Mercy Surrounds Us

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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Open to Hope

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, each of our readings talks, in some way, about hope and second efforts.

Gen8_6 hatch

Dear old Noah, getting cabin fever after nearly forty days with hundreds of animals, opens the hatch he has built into his ark. His action is a sign of hope. He sends a raven out to test if his hope is justified.

Alas, the raven finds no place to land.  So Noah tries a few more times by launching a dove through the hopeful hatch, until finally the dove returns with an olive leaf – the first sign of renewed Creation.

In our Gospel, even Jesus has to give his miracle a second try! The first time around, the blind man sees “walking trees”. So Jesus gives it a second shot, this time without spittle. The story is so human and so hopeful in God’s power!

These stories encourage us to pray with immovable hope for the things we need; to open the hatch of our heart and wait for the olive leaf; to trust that God will give us, in God’s own beautiful form, the perfect answer to our prayer.

Music: Beautiful Things ~ Gungor

The Ark of Your Hearts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021919.cfm

duck
Sent to me this morning by my beautiful niece in Atlanta where they are having rain

Today, in Mercy, and for the next few days we have the story of Noah. It’s both a terrifying and delightful story. 

It is frightening to think of the earth inundated by flood, all Creation wiped out because of the Creator’s disappointment! 

But it is delightful to think of these thousands of animal couples, holding hands, paws, fins or tentacles and skipping into Noah’s big boat.

In this passage, the writer imbues God with the same emotions and responses we have when our project fails mightily. We crumple it up, press delete, throw it in the garbage disposal, or smash it on the ground. In Genesis, God decides to “erase by flood”.

Despite the woeful drama, the story is filled with hope. God has not completely given up. He just wants to start over again.

Throughout the voluminous rest of scripture, God starts over with us innumerable times. Think of the Prodigal Son, the Adulterous Woman, Joseph and his Brothers.  Forgiveness and new beginnings are the story of our relationship with a God Who loves us too much to let us fail.

So, if your faith life is a little stormy just now, take refuge in the “ark of your heart” – your trust, hope and faith in God. Pray for fairer weather and believe that God will send it. Ask for the eyes to recognize it when it comes.

Music: Eye of the Storm ~ Ryan Stevenson (a little bit country, but the message works)

Does God Love Theodore McCarrick?

I can’t imagine why, can you? McCarrick has lived a reprehensible life hidden in the cloak of ecclesiastical superiority. His sins are disgusting, wrought upon the innocence of children and vulnerable young men. His pretense enrages us, rendering us fools for the honor and respect paid him.

McCarrick_shame

McCarrick has become a symbol for the ghastly swath of sexual scandal running through the institutional Church’s core. He represents a misplaced faith, the distortion of clericalism, the corruption of trust, and the poisonous fruit of chauvinistic sexism in our culture.

He is a pathetic man with a failed life. But does God love him?

The answer is so important:

  • because we hate in McCarrick what we hate in our Church – the institutionalized distortion of power in the name of faith.
  • because if God does not love him, we have no need to forgive him
  • because if God does love him, and forgive him, so must we
  • because if we forgive him, we must forgive our Church
  • because we must work to redeem and rebuild what we have forgiven

I don’t know Theodore McCarrick. I never met him or even thought of him. But when his crimes surfaced, I lost sleep over him. In this one man, all my mortal disappointment in our Church took flesh. All my heartbroken anger found a face to glare at, a life to scorn.

And then I looked at his picture. By some unexpected grace, I saw him for what he is – a broken, pitiable, failed old man whom God still loves. Seeing this, I saw our fractured, corrupted Church in a different light … the pale light of hope that it, too, might be redeemed.

If Theodore McCarrick’s life counts for anything positive among us, perhaps this is it.

My Brother’s Keeper

Monday, February 18, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Genesis tells the story of the first murder. Driven by jealousy and resentment, Cain takes the life of his own brother, Abel. Cain then denies any responsibility for the crime with the now oft-repeated line:

Am I my brother’s keeper?

Gen 2_4 Cain

God’s outrage is the answer to Cain’s question. God bans Cain from the soil which had been his livelihood, because that same soil now cries out with Abel’s blood.

The account is appalling and traumatic. We have gotten so used to hearing it that we may be immune to the abomination. Brother turned against brother. God’s gift of life and hope taken irrevocably in a moment of selfish anger. All of First Creation must have fallen on its knees in sadness and shock at this primal crime.

Friends, as you pray today, pick up the newspaper. See Cain’s crime repeated over and over again as humanity becomes more and more desensitized to its horror. We have even devolved to the point that some murders are “legal” under the pseudonyms of war, abortion, genocide, and capital punishment. Our culture is rife with the abuse of life in so many forms that we have become hardened to its reality just to protect our souls.

