The Winning Ticket

Monday, October 22, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102218.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings are all about riches. How appropriate that seems in a week where the whole country is absorbed in a $1.6 billion dollar lottery dream!

How many news bits this week showed interviews with John and Jane Q. Public, informing us of how they might use such winnings. Of course, all reports indicated an amazingly altruistic response to a winning ticket. It seems everyone will help his unfortunate brother-in-law, and buy his mail carrier new shoes. Hmm? I wonder?

Eph 9_4 God rich

Not so with Gospel Farmer today. He hits the jackpot in the fields and, as many of us might, decides to keep every last grain for himself. Oops! On the night of that decision, he dies, leaving the grain behind along with his selfish legacy.

Jesus tells us:

Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.

Paul tells us what it does consist of:

God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us,
… brought us to life with Christ,
raised us up with him …

We are to live among one another as mirrors of this Divine kindness and richness — not holding on to every last – very transitory- grain of our “possessions”.

Friends, every one of us, through our Baptism, already holds the winning ticket to the only treasure that lasts – eternal life. May our lives reflect that immense grace in deeds of love and mercy.

Music: Earthen Vessels – St. Louis Jesuits

The Cup Already Poured

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102118.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings from Isaiah and Mark sound almost Lenten in tone. Isaiah gives us the image of a broken Jesus, crushed by a “suffering that justifies many”.

Mark recounts the story of the two rather oblivious disciples asking to sit in glory beside Jesus. They do not realize that the path to this glory is through Gethsemane and Calvary.

Mk 10_38 cup

Jesus asks them the same question he asks us throughout our lives:

“Can you drink the cup that I will drink?”

We know that there are sacrificial cups of many sizes and shapes among us. Just this past week, with the canonization of St. Oscar Romero, we were reminded of the immense sacrifices of Romero and the Salvador people to practice their faith in dignity.

Each of our sufferings and sacrifices may seem so much smaller by comparison. But when they are united with Christ in faith and hope, they too are redemptive.

We will be asked, as Jesus was, to lay down our life. 

  • It may be in the unselfish raising of a family, or the humble pastoring of a church community. 
  • It may be in the long-term care of an elderly parent or neighbor. 
  • It may be in a ministry of healing, teaching, or encouragement where another requires our labor, patience and mercy. 
  • It may be as a public servant who actually serves, or as a private nurse who tenderly nurses. 
  • It may be as a community member who builds life by respect, responsibility, and mutuality.

We will come to realize, as did the ambitious sons of Zebedee, that true discipleship is not flash and glam. It is the daily choice to quietly lift the cup we have been given, and raise it to the honor of God – in openness, trust, joy and delight that we are called to share in the life of Christ.

Music: The Cup of Salvation ~Shane & Shane (Lyrics below.)

I love the Lord for He heard my voice
And answered my cry for mercy
Because He listened to me
I will call upon Him as long as I live

CHORUS

What shall I render to the Giver of life and who all things are made
What shall I render to the One who paints the oceans blue
Jesus Christ

I will lift up a cup of salvation
Call on the Name of the Lord
How do I repay the life that You gave
I’ll call on the Name of the Lord
Lift up a cup, You have already poured

What kind of rendering is found in this taking
Found in this drinking of love
Love so abundant He meets me in depravity
With one thing to give

CHORUS

You have delivered my soul from death
My eyes from tears
My feet from stumbling
And I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living

CHORUS

I Always Thank God for You

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102018.cfm

Ephesians 1_18 Blessed be

Today, in Mercy, we read the magnificent Ephesians prayer, spoken by Paul over his beloved community — and over us.  The phrases are like sacred honey, each one to be individually savored and consumed.

  • I never cease giving thanks for you
  • May God give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation
  • May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened
  • May you know what is the hope that belongs to God’s call
  • … what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones
  • … and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe

Wow! What if we prayed for one another like that? What if we prayed for ourselves like that?

Sometimes we, and our companions on life’s journey, do require prayers for a specific need: recovery from illness, strength in a time of trial, courage in darkness.  

But we should pray for one another every day – a prayer that transcends specific needs – a prayer for wisdom, faith, understanding, and wild confidence in God’s loving  power in our lives.

