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.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse suggests an amazing consideration- that the Almighty God responds to our human invitation!
Alleluia, alleluia. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening; you have the words of everlasting life.
1 Sm 3:9; Jn 6:68
This humble, hopeful prayer encapsulates themes from each of today’s readings which all use the symbol of a yoke to illustrate their message.
Elisha, and the listeners to both Paul and Jesus understand what a yoke does. It ties the beast of burden to its task. It also ties the one who holds the reins and plow handle.
Although the symbols of ploughing and yoke may be less familiar to us, our readings instruct us that to truly hear God’s voice in our lives we must have a deep freedom from anything that burdens our spirits. How do we do that while living normal human lives with responsibilities, worries and frustrations?
Our verse today might offer us an answer. It all depends on how we perceive our daily lives.
Speak, Lord, your servant is listening; you have the words of everlasting life.
Do we see our life only for itself with all the burdens it might put on us? Or do we see it as the sacred unfolding of an infinitely deeper life – everlasting life?
Elisha’s life was so much more than the field he had to plow that day!
The Galatians lives were so much more than the “biting” arguments that plagued them that day!
Jesus’s invitation to follow him is to so much more than the surface concerns of our lives.
Our life in Christ is a call to live in the deep stream of grace – to live “everlasting life” even within the limits of time’s circumstances.
Doing so changes us. It breaks the yoke that constricts our vision, our hope, our capacity for mercy. It allows us to invite God to speak and to hear God’s voice in our ordinary day. It strengthens us to live with extraordinary love and “everlasting “ grace.
Poetry: from T.S.Eliot’s Ash Wednesday
I have taken a few lines from this long poem of Eliot’s. He wrote it in his later years. He expresses his continuing struggle with living a deep faith. After the excerpt, there is a link to the entire poem. I find Eliot not to be an easy poet, but oh is he ever worth the effort!
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,
time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Mary, blessed mother of Jesus, and thus of us all who have been born anew in him.
Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed is the Virgin Mary who kept the word of God and pondered it in her heart.
What can this beautiful mother teach us, she who kept and pondered the very Word of God?
In order to grow fully in to God’s heart and will, this holy woman held the Word – the way the dough holds yeast to allow its own transformation.
So that she might blossom into the fullness of her own beauty, she caressed faith’s slow-forming bud in the dark protection of her prayer.
Like all of us, Mary was not divine. She was not supernatural. She was an ordinary, good woman who loved God with extraordinary passion.
She spent her days clearing her heart-space of any clutter that would keep her from God. And slowly, that Divine Presence ripened and revealed itself in the flash of an angel wing and the soundless message that would transform all time.
We too, in our particular ways, are asked to allow God the space to imagine Divinity into flesh through our human experience.
Mary believed that God could and would do such a miracle for love of us. She let the Truth of Jesus live, not only in Him, but in her own mother’s life.
This generous mother then became the first disciple, keeping company with Jesus through his Passion, Death and Resurrection
Indeed, we have much to learn from her.
Poetry: Annunciation – Denise Levertov
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always the tall lily. Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings, the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering, whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions courage. The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent. God waited.
She was free to accept or to refuse, choice integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives? Some unwillingly undertake great destinies, enact them in sullen pride, uncomprehending. More often those moments when roads of light and storm open from darkness in a man or woman, are turned away from in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair and with relief. Ordinary lives continue. God does not smite them. But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept like any other child – but unlike others, wept only for pity, laughed in joy not triumph. Compassion and intelligence fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous than any in all of Time, she did not quail, only asked a simple, ‘How can this be?’ and gravely, courteously, took to heart the angel’s reply, perceiving instantly the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb Infinite weight and lightness; to carry in hidden, finite inwardness, nine months of Eternity; to contain in slender vase of being, the sum of power – in narrow flesh, the sum of light. Then bring to birth, push out into air, a Man-child needing, like any other, milk and love –
but who was God.
This was the moment no one speaks of, when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed, Spirit, suspended, waiting.
She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’ Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’ She did not submit with gritted teeth, raging, coerced. Bravest of all humans, consent illumined her. The room filled with its light, the lily glowed in it, and the iridescent wings. Consent, courage unparalleled, opened her utterly.
Music: Two versions of the magnificent “Ave Maria”.
Ave Maria – Franz Schubert – sung by Ms. Jessye Norman, in German as written by Schubert.
( I had the immense privilege and pleasure of meeting and working with the great Jessye Norman when I chaired a UNCF event in Philadelphia many years ago. She, in her own way, was a bit “divine”!)
