Psalm 97: Majesty

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

August 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this glorious Feast of the Transfiguration, we pray with Psalm 97 which prophesies the messianic era when God will reign supreme over the earth. Its verses announce God’s sovereignty, establishment of justice, and universal joy.

Transfiguration by Giovanni Bellini

Our Gospel describes the moment when Jesus gave his three disciples a glimpse of that future glory in order to sustain them through the sufferings to come.


As we pray Psalm 97 today, we might think of our experiences of God’s beauty, tenderness, and joy. Remembering and storing these small, accumulated revelations helps us to hold faith in times of darkness or trouble.

In Martin Luther King’s final speech the night before he was assassinated, he spoke of his own such transfiguring moments and the courageous faith they inspired in him:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.


Also in our prayer today, we are mindful of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an event which represents the complete inversion of God’s will for the Peaceful Kingdom. 

Majesty, turned inside out by our sin, becomes terror.

Robert Oppenheimer, one of the designers of the atomic bomb, reflecting on the bomb’s first test, said that as he watched the huge blast wave ripple out over the New Mexico desert, a line from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita came to mind: “Now I am become Death the Destroyer of Worlds.


Psalm 97 reminds us that all Creation belongs to God:

The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many islands be glad.
Clouds and darkness are round about him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.

If, by faith, we learn to see and reverence God’s glory in all things, we can be delivered from the terrors of war, racism, and every other deathly weapon which threatens us. As Psalm 97 so encouragingly closes:

You who love the LORD, hate evil,
God protects the souls of the faithful,
rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
Light dawns for the just,
and gladness for the honest of heart.
Rejoice in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.


Poetry: Origami by Joyce Sutphen 

In Hiroshima’s Peace Park there is a statue of Sadako Sasaki lifting a crane in her arms. Sadako was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped; she was diagnosed with leukemia ten years later. The Japanese believe that folding a thousand origami cranes brings good fortune. Sadako spent the last months of her young life folding hundreds of paper cranes. She folded 644 before she died.


Origami

It starts
with a blank sheet,
an undanced floor,
air where no sound
erases the silence.

As soon as
you play the first note,
write down a word,
step onto the empty stage,
you've moved closer
to the creature inside.

Remember—
a square
can end up as frog, cardinal,
mantis, or fish.
You can make
what you want,
do what you wish.

Music: Our God Reigns – James Kilbane

How lovely on the mountains

Are the feet of him

Who brings good news,good news

Announcing peace, proclaiming

News of happiness.

Our God reigns; our God reigns!

Chorus:

Our God reigns!

Our God reigns!

Our God reigns!

Our God reigns!

He had no stately form;

He had no majesty,

That we should be

drawn to Him.

He was despised,

and we took no account of Him,

Yet now He reigns

With the Most High.

Out of the tomb He came

With grace and majesty;

He is alive, He is alive.

God loves us so see here His hands,

His feet, His side.

Yes, we know

He is alive.

Jeremiah: An Ancient Love

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 5, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a beautiful pastoral segment from Jeremiah. This Responsorial Psalm follows on the first reading, both passages affirming God’s everlasting love for us.

Jeremiah wrote at a time of great suffering and confusion for Israel. The Kingdom was falling apart, having been beset by overwhelming enemies. Near the end of Jeremiah’s life, the nation falls into the Babylonian Captivity. Much of the Book of Jeremiah prophesies, judges, and laments these troubles.

But today’s verses come from Chapters 30 – 33, part ofJeremiah often referred to as the “Book of Comfort” or “Little Book of Consolation.” These are the brighter and more hopeful chapters of an otherwise heavy set of writings.

Moreover, these three chapters speak to a significant shift in understanding God’s relationship with Israel. The original covenant with Abraham is stated in conditional terms- “You will be my People and I will be your God”. I hate to use the now sullied term, but it was sort of a “quid pro quo”.

The renewed covenant described in Jeremiah is an unconditional relationship sustained, despite Israel’s weaknesses, by a Divine and Everlasting Love, by the Good Shepherd:

As Israel comes forward to be given his rest,
the LORD appears to him from afar:
With age-old love I have loved you;
so I have kept my mercy toward you.


