Lent: Written in Dust

April 3, 2022
Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus writes new rules for life in the venerable Jerusalem dust.

Jn8_1_11JPG

Jesus enjoys an early morning walk from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. The weather, no doubt, was typically beautiful since others easily gathered and sat around Jesus to hear his teaching.

But the Pharisees, vigilant for an opportunity to condemn Jesus, executed a mean-hearted plot.

Dragging a woman “caught in the act of adultery” before the encircled men, they demanded Jesus’s judgment of the distraught woman.

Woman Taken in Adultery – Rembrandt, National Gallery London

Imagine the woman’s terror.  Her poverty and loneliness have already forced her into an ignoble commerce. Had she the chance, she surely would have chosen an easier life.

Now, her meager quarters have been broken into, her privacy invaded in the most intimate of circumstances.  Her adulterous accomplice has either turned her in, or absconded in cowardice. She is surrounded by brutal accusers, many of whom are likely her former customers.

But Jesus sees the woman, not her sin. He responds to her heart not her actions.  He also sees these evil, plotting men and responds to their veiled motivations.


Wouldn’t we love to know what Jesus scribbled in the Temple dirt as these blood-thirsty hypocrites hung over him?

Might it have been the names of those who also visited the woman on earlier nights?

Might it have been some of their hidden sins?

Challenged to cast the first stone if they were sinless, the plotters slowly slink away.  Jesus is left to forgive and heal this suffering woman.

Jesus tells her to go and sin no more, to -as the first reading says – “remember not the things of the past”. Jesus has made her into a new person by the power of his mercy.


May that renewing Mercy touch us, and our world, where we sorely need it.

May it flow through our renewed hearts to everyone we encounter, no matter the circumstances.


Poetry: Two beautiful poems today. The first refers specifically to Rembrandt’s painting above:

Rembrandt, “The Woman Taken in Adultery,” National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London
by Peter Cooley, Senior Mellon Professor in the Humanities and Director of Creative Writing at Tulane University and lives in New Orleans.

Just as I came out of the Gallery,
I saw a gull among hoards of tourists
encircling the statue of Lord Nelson,
crazed while I prayed he'd make it out, resume
flight I attribute to all birds, boundless.
But my dying: I try to keep it lined
around the edges of the ordinary
so I can—shall I say—appreciate?

Drawn to that picture by the glowing dark
around the woman, kneeling, Christ standing,
the Scribes and Pharisees shrouded in black,
I saw she, too, has just discovered light,
knowing, moments ago, she escaped stoning.
She just this instant came to where I'm going.

The second poem is by the beautiful Franciscan poet, Irene Zimmerman, OSF.

From the angry crunch of their sandaled feet
as they left the courtyard, Jesus knew,
without looking up from his writing on the ground,
that the Pharisees and scribes still carried their stones.

The woman stood where they’d shoved her,
her hair hanging loose over neck and face,
her hands still shielding her head
from the stones she awaited.

“Woman,” he asked, “has no one condemned you?”

The heap of woman shuddered, unfolded.
She viewed the courtyard — empty now —
with wild, glazed eyes and turned back to him.
“No one, Sir,” she said, unsurely.

Compassion flooded him like a wadi after rain.
He thought of his own mother — had she known such fear? —
and of the gentle man whom he had called Abba.
Only when Joseph lay dying had he confided
his secret anguish on seeing his betrothed
swelling up with seed not his own.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said.
“Go your way and sin no more.”

Black eyes looked out from an ashen face,
empty, uncomprehending.
Then life rushed back.
She stood before him like a blossoming tree.

“Go in peace and sin no more,”
Jesus called again as she left the courtyard.

He had bought her at a price, he knew.
The stony hearts of her judges
would soon hurl their hatred at him.
His own death was a mere stone’s throw away.


Music:  Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd

Lent: Pray for the Enemy

March 24, 2022
Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

Today in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jeremiah begins our readings by describing the evil heart:

… they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to Me.

