If … then. Uh oh!

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 25, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge us.

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Jesus talks about the kind of blowback his disciples can expect for living their faith in  an inimical world. He gives us some “if … then” statements:

  • If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
  • If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.
  • If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.

Reading these verses makes me wonder if I am really living the Gospel, because I don’t feel all that persecuted.

And then I think that this is because I really live in two worlds. I live in first world comfort and security. But there is also a part of me that agonizes daily over the injustice rampant in our shared world. Today’s Gospel challenges me to live more intentionally in that second world.

Walter Brueggemann says this:

Faith is both the conviction
that justice can be accomplished
and the refusal to accept injustice.”
Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out

Jesus was not persecuted simply because he did miracles and preached love. This loving, life-giving ministry confronted the dominant, government-generated culture which relied on the subjugation and despair of those they dominated.

Jesus, just like other prophets, was killed because he gave hope to a people whose freedom threatened the status quo comfort of the dominators. Just like  Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Oscar Romero , Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Wang Zhiming , the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek  (All names are clickable to find more information.)

I don’t aspire to martyrdom. But I do want to be a true disciple of Jesus. The way available to us is to live and act with mercy and compassion for the poor, marginalized people Jesus so loves. We can do this by voting, advocating for, and sponsoring programs and agendas for social justice.  This link from the Sisters of Mercy is a help on how to do that:

Click here for Sisters of Mercy Advocacy page

Brueggemann also says this:

Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion.” (Prophetic Imagination)

May our hearts be moved by grace to the depth of compassion we have learned from Jesus.

P.S. I know that many of you have responded to this request I placed on Facebook. Thank you. For those who don’t do Facebook, this is an urgent request for help for refugees at our southern border. It’s an easy way to do some good things.It was received from Sisters of Mercy Leadership Team in D.C.

Music for today is below this request. 


appeal


Music: Compassion- The Gettys 

Whenever I Call You “Friend”

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 24, 2019

Click here or readings

Today, in Mercy, Jesus calls us his friends. What a magical, mysterious word! Making friends, being friends, keeping friends – these are some of the essential dynamics of a human life.

Jn15_15_friends

Many years ago, one of our family’s preschoolers was playing with his neighborhood buddies. His mom told him to introduce the boys to us. Very formally, little Charlie announced, “I would like you to meet my shrends.” He was not too sure yet about the word, but he was very clear on the concept. Among all his classmates, these guys shared something special with him.

Like all our relationships, Charlie’s would develop over time by trial and error, by imitation and intention – one confidence, care and joy shared, one after another. Trust and love would build, ultimately giving that irreplaceable gift of true and trusted friendship 

Jesus is telling us today that we share something special with him. Our spiritual life is all about building those mutual confidences and shared experiences that help us to know Christ’s heart and allow him to know ours.

Jesus has given himself fully to this friendship:

I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you
all that the Father has told me.

May we ever grow stronger and more generous in our response to Christ’s amazing gift. May we learn to love as Christ loves.

This is my commandment:
love one another as I love you.

No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Music:  Today’s choice is a popular contemporary song. Ever since I was a young teen, I sometimes, in prayer, choose to sing a popular song to God (mostly in my heart now, because my voice has gone the way of all flesh). Some of these songs can be perfect for what’s in the heart. If you have never tried it, this song might encourage you to. Maybe you have a favorite you’d like to sing to God, your Friend who loves you beyond description.

Whenever I Call You Friend – Michael Johnson and Alison Krause

 

The Gift of Joy

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 23, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  the passage from John’s Gospel is part of the long farewell of Jesus. This farewell goes on for chapters, John using the form as a way to summarize all the important teachings of Jesus.

Jn15_11 JoyPNG

I often find John’s style lulling, like the gentle swaying back and forth of a porch swing. There are few sharp narrative curves to keep me alert. As a result, I often skip over a precious phrase like a stone across water.

A few years ago (like 30!), I decided to read John’s Gospel differently – to read it in short phrases, turning them over in my mind like a delicious candy on the tongue, or single lovely flowers plucked from a verdant bush. 

It made a difference. Today’s chosen phrase is one of those candies:

…that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.

How delightful that Jesus wants us to be joyful, that he wants to be the source of that joy!

How amazing to think that the mighty God desires to find joy in us!

Think of the joy you find in a most beloved child, in a precious friend, in the dearest of your heart. God wants to be “in joy” with us infinitely beyond these human relationships.

What does Divine Joy look like in your life today? Gratitude? Hope? Trust? Peace? Holy Intention? Silent Companionship?

As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.

And be joyful ……

Music:  gentle version of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy – 

They Are ALL Our Own

This was a day of blessed, evident love, spiritual pleading and mutual anxiety for my dear family.  God was so good to us in blessing our dear Oliver with a successful open heart surgery. Thank you all for your prayers and generous thoughts.

Reflecting on all of this later in the day, this prayer poem came to me.

I share it for those who might wish to consider it in their own prayer


Oh, how we love our children,
Daughters, sons,
Grans, great-grands and God’s.
They bring us life, renewed,
And joy unparalleled.

