Exultet!

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 23, 2019

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Ex15_1chariots

Today, in Mercy, we read that triumphant Exodus passage in which the Israelites pass through the walled-up waters of the Red Sea. The images and exultations abound!

Here are the obvious ones:

  • Sea (the agent of delivery/salvation)
  • Wind (the grace of change)
  • Chariots (the inevitable challenges/obstacles)
  • Night (the mystery in which faith operates)
  • Fiery Cloud/The Lord’s Glance (God’s intervention)
  • Song (humble acknowledgement and thanksgiving)

Just as the newborn is carried through the birth canal on the waters of life, so too God’s neonate people finally begin the fullness of life promised to Abraham. God accomplishes this great “delivery” by a masterful intertwining of omnipotence, human choices, and natural phenomena. The result is breathtaking!

Just as it is in our lives!

Like any great Bible story, this one invites us to find ourselves somewhere within it. At the least, we are all making a sometimes treacherous passage through life. And at particular times, maybe even now, the threats may be intense.


At times, we stand at the edge of intimidating seas, wondering how we will make it to the other side. But if we reflect on our history, we must acknowledge that – with prayer and patience – the parting wind does come. Those “chariots” at our heels become mired in our resilience, hope and trust in God. Even through the dark night of faith, the Bright Mystery speaks to us. In moments of astounding though quiet grace, we catch the glance of God. And we sing in thanksgiving.


The glory of this magnificent reading is captured in the Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil. You may wish to pray with it today. (sung Latin version in interesting article below)

English text

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,

exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,

let the trumpet of salvation

sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,

ablaze with light from her eternal King,

let all corners of the earth be glad,

knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,

arrayed with the lightning of his glory,

let this holy building shake with joy,

filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,

standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,

invoke with me, I ask you,

the mercy of God almighty,

that he, who has been pleased to number me,

though unworthy, among the Levites,

may pour into me his light unshadowed,

that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).

(Deacon: The Lord be with you.

People: And with your spirit.)

Deacon: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People: It is right and just. 

It is truly right and just,

with ardent love of mind and heart

and with devoted service of our voice,

to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,

and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,

and, pouring out his own dear Blood,

wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,

in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,

whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,

when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,

from slavery in Egypt

and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night

that with a pillar of fire

banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night

that even now throughout the world,

sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices

and from the gloom of sin,

leading them to grace

and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night

when Christ broke the prison-bars of death

and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,

had we not been redeemed.

O wonder of your humble care for us!

O love, O charity beyond all telling,

to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,

destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O Happy Fault

that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,

worthy alone to know the time and hour

when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night

of which it is written:

The night shall be as bright as day,

dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night

dispels wickedness, washes faults away,

restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,

drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,

accept this candle, a solemn offering,

the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,

an evening sacrifice of praise,

this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,

which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,

a fire into many flames divided,

yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,

for it is fed by melting wax,

drawn out by mother bees

to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,

when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,

and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,

we pray you that this candle,

hallowed to the honour of your name,

may persevere undimmed,

to overcome the darkness of this night.

Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,

and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.

May this flame be found still burning

by the Morning Star:

the one Morning Star who never sets,

Christ your Son,

who, coming back from death’s domain,

has shed his peaceful light on humanity,

and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

Click here for Latin version and article

Mary Magdalen

Readings for Feast of Mary Magdalen:

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Today, in Mercy, we pray with St. Mary Magdalen whose feast would have been celebrated yesterday, July 22, had it not been superseded by the Sunday feast.

Massimo_Stanzione,_Mary-Magdalene_in_meditation
Magdalen in Meditation by Massimo Stanzione –

 

Modern scripture scholarship recognizes Mary Magdalen as a disciple and companion of Jesus.  She is present in stories throughout all four Gospels, and most notably, as one who remained with Jesus at the foot of the Cross. Mary is the first witness to the Resurrection who then announces the Good News to the other disciples.

Over the centuries, Mary Magdalen has been confused with the many other Marys in the Gospel, as well as with the unnamed repentant woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. These confusions have inclined us to think of Mary Magdalen as a reformed prostitute. This erroneous concept has supported a diminished understanding of the role of women in the ministry of Jesus and done a huge disservice to Mary’s vital role as beloved disciple.

