Living Parables

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul contrasts the sin of “Adam” to the gift of Jesus, demonstrating the specifics of Christ’s redemptive act.

Adam

A key phrase for our prayer might be the following. The concupiscence of human nature will always make the sinful choice a possibility. But we can gain courage and strength from this powerful line from Paul:

Where sin increased,
grace overflowed all the more….

Jesus teaches a lesson about perseverance in the spiritual life. He says if we stick with it, God will welcome us the way a generous master thanks and embraces a loyal servant. He adds a comforting thought for those of us of “a certain age”.

And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.

Yesterday, I attended a 95th birthday party for my Mistress of Novices. Fifty plus years ago, she guided a gaggle of hopeful and naive young nuns toward the depths of the spiritual life. She didn’t do it by words alone. She did it by faithful, humble, steadfast and joyful living in the Presence of God. Now, in the third watch, she is still doing the same thing – and she has done it for all the years in between…indeed, a blessed servant!

Catherine Rawley
Sister Catherine Rawley, RSM Happy 95th Birthday

This is what Jesus is talking about today. Look around you and see the parables alive in your own life, your own history, your own heart.

Music: Song of a Faithful Servant

(A simple, childlike song. Please excuse the spelling. There’s no way for me to fix it although I desperately want to)

The Real Treasure

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul counsels us to be steadfast in our faith. Jesus counsels us to avoid greed. How might the two be connected?

Paul lauds Abraham whose faith convinced him that God’s promise to him would be fulfilled. Jesus promises us eternal life in a realm apart from any earthly treasure. If we believe in Jesus’s promise, we realize the futility of possessiveness, greed and consumerism.

That’s a really hard call in our society. Every type of media conspires to convince us that we are not enough as we are. We need a better car, house, clothes, haircut, and on and on to make us “acceptable”. Populism and racism ingrained in our politics convince us that we need to be a certain color, nationality, religion, speak a certain language to be worth anything.

Mt5_3 poor

Jesus says NO. You are beautiful as I created you. And you already have everything you need to merit my promise of eternal life. You have only one need in this world — to love yourself and one another so that my promise can be released in you and in all Creation.

Music: Where Your Treasure Is – Marty Haugen

Should We Bug God?

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings encourage us never to weary in our faith and prayer.

Ps121 lift hands

Look at Moses in our first reading! He keeps his hands raised in supplication throughout the entire battle, albeit with a little help from his friends.

This is a good reminder for us of the gift and importance of a praying community. There are times in every life when we need someone to hold us up in prayer.

In our second reading, Paul counsels Timothy never to grow weary in the pursuit of his ministry. 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
… proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient…

And in our Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the importune widow, who kept after the judge until she got the answer she wanted. Luke includes this information:

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always
without becoming weary. 

If a dishonest judge can be moved by persistence to grant justice, how much more will God do so for those God loves?

The point? Not that if we bug God, we’ll get what we want. Rather it is to remind us to stay in steadfast relationship with God who is always revealing the path of grace and wholeness to us.

So let’s take a clue from Moses. Let’s keep our hands up in faithful praise to God through all the blessings and challenges of our lives. By doing so, we will receive peace far beyond our persistent questions and concerns.

Total Praise – Richard Smallwood, sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir 

I have particularly loved this hymn from the first time I heard it sung by our wonderful Keystone Mercy Choir in my former workplace. The music itself is soul-shaking, but what most deeply moved my spirit was the faith of the singers, my beautiful workplace community. This video has the same effect on me – the faith of the singers and the audience is inspiring! (Lyrics below)

Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills
Knowing my health is coming from You
Your peace You give me in times of the storm
You are the source of my strength, Hallelujah
And You are the strength of my life, yes You are
I lift my hands in total praise to You
Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills
Knowing my health is coming from You
Your peace, You give me in times of the storm
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life

 

Don’t Blow Off the Holy Spirit!

Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs

Saturday, October 19, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our scripture readings are a little heavy. I had to dig to get my inspiration. But there are gems in these dense words!

It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.

This is a spiritually freeing passage. It assures us that God is with us through our faith, not through the perfection with which we keep laws and rules.

Our Gospel reinforces the message:

Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven

lk12_10HolySpirit

The passage is a little scary when first read, because we all hope we haven’t done anything to offend the Holy Spirit. But what Jesus is telling his listeners is this:

If a person criticizes or rejects my life and teaching, forgiveness is still possible when they come to their senses and repent. It’s like cutting the bad spot out of an otherwise good apple.

But if a person chooses to live a life which blasphemes (mocks, dismisses) the Spirit of life, love, mercy and peace, that person can never be forgiven — because they can never repent. They will be rotten to the core.

So the advice of Paul and Jesus boils down to this, I think. Befriend the Holy Spirit by your life of faithful choices. Listen to Her inspiration. Help others to do the same. And do not worry. when you make a few mistakes. God stands by the promise to be with us always.

Music: Spirit of the Living God- Divine Hymns

St. Luke

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

Friday, October 18, 2019

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Jan Fossaert: Luke Painting the Virgin
Jan Fossaert: Luke Painting the Virgin

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Luke who gave us so many inspiring stories and insights not in the other three Gospels. Here are just a few:

  • the Visitation
  • the Magnificat
  • Zechariah’s Canticle
  • the Christmas angels
  • Simeon and Anna
  • the Miraculous Fish Catch
  • the Anointing of Jesus’s Feet
  • Mary and Martha
  • Zaccheus in the Tree
  • the Emmaus story
  • and many other stories and teachings

When we examine these unique stories, we can see many reflections of Mary’s viewpoint on various incidents. Indeed, Luke, from the outset, sets Mary as first of disciples and a model for all who desire to follow Christ.

Today’s Gospel is one of those passages unique to Luke. It must have been a cherished memory of the disciples as they continued Jesus’s preaching after his Ascension. As they met challenges in their lives and ministries, these words could keep them focused.

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way…

Perhaps this, or another favorite passage from Luke, has encouragement to offer us today. Do you have favorite?

Music: my favorite – the Magnificat, the ultimate prayer of social justice sung here by the Daughters of Mary (Latin and English below)

Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum. 

Et exultávit spíritus meus: in Deo salutári meo. 

Quia respéxit humilitátem ancíllae suae: 

Ecce enim ex hoc beátam me dicent omnes generatiónes. 

Quia fécit mihi mágna qui pótens est: et sánctum nómen eius. 

Et misericórdia eius in progénies et progénies timéntibus eum. 

Fécit poténtiam in bráchio suo: dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui. 

Depósuit poténtes de sede: et exaltávit húmiles. 

Esuriéntes implévit bonis: et dívites dimísit inánes. 

Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum: recordátus misericórdiae suae. 

Sicut locútus est ad patres nostros: Ábraham, et sémini eius in saecula. 

Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto, 

Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.

My soul doth magnify the Lord. 

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. 

Because He hath regarded the humility of His slave: 

For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 

Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name. 

And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him. 

He hath shewed might in His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. 

He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. 

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. 

He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy: 

As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. 

Glory be the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, 

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forever and ever, Amen.

Amazing Grace

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

Thursday, October 17, 2019

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Rm3_24 grace

Today, in Mercy, Paul makes clear that Jesus came to redeem ALL people.

For there is no distinction;
all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.
They are justified freely by his grace
through the redemption in Christ Jesus…

This is the magnificent message of the Good News, the Gospel, to which Paul dedicated his apostolic life.


We celebrate another champion of the Gospel today in St. Ignatius of Antioch, (not to be confused with the 16th century founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola.)

St. Ignatius of Antioch lived just a short time after Paul, dying in 107 BC. Like Paul, Ignatius was martyred in Rome. He too wrote many letters to his Church, although these are not included in the Bible.

Christianity is not a matter
of persuading people of particular ideas,
but of inviting them to share in the greatness of Christ.
So pray that I may never fall into the trap
of impressing people with clever speech,
but instead I may learn to speak with humility,
desiring only to impress people with Christ himself.

Ignatius lived a life of humble, faithful witness. He took to heart the cautions Jesus offers in today’s Gospel to those who teach and preach about faith:

Woe to you, scholars of the law!
You have taken away the key of knowledge.
You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.

We are all called to preach the Gospel by the witness of our lives. May we have humility,  courage and insight like that of Ignatius, so that we make it easier, not harder, for people to come to God.

Music: Amazing Grace – Sean Clive

To See Ourselves As Others See Us

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy … Oh boy, Paul and Jesus stick it to hypocrites in today’s readings. And I’m like, “Yeah! Go get those rotten, lying hypocrites” – and I have a whole slew of people in mind!

Then, WHOA!  I see Paul’s no-nonsense warning:

For by the standard by which you judge another
you condemn yourself,

since you, the judge, do the very same things.

This is a definite “clean up your act” reading. And don’t deflect your own sinfulness on to the people around you!

Jesus takes the same advice to the Pharisees by throwing a couple of serious “woes” at them:

Lk11_44graves

  • Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.
  • Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagoguesand greetings in marketplaces.
  • Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.

Oh wow! I don’t want to be like an unseen grave, do you?! Neither did one of the scholars who responded to Jesus, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too!

But Jesus is undeterred: 

Woe also to you scholars of the law!
You impose on people burdens hard to carry,
but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.

Today’s readings offer us a clear message to take a good look at ourselves. Are we guilty of the very uglinesses that we condemn in others?


The Scottish poet Robert Burns got the picture in his poem
“To A Louse”

O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!


For fun, here is the Standard English Translation

Ha! Where are you going, you crawling wonder? Your impudence protects you sorely,
I can not say but you swagger rarely
Over gauze and lace,
Though faith! I fear you dine but sparingly On such a place

You ugly, creeping, blasted wonder, Detested, shunned by saint and sinner, How dare you set your foot upon her – Such fine a lady!
Go somewhere else and seek your dinner On some poor body
Off! in some beggar’s temples squat:

There you may creep, and sprawl, and scramble, With other kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Where horn nor bone never dare unsettle
Your thick plantations

Now hold you there! you are out of sight, Below the falderals, snug and tight;
No, faith you yet! you will not be right, Until you have got on it —
The very topmost, towering height Of misses bonnet.
My sooth! right bold you set your nose out, As plump and gray as any gooseberry:

O for some rank, mercurial resin,
Or deadly, red powder,
I would give you such a hearty dose of it, Would dress your breech!
I would not have been surprised to spy You on an old wife’s flannel cap:

Or maybe some small ragged boy,
On his undervest;
But Miss’s fine balloon bonnet! fye! How dare you do it.
O Jenny do not toss your head,
And set your beauties all abroad! You little know what cursed speed The blastie’s making!

Those winks and finger-ends, I dread, Are notice takiing!
O would some Power the gift to give us To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us, And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us, And even devotion.

Music: Britt Nicole – Through Your Eyes (a chance to think about how our loving God sees us, and everyone else/)

God Alone

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the great Saint Teresa of Avila. 

Teresa prayer

Teresa was a Spanish noblewoman who became a Carmelite nun, mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian, and one of the 36 Doctors of the Church.

(Until 1970, no woman had been named a Doctor in the Church, but since then four women have been designated: Saints Teresa of Àvila, Catherine of Siena, Therese of the Child Jesus, and Hildegard of Bingen)

png-divider-lines--1400

Our reading today from Romans is a good one for Teresa’s feast. In it, Paul expresses his complete trust in and devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By this, Paul means more than the written words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He means the entire gift of the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection, continuing among us in the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Teresa understood and lived this same trust and devotion. She said:

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.

