Open to the Light

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

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May 15, 2019

Today, in Mercy, Jesus calls himself the Light.

Jn12_46_Light

Surely he came to bring us out of darkness which is light’s polar opposite. Most of us receive that deliverance with gratitude, understanding it to be our redemption from sin and separation from God.

As we grow deeper in our spiritual life, we may realize that there are many degrees of opposition to the Light. We may not find ourselves in the deep darkness of habitual sin, but rather on those tantalizing edges of spiritual laziness that can halt our soul’s growth:

  • the fog of faithless religious practice
  • the clouds of unresolved hurts and failures in forgiveness
  • the shadows of our religious prejudices
  • the dusk of our early energy for charity and community
  • the eclipse of hope and confidence in God

May God give us the grace to see that Light, too, comes in many forms, beaming through the smallest openings in our spirit. Every act, every choice, every silent prayer made for the sake of Love allows that Light to grow. You may like to pray with that thought while appreciating this poem of Denise Levertov:

Bearing the Light

Rain-diamonds, this winter morning, 
embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs; 
each solitaire, placed, it appears, with considered judgement, 
bears the light beneath the rifted clouds – 
the indivisible shared out in endless abundance.

Music: some beautiful instrumental music from Kathryn Kaye for your prayer time.

Do You Love Me?

Third Sunday of Easter

May 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus asks Peter an open-ended question, the kind that leaves us very vulnerable to the answer:

Do you love me?

Jn21_17

Wow! What if Peter says “No”, or “Sort of” or worse yet, just stares off into the distance in silence?

And the question is kind of scary for Peter too. Maybe he’s thinking, “OK, this is it. Jesus wants me to lay it all on the line. Am I ready?”.

The Gospel poses questions to each of us today as well:

  • Who and what do I really love?
  • How does my primary love drive my life choices?
  • Are there places in my life that lack love – places where prejudice, blindness, selfishness or hate have filled in the emptiness?
  • Where is God in my loves?

St. John of the Cross wrote this:

At the end of our lives we will be judged on love.
Learn therefore to love God as God wishes to be loved.

More than enough to pray on today.❤️

Music: Where Charity and Love Prevail – a lovely English translation of Ubi Caritas, written in Gregorian chant.

One Heart, One Mind

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter, April 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we read about the Love which unified the early Christian community.

Acts4_32 One

Their love and faith so satisfied their needs that they voluntarily disposed themselves for the good of others. That mutual self-donation generated a shared abundance beyond expectation. And the witness of radical community inspired new generosity:

Thus Joseph, also named by the Apostles Barnabas
(which is translated Ason of encouragement”),
a Levite, a Cypriot by birth,
sold a piece of property that he owned,
then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles.

Our Christian communities today may never experience the simple unity of the early Church. The complexities and sophistications of centuries now impede us. But the principle within that simple unity is still available to us:

We are One Body and
the basic needs (both material and spiritual)
of all should be met
through our mutual generosity,
so that everyone may be free to worship in peace.

That principle must never be obscured by institutionalization, divisive interpretation of dogma, or pharisaical religious elitism.

May God inspire us to be a generous and merciful Church!

Music: One Heart, One Mind – David Haas ( Lyrics below)

May we be of one heart, one mind
Giving our lives for each other
All that we are, we hold in common
By the grace of the Lord
May there be no one among us
Who is need or alone
May we be of one heart, one mind

Grounded in hope, strong by faith
Filled with joy, led in peace
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Courage lived, wisdom shared
Mercy shown, truth be told
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Wonders and signs, day by day
One in love, offering praise
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

4.Unity, generous hearts
Table spread, breaking bread
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

5.Kingdom bound, blind now see
Hungry fed, poor no more
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

No more tears, fear has fled
Dead are raised, justice reigns
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Silver or gold, we do not have
Only the name of the Lord
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Spirit poured, prophecy sung
Visions and dreams by old and young
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Be Made New!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

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Today, in 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.

