Psalm 105: Tell the Story

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

March 5, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105. Together with our other readings, the psalm allows us to participate in Israel’s great family storytelling.

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke God’s name;
make known among the peoples God’s deeds!
Sing praise to the Lord, play music;
proclaim all the Lord’s wondrous deeds!

Psalm 105: 1-2

Psalm 105 is one of two historical psalms. (The other is Psalm 78.) Its verses summarize an amazing catalogue of God’s faithfulness to Israel and invites the listeners to grateful praise and unfettered hope.


Today’s particular passage is chosen because it recounts the same incidents as our first reading – the story of Joseph. And Joseph’s story prefigures Jesus’s own story which he offers in parable form in today’s Gospel.

When the LORD called down a famine on the land
    and ruined the crop that sustained them,
He sent a man before them,
    Joseph, sold as a slave.

Psalm 105: 16-17

For us, the telling and re-telling
of relationship stories
is an important human rubric,
practiced at
crowded Thanksgiving tables,
at relaxed summer reunions,
and at our inevitable bereavements.


Eventually, with enough retellings, a story becomes part of our family or friendship canon. Thence forward, it gains new dimension. Just like the canon of the Mass, whose formula becomes beautifully rote to us, the story now may be endlessly repeated without being exhausted. In its retelling, it always reveals something new and confirms something old.

Seek out the LORD and the Lord’s might;
constantly seek God’s face.
Recall the wondrous deeds God has done
for you and your beloved ones

Psalm 105: 4-5

In fact, such a story becomes a kind of sacrament, carrying within it the mysterious and unwordable blessings of what it means to live, love, die, and believe. 

Each human story is, in some form, a re-enactment of Christ’s life, death, and Resurrection. The faith, courage, humor, pathos, genius and serendipity of our lives carry the graces to make us holy, to make us Love as Jesus was Love.

When we gratefully retell the history of those graces – as Psalm 105 does today – we practice a powerful ritual of faith. By such liturgy, we are invited to the same grateful praise and unfettered hope as we meet in Psalm 105.

The LORD, is our God
whose judgments reach through all the earth.
Who remembers forever the covenant,
the word commanded for a thousand generations.

Psalm 105: 8-9

Poetry: The Storyteller – Mike Jones

I’m a teller of tales, a spinner of yarns,
A weaver of dreams and a liar.
I’ll teach you some stories to tell to your friends,
While sitting at home by the fire.
You may not believe everything that I say
But there’s one thing I’ll tell you that’s true
For my stories were given as presents to me
And now they are my gifts to you.

My stories are as old as the mountains and rivers
That flow through the land they were born in
They were told in the homes of peasants in rags
And kings with fine clothes adorning.
There’s no need for silver or gold in great store
For a tale becomes richer with telling
And as long as each listener has a pair of good ears
It matters not where they are dwelling.

A story well told can lift up your hearts
And help you forget all your sorrows
It can give you the strength and the courage to stand
And face all your troubles tomorrow.
For there’s wisdom and wit, beauty and charm
There’s laughter and sometimes there’s tears
But when the story is over and the spell it is broken
You’ll find that there’s nothing to fear

My stories were learned in my grandparent’s home
Where their grandparents also had heard them
They were given as payment by travelling folk
For a warm place to lay down their burdens
My stories are ageless, they never grow old
With each telling they are born anew
And when my story is ended, I’ll still be alive
In the tales that I’ve given to you.

Music: The Story I’ll Tell – Morgan Harper Nichols 

Psalm 1: Don’t Sit There!

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

March 4, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1. We’ve prayed with it several times, but today a particular word and verse struck me.

“Insolent” — I’ll bet it’s a word you seldom, if ever, said out loud. The last time I think I heard it  was when my sixth grade teacher caught me smoking in the girls’ lav. I didn’t know what the word meant, but I knew it wasn’t good.

Even etymologists are uncertain of the origin of the word, but it has come to define one who is contemptuous of rightful authority.


Despite its current infrequent use, the Bible likes the word and uses it at least 23 times to instruct our spiritual life.

Psalm 1 declares that even hobnobbing with the insolent is a bad idea. Insolence rubs off on us if we’re not careful. You know, “birds of a feather” and all that.


