The Lord’s Prayer

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 9, 2019

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(Some of you may recognize this reflection as a “recycle”, but I think it may be worth another read.)

Ollie praying

Today, in Mercy,  Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. His prayer is simple and direct, like talking to your Dad over a morning cup of coffee.

What about us? How do we pray?

Our first learned prayers are a lot like Jesus’s simple Our Father. We praise God, giving thanks, and asking for what we need.

Then we grow up and get sophisticated. We may begin to “say” or read prayers rather than use our own words. While such a practice can deepen our understanding of prayer, it places a layer between us and our conversation with God.

Sometimes others lead our prayer in the community of faith. This too can enrich us as we are inspired by a shared faith. But it is a little like trying to have a private conversation in an elevator.

Just as Jesus often went off in solitude to pray, this kind of prayer is our most intimate time with God – a time when God allows us to know God and ourselves in a deeper way. This sacred time alone with God may be spent in words, song, or the silence that speaks beyond words.

It is a time to be with the Beloved as we would our dearest, most faithful companion. We rest in the field of our experiences, letting them flow over God’s heart in tenderness. We listen with the ear of absolute trust to the secrets God tells us in the quiet.

Pray Always

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings suggest that there are many different ways to pray – to acknowledge and respond to God’s Presence in our lives, to deepen in relationship with God.

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Jonah has just finished his prayer of thanksgiving for deliverance from the chaos. This prayer is transformative. Jonah is different – open to God’s call – after it. The Ninivites, after hearing only one day of Jonah’s preaching, respond by acts of fasting and mortification . Their king, when he hears of their actions, himself formalizes a drastic national atonement. The repentant prayer of the Ninivite Kingdom is also transformative. They turn from their evil ways and open their hearts to God’s sovereignty.

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ps130_1 lament

Our Responsorial Psalm 130, a treasured and classic song of lament, shows us the transformative power of this kind of prayer. The one praying from the depths of her heart:

  • names her suffering
  • weeps with God because of it
  • begs deliverance
  • in the begging, relinquishes the outcome to God
  • receives peace in the relinquishment
  • is transformed by that peace and offers praise

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Our Gospel offers us another classic example of types of prayer, that of contemplation and that of service. In the story, Mary is affirmed for her singular attention to the presence of Christ – her contemplative prayer. Martha, on the other hand, pays attention to Christ by her service. Some have interpreted Martha’s as a lesser form of prayer. However, Macrina Weirdekehr, in her new book “The Flowing Grace of Now”, gives us this powerful insight into Martha’s prayer:

“Mary’s listening annoys Martha, who is busy serving. Yet if the full truth be known, Martha was also sitting at the feet of the teacher. She is sitting at the feet of service. Later, after dinner was served, with Jesus gone and Mary retired for the evening, I envision Martha finally sitting down by herself, and listening to the experience of the evening. As she reviewed the evening and her lament in the midst of her service, perhaps she began to realize that all of this was part of the wisdom offered by the school of life. We learn by contemplating our daily struggles.”


(I so highly recommend this deeply beautiful book available from:

Click here to go to Ave Maria Press or

Click here to go to Amazon


Today, we might consider our many ways to talk with and be with God, to give time and awareness to this all-encompassing relationship in our lives.

Music: Lord, I Need You – Matt Maher 

 

Transparent Prayer

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

Monday, October 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading is from the Book of Jonah, a drama with which we are all familiar.  Because of the fantastical nature of the tale, we may tend to read it simply on the level of allegory – the way we might read Aesop’s fables. But there is much spiritual depth to be found in this well-known story.

As I pray with the Jonah passages for these three days, I am using an article by Walter Bruggemann to inform my prayer.

You can access Bruggemann’s article here

Since today is the feast of the Holy Rosary, a prayer which has blessed the Church for centuries, Bruggemann’s consideration of Jonah’s prayer caught my attention:

The complexity of (Jonah’s) prayer is reflective of the complexity of all prayer.  Prayer purports to be single-minded in its communication with Yahweh.  Everyone who prays is complex, given to deception, distortion, and willfulness; our prayers are most often thick with mixed motives, distortions, and exhibits, even if only to the self.  There are “saints” who are more mature and more disciplined than this in their prayer.  But evidently Jonah is not among those mature, disciplined saints.  For that reason his compromising and manipulative maneuvers are highly visible in the prayer.  We may spot such maneuvers in his prayer and be driven to reflect on our own acts of seduction in prayer whereby we deceive ourselves, even if God is not deceived.

