What God Will You Give Your Life To?

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

April 1, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we see faith tested by fire.

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In our first reading, three young men stand convinced of God. Even the threat of a fiery death cannot shake them from that conviction.

And their faith is not a quid pro quo – a case where they say to God, “I’ll believe if you do ‘X’ for me.” No, their commitment is unqualified and complete:

If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are cast into the furnace, a fourth figure appears with them, an angel of God who delivers them safely through their trial.

fire


In our Gospel, even “the Jews who believed” in Jesus begin to quibble with him. They stand with him at the threshold of his Passion and Death, the great fire that will test them all. Like the three young men at the furnace, they face the ultimate choice:

Who do you really believe in?

What God will you give your life to?

Jesus challenges them to follow him into the fire that faces him:

Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you …
… if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.

Throughout our lives, our faith will be tested many times. That’s why it’s called “faith” and not “certainty ”. Our life circumstances will ask us, again and again, if our faith is strong enough to stand in the fire, to walk the Calvary road with Jesus.

Let the testimony of the ages inspire us with courage. We know the fire hid an angel. We know the road continued past the bloody hill and on to the Resurrection. We know that every storm will pass and leave us washed anew in grace if we make that ultimate choice to be faithful.

Music: Praise You in This Storm – Casting Crowns

Where Are We, Anyway?

March 31, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we end the month of March in a very different place from where we began it.  On March 1st, I didn’t expect to be in midst of the Corona Desert did you?

Neither did the Israelites in today’s first reading expect to be in their particular desert. They had left the oppressions of Egypt with no certainties, but nonetheless with expectations. Now, after decades wandering the desert, those expectations turned into some typical complaints:

Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!

They even go so far as to blame a coincidental snake infestation on God, demanding that Moses get God to fix it.

desert

What’s going on here with our wandering ancestors? I think that, in our current circumstances, it might be worthwhile to consider that question. Our Gospel reading points us toward an answer.

Jesus has invited his community to a journey too – a journey away from the oppressions of injustice, selfishness, and lovelessness; to a place where “law” is not used as an excuse for domination; to a new community where all Creation shares equally in the Bread of Life.

But the Pharisees don’t get it. They are lost in a desert of their own illusions, needs, and fears. They can’t see past the sandstorms of their own construction.

That’s why Jesus tells them:

I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come.

…. because you just can’t trust enough, let go enough to see that the journey is so much deeper than your present concerns. It is a journey of the soul from oppression to freedom, from selfishness to love, from blindness to light.

Jesus invites us too, even as we negotiate our desert journeys, to release our hearts to a world beyond appearances.

You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.

Indeed, we must pay attention to the exigencies of our earthly journey, but today’s readings remind us that the true journey is infinitely deeper. That faith should inspire our hope, choices, and attitudes in what certainly seems like an awfully big desert.

Deserts can make us desperate, if we let them. Or they can shear us of everything that blocks our soul’s sight.

We may not see clearly beyond this momentary desert, but we are the children of an eternal and merciful God. May we trust our journey to that Immutable Loving Presence and allow ourselves to be made new.

Music: Everything is Holy Now – Peter Mayer

(Thanks to Sister Michele Gorman for sharing this beautiful song on Facebook)

Being Led to Light

Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent
March 30, 2020

 

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Today in Mercy, we encounter the stories of Suzanna and the woman taken in adultery. Both these stories always make me mad. Even though their ultimate lesson is the justice and mercy of God, I can’t help nettling every time I read them.

Here’s why. Still today, in so many instances, women continue to endure the same kind of assault, objectification, suspicion and blame — and still at the hands of judges, clerics, business and political leaders. Just let the newsreels of the past few years run through your mind. You’ll be as angry as I am.

So to save you from a continuing diatribe, I have gone back to a piece I wrote for the Catholic Health Association several years ago.  It looks at the themes of this week in Lent. It helps us to break through the stories to their point of redemption, to go through death to life, sin to forgiveness, judgement to mercy, darkness to light.


Reflection for the Fifth Week of Lent

 I will keep my covenant with you …
to be your God
and the God of your descendants after you.
~Genesis 17:7

roses
photo by Chi Pham

The golden June morning had broken bright and warm through the hospital windows. With its breaking, the attending physician and chaplain had received a page. Dorothy had taken an unexpected turn. She was struggling both to live and to die.

