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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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Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 27, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus acknowledges the difficulty of living a Christian life in a hostile world, especially without his physical presence to lead the disciples.

John16_22 separation

He knows that his friends are anguished at the thought of being separated from him. He compares their heartbreak to the pain of a mother in labor. The comparison is a perfect one because labor pains yield a gift that washes away the memory of suffering:

… when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.

John 16:21

Jesus tries to comfort his followers with this analogy, but he doesn’t deny the sorrow they are experiencing. Jesus knows that separation from what we dearly love can be a crushing experience. He knows that change often carries unwanted loss.

joys and sorrows

Our lives are braided into this cycle of labor, birth, love, loss, sorrow and joy. Jesus assures us that if we live this cycle in faith and hope, all things return to him in glory:

But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.

John 16:22

Poetry: Braid Your Hair With His – Mark Heathcote

God - has many names, 
but ‘Love' is the one that counts 
most aptly ‘Love' … ‘Love' 

‘Just Love' only, one word 
one name like ‘God' isn't it? 

God - has so many names 
each acts as a veil 
but ‘Love' is, ‘Love' only. 
So braid your hair with His 
embrace, lock fingers with His. 

His is a tree twining roots 
His is the first branch you perch on 
His is trees-bough at your centre 
your hearts bead is a locket of amber 
the tree's name is Love. 

At those times in our lives when we more feel the absence of God than the presence, remembering the endurance and bravery of others may help us. Although it’s not a religious song, this melody kept playing itself in my heart as I read today’s Gospel. It opened my spirit to a very comforting prayer time.

Music: We’ll Meet Again – Dame Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Margaret Lynn Welch, CH,DBD, OStJ, was a British singer of traditional popular music, songwriter and actress, whose musical recordings and performances were enormously popular during World War II. She died in 2020 at the age of 103.

She is widely known as “the Forces Sweetheart” and gave outdoor concerts for the troops in Egypt, India and Burma during the warThe songs most associated with her are “We’ll Meet Again”, “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, and “There’ll Always Be an England”. 

My Dad’s Ascension Thursday Gift

( I’m going a little off the grid this morning because we get a double chance to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension with its recurrence this Sunday. So I will leave my scriptural reflection until then.)


For me, the celebration of Ascension will always be on a Thursday – and it will always belong especially to my Dad. Here’s why.

I was already a young nun in the early 1970s when I went home to visit my parents one beautiful May afternoon.  We had a day off from school to commemorate the Feast of the Ascension. 

That’s me in pink before nunhood

My Dad was sitting on the front steps contemplating a patch of pachysandra on our small front lawn, or so I thought.  After initial hugs and greetings, Dad said, “I’m worried about something.” Worry bells starting ringing deep in my brain. Where was Mom!?!?

“Joe Brodski just walked by a little while ago”, Dad continued. I paused a moment to consider this seeming non-sequitor.

Now Joe Brodski never walked anywhere.  He was our next-door neighbor whose only apparent activity was tumbling out of his house and into his car each morning to go to work. So I began to think that maybe the worry was about Joe Brodski, and not my Mom who had not yet appeared on the front steps.

“So what’s the worry, Dad?”, I asked. 

“Well, I asked Joe why he was out walking and he told me he was coming back from church. Ren, I completely forgot it was Thursday – the Ascension – and now all the Masses are over!”


Dad was really distressed by this oversight and it took a little theologizing on my part to allay his concern. Still, his reaction was so sincere that it has stayed with me for nearly fifty years. I never fully appreciated my Dad’s deep spirituality – nor the embedded culture of faith in our home – until I had grown up and moved away. 


Many years after that Thursday, I read David Foster Wallace’s famous graduation talk at Kenyan University. He opens the talk like this:

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

Wallace goes on to explain, “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”


We didn’t talk a lot about faith in my family, we just practiced it. And that practice was like fish swimming in water. We didn’t even realize that faith was the medium soaking our whole lives.

When Dad realized that he had forgotten to go to Mass that day, he felt like the proverbial “fish out of water”. The deep abiding faithfulness of his life had suffered a little fracture.


In Jerusalem, there is an ancient stone on a hillside. People venerate it as the site from which Jesus ascended into heaven. There is a deep indentation in the stone which is believed to be the last footprint of Christ on the earth as He lifted toward heaven. Whether it actually is the site isn’t important. What matters is that the life of Jesus has left an everlasting impression on our hearts and souls – a well of grace which continues to feed our spirits.

