A Grape Soon Ripe

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs
June 3, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with our final passage from the Book of Sirach. We will read Sirach only five or six times again scattered throughout the liturgical year.

In today’s reading, Sirach offers a grateful reflection on the early blessing of wisdom and pursuit of holiness in his life.

I thank the LORD and I praise him;
I bless the name of the LORD.
When I was young and innocent,
I sought wisdom openly in my prayer
I prayed for her before the temple…

Sirach 51:13-14

Sirach’s prayer will resonate with many of us whose earliest days were blessed with faithful parents and grandparents. These wisdom figures taught us to love and seek God in our lives. As we pray today, we think of them with gratitude, as well as of the many teachers who guided our young spirits into God’s Light.

Even if we have moved far from the parish church of our youth, we may recall the graces we received within her walls. We might prayerfully recollect our beloved grade school and high school where we were guided in the pursuit of a meaningful and reverent life.

Hopefully, our prayer brings us to realize how blessed we have been from the beginning of our lives. This is the kind of prayer Sirach prays in today’s reading. He is filled with gratitude and praise because he understands that it is all a gratuitous and undeserved blessing:

My heart delighted in Wisdom,
My feet kept to the level path
because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.
In the short time I paid heed,
I met with great instruction.
Since in this way I have profited,
I will give my teacher grateful praise.

Sirach 51:15-17

Sirach’s prayer brings him to that still and holy place deep in his heart — that place where he touches the Wisdom of God. He describes it like this:

I sought Wisdom openly in my prayer
I prayed for her before the temple,
and I will seek her until the end,
and she flourished as a grape soon ripe.

Sirach 51:13-15

Many of us are so busy and intent on living our lives forward – trying to make it through this day to the next. We may not take the time to consider and appreciate the “ripe grape” our life has already become.

I look around me in our convent chapel and realize that I am living with holy people. Of course, like me, they have their personal twists and trademarks. Still each one of them has walked through their roundabout years into the heart of God. Every day they live into a deeper goodness – aging like fine wine, unaware that the grape has already ripened and is blessing the world around them.

The Great Vintner accomplishes this holy transformation in us by a slow accumulation of blessings which saturate our hearts in God. Pausing, like Sirach, to recognize and give thanks fills us with generous gratitude and a confident courage for the days to come.

Take time to look at the holy people in your own life today, the ones through whom God’s Wisdom has poured into your life. They are the ones who love you into a better person by their goodness, honesty, humility, and generosity. You meet them in your family, friends and workplace. Or you may have met them only in a book, poem, song or story.

I met with great instruction.
Since in this way I have profited,
I will give my teacher grateful praise.

Sirach 51:16-17

Poetry: Our Responsorial Psalm 19 today beautifully complements Sirach’s prayer and can serve as a perfect poetic refletion for us.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.

Awe of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.

They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.

Music: Psalm 19 – Jess Ray

A Godly Person

Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
June 2, 2023

Today’s Readings:


The Family Tree

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Sirach sounds like he has been using Ancestry.com! As he comes close to the conclusion of his long meditation on God, the Universe, and Nature, he closes now with a reflection on humanity.

Now will I praise those godly men and women,
our ancestors, each in their own time.

In my childhood home, there was a fascinating table whose secrets I learned only when I got to about fifth or sixth grade. I had thought it was just a spot to place a pretty vase, but it was really a classic games table whose top swiveled to store the cards or games inside.

I lived with that table for years, and by the time I was ten or eleven years old, I had never seen that top swiveled nor the inside displayed. Reading Sirach today makes me remember why.

Stored in the table since the time of my grandmother’s death were all the tender remembrances of my deceased family members. Dried funeral flowers wrapped in faded wax paper. The war office telegram saying Uncle Jim had died on Iwo Jima. Black rimmed death announcements from another era – aunts, uncles and great-grands. There were cards from neighbors extolling my grandmother’s courage and goodness.

One day, my mother opened the table and we sat togather as she recounted the stories of the ancestors I never knew. I think it made her both happy and sad to finally share the stories with me. Reliving the losses made her sad. But placing the memories in me made her happy for the very reasons Sirach elaborates in today’s reading.

… these also were godly people
whose virtues have not been forgotten;
Their wealth remains in their families,
their heritage with their descendants;
Through God’s covenant with them their family endures,
their posterity, for their sake.