Jeremiah :24

It is a terrible thing to encounter a truly evil-hearted person – someone who exudes a twisted energy which is the polar opposite of God’s Love.

I believe we are seeing such a individual now in the person of Vladimir Putin. His actions leave us astounded at their arrogance and cruelty. How can such a person face himself, and certainly, how can he face God?


But our Psalm and Gospel Verse, lead me to ask myself the question:

What if we prayed FOR Vladimir Putin?

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

What if we took pity on the wretched soul he has become and asked God to heal his mind and give him a new heart? He has become sick with evil, and that is a tragic thing to see in a leader responsible for millions of lives!


All of us feel tremendous sorrow and compassion toward the Ukrainian people. But in the end, no matter what, they will triumph through their sincerity, courage and faithfulness.

Putin, on the other hand, is otherwise lost for all eternity.


Will you consider praying today for Putin and those who share his evil culpabilities that they may yet hear the voice of goodness, justice, peace, and reverence for human life?

As we witness the power of God revealed in our Gospel story, let us ask that the evil of war be driven out of the hearts of all those responsible for the outrageous suffering and inhumanity being perpetrated again the people of Ukraine and in all war-infested parts of our world.


Music: Shchedryk by Mykola Leontovich

One of the world’s most famous Christmas songs – The Carol of the Bells – was based on the Ukrainian song Shchedryk, written in 1916 by composer Mykola Leontovich, which was in turn based on the melody and lyrics of a pre-Christian folk song.

This is Gimnazija Kranj Symphony Orchestra and Choir’s dedication to brave Ukrainian people who suffer under the brutal Russian invasion. Our musicians performed this beautiful love song a couple of years ago. Tine Bec did an amazing arrangement. It was composed by Mykola Leontovych: Shchedryk (Carol the Bells) with a splendid arrangement, made by composer Slovenian Tine Bec.

This arrangement is magical. It starts like deep sad mourning and continues to strengthen, unitarian voice, which is stronger than any steel, any armoury and any Russian bullet, rocket or trank grande. Music is a winner. It gives hope, unites us in a way, that no aggression will ever win.

Arrangement: Tine Bec
Piano: Monika Podlogar; Cello: Katarina Minatti

Lent: Healing the Wounds

March 4, 2022
Friday after Ash Wednesday

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah cuts his listeners no slack — and, remember, we too are his listeners.

In this powerful passage, the prophet shatters the pretenses of those who make a show of religion. Speaking with God’s voice, Isaiah lambastes those who fast and pray but practice no works of justice and mercy.

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.

These “fake fasters” are left wondering why God doesn’t answer their prayers. The prophet tells them that God isn’t fooled by their pretenses:

Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?


Isaiah says that God’s not into sackcloth and ashes. God’s into good works of mercy and justice. These are the actions that change our hearts, opening us to deeper relationship with God.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.


Listen, dear friends. It can’t be clearer than that.

In a world full of “prosperity gospels”, false piety and pretend religion – used to justify all kinds of injustice – we may get mixed up sometimes about what pleases God.

Let’s really open our hearts to Isaiah’s message and try to rid our own lives of any pretense about these things.

Let’s confront such hypocrisy when we see it used to subtly oppress rather than to lift up others.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.


Perhaps we might spend sometime today thinking about that “wound” we need healed. Might there be some harbored prejudice, indifference, fear, or ignorance that distances us from others who are different, vulnerable, or in need?

Isaiah cautions that until that wound is healed,
we will never hear God’s true answer to our prayers.


Poetry: from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

Then said a rich man, “Speak to us of Giving”.

And he answered:
“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard
for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring
to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand
as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?

And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have

and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire
makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life,
and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving,
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks,
and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked,
but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed
the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.

And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving
may be yours and not your inheritors’.

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights
is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life
deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be than that which lies
in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?

And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride,
that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver,
and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life –
while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers – and you are all receivers –
assume no weight of gratitude,
lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity
who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.

