Matthew: Called By Name

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Matthew, the Apostle
by Anthony Van Dyke

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, we are blessed with a deeply  inspiring reading from Ephesians. 

… live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace…

Ephesians 4: 1-3

We are reminded that each of us is called in God according to our particular gifts. Paul encourages us to live “in a manner worthy of the call we have received” in our Baptism.

… grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

… some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4: 7, 11-12

For most of us, it has been quite a while since we were washed in the waters of our Baptism. A lot of other waters have passed under the bridge since then. We may, or may not, have recognized and responded to our call, continually carried to us on those life waters.

Each moment, each choice, each act and decision asks us once again to choose Christ – over sin, over self, over meaninglessness. Each life opportunity calls us closer to Jesus, to the pattern of his Cross, to the witness of his Resurrection.


Matthew heard such a call as he sat, perhaps dulled by the unconscious disengagement of his life, by the failure to live with intention and openness to grace. As He passed by Matthew, Jesus reached into that ennui, calling Matthew to evangelize all the future generations by his Gospel.

Jesus calls us to be evangelists too – every moment, every day. Our “Yes” to our particular call writes its own Gospel, telling the Good News through our faith, hope and love.

Pope Francis says this:

Poetry: Isaiah 43:1-2 (Isaiah is actually my favorite poet!)

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Music: When You Call My Name ~ Brian Doerksen & Steve Mitchinson

Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, September 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 62 and the heart of its prayer of confidence, verses 6-9.

Carroll Stuhlmueller, revered Old Testament scholar, places Psalm 62 among the Wisdom psalms – those which “seek the harmonious, stable order of life”. They do this by presenting a kind of curriculum for spiritual happiness.

That teaching is clear in Psalm 62: we find our soul’s fulfillment “only in God”.

Does that mean nothing else in our lives matter? That we should push all but God to the margins?
No. The psalm encourages us to look deeply at all of life and to find God in every aspect.


Often, a spiritual director will ask this question of the directee:

“Where is God in this situation, in this moment?”

The question points us to the realization that we can’t compartmentalize God to our “prayer time”, or Sundays, or “religious experiences”. 


God lives within us, and lives every moment of our lives with us. Until we align ourselves with God’s loving Presence, we will not find complete peace.

Trust in God at all times, O my people!
    Pour out your hearts before God;
    God is our refuge!

Psalm 62:9

Prose: from the Confessions of St. Augustine, Book 1, Chapter 1

Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; 
great is Your power, 
and of Your wisdom there is no end. 
And we, being a part of Your creation, 
desire to praise You….
You move us to delight in praising You; 
for You have made us for Yourself, 
and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

Cor nostrum inquietum est donec requiescat in Te.

Lord, teach me to know and understand 
which of these should be first: 
to call on You, or to praise You; 
and likewise to know You, or to call on You.
But who calls upon You without knowing You? 
For the one that knows You not 
may call upon You as other than You are. 
Or perhaps we call on You 
that we may know You.

But how shall they call on Him 
in whom they have not believed? 
Or how shall they believe without a preacher?

Romans 10:14

And those who seek the Lord shall praise the Lord. 
For those who seek shall find God, 

Matthew 7:7

and those who find God shall praise God. 
Let me seek You, Lord, in calling on You, 
and call on You in believing in You; 
for You have been preached unto us. 
O Lord, my faith calls on You — 
that faith which You have imparted to me, 
which You have breathed into me 
through the incarnation of Your Son, 
through the ministry of Your preacher 1.
1 (Here Augustine is referring to St. Ambrose, his mentor)

Music: Only in God – John Michael Talbot

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray in the power of the Gospel:

Ephphatha!  Be opened:

All minds to God’s omnipresence

All hearts to God’s infinite love

All spirits to God’s tender proposals

All eyes to God’s eternal vision 

All ears to God’s cry in the poor

All mouths to speak God’s Word in justice

All plans to the rhythm of God’s freedom

All dreams to God’s dream for all.

Be opened – especially in me today.
🙏 Amen!


