Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Job proves his faith in God. His tremendous troubles will not shake him from his deep loyalty to an awesome God.
As well as remaining steadfast, Job uses his circumstances to deliver both a stirring, poetic description of an Omnipotent Creator, and an personal testament to an intimate Companion.
Reading slowly through this beautiful passage, let’s open our imaginations to see the Mountain Mover, the Sun Commander, the Ocean Walker, the Star Designer Who is Job’s God.
If our prayer is caught in some old, small image of God, this passage encourages us to reach for the awesome Presence of the God Who loves us – and to trust that Love with an utter simplicity like Job’s.
Poetry: The Great Mystery – Jessica Powers
My uncle had one sober comment for all deaths. Well, he (or she) has, he would say, solved the great mystery. I tried as child to pierce the dark unknown, straining to reach the keyhole of that door,
massive and grave, through which one slips alone. A little girl is mostly prophecy. And here, as there before, when fact arrests me at that solemn door, I reach and find the keyhole still too high, though now I can surmise that it will be light (and not darkness) that will meet the eye.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Wow! Job is as distraught as anybody I’ve ever seen! He is sorry he was ever born, that’s how terrible his circumstances are.
Hopefully, none of us has ever been at such a “Job Point”. But we’ve had our own small brinks where we’ve stood and yelled into the silence, “Why?”
Why my family?
Why someone so good?
Why like this?
All these “whys” are fragments of the essential question of the Book of Job: How can a good God allow evil to exist? The question even has its own name: theodicy – defined as the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil.
Philosophers and theologians have proposed an array of explanations. But these fall short of satisfying us when we are the ones at the brink.
When we try to balance the concepts of evil with God’s goodness, we are wrestling with a mystery, not a problem. Problems, like unsolved math equations, have answers – even though we may not have found them yet.
Mysteries do not have finite answers. Sacred mysteries engage our faith to grow deeper in relationship with God, Who shares our life and suffering beyond our human understanding.
As we pray with Job today, let us pray for the courage to trust and engage our incomprehensible God.
Poetry: Mystery – Rumi
God writes mysteries on our hearts where they wait silently for discovery.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have the first of six readings from the wonderful Book of Job, that magnificent ancient poem which explores the human relationship with God.
“The book of Job in its three parts of narrative-poetry-narrative is a daring, majestic fugue that renders theological trouble and submissiveness in all of its immense complexity. The whole of the drama is to be fully appreciated in its inexhaustible artistry, and not interpreted so that it is made to conform to any of our ready-made theological packages.”
Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination, 2003
The story opens with Satan annoying God with a plot against Job by suggesting that Job loves God only because God blesses Job:
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job, and that there is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil?” But Satan answered the LORD and said, “Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing? Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection?
To test out his thesis, Satan strikes a deal with God to go vex the heck out of poor Job:
And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand upon his person.” So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
Hopefully, we will learn something about ourselves and our relationship with God as we pray with Job over the next six readings. It is a simple book to read but a challenging one to understand. The poem seems to center on humankind’s recurring question to God: Why do good people have to suffer? But it is really about much more than that.
Job is a soul of unshakeable faith. Never once does he deny or abandon God. But he stands up to a God he doesn’t yet understand. He rails, he argues, he quiets, he listens. The book is really about that growing understanding and faith. Job’s questions are our questions. Job’s storms are our storms. Job’s journey into grace is our journey:
How do we relate to the inscrutable mystery of God’s Love when the circumstances of our life seem bereft of it?
How do we remain faithful when God seems to be silent to our pleading?
How do we continue to choose good when the choice seems foolish and unrewarding?
Like Job, is my faith strong enough to choose God even in the midst of all these “how’s”? Will I allow my heart to remain open to the intense truth of that Love as my life reveals it to me?
Poetry: Reversed Thunder – Malcolm Guite
This light is muffled, muted, murky, dense.
Thick with a threat of thunder unreleased.
The clouds are darkening, the air grows tense,
The coming storm is lowering in the east
Something within me trembles too, and pales,
Though no one sees the brooding darkness there,
Or feels the tension building between poles
Of faith and doubt, of vision and despair.
Everything deepens, gathers to a head:
Anguish and anger at my absent God
Until the charge of all that’s left unsaid
Leaps out at last to find its lightening rod.
But even as the skies are rent and riven
I find that lightening rod is earthed in heaven.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings will challenge us in ways we might rather not hear.
In our first reading, feisty Amos lambastes the Israelites for their sumptuous lifestyle which is indifferent to the plight of those who are poor. He calls them “complacent”, “at ease” in their prosperous, privileged existence, a condition that has numbed them to the harrowing inequities from which others suffer.
Woe to the complacent in Zion! Lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches, they eat lambs taken from the flock, and calves from the stall!
