Genesis – Get Out of My Garden!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

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in every age

Today, in Mercy, Adam and Eve get to “pay the piper”. Now, they have to answer to God for the delicious, forbidden bite!

And God is tough on them! No hint of that “lavish mercy”! Of course, the writer(s) of Genesis had to fold a lot of explanations into this story such as:

  • why we feel body shame
  • why we are estranged from nature
  • why women suffer labor
  • why men work hard to no avail
  • why we die

We know that these explanations were written originally to meet the questions of an ancient culture. They were told and retold in the form of a story with all that structure’s inherent possibilities and handicaps.

Some of us are inclined to accept “story” only as history, demanding that the events recount specific concrete people and interactions. In other words, we demand that Adam and Eve were real people with a historical identity.

Some of us accept the “story” only as myth, not necessarily integral to the foundation of our modern faith.

The great biblical scholar Walter Bruggemann says neither stance is accurate. He says that these sacred stories are “mystery” which continue to unfold through the ages in the faith-life and sharing of the living community.

As we pray with these passages, we may deepen our faith by looking for the revelations within them:

  • God created us in God’s own image
  • God formed a covenant of love with us
  • We are called to be responsive to that loving covenant 
  • We sometimes fail and reap the fruits of that failure
  • But God did not dissolve Creation nor the Covenant
  • And so, in every age, we place our hope in Jesus Christ, the New Creation and New Covenant

Music: In Every Age ~ Janet Sullivan Whitaker

Love Really Is Everything!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021419.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our reading from Genesis tells of the creation of Eve to be Adam’s companion.Theological volumes are written to interpret this passage. But for today’s prayer, let’s draw out one small phrase:

The LORD God said:
“It is not good for this human being to be alone.

Gen2_18 Eve

God, Who lives in the community of the Trinity, exists within relationship. God knows that is the only way that any life can exist. This leads us to realize that:

  • We were created from Love for Love
  • We were meant to learn love in one another’s company.
  • Our learning with one another is modeled on the perfect triune love of God.

On Valentine’s Day, our culture romanticizes the notion of love (and makes a lot of money doing so!) But it might also be a good day for us to consider what and whom we have fallen in love with all throughout our lives.

The late Father Pedro Arrupé, now being considered for sainthood, was once the superior general of the Jesuit community. Understanding what it meant to be in love with God and God’s Creation, Arrupé wrote this:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

(I’ll be sending two of my love poems to God in a later email.  I hope you find them helpful to your prayer.)

Music: Love Changes Everything ~ Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, Don Black

Prayer of Grateful Remembrance

Friday, February 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel recounts the dramatic story of John the Baptist’s death. John, the one who went before Christ, paving the way for him, precedes him even in death.

Jesus expressed great respect and gratitude for John when he said:

I tell you, among those born of women
there is no one greater than John …
(Luke 7:28)

Today’s passage from Hebrews closes by exhorting us to:

Remember those who have gone before you,
who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life
and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The readings inspire us to gratefully remember and prayerfully honor the many people who have gone before us, leading us in faith. Parents and family, teachers, religious women and men, friends and mentors. Slowly naming these individuals in our prayer will remind us of our abundant blessings and encourage us to live lives worthy of their gifts to us.

Music: Wind Beneath My Wings – sung by Perry Como

 

Add to the Beauty

Thursday, February 7, 2019

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Mk16_15 add to beauty

Today, in Mercy, Jesus’s disciples set out on their first solo mission. Most of us can relate to their feelings that morning.

Remember your first real job? You had studied, trained, prepared. You had aced the interview. You bought a new blouse, shirt or pair of shoes. You were IN!

And you were scared. You might have done a dry run to make sure you wouldn’t be late your first day. You checked that your gas tank was topped off. You packed a lunch (or someone who loved you did), and wondered who would eat with you.

The disciples were probably scared too. Look at whose shoes they were following in! And Jesus sets out some tough dress code for their work life:

  • take nothing but a walking stick
  • no food, no sack, no money in their belts
  • wear sandals but not a second tunic.

The behavior code was just as lean:

  • take a buddy for support
  • when you enter a house, stay there the whole time
  • if they don’t welcome you or listen to you, don’t argue
  • leave there and shake the dust off your feet

As we set out to work each day, do we think of our labor as “ministry”? Do we see that our work in some way benefits the life of the community? Do our interactions with our peers encourage their contributions to the common good?

We all need jobs to earn the means to live. But if that’s all our job is, we will never find happiness in it. Meaningful work must benefit more than ourselves and, in that, it can become a ministry.

If Jesus were sending us out to our workday this morning, he might give instructions like these:

  • work responsibly, mutually and unselfishly 
  • earn all that you need to be happy, but avoid greed
  • make sure your labors enhance life for others as well as yourself
  • if your job chokes your soul, move on

What we do does not determine our worth. How we do it does. We may be sewing buttons on shirts. If we do that with attention and pride, our work will have meaning for us and for others.