Poetry: Be Opened! – Malcolm Guite

Be opened. Oh if only we might be!
Speak to a heart that’s closed in on itself:
‘Be opened and the truth will set you free’,
Speak to a world imprisoned in its wealth:
 
'Be opened! Learn to learn from poverty’,
 Speak to a church that closes and excludes,
And makes rejection its own litany:
‘Be opened, opened to the multitudes
 
For whom I died but whom you have dismissed
 Be opened, opened, opened,’ how you sigh
And still we do not hear you. We have missed
Both cry and crisis, we make no reply.
 
Take us aside, for we are deaf and dumb
Spit on us Lord and touch each tongue-tied tongue.

Memorial of Saint Augustine

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98, the scripture which inspired “Joy to the World”.

Psalm 98 describes God’s redemption of Israel and the jubilation that will ensue. In other words, it is a song of “rejoicing in the future tense”. When the community sang it for their great occasions, they had not yet seen the Savior. But their profound faith allowed them to celebrate in spirit what they believed would be accomplished – as the psalm’s concluding verse asserts:

In righteousness shall God judge the world
and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98:8

We too are called to let our lives sing to the Lord in hope and confidence because we know that what we believe is true. That kind of faith in action is called “witness”. And we, my dears, in ALL circumstances of our lives, are charged to be WITNESSES!


  • Like the seas who sing in either still or storm
  • Like rivers who clap in ebb or the neap
  • Like the mountains who sing in all seasons


Let the sea and what fills it resound,
    the world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands,
    the mountains shout with them for joy.

Psalm 98:7-8
  • Like our hearts that believe even through life’s intermingled joys and sorrows

This is your life,
joys and sorrow mingled,
one succeeding the other.

Catherine McAuley: Letter to Frances Warde (May 28, 1841)

Poetry: Flickering Mind – Denise Levertov

Lord, not you
it is I who am absent.
At first
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away -- and back,
circling.
I have long since uttered your name
but now
I elude your presence.
I stop
to think about you, and my mind
at once
like a minnow darts away,
darts
into the shadows, into gleams that fret
unceasing over
the river's purling and passing.
Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
anywhere,
everywhere it can turn.  Not you,
it is I am absent.
You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow.
You the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.
How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?

Music: Let Your Heart Sing – Young Oceans

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145, a luxuriant song of praise to a God who overwhelms us with generosity.

I will extol you, my God and king;
I will bless your name forever and ever.

Every day I will bless you;
I will praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the LORD and worthy of much praise,
whose grandeur is beyond understanding.

Psalm 145: 1-3

Citing verses 13-20 which are structured around the word “all”, Walter Brueggemann says:

The image is an overflow of limitless blessing
given without reservation
to all who are in need
and turn to the Creator.

Which brings us to Nathaniel and how this prayer might have sung in his heart.


I got to be friends with Nathaniel over 50 years ago when, at my reception in our community, Mother Bernard decided to give me his name. And after an initial shock, I came to love it.

Nathaniel and I have spent countless hours under his fig tree sharing both our lives. I’ve asked him many times what he was thinking about when Philip came to invite him to meet Jesus. Nathaniel always has a different answer… one amazingly similar to whatever happens to be preoccupying me at the time.😇

a favorite old book that started some of my conversations with Nathaniel

One element remains constant in every circumstance: in his quiet moment, Nathaniel sought God’s Light. As our Gospel shows, that Luminous Word came to him and he responded.


I think that in our “fig tree moments”, we have finally sifted through all that we are capable of in order to find Grace in our lives. Now we wait, in the shade and quiet of prayer, for the True Answer.

When that answering Word comes, it shatters our doubts and pretenses like an egg. And like a shattered egg, the Word releases new life in us. We move deeper into the unbreakable Wholeness and Infinity. Like Nathaniel, even in our ordinary lives, we begin to “see greater things” than we had ever imagined.


Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” 
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”


After that momentous afternoon when he was drawn from the shade into the Light, Nathaniel’s life became a hymn of praise and thanksgiving.

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.


Poem-Prayer from Christine Robinson

Psalm 145 – Opening Heart

I exalt you, Holy One, and open my heart to you
by remembering your great love.
Your expansiveness made this beautiful world
in a universe too marvelous to understand.
Your desire created life, and you nurtured
that life with your spirit.
You cherish us all—and your prayer
in us is for our own flourishing.
You are gracious to us
slow to anger and full of kindness
You touch us with your love—speak to us
with your still, small voice, hold us when we fall.
You lift up those who are oppressed
by systems and circumstances.
You open your hand
and satisfy us.
You ask us to call on you—
and even when you seem far away, our
longings call us back to you.
Hear my cry, O God, for some days, it is all I have.

