Hmmm. The Other Cheek?

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

June 17, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our reading from Matthew again shows us how revolutionary Jesus really was!

Yield

For the Jews who listened to Jesus, and for us still listening, today’s instructions might be some of the hardest to swallow! These readings encompass a phrase classically known as the lex talionis or the law of talion.

We may not be familiar with the phrase but we probably are quite familiar with the practice. Most of us begin it very early in life, at least in my young neighborhood we did. It went like this: Harry bites you, you bite him back. Janey pushes you, you push her harder. Margie takes your pickle, you take her peach. Right? Isn’t that the way it should be?

Well, Jesus says not, although his listeners had lived by variations of this law from the time of:

Exodus 21:23-25
But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

and Leviticus 24:19-21
Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.

Believe it or not, these harsh injunctions were actually intended to placate situations by preventing a backlash disproportionate to the original crime.

But Jesus says that is not enough. He says not to resist the evildoer. Scholars have considered for centuries exactly what this means. 

Does it mean to ignore evil, not calling it out for what it is? Obviously not, because Jesus Himself was quick to name the evils of his times.

Does it mean to be a doormat for evil-hearted people to walk all over? Definitely not. Jesus stood up to his persecutors and clearly named their wrong-doing.

What it means is not to return evil for evil, not to respond in-kind, as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:15

See that no one repays another with evil for evil,
but always seek after that which is good
for one another and for all people.

One of the key Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy is non-violence. I find it one of the most challenging.

Mercy

This article, written by Rosemarie Tresp, RSM proved very helpful to me. You might find it so as well.

Click here for article

Music: Make Me a Channel of Your Peace – written by Sebastian Temple, sung by Susan Boyle

The Good, The True and The Beautiful

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

June 16, 2019

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Trinity

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Blessed Trinity, a mystery of our faith beyond full human comprehension. Clearly realizing this, John Wesley, founder of the Methodist religion said this:


Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man,
and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God.


Still, as we pray, we have some limited conceptualization of this Divine Mystery. We reshape it into human terms we can relate to:


Father, Son, Spirit
Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier


These give us some insight into the heart of the Triune God, but only from the limits of our human perspective. It is a mystery so infinite that even in heaven we may not plumb its depths.

Many theologians and philosophers have tried to stretch our perspectives. The great Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes:


The One, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, these are
what we call the transcendental attributes of Being,
because they surpass all the limits of essences
and are coextensive with Being.


It may be helpful in our prayer to think of the Trinity in these terms- The Good, The True, and the Beautiful. These concepts, while we can experience them clearly in an individual or an object, far surpass that one particular presence or circumstance.

So it is with the nature of the Trinity. We perceive it simply in glimpses. Though Its totality far surpasses our comprehension, perhaps these glimpses are enough:
C.S. Lewis puts it this way:


Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun
which you could never get from reading books on astronomy.
These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’
in the woods of our experience.


What does all this mean in our daily spirituality? How can we find a Trinitarian spirituality in our daily encounter with God? How can we find the “patches of Godlight”?

Pope Francis brings it down to our experience of family:


All of the love that God has in Himself,
all the beauty that God has in Himself,
all the truth that God has in Himself,
He gives to the family.


So, in the sincere love – given and received – of a family or community, we find the reflection of this immense mystery.

And St. Catherine of Siena confidently prays about this truth in this way:


You, Eternal Trinity, are my Creator,
and I am the work of Your hands,
and I know through the new creation
which You have given me in the blood of Your Son,
that You are enamored of the beauty of Your workmanship.


Music: Amazing Love – Billy Martin, Peggy Dequesnel, Steve Hall

We Are A New Creation

Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  we are reminded of two fundamentals of our spiritual life.

  1. In Christ, we are a New Creation. (2 Cor.5:17)
  2. We are called to live in the fullness of that Truth  (Mt.5:37)

If we could only believe and act from that power how our lives might be transformed!

2Cor5_7 new

Often, we let the relentless passing of time convince us each day that, rather than “new”, we are an older creation. Some of us tend to meet the cycles of life as challenges rather than opportunities. We use old, comfortable solutions that don’t quite meet the test. We get stuck, because life can be hard work!

But what if we realized that, every morning, God is imagining us into new possibility? That together with God, we have another day to become a sign of the Spirit in the world?