Our Gospel includes a description of Jesus’s encounter with the poor fig tree. Failing to bear fruit, the tree was cursed by Jesus. It seems like an uncharacteristically mean thing for Jesus to do until we realize that the fig tree is a symbol of the “ungodly” people Jesus has met in the Temple area.

He overturned the tables of the money changers
and the seats of those who were selling doves.
He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.
Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written:

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?
But you have made it a den of thieves.”

So our readings today give us two contrasting readings. Sirach tells us what makes a person “godly”, rememberable, and worthy of eternal life. Jesus shows us the fruitlessness and faithlessness that eternally nullifies and condemns a life.

Jesus tells us what faithfulness consists of and how we are to become a godly person – a person worth remembering. Praying with these scriptures, I remember my faith-filled ancestors who rest, not only in a hidden drawer, but in me and in how I live my life because of their legacy.

Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God.
Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,
‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’
and does not doubt in his heart
but believes that what he says will happen,
it shall be done for him.
Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer,
believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.
When you stand to pray,
forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance,
so that your heavenly Father may in turn
forgive you your transgressions.”

Poetry: The Other Kingdoms – Mary Oliver

Consider the other kingdoms. The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals. Or the creatures, with their
thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze. Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be. Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too,
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.

Music: Memories of Blue – Vangelis

Praying for Those We Love

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
May 25, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus prays for those he loves.

In our Gospel. we come to the last section of John 17, the High-Priestly Prayer of Jesus. In his prayer, Jesus prays for three things:

  • God’s glory,
  • the spiritual strength of his disciples
  • for us and all who will believe in him down through history

Today’s passage is the third part. It is about us, and the long line of believers preceding and following our lifetimes. Listen to how Jesus loves us all and begs the Creator to enfold us in the same Abundant Unity whch holds the Trinity together in Love :

(I pray) for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.

John 17:20-23

This is such a powerful passage. It tells us that when we truly love one another, with a love like God’s, we generate the image of God for our own time. That image is realized among us in many ways: Church, family, community, friendship, sisterhood, brotherhood. These are the constructs through which the human community experiences, learns ,and practices the Love which is Christ’s Gift to us.

Walter Brueggemann desribes this kind of love as “neighborliness” – that discipline of heart, mind, and spirit through which we are so connected to God’s Abundance that we willingly pass it along to one another. in a sacred mutuality of being. Brueggemann writes extensively and inspiringly on the topic, but I found some of his thoughts outlined in this excellent paper that you might want to reflect on someday at your leisure:


In his prayer, Jesus is tapping into the Infinite Generosity we call God,
that Generosity Who has loved us so much that we came into being,
that Generosity Who continues to love us eternally
into the abundance of life we call Heaven.

Being loved like this, can we be anything but generous in our love for others? It’s a good question to ask ourselves when we reflect on our day before we fall asleep each night.

Poetry: Neighbors by Rudyard Kipling – Kipling gives us an enjoyable interpretation of the Golden Rule to love our neighbors.

The man that is open of heart to his neighbor,
And stops to consider his likes and dislikes,
His blood shall be wholesome whatever his labor,
His luck shall be with him whatever he strikes.
The Splendor of Morning shall duly possess him,
That he may not be sad at the falling of eve.
And, when he has done with mere living, God bless him!
A many shall sigh, and one Woman shall grieve!
But he that is costive of soul toward his fellow,
Through the ways, and the works, and the woes of this life,
Him food shall not fatten, him drink shall not mellow;
And his innards shall brew him perpetual strife.
His eye shall be blind to God's Glory above him;
His ear shall be deaf to Earth's Laughter around;
His Friends and his Club and his Dog shall not love him;
And his Widow shall skip when he goes underground!

Music: Bring Him Home – original music by Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyrics written by
Alain Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer

The sentiments of the beautiful song from Les Misérables are very similar in tone to the prayer that Jesus prays near the end of his life. Jesus wants his followers to live eternally. The singer seems to want the same thing.

Learning to Say Goodbye

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
May 24, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus and Paul continue to teach us how to say goodbye.

I think most big goodbyes are pretty hard. Even if we’re not completely in love with our situation, we might still be comfortable in it. We don’t want to make the effort to change or to disconnect from the dailyness to which we are accustomed.

And when we are in love with our situation – with the people and activities that give us life – then goodbyes can be brutal. These kinds of goodbyes are often unchosen, unwelcome, and disorienting.