As we look over our lives past and present, we can pray in gratitude that we are embraced by the same Ancient and Everlasting Love.

Probably each of us has had a few personal little “Babylons”. We may even have had some of our personal “temples” destroyed. You know, those self-absorbed campaigns and petty addictions that distract us from the sacred essence of our life that:

We are God’s Love made flesh,
called to live in that Truth.


Video Poem: Three Poems from Rilke’s Book of Hours

Music: This Ancient Love – Carolyn McDade

Psalm 102: For the Generations

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest

August 4, 2020

The USCCB website (that you click for daily readings) has been beautifully updated. Make sure you take a look!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 102. Today’s chosen verses proclaim the psalmist’s confidence that the Covenant Promise will endure through the generations.


The psalm really rings a bell for me today. We are expecting two new babies in my family within the next month. The excitement and joy are building throughout the family branches, scattered over several states and hundreds of miles.

Due to Covid-19, I probably won’t be with these new “grands” for a long time. That’s why I am so grateful for FaceTime to help me feel a real part of their lives.


Psalm 102 is David’s FaceTime.
Through it, he looks into a future
physically distant from him.
He has confidence that that future
is already blessed by God
through the faith which it inherits.


Thinking about this, I realize that I am someone’s “future” – my parents, grandparents and all the long line of ancestors before them. They thought about me, hoped in me, prayed for me the way I am praying for these coming babies.

Those Elders passed on to me a strong faith, hard-earned on the soils of Ireland, hard-carried over immigrant waters, hard-kept in a highly secularized culture. Like David, they wanted God’s faithfulness to be remembered by all who came after them:

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let God’s future creatures praise the LORD …


When my Aunt Mary died last October, I became the oldest living member of our family. I take that role seriously. I pray for our entire family, by blood and law, every day.

Each day, I pick one who gets special prayers for blessing on his or her life. Sometimes I know they need it for a certain reason. Sometimes, they have no idea I am praying for them – or perhaps, if they are distant relatives, that I even know their names.


As we pray Psalm 119 today, let’s consider our place in the generations of faith, and our responsibility to give and receive the riches of that faith to one another.

The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD  and God’s praise
may be ever declared;
When the peoples gather together
and the families, to serve the LORD.


Poetry: Isaac’s Blessing by Janet Eigner whose adult daughter died young, leaving the freckled boy in this poem:

When Isaac, a small, freckled boy 
approaching seven, visits us for Family Camp, 
playing pirate with his rubber sword,

sometimes he slumps in grief, 
trudging along, his sacrifice and small violin 
in hand, his palm over his chest,

saying, Mother is here 
in my heart. Before he leaves for home, 
we ask if he’d like a Jewish blessing.

Our grandson’s handsome face ignites; 
he chirps a rousing, yes, for a long life. 
We unfold the prayer shawl,

its Hebrew letters silvering the spring light, 
hold the white tallis above his head, 
recite the blessing in its ancient language

and then the English, adding, for a long life. 
Isaac complains, the tallis didn’t 
touch his head, so he didn’t feel the blessing.

We lower its silken ceiling 
to graze his dark hair, 
repeat the prayer.

Music: As for Me and My House – a prayer for our families for the generations 

Psalm 119: The Truth

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 3, 2020

 

Today, in Mercy, we pray for a persevering faith. Sometimes, it is very late into our prayer that the unexpected answer comes to us. May we recognize it and welcome it out of the darkness. We pray especially for those who have endured long years of prayerful waiting: for those with chronic illnesses, for the elderly, for widows and widowers, for those who want to believe but can’t.

from 2016

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a return to Psalm 119. Set today between fascinating passages from both Jeremiah and Matthew, our psalm presents us with a particularly strong challenge:

Let my heart be perfect in your statutes,
that I be not put to shame.