Such a prayer, like Paul’s, helps create a web of spiritual resilience for our beloveds, around them and within them. This is the power of the Communion of Saints.

Let us pray like this for each other.

Music: Ephesians Hymn I, Suzanne Toolan, RSM

The Prayer of Praise

Friday, October 19, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101918.cfm

Today, in Mercy, on this memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, and Companions, Paul tells us that we were created “for the praise of His glory”. Paul emphasizes the phrase by using it twice in the first reading.

praise

Thinking about the prayer of praise may remind us of the four types of prayer we learned by nemonic as a child: ACTS.

  • Adoration
  • Contrition 
  • Thanksgiving 
  • Supplication 

The last three types are prayers centered in the self. They express my regrets, my gratitude, and my needs.  But the first type, Adoration, is centered on God – a prayer of awe and absorption into God’s Presence.

That kind of prayer is so important to deepening our relationship with God. We can understand why just by considering our human relationships.  

In order to love someone deeply and intimately, we have to forget ourselves and allow ourselves to embrace their reality. It’s very hard to do this. We are naturally self-centered and self-concerned. But through generosity, intentionality and self-sacrifice, we can learn to love unselfishly.

We can learn to love God like this too. Our prayer of adoration may be a shared silence with God. It may be simple phrases we offer in the awareness of God’s Being, as we breathe the breath of God’s life: 

  • You are Beauty….
  • You are Life….
  • You are Mercy….
  • You are Love…
  • You are…

We let go of time and purpose. We give ourselves to the One who sustains us.

We don’t ask for anything, say thanks or sorry for anything. We simply absorb God’s Presence and return it in praise. 

If we feel the need for words to begin this prayer, we might use the first phrases of an old, beloved mantra – the Divine Praises:

Blessed be God.
Blessed be God’s Holy Name.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, truly God, truly human.

Blessed be the Name of Jesus.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.

Music: We Praise You, O Lord ~ The Dameans

Good Saint Luke

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke, evangelist, writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, and devoted missionary companion of Paul.

Ps145 Luke

Luke’s Gospel is unique in several ways. 

Six miracles appear only in Luke:

  • the miraculous catch of fish
  • the raising of the widow’s only son
  • healing a possessed, crippled woman
  • healing a man with dropsy
  • cleansing of ten lepers 
  • healing the man’s ear in Gethsemane

Eighteen parables are unique to Luke, including the beloved stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.

vangogh_samaritaan_grt
Van Gogh’s Good Samaritan

While both Matthew and Luke contain the story of Christ’s birth, only Luke includes those beautiful passages which now comprise the joyful mysteries of the rosary: Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation, and Finding in the Temple.

Only Luke gives us the Magnificat and the cherished words of the Hail Mary.

Think of all that we would not be able to visualize without Luke’s blessed writings. No Gabriel. No Elizabeth, Zachary, Anna or Simeon. No tender Samaritan or merciful loving Prodigal Father to show us God’s face.

300px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project
Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son

Maybe some of your favorite passages are among these Lucan treasures. You might want to choose one to accompany you throughout your day.

The music today is a country song, not really about St. Luke’s Gospel, but certainly reflecting its love and respect for those who are poor.

Music: The Gospel According to Luke ~ Skip Ewing

Look Good or Do Good? Hmmm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings continue the theme of sincere faith versus hypocritical practices.

Paul really lets the Galatian community have it. Apparently, their behavior had slipped pretty low!  Paul’s list of things to be avoided contains some shocking stuff, like orgies, bursts of fury, and drinking bouts. Sounds bad! A lot worse, I hope, than any list he might make about us if he were writing now. I wonder?

Lk 11_42 spices

In our Gospel, Jesus let’s loose on some of the Pharisees too. He points out that they practice the tiniest, visible observances so that people see them as holy. But they ignore the more important requirements of love, justice and mercy. In other words, they look good but don’t do good.

As we pray with these readings, we could try to address the small hypocrisies in our own lives – a kind of “weed the garden” approach. Surely it would help our spiritual life to get rid of anything like orgies, fury and drunkenness. But I think most of us, dear readers, are pretty much beyond that. 🙏

I prefer to take my cues from Paul’s accompanying list of virtues to be pursued: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. How obvious are these things in my life? When I lie my head on the pillow at night, are these the things I remember about my day? Have I given these gifts to others? Have I received them with gratitude?

As we read about the tithes of mint, rue and other garden herbs, the cooks among us might like to imagine life as a great bouillabaisse, perfectly seasoned for God with all the spices on Paul’s menu. What little herb do you need to add right now?

Music: The Fruits of the Spirit ~ Selah

Dirty Cups

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge religious and moral hypocrisy.

Lk.11_39 dirty cup

Paul, in his continuing letter to the Galatians, counsels them about the practice of circumcision. But his counseling is really about freedom in Christ. 

In Paul’s time, circumcision had religious significance as a sign of inclusion in the Jewish nation. Some Jewish Christians mistakenly taught that a Gentile must first become a Jew, through the law of circumcision, in order to become a Christian.

Paul condemns this error, reminding the Galatians that the grace given to us in Christ is beyond the Law.

For in Christ Jesus,
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,
but only faith working through love.

In the Gospel, Jesus condemns any religious practice that is empty and just for show.  He compares such rituals to cups, whose clean exterior hides a corrupt interior. Jesus says that the remedy to this hidden nastiness is to give alms, to be merciful.

We are all aware of pharisaical behavior within our religious institutions. We have seen disgusting evidence of it in sexual predation among clergy. We see it when exaggerated religious rituals are substituted for sincere, communal worship. We see it when the small, visible mistakes of others are used to hide the gaping faithlessness of the condemner. Sometimes, we are even caught in the judgmental nets these pretenses spin.

When we are confused by such situations, look to the words of Jesus and Paul today:

Look for faith working through love.
Look for a generous heart that sees and comforts the poor.

If our “religious” observance results in any form of exclusion, prejudice, condemnation or unforgiveness, we can be sure it is not of God.

Music: Purify My Heart ~ Brian Doerksen

St. Oscar Romero

Monday, October 15, 2018

Reading: Final Homily of Archbishop Romero

Yesterday in Vatican City, St. Oscar Romero was canonized. This holy man was Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 until his assassination while offering Mass on March 24, 1980. After Archbishop Romero’s death, a twelve-year civil war ensued in El Salvador, killing an estimated 75,000 people.

 

The Catholic Church in El Salvador, during these years, became deeply involved in protecting the lives and land rights of the poor who were severely oppressed by a militaristic government. This corrupt government engaged the assistance of the United States to suppress the people by interpreting their struggle as “communism”.

For years, the Salvadoran government received US supplied arms and military training at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia.  It was someone trained with these arms who martyred St. Oscar Romero – and thousands of his poor, over many years.

Romero was not a politician. He averted confrontation wherever possible. But he could not stand by as thousands of his flock were slaughtered  because their human rights threatened the status and greed of the powerful.

Sometimes we hear the empty adage that religion should never mix with politics.
St. Oscar Romero is one of hundreds of women and men who became saints because they believed the opposite.

Our faith is irrevocably entwined with the rest of our lives. Our Gospel demands that we embrace and honor the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. We may not be called to the level of witness that Oscar Romero was. But we, each in our own way, are called to understand issues of justice, and to act as Jesus would.

We are called to challenge our government, as did many activists during these years, when it is blind to its own sins. The USA is still selling arms to oppressive governments, still supporting regimes and practices that ignore human rights. Our voices and our votes need to be informed, clear, and faith-filled. I find Network and excellent source of education for me on these issues:

Click for Network’s Website

Music: El Salvador ~ Peter, Paul and Mary

Please read the lyrics below first, as they are a little difficult to understand. The images in the video are painful to view, but offer testament to the gross injustices the Salvadoran people endured.