Music: Respond – Collin Campbell (Lyrics below)

Oh how long will you cry out
And never truly seek my face
You come to me with heavy hearts
But you ignore what makes mine break

I see your thoughts, I hear your words
And I have watched you as you’ve prayed
I’ve told you my desires
But you don’t follow all the way

Children, I’m crying out
Break the chains
Let the oppressed go free
Empty yourselves to those in need
Be my hands Be my feet
What you do unto them You do unto Me

Every day you lift your voice
And await my swift response
But I see only what’s inside
And it’s (what i see on the inside) an offering I don’t want

Children, I’m crying out
Break the chains
Let the oppressed go free
Empty yourselves to those in need
Be my hands Be my feet
What you do unto them You do unto Me

Then your Salvation will come like the dawn
And my glory will be your shield
When you call on My name I will not turn away
I am Your God And I am here
And your light it will shine from the dark
You will be like a free flowing stream
And when you call on My name I will not turn away
I am your God And I am here

Love and Mercy

February 20, 2022
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from 1 Samuel tells the intriguing tale of David’s magnanimity toward Saul. Saul is enraged and jealous of David whom Samuel has anointed as king to replace Saul. David is continually in Saul’s crosshairs.

David Spares Saul – William Brassey Hole

But one night, David stealthily enters Saul’s camp. Even though he has a chance to kill Saul, David spares his life out of respect for his kingship.

While it’s not exactly “love for his enemies”, David does demonstrate a largeness of spirit that foretells today’s Gospel. This gracious spirit demonstrates that David is in right relationship (covenant) with God.

Our Gospel is part of Jesus’s Great Sermon in which he restates and renews the covenant of right relationship. If our spirits are true to God, we will love as God loves. We are to be merciful as God is merciful.

This Law of Love is the essence of life in Christ. It is a profoundly challenging call.

How hard it must have been for David as he stood, spear in hand, over his sleeping enemy – over the one trying to kill him!

How hard it is for us not to be vengeful, retaliatory, and parsimonious when we feel threatened or exploited.

But we are called, in Christ, to the New Covenant of love. By that call, we are endowed with a right spirit.

Today, Jesus asks us to love, forgive, and judge all others as we ourselves would want to be treated. He asks us to live with a divinely magnanimous heart.

Let us pray for the strength to respond.

Prose: from To Love as God Loves by Roberta C. Bondi, professor emerita of church history and spirituality, Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

Love as a disposition 
does not primarily act
on abstract principle.
Instead it is a way of seeing
habitually and responding
to the real, separate, individual needs
of each of the people we encounter
in our lives every single day.

Music: O Mercy – Stu Garrard, Matt Maher and Audrey Assad

Three Holy Secrets

February 13, 2022
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, hidden in our readings, are three challenges:

Where do we place our FAITH?
How do we fire our HOPE?
How do we LOVE?


In our Jeremiah reading, an unfortunate person has placed faith in an untrustworthy “friend”, and the results – typical of Jeremiah – are dire. But the prophet goes on to say that the one who puts trust and faith in the Lord will flourish like a tree near running water.

In the reading from Corinthians, Paul has some strong words about hope:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.

1 Corinthians 15:19

That sentence is powerful! It can be a life-long meditation.

In other words, where is our hope focused? Do we hope for comfort, success, healing, peace only for this earthly life? If so, we are missing the point, Paul says. Our one true hope is to be united with God in eternal life and our choices should lead to that fulfillment.


In our Gospel, Jesus shows us how to love by placing before us the “least ones” whom he loves best. We too are to love and comfort those who are poor, hungry, bereaved and despised by the heartless.


Today’s readings invite us to look at our life. Is it blossoming with joy, grace and spiritual vitality? Or are we struggling with all the doubts, worries, dramas and depression that come from a self-absorbed life?

Maybe, like me, you sometimes look at a person carrying great difficulty in their lives and wonder at their joy. How can they maintain that trust and joy in the midst of their challenges? These readings offer an answer. They have put their faith and hope in the right place. They have learned to love like God loves.