What if we consciously chose to meet any dispiriting situation with the attitude Jesus might take toward it? What if we lived life as an unfolding, glorious mystery rather than a problem?

What if we lived fully in the Truth that we are God’s beloved and, with God, capable of eternal life?

Today’s scriptures invite us to consider these questions with openness and faith.

Music: I Am a New Creation- The Worship Collection

On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate (Psalm 145)

 

seashore

by Mary Oliver

1.
All day up and down the shore the
fine points of the waves keep on
tapping whatever is there: scatter of broken
clams, empty jingles, old
oyster shells thick and castellated that held
once the pale jewel of their bodies, such sweet
tongue and juice. And who do you
think you are sauntering along
five feet up in the air, the ocean a blue fire
around your ankles, the sun
on your face on your shoulders its golden mouth whispering
(so it seems) you! you! you!

2.
Now the afternoon wind
all frill and no apparent purpose
takes her cloud-shaped
hand and touches every one of the
waves so that rapidly
they stir the wings of the eiders they blur
the boats on their moorings; not even the rocks
black and blunt interrupt the waves on their
way to the shore and one last swimmer (is it you?) rides
their salty infoldings and outfoldings until,
peaked, their blue sides heaving, they pause; and God
whistles them back; and you glide safely to shore.

3.
One morning
a hundred pink and cylindrical
squid lay beached their lacy faces,
their gnarls of dimples and ropy tentacles
limp and powerless; as I watched
the big gulls went down upon
this sweetest trash rolling
like the arms of babies through the
swash—in a feathered dash,
a snarl of delight the beaks fell
grabbing and snapping; then was left
only the empty beach, the birds floating back over the waves.

4.
How many mysteries have you seen in your
lifetime? How many nets pulled
full over the boat’s side, each silver body
ready or not falling into
submission? How many roses in early summer
uncurling above the pale sands then
falling back in unfathomable
willingness? And what can you say? Glory
to the rose and the leaf, to the seed, to the
silver fish. Glory to time and the wild fields,
and to joy. And to grief’s shock and torpor, its near swoon.

5.
So it is not hard to understand
where God’s body is, it is
everywhere and everything; shore and the vast
fields of water, the accidental and the intended
over here, over there. And I bow down
participate and attentive
it is so dense and apparent. And all the same I am still
unsatisfied. Standing
here, now, I am thinking
not of His thick wrists and His blue
shoulders but, still, of Him. Where, do you suppose, is His
sage and wonderful mind?

6.
I would be good—oh, I would be upright and good.
To what purpose? To be shining not
sinful, not wringing out of the hours
petulance, heaviness, ashes. To what purpose?
Hope of heaven? Not that. But to enter
the other kingdom: grace, and imagination,
and the multiple sympathies: to be as a leaf, a rose,
a dolphin, a wave rising
slowly then briskly out of the darkness to touch
the limpid air, to be God’s mind’s
servant, loving with the body’s sweet mouth—its kisses, its words—
everything.

7.
I know a man of such
mildness and kindness it is trying to
change my life. He does not
preach, teach, but simply is. It is
astonishing, for he is Christ’s ambassador
truly, by rule and act. But, more,
he is kind with the sort of kindness that shines
out, but is resolute, not fooled. He has
eaten the dark hours and could also, I think,
soldier for God, riding out
under the storm clouds, against the world’s pride and unkindness,
with both unassailable sweetness, and tempering word.

8.
Every morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again—another day—
from the shawl of wind coming out of the
west to the firm green
flesh of the melon lately sliced open and
eaten, its chill and ample body
flavored with mercy. I want
to be worthy—of what? Glory? Yes, unimaginable glory.
O Lord of melons, of mercy, though I am
not ready, nor worthy, I am climbing toward you.

Music: Vangelis – Dreams of Surf

Climbing Toward God

Friday of the Tenth Week  in Ordinary Time

June 14, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul, follows on yesterday’s magnificent passage about

the Gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God.

The power of this Gospel is the “treasure” about which Paul writes in today’s first reading.

2Cor4_7

In this passage, Paul describes the miracle of contradiction in us who believe. We carry the  infinite light of God’s Glory in the fragile, imperfect vessels of our existence. By the power of God, the omnipotent sublime shines from within the ordinary.