The Gospel passage for the feast captures the powerful moment when the Resurrected Jesus is first revealed to the world. The scene also portrays the deep love, trust and friendship between Jesus and Mary Magdalen – a relationship which serves as a model for all of us who want to be Christ’s disciples. I imagined the scene like this in an earlier Easter reflection:

 Rabbouni

 The Upper Room on Holy Saturday evening: a place filled with sadness, silence and seeking. Jesus was dead. Jerusalem, scattered to their various houses to keep Shabbat, murmur their shocked questions under their shaky prayers.

 We have all been in rooms like this. They enclose a special kind of agony – one teetering between hope and doubt, between loss and restoration. It may have been a surgical waiting room or the hallway outside the courtroom. Sometimes, such a space is not bricks and mortar.  It is the space between a sealed envelope and the news inside. It is the hesitant pause between a heartfelt request and the critical response. In each of these places, we exist as if in a held breath, hoping against hope for life, freedom, and wholeness.

 It was from such a room that Mary Magdalene stole away in the wee hours. A woman unafraid of loneliness, she walked in tearful prayer along the path to Jesus’ tomb. Scent of jasmine rose up on the early morning mist. Hope rose with it that his vow to return might be true. Then she saw the gaping tomb, the alarm that thieves had stolen him to sabotage his promise. She ran to the emptiness seeking him. She was met by angels clothed in light and glory, but they were not enough to soothe her.

 Turning from them, she bumped against a gardener whom she begged for word of Jesus, just so she might tend to him again. A single word revealed his glory, “Mary”. He spoke her name in love.

 As we seek the assurance of God’s presence in our lives, we too may be unaware that God is already with us. The deep listening of our spirit, dulled with daily burdens, may not hear our name lovingly spoken in the circumstances of our lives. God is standing behind every moment. All we need do is turn to recognize him.

 Turn anger into understanding. Turn vengeance into forgiveness. Turn entitlement into gratitude. Turn indifference into love. All we need do is turn to recognize him.

For a comprehensive and enlightening lecture on the current theological and scriptural thinking on Mary Magdalen, follow this link to an Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ lecture at Fordham.

Click here for lecture

Music: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth

Promise

 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are all about making and keeping promises.

Our first reading refers to Genesis and God’s promise to Abraham of land and posterity. Through his hospitality to three disguised angels, Abraham secures God’s promise to bless Sara and him with a child.

Luke8_15 promise

In today’s second reading from Colossians, Paul assures us that God has brought that promise to its full completion in the gift of Jesus Christ living in us.

…the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past
has now been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory
of this mystery among the Gentiles;
it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. 

In our Gospel, Jesus encourages Martha to give her attention to the presence of this promise revealed in her life. Mary sees the promise fulfilled in Jesus, the living presence of God. She gives her full heart to it. Martha, maybe like us sometimes, is preoccupied by other distractions.


Our readings invite us to rejoice in God’s promise to us
of “land” and “posterity”.

In Jesus, we are brought home to God.
In Jesus, the fruitfulness of our life is eternally secured.


We make promises to God too.

vowsAs I think about my vows today, I am so aware of the recent deaths of two of our Sisters. At all of our funerals, our vows rest near us for our wakes – a profound symbol of promises given and promises fulfilled. God bless you, Margaret and Mary Ellen! Thank you for your witness among us!
Today, as we pray about God’s faithful promises to us, we might want to reflect on and deepen the commitments of our Baptism, our religious profession, our marriage, our covenants to communities of faith and service.

Like Martha, we might hear Jesus encourage us to give our fullest heart to that which is most important.

Music: God’s Promise – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir  (Lyrics below)

God’s Promise

Chorus:
Everything He said
In His word
He will do it for you.
Every prophecy He gave
Every promise he made

He will do it for you.
If you only trust Him
And let Him have his way
He’ll work things out for you.

If you only believe and
You will see
That He will do it
For you.

(Repeated several times)

He’ll do it
He will do it/
My God is a faithful God
He will do it

And He’s always there
To answer every payer
He will do it.
He’ll do it.

