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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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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, June 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 92, the only psalm in the Hebrew Bible assigned to a particular day – Shabbat. Combined with our readings, especially Ezekiel, it invites us to heartfelt prayer.

Shabbat (שַׁבָּת; related to Hebrew verb “cease, rest”) is the seventh day of the Jewish week and is the day of rest and abstention from work as commanded by God. Shabbat involves two interrelated commandments: to remember (zachor) and to observe (shamor).

from jewishvirtuallibrary.org

Psalm 92 captures the spirit we hope for in all our Sundays- peace, reflective gratitude, patient hope, recognized blessing. It is a time to remember God’s goodness to us and to reflect on God’s presence.


But, as you may know, I write these reflections a day ahead. And my Saturday morning was anything but “Shabbatish”! I stayed up too late last night, slept too late this morning, and had to handle an early grocery order. To top it all off, a glass exploded in my housemate’s face as she emptied the dishwasher! (She’s fine, but it was like lightening hit our kitchen.)

It all left me a little distracted!


I tell you this to say that – yes – prayer comes begrudgingly when we don’t make the space for it.

But when we do take a breath and quiet ourselves, it can be amazingly generous.

Over time, the seeds of a consistently prayerful life will bear fruit even under challenging conditions. As Jesus tells us today:

It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.


Our #92 psalmist prays that kind of a prayer today. Here’s the way I read it with my heart:

It is good to give thanks to you LORD,
    to sing praise to your name, Beloved,
To proclaim your kindness at daybreak,
and even later if I miss its rising!
    To know your faithfulness
even in my distractions.

You let my prayer bear fruit 
even in the shade of time and its pressures,
    my faith to be vigorous and sturdy.
I sing of your goodness,LORD,
    You, my Steady Love who is always faithful.


Poetry: The Spirit’s Whispers by Colten Biro, S.J.

If only my words were 
poised, precise, perfect ballerinas.
If only they could pirouette on a point,

Holding a pose, arresting rapt attention,
Meaning twirling out past paradox of The Ineffable,
convincing the very orbit of the Son to stop and listen,
to nothing more significant—than me.

If only my words were quick, sharp, exact,
halting in the air for emphasis and recognition.
All of which calm, careful, and controlled.
All of which holding the attention of the Heavens,
interrupting an unceasing song of seraphim and cherubim.

If only my words were anything, 
but garbled, goofy, grating,
and less akin to rodeo clowns than en pointe figurines.
But they are bumbling and boisterous, 
dancing dunces, 
threading a thin, thimble-like thought
that the gait of my racing heart
could avoid running into either 
lines of bull—or truth too true.
Which means my words, in effect, 
avoid bearing my very heart, directly to You.

If only the words, with a gentle extension
and a faint flourish, could entwine:
        my desires—Your Will. 
        my loneliness—Your Presence.
        my pain—the Resurrection.
      my disquiet—Your Peace.

Completing a grand jete,
coupling cacophonous 
concepts midair—and mid-heart.

And yet, 
my words
don’t dance
or sing
at all.

So, I don’t speak.
My words don’t waltz, so much as whimper.
And my seat here in the pew feels too quiet
in the muffled silence of the sanctuary.

Maybe, Lord, You have the words 
I can perfectly perform,
to cry anything but Abba.
Which for now,
is the only word I pray,
while paralyzed in the repeating echoes
of my pointless pirouetting.


Music: Vento di Passioni – James Horner

As we pray today, may a flight of prayerful gratitude spring from our spirits!

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, a well-known and loved hymn of praise. It is a fitting psalm for today’s feast which unites us with Mary as we pray.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all the benefits of the Lord.

Psalm 103:1

Mary lived much of her life in the actual presence of God, in the person of Jesus her Son. And no doubt, she received this holy proximity as a surpassing gift.

But even more importantly, Mary lived her whole life in total awareness of God – before and after Jesus was present with her.


There is a practice many of us learned as children called “Blessing the Hour”. The prayer goes like this:

Let us remember the holy presence of God
Let us adore God’s Divine Majesty.

Sometimes a classmate was assigned to watch the clock and ring a little bell to trigger our prayer. We needed a reminder, every hour, that our whole life is held in the Breath of God.


But Mary always remembered. She lived so completely within God’s promise of mercy that she became the vessel of its accomplishment.

My soul proclaims your greatness, O God, 
and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior. 
For you have looked with favor upon your lowly servant, 
and from this day forward all generations will call me blessed.
For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me, 
and holy is your Name.
 
Your mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear you.
You have shown strength with your arm; 
you have scattered the proud in their conceit; 
you have deposed the mighty from their thrones 
and raised the lowly to high places.
You have filled the hungry with good things, 
while you have sent the rich away empty.
 