We see, in these lines, Paul the humble and tested preacher. He has grown in his deep understanding of himself as God’s imperfect instrument.

All of us who want to live the Gospel are called to experience a deepening like Paul’s. The poet Mary Oliver reflects such a transformation in her poem On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate (Psalm 145). Here is the last delightful stanza, which may inspire our prayer today. (I will send the full poem a little later.)

Every morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again—another day—
from the shawl of wind coming out of the
west to the firm green
flesh of the melon lately sliced open and
eaten, its chill and ample body
flavored with mercy. I want
to be worthy—of what? Glory? Yes, unimaginable glory.
O Lord of melons, of mercy, though I am
not ready, nor worthy, I am climbing toward you.

Music: Earthen Vessels – John Foley, SJ

Glory following Glory

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church

June 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Anthony. Many of us are close friends with him, as we mislay our keys, glasses, phones and wallets on a regular basis. But we might want to consider St. Anthony’s more universal contribution to the Church. A Franciscan friar, Anthony was noted by his contemporaries for his powerful preaching, expert knowledge of scripture, and undying love and devotion to the poor and the sick – virtues we are called to imitate by his canonization.

On another note, today’s readings for Ordinary Time focus on seeing past the letter of the Law to its Spirit.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus, preaching charity over ritual, says:

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.

In the magnificent passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul, describing the Old Law of requirements as a veil over our eyes, writes:

2Cor3_18

Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
as from the Lord who is the Spirit.

glory

May our lives, blessed by the freedom of the Holy Spirit, move gratefully, humbly, and joyously “from glory to glory” – growing ever more deeply into the merciful Heart of God.

Music:  Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ

No Ordinary Time

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 12, 2019

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2Cor3_7JPG

Today, in Mercy, ah — here we are, back in Ordinary Time. Our journey through Lent and Eastertide has been completed and we now return to the “dailyness” of our spiritual lives and Liturgical Year. Really?

For the next two weeks, we will learn from 2 Corinthians. And from now, throughout the summer (or winter, depending on your hemisphere), we will listen to Matthew’s account of the life Christ. ( Some of you may want to pick up a good commentary on Matthew’s Gospel. My longtime favorite was The Gospel of Matthew by Daniel J. Harrington, SJ. It is out of print now but some good passages are available for free from Google books by clicking here.)

What we find in 2 Corinthians is Paul – when the rubber meets the road. Some of the first enthusiasm after the Resurrection has worn thin. The hard work of preaching the Gospel has spun strains of exhaustion in Paul. The very important Corinthian community proves difficult and resistant. Paul has already tried to deal with this dissonance in 1 Corinthians. But now, he has to raise some issues again.

In 2 Corinthians, we see a community hanging on to old definitions of godliness. Paul does not condemn the old, rather he challenges his people to fully put on the New Christ – the Christ of Mercy, Forgiveness, Calvary and Resurrected Hope. It’s a lofty challenge, particularly when one’s feet are stuck in the mud of “ordinary time” and old comforts.

In our Gospel, Jesus preaches the same message. He tells his followers that he has not come to abolish the Law, but to perfect it in the Spirit.

For some of us, it is a lot more comforting to hang on to the tried and the true, the words “written in stone”. But the Spirit of God will never be confined to stone.

The Spirit is always free, astonishing and alive. In the inspiration of these passages, let us ask God what new Pentecostal courage and hope God asks of us. It may be as small as a personal act of forgiveness, or as large as a Church welcoming previously alienated individuals and communities.

How can we announce God’s merciful heart for all people by the gracious exercise of our “ordinary” time?

Music: perhaps, if Paul were preaching today, this is the way he would speak to the Corinthians (Apologies to English teachers🧐)

Kelontae Gavin: No Ordinary Worship

A St. Barnabas Music Fest

Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle

June 11, 2019

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Mk9_49_ salt

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Barnabas, “a good man”. Reading about his call in Acts, that phrase struck me.

“Barnabas … was a good man,
filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.”

Some of you classic jazz/blues fans may remember an old classic by Bessie Smith, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

That’s a pretty sad song, but apparently it does not reflect the experience of the early disciples. They found several good men in Acts 11:

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger,
Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

What makes someone a “good man (or woman)? I can remember my Dad, a good man himself, using that phrase on occasion about someone he knew. It was a rare benediction – only someone of exceptional character earned it from my Dad.

