The link below will take you to Mercy International Center’s website. About mid-page, you can click to see Catherine McAuley’s story, “In God Alone”. It is a wonderful short film. Please take time to enjoy it and to thank God with the Sisters of Mercy for our blessed founder, dear Catherine. Blessings and love to all our Mercy family throughout the world!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 100, called the “Jubilate Deo” because of its opening pronouncement:
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you peoples; serve the Lord with gladness; come before the Lord with joyful song.
Psalm 100: 1-2
This is such a perfect prayer today for our Mercy community as we will gather to celebrate the Jubilee of many of our sisters this afternoon. It will be a huge celebration in which the Jubilarians of both 2020 and 2021 will be honored, due to last year’s Covid restrictions.
For many of us, the most moving parts of the celebration are the procession and recession. These celebratory passages are a testament to God’s faithfulness over many lifetimes, and to the women who have received and responded to God’s gifts.
Some sisters, who have been given the gift of long years, will process with a cane or walker to assist them. Some will move with an achieved maturity, and some still with the vigor of youth.
But our Mercy family, gathered in the pews, walks in Spirit with each of the Jubilarians, carrying her within a bond of mutual love. As we see each sister whom we have lived with, worked with, loved and learned from, our hearts indeed sing with them, “Jubilate!”
Poetry: The Neophyte – Alice Meynell
Who knows what days I answer for to-day:
Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.
Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
Give one repose to pain I know not now,
One leaven to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.
Oh, rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
I fold to-day at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat
I seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.
Please join us in your grateful prayers for these Sisters of Mercy:
Jubilarians 2020 80 years Sister Rita Powell
70 years Sister Mary Georgina Hasson Sister Mary Hentz Sister Kathleen Kelly Sister Marie Lynch Sister Antoinette Medori Sister Clare Miriam Schrant Sister Marianna Walsh
60 Years Sister Rosellen Bracken Sister Mary Elizabeth Burke Sister Emily Therese Connor Sister Marie Michele Donnelly Sister Patricia Anne Flynn Sister Kathleen Marie Fox Sister Mary Ann Giordano Sister Patricia Anne Kennedy Sister Barbara Ann MacWilliams Sister Kathleen McAlpin Sister Mercedes Joan McCann Sister Kathleen McGovern Sister Josephine McGrory Sister Mary Sarah McNally Sister Mary Anne Nolan Sister Stella Mary O’Brien Sister Frances Paglione Sister Rose Carmel Scalone Sister Barbara Smiley Sister Patricia Talone Sister Angela Welsh
50 years Sister Mary Beth Geraghty Sister Mary Jane Morrison Sister Katherine Bednarcik
Jubilarians 2021 75 years Sister Mary Ann Basile Sister Marie Helene Bradley Sister Mary Janet Doughty Sister Kathleen Mary Long Sister Marita Lyons Sister Catherine Rawley Sister Ethel Sweeney
70 years Sister Therese Marie Kenny Sister Alice Mary Meehan Sister Rose Morris Sister Kathleen Waugh Sister Anne Marie Berenato Sister Mary Anton Frick
60 years Sister Francis Haddow Sister Anna Marie Lesutis Sister Margery Lowry Sister Mary Mester Sister Sheila Murphy Sister Anne Marie Weisglass Sister Joanne Whitaker Sister Beverly Wilde
50 years Sister Maureen Conklin Sister Susan Myslinski
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96. Following as it does on our first reading from Thessalonians, the psalm is an encouragement to trust God completely and to demonstrate that trust in unconditional praise.
The tone of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians suggests that, since his last visit, many of their community have died. The people are grieving, and they are unsure of what their new faith offers them.
Reading this passage today, I was taken back a few months to the first wave of COVID through our local Mercy community. Several of our sisters died. Their deaths came relentlessly, one after the other. There was a painful point at which we hated to hear the phone ring in the morning because it carried so many daily losses to us.
When, after weeks of bereavement, we were unlocked to visit one another again, there was a stunning emptiness in so many of the beloved spaces of our community!
We, who loved these sisters and the brave beauty of their generous lives, felt a grief reminiscent of the emotions in this plaintive song from Les Miserables.
That same kind of grief ripped though our nation this week with the murders of thirteen service members and nearly 200 Afghans at the Kabul airport as they sought freedom and peace.
