Ask to See

Friday of the First Week of Advent

December 6, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we stand with Isaiah on the rim of hope. We wait, trusting that “in a very little while”, the Lord will make Creation whole.

Is29_18 blindJPG

It’s a precipitous place, this cliff called “Hope”. It requires that we risk ourselves solely on the promises of a God we cannot see. It invites us to leap into a mist we cannot control.

Or can we?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites the blind men to the cliff’s edge by asking them:

Do you believe that I can do this?

Well, that’s everything, isn’t it? If our answer is “No”, “Maybe”, or “Kinda’”, we might as well just lie down on this side of the Promise.

faint

 

But if our answer is brave, like the Gospel blind ones, we too may have our vision cleared to see that there is no leap required. We already stand beside God.

When his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy;
they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Isaiah 29:23

Music: Amazing Grace sung by Il Divo

God Sings

Once, in a half-hidden glen in Waller Mill Park in Williamsburg, Virginia, I stood in a silence so complete, I could hear nothing but God humming. Even the birds had stopped to listen. If you can, take the time to find a spot like this in your life. Wait there long enough to lose the noise of your own anxieties. Wait for Love and Lavish Mercy to sing with you.

glen


Every Riven Thing ~ Christian Wiman

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.


Music: Walking through Clouds – Berward Koch

 

Sing with God

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

December 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah promises the people that they will sing a song in the land of Judah.  It will be a song that celebrates confidence in God, justice, enduring faith, peace and trust.

Is26_1 strong city

Do you ever sing to God when your heart is filled like that? I don’t mean Church-singing or words somebody else wrote. 

I mean that sweet, indecipherable whisper a mother breathes over her child, or the mix of a hundred half-remembered melodies we hum when we are lost in the fullness of our lives.

Madonna-Child-Sassoferrato-L

And I don’t just mean the happy songs.

I mean the songs of loss and longing, awe and wonderment at life’s astounding turns. I mean even the sounds of silence when the refrain within us cannot be spoken.

When your heart is really stuck, unable to find the words to express the depth of your joy, longing or sorrow, try singing to God like that. So many times, I have done this while out on a solitary walk, or sitting by the water’s edge, or even driving on an open road. Sometimes, God even sings back!😉

(In a second post today, I will share a lovely poem which reminds me of a special prayer time in nature.)


Isaiah’s people were able to sing their song because they held on to faith and acted in justice. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that this must be the way of our prayer too. He says that simply saying, “Lord, Lord” won’t cut it!

Real prayer is not just words. It is a life given to hearing God’s Word and acting on it. Real prayer is about always singing our lives in rhythm with the infinite, merciful melody of God.

Music: Bless the Lord, My Soul – Matt Redman

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The Banquet

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

December 4, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings take us to the Lord’s banquet. It is a rich image that threads through scripture and helps us understand what characterizes the perfect reign of God.

The readings, coming just on the heels of Thanksgiving, present familiar images to us. You may have been part of the preparation of the feast for your family and friends. Maybe you’re the master carver, or brought sides of old family recipes. Or you might be the table decorator or, most important, the clean-up guru!

Or maybe you were the one who steered the conversation so that all felt welcomed and included in the gathering. Maybe you were the one who took someone aside if they needed an extra portion of care. Maybe you were the one who invited someone with no other place to go.

That Thanksgiving meal, and every meal, can be a symbol of the heavenly banquet.


 

Isaiah25_7

Isaiah’s banquet is all elegance and fullness. He describes an end-time when, despite a path through suffering, all is brought to perfection in God:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.


IMG_1628Jesus’s feast in more “now”, and more rustic. He takes the ordinary stuff of present life and transforms it to satisfy the needs of those gathered. With sparse and simple ingredients, Jesus creates the “miracle meal” for the poor and hungry.

He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied. 

Christ’s presence with us in the Eucharist is both kinds of meal.

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  • It points us to the perfection of heaven, where the “web” will be lifted from our eyes and we will see ourselves as one in Christ.
  • It calls us to be Christ for one another in this world – creating miracles of love and mercy so that all are adequately fed, in body and soul, for the journey we share.