As they attended and comforted her, Dorothy managed to whisper ” … wait for Henry.” Henry, her husband of fifty-eight years, had arrived promptly at 7:00 AM daily for all the weeks of Dorothy’s hospitalization. Glancing at her watch, the chaplain saw that it was just 6:50 AM.

When, after ten eternal minutes, Henry appeared at the door, he carried a small bouquet of yellow roses from their beloved garden. Quickly apprehending the changed situation, he laid the roses aside and hurried to hold Dorothy for the last few minutes of her life. In the loving, covenanted presence Dorothy had waited for, she finally embraced a peaceful death.

It had not been easy for Dorothy to die nor, from then on, had it been easy for Henry to live. Still, through many bereavement visits, the chaplain watched their long, honest love arise to heal Henry. Through prayer and the benediction of memories, Henry realized that their love, like the roses still blooming in their garden, was both fragile and perpetual.

In this week’s readings, God again calls us to such a love. As God brought Lazarus, Suzanna and Shadrack out of darkness and death, so God promises to bring us. “I will keep my covenant with you,” God says. “Whoever keeps my word will never die.”

Accompanying Jesus, as he nears Jerusalem, let us trust and cherish these promises in our own darknesses and bereavements. Let us ask God to deliver us from both our sins and our judgements of others.

Music: No Shame – by Tenth Avenue North

The Raising of Lazarus

 

647px-Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-25-_-_Raising_of_Lazarus
The Raising of Lazarus – fresco by Giotto diBondone

The Raising of Lazarus
by Franz Wright
from a fragment by Rainer Maria Rilke

Evidently, this was needed
because people need
to be screamed at with proof.

But Jesus knew his friends. Before they were,
he knew them; and they knew
that he would never leave them
desolate here. So he let his exhausted eyes close
at first glimpse of the village.
And immediately he seemed
to be standing in their midst.

 Here was Martha, the dead boy’s sister.
He knew he would always find her
at his right hand, and beside her
Mary. They were all here.
Yet opening his eyes it was not so.
He was standing apart,
even the two women
slowly backing away,
as if from concern for their good name.

 Then he began to hear voices
muttering under their breath
quite distinctly; or thinking,
Lord, if you had been hereour friend might not have died.

(At that, he seemed to reach out
to touch someone’s face
with infinite gentleness,
and silently wept.) He asked them the way
to the grave. And he followed
behind them, preparing
to do what is not done
to that green silent place
where life and death are one.

 Merely to walk down this road
had started to feel like a test,
or a poorly prepared-for performance
with actors unsure of their lines,
or which play they were supposed to be in;
a feverish outrage rising inside him
at the glib ease with which words like “living”
and “being dead” rolled off their tongues.
And awe flooded his body
when he hoarsely cried,
“Move the stone!”

 “By now he must stink,”
somebody helpfully shouted.
(And it was true, the body
had been lying in the tomb
four days.) But he was far away,
too far away inside himself
to hear it, beginning
to fill with that gesture
which rose through him:
no hand this heavy
had ever been raised, no human hand
had ever reached this height
shining an instant in air, then
all at once clenching into itself
at the thought all the dead might return
from that tomb where
the enormous cocoon
of the corpse was beginning to stir.

In the end, though, nobody stood
there at its entrance
but the young man
who had freed his right arm
and was pulling at his face,
at small strips of grave wrappings.
Peter looked across at Jesus
with an expression that seemed to say
You did it, or What have you done? And all
saw how their vague and inaccurate
life made room for him once more.

 

 

Come Forth!

Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 29, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading from the Ezekiel seems so pertinent to our times:

Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land you love…

Indeed, our times do carry a funereal feeing —  a sense of loss, confinement, and death.  The way one does with sudden death, we ask ourselves what happened! We long to see the light of God’s promise breaking over the stormy horizon.

sunrise
photo by Yousef Espanioly

Our readings this Fifth Sunday of Lent are about just such transformation.  They are about passing through the valley of bereavement to new life.

In this unprecedented time, each one of us and all of us are being called forth from old graves to a new understanding of life… called from a universal blindness to a new light. Our Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus invites us to think about our own tombs, our own darknesses from which the Lord summons us to “Come forth!”

