Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest

May 26, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 79, one of the “Sad Songs of Zion”. While many of the Psalms are celebratory in nature, offering praise and thanksgiving, about a third of the Psalter is lament.

These mournful songs remind us that life is indeed full of both joys and sorrows. Faith calls us to live through these modulations within the presence of God.

The psalmist of 79 cries out from imprisonment and deathly fear, but is not without hope for a better future:

Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;
    with your great power free those doomed to death.
Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
    will give thanks to you forever;
    through all generations we will declare your praise.

Psalm 79: 11-13

This is the kind of resilient prayer we can learn from the Psalms. At times, we find ourselves “imprisoned” – locked away from what we most want in our lives – love, peace, security, health, freedom. To deny such suffering only buries us deeper in it. 


As we see in our Gospel today, Jesus calls us to face our truth and to seek God’s Presence within it. Doing so will allow us, as it did the disciples, to move beyond self-centered expectation to God-centered courageous hope.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
came to Jesus and said to him,
‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, ‘What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him,
“Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, ‘We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The chalice that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”


As we look at our world, and perhaps our own lives, we see much suffering. How can God come to us from the midst of such pain? Psalm 79 tells us to keep inviting God and to be vigilant and attentive for God’s appearance. Just as in our Gospel, it will not look as we had expected it to look.

Remember us
Show us
Help us
Deliver us
Free us
Then we will give thanks and praise your Name

The Basic Prayer of Psalm 79

Poetry: A Blessing by Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa 

May the God of Surprises delight you, 
inviting you to accept gifts not yet imagined.
May the God of Transformation call you, 
opening you to continual renewal.
May the God of Justice confront you, 
daring you to see the world through God’s eyes.
May the God of Abundance affirm you, 
nudging you towards deeper trust.
May the God of Embrace hold you, 
encircling you in the hearth of God’s home.
May the God of Hopefulness bless you, 
encouraging you with the fruits of faith.
May the God of Welcoming invite you, 
drawing you nearer to the fullness of God’s expression in you.
May God Who is Present be with you, 
awakening you to God in all things, all people, and all moments.
May God be with you.
Amen.

Music: The Joys and Sorrows of Life – Johannes Bornlöff

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