You have come to the aid of Israel your servant, 
mindful of your mercy
—the promise you made to our ancestors―
to Sarah and Abraham and their decendants forever.

So today, like Mary, let us remember the holy Presence of God in our every moment –

  • the Lord who is kind and merciful.
  • and pardons all our iniquities,
  • and heals all our ills
  • and redeems our life from destruction,
  • and crowns us with kindness and compassion

Psalm 103:2-3,8


Poetry: John O’Donohue, ‘The Annunciation’, in Conamara Blues

Cast from afar before the stones were born
And rain had rinsed the darkness for colour,
The words have waited for the hunger in her
To become the silence where they could form.
The day’s last light frames her by the window,
A young woman with distance in her gaze,
She could never imagine the surprise
That is hovering over her life now.
The sentence awakens like a raven,
Fluttering and dark, opening her heart
To nest the voice that first whispered the earth
From dream into wind, stone, sky and ocean.
She offers to mother the shadow’s child;
Her untouched life becoming wild inside.

Music: In His Presence – Sandi Patty

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Friday, June 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Isaiah for our Responsorial Psalm:

God indeed is my savior;
    I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
    who has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
    at the fountain of salvation.

Isaiah 12:2-3

This fountain of salvation is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


I woke up before dawn today. Not really wanting to formally begin my day, I lingered on the pillows for my early morning prayer. Having always loved this feast, I began placing all my suffering loved ones into Jesus’s heart – one by one, asking for their strength and healing.

The list was long, because there are all kinds of suffering, and I love a lot of people – even ones I don’t know personally! Finally I said to Jesus, “You know, life is HARD!” 

And in my spirit, I heard this answer,
“I know. I lived it for the love of every one of you.”

To me, this is the meaning
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
– that merciful companionship
which Infinity assumed for us
in the person of Jesus Christ.

That fountain of love and mercy continues to nourish our lives in the Eucharistic community of faith practicing the works of mercy. We are the threads which bind one other to God’s heart.


Paul knew this. That’s why he prayed this beautiful prayer for his beloved Ephesian community. Our second reading offers an example of Paul’s magnificent benedictions and doxologies. As he prays for the Ephesians, so he prays for us. These prayers are exalted, yet simple. They thrill the soul who prays them. They place us, in awe and thanksgiving, fully in the divinely generous, Sweet Heart of Christ.

Let’s pray for our beloveds today and for the world:

For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


Music: Two songs today:

Threads – by David Leonard

We beseech the Sacred Heart today that all who suffer any kind of fragmentation may find tenderness, wholeness, and comfort in him.
(To hear the song, click on “Watch on YouTube” in the black clock below.)

This one is old school, but it still works for me:

Sacred Heart of Jesus – James Kilbane

Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85 and its enchanting metaphors for heavenly bliss:

  • glory dwells with us
  • kindness and truth meet
  • justice and peace kiss.
  • truth springs out of the earth,
  • justice looks over heaven’s edge

Our souls long for such an environment, don’t they?

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that the way to find it is to remove the veil from our hearts:

… whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed.
Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, 
there is freedom.
All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
as from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18
Edited in Prisma app with Tears

Our prayer with Psalm 85 today might echo that of Rev. Christine Robinson, Minister Emerita of the First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

O God, you have given us a beautiful earth—
Grant us the wisdom to use it well.
Lead us to an inner life in which we can rejoice.
Speak peace to us, that we may live in peace.
May your mercy and truth meet together
Righteousness and peace kiss each other,
Surrounding us with your light.
Help us know true prosperity,
And be gentle with your Earth.
Guide our feet in the ways of peace.

Poetry: Lift Not the Painted Veil – Percy Bysshe Shelley

The advice in this poem by Shelley is a rather gloomy antithesis of Paul’s advice to the Corinthians (kind of like looking at the negative instead of the photograph, for those of us who remember the non-digital dream 😉) Still, the poem’s images offer much to think about if we choose not to “lift the veil”.


Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,-behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.

I knew one who had lifted it-he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

Music: Layers of Tranquility- Karunesh

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25 which is our Alleluia Verse.

Psalm 25, in total, is a psalm of lament. But today’s single phrase is a golden thread in an otherwise somber weave. It is a simple act of faith and dependence on God. It is the yielding of one’s life into God’s unfolding promise.


Praying with this psalm today, I am nostalgic. On June 9th, 58 years ago, I graduated from high school.

I guess for some, high school graduation isn’t a remarkable or memorable event. But for me, and the two other young women in this photo, it was a time of earth-shaking choices and profound commitments. It was a moment in our personal stories that would shape our lives forever – we had decided to become Sisters of Mercy.


Every life has one – or likely a few – such moments. They are the hinges on which our life story revolves. Praying gratefully with them helps us to recognize God’s enduring Presence in our lives and to rejuvenate our faith. 