Lazarus

Our rising is not easy, because this deadly blindness is deceptive. It is like someone walking through the Louvre, staring into a mirror. It is the blindness of self-absorption despite a surrounding sea of miracles.

mirror

When we exist within such blindness, we are as good as dead. We are Lazarus lost in a tomb. We become buried in all the manifestations of such egotism: greed, denial worry, obsession, anxiety, self-righteousness, regret and their myriad companions.

These are illusions we nurture that the world exists only as we choose to see it; that we are the universal center; that all depends on our preferences; that should we fail, the world ends.

When we operate under these illusions, all life’s energy turns inward where it fizzles in a cyclonic vacuum. The world of “me” is a tomb sealed off from the world of “us”. Ultimately, it is we who bind ourselves in its sepulchral wrappings.

But Jesus calls, “Come out!” He tells us to leave the mirror in the tomb as we walk into the true light. We are called to new life together in Him. We are released now to see the world through God’s eyes.

Having known a deadly darkness, how precious the light of new life was to Lazarus! How profound his appreciation, given a renewed vision!

What would it be like for us to live our lives with this second sight? How might we love people differently, as Lazarus must have newly treasured his sisters? How might the fabricated walls between us disappear within the grace of a second understanding? How might we see creation anew, apprehend time in eternal dimensions, embrace ourselves and others as Divine children?

Caught in our mirrors, we disregard the sacred dust around us, failing to recognize it as the stuff of stars. May we turn toward the brilliant call of Jesus. “Look”, he says. “Look at what I have given you!” May we seek the Lazarus moment in every experience – even the stunning shock of pandemic.  May the grace of Jesus’s summons unbind us with resurrected joy!

Music:  Lazarus, Come Forth – The Bishops (Lyrics below)

Please see second post today for a poem I like about this story.

Heartbroken, tears falling
Martha found Jesus
She questioned why Lazarus had died.
When she had thus spoken, her doubts were then silenced.
He walked toward the body and cried.

Lazarus, come forth.
Awake like the morning.
Arise with new hope, a new life is born.
Lazarus, come forth.
From death now awaken.
For Jesus has spoken.
Death’s chains have been broken.
Lazarus, come forth.

The tomb now was empty.
Martha stopped crying.
Her brother now stood by her side.
The Pharisee’s wondered about what had happened.
How could one now live who had died?

The reason this story gives hope to so many
Is although we know we must die.
Our bodies won’t stay there
In cold and dark silence.
We’ll hear Jesus cry from on high.

Children come forth
Awake like the morning.
Arise with new hope, a new life is born.
Children come forth.
From death now awaken.
For Jesus has spoken.
Death’s chains have been broken.
Children come forth.

For Jesus has spoken.
Death’s chains have been broken.
My Children come forth.
Children come forth.
Children, come forth.

 

 

 

Hard-Hearted?

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent

March 28, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, danger continues to escalate for Jesus.

Our first reading from Jeremiah foreshadows Jesus’s situation. Some powerful people didn’t want to hear what Jeremiah preached. And we can understand why: Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. It’s a message that was hard to swallow.

jeremiah

 

The core of Jeremiah’s teaching was this:
You people have to change. This is not the way God created the world to be.

But the people couldn’t listen. They had let the skewed reality of their lives become normal and needed. They couldn’t accept the world of mutual love and justice that God imagined for them.

 


Jesus meets the same kind of stonewalling.

In today’s passage, the hard-hearted rationalize their resistance:

“The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”

But their antagonism isn’t really about geography and lineage. It’s about blind comfort in a world balanced toward their advantage. It’s about the fear of grace-inspired change.

 

Lk8_generous heart
Isn’t it the truth that we’ll use almost any argument to resist what demands our conversion? I understand why these guys “each went to his own house”, as the Gospel says in closing. They took refuge from grace in the little pretense of their own control.

They didn’t have the courage to open their hearts to Jesus. Do we?

Music:  Spirit, Open My Heart –  Alfred V. Fedak

(P.S. For those who grew up with classic rock and roll, check out the second song below.)

Second Song:
While I was drawing today’s picture, I was listening to my 50s playlist. Please don’t think me irreverent, but I was struck how this song (written by Hank Williams and sung by Jerry Lee Lewis) could really be God singing to cold-hearted humanity. I also thought some of you might need a little rock and roll as much as I do right now 🙂 Lyrics below.