Stone as it is today.
Outline of foot

My Dad’s unassuming holiness has left the same kind of impression on me. It is a touch point which I visit many times during the year, but especially on Ascension Thursday.

I tell the story today because this Feast might be a good time for all of us to consider the “water” we swim in – that culture of faith which nourishes our life – and the life of our family and loved ones.

You may want to bless the many sources that have inspired and fed your faith over your lifetime – perhaps in your family, and perhaps in others relationships. Doing so can be a recurring source of grace even if the “inspirer” has, like Jesus and like my Dad, made their way back to heaven.

And we all might want to consider who depends on us for the nurturing water of their faith!


Music: My Father’s Faith – Janice Kapp Perry

A father’s faith can bless his little children
And help them rise above life’s daily storms.
A father works each day to keep his dear ones
Ever protected, safe and warm.

My father’s praise can send my spirit soaring
And help me see the good I may achieve.
My father’s trust can fill my soul with courage
And help my doubting heart believe.

My father’s tears can somehow say, “I love you”
When words fall silent in his tender heart.
Through daily acts of service and of caring
His deepest feelings he imparts.

My father’s prayers can call down heaven’s blessings
And keep his children walking in the light.
His constant strength is steady as a lighthouse
That brings me safely through the night.

My father’s arms can offer consolation
When I, in sorrow, turn my heart toward home.
His loving voice resounds within my being
To help me know I’m not alone.

My father’s eyes can see past faults and failings
And still imagine all I may become.
And when I fall he’s there to walk beside me
To tell me I can overcome.

My father’s love will shine through generations –
A gentle force that guides me through the years.
My father’s faith will be my inspiration
And make my path to heaven clear.

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 25, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Paul gives a magnificent oration at the Areopagus in Athens. It was a big deal billing!

V&A_-_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)
St. Paul at the Areopagus by Raphael (c.1515)

Areopagus, earliest aristocratic council of ancient Athens. The name was taken from the Areopagus (“Ares’ Hill”), a low hill northwest of the Acropolis, which was its meeting place.

In pre-classical times (before the 5th century BC), the Areopagus was the council of elders of the city, similar to the Roman Senate. Like the Senate, its membership was restricted to those who had held high public office.

The Areopagus, like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times, and it was from this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God that Paul is said to have delivered the famous speech, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Wikipedia)


diamonds


The sermon has so many beautiful lines, like glorious diamonds that can be turned over and over in prayer. Here are a few that glistened for me:


God … does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands
(Instead, God dwells within us)


God is not served by human hands because God needs nothing.
(Instead, our everything comes from God)


God made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth.
(We are all connected in the One Creation)


God fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions,
so that people might seek God,
even perhaps grope for him and find him,
though indeed he is not far from any one of us.
(We do grope, sometimes in darkness.)


God has overlooked the times of ignorance,
but now God demands that all people everywhere repent…
(Without Christ, we were in shadows of unknowing. With Christ, we are in Light.)


And my favorite:

Acts17_24 everything

What is the “everything” that God is giving you today? What is the abundance of grace, or hope, or longing in your heart as you pray today? Let God’s fullness embrace any emptiness as you offer God your silence and waiting.


Poetry: Everything – Rumi

Love is
when God says to you
"I have created everything for you",
and you say
"I have left everything for You."

Music: Everything – Lauren Daigle

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 24, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus counsels the disciples as they grieve his impending departure. He assures them that they will be consoled and animated by the Holy Spirit whom he will send to them.

Jn16_7 spiritJPG

We all understand how the disciples feel. They love Jesus. They have been through hell and high water with him. They are comfortable with him. They have learned to be brave with him beside them.

All in all, they can’t imagine going on without him by their side.

Jesus, as he has so often had to tell them, says “You don’t quite get it!”. He explains that there will be no vacuum – that the Divine Presence will forever be with them in the form of the Holy Spirit. They are about to catch fire with the Love between Jesus and the Father! They should rejoice!

Balance Plus Minus

But, you know, it took these disciples three years of see-saw living with Jesus to fully embrace his Presence. It’s going to take more than a speech to kindle in them the full wonder of the Holy Spirit. It’s going to take a lifetime. It’s going to take thousands of little matches striking again and again in their hearts.

Decision by decision, action by action, they must now allow the Spirit to bring God’s Presence to life within them.


Slide1

When Catherine McAuley, the first Sister of Mercy, died, her beloved sisters kneeling at her bedside felt a lot like the disciples in today’s Gospel. How would they carry on the works of mercy without Catherine beside them? But as those of us who never knew Catherine realize, she left a living Spirit burning within those sisters which has descended to all her followers for nearly 200 years.

