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Mercy Surrounds Us

dark mercy

We exist in the infinite embrace of God’s mercy.  In mercy, we all were created.  In mercy, we all live.  In mercy, we all have the hope of eternal life.

The lavish mercy of God pours over us in every sunrise and sunset, in every noon and midnight.  With every breath, we draw on mercy.  With every thought, we capture its spirit and turn it to our hope.  The gift of such divine power in us calls us to lavish mercy with our own lives, to be agents of mercy in all things.

This journal is offered as an act of thanksgiving and celebration for that lavish mercy.  It is a gathering of reflections and prayers which sift through our ordinary experience to seek the breath-giving grace of God awaiting us there.

My name is Renee Yann. I am a Sister of Mercy.  I love to chase God through the bright blessing of words. I love to discover words in the dark blessing of silence. It is a joy to share with you the humble fruit of those mutual blessings.

Our entire theological tradition is expressed in terms of Mercy,
which I define as the willingness to enter into the chaos of others.
James F. Keenan, S.J.

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Third Sunday of Easter

April 18, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 4 which describes the spiritual contentment of one who tries to respond faithfully to an ever-faithful God:

The psalmist’s faithful response is driven by a deep repentance – a conversion, a turning toward the Light.

Let your heart be awestruck by God’s steadfast love.
Sin no more;
Turn to God in the depth of your spirit.
Examine your heart in silence 
as you offer your evening prayer.

Psalm 4: 4-5

I think that, even in the most brilliant souls, there are still corners yearning for Light. Until we are transfigured by death, such is the human condition. This is the case with the people Peter addresses in our first reading, John in our second. Even the faithful disciples are called to greater Light in today’s Gospel.

Jesus said to them:
Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:46-48

Today, as we pray, might there be a shadowed corner we would like to turn toward Grace? What places in our sometimes darkened world shall we plead before the Merciful Light?

Poetry: Light – Today’s poem by George Macdonald is long, but oh so worth the time and focus. I encourage you to revisit often, taking small excerpts to cherish.

George Macdonald (10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905) was a Scottish author, poet and Christian minister. He was a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll. In addition to his fairy tales, MacDonald wrote several works on Christian apologetics.

His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors including W. H. Auden, J. M. Barrie, Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrlees, Robert E. Howard, L. Frank Baum, T.H. White, Lloyd Alexander, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit, Peter S. Beagle, Neil Gaiman and Madeleine L’Engle. 

C. S. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his “master”: “Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later”, said Lewis, “I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.” G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had “made a difference to my whole existence”.


Light 

First-born of the creating Voice!
Minister of God’s Spirit, who wast sent
Waiting upon him first, what time he went
Moving about mid the tumultuous noise
Of each unpiloted element
Upon the face of the void formless deep!
Thou who didst come unbodied and alone
Ere yet the sun was set his rule to keep,
Or ever the moon shone,
Or e’er the wandering star-flocks forth were driven!
Thou garment of the Invisible, whose skirt
Sweeps, glory-giving, over earth and heaven!
Thou comforter, be with me as thou wert
When first I longed for words, to be
A radiant garment for my thought, like thee!

We lay us down in sorrow,
Wrapt in the old mantle of our mother Night;
In vexing dreams we strive until the morrow;
Grief lifts our eyelids up-and Lo, the light!
The sunlight on the wall! And visions rise
Of shining leaves that make sweet melodies;
Of wind-borne waves with thee upon their crests;
Of rippled sands on which thou rainest down;
Of quiet lakes that smooth for thee their breasts;
Of clouds that show thy glory as their own;
O joy! O joy! the visions are gone by!
Light, gladness, motion, are reality!

Thou art the god of earth. The skylark springs
Far up to catch thy glory on his wings;
And thou dost bless him first that highest soars.
The bee comes forth to see thee; and the flowers
Worship thee all day long, and through the skies
Follow thy journey with their earnest eyes.
River of life, thou pourest on the woods,
And on thy waves float out the wakening buds;
The trees lean toward thee, and, in loving pain,
Keep turning still to see thee yet again;
South sides of pines, haunted all day by thee,
Bear violins that tremble humanly.
And nothing in thine eyes is mean or low:
Where’er thou art, on every side,
All things are glorified;
And where thou canst not come, there thou dost throw
Beautiful shadows, made out of the dark,
That else were shapeless; now it bears thy mark.

And men have worshipped thee.
The Persian, on his mountain-top,
Waits kneeling till thy sun go up,
God-like in his serenity.
All-giving, and none-gifted, he draws near,
And the wide earth waits till his face appear-
Longs patient. And the herald glory leaps
Along the ridges of the outlying clouds,
Climbing the heights of all their towering steeps.
Sudden, still multitudinous laughter crowds
The universal face: Lo, silently,
Up cometh he, the never-closing eye!
Symbol of Deity, men could not be
Farthest from truth when they were
kneeling unto thee!

