Moses’s Psalm: Dark to Light

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 7, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Deuteronomy 32, often referred to as the Psalm of Moses. And once again, our psalm links the heavy messages of our two main readings.

In our first reading from Nahum, the prophet describes Israel’s future restoration after the bloody destruction of Nineveh, chief city of the Assyrian conquerors.

In our Gospel, Jesus foretells his own Passion and Death, and the necessity that his disciples carry their own crosses.

The tenor of both readings is soberly captured in our psalm:

Learn then that I, I alone, am God,
and there is no god besides me.
It is I who bring both death and life,
I who inflict wounds and heal them.


Given the heavy, stormy morning here where I live, these readings are hitting me like a wet blanket! It’s hard to find the link to Light within them, but I believe there always is one – and I’ll suggest one subsequently. But first this.

Often in life, too, it’s hard to find the link to light. Harsh and insufferable realities can stubbornly darken our horizons.

Just this morning, I read about a podcast in which Michelle Obama had revealed a struggle with depression:

“These are not, they are not fulfilling times, spiritually,” Mrs Obama said. “I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression. Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.”


Mrs. Obama is describing her “Nineveh”.  Mine is pretty similar. What’s yours?
And how do we hold faith, even in the middle of “Nineveh”?

These assuring verses from Nahum offer the flicker of Light and the promise of Salvation. They encourage us to stay strong, remain faithful. We must keep lifting our eyes to the future that God dreams for all people, discerning its rising like the sun in a morning mist.

See, upon the mountains there advances
the bearer of good news, 
announcing peace!
Celebrate your feasts, O My people,
fulfill your vows!
…. The LORD will restore the beloved vine,
its hope, courage and strength …


Poetry: The Good God and the Evil God – Kahlil Gibran

The Good God and the Evil God 
met on the mountain top.
The Good God said, 
“Good day to you, brother.”
The Evil God did not answer.

And the Good God said, 
“You are in a bad humour today.”
“Yes,” said the Evil God, 
“for of late I have been often mistaken for you, 
called by your name, and treated 
as if I were you, and it ill-pleases me.”
And the Good God said, 
“But I too have been mistaken for you 
and called by your name.”

The Evil God walked away 
cursing the stupidity of humankind.

Music: How Beautiful – Joe Wise

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! 🙂

Psalm 69: Stuck!

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 1, 2020

Today, in Mercy, we pray for the light of God’s Word in our hearts. God speaks to us in all things. Sometimes, all we need to do is ask God, “What are You saying to me in this circumstance?” Then listen for Love. The answer is always wrapped in Love – and Love is not always easy.

Thought from 2016, Friday of the 17th Week

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 69.  In today’s accompanying readings, Jeremiah and John the Baptist are living out the meaning.of the psalm.

Each of these great prophets has been ensnared by the civic evil of their times, personified in Old Testament princes and New Testament Herod and Herodias. The power structure surrounding each prophet stood in direct contradiction to their witness to God’s Word. Those structures, when confronted with a sacred truth, tried to overwhelm the messenger, like quicksand swallows an innocent traveler.

Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink!
may I be rescued from my foes,
and from the watery depths.
Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me,
nor the abyss swallow me up,
nor the pit close its mouth over me.


The psalm raises to our prayer the reality that such struggles continue in our time. We live in a wonderful but still sinful world where every person decides, everyday, where he or she will stand in the contest between good and evil.

The decision is sometimes very clear. At other times, the waters are so muddied with lies, propaganda, greed, fear, bias. and unexamined privilege that we feel mired in confusion or resistance.

But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69 throws us a rescue line in today’s final verse:

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds God spurns not.

The steady path to truth lies with those who seek God among the humble and poor. The humble are the ones through whom the Lord speaks. They are God’s own. Jeremiah and the Baptist understood this truth and preached it by their lives.

We might examine our lives today in the light of their witness and the message of this challenging psalm.


Poetry:  Beginners – Denise Levertov


‘From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—‘


But we have only begun
to love the earth.
We have only begun
to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
—we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.

Music:  The Cry of the Poor – John Foley, SJ

Psalm 69: Answer Me, O Lord

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

July 31, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 69, a heart-felt lament whose verses are often paralleled with the sufferings of Jesus.

I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.

Psalm 69: 9

Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written,
“The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me”.

Roman 15: 3

Praying with Psalm 69 this morning, and in the light of both our first reading and Gospel, I am aware of how God’s prophets suffer to proclaim mercy, justice, and truth.