Music:  Banquet- Graham Kendrick (Lyrics below)

There’s no banquet so rich
As the bread and the wine
No table more holy
No welcome so kind
There’s no mercy so wide
As the arms of the cross
Come and taste, come and see
Come find and be found

There’s no banquet so rich
For what feast could compare
With the body of Jesus
Blessed, broken and shared?
Here is grace to forgive
Here is blood that atoned
Come and taste, come and see
Come know and be known

Take the bread, drink the wine
And remember His sacrifice
There’s no banquet so rich
As the feast we will share
When God gathers the nations
And dines with us here
When death’s shadow is gone
Every tear wiped away
Come and eat, come and drink
Come welcome that day

There’s no banquet so rich
For our Saviour we find
Present here in the mystery
Of these humble signs
Cleansed, renewed, reconciled
Let us go out as one
Live in love, and proclaim
His death till he comes

Let the Vision Inspire!

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, both Jesus and Isaiah offer us comforting visions.

Is11_1 stump of JesseJPG

Jesus talks about the innocence of children and the childlike. He blesses their ability to see things that our “adult” preoccupations often block from us.

I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.


Reading this, we might be reminded of verses from Clement Clarke Moore’s beloved poem, The Night Before Christmas:

sugar plums

 

 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…

 

 

 


Jesus and Isaiah invite us to allow their hope-filled visions to dance in our heads. They call us to be in a state of innocent anticipation for the glorious Kingdom to reveal itself in our lives.

Read and relish Isaiah’s powerful description of the Lord of this Kingdom!

The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Open your hearts to receive the revelation Jesus wants to give us:

Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,

and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

Unlike Clement Moore’s sugar plums, these holy promises are not about tomorrow. Even though we re-enact our waiting in the season of Advent, Christ is already born in us through our Baptism. We already live in the Kingdom described by Jesus and Isaiah.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Hard to see it for all the worldly upset blocking our sight, for all the Culture of Death around us?

That’s where the sacred vision comes in. Even in the midst of frenetic contradiction, we are called to find, proclaim and practice the redeeming reign of God!

Go deep with Jesus and Isaiah today. Find the inner well your Baptism has planted in your soul. Ask for the grace of boundless, childlike faith. Then joyfully live your life knowing the Kingdom is already within you!

Music: There Blooms a Rose in Bethlehem – Sovereign Grace Music 

Catching Hope!

Monday of the First Week of Advent

December 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading sets us out on nearly two weeks of passages from Isaiah. The passionate hope of Isaiah’s writing, as well as its literary elegance, can reach into our hearts and powerfully renew us.

Is4_6 glory

For these reasons, “Isaiah’s Vision” is among the most beloved and influential books of the Bible. The book has so influenced Christianity that it often is referred to as “The Fifth Gospel”.

We begin today with a passage that captures Isaiah’s prophecy for the restoration of Israel after the Assyrian and Babylonian decimation. You might think, “So what! That was ancient history and my life is now. What can Isaiah say to me?”

But that is the magic of Isaiah! He is a prophet and a magnificent poet. What he says for “then” can be lifted out of time and wrapped in “now”. In the transformation of prayer, Isaiah can be laid in revelation over our world, our times … my life.

On this second day of Advent, as we faithfully seek to find God in our deep-heart, what do today’s lines say to us:

  • Is there a “branch” of hope in us that we pray will blossom?
  • Is there a holy confidence we may have lost for a while that we hunger to have returned?
  • Is there a barren field in our world or our lives that longs to be brought to life?
  • Do we pray for the graceful restoration of our Church, our world, our country, our families, our own hearts?
  • Do we long for signs of God’s Presence in our lives – not smoking clouds and flaming fire necessarily – but the joyful peace and freedom that would bless and comfort us?

Isaiah today is about assuring us in these longings. He says:

For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from the storm and rain.

In our Advent prayer,
we open our spirits to that Promise!