Thou plaything of the child,
When from the water’s surface thou dost spring,
Thyself upon his chamber ceiling fling,
And there, in mazy dance and motion wild,
Disport thyself-etherial, undefiled.
Capricious, like the thinkings of the child!
I am a child again, to think of thee
In thy consummate glee.
How I would play with thee, athirst to climb
On sloping ladders of thy moted beams,
When through the gray dust darting in long streams!
How marvel at the dusky glimmering red,
With which my closed fingers thou hadst made
Like rainy clouds that curtain the sun’s bed!
And how I loved thee always in the moon!
But most about the harvest-time,
When corn and moonlight made a mellow tune,
And thou wast grave and tender as a cooing dove!
And then the stars that flashed cold, deathless love!
And the ghost-stars that shimmered in the tide!
And more mysterious earthly stars,
That shone from windows of the hill and glen-
Thee prisoned in with lattice-bars,
Mingling with household love and rest of weary men!
And still I am a child, thank God!-to spy
Thee starry stream from bit of broken glass
Upon the brown earth undescried,
Is a found thing to me, a gladness high,
A spark that lights joy’s altar-fire within,
A thought of hope to prophecy akin,
That from my spirit fruitless will not pass.

Thou art the joy of age:
Thy sun is dear when long the shadow falls.
Forth to its friendliness the old man crawls,
And, like the bird hung out in his poor cage
To gather song from radiance, in his chair
Sits by the door; and sitteth there
His soul within him, like a child that lies
Half dreaming, with half-open eyes,
At close of a long afternoon in summer-
High ruins round him, ancient ruins, where
The raven is almost the only comer-
Half dreams, half broods, in wonderment
At thy celestial ascent
Through rifted loop to light upon the gold
That waves its bloom in some high airy rent:
So dreams the old man’s soul, that is not old,
But sleepy mid the ruins that infold.

What soul-like changes, evanescent moods,
Upon the face of the still passive earth,
Its hills, and fields, and woods,
Thou with thy seasons and thy hours art ever calling forth!
Even like a lord of music bent
Over his instrument,
Giving to carol, now to tempest birth!
When, clear as holiness, the morning ray
Casts the rock’s dewy darkness at its feet,
Mottling with shadows all the mountain gray;
When, at the hour of sovereign noon,
Infinite silent cataracts sheet
Shadowless through the air of thunder-breeding June;
When now a yellower glory slanting passes
‘Twixt longer shadows o’er the meadow grasses;
And now the moon lifts up her shining shield,
High on the peak of a cloud-hill revealed;
Now crescent, low, wandering sun-dazed away,
Unconscious of her own star-mingled ray,
Her still face seeming more to think than see,
Makes the pale world lie dreaming dreams of thee!
No mood, eternal or ephemeral,
But wakes obedient at thy silent call!

Of operative single power,
And simple unity the one emblem,
Yet all the colours that our passionate eyes devour,
In rainbow, moonbow, or in opal gem,
Are the melodious descant of divided thee.
Lo thee in yellow sands! Lo thee
In the blue air and sea!
In the green corn, with scarlet poppies lit,
Thy half-souls parted, patient thou dost sit.
Lo thee in dying triumphs of the west!
Lo thee in dew-drop’s tiny breast!
Thee on the vast white cloud that floats away,
Bearing upon its skirt a brown moon-ray!
Gold-regent, thou dost spendthrift throw
Thy hoardless wealth of gleam and glow!
The thousand hues and shades upon the flowers
Are all the pastime of thy leisure hours;
The jewelled ores in mines that hidden be,
Are dead till touched by thee.

Everywhere,
Thou art lancing through the air!
Every atom from another
Takes thee, gives thee to his brother;
Continually,
Thou art wetting the wet sea,
Bathing its sluggish woods below,
Making the salt flowers bud and blow;
Silently,
Workest thou, and ardently,
Waking from the night of nought
Into being and to thought;

Influences
Every beam of thine dispenses,
Potent, subtle, reaching far,
Shooting different from each star.
Not an iron rod can lie
In circle of thy beamy eye,
But its look doth change it so
That it cannot choose but show
Thou, the worker, hast been there;
Yea, sometimes, on substance rare,
Thou dost leave thy ghostly mark
Even in what men call the dark.
Ever doing, ever showing,
Thou dost set our hearts a glowing-
Universal something sent
To shadow forth the Excellent!

