Our Father

Thursday, June 21,2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062118.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings are a study in contrasts.  Our first reading from Sirach describes the fiery majesty of the prophet Elijah. Everything about Elijah was thunder and lightning.  He toppled kings and raised the dead, and generally cast a path of fire as he preached. At the end of his life, he passed into heaven in a chariot of flames.

The Gospel presents a Prophet of a gentler stripe – Jesus, who is teaching us how to pray.

Jesus says to pray simply, humbly, to ask for forgiveness, and freedom from temptation. He tells us to forgive others, avoid evil and be content with our daily bread.  No fiery chariots; no tumbling governments.  This gentle man will die in the agony of the cross.

No wonder those who hoped for a Messiah like Elijah were disappointed in Jesus.  No wonder we still struggle to understand the contradiction of the Cross.

However, Walter Brueggemann says this:  The crucifixion is

“the ultimate act of prophetic criticism
in which Jesus announces the end of a world of death…
and takes the death into his own person”.  

Still, the witness of Calvary would remain nothing but a contradiction without the transformative act of the Resurrection.

cross ressur

Through the combined witness of Good Friday and Easter, Jesus not only confronts the old order, he embraces and transforms it.  He takes to himself the same suffering and death that we all must face, but he shows us that it cannot destroy us. He proves that, ultimately, death has no power over those who believe in Him and in the Father Who has sent Him.

Indeed, the Our Father is a most powerful, prophetic prayer. It teaches us how to be in the presence of God even in the midst of our daily life. It shows us how to express our faith in God’s Kingdom even as we live in our earthly one.  It helps us to become a little more like gentle, powerful Jesus.

Music: Aramaic Our Father – in the orgs that Jesus likely used.

What Matters

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062018.cfm

Mt6_6

Today, in Mercy, Jesus tells us how to pray and do good. He says that it is our deep-hearted intention that matters in these things. It is there, in the hidden heart, that God dwells with us and reads our love for its sincerity.

God is not impressed with any bling in our words or actions. Not impressed with the big, loud, or wow of what we do. God knows whether we truly love, and it is that which touches Him.

Let the words of Jesus today take you to that inner heart-room where God knows and loves you like no one else can. In that precious quiet, enter the silence of prayer. Listen to God with the soul’s ear that needs no sound. Speak to God with the humble love that needs no words.

Music:  Yo Yo Ma playing Meditation from Thaïs by Jules Massenet

But WHY, for God’s Sake?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061918.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus continues to instruct  us in the way of Christian perfection. As we look back over history, and contemplate the present, we realize that these are instructions many Christians have chosen to ignore.

Love your enemies.
Do good to those who hate you.

But WHY, for God’s sake??? Why should we love our ENEMIES???

And that’s exactly the answer: for God’s sake.

Jesus tells us that this is the way God loves, and that if we want to be like God, we must love that way too.

sun on good

God lets his rain – his grace – pour out to everyone. God does not withhold the hope for good from any creature. It doesn’t mean that God, or we, don’t recognize evil and sin in another. It means that we love despite it.

We may have a few people in our hearts whom we consider so evil or mean-hearted (people who hurt us or the world so egregiously) that we have withdrawn our respect and love from them.

These are the very people Jesus tells us to pray for today. May they be opened to God’s grace. May they be healed by Love. And may we.

Music: Tender Hearted~ by Jeanne Cotter

 

Peaceful Defiance

Monday, June 18, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we encounter one of the most difficult passages of the Gospel – the admonitions to turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile. 

Wow, these go against every natural instinct (at least mine! 👿) If someone slaps me, I’m slapping back! If someone grabs my goods, forces my labor, or has the guts to borrow my necessities, I’m gonna’ resist! What about you? Even the Book of Exodus supports “an eye for an eye” kind of justice, right? Well, Jesus says, “No, not right!”. 

In this passage, Jesus shatters our natural inclinations for retribution, retaliation and even self-preservation. 

He says that when we are struck or insulted, we should not respond in kind. Rather we should continue to stand our ground without being diverted into the violence of the attacker.  

He says that when laws are used unjustly against us, we should not respond in kind. Rather, we should stand our ground and expose the unjust law by our willingness to engage it in the public forum.

He says that when unrecompensateded work is demanded of us, we should give it and more, thus doubly exposing the demander’s offense.

He says that to turn our back on a borrower, no matter how inopportune, is a form of violence against the borrower.

What Jesus is asking of us is a non-violent response to the insults and outrages thrown at us. But He is not asking us to be victims or doormats. Each of the admonitions instructs us not to ignore evil, but to respond to it with positive, peaceful strength.

defiant

Jesus himself is the quintessential example of this prophetic, non-violent lifestyle. He condemned evil for what it was, but he did not adopt its methods to do so.

Eileen Campbell

Sister of Mercy Eileen Campbell, arrested at the White House
for peaceful protest of inhumane immigration policies.