Cold Cold Heart
I tried so hard my dear to show that you’re my every dream.
Yet you’re afraid each thing I do is just some evil scheme
A memory from your lonesome past keeps us so far apart
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart

Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue
And so my heart is paying now for things I didn’t do
In anger unkind words are said that make the teardrops start
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind, and melt your cold cold heart
You’ll never know how much it hurts to see you sit and cry
You know you need and want my love yet you’re afraid to try
Why do you run and hide from life, to try it just ain’t smart
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart
There was a time when I believed that you belonged to me
But now I know your heart is shackled to a memory
The more I learn to care for you, the more we drift apart
Why can’t I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart

So Close to the Brokenhearted

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

March 27, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our reading from the Book of Wisdom clearly describes the machinations and motivations of an evil heart. We see fear, jealousy, control, and greed all strangling the described plotters.

Wisdom also shows us the characteristics of the good heart: justice, holy knowledge, purity, gentleness, patience, strength and perseverance.

The struggle between these two dimensions has defined human interactions ever since Eden.

Ps34 brokenhearted

Our Gospel tells us that these forces met their ultimate contest in the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. And the Victor has been revealed in the triumph of the Resurrection.

These beliefs are the foundation of our faith, bedrocks we can live by when life’s circumstances test our resolve and courage.


We face such a test right now. Some people ask if God is punishing us, or has God abandoned us. Some people wonder if there is really a God at all who could let this happen to his people.

Today’s readings might help us rebalance our faith and dig deeper into its mysteries – because faith is a relationship, not a handbook. No matter how hard we search, pat answers don’t exist … just the daily learning to which the Gospel invites us.

In the life of Jesus, the Father neither caused evil nor removed it. The Father simply remained one with Jesus – living, loving, suffering with him. God does that with us too.

So when we pray, do we pray for miracles? Sure we do! Some miracles would be really great right now. Even Jesus prayed for that kind of intervention in Gethsemane:

Father, if you will, take this cup from me.

But when that didn’t happen, Jesus stayed the faithful course, trusting that he was already safe in his Father, no matter what swirled around him.

We may want to pray our poignant Responsorial Psalm today, asking God to help us faithfully abide in its promise. Here is a beautiful translation by Steven Mitchell from his book, A Book of Psalms:Reflections Adapted from the Hebrew (Available on Amazon – C)lick here for Amazon

I will bless the Lord at all times;
my lips will sing out his praise.
I will thank him for the love he has shown me
and the clarity that gladdens my heart. 

Sing out with me and thank him;
be grateful for all his gifts.
Turn to him; let your soul feel his presence;
oh taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who trust him. 

You who desire true life
and wish to walk on God’s path:
Depart from evil; do good;
seek peace with all your soul. 

The Lord cares for the righteous
and watches over the merciful.
He is near when their hearts are broken;
when their spirits are crushed, he is with them.
And though they may undergo hardships,
he fills them with blessings in the end.

Music:  The Poor Man Cries – Marty Goetz (Lyrics below)

Lyrics

The Lord On High is very near
To all who call on Him
This poor man cries and He hears
And delivers him from all his fears

For the Lord is nigh to them that fear Him
The contrite will have light never dim
The righteous cry and He hears
And delivers them from all their fears
From all their fears

“Gad-lu l’Adonai ee’ti,
Oon’ ram’ma sh’mo yach-dau”
I will bless Him all my days
His praise shall continually be in my mouth
To the King I sing with pride

And the humble hear
And the sad, are glad in Him
His angels fly ’round those near
If you ever listen close you might hear
You just might hear
“Gad-lu l’Adonai ee’ti,
Oon’ ram’ma sh’mo yach-dau”
I will bless Him all my days

His praise shall continually be in my mouth
He brings good things so I know
He’s always here
Never denied I’m supplied by Him
For He has his eyes on those He holds dear
And He delivers them from all their fears
From all their fears
This Poor Man Cries, and He hears
And delivers him from all his fears, from all his fears

Our Golden Calf

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

March 26, 2020

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calf

Today, in Mercy, God sends Moses down to straighten out his “depraved people” because, despite all God’s  goodness to them, they have preferred “the golden calf”.

In the deprivations of this pandemic time, when all of us are doing a lot of soul-searching, we are discovering quite a few golden calves still running around in our times.


One of them jumped out at me last night when I read this headline:

Texas’ lieutenant governor suggests grandparents
are willing to die for US economy


I woke up this morning still appalled by the statement.  But upon reflection, I realized that Mr. Patrick may have unwittingly done us a great service if we ruthlessly unpack his cavalier remarks.