When the firstborn affections-
Those winged seekers of the world within,
That search about in all directions,
Some bright thing for themselves to win-
Through pathless woods, through home-bred fogs,
Through stony plains, through treacherous bogs,
Long, long, have followed faces fair,
Fair soul-less faces, vanished into air,
And darkness is around them and above,
Desolate of aught to love,
And through the gloom on every side,
Strange dismal forms are dim descried,
And the air is as the breath
From the lips of void-eyed Death,
And the knees are bowed in prayer
To the Stronger than despair-
Then the ever-lifted cry,
Give us light, or we shall die,
Cometh to the Father’s ears,
And he hearkens, and he hears:-

As some slow sun would glimmer forth
From sunless winter of the north,
We, hardly trusting hopeful eyes,
Discern and doubt the opening skies.
From a misty gray that lies on
Our dim future’s far horizon,
It grows a fresh aurora, sent
Up the spirit’s firmament,
Telling, through the vapours dun,
Of the coming, coming sun!
Tis Truth awaking in the soul!
His Righteousness to make us whole!
And what shall we, this Truth receiving,
Though with but a faint believing,
Call it but eternal Light?
‘Tis the morning, ’twas the night!

All things most excellent
Are likened unto thee, excellent thing!
Yea, he who from the Father forth was sent,
Came like a lamp, to bring,
Across the winds and wastes of night,
The everlasting light.
Hail, Word of God, the telling of his thought!
Hail, Light of God, the making-visible!
Hail, far-transcending glory brought
In human form with man to dwell-
Thy dazzling gone; thy power not less
To show, irradiate, and bless;
The gathering of the primal rays divine
Informing chaos, to a pure sunshine!

Dull horrid pools no motion making!
No bubble on the surface breaking!
The dead air lies, without a sound,
Heavy and moveless on the marshy ground.

Rushing winds and snow-like drift,
Forceful, formless, fierce, and swift!
Hair-like vapours madly riven!
Waters smitten into dust!
Lightning through the turmoil driven,
Aimless, useless, yet it must!

Gentle winds through forests calling!
Bright birds through the thick leaves glancing!
Solemn waves on sea-shores falling!
White sails on blue waters dancing!
Mountain streams glad music giving!
Children in the clear pool laving!
Yellow corn and green grass waving!
Long-haired, bright-eyed maidens living!
Light, O radiant, it is thou!
Light!-we know our Father now!

Forming ever without form;
Showing, but thyself unseen;
Pouring stillness on the storm;
Breathing life where death had been!
If thy light thou didst draw in,
Death and Chaos soon were out,
Weltering o’er the slimy sea,
Riding on the whirlwind’s rout,
In wild unmaking energy!
God, be round us and within,
Fighting darkness, slaying sin.

Father of Lights, high-lost, unspeakable,
On whom no changing shadow ever fell!
Thy light we know not, are content to see;
Thee we know not, and are content to be!-
Nay, nay! until we know thee, not content are we!
But, when thy wisdom cannot be expressed,
Shall we imagine darkness in thy breast?
Our hearts awake and witness loud for thee!
The very shadows on our souls that lie,
Good witness to the light supernal bear;
The something ‘twixt us and the sky
Could cast no shadow if light were not there!
If children tremble in the night,
It is because their God is light!
The shining of the common day
Is mystery still, howe’er it ebb and flow-
Behind the seeing orb, the secret lies:
Thy living light’s eternal play,
Its motions, whence or whither, who shall know?-
Behind the life itself, its fountains rise!
In thee, the Light, the darkness hath no place;
And we have seen thee in the Saviour’s face.

Enlighten me, O Light!-why art thou such?
Why art thou awful to our eyes, and sweet?
Cherished as love, and slaying with a touch?
Why in thee do the known and unknown meet?
Why swift and tender, strong and delicate?
Simple as truth, yet manifold in might?
Why does one love thee, and another hate?
Why cleave my words to the portals of my speech
When I a goodly matter would indite?
Why mounts my thought of thee beyond my reach?
-In vain to follow thee, I thee beseech,
For God is light.

Music: Heaven’s Window – Peter Kater

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter

April 17, 2021

( A friend posted this on Facebook yesterday. I think it’s such a good thought to begin our prayer.)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 in which the psalmist calls on us to sing and dance and SHOUT because God is faithful in keeping promises.

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous;
it is good for the just to shout praises.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
play to God upon the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing for God a new song;
sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.
For the word of the Lord is right,
and all the works of God are sure.
God loves righteousness and justice;
the mercy of the Lord fills the whole earth.

Psalm 33:1-5

In the course of our lives, there are many moments when we want to shout praise to God Who has come through for us in a big way – some gift, resolution, deliverance, insight – that opens our eyes to new life and possibility.

The disciples, tossing about in an uncertain sea, might have felt a little shout coming on when they saw someone walking on the turbulent waters. Can’t you almost hear the astounded “Yippee”s as Jesus assured them it was he?