And isn’t it true? Haven’t you run into one or two cliques of contemptuous, snidely belligerent people in your lifetime who feed on one another’s insolence?

Those are the kind of folks Psalm 1 is talking about. We meet them everywhere – school, church, work, socially. They are the ones gossiping, passing judgment, stereotyping, slandering … Perhaps we’ve even joined them at times 🥲

In their worst form, they are the ones in the white hoods, carrying the burning torches, pushing kids into cages. We should pray for them because, as our psalmist suggests, they have been emptied of their souls:


… they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

Psalm 1:4


It’s been a long time since sixth grade and, even if I still don’t know the etymology of the word, I’ve come to understand what severe insolence does to a soul.

I don’t want to harbor even an ounce of it. Reflecting on Psalm 1 today, that is my heartfelt prayer.


Poetry: Know Yourself –   Meister Eckert

A human being has so many skins inside, 
covering the depths of the heart. 
We know so many things, 
but we don’t know ourselves! 
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, 
as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, 
cover the soul. 
Go into your own ground 
and learn to know yourself there.

Music: Grace Is – Paul Avgerinos 

Psalm 34: Together

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

February 23, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34, thought to be a young David’s thanksgiving prayer after God saved him from one of his many dangerous escapades.

In telling his deliverance story, David invites his friends to celebrate with him and to learn the faith-lesson he has learned:

Glorify the LORD with me,
    let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears. 


I picture myself sitting in David’s audience, absorbing the words of his prayer. This line strikes me:

The LORD has eyes for the just,
    and ears for their cry.

Ah, the Lord has eyes for me….for ME! It conjures up sounds of The Flamingos, doesn’t it? (Sorry for the transcriber’s misspelling 😀)

Most of us want to think that we are individually special to God. This desire is at the core of the Protestant Evangelical model, “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. But for some, this model has become confused with a prosperity gospel that is quite misleading.

The only prosperity we should seek from God is the gift of grace because:

Yahweh’s peculiar inclinations are with the broken-hearted and the ones with crushed spirit. That is, Yahweh’s solidarity is not with the ones who go from success to success, but the ones denied success.

Walter Brueggemann The Message of the Psalms A Theological Commentary Ausberg Publishing House 1984

Still, such a personal relationship is not alien to a full and complete faith:

Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 2009

(Look for an extra prayer about “The Eye of God” in another post today.)


However, our psalm alerts us that this deeply personal dimension is only part of relationship with God.

When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
    and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
   and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

To be seen and heard by God, one must be part of the just community. To be close to God, one must feel the brokenheartedness of the poor. We come to the psalmist’s exuberant praise only by walking with suffering, either in our own lives, or beside others who bear distress.

From all their distress
God rescues the just.

Psalm 34 teaches us that our personal relationship with God is interdependent with our relationship with the whole community. David calls his community to share in his praise-song because they- together -recognize God’s mercy and share it in concern for one another.

The LORD has eyes for the just,
    and ears for their cry.


Our Gospel today confirms that a personal love for God thrives only within a communal love. The prayer Jesus shares is not “My Father”. It is “Our Father”. We come to the depths of God’s merciful heart with our sisters and brothers.


Poetry: An Inclusive Lord’s Prayer – Author unknown

Loving God, 
in whom is heaven, 
may Your name be honored everywhere.
May Your Mercy reign.
May the desire of Your heart for the world 
be done, 
in us, by us and through us.
Give us each and all
the bread we need for the day.
Forgive us.
Free us to forgive others.
Keep us from all anxiety, fear, and selfishness.
For You reign in the power that comes from love 
which is Your glory
forever and ever.
Amen.

Music: Our Father – Joe Wise

Psalm 96: There Are No Others

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

January 26, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, a call to witness God’s sovereignty over and faithfulness to the whole world.

The tone of Psalm 96 is slightly different from some other psalms which call for national rejoicing. It does not suggest that God loves Israel better than other nations, therefore taking their side in history. Psalm 96 simply encourages gratitude for and witness to God’s saving power:

Sing to the LORD a new song;
    sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
    among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Psalm 96: 1-3

Like Israel, we walk a fine line in discerning how God loves us, both individually and as a member of the many “tribes” with which we align ourselves. Does God love Americans more? Or white people? Or Black people? Or Italians? Or the Irish? Or straight people? Or Christians? Or the wealthy? Or Phillies fans? (Well, yeah, probably Phillies fans 🙂 )


Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950) was an Indian Hindu sage. He is regarded by many as an outstanding enlightened being. He was a charismatic person, and attracted many devotees,
some of whom saw him as an avatar and the embodiment of Shiva.

He was once asked,
“How should we treat others?”
He replied,
“There are no others.”


It seems that we have some innate need to compare ourselves favorably against “others”. That need, unchecked and fed by fear, is at the root of any oppressive nationalism, such as the white Christian nationalism we saw displayed in the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Jason Meyer, Pastor for Preaching and Vision in Minneapolis, writes this:
” We must always reject any attempt to fuse together one’s national/political identity with one’s Christian identity in a way that equates or conflates allegiance to country with allegiance to God.”


In an excellent article from Sojourners, Walter Brueggemann elucidates the prophet’s role in contradicting the forces that enshrine the totalism which leads to idolatries like distorted nationalism.
(totalism: the practice of a dictatorial one-party state that regulates every form of life such as that which existed under King Solomon in ancient Israel)


Psalm 96 gives us another view of what really made Israel “chosen” – their example to all nations to praise our shared Creator as the Source of all stability and equity.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
    give to the LORD glory and praise;
    give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
Who made the world firm, not to be moved;
    who governs the peoples with equity.

Psalm 96: 7-8

Poetry: For Whom the Bell Tolls – John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Music: Imagine – John Lennon

Psalm 85: Be A Neighbor

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

“A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer.”

Evangelium vitae, 100

January 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85, a Psalm we have prayed with seven times in the past six months. Have we wrung it dry, do you think?😉

Never! That’s the beauty of scripture and particularly of the Psalms. They speak to us in a new voice with each new day’s blessings and challenges.

The verse that grasps my heart this morning is this:

Near indeed is salvation to those who fear God
glory dwelling in our land.

Psalm 85: 10

What will “glory”, or well-being,
look like when it dwells in our land,
throughout our earth?


Walter Brueggemann, in his many writings about the Old Testament and the Psalms, stresses the concept of “neighborliness” as integral to communal well-being.

The well-being of the neighborhood, inspired by the biblical texts, makes possibleand even insists uponan alternative to the ideology of individualism that governs our society’s practice and policy. This kind of community life returns us to the arc of God’s giftsmercy, justice, and law. The covenant of God in the witness of biblical faith speaks now and demands that its interpreting community resist individualism, overcome commoditization, and thwart the rule of empire through a life of radical neighbor love.
(Description of Brueggemann’s book, God, Neighbor, Empire: The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good)

Praying with Psalm 85, we might hear echos of President Biden’s Inaugural Address which called on our capacity for “neighborliness”:

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.
We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.
We can treat each other with dignity and respect.
We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.
For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.
No progress, only exhausting outrage.
No nation, only a state of chaos.


The President also said this:

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, the saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.
What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?
I think I know.
Opportunity.
Security.
Liberty.
Dignity.
Respect.
Honor.
And, yes, the truth.


Thousands of years ago, the psalmist clearly described the glorious community which God promises to those who live in mercy, truth, justice and peace:

Mercy and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

The LORD  will give benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before the Lord,
and salvation, along the way of God’s pattern.

Psalm 85

Prose: Here is the quote from St. Augustine referenced by President Biden, as well as the passage from Cicero which inspired Augustine

If one should say, ‘a people is the association of a multitude of rational beings united by a common agreement on the objects of their love,’ then it follows that to observe the character of a people we must examine the objects of its love.”

St. Augustine, City of God 19.24

A republic is a numerous gathering brought together by legal consent and community of interest. The primary reason for this coming together is not so much weakness as a sort of innate desire on the part of human beings to form communities. For our species is not made up of solitary individuals.

Cicero, Republic, 1.39-40 

Music: After Cicero and Augustine, a little music from our own modern philosopher, Mr. Rogers❤️

Psalm 78: Don’t Forget

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 15, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 78, a call to learn from experience and to teach its lessons to our posterity.

What we have heard and know,
and what our parents have declared to us,
we will declare to the generation to come
The glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength.