St. John of the Cross

Poetry: Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs, vol. 4, 83.2.4.

I love because I love:
I love that I may love…
Love is the only one of the motions of the soul,
of its senses and affections,
in which the creature can respond to its Creator,
even if not as an equal,
and repay God’s favor in some similar way …


Music: Faith, Hope and Love ~ David Ogden ( Lyrics below)

Faith, hope, and love: let these remain among you.
Faith, hope, and love: the greatest of these is love.

The love of Christ has gathered us together; let us rejoice and be glad in him.
Let us fear and love the living God, and love each other from the depths of the heart.

When we are together, we should not be divided in mind;
Let there be an end to bitterness and quarrels, and in our midst be Christ our God.

In company with the blessed, may we see your face in glory,
pure and unbounded joy for ever and ever.

I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.
Faith, hope, and love, let these remain among you.
Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love.

Fear Not

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146 which tells us just how very much God loves those whom no-one else appears to love.

Hallelujah!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,
for there is no help in them.
When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
For their hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth, the seas,
and all that is in them;
who keeps promises for ever;
who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
food to those who hunger
and sets the prisoners free.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind!
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down
and loves the righteous.
The Lord cares for the stranger
and sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.
The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
Hallelujah!


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

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

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

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

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


Elijah and the Widow’s Boy

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

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


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

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

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


Poetry: The Widow of Zarephath by Sister Lou Ella Hickman, I.W.B.S, a member of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament of Corpus Christi, Texas. Her most recent collection of poetry is titled “she: robed and wordless“, available through press53

https://www.press53.com/lou-ella-hickman

i was like a small bird
            pecking near a gate
            when i went in search of twigs—
            a bit of wood for a fire

so after one last meal
my son and i could die…
then a man asked for water—

                        a bit of bread
                        now i, a small bird,
                        found more than twigs
                       because i too, like ravens, fed him


Music with Visuals: The Widow of Zarephath

Be Generous Stewards

November 6, 2021
Saturday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time 

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145, the only psalm to be designated as “praise” in its superscription: A psalm of praise. Of David.

This is an intriguing psalm to be chosen for today’s readings which, at first glance, have little to do with “praise”.


Our reading from Romans is the closing chapter of Paul’s letter in which is listed a catalogue of early Christians movers and shakers. The names are of influential and generous people who joined Paul and used their resources to foster the Gospel. They were the stewards of our nascent faith and are accorded a timeless memorial in the epistle’s final chapter.(Notably, many of them are women who obviously played significant roles in the blossoming of the early Church.)


In our Gospel, Jesus explains the parable about the dishonest steward. The steward has been accused of squandering his master’s goods and is about to be fired. In order to rectify accounts, the steward rewrites customer receipts, balancing with his own commissions. That way, his master doesn’t prosecute him and his customers like him enough to consider him for the job he now needs.

The parable is about how to use our wealth of blessings in order to respond to God’s goodness to us. By our generosity for others, we also serve God.


So how does Psalm 145 fit in? When the core attitude of our life is one of thanksgiving and praise:

  1. we have the insight to recognize our true wealth, the blessings God has given us

Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
Whose greatness is unsearchable.

2. we look to our ancestors in faith as inspiration for generosity (people like those of 

Romans 16)

Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.

3. we draw grace from their example and from the eternal beauty of Creation

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Reign
and speak of your power.


Poetry: Hymns for the Amusement of Children – Hymn 21. Generosity by Christopher Smart, 1722 – 1771) a talented and controversial English religious poet. 

Christopher Smart’s poetry is notable for its visionary power, Christian ardor, and lyrical virtuosity from The Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/christopher-smart

That vast communicative Mind, 
That form'd the world and human kind, 
And saw that all was right; 
Or was Thyself, or came from Thee, 
Stupendous Generosity, 
Above all lustre bright.
 
" Not for themselves the bees prepare 
" Their honey, and the fleecy care, 
" Not for themselves are shorn: 
" Not for themselves the warblers build, 
" Not for themselves the lands are till'd, 
" By them that tread the corn." 