Translated from the Aramaic 😉

The sea was stirred up
because a strong wind was blowing.
When they had rowed about three or four miles,
they saw Jesus walking on the sea
and coming near the boat,
and they began to be afraid.

John 6:18-20

But Jesus said to them,
“It is I. Do not be afraid.”

John 6: 18-20

As we pray today, we might remember the many times God has walked, unexpected, out of the midst of our storms. We might not be praying in a place where it’s appropriate to SHOUT. So let us take up the ten-stringed lyre of our hearts and quietly sing our gratitude.

Psalm 33:2

Poetry: Where Everything is Music – Rumi

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and if the whole world's harp
should burn up,
there will still be hidden lyres
playing, playing
 
This singing art
is sea foam.
The graceful movements
come from a pearl
somewhere
on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift
and the edge of driftwood
along the beach
wanting, wanting

They derive from a slow
and powerful root
that we cannot see.

Stop the words now.
Open the window
in the center of your chest,
and let the spirits fly
in and out

Music: The Lyre of Megiddo – Peter Pringle

The ancient city of Megiddo is also known as Armageddon. The lyre is made after an image discovered on a piece of ivory that stems from the time of the biblical King David. King David was known to have played a harp, so it is very likely that it was an instrument much like this one.

Friday of the Second Week of Easter

April 16, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27, the prayer of one confident in God’s loving protection, no matter any surrounding threat. The psalmist exudes the equanimity of one who has given everything over to Love, who seeks only one fulfillment:

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,
to visit his temple.

Psalm 27:4

I remember praying this psalm so intently as a young novice! I so wanted to understand and deepen in the spiritual life. I so wanted to be completely in love with God.


Gamaliel, from our first reading, has grown into such a love. It has freed him to respond to the Spirit even when the Spirit astounds, contradicts, and demands change.

Gamaliel said to the Sanhedrin…“So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.

But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

Acts 5: 38-39

It seems that Gamaliel is speaking from experience. He likely had his big or little tussles with the Spirit along the now long road of his life. He has one even today as Jesus’s pesky disciples challenge Gamaliel’s long-held religious practice.


But it is likely that a prayer like Psalm 27 rose up in the heart of this longtime friend of God:

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?

For I am protected in the Lord’s shelter
when troubles threaten,
wrapped in the folds of the Lord’s tent,
set high upon the rock’s safety.

Psalm 27: 1,5

As we pray beautiful Psalm 27 today, may we remember our early, enthusiastic love. May we give thanks for the accumulated blessings of the years that have enriched and matured us in wisdom and faith. May we seek the courage to journey ever deeper into God’s heart.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
    be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 27: 13-14

Poetry: Old Age by Edmund Waller

The seas are quiet when the winds give o’er; 
So calm are we when passions are no more. 
For then we know how vain it was to boast 
Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost. 
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes 
Conceal that emptiness which age descries. 
The soul’s dark cottage, batter’d and decay’d, 
Lets in new light through chinks that Time hath made: 
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become 
As they draw near to their eternal home. 
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view 
That stand upon the threshold of the new.

Music: Depths – Hillsong

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

April 15, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with the beautiful words of Psalm 34:

I will bless the LORD at all times;
    praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
    blessed the one who takes refuge in the Lord.

Psalm 34:2-9

Today’s verses offer us this tender image of God’s lavish mercy:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
    and those who are crushed in spirit God saves.
Many are the troubles of the just one,
    but out of them all the LORD delivers us.

Psalm 34: 19-20

And John’s Gospel today affirms God’s extravagant tenderness toward us:

May we just rest in these images letting the Lord cradle our heartbreaks and those of our suffering world.


Poetry: The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I –William Shakespeare 

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.

Music: A Broken Heart – Luke Mayernik

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

April 14, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34, an exultation in our God who protects and delivers us from harm:

The angel of the LORD encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
    blessed the man who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8-9

Why is it that the Sadducees and Pharisees, as told in our first reading, so strongly resisted the gift of spiritual freedom and life?

We get used to our ways, don’t we? We get stuck in our compensations. We can even reach a point of comfort with things that sap and lessen us – that keep us from being our best selves – as long as we can maintain even a false sense of security and control.

This is what happened to the Pharisees and Sadducees. If they now accepted Jesus, their whole pretend world of domination and abusive power, a world in which they were very comfortable, would be turned upside down!

So they chose not to believe in Love. 

They tried to lock up the call to mercy and justice. They tried to chain Grace in a dungeon. They tried to stifle the cry of the poor so that the Lord wouldn’t hear! 


But, despite their blind efforts, the truth of Psalm 34 endures:

Come, children,listen to me;
I will teach you fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who delights in life,
who loves to see the good days?
Keep your tongue from evil,
your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are directed toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.

Psalm 34: 12-16

In our Gospel, Jesus gently but firmly teaches Nicodemus that our choice to believe matters:

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.

John 3:16-20

Prose Poetry: from an interview with Ilia Dileo Ilia Delio, a Franciscan Sister of Washington, DC. She holds the Josephine C Connelly Endowed Chair in Theology at Villanova University, and is he author of seventeen books, several of which have won awards.

You know, love is always a little tipsy.
If you’re really ecstatically in love, 
you are always a little bit falling over yourself 
and God is that.
God is the absolute being in love 
and always a little tipsy, 
falling over God’s self to share that love with an other. 
That dynamic engagement of God 
in the personal beingness of life, 
in the person of Jesus Christ -
if we bring in Jesus as that fullest manifestation of God’s love
in our own lives.
This is right from Pseudo-Dionysius, the 5th century writer 
who spoke of God as being superly drunk, drunk with love. 
That’s the kind of God we are dealing with here. 
Not some kind of the philosopher God, 
not the mechanical God, not a self-thinking, thought God…
This is a God who is drunk with love. 
Spilling over in love for us. 
And that’s what we are called to be. 
As image of God we are to be drunk with love, 
spilling over in our lives to be love in relation to another.
Every thing that exists, 
every person, every being, every creature 
every star, every lepton, every little cell
is a little word of the word of God...
God speaking that divine word of love 
throughout the rich variety of creation.

Music: God So Loved the World

God so loved the world

So loved the world

So loved the world

That He gave His only son

That He gave His only son

God so loved the world

That everyone who would believe

Who believed in His only son

Shall have everlasting life

For God sent not his son into the world

To condemn the world

But God so loved the world

That through His son the world might be saved

The world might be saved (the world might be saved)

The world might be saved

God so loved the world (so loved)

So loved the world (so loved)

So loved the world (that He)

That He gave His only son (only son)

That He gave His only son (only son)

That everyone who would believe (believe)

Believe in Him

Who would believe in Him

Would have everlasting life

Would have everlasting

Life (everlasting life)

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

April 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 93, a resounding song of praise to our majestic God.

As I read the whole psalm, which is brief, I find myself standing at the Atlantic’s edge with my mother. I was just old enough to appreciate the enormity of the ocean. I asked Mom what made the waves stop at our tiptoes. She told me that God held it in place like soup in a big bowl. I remember being glad that God was in charge because the waves seemed awesome to me.



A little personal distraction: My grand-nephews enjoying the ever-awesome ocean



Today’s psalmist seems to share some of these young feelings:

The flood has raised up, LORD;
the flood has raised up its roar;
the flood has raised its pounding waves.

More powerful than the roar of many waters,
more powerful than the breakers of the sea,
powerful in the heavens is the LORD.

Psalm 93:4-5

Set between today’s two readings, our psalm invites us to entrust ourselves completely to this all-powerful God whose merciful rule goes infinitely beyond earth’s seas.

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Dear, questioning Nicodemus struggled a bit to open his heart in complete faith. But he stayed with the struggle until the power of the Resurrection transformed him.


As we pray Psalm 93, we might stand with the psalmist or with Nicodemus at the edge of any ocean which challenges, mystifies, delights or frightens us. May we grow in confidence, as they did, that our eternal, omnipotent God ever reigns with merciful love – over the vastness of Creation and the small intimate waves of our lives.

Your decrees are firmly established;
holiness befits your house, LORD,
for all the length of days.

Psalm 93:5

Poetry: A Hymn – Ann Brontë

Eternal power of earth and air,
Unseen, yet seen in all around,
Remote, but dwelling everywhere,
Though silent, heard in every sound. 

If e'er thine ear in mercy bent
When wretched mortals cried to thee,
And if indeed thy Son was sent
To save lost sinners such as me. 

Then hear me now, while kneeling here;
I lift to thee my heart and eye
And all my soul ascends in prayer;
O give me -­ give me Faith I cry. 

Without some glimmering in my heart,
I could not raise this fervent prayer;
But O a stronger light impart,
And in thy mercy fix it there! 

While Faith is with me I am blest;
It turns my darkest night to day;
But while I clasp it to my breast
I often feel it slide away. 

Then cold and dark my spirit sinks,
To see my light of life depart,
And every fiend of Hell methinks
Enjoys the anguish of my heart. 

What shall I do if all my love,
My hopes, my toil, are cast away,
And if there be no God above
To hear and bless me when I pray? 

If this be vain delusion all,
If death be an eternal sleep,
And none can hear my secret call,
Or see the silent tears I weep. 

O help me God! for thou alone
Canst my distracted soul relieve;
Forsake it not -- it is thine own,
Though weak yet longing to believe. 

O drive these cruel doubts away
And make me know that thou art God;
A Faith that shines by night and day
Will lighten every earthly load. 

If I believe that Jesus died
And waking rose to reign above,
Then surely Sorrow, Sin and Pride
Must yield to peace and hope and love. 

And all the blessed words he said
Will strength and holy joy impart,
A shield of safety o'er my head,
A spring of comfort in my heart.

Music: Here Is Love, Vast as an Ocean, beautifully sung by Huw Priday, first in Welsh then in English.

The text of this hymn was originally in Welsh, “Dyma gariad fel y moroedd,” written by William Rees (1802–1883, also known as Gwilym Hiraethog). By one account, Rees was “one of the most versatile and gifted Welshmen of the nineteenth century and exercised a powerful influence on politics, religion, poetry, and literature in Wales.”

Rees’ text played a prominent role in the Welsh revival of 1904–1905, led by evangelist Evan Roberts (1878–1951) of Glamorganshire. As with any great evangelistic movement, its success was closely associated with music and musicians. 

VERSE 1 

Here is love vast as the ocean, 

Loving-kindness as the flood, 

When the Prince of Life, our ransom, 

Shed for us His precious blood. 

Who His love will not remember? 

Who can cease to sing His praise? 

He can never be forgotten 

Throughout heav’n’s eternal days. 

VERSE 2 

On the Mount of Crucifixion, 

Fountains opened deep and wide; 

Through the flood-gates of God’s mercy 

Flowed a vast and gracious tide. 

Grace and love like mighty rivers 

Poured incessant from above; 

Heaven’s peace and perfect justice 

Kissed a guilty world in love. 

VERSE 3 

Here is love that conquered evil: 

Christ, the firstborn from the grave; 

Death has failed to be found equal 

To the life of Him Who saves. 

In the valley of our darkness 

Dawned His everlasting light; 

Perfect love in glorious radiance 

Has repelled death’s hellish night. 

VERSE 4 

That same love beyond all measure, 

Mocked and slain by hateful men, 

Lives and reigns in resurrection 

And can never die again. 

Here is love for all the ages, 

Radiant Sun of Heav’n He stands, 

Calling home His Father’s children, 

Holding forth His wounded hands. 

VERSE 5 

Here is love, vast as the heavens; 

Countless as the stars above 

Are the souls that He has ransomed, 

Precious daughters, treasured sons. 

We are called to feast forever on a love beyond our time; 

Glorious Father, Son, and Spirit 

Now with man are intertwined.

Monday of the Second Week of Easter

April 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 2 which poses an eternally recurring question:

Yesterday I read that it was the 21st anniversary of The Belfast Agreement. This is also known as the Good Friday Agreement, because it was reached on Good Friday, 10 April 1998. It was an agreement between the British and Irish governments, and most of the political parties in Northern Ireland, on how Northern Ireland should be governed. The talks leading to the Agreement addressed issues which had caused conflict during previous decades. The aim was establish a new, “devolved government” for Northern Ireland in which unionists and nationalists would share power.


But at the same time I also read another current article:

For nearly a week, crowds of Protestant and Catholic youth have provoked one another through the gaps in the wall, video footage from journalists at the scene shows. Stemming from decades-old tensions referred to as “the troubles,” the reignited violence has been, in part, caused by Britain’s exit from the European Union.


On any given day, we could take these stories and substitute the names of other countries, each struggling through cycles of strife, attempts at peace, and recurrence of violence.

The psalmist’s question echoes and the answer, over the ages, remains the same.

Why do the nations rage? They rage from the abuse of power, money, and human dignity.


What is the antidote to this recurring rage? Our psalm tells us it is simple – not easy – but simple. We must take refuge in God, govern our lives by God’s desire for good for every person, every creature.

Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil. Let us not remain mired in theoretical discussions, but touch the wounded flesh of the victims. Let us look once more at all those civilians whose killing was considered “collateral damage”. Let us ask the victims themselves. Let us think of the refugees and displaced, those who suffered the effects of atomic radiation or chemical attacks, the mothers who lost their children, and the boys and girls maimed or deprived of their childhood. Let us hear the true stories of these victims of violence, look at reality through their eyes, and listen with an open heart to the stories they tell. In this way, we will be able to grasp the abyss of evil at the heart of war. Nor will it trouble us to be deemed naive for choosing peace.