No matter what you’re going through.
He’ll do it.
Remember His word is true.
He’ll do it.

Cause He understands
He’ll do it.
You can always trust and lean on Him
My God will do it
For you….

Vigil

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we keep vigil with the “Children of Israel” as they begin the great Exodus.

Ex12_42 Vigil

Even the youngest of us understands what it means to “keep vigil”. Toddlers, on Christmas Eve, keep vigil for the sound of Santa’s footsteps on the roof.

Throughout our lives, the kinds of vigils we keep deepen in meaning. Any given night holds an array of vigil-keepers:

  • A nervous student pulls an all-nighter before a big exam.
  • An anxious parent watches over a feverish child.
  • A faith-filled soul sits in pre-dawn prayer.
  • A vigilant elder prays quietly at the death bed of a long-beloved.

As families and communities, we wait together for each other’s lives.

  • Together, we expect the births of each generation’s babies.
  • We wait and hope for college acceptances and new jobs.
  • We wait for test results of all kinds.
  • We wait to listen to one another’s stories of success or disappointment.
  • We wait and prepare for the dawning of great feasts like Christmas and Easter

When we keep vigil, we live in expectation of something or someone coming to us. But there is another important aspect to every vigil.

As we wait, something is also happening within us.
In the deep quiet of our waiting, we are transformed.

Thomas Merton, monk of Gethsemane, was assigned to keep a particular type of vigil at the abbey. It was called “fire watch”, a night-long lookout to ensure that no fire erupted in the old wooden buildings as the other monks slept.  Merton writes about that watch at the end of his book The Sign of Jonas:

The fire watch is an examination of conscience in which your task as watchman suddenly appears in its true light:  a pretext devised by God to isolate you, and to search your soul with lamps and questions, in the heart of darkness.
“Fire Watch, July 4, 1952”

Today, as we pray with Israel’s Passover vigil, let us consider our own vigils – current or past. Beyond their apparent meaning, to what secret transformation might God be inviting us? What is happening deep in our soul as we watch far out to the horizon of our hope?

Music: Firewatch – Chris Remo

The Bloody Lintel

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 19, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we begin a series of texts about the Passover. These readings are so richly symbolic, not only for our personal prayer, but also for our sacramental understanding. Today’s passage addresses the acquisition and sacrifice of the Passover lamb.

plague
Scenes from Exodus. Full-page miniature, upper register: the tenth plague: the death of the first-born including Pharaoh’s son, lower register: the Israelites leaving Egypt. From the Haggadah for Passover (14thC.)

Maybe for you, as for me, this is one of first Bible stories you recall from childhood. I remember how the drama built as my teacher read this story – all these wide-eyed kindergarteners hanging on her every word.

God was done with Pharaoh who had already ignored nine – yes NINE – plagues! Now the Egyptians’ first-born would be taken from them in a heavenly massacre! It was terrible to imagine. But even worse to consider was how the innocent Israelites would be spared from the dreaded visitation!

Even as a little pre-schooler, I already knew that we sometimes get in situations that only God can get us out of.  What I have begun to learn in my maturity is that – rather than get us out of such circumstances –  God chooses to pass through these life experiences WITH us.

An image we might consider in our prayer today:  these lintels were marked in BLOOD. The visiting angel could have as easily read a charcoal mark on the door, or a colored slab of paint. But the deliverance was secured by blood.

lintel

When devastating loss, sorrow or confusion comes to our door, how does our faith deliver us to the Promise of joy and peace? 

It cannot be by some hastily obtained symbol or sign, or borrowed prayer. Our faith must already be rooted deep down in our veins, our arteries, our heart, our blood. That rooting shall not be moved, no matter the circumstance. That rooting ties us to the God of Life. That rooting allows us to discover God even in our chaos.

As we pray today, under the lintel post of our faith, let us be mindful that these magnificent passages prefigure the Holy Lamb of God, Jesus, who saves us from every kind of death. May we ask for the grace to deepen our Eucharistic and Paschal faith so that we may fully trust God in our own Passovers.

Music: Agnis Dei – Michael Hoppé

The Name

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 18, 2010

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Today, in Mercy, God reveals God’s Name to Moses.

