Reflections for

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct 20, 2019

Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; (Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 121;) 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8

On Art

Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), by Paul Gauguin (1848–1903)

Paul Gauguin strove to depict the simple, direct faith of a group of women from Pont-Aven, a rural community in Brittany, France. His style, based on pre-Renaissance sources, is devoid of linear perspective and conventional organization. In the foreground, the Breton women, dressed in their Sunday garb and kneeling in prayer, are envisioning the sermon that they just heard. They transform a common cow into a vision of Jacob wrestling with the angel of God (Gen. 32:22–31). A tree limb placed diagonally across the expressive red background separates the cow from the struggling figures and serves as a visual representation of the river Jabbok. The Pont-Aven women learn from the sermon that the life of faith can be a struggle. Jacob wrestles at Jabbok and gets both a limp and a blessing.


Excavating the sky


I would excavate the sky of clouds
to know You, Yahweh. Yahweh,

my nails are black with soil;
I am rummaging for Your holy light.

Yahweh, thunder, storm-deity,
I no longer fear You. I have spoken

the unspeakable name: Yahweh.


Once, You placed sweet thorns
in my leg and in my groin

to make me weak, to bring me
near to You. Now, as an open fridge

in an abandoned lot,
my earth is empty of Your Spirit. Now,

Your silence is absurd as wreckage
and my body is empty of Your Spirit.


Each morning, I rise like
the wrestling Jacob, running

through parking lots. I pray,
“Break-open my counting brain;

make me Your Holiest fool.
What blessed psych ward

must they leadeth me to . . .”


Aquinas, broken, in the Lux Aeterna;
Blake seeing God through his window;
Ginsberg in his East Village flat,
trapping the Archangel of the Soul.

I walk into my future; no vision in my pocket.


But this winter night, my feet touch
chilled cement in honor

of firm gravity. Near the porch,
a girl invites me to the economy

of tenderness. I run a bath where
dreams rise like lavender steam

above my skull. In my room,
I punch in letters, mixing words

to bring out sparks. And it is You, Yahweh.



“An Engine against the Almighty”
—George Herbert, Prayer (1)

We wrestle, gentle
Jehovah, gentle
beast, or rather ring
bearer, keeper of dirt
and sleet under
streetlights. A kingdom,
weightless, entrusted
to the white palms
of a child. A garden
with a certain desert
distance, an angel
interference: this
late-night duel. I know
the sound of wind
as well as I know
the remnant of your
footprint. Or is that
the mark of my
knees in the dirt?


Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 the Consultation on Common Texts. Used by permission.