Thank You for My Life

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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Thank U for my life

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This feast memorializes a story not present in Scripture. We know of it only from apocryphal writings, those considered of unsubstantiated origin. It tells of Mary’s dedication in the Temple at the age of three. Some versions say she remained there until the age of twelve, thus giving her life fully to God even from youth.

On the day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “we celebrate that dedication of herself which Mary made to God from her very childhood under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who filled her with grace … .” (Liturgy of the Hours)

As we move deeper into the final weeks of Ordinary Time, our readings continue to offer us stories about what it will be like at the end of time.  Today’s Gospel about the talents reminds us that we each have been given particular gifts with which to build up God’s Creation. Like the watchful Master, God expects – and needs- us to use these gifts, and to increase their value by sharing them with our sisters and brothers. Sometimes we think we have no real gifts to give. But the witness of a simple, faithful, generous life is beyond price.

During this Thanksgiving week, we will want to spend some prayer time reflecting on the many gifts we have been given – by God and by those who love us. Calling on Mary, let us pray too about how we choose to  “pay it forward” in gratitude.

Music: We Have Gifts to Share – Susan Kay Wyatts

This is a childlike song, but the point is profound. For those with young children and Grands, you might like to share this song with them.

Come Down into God’s Arms

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

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Today in Mercy, the author of Revelation says some pretty tough stuff in the name of God!

To the Church at Sardis:
You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

To the Church at Laodicea:
Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.

As most of us know from experience, it’s never really easy to accept negative feedback.  But, couched in gentle, encouraging tones, it can be accepted and acted on. John of Patmos, author of Revelation, missed that lesson in coaching techniques! 

How effective his words were with the under-performing churches is a matter left to history.

zaccheus

But in our Gospel, Jesus’s inclusive, forgiving words to Zaccheus proved very effective.  Jesus doesn’t even address any shortcomings (not to make a pun) in Zaccheus.

He just says, “Come down from your tree.  I’m coming to your house for dinner.” In other words, I’m coming into your life — now what’s your response?

Zaccheus is radically changed by Jesus’s lavish mercy. He responds,

“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”

Today, we pray to have a simple, trusting faith. Sometimes, like Zaccheus, we get ourselves “up a tree”, all twisted and stretching to find God in our lives. And all the time, God has been walking straight down the path of our heart, smiling at our efforts, planning to stay with us tonight, tomorrow and forever.

Music: Zaccheus – Medical Mission Sisters

Oh, That First Love!

Monday, November 19, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, we earnestly begin the Book of Revelation. These twelve days of passages will close out the liturgical year before Advent.

Rev 2_4 first love

This book, also commonly known as the Apocalypse, is one of the most controversial in the Bible. Scholars disagree as to its author, its meaning, its literary genre and even its place in the biblical canon.

Wherever we might fall in this spectrum of interpretations, the book still can inspire us to prayer and reflection.

In today’s passage, the author addresses the first of seven churches to whom he will write – the church at Ephesus. He praises them and says that God is pleased with their work, their endurance and their fidelity. That must have made them feel pretty good, right?

But then, the heart-breaking line:

Yet I hold this against you:
you have lost the love you had at first.

We might easily find ourselves in this passage. We’re trying hard to be faithful Christians. But, depending on where we are in our lives, have we lost that first fervor?

The continual grind of work, ministry, family and community responsibility can dim that first fire. Maybe the fresh flower has been choked in the daily weeds. Just the accumulation of years may obscure it.

Today, let’s try to remember that first love which turned our hearts to God and to God’s work in the world. Let’s ask our generous God, Who longs for our love, to renew our passion and energy for the Divine Adventure.

Music: Power of Your Love – Hillsongs

In Those (Scary) Days…

Sunday, November 18, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, our readings offer a taste of “pre-Advent agita”.  You know what I mean. 

Mk 13_29

In the next few weeks:

  • the sun will be darkened,
  • and the moon will not give its light,
  • and the stars will be falling from the sky,
  • and the powers in the heavens will be shaken

The phrase, “In those days” becomes prelude to some scary stuff! What’s going on here?

Well, the Church Year – symbolic of the total Christian life – is coming to an end. With its closing, we are constantly reminded that this might be our last chance to get our act together before we are judged.

I always disliked these apocalyptic readings. As a child, I was frightened by them. As an adult, they don’t easily convey the kind of God Who has loved me into my maturity. But they do reveal the God of fidelity who stays with us through it all to the end.