The Rosary, intended as a contemplation not a recitation, allows us the silence and time to sort out the complexities of our own prayer. It is a prayer not to be rushed. Praying it well requires us to lay aside our busy existence and excuses, and to place ourselves in the stillness of Divine Transparency.

rosary

The Rosary invites us to enter more deeply into the truth of Christ’s life, but also into our own. Seen in the light of Mary’s and Jesus’s lives, what is our own life teaching us?

So many of us have a Rosary in our drawer or purse that we haven’t touched for a while. Many of these beads were given to us by, or belonged to, someone who loved us – who wished us the blessings that come from its devotion. Perhaps we might like to rekindle our love for the Rosary today while remembering that beloved person. In the drawer beside my bed, my Dad’s well worn rosary is waiting for me.

Music: Ave Maria – Bach, sung by Jessye Norman

Write It Down with Your Life!

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 6, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings combine to offer us a powerful message: we are the translators of God’s Word for our time. Our choices and actions for justice and mercy make the vision “readable” – visible for our sisters and brothers.

Hab2_2 vision

Habakkuk starts our challenge. He is in a bit of a struggle with God, asking repeatedly how long God is going to allow the people to suffer. ( I have had similar conversations with God, especially during these charged political times).

In so many words, God tells Habakkuk to look to his faith – his vision through God’s eyes. God sees that “the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” God tells him to “write the vision down”, to make it apparent in his own choices and actions for justice and mercy. In other words, Habakkuk, I’ve done what I am going to do. The rest is up to you, Buddy!

In a similar way, Paul reminds Timothy to “stir up the flame” – the gift of God given at his profession of faith. Paul reminds Timothy that, by grace, he knows what is right and just. He must not be chicken about living and speaking that Truth – to write the vision down by his choices and actions for justice and mercy.

In our Gospel, the disciples seem to want their faith increased because the commitment to witness is scary. They think they might feel a little better about it all if their faith consoled them more. But “writing the vision with our lives” takes guts, and the disciples seem a little lacking in today’s reading.

Jesus tells them to buck up. They are blessed to serve the Word of God by the witness of their lives. It won’t always feel good, safe or successful. Still they, and we, must unfailingly write the vision down by our choices and actions for justice and mercy, because even …

When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.

Jesus calls it like it is today. We are blessed to be God’s translators. We have an undeniable call to live God’s just and merciful vision. No excuses. Get it together. Keep the pencil sharp. No asking God when He’s going to make things better. The legible  (just and merciful) translation depends on us!

Music: The Vision – Patrick Love

Advice to a Prophet – Richard Wilbur

Speaking of prophets, a beautiful poem, Advice to a Prophet, came across my email today thanks to Joe Riley at Panhala. The poem is fitting as we close this Season of Creation. I have included it in a second post in case you’d like to read it.

deer

 

Advice to a Prophet

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?–
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone’s face?

Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.


(If you would like to receive a wonderful poem daily, you can subscribe to Panhala. Send a blank email to Panhala-subscribe@yahoogroups.com)

 

Names Written in Heaven

Saturday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

October 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we read from the Book of Baruch, a little book with a big punch. Baruch authored “scribal literature”, that which completed the message of another writer. Baruch was Jeremiah’s scribe, working to finish the edges of this most complex of the prophets.

Our reading today reflects this complexity. The Israelites have a history of intertwined faith and faithlessness. They also have current overwhelming sufferings. How does the prophet employ these two realities to impel hearts toward God?

Baruch characterizes God as angry and vengeful, punishing the people for their idolatry. It’s a model that works for Baruch’s time and purposes. But it’s not the God I know and love. So how can the passage speak to me?

The core of Baruch’s message is that things can be really bad sometimes in life, but that God is with us even in those times. Our turning to God in trust and patience will allow us to remain faithful and to deepen spiritually even in suffering. That fidelity brings joy and peace.

It’s hard to have that kind of faith. We want to manage our lives, and even manage God, in order to make sense of the chaos of life – to provide sensible, rectifiable reasons for suffering and evil.

We want to control demons like the early disciples did.

lk10_20 name_heaven

In our Gospel, these disciples return from their missionary trips all puffed up with their powers over evil. Jesus cautions them saying that’s not at all what it’s all about. Any miraculous power they have in a given moment is only a sign of a Greatness beyond them. 

Instead, their names a written in Heaven by the long, unshakeable fidelity that comes with keeping their eyes on God; by giving themselves to the mysterious, sometimes hidden, presence of God in every reality; by allowing that Presence to transform them and their circumstances.

