Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 66 – a psalm which, according to scripture scholar Roland Murphy, mixes two genres:
A thanksgiving song of the community:
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing praise to the glory of God’s name; proclaim God’s glorious praise. Say to God: “How tremendous are your deeds!”
Psalm 66: 1-3
A thanksgiving song of an individual:
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what God has done for me. When I appealed to God in words, praise was on the tip of my tongue.
Psalm 66: 16-17
Today, we celebrate the feast of Clare of Assisi who praised God through a life of service shaped by a radical understanding of holy poverty.
We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others.
Clare of Assisi
Poetry/Prayer: As we pray to live lives of love and compassion, may St. Clare’s blessing encourage us.
Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for the One who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me.
Music: Let the Love that Dwells in Your Heart – Poor Clare’s of Arundel
Our final verses today point back to our first reading from Leviticus. While the math and calendar counting could get me pretty mixed up, the message is clear. It is a Jubilee message:
Take a good look at your life and the harvest of your years.
Bring others into your bounty because it all belongs to God, not you.
When we do these things, Psalm 67 becomes our prayer:
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. The earth has brought forth its increase; may you, O God our God, bless us. May you bless us, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of you.
Poetry: This Is My Song by Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness
This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine; this is my home, the country where my heart is; here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine: but other hearts in other lands are beating with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean, and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine; but other lands have sunlight too, and clover, and skies are everywhere as blue as mine: O hear my song, thou God of all the nations, a song of peace for their land and for mine.
May truth and freedom come to every nation; may peace abound where strife has raged so long; that each may seek to love and build together, a world united, righting every wrong; a world united in its love for freedom, proclaiming peace together in one song.
Music: Finlandia, Opus 26
The above poem is sung to the tune of the final hymn in this work by Jean Sibelius. I think you will enjoy this beautiful video, especially the young ducks about midway through. Be sure to click the little arrowhead under the right side of the video to read the great history of this musical composition.
Just as the newborn is carried through the birth canal on the waters of life, so too God’s neonate people finally begin the fullness of life promised to Abraham. God accomplishes this great “delivery” by a masterful intertwining of omnipotence, human choices, and natural phenomena. The result is breathtaking!
Just as it is in our lives!
Like any great Bible story, this one invites us to find ourselves somewhere within it. At the least, we are all making a sometimes treacherous passage through life. And at particular times, maybe even now, the threats may be intense.
At times, we stand at the edge of intimidating seas, wondering how we will make it to the other side. But if we reflect on our history, we must acknowledge that – with prayer and patience – the parting wind does come. Those “chariots” at our heels become mired in our resilience, hope and trust in God.
In moments of astounding though quiet grace, we catch the glance of God. And we sing in thanksgiving.
The glory of this magnificent reading is captured in the Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil.
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle's perfect praises.)
(V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.)
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right and just.
It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.
This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, one of the most profound mysteries of our faith.
The first reading shows us that human beings have been trying to understand this Mystery ever since the time of Moses!
The readings from both Romans and Matthew describe the power of God’s triune love in those who believe. But none of the readings really explain the Holy Trinity.
And that’s the whole point. “Mystery” cannot be explained. We fumble around with human words in an attempt to capture a reality beyond words, beyond analysis – but not beyond faith. Mystery can only be encountered in humble and undemanding faith.
Today, as Christians, we profess our belief in a God Who is incomprehensible Infinite Love creating, redeeming and sanctifying all Creation.
This Infinite Love is so pure and complete that, within its Unity, it both embraces and frees the three Persons of the Trinity.
Pope Francis has said, “The Christian community, though with all its human limitations, can become a reflection of the communion of the Trinity, of its goodness and beauty.”
Our prayer today is to grow in our capacity to love in imitation of the Trinity. May we, as individuals and as a Church, increase in that merciful inclusivity and wholeness which reflect the triune love of God, at once embracing and freeing all that we love.
Poetry: TO LIVE WITH THE SPIRIT – Jessica Powers
To live with the Spirit of God is to be a listener. It is to keep the vigil of mystery, earthless and still. One leans to catch the stirring of the Spirit, strange as the wind’s will.
The soul that walks where the wind of the Spirit blows turns like a wandering weather-vane toward love. It may lament like Job or Jeremiah, echo the wounded hart, the mateless dove. It may rejoice in spaciousness of meadow that emulates the freedom of the sky.
Always it walks in waylessness, unknowing; it has cast down forever from its hand the compass of the whither and the why.