How have we gotten to a world where such a statement can be uttered and even approved by some? How can we so blatantly ignore basic moral principles such as the sanctity of every life, and that the ends never justify the means? Well, let’s take a look at Moses’ “depraved” community. They seem to have reached a similar moral deprivation.

I think the key lies with the golden calf.  The idol is a symbol of the Israelite community’s economy, what they really deem most important, what they really worship when they think God isn’t looking. When they look upon its golden reflection, they see themselves mirrored back the way they want to be – rich, powerful, and dominant. Lt. Governor Patrick’s statement should make us consider how we have become hypnotized by the same idolatries.

Let’s face it.  We live in a culture that has normalized war, capital punishment, abortion, illegal detention, corporate hijacking of natural resources, unchecked pollution, and commercialization of deadly substances like tobacco. Why are we surprised that we’re ready to sacrifice the elderly to preserve the sheen on our “golden calf”?

We have created a world where we welcome information sources that tell us lies just so we can be falsely convinced and dangerously indifferent. It’s really hard to discern a moral path amidst today’s political complexities. So let’s just build that golden calf whose mesmerizing patina permits us to remain morally comatose!


I hope we allow this man’s callous commentary to continue to stab our consciences:

Somebody’s beloved can die
not only so that my beloved can live,
but can also have an undamaged economy.


What “economy”, for God’s sake? Does he mean the one where over 40 million Americans and nearly 800 million worldwide face daily hunger? Or where 80 million Americans have inadequate or no health insurance? Or does he mean the extractive economy which causes two-thirds of the world population to live on less than $10 per day?

I’m pretty sure he means instead the economy of the “ golden calf” where 

  • half of the world’s net wealth belongs to the top 1%
  • top 10% of adults hold 85%
  • while the bottom 90% eke out existence on  the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth

I’m not willing to die to shore up that economy, are you? But I’m sure willing to fight to change it.

So, at least, thanks for inspiring me, Lt. Governor Patrick and God help you!

Music: If There’s a God in Heaven – Elton John – (a song that could reflect how the ancient Israelites struggled with their tortuous journey. (Lyrics below)

Torn from their families
Mothers go hungry
To feed their children
But children go hungry
There’s so many big men
They’re out making millions
When poverty’s profits
Just blame the children
If there’s a God in heaven
What’s he waiting for
If He can’t hear the children
Then he must see the war
But it seems to me
That he leads his lambs
To the slaughter house
And not the promised land
Dying for causes
They don’t understand
We’ve been taking their futures
Right out of their handsThey need the handouts
To hold back the tears
There’s so many crying
But so few that hear

If there’s a God in heaven

Well, what’s he waiting for

If there’s a God in heaven
What’s he waiting for

 

A Personal “Annunciation”

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

March 25, 2020

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(I hope you will enjoy my reminiscence on this Feast of the Annunciation. I published it previously, but I loved praying with it again this morning. This strange Corona Virus time gives us all a chance to look back over the “salvation history” of our lives.  Where were your “calls”, your turning points, your wake-up moments?  What do you give thanks for in this moment, as we stand still and look our lives right in the eyes?)


March 25th, fifty-seven years ago, was a pleasantly warm day in Philly, with a strong hint of spring in the air. I remember the day as clearly as if it dawned just this morning.

window
St. Hubert’s HS Windows

I sat in 2nd period senior year math class, glancing at the greening cherry tree at the window, and yearning for graduation. Sister Helen Mary, IHM ( I still remember her even though she thought I was pretty forgettable in math) decided to set the formulas aside and talk about Mary and the Feast of the Annunciation.

For several years, I had been toying with the thought of a religious vocation – but I hadn’t really given my heart to it. But, just three days before, while meeting up with one of my friends in her home room, I had noticed the Centenary Book of the Sisters of Mercy on Sister Mary Giovanni’s desk. I liked the pictures in it so I asked if I could borrow the book for a night or two.

book

It had never crossed my mind to consider becoming a Sister of Mercy. I hadn’t really known any until high school. But as soon as I met them I liked them. They were friendly, joyful people with a beautiful mix of humanity and spirituality.

Blissfully reading that book on the evening of March 24th, I opened to the magnificent center page. It is hard to decipher it in the picture, but the motto written above the painting of the Crucifixion deeply touched me, “Love One Another”.

page

Another page offered a phrase that grabbed my heart and, to this day, has never let it go:

The Sisters of Mercy take a fourth vow
of service of the poor, sick and ignorant.