(Speaking of prophets, a beautiful poem, Advice to a Prophet, came across my email today thanks to Joe Riley at Panhala. The poem is fitting as we close this Season of Creation. I will include it in a second post in case you’d like to read it.)

Music:  a little revival music today, New Name Written Down in Glory. Picture the disciples singing this after Jesus instructs them in today’s Gospel.

Celebrating Francis and his Followers

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi

October 4, 2019

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Francis
Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy- Caravaggio https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/deed.en

Today, in Mercy, in lieu of my usual reflection, I choose on this feast of St. Francis, to share with you my thoughts on our beloved Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and to give a well-deserved shout out to their Spiritual Center in Aston, PA.

I have been so enriched by their spirituality, their passion for justice, their unbounded hospitality, their love of the Gospel, and their witness for Christ.

Please join me in praying today for their community .. for its vigor, strength, holiness, witness and joy.

I commend to all my readers the Franciscan Spiritual Center at Aston, PA. If you are serious about your soul-life, consider their desire to assist you. I have found my relationship with these Sisters so beneficial for my spiritual life:

Click here for info on Franciscan Spiritual Center

I particularly send blessings to these beloved women who have blessed my life by their deep Franciscan spirituality. I have been brought into the world by them (Click to read about Old St. Mary’s Hospital – Kensington), taught by them, worked with them, prayed with them, laughed with them, mourned with them, been arrested for civil disobedience with them, and been edified by their gentle, hospitable goodness:

Sister Clare Immaculate
Sister Irma Catherine
Sister Jean Margaret McDevitt
Sister Marge Sullivan
Sister Marie Lucey
Sister Miriam Eileen Murray
Sister Kate O’Donnell
Sister Angela Presenza
Sister Annemarie Slavin
Sister Clare D’Auria
Sister Julia Keegan
and their devoted SSJ buddy, Sister Pat Hamill

Happy Feastday to all Franciscans and their co-ministers worldwide!

Music: Be Praised, My Lord – Andrea Likovich, OSF

 

The Word

Thursday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time

October 3, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Ezra and Nehemiah gather all the People for a gargantuan spiritual renewal! It is the People themselves who request this renewal, realizing that they have drifted from the Law and desiring to ritualize their return to it.

It seems fitting that this reading comes just after the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashana (from sundown on Sunday, September 29 until sundown on Tuesday, October 1, 2019.) This feast marks the beginning of the Jewish High Holy Days.

For more on these biblically rich celebrations, click here.


One of the lessons Christians can take from today’s passage is awareness of the great power and gift of God’s Word. Ezra’s community was changed by listening to that Word with open, repentant hearts.

word of God

In our Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples out to preach that Word, now transformed by the power of his Incarnation. He tells them to preach that “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

Just this week, Pope Francis has taken steps to rekindle our appreciation of the Word. By declaring the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God, our Pope wants to help us grow in love and devotion to Sacred Scripture.

(Personally, I welcome this focus. At the time of the Second Vatican Council, there was a new and deepened awareness of the gift of Sacred Scripture. As a young religious, that awareness was central to my spiritual formation. Since that time, there seems to have been an unfortunate shift away from that emphasis. I see the Pope’s declaration as a welcome corrective to that shift.)

Pope Francis has designated the day “to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God “ so as to help the Church “experience anew how the risen Lord opens up for us the treasury of his word and enables us to proclaim its unfathomable riches before the world’.

May we gratefully respond!

(See below the music : If you are interested, I have copied a very good excerpt from Pope Francis Apostolic Letter.)

Music: We Come to Hear Your Word – Chris Jubilee

Below is an excerpt from the Pope’s Apostolic Letter APERUIT ILLIS -INSTITUTING THE SUNDAY OF THE WORD OF GOD. I found it to be helpful in understanding the Pope’s intent with this feast:


With this Letter, I wish to respond to the many requests I have received from the people of God that the entire Church celebrate, in unity of purpose, a Sunday of the Word of God. 

It is now common for the Christian community to set aside moments to reflect on the great importance of the word of God for everyday living. The various local Churches have undertaken a wealth of initiatives to make the sacred Scripture more accessible to believers, to increase their gratitude for so great a gift, and to help them to strive daily to embody and bear witness to its teachings.

The Second Vatican Council gave great impulse to the rediscovery of the word of God, thanks to its Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, a document that deserves to be read and appropriated ever anew. The Constitution clearly expounds the nature of sacred Scripture, its transmission from generation to generation (Chapter II), its divine inspiration (Chapter III) embracing the Old and New Testaments (Chapters IV and V), and the importance of Scripture for the life of the Church (Chapter VI). 

