just the same way

there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents

than over ninety-nine righteous people

who have no need of repentance.”

Luke 15:3-7

Today’s Gospel Reading:

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child

she gave birth to a son.

Her neighbors and relatives heard

that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,

and they rejoiced with her.

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,

they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

but his mother said in reply,

“No. He will be called John.”

But they answered her,

“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.

He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”

and all were amazed.

Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,

and he spoke blessing God.

Then fear came upon all their neighbors,

and all these matters were discussed

throughout the hill country of Judea.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,

“What, then, will this child be?”

For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

The child grew and became strong in spirit,

and he was in the desert until the day

of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 1:57-66, 80

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,

but underneath are ravenous wolves.

By their fruits you will know them.

Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,

and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,

nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down

and thrown into the fire.

So by their fruits you will know them.”

Matthew 7:15-20

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,

lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.

This is the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter through the narrow gate;

for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction,

and those who enter through it are many.

How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.

And those who find it are few.”

Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Faces Tell That Story

1                                                                     

A rock-strewn field lies barren,                                             

separated, this winter, by a wire fence—

from the plantation: from the             

houses, from leafless trees.

The cold, not too cold.

North of center (the Big House) a barn—

housing animals, storing crops they raised

on the Tuscumbia plantation

where black captives

dwell in shadows.

No rising smoke

curls from any chimney.

And in Georgia a neat row of slave cabins,

not merely strewn about, as elsewhere.

Yet more than buildings—faces:

they answer any denial.

Studying her pipe,

seated on a pillow in a ladder-back chair,

a dark sweater on its back,

Aunt Lucy, a former slave

the oldest one from the Hermitage.

William, standing in his doorway,

peering into five or six log houses

built on a square off to the southwest.

William Henry Towns, a former slave.

She sweeps the dirt floor white,

after the toils of day,

with brooms of sage,

eking life out of no life intended—

Millie Evans, a  former slave.

In Colbert County, Alabama,

in one of those cabins “fitten for nobody.”

Mary Ella Grandberry, a former slave.

Down in the quarters,

with nearly invisible acts,

they lived a testified determination,

striving to negate                   

those penalties of captivity.

Mary: seated beside her bed,

looking harshly beyond,

her eyes clear, holding

a wooden pole in her hand,

men’s shoes protruding

beneath a raveled blanket,

she has a face to match those shoes—

Mary Reynolds, a former slave.

Perhaps she is thinking of what she has.

Nothing.

2

Black people picking cotton.

An overseer on horseback.  Circa 1895.

The photo swages my mind.

How quickly we forget.

Faces tell that story,

tell it as no cotton plant:

no lifeless stick, sporting white puffs.

Faces tell.

Apron torn, holding

what appears to be the handle of a tool,

here is the face of one who picked,

picked for her master,

picked the cotton in Alabama,

Laura Clark, a former slave—

drawing her face into a frown.

Never heard of a cowboy-slave!        

Never till now.  Bow-legs convince.  

Sam Jones Washington, a former slave.

Better ride a horse well: “them cattle

stamp you to death.”  Years later,

Sam’s face displays a near-smile,

recalling narrow escape.

In front of her cabin,

siding made from vertical boards,

Lucindy stands behind her spinning wheel,

her eyes—her face, serious.

Lucindy Jurdon, a former slave.

Her spinning wheel,

and her mother’s spinning wheel

before her.

Ben sits looking off,

Ben Horry, a former slave,

the delicate curve of his pipe in his lips,

sleeves rolled, he wears a vest

and a hat.  Not all that different—

could be anyone’s neighbor,

resting on his porch. 

3

Two women hulling rice,

faces darkened and lost in shadow:

one with a broad hat,

the other’s head twirled in a turban,

their long dresses hot beneath the sun.

Pointed stick-like tools in their hands:

they must have a name,

(they the women and they the tools),

beating, thrashing the rice,

doing the master’s task before they sleep,

strength  and precision in their arms.

White hair—her face, even older,                  

her back did not break

in those fields                                                 

though she thought it might,                                      

Sara, who “never knew

what it was to rest.”

Her back did not break as she

chopped and hoed.

Sara Gudger, a former slave

whose back did not break in those fields.

Growing up on a rice plantation

there in Georgia, Hagar saw it all,

beginning to end.

