The Name

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr

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Today, in Mercy, Acts describes how the preaching of the Gospel spread across the Mediterranean basin. In today’s passage, we meet Apollos, and the couple Priscilla and Aquila.

Paul had met Priscilla and Aquila earlier, in Corinth ( Acts18:1-2). They became his followers, going with him to Ephesus, where they set up a new home. Their home became a worship place for the Ephesians, and they, influential leaders in that vibrant community.

The degree of their influence can be seen in today’s story about Apollos, a gifted speaker who had converted to Christianity from Judaism. The scene is early in Apollos’s conversion, and he apparently needs a little fine tuning in his preaching. So…

Priscilla and Aquila heard him,
they took him aside
and explained to him the Way of God more accurately.

Apollos goes on to become a significant influence on the early Church. In 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions Apollos at Corinth, describing Apollos’ role in this way:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

All of the players in Acts today were able to accomplish what they did because they understood and lived a directive from Jesus given in today’s Gospel:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.
Until now you have not asked anything in my name;
ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

If we believe, live, and act in the Name of Jesus, God lives in us and in our experiences. 

But it can’t be words only. We often hear people, in a crisis or challenge, call on the Name of Jesus. But if Jesus hasn’t heard from us in a while, and doesn’t live already in our hearts, that invocation won’t work.

The Name of Jesus shines in us when it is a constant resident in our thoughts, choices and actions. May the power of that precious Name live in us.

Music: Jesus, the Lord – Roc O’Conner, SJ (Lyrics below)

Jesus, Jesus
Let all creation bend the knee to the Lord.

1. In Him we live, we move and have our being;
In Him the Christ, In Him the King!
Jesus the Lord.

2. Though Son, He did not cling to Godliness,
But emptied Himself, became a slave!
Jesus the Lord. 

3. He lived obediently His Father’s will
Accepting His death, death on a cross!
Jesus the Lord.

A Women’s Feast?

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

May 31, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, when a newly-pregnant Mary travels to be with her shockingly pregnant older cousin, Elizabeth. Although a universal feast, it is certainly a feast for women to treasure.

The Carmignano Visitation, a unique masterpiece by one of sixteenth-century Italy’s greatest painters, Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1557)

The Gospel is replete with the quiet but powerful understandings women share with one another:

  • the haste to support one another
  • the blessing and bolstering of each other’s faith
  • the shared joy to cause a baby’s leap in the womb
  • the desire for mercy and justice for the suffering
  • the “staying with” until need’s end

Of course, men too experience many of these holy sensibilities, but today most certainly invites women to celebrate the gifts of God within their bodies, minds and spirits.

Perhaps we might pray on these things while watching this movie clip of the imagined scene:

Music: Two selections for this wonderful Feastday:

Ave Maria (Schubert) sung in German, as Schubert wrote it, by the incomparable Marian Anderson

Magnificat (Bach) Imagine composing this powerful first movement based on only a single word: “Magnificat”

Jesus Ascends into Heaven

Ascension Thursday

May 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel describes the Ascension of Jesus into heaven – a glorious and bittersweet moment for his disciples.


Our second reading from Ephesians is so perfectly chosen for that moment. Even though the passage is written by Paul much later, one can imagine Jesus blessing his surrounding friends with a similar prayer just as he returns to the Father.

This beautiful passage and the song accompanying it need no further words from me. Let us be with Jesus on this holy day and receive all the blessings and love he wishes to give us.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his 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…

Music: Ephesians Hymn I – Suzanne Toolan, RSM

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Through him, we were chosen to live through love in his light
That is why I never cease to give thanks to God for you
And pray that the God of Our Lord, Jesus Christ
May grant you the Spirit of Wisdom and knowledge if Himself
That you may Glory, Glory in his goodness.

O, the Depths!

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 29, 2019

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Would you agree with this statement?

Nothing is ever completely what it seems to be.

The discrepancy is in us – in our limited capacity to access reality on its many levels.


Like an iceberg, every story, every feeling, has an “understory” that we either miss, fear, or only incompletely comprehend.