Music: I Will Praise Your Name – Bob Fitts

Lord I will praise your name

I will praise your name

I will praise your name and extol You

I will praise Your name (I will praise Your name)

I will praise Your name

I will praise Your name

As I behold You

I will magnify, I will glorify

I will lift on high Your name, Lord Jesus

I will magnify, I will glorify

I will lift on high Your name, Lord Jesus

For Your love is never ending

And Your mercy ever true

I will bless Your name Lord Jesus

For my heart belongs to You

I will praise Your name

I will praise Your name

I will praise Your name and extol you

I will magnify, I will glorify

I will lift on high Your name, Lord Jesus

For Your love is never ending

And Your mercy ever true

I will bless Your name Lord Jesus

For my heart belongs to You

I will praise Your name

I will praise Your name

I will praise Your name and extol you

I will magnify, I will glorify

I will lift on high Your name, Lord Jesus

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we pray with Psalm 34, our Sunday readings present us with spiritual ultimatums.

In our first reading, sensing his impending death, Joshua gathers the tribes on the Great Plains of Shechem – the land of their father Abraham. Joshua requires a commitment from the people:

“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve …
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15

In other words, “fish or cut bait” – you’re either with God, or you’re not. And your lives should reflect the choice.

In our Gospel, Jesus too feels death’s approach. His teachings have become more intense and direct, particularly regarding the Eucharist. This intensity has caused some of his listeners to waver. They’re not sure they can accept his words. Some drift away.

Jesus challenges the Twelve, those on whom he depends to carry his message after his death.

“Do you also want to leave?


These readings talk about the big choices, the soul’s orientation, either:

  • to seek and respond to God in our daily interactions
  • to be indifferent toward God’s Presence in our lives

Jesus’s question is before us all the time?
Do we hear it?


(As for the unfortunate and contested second reading from Ephesians, this long but superb article from Elizabeth Johnson is worth your time.)

https://bcm.bc.edu/issues/summer_2004/features.html


Poetry: Choose – Rainer Maria Rilke

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
The darkness that comes with every infinite fall
And the shivering blaze of every step up.
So many live on and want nothing
And are raised to the rank of prince
By the slippery ease of their light judgments
But what you love to see are faces
That do work and feel thirst…
You have not grown old,
And it is not too late to dive
Into your increasing depths where life
Calmly gives out its own secret.

Music:  I Will Choose Christ – Tom Booth

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85, a prayer celebrating what God will accomplish through a listening heart:

I will listen to what you, Lord God, are saying,
for you are speaking peace to your faithful people 
and to those who turn their hearts to you.
Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you, 
that your glory may dwell in our land.

Psalm 85: 8-9

Our psalm flows naturally from our first reading in which Gideon listens to God’s messenger who has a nice visit with him under a terebinth tree. In scripture, many great revelations and conversions happen under trees and bushes – for example, consider the stories of Moses, Jacob, and Ezekiel.

Gideon and the Angel of the Lord by Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld

Gideon’s Angel is patient, lingering in the shade while Gideon lets the lamb (and the angel’s suggestion) stew a while in the quiet. It’s like that sometimes when we are trying to listen to God. We need a little time to hear through our circumstances to the real Word God is whispering to us.


It helps sometimes to go among the trees where angels always seem to nestle. It helps sometimes to mull over grace as we simmer a fragrant stew. It helps sometimes to quietly work a knitting needle or finger a rosary’s cool beads.

It helps to take a little time, a little silence
and let God speak to us.


The range of Divine sound may be as gentle as a soft kiss, so that we must listen with a delicate heart. Or it may be as loud as an exploding volcano, so that we must resist the temptation to hold our ears:

Kindness and truth shall meet;
    justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall erupt from the earth,
    and justice shall look down from heaven.

Psalm 85: 11-12

However God wants to speak in our lives today,
let’s invite that transforming Word.
And let’s not only hear, but listen.