Psalm 78: 3-4

And the teaching is this:

That they too may rise and declare to their progeny
that they should put their hope in God,
And not forget the deeds of God
but keep God’s commands.

Psalm 78: 6-7

Though stern, the message seems obvious and simple, right?

But the last verses of our psalm today reveal a more complex historical reality:

And not be like their fathers,
a generation wayward and rebellious,
A generation that kept not its heart steadfast
nor its spirit faithful toward God.

Psalm 78: 8

In later verses of Psalm 78, Israel’s rebellion finally becomes the last straw. God rejects Israel (the northern kingdom) and chooses the southern kingdom to carry on the Promise. It was BIG!

But they tested and rebelled against God Most High,
whose decrees they did not observe.
They turned disloyal, faithless like their ancestors;
they proved false like a slack bow.
They enraged God with their high places,
and with their idols provoking God to jealous anger.
God heard and grew angry;
rejecting Israel completely.

Psalm 78: 56-59

Praying with the psalm today, my soul still swirling in our country’s current events, I ask myself a few questions:

  • how is God speaking in our political reality
  • what “forgetfulness” are we called to recognize
  • what role does acknowledgement and repentance have in redeeming our integrity
  • what has our experience taught us that we must safeguard for the future
  • how can we unite as a faith community to respond to grace

This commentary by Tom Roberts, former editor of the National Catholic Reporter, enlightened my prayer. I found it disturbing, compelling, and necessary to think on these things. I pray for the courage and discipline to act on them.


Poem: excerpt from “ON THE PULSE OF MORNING” by Maya Angelou
Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, January 20, 1993.
(It is a long, powerful poem. I will post it in a second posting for those who would like to read it in full.)

A Rock, A River, A Tree
 Hosts to species long since departed,   
 Marked the mastodon,
 The dinosaur, who left dried tokens   
 Of their sojourn here
 On our planet floor,
 Any broad alarm of their hastening doom   
 Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
 

 But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,   
 Come, you may stand upon my
 Back and face your distant destiny,
 But seek no haven in my shadow,
 I will give you no hiding place down here.
 

 You, created only a little lower than
 The angels, have crouched too long in   
 The bruising darkness
 Have lain too long
 Facedown in ignorance,
 Your mouths spilling words
 Armed for slaughter.
 

 The Rock cries out to us today,   
 You may stand upon me,   
 But do not hide your face.
 

Music: Learn Your Lessons Well from Godspell

Psalm 147: Lightning Strike

Friday after Epiphany

January 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147.

I began my prayer this morning still unsettled by the events at the U.S. Capitol building. Then I considered that it was still the Octave of the Epiphany, and realized that some epiphanies come by stormy lightning and not by starlight.


My first attempts at prayer seemed to bounce off the psalm’s formulaic words like sleet off a tin roof. The psalm did not yield to my need for naming and healing my anger and pain – the lightning’s wounds.

Asking to find God’s voice in the psalm, I finally came to see it as Israel’s prayer once it had been healed – just like I needed to be healed, just like our country needed to be.


The psalm revealed the steps to such healing …
the steps I, and we as a nation, might take to wholeness.
We heal:

by acknowledging God in humility and praise:
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
    praise your God, O Zion.


by strengthening an inclusive community:
For God has strengthened the bars of your gates;


by reverencing every family and neighbor:
God has blessed your children within you.


by building an infrastructure of peace:
God has granted peace in your borders


by assuring life’s basic needs for all:
With the best of wheat God fills you


by cherishing the Earth we share:
God sends forth the command to the earth;
    swiftly runs God’s word!

We heal, ultimately,
by acknowledging the unique gift
of God’s loving relationship
with us and every other creature.

If we truly live within that acknowledgment,
we become people of truth and mercy –
People of God.


Poetry: from A Book of Psalms – Stephen Mitchell closes Psalm 147 with this transliteration:

You rejoice in a pure heart 
and in those who let you shine through them...
You send your wisdom to their minds; 
your light runs faster than a thought.
Above all others they are blessed, 
because they can hear you speak
(though your love speaks in all people, 
in the silence of every heart).

Music: Heal Our Nation – Heartbeat

Psalm 72: Endow Our Leaders in Justice

Thursday after Epiphany

January 7, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with another glance at Psalm 72. The verses offered us today jarred me when I first read them. And then they began to speak, even shout, to my spirit.

Praying with the Psalms will not benefit us
if they do not speak to our experience.
Today, Psalm 72 clearly spoke to mine.

I am outraged that my country finds itself continually at the edge of violence and unrest solely on the bidding of one to whom we have entrusted our well-being.

I am beyond sick of normalizing the outrageous irresponsibility of Donald Trump. The sickness has seeped into my prayer and my peace. It causes me sleepless concern for my country and our world.

As I pray Psalm 27 today, I seek a grace from its ancient words. I seek a blessing for our own time.

O God, with your judgment endow the leaders,
    and with your justice, those who legislate;
Let your people be governed with justice
   and your afflicted ones with mercy.

Psalm 72:1-2

As we move through these final fractious days of a deeply disturbing presidency, let us pray for civility, justice, honor, and peace not only for America but for all throughout the world who depend on our integrity.


Poetry: Beclouded by Emily Dickinson

The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.
A narrow wind complains all day
How some one treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.

Music: Be a Blessing (Psalm 72) Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Psalm 27: Can We Love Like This?

Wednesday after Epiphany

January 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we once again pray with Psalm 27, we do so in the light of our seminal first reading from John:

God is love, 
and when we remain in love 
we remain in God 
and God in us.

1 John 4:16

How can we love like that?

Psalm 27 tells us how God does it:

For the Lord rescues the poor who cry out,
and the afflicted who have no other help.
The Lord has pity for the lowly and the poor;
and saves the lives of the poor.

Psalm 27: 12-13

Our psalm gives us the measure for love in our lives. Who are the suffering ones in the circle of our experience? How are we widening that circle to offer loving mercy with greater energy and fidelity?


The Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy can be our guide as we seek to stretch our love in ever-widening circles.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

To feed the hungry
To give water to the thirsty
To clothe the naked
To shelter the homeless
To visit the sick
To visit the imprisoned, and ransom the captive
To bury the dead


The Spiritual Works of Mercy

To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To admonish sinners.
To bear patiently those who wrong us.
To forgive offenses.
To comfort the afflicted.
To pray for the living and the dead.


Poetry: Widening Circles – Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Music: The Mercy Song – Paul Alexander

Psalm 2: A Political World

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious

January 4, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 2. The prayer seems a fitting reminder to all of us, and especially US citizens, as our new political season opens.

And now, O rulers, give heed;
take warning, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice before God;
with trembling rejoice…
Blessed are all who take refuge in God!


Although I was relieved to lessen my political attention after the November election, I realize that we always have a moral imperative both to pray for our leaders and to measure their efforts, and our own, against the standards of social justice. 

Click right triangle above to hear how Handel felt about it as he uses Psalm 2 in his Messiah.
Why do the nations so furiously rage together,
and who do the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord,
and against His Anointed.
George Frederic Handel: Messiah 
Psalm 2: 1-2

The interplay of politics and morality is on-going, and its energy rises once again with this month’s seating of the new Congress and inauguration of President Biden.

The U.S. and the world has been given stark lessons under the tenure of the exiting president. Some have learned from these experiences. Some have allowed their ignorances to be confirmed.

It has not been easy. We live in an age when truth and morality have been rendered elastic – seemingly malleable to multiple alternative narratives.


Another verse of Psalm 2 from Handel’s Messiah
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
(Psalm 2:3)

Psalm 2 reminds us of the one true narrative:
we are all creatures of God
charged to live in harmony
with one another and with the Creator.

Seen in a political light, we are a long way from achieving that charge. 

Our elected leaders have an almost impossible job to guide this fractured nation closer to our moral hope. But our prayer, and our sincere contribution to the effort, can make a huge difference in the result.

Despite any partisan leanings, can we pledge that contribution?


Poetry: The Paths of Love and Justice – Christine Robinson

Why are the nations in an uproar?
Why do the peoples mutter and threaten?
Why do the rich plot with the powerful?
They are rebelling against the demands of Love and Justice.
God laughs, cries, and says with anger:
I have set my Love in your hearts and my Justice in your minds.
You are my children and I have given you the universe
your lives, and the tasks of your days.
Be wise
Be warned
Stick to the paths of Love and Justice.
Your restless hearts will find me there.


Music: Justice and Mercy – Matt Redman