Pope Francis: Fratelli Tutti #261

Poetry: Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The sea of faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Second Sunday of Easter

Sunday of Divine Mercy

April 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 118 which ties together our other readings in a celebration of confirmed faith:

  • Christ IS risen
  • He has been SEEN even by one with severest doubts
  • the community IS RESPONDING wholeheartedly to the Easter mission

The stone which the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
    it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
    let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Psalm 118

For the early Church, which comes alive in today’s readings, faith and experience have been “married”. These are early “honeymoon days” for a young faith community where Jesus might still pop up any minute by a charcoal fire or in a locked Upper Room.

These are days of heady enthusiasm where everything seems possible in the healing tenderness of five transfigured wounds.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas – Caravaggio

Last week, I offered a staff presentation during which we discussed the blocks to effective communication – poor planning, noise, cultural differences, assumptions, etc. But I think of one block in particular this morning.

Time and Distance

The farther we are from the original message the more likely we might lose its full power and truth.

Think of that childhood game, “Whisper Down the Lane”. As the original message traveled along the long line of squirming children, it repeatedly morphed into its multiple distortions.


Our readings today enjoin us to take care that such distortion never weakens our Easter Truth: Jesus Christ is risen and lives in us, the faith community.

… whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

As Jesus describes us in today’s Gospel, we are the ones “who have not SEEN”. Still, we long for the blessing that comes from our unseeing fidelity:

You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me.
Blessed are those who have not seen me, but still believe!

Let us pray for one another, the whole faith community. As the Easter Word passes down through the ages and out over the earth, may it stay fully alive in our faithful love and active mercy:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.


Poem:

St. Thomas Didymus by Denise Levertov

In the hot street at noon I saw him
a small man
gray but vivid, standing forth
beyond the crowd’s buzzing
holding in desperate grip his shaking
teethgnashing son,

and thought him my brother.

I heard him cry out, weeping and speak
those words,
Lord, I believe, help thou
mine unbelief,

and knew him
my twin:

a man whose entire being
had knotted itself
into the one tightdrawn question,
Why,
why has this child lost his childhood in suffering,
why is this child who will soon be a man
tormented, torn, twisted?
Why is he cruelly punished
who has done nothing except be born?

The twin of my birth
was not so close
as that man I heard
say what my heart
sighed with each beat, my breath silently
cried in and out,
in and out.

After the healing,
he, with his wondering
newly peaceful boy, receded;
no one
dwells on the gratitude, the astonished joy,
the swift
acceptance and forgetting.
I did not follow
to see their changed lives.
What I retained
was the flash of kinship.
Despite
all that I witnessed,
his question remained
my question, throbbed like a stealthy cancer,
known
only to doctor and patient. To others
I seemed well enough.

So it was
that after Golgotha
my spirit in secret
lurched in the same convulsed writhings
that tore that child
before he was healed.
And after the empty tomb
when they told me that He lived, had spoken to Magdalen,
told me
that though He had passed through the door like a ghost
He had breathed on them
the breath of a living man —
even then
when hope tried with a flutter of wings
to lift me —
still, alone with myself,
my heavy cry was the same: Lord
I believe,
help thou mine unbelief.

I needed
blood to tell me the truth,
the touch
of blood. Even
my sight of the dark crust of it
round the nailholes
didn’t thrust its meaning all the way through
to that manifold knot in me
that willed to possess all knowledge,
refusing to loosen
unless that insistence won
the battle I fought with life

But when my hand
led by His hand’s firm clasp
entered the unhealed wound,
my fingers encountering
rib-bone and pulsing heat,
what I felt was not
scalding pain, shame for my
obstinate need,
but light, light streaming
into me, over me, filling the room
as I had lived till then
in a cold cave, and now
coming forth for the first time,
the knot that bound me unravelling,
I witnessed
all things quicken to color, to form,
my question
not answered but given
its part
in a vast unfolding design lit
by a risen sun.

Music: Thomas Song

Thomas’ Song – Hallal Music

Jesu you were all to me,
Why did you die on Calvary?
O Lamb of God, I fail to see
How this could be part of the plan.
They say that you’re alive again
But I saw death and every sin
Reach out to claim their darkest whim
How could this part if the plan?
If I could only
Hold your hand
And touch the scars
Where nail were driven,
I would need
To feel your side
Where holy flesh
A spear was riven,
Then I’d believe,
Only then I’d believe
Your cruel death
Was part of a heavenly plan.
Holy presence, holy face
A vision filling time and space
Your newness makes my spirit race
Could this be part of the plan?
I see the wounds that caused the cry
From heaven, ocean, earth, and sky
When people watched their savior die
Could this be part of the plan?
Reaching out
To hold your hand
And touch the scars
Where nails were driven
Coming near
I feel your side
Where holy flesh
A spear was riven
Now I believe
Jesus now I believe
Your cruel death
Was part of a heavenly plan
I proudly say
With blazen cry
You are my Lord and my God

Easter Saturday

April 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 118, today’s verses a song of utter confidence in, and thanks for, God’s faithfulness.