Today, Jesus promises his faithful disciples the wondrous hope of the Holy Spirit Who, by Her profound gifts, will lead us to the depths of life in God. Descending ever more deeply into that Truth, we will see beyond the surface of our life into its sacred character. Our vision of the world, like a holy X-ray, will change radically. We will begin to see with the eyes of God.

This deepening is like a dance where the Spirit leads and we follow. By opening our eyes to each moment’s deeper truth, the Holy Spirit will invite us to live our lives in wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and awe of God.


We can sense the dance in ourselves when we see the Holy Spirit’s fruits blossom in us: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, purity of heart.

We have all been there at moments in our lives, dear friends — on the edge of God’s immense love for us and for all Creation — a starry evening on a deserted beach; a quiet, warm room during a winter storm; a friend’s generous embrace in our sorrow; a small awareness of all the Love God has for us. Think of your own moments when the Holy Spirit longed to love you beyond yourself. Ask for a re-run!

Those readers in the northern hemisphere are close to our summer season, with the fields yielding the abundant fruit of winter’s waiting. All of us, no matter our location, await the imminent outpouring of Pentecost. It is a good time to look at our own heart’s fields, to open them the the Holy Spirit’s astounding call and companionship.

Music: Who Has Known – John Foley, SJ

This is really an Advent/Christmas hymn, but I think it works well with today’s reflection. I hope you agree. (Lyrics below)

O the depth of the riches of God;
and the breadth of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
For who has known the mind of God?
To Him be glory forever.

A virgin will carry a child and give birth,
and His name shall be called Emanuel.
For who has known the mind of God?
To Him be glory forever.

The people in darkness have seen a great light;
for a child has been born, His dominion is wide.
For who has known the mind of God?
To Him be glory forever.

Good-bye Can Break Your Heart (Open)

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus offers his good-byes as time approaches for him to return to the Father.


His friends are sad. Wouldn’t you be? What a guy to have known, and palled around with, and loved – in person! But now it’s time for Jesus to return to his role in the Blessed Trinity. And it is time for the Holy Spirit’s continuing role in the world to begin.

Jesus describes the Spirit’s role as one that will set things right by: 

  • showing the world its mistake in rejecting Jesus
  • making clear that Jesus’s teaching was right and just
  • condemning any evil that denies Christ’s teaching

The Holy Spirit will do all this in a different way from Jesus. Jesus was beside his disciples showing them the way to live – and he still is. But the Holy Spirit in within the People of God, working through our communal love, mercy, and justice to transform all Creation.

So Jesus is telling us not to be sad. He is still with us in Scripture and Sacrament. But now our experience of being with God is enriched by the indwelling Spirit who breathes Life to the world through our faith.

What an astounding good-bye Gift! Do we appreciate it, respond to it — even realize we have received it? We are capable of so much more than a small understanding of God. Let us ask to be opened to that Power.

Music: Holy Spirit Rain Down

Memorial Day

Memorial Day

May 27, 2019

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There are few things on which I am more conflicted than the concept of a patriotic war to save democracy.

One month before I was born, my mother’s nineteen-year-old brother died on the sands of Iwo Jima. He died on her birthday, and I felt the earthquake even in the womb. As I grew up, there was nothing left in our house of his life but a few photos, a high school yearbook, and the dress uniform sent home by the Marines. He was too young to have built much more of a legacy.

Memorial Day

But how we treasured him, our hero who died, and our heroes who lived – my Dad, Uncle Jack, Uncle Joe. How I myself considered joining the Navy as a chaplain during the Vietnam War –  this at the same time as being arrested for antiwar protests at the Federal Building!

Even today, as a confirmed pacifist, I deeply honor and respect our active military and veterans’ bravery, selflessness and patriotism. We are a family who grew up in a military tradition which both elated and confounded us.

But in my heart of hearts, I believe that war is an aberration of the human spirit, legitimized by avaricious old men who are too quick to send other people’s sons and daughters into oblivion; who have the inhuman capacity to see the “other” as completely unlike themselves; who are too lazy, or comprised, inept, or downright evil to find another way to coalition.

I believe that the real victims of war are helpless women, children and elderly who are mowed down in its jaws. I believe they are the fodder of leaders grown fat on power and greed.