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.

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

Law or Love?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings bring to mind the role of religion in our spiritual life.

take up mat 2

The dictionary defines religion as a particular system of faith and worship. The origin of the word “religion” is from the Latin “religare”: to bind.

In the magnificent passage from Ezekiel, we are given a metaphorical description of grace flowing from the Temple, the locus of faith for Israel. Ezekiel is led by a radiant vision to this source of abundant life symbolized by water. Slowly and incrementally, this abundance deepens for Ezekiel, until he is swimming in its grace. 

Ezekiel’s vision demonstrates what happens in us when religion, ritual and law enhance grace. The beauty, power and architectural symmetry of the Temple symbolize the great benefits of religious practice.

Our Gospel, on the other hand, shows us a Pharisaical religion built on empty practice and bereft of heart. When Jesus cures on the Sabbath, he moves beyond these skeletal boundaries to mercy, which is the reason for all religious practices.

take up mat
Jesus Cures on the Sabbath

Jesus shows us that when religion – and its ensuing ritual and law – bind grace, it needs to be set aside. His whole life was predicated on a faith which generated mercy, not sacrifice. The alleviation of suffering and need always supersede observance – even on the Sabbath.

When we see any so-called faith or religion which places law over mercy, we see an empty temple where the river of grace has run dry. Our culture is filled with fake holiness that measures, condemns and ostracizes others. We see religion distorted into political bullying. We see it redefined as an excuse for excessive wealth. We even see it used as legitimization for nationalism, violence, racism, and war.

Today’s readings tell us to be on guard. The forces which twist religion are very subtle and pervasive in our culture. They dress themselves in impressive words and practices, just like the Pharisees did, but their costumes hide an ugly hate and fear.

To the fearful and weak, these forces preach power – but it is a power over not for others.

Jesus has shown us what faithful practice looks like: mercy and love. It is vulnerable, courageous, inclusive, and humble. It sees the suffering of others and responds. It waters the Temple of our hearts to make them verdant with hope, joy and generosity.

Music: Come to the Water – John Foley, SJ and Matt Maher

To See As God Sees

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings describe God’s lavish mercy and the expectation for our reciprocity.

love one another

The passage from the Book of Daniel, written in lilting prose, quotes the prayer of Azariah. It gives us several phrases to savor in our own prayer, depending on the particular disposition of our heart on any given day:

To whom you promised …. like the stars of heaven, or the sand on the shore of the sea.
What has God promised you to give you hope in your life? Can you call on those promises today in your prayer?

For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation…
Are you feeling sad, disconnected, humiliated or depressed? Can you give these feelings to God and open your heart to healing?

We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
Do you ever feel abandoned by the institutions we all once depended on, whether Church, government, law etc.? Can we pray for the courage to depend only on God in all things?

Now we follow you with our whole heart…
Have our life circumstances brought us to the point of placing ourselves totally in God’s care? Can we pray with that peaceful and holy abandonment?

Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.Can our prayer be one of giving glory to God for all the blessings in our lives?

God has been so good to us! Our Gospel enjoins us to be reciprocally good to others.

Music: Give Me Your Eyes – An interesting song by rock singer Brian Heath. As his plane is landing one night, he receives a grace to pray for new eyes — eyes that see and love  all humanity as God does.

A Warning Sign

Thursday, March 21, 2019

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generous impulse

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us the disturbing parable of the rich man, sometimes called Dives, and Lazarus, a very poor man.

The story is disturbing because 

  • Lazarus suffers so desperately 
  • Dives is impervious to that suffering 
  • God won’t give Dives a break after his death
  • We fear being in either of these guys’ situations 

Probably, like most people, we’d rather be rich than poor. But would we rather be generous with that wealth or selfish? Do we ever find ourselves thinking thoughts like this, deciding we’re not responsible for the gap between rich and poor:

“I worked hard for what I have. Let everybody else do the same!”