Jeremiah suffered in the hope and conviction that God imagined a future of justice for all God’s people. He stood in the midst of the Temple worshippers and condemned their pretense of righteousness.

Jesus stood at the center of his hometown synagogue to proclaim that the long hoped-for redemption had come. But like Jeremiah’s listeners, Jesus’s neighbors also turned on him.

In our own lifetimes, we see the persecution and hatred which is leveled at modern prophets who call the world to justice and mercy. Even within our own Church, we see how Pope Francis is vilified by those whose privileged excesses are threatened by his charity.


As I write this reflection, our country celebrates the life of one of its noblest prophets, the sainted John Lewis. In the image of all the great Justice Witnesses, John endured incredible suffering for the sake of people’s dignity and freedom. He was able to do so because, like Jeremiah and Jesus, he didn’t look inward at his wounds. He looked outward for the redemption of others … the prize of justice:

Never give up, never give in, never give out. 
Keep the faith, and keep your eyes on the prize. 
Together, we can redeem the soul of America.

John Lewis

Let us pray today that the voices of true prophets may be heard and heeded. In this age when technology and social media can quickly disseminate vitriol, hatred, and conspiracy, let us pray for discerning hearts and courageous wills.

But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.

Psalm 69; 14

Poetry: Prophet by Carl Dennis

Prophet
You'll never be much of a prophet if, when the call comes
To preach to Nineveh, you flee on the ship for Tarshish
That Jonah fled on, afraid like him of the people's outrage
Were they to hear the edict that in thirty days
Their city in all its glory will be overthrown.

The sea storm that harried Jonah won't harry you.
No big fish will be waiting to swallow you whole
And keep you down in the dark till your mood
Shifts from fear to thankfulness and you want to serve.
No. You'll land safe at Tarshish and learn the language
And get a job in a countinghouse by the harbor
And marry and raise a family you can be proud of
In a neighborhood not too rowdy for comfort.

If you're going to be a prophet, you must listen the first time.
Setting off at sunrise, you can't be disheartened
If you arrive at Nineveh long past midnight,
On foot, your donkey having run off with your baggage.
You'll have to settle for a room in the cheapest hotel
And toss all night on the lice-ridden mattress
That Jonah is spared. In the space of three sentences
He jumps from his donkey, speaks out, and is heeded, while you,

Preaching next day in the rain on a noisy corner,
Are likely to be ignored, outshouted by old-clothes dealers
And fishwives, mocked by schoolboys for your accent.
And then it's a week in jail for disturbing the peace.
There you'll have time, as you sit in a dungeon
Darker than a whale's belly, to ask if the trip
Is a big mistake, the heavenly voice mere mood,

The mission a fancy. Jonah's biggest complaint
Is that God, when the people repent and ask forgiveness,
Is glad to forgive them and cancels the doomsday
Specified in the prophecy, leaving his prophet
To look like a fool. So God takes time to explain
How it's wrong to want a city like this one to burn,
How a prophet's supposed to redeem the future,
Not predict it. But you'll be left with the question
Why your city's been spared when nobody's different,

Nobody in the soup kitchen you open,
Though one or two of the hungriest
May be grateful enough for the soup to listen
When you talk about turning their lives around.
It will be hard to believe these are the saving remnant
Kin to the ten just men that would have sufficed
To save Gomorrah if Abraham could have found them.

You'll have to tell them frankly you can't explain
Why Nineveh is still standing though you hope to learn
At the feet of a prophet who for all you know
May be turning his donkey toward Nineveh even now.
[from Practical Gods (2001)

Music: Lord, in Your Great Love – Orchard Enterprises

Psalm 146: Abundance

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 30, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, the first of five final concluding praise Psalms in the Psalter. This is one of six Psalms involving preaching to self, where the evocative phrase “O my soul” is used. (Psalms 42, 43, 103, 104, 116 and 146)

Do you ever talk to your soul like that? You know, “Wake up”. “Don’t be afraid!”, “Stop thinking about yourself.”, “Get over it”. These prayers come out of our scarcity, and our longing for fullness, security and peace. We recognize there is something so much more infinite to love than the malaise we are entangled in.

As we pray the Psalms of Praise, particularly these five, we are invited to live out of our abundance rather than our scarcity. That “abundance attitude” is rooted in God’s infinite mercy and generosity, God Who is always creating fullness of life for God’s creatures:

The Maker of heaven and earth,
the seas and all that is in them,
Who keeps faith forever …

(146:6)

Psalm 146 recommends that, when we slip into attitudes of scarcity, we need to talk to ourselves – not that worrisome mumbling that constantly replays our troubles and annoyances. Instead, we should counsel ourselves to remember and trust in God’s faithfulness to us, asking to be big-hearted:

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.