In our second reading, Paul gives a final, impassioned charge to his dear protégé Timothy. He tells him not just to avoid, but to flee such complacency and the greedy materialism which feeds it. He outlines the elements of a Christian life, enjoining Timothy to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness”.
Paul gives Timothy the key to true Christian life:
Keep the commandment without stain or reproach …
…. “the commandment” being to love God above all, and love neighbor as self.
Our Gospel is, perhaps painfully, familiar to all of us – the story of Lazarus and Dives. It is a parable which puts the economic divide under the crystalline light of the Gospel, challenging us as to where we fit in it.
Most of us like comfort. We would rather be “haves” than “have nots”. But we struggle within our comfortable lives to discern our responsibility for others. We’re certainly not intentionally hard-hearted, “lying on ivory couches” and “drinking wine from bowls” while modern day Lazarus languishes right beside us.
We do try, in many ways, to respond to the call for charity and service. But don’t we still measure ourselves after hearing this Gospel? Don’t we still worry about any “Lazarus” unnoticed at our door?
Amos, Paul, and Jesus are charging us – just as they charged their immediate listeners – to live a life based in Biblical and Gospel justice. Justice seeks fullness of life for all the community. Jesus teaches us that “the community” is all Creation, and that how we treat the community is how we treat him.
Every day we might remind ourselves that, however hard we try, Christian love does not allow us to say, “It is enough”. We must keep on peeling away any indifference or blindness we have to the injustices of our culture and times, our economic and political systems. And we too must flee them, running toward justice, righteousness, and mercy.
We must ask ourselves this hard question:
Does my “wealth” – however large or small, material or immaterial- nourish the community or only consume it?
Poetry: Regret – Robert William Service
It's not for laws I've broken That bitter tears I've wept, But solemn vows I've spoken And promises unkept; It's not for sins committed My heart is full of rue, but gentle acts omitted, Kind deeds I did not do.
I have outlived the blindness, The selfishness of youth; The canker of unkindness, The cruelty of truth; The searing hurt of rudeness . By mercies great and small, I've come to reckon goodness The greatest gift of all.
Let us be helpful ever to those who are in need, And each new day endeavor To do some gentle deed; For faults beyond our grieving, What kindliness atone; On earth by love achieving A Heaven of our own.
Music: Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus – Ralph Vaughn Williams’s beautiful interpretation of the folk song “Dives and Lazarus”.
Today, as the Mercy Family throughout the world celebrates Mercy Day, we praise and thank God for the call given to Venerable Catherine McAuley to respond to God’s grace by founding the Sisters of Mercy.
On September 24, 1827, Catherine used an unexpected inheritance to open a house for poor and homeless women in Dublin. It began with two, Catherine and Mary Ann Doyle – and that small, vibrant fire has lit the hearts of millions ever since.
Many of you, dear readers, carry that fire and will know Catherine’s story well. But some still unfamiliar with her life might want to explore this website:
For those of us who treasure a share in Catherine’s call, today’s readings may suggest several points for reflection. Ecclesiastes directs us to remember our “young call” that first turned us toward Mercy. It was full of fire and love which changed our lives. Today we pray in thanksgiving for that call and reiterate our desire to be transformed in Mercy
To gain courage and energy for that transformation, let us reach through time for Catherine’s hand, telling her how we share her dream for God’s Mercy for all Creation. Let us ask her to enliven us each morning with the same passion for justice, the same compassionate tenderness, the same welcoming heart by which she showed others the Lavish Mercy of God.
Are there not moments when we are overwhelmed by that Mercy welling up within us and around us, flowing from good hearts over the world’s needs? We see and bless this grace in each other, dear Family, as we thank God this day to be called “Mercy”.
May each of your lives be richly blessed and marked by that name!
Today, I thought you might enjoy this powerful poem by Denise Levertov. The music link is beneath it. Happy and blessed Mercy Day to all.
To Live in the Mercy of God
To lie back under the tallest oldest trees. How far the stems rise, rise before ribs of shelter open!
To live in the mercy of God. The complete sentence too adequate, has no give. Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of stony wood beneath lenient moss bed.
And awe suddenly passing beyond itself. Becomes a form of comfort. Becomes the steady air you glide on, arms stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence of trees, the rainy forest depths of their listening.
To float, upheld, as salt water would hold you, once you dared.
To live in the mercy of God. To feel vibrate the enraptured waterfall flinging itself unabating down and down to clenched fists of rock.
Swiftness of plunge, hour after year after century, O or Ah uninterrupted, voice many-stranded.
To breathe spray. The smoke of it. Arcs of steelwhite foam, glissades of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion— rage or joy?
Thus, not mild, not temperate, God’s love for the world. Vast flood of mercy flung on resistance. ———-
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read about time, that elusive framework that binds our days. We are so conscious of time, still it defies all our efforts to define or control it. It lumbers when we want it to skip. It flies when we long for it to tarry. Once it has passed, we wonder where it went. We find the long, vibrant years compressed to a distant, gossamer memory.
Time can create in us a sense of urgency, a deadline for us to make a mark on its surface. But Ecclesiastes counsels us to be patient, telling us there is a time for everything – a segment in our life story for us to plumb each emotion.
As we read through this antiphonal list of life’s realities, we are conscious of the ones we would rather eliminate – the downside of experience. But the scribe suggests that even life’s shadowed side serves to hone us for eternity.
In our Gospel, Jesus is conscious that he is coming to the end of his time. As many of us do when we are feeling unsure of ourselves, Jesus asks his disciples what people are saying about him. They respond in glowing accolades – Elijah, the Baptist returned from the dead, the Christ, Son of God. But Jesus knows it is not a time for accolades. He rebukes them with a somber forecast of darkening times.
Even Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, experienced time’s shifting waves. Praying the Gospel daily, living with Jesus through his highs and lows, is the steady fulcrum in our own uneven seas.
Poetry: from Burnt Norton – T.S. Eliot
These are the opening lines from Eliot’s long poem. I love Eliot but he definitely challenges his reader. If you are up to the challenge, here is a link to the whole poem. ( I find it best to read his poems in small doses, reflecting slowly on the depth of his suggestions.) http://www.coldbacon.com/poems/fq.html
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present. Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never opened Into the rose-garden. My words echo Thus, in your mind. But to what purpose Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves I do not know.
I thought some of you might enjoy this repeat from last year. Happy Autumn, dear friends! May it be a season full of blessings for you.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we mark the Autumn Equinox, we pray with verses from our Responsorial Psalm:
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days. Prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!
"EQUINOX" - the beautiful heft of the word! Four malleable vowels and two steely consonants, softened slightly by a third. On the fulcrum of a middle "i", "equ" pushes for balance against the pressure of "nox", whose mass bears winter's weighted threat.
However we may read the word “equinox”, it spells “change“. Trees put away their lithesome summer greens, like sleeveless tops folded on September’s shelf. Slowly, they wrap themselves within autumn’s deep gold and umber sweaters, trimmed in warm magenta.
We too return to the enterprise of warmth, of fueling fires, of lighting lamps. What nature gave, and we heedlessly received in bright July, is spent. Some chilled memory of solstice motivates us to prepare.
Our hearts too, in synch or out with seasons, cycle through such changes. This inner rhythm of need and abundance is the music through which the Holy Spirit shapes our understanding of God. As in all graceful dances, there must be a yielding. There must be abandon to the mystery into which each passing step dissolves.
God hums the infinite song in our souls, if we will listen. It is deeper than any single note of joy or sorrow. It is the fluid under-beat of Love which recreates and sustains us in every shifting moment of our lives. We belong to it as the waves belong to the Sea, as the leaves belong to the Seasons.
In Philadelphia, it is a glorious time of year – a perfect vestibule to a season of amazing beauty. Nature prepares to shed the showy accretions of summer in a multi-colored ritual of leave-taking. It is time to return to the essentials – back to the branch, back to the buried root, back to the bare, sturdy reality that will anchor us in the coming winter.
On each of the coming days, some new layer of green will ignite in a blaze of scarlet or gold then turn out its light for a long winter’s sleep. Nature knows when things are finished. It knows when it has had enough. It knows its need for a season of emptying, for a clearing of the clutter, for the deep hibernation of its spirit.
But we humans often ignore the need for an “autumning” of our spirits. We try to live every moment in the high energy of summer – producing, moving, anticipating, and stuffing our lives with abundance.
Still simplicity, solitude and clarity are necessary for our spirit to renew itself. Autumn is the perfect time to prayerfully examine the harvest of our lives – reaping the essentials and sifting out the superfluous. In the quiet shade of a crimson maple tree, we may discover what we truly love, deeply believe and really need to be fully happy.
Take time on these crystal days to ask yourself what is really essential in your life. Nurture those things with attention and care. Don’t take them for granted. After the flare of the summer has passed, these are the things that will sustain you: a strong faith, a faithful love and a loving compassion. Tend them in this season of harvest.
Music: Autumn from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet the first of a few readings from Ecclesiastes, written by an author who calls himself Qoheleth – Teacher. The book contains many loved and oft-repeated phrases that we might recognize:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
And today’s kick-off thought:
Vanity of vanities …. All is vanity.
Reading Ecclesiastes places us in the presence of a writer who is a realist at best, and a cynic at worst. Parts of the book can be downright depressing; other parts, elegant in their spare beauty.
We can finish a passage like today’s and hear echoes around us of Star Trek’s Borg mantra:
Resistance is futile.
Qoheleth says as much:
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
The phrase carries at least a little tinge of hopelessness. But I think a lot depends on the way we read it.