To live with the Spirit of God is to be a lover. It is becoming love, and like to Him toward Whom we strain with metaphors of creatures: fire-sweep and water-rush and the wind’s whim. The soul is all activity, all silence; and though it surges Godward to its goal, it holds, as moving earth holds sleeping noonday, the peace that is the listening of the soul.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 87, allowing it to focus us on Mary, the Mother of Christ and thus of the Church.
With her “Yes”, Mary engaged the Spirit of God and, like the ancient Holy City, became a dwelling place of Grace.
Glorious things are said of you, O city of God! And of Zion they shall say: “One and all were born in her; And the One who has established her is the Most High LORD.”
In her book “Truly Our Sister”, theologian Elizabeth Johnson helps us to understand Mary as a companion, guide, and inspiration:
One fruitful approach to the theology of Mary, historically the mother of Jesus, called in faith the Theotokos or God-bearer, is to envision her as a concrete woman of our history who walked with the Spirit.
As I pray with Mary today, I picture her sitting with the young disciples after the mind-blowing experience of Pentecost. The whiff of Divine Electricity still pervades the room, still jars their senses to an indescribable timbre!
Mary is stilled with a silent understanding. From the abundance of her wisdom, gained in her daily presence with Jesus, Mary gently focuses, calms and directs these new evangelists for the task before them.
Mary is someone who has had her own “visitation by the Spirit”, many years before. Pentecost, for Mary, is a kind of “second Annunciation “. She knows what the willing reception of the Spirit will mean for one’s life.
Indeed, this moment – and their response, like hers so long ago – will bear God’s life into their world.
We call on Mary today, as Church and as individuals, to be with us as we are re-fired in the Holy Spirit. As we reflect on her and the way she opened her life to God, may we grow in faith and desire to open our own lives to the Spirit’s transformative power.
Elizabeth Johnson encourages us:
“to relate to Miriam of Nazareth as a partner in hope in the company of all the graced women and men who have gone before us; to be encouraged by her mothering of God to bring God to birth in our own world; to reclaim the power of her dangerous memory for the flourishing of suffering people; and to draw on the energy of her memory for a deeper relationship with the living God and stronger care for the world.”
Poetry: Annunciation – Denise Levertov
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished, almost always a lectern, a book; always the tall lily. Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings, the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering, whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions courage.
The engendering Spirit did not enter her without consent. God waited.
She was free to accept or to refuse, choice integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations of one sort or another in most lives? Some unwillingly undertake great destinies, enact them in sullen pride, uncomprehending. More often those moments when roads of light and storm open from darkness in a man or woman, are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair and with relief. Ordinary lives continue. God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept like any other child–but unlike others, wept only for pity, laughed in joy not triumph. Compassion and intelligence fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous than any in all of Time, she did not quail, only asked a simple, ‘How can this be?’ and gravely, courteously, took to heart the angel’s reply, the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb Infinite weight and lightness; to carry in hidden, finite inwardness, nine months of Eternity; to contain in slender vase of being, the sum of power– in narrow flesh, the sum of light.
Then bring to birth, push out into air, a Man-child needing, like any other, milk and love–
but who was God.
This was the moment no one speaks of, when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed, Spirit, suspended, waiting. ____________________
She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’ Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’ She did not submit with gritted teeth, raging, coerced. Bravest of all humans, consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light, the lily glowed in it, and the iridescent wings. Consent, courage unparalleled, opened her utterly.
Music: Vespro Della Beata Vergine – Claudio Monteverdi
From the baroque period, Monteverdi praises Mary in his masterpiece, Vespro Della Beata Vergine commonly referred to as Vespers of 1610. The work is monumental in scale and difficult to perform, requiring two large choirs who are skillful enough to cover up to 10 voice parts accompanied by an orchestral ensemble. Here is just an excerpt.
Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum: lauda Deum tuum, Sion. Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum: benedixit filiis tuis in te. Qui posuit fines tuos pacem: et adipe frumenti satiat te. Qui emittit eloquium suum terræ: velociter currit sermo ejus. Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: nebulam sicut cinerem spargit. Mittit crystallum suam sicut buccellas: ante faciem frigoris ejus quis sustinebit? Emittet verbum suum, et liquefaciet ea: flabit spiritus ejus, et fluent aquæ. Qui annunciate verbum suum Jacob: justitias et judicia sua Isræl. Non fecit taliter omni nationi: et judicia sua non manifestavit eis. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee. He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest wheat. He sendeth his commandment to the earth; his word runneth swiftly. He giveth snow like wool; he scattereth hoar frost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels; before his cold who can stand? He sendeth out his word, and melteth them; his spirit blows, and the waters flow. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Isræl. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and his judgments he hath not made manifest. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, without end. Amen.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 104 – a fitting prayer for this glorious Feast of Pentecost.
Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
It is a bold prayer, an extravagant request. It asks for everything – a Fire of Love so complete that the whole earth is remade in its Divine Power.
It is a prayer based in mutual invitation as, in the Sequence, we invite the Holy Spirit to renew us:
Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home Shed a ray of light divine!
And, as in any true relationship, the Spirit invites us too – to open our hearts to the infinite grace of this feast. The Book of Revelation describes this reciprocity in this profound passage:
“ I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
Revelation 22: 16-17
Today, on the Birthday of the Church, we pray not only for our own soul’s kindling, but for the whole People of God. May the Grace of Pentecost ignite a new fire of charity over all the earth. May that fire clear the way for the Spirit’s gifts to flower, for Her fruits to blossom, for Her power to surprise us as it bursts forth in our hearts!
Poetry: The Golden Sequence
Veni Sancte Spiritus, sometimes called the Golden Sequence, is a sequence prescribed in the Roman Liturgy for the Masses of Pentecost and its octave. It is usually attributed to either the thirteenth-century Pope Innocent III or to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Stephen Langton, although it has been attributed to others as well.
“Veni Sancte Spiritus” is one of only four medieval Sequences which were preserved in the Roman Missal published in 1570 following the Council of Trent (1545–63).
The other three occasions when we hear these beautiful ancient hymns are Easter Sunday (“Victimae Paschali Laudes”), Corpus Christi (“Lauda Sion Salvatorem”) and Our Lady of Sorrows (“Stabat Mater Dolorosa”). On Easter Sunday and Pentecost, the sequence must be sung, whereas on Corpus Christi and Our Lady of Sorrows, the sequence is optional.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98, an exuberant celebration of God’s predilection and fidelity toward Israel. But at the same time, it is a call to recognize God’s love for ALL Creation:
The LORD has made his victory known; has revealed his triumph in the sight of the nations
If we read the whole psalm, we might imagine all Creation assembled like a magnificent choir and orchestra – something like a supersized Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As the psalm progresses, the choirmaster-psalmist incorporates successive components into an awakened awareness until there is one universal melody of praise.
First, in a theme we met recently, the call to a NEW song:
Sing a new song to the LORD, who has done marvelous deeds… ..remembering mercy and faithfulness toward the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Psalm 98: 1-3
Next, the vocals and the instruments
Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth; break into song; sing praise. Sing praise to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and melodious song. With trumpets and the sound of the horn shout with joy to the King, the LORD.
Psalm 98: 4-6
Then nature’s “orchestra”
And even the suggestion of tambourine dancers along the river’s edge
Let the rivers clap their hands the mountains shout with them for joy, before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.
Psalm 98: 8-9
This inclusive psalm serves our other readings so well. The early Church in Acts has folded the Gentiles into the chorus.
Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”
Acts 10: 34-35
And Jesus gives us the underlying truth that, in his Love, we are ALL part of this cosmic symphony:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.
Poetry: Shoulders – Naomi Shihab Nye
A man crosses the street in rain, stepping gently, looking two times north and south, because his son is asleep on his shoulder. No car must splash him. No car drive too near to his shadow. This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo but he's not marked. Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE. His ear fills up with breathing. He hears the hum of a boy's dream deep inside him. We're not going to be able to live in this world if we're not willing to do what he's doing with one another. The road will only be wide. The rain will never stop falling.
Music: OK – it’s not the Mormon Tabernacle 😀 but it captures the spirit for me! I hope it puts you in the rhythm too, beloveds!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 122 which celebrates the beauty and stability of Jerusalem as a symbol of God’s enduring faithfulness to us.
I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the LORD.” And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Think of the peace this psalm brought to its reciters – the kind of peace we seek in a confusing world.
The disciples in our passage from Acts sought the same kind of peace. As the early Church – the “New Jerusalem” – developed, and diverse converts joined the community, everyone had an opinion about that development. We all know what that’s like! 😉
Many of us have been in discussions about how to use church/community resources, respond to new initiatives, or celebrate liturgy. While it’s great to have expanded energy in the discussion, it can be exhausting, particularly if some opinions are uninformed by prayer, justice, or humility.
The real issue for the early Christians wasn’t simply circumcision. The core challenge was how to remain true to the Gospel as it met the first of many generations of interpretation. To do so, they returned to the “compact unity of Jerusalem”. They held fast to the roots of Jesus’s teaching.
Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD.
Psalm 122: 3-4
The topic of circumcision has long since been resolved by gathering the community in prayerful discernment and humble obedience. But as the ages pass, the Christian community will forever be called to return/remain in the “Jerusalem” of Christ’s teaching.
We do so by continually returning to the roots of the Gospel. That’s what it means to live in radical faith.
