September 19, 2020

The Homily

kitten “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me.” —Isaiah 49:15,16


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 5:3

For the last week, I have been babysitting my grandkitties while my daughter and son-in-law are on a slightly belated honeymoon trip. I realize the degree of controversy that could arise from the mere mention of cats. The topic might follow close on the heels of sex or politics. Some people just plain dislike felines … and I understand. I myself have an exuberantly joyful yellow Labrador and a very grumpy orange cat that costs me a lot of money and literally bites my hand as I feed her. Which one do you think I like the most?

But back to the grandkitties … specifically the one who is a young kitten named Joey. Yes, he is rambunctious and curious and into everything. I have had to do more to kitten-proof my home than I’ve ever had to do to make it safe for children. He is beginning to blossom into good health after a rescue from a bad situation and if cats could express gratitude, he seems to do so with all his waking moments by a happy attitude and lavish affection. He also seems to know he is utterly dependent and is unashamed. When he is hungry, he cries for me to feed him. When he is wedged in a tight place or has climbed so high he is afraid to jump, he cries for me to rescue him. Sometimes he’s just “lost” behind a curtain. He can’t see me, so he cries out of loneliness.

Much of the time Joey’s out living life and exploring all the ins and outs of an unfamiliar home, but eventually he gets tired and wants to be held.  As I write this, he has crawled onto my lap squirming and purring and struggling to find the perfect place to settle down and rest with his body in the crook of my arm and his head pressed against my heart.

I have no animosity toward the other critters in my home. There are some who only want me to feed them, but to otherwise leave them alone. I oblige them. But how can I forget the one who so desperately longs for my attention and needs my care? My daughter described him as a “street rat” she rescued with food, shelter and medicine. I have thought much about that. It’s who I am as well. I used to think I was someone special … or at least that I had the potential to be so. I was going to bless God by being good and the world with … well, I don’t know … something.

Over the years, I have come to the truth of it. I am also a street rat, a prodigal son, a Pharisee, a self-righteous young ruler, a Judas, a harlot, a leper, a woman bleeding and bent double. God forbid that I should tell him to feed me, but to otherwise leave me alone. I am desperate for him. All of my spiritual gyrations are really just me squirming and struggling to find the perfect place to rest against my Abba. I am poor and we both know it, yet engraved on the palms of his hands.

Let us pray.



  1. Nice job, Jeff.

    Oftentimes it seems that the only times that my kids call me is when they need something.

    I think I too do that much more than I ought with our Father in Heaven.

    But He keeps on loving. And giving. And forgiving.

  2. Amazing words, that illumine the imperfections of human nature, even in the places that we are loathe to acknowledge that they exist, and declare the divine perfection, which transcends understanding and reason, and goes beyond our wildest hopes:

    “Though she may forget
    I will never forget you…”

  3. Beautiful, Lisa. Blessed are the lost kittens, for they shall be held in the eternal lap. (I have a very large cat on my lap as I write this.)

  4. “I used to think I was someone special … or at least that I had the potential to be so. I was going to bless God by being good and the world with … well, I don’t know … something.”

    I like that, Lisa. I think I used to think that way too. Now, I feel it’s been a successful day if I can drive home from work without falling asleep.

    • When I was younger I aspired to be a poet and a saint.

      Now I consider myself a success if I can get to bed early.

  5. Adam Tauno Williams says

    I love how unsentimental scripture is; can a mother forget her child? Heck, yea, they do it all the %$E^&L* time! This verses the literary trope of luke-i-am-your-father (boy howdy does that get used ALL THE TIME, on TV everyone is the secret child of some other protagonist – cheap angst). In scripture a father will just kill or sell his child without batting an eye, and the mother will abandon her child to get on to greener pastures. Odd, how refreshing that is; no rose tinted goggles to be found.

    The mean smelly tatterred barn cat is more loyal to her kittens than a great many human mothers.

  6. Travis Sibley says


    Thanks for sharing.

  7. My relationship with Little Sal (5-year-old short-haired black puddy-tat, all personality) illustrates to me my relationship with God.

    Sometimes though, I’m not sure which one of us is God.

    • Little Sal, on the other hand, is very sure. (I like the literary reference in her name, especially given your living situation!)

      • Two of my girls spotted a sign while driving home from Baptist Youth Camp: “FREE KITTENS”. So they stopped. It was near Bucks Harbor, so they named her for the protagonist in One Morning in Maine.

        They found out later that it was the wrong Bucks Harbor, but the name stuck.

        By the way, I’ve come to the conclusion that McClosky’s previous book, Blueberries for Sal, is one of the four perfect stories of the 20h century. The others: Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak); Hills Like White Elephants (Hemingway); and A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Flannery O’Connor).

        • I agree about McClosky, Ted, but how can you not treat “One Morning in Maine” and “Make Way for Ducklings” equally? Three of the most satisfying books ever. And the other stories are okay, I guess.

    • Ted:
      I suspect that your cat, at least, is not in any doubt as to just ‘who’ is ‘God’!

    • I have a notepad with this quote at the top: “In ancient times cats were worshipped at gods. Cats have never forgotten this.” Some of them definitely convey this attitude. But I know a few people with similar delusions.

      • Sorry … that was supposed to be “as gods.”

      • Some company at one time, about ten years ago, was selling a T-shirt with that same comment on it, complete with a picture of hieroglyphs and cat on it. 🙂

  8. “All of my spiritual gyrations are really just me squirming and struggling to find the perfect place to rest against my Abba.”
    Well described. Thank you, Lisa. This was lovely…a great start to my Sunday morning.

  9. Lisa:
    I LOVE your refreshing method of expressing yourself. That was absolutely beautiful!

  10. Thanks for your kind words, Monks. It’s interesting to me how God illustrates so much to us in nature. The joyful yellow Lab I referred to constantly convicts me of my pessimistic outlook.

  11. I appreciate your words, Lisa.

    I have to confess, though, that some of my “spiritual gyrations” have really been an attempt to get away from God, to curse him and be done with him, to disown him and never have to deal with him again.

    Too often I’ve been the vicious wildcat rather than the unruly domestic kind.

    And yet, strangely, counter to all my expectations, and even against my desires, he has seemingly never forgotten me.

    And I am engraved on the palm of his hand.

  12. to be ‘engraved’ on the palms of the Hands of God . . . what a beautiful testament to the connection between the Creator and His creation . . .

    I have often thought that there is another ‘engraving’ that exists that is sacred also:
    that on the soles of the feet of newborn infants is printed indelibly but invisibly this:
    ‘for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’

    Thank you, Lisa Dye, your post is very beautiful
    . . . it speaks to me of the loving-kindness of the God Who comes to our aid,
    and of our response to Him out of need surely, but perhaps also out of our child-like trust in Him

  13. I approve of this post! I love cats. Never, ever apologize for liking cats or posting about them! 🙂

    I also appreciate the comparison, cats to us and how people need God.