Hagar Brown, a former slave.

She saw the rice production,

the beatings,

the driver’s whip as it lowered,

and the blood as it ran.

Looking off into the distance,

she sits,

hands folded in her lap,

the ruffle on her dress blowing

in the wind.

                        4

Fannie held the pine torch,

her mother spinning,

quilting into the long night by its glow.

Fannie Moore, a former slave

her mother spent her days in the fields.

In the one-room log cabin, that woman

toiled far beyond evening,

her child holding on to the light.

Another child tasted batter cakes,

mouth-watering cakes,                                   

there on that Georgia plantation—                

cooked, by her mother in an iron skillet with            

a thick lid, in the kitchen,      

in the yard.                 

Minnie Davis, a former slave.

John feels the master’s anger close in,

night and day, day and night.

no escape for the cook—

His workplace, his home.

John White, a former slave.

John lived in his kitchen-quarter

on a plantation in Texas.

“The dog,” said Richard, “was superior to us.

They would take him in the house.”

Trained as a blacksmith,

later a carpenter and a stone mason.

Played the fiddle, too!

Richard Toler, a former slave.

And now he stands,

in a neat jacket, just a bit too small.

Richard looks straight ahead.

Carey’s father got the lumber,

from “old massa,”

to build a box to hold clothes.

Carey Davenport, a former slave

who lived in Texas, recalling

his father making pieces of looms and

spinning wheels—this “valuable man.”

The man glances over his shoulder.

Diverting his eyes, he returns to his work,

skilled fingers make a fishing net strong.

Working there in the tanning yard,                            

on the water,                                      

over there by the cemetery—             

Henry, a boy of twelve,         

helped the shoemaker.

Henry Williams, a former slave.

His hands wrinkled at ninety,

facial muscles taut, Henry sits

on the porch of a log cabin

recalling the slave festivals of youth,

all the things Daddy Patty made

from hides and skins,

dances in a ring as the crops came in,

food and praise and songs all night

at the shout.

In slavery, the man learned his trade,

brought it with him—

into the twentieth century.

5

They say Katie Brown was a fine storyteller,

spinning her yarn of the magic sword.

And surely,

it could dole out the consequences

when improper commands were given.  (Folks

had to know the password.)

Katie told of the drums and rattling gourds,

of harvest,

and the beating of tin plates, of slaves moving

in circular ecstasy,

as though they were “going to heaven,”

(counterclockwise).

What a kindly old face Katie has!

Wrinkled,

crumpled paper in one hand,

she pets a dog with the other.

Katie Brown, a former slave.

They got the glory in the slave quarters,                                

with a powerful force of the Spirit.                           

Uncle Billy preached,                                                            

slaves clapped their hands.                                                    

Shouting.

“In them days,” Mose recalled, “there were

some powerful figurations of the Spirit.”

Mose Hursey, a former slave.

Mose stands alert,

his round brown cheeks, illuminated, framed

in utter contrast

by his white beard and the shock of whitest hair.

The banjo player mocked his master

under the cloak of humor, seated

on a keg on a decomposing porch,

composing that percussive criticism on the fly—

versified accusation,

(and the master never even knew it).

The happy slave, eyes on the banjo!

Eyes, however,

that saw beyond the plantation

to the far bank

of the River Jordan.

Eda said her mother-in-law

sent for the neighbors,

danced all night long—

at emancipation.

Eda Harper, a former slave.

Free.

A frame building, falling down,

there on the old plantation,

fallen boards, missing shingles, door askew—

and the rains falling in.

Fitting, yes:

but not a fitting end, nor an end, unfit.

It is, in fact, no end at all,                                                      

for there is the unfinished story—                                                                                                                                         

in every face.                                                                          

All references from The Cultural Landscape of the Plantation, A Library of Congress exhibition including photographs, drawings and testimonies from ex-slaves, based on John Michael Vlach, Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

“Faces Tell That Story,”  Gathering the Broken Pieces,  “Poets On Peace #5,”  FootHills Publishing, 2004, reprint TimBookTu,  (June 2004).

Today’s Gospel Reading:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.

For as you judge, so will you be judged,

and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,

but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother,

‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’

while the wooden beam is in your eye?

You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;

then you will see clearly

to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:1-5

June 2022
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