Recent history offers us stellar examples of individuals who have understood and practiced this Gospel passage: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Berta Cáceres, and other modern peace activists – ordinary Christians like you and me.

They have heard and responded to today’s Gospel. Can we?

On This Father’s Day

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061718.cfm

2 Cor 5_7 faith

Today, in Mercy, our Sunday readings are filled with the hope of new life, spoken out of the abyss of suffering.

Both Ezekiel’s and Paul’s communities were suffering under exile or persecution. In both cases, a powerful state has dehumanized and enslaved them – rendering them as “other”, unworthy of fraternal compassion.

These suffering communities hunger for the encouragement of their prophets, Ezekiel and Paul.

They long for Ezekiel’s majestic cedar, born from a single, hopeful branch – a life-giving tree where all can dwell in fullness and joy. It is a precursor of heaven, where they will be free and restored to honor.

They draw hope from Paul’s example of courage, believing with him that there is a new day coming where they will be known as precious and worthy in God’s sight.

What might these readings suggest to us, as we celebrate Father’s Day today?

As we contemplate the gift of fatherhood from the perspective of our own experience, let us be mindful of fathers and families experiencing exile and persecution similar to Ezekiel’s and Paul’s communities.

migrant fathers

The Bible tells us stories of our ancestors in faith, but it is also a living Word – speaking to our current experiences. Just this week, we have heard some in power positions use the Bible to justify the infliction of pain and hardship on other human beings. God must weep at such sinful arrogance!

Let us, instead, be inspired by these Scriptures to open our hearts in mercy. Let us pray for suffering migrant communities throughout the world, forced from their homes by war, crime, and greed. Let us pray for children torn from their families by blind, inhumane policies. 

Today, let us pray especially for these refugee fathers as their hopes are crushed and their families broken. And, where we can, let us do more than pray. Let us act for justice and mercy. Let us, at the very least, not rally behind a power that subverts the preciousness of human life and family.

Music: One Day When We All Get To Heaven written by Eliza Hewitt (1851-1920).

The Tangled Web

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061618.cfm

Why do we lie? It gets us so mixed up!

I vividly remember a quotation painted along the chalkboard border of my 6th grade classroom. It is from Sir Walter Scott’s poem Marmion:

“O what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive.”

Perhaps the quote impressed me so much because I was entangled in a juvenile drama over smoking in the girls’ bathroom. Some supposed friend had reported two of us to the principal, a tiny nun who kept an unused  (but nonetheless threatening) cat-o-nine tails in her desk drawer. When confronted, what was there to do but lie?

Mt 5_37 yes_no

But, oh the complexity of it! Would my partner in crime tell the same story? Would any slight discrepancy render us convicted? Would she instead take the part of the informant? Would my smoker parents be brought in as investigators of the behavior they had inspired? Where would the whole quagmire end!

Wouldn’t it have been so much simpler to just tell the truth? So why do we lie? Why do we swear to what is not true? Why do we boast of things we cannot claim? This is the same challenge Jesus puts to his followers in our Gospel passage.

In my young case, as in many others, we lie because our behavior has fractured us from the image of who we are expected to be. We want to be respected, loved, powerful and right. These are conditions that should be earned by the integrity of our behavior. But when our actions cheat, we often lie, pretend, avoid, distract or otherwise compromise the truth.

Our world is full of this kind of lying. Our politics are crippled with it; our leaders unashamedly expert at it. Our culture is so poisoned with a lack integrity, that it seeps into our own relationships and choices almost unnoticed. Lying becomes normalized.

And the situation is not new. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is warning his disciples to avoid just such corruption.

A remedy? Here’s what Jesus says:

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the Evil One.”

It sounds simple enough. But it requires the hard work of prayerful self-examination, loving mutual correction, forgiveness (even of ourselves), and a good old “firm purpose of amendment”. (Remember that one from the Act of Contrition?)

It was a heck of a lesson I was taught in sixth grade – and, like most great lessons – it wasn’t in any textbook! I only hope I learned it somewhat well.

Music: Tell the Truth ~ Eric Clapton (Get ready to jam! Lyrics below.)

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

There you sit there, looking so cool
While the whole show is passing you by.
You better come to terms with your fellow men soon, cause
The whole world is shaking now. Can’t you feel it?
A new dawn is breaking now. Can’t you see it?

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

It doesn’t matter just who you are,
Or where you’re going or been.
Open your eyes and look into your heart.

The whole world is shaking now. Can’t you feel it?
A new dawn is breaking now. Can’t you see it?
I said see it, yeah, can’t you see it?
Can’t you see it, yeah, can’t you see it?
I can see it, yeah.

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

Hear what I say, ’cause every word is true.
You know I wouldn’t tell you no lies.
Your time’s coming, gonna be soon, boy.
It doesn’t matter just who you are,
Or where you’re going or been.
Open your eyes and look into your heart.