The Lord shed on the Holy Rood 
His infinitely gen'rous blood, 
Not for himself, but all; 
Yea e'en for them that pierc'd his side, 
In patient agony he died, 
To remedy the Fall. 

O highly rais'd above the ranks 
Of Angels — he cou'd e'en give thanks 
Self-rais'd, and self-renew'd — 
Then who can praise, and love, and fear 
Enough? — since he himself, 'tis clear, 
Is also Gratitude.

Music: Generous Giver – Vintage Worship

Paid in Full

November 5, 2021
Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98, a beautiful hymn celebrating God’s munificence.

Our readings are about spiritual wealth, stewardship and Godly generosity.

Paul starts us off by proclaiming that the wealth/riches of salvation belong to ALL humanity. He presents himself as a unique “steward “ of those riches to the Gentiles.

Thus I aspire to proclaim the Gospel
not where Christ has already been named,
so that I do not build on another’s foundation,
but as it is written:

    Those who have never been told of him shall see,
    and those who have never heard of him shall understand.

Romans 15:21

Our Gospel gives us a second interpretation of “stewardship” in the parable the wily steward. This fella’ gets called on the carpet for squandering his employer’s resources. Pink slip time! 

So the steward calls in some of the debtors and reduces their debt by the amount of his own commission. By doing this, he hopes to make some friends to support him in his impending unemployment.


Talbots

Many years ago, there was a Talbot’s outlet in the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philly (I know. Heaven, right?) You could get an amazing deal on the clearance items. But you got an even better deal if you went to a certain cashier for your checkout.

He was a tall, flamboyant and loudly funny guy. If a price tag was missing on an item, you got it virtually for free. He would make outlandish comments like, “Oh, honey, this isn’t your color so let’s discount it 50%.” If you bought two of the same item, he might announce,”Two for one today”, charging for only one. He was a living example of the Biblical steward! Over time, he developed a devoted buying community – those who had learned the secret of why people waited in his long line!


In today’s parable, Jesus isn’t advocating that we cheat our employers. The parable isn’t really about that at all. It is about the way he wants his disciples to be profligate in preaching the mercy of God.

Remember that this parable comes in between two blockbusters about Mercy – the Prodigal Son and Lazarus and the Rich Man. In a way, you might say Jesus is on a tear about the unbounded generosity of God in forgiveness and hope for us. Jesus makes clear that the wealth of Divine Love is delivered to us by our unbounded Christian love for one another.


So today, maybe we can think about the Talbot’s guy. We have been abundantly blessed by God’s love for us. Let’s pay it forward over and over today… and every day. Let’s generously share the infinite discount of Mercy.


Poetry: Mercy – by Charles Mackay, (1814 – 1889), a Scottish poet, journalist, author, anthologist, novelist, and songwriter.

A little stream had lost its way
Amid the grass and fern;
A passing stranger scooped a well,
Where weary men might turn;
He walled it in and hung with care
A ladle at the brink;
He thought not of the deed he did,
But judged that all might drink.
He passed again, and lo! the well,
By summer never dried,
Had cooled ten thousand parching tongues,
And saved a life beside.

A nameless man, amid a crowd
That thronged the daily mart,
Let fall a word of hope and love,
Unstudied, from the heart;
A whisper on the tumult thrown,
A transitory breath–
It raised a brother from the dust,
It saved a soul from death.
O germ! O fount! O word of love!
O thought at random cast!
Ye were but little at the first, But mighty at the last.


Music: Jesus Paid It All – Elvira M. Hall (1865) This rendition of the hymn by Kristian Stanfill (born 1983) is so interesting. Offered here with modern instrumentation, the words date back to the era of the US Civil War. Past and present meld in the ever eternal love God has for us. An original version is below in case you’d like to compare the music. i think both are beautiful.

Love or Hate, hmm?

November 3, 2021
Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 112, a hymn to the human generosity which mirrors God’s own:

Happy are they who fear the Lord
and have great delight in the divine commandments! 

