Faith’s Adventure

January 19, 2022
Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings present to us a faith that is

Centered
Rooted
Strengthened
in God

The first reading has the making of a powerful action-adventure movie. Picturing young David facing the mighty giant might bring to mind images like Robin Hood and Indiana Jones.

We are now at David’s third point of entry into Israel’s narrative. Already he has been secretly anointed (16:1–13), and privately received by Saul (16:19–23). This story of David in chapter 17 is the best known of the David stories. Though the narrative may have had a complex prehistory, it now is a powerful, well-crafted narrative capable of sustaining our interest and imagination through its long telling. The story, deliberately paced, draws us slowly and steadily into the moment of high tension. It then resolves the tension quickly in the killing of the Philistine.

Walter Brueggemann: First and Second Samuel: Interpretation -A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching

David and Goliath – Guillaime Courtois

These chapters in Samuel offer a compelling story, masterfully written to impress itself on the readers’ minds. But unlike our action-adventure films, the purpose is not to entertain.

The purpose of the David-Goliath story is to teach Israel and us that:

  • faith places God at the center of all experience
  • faith is rooted in complete trust
  • faith is stronger than any fear or threat

David, the pure-hearted and faithful one, then uses his gifts and intelligence to accomplish his mission.


In our prayer today, we might talk with God about our own faith – its centeredness, roots and strength. May we too, like the person in Mark’s Gospel, stretch out to God’s healing power anything that might be withering in us.


Poetry: Five Smooth Stones – Eric K. Carr

Five smooth stones
The future king
Chose
As his arsenal
Against the giant

I have thrown far more
Into the goliaths of the future
Skipping across ponds
Of sure uncertainty
Hoping they may sink
Into pools of grace
Or at least a life well lived
And that my children
Will know they are loved
Through
And beyond 
Each missile’s reach


Music: God of the Impossible – Everfound

Just a boy with a sling and a stone,
But the heart of a lion dared him to go.
To hear the sound of the cynical,
Die out with the sound of the giant’s fall.
Ohhh, oh ohh!
I dare to believe in incredible things.
Ohhh, oh ohh!
I’m ready to go, I’m ready to gooo-oh!
Here I am! Lord send me!
I won’t look back, cause I was made
To be a part, of the, imposs-ible!
You’re God, of the, imposs-ible!
Here I am! Lord send me!
I won’t back down, cause I believe
You are the God, of the, imposs-ible!
Here, I, am, send me!
Empty bones and a thirsty soul,
Dreamin’ for more than the life I have known.
‘Til I tasted a burning coal,
And my guilt was erased, and my sin was atoned!
Ohhh, oh ohh!
I dare to believe in incredible things.
Ohhh, oh ohh!
I’m ready to go, I’m ready to gooo-oh!
Here I am! Lord send me!
I won’t look back, cause I was made
To be a part, of the, imposs-ible!
You’re God, of the, imposs-ible!
Here I am! Lord send me!
I won’t back down, cause I believe
You are the God, of the, imposs-ible!
Here, I, am, send me!
Ohhh, oh ohh!
I dare to believe in incredible things.
Ohhh, oh ohh!
Cause you’re the God of the impossible.
Ohhh, oh ohh!
I dare to believe in incredible things.
Ohhh, oh ohh!
I’m ready to go, I’m ready to gooo-oh!
Here I am! Lord send me!
I won’t look back, cause I was made
To be a part, of the, imposs-ible!
You’re God, of the, imposs-ible!
Here I am! Lord send me!
I won’t back down, cause I believe
You are the God, of the, imposs-ible!
Here, I, am, send me!
Send me!

Let God…

January 18, 2022
Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, three themes suggest themselves for our prayerful consideration. At various points in our spiritual lives we are called to:

Release what binds us
Reorient to what is good
Recommit to hope and promise

Our first reading begins the narrative of David, key figure of the Hebrew Scriptures and the archetype king who prefigured the Messiah.

Release
We read about Samuel’s commission to find a new kingly candidate and to anoint him. This is a big deal for Samuel, who first has to release his dream for Saul in whom he had misplaced his hope:

The LORD said to Samuel:
“How long will you grieve for Saul,whom I have rejected as king of Israel?


