Prince of Peace

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

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Today, in Mercy,  majestic Isaiah bursts out, full-throated, in proclamation! 

Is 11_not by appear copy

Messianic Psalm 72 picks up his jubilant strain.

Justice shall flourish in his time,
and fullness of peace for ever.

And in our Gospel, Jesus affirms that the childlike will share the jubilation.

What a joy to hear these hope-filled readings once again!

We look forward with avid anticipation to  the redemption of all Creation in Christ.  We long for the One born in the Spirit of the Lord who will lead us with wisdom and understanding.

As Handel intones in today’s musical selection, “The government shall be upon his shoulders …” – that realm of peace, love, mutual respect and appreciation that will allow even the rival animals to lie down beside one another in security.

Today, let us pray with Jesus as he speaks with his Father in our Gospel: “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” 

… and I ask you to bless our world with a foretaste of the peace you have promised. Let us see one another as sister and brother, not as enemy, foreigner, or rival. Let us put away the words of alienation, stereotyping and hatred. Let us all become your children once again.

Music:  For Unto Us A Child Is Word – Handel’s Messiah

Swords to Plowshares

Monday, December 3, 2018

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Is 2_4 plow

Today, in Mercy, we pray with the hope of Isaiah for a world without war. We pray for a human family whose only weapons are compassion, justice, and a sacred responsibility for one another and our Common Home. It will take great courage to build such a world, but the power of Christ is available to us. Advent is a time to reach for that power through prayer and action for global social justice.

Music: Isaiah’s Song – Tommy’s Window

The Days Are Coming

First Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, we begin our journey through Advent.  We will be accompanied by the great prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures.  We will walk with the saints and sinners of the Gospel. We will be comforted by God’s promises.

Jer 33_15 sprout

We will be in the company of all the Church here on earth and in heaven, as we wait once again for the astounding miracle of Christ’s birth.

Every year we make the journey – some of us for scores of times, some of us just beginning.  And every year, we open and stretch our hearts to hope that God will once again transform the world with Grace.

Jeremiah, in today’s first reading, shared such a hope:

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot ;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”

Change but a few “geographies” in the passage, and we are speaking of our own time. May we who have been blessed with the promise of Christ once again claim it during this Advent.  May we engage the grace being offered so that our world – and our own hearts – grow in justice, security and peace.

Music:: Comfort Ye My People from Handel’s Messiah – The English Concert, directed by Trevor Pinnock. Soloist: Kurt Streit

God, Face to Face

Saturday, December 1, 2018

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turin
Section of the Shroud of Turin

Today, in Mercy, we come to the end of our readings from Revelation.  They have been challenging, to say the least.

The passage from Luke’s Gospel today is just as confronting.  These are not easy times.

Our prayer over these past few days has led us to deeper understanding of this hard truth: life as we know it will be transformed and we will be judged at the transformation.

But hopefully our reflections have also assured us that the Master and Judge of Life is the same merciful God who forgave and healed the sinful and suffering.

By our faithfulness to this merciful God, we will be redeemed. Revelation puts it this way:

The servants of God
will look upon his face,
and his name
will be on their foreheads.

When a person is filled with goodness (or evil), we often say it is “written all over her face”.  So it is with those who love and long for God and for God’s peaceable kingdom.

God will recognize us at the judgment because our hope and desire for God are written all over our face. And God’s love for us will be written all over that Divine Countenance.

Music: The Face of God – Karen Drucker

A Simple Faith

Friday, November 30, 2018

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Rom 10_17 Andrew

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew, the brother of Peter, also a fisherman, a beloved Apostle and friend of Jesus.

Our Gospel tells the story of Andrew’s call.

Another favorite passage about Andrew is when he points out to Jesus that, in the hungry crowd, there is a young boy with five loaves and two fish. 

How simple and complete was Andrew’s faith! Those seven little items must have seemed so minute among 5000. Can you picture Andrew looking into Jesus’s eyes as if to say, “I know it’s not much but you can do anything!” Maybe it was that one devoted look which prompted Jesus to perform this amazing miracle!

We trust that our deep devotion and faith can move God’s heart too. On this feast of St. Andrew, many people begin a prayer which carries them through to Christmas. Praying it, we ask for particular favors from God.

I love this prayer because it was taught to me by my mother, a woman blessed with simple faith like Andrew’s. As I recite it, I ask to be gifted with the same kind of faith.

( Another reason I love it is this: how often in life do you get a chance to say a word like “vouchsafe“! )

St. Andrew Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God,
to hear my prayer and grant my desires
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

There is a very hurting world that needs healing. Let’s fold our Advent prayers around its many wounds.