Within Catherine, as within all faithful disciples of Jesus, the Holy Spirit inspires, generates, and sustains the Presence of God for the sanctification of all Creation. The Spirit pours out over the world in our works of mercy toward all who hunger for Life.


Like the early disciples, we may wish Jesus would come along and cook us a beach breakfast so we could just sit down and talk to him in the flesh. But Jesus tells us today, as he told his disciples:

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send the Spirit to you.

Let us ask for the kind of faith that can believe, see, and sit down with that Holy Spirit in our hearts, catching Her fire, lighting the world with Mercy.


Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
   It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
   It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
   And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
   And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
   There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
   Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
   World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Music: Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God – The Gettys
(with Gabriel’s Oboe from the movie  “The Mission”)

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 23, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Paul ventures for the first time into the area which is now modern Europe. He settles for a while in Philippi, the city which gives its name to my favorite epistle.

Pauls journeys

One morning, Paul, Silas and Timothy went down by the river to pray. There they met Lydia, one of the most influential yet mysterious women of the New Testament.

Lydia

Today’s verses are the only time she is mentioned in the scriptures, and there is no historical documentation about her. Yet, by her support and hospitality, she is likely responsible for the establishment of the Church in Europe and is considered its first convert.


Despite the parcity of information about Lydia, Richard Ascough was able to write a book about her: Lydia: Paul’s Cosmopolitan Hostess

excerpt

Lydia, like many of our foremothers in faith, is hidden in the shadows of a patriarchal history. Sunlight briefly falls on Lydia in this engaging reading from Acts today.

I like to pray with this reading by imagining myself as one of Lydia’s companions, listening to her conversation with Paul, imagining her life as it unfolds into Christian leadership.

As we pray with Lydia today, let’s ask God to lead the Church to a clearer and more committed use of women’s gifts in Church life. Even Pope John Paul II made some small attempts in this direction:

“In this vast domain of service, the Church’s two-thousand-year history, for all its historical conditioning, has truly experienced the ‘genius of woman’; from the heart of the Church there have emerged women of the highest calibre who have left an impressive and beneficial mark in history.” 
John Paul II – “Letter to Women”

But our Church and its women need more than what has been. Let’s ask for women to be welcomed out of the shadows of ecclesial life into an appropriate equity in leadership ministry.


Poetry: Purple – by Kwame Dawes who is a Ghanaian poet, actor, editor, critic, musician, and former Louis Frye Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina. He is now Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and editor-in-chief at Prairie Schooner magazine.

I found his beautiful poem while searching for something on the color purple (in honor of Lydia)


Walking, I drew my hand over the lumpy
bloom of a spray of purple; I stripped away
my fingers, stained purple; put it to my nose,
the minty honey, a perfume so aggressively
pleasant—I gave it to you to smell,
my daughter, and you pulled away as if
I was giving you a palm full of wasps,
deceptions: “Smell the way the air
changes because of purple and green.”
This is the promise I make to you:
I will never give you a fist full of wasps,
just the surprise of purple and the scent of rain.

Music: Patterns of Sun and Shade – Kathryn Kaye

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 22, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings definitely convey the sense of a young Church growing in its self-understanding.

The early Church leaders, most of whom are Jews, grapple with the question of whether new Gentile followers must first be circumcised in order to be baptized.

Over twenty centuries later, the answer seems obvious. But the question nagging the disciples shows us how they experienced their Christianity as emerging from Judaism. They had no concept of the call to Christianity coming in any other way.

It seems it was a huge shift for some of them to realize that God is not Jewish, that God is the God of all peoples – just as some of us today have trouble understanding that God is not Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, male, white, born again or any other human limitation we attach to the Divine.

Rev21_2 Jerusalem

Our second reading reveals how John dealt with navigating this shift. Still cemented in his Jewish symbols, he sees “Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven from God. But it was a new Jerusalem – one without the central symbol of Judaism, the Temple:

I saw no temple in the city
for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.
The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it,
for the glory of God gave it light,
and its lamp was the Lamb.

For John, the New Creation in Christ included, but exceeded the Jewish narrative.

In our Gospel, Jesus prepares his disciples for life without his physical presence. They, too, need to learn to let go. He encourages them to open their hearts to even greater graces:

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.