When Jesus meets such hardness of heart in our Gospel, he refuses to give them a sign of his power. He just walks away.

Let us pray that God will not walk away from our desensitized generation – that he will give us a sign of grace to open our eyes.

Music: Kyrie Eleison Lord, have mercy) ~ Michael Hoppè
(Visuals appear to be filmed at Normandy, soil filled with the blood of those who died on D-Day)

P.S. I am sending a second reflection later today that has been heavily on my mind. I hope some of you find a spiritual benefit in it.

Got Troubles? Try These!

Sunday, February  17, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, hidden in our readings, are three challenges.

Where do we put our

faith

and

hope

How do we

love

?


In our Jeremiah reading, an unfortunate person has placed faith in an untrustworthy “friend”, and the results – typical of Jeremiah – are dire. But the prophet goes on to say that the one who puts trust and faith in the Lord will flourish like a tree near running water.

Jer17_7 tree

In the reading from Corinthians, Paul has some strong words about hope:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.

That sentence is powerful! It can be a life-long meditation.

In other words, where is our hope focused? Do we hope for comfort, success, healing, peace only for this earthly life? If so, we are missing the point, Paul says. Our one true hope is to be united with God in eternal life and our choices should lead to that fulfillment.

In our Gospel, Jesus shows us how to love by placing before us the “least ones” whom he loves best. We too are to love and comfort those who are poor, hungry, bereaved and despised by the heartless.

Today’s readings invite us to look at our life. Is it blossoming with joy, grace and spiritual vitality? Or are we struggling with all the doubts, worries, dramas and depression that come from a self-absorbed life?

Maybe, like me, you sometimes look at a person carrying great difficulty in their lives and wonder at their joy. How can they maintain that trust and joy in the midst of their challenges? These readings offer an answer. They have put their faith and hope in the right place. They have learned to love like God.

Music: Faith, Hope and Love ~ David Ogden ( Lyrics below.)

Faith, hope, and love: let these remain among you.
Faith, hope, and love: the greatest of these is love.

The love of Christ has gathered us together; let us rejoice and be glad in him.
Let us fear and love the living God, and love each other from the depths of the heart.

When we are together, we should not be divided in mind;
Let there be an end to bitterness and quarrels, and in our midst be Christ our God.

In company with the blessed, may we see your face in glory,
pure and unbounded joy for ever and ever.

I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.
Faith, hope, and love, let these remain among you.
Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love.

Genesis – Get Out of My Garden!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

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in every age

Today, in Mercy, Adam and Eve get to “pay the piper”. Now, they have to answer to God for the delicious, forbidden bite!

And God is tough on them! No hint of that “lavish mercy”! Of course, the writer(s) of Genesis had to fold a lot of explanations into this story such as:

  • why we feel body shame
  • why we are estranged from nature
  • why women suffer labor
  • why men work hard to no avail
  • why we die

We know that these explanations were written originally to meet the questions of an ancient culture. They were told and retold in the form of a story with all that structure’s inherent possibilities and handicaps.

Some of us are inclined to accept “story” only as history, demanding that the events recount specific concrete people and interactions. In other words, we demand that Adam and Eve were real people with a historical identity.

Some of us accept the “story” only as myth, not necessarily integral to the foundation of our modern faith.

The great biblical scholar Walter Bruggemann says neither stance is accurate. He says that these sacred stories are “mystery” which continue to unfold through the ages in the faith-life and sharing of the living community.

As we pray with these passages, we may deepen our faith by looking for the revelations within them:

  • God created us in God’s own image
  • God formed a covenant of love with us
  • We are called to be responsive to that loving covenant 
  • We sometimes fail and reap the fruits of that failure
  • But God did not dissolve Creation nor the Covenant
  • And so, in every age, we place our hope in Jesus Christ, the New Creation and New Covenant

Music: In Every Age ~ Janet Sullivan Whitaker

Be Opened!

Friday, February 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are about being opened by the grace and power of God.

ephphatha

In the Genesis passage, Eve and Adam eat fruit from the tree of knowledge. Their eyes are opened to good and evil.

In our reading from Mark, Jesus opens the ears of a deaf man, allowing him both to hear and to speak clearly.

In the first passage, Adam and Eve’s new “openness” brings a burden. Their innocence now fractured, they must forever exercise their free will to choose good over evil.

In the second passage, the deaf man’s burdens are lifted. He now has no obstacle to hearing and proclaiming God’s mercy.

Like Adam and Eve, we bear the burden of knowledge in a disturbing and sinful world. Every choice challenges us to be and do good in a culture of human degradation.

But like the man who was cured, we have been transformed by Christ’s touch. We see, not just with the discernment of good and evil, but with God’s eyes – with the power to see past death to life.