Death is cruel, and when it comes in a ravenous cluster, it is overwhelming. It was to such an overwhelmed community that Paul wrote these words:
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
1 Thessolonians 4:13-14
This remarkable hope, this blessed assurance, is the defining character of the Christian heart. It is the power that lifts us out of darkness and gives us the courage to praise God in all circumstances.
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the whole earth. Sing to the Lord and bless the divine name; proclaim the good news of our salvation from day to day. Declare the glory of the Lord among the nations and the wonders of God among all peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, more awesome than all other gods….
Psalm 96: 1-4
We are a people called to believe the declaration of today’s Gospel, that Jesus Christ is among us to restore Creation to eternal life:
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And it is fulfilled every day, in our lights and even in our shadows, if we but believe.
Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginning, but one equal eternity; in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end.
Prayer of John Donne
Poetry: John Donne (1572–1631)- Death Be Not Proud (Holy Sonnet X)
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, chosen today to complement our first reading which is a rare lectionary passage from the Book of Ruth. In it, we meet Naomi who is, at one point, widowed and alone.
The fatherless and the widow the Lord sustains, but the way of the wicked is thwarted.
The Book of Ruth is familiar to many of us because some of its charming story and verses seem a lovely fit for weddings and anniversaries. But in some ways, that isolated use tends to trivialize the powerful messages embedded in this short volume.
If we have a limited view of the Book of Ruth, Psalm 146 can help us widen it. The psalm points to elements central to a hopeful and just community, to a community in right relationship with God. This too is a core message of Ruth.
It is a community strengthened by compassion, loyalty, inclusivity, trust, hope and grateful praise. Each character, at some point in the story’s unfolding, exhibits some aspect of God’s merciful nature and steadfast attachment to us. They put flesh on the psalm’s Antiphons:
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!
Ruth was the great-grandmother of David and blood ancestor of Jesus. Her story, and the tender mercy it declares, foretells the character of the Beloved Community Christ will establish.
The heart of that community – our community – is aptly described in today’s Gospel. When the Pharisees ask Jesus what is most important, he replies:
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
Poem: Ruth and Naomi by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911), an African American abolitionist and poet. Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, she had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at twenty and her first novel, the widely praised Iola Leroy, at age 67.
"Turn my daughters, full of woe,
Is my heart so sad and lone?
Leave me children — I would go
To my loved and distant home.
From my bosom death has torn
Husband, children, all my stay,
Left me not a single one,
For my life's declining day
Want and woe surround my way,
Grief and famine where I tread;
In my native land they say
"God is giving Jacob bread.”
Naomi ceased, her daughters wept,
Their yearning hearts were filled;
Falling upon her withered neck,
Their grief in tears distill'd.
Like rain upon a blighted tree,
The tears of Orpah fell
Kissing the pale and quivering lip,
She breathed her sad farewell.
But Ruth stood up, on her brow
There lay a heavenly calm;
And from her lips came, soft and low
Words like a holy charm.
"I will not leave thee, on thy brow
Are lines of sorrow, age and care;
Thy form is bent, thy step is slow,
Thy bosom stricken, lone and sear.
Oh! when thy heart and home were glad,
I freely shared thy joyous lot;
And now that heart is lone and sad,
Cease to entreat — I'll leave thee not.
Oh! if a lofty palace proud
Thy future home shall be;
Where sycophants around thee crowd,
I'll share that home with thee.
And if on earth the humblest spot,
Thy future home shall prove;
I'll bring into thy lonely lot
The wealth of woman's love.
Go where thou wilt, my steps are there,
Our path in life is one;
Thou hast no lot I will not share,
'Till life itself be done.
My country and my home for thee,
I freely, willingly resign,
Thy people shall my people be,
Thy God he shall be mine.
Then, mother dear, entreat me not
To turn from following thee;
My heart is nerved to share thy lot,
Whatever that may be.”
Music: Ruth’s Song – Marty and Misha Goetz
(Verse 1) All my life, I have wondered Wondered where I might belong Feeling lost, like a stranger Wandering far all on my own (Verse 2) Without a home. Without a people Without a hope, without a prayer Without a way, that I could follow Then I turned, and you were there (Chorus) Where you go, I will go Where you stay, I will stay forever Where you lead, I will follow So I can know the one you know (Verse 3) Under his wings, you found a shelter You have no fear, you have no shame And when you call, he seems to answer He even seems to know your name (Chorus) (Bridge) Then somehow should I find his favor I won’t look back on all I’ve known Your people then will be my people And Your God my God alone (Chorus) Where you go, I will go And you know I will never leave you Not even death, will ever part us Now that I know the one you know I will go now, where you go
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 21, a companion piece to Psalm 20. In these verses, the king asks for victory, receives it, and rejoices in domination over his enemies. The psalm follows our first reading from Judges which is a parable that criticizes Abimelech’s seizure of kingship over Israel by treacherous means.