Jesus is reminding his disciples, and us, that the graces and learnings of the New Creation are infinite. If we can learn when to let go of our old practices, our material symbols, our impregnable sureties, the Holy Spirit will astound us, and re-shape our understanding of God, just as She did for Mary, Peter, Paul, John and all the many enlightened saints through the ages.

As Pentecost approaches, let us pray for such Enlightenment in ourselves and especially in our Church. For the world seems to grow ever more resistant to the Holy Spirit Whose Gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and awe of God.

Let us pray for a New Jerusalem where all are one in God.


Poetry: The Props Assist the House – Emily Dickinson

Dickinson’s poem can be interpreted in many ways, but for me it speaks about spiritual openness. While the symbol of Jerusalem was central in Old Testament faith, the early Christian community is called to open itself to a “New Jerusalem” with all the amazing inspirations of the Holy Spirit. We are called to the same openness in our spiritual life.

The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Auger and the Carpenter —
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life —
A past of Plank and Nail
And slowness — then the Scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul


Music: If you do nothing else with this reflection, please allow yourselves the thrill of listening to the celestial voice of Miss Jessye Norman. (Always gives me goosebumps!)

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 21, 2022

Jn15:18 world

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus talks about “the world”.

That word can cause a little confusion, both as we find it in scripture and in the history of Christian thought.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology says five connotations for “world” may be found in scripture:

  • The physical world – the actual plant Earth
  • The human world – the land and seas we can navigate
  • The moral world – the universe of good and evil
  • The temporal world – the world that will someday end
  • The coming world – eternal existence 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking about the moral world which, in the New Testament, refers to those people who are indifferent and hostile to Christ’s teaching.

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world…
the world hates you.

John 15:18

wolf-clipart-57
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

We understand this use of the word. We see the evil in the world. We are saddened, angered and confounded by it when we recognize it.

But do we always recognize it?

Blatant evils like mass shootings and racial violence are readily recognized. But how do we sincerely act to confrontt and eradicate these evils?

And still, the most insidious evils are those that masquerade as good.

These masquerading evils often pretend to protect our rights, our security, our safety. But they usually do so at the expense of someone else’s rights – the poor, the refugee, the aged, the homeless, people of color……and all who have become “disposable” or invisible in our society.


These deceptions hide behind brave and noble words like “America First”, “Second Amendment Rights”, “Protect Life” and a rash of other slogans which fail to examine the whole impact of single-issue politics. 

It’s confusing because we love America, right? We believe in people’s constitutional rights, right? We respect life, right?

What if our slogans instead more clearly reflected Gospel values:

  • The Human Family First
  • Safety Rights for Everyone
  • Health Security for All Life – Womb to Tomb

How can we be spiritually discerning about what is good within such realities and what is rooted in sinful self-interest? Jesus tells us in these words:

Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.

John 15:18-20

We must look to the one who is hated and persecuted to find the Face of Christ. We must love that Face and learn its heartaches. We must become a companion in their search for wholeness. We must set aside any costume of self-righteousness and put on the garment of Mercy.


from Scripture: I think this passage, as well as divine inspiration, is pure poetry!

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another
if any of you has a grievance against someone.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:14-16


Music: The Mercy Song – Paul Alexander

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 20, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus calls us friends. Just think about that!

Think about what it means to really be a friend.

We might have a little trouble reclaiming the true meaning in today’s culture. After all, in our world, you can be “friends” with thousands of people on Facebook, many of whom you might not even know.

On the other hand, if you have been blessed to have really good friends in your life, consider what created that friendship: love, honesty, acceptance, sacrifice, forgiveness, reverence, trust, fidelity, humor.

This is the kind of relationship to which Jesus invites each one of us – where He is part of us and we of Him..

Jn15_15 Friends

If we listen to Jesus in today’s Gospel, we’ll see clearly what makes us a Friend of God:

  • We love God to the point of laying down our lives.
  • We obey God’s command to love unselfishly and inclusively.
  • We seek ever to know God more fully.
  • We acknowledge God’s love as a blessing and gift, not a right.
  • We act on our responsibility to share the love we have received.

Pope Francis has said that the saints are “Friends of God” because they loved with all their hearts. But he stresses that:

“They are like us; they are like each of us: They are people who, before reaching the glory of heaven, lived a normal life, with joys and griefs,
struggles and hopes….When they recognized the love of God, they
followed him with all their heart, without conditions and hypocrisies.”

“The saints give us a message. They tell us: Be faithful to the Lord, because the Lord does not disappoint! He does not disappoint ever, and he is a good friend, always at our side.”

Pope Francis

Let’s spend some prayer time in thanksgiving for God’s gift of friendship, asking how we might learn to be an even better friend, to love God even more.


Poetry: Neighbor God – Rainer Maria Rilke

You, neighbor God, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.
Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.

Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.

The wall is builded of your images.

They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.

And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.


Music: Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 19, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts allows us to sit in on an early Church “convention”. The dynamics are fascinating, as well as amazingly familiar.

The community is a-bustle with concerns. Paul and Barnabas have been out gathering Gentile converts to the faith. The Jewish Christian community back in Jerusalem feels that these new converts should be required to submit to circumcision as a sign of their conversion. Peter offers an intense, lucid, yet gentle argument to convince the Jerusalem community that this is not necessary.

God, who knows the heart,
bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit
just as he did us.
He made no distinction between us and them,
for by faith he purified their hearts.
Why, then, are you now putting God to the test
by placing on the shoulders of the disciples
a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?

Acts 15:8-10

James, who appears to have influence in the Jerusalem Church, backs Peter up by referring to the prophet Amos who promised the rebuilding of the faith community:

After this I shall return
                        and rebuild the fallen hut of David;
            from its ruins I shall rebuild it
                        and raise it up again,
            so that the rest of humanity may seek out the Lord,
                        even all the Gentiles on whom my name is invoked.
            Thus says the Lord who accomplishes these things,
                        known from of old.

What a perfect reference to help convince the Jewish community that to be a Christian one did not have to also be a Jew nor follow the Old Law.

This passage helps us to be aware of our openness to new inspiration from the Holy Spirit not only in the Church but in our personal lives. God is the great “heart-reader” and knows when we are ready for growth and deepening. “Protecting” our faith with rituals and exercises that have lost meaning can be a way to avoid opening ourselves to conversion and spiritual transformation. The Holy Spirit invites us beyond such false securities:

And God, who knows the heart,
bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit
just as he did us.

Acts 15:8

In our Gospel, Jesus reminds us of all that we need to make our faith — and our joy — complete:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that
my joy might be in you and
your joy might be complete.”

Poetry: Quench Your Heart’s Thirst – Hafiz

I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:

Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
And nose.

Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.

Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
The innocent
And into one’s self.

O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:

You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.

You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.

You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once
Trusted.

I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love’s
Hands.

That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
And Wanting,
Just Wanting to help.

That is why Hafiz says:
Bring your cup near me.
For all I care about
Is quenching your thirst for freedom!

All a Sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love!”


Music: CHANGE MY HEART, O GOD

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 18, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts reveals the tensions in the Church between Jewish and Gentile believers. For the Jews, the ritual of circumcision was a key expression of covenantal faith. Some felt it was necessary for Gentile converts to undergo the ritual in order to become Christians.

Which way is the right way?

Like all start-ups, the Church had many friction points which required decisions about what was essential and what was only customary. Those customs being thousands of years old, the decisions become even harder. Readings later this week describe more conflict points.

Nevertheless, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and despite the venerability of custom, the nascent Church was able embrace a new reality rooted in Christ’s inclusive love.

These kinds of philosophical and theological tugs-of-war have accompanied the Church down through history. Some of them have helped reveal deeper insights into our faith. But, as in all human communities, some of the tugs have been motivated by fear, greed, power, and other selfish interests.

Watching how the early Church handles their particular situation may give us hints about how we should handle them today.


In our Gospel, Jesus makes clear what is essential and inviolable to the faith:

I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.

John 15:1-2
John15_4 Remain

I think “Remain” is a beautiful word. In the dictionary, it will be defined as ‘stay’. But it connotes much more to me.  Re–main asks us not just to choose to stay with Jesus, but to choose it over and over – like reenlist, renew, recommit.

Remain means to endure with the Beloved Vine through every season – winter’s cold and summer’s heat, and all that’s in between.

Remain means “Love Me, stay beside me, even when others fall away.”

May we remain.


Poetry: The Vine – Malcolm Guite

John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

How might it feel to be part of the vine?
Not just to see the vineyard from afar
Or even pluck the clusters, press the wine,
But to be grafted in, to feel the stir
Of inward sap that rises from our root,
Himself deep planted in the ground of Love,
To feel a leaf unfold a tender shoot,
As tendrils curled unfurl, as branches give
A little to the swelling of the grape,
In gradual perfection, round and full,
To bear within oneself the joy and hope
Of God’s good vintage, till it’s ripe and whole.
What might it mean to bide and to abide
In such rich love as makes the poor heart glad?


Music: I Am the Vine – John Michael Talbot