One line from today’s reading that captures the heart? 

When you see these things happening,
know that He is near, at the gates.

There are still a lot of closed gates in my heart – places I have not yet given over fully to God. You? Same?

This reading challenges us to go to the gate, unlock it, and let our whole heart meet God who is waiting there for us, despite any fears we may harbor – even of the end-time.

Music: Heaven’s Gate – instrumental to pray with as we unlock our gates.

Bread and Roses

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Readings: Click here for readings

Eliz_bread

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.  Elizabeth, a princess in Hungary, was married at the age of fourteen to Louis IV of Thuringia, a German state. Both rulers were kind and saintly. 

Elizabeth used her considerable royal resources to help the poor and hungry. She met them outside the walls of the palace, even building a small hospital there to care for the sick among them. 

But there was some controversy within the castle, questioning her charity as a depletion of the governmental treasures. 

Eliz windowJPG

Once, on a charitable journey, Elizabeth met her husband traveling with a band of such questioners. She carried baskets of bread to the poor, covered with her traveling cloaks. They demanded she reveal her cargo at which the bread is said to have been miraculously transformed into roses.

(St Elizabeth of Hungary with her crown and apron full of flowers. Blois château, France. One of a series of female saints in the Oratory (once the queen’s private chapel). Designed by Michel Dumas in 1858, the windows were painted by Claude Lavergne in 1859.)

As indicated by Pope Benedict XVI, Elizabeth is part of that long line of holy ones, whose relationship with Jesus moved them to justice and mercy for all people.

Praying with Elizabeth today, asking for insight on how to be loving and charitable in today’s world, one might consider this:

  • What would it be like to greet our border refugees with baskets of bread rather than barbed wire?
  • What would it be like if we built rose hedges rather than walls?

The caravan of refugees seeking asylum at our border mirrors many similar marchers throughout history, searching for a measure of equality and a livable life.

The music for today, aptly titled “Bread and Roses”, originated in the early 1900s, as women marched for improved working conditions and the right to vote.

Music: Bread and Roses

Lady

Friday, November 16, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our first reading is from John’s very brief second epistle.

This is a fascinating passage. It is addressed to “Kyria”, Greek for “Lady”. The contents encourage this revered lady to keep herself and her household true to Christ.

Reading the passage, one wonders who “Kyria” is. At least three theories exist among scholars:

  • an actual religious leader 
  • a metaphor for the Church 
  • Mary, Mother of Jesus

The letter is beautifully personal in tone, so I like to think that Kyria was, indeed, an influential church leader and John’s beloved friend. So often, the names of early Christian women leaders are lost to history. Whether they were omitted in the original texts, or erased by subsequent misogynistic translators, we can only surmise. But the absence has served to support the misperception that women are of lesser consequence in the Church.

As we read 2 John, we can be aware of the major themes he entrusted to dear “Kyria”, whoever she might have been, to be transmitted to her household:

  • Truth is expressed through love, modeled to us in Jesus.
  • Obedience to God is expressed through service in His name.
  • Guard against any who distract you from these teachings.

Music: Kyria (Lady) is the feminine form of Kyrie , as in “Kyrie eleison” (Lord, have mercy).

So the music I thought of for today is the magnificent Kyrie Eleison from Charles Gounod’s Mass for St. Cecilia.

Peel the Onion

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus tells us a secret:

“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

And it remains a bit of a secret, even after He tells it, because it is often very hard to discern the “Kingdom among us”. There is nothing more invisible than something hiding in plain sight.

Lk17_21JPG

Through prayer, we discover that it is about our eyes – not visibility. It is about the power of grace within us to see beyond appearances. We need a soul that can “peel the onion” of experience to find the face of God resident within all things.

  • With that kind of eyes, you don’t just have a business meeting today.
    You have an opportunity to build God’s Kingdom through respect, encouragement and mutuality.
  • You don’t just pass a person begging on the corner.
    You walk near Christ himself accompanying a broken spirit.
  • You don’t just encounter the hurts and challenges of your life.
    You are invited by God into a living faith that finds his will in all things.
  • You don’t live in the world with just other creatures.
    You meet and honor the Divine Presence in every living thing.

Indeed, the Kingdom of God is right here among us.

May we see it!
May we treasure it!
May we reveal it!

Music:  Let Your Kingdom Come – Tommy Walker

 

Living Gratefully

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, we witness the cure of the ten lepers.  You know, it would be startling enough to run into one leper on your daily walk, right?  But TEN! That must have been an astounding situation. And to see those sad, disfigured people restored to wholeness must have been nearly overwhelming for the entourage accompanying Jesus.