They promise us that God
Is still about the work
Of hopeful Creation.

These dear children,
They are a promise,
A hope, a joy, a gift
A treasure that reminds us
Of God’s innocent and
Loving eyes.

How we must reverence them,
Our own, and those far
From our own, because,
Oh, my dear sisters, brothers,
They are all our own.

181228-bixby-border-tease_b4yvg2
Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo died in federal custody after they fled to the US from Guatemala.

A Mother’s Prayer


A Prayer for My Son

Live in Christ

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us the powerful metaphor of the Vine and the Branches.

John15_2 vine

How do we grow more deeply into God? Or how do we let God grow more deeply into us? Or do we even want those things to happen?

If our lives seem to be riding along on their own, we may not pay all that much attention to God’s Presence in our experiences. And that’s where we miss the opportunity to be grafted on to the Vine.

How unfortunate if we never learn to befriend our own souls, because that is the place where God speaks to us. St. Teresa of Avila put it this way:


What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul, which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?
— St. Theresa of Avila, The Interior Castle


Some practices to help that “befriending” are the appreciation of quiet, the routine of prayer, the love of scripture, the reverence of nature and humanity, and the practice of charity.

The Little Flower offers us great insight into friendship with God:


I understand and I know from experience that: ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ Jesus has no need of books or teachers to instruct souls; He teaches without the noise of words. Never have I heard Him speak, but I feel that He is within me at each moment; He is guiding and inspiring me with what I must say and do. I find just when I need them certain lights that I had not seen until then, and it isn’t most frequently during my hours of prayer that these are most abundant but rather in the midst of my daily occupations.”
― St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul – the Autobiography of St. Therese


Lest my men readers fear I’ve gone all girly with these women saints (and by the way, they were not girly.  They were powerhouses of spiritual dynamism!), try this from St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits:


Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet, always ready for whatever our Lord may wish to work in you. it is certainly a higher virtue of the soul, and a greater grace, to be able to enjoy the Lord in different times and different places than in only one.
― Saint Ignatius, Letter to Francisco de Borja, Duke of Gandía


Summary of all this thought: God lives in us and we live in God, as branches live in the Vine. May we let ourselves absorb, cherish and celebrate this astounding Gift!

PS: Sending another personal thought on a little later this evening. 

Music: I Am the Vine- John Michael Talbot

Finding Peace

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel offers us a profound message: what does it mean to live in the peace of God?

jn14_28 peace

So many things, from the monumental to the trivial, can make us unpeaceful. If we made a list, we might tire before we completed it! This lack of peace takes many forms in us – worry, anxiety, second guessing, distraction, self-doubt and myriad other forms of inner fragmentation.

For some of us, gaining inner peace is more difficult than for others. So much depends on the trust we have felt in our lives. For those who have felt betrayed by family, friends, or God, the journey to a peaceful heart can be a tortuous one.

But Jesus says we can do it because he showed us how.

Don’t you think he might have been confused and bewildered at times by what the Father was asking of him? Don’t you think he was disillusioned at times by the wavering faith of his disciples? Don’t you think he was frightened by the kind of death he faced?

So just how did Jesus grow to such a fullness of peace that he was able to bequeath it to us as our inheritance?

He said:

Not as the world gives peace do I give it to you.

The world gives peace by removing or dominating challenges. God gives peace by accompanying us through challenges.

Jesus came to the point, in his very human life, where he chose not to let his heart be troubled because he had found this accompaniment.

The willingness of Jesus to live, suffer, and die according to the Father’s Will gives us the pattern on which to build our peace.

Throughout the ages, many saints have found and lived this peace according to their own call from God. One of the many who inspire me is Julian of Norwich.  Julian was an English anchorite of the Middle Ages.  She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.

Julian was worried about the presence of sin in the world. It seems she wondered, like many of us might, why God didn’t just fix that!


“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.

But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.”


This also is a lovely quote from Julian to pray with:

“From the time these things were first revealed I had often wanted to know what was our Lord’s meaning. It was more than fifteen years after that I was answered in my spirit’s understanding. ‘You would know our Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold on to this and you will know and understand love more and more. But you will not know or learn anything else — ever.”

Music: Meg Barnhouse’s modern interpretation of Julian’s writing, which Meg has obviously studied.

 

A Reflection and A Heartfelt Request

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 20, 2019

 Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our reading from Acts  shows that everything wasn’t always a bowl of cherries for the Apostles.  Paul recounts that both the change-resistant Jews and Gentiles wanted to attack and stone him and Barnabas. So they left and went to Lystra where Paul cured a paralyzed man. This won them approval to the point that the populace thought they were gods!

It seems that this was a time of “feast or famine” for Paul and the other disciples. They had to stay true to their mission while learning to balance the reactions and expectations of the people to whom they preached. 

They had to balance their own expectations too. Not everyone they encountered was able to receive the Word.

