Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
"What is this? A new teaching with authority." Mk 1:21-28
On January 24, 2021, Msgr. Raymond East encouraged his parishioners at St. Teresa of Avila to revisit poet laureate Amanda Gorman's poem, "The Hill We Climb," read at Biden's inauguration, January 20, 2021. Msgr. East desired his faith community to gain more inspiration from this young Black Catholic woman. After all, many perhaps reacted to her poem, like the crowd in our gospel who said, "What is this? A new teaching with authority."
For some, Miss. Gorman perhaps shared unique insights with her oratory skills. There is no doubt that she captivated the world with her stance. More intriguing, though, is her mantra shared through countless interviews. "I am the daughter of Black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chains and changed the world." Miss. Gorman provided a witness to the world, a belief system of summoning ancestral spirits to empower her to speak. At twenty-two years old, her awareness of this spiritual practice, close to our catholic tradition of calling on the saints to be present, is profound. She knew the importance of standing on the shoulders of the great Black Woman Maya Angelou, who spoke at the Presidential inauguration 1993, six years before Miss. Gorman's sunrise to life.
For this reason, poems from these two spiritual women can inspire us. These words of encouragement from "The Hill We Climb" by Amanda Gorman are incredible and quite moving: "Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid." Here we are asked to envision sitting under a vine or fig tree. And when considering John's gospel, we are reminded of these reassuring words when Jesus names himself as the true vine. John's gospel teaches that we are the branch; apart from him, we can do nothing (Jn. 15). Therefore, with Jesus, the true vine, and the Father, the vine grower, we can climb insurmountable hills, even mountains fearlessly.
In Maya Angelou's poem in 1993, "On the Pulse of the Morning," she wrote, "Today, all the trees that have ever existed and that will ever exist are saying to humankind, "Come to me, here beside the river. Put down roots beside me, here by the river. Every one of you has an ancestor who traveled here and has given you the right to be here." Here Maya Angelou spoke metaphorically; the trees represent all of humanity that existed and more.
Maya Angelou's poem is prophetic. She invited all of God's children to come to the river because we all have the right to be here. Accordingly, Amanda Gorman had the right to be on the Capitol steps because her ancestors called her for this great moment. With her mantra, she believed in a loving God. She knew her connection with the "Vinegrower," and songs "full of the faith that the dark past has taught us."
Therefore, like our gospel today, the demons or the evil ones, will know that you are holy because of a prayerful life. They will be fearful of you because they will see your connection with the true vine and your Father, who is the vine grower. People will be amazed because your life will exhibit a spiritual walk with the true vine.
"For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it." Amanda Gorman "The Hill We Climb."
Authored: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS