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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

So What?

Sometimes when I read a passage from Scripture, I pause for a few moments and ask myself, “So what?” In other words, what does this passage or this verse have to do with me at this particular time in my life, in this specific place, and in my current circumstances?

(Photo by John-Mark Smith – Pexels)

I remember my scripture professor at Duquesne (who eventually became a dear friend) Father Demetrius Dumm, OSB, telling us that it’s tempting to focus on scripture passages we like and we find consoling: “The Lord is my shepherd… fear not, little flock… Behold, I am with you always… consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field…” It’s okay to have some favorite scripture verses to bathe in from time to time. But we must not shy away from other scripture passages we may find confusing, challenging, or even disturbing. For the truth is, almost all scripture passages have implications for me—for the way I live my life and my faith. They are calling me to do something—even if that “doing” may be largely interior: change your attitude… show your appreciation more… don’t be so judgmental… expand your love… trust God… forgive.

Here’s an example of what I mean. In Romans 8:14 we read: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, ‘Father!'” So what? What are some of the implications of these words for me, or, for us? To discover that, I might ask myself questions such as these: What does it mean to be a child of God? If I really believed I was God’s child, would I think, act, or live any differently? If so, how? What does it mean to be “led by the Spirit of God”? Are there ways I can predispose myself to God’s Spirit? Daily prayer… pondering scripture… slowing down? What other kinds of spirits can I allow to lead me—the spirit of self-centeredness… consumerism… convenience… pride…? Does fear characterize my faith? If so, what are some ways I can become less fearful—and more free?

(Photo by Brett Sayles- Pexels)

This “So what?” is the challenge of every homilist. After listening to the readings at Mass, the congregation sits down—except for the homilist. He (in our Catholic Church the homilist is still almost always a “he”) is entrusted with offering at least one answer to the question, “So What?” Depending on the readings, there are probably many answers to that question. The homilist doesn’t have to address all the possible implications. Just one or two that apply to this particular congregation, at this time, and in this place. Needless to say, giving a homily is a daunting task—especially to do it Sunday after Sunday or day after day. Little wonder most homilists struggle. Yet, I have known many of them who have risen to the challenge. Here are the names of a few priests and deacons in my life who were or are good homilists : Demetrius, Gary, Bob, Mark, Tim, Ed, Larry, Don, Norm, and Tom. (Fr. Tom, I know you’re reading this. I don’t think I thanked you enough for your homilies…)

Here’s a practice to demonstrate how daunting it is to give a good homily. (I do this practice regularly.) Before Mass or even after Mass, YOU give the homily based on the readings for that particular day! You can actually jot it down or simply plan it in your head. What word or words would you focus on? What would you say to the People of God sitting in the pews waiting for you to give them some nourishment? Always remember the people to whom you are speaking. Your homily should give evidence that YOU are one of those people of God! And YOU are walking the journey of faith with them.

Okay, you’ve read this reflection. Now answer the question: “So what?”

Further reflection:

Have you heard some good homilies lately? If so, what made them good in your opinion?

What are some characteristics of homilies you would say are not very good?

Have you ever had to give a homily? If so, what was that experience like for you?

PS: Good news! Our IT staff has solved the problem regarding subscribers not receiving “Sunflower Seeds” on Monday or not at all. During the process, I learned something. I thought we had about 450 subscribers. But I learned we have over 4,600 subscribers! Wow! I was shocked—and very grateful to all of you! Starting with this reflection, if you are a subscriber, you should be getting “Sunflower Seeds” every Monday in your email. (If not, let me know by clicking on “contact” at the upper right of this page. Type in your name and email. Then skip down to the message and type your message there.) I want to thank our IT staff for solving this problem for all of us! Also, you may have noticed that I updated my picture on top of the sidebar too. I want to thank my good friend, Sister Mary Seton, for her photographic expertise.

I chose the song “Word of God” by MercyMe for today. I love the words–especially “Pour down like rain…” and the lush green visuals. It’s a great paradox that the Word of God will eventually lead us to a place where no more words are necessary…

I welcome you to comment below on anything in this reflection!