I suppose that, during trig class the next morning, I was already primed for Sister Helen Mary’s talk. She said that Mary responded fully and joyfully when God called her. In a flash as quick as an angel-wing, I decided to do the same.

I left class, found Sister Giovanni and, before 3rd period, I had committed to become a Sister of Mercy.

Now I look back over those fifty-seven glorious years, and my heart sings in thanksgiving for my vocation, my beloved Sisters and the precious people I have served. I turn the ring, given at my profession, and read the cherished motto, “Love One Another “. Our God is a faithful God. Just as He did for MAry, God took a young girl’s gossamer promise and wove it into a divine love story.

Here I Am

I love this powerful poem Annunciation by Denise Levertov. May it enrich us on this sacred feast. Great song after.

Annunciation
by Denise Levertov

 ‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, Sixth Century

   We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.

                   Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

 But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.

                  The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.

                                            God waited.

 She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
____________________________

 Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?

                   Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.

             More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes. 

         ______________________________

 She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.

Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

 Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

 to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

                   Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

 but who was God.
 From: The Stream & the Sapphire: Selected Poems on Religious Theme

Music: To God Be the Glory – Sandi Patty (Lyrics below)

 

How can I say thanks
For the things You have done for me?
Things so undeserved,
Yet You gave to prove Your love for me;
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude.
All that I am and ever hope to be,
I owe it all to Thee.

To God be the glory,
To God be the glory,
To God be the glory
For the things He has done.
With His blood He has saved me,
With His power He has raised me;
To God be the glory
For the things He has done.

Just let me live my life,
Let it pleasing, Lord to Thee,
And if I gain any praise,
Let it go to Calvary.

 

Find the Deep Stream

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

March 24, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our readings describe a deep and hidden stream revealed by God –

first to Ezechiel …

Raffael-vision-ezechiel
The Vision of Ezechiel by Rafael

then to a long-paralyzed man …

Schönherr_The_pool_of_Bethesda
The pool of Bethesda, by Schönherr.

So many stories in Scripture are laced with the same theme: there is a infinite mystery hidden under the surface of life:

  • Keep searching. Keep searching. 
  • The precious pearl that awaits discovery. 
  • The lost coin that must be found. 
  • The mustard seed buried in circumstance. 
  • The stream running deep under appearances.

We might be tempted to dismiss our first reading from Ezechiel as over-described allegory. But its rendition of the slow, steady deepening, through which God leads the prophet, offers us an apt image to reflect on our own graced journey. 

Ez47_9 stream

Hasn’t God led us gently to the faith we have today? Like young children learning to ride the ocean breakers, we have been taught by a patient God. He returns in every tide to take us deeper into our next capacity for grace.

For thirty-eight years, the man in today’s Gospel has been paralyzed by the water’s edge. Maybe we know how he feels.

duck

He believes that his life is beyond transformation. He cannot dive under the surface of his circumstances to find the quickening waters.


Jesus gives him the key to unlock his paralysis. In a short phrase, Jesus offers the man a multilayered question:

  • What do you really want in your deepest heart?
  • When you find the answer, break through all that has kept you from that deepest desire. 
  • Step with Me through the next wave, and the next until, finally, we swim together in the great ocean of covenanted trust.

As our Responsorial Psalm promises:

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.

Music: I Am – Marty Goetz (Lyrics below)

Come, behold the works of the Lord
How He has wrought the desolation
How He has brought His early help
The Lord of Hosts is with us
The God of Jacob is our refuge
When the nations rage and all the kingdoms fall
He says I Am, I Am, I Am all

And there’s a river whose streams make glad the city of God
They flow to His Holy habitation
They flow to the home of the Most High
The Lord of Hosts is with us
The God of Jacob is our refuge
He breaks the bow, he shatters the spear
And says I Am, I Am, I Am here!

So we will not fear
Though the worlds should change
Though the waters roar
Though the mountains shake and tremble
For He’s a present help in trouble, in trouble

Be still and know that I am God
I Am exalted in the nations
I Am exalted in the earth
The Lord of Hosts is with us
The God of Jacob is our refuge
To the ends of the earth He causes wars to cease and says
I Am, I Am, I Am peace
He says I Am, I Am, I Am peace