Our Gospel gives us an insight into how the Apostles might have felt when they met someone who was hard of heart and spirit. Jude, who has nothing but this to say in the whole Gospel, asks Jesus:

Master, then what happened
that you will reveal yourself to us

and not to the world?

In other words, why are we blessed with faith when others are not?

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Jesus’ answer is mysterious but simple:

Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.

John’s  phraseology, as usual,  is a little roundabout but the meaning is clear – love Me and do what I have asked of you, and your heart will open to My Truth.

We love Jesus by getting to know him intimately in Scripture and tradition, in ritual and sacrament, and in the faces of our sisters and brothers. If we do this, Jesus will reveal his heart to us.

Speaking of hearts, dear friends, my precious 3-year-old grandnephew will have surgery on Tuesday morning to repair a hole in his heart. My family and I would be so grateful for your prayers for his complete healing and for the skill of those who treat him. His name is Oliver and, of course, we love him beyond words. Thank you.

me_Ollie

Music today is an old come-all-ya, and the accompanying art is so saccharin, I know! But I still love this hymn and Daniel O’Donnell could sing me the ABCs and I’d be happy. As Ollie faces his surgery, the hymn is very comforting to me, and I hope to you in whatever needs you have.

Sweet Heart of Jesus – Daniel O’Donnell

All Things New!

Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 19, 2019

Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings celebrate the New Creation given us in Jesus Christ.

Rev_ new

Acts describes the continuing whirlwind journey of Paul and Barnabas. They buzz all over the Mediterranean basin, carrying the Good News to Jews and Gentiles. Their work and enthusiasm teach us what the word “apostolic” truly signifies- reaching out to all people with the message of Jesus. Paul and Barnabas return home jubilant, 

… reporting what God had done with them
and how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

In our second reading, John, the visionary and poet, has another kind of door opened for him. His vision is of a New Creation, joined with God in a covenant of love. God renews the promise once made to Abraham, this time embodied in the gift of Jesus Christ to all humanity:

Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us once again how it is that we become part of this New Creation:

I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

All of these glorious images may help us see our life in God through new eyes. Perhaps there are a few half-closed doors in our lives that need to be oiled with the grace of renewal. Simply recognizing these in prayer, in God’s presence, is a step toward a New Creation of our hearts and spirits. We are so beloved of God! Let us open our hearts to that renewing love.

Music: Stars Go Dim – Heaven on Earth (This will wake you up!🤗)

Mary, Mother and Friend of God

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 18, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we encounter a reading we had reflected on just recently – when Philip asks Jesus to show him the Father. So, I will refer you to that reflection here, if you would like to revisit.

Click here for Philip’s Question

Instead, today, because this is a Saturday in May, we might like to pray with Mary of Nazareth. Do we know her?

May

The little we know of Mary we find in the New Testament. Like all women of the early Church, the power of Mary’s story was lost in the Romanized, masculinized Church of the 2nd century. Instead, the growing Church and the ensuing centuries’ cultures developed images of Mary, and other women disciples, which served the emerging characterization of women – gentle, passive, obedient and defined by their relationship to men. This did the real Mary a great disservice.

Beautiful Mother

Click here for hymn.

But, if you are like me, you grew up loving this re-characterized Mary. I pray to her as my Mother. I see her as a go-between with God, a Father who might not understand my needs. I love the old hymns I learned as child, and can still gustily sing almost all their flowery words. I still, and always will, have my favorites. 

Learning to think of Mary in a clearer and stronger light has been a challenge, and a gift, for me. Many women theologians have been helpful to me in this. Primary among these is Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ. This is a link to a superb article Dr. Johnson wrote for America magazine. It is a challenging and extremely worthwhile read. I encourage you to take time with it.

Click here to read Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ’s article

Today, as we pray, we may wish to use Mary’s own powerful hymn, given to us in Luke’s Gospel ( Luke 1: 46-55 )

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.

Music: Latin Magnificat – Daughters of Mary

Do You Have Your Housekey?

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 17, 2019

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Jn14_2 dwelling

Today, in Mercy, Paul continues his preaching in Antioch. He delivers a very powerful, and condemnatory line about the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders …

Though they found no grounds for a death sentence,
they asked Pilate to have Jesus put to death…

Being unable to accept the Truth that Jesus was, they conspired to destroy him.

Understanding, accepting and living within the Truth of God and of ourselves is the way to eternal life. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is this Way, Truth and Life.

It sounds so straightforward and simple, doesn’t it? 

But in our world, truth has lost its definition. Its edges have been stretched beyond recognition by propaganda, moral convenience, political pretense, false advertising, manipulative social media, and other forms of self-serving deceit.

truthThe distortion of truth has become epidemic among us, infecting us all in one way or another.

Just as in the presence of any disease, we need to take precautions to keep ourselves healthy – true to God and to ourselves:

  • placing ourselves honestly before God in prayer
  • practicing a brief examination of conscience at the end of each day
  • discerning how we use power and advantage in terms of self-interest
  • living by self-respect and respect for others
  • evaluating our actions and choices in the light of the command to love one another

In the Father’s House there are many dwelling places. Truth is their entry key:

I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