How Does God Think We Are Doing?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/073118.cfm

Today, in Mercy, the readings from Jeremiah and Matthew squarely place the reality of sin in our sight. Nobody likes to talk about sin, at least if they’re normal. We like to talk about fun, success, winning, freedom, prosperity. But when the distortion of these things get in the way of our relationship with God and neighbor, then we’re talking about sin.

Ps79 Deliver usJPG

How do you feel about our world today? The small area of my world is abundantly blessed and happy, as I hope yours is. The inhabitants of Jeremiah’s world felt the same way — until the devastation touched them! Then they realized that their “comfortable “ world was woefully out of line with God’s hope.

They had been blind to the sin around them, and their –  perhaps –  unwitting part in it. Ultimately, they were visited with destruction. We might read their plight and say, “Oh well, they worshipped false idols.  No wonder God was displeased with them.”

A better read might be:

  • Are there any false gods in my life? Who or what do I really worship above all things?
  • Are there false gods in our world? How do I respond to them- in the political arena, in the workplace, in my social sets?

The world is so much bigger than our  living rooms or offices. And we are called to be faithful witnesses to God in that bigger world. How are we doing? Today, Jeremiah and Jesus offer us an examination of conscience.

Today is also the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude. 
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow.

For more on Ignatian spirituality see:

Click here to go to Ignatian Spirituality website

Music: Take, Lord, Receive – The Prayer of St. Ignatius by John Foley

The Tiny Seed of Faith

Monday, July 30, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/073018.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus teaches us about faith with the simple parable of the mustard seed. Many of us have never seen a mustard seed — just mustard! 😀 So the short video below is helpful.

The Mustard Tree

Sometimes we feel that our faith is that small, don’t we? 

  • We have so many questions about why evil exists in the world. 
  • We wonder the classic question: Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • The religious foundation of our faith might be shaken by scandals within the Church, and the selfish hard-hearted ness of some who proclaim to be Christian.
  • Sometimes we just feel empty and disconnected from God.

Jesus tells us today to think of the tiniest seed, easily overlooked in the big garden. He says our faith is like that seed. By one small prayer, one small turning toward God, that seed will take root again in us and grow.

Music:  Faith of a Mustard Seed ~ byTwo Or More. (if you need a little “ Wake Up”!)

Hungry?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072918.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings assure us that God cares about our hungry spirits and will satisfy them. 

Ps145 HungerJPG

Both the prophet Elisha and Jesus respond to the needs of the hungry crowds by the power of their faith. In each story, there is only a small amount of food to meet the overwhelming need of the people. But those small amounts, given selflessly and gratefully, renew themselves until all are satisfied.

Our spiritual hungers are deep, and much harder to fill than our physical ones. Sometimes, we don’t even know what we are longing for. Thus we may end up filling our emptiness with distractions and junk.

Today’s readings encourage us to turn our soul’s needs toward God. St. Augustine said this:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our hearts are restless (hungry)
until they rest in You.

Notice that in Jesus’s miracle of the loaves and fishes, there is one key action before the multiplication occurs.

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted. 

Let’s sift through even the small sustenance of our life for the things that we are grateful for. When we lift these up in thanksgiving, glimpsing the loving face of God, other graces will begin unexpectedly to multiply around and within us.

Music: O, My Soul Hungered – Corbin Allred

Would God Divorce Us?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we hear from Jeremiah, a “sock-it-to-‘em” prophet. He lived in a disastrous time for Judah, and had to deliver some difficult challenges to the people. Today’s passage is called the Temple Sermon. It confronts his listeners with the fact that there is a big difference between their professed faith and their daily practice. In other words, they are living a lie.

Jeremiah7_5

The people seem to think that no matter how idolatrous or immoral their choices are, the Temple building will protect them from God’s anger. It’s a mentality that might remind us of the film “The Godfather”, where the mafioso kill and cheat all week but always fulfill their sacramental obligations.

God tells Jeremiah to go stand at the Temple gate and tell the people that their fake piety won’t work. Instead they are to:

  • thoroughly reform their ways and deeds
  • deal justly with their neighbor
  • no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow
  • no longer shed innocent blood in this place (cease human sacrifice)
  • or follow strange gods to their own harm

Otherwise, Jeremiah says, they risk losing God because God will not live in a desecrated Temple.

The message to us that comes wrapped in the ancient words of Jeremiah?

  • Examine your life.
  • Is our faith sincere, proven by our practices?
  • Do we give others not only the benefit of the doubt, but also the benefit of our kindness?
  • Do we support and foster immigrants, orphans, widows … in other words the vulnerable?
  • Do we stand against the suffering of innocents caused by war and unjust policy?
  • Do we resist the “gods” competing for our souls — all the destructive isms and addictions of our time?

Otherwise, Jeremiah says, we risk losing God because God will not live in a heart-temple that is desecrated.

Music: Fill This Temple – Don Moen

Sow for a Loving Harvest

July 27, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we begin about a two-week cycle of readings from Jeremiah and Matthew. Hand-in-hand, these call us to repentance, then show us the way to holiness.

Today, we think about Matthew. These readings are parts of the Third Discourse of his Gospel. It is sometimes referred to as the Discourse of Secrets because in it, Jesus teaches in riddles or parables.

Lk8_15 generous heart

Today’s parable is a familiar one – the sower and the seed. The image would have resonated easily with Jesus’s agrarian audience – and the green-thumbed among us! “Sow your seed on good soil or it will bear no harvest.”

Good soil doesn’t just happen. It takes work and vigilance to prepare a garden patch. This is the core of Jesus’ message – this is the secret of heaven:

  • Clear the rocks 
  • Loosen clumped resistances
  • Feed and nurture 
  • Check constantly for invasive weeds

So today, let’s:

  • Check our hearts for anything that blocks our openness to the Spirit
  • Examine any crippling prejudices we might be holding on to
  • Be sure we are feeding our souls with good spiritual reading and quiet reflection
  • Be aware of anything that pulls us away from kindness, truth, and love

Music: Planting Seeds : A Song of Life by Empty Hands Music

Grandparents

July 26, 2018 – Memorial of Sts. Anne and Joachim, Parents of Mary

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the grandparents of Jesus. Nothing is known of them from the Bible, but there are references in an apocryphal piece called the Gospel of James. There are also many legends surrounding this holy couple. But the fact is that we know little or nothing, for certain about them.

Ps36_ Anne _Joachim

We shape our conception of Anne and Joachim from what we know about their daughter, a woman of such profound goodness that she was the means for God to become one of us. We give them honor and devotion because of what we know about their grandson, Jesus.

Anne and Joachim, together with Mary and Joseph, formed the first, loving nuclear community that fostered the life of Jesus. Like all newborns, Jesus was given over by God into these human hands. What an awesome responsibility and privilege!

Let us pray today for all young children that they may be blessed with caring parents and grandparents. Let us pray especially for grandparents who carry a special kind of love to their grands, one filled with a generational wisdom, generous fidelity, and tempered mercy so necessary for a joyful life.

And, children, listen to your grands.  They really have seen it all, ridden the big waves of time.. really did – ahem – walk to school with the snow above their ears! They can be a fount of wisdom and love. Trust them! Respect them! Enjoy them!

Music: a children’s song, especially for the Grands among us. May Anne and Joachim bless you today!

Need a Little Music?

Friends,

It appears that Wednesday’s music link did not come through to my email subscribers. If you would like to hear the music, click on the blue title “Can You Drink the Cup?” ( just to the right of my picture in your email.) That should take you to my website, where the music link is functional.

Thanks and blessings on your evening,

Sister Renee

PS: I have also tried to put the link here. I hope it works 🙂

Can You Drink the Cup?

July 25, 2018 – Feast of St. James, Apostle

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072518.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we learn a lesson in humble leadership, thanks to “Mrs. Zebedee”. Our Gospel recounts the story of the mother of James and John interceding for her sons with Jesus. Like many overprotective mothers, she intervenes in their adult lives. She wants to make sure they get the best deal for their investment with Jesus.

Mt20_22 cup

Unfortunately, “Mrs. Zebedee” has missed the whole point of Christian discipleship. Her boys have decided to follow a man who says things like this:

  • The last shall be first and the first, last.
  • Unless you lay down your life, you cannot follow me.
  • Whoever takes the lowly position of a child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The seats at Christ’s right and left, which she requests for her sons, will bring them only the rewards of humility and sacrificial service.

Jesus is gentle with “Mrs. Zebedee”. He understands how hard it is for any of us to comprehend the hidden glory of a deeply Christian life. We are surrounded by a world that screams the opposite to us:

  • Me first!
  • Stand your ground!
  • Good guys finish last!

So Jesus turns to James and John. One can imagine the bemused look on his face. He knows the hearts of these two men. He knows they have already given themselves to him. So he asks them for a confession of faith, “Can you drink the cup that I will drink?”

Their humble, faith-filled answer no doubt stuns their mother. She is left in wonder at the holy men her fishermen sons have become. Perhaps it is the beginning of her own deep conversion to Christ.

As we pray with this passage on the feast of St. James the Apostle, where do find ourselves in this scene? How immediate, sincere, and complete is our response to Jesus’ question: “Can you drink the cup….?”

Music: Can You Drink the Cup? ( Be patient. The song has a slightly delayed start😀)

Can You Drink The Cup?

Lyrics by Pamela Martin, Music by Craig Courtney
Copyright 2001, Beckenhorst Press, Inc.

Can you dring the cup,
embrace it in your hands?
Can you look inside
and face what it demands?

In the wine you see
reflections of your soul.
No one else can drink
this cup that you must hold.

Can you drink the cup?
Then you must lift it high
though this cup of joy
holds pain and sacrifice.

When you lift your cup,
raise it unafraid.
Lift it up, this cup
of life, and celebrate.

Can you drink the cup
until there is no more?
When the wine is gone,
Christ Himself will pour.

Though you drink it all
the cup is never dry,
God keeps filling it
with everlasting life.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

July 24, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we pray with a passage from the prophet Micah, the last of three over the past few days of readings. Micah, who composed about 700 years before Christ, is considered a “minor prophet”. We hear from him only these three times in our liturgical readings. Yet, some of the loveliest and most moving lines come from the pen of this country poet.

Micah

Micah gave us this gem:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
~ Micah 6:8

He also foretold the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
   though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
   one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
   from ancient times.~ Micah 5:2

Micah was a poor farmer with a rich gift of poetry and grace. In powerful images, he confronted the corporate sinfulness of his times – economic and social injustices institutionalized in the Jerusalem political power structure. He was like a folk singer whose simple words cut to the truth, mourned the sad state of current affairs, and offered lyrical hope to his listeners. Micah teaches us that God’s justice will always prevail. Still, he assures us that this divine justice will be delivered with Mercy.

One can profit from reading Micah prayerfully while considering our current political reality. Like all good poetry, his words still have meaning for us. Our “Jerusalem” may be Washington or Moscow or Beijing. Our “Babylon” maybe economic, environmental, or moral destruction. 

Micah calls us to recognize injustice, especially toward the poor, orphans, and refugees. He enjoins us to mourn the sad reality that surrounds us. And then he encourages us to hope – and act – because God is with us in our vulnerability and will bring us Mercy.

Music: The Times They Are A-Changin’- written by Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, sung here by Bruce Springsteen when Dylan received the Kennedy Honors.( Lyrics below.)

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Mary Magdalen

July 23, 2018

Readings for Feast of Mary Magdalen: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072216.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we pray with St. Mary Magdalen whose feast would have been celebrated yesterday, July 22, had it not been superseded by the Sunday feast.

Song3_4 Magdalen

Modern scripture scholarship recognizes Mary Magdalen as a disciple and companion of Jesus.  She is present in stories throughout all four Gospels, and most notably, as one who remained with Jesus at the foot of the Cross. Mary is the first witness to the Resurrection who then announces the Good News to the other disciples.

Over the centuries, Mary Magdalen has been confused with the many other Marys in the Gospel, as well as with the unnamed repentant woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. These confusions have inclined us to think of Mary Magdalen as a reformed prostitute. This erroneous concept has supported a diminished understanding of the role of women in the ministry of Jesus and done a huge disservice to Mary’s vital role as beloved disciple.

The Gospel passage for the feast captures the powerful moment when the Resurrected Jesus is first revealed to the world. The scene also portrays the deep love, trust and friendship between Jesus and Mary Magdalen – a relationship which serves as a model for all of us who want to be Christ’s disciples. I imagined the scene like this in an earlier Easter reflection:

Rabbouni
The Upper Room on Holy Saturday evening: a place filled with sadness, silence and seeking. Jesus was dead. Jerusalem, scattered to their various houses to keep Shabbat, murmur their shocked questions under their shaky prayers.

We have all been in rooms like this. They enclose a special kind of agony – one teetering between hope and doubt, between loss and restoration. It may have been a surgical waiting room or the hallway outside the courtroom. Sometimes, such a space is not bricks and mortar.  It is the space between a sealed envelope and the news inside. It is the hesitant pause between a heartfelt request and the critical response. In each of these places, we exist as if in a held breath, hoping against hope for life, freedom, and wholeness.

It was from such a room that Mary Magdalene stole away in the wee hours. A woman unafraid of loneliness, she walked in tearful prayer along the path to Jesus’ tomb. Scent of jasmine rose up on the early morning mist. Hope rose with it that his vow to return might be true. Then she saw the gaping tomb, the alarm that thieves had stolen him to sabotage his promise. She ran to the emptiness seeking him. She was met by angels clothed in light and glory, but they were not enough to soothe her.

Turning from them, she bumped against a gardener whom she begged for word of Jesus, just so she might tend to him again. A single word revealed his glory, “Mary”. He spoke her name in love.

As we seek the assurance of God’s presence in our lives, we too may be unaware that God is already with us. The deep listening of our spirit, dulled with daily burdens, may not hear our name lovingly spoken in the circumstances of our lives. God is standing behind every moment. All we need do is turn to recognize him.

Turn anger into understanding. Turn vengeance into forgiveness. Turn entitlement into gratitude. Turn indifference into love. All we need do is turn to recognize him.


For a comprehensive and enlightening lecture on the current theological and scriptural thinking on Mary Magdalen, follow this link to an Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ lecture at Fordham.

Click this link for lecture

Music: In My Heart, I Know My Savior Lives