To advance this teaching, Pope Benedict XVI convoked an Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2008 on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church”, and then issued the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, whose teaching remains fundamental for our communities.[1] That document emphasizes in particular the performative character of the Word of God, especially in the context of the liturgy, in which its distinctively sacramental character comes to the fore.[2]

It is fitting, then that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride, that she may grow in love and faithful witness.

Consequently, I hereby declare that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God. This Sunday of the Word of God will thus be a fitting part of that time of the year when we are encouraged to strengthen our bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian unity. This is more than a temporal coincidence: the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.

Let’s Start from Scratch

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels

October 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading brought to mind my “IKEA” days . We had just moved into our new convent, a real “fixer-upper”. Our meager furnishings consisted of some cast-offs from a closing convent and a few of IKEA’s befuddling “put-togethers”.

Ikea

I wasn’t bad at put-togethers, but neither was I perfect. (Neither were any of you who ever tried it. Don’t lie to me!) Sometimes my imperfection rose to the level that I just unassembled whatever sorry mess I had and started all over again – from scratch.

That’s what Nehemiah does in our first reading. He lived in Judean-Persia and had a good job with the Persian King who favored him. When Nehemiah realized how bad things were back in Jerusalem, he felt terrible. He asked the king to sponsor him on a rebuilding trip, and the amiable king agreed.

So Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and reordered things. Greed, dissension, and selfishness had infected the People. The elite rich were feeding off the labors of the poor. Any attempts at restoring the heart of the community were languishing under these infections.

Nehemiah, a faith-filled man, was also a great administrator. He designed a spiritual government with a stringent communitarian financial system. This allowed the Israelites to return to their Abrahamic character as a People who cared for one another rather than profited off one another.

Nehemiah accomplished great things for God’s People because of his clarity, simplicity and faith. That faith moved him to acknowledge that his success occurred because…

Neh2_8 favor hand

Today, on this feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, perhaps we will feel God’s loving touch in our lives through their ever-present direction. Perhaps there are dissonant systems within or around us that we are being called to name and reorder in God’s good grace as well.

Music:  By the Rivers of Babylon by Boney M. 
The song is based on today’s Responsorial Psalm 136. Even though the tone is jazzy, the song captures Israel’s longing for life as God intended it to be. “Babylon” = corrupted culture. We have our own longings for a return to a shared public life which honors God and nourishes the whole of Creation.

Boney M. is a Europe-Caribbean vocal group created by German record producer Frank Farian. Originally based in West Germany, the four original members of the group’s official line-up were Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett from Jamaica, Marie Williams, from Montserrat and Bobby Farrell, a performing-artist from Aruba.

The Way – Amy Lowell

(When I read this poem, I see Jesus beginning his life’s journey in joyous hope, then meeting the reality of his Passion, Death and Resurrection. I see my own journey too, in its different phases of light and darkness – of hope, sorrow and joy.  Read the whole, but then take time with the pregnant phrases. One will capture you where your are standing today. Stand there with Jesus.)

path

At first a mere thread of a footpath half blotted out by the grasses
Sweeping triumphant across it, it wound between hedges of roses
Whose blossoms were poised above leaves as pond lilies float on the water,
While hidden by bloom in a hawthorn a bird filled the morning with singing.

It widened a highway, majestic, stretching ever to distant horizons,
Where shadows of tree-branches wavered, vague outlines invaded by sunshine;
No sound but the wind as it whispered the secrets of earth to the flowers,
And the hum of the yellow bees, honey-laden and dusty with pollen.

And Summer said, “Come, follow onward, with no thought save the longing to wander,
The wind, and the bees, and the flowers, all singing the great song of Nature,
Are minstrels of change and of promise, they herald the joy of the Future.”

Later the solitude vanished, confused and distracted the road
Where many were seeking and jostling. Left behind were the trees and the flowers,
The half-realized beauty of quiet, the sacred unconscious communing.

And now he is come to a river, a line of gray, sullen water,
Not blue and splashing, but dark, rolling somberly on to the ocean.
But on the far side is a city whose windows flame gold in the sunset.

It lies fair and shining before him, a gem set betwixt sky and water,
And spanning the river a bridge, frail promise to longing desire,
Flung by man in his infinite courage, across the stern force of the water;

And he looks at the river and fears, the bridge is so slight, yet he ventures
His life to its fragile keeping, if it fails the waves will engulf him.
O Arches! be strong to uphold him, and bear him across to the city,
The beautiful city whose spires still glow with the fires of sunset!

Music: from the album Traveler’s Prayer –  John Redbourn