Realizing that “things are the way they are” can give us a sense of stability and trust. It can release us from struggling needlessly against realities that will not be moved. It can encourage us to find within these “immovables” the hidden path to a new grace. It can remind us that others have endured; so can we.
One of our Wisdom Sisters taught us that by naming and accepting our reality, we can move from fighting it into growing from it. She always said, “What is, is” – implying “now deal with it”.
It sounds spartan, but it actually can be very freeing. We can’t change so many things – the weather, the tides, the hearts of others. The years will pass, friendships blossom and fade. We will get old, if we are blessed with that gift. We’ll lose our jump shot and probably some of our hair – maybe a few others things too.
But God will always love us, abide with us and cherish us for eternity. We’re gonna’ make it, one way or the other – because ‘God Who is, is!”
Poetry: Prayer – Galway Kinnell
Whatever happens. Whatever what is is is what I want. Only that. But that.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, we are blessed with an inspiring reading from Ephesians. We are reminded that each of us is called in God according to our particular gifts. Paul encourages us to live “in a manner worthy of the call we have received” in our Baptism.
For most of us, it has been quite a while since we were washed in the waters of our Baptism. A lot of other waters have passed under the bridge since then. We may, or may not, have recognized and responded to our call, continually carried to us on those life waters.
Each moment, each choice, each act and decision asks us once again to choose Christ – over sin, over self, over meaninglessness. Each life opportunity calls us closer to Jesus, to the pattern of his Cross, to the witness of his Resurrection.
Matthew heard such a call as he sat, perhaps dulled by the unconscious disengagement of his life, by the failure to live with intention and openness to grace. As He passed by Matthew, Jesus reached into that ennui, calling Matthew to evangelize all the future generations by his Gospel.
Jesus calls us to be evangelists too – every moment, every day. Our “Yes” to our particular call writes its own Gospel, telling the Good News through our faith, hope and love.
Pope Francis says this:
The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.
Poetry: The Calling of Matthew by James Lasdun
Not the abrupt way, frozen In the one glance of a painter’s frame Christ in the doorway pointing. Matthew’s face Bright with perplexity, the glaze Of a lifetime at the countinghouse Cracked in the split second’s bolt of being chosen.
But over the years, slowly, Hinted at, an invisible curve; Persistent bias always favoring Backwardly the relinquished thing Over the kept, the gold signet ring Dropped in a beggar’s bowl, the eye not fully
Comprehending the hand, not yet; Heirloom damask thrust in a passing Stranger’s hand, the ceremonial saddle (Looped coins, crushed clouds of inline pearl) Given on an irresistible impulse to a servant. Where it sat
A saddle-shaped emptiness Briefly, obscurely brimming … Flagons Cellars of wine, then as impulse steadied into habit, habit to need, Need to compulsion, the whole vineyard The land itself, graves, herds, the ancestral house,
Given away, each object’s Hollowed-out void successively More vivid in him than the thing itself, As if renouncing merely gave Density to having; as if He’s glimpsed in nothingness a derelict’s
Secret of unabated, Inverse possession … And only then, Almost superfluous, does the figure Step softly to the shelter door; Casual, foreknown, almost familiar, Calmly received, like someone long awaited.
Music: When You Call My Name ~ Brian Doerksen & Steve Mitchinson
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings instruct us on what it means to belong to God – heart and soul.
Proverbs tosses out a series of minstrel-like two-liners that, because of their simplicity, might be overlooked for their beauty and depth. For example, the first couplet says:
Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the LORD; wherever it pleases God, God directs it.
Would we all not desire that kind of heart, where our thoughts and choices are so directed by God’s power and grace – held and guided into freedom by God’s loving hand? How confident, peaceful and joyful our lives would be!
Today’s Psalm 119 is a passionate prayer to be guided through an entangling world by our deep loyalty to God’s own truth, learned by meditating day and night on God’s goodness.
Our Gospel, in an often misinterpreted incident, shows us how Jesus considers his true disciples as close to him as his own mother and family.
So today, to deepen our own closeness to God, let us practice making our ordinary life into a constant prayer – allowing it to flow, like water, over God’s tender, guiding hand.
We can do this by gratefully noticing God’s Presence in nature, in our companions, in the opportunities for kindness, honesty and service that come to us today.
Or, sadly, our experiences today might cause us to notice God’s absence in these places. This offers us an incentive to invite, beg and pester God to transform the desert places in our lives and world.
Whichever approach we take, it will open up a constant conversation with God about our life as we experience it at each moment. We begin to listen better to the Word of God revealing itself in our daily life. We begin to live more consciously in God’s Presence… in God’s dear family.
God’s Law is already written deep in the fabric of our lives. We pray for discernment to discover that guiding grace by opening our hearts to God’s Presence in our every experience.