Music:  Hear my prayer, O Lord is an eight-part choral anthem by the English composer Henry Purcell (1659–1695). The anthem is a setting of the first verse of Psalm 102 in the version of the Book of Common Prayer. Purcell composed it c. 1682 at the beginning of his tenure as Organist and Master of the Choristers for Westminster Abbey.

Stand Up

Thursday, November 29, 2018

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human circle

Today in Mercy, our readings from Revelation and Luke are truly terrible, in the full meaning of that word: extremely distressing, causing terror.  They’re intended to be.

They describe and warn against times of destruction. Revelation describes the fall of Babylon. The Gospel relates the destruction of Jerusalem.

But neither reading is history. They are not offered so that we get the facts, the way a newspaper or encyclopedia reports a story.

These readings are given to us, and to the audiences they were originally written for, so that we might understand clearly this important reality: we live in two worlds, the material and the spiritual.

These worlds are intended by God to be united in one Creation, joined at the wedding feast of the Lamb. But we humans fail. We exalt and distort the power of the material world to the destruction of the spiritual. We split what God intended to be whole.

In other words, we build both global and personal kingdoms and governments that have no heart, have no soul.

If you think these readings describe only past civilizations, then look to the Mexican-US border. Look at the starving people of Yemen. Look at the devastation of the rainforest. Look at our drug-infested, gun-enthralled culture.

Jesus knew that his followers would battle these forces forever. He tells us that, in the midst of these destructive signs, we should

“ … stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.”

Jesus’s followers must stand as a sign of another way. We must raise our heads to say “No” to the heartless moral choices of our time. We cannot allow ourselves to be swept up in a culture of lies, political expediency, material greed, and dehumanization of whole peoples. We must break through the cabled propaganda we are fed to find God’s Word to us.

Our readings today ask us to take a good look at ourselves. How complicit are we in our own destruction by our failure to choose, speak, and act for Gospel justice in our world?

Music: No Outsiders – Rend Collective

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

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Today, in Mercy,  our Responsorial Verse captures the essence of all the readings:

Rev 2_10JPG

It’s one of those scripture passages that makes one want to say, “Oh, really? Is that all?” 

Because, you know, it’s a pretty tall order to remain faithful until death. Sometimes it’s a real pinch to remain faithful for a week! 

Remember that exercise bike you bought in January 1999? Yeah, that one with your yoga pants, umbrella, and assorted gift bags hanging on it.

Or what about that South Beach diet book you’re using to prop open the closet door? How did all that faithfulness work out?

So, given our very human condition, what is the “faithfulness” these readings enjoin?

I believe it is not a faithfulness that never fails. Rather, it tries. When it does fail, it believes in and seeks forgiveness. It trusts, even in its weakness. It is grateful, abiding, and loving. It is not afraid to begin again and again, because our faithfulness depends on God’s mercy not our strength.

When we were young nuns making our final vows, this phrase was part of our commitment: 

“… and to persevere, until death …” 

One of our wise leaders, Mother Bernard, told us, “Don’t pray for final perseverance. Pray to be worthy of it.”

I think we become worthy of it by that trusting faithfulness which turns again and again into Mercy’s waiting, understanding arms. It is a faithfulness that fully believes these words from the Book of Lamentations:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
God’s mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
so great is your faithfulness.

                   Lamentations 3:22-23

Music: Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Dan Moen

The Fiery Wine Press

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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Rev 14_19 furyJPG

Today, in Mercy, we are struck with Revelation’s images of the end time!

  • a crowned Christ wielding a sharp sickle
  • angels commanding the final harvest of the earth

and perhaps the most powerful

  • the earth’s vintage thrown into the great winepress of God’s fury!

This author could write! We can almost imagine the scene, filmed with all the pyro-technics of today’s computer age.

But besides the amazing imagery, what does the passage say to our hearts?

In Biblical symbolism, the winepress almost always stands for judgment. The passage reminds us that we all will be judged.  The divine winepress will compress the sinful gaps that plague our human existence.  In the end time, there will be no “other” — no judgmental spaces separating us from one another.  We will all be one, like wine mingled.

We will be judged on how we lived that oneness in this life, on where we have stood in the gap between the:

  • rich and poor
  • well and sick
  • citizen and refugee
  • abled and disabled
  • powerful and vulnerable

Do we live in ignorance or indifference to those who suffer on the other side of the human scale? Have we been impervious to the imbalances of justice and charity in this world?

And how do we respond? The passage suggests that we do some weeding of our spiritual gardens before the harvest of our souls. The intention of this fiery writer is to tell us that we still have a little time.

Music:  The Day Is Surely Drawing Near – written by the prolific 16th century Lutheran hymnist Bartholomaüs Ringwaldt. This piece is a majestic instrumental rendering, but if you would like to see the words, they are below. 