When you get as old as I am, the accumulation of gratitude is overwhelming and the trust in God’s continued abiding is assuring.

Robert Frost seems to have been having such a prayer when he wrote his beloved poem. Maybe it will help your prayer today or at some other date of holy reminiscence in your life.


Poetry: The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Music: The Magnificat Medley – John Michael Talbot

I chose this song today for two reasons.

  1. It is the verse in our Responsorial Psalm:

Holy is the Lord our God.

Psalm 99:7

2. The Magnificat was such a moment in Mary’s life.

Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119, a repeated favorite on the blog – you might like to re-visit any of the 13 entries:


Today, let’s pray with 119 in the light of Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, … 
was not “yes” and “no,” but always “YES”.
God’s promises … find their “Yes” in him.

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

Here’s what those slightly cryptic but profoundly meaningful phrases mean to me.

No doubt, sometime in your life you have heard someone powerful say “No” to you. Or perhaps life itself has said it with some insurmountable limitations.

It is in those moments that we truly understand what “Yes” means because it has eluded us!

That meaning takes various forms depending on our circumstances. “Yes” can mean freedom, love, mercy, forgiveness, renewal, possibility, hope, fulfillment.

And “Yes” is always a beginning … a mystery that longs to be unfurled, unpeeled – like this beautiful red onion ( that I bought yesterday for a salad that turned into a reflection!)


Psalm 119 “unpeels” the layers of our relationship with God. Here’s how I hear it in my prayer:

O Lovely God,
You are wonderful.
You are my Light.
You amaze me
by the “Yes” of your Love.
You fire my spirit
to love You in return.

Lavish Mercy, turn to me
because I love You.
Steady me in my shadows.
Draw my “yes” 
into the Light 
of your beautiful Face.

based on Psalm 119:129-135

Poem: love is a place – e.e.cummings 

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

Music: The Beauty We Love

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, June 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34, filled with lovely images assuring us of God’s abiding mercy. This mercy moves the psalmist to promise perpetual praise – that means “no matter what”!

I will bless the LORD at all times;
    praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
    the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Psalm 34:2-3

By telling about God’s loving intervention in our lives, the psalmist invites everyone to join in praise:

Glorify the LORD with me,
    let us together extol God’s name.
I sought the LORD who answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:4-5

I’m not so sure it’s an easy thing to rejoice in another’s blessing when we ourselves are feeling overlooked by God. But that’s the whole point of the psalm. It is WE who feel overlooked, not God who is overlooking. 

It is as if we have turned our back to a brilliant sun and complained how cloudy it is. The psalmist says, “Stop that … turn your self around.

Look to God that you may be radiant with joy,
    and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the suffering one called out, the LORD heard,
    and from all distress was saved. 

Psalm 34:6-7

Notice that they were not saved from suffering but from distress. Such salvation rests in the confidence that, even in suffering, we are never alone; that when we take refuge in God, palpable blessing ensues.

The angel of the LORD encamps
    around those who reverence God, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
    blessed the one who takes refuge in God’s embrace.

Psalm 34:8-9

Surely Psalm 34 calls us
to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes
which we can savor in today’s Gospel.

Poetry: Safe Harbor by Robert B. Shaw


Music: Two songs suggested themselves today. Here are both🤗 Enjoy!

Multiplied by needtobreathe
(notice the radiant diamonds)

Psalm 34 – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

I sought the Lord
And He answered me
And delivered me
From every fear
Those who look on Him
Are radiant
They'll never be ashamed
They'll never be ashamed

This poor man cried
And the Lord heard me
And saved me from
My enemies
The Son of God
Surrounds His saints
He will deliver them
He will deliver them

Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Oh taste and see
That the Lord is good
Oh blessed is he
Who hides in Him
Oh fear the Lord
Oh all you saints
He'll give you everything
He'll give you everything

Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever

Let us bless the Lord
Every day and night
Never ending praise
May our incense rise

Let us bless the Lord
Every day and night
Never ending praise
May our incense rise

Let us bless the Lord
Every day and night
Never ending praise
May our incense rise
Every day and night
Never ending praise
May our incense rise

Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Oh taste and see
That the Lord is good
He'll give you everything
He'll give you everything

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Sunday, June 6, 202

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. 

We just called it “Corpus Christi” when I was young. Many of us, of a “certain age”, will remember the extravagant processions through our childhood neighborhoods, the garmented priest carrying the elevated monstrance.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades leads the procession as it leaves St. Thomas church in Elkhart Indiana Sunday June 18, 2017. Today’s Catholic Photo/Joe Raymond)

Little children and adults accompanied the journeying Christ who blessed our neighbors, families, businesses and playgrounds.

Although, for some, such devotional practices have changed since that time, I was still deeply moved when, during the depth of the current pandemic, Pope Francis stood alone to raise the monstrance in blessing over a starkly empty St. Peter’s Square.