Music: Beautiful Zion- sung by Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Lyrics

1. Beautiful Zion, built above;
Beautiful city that I love;
Beautiful gates of pearly white;
Beautiful temple—God its light;
He who was slain on Calvary
Opens those pearly gates for me.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

2. Beautiful heav’n, where all is light;
Beautiful angels clothed in white;
Beautiful strains that never tire;
Beautiful harps thru all the choir;
There shall I join the chorus sweet,
Worshiping at the Savior’s feet.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

3. Beautiful crowns on ev’ry brow;
Beautiful palms the conq’rors show;
Beautiful robes the ransomed wear;
Beautiful all who enter there;
Thither I press with eager feet;
There shall my rest be long and sweet.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Text: George Gill, 1820–1880
Music: Joseph G. Fones, 1828–1906

Advent: Reach for the Stars

First Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2019

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Advent 1st Sun

Today, in Mercy, dear Friends, let’s begin Advent well! Let’s dedicate that bit of time we choose to spend with the promises of God for our lives. Let’s await Jesus Christ with profound hope and love!

Each Sunday in Advent, I will begin with a meditation I wrote for the Catholic Health Association.  These reflections set the context of each week for us as we immerse ourselves in the amazing revelation of God among us.


On that day, the Lord will bind up
the wounds of His People.
Isaiah 30:26

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Christine is a beautiful woman, inside and out.  She is as vital as fresh air or summer sun.  She is successful, strong, sincere and faith-filled.  But her heart is a fragile hidden glass, ready to break at any moment, because her beloved son is a heroine addict.  Johnny lives in a tidal darkness beyond the shore of her sustaining light.  Like spilled ink, that darkness regularly invades her joy and conspires to steal her hope.

Spiritual darkness holds a profound contradiction. It is the place where we may be deeply lost but even more deeply found.  It is an interior tunnel through which every person walks at least once in her life, the deep chasm from which Isaiah pointed to the distant mountaintop.

During the thrilling season of Advent, we step out into the land of promises and prophets.  The language of hope unfurls in a galaxy across the heavens, calling us out of darkness toward an Infinite and Incarnate Light.  In this first week’s glorious readings, the prophet Isaiah points to our salvation, star by prophetic star:

  • There is a Day coming, he tells us, and on the Day, the Lord will bind up the wounds of his people.
  • In a very little while, he tells us, Lebanon will be changed.  A shoot shall sprout from the tree we had thought to be withered.
  • On this very mountain, he tells us, we will behold our God.

For all of us who, like Christine, carry human sorrow in the shadowed valleys of our spirits, there is healing on the near horizon.  The Daystar of Jesus Christ is about to dawn through the darkness.  God is about to put on the very humanness that is our burden and transform it into glory.  Let us begin, with an eager faith, to enter the divine mystery being sung among the stars.

Music: Creator of the Stars of Night – High Street Hymns

 

Sweet Light in His Eyes

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

Saturday, November 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we stand at the edge of a new Liturgical Year. Yes, in “Church-think”, it is New Year’s Eve.

And it’s fitting to stand here beside Andrew, on his feast, remembering how one day Jesus invited him to launch out into a whole new world.

Mt4_10Andrew

Today teases us with something we cannot yet imagine. Tomorrow, it will be December – the last month of 2019. It will be Advent, the time to wait in silence for unfathomed miracles. What graces will these days hold for us as we prepare for Christmas?

Jesus teased Andrew and Peter too with the promise to be “fishers of men”. Wading knee-deep in the Galilean Sea, do you think they had any hint of what Jesus was talking about? I don’t. I think they simply caught the faith, hope and love in his eyes the way a match catches flame when it’s struck.

Let’s stand with Andrew today at the brink of Advent, on the edge of the long nights or days of December (depending on our hemisphere 😉)

Let’s trust the fire we find in Christ’s eyes as we pray through this Holy Season. Let’s be very intentional not to miss the point of these sacred days by losing them to the muddle of a commercialized, secularized “holiday season”.

St Andrew PRayer

 

An old devotion that I still love is the St. Andrew Novena. The prayer, prayed from November 30 until December 24th, is meant to remind us of the true meaning of these days leading to Christmas. Because my mother said it with me when I was a little girl, it carries both spiritual and emotional riches for me.

It is traditionally suggested that we say it fifteen times a day. I will confess that I only say it once a day, but I do that slowly, focusing on the sacred mystery held within the words.