All of Dad’s designees had these things in common: humble, hard-working, honest, generous, simple and respectful people. They had shown up for life, with a loyalty to those around them. They were God-loving, salt-of-the-earth fellas who would be shocked to think they were special. Barnabas was such a guy.

Jesus loved this kind of soul too. In our Gospel he says

“You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world…
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”

…or, in Godspell terms:

As we pray these Scripture passages today, let us be inspired by Barnabas to hear Jesus speaking these words to us – because we are good men and good women.

Music: People Let Your Light Shine – Jesse Colin Young

Learning Mary

Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

June 10, 2019

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Mary EcclesiaJPG

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate a rather new memorial feast. On February 11, 2018, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (yes, that really exists, even though it sounds a little bit like something from Harry Potter!) inscribed a new obligatory Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, into the General Roman Calendar. This memorial is celebrated every year on the Monday after Pentecost.

We might wonder why we need another feast and title for Mary after 2000 years of devotion to her. But the intent is to open our hearts and minds to new and more dynamic understandings of the role of Mary in our spirituality and theology.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said, upon announcing the feast:

This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life
must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ
in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed.

When any new Feast is decreed, liturgical readings and texts are assigned to it. For this memorial, a Latin hymn was designated, written by the modern Latin poet Anselmo Lentini:

O virgo mater, filia tui beata Filii,
sublimis et humillima præ creaturis omnibus,

Divini tu consilii fixus ab ævo terminus,
tu decus et fastigium naturæ nostræ maximum:

Quam sic prompsisti nobilem,
ut summus eius conditor in ipsa per te fieret arte miranda conditus.

In utero virgine o amor revixit igneus,
cuius calore germinant flores in terra cæ lici.

Patri sit et Paraclito tuo que Nato gloria,
qui veste te mirabili circumdederunt gratiæ. Amen.

Interestingly, Lentini’s text is a clear replication of Dantė’s “Divine Comedy” – Paradiso Canto XXXIII, here translated by Longfellow:

Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son
Humble and high beyond all other creature,
The limit fixed of the eternal counsel,
Thou art the one who such nobility
To human nature gave, that its Creator
Did not disdain to make himself its creature.
Within thy womb rekindled was the love,
By heat of which in the eternal peace
After such wise this flower has germinated.
Here unto us thou art a noonday torch
Of charity, and below there among mortals
Thou art the living fountain—head of hope.
Lady thou art so great, and so prevailing,
That he who wishes grace, nor runs to thee
His aspirations without wings would fly.
Not only thy benignity gives succor
To him who asketh it, but oftentimes
Forerunneth of its own accord the asking
In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,
In thee magnificence, in thee unites
Whate’er of goodness is in any creature.

This new memorial of Mary is a further development of the hopes of Pope Paul VI as indicated in his encyclical “Marialis Cultus”:

“ ( There is) the need for Episcopal conferences, local churches, religious families, and communities of the faithful to promote a genuine creative activity in proceeding to a careful revision of expressions and exercise of the piety directed toward the Blessed Virgin. We would like this revision to be respectful of sound tradition and open to the legitimate desires of today’s people.”

Elizabeth Johnson summarizes: “This renewed Mariology should be

  • biblical, (rooted in scripture) 
  • liturgical, (respecting Mary’s role especially in Advent and Pentecost) 
  • ecumenical, (be in harmony with agreements already in place among Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholics) 
  • anthropological (conscious of the changing role of women in society, especially as women take on leadership in society: an image of Mary as passive and subservient is not acceptable to many modern women) 
  • theological (it would have God as the center – with Mary placed in relation to Christ and to the Church” 

Catholic Update, “In Search of the Real Mary,” by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, (Cincinnati : St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001)

Music: Pascal Heni – Paradiso 33

Pentecost Sunday

June 9, 2019

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Dear Friends,

For this beautiful Feast, let us simply savor the words of the Pentecostal Sequence.
Let us not be hesitant to pray with the Holy Spirit Who lives in our hearts! Alleluia!

Pentecost


Sequence: Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Amen.
Alleluia.


May the Holy Spirit fill your hearts with hope, courage and joy!

Music: Veni Creator Spiritus — so beautiful!