Certainly, all our neighborhoods today could use such a blessing. And, it is we – the People of God and living Body of Christ – who must carry Christ’s Presence to our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and commonplaces.


Our Responsorial Psalm today offers us this question:

How shall I make a return to the LORD
    for all the good God has done for me?

Psalm 116:12

Maybe this is one way to hear that question on this Feast:

How will I carry Christ into my world today?

Poetry: Love’s Choice by Malcolm Guite

This bread is light, dissolving, almost air,
A little visitation on my tongue,
A wafer-thin sensation, hardly there.

This taste of wine is brief in flavour, flung
A moment to the palate’s roof and fled,
Even its aftertaste a memory.

Yet this is how He comes. 
Through wine and bread
Love chooses to be emptied into me.

He does not come in unimagined light
Too bright to be denied, too absolute
For consciousness, too strong for sight,

Leaving the seer blind, the poet mute;
Chooses instead to seep into each sense,
To dye himself into experience.

Music: Pange Lingua written by St. Thomas Aquinas

Memorial of Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the final prayer of Tobit for our Responsorial Psalm.

The Church has  followed Tobit’s story for a little over a week. We have seen a man who, even through his dramatic ups and downs, remains a steadfast believer. 

For Tobit, the exigencies of his life do not dictate the intensity of his faith. Rather, that intense faith fuels his response to life.

The Lord scourges and then has mercy;
    casts down to the depths of the nether world,
    and brings up from the great abyss.
No one can escape the Lord’s hand.
So now consider what the Lord has done for you,
    and give praise with full voice.
Bless the Lord of righteousness,
    and exalt the King of ages.

Tobit 13: 2,6

Tobit realized that his faith stood as a sign to others. He preached by his attitude in life, not so much by his words:

In the land of my exile I praise him
    and show his power and majesty to a sinful nation.

Tobit 13:7

Written from a place of exile, the Book of Tobit gives us good advice to sustain faith in our own small “exiles”. Always bless and praise God. Find the points of light and joy. Cling to and celebrate them.

Bless the Lord, all you his chosen ones,
    and may all of you praise his majesty.
Celebrate days of gladness, and give the Lord praise.

Tobit 13:8

Tobit is a make-believe person. But our Gospel shows us a real woman who embodies the simple, steadfast faith which the Book of Tobit preaches. She also preached with her actions rather than her words.

Although she had little, she lived out of her abundance not her scarcity. That abundance was fired by the God she believed in and trusted, as was the faith of apocryphal Tobit.

As we pray with Tobit and the widow, we might share with them our own faith, both its strengths and it weaknesses, asking to draw inspiration and courage from their stories.


Poetry: This Place of Abundance – Catherine of Siena
~ from Love Poems from God – Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
by Daniel Ladinsky

We know nothing until we know everything.
    I have no object to defend
    for all is of equal value
    to me.

I cannot lose anything in this
place of abundance
I found.

    If something my heart cherishes
    is taken away,
    I just say, “Lord, what
    happened?”

And a hundred more
appear.

Music: Live Like You’re Loved – Hawk Nelson

Friday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

June 4, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, a song of uninhibited delight and thanksgiving to God.

Coming after our reading from Tobit, we see just what such utter delight looks like.

That “angelic fish gall” re-lit the world for Tobit in a way he had never imagined before!


Sometimes we too have to experience a profound blindness before we really begin to see rightly. Let’s be honest: haven’t we all been blind a few times in our lives.

  • Blessings unrecognized
  • Friendships taken for granted
  • Kindnesses overlooked
  • People misjudged 
  • Needs ignored
  • Expectations unsurrendered 
  • Biases unexamined
  • Opportunities bypassed
  • Perhaps even responsibilities shirked

Praying with Psalm 146, we might take note of those whom the Lord favors:

the oppressed, the hungry. captives, those who are bowed down; 
the just, strangers, orphans and widows

These favored of God share a common trait – a vulnerability learned through suffering.


None of us seeks suffering in our lives. But we all will encounter it personally at least to some degree. Further, all in the community of faith are called to share the sufferings of others by our works of mercy.

In both instances, can we allow suffering to let us see the world differently, to lift the scales of any blindness in our hearts? Because here is the beautiful mystery: the God of Mercy is with us in our lights and shadows — and is always Light.

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
    I will praise the LORD all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God while I live. 

Psalm 146:1

Poetry: God Pours Light – Hafiz

God
pours light
into every cup,
quenching darkness.
The proudly pious
stuff their cups with parchment
and critique the taste of ink
while God pours light
and the trees lift their limbs
without worry of redemption,
every blossom a chalice.
May I seduce those withered souls
with words that wet their parched lips
as light
pours like rain
into every empty cup
set adrift on the Infinite Ocean.


Music: Amazing Grace – Leo Rojas