That wealth gap cannot be mended simply by giving a dollar to a corner beggar nor by donating our wornout clothes to Goodwill. This kind of re-balancing requires a conversion of heart which touches our economic, political and moral understanding.

I was struck this morning by this headline from The Economist, a British weekly magazine.

economist

How can today’s Gospel inspire and encourage us in a global culture that infcreasingly marginalizes persons who are poor, resourceless, and politically oppressed?

May the story of Lazarus and Dives influence us to use the powers we have to make just and generous decisions.

  • We can vote for just, generous and moral leaders. 
  • We can advocate for universally just policies. 
  • We can donate to compassionate causes. 
  • We can confront hateful speech and stereotyping. 
  • We can speak and act for justice, peace, inclusivity and mercy.

We just have to be courageous before, like Dives, it is too late for us.

Music:  Act Justly

Can You Drink the Cup?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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Mt20_22 cup

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells the story of Mrs. Zebedee, who sought a prejudiced advantage for her two disciple sons.

Jesus said to her, “What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

Sounds a little like something ripped from today’s headlines, doesn’t it.

headline

There is a natural inclination to advantage those we love. But when we do so to the unjust disadvantage of others, that’s a problem.

We know from experience that people use various points of leverage to gain advantage in life. We see people use money, power, political connections, and other influences to get a job, choose a school, land an important invitation, get a traffic ticket written off, etc., etc. Maybe, on occasion, we are one of those people.

Today’s Gospel teaches us a lesson. In gaining such advantage, we may, as Jesus says, “not know what we are asking for”. Can we actually DO the job, succeed in the school, … become a better person by what we have maniputively gained?

The Gospel also brings before us the “other people” who lost the right to what we unjustly claimed. How do they begin to see us? What do we lose in respect and mutuality within our community? How do we begin to see ourselves in relationship to justice, honesty, sincerity and truth?

Jesus hopes that we will love every person to the extent that we want her/his just advantage as much as we want our own? That is the “cup” He drinks through his Passion and Death.

Let us ponder Jesus’s question to us: Can you drink the cup that I will drink?

Music:  The More I Seek You ~ Gateway Worship

This One’s Pretty Difficult!

Monday, March 18, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus tells us to be merciful, as God is merciful.

I think that’s really hard.

Lk6_36 be merciful

Being merciful is not too hard with poor, unfortunate souls for whom life is one tragedy after another.

It’s not too hard when someone innocent is suffering unjustly.

But, gosh, it’s difficult to be merciful in the face of meanness, stupidity, selfishness and arrogance.

Yet God is merciful to me when I’m like that.

The Gospel’s message is painfully straightforward. It calls me to examine all my judgmental thoughts and actions and to reverse them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be busy for a while working on this one.

Music: The Mercy Song – Paul Alexander

Take It Up a Notch

Friday, March 15, 2019

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Mt5_24 brother
Today, in Mercy, Jesus tells us to take it up a notch. It’s not good enough, he says, not to kill people.

You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you …

When we first read this, we might think we’re pretty safe. After all, how many of us actually kill people?!?! 

But let’s check that, Jesus says:

  • Don’t remain angry with your sister/brother
  • Don’t call them  “empty head” (raqa)
  • Don’t call them fools 

Jesus seems to be telling us that there are many ways to kill!

  • We can kill the possibility of relationship by our unresolved angers, grudges, sustained hatred of people.
  • We can kill hope in someone by labeling them stupid or foolish.
  • We can easily kill someone’s reputation by a false or injudicious word.
  • We can kill joy by our indifference.
  • We can kill love with ingratitude.
  • We can kill innocence with any of the seven deadly sins

It takes vigorous spiritual attention to live at the level Jesus is asking of us. Let’s give our souls that particular attention, especially during our Lenten journey.

Music: The Servant Song – Maranatha