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
John 15: 4-5
Poetry: Palm Sunday by Malcolm Guite
Now to the gate of my Jerusalem, The seething holy city of my heart, The saviour comes. But will I welcome him? Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start; They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing, And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find The challenge, the reversal he is bringing Changes their tune. I know what lies behind The surface flourish that so quickly fades; Self-interest, and fearful guardedness, The hardness of the heart, its barricades, And at the core, the dreadful emptiness Of a perverted temple. Jesus, come Break my resistance and make me your home
Music: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem – Herbert Howells
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
They shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within they walls
And plenteousness within thy palaces.
Psalm 122 vv. 6, 7
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 87 which is both a celebration of and a longing for God’s Presence as symbolized for the psalmist in Jerusalem, Zion, the Temple.
His foundation upon the holy mountains the LORD loves: The gates of Zion, more than any dwelling of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, O city of God!
Psalm 87: 1-3
For the psalmist, who is in exile, Zion was the visible expression of God’s exclusive relationship with Israel – the longed-for Kingdom.
In our reading from Acts, the concept of God’s Kingdom takes a larger shape. Jewish Christians, scattered in persecution, began to share the Good News with Gentiles. Barnabas blesses this sharing. He and Paul spend a year in Antioch teaching these new Christians who will not have the same devotion to “Zion”.
So where is “the Kingdom” now?
Our Gospel shows us Jesus, walking in the Temple portico one winter morning. He stands amidst the very symbols extolled in Psalm 87. He points his listeners, who are still resistant, toward the only true “kingdom”, one he has described before:
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Luke 17: 20-21
We know from the Beatitudes that the “kingdom of God” belongs to the poor and the persecuted:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven….. ……Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Perhaps there is a touch of biblical irony in the fact that our poor and persecuted psalmist, exiled from beautiful Zion, already possessed the “kingdom” within! But, without the benefit of Jesus’s teaching, it seems he didn’t realize it.
Do we realize it?
Prose: from Hans Küng
(For my spiritual reading recently , I returned to an old favorite Hans Küng, a revered Catholic priest and Vatican II theologian who died earlier this month. Word of his death took me back to my 1960s heady theology days.🙏😇)
Here are two relevant quotes to our thoughts on “the Kingdom” today:
The meaning of the church does not reside in what it is but in what it is moving towards. It is the reign of God which the church hopes for, bears witness to and proclaims.
Hans Küng: The Church
The kingdom of God is creation healed.
Hans Küng: On Being a Christian
Music: The Holy City, Jerusalem sung by Jessye Norman
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this Feast of St. Peter we pray with Psalm 23 – the Good Shepherd.
The history and devotion intrinsic to this feast can inspire us to pray especially today for our dear Pope Francis who carries Peter’s grace and burden in our time. He carries, in Primacy, the charge reflected in our first reading:
Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Pope Francis faces resistances just as Peter did. There are always forces within a community who pull its energy in contradictory directions. When rooted in love and reverent dialogue, that counteraction can generate growth. But when born of selfishness and obstinance, such opposition poisons the whole Body.
Francis needs our prayer. The Church needs our prayer. According to Teresa of Avila, Saint and Doctor of the Church, that prayer should be scriptural:
Today, Psalm 23 inspires our prayer for our Pope:
Even in the dark valley may you fear no evil; for you are at God’s side Whose rod and staff give you courage. May God spread graces before you in the sight of your troubles; and anoint your head with oil; your cup overflowing. May goodness and kindness follow you all the days of your life; May you dwell in the LORD’s sanctuary for all your days.
Poetry:When I was a boy … (Da ich ein Knabe war …) – Friedrich Hölderlin
Pope Francis’s favorite poet is said to be the German writer Friedrich Hölderlin. Perhaps Francis, composer of the lyrical Laudato Sí and Fratelli Tutti, loves this rhapsodic poem.
When I was a boy
Often a god would save me
From the shouts and blows of men;
I played safely and well
With the flowers of the fields
And the winds of heaven
Played with me.
As you make happy
The hearts of plants
When they extend to you
Their delicate tendrils,
So you make my heart happy,
Father Sun, and like Endymion
I was your favorite,
All true and neighborly gods!
If only you knew
How much I loved you then!
True, at that time, I didn’t
Know your names, and you
Never bothered to name me, like men
Who only pretend to know one another.
Yet I know you better
Than I’ve ever known anyone,
I understood the silence of the upper air,
But I’ve never understood the words of men.
I was raised by the sounds
Of the rustling grove
And learned to love
Among the flowers.
I grew up in the arms of the gods.
Music: Psalm 23 with Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze