Peel the Onion

Thursday, November 15, 2018

 Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Jesus tells us a secret:

“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

And it remains a bit of a secret, even after He tells it, because it is often very hard to discern the “Kingdom among us”. There is nothing more invisible than something hiding in plain sight.

Lk17_21JPG

Through prayer, we discover that it is about our eyes – not visibility. It is about the power of grace within us to see beyond appearances. We need a soul that can “peel the onion” of experience to find the face of God resident within all things.

  • With that kind of eyes, you don’t just have a business meeting today.
    You have an opportunity to build God’s Kingdom through respect, encouragement and mutuality.
  • You don’t just pass a person begging on the corner.
    You walk near Christ himself accompanying a broken spirit.
  • You don’t just encounter the hurts and challenges of your life.
    You are invited by God into a living faith that finds his will in all things.
  • You don’t live in the world with just other creatures.
    You meet and honor the Divine Presence in every living thing.

Indeed, the Kingdom of God is right here among us.

May we see it!
May we treasure it!
May we reveal it!

Music:  Let Your Kingdom Come – Tommy Walker

 

Living Gratefully

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

 Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we witness the cure of the ten lepers.  You know, it would be startling enough to run into one leper on your daily walk, right?  But TEN! That must have been an astounding situation. And to see those sad, disfigured people restored to wholeness must have been nearly overwhelming for the entourage accompanying Jesus.

Can you imagine that the recipients of such a miracle wouldn’t have clung in gratitude to Jesus for the rest of their days??? But, wow, only one even bothered to say “Thank you”.

Lk 17_17 lepersJPG

What might have kept the other nine away, locked in their blind ingratitude?

Perhaps it’s not such a mystery if we allow ourselves to examine our own often ungrateful hearts. We don’t necessarily mean to be boorish in the face of God’s kindness and the generosity of others, but we suffer from …

  1. Distraction: our lives are filled with frenetic activity which causes our blessings to flit by us into dizzying forgetfulness
  2. Entitlement: we think we deserve or have earned those blessings
  3. Self-absorption: we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t even notice that our whole life is a gift
  4. Laziness: we might say thanks if we get around to it. But we never get around to it.
  5. Unresolved anger: we’re mad that we even needed help
  6. Non-intentionality: we fail to live with intention and reflection, thus missing the opportunities for gratitude 
  7. Pride: we are too proud to acknowledge that we need anything
  8. Fear: we are afraid something will be required of us in return for the gift
  9. Spiritual blindness: we just don’t see the nurturing power of God and others in our life

It’s likely that our nine ungrateful lepers had these human frailties. But don’t be thinking about them, or your acquaintances who share their failings.  Let’s think about ourselves and how we want to be more grateful. The story is a powerful wake-up call to do better than the poor lepers did by living this prayer:

May I live humbly and gratefully today.

Music:  Hymn of Grateful Praise – Folliott S. Pierpoint

The First American Saint Was An Immigrant

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

 Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who from a very young age, was filled with the missionary spirit.

11_12 Cabrini

When she went to visit to her uncle, Don Luigi Oldini of Livagra,
a priest who lived beside a swift canal, she made little boats of paper,
dropped violets in them, called the flowers missionaries,
and launched them to sail off to India and China
.
~ Lives of the Saints – John J. Cauley ~

Frail as a young woman, she was at first rejected for religious life. But eventually, through the often labyrinthine ways of God’s grace, Frances founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Still desiring to be a missionary to China, Frances petitioned the Pope for approval. He, instead, requested that she and her sisters go to the USA to minister to the massive influx of Italian immigrants there.

She did this with an extraordinary and holy distinction. In 1945, Frances became the first citizen of the USA to be canonized a Saint.

To learn more about her life and legacy, see the website of her community:

Click here for Cabrini Sisters webpage

Or this very complete entry in Wikipedia

Click here for full wikipedia article

Not Music today. Instead a short video on Mother Cabrini’s influence, not only in New York, but as far as New Orleans:

Increase Our Faith

Monday, November 12, 2019

Click here for Readings

Lk17_5

Today, in Mercy,  we commemorate the Feast of St. Josaphat, not one of your common household saints. I actually never heard the name used, except for the expression “Jumpin’ Josaphat” (commonly invoked by Robin in the Batman series, in case you require documentation. 😀)

But Josaphat was quite a Saint. A deeply devout and holy monk, he lived in 16th century Lithuania, then part of the Polish Kingdom. At that time, the political variabilities of Europe were firmly intertwined with the bureaucracy of the Church, both Roman and Orthodox. This led to civic power struggles masquerading as religious conflicts.

Through the Union of Brest, the bishops who lived within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth voted to unite with Rome. Many people were not happy with this decision – to the point of riots and mob violence. Josaphat worked tirelessly to realize this union and ultimately paid with his life at the hands of such a mob.

Even today we find, within the Church, divisions driven by politics and power clashes. Often expressed as the desire for ritual purity and historical rectitude, they cloak the fear and inability to grow in grace and mutuality.

We see these kinds of struggles in the factions trying to undermine Pope Francis. We can recognize them by their criticism without charity, their pronouncements without dialogue, and their own controlling hierarchies.

In our first reading, Paul writes to Titus who shepherds the nascent Church in Crete. Paul instructs him on the best ways to build a worshipping community without these infighting flaws.

In our Gospel, Jesus instructs the disciples on sin, repentance and forgiveness — all of which we encounter within the struggling community of faith. Hearing him, the  disciples immediately realize what it is they most need to engage the challenges before them:

Lord, increase our faith!

Let us join their prayer today for unity and love in the Christian Churches.

Music:  Increase Our Faith – David Haas

But God Does Notice

Sunday, November 11, 2018

 Click here for readings.

Today, in Mercy, we learn lessons from widows – those whose place in biblical times was uncertain and frightening. Without a husband, a woman experienced diminished standing in the legal, financial and political life of the community. 

Mk12_44 miteJPG

She was often dependent on charity, and was deemed fortunate to capture a bit of good will from those in better circumstances. 

There are several examples of widows being blessed by miracles, because they were among those most in need of them.

In today’s first reading and in the Gospel, we meet two widows displaying amazing charity and character strength.  The widow of Zarephath steadfastly prepares for death because she has nothing left to live on. When Elijah asks to share in her last few cornmeal cakes, she does not hesitate to feed him.

In our Gospel, it is significant that, just across the road from the well-stocked treasury, a nearly penniless widow gives her last coins to the poor.

In Elijah’s account, we learn the outcome of the widow’s generosity.  She reaps an abundant reward in perpetual flour and oil to sustain her.

We never learn what happens to Jesus’s widow. We are left to imagine that, in some way, her selflessness is rewarded.

It is so hard to give it all to God, especially if we feel we have little left for ourselves.  It is hard to give our love when we feel empty-hearted.  It is hard to give care when we feel unappreciated.  It is hard to assist others when we ourselves are exhausted. It is hard to do good if no one, not even God, seems to notice.

But God does notice.  Like Jesus on that long-ago afternoon, God is watching as we empty our coffers in service and care for the poor, sick, troubled and lost.

What we have to give may be small — a single corn cake or two little coins. It is the act of giving it that is large — and will make our hearts large by the choice.

One this date in 1841, Catherine McAuley, the first Sister of Mercy, died. She had given everything she had — a fortune actually.. and a life — for God’s poor and needy.  Let’s call on her to inspire us to greater charity and mercy. God knows we need to do something for this aching world!

Music:: Matthew West – Do Something

God Knows Our Hearts

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Click here for readings

Lk 16_45 knows heart

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great.  He was a remarkable 5th century leader who consolidated essential elements of theology and administration for the yet emerging Church.

Our first reading today reflects Paul doing the same thing in the very early days of Christianity.  His ministry throughout the Mediterranean basin guided early Christians as the Church planted its first harvest.

Paul lets us know that this ministry of leadership is not easy – that he relies on the good will of the communities he serves:

You were, of course, concerned about me but lacked an opportunity.
Not that I say this because of need,
for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself,
to be self-sufficient.

Paul seems to refer specifically to material help,  but certainly he values even more the spiritual and moral loyalty of his followers.

In our Gospel, Jesus offers us a sermonette that can, at first, seem a little confusing. His tone, as he speaks to a group of Pharisees, is somewhat ironic. But his bottomline message is this: loyalty to God, not to material things.

The thread running through all these passages?  The work of the Church needs both our spiritual and material loyalty to thrive  – whether in Paul’s time, or Christ’s, or our own.

The Pharisees pretended such loyalty, but Jesus challenged them:

You justify yourselves in the sight of others,
but God knows your hearts …

A sobering challenge against which to measure ourselves!

Music: Thank You for Giving to the Lord _ Ray Boltz

We Are God’s Temple

Friday, November 9, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110918.cfm

psalm46 stream

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome.  It’s a big deal feast and, as a young religious, I never really understood why. I thought to myself, “It’s a building, right? Why are we celebrating a building.” As I matured, I learned. 

Perhaps some of you are familiar with Ken Follett’s book “The Pillars of the Earth”. Or perhaps others of you have visited the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. You may have been, as I was, overwhelmed at the sheer enormity and span of these cathedral-building endeavors which reflect our desire to enshrine God.

What is it in us, as human beings, that will move us to give lifetimes and centuries to capturing God? What is it in us that will try to concretize our awe at the Almighty?

It was just such an inner drive that motivated the builders of the Lateran, the oldest and highest ranking of the four major basilicas in Rome.  This “temple of stones” was understood by its builders to represent the living Church – you and me, who together are built up by Christ into his own Body.

What kind of  temple are we, sisters and brothers – we who are all too aware now of the cracks in our structure? 

We are, as Ezekiel visions and the psalmist confirms in today’s readings, a temple fed by the life waters of God.

Our Gospel shows that Jesus knew and believed this. He cleansed the temple in Jerusalem of its weaknesses. He then compared it to his own body, which is the true dwelling place of grace among us. He asked us to imitate him in the way we treasure and live our lives in this world because we too are Temples of God’s Grace.

A living fountain of grace flows through this living temple. God is in our midst as we build, and rebuild, the Church – brick by human brick.

May this feast renew our hope for our Church, cause us to call upon God for deeper courage, and witness to all the enduring power of faith.

Music:  We Are God’s People – Fred Bock

This is a recently written hymn with an old time kind of sound. 

English hymn text writer, Bryan Jeffery Leech, took the primary theme from Johannes Brahms’ 1st Symphony, 4th movement and wrote lyrics which have become a hymn standard. We Are God’s People is a majestic statement befitting Brahm’s regal theme. Allan Robert Petker has created an anthem setting and has intertwined many of the other themes that Brahms utilized in his 1st symphony.

The Sweet Scent of God

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Click here for readings

Lk15_5 lost lamb

Today, in Mercy, we meet the Shepherd bringing the lost lamb home.  Haven’t we all, at sometime in our lives, been carried on those sacred shoulders?

Whether by our own prayers, or the prayers of those who love us, have we not been rescued from sorrow, foolishness, isolation or fear?

This beautiful Gospel assures us of the one thing we most deeply need – we are cherished, irrevocably, by God.

This morning, if we need to ride those shoulders, let us trust ourselves to them in prayer. 

If, by grace, we are already home, let us pray for those feeling most lost or abandoned – those most beset by a hostile world. May our merciful action help lift them to peace and the sweet scent of God so close beside them.

Music: I Will Carry You – Sean Clive

I will carry you when you are weak.
I will carry you when you can’t speak.
I will carry you when you can’t pray.
I will carry you each night and day.

I will carry you when times are hard.
I will carry you both near & far.
I’ll be there with you whenever you fall.
I will carry you through it all.

My arms are wider than the sky,
softer than a little child,
stronger than the raging,
calming like a gentle breeze.
Trust in me to hold on tight because 

I will carry you when you can’t stand.
I’ll be there for you to hold your hand.
And I will show you that you’re never alone.
I will carry you and bring you back home.

Not pain, not fear, not death, no nothing at all
can separate you from my love.
My arms and hands will hold you close.
Just reach out and take them in your own.
Trust in me to hold on tight.
I will carry you.

One Thing I Ask

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, both Jesus and Paul continue to instruct us on the Christian life. Paul, writing from a distance to his beloved Philippians, encourages them to hold fast to the teachings he gave them when he was with them. We can sense, in Paul’s tone, an awareness of his impending death. There is a “last advice” urgency in his words.

Ps27_one thing

The same is true of Jesus’s teaching in the Gospel. He is driving home the point that, with God, it must be all or nothing. We can’t be half-hearted, “sometimes” disciples.

His words fall hard on our sensibilities.

If anyone comes to me
without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.

Really? Hate? In a Gospel which is always Love, from a man who is himself Love, what can this really mean? 

For me, the passage says that we can let nothing hold us that would turn us from God – even if that might be as dear as beloved family. It means that our one core desire must be that of the Psalmist:

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze
on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.

What we love, cherish and choose should reveal God’s heart to us, not obscure it. If that’s not the case, we have some tough choices to make, just like Jesus’s listeners in today’s Gospel.

Music: One Thing I Ask, One Thing I Seek

Come to the Feast!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we are back at “the banquet” – that divine communion where we are all one in God – even the poor, crippled, lame and blind from yesterday’s reading.

Lk14_15 dine kingdom

But there’s a little different twist to this story.  This time, we are the ones invited, but we fail to attend due to multiple bogus excuses:

  • we’ve gotten married
  • we bought a cow
  • we bought a field
  • we bought not one, but FIVE yoke of oxen

You get the gist… all those preoccupying duties that keep us bound. Not to make a pun, but, Holy Cow, given all my responsibilities, how could I ever make it to “the banquet”!

The truth is that what keeps us from “the banquet” is fear:

  • fear that we might be associated with Jesus
  • fear to sit at the same table with his motley companions 
  • fear that some loyalty might be demanded of us

and the basis of all fears –

  • that we aren’t good enough, holy enough,
    strong enough to be what Jesus desires.

Oh, Friends, let us not be deterred by fear or any other preoccupation from the invitation of a lifetime! Let us approach the table of God with a humble and open heart. God has the banquet garment ready for us. The celebration is ready. All we have to do is sit down and listen to the Divine Music. The rest will come. We will learn how to dance with God.

Music: Dancing with God – sung by Briege O’Hare, OSC,  based on the writings of Mechthild of Magdeburg, a Beguine and Christian medieval mystic whose book Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of Divinity) described her visions of God.

I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me
And if you want me to leap for joy,
Then you must be the first to dance and to sing
And I will follow you; in their echo I will ring.

Then, only then,
Then, only then,
Then, only then, will I leap for joy!

I cannot sing, O Lord, unless you lead me
And if you want me to sing for joy,
Then you must be the first to sing out your song
And I will follow you and sing right along.

Then, only then,
Then, only then,
Then, only then, will I sing for joy!

Lead me Lord in your joyful dancing.
I will follow in your dance of life.
Then all my living will be true to you,
My loving God.

(Repeat Verse 1)
Leap for joy!
Will I leap for joy!