1 The day is surely drawing near
When Jesus, God’s anointed,
In all His power shall appear
As judge whom God appointed.
Then fright shall banish idle mirth,
And flames on flames shall ravage earth
As Scripture long has warned us.

2 The final trumpet then shall sound
And all the earth be shaken,
And all who rest beneath the ground
Shall from their sleep awaken.
But all who live will in that hour,
By God’s almighty, boundless pow’r,
Be changed at His commanding.

3 The books are opened then to all,
A record truly telling
What each has done, both great and small,
When he on earth was dwelling,
And ev’ry heart be clearly seen,
And all be known as they have been
In thoughts and words and actions.

4 Then woe to those who scorned the Lord
And sought but carnal pleasures,
Who here despised His precious Word
And loved their earthly treasures!
With shame and trembling they will stand
And at the judge’s stern command
To Satan be delivered.

5 My Savior paid the debt I owe
And for my sin was smitten;
Within the Book of Life I know
My name has now been written.
I will not doubt, for I am free,
And Satan cannot threaten me;
There is no condemnation!

6 May Christ our intercessor be
And through His blood and merit
Read from His book that we are free
With all who life inherit.
Then we shall see Him face to face,
With all His saints in that blest place
Which He has purchased for us. 

7 O Jesus Christ, do not delay,
But hasten our salvation;
We often tremble on our way
In fear and tribulation.
O hear and grant our fervent plea;
Come, mighty judge, and make us free
From death and ev’ry evil.

The Rapture

Monday, November 26, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading from Revelation describes what has come to be known in modern culture as “the Rapture”. It’s a concept probably more popularized by modern fiction than by our devotion to scripture.

Rev 4_1 rapture

Maybe you are one of the  60 million readers of the “Left Behind” books by Jenkins and LaHaye. This popular series captures our fascination with “the end times”. 

The writer of Revelation is doing the same thing. This highly imaginative ancient author -adept at symbols, allegory, and poetry – writes to awake and engage us in our own salvation.

Whether or not his visions predict facts is not the point. The point is that there will come an end time to every life. When it comes to us, we want to have already become God’s familiar and beloved friend.

A second point is that this world, as we know it, is passing. We should not make our heart’s investment here. Our lasting treasure lies in God’s realm which, while present here, is often rendered invisible by our human hungers and distractions.

Revelation enjoins us to wake up, see beyond the visible, and live a life worthy of eternity. 

How? The true and simple answer is in today’s Gospel:

“When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasure
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

This blessed widow, even in her impoverished circumstances, understood where her true treasure lay. She was already counted among the sainted  “hundred and forty-four thousand”.

Music: When I read these apocalyptic passages, I like to imagine the scene by listening to compatible music. One of my favorite accompaniments is Richard Wagner: Ride of the Valkyries. Just imagine Jesus riding into our lives on these exalted melodies!

Christ the King

Sunday, November 25, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate The Solemnity of Christ the King.

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For some, the lofty, politically-tinged title might obscure the rich devotion offered by this feast. The title “king” carries with it suggestions of exaggerated power, wealth and dominance not compatible with our Gospel perception of Jesus.

We may be more comfortable with images of Christ as infant, brother, shepherd, lamb, vine, gate, way, truth, life…

But what all these images point out is that our ability to comprehend the fullness of Christ is severely limited by our humanity. We usually choose a specific image based on our circumstances and spiritual needs.

Pope Pius XI promoted the concept of Christ the King in his 1925 encyclical Quas Primas, in response to growing international secularism and nationalism. His intent was not to compare Christ to the challenged world leaders of the time. It was to raise the perceptions of all people to the lessons of Divine Leadership: mercy, justice, inclusivity, and peace.

Oh, how we could benefit from the same understanding today! 

In this age with its culture of continual war, the human pain it causes, refugee crises, climate devastation, wealth distortion and indifference to the poor, how our hearts long for just, wise and loving leadership!

In his encyclical, Pius XI wrote:

Christ the King reigns “in the human hearts,” both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all humanity. He reigns, too, in our wills, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors. He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his “charity which exceedeth all knowledge.”

— Quas primas, §7[4]

Let’s pray for these virtues for all who are charged with any form of power or leadership:

  • keen spiritual intellect
  • deep heart’s knowledge
  • uncompromising truth
  • obedience to grace
  • holy inspiration 
  • noble character
  • and surpassing charity for all Creation

May Christ the King truly live and reign among us. May we behold the “sweet light in His eyes”!

Music: We Shall Behold Him – offered in American Sign Language by Kayla Seymour; sung by Sandi Patty