Reorient
God, Who already has a plan, encourages Samuel to pursue a new path:

Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.


Recommit
In a memorable series of attempts, Samuel tries to figure out who it is that God has set the kingly choice upon. After seven “not him”s, David appears – the unlikeliest of all the sons:

Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed him in the midst of his brothers;
and from that day on, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. 
When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.


Throughout this entire process, God is at the wheel. Samuel’s job — and Jesse’s, and David’s, and the unchosen brothers— is to listen, hear, and respond even to the unlikely and improbable.

Believe it or not, he will be King!

The lesson, perhaps, for us: God is at the wheel in our lives too. Of course, we will have failures. Often, we will miss the “holy point”. But God is always with us, reiterating faith’s promise and inspiring a new path to its fulfillment.


Poetry: Let God – Meister Eckhart

Let God work in you,
give the work to God,
and have peace.
Don’t worry if God works
through your nature
or above your nature,
because both are God’s,
nature and grace.

Music: Meditation – Yuhki Kuramoto

Faithful Heart

January 17, 2022
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Anthony. Abbot

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings help us understand the basic process for spiritual growth – the evolution from self-centered practice to God-centered faith.

The passages highlight three elements of a deeply faithful life:

Obedience – a listening heart
Discipline – a right heart
Freedom – a selfless heart

Obedience – The Listening Heart

In our first reading, Saul has fulfilled all God’s commands regarding the mission against the Amalekites – but he has still missed the point. Saul was given a divine mandate through Samuel to completely destroy the Amalekites. Instead, Saul kept the plunder, using some as a burnt sacrifice to God.

According to Samuel, Saul messed up big time. He had an unlistening heart. God didn’t want sacrifice, but rather a fully listening obedience.

But Samuel said:
            “Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
            as in obedience to the command of the LORD?
            Obedience is better than sacrifice,
                        and submission than the fat of rams.
            For a sin like divination is rebellion,
                        and presumption is the crime of idolatry.
            Because you have rejected the command of the LORD,
                        the LORD too, has rejected you as ruler.”

1 Samuel 15: 22-23

Discipline – The Right Heart

Our Responsorial Psalm continues the theme:

Why do you recite my statutes,
            and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
            and cast my words behind you?”…

The ones that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
            and to them that go the right way I will show the salvation of God

Psalm 50: 16-17;23

Freedom – The Selfless Heart

Mark’s Gospel complements the lessons of our first two readings. It paints a joyful picture of Jesus and his disciples. 

They are in the “salad days” of Christ’s earth-shaking ministry. Listening to Jesus, these disciples are in the Presence of a new and radical Truth. They fill their hearts and minds with its transformative power. Cherishing God’s Presence with them allows the disciples to release a inner love and generosity to fuel their ministry.

The nosy Pharisees, seeing all this joyful exuberance, question their unpenitential attitude:

The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.
People came to Jesus and objected,
“Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,
 but your disciples do not fast?”

MARK 2:18

Does all this mean that there is never a time in the spiritual life for sackcloth, ashes and fasting? No – even Jesus didn’t say that:

Jesus answered the Pharisees,
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.

Mark 2:20

What I think it does mean is that a healthy spiritual life is centered on the Presence of God with us, not the absence. There are times when we should take stock of those “absences” and open them to repentance and healing. But then our spiritual energy should be turned to God in praise not toward our own penitential achievements.


Poetry: Flickering Mind – Denise Levertov

Lord, not you
it is I who am absent.
At first
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away -- and back,
circling.
I have long since uttered your name
but now
I elude your presence.
I stop
to think about you, and my mind
at once
like a minnow darts away,
darts
into the shadows, into gleams that fret
unceasing over
the river's purling and passing.
Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
anywhere,
everywhere it can turn.  Not you,
it is I am absent.
You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow.
You the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.
How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?

Music: Sapphire Days – Anne Sweeten

Right Before Our Eyes!

January 16, 2022
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read about Jesus’s first public miracle at Cana. It is a story that has always fascinated me, mostly because of what is left unsaid – what is written between the lines.

The Gospel begins by telling of a wedding and “the mother of Jesus was there”. The suggestion is that Mary had been staying at the wedding site and that she had a special role in the preparations. Perhaps she was the aunt or good friend of the bride or groom. Whatever the case, Mary seems to have had some unique responsibility for the ceremony’s success.

This responsibility motivates her to solicit Jesus’s help when she notices the wine is running out. Did she expect a miracle in return for her remark? We don’t know. Perhaps she just wanted Jesus and his young friends to run down to the local wine store for replenishments.

It was Jesus who decided to turn the request into an occasion for a miracle. Why? It seems like a frivolous miracle when there were sick to be cured and dead to be raised!

The final lines of this section might help answer that question:

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

John 2:11

Jesus decided to first reveal his glory at a wedding feast, a party, an ordinary celebration of life and love. The dramatic, life-saving miracles would come – demons grabbing pigs and diving headlong into the sea.

But this first one, the one his closest family and friends would especially remember, was all about joy, dancing, music, friendship – the divine strength of our shared and graced humanity.


Probably most of us don’t expect to encounter a really eye-popping miracle in our lives. But maybe in our challenges we, like Mary, could walk up behind Jesus and whisper, “This situation needs your touch”.

Oh, how Jesus might surprise us – by letting us pour out an everyday miracle right before our eyes! Let’s be aware today of the miracles we might take for granted – life, laughter, love, friendship, hope, courage, delight in nature ….


Poetry: The Gourd – Paul Laurence Dunbar
The poet suggests in these lines that it is in simplicity, and poverty of spirit, that life’s true miracles are revealed to us.

In the heavy earth the miner
Toiled and laboured day by day,
Wrenching from the miser mountain
Brilliant treasure where it lay.
And the artist worn and weary
Wrought with labour manifold
That the king might drink his nectar
From a goblet made of gold.

On the prince’s groaning table
Mid the silver gleaming bright
Mirroring the happy faces
Giving back the flaming light,
Shine the cups of priceless crystal
Chased with many a lovely line,
Glowing now with warmer colour,
Crimsoned by the ruby wine.

In a valley sweet with sunlight,
Fertile with the dew and rain,
Without miner’s daily labour,
Without artist’s nightly pain,
There there grows the cup I drink from,
Summer’s sweetness in it stored,
And my lips pronounce a blessing
As they touch an old brown gourd.

Why, the miracle at Cana
In the land of Galilee,
Tho’ it puzzles all the scholars,
Is no longer strange to me.
For the poorest and the humblest
Could a priceless wine afford,
If they’d only dip up water
With a sunlight-seasoned gourd.

So a health to my old comrade,
And a song of praise to sing
When he rests inviting kisses
In his place beside the spring.
Give the king his golden goblets,
Give the prince his crystal hoard;
But for me the sparkling water
From a brown and brimming gourd!


Music: Everyday Miracles ~ Sara Groves

Catching the Vision

January 15, 2022
Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are introduced to Saul and Matthew. Both these friends of God went through a spiritual process to confirm that Friendship. The process included:

Seeing
Trusting
Choosing


Seeing

In our first reading, Saul first appears chasing a bunch of asses. (I’m not even going there. Draw your own parallels 🤣)

But in his heart of hearts, Saul had another agenda. He wanted to confirm that a growing vision within him was also God’s vision:

Saul met Samuel in the gateway and said,
“Please tell me where the seer lives.”
Samuel answered Saul: “I am the seer.
Go up ahead of me to the high place and eat with me today.
In the morning, before dismissing you,
I will tell you whatever you wish.”

1 Samuel 9:1-19


Trusting

Once our inner horizon begins to clear, our greatest challenge may be to trust what we see. For Saul, that power to trust came by benefit of Samuel’s anointing with oil.

As our jubilant psalm exerts, when we recognize God as our strength, our trust is confirmed:

O LORD, in your strength the king is glad;
            in your victory how greatly he rejoices!
You have granted him his heart’s desire;
            you refused not the wish of his lips.

Psalm 21: 2-3

Choosing

Each one of us, in our own way, experiences this spiritual process. Certainly we see it in how we find our life’s vocation. But we see it in smaller, daily ways as well. Each choice we make in life is a step toward or away from God – toward or away from Love, Mercy, Wholeness and Justice as we learn it in the Gospel.

In our reading from Mark, we witness Matthew in a critical process of “seeing-trusting-choosing”. 

Could more hidden drama
be packed in two simple lines than in these!

Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed Jesus.

Wrapped in those verses is Matthew’s whole life up to this point – all the choices that left him leaning so toward God that he could drop everything in one transforming moment to follow God’s call.

Ah, what might Saul and Matthew inspire in us today?

The Calling of St. Matthew – Caravaggio

Poetry: The Calling of the Apostle Matthew – 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 counting house

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 passing
Stranger’s hand, the ceremonial saddle
(Looped coins, crushed clouds of inlaid 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, groves, herds, the ancestral house,

Given any, 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’d 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: The Call – Vaughn Williams from a poem by George Herbert

Herbert’s short poem is simple and direct. It is almost completely composed of words of one syllable. Allusions to the Old and New testaments, as well as to the Church of England liturgy, abound in Herbert’s poetry. In this short poem there are references to Revelations 22:26: ‘Come, Lord Jesus..’ and to John 14:6, where Jesus is described as ‘the way, the truth and the life’. ‘Come’ is the call of the poet to God, but it is also the response of the poet to a call from God.

This poem has been set to music several times, notably by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his ‘Five Mystical Songs’.

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, My Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joys in love.

Persevering Faith

January 14, 2022
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings burst with lessons for our faith. We might center our prayer on these three dynamic elements:

Power
Praise
Perseverance


Power

In our first reading, Israel is in the midst of a profound power shift. Until this time, Israel has thrived in “covenantal localism” which released possibility and initiative within the broad community. But now, perhaps stressed by the Philistine threat, the elders lobby for the establishment of a kingship – a centralization of power, wealth, land control, and local self-determination.
( based on Walter Brueggemann: First and Second Samuel: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)


The Elders Ask Samuel for a King

Samuel isn’t happy with the elders’ suggestion and, apparently, neither is God. Samuel tells the elders so in a passionate speech against regalism. He pronounces that when the king has usurped all their rights, God will not deliver them as they once were delivered from a similar bondage in Egypt:

When this takes place,
you will complain against the king whom you have chosen,
but on that day the LORD will not answer you.

1 Samuel 8:18

The lesson for us is that the use and organization of power must always be for the sake of communal justice and well-being. Fostering these universal goods is the perpetual struggle of nations and institutions. As part of any community, we are called advocate for a just distribution of power for all people.


Praise
Our Responsorial Psalm counsels that in all such human interactions, our focus must be on God and God’s Will for universal wholeness and peace – a peace evidenced in justice, joy, and praise.

Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;            
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,            
and through your justice they are exalted.

Psalm 89:16-17


Perseverance

Mark’s story of the cure of a paralyzed man demonstrates the power of faithful perseverance. This man’s community – his friends – persist until he fully benefits from God’s desire for his wholeness.

Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2:4-5

Such is our responsibility to pursue our own wholeness and the wholeness of our global community.


Poetry: Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelley

(The poem explores the fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion. (Wikipedia)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
”Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’


Music: Aria – composed by Friedrich Gulda, played by Tomoko Inoue

Cleansed in Mercy

January 13, 2022
Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings present a human cycle with which we all are familiar- the experience of falling and being lifted up again.

Failure
then
Mercy
then
Redemption

In our first reading, we hear about Hophni and Phinehas, sons of old Eli. They were not nice guys. They represent everything that happens when politics and power corrupt religion.

Now the sons of Eli were wicked; they had respect neither for the LORD
nor for the priests’ duties toward the people.

1 Samuel 2: 13-14

After a first defeat by the Philistines, the elders of Israel sent for the Ark of the Covenant to fortify them in battle. Hophni and Phineas, being the Ark’s tenders, accompanied it from Shiloh. But the presence of the Ark, representing God, didn’t bring victory. Israel lost a second battle.

The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;
every man fled to his own tent.
It was a disastrous defeat,
in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
The ark of God was captured,
and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

1 Samuel 4:11

Wow! You know it’s bad enough when we fail a first time! But after asking God to step in, we still fail??? Uh Oh!

Extraordinary Failure



Our Responsorial Psalm is the prayer of those recognizing themselves as utterly defeated, confused, and begging for redemption – the “Uh Oh People”!

Why do you hide your face,
            forgetting our woe and our oppression?
For our souls are bowed down to the dust,
            our bodies are pressed to the earth.
Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

Psalm 44:24-25

Extraordinary Redemption 


Mark’s Gospel tells the story of one devastated and utterly dependent on God to be restored, — a story of the immediacy of God’s Mercy when we open our hearts to it:

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him, 
“I do will it. Be made clean.”

Mark 1:40

Extraordinary Mercy


Listen, I’ve been an “uh oh person” many times in my life. Probably you have too. As we pray with these passages, our own failures and defeats may speak to us. Whether we are in their midst or simply wrapped in their recollection, let’s open our spirits to these extraordinary gifts:

  • honest recognition of our failures
  • a request for healing redemption 
  • gratitude for God’s Lavish Mercy


Poetry: The Leper – by Nathaniel Parker Willis

It’s a rather long poem, and may delight only the literary nerds like me. But it paints a wonderful story if you can take time to read it sometime.

“ROOM for the leper! room!” And, as he came,
The cry passed on—“Room for the leper! Room!”
Sunrise was slanting on the city gates
Rosy and beautiful, and from the hills
The early risen poor were coming in, 5
Duly and cheerfully to their toil, and up
Rose the sharp hammer’s clink and the far hum
Of moving wheels and multitudes astir,
And all that in a city murmur swells—
Unheard but by the watcher’s weary ear, 10
Aching with night’s dull silence, or the sick
Hailing the welcome light and sounds that chase
The death-like images of the dark away.
“Room for the leper!” And aside they stood—
Matron, and child, and pitiless manhood—all 15
Who met him on his way—and let him pass.
And onward through the open gate he came,
A leper, with the ashes on his brow,
Sackcloth about his loins, and on his lip
A covering, stepping painfully and slow, 20
And with a difficult utterance, like one
Whose heart is with an iron nerve put down,
Crying, “Unclean! unclean!”

                ’Twas now the first    

Of the Judean autumn, and the leaves,
Whose shadows lay so still upon his path, 25
Had put their beauty forth beneath the eye
Of Judah’s palmiest noble. He was young,
And eminently beautiful, and life
Mantled in eloquent fulness on his lip,
And sparkled in his glance; and in his mien 30
There was a gracious pride that every eye
Followed with benisons—and this was he!
With the soft airs of summer there had come
A torpor on his frame, which not the speed
Of his best barb, nor music, nor the blast 35
Of the bold huntsman’s horn, nor aught that stirs
The spirit to its bent, might drive away.
The blood beat not as wont within his veins;
Dimness crept o’er his eye: a drowsy sloth
Fettered his limbs like palsy, and his mien, 40
With all its loftiness, seem’d struck with eld.
Even his voice was changed; a languid moan
Taking the place of the clear silver key;
And brain and sense grew faint, as if the light
And very air were steeped in sluggishness. 45
He strove with it awhile, as manhood will,
Ever too proud for weakness, till the rein
Slacken’d within his grasp, and in its poise
The arrowy jeered like an aspen shook.
Day after day, he lay, as if in sleep. 50
His skin grew dry and bloodless, and white scales,
Circled with livid purple, cover’d him.
And then his nails grew black, and fell away
From the dull flesh about them, and the hues
Deepen’d beneath the hard unmoisten’d scales, 55
And from their edges grew the rank white hair,
—And Helon was a leper!