25 Responses

  1. I volunteered at a nursing home for many years. When it was my turn to give the “reflection” on the Sunday readings ( we weren’t”t allowed to call it a homily),I spent a good deal of care preparing my thoughts on the readings of the day regarding and how they related to me and the residents in the nursing home. The Holy Spirit always inspired my words. I miss those Sunday’s and should take the time and follow your advice to prepare my own personal reflection.

    1. Hi Janet! Your ministry at the Normandy was a gift to the residents and to our parish! You did a terrific job with your “reflections” and I received many positive comments about them. The Spirit was certainly speaking to you and what a gift that you were listening!!!

  2. I am happy IT was able to resolve your distribution of Sunflower Seeds. And 4600 followers! Oh My, that is wonderful, but I’m not surprised. Sunflower Seeds is a beautiful way to start the busy work week, or the quiet week of someone homebound or retired. Thank you for all you put into your blog every week Sr. Melannie. I’ve never once been anything but delighted with your writings every Monday.

    I appreciate the suggestion that we should take a turn at writing a homily after we read scripture, or at least create an outline of important points we might talk on. I am going to give this a try this week.

  3. When I worked in youth ministry some years ago in a large parish, one of our priests passed away and I was asked, on a temporary basis, to lead an occasional communion service so that our one remaining priest would not need to have the Mass every day. Others were also asked, both male and female. I was worried about the reflection part… Until a very kind deacon said to me, “There’s nothing you can say that hasn’t been said before!” Even so, I typically ‘borrowed’ words from other reflections that spoke to me, probably including some of yours, Sr. Melanie! I often think that coming up with something relevant every day is a tough job!

  4. In the last few years I have written many introductions to the Liturgy which captured the spirit of the readings and also several reflections for specific groups I am part of. I used several resources (America Magazine, NCR, lectionary by LTP, books on the cycle, etc.) but reflecting on them over a period of time was key. It would be very challenging to be responsible for a homily every week, but I also feel that the Church and the People of God are missing out on the viewpoint and reflections of very qualified women.

  5. Thank you so much for taking the time to create such meaningful reflections weekly! I also love that you are able to find musical selections that go along with the theme; thanks for sharing!!

  6. Our online Bible Study discusses the scriptures for the next Sunday. It is a good way to start. We use the workbook for lectors so we have reflection not only from each other but ones in the workbook. When I’m studying I write notes that the Spirit stirs in me or a question. It is a good way to prepare for those of us who are “sorta” home bound. Listening is so important.
    Thank you always Sister Melanie🌻

  7. I am a Dominican Associate and being part of the family of St. Dominic, we have lots of preaching by women…..that’s what Dominic was all about….letting anyone preach God’s word, although study was absolutely essential first.
    I have had a few experiences of preaching at Communion services. The one I remember so clearly was during Advent just after 9/11; we had Wednesday evening prayers with a reflection which was up to the preacher to choose from the day’s readings. I chose the feeding of the 4,000 from Mark, but what struck me squarely in the face was……”they all ate and were satisfied”. I saw that as an important piece that seemed to be lacking in our culture and could easily have been part of what spurred the hatred for the US and the bombing of the towers.
    Anyone who was interested could gather after and discuss the impact that had……it was a very good conversation, indeed.
    I’m such a firm believer in letting the Spirit lead the way and it always is fruitful in some way or other.

    Thank you Sr. Melannie for following the Spirit’s lead!

    1. I appreciate homilies that do not repeat the readings, that are brief but contain spiritual pearls. I personally like to learn from homilies also e.g. historical information or about church doctrine. I appreciate when the homilies includes the flock- maybe asks a question. It would be great to have a peoples’ Q&A, or one or two comments like in retreats. I know this can be risky though. I would be interested to see how priests are taught to construct and deliver homilies.

  8. What does it mean,to be a child of God is a question I ask of my children in Sacrament prep class. The answers are usually varied. Most times it’s help others or to always do good things. It seems children are willing to accept the job of being a good child to God. Would that adults could do the same. That what if, could made the earth a much better place.

