Heritage of Faith

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our reading from Acts tells of Paul’s preaching in the synagogue at Antioch. Paul, himself steeped in the love and practice of his Jewish faith, comes before more faithful Jews to invite them to a transformed faith in Jesus, the Messiah they had been awaiting. That was no easy assignment!

Ps89_2_family of God

But Paul, learned and erudite, traces the entire hereditary line of the Jewish faith, through the House of David, and leading to Jesus Christ. It’s a rich and beautiful homily that redefines the meaning and reach of God’s Family.

In our Gospel, Jesus too describes what it means to belong to God’s family. He says that whoever receives him, and lovingly serves like him, is one with him and with the Father.

These readings give the inspiration to consider and pray on many points. Perhaps these three may be helpful:

Through what human means and heritage has our faith been handed down to us? Who are the parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and godparents of our cherished faith? Let’s pray with them today and remember their loving example.


What family of faith has been gifted to us through our community, church and graced friendships over our lifetime? Who are these with whom we share the DNA of our spirit, who have bolstered our faith throughout the journey? Let us pray in gratitude for the gift of these people in our life.


What about us? For whom are we a “faith family”? How do we give the gift of faith, love and service in that family?


Music: I Knew My Father Knew – Sally deFord and James Loynes

Open Your Heart’s Gate

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings again visit the question, “Who belongs to family of God?”.

love like God

Peter, upon returning to Jerusalem from Joppa, faces the Jewish Christians who are only learning how to live their new faith. They don’t get it that Gentiles are invited too to this emerging faith community.

They, like many of us, find security in the categories we build into our lives. We separate those who belong and don’t belong – sometimes to assure ourselves that we belong in certain preferred categories. We decide who is OK and who is not. The Gentiles were not OK church members for the Jerusalem Christians.

Peter is very patient with these critics. Point by point, he explains how his own understanding was informed by the Holy Spirit, so that he saw clearly that Christ’s invitation was for all people.

This reading challenges us to examine our “categories”, our biases and prejudices. Who is OK in my book, and who is suspect or questionable? In my thinking, who has a “right” to certain goods, positions and privileges? Who would I not invite to my table based on my predetermined “categories”?

With Christ, there are no privileged categories. We are each the privileged child of God, universally redeemed in the blood of Christ.

As I pray with this thought today, how might my attitudes and choices be affected?

Music: We are Called – David Haas

The Amazing Invitation

The Fourth Sunday of Easter 

May 12, 2019

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invite

Today, in Mercy, our three readings make one thing very clear – we are ALL invited to membership in the Body of Christ. We are ALL welcome in the Beloved Community.

In our first reading,  Paul and Barnabas preach to Jews, converts to Judaism and to Gentiles – to the effect that:

All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.

In our second reading:

John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb.

And in our Gospel, Jesus says:

My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

These readings describe the family of God to which every human being has been given entrance through the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Think about that: 

  • when you look into people’s eyes today
  • when you see their stories on the news
  • when you people-watch at the airport or the mall
  • when you drive by a cemetery where lives are remembered in stone 
  • when you look at your children, your friends, your foes
  • when you take that last look in the mirror tonight before you fall asleep

This person has been invited, with me, to the family of God. How might that thought influence my choices and actions each day?

All of us – ALL OF US- are welcome; all of us, equally loved.

Music: All Are Welcome – Marty Haugen

Word

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 9, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Acts gives us the memorable story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.

IMG_9263

When I was novice (back in the Middle Ages), I loved a book called “Unless Some Man Show Me” written by Alexander Jones. It was one of the first books that opened my mind to the study of scripture. At that time, the Church itself was continuing to explore a new age of scriptural scholarship.

Those of a certain age, like myself, will recall that we did not read the Bible directly when we were young. In school, we had “Bible Study”, but most of us never handled a real Bible. Even at Mass, the Gospel was read in Latin. We followed along in an English missal if we were lucky enough to have one.

In 1943, Pope Pius XII had issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (Inspired by the Holy Spirit). The letter called for new translations of the Bible into vernacular forms. In a huge shift, the Pope encouraged the use of the original languages for these translations, rather than the historically used Latin Vulgate. 

This allowed for the removal of pietistical and dogmatic accretions which had been added over the many centuries of Vulgate interpretations. The eminent Catholic biblical scholar Raymond Brown described  the encyclical as a “Magna Carta for biblical progress”.

How fortunate we were in the 1960s to be exposed to the opening of the Church to a new dimension. I remember, as a high schooler being taught the exquisite Gelineau Psalms, my first taste of pure scripture.

By 1966, scholars had published the magnificent Jerusalem Bible, originally translated to French from the root languages, and then to English. I cherished that Bible, gifted to me by my parents for my final profession that very year. It stills sits beside my chair and accompanies my morning prayer.

Unless someone show us…” we may not grow in our love for sacred scripture. We may not realize that this Word lives in our lives and works to bring us to God!

I encourage you today, if you are so inclined, to deepen yourselves in the love and understanding of holy scripture. Below are some of my favorite authors who, over the past 50 years, have led me to a deep love of God’s Word.

(Sorry for the delayed post today.  I got caught down memory lane with some of these theologians!)

 Music: Breathe – Michael W. Smith

Jean Daniélou
Daniel Harrington
Marie-Joseph Lagrange
Edward Schillebeeckx
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Yves Congar
Hans Küng
Bernard Lonergan
Johann Baptist Metz
Mary Daly
Karl Rahner
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
Marcus Borg
Walter Bruggemann
Thomas Berry
Leonardo Boff
Charles Curran
Elizabeth Johnson
Thelma Hall, RC
Karhryn Sullivan, RSCJ

Grace and Power

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

May 6, 2019

Today, in Mercy, Acts tells us more about Stephen, who was introduced in Saturday’s reading as “a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit”.

Acts6_8 Stephen

Stephen is among the first group of Christians designated as deacons “to serve at table” – in other words, to do the administrative tasks that kept the community whole.

However, Stephen’s gifts went well beyond these services. Acts describes him like this:

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.

This man was radiant with Holy Spirit! He had so opened his soul to God’s grace and power that he was transformed even to the point that, when indicted:

All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

That same grace and power that fired Stephen’s spirit are available to us. In this holy Eastertide, as we await the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, let us give sincere time and intention to praying for these gifts – for ourselves, for our faith communities, our communities of love, for our leaders, for our world.

This poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins might help us picture how the Holy Spirit waits to be welcomed into our hearts and lives:

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).  Poems.  1918.)

Music: J.S.Bach – Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe (Think of us with your Love)
– from Cantata BWV 29 – Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir (Tranlations below)

Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe,
Schleuß uns in dein Erbarmen ein!
Segne die, so uns regieren,
Die uns leiten, schützen, führen,
Segne, die gehorsam sein!

Think of us with your love,
enclose us in your pity!
Bless those who govern us,
those who guide, protect and lead us,
bless those who are obedient!

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!

Cast a Merciful Shadow

Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings continue to show us the rising power of Christ after the Resurrection.

Acts5_15 shadow

Acts demonstrates how powerfully He lives in his disciples, and in the faith of the emerging Church.

… the people esteemed them.
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord,
great numbers of men and women, were added to them.
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets
and laid them on cots and mats
so that when Peter came by,
at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.

Our Gospel recounts two Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus where He bolsters that faith for these still fledgling followers. They were gathered in the Upper Room, doors locked and fearful. When Jesus appears, the first thing he says is, “Peace”, because that is what his little flock most needs.

In the course of the reading, we discover Thomas’s adamant doubt unless he can see and touch evidence of the Christ he once knew in the flesh. His doubt is so strong that his faith, when it comes, overwhelms him.

My Lord, and my God!

In these first sainted founders of the faith, we can find a mirror image of our own call to witness Christ. We are delegated to be his presence in the world, to cast a shadow that bears his blessing in the midst of suffering and confusion.

But in the locked room of our hearts, we may still be afraid. We may feel, like Thomas, that we were absent when the affirmation and courage were distributed!

Knowing our own weaknesses – and captured in the maze of their little dramas – we may be skeptical that Christ desires to rise in us, to preach by our lives.

What Jesus said to these very fragile witnesses, he says to us

Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
so I send you.

Let us look around today in awareness of those who fall in the shadow of our faith: our children and families, our religious communities, our elders, our neighbors, our friends and co-workers. As we pass through life together, does our presence bless them with a trace of God?

As we pray today, let us place our doubts, fears, weaknesses and self-concerns into Christ’s sacred wounds. Let us leave them there in confidence as we humbly choose to be his Presence and Mercy for others by the simple, selfless choices of our lives.

Music: My Lord, My God  – Vineyard Music

Witnesses

Easter Saturday, April 27, 2010

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Acts4_20 witness

Today, in Mercy, in our reading from Acts, we see how the courage and inspiration of the disciples amazed to surrounding community.

The disciples had been known as ordinary women and men, but the power of their new-found witness was stunning:

The leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured
standing there with them,

they could say nothing in reply.

This powerful witness in the disciples was not a showy, self-promoting swagger. 

Rather, they had been radically transformed by their faith in Jesus Christ. The power poured out of them, like light from a Star.

What would it be like if the witness of our faith were so vibrant that we moved the world to wonder! What if our lives could not help but speak through our actions of mercy, justice, truth and peace?

Music:  I Will Stand as a Witness of Christ
(Please see note below song. Thanks.)

On Friday night, my religious community shares the joy of celebrating the lives of such witnesses, our Sisters marking 25, 50, 60, 70, 75, 80 and 85 years of faithful, merciful service. In an additional post, I will list their names with two poems I used while praying for them this morning.

Please join us in grateful prayer for these dear Sisters today.

Questions?

Easter Thursday, April 25, 2019

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Luke 24_questions

Today, in Mercy, Jesus asks his disciples, “Why do questions arise in your heart?”

Honestly, Lord? How could they not? You have, after all, just RISEN FROM THE DEAD! We’re not used to that, and we’re not sure how to handle it!

And about that Last Supper, when you said the bread and wine were your Body and Blood? It’s a pretty amazing statement, and we’re still trying to comprehend it.

We’re just human beings, Lord. Our minds naturally work to solve problems. That’s why we have questions – we like answers.

Only now, as Resurrection People, are we beginning to learn that you are much more the “The Answer”.  

You will always be “The Mystery” – the Infinity we are invited to –  where there is no end, only deeper, always deeper.

Help us to learn that our faith and our doubts are the same thing – they are our attempts to embrace the Question. Help us transform our doubts to faith by our unequivocal trust in your Mystery.


For God does not want to be believed in,
to be debated and defended by us,
but simply to be realized through us.”
― Martin Buber

Mystery is not to be construed
as a lacuna in our knowledge,
as a void to be filled,
but rather as a certain plentitude.
— Gabriel Marcel

Music: The Mystery of God – Dan Schutte 

Heart-struck

Easter Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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Acts2_38_heartstruck

Today, in Mercy, our readings present us with a picture of the nascent Church as it works toward understanding itself in the physical absence of Jesus.

Throughout the Gospels, we see a Christian community forming around a Leader they can see, hear and touch. Acts reveals how that community awakens to itself when Jesus is no longer materially present.

Acts shows us a Church like us. We have never seen Christ, nor heard him, nor touched him. And yet we believe, or want to believe.

In our reading today, Peter preaches with brutal honesty:

Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.

Peter’s message gets through to the assembly, to the point that, when they hear it, they are “cut to the heart”.

This phrase indicates a profound conversion in the way they believed. Peter tells them that their faith, like Jesus’ life, must now become a sign of contradiction to a “corrupt generation “.

What might this powerful passage say to us?

For one thing, the reading calls us to be honest about the sincerity of our faith. Is it the core of our lives? Or is it, at best, a Sunday hobby? Does it pervade our relationships and choices, giving witness to Christ’s commission to love? Or is it a tool to judge and vilify those who differ from us?

The reading doesn’t demand that we “preach out loud”. It calls us to a much more courageous witness: 

  • to be Truth in a world of lies
  • to be Peace in violence
  • to be Justice in the face of abuse and domination
  • to be Servant rather than be served
  • to be Love for those deemed unlovable
  • in other words, to be like Jesus

And to do it all because we have been “cut to the heart” by the witness of the Cross and Resurrection.

Music: By Faith-Keith & Kristyn Getty