Give thanks to the LORD who is is good,
    whose mercy endures forever.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
    who has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
    in the tents of the just.

Psalm 118: 1, 14-15

That profound trust and gratitude are captured in the enduring word:

“Forever” is a word we tend to toss about carelessly, as in:

It took my pizza forever to get here!

I promise I’ll love you forever.

Really? Could “forever” possibly apply in both these cases????


I think, in fact, we cannot begin to conceptualize “forever”, just as we cannot possibly conceptualize God.

What we can do is 

  • to pick up the fabric of our life as it flows through time, 
  • to place it with trust in God’s enduring love, 
  • to slowly, continually become knit into God’s faithfulness, 
  • to finally become still as, in each moment, that Love carries us to “forever”.

Poetry: two selections today

Forever – is composed of Nows by Emily Dickinson

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –
From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –
Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies 

From Miracles by C.S. Lewis

It is probable that Nature is not really in Time 
and almost certain that God is not. 
Time is probably (like perspective) the mode of our perception. 
There is therefore in reality no question of God's 
at one point in time (the moment of creation) 
adapting the material history of this universe 
in advance to free acts 
which you or I are to perform 
at a later point in Time.

To God
all the physical events and all the human acts 
are present in an eternal Now. 
The liberation of finite wills 
and the creation of the whole material history of the universe 
(related to the acts of those wills in all the necessary complexity) 
is to God a single operation. 
In this sense God did not create the universe long ago 
but creates it at this minute—at every minute.

Music: Swept Across Forever – Tim Janis

Easter Friday: Cornerstone

April 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 118:

The stone which the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
    it is wonderful in our eyes.

Psalm 118:22

That “Stone”, rejected by the builders, is the Crucified Christ, the sight of whom was an abomination to those who expected a battle-victorious messiah.

But Jesus is among us to stand in contradiction to everything that limits the power of God. In Jesus’s Name

  • the poor are rich
  • the lost are found
  • the foolish are wise
  • the persecuted are blessed
  • the dead are raised to life

As Peter says in Acts, worldly rejection holds no sway over the power of this Name:

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved

Acts 4:12
The Miraculous Catch – James Tissot

This is the mysterious lesson of the Cross, a lesson accessed only through faith, a faith the disciples exercise in today’s beautiful Gospel story.

This morning, we might wish to join Jesus for his “Breakfast on the Beach”, feeding our spirits in his resurrected Light. The truth he gives us goes beyond any purely human understanding. Let us listen with our deep hearts; see with grace-filled eyes.


Poetry: True Cornerstone by Robert Morris,  a prominent American poet of the mid-19th century

What is the Mason's cornerstone? 
Does the mysterious temple rest 
On earthly ground — from east to west — 
From north to south — and this alone? 

What is the Mason's cornerstone? 
Is it to toil for fame and pelf, 
To magnify our petty self, 
And love our friends — and this alone? 

No, no; the Mason's cornerstone — 
A deeper, stronger, nobler base, 
Which time and foe cannot displace — 
IS FAITH IN God — and this alone! 

'Tis this which makes the mystic tie 
Loving and true, divinely good, 
A grand, united brotherhood, 
Cemented 'neath the All-seeing Eye. 

'Tis this which gives the sweetest tone 
To Mason's melodies; the gleam 
To loving eyes; the brightest gem 
That sparkles in the Mason's crown. 

'Tis this which makes the Mason's grip 
A chain indissolubly strong; 
It banishes all fraud, and wrong, 
And coldness from our fellowship. 

Oh, cornerstone, divine, divine! 
Oh, FAITH IN God ! it buoys us up, 
And gives to darkest hours a hope, 

And makes the heart a holy shrine. 
Brothers, be this your cornerstone; 
Build every wish and hope on this; 
Of present joy, of future bliss, 
On earth, in Heaven — and this alone!

Music: Loed, When You Came – Kitty Cleveland

Lord, when you came to the seashore 
you weren’t seeking the wise or the wealthy, 
but only asking that I might follow.

O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, 
Kindly smiling,My name you were saying; 
All I treasured,I have left on the sand there; 
Close to you, I will find other seas.

Señor me has mirado a los ojos,
Sonriendo has dicho mi nombre,
En la rena he dejado mi barca, 
junto a ti buscaré otro mar.

Lord, you knew what my boat carried:
Neither money nor weapons for fighting, 
but nets for fishing my daily labor. 

Lord, have you need of my labor, hands for service,
A heart made for loving, my arms for lifting the poor and broken? 

Lord, send me where you would have me, to a village,
Or heart of the city; I will remember that you are with me.