Poetry: God’s Word – Hildegard of Bingin

The Word is living, 
being, 
spirit, 
all verdant greening, 
all creativity. 
This Word 
manifests itself 
in every creature.

Music: Whisper – Jason Upton

Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, August 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet the rich young man of Mark 19. Since the first reading and psalm would be challenging to pray with, I would like to offer this homily I wrote some years ago on our Gospel for today

Christ and the Rich Young Man by Heinrich Hoffmann

Most had come to the rolling hills beyond the Jordan because of the miracles: the crippled walking, the dead raised, the demons cast out. Who wouldn’t take an afternoon hike to witness such amazing things? They came with their blankets and lunch baskets. They came to see.

But today, Jesus is not about miracles. He is about teaching. And it is hard to listen to him. The words are gentle but incisive. Like small scalpels, they deftly strip away the listeners’ harbored illusions. He says things like this:

  • Become humble like a child.
  • The last will be first and the first last.
  • If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off.
  • Forgive seventy times seven.

His words challenge everything they had learned, believed, based their lives on! Nobody got anywhere in life by behaving the way he described! Jesus can see their consternation. What they had relied on – all that had justified their self-satisfied successes – lay now at his feet like a sculptor’s remnants. 


Jesus pauses to allow a long silence to envelop their startled hearts. Quietly, he retires to a shaded grove to let his own heart settle. On the hillside, it is lunchtime. The large crowd bundles into small neighborly bands. They open their baskets and uncork their water-skins while the curative words begin the hard transformation of their souls.

But one man is not hungry – at least not for earthly food.  He slowly approaches Jesus in his solitude, perhaps with a shy glance that asks, “May I come closer?” Jesus nods for the young man to join him. Settling beside Jesus, he asks, “Master, what must I do to gain eternal life?”


There is no lack of directness in this man. He comes bluntly to the point. But there is, nonetheless, a blindness in him. Jesus has already taken its measure even as the young man approached. His garments distinguish him from the rest of the crowd.  His robe is fine linen not rude camel hair. He is not unshod, but rather wears sandals of expertly tooled leather. He carries no basket; it is held by a servant standing off at a modest but ready distance. He is so accustomed to his privilege that he is unaware of his difference from all those who surround him. He no longer sees his wealth, just as he no longer sees their poverty. 

Commemorative Cross for the 150th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Sisters of Mercy,
featuring the Works of Mercy. Designed by the late Robert McGovern

Jesus at once pities his obliviousness yet loves his sincerity. He tests the young man even though he already reads his heart. The questions are not intended to derail the man. Instead, Jesus leads him by a rabbinical path through the levels of spiritual commitment.

  • Do you understand true goodness?
  • Do you then keep the commandments?
  • Do you then seek perfection?
  • Will you then give everything you have to embrace it?

At this final question, the young man goes away sad, “for he had many possessions”. 


Here Jesus defines for us the ultimate sticking point for a nearly committed person: “All you possess”. In other words, can we give everything in Christlike love?

The Christian ethic teaches us that this kind of self-donation is the only path to joy and salvation. Yet, it is a perfection few achieve. This failure in achievement leads to broken marriages, fractured families, rescinded vows and unfulfilled hopes. What is the secret to meeting its challenge?

Jesus may have given an answer two chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel. A desperate father has brought his possessed son to the disciples, but they are unable to cast out the demon.  Jesus is frustrated with their impotence, saying, “How long must I be with you (before you learn)?” What is it that these disciples have yet to learn? Jesus goes on to tell them that if their faith were even the size of a tiny mustard seed, they would have the power, not only to cast out this demon, but to move mountains.

To live fully by faith is to live in the understanding that we possess nothing.  Everything we think we have, including life itself, is a pure gift of God’s mercy to us. Abandonment to such understanding makes us truly rich and renders us divinely powerful. This is the continuing lesson Jesus is teaching his beloved disciples. This is the secret of eternal life to which Jesus tries to lead the rich young man. This is the daily invitation God places before us within the circumstances of our lives. Will we embrace it or will we go away sad?

Music: Do It All for Love – Sigala

Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95. 

This psalm and our other readings today are filled with rocks. So that seems to be the symbol speaking to us today.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Psalm 95 is a summons to rejoice, but laced within it are stern reminders to remember and repent.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
    “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
    as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your forebearers tested me;
    they tested me though they had seen my works.”