Every meaningful job gives us the chance to make the world better for those we serve, and for those with whom we work – to add to the beauty of the world already begun in the blessing of God. Does our work offer us that life-giving opportunity? Do we respond to it wholeheartedly?

Song: Add to the Beauty ~ Sara Groves

The Bitter Root

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we taste the “bitter root”. 

Heb12_15 bitter root

Paul writes to the Hebrews:

See to it that no one
be deprived of the grace of God,

that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble,
through which many may become defiled.

In our Gospel, Luke writes to his community

So Jesus was not able to perform any mighty deed in his hometown,
… He was amazed at their lack of faith.

So what is this bitter root that robs a heart of faith, forgiveness, trust, hope and love?

Think of the things we humans bury deep in our souls, before they can be seen, named and confronted. Naïvely, we think that hiding them will make them disappear.
We bury our:

word cloud

These buried irritants never disappear. They thicken under the surface, choking the possibility of new life — of Grace. These “bitter roots” steal our spiritual health and cripple the Holy Spirit within us. They deprive the community of our vigor and life. 

It is so necessary and important for us to bring these tangled undergrowths to light! It is so necessary and important for us to be the loving community that offers understanding, healing, listening and love.

How do we uncover and release these hidden poisons? Prayer, of course, can help us, and the gentle discipline of honesty with ourselves; the natural self-revelation of a trusted friendship, the insights of spiritual direction and retreat, and, sometimes, the professional accompaniment of a counselor.

Mary Oliver, beloved poet, describes a buried darkness in her own life in this poem “The Uses of Sorrow”:

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

As part of the faith community, we need to contribute to that place of trust and friendship that invites others to work through their darknesses. Healing is not magic. It comes through the tenderness, patience, honesty, awareness and encouragement of the surrounding community, as well as through our own courage. We need that community ourselves, and we need to be that community for others.

Music: Ubi Caritas (Where Charity and Love prevail, there is God.)

 

What About the Pigs!

Monday, February 4, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are all about God’s transforming power and our human ability to tap into that power by our faith.

Hebrews 11 references several heroes, named and unnamed, whose faith and perseverance were so great that, “The world was not worthy of them.”

Mark’s Gospel tells the story of the Gerasene demoniac, a story with many layers of meaning and challenge. In it, Jesus demonstrates an astounding power that both amazes and frightens his audience.

Mt5_10 pigsJPG

We have the very detailed description of the demoniac, a wild, unnaturally strong and violent man. We have the Gerasene community which doesn’t know what else to do to control the disruptive forces of this wretched man. And we have an innocent, unsuspecting herd of pigs.

Jesus is unafraid of the forces erupting from this troubled man. He approaches the man’s suffering on a whole different level from the unsuccessful tactics of the community.  Jesus speaks to the man’s soul which has been shattered into many howling fragments by the evil dwelling inside him. Jesus then casts out that evil in a demonstration that both awes and angers his observers.

Imagine how the pig farmers felt. Their livelihood lay drowning at the bottom of a precipice! The food supply, water integrity, employment opportunities all took a steep drop in that one moment of Christ’s command. In healing this broken man, who is representative of all suffering humanity, Jesus disrupted the comfortable systems which had allowed him to be isolated and chained at the edge of this society.

Jesus challenged this whole community to see the world from a different perspective – a spiritual one in which human life and wholeness is at the heart of all our societal systems. This man was more important than a herd of 2000 pigs!

These readings challenge us who live in a surface world “not worthy” of our faith. 

There is incredible suffering throughout this world. It is not enough to simply pray that it is alleviated. It is surely not enough to “chain” it by our indifference and acceptance.

Global suffering will be addressed only by confronting our comfortable systems (our herd of pigs). Our legal, political, economic and social systems must cherish the integrity of the human person. Otherwise, they should be challenged, changed, and maybe even cast away.

Our small part is to learn, understand, choose, vote and speak out for this kind of wholeness – both in our immediate, personal experiences as well as through the social justice structures available to us.  For example:

Sisters of Mercy Social Justice Advocacy

Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Music: Give Me Your Eyes ~ Brandon Heath

Rouse One Another to Good

Thursday, January 31, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. John Bosco, Priest and Teacher. He is a saint I would not have paid much attention to except for someone very special to me.

hebrews10_24 inspire

St. John Bosco was the patron saint of Sister Mary Giovanni, my sponsor when I entered the Sisters of Mercy over fifty years ago.  She was my high school teacher and my later friend. 

Like her patron saint, she was humble, honest, loving and uncomplicated. Her quiet humor, evenness and easy acceptance of others inspired me.  She motivated me to want to be good and do good.

gio_graduation
Sister Giovanni with Three Musketeers from the Class of 1963

In reading Hebrews today, I thought of her immediately. Verse 10:24 reads:

We must consider
how to rouse one another
to love and good works.

That’s what she did for me. She wasn’t preachy.  She wasn’t bossy. She didn’t even obviously try to influence me. But her humble, honest, loving care for people wowed me. I wanted to live life the way she did.