Light shines in the darkness for the upright;
the righteous are merciful and full of compassion. 

For they will never be shaken;
their righteousness will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

Psalm 112: 1-6

Paul and Jesus seem to give us contradictory messages about how to achieve this “righteousness”. Paul talks about love, and Jesus tells us what we must “hate” – a bit of a challenge to untangle the core message.

Here’s one way.

We probably don’t like Jesus telling us to hate anything, as in:

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,

and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.

Come on, Jesus! You don’t mean that do you – my sweet mom, my precious kids???


No, the scholars say, Jesus doesn’t mean “hate” the way we interpret it in modern English. He is using the common, hyperbolic language of the ancient East which, in this circumstance, would mean “love less”.

So what is Jesus really saying? 

This, I think.

We love many people and things in our lives. But we must love God, and God’s dream for all people, above and within all things. 


And that’s not easy! Life is a maze of relationships and situations that can get us very confused about what is most important. That’s why Jesus uses such strong language to remind us that there is only one way through the maze: to love as God loves. This is the heartbeat of our life in God!


Paul says this too, indicating how to negotiate the maze by keeping Love’s commandments.

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

If we love with God’s love, of course we will love those we cherish. But we will love them selflessly, with an infinite generosity that always chooses their eternal good. And we will try always to love all Creatures in the same way. This is the kind of love Jesus taught us on the Cross. May God give us the courage to learn.


Poetry: Prayer of Mother Teresa and Brother Roger of Taize 

Oh God, the Creator of all,
you ask every one of us to spread
Love where the poor are humiliated,
Joy where the Church is brought low,
And reconciliation where people are divided. . . 
Father against son, mother against daughter,
Husband against wife,
Believers against those who cannot believe,
Christians against their unloved fellow Christians.

Music: Ubi Caritas performed by Stockholm University Choir (texts below)

Latin Text

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

English Translation
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice in Him and be glad.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love one.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time, therefore, are gathered into one:
Lest we be divided in mind, let us beware.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time we see that with the saints also,
Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the World without end. Amen.

Seek an Unjealous Heart

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 26, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from the Book of Numbers reveals a very human moment between Joshua and Moses.

Moses Blesses Joshua – James Tissot

Moses is getting older. He realizes that the time is approaching for him to hand over the leadership of his people. God seems to realize that too.

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.



Joshua, ever since his youth, has been aide to Moses. Moses is his hero – the one, who having spoken with God, led the People out of Egypt. Now Joshua sees other ordinary guys assuming some of Moses’s roles. Joshua feels his own security and comfort shifting beneath him – hints of a spiritual earthquake.


An outraged Joshua alerts Moses, begging him to stop these supposed imposters. But Moses assures Joshua with words no hero-worshipper ever wants to hear:


Are you jealous for my sake?

Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!



What a powerful question Moses poses. It searches Joshua’s heart:

Are you jealous for my sake? 

Are you fearful, biased, closed-hearted,
and self-protective because you fear
that you and I will lose position and power?

Surely Moses senses Joshua emerging as the next leader of Israel — even though Joshua might not share that awareness yet. Moses wants him to see that it is the Spirit of God Who leads the People through any human means She wishes.


When we presume to control the Spirit, or think to invest Her power only in our own particular “heroes”, we close ourselves to the amazing, surprising power of God. This Divine Power cannot be controlled and, like wildflowers through concrete, will bloom where She chooses.

We see the fruits of such presumption all over our histories: the falsely assumed superiority of men over women, whiteness over color, wealth over labor, or any form of dominance over mutuality. These assumptions become concretized in our culture, hardening us to the movements of the Spirit.

If we have any hold on privilege in our lives, we might be inclined to profit by these assumptions. It is just such an inclination that Moses nips in Joshua in this powerful exchange between revered teacher and apprentice.

The story offers us much to consider in prayer.


Music: An oldie, but goodie. Always brings me a deep peace.  I hope it does the same for you, dear reader.
Come Holy Ghost – The Singing Nuns