Ave Maria – Charles Gounod – sung by Ms. Jessye Norman in Latin, as written
Alleluia, alleluia. Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we offer our loving adoration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Who teaches us the boundless humility of God.
Although not today’s reading, this passage from Philippians captures for me the perfect description of God’s humility in Jesus:
Though Jesus was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Creator.
Philippians 2: 6-11
In order to meet our invisible God in prayer, we must imagine God in the ways that most speak to our spirits. For St. Margaret Mary Alacoque that image came in the form of the Sacred Heart, an image which combines both the sacred infinity and the full human heart of Jesus.
Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647 – 1690) was a French Roman Catholic Visitation nun and mystic, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form.
As we pray on this holy feast, may we lean closer and more confidently into the loving heart of Jesus. God loves us enough to do for us what is described in our passage from Philippians. May we fully trust that love and give our own hearts to it.
Poetry: from Rumi inThe Masnavi, an extensive poem written in Persian. The Masnavi is one of the most influential works of Sufism, commonly called “the Quran in Persian”. It has been viewed by many commentators as the greatest mystical poem in world literature. The Masnavi is a series of six books of poetry that together amount to around 25,000 verses or 50,000 lines. It is a spiritual text that teaches Sufis how to reach their goal of being truly in love with God.
Open the Window
There’s a street where the Beautiful One is known to take a stroll.
When a certain radiance is noticed through the latticed windows of that neighborhood,
people whisper, The Beloved must be near.
Listen: open a window to God and breathe. Delight yourself with what comes through that opening.
The work of love is to create a window in the heart,
for the breast is illumined by the beauty of the Beloved.
Gaze incessantly on that Face! Listen, this is in your power, my friend!
Find a way to your innermost secret. Let no other perception distract you.
You, yourself, possess the elixir, so rub it into your skin,
and by this alchemy your inner enemies will become friends.
And as you are made beautiful, the Beautiful One will become your own, the intimate of your once lonely spirit.
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist June 23, 2022 ( usually 6/24)
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist! What a life! What a man!
Alleluia, alleluia. You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
From a little baby leaping in his mother’s womb to the grown man ferociously in love with God, John the Baptist is holy fire in the flesh.
I’ve had a real love for him since my early religious life. Mother Mary Bernard, Mother General in the early 60s, had great devotion to John. She chose June 24th both to receive me and my companions into the community, and to celebrate our First Profession.
I remember Mother talking to us during a retreat leading up to one of these events. She spoke at length about John, emphasizing one particular verse he uttered:
Mother said that coming to understand this verse was what a holy, joyful, and complete life was all about.
Here is a reflection I wrote about John a few years ago.
The Sharp Edge
In John the Baptist, we celebrate the greatest of the prophets, a man whom history has now sanctified in Scripture, statue, painting, and song.
But what might it have been like to know him in time?
Prophets generally make us uncomfortable. Like John, they shake up their family’s routine, sometimes rendering their parents speechless and their neighbors astounded. They might dress oddly, rant a bit, and follow a strange diet. They hang out in inhospitable places. Prophets are the oddities on the edge of our striving for comfort. Someone like John the Baptist would not be the most popular member of your country club.
And yet John the Baptist’s call is one given, in its own particular measure, to every disciple of Christ:
Go to the sharp edge of your existence. That is where you will find the Divine Presence.
Go by way of the inner desert, continually learning the aridity of all that is not God.
Shed the trappings that separate you from the Holy – be they the adoration of wealth, power, or vanity.
Then speak the Truth you have become.
The poet Mary Oliver put it simply this way:
Where will we find the prophets today? At the borders of everything. But they will be building bridges, not walls. They will be inviting the rest of us out of the quagmire of our comfort zones to come see Christ rising on the bright distance of our courage. Today’s prophets, like John, will be pointing away from themselves to the place where Christ waits with His counter-cultural Gospel – among those who are poor, weakened by the world, among the marginalized who live at life’s sharp edge where Grace is most accessible because it is all there is.
The wonderful Baptist, robed in his camel hair, eating locusts, shouting and throwing people into the Jordan! The greatest of the prophets calls down the hills of time to us today: “Behold One is coming after me. Prepare your hearts! Do not miss Him!”
Poetry: John the Baptist – Kelly Chripczuk
He didn’t see it, but felt it through the darkness of his mother’s womb, the flame that baptized drawn close enough to singe his foot, which caused him to leap. The wild fire caught and grew, ruining him for a life of conformity. So he moved to the wilderness somewhere near the river’s edge where others were drawn by the smoldering flame. He doused them each with water, warning them one-by-one of the fire to come. Later, when he leapt from this world to the next, leaving his head behind, he was greeted by the fellowship of the flame – Isaiah with his charred black lips, Miriam who danced like a flickering wick, and the others, too many now to name together they glowed like so many embers, lighting the long, dark night.