This is what Paul is talking about in our first reading today. We need one another’s faith, goodness, and example to energize our Spirit life.

Certainly, teachers have a great opportunity for this kind of influence in shaping a person’s life. But so do we all – with youngsters and those not so young 😊!

Let’s try to be that kind of person today.

Let’s give thanks for the gift of those persons in our lives.

Music: In Your Hands ~ Ron Hiller and Judy Millar

While directed toward teachers, this song can motivate us all to think about how we “teach” with our lives. It can remind us of the many kinds of “teachers” who have blessed us.

Fan the Love into Flame

SATURDAY, JANUARY 26, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have the beautiful letter from Paul to Timothy, filled with tenderness, encouragement, hope and the sweet suggestion of loving memories.

2 tim1_6 fan to flame

When we travel life’s road, what an indescribable blessing to have even one companion who loves us the way Paul loved Timothy — to care for our whole life,  our whole soul, and our whole “forever”.

In his letter, Paul reveals that Timothy has been immensely blessed with such love.  Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois have already – for many years –  tendered Timothy in the faith.

In this lovely letter, Paul notes that he prays for Timothy daily.

Do we pray for those who have blessed us and loved us in our lives? Do we tell them so, if they are living? Do we thank and remember them if they have gone home to God?

Paul closes this part of his letter with such beautiful words to Timothy:

For this reason,
I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have
through the laying on of my hands.

Many people have rested their hands on your spirit, on your heart.  Be filled with love and gratitude for them today and everyday. For those who have done otherwise, forgive them and let them go.

I remember in a special way today my mother who died on this date thirty-one years ago.  In a separate email, I share a poem I wrote after Mom’s death.  It is a little sad in tone, but it may touch and help some of you, my readers, who are experiencing grief.

Stay with your grief, beloveds, long enough to find the blessing within it.

Some meditative music: for your remembering prayerJames Last – Coulin

The WHOLE World

Friday, January 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Acts paints a detailed picture of Saul’s conversion and call on the road to Damascus. It’s a colorful and dramatic account befitting the biography of the  great “Apostle to the Gentiles”.

mk16_15 whole world

Think about this. Almost all the very first Christians (and Christ himself) were Jews. Early Christian ritual grew out of Jewish ritual. In the immediate post-Resurrection period, there were few, of any, Gentile Christians.

This is one of the reasons Paul is such a big deal. As a Roman citizen and a devout Jew, he lived with a foot in two worlds, as opposed to the Jewish fishermen who composed the original Twelve. They were local guys with minimal exposure to the non-Jewish world.

When the original Twelve (eventually Eleven) heard Jesus’s Apostolic Commission, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News…”, they may have felt that world was confined to Israel’s borders! Paul, the post-Resurrection Apostle, demonstrated otherwise.


Paul traveled over 10,000 miles proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. His journeys on land and sea took him primarily through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece.
(from Loyola Press. See website for great summary of Paul’s journeys.

Click here for Paul’s Journeys 


How encompassing is our vision of “the whole world”, that world which hungers for the message, mercy and love of Christ?

Our Gospel today impels us with the same apostolic call as these early disciples. God’s love and fullness of life belong to all. What can I do to make that a greater reality?

Music:  Facing a Task Unfinished-~ Lyrics:Frank Houghton. Performed by the Gettys 

Soften That Stony Heart!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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psalm 95 copy

Today, in Mercy, our first reading quotes at length from Psalm 95, and the message is reprised in the Responsorial Psalm.

Harden not your hearts.

We all know what it feels like to harden our hearts. We do it out of anger, fear, exhaustion, frustration and so many other reasons. We feel like the only way to protect ourselves and our space is –yes– to build a wall! Put up those bricks made out of our stony faces, curt words, numbing silence, distancing indifference – our hardened hearts.

Today’s reading tells us that is never God’s way.

The way to freedom, peace, self-respect, joy and fullness of life is always found in relationship – in building bridges.

Jesus builds a bridge in today’s Gospel by connecting with the leper. This leper has been walled off from society by illness and disfigurement. Most people’s hearts are hardened against him, but Jesus is “moved by pity” at the leper’s isolation.

The leper, too, has built a bridge by reaching through his own hardened heart in faith and trust. Surely all the years of mistreatment had made him wary of trust, had immobilized him in self-protection. But he allows himself a courageous plea to Jesus, and he is heard.

It is no easy challenge to soften a hardened heart. Some of our walls are very high, some of our bricks very heavy. But, one by one, we can choose opportunities for forgiveness, kindness, understanding, patience, encouragement, listening and companionship – even, and especially, toward those estranged in any way from us or from themselves. And even toward ourselves when we have become hardened to our own beauty and goodness.

To begin might take only a smile, a prayer, a phone call, a small kindness, an invitation, a moment of ordinary conversation…. just these might start to crumble a wall, to soften a heart.

Music: Soften My Heart, Lord (and adding a second song, just because I think you’ll like it.)