There’s a sunny little country south of Mexico
Where the winds are gentle and the waters flow
But breezes aren’t the only things that blow
In El Salvador

If you took the little lady for a moonlight drive
Odds are still good you’d come back alive
But everyone is innocent until they arrive
In El Salvador

If the rebels take a bus on the grand highway
The government destroys a village miles away
The man on the radio says ‘now we’ll play South of the Border’

And in the morning the natives say,
We’re happy you have lived another day
Last night a thousand more passed away
In El Salvador

There’s a television crew here from ABC
Filming Rio Lempe and the refugees
Calling murdered children the ‘tragedy’
Of El Salvador

Before the government cameras 20 feet away
Another man is asking for continued aid
Food and medicine and hand grenades
For El Salvador

There’s a thump, a rumble, and the buildings sway
A soldier fires the acid spray
The public address system starts to play South of the Border

You run for cover and hide your eyes
You hear the screams from paradise
They’ve fallen further than you realize
In El Salvador

Just like Poland is ‘protected’ by her Russian friends
The junta is ‘assisted’ by Americans
And if 60 million dollars seems too much to spend
In El Salvador

They say for half a billion they could do it right
Bomb all day, burn all night
Until there’s not a living thing upright
In El Salvador

They’ll continue training troops in the USA
And watch the nuns that got away
And teach the military bands to play South of the Border

And kill the people to set them free
Who put this price on their liberty?
Don’t you think it’s time to leave
El Salvador?
Songwriters: Jim Wallis / Noel Paul Stookey

Wisdom and Love

Sunday, October 14, 2018

       Readings:  Click here.

Today in Mercy, our readings are both beautiful and poignant.  

In our first passage, we drink from Wisdom’s sweet nectar. This book, written about fifty years before Christ’s birth, is the work of an unnamed Jewish poet and scholar. At points, as in today’s segment, the writer assumes the persona of Solomon, speaking in his name.

Ps90_fill us

We know from the Book of Kings, chapter 3, that Solomon, as a young king, led a faithful and righteous life. Because of this, God offered Solomon “whatever you want me to give you.”

Think of the possibilities for this young man, just on the cusp of kingship! Power, wealth, longevity, peace, prosperity, political dominance – all the things we are inclined to covet in this world.

But Solomon prays instead for wisdom, as described in today’s reading:

Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.

Our Gospel tells of a young man offered an opportunity similar to Solomon’s. Already living a faithful life, he wants to go deeper into God’s heart. 

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,

“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me.” 

But this young man, unlike Solomon, cannot accept the invitation to this deep place of love and devotion. Instead, he goes away sad. It makes me sad, too, whenever I read these verses. I always hope that, after a few steps, he turned around and shouted, “Yes! I will do what you ask. I love God that much. Help me!”

Like these young men,we have a deep desire to live within God’s love. But are we walking toward that love or away from it? Most of us don’t say an outright “No” to God’s invitation. Instead, we are distracted, lazy, or just not paying attention to the the whispers of grace.

Let’s pray today’s powerful Psalm 90 to open our minds and hearts to God’s hope for us.

Music: Fill Us With Your Love ~Ephrem Feeley 

Bask in God’s Glory

Saturday, October 13, 2018

      Reading: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101318.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Paul continues opening the minds and hearts of the Galatians to their new Christian identity. It is one inspired and impelled by faith rather than by mere observance of laws.

There are times when all religions, and some of their followers, still struggle with this truth. External observance is sometimes invoked as a measure of holiness or faithfulness. But law will never trump Love.

Just as in any human relationship, we cannot measure love and devotion by external signs. We can send a beloved bushels of flowers, but if our heart is distracted and lukewarm those flowers are a mockery.

Our Gospel tells us that the true measure of our devotion is how responsive we are to God’s Word – how “clothed” we are in Christ. The Psalm today invites us to “glory in God’s Holy Name”. We are to rest our souls in God, the way we might sink our sore body into a warm, healing bath. We are to “clothe” ourselves in the portion of God’s glory inherited through our Baptism.

I absolutely love the picture I’m sharing today. My grand-nephew stands in a stream of refreshing water, totally delighted and free. 

Ps 105_RG Glory

We stand in such a fountain of God’s infinite love and grace. May we glory in it, be healed by it, be enlivened by it, be a living blessing because of it.

Music: A precious song by John Nuttall – I Delight in You