In our first reading, the false prophet Hananiah tries to put Jeremiah to shame by preaching a rosy prophecy in contradiction to Jeremiah’s difficult but truthful “fire and brimstone” warnings. Hananiah eventually gets caught in his own lies.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter discovers another dimension of truth – that without faith, he cannot endure the storm


Psalm 119’s verses are a prayer to stay true to the Law, the Word, even in difficulty and storm. 

The psalmist recognizes our human propensity sometimes to create the world we want rather than face the one we have. We do it by lying to ourselves and others until, eventually, our alternative universe falls apart – just like Hananiah’s.

Because, like Peter, we focus on ourselves and our fears, we miss Jesus’s invitation to walk in faith over our life’s rough waters.


Our psalm today voices our prayer not to get twisted on life’s road, to have the courage to embrace the truth of ourselves, our environment, and our world. That truth is revealed when we love and live God’s Law by our justice and mercy toward all Creation.

From your ordinances I turn not away,
for you have instructed me.


Poetry: from Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,a
And that has made all the difference.

Music: Long and Winding Road – Beatles song sung by David Archuleta

Psalm 145: Laudato Sí

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

August 2, 2020

For my prayer this morning, I re-read Pope Francis magnificent encyclical Laudato Si’ which instructs us and begs us to cherish the gift of our Common Home. – a world which God has so loved that God gave the only begotten Son that we should not perish.
This sacred document has become even more meaningful as a global pandemic exposes the fragmentations we have wrought upon the earth.

from Reflection for Earth Day 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145, a song of complete confidence that God will sustain us.

Set like diamond amidst our three beautiful readings, Psalm 145 offers us a rich and melodious way to praise our Creator and to recognize the glory of God’s gift of Creation.

St. Francis of Assisi used this psalm to inspire his own well-known Canticle of the Sun – which, in turn, inspired Pope Francis’s magnificent encyclical Laudato Sí.

For our prayer today, we might choose any of these texts, even a small taste, and savor it with thanksgiving and hope, letting our hearts sing on this Sunday morning.

Poetry:  Canticle of the Sun – Francis of Assisi

Original text in Umbrian dialect:

Altissimu, omnipotente bon Signore,
Tue so le laude, la gloria e l’honore et onne benedictione.
Ad Te solo, Altissimo, se konfano,
et nullu homo ène dignu te mentouare.
Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,
spetialmente messor lo frate Sole,
lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui.
Et ellu è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore:
de Te, Altissimo, porta significatione.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora Luna e le stelle:
in celu l’ài formate clarite et pretiose et belle.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Uento
et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo,
per lo quale, a le Tue creature dài sustentamento.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor’Acqua,
la quale è multo utile et humile et pretiosa et casta.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Focu,
per lo quale ennallumini la nocte:
ed ello è bello et iucundo et robustoso et forte.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre Terra,
la quale ne sustenta et gouerna,
et produce diuersi fructi con coloriti fior et herba.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per quelli ke perdonano per lo Tuo amore
et sostengono infirmitate et tribulatione.
Beati quelli ke ‘l sosterranno in pace,
ka da Te, Altissimo, sirano incoronati.
Laudato si mi Signore, per sora nostra Morte corporale,
da la quale nullu homo uiuente pò skappare:
guai a quelli ke morrano ne le peccata mortali;
beati quelli ke trouarà ne le Tue sanctissime uoluntati,
ka la morte secunda no ‘l farrà male.
Laudate et benedicete mi Signore et rengratiate
e seruiteli cum grande humilitate.

English Translation:
Most High, all powerful, good Lord, 
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong, 
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, 
especially through my lord Brother Sun, 
who brings the day; and you give light through him. 
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! 
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, 
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, 
and through the air, cloudy and serene, 
and every kind of weather through which 
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, 
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful 
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, 
who sustains us and governs us and who produces 
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, 
through those who give pardon for Your love, 
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace 
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, 
through our Sister Bodily Death, 
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin. 
Blessed are those whom death will 
find in Your most holy will, 
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, 
and give Him thanks 
and serve Him with great humility.

Music: Biblical Songs, Op.99, No.5 (Psalm 145) by Antonín Dvořák and, an added selection, a populair hymn based on Psalm 145. Remember, to sing is to pray twice! 🙂