 

I also have created my personal version without specific petitions. I think God knows what we need and provides for us. That Lavish Mercy is enough and everything.

My St. Andrew’s Prayer:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment
at which the Son of God was born
of our dear Mother Mary
in a stable
at midnight
in Bethlehem
in the piercing cold.
At that hour, I ask you dear God,
to hear my prayer and grant my hope
that you fill our world again
with your Loving Presence.
Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.
Amen
.

Music: We Shall Behold Him – Ron Kenoly (Lyrics below)

I love this hymn, especially the line “the sweet light in his eyes shall enhance those awaiting”. Maybe that’s the light Andrew saw. May we see it too!

The sky shall unfold
Preparing His entrance
The stars shall applaud Him
With thunders of praise
The sweet light in His eyes shall enhance those awaiting
And we shall behold Him, then face to face.

O we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him
Face to face in all of His glory
O we shall behold Him, yes we shall behold Him
Face to face, our Savior and Lord.

The angel will sound, the shout of His coming
And the sleeping shall rise, from there slumbering place
And those remaining, shall be changed in a moment
And we shall behold him, then face to face.

We shall behold Him, o yes we shall behold Him
Face to face in all of His glory
We shall behold Him, face to face
Our Savior and Lord
We shall behold Him, our Savior and Lord
Savior and Lord!

Thank You, God, For Loving Me

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, November 29,2019

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Today, in Mercy, let us continue to bask in the deep gratitude of our hearts for God’s tremendous love for us.

earring

I wrote this reflection for the Sisters of Mercy blog several years ago. They republished it yesterday for Thanksgiving Day. Some of you may not have had the chance to read it. I would be honored if you did.:

Click here to find my reflection of the Sisters of Mercy blog

Music: Amazing Love – some gorgeous instrumental music for your prayer time.

Thanksgiving Prayers

Thanksgiving Day

November 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Thanksgiving readings are so beautiful! Please take some time to read them. Let them bless you wherever you are in life’s journey.

1Cor1_4 Thanks

Throughout this Thanksgiving week, I have prayed by letting your names flow through my mind with deep gratitude. Every life that touches us leaves some kind of blessing or challenge. I am thankful for the gift each one of you has given me.

I know that many of you carry some heaviness through these days – the loss or illness of loved ones, challenges with your own health, or some of the other sorrows life weaves into our joy.

May God reach through any burden you bear to convince you of his Presence in your life,  to assure you with the blessing of our first reading (which I have adapted slightly).

And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters our good from our mother’s womb,
and fashions us according to his mysterious plan for us!
May God grant us joy of heart
and may peace abide among us;
May God’s goodness toward us endure
to deliver us to joy
even through clouds of any passing sorrow.

May you and your loved ones be abundantly blessed on this Thanksgiving!

Music: I Thank My God

 

Thanksgiving Prayer

Blessed God, Great Spirit
Your Breath fills all creation.
It fills this country, making sacred
the land, the water, the sky.
It fills each of us,
making us all Your children,
sisters and brothers of many roots and colors,
who blessedly call ourselves “Americans.”

We give thanks to You today
for Your many gifts to us,
Your beauty and depth are mirrored to us
in the many faiths and cultures
that enrich us as a people.
Help us to reverence our diversity
as an expression of Your Divine Creativity.

We are a people with many names.
We thank You especially
for the names that have shaped us as Americans:
Washington, Lincoln, King –
Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth –
Geronimo, Joseph of the Nez Percé, Sacajawea.

We thank You for those whose names
have blended into the silence of history;
for the Native American who held this land
as a sacred trust;
for pilgrim, pioneer and patriot,
for suffragette, soldier, public servant, and saint…
for those in our own families
who first came – full of hope – to these shores,
and for the searching immigrants who come here now
to find the dream of peace.

We have many hopes and fears, dear God,
as a nation, as individuals, and as world citizens.
On this Thanksgiving Day, move us to bless and
reverence one another as sisters and brothers
and to renew ourselves ,
as your children, in the grace
of awareness, respect, justice and mercy.

Amen.