Psalm 67: Bless Us All!

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 16, 2020

Today, in Mercy, we read the story of the Canaanite woman whom Jesus first meets with a sarcastic banter. The banter however serves to expose some of the alienating prejudices of Jesus’s time which he then dissolves in a sweeping act of mercy and inclusion. His actions signify a new culture of divine justice offered to all people. The reading challenges us to confront our own prejudices and any limitations we place on who belongs to the Kingdom of God.

from this Sunday’s Reflection – 2017

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 67, a call to God for universal blessing on all Creation. Written to invoke a benediction on the land’s harvest, the Psalm blossoms into a generous prayer for the whole world to bask in God’s abundance.

May the nations be glad and rejoice;
for you judge the peoples with fairness,
you guide the nations upon the earth.

What if we prayed like that for all our brothers and sisters worldwide! What if we acted toward them with a justice that would make their abundance possible as well as our own! This is the Gospel mandate Jesus entrusted to us.

Psalm 67 shows the maturing of a nation from its own legitimate self-interests into its responsibility within all Creation.


In the USA, as our pre-election political awareness heightens, let’s learn from Psalm 67. Let’s broadly educate ourselves to the fundamental moral issues underlying various partisan platforms. 

For a religious person, voting is hard. There are profound moral issues on all sides of the question. A single issue approach does not work. An adamant stance on a single issue is the easy but inadequate approach. 


Even Jesus, in today’s Gospel, can be moved to a new way of thinking. The outcast Canaanite woman prevails on Jesus to broaden his kingdom. He opens his heart to another way of bringing mercy to all those longing for it.


Voting is a moral act. How we choose demonstrates the God we believe in.


May the peoples praise you, God;
may ALL the peoples praise you!


Poetry: Selah by Honoreé Fannane Jeffers

“The past few weeks were very hopeful for me, as an African-American. I saw images of young Black people out in the streets protesting, to make this country a better place. As an older person who stayed inside while these young folks put their bodies on the line, I wanted to celebrate them. I wrote this poem as a spiritual exaltation of Black faith, that our hoped-for change for our country is coming.”

Honoreé Fanonne Jeffers

Selah
after Margaret Walker’s “For My People”


The Lord clings to my hands
             after a night of shouting. 
                           The Lord stands on my roof 
             & sleeps in my bed. 
Sings the darkened, Egun tunnel— 
             cooks my food in abundance, 
                           though I was once foolish 
             & wished for an emptied stomach. 
The Lord drapes me with rolls of fat 
             & plaits my hair with sanity. 
                           Gives me air, 
             music from unremembered fever. 
This air
                            oh that i may give air to my people 
                            oh interruption of murder 
                                         the welcome Selah
The Lord is a green, Tubman escape. 
             A street buzzing with concern, 
                           minds discarding answers. 
             Black feet on a centuries-long journey.
The Lord is the dead one scratching my face, 
             pinching me in dreams. 
                           The screaming of the little girl that I was, 
             the rocking of the little girl that I was— 
the sweet hush of her healing. 
             Her syllables 
                           skipping on homesick pink. 
             I pray to my God of confused love, 
a toe touching blood 
             & swimming through Moses-water. 
                           A cloth & wise rocking. 
             An eventual Passover, 
outlined skeletons will sing 
             this day of air 
                           for my people—
                                         oh the roar of God 
                                         oh our prophesied walking

Music: Charles Ives – Psalm 67

The Feast of the Assumption

Many of us grew up in households where we were surrounded by a strong devotional faith. I am happy to be one of those people. These simple, sacramental practices awakened and engaged my young faith and offered me a visible means to respond to its stirrings. These practices also offered my parents and grandparents the tools to teach me to love and trust God, Mary and the saints.

I remember with gratitude the many parameters of that deep devotion which accompanied our fundamental practice of a sacramental and liturgical life.

  • Our home had a crucifix in every room.
  • Over the main door was the statue of the Infant of Prague and the first Christmas card we had received depicting the Three Kings. (Under the statue was a single dime – so that we wold never completely run out of money!)
  • All year, Dad’s fedora sported a tiny piece of straw tucked into its plaid band. He had plucked it from the parish Christmas crèche, near to St. Joseph who was his patron.
  • During a really violent thunderstorm, we might get a sprinkling from Mom’s holy water flask kept for especially taxing situations.

And, maybe because we live not too far from the ocean, we had one special summer practice. We went into the ocean on the Feast of the Assumption, believing that Mary offered us special healing and graces on that day.

I can still picture young boys helping their elderly grandparents into the shallow surf. I remember mothers and fathers marking their children’s brows with a briny Sign of the Cross. There was a humble, human reverence and trust in these actions that blesses me still.

While that August 15th ritual, like similar devotions, might seem superstitious and even hokey to some today, the memory of it remains with me as a testament to the simple faith and deep love of God’s people for our Blessed Mother.

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God). The world at that time was still healing from the horrors of World War II. The Pope himself, no doubt, was wounded beyond description by what he had witnessed. He begins his letter by saying:

“Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life.“

It was just such devotion and faith, expressed over centuries by the faithful, that moved Pius XII to declare this dogma:

“We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
(MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS 44)

This belief is complementary to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854. These two articles of faith embrace the totality of Mary’s life which was uniquely blessed among all humans. Mary offers us, in our humanity, both a model of and a supportive invitation to holiness.

Jan Van Eyke – Ghent Altarpiece

Sister Marie T. Farrell, RSM closes her scholarly essay on the Assumption with these words:

Mary assumed into heaven and Spiritualised in her whole personhood is a pro- phetic symbol of hope for us all. In his Resurrection-Ascension, Jesus has shown the way to eternal life. In the mystery of Assumption, the Church sees Mary as the first disciple of many to be graced with a future already opened by Christ, one that defies comprehension for ‘…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…’(1 Cor 2: 9)

Musical Reflection with Song: Prayer of Pure Love – Letty Hammock

Psalm 102: For the Generations

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest

August 4, 2020

The USCCB website (that you click for daily readings) has been beautifully updated. Make sure you take a look!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 102. Today’s chosen verses proclaim the psalmist’s confidence that the Covenant Promise will endure through the generations.


The psalm really rings a bell for me today. We are expecting two new babies in my family within the next month. The excitement and joy are building throughout the family branches, scattered over several states and hundreds of miles.

Due to Covid-19, I probably won’t be with these new “grands” for a long time. That’s why I am so grateful for FaceTime to help me feel a real part of their lives.


Psalm 102 is David’s FaceTime.
Through it, he looks into a future
physically distant from him.
He has confidence that that future
is already blessed by God
through the faith which it inherits.


Thinking about this, I realize that I am someone’s “future” – my parents, grandparents and all the long line of ancestors before them. They thought about me, hoped in me, prayed for me the way I am praying for these coming babies.

Those Elders passed on to me a strong faith, hard-earned on the soils of Ireland, hard-carried over immigrant waters, hard-kept in a highly secularized culture. Like David, they wanted God’s faithfulness to be remembered by all who came after them:

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let God’s future creatures praise the LORD …


When my Aunt Mary died last October, I became the oldest living member of our family. I take that role seriously. I pray for our entire family, by blood and law, every day.

Each day, I pick one who gets special prayers for blessing on his or her life. Sometimes I know they need it for a certain reason. Sometimes, they have no idea I am praying for them – or perhaps, if they are distant relatives, that I even know their names.


As we pray Psalm 119 today, let’s consider our place in the generations of faith, and our responsibility to give and receive the riches of that faith to one another.

The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD  and God’s praise
may be ever declared;
When the peoples gather together
and the families, to serve the LORD.


Poetry: Isaac’s Blessing by Janet Eigner whose adult daughter died young, leaving the freckled boy in this poem:

When Isaac, a small, freckled boy 
approaching seven, visits us for Family Camp, 
playing pirate with his rubber sword,

sometimes he slumps in grief, 
trudging along, his sacrifice and small violin 
in hand, his palm over his chest,

saying, Mother is here 
in my heart. Before he leaves for home, 
we ask if he’d like a Jewish blessing.

Our grandson’s handsome face ignites; 
he chirps a rousing, yes, for a long life. 
We unfold the prayer shawl,

its Hebrew letters silvering the spring light, 
hold the white tallis above his head, 
recite the blessing in its ancient language

and then the English, adding, for a long life. 
Isaac complains, the tallis didn’t 
touch his head, so he didn’t feel the blessing.

We lower its silken ceiling 
to graze his dark hair, 
repeat the prayer.

Music: As for Me and My House – a prayer for our families for the generations 

Psalm 69: Answer Me, O Lord

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

July 31, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 69, a heart-felt lament whose verses are often paralleled with the sufferings of Jesus.

I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.

Psalm 69: 9

Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written,
“The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me”.

Roman 15: 3

Praying with Psalm 69 this morning, and in the light of both our first reading and Gospel, I am aware of how God’s prophets suffer to proclaim mercy, justice, and truth.

Jeremiah suffered in the hope and conviction that God imagined a future of justice for all God’s people. He stood in the midst of the Temple worshippers and condemned their pretense of righteousness.

Jesus stood at the center of his hometown synagogue to proclaim that the long hoped-for redemption had come. But like Jeremiah’s listeners, Jesus’s neighbors also turned on him.

In our own lifetimes, we see the persecution and hatred which is leveled at modern prophets who call the world to justice and mercy. Even within our own Church, we see how Pope Francis is vilified by those whose privileged excesses are threatened by his charity.


As I write this reflection, our country celebrates the life of one of its noblest prophets, the sainted John Lewis. In the image of all the great Justice Witnesses, John endured incredible suffering for the sake of people’s dignity and freedom. He was able to do so because, like Jeremiah and Jesus, he didn’t look inward at his wounds. He looked outward for the redemption of others … the prize of justice:

Never give up, never give in, never give out. 
Keep the faith, and keep your eyes on the prize. 
Together, we can redeem the soul of America.

John Lewis

Let us pray today that the voices of true prophets may be heard and heeded. In this age when technology and social media can quickly disseminate vitriol, hatred, and conspiracy, let us pray for discerning hearts and courageous wills.

But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.

Psalm 69; 14

Poetry: Prophet by Carl Dennis

Prophet
You'll never be much of a prophet if, when the call comes
To preach to Nineveh, you flee on the ship for Tarshish
That Jonah fled on, afraid like him of the people's outrage
Were they to hear the edict that in thirty days
Their city in all its glory will be overthrown.

The sea storm that harried Jonah won't harry you.
No big fish will be waiting to swallow you whole
And keep you down in the dark till your mood
Shifts from fear to thankfulness and you want to serve.
No. You'll land safe at Tarshish and learn the language
And get a job in a countinghouse by the harbor
And marry and raise a family you can be proud of
In a neighborhood not too rowdy for comfort.

If you're going to be a prophet, you must listen the first time.
Setting off at sunrise, you can't be disheartened
If you arrive at Nineveh long past midnight,
On foot, your donkey having run off with your baggage.
You'll have to settle for a room in the cheapest hotel
And toss all night on the lice-ridden mattress
That Jonah is spared. In the space of three sentences
He jumps from his donkey, speaks out, and is heeded, while you,

Preaching next day in the rain on a noisy corner,
Are likely to be ignored, outshouted by old-clothes dealers
And fishwives, mocked by schoolboys for your accent.
And then it's a week in jail for disturbing the peace.
There you'll have time, as you sit in a dungeon
Darker than a whale's belly, to ask if the trip
Is a big mistake, the heavenly voice mere mood,

The mission a fancy. Jonah's biggest complaint
Is that God, when the people repent and ask forgiveness,
Is glad to forgive them and cancels the doomsday
Specified in the prophecy, leaving his prophet
To look like a fool. So God takes time to explain
How it's wrong to want a city like this one to burn,
How a prophet's supposed to redeem the future,
Not predict it. But you'll be left with the question
Why your city's been spared when nobody's different,

Nobody in the soup kitchen you open,
Though one or two of the hungriest
May be grateful enough for the soup to listen
When you talk about turning their lives around.
It will be hard to believe these are the saving remnant
Kin to the ten just men that would have sufficed
To save Gomorrah if Abraham could have found them.

You'll have to tell them frankly you can't explain
Why Nineveh is still standing though you hope to learn
At the feet of a prophet who for all you know
May be turning his donkey toward Nineveh even now.
[from Practical Gods (2001)

Music: Lord, in Your Great Love – Orchard Enterprises

Psalm 85: Believe a New World into Being

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 21, 2020


Return from Babylon by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85. In Judaism, it is called “a psalm of returned exiles” as it reflects the experience of the Jews returning to their ravished land after the Babylonian exile. Things are a mess, and they have to start all over again to rebuild their Abrahamic nation. 

But they pray as if it is already accomplished.

Despite their suffering and captivity, the people have not lost hope in the promise of Yahweh. They expect its fulfillment and call on God to make it happen.

You have favored, O LORD, your land;
you have brought back the captives of Jacob.
You have forgiven the guilt of your people;
you have covered all their sins.
You have withdrawn all your wrath;
you have revoked your burning anger.


This is the power and beauty of a pure and faithful heart. It is free to “believe” God into action. We find this prayerful power expressed over and over in the Psalms. It is answered by God’s almighty and active desire for our good.


The Psalms mediate to us the great promise keeper whose resolve guarantees that the world is not a closed system. Creation, instead, is a world very much in process, sure to come to full shalom. Despair is the fate of a world “without god,” where there are no new gifts to be given. The Psalms refuse that world, knowing that God is not yet finished. Consequently, the Psalms can gather all the great words of the covenant and apply them to the future …

Walter Bruggemann

During these pandemic times, don’t prayer and promises like these speak to our hearts?

I find myself wondering what the world will be like when we finally “return” – come out of our “Covid exile” – what it will be like to see and hug the family, friends and community we love and miss right now, or to fully mourn those we have lost – what it will be like to resume our soul’s unworried dance with Creation and Time.


As we imagine that world, how might we hope for it to be more reflective of God’s dream for us than the world we closed down last March, than the “Babylon” we are experiencing? How will our prayers and actions for merciful justice “believe” God’s promises into reality for all God’s People?

Will you not instead give us life;
and shall not your people rejoice in you?
Show us, O LORD, your kindness,
and grant us your salvation.

I picture some ancient Jewish woman or man standing amidst the rubble of the ruined Temple. How deep did that person have to reach to find the faith and hope to move God?

I picture us standing in a very sick and dysfunctional world. Can we reach that deep ourselves by praying in the childlike, confident spirit of the Psalms:

Lord, show us your mercy and love.


Poetry: Antidotes to Fear of Death – by Rebecca Elson, a gifted Canadian–American astronomer and writer. Elson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 29. With treatment, it went into remission, and in 1996 she married the Italian artist Angelo di Cintio. However, the cancer returned soon afterwards. Elson died of the disease in Cambridge in May 1999, at the age of 39.

A volume of wide-ranging poetry and essays she wrote from her teens until shortly before her death was published posthumously as A Responsibility to Awe in 2001 in the United Kingdom, and in 2002 in the United States. 

Antidotes to the Fear of Death

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

Music: Going Home– based on Antonin Dvořák’s Largo from New World Symphony, lyrics by William Arms Fisher, sung here by Alex Boyé with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Psalm 145: Through the Generations

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we again pray with Psalm 145 – different verses. The great tenderness in today’s other readings is reflected in the choice of these particular psalm lines.