As I said, it is a conflict in me. I love the old WWII movies where every American is a hero, and every German and Japanese is an evil wretch to be bayoneted from existence. But they weren’t! They were men just like my Uncle Jim, caught in the failures of the leaders they depended on. As a result, their brave young bodies, no matter their country, lie in the depths of the Pacific or buried in a foreign field.

War is not glorious. It is not inspiring. It is a disgusting failure of the human spirit. And I think that, on this Memorial Day, we should be inspired by our beloveds’ lives and service to say,



In the name of my family, I forgive whoever killed my Uncle Jim on a forsaken Pacific Island, especially when I read this powerful poem:

Kamikaze – by Beatrice Garland

Her father embarked at sunrise
with a flask of water, a samurai sword
in the cockpit, a shaven head
full of powerful incantations
and enough fuel for a one-way
journey into history

but half way there, she thought,
recounting it later to her children,
he must have looked far down
at the little fishing boats
strung out like bunting
on a green-blue translucent sea

and beneath them, arcing in swathes
like a huge flag waved first one way
then the other in a figure of eight,
the dark shoals of fishes
flashing silver as their bellies
swivelled towards the sun

and remembered how he
and his brothers waiting on the shore
built cairns of pearl-grey pebbles
to see whose withstood longest
the turbulent inrush of breakers
bringing their father’s boat safe

– yes, grandfather’s boat – safe
to the shore, salt-sodden, awash
with cloud-marked mackerel,
black crabs, feathery prawns,
the loose silver of whitebait and once
a tuna, the dark prince, muscular, dangerous.

And though he came back
my mother never spoke again
in his presence, nor did she meet his eyes
and the neighbours too, they treated him
as though he no longer existed,
only we children still chattered and laughed

till gradually we too learned
to be silent, to live as though
he had never returned, that this
was no longer the father we loved.
And sometimes, she said, he must have wondered
which had been the better way to die.

Music: Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings

The New Jerusalem

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 26, 2019

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(I know you’re having a holiday weekend but, if nothing else, listen to today’s glorious song)

Today, in Mercy,  in our readings, we definitely get the sense of a young Church growing in its self-understanding.

The early Church leaders, most of whom are Jews, grapple with the question of whether new Gentile followers must first be circumcised in order to be baptized.

Over twenty centuries later, the answer seems obvious. But the question nagging the disciples shows us how they experienced their Christianity as emerging from Judaism. They had no concept of the call to Christianity coming in any other way.

It seems it was a huge shift for some of them to realize that God is not Jewish, that God is the God of all peoples – just as some of us today have trouble understanding that God is not Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, male, white, born again or any other human limitation we attach to the Divine.

Rev21_2 Jerusalem

Our second reading reveals how John dealt with navigating this shift. Still cemented in his Jewish symbols, he sees “Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven from God. But it was a new Jerusalem – one without the central symbol of Judaism, the Temple:

I saw no temple in the city
for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.
The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it,
for the glory of God gave it light,
and its lamp was the Lamb.

For John, the New Creation in Christ included, but exceeded the Jewish narrative.

In our Gospel, Jesus prepares his disciples for life without his physical presence. They, too, need to learn to let go. He encourages them to open their hearts to even greater graces:

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.

Jesus is reminding his disciples, and us, that the graces and learnings of the New Creation are infinite. If we can learn when to let go of our old practices, our material symbols, our impregnable sureties, the Holy Spirit will astound us, and re-shape our understanding of God, just as She did for Mary, Peter, Paul, John and all the many enlightened saints through the ages.

As Pentecost approaches, let us pray for such Enlightenment in ourselves and especially in our Church. For the world grows ever more resistant to the Holy Spirit Whose Gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and awe of God.

Let us pray for a New Jerusalem where all are one in God.

Music: If you do nothing else with this reflection, please allow yourselves the thrill of listening to the celestial voice of Miss Jessye Norman. (Always gives me goosebumps!)

If … then. Uh oh!

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge us.


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. 


Music: Compassion- The Gettys 

Whenever I Call You “Friend”

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 24, 2019

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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.


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 –