Visit Kelly’s wonderful website ” The Contemplative Life” at:
Music: BWV30 Cantata for Nativity of St John the Baptist – Karl Richter conducting
Aria (S, A, T, B)
Joyful be, O ransomed throng, Joyful be in Zion’s dwellings. Thy well-being hath henceforth Found a sure and solid means Thee with bliss and health to shower.
We have our rest, The burden of the law Has been removed. Nought shall from this repose distract us, Which our belovéd fathers oft Had sought with yearning and with hope. Come forth, Be joyful all, whoever can, And raise to pay their God due honor A song of praise, And all the heav’nly choir, Yea, sing in glad accord!
All praise be to God, all praise for his name’s sake, Who faithfully keepeth his promise and vow! His faithful servant hath been born now, Who long had for this been elected, That he the Lord his way prepare.
The herald comes and sounds the king’s approach, He calls; so tarry not And get ye up, And with a lively pace Rush to this voice’s call! It shows the way, it shows the light By which we on those blessed pastures At last may surely gaze with wonder.
Come, ye sorely tempted sinners, Haste and run, O Adam’s children, This your Savior calls and cries! Come forth, ye like sheep that wander, Rise ye up from sin-filled slumber, For now is the hour of grace!
Chorale (S, A, T, B)
There a voice of one is crying In the desert far and wide, Leading mankind to conversion: For the Lord the way prepare, Make for God a level path, All the world should henceforth rise, Every valley shall be lifted, That the mountains may be humbled.
If thou dost then, my hope, intend That law which thou didst make With our forefathers to maintain And in thy gracious might o’er us to reign, Then will I set with utmost care On this my purpose: Thee, faithful God, at thy command In holiness and godly fear to live.
I will detest now And all avoid Which thee, my God, doth cause offense.
I will thee not cause sadness, Instead sincerely love thee, For thou to me so gracious art.
And even though the fickle heart In human weakness is innate, Yet here and now let this be said: So oft the rosy morning dawns, So long one day the next one lets ensue, So long will I both strong and firm Through thine own Spirit live, My God, entirely for thine honor. And now shall both my heart and voice According to thy covenant With well deservéd praise extol thee.
Haste, ye hours, come to me, Bring me soon into those pastures!
I would with the holy throng To my God an altar raise, In the tents of Kedar offered,(1) Where I’ll give eternal thanks.
Forbear, the loveliest of days Can no more far and distant be, When thou from every toil Of imperfection’s earthly burdens, Which thee, my heart, doth now enthrall, Wilt come to have thy perfect freedom. Thy hope will come at last, When thou with all the ransomed spirits, In that perfected state, From death here of the body wilt be freed, And there thee no more woe will torment.
Aria (S, A, T, B)
Joyful be, O hallowed throng, Joyful be in Zion’s pastures!
Of thy joyful majesty, Of thy full contentment’s bliss Shall all time no end e’er witness.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the beautiful word “Remain“. Jesus’s use of the word indicates that we are already in God, in the heart of Jesus. All we have to do is to remain there by our choice to live in grace.
Alleluia, alleluia. Remain in me, as I remain in you, says the Lord; whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.
The Alleluia Verse also blesses us with the assurance that Jesus chooses to remain in us! Wow! What an astounding gift! Just hold it in your heart for a while in prayerful gratitude.
Our verse, with its profound confidences, leads to a no-nonsense Gospel in which Jesus makes discipleship clear:
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them
Matthew 7: 18-20
A Quote and a Scientific Explanation:
Quote from John Bunyan. This quote reminds us that in order for the soul to bear fruit, it must experience some cold and dark times as well
It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear no fruit because there is no winter there.
Scientific Explanation from Carnegie Museum of Natural History:
Many of our fruit and nut trees require a cold period to produce fruit. Without cold this winter, we won’t have fruit this fall. If our fruit trees don’t get enough cold, then the flower buds may not open in the spring. If the flower buds don’t open, they can’t get pollinated
I wanted to offer something extra to celebrate the Summer/Winter Solstice. Here are two reflections I recorded last year for our Mercy Associates during their retreat. I hope you enjoy whichever video works for you.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse illumines us — in every sense of that magical word!
After negotiating the melodic polysyllabic names (Sennacherib and Hezekiah) of our first readings, and their accompanying drama, our verse comes as a welcome assurance
Alleluia, alleluia. I am the light of the world, says the Lord; whoever follows me will have the light of life.
Jesus is both the Light to guide us, and as our Gospel assures us, the Way we are looking for.