We can all recall scores of goodbyes we have either chosen or been forced to say. Most of them, I think, are a mix of the two descriptions above – a little bit of sugar and a little bit of vinegar.

One of the many goodbyes I remember came after I had lived in and taught at a lovely parish for over a decade. Our convent was blessed with a wonderful community of sisters. We loved our generous pastors, our welcoming parishioners, and the engaging neighborhood around us. I loved my students and the work I did with them. I loved the sisters I lived with. We recognized our blessings and often quipped to one another that we were living in our “Golden Years”.

But after eleven years, I knew it was time for something different in my life, A call to a new ministry emerged in my heart and that was exciting. But the leave-taking still cut like a razor.

That story has repeated itself several times in my life with different settings and different casts of characters. And I know the same thing is true in each of your lives. When we pause to reflect on all those goodbyes, we may realize that each led to an unimagined hello – hellos that offered us new graces to deepen our lives.

In our readings today, Jesus and Paul stand on that fragile beam which leads from goodbye to hello. Their disciples stand there with them, so both Jesus and Paul make every effort to help them balance themselves to step into the future.

Paul does it like this:

Be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day,
I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.

Acts 20:31-32

Jesus does it with a prayer:

Holy Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.

John 17:11-13

Today, we may want to spend a little time with Jesus and Paul looking back over the long beam of our lives, thanking God for the graces that poured from our many goodbyes and hellos.

Poetry: In My Dreams – Stevie Smith

In my dreams I am always saying goodbye and riding away,
Whither and why I know not nor do I care.
And the parting is sweet and the parting over is sweeter,
And sweetest of all is the night and the rushing air.

In my dreams they are always waving their hands and saying goodbye,
And they give me the stirrup cup and I smile as I drink,
I am glad the journey is set, I am glad I am going,
I am glad, I am glad, that my friends don’t know what I think.

Music: Every Goodbye Is Hello – Andrew Lippi from the musical “John and Jen”

There’s a wonderful place
Just waiting for you
There are wonderful things
You’ll get to do
Out there, somewhere, the world
And all its wonders
One small step is all it takes to know
Every goodbye is hello
There’s a magical phrase

I’ll tell it to you
Always honor the old
But live for the new
Out there, somewhere

About to be discovered
Trust yourself and
each new day will show
How every goodbye is hello
I will always be near

To hear of all the things you’ll be
Everyone needs a home to return to
And you can turn to me
There’s a time in our

lives when we will know
(There’s a time in our
lives when we will know)
There’s a time to stay home
And a time to grow
Out there, somewhere, your life
And all its promise
Sometimes part of love is letting go
But every goodbye is

Welcome to the world
(Welcome to the world)

Eternal Life

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 21, 2023

Today’s Readings:


A little explanation: For those of my readers who do not live in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, today’s readings will be different from the ones used for the reflection. In the archdioceses and dioceses within the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha, and Philadelphia, the Ascension of the Lord always falls on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter and is a Holyday of Obligation. In all other archdioceses and dioceses, the Ascension of the Lord is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

If you wish, you may use the Ascension reflection from last Thursday, or refer to this reflection by the always excellent Mary McGlone from this week’s NCR.

Could this be a rarely seen 1st century photo of Mary (in blue)
with some friends and the Eleven.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from Acts gives us a group photo of the “Apostolic Council”. Think of it as the foundational selfie of Catholic history. And all the big names are there in indelible magic marker with a few “also ran”s mentioned as a seeming afterthought.

Let’s talk about those “also ran”s – those unnamed champions of the faith who are there, who show up, who do the heavy lifting, and whose names disappear into history like the black powder in an Etch-a-Sketch. Let’s talk about them because they are us.

In his letter, Peter tells us to be joyful when our devotion to the faith brings us suffering! Doing so, we become the unnamed disciples of the Gospel carrying human history forward to eternal life.

Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ,
so that when his glory is revealed
you may also rejoice exultantly.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Living with that kind of resolute joy is a huge challenge unless we understand the reason for it. Jesus explains the reason clearly in our Gospel – eternal life.

Father, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.

We not talking about a good life, a happy life, a complete life, an inspiring life. They are all really wonderful things. What we’re talking about here is THE only thing that matters:

Let’s ask for it. Let’s pray for it. Let’s do everything we can to open our hearts to it!