Can you imagine that the recipients of such a miracle wouldn’t have clung in gratitude to Jesus for the rest of their days??? But, wow, only one even bothered to say “Thank you”.

Lk 17_17 lepersJPG

What might have kept the other nine away, locked in their blind ingratitude?

Perhaps it’s not such a mystery if we allow ourselves to examine our own often ungrateful hearts. We don’t necessarily mean to be boorish in the face of God’s kindness and the generosity of others, but we suffer from …

  1. Distraction: our lives are filled with frenetic activity which causes our blessings to flit by us into dizzying forgetfulness
  2. Entitlement: we think we deserve or have earned those blessings
  3. Self-absorption: we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t even notice that our whole life is a gift
  4. Laziness: we might say thanks if we get around to it. But we never get around to it.
  5. Unresolved anger: we’re mad that we even needed help
  6. Non-intentionality: we fail to live with intention and reflection, thus missing the opportunities for gratitude 
  7. Pride: we are too proud to acknowledge that we need anything
  8. Fear: we are afraid something will be required of us in return for the gift
  9. Spiritual blindness: we just don’t see the nurturing power of God and others in our life

It’s likely that our nine ungrateful lepers had these human frailties. But don’t be thinking about them, or your acquaintances who share their failings.  Let’s think about ourselves and how we want to be more grateful. The story is a powerful wake-up call to do better than the poor lepers did by living this prayer:

May I live humbly and gratefully today.

Music:  Hymn of Grateful Praise – Folliott S. Pierpoint

The First American Saint Was An Immigrant

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who from a very young age, was filled with the missionary spirit.

11_12 Cabrini

When she went to visit to her uncle, Don Luigi Oldini of Livagra,
a priest who lived beside a swift canal, she made little boats of paper,
dropped violets in them, called the flowers missionaries,
and launched them to sail off to India and China
.
~ Lives of the Saints – John J. Cauley ~

Frail as a young woman, she was at first rejected for religious life. But eventually, through the often labyrinthine ways of God’s grace, Frances founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Still desiring to be a missionary to China, Frances petitioned the Pope for approval. He, instead, requested that she and her sisters go to the USA to minister to the massive influx of Italian immigrants there.

She did this with an extraordinary and holy distinction. In 1945, Frances became the first citizen of the USA to be canonized a Saint.

To learn more about her life and legacy, see the website of her community:

Click here for Cabrini Sisters webpage

Or this very complete entry in Wikipedia

Click here for full wikipedia article

Not Music today. Instead a short video on Mother Cabrini’s influence, not only in New York, but as far as New Orleans:

Increase Our Faith

Monday, November 12, 2019

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Lk17_5

Today, in Mercy,  we commemorate the Feast of St. Josaphat, not one of your common household saints. I actually never heard the name used, except for the expression “Jumpin’ Josaphat” (commonly invoked by Robin in the Batman series, in case you require documentation. 😀)

But Josaphat was quite a Saint. A deeply devout and holy monk, he lived in 16th century Lithuania, then part of the Polish Kingdom. At that time, the political variabilities of Europe were firmly intertwined with the bureaucracy of the Church, both Roman and Orthodox. This led to civic power struggles masquerading as religious conflicts.

Through the Union of Brest, the bishops who lived within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth voted to unite with Rome. Many people were not happy with this decision – to the point of riots and mob violence. Josaphat worked tirelessly to realize this union and ultimately paid with his life at the hands of such a mob.

Even today we find, within the Church, divisions driven by politics and power clashes. Often expressed as the desire for ritual purity and historical rectitude, they cloak the fear and inability to grow in grace and mutuality.

We see these kinds of struggles in the factions trying to undermine Pope Francis. We can recognize them by their criticism without charity, their pronouncements without dialogue, and their own controlling hierarchies.

In our first reading, Paul writes to Titus who shepherds the nascent Church in Crete. Paul instructs him on the best ways to build a worshipping community without these infighting flaws.

In our Gospel, Jesus instructs the disciples on sin, repentance and forgiveness — all of which we encounter within the struggling community of faith. Hearing him, the  disciples immediately realize what it is they most need to engage the challenges before them:

Lord, increase our faith!

Let us join their prayer today for unity and love in the Christian Churches.

Music:  Increase Our Faith – David Haas