Without getting too deep into the complex exegesis of these passages, suffice it to say that they invite us to consider the nature of leadership – its source, exercise, and meaning relative to our spiritual and moral life.
St. Augustine, in his commentary on the Psalms, teaches that Psalm 21 foretells the kingship of Jesus. This kingship (as opposed to that of Abimelech) is marked by humility, mercy, and obedience to the Creator.
We see a wide and confusing range of “leadership” in our world today, from figures like Pope Francis to Kim Jong-Un. But in our prayer today, we are given a very clear picture of what true leadership looks like.
A perfect leader is to God like the moon is to the sun. The leader only reflects the True Light given to them as a gift.
Recognizing fruitful leadership as a gift, they dispense it graciously to others as in our Gospel parable, imparting mercy even to those considered last in line for it.
In various circumstances, we can be either leader and follower. How do we invite Grace to inform us in either case?
Poetry-Prayer: A Leader’s Prayer – from xavier.edu
Leadership is hard to define.
Lord, let us be the ones to define it with justice.
Leadership is like a handful of water.
Lord, let us be the people to share it with those who thirst.
Leadership is not about watching and correcting.
Lord, let us remember it is about listening and connecting.
Leadership is not about telling people what to do.
Lord, let us find out what people want.
Leadership is less about the love of power,
and more about the power of love.
Lord, as we continue to undertake the role of leader let us be
affirmed by the servant leadership we witness in your son Jesus.
Let us walk in the path He has set and let those who will, follow.
Let our greatest passion be compassion.
Our greatest strength love.
Our greatest victory the reward of peace.
In leading let us never fail to follow.
In loving let us never fail.
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.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 84 – one of the loveliest.
My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young– Your altars, O LORD of hosts, my king and my God!
Psalm 84: 3-6
The image of God’s dwelling places raises so many possibilities for prayer:
Mary, the dwelling of Jesus as he completed incarnation
Eucharist, Christ’s continuing dwelling with us
Ourselves and all creatures as dwelling places of God’s spirit
Thinking of a dwelling place, many characteristics come to mind. Foremost for me is hospitality. We must be welcomed into a place in order to dwell there. We must be comfortable, cared about, and appreciated. We must feel at home.
We’ve all been in homes that make us feel this way, and hopefully our own home offers such hospitality to us and others. I think this morning of three old friends now at home with God. They were the sisters of a beloved pastor with whom I worked. We got to know them well at the time of his death and continued our friendship until they too died.
We often visited their old but perfectly appointed little home. And their hospitality took very evident forms: a prepared pitcher of Manhattans in the fridge, little snacks that we might have mentioned we liked, lively conversation, and the sharing of life-making stories – with a few secrets sprinkled in between.
I think that’s the same kind of hospitable home Mary, Martha, and Lazarus offered Jesus – a tasty meal, some good wine, and the sharing of life, laughter, and tears.
When we open our hearts to be dwelling places for God, we too can share the bread of life, the wine of experience, and the certainty of love with our infinitely hospitable Creator.
What immeasurable gifts! Having received them from God, may we offer them to others especially those who find them nowhere else.
Poetry: Dwelling Place – Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) who was a Welsh metaphysical poet, illustrator, translator, and physician
What happy secret fountain, Fair shade or mountain, Whose undiscovered virgin glory Boasts it this day, though not in story, Was then thy dwelling? Did some cloud, Fixed to a tent, descend a shroud My distressed Lord? Or did a star, Beckoned by Thee, though high and far, In sparkling smiles haste gladly down To lodge light and increase her own? My dear, dear God! I do not know What lodged Thee then, nor where, nor how; But I am sure Thou dost now come Oft to a narrow, homely room, Where Thou too hast but the least part: My God, I mean my sinful heart.
Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ
(If the video says “Unavailable”, click on “Watch on YouTube” to get it.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 106 which is a prayerful inventory of Israel’s long story with God. In today’s liturgy, the psalm follows a similar Genesis recounting of the story of the Abraham-Sarah family.
These two readings remind me of my own family as we have gathered, in our many configurations, over the seven decades of my life. For many early years, I was the listener to the old tales and legends. Gradually, as new generations were born, I became a guardian and teller of our history.
Psalmist 106 is a teller of Israel’s many ups and downs to the place where they now find themselves. By remembering both the darkness and light, the calms and the storms, our psalm testifies to God’s faithful and enduring mercy.
Blessed are they who observe what is right, who do always what is just. Remember us, O LORD, as you favor your people.
That testimony encourages the listeners that this faithful God can be trusted now and in the future – to abide, forgive, renew, and call believers.
It holds out for us a heritage of fidelity promising to bless the generations with whom we share it.
If you sat down with your life at the table of holy memory, what would your stories be? What storms and rainbows mark your journey? How would your psalm of memory and gratitude read? How is your faith life transmitting this heritage to the next generations?
Visit me with your saving help, That I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, rejoice in the joy of your people, and glory with your inheritance.
Poetry: Naked Truth – A Jewish tale retold as a poem by Heather Forest
Naked Truth walked down the street one day.
People turned their eyes away.
Parable arrived, draped in decoration.
People greeted Parable with celebration.
Naked Truth sat alone, sad and unattired,
“Why are you so miserable?” Parable inquired.
Naked Truth replied, “I’m not welcome anymore.
No one wants to see me. They chase me from the door.”
“It is hard to look at Naked Truth,”Parable explained.
“Let me dress you up a bit. Your welcome will be gained.”
Parable dressed Naked Truth in story’s fine attire,
with metaphor, poignant prose, and plots to inspire.
With laughter and tears and adventure to unveil,
Together they went forth to spin a tale.
People opened their doors and served them their best.
Naked Truth dressed in story was a welcome guest.
Music: Heritage of Faith – Babbie Mason (lyrics below)
The patriarchs of old
The saints that now are gone
To their great reward
Held fast to the struggle
Persistent through the years
Forging through their fears
They fought to change their world
For the sake of the gospel
May their love for Jesus
Never go unnoticed
May they spur us on to all
That lies before us
This heritage of faith
This legacy of love
We must pass to our daughters
Hand down to our sons
We must raise the standard high
And proclaim the name of Christ
That others may know the way
And this heritage of faith
In my heart I hear the call
That echoes from the cross
Where the sacrifice for man
Was freely rendered
It's the call to stand for right
Keep the faith and fight the fight
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 in which the human family remembers and gives thanks for God’s creative omnipotence.
Following upon our reading from Genesis, our psalm moves past Eden to the practical world of the psalmist. It is a world where centuries have passed and human beings have progressively made a mark on Creation – for good or for ill.
God has watched the progression, blessing or redeeming it in Mercy:
The One who fashioned together their hearts is the One who knows all their works.
The psalmist reminds us that all Creation generates within God’s power. To cooperate with that infinite grace, we must wait, listen, trust, and deepen in holy understanding:
Our soul waits for the LORD, who is our help and shield. For in God our hearts rejoice; in God’s holy name we trust. May your mercy, LORD, be upon us; as we put our hope in you.
We are not the actors. We are simply the instruments of God’s gracious unfolding in the symmetry of Creation – both in the cosmos and in the delicate blossom of our own hearts.
How is God growing in the world today within my life?
Poetry:The light shouts in your tree-top, and the face – Rilke
The light shouts in your tree-top, and the face of all things becomes radiant and vain; only at dusk do they find you again. The twilight hour, the tenderness of space, lays on a thousand heads a thousand hands, and strangeness grows devout where they have lain. With this gentlest of gestures you would hold the world, thus only and not otherwise. You lean from out its skies to capture earth, and feel it underneath your mantle’s folds. You have so mild a way of being. ……………………………………………They who name you loudly when they come to pray forget your nearness. From your hands that tower above us, mountainously, lo, there soars, to give the law whereby our senses live, dark-browed, your wordless power.
Our gifted Mercy artist, Sister Judy Ward, has created greeting cards using some of my designs. This “Sunrise Tree” is one of them. If you would like to purchase any of Sister Judy’s beautiful work, you can connect with her here. She’s nice to talk with on the phone.