Poetry: Forever Is Composed of Nows – Emily Dickinson

Forever – is composed of Nows –
’Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years …

Music: Song to the Moon – from Rusalka

Rusalka Op. 114, is an opera (‘lyric fairy tale’) by Antonín Dvořák. The “Song to the Moon” is so beautiful and one of my favorite arias. The vocal version is thrilling, but I found this instrumental version which is more fitting for meditation. I hope you enjoy it.

Colorful Faith

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
May 15, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our first reading opens with the beautiful image of Paul and co-ministers sailing off into the Mediterranean blue, finally ending up in Philippi.

There they meet Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth”. Lydia was a notable figure. Some scripture scholars say she was businesswoman and head of a significant household who offered hospitality to Paul’s entire traveling team. Others see her as a morally questionable “huckster” whose invitation of men to her home would have been morally questionable.

In a magnificent paper for her doctoral dissertation, Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay argues for Lydia as the “Perceptive Disciple” whose true heart became an agent for God’s Word.

A complex but excellent read for those who might be interested.

However we imagine Lydia, Acts clearly notes that she was already a “worshipper of God”, Lydia listened to the disciples’ evangelization. God opened her heart and she accepted Jesus Christ. This is most significant because her heart-opening, much like Mary’s, allowed the Gospel to pass through to her household and, symbolically, to all of Asia Minor.

Halliday, Edward Irvine; St Paul Meeting Lydia of Thyatira; University of Liverpool; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/st-paul-meeting-lydia-of-thyatira-66511

Lydia is the first Christian convert in Philippi, a church which Paul grew to love deeply as we can discern from his beautiful letter to the Philippians. As Paul and his company finish their initial evangelization in Philipppi, the community is entrusted to the hands of Lydia and her devoted neighbors.

What exactly was Lydia’s role as Paul sailed on to other horizons? As in so many cases involving early Church women, history folds that answer into the opinionated edits of 2000 years of monks and translators.

I choose to think that Lydia continued at least as a presbyter, if not a priest. The community had long gathered around her generous and dynamic leadership. Why would that change after Paul departed?

In our Gospel, Jesus is speaking to people like Lydia and like us, down through the ages. He indicates that once we are transformed in the Holy Spirit, we can’t help but cry out the wonder of God in our lives.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

John 15:26-27

Let’s pray to and for all true disciples, especially the women God has chosen to stand at the center of an ever-evolving Church and to weave its energy always toward an inclusive community.

Poetry: Epilogue – Sister Lou Ella Hickman, a widely published poet whose collection ” she:robed and wordless” captures the essence of many biblical women. Her poem cited here attracted me because of the colors – purple, of course, then oranges and reds. I can almost hear our Lydia reciting such a poem!

Music: Piano instrumental of the beautiful song Deep Purple

The Letter

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 12, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Judas Barsabbas and Silas are chosen to deliver a letter from the Apostles to the Gentiles in Antioch. It’s a critical letter – containing the apostolic decision regarding how the Antiochan church must observe religious practice.

Have you ever waited for a “decision letter”, one for which you were not sure of the outcome? Maybe a college or job acceptance letter? A bid on a new house? Or maybe a contest you entered desperate to win?

I remember waiting for the letter announcing whether or not the Sisters of Mercy would accept me into their community. It was a nerve-wracking wait for many reasons. I really wanted to be a Sister of Mercy but, after the initial interview, I wasn’t sure I could fill the bill.

The ride to the interview had seemed so distant from where I lived – in many ways. I had never seen such beautiful houses as those in the neighborhood surrounding the Motherhouse. And the entrance to the convent itself was, and still is, breath-taking. My six-foot self felt extremely small.

Sister Mary Assisium, who interviewed my parents and me, was an icon of the pre-Vatican II religious. She was perfection in her beautiful habit, cultured speech, quiet gait, and ultra-serious tone of voice. Her eyes seemed like big lakes in a sacred monument.

She scared me to death! I was a lanky, loping, gum-chewing teenager who still dropped the “g”s on my “ing”s. As we drove home from the meeting, I was pretty sure there was no way these women were going to invite me to join them! I think my parents were pretty sure too.

That interview happened on April 7, 1963. On June 2nd, I came home from work at the neighborhood deli, carrying a pastrami sandwich, to find an unopened letter lying on our dining room credenza. About ten feet away, Mom sat in the kitchen staring back and forth from the letter to me. For a few minutes, I stared back and forth from the letter to Mom, then finally got the guts to open it. It was dated May 31, 1963, Feast of the Queenship of Mary. ( After 1969, that date became Feast of the Visitation)

It said this, but in a lot of different, more beautiful words:

But the letter also implied, although not stated, an understanding that reassured my doubts.