So today, Psalm 146 tells us to change our mental tapes if we have to. If there is a strain of worry, ingratitude, unholy self-reliance or any other negativity plaguing our prayer, let’s eject it.

Let’s replace it with the sacred conversation that begins and ends with:
Thank You”
“I trust You”
“My souls praises You”,
“I am at peace in You.”
“How could I ever thank You enough for loving me!

“Poetry: Prayers for the Protection and Opening of the Heart – Ya’akov Hakohen, translated by Peter Cole Ya’akov Hakohen belonged to a circle of Jewish mystics that was active in mid-thirteenth-century Castile and Provence.

                                  i 
May the Name send its hidden radiance
       to open the gates of deliverance
to His servants—and shine in their hearts,
which now are shut in silent darkness.

May the great King be moved
       to act in perfection and righteousness—
to open the gates of wisdom for us
and waken the love of old, the love of ancient days.

                                                    ii

By the power of the hidden Name I-am-that-I-am,
and by the dew of Desire and Blessing, the dead will live again...

                                                   iii

I-Am is the power of your Name in concealment,
and one who knows its mystery dwells in eternity’s instant.

Over the world, it pours forth abundance and favor,
and on it all worlds hang, like grapes in a cluster.

Send the dew of blessing, the dew of grace;
renew my dispensation, and grant me length of days.

Bring light to my eyes with your teaching, and let not the husks
       that surround your hosts obstruct me.
May Heaven and Adam’s children judge me with mercy.

Sustain me with their strength and fortune—
but do not leave me in need of the gifts of men.

Music: Praise the Lord, My Soul – John Foley, SJ

1… Praise the lord, my soul,
Let fire and rain give praise to Him,
Give praise to Him who is merciful, slow to judge;
Bless the lord, O my soul!

2…Bless the Lord, my soul,
Let all I am give praise to Him,
And not forget he is kind, He forgives our sins;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

3… Merciful and kind,
He knows that man is made of dust,
And like the flowers that flourish he soon must die;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

4…Glory to our God,
Let all that is give praise to Him,
Give praise all you creatures who live His love,
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Psalm 59: Did Martha Pray It?

Memorial of Saint Martha

July 29, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Martha, we pray with Psalm 59.

The psalm is introduced with an interesting phrase: a miktam of David, when Saul sent people to watch his house and kill him. 

The meaning of the word mitkam is unclear, but the meaning of the rest of the phrase is abundantly evident. David felt threatened by the forces of King Saul who surrounded his house day and night awaiting an opportunity to attack him.

The psalm bemoans that situation. In two complementary stanzas, the psalmist asks God for victory and deliverance. Each ends with a refrain of praise and gratitude.


As I pray this psalm today, my mind goes to a house in Bethany. Three siblings live there who are friends of Jesus. Each loves Jesus in her or his own way, according to their personalities. 

The Gospels give us a vivid perception of Mary’s love. We can easily imagine the immensely grateful love of resurrected Lazarus. 

Then there is Martha of whom we know so little. A woman who found comfort in creating a hospitable home. A woman who commanded a well-functioning kitchen. A woman who, silent except for her famous sisterly complaint, let her works speak her love.

As their friendship with Jesus grew, and as Jesus became more notorious to the Jewish leaders, their little house no doubt became the object of inimical fascination.

Jesus’s enemies watched him, but that also watched his friends, frightening many away from Jesus’s side.

As this reality intensified, perhaps phrases of Psalm 59 rose in Martha’s heart as she prayed:

Rescue me from my enemies, O my God;
from my adversaries defend me….
… For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
mighty men come together against me,
Not for any offense or sin of mine, O LORD.

We can only guess what this little family suffered in order to be Jesus’s friends, both during his lifetime and by their witness in the subsequent early Christian Church. But by faith, we can be certain they rejoiced in the Divine Gift these sufferings brought them.

But I will sing of your strength
and revel at dawn in your mercy;
You have been my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of distress.
O my strength! your praise will I sing;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
my merciful God!

Let us pray today to be, like Martha of Bethany, devoted friends of God.

Poetry:  You, neighbor God – Rainer Maria Rilke

You, neighbor god, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.
Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.
Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.
The wall is builded of your images.
They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.
And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.

Music: Psalm 59 – Esther Mui