Like Paul, Teresa was not ashamed to proclaim and live the Gospel. May these two strong and amazing saints help us to do the same.

Music: Christ Has No Body Now But Yours – David Ogden

Grace and Peace

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we begin about a month of readings from Paul’s letter to the Romans. We will also continue with Luke’s Gospel all the way up to Advent.

To help me in praying with Romans, I am using a book by Scott W. Hahn, Father Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology at Steubenville University. In his introduction, Hahn says this:

Hahn_Romans

Today’s reading offered me these elements to ponder and pray with:

  • Paul calls himself a “slave” of Jesus Christ
  • He invokes his call as an Apostle
  • He sets himself in the company of the prophets
  • He appeals to Jews who revere David
  • but proclaims Christ, through his Resurrection, as Messiah beyond human lineage
  • He proclaims his mission to the Gentiles
  • to bring about “the obedience of faith”

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve read or heard this passage maybe fifty times in my lifetime, and it has meant little or nothing to me. At best, it has sounded like a formal introduction such as those we hear from government “whereas” type decrees.

But I took Dr. Hahn’s advice, studying the passage, and reading it slowly and prayerfully. Here’s what I received:

  • Paul’s Apostolic call, to which he willingly enslaved his heart, was to preach the Good News of our redemption in Jesus Christ – to preach it to Jews, Romans, Gentiles, and all people.
  • It is an awesomely incredible message that can be received only through the gift of faith.
  • It is a message rooted in the scripture stories we love, and where we look to find a reflection of our own stories.
  • Learning from these realities will help us come to a faith which expresses itself in action and gives glory to God in our own time.

Luke gives us one such story today. Jesus reminds the crowd of two familiar passages – that of Jonah and the “Queen of the South” (the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10). He indicates that the people in these stories believed without a sign.

Jesus tells the people gathered around him  to learn from this. The crowd demands a sign, but Jesus says the sign is right in front of you – it is only your open heart that is lacking.

In his introduction, Paul prays for such open hearts in the Romans:

Rm1_grace_peace

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

By that same grace, may we receive faith’s blessing as well.

Music: Grace and Peace – Fernando Ortega

A Grateful Spirit

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, two significant themes in our readings are gift-giving and gratitude.

In our first reading Naaman, a pretty hot-shot Syrian commander, is a leper. He takes the advice of a captured Israel slave girl who encourages Naaman to seek a cure from Elisa the prophet.

As Naaman approaches, Elisha sends word  to rinse in the Jordan. Naaman, who is obviously accustomed to personalized subservience, is not happy with Elisha’s absentee advice. Angry, Naaman sets out for home. But his servants encourage him to cool down and to act on Elisha’s instructions. 

Naaman receives the cure and he promises, half-heartedly, to from henceforth worship Yahweh. He then asks what he can pay for the gift of the cure. Elisha responds that there is no payment .

Notice: Naaman never says “Thank you”. Instead, he wants to pay, to owe nothing for the immense gift he has received. He doesn’t want to be beholden, even to God.

Elisha, in so many words, tells Naaman: What I was blessed to convey to you comes from God. The power is God’s. I am the instrument. You can’t buy or own it. I can’t sell it. It’s God’s – freely given.

2Tim2_9JPG

Paul repeats the theme to Timothy: the Word of God is not chained. God’s power, grace, and healing are given freely. We cannot earn them buy, them, control them, or ever thank God enough for them. But we should try.

In our Gospel, only one cured leper – a Samaritan – has the sense and humility to try to thank Jesus. Born of his faith, that gratitude saves him.

God is Infinite Gift. God’s love pours over us spontaneously and continually to bring us to wholeness. God can’t help loving us and hoping for our completeness in grace.

May we be delivered from any speck of entitlement, indifference, arrogance, or ingratitude in the face of such Goodness!

Music:  Thank You, Lord – Don Moen