Judas Barsabbas and Silas carried the same kind of letter to the Chrisitan Gentiles in Antioch. “You’re in. Just as you are.” And our Gospel today, tells us why that is so – Love.

Love is the test which measures us for Christianity – not religious practice, rituals, or personaility traits. The apostolic decision-makers understood this and came to a conclusion based on Gospel love.

Jesus makes this clear in our reading today, and how blessed are we to receive his invitation:

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.

Poetry: Acceptance – Robert Frost

When the spent sun throws up its rays on cloud
And goes down burning into the gulf below,
No voice in nature is heard to cry aloud
At what has happened. Birds, at least must know
It is the change to darkness in the sky.
Murmuring something quiet in her breast,
One bird begins to close a faded eye;
Or overtaken too far from his nest,
Hurrying low above the grove, some waif
Swoops just in time to his remembered tree.
At most he thinks or twitters softly, 'Safe!
Now let the night be dark for all of me.
Let the night be too dark for me to see
Into the future. Let what will be, be.'

Music: The Letter – by the Boxtops: Well, the Sisters of Mercy didn’t exactly say they “couldn’t live without me no more”. But that’s the way I read it! 🙂

What About “Strangers”?

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 11, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Peter Preaches to Jews and Gentiles

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the Apostles continue to deal with the assimilation of Gentiles into the faith community. Their struggle is one that continually challenges the human community throughout history.

Think about it. What’s it like when someone new comes into your established community – your family, parish, workplace, convent, social group, etc.? How did it feel when you met your potential in-laws, or teacher-partner, or new boss, new novices, or your betrothed’s questionable friends?

And, maybe more importantly, how did they feel bumping up against your already solidly established relationships and practices?

It’s no fun being the new guy or gal. It’s exciting maybe, but it’s also a little scary. And it’s certainly no fun feeling different or like a stranger in one’s new environment.

And, in a way, it’s no fun being the old guy or gal either. It can be challenging, even annoying, to have to realign our comfortable routines to incorporate a newbie. And when these routines are centuries old religious practices, oh baby, we have a problem!

This is the challenge the early Christian community faced as the established Jerusalem church spread out across Asia and the Mediterranean basin to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. Through Peter’s leadership, they seem to have handled the issue very well:

“My brothers, you are well aware that from early days
God made his choice among you that through my mouth
the Gentiles would hear the word of the Gospel and believe.
And God, who knows the heart,
bore witness by granting them the Holy Spirit
just as he did us.

God made no distinction between us and them,
for by faith he purified their hearts.
Why, then, are you now putting God to the test
by placing on the shoulders of the disciples
a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?

On the contrary, we believe that we are saved
through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they.”

What powerful lessons to learn as we continue to build an inclusive and universal Church, and to deal with the many blocks inhibiting us: racism, xenophobia, sexism and heterosexism, to name a few. All of these are based on a negative pre-judgment whose purpose is to maintain control and power in a dominant group.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter was able to let go of that need. Let’s ask him to help us and our Church.

Poetry: Song of Myself #48 – Walt Whitman

I have said that the soul is not more than the body,
And I have said that the body is not more than the soul,
And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is,
And whoever walks a furlong without sympathy walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud,
And I or you pocketless of a dime may purchase the pick of the earth,
And to glance with an eye or show a bean in its pod confounds the learning of all times,
And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero,
And there is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel’d universe,
And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.
And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death.)
I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign’d by God’s name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe’er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever.

Music: You Don’t Have to Be Like Me – RebbeSoul

Nothing Can Harm You

Tuesday of Fifth Week of Easter
May 9, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the stone-throwers finally get to Paul, but their acted-out fear is ineffective:

In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium
arrived and won over the crowds. 
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city,
supposing that he was dead.
But when the disciples gathered around him,
he got up and entered the city. 
On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Acts 14:19-20

Paul is amazingly resilient. He just got the stuffing beaten out of him to the point of appearing DOA, but he departs on a preaching pilgrimage the very next day! So what’s the story?

I think it is unlikely that Paul just “got up and entered the city'” after the vicious assault upon him.

The supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit permeated that little Lycaonian alleyway. Note the “disciples gathered around him“. Imagine a reiki-like power eminating from these ardent believers. Visualize that power drawing Paul back to his full self in the Name of Jesus Christ.

We believers today are not unlike those gathered disciples. I’ll bet every one of us, after some devasting blow to our spirit, has had our heart put back by someone who loved and believed in us.

And I hope that every one of us has been that person who gathers with the fallen, failed, and frustrated to lift and remind them of Love’s Promise to those who believe.

That’s the kind of community Jesus wants us to be, drawing our strength for it from his awesome promise in today’s Gospel:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’

John 14:27-28

Jesus faced a very dismal future as he finished these consoling words at the Last Supper. Judas had already gone out to pursue his dark agenda. Jesus knew what would come next:

And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.
I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

John 14:29-31

We will face our own Gethsemane’s as we try to live and to share Gospel Truth. Sometimes, our lights will dim from both internal and external shadows. But Jesus has anointed us with his profound assurance that God, Creator-Redeemer-Spirit, hovers over us in eternal rekindling.

Poetry: The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Music: My Peace I Give Unto You

Becoming “Gospel Real”

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 8, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Paul and Barnabas get into a bit of a pickle – actually two pickles.

1- The passage from Acts opens with a planned attempt on their lives:

There was an attempt in Iconium
by both the Gentiles and the Jews,
together with their leaders,
to attack and stone Paul and Barnabas.

Acts 14:5

2- They escape that attempt and flee to Lycaonia where the residents, rather than stoning them, want to idolize them:

When the crowds saw what Paul had done,
they cried out in Lycaonian,
“The gods have come down to us in human form.” 
They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes,”
because he was the chief speaker.
And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city,
brought oxen and garlands to the gates,
for he together with the people intended to offer sacrifice.

Acts 14: 11-13

In both these situations, the listeners cannot accept the good news being preached to them – One Living God who indwells them and all Creation:

We proclaim to you good news
that you should turn from these idols to the living God,
who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.

Acts 14:15

In our Gospel, Jude asks Jesus about this. He wants to know why he has received the gift of faith and others haven’t:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“”Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.””
Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him,
“”Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us
and not to the world?””

John 14:21-22

Jesus tells Jude that it’s pretty simple. You have to love God and do God’s work. If you don’t, no deal:

Jesus answered and said to him,
“”Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.

John 14:23-24

In Acts, the two resistant crowds resort to stones as means to reject the invitation to a Gospel life.

  • The gang from Iconium would use stones to kill the bearers of the Word.
  • The Lystra crowd wants to “idolize” Paul and Barnabas, a word which means “to convert to an image”, like a stone statue.

When we try to kill or to idolize something or someone, we distance ourselves from it. We make it “other”, unlike us, unattainable to relationship.

Jesus is real, not stone. He wants to live in us, not be enshrined.

The Gospel is real and needs to be expressed in our real lives – in our actions, choices and relationships.

We must look deep into ourselves for even the smallest place where we kill or petrify the Infinite Love that calls us to become Real within It’s Heart.

Prose: ― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse.
‘It’s a thing that happens to you.
When a child loves you for a long, long time,
not just to play with, but REALLY loves you,
then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse,
for he was always truthful.
‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once,
like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse.
‘You become. It takes a long time.
That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily,
or have sharp edges,
or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real,
most of your hair has been loved off,
and your eyes drop out
and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all,
because once you are Real you can’t be ugly,
except to people who don’t understand.”

Music:What Is Real – adapted by Glyn Lehman form The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Velveteen Rabbit
What is real?
What is real?
And how does it feel?
Does it happen all at once?
Does it happen all at once, or bit by bit?
What is real?
What is real?

Skin Horse
Real is when somebody cares
And you feel alive for the very first time
It won’t happen at once
You will slowly become
You will see yourself through their eyes
See yourself through their eyes

Velveteen Rabbit
What is real?
What is real?
And how does it feel?
Does it hurt a little bit?
Does it hurt a little bit to make that change?
To be real
To be real

Skin Horse
Real is when somebody cares
And you feel alive for the very first time
Sometimes real can hurt
But you really won’t mind
If that’s what it takes to be real
What it takes to be real

It’s like magic when you are loved
Though you are worn, your seams are torn
There’s a glow inside
That is real

Velveteen Rabbit
That is real

Skin Horse, Velveteen Rabbit
That is real