                Day was breaking,    

When at the altar of the temple stood
The holy priest of God. The incense lamp
Burn’d with a struggling light, and a low chant 60
Swell’d through the hollow arches of the roof
Like an articulate wail, and there, alone,
Wasted to ghastly thinness, Helon knelt.
The echoes of the melancholy strain
Died in the distant aisles, and he rose up, 65
Struggling with weakness, and bow’d down his head
Unto the sprinkled ashes, and put off
His costly raiment for the leper’s garb:
And with the sackcloth round him, and his lip
Hid in a loathsome covering, stood still, 70
Waiting to hear his doom:—

Depart! depart, O child
Of Israel, from the temple of thy God!
For He has smote thee with His chastening rod;
And to the desert-wild, 75
From all thou lov’st away, thy feet must flee,
That from thy plague His people may be free.

Depart! and come not near
The busy mart, the crowded city, more;
Nor set thy foot a human threshold o’er; 80
And stay thou not to hear
Voices that call thee in the way; and fly
From all who in the wilderness pass by.

Wet not thy burning lip
In streams that to a human dwelling glide; 85
Nor rest thee where the covert fountains hide;
Nor kneel thee down to dip
The water where the pilgrim bends to drink,
By desert well or river’s grassy brink;

And pass thou not between 90
The weary traveller and the cooling breeze;
And lie not down to sleep beneath the trees
Where human tracks are seen;
Nor milk the goat that browseth on the plain,
Nor pluck the standing corn, or yellow grain. 95

And now, depart! and when
Thy heart is heavy, and thine eyes are dim,
Lift up thy prayer beseechingly to Him
Who, from the tribes of men,
Selected thee to feel His chastening rod, 100
Depart! O Leper, and forget not God!

And he went forth—alone! not one of all
The many whom he loved, nor she whose name
Was woven in the fibres of the heart
Breaking within him now, to come and speak 105
Comfort unto him. Yea—he went his way,
Sick, and heart-broken, and alone—to die!
For God had cursed the leper!

                        It was noon,    

And Helon knelt beside a stagnant pool
In the lone wilderness, and bathed his brow, 110
Hot with the burning leprosy, and touched
The loathsome water to his fever’d lips,
Praying that he might be so blest—to die!
Footsteps approach’d, and with no strength to flee,
He drew the covering closer on his lip, 115
Crying, “Unclean! unclean!” and in the folds
Of the coarse sackcloth shrouding up his face,
He fell upon the earth till they should pass.
Nearer the Stranger came, and bending o’er
The leper’s prostrate form, pronounced his name— 120
“Helon!” The voice was like the master-tone
Of a rich instrument—most strangely sweet;
And the dull pulses of disease awoke,
And for a moment beat beneath the hot
And leprous scales with a restoring thrill. 125
“Helon! arise!” and he forgot his curse,
And rose and stood before Him.

                    Love and awe    

Mingled in the regard of Helon’s eye
As he beheld the Stranger. He was not
In costly raiment clad, nor on His brow 130
The symbol of a princely lineage wore;
No followers at His back, nor in His hand
Buckler, or sword, or spear,—yet in His mien
Command sat throned serene, and if He smiled,
A kingly condescension graced His lips, 135
The lion would have crouch’d to in his lair.
His garb was simple, and His sandals worn;
His stature modell’d with a perfect grace;
His countenance, the impress of a God,
Touch’d with the open innocence of a child; 140
His eye was blue and calm, as is the sky
In the serenest noon; His hair unshorn
Fell to His shoulders; and his curling beard
The fulness of perfected manhood bore.
He looked on Helon earnestly awhile, 145
As if His heart were moved, and stooping down,
He took a little water in His hand,
And laved the sufferer’s brow, and said, “Be clean,”
And lo! the scales fell from him, and his blood
Coursed with delicious coolness through his veins, 150
And his dry palms grew moist, and his lips
The dewy softness of an infant’s stole,
His leprosy was cleansed, and he fell down
Prostrate at Jesus’ feet and worshipped Him.

Music: Healing – Paul Avgerinos

A Soul’s Evolution

January 12, 2022
Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings lead us through an evolution of grace from:

Revelation
to
Presence
to
Purpose 

How simply charming yet powerful is the wonderful story of Samuel’s call! We can picture the tousled-hair boy sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant, youthfully unaware of his awesome surroundings.

God’s voice insists into Samuel’s unawareness, finally capturing his attention after four tries.

Oil painting on canvas, The Calling of Samuel by Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (Plympton 1723 – London 1792), circa 1770-6. A half-length portrait of a young boy, turned to the left, gazing upwards, his right hand outstretched, wearing a loose brown cloak. Stormy sky.

Extraordinary Revelation 


From that moment, Samuel lives fully in the Presence of the Lord:

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba
came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the LORD.

1 Samuel 3: 19-20
The Prophet Samuel – Claude Vignon

Extraordinary Presence



Mark’s Gospel narrates another call for us – the emerging call of Jesus and his mentoring of his disciples to share his sacred ministry:

Rising very early before dawn, 
he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons 
throughout the whole of Galilee.

Mark 1: 35-39

Extraordinary Purpose


As we pray this reflection today, we may be just waking up as Samuel was. We may be slowly emerging from the desert of our sleep. Or we may be at a point in our spiritual lives where the Light is dawning on us for some other reason.

Wherever we are, let’s be aware that each “dawning” brings 

  • a new Revelation of grace
  • a deeper invitation to God’s Presence
  • a fresh call to engage God’s Purpose for our lives

Poetry: The Collar by George Herbert (1593 – 1633) a poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. Herbert is considered one of the great metaphysical poets.
In this poem, he writes about the evolution of his desire to fully answer God’s call, symbolized in the priestly collar that he wore. The final lines remind me of Samuel’s call.

I struck the board, and cried, “No more; 

                         I will abroad! 

What? shall I ever sigh and pine? 

My lines and life are free, free as the road, 

Loose as the wind, as large as store. 

          Shall I be still in suit? 

Have I no harvest but a thorn 

To let me blood, and not restore 

What I have lost with cordial fruit? 

          Sure there was wine 

Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn 

    Before my tears did drown it. 

      Is the year only lost to me? 

          Have I no bays to crown it, 

No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted? 

                  All wasted? 

Not so, my heart; but there is fruit, 

            And thou hast hands. 

Recover all thy sigh-blown age 

On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute 

Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage, 

             Thy rope of sands, 

Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee 

Good cable, to enforce and draw, 

          And be thy law, 

While thou didst wink and wouldst not see. 

          Away! take heed; 

          I will abroad. 

Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears; 

          He that forbears 

         To suit and serve his need 

          Deserves his load.” 

But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild 

          At every word, 

Methought I heard one calling, Child! 

          And I replied My Lord. 


Music: God’s Calling – George Melendez

I wonder if George Herbert could have appreciated this rap song😀

Blossoming Exultation!

January 11, 2022
Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time 2022:
The extraordinary reality is that we have been given the gift of life!
Each day we are given a new portion of grace to deepen in God!
Let us focus our reflections on the “hidden extraordinary”
– a word, thought, or challenge in each day’s readings
that we might otherwise have taken for granted.
May God give us the graceful appreciation to unwrap these gifts!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we awaken to extraordinary gifts revealed in three words from our readings:

Downcast – Amazed – Exultant

In our first reading, Hannah’s story continues to unfold. And we feel for her, don’t we? The woman is desperate to bear life! Not only does she long for her own sweet child; she longs as well for restored standing in her neighborhood and family as one who is fertile not barren. This meant everything in Hannah’s community as fertility defined a woman’s importance.

Have you ever prayed like Hannah prays in this chapter? Has any need in your life ever so demanded God’s mercy? These are times that ask for our complete vulnerability before God’s Omnipotence.

In her bitterness she prayed to the LORD, weeping copiously,
and she made a vow, promising: “O LORD of hosts,
if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid,
if you remember me and do not forget me,
if you give your handmaid a male child,
I will give him to the LORD for as long as he lives…

1 Samuel 1: 10-11
Vasili Petrovich Vereshchagin (1864)

Eli witnesses Hannah’s vulnerable prayer. He blesses her and hope cracks through her gloom:
She replied, “Think kindly of your maidservant,” and left.
She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband,
and no longer appeared downcast.

1 Samuel 1:18

Extraordinary Vulnerability!