Our first reading is God’s tender love song to Israel spoken through the prophet Hosea. Our Gospel recounts several acts of tenderness as Jesus ministers to the suffering people he meets.


Psalm 145 reminds us that if we look back over our lives, and even farther back over our ancestors’ lives, we too will discover God’s continual love and mercy to us.

Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.


Many ancestral blessings have been passed on to us – in skills, attitudes, physical strengths – but most importantly, in faith. We probably believe because someone before us taught us how.

There is no greater gift we can give to our children, and to all our beloveds, than to encourage their faith. Let’s take that to heart today as we pray. And let’s thank God for our own story and heritage of faith we have been given.


Poetry: Faith is the Pierless Bridge by Emily Dickinson, who appeared as more a dismissive critic of faith than a proponent. Yet, like many of us who bother to talk about a particular topic, she proved it to be more important to her than she professed.

Faith — is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not —
Too slender for the eye
It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side —
It joins — behind the Veil
To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

Music: In Every Age – Janèt Sullivan Whitaker

Psalm 145: Is All Right with the World?

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 5, 2020

 

From 2017: Today, in Mercy, we  ask God to bless our country and all its people – to give us the grace to live in justice, peace and mutuality; to give us the insight to elect decent leaders who will forge these values; to give us the courage to model these values among nations; to teach us to use our freedom humbly, responsibly and mercifully.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145, a hymn psalm which is the last numerically to mention David in its origin.

The psalm is one of equilibrium and gratitude where the one praying is at peace within God’s generous fidelity.  By observing nature’s magnificent permanence, the psalmist both praises God and assures himself that things will be alright in the world.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.


Reading the psalm today, I thought of Robert Browning’s famous verses from his poetic drama Pippa Passes:

The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn:
God's in his heaven—
All's right with the world!
— from Act I: Morning

The verse, though it has endured, was considered naïve when published, due to an undercurrent of civil unrest in England and the rest of Europe. Times were not as peachy as the poem pretended.


With only a superficial glance, one might tend to feel similarly about Psalm 145. Times were tough for the Israelites, as many of the Psalms make clear. These lamenting psalms often ask for deliverance, and all kinds of retribution on enemies.

Psalm 145, and some other hymns, do not. They convey a sense of contentment with the status quo. We might ask ourselves, “Did the same people compose both these kinds of songs? Did this literature, in fact, arise out of the same national experience?


I think these are perfect questions as we, in the United States, continue to celebrate Fourth of July weekend. As we pray for our country, and for the world of which we are part, contrapuntal feelings surely enter our prayer.

  • a deep love of country countered with as deep a concern for its civic health and morality
  • an appreciation for our foremothers and fathers balanced with an awareness of their failures and limitations
  • a pride in our history tinged with shame and regret for its sins
  • a desire to honor civil servants and leaders tested by a realistic concern about their values and agenda
  • a profound gratitude for our national blessings pained by the realization that not all Americans share equitably in them

As is often the case, praying the psalm offers some guidance for our questions. Our third verse in today’s responsorial selection recognizes where God’s faithful generosity wants to be focused. Despite any personal equanimity, there are those who are falling. There are among us those who are bowed down:

The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

A nation – an earthly community – which sees and attends to those who are so burdened will be blessed by God with the same justice and balance that renders “all right in the heavens”.

Music: The Eyes of All Wait Upon Thee – Syracuse University Singers

Psalm 50: God Doesn’t Do “Fake”

Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2020

I don’t have a past reflection on today’s readings. But here is a good one from Joe Zaborowski at Creighton University.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 50 which is set up like a court proceeding in which God is both prosecutor and judge of the Israelite community.

Hear, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you;
God, your God, am I.

Today’s section, one of two orations, explains God’s dissatisfaction with the display of sacrifices empty of any real commitment to God’s service. In other words, God tells the people that all their fiery and bloody rituals are fake and useless to him.

One might picture the high priests standing dumbfounded at this announcement. 


What! I worked hard on this sacrifice… made sure it was perfect. All the bells and whistles! And You’re still not satisfied??? What do You want from me then?


It reminds me of a married couple. One cooks a beautiful meal for the other but the love between them has faded. As they eat, there is no caring conversation and no joy in each other. They finish perfunctorily in a fog of empty words. They retreat to their separate distractions, waiting to repeat the charade the next day.

In Psalm 50, God says he doesn’t want to be loved like that.
So what does God want then?

Our reading from Amos today offers the thread of an answer which is woven through the rest of Psalm 50:

But if you would offer me burnt offerings,
then let justice surge like water,
and goodness like an unfailing stream.

God wants our sincere love expressed in goodness and actions for justice.

Just like that beautiful dinner, rituals have meaning only as celebrations of faithful and demonstrated love. Sounds like 1 Corinthians 13, doesn’t it?

The parallels to our own lives are obvious and don’t need my elucidation. Let’s just think about how God might answer us if we ask in prayer, “What is it that You really want from me?”.

Poetry: Rabindranath Tagore, from Gitanjali

I am only waiting for Love 
to give myself up at last into his hands.

That is why it is so late 
and why I have been guilty of such omissions.
They come with their laws and their codes to bind me fast; 
but I evade them ever, 

for I am only waiting for Love 
to give myself up at last into his hands.

People blame me and call me heedless; 
I doubt not they are right in their blame.
The market day is over 
and work is all done for the busy. 
Those who came to call me in vain 
have gone back in anger. 

I am only waiting for Love 
to give myself up at last into his hands.

Music: Proof of Your Love – King and Country

Psalm 74: Listen to me!

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 27, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 74 which complements Psalm 79 in the intensity of its lament. It too reflects the devastation of Israel at the destruction of the Temple and, with it, a whole way of life.

Praying these psalms doesn’t make for a light and happy morning! There is no dawning sunrise or birdsong woven through these verses. To tell the truth, I’d be inclined to avoid 47 if I could.

To deepen the umbra, our first reading comes from the Book of Lamentations, five anguished poems of wrenching bereavement.


But what these doleful songs remind me of this morning is that there is profound misery in the world, even if – thank God – I am not experiencing it personally. There are people who need my prayers, my awareness of their suffering, my attention, and my action for their easement. I am reminded that even if I am filled with contentment, these suffering people are irrevocably connected to me.

Psalm 74 reminds me that God needs instruments to heal the misery of the world. I am called – as you are – to be one of them. In small or large ways, in global or very personal efforts, we are the means by which God answers this plea:

Look to your covenant, Lord,
for the hiding places in the land and the plains are full of violence.
May the humble not retire in confusion;
may the afflicted and the poor praise your name.

In this verse, the psalmist asks God to look at his world’s suffering, believing that if God only sees, God will heal.

The psalm calls us to look too…

  • to not be impervious to the pain right before us nor at a distance from us
  • to hear the cry under appearances
  • to become a safe “hiding place” for those fleeing violence in its many forms – from bullying to genocide
  • to be Mercy in the world

Poetry: The poem today is Quaking Conversation by Lenelle Moïse. It looks at the world’s darkness through the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti. The poem is a modern Psalm 74, asking the reader to “sit down” and listen to its pain.

Quaking Conversation

i want to talk about haiti.
how the earth had to break
the island’s spine to wake
the world up to her screaming.
how this post-earthquake crisis
is not natural
or supernatural.

i want to talk about disasters.
how men make them
with embargoes, exploitation,
stigma, sabotage, scalding
debt and cold shoulders.
talk centuries
of political corruption
so commonplace
it's lukewarm, tap.

talk january 1, 1804
and how it shed life.
talk 1937
and how it bled death.
talk 1964.  1986.  1991.  2004.  2008.
how history is the word
that makes today
uneven, possible.
talk new orleans,
palestine, sri lanka,
the bronx and other points
or connection.
talk resilience and miracles.

how haitian elders sing in time
to their grumbling bellies
and stubborn hearts.
how after weeks under the rubble,
a baby is pulled out,
awake, dehydrated, adorable, telling
stories with old-soul eyes.
how many more are still
buried, breathing, praying and waiting?
intact despite the veil of fear and dust
coating their bruised faces?

i want to talk about our irreversible dead.
the artists, the activists, the spiritual leaders,
the family members, the friends, the merchants
the outcasts, the cons.
all of them, my newest ancestors,
all of them, hovering now,
watching our collective response,
keeping score, making bets.

i want to talk about money.
how one man's recession might be
another man's unachievable reality.
how unfair that is.
how i see a haitian woman’s face
every time i look down at a hot meal,
slip into my bed, take a sip of water,
show mercy to a mirror.
how if my parents had made different
decisions three decades ago,
it could have been my arm
sticking out of a mass grave

i want to talk about gratitude.
i want to talk about compassion.
i want to talk about respect.
how even the desperate deserve it.
how haitians sometimes greet each other
with the two words “honor”
and “respect.”
how we all should follow suit.
try every time you hear the word “victim,”
you think “honor.”
try every time you hear the tag “john doe,”
you shout “respect!”
because my people have names.
because my people have nerve.
because my people are
your people in disguise

i want to talk about haiti.
i always talk about haiti.
my mouth quaking with her love,
complexity, honor and respect.
come sit, come stand, come
cry with me. talk.
there’s much to say.
walk. much more to do.

Musi: God of the Poor – Graham Kendrick

Psalm 48: You Are a Holy City

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 23, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 48 which is tied to today’s first reading from the Book of Kings. You may wish to refer to that reading, or the story is recounted in our poem today. In both these accounts, we read a war diary in which God miraculously intervenes for the beloved Holy City Jerusalem.

While, indeed, Jerusalem is the Holy City of the Old Testament, there are other ways to pray with this symbol as we consider Psalm 48.


Paul, in writing to the Hebrews, uses the “Holy City” symbol to describe the majesty of their new-found faith. The passage can remind us too of the glorious gift of being part of the Body of Christ.

You have come to Mount Zion, to the Holy City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:22-24


That “City” is made holy by the presence of God in the Temple. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that God abides in us and makes us a holy temple, a city where the Spirit dwells.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3: 16-17


Today, let us rejoice with the psalmist that the Spirit of God dwells among us and within us.  Let us pray for one another in this communion of saints which is the Holy City. With the psalmist, may we ponder, praise, and reach for that just and merciful hand – for the sake of our beautiful suffering cities and world.

O God, we ponder your mercy
within your temple.
As your name, O God, so also your praise
reaches to the ends of the earth.
Of justice your right hand is full.


Poetry: The poem for today is the story Sennacherib’s attempt to destroy Jerusalem. You can work hard and find some spiritual meaning in it. But I put it here because it’s just a wonderfully cadenced poem that retells today’s first EXCITING reading. Notice the fabulous sense of color Lord Byron had!

The Destruction of Sennacherib
by Lord Byron

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Music:  The Holy City – written by Michael Maybrick, and sung by the magnificent tenor Stanford Olsen with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I have always loved this gloriously uplifting hymn. The song has an interesting history which you might enjoy reading as well.

Last night I lay asleeping
There came a dream so fair
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing
And ever as they sang,
Methought the voice of Angels
From Heaven in answer rang.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest.
Hosanna to your King!”

And then methought my dream was chang’d
The streets no longer rang
Hushed were the glad Hosannas
The little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery
The morn was cold and chill
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem!
Hark! How the Angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna to your King!”

And once again the scene was changed
New earth there seemed to be
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea
The light of God was on its streets
The gates were open wide
And all who would might enter
And no one was denied.

No need of moon or stars by night
Or sun to shine by day
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away

“Jerusalem! Jerusalem
Sing for the night is o’er
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna for evermore!”