Have you ever arrived someplace in the dark, unsure of the terrain or the footpath to the front door? Maybe, like me, you have a flashlight on your cellphone that you use to guide your way.
Well, no disrespect or diminution intended, but Jesus and the Gospel are that flashlight!
And it turns out that, in one of those twists of faith, Jesus and the Gospel are also the path we are searching for.
As we pray with this verse today, we are all somewhere on the sometimes shadowy path. Friends, let’s use the flashlight that faith has given us. Let’s walk the path that will reveal itself in our faithful trust.
Poetry: Ode to Enchanted Light – Pablo Neruda
Under the trees light has dropped from the top of the sky, light like a green latticework of branches, shining on every leaf, drifting down like clean white sand. A cicada sends its sawing song high into the empty air. The world is a glass overflowing with water.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our verse reminds us that God knows us completely, better than we know ourselves.
Alleluia, alleluia. The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
If we want to align ourselves with the truth that God sees and loves in us, there is a simple way. We can immerse ourselves in scriptural prayer, bathing our hearts in the Word. Within that wash of grace, our true selves are revealed and released into the gentle love and mercy of God.
As our Gospel indicates, when we deepen in that core integrity, we become more like God Who does not judge, but instead always loves. As Matthew said in a chapter preceding today’s:
Be perfect (compassionate) as your Heavenly Father is perfect (compassionate).
Prose – Rev. Vima Dasan, SJ
The word “perfect” represents the Hebrew word for “whole” or “integral”. This verse is conflated from Dt 18:13 where the word “holy” is used. It is the love of one’s enemies that assures the integrity of Christian morality distinguishing it from merely ethical morality. It is by this love of one’s enemies that we come nearer to the perfection of God’s own compassion. The special aspect of perfection in this verse therefore is not moral perfection so much as perfection in kindness, sympathy and generosity.
If someone does some good to me, I do him or her some good in return. This is conventional. But Jesus’ followers are not to remain content with conventional standards of goodness. Jesus expects us to go still further. Even if one does harm to me, I must do that person good in turn. It is only after saying, “If you confine your good deeds to your own kith and kin, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Mt 5:47), that Jesus adds, “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Why should the disciples of Jesus repay evil with good? Because, God himself sets us an example in this regard, by bestowing his gifts both on the just and the unjust. It is in this respect, we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the most intimate and sacred feast of “Corpus Christi”, as we called it in our Latinized “old days”. In those days, we tried very hard to celebrate the feast in the best way we knew how — processions, hymns, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Yet nothing did, nor ever will, come close to capturing the mystery we honor on this holy day.
Alleluia, alleluia. I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord; whoever eats this bread will live forever.
The items of faith contained in this short verse are earth-shattering. We are asked to believe that Jesus
came down from heaven
is the visible Presence of the infinite Love of God
lives on with in the Eucharist and in the community of the Church
grants us a share in eternal life
and is present to us beyond time, space, and appearances
The mystery of the Body of Christ/Living Bread is infinite and profound. Great minds such as Pierre Teilhard deChardin spent entire lives plumbing its depths.
When one understands how physical and immediate is the omni-influence of Christ, the vigor assumed by every detail of the Christian life is quite astonishing; it gains an emphasis never dreamt of by those who are frightened of the realistic view of the mystery of the Incarnation.
Take charity, for example, that complete change of attitude so insistently taught by Christ. It has nothing in common with our colorless philanthropy, but represents the essential affinity which brings human beings closer together, not in the superficial sphere of sensible affections or earthly interests, but in building up the pleroma (the fullness of God in Creation.).
The possibility, and even the obligation of doing everything for God are no longer based solely on the virtue of obedience, or solely on the moral value of intention; they can be explained, in short, only by the marvelous grace, instilled into every human effort, no matter how material, of effectively cooperating, through its physical result, in the fulfillment of the body of Christ.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in Christianity and Evolution
As I pray this rather heady passage from de Chardin, I reflect on these thoughts:
All Creation generates from God and returns to God in the fullness of Love.
Jesus Christ is the visible gift of that Love born into our human story.
By our faith in Jesus, and our choice to participate in his life, we become part of the ongoing perfection of Creation.
The Body of Christ, once present in the flesh in time, now sanctifies Creation through our lives, united in the Bread of Life.
No poetry today. Slowly read and re-read the passage from de Chardin. Find it’s message for you … perhaps just a word or a phrase:
the omni-influence of Christ
charity, …. that complete change of attitude so insistently taught by Christ
nothing in common with our colorless philanthropy
building up the fullness of God in Creation
the marvelous grace… of effectively cooperating … in the fulfillment of the Body of Christ