Homilies by Edward Foley, O.F.M., Cap.
1) Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
A reflection on narrative therapy from the social sciences, as framework for thinking about narrative as a path for self-discovery and self-determination. Turn to gospel, and Peter’s need to self-narrate himself into a new future, a new relationship with Jesus after his denial. Then a consideration of liturgy as a narrative framework that invites us to understand our narrative in God’s narrative. Each life is worthy of a gospel narrative, if we live a gospel life and invite God into coauthorship.
2) Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time, Cycle A
First employed insights from the field of “neuromarketing” and research that is being done into neural reactions to commercials. This convergence of traditional marketing with neuro-science allows, as one market reported, “us to know what you want even if you don’t.” That insight was employed as an analogy to the lectionary texts, and the theological contention that there is a spiritual not necessarily neural subtext in the scriptures that reveals the wisdom of God knowing our needs before we do. A key image in that gospel is the role of salt. Bio-science explains to us how salt when dissolved in a solvent becomes an essential electrolyte that plays a crucial role for maintaining blood pressure, Is important for nerve transmission and muscle contraction. A salt deficiency can cause serious medical problems. Analogously Jesus calls his disciples to be “salt,” an essential ingredient, a spiritual electrolyte that helps the world reconnect its nerve tissue, and readjust its cardiac pump so that the hungry and oppressed, Homeless and naked night be fed, clothed, sheltered and liberated In this and every age.
3) Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Steven Mithen is an archaeologist at the university of Reading in the UK; In his book The Prehistory of the Mind, Mithen uses the language of cognitive fluidity to describe how the primate mind, which was much more modular, less capable of combining different types of knowledge, evolved into a more fluid, creative, integrated mind that could take different knowledges and combine them in new a useful ways. Mithen argues that such cognitive fluidity, such abilities for imagination were determinative for the very emergence of humanity, and foundational for the birth of art, science and religion. Analogously, imagination is essential to grasp the very center of Jesus’ teaching, reflected in today’s gospel, and entrusted to the disciples in today’s gospel in which they are called to proclaim the very kingdom of God. It is a concept that Jesus never explicitly explains but exemplifies in his parables and in the parable of his life, a vision of a new society in which justice reigns and peace endures.
4) Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Employed report of the new fossil of a hominid was discovered that was 300,000 years older than the famous fossil named Lucy. Dubbed “Lucy’s great great grandfather,” scientists report that Lucy’s ancestor was a giant, almost 5 foot tall … 2 feet taller than her. Scientists know much about this complete biped, about his abilities, strength and brain capacities. They can surmise what kinds of tools he could use, he could swing a club, use a slick for leveraging, and probably make other primitive weapons. It is not clear, however, that Lucy’s great great grandfather could wield the central tool to the evolution of Jesus as a Rabbi, and his community as a community of practice: the tool of storytelling. Then the turn to the Psychologist Dan McAdams and his theory of the role of storytelling in development.
Being grateful is a virtuous thing … and there is even science that demonstrates that gratitude is good for us in many ways. The leading expert on the science of gratitude Dr. Robert Emmons – professor of psychology UC Davis. Emmons work demonstrates that there are actually physical advantages to practicing gratitude, e.g., it effects our health, strengthens our immune systems, helps us to fall asleep more quickly, sleep more soundly, and awaken more refreshed. Emmons work also demonstrates psychological benefits. Gratitude strengthens our brain structure for social cognition and empathy. It reduces stress in our lives; It boosts our psychological well-being, enabling our relationships. There are even economic and environmental boons. Journal of Retailing and Consumer services reports businesses that practice gratitude generate more loyal customers. A study presented to an American Psych. Assoc. convention noted that gratitude makes a person less materialistic and thus kinder to the environment. Dr. Emmon and his colleagues offer strategies for developing the virtue of gratitude they suggesting starting with what they call “gratitude light.” It is a very brief form of journaling that requires one to write down each day 5 things for which you are grateful. It can eventually lead to “deep gratitude.” Analogously the move from “spiritually light gratitude,” for the good things God has done in our lives, can lead us to the deep gratitude of the gift of the Christ, in the terrible beauty of his dying and rising.
6) Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Use of the model of the reptilian brain. It is the one still present underneath the more developed brain. As explained by scientists at McGill University the reptilian brain, the oldest of the three (others limbic and neocortex), controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile’s brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive. The “reptilian brain” is responsible for fight/flight response and the need for revenge and retribution. It is a necessary part of life when danger is near and a quick response is necessary. But the reptilian brain it is not attuned to living in Christ, and so in this beatitude summary, Jesus inviting to consider embracing a life counter to our basest instincts for survival.
7) Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Addressing the somewhat unrealistic expectations set forth in the readings, especially the gospel, employed psychologist Allan Schore and his studies of brain development in children during the first few months of life. Schore describes the life of a newborn as somewhat chaotic, filled with unformed feelings and new sensations, lacking any verbal comprehension of their world. The role of the nurturing parent, according to Shore, is to mirror the infant’s inner emotional life, the excitement, pain, joy, sadness, and give them both verbal and physical expression on the child’s behalf. We’ve all done or at least observed that, holding and comforting a child when she is crying or scared, patting their bottoms and making sympathetic sounds or singing soothing songs or manufacturing those foolish baby noises and faces when playing peek-a-boo or airplane noises as you try to fly the smashed peas into the unsuspecting mouth of a 6 month old. According to Shore the nurturing parent [or celibate uncle] helps to strength and consolidate the child’s awareness of her own feelings by amplifying them often through exaggeration. The parent is taking the chaotic and unformed feelings of the infant, ordering them, and then offering them back to the child. In a sense, the parent is loaning the child the use of her more mature brain as the child struggles to organize her experiences. In the process, the child’s brain actually changes, the neural bridge between the rational, problem-solving part of the brain and the emotional limbic system strengthens. Patterns of attachment and security through nurturing parents are thus literally built into our brains and influence our ability to relate through the rest of our lives. The reason I make this excursion into intersubjective psychology, limbic systems, and parenting Is to provide a way to think about a word that one and the same time describes the flawless Son of God but is proclaimed to very flawed and imperfect disciples. Borrowing psychologist Shores model, I would like to suggest that, like infants, we live in a somewhat chaotic world filled with violence and indignities, the brutalization of innocents and a politics of derision that demeans all of us. Like a nurturing parent the readings provide us an encounter with Jesus who, instead of offering us his pre-frontal lobe to help give order to our chaotic emotional lives, metaphorically loans us his divinely mature soul, his faith, his selflessness and his vision of God’s reign.
8) Feast of Santo
Niño [Philippines], Cycle C. Employed the work of Jeffrey Arnett on emerging adulthood as a frame for the Gospel story of Jesus returning to Nazareth with his parents where he grows in wisdom and knowledge. Arnett argues that there is a distinctive phase between adolescence and young adulthood in developed societies he calls “emerging adulthood.” The theory developed out of his experience of having twin teenagers who underwent ordinary changes in their lives, and he wondered why “aliens” had taken over their bodies. He argues that emerging adulthood is both theoretically and empirically different from adolescent and young adulthood. The years of emerging adulthood are characterized by a high degree of demographic diversity and instability, reflecting the emphasis on change and exploration. They are also subjectively distinguished from adolescence and young adulthood by their own self-reported ambiguity about whether or not they have reached adulthood. Most provide a “yes and no” response to the question whether or not they believe they have reached young adulthood. In a parallel way, the Jesus’ story of the hidden years is his dealing with the ambiguity of his grown, and we do not have gospel accounts of the questioning he faced through his culturally constructed teenage, adolescent and emerging adulthood phases. We only see him as a fully formed adult emerging in the gospels. This provides encouragement for those who are chronologically adolescent and emerging adults as well as though of us who are spiritually still adolescent or an emerging adult. In some ways the life of faith, from my perspective, is analogous go the journey of emerging adulthood, with all of its ambiguity as we grow in wisdom and stature before God and each other.