Ex3_14

Names are so important, aren’t they? Parents among you will remember how you labored over a name for each of your unborn children. Names carry roots to our history and hopes for our future. They suggest a shape for us to grow into and a way for us to be in the world.

In relationships, the giving of our name is a gift and an invitation. It is the first step in a mutual journey that may stop at the end of the encounter, or grow and blossom for years to come.

When God gives God’s name to Moses, it is all these things plus a Promise to abide forever in relationship. God hands Moses the key to call on God’s faithfulness forever. And God risks the hope that Moses will respond with fidelity and courage.

In prayer, and in our acts of mercy over a lifetime, God ever more deeply reveals the Holy Name to us. God promises to abide through our life with us and asks us to abide with Him. God risks that we will love, reverence, and respond to that amazing invitation with each successive moment and into eternity.

Today, in prayer, let us just rest in the Names we love to call God. Let us listen to the Love with which God names us.

Music:  Names of God – Laurell Hubick

The Burning Bush

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 17, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we read about a “theophany” – a visible manifestation to humankind of God. Not your everyday occurrence, right? Well, let’s think about that.

Ex3_4 bush

In today’s passage from Exodus, Moses, self-exiled from Egypt because he murdered an abusive slave master, is shepherding his father-in-law’s flock through the desert. (Good practice for what will face him for the next forty years!) He’s basically out in the middle of nowhere, mindlessly daydreaming as the sheep dogs do most of the work.

All of a sudden, in the still, quiet spaciousness, a lonely bush combusts right in front of him! Theophany! God wants his attention.


For most of us, there are no burning bushes.
So what does God do when God wants our attention?


Just this morning, another Sister and I were praying in our quiet living room. In the stillness, I heard her very softly say, “Praise God”. She had noticed the clear, blue sky and gently swaying leaves outside our window. She had become instantly aware of how blessed she was by such beauty and life.

A theophany? I think so. And there are scores of them flowing past us daily if we can just open the inner heart to see them; if we can just pause to be grateful within their presence; if we can just acknowledge them by a simple prayer and wait to hear their message.

Some “theophanies” come gently like my friend’s this morning. Some come in an unexpected, and perhaps unwanted, explosion that disrupts our lives. But in each of their guises, they carry a God Who wants to speak with us. May we listen.

Music: jazzing it up today
Echoes from the Burning Bush – The Cathedral Singers

Moses stood on holy ground
Far from God descended down
Set the roadside bush on fire (bush on fire)

Then the Lord did there explain
Through His servant should remain
All the echoes from the bush on fire (the bush on fire)

Oh the echoes from the bush (I hear those lovely echoes from the burning bush)
How they thrill my soul (how they thrill my soul)
Oh the echoes from the bush (I hear those thrilling echoes from the burning bush)
Point me to the Lord (point me to the Lord)

I no more am doubting, but with joy I’m shouting
With no thought of shame to blush (no shame to blush)
This my song shall ever be, words that are so sweet to me
Echoes from the burning bush (the burning bush)

God sent down His only Son
Just to ransom everyone
By the echoes from the fire (from the fire)

God of every earthly land
Would not pick nor choose a man
For His blood will save us from the fire (eternal fire)

The Basket … The Women

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, little Moses is saved from the Pharaoh’s wrath against the Israelites. It is a theme we are familiar with, notably repeated in the New Testament when Herod orders the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. In that event Jesus, like Moses, is spared by clandestine human intervention.

Exodus2_3 basket

The interveners in Exodus are all women – Moses’ mother, sister, Pharaoh’s daughter, and maid. Each of them decides to practice what we, today, call “civil disobedience“ – to stand and act against an immoral government order. Each woman becomes an agent through whom God actualizes the promise of life and freedom. And their choices are interdependent. They need to be a community of holy resistance in order to succeed.

An apt symbol for this agency is the papyrus basket, fortified with bitumen and pitch, and set afloat in the very river where Pharaoh had ordered the babies to be drowned. The basket is reminiscent of Noah’s ark, that vessel which preserved the diversity of life for future generations.