Jesus Casts Out Demons – Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

In the Gospel reading, Jesus is still very early in his ministry. He has come to the synagogue to teach and people are “astonished” to hear the depth of his authority. But their astonishment grows even more when Jesus successfully commands the unclean spirit to leave the tortured man.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Mark 1:27

Can we let ourselves be constantly amazed at God’s Presence, Power, and Mercy in all Creation?


Extraordinary Holy Amazement!


Once again, our Responsorial Psalm offes a way to pray when our downcast desperation meets God’s amazing, transforming grace. It is the “Magnificat” of Hannah:

And Hannah prayed:

“My heart exults in the LORD,
my horn is exalted by my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in your victory.
There is no Holy One like the LORD;
there is no Rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2: 1-2

1 Samual 2: 1-2

Extraordinary Exultation!

Through our scripture-nourished prayer,
may we open the gifts of extraordinary vulnerability, extraordinary hope, and extraordinary exultation
wrapped in our own ordinary lives this day.

Poetry: Bare Tree – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Already I have shed the leaves of youth,
stripped by the wind of time down to the truth
of winter branches. Linear and alone
I stand, a lens for lives beyond my own,
a frame through which another's fire may glow,
a harp on which another's passion, blow.
The pattern of my boughs, an open chart
spread on the sky, to others may impart
its leafless mysteries that I once prized,
before bare roots and branches equalized,
tendrils that tap the rain or twigs the sun
are all the same, shadow and substance one.
Now that my vulnerable leaves are cast aside,
there's nothing left to shield, nothing to hide.
Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone,
so fragile and so fearless have I grown!


Music: Listen to the Trees

Extraordinary!

January 10, 2022
Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time


Introduction to “Extraordinary” Time


Today, we freshly begin a new cycle in our spiritual lives - the liturgical season of Ordinary Time 2022.
It is a perfect moment to wake ourselves to the truth that nothing is “ordinary” about being alive in God.
The extraordinary reality is that we have been given the gift of life!
Each day we are given a new portion of grace to deepen in God!

So let’s decide not to get used to:
  • to waking up in the morning
  • to the people in our lives
  • to the work we have to do
Each one of these “extraordinary” gifts holds a particular secret for us to be enriched by God’s lavish mercy and love. May we never fail to appreciate that every moment is a new invitation to love.

Our daily scriptural prayer offers us a good way to unwrap these gifts by drawing on the revelation of God.

For this “Ordinary Time 2022”, I hope to focus our reflections on the “hidden extraordinary” - a word, thought, or challenge in each day’s readings that we might otherwise have taken for granted.

May God give us the graceful appreciation to unwrap these gifts!

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we awaken to these extraordinary gifts revealed in our readings:

Love – Welcome – Gratitude


On this first “ordinary” Monday, we begin a month of readings from the Books of Samuel. These are wonderful stories with memorable characters and life-changing choices!

In our first reading today, we meet Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel. Other than in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, she is never again mentioned in the Bible. Yet she is also considered to be a prophet, and her song of thanksgiving a foreshadowing of the Magnificat.

In today’s reading, Hannah is given “a double portion” of good because she is so loved by her husband.

When the day came for Elkanah to offer sacrifice, he used to give a portion each to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters, but a double portion to Hannah because he loved her, though the LORD had made her barren.

1 Samuel 1:4-5

Extraordinary love!


In our Gospel, Jesus invites the curious disciples to share his life, just as He invites us:

Jesus said to them,“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Mark 1: 14

Extraordinary welcome!


And our beautiful Responsorial Psalm offers us a way to pray our thanks for these immeasurable gifts:

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116: 12-13

Extraordinary gratitude!


Through our scripture-nourished prayer, may we open the gifts of extraordinary love, extraordinary welcome, and extraordinary gratitude wrapped in our own ordinary lives this day.


Poetry: NO ONE KNOWS HIS NAME – Francis of Assisi (The “extraordinary” often may be hidden from us!)

No one knows his name
— a man who lives on the streets
and walks around in rags.
Once I saw that man in a dream.
He and God were constructing
an extraordinary temple.

Music: Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it “music”, rather kind of a rap… but the words are perfect.