Songwriters: Bobby Whitlock / Eric Patrick Clapton / Robert S. WhitlockTell the Truth lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Music Sales Corporation

Whispers of God

Friday, June 15, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061518.cfm

Whisper 6_15_18

Today, in Mercy, our first reading continues to follow the journey of Elijah, one wild and crazy guy – with a holy obsession for God.  Elijah is so frustrated with the hard-heartedness of the Israelites, that he whines constantly to God about it. God calls Elijah to Mt. Horeb (the same place where He first chatted with Moses) to talk the situation over. Elijah tries to find God’s voice there in a howling wind, an earthquake and a huge fire. No dice!

Elijah is so like us in this! Don’t we call on God in our troubled times, asking Him to fix things in a flash and glam? It is one of the ways we try to deal with the presence of evil in the world. We would love the security of a “Superman” God Who dramatically intervenes to reverse reality according to our comfort.

But how rare are such miracles! Instead, God abides quietly and steadily in the unfolding of our life, both in sorrow and joy. God whispers the directions to eternal life, deep under the noise of our human challenges – even evil, even death.

God’s word did come to Elijah eventually, not in the fiery demonstration he expected. It came in the gentle breeze of mercy, patience, fidelity and hope which most truly reflects the omnipotent nature of God.

Divinity is so quietly vibrant in all life. We must become equally quiet in our prayer and awareness to hear God’s whispers for us.

Music:  The Whispers of God ~ Marilyn Baker

Righteousness

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus expounds on what a true, faithful life looks like. He uses the word “righteousness”, a word that occurs frequently throughout the Bible. 

“Righteousness” describes the perfect, balanced goodness of the heart of God. It is a balance in which Mercy and Justice complement and infuse each other; a balance of Love so exquisite that it generates the Eternal Life of the Trinity.

Righteousness 6_14_18

Jesus says that we must pattern our lives on that Divine Balance, not on a proud self-righteousness like that of the scribes and Pharisees. If our faith and religious practice do not generate reverence, love, mercy, justice and peace for ourselves and others, then we are skewed in our relationship with God.

Jesus says it is not enough to obey the letter of Law, and certainly not enough to boast about it. We must respond generously to the spirit of the Law which brings the soul into reconciliation with itself and all Creation. This is the new law of love …the true righteousness of a humble, faithful heart.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, it does nothing.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

Music: Lead Me Lord ~ Samuel Wesley (1861) A lovely old hymn that can serve as a mantra for prayer throughout your day.  Just let your heart sing it gently.

Fired by Love

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061318.cfm

Ps 25 6_13_18

Today, in Mercy, when reading the passage about Elijah and the prophets of Baal, I was reminded of the Irving Berlin song, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”. In the reading, Elijah tests and even taunts Baal’s 450 prophets in a contest to prove whose God is true. Of course, Elijah wins in a stunning blast of fire. It is a religious exercise of “eradicate and supplant”.

The Gospel reading carries a similar theme.  Jesus’ followers seem to conclude that, because he is teaching something new, he is nullifying the customary Hebrew teachings. But Jesus says that, to the contrary, He is here to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it.

Religion, like any entrenched practice, tends over time to suffer the ill effects of institutionalization. Our rituals and devotions may become lifeless; our scriptures become rote. The power of our sacraments may be carelessly invoked and distractedly attended. A chasm grows between what we profess and what we live. We may become frozen. Sometimes, it might seem best to set the whole thing aflame and start all over again, like Elijah.

But Jesus challenges to us to go deeper than “practice”. Mere practice can easily become empty. Jesus shows us in his life what a fulfilled faith looks like. It is a faith expressed in service, sacrifice and inclusive mercy. It is a faith that, when brought to the pulpit and altar, carries the lives of those we love and serve. It is a faith, like the Psalmist’s, that listens for God’s direction deep in the experiences of life. It is a faith, not in contradiction to Law, but beyond it. It is a faith fired – transformed – by Love.

Music: Living Spirit, Holy Fire ~ David Haas

Live from Your Abundance

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061218.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we read the wonderful story of Elijah and the Widow. Both were in “drought and darkness” situations, but they did not lose hope. Trusting in the Lord, they chose to live out of their abundance rather than their scarcity. And their small, shared abundance sustained them.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus encourages us to live from and to share our abundance, whatever that might be. Sometimes we may feel that we don’t have much to offer to the world. Our personal difficulties may thwart our spiritual energy. But we are children of God, filled with Divine potential. Life will always break through if we live with faith, hope and love. It just may look different from what we had planned or expected.

Light 6_12_18

There is a modern school of “abundance vs. scarcity” thinking, a self-improvement practice presented by the late Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Whether or not he intended it, Mr. Covey delivers scriptural truths in secular language:

“ An abundance mentality springs from internal security, not from external rankings, comparisons, opinions, possessions, or associations.”

“ People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.”

Bottom line from 1 Kings, Matthew 5, Covey? Trust, and live generously. Be light. Be salt. Doing so will open the space for God’s abundance.

Music: A New Age piece that may be helpful if some negativity is blocking our Light.

I Am Light ~ India Arie