  9. Very good ideas from you and your commenting readers. I love the practice of Lectio Divina, which I do weekly with about seven others by Zoom. It’s been the practice of the group I’m in to have one pick a short passage, 1-2 verses, usually from the next Sunday’s Gospel. After the passage is read three times, with three-minute pauses, each member of the group may comment in turn on what the passage means to them. The result is much like a homily, definitely reflections. Some close with “Amen.”

  10. A good homily needs something concrete that people in their everyday life can relate to. Seems that many of the younger priests are addressing a group of monks.

  11. Good evening, Sr. Melannie…
    Good evening, all…

    Your Benedictine professor, Father Demetrius, was really on to something. There are some scripture passages that sit so very well with all my life views, but then there are those that don’t. There are some psalms that are just so beautiful but then there are some I have never heard at church: “One companion is darkness.”

    Something to try: Read carefully the daily readings, read them a couple of times. Find the words or phrases that resonate with you (sort of like Lectio Divina), and then, using those found words or phrases along with your own words, try writing a poem or prayer poem. I have tried this in the past, and I’m thinking of trying it again during Lent. Keep the poems in a journal. Just a thought.

  12. That is the perfect song for your topic today! I’ve been trying to focus on a word or phrase from the scripture readings for each day but then I thought, maybe what God is trying to communicate to me might not be in a word or phrase. It’s probably good to be open to both.

    Sometimes I’ve misread a phrase in scripture that has led to fruitful reflection too. Today in Psalm 96 from the Liturgy for the Hours, instead of “let the land and all it bears rejoice” I misread it as “let the land and all its bears rejoice”! 🙂 And what would make the bears rejoice? Having enough to eat, enough space to live, and a safe place to live and raise their young. It’s not that much to ask. Bears have so little, yet humans have taken their fur, their paws, their bile, their cubs, their moms. We can help by our prayers, being a voice, and giving to sanctuaries.

    Anyway, maybe a future topic for your blog might be mis-readings!

  13. Dear Sr.Melanie, I actually gasped when I read your reference to Fr. Demetrius Dumm. He was the brother of one of my husband, Ed’s, best friend, Fred Dumm, when they were together in the army in Germany during the Cold War, 1956-1959. Fred and Fr. Demetrius spent a day with us in MN shortly after we were married. What a wonderful memory for both of us to recall that day while reading your “homily”. Over the years we lost touch with them but we thought of them many times. They were living in the East and we were in MN. Both of them are in Heaven now. Thank you for this God moment. What a wonderful surprise. 💝

  14. Thank you Melanie for “so what”! I have been praying for a guide/plan for Lent. This seems to resonate with me. Will be looking forward to new thoughts, ideas, mostly reflective time!

  15. Thank you! I never really thought about it, but its so true! The Bible passages resonate in different ways at different times. And I will strive to take up your challenge to dive into other passages besides my “perennial favorites”!

  16. Thanks for recognizing the “daunting ” part of coming up with a ‘real’ homily day after day. I often wondered how Fr. Paul managed that in Munson every day for 30+ years.

  17. Thank you, Sr. Melannie for your blog. I think “homilies” can be many things and I think
    you give us one every Monday. I have been a music minister for most of my life and I think
    choosing music for the Mass that reflects the readings is similar to preparing a homlly. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s very difficult.
    I “like” a homily gives me something to “take home”. Sometimes it’s not something that is comfortable. Often short and to the point is better. I have heard several that I will
    never forget. About 65 years ago we were visiting our grandparents in southern Indiana. It was hot and the little church had no AC. The priest simply said, “If you think it’s hot here, mend your ways because it will be even hotter where you’re going!”
    A few homilists I’d like to thank are: Fr. Charlie, Fr. Phil & Fr.Glenn.

  18. Thank you Sr. Melannie for your blog. I enjoy reading it every Monday. Also as a Faith Sharing group at our church we are reading your book Everyday Epiphanies together as we meet and enjoying the conversations we share after each reading. Thank you for all you do, God bless.
    P.S. I am so happy to see you enjoy Mercy Me as much as I do, thank you for sharing.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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