This power is expressed in our lives by:

  • our faith in a world filled with uncertainty
  • our hope in a world trapped in despair
  • our love in a world blinded by selfishness and greed

Every morning, God wakes us and says, “Ephphatha – be a sign of my gracious openness in your world because I am that Openness for you.”

Today, in our prayer, let us find what is closed in us. We may have judged and shut out someone. We may have given up on a good and necessary practice. We may have withdrawn from a generous responsibility. We may have capitulated to a life-sapping addiction. Inside us somewhere, we may have curled up into  “No”!

God calls us to be a “Yes” to the abundance of life and grace God offers us. We are called to open, to be “uncurled”. This poem by e.e.cummings has helped me on occasion with such uncurling.

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: Open My Eyes, Lord

Valentine’s Poems

pexels-photo-220483

Consummation

You have been present to me, God
like light to flame,
like heat to flame
like fluid movement
and energy of shape to flame.

The wax of my life
is consumed in such Presence.
Shall I simply be content
that it burn,
or shall I seek the Transparency
to which it disappears?

 

ocean

Kairos

All the ages that have loved You
sometimes rush into me
like the white falls of a river,
and Your engagement of the earth
from all antiquity
is caught in a great gasp
by the walls of my soul.

In every creature that has ever been
or ever will be, You and I
have been loving each other.
All that treasure swells
in me for a moment
before it thins again into the Chronos
where I seek You in its shadows.

For a second, split in light
I may have held your still
eternal soul within my own.

Music: Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

Love Really Is Everything!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021419.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our reading from Genesis tells of the creation of Eve to be Adam’s companion.Theological volumes are written to interpret this passage. But for today’s prayer, let’s draw out one small phrase:

The LORD God said:
“It is not good for this human being to be alone.

Gen2_18 Eve

God, Who lives in the community of the Trinity, exists within relationship. God knows that is the only way that any life can exist. This leads us to realize that:

  • We were created from Love for Love
  • We were meant to learn love in one another’s company.
  • Our learning with one another is modeled on the perfect triune love of God.

On Valentine’s Day, our culture romanticizes the notion of love (and makes a lot of money doing so!) But it might also be a good day for us to consider what and whom we have fallen in love with all throughout our lives.

The late Father Pedro Arrupé, now being considered for sainthood, was once the superior general of the Jesuit community. Understanding what it meant to be in love with God and God’s Creation, Arrupé wrote this:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

(I’ll be sending two of my love poems to God in a later email.  I hope you find them helpful to your prayer.)

Music: Love Changes Everything ~ Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, Don Black

Original Innocence

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Genesis gives us a picture of our “Original Innocence“. It is a beautiful story, the earth freshly sprung from nothingness, our Ancient Ancestor cradled to life in the palm of God’s hand.

Gen2_7 breath

See God gazing at this work of his fingers, bending over it in love. See God draw up his own eternal breath and gently whisper it into this yet lifeless image of God’s own Divinity.

Adam bursts forth, the dazzling image of God Who, liking what He has made, draws a second, even more lovely creature from its side.

All was given to these two glorious creatures – all but the right to consume the knowledge of good and evil. It almost seems that God feared their innocence could not sustain such knowledge. And it ensues that God is right (of course!)

The elegantly profound poet Ranier Maria Rilke captures the drama with this poem:

I read it here in your very Word

I read it here in your very Word,
From the story of the gestures
With which your hands cupped themselves
Around our becoming, warm and wise.

 You said, live loudly and die softly,
And over and over again you said: be.

But before the first death came Murder.

At this, a rift tore
through your ripened spheres,
And a crying-out,
And tore away the voices
That had just begun to gather
To speak you
To carry you,
Over the chasm of everything–

 And what they’ve since then stammered
Are fragments
Of your ancient name.

I’ll leave you with this poem, and with your own prayerful thoughts on the divine image of your soul, its original innocence, and the reclamation of that innocence in the gift of Jesus Christ.

Music: For the Music of Creation ~ Shirley Elena Murray & Daniel Nelson
(Lyrics below)

For the music of creation,
for the song your Spirit sings,
for your sound’s divine expression,
burst of joy in living things:

       God, our God, the world’s composer,
hear us, echoes of your voice —
music is your art, your glory,
let the human heart rejoice!

Psalms and symphonies exalt you,
drum and trumpet, string and reed,
simple melodies acclaim you,
tunes that rise from deepest need,

       hymns of longing and belonging,
carols from a cheerful throat,
lilt of lullaby and lovesong
catching heaven in a note.

All the voices of the ages
in transcendent chorus meet,
worship lifting up the senses,
hands that praise, and dancing feet;

       over discord and division
music speaks your joy and peace,
harmony of earth and heaven,
song of God that cannot cease.