Sadly, history often has repeated the drama in which soulless leaders set a policy to extinguish the innocent. Many perish in that savagery. But many also rise up to bravely weave a “basket” of solidarity and compassion for the persecuted. Even in our own time, we see this story unfolding on the borders of xenophobic nations, whose leaders are indifferent to shaping just and moral policies.

But God is always at work in the world to accomplish the Promise of Life for God’s Creatures. Often, as in the story of infant Moses, God is not named – but rather is  evident as a relentless, compassionate force in the courageous choices of caring human beings.

As we pray today, might we find ourselves somewhere in this story? How might this finding inspire us to be God’s agents for life in our own time?

Video Clip from “The Prince of Egypt” (Lyrics below)

Hush now, my baby. Be still love, don’t cry
Sleep as you’re rocked by the stream
Sleep and remember my last lullaby
So I’ll be with you when you dream
Drift on a river
That flows through my arms
Drift as I’m singing to you

I see you smiling
So peaceful and calm
And holding you, I’m smiling, too
Here in my arms
Safe from all harm
Holding you, I’m smiling, too

Hush now, my baby
Be still, love, don’t cry
Sleep like you’re rocked by the stream
Sleep and remember this river lullaby
So I’ll be with you when you dream
Here in my arms
Safe from all harm
Holding you, I’m smiling, too

Sleep and remember this river lullaby
And I’ll be with you when you dream
Sleep and remember this river lullaby
And I’ll be with you when you dream
And I’ll be with you when you dream

Journey through Exodus

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

July 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we begin a three-week journey through the Book of Exodus. The word “journey” is used purposefully because the Book not only narrates a journey in history, it invites us to move with it into a deeper spiritual freedom within ourselves.

It also impresses me that these weeks of reading come to us during a time when the world witnesses oppressed peoples exiting their ravished homelands in search of a sustainable life. Our prayerful reading of these Exodus passages may bring us deeper understanding, compassion, and advocacy courage for these struggling sisters and brothers.

In today’s introduction to Exodus, the narrator provides a transition from the closing of Genesis to the new situation in Egypt. Many years have passed. Favored Joseph is long dead. A “new king”, never named perhaps from contempt of his evilness, “knows nothing” of Joseph. If we don’t care enough to “know” another, we can never care enough to respect and foster their life.

Ex1_10_oppress

This Pharaoh’s sole preoccupation is to preserve Egyptian dominance . He was a man driven by irrational fears. To allay those fears, he was willing to suppress the life of a people who had lived peacefully in Egypt for hundreds of years. 

The Pharaoh begins by objectifying the Israelites as potential enemies and terrorists.

He orders their containment and oppression, moving them to encampments. Ironically, these encampment cities had originally been built, at Joseph’s direction, to contain surplus grain before the famine so that Egypt would not starve!

Still, the Israelites thrive and grow. They are the children of God’s Promise. This growth further threatens Pharaoh, spinning him into more desperate and ineffective attempts to retain domination. His systemic oppression doesn’t work. His fears – and his projection of them on to the Egyptian populace – consume both him and his people.


As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized. … Once a situation of violence and oppression has been established, it engenders an entire way of life and behavior for those caught up in it—oppressor and oppressed alike. Both are submerged in the situation, and both bear the marks of oppression.
PAULO FREIRE, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, pp. 43-44)


Today’s readings offer us so much to consider in terms of a culture of domination versus one of right relationship. These balances and imbalances occur in exchanges as small as a word between two people, or as large as a policy between two nations. The parallels to our current world are painfully obvious. There may be parallels in our personal relationships as well that we might place into the power of prayer.

May we have eyes to see, a heart to care, and the courage to act – both personally and globally.

Music:  Hymn to Our Alien God – Maryknoll Father’s and Brothers

(Background music is the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” by William Whiting

Be the Neighbor!

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 14, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, dear friends, we have heard this Gospel from our youth. Even those without faith know the story.

Lk10_37 Samaritan

Let us deeply examine our daily lives today as we pray.

What more is there to say? This is what I hear in my prayer today:

Always be the neighbor.
Just do it.
This is Mercy.

do it1JPG

Music: I Will Love You, Lord! – Dale Sechrest

This wonderful mantra! Let yourself sing it!