Upside-Down, Inside-Out

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter
May 4, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our two readings take us on a journey. We sail through Israel’s long and spectacular salvation history from Moses through David and forward to Jesus. And in the sailing, we get turned head over heels.

In our first reading, Paul encapsulates twelve hundred years in a few elegant verses. (Nice job, Paul!)

The touchpoints of his homily are these:

  • the sojourn in the land of Egypt. 
  • forty years in the desert.
  • destruction of Canaan,
  • judges up to Samuel the prophet.
  • King Saul, for forty years. 
  • King David whose descendants gave Israel …
  • then a little mention of John the Baptist

Paul’s succinct preaching allows us to see God’s powerful arm reaching through the long sleeve of Isreal’s history, finally handing the Chosen People the ultimate gift — Jesus Christ the Messiah.

Ah, but then we have our Gospel – which does today what it always does so well. It turns everything upside down and inside-out.

Through the twelve hundred years of Israel’s pre-Christian history, we see an agonizingly slow rise to power and glory culminating in David’s reign. How deeply later Israelites longed for a future Savior who would shine like the royal David had – who would restore the glory of Israel. That was their cherished expectation.

But Jesus turns that long sleeve of salvation history inside out. He preaches an inverse power fueled by service, a glory dressed in humble acts of mercy and forgiveness.

His longing is not for a worldly restoration, but for a whole New Creation born of sacrificial love. His hope is not for a secular kingdom but for a transformational community enlivened in the Triune God.

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

John 12:16-20

As we read and pray the scriptures, we get better at seeing the sacred understory of grace sustaining us. Upside-down, inside-out, our daily life is filled with divine mystery and revelation. We just have to look at the flip side to catch hold of the sail.

I was a teenager during the golden age of the 33 and 45 rpm records. I had a slew of Elvis, Fats Domino, Roy Orbison, The Everley Brothers, Ray Charles, The Supremes and many others. Each record had a hit on one side, and I rarely bothered to look at the other side. One day I flipped one of my “Top 10s” (The Wildcat Blues) to take a look at the other side, only to find what would become one of my favorite songs of all time: Petite Fleur. After the 1950s, it faded from the top ten list, but it has stayed on my list for 60 years.

When I hear that song, it sinks into my spirit creating a feeling that resists words. Like much good music, it reorders something in my spirit so that I see the world a little differently. And I would never have found it if I hadn’t turned things upside down to listen to the understory.

If we allow ourselves to dive deep under the scriptures – to go to the “flip side” – as Jesus invites us to do in today’s Gospel, we will find our own “petite fleurs” of insight and grace.

If you understand this,
blessed are you if you do it.

John 13:17

Prose: from Seeing by Annie Dillard

The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. 
If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever 
I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts 
after any lunatic at all. 

But although the pearl may be found,
it may not be sought. 
The literature of illumination reveals this above all: 
although it comes to those who wait for it, 
it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, 
a gift and a total surprise… 

I cannot cause light; 
the most I can do is try to put myself 
in the path of its beam. 
It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. 
Light, be it particle or wave, has force: 
you rig a giant sail and go. 

The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind.
Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, 
whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

Music: Petite Fleur – Chris Barber

4 thoughts on “Upside-Down, Inside-Out

  1. Donna Mannarini

    Ah, yes…the flip side… the not what I was looking for. But what simple blessing there is in the Petite Fleurs, in New Hampshire my backyard is filled with blooming violets that have self sown over the years. And who was looking for a king who washes feet, “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”

    Thank you for this beautiful “seeing”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sister Renee,

    You have outdone yourself by “flipping”pop culture from the ‘50’s into divine inspiration today. You must be dangerous at “Trivia Pursuit” – I’d have guessed Pete Fountain was the artist on “Petite Gleur”

    Liked by 1 person

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