Psalm 95: 8-9

The rock referred to in the psalm is the one Moses struck to release the waters. It is a contentious episode where the Israelites test God and Moses wavers in his faith.

These are the waters of Meribah,
where the children of Israel contended against the Lord,
and where the LORD’s sanctity was revealed among them.

Numbers 20:13

On the other hand, the rock in our Gospel passage refers to the strength and stability Peter receives and which will endure through the ages.

And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18
Latin inscription on dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome – ” Tu es Petrus — You are Peter and upon this rock…”

So the “rock”, like any symbol, takes its meaning and relevance from the circumstances which surround it. 

This is true as well  for the “rocks” we meet in our own lives. Some are sources of strength, some nearly insurmountable obstacles.  Some are a test, some a consolation.

Praying with today’s psalm and other readings, we might take the time to reflect on our current or past “rocks”. 

May we realize and gratefully remember how God gives life-giving water even from these seemingly unyielding sources.


Poetry: Sorrow – Renee Yann, RSM

You must be alone
    with sorrow
    before you can leave it,
    or it will crush you
    like a black, heavy rock.

    You must drive into
    the hollow of its face,
    under the ledges
    it projects against you.
    Feel its cold granite
    pressed to your grain.

    In time,
    it will allow your turning
    to rest your back
    within its curve.

    Only then,
    you will be free to leave it,
    walking lightly once again
    on yielding earth.

    When you return, it will be freely,
    on a pilgrimage,
    to touch the name you carved once
    with the anguish of your heart.

Music: Rock of Ages

“Rock of Ages” is a popular Christian hymn written by the Reformed Anglican minister, the Reverend Augustus Toplady, in 1763 and first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1775.

Traditionally, it is held that Toplady drew his inspiration from an incident in the gorge of Burrington Combe in the Mendip Hills in England. Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was traveling along the gorge when he was caught in a storm. Finding shelter in a gap in the gorge, he was struck by the title and scribbled down the initial lyrics. The fissure that is believed to have sheltered Toplady (51.3254°N 2.7532°W) is now marked as the “Rock of Ages”, both on the rock itself and on some maps.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 1, 2021

Today in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with our Sunday readings, so full of wisdom for our lives.

“Don’t we have anything decent to eat around here?” “There’s nothing to eat in this house !”  

How many times do parents hear these complaints from their growing teenagers! The problem? They’re not looking for the apples, or eggs, or yogurt, or avocados which actually are in the fridge. They’re looking for junk!

Today’s first reading reflects a similar situation with the Jews in the desert. They are hungry, but not for the spiritual food Yahweh is offering them. They complain continuously. So God relents, feeding them manna and quail. But God is clear. He says, “I have done this so that you may know I am the Lord, your God.”


In the Gospel, Jesus admonishes his listeners, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” Jesus doesn’t mean we should stop eating. He knows that we need food and other things in order to live. What He wants us to understand is that these things have only secondary importance to the food for our soul, a sustenance which we often relegate to inferior status, to “when we have time”.


In his advice to the Ephesians, Paul says that to live without spiritual awareness is “to live in the futility of our minds”. It’s a powerful phrase, generating an image of us running around in our heads after all sorts of vain worries and goals — junk.

Paul’s advice? Get over that running around! Put on a New Self!

At our essence, we are hungry for the
Bread of Life.
Nothing else will fill that emptiness.


Poetry:  We Are Such a Mix – Mary Ellen Smajo, author at ignatianspirituality.com

we are such a mix of thorns and thread;
why do You insist on living in the midst,
even among the broken bowls and spilled strengths?
I’ve seen You sift among the crumbs
and find (I don’t know how) a loaf;
what we tear, touch to make us mend;
and show again to sift and share and be again the bread.


Music: Bread of Life ~ Bernadette Farrell 

Bread of life, hope of the world,
Jesus Christ, our brother:
feed us now, give us life,
lead us to one another.

As we proclaim your death,
as we recall your life,
we remember your promise
to return again.

Bread of life, hope of the world,
Jesus Christ, our brother:
feed us now, give us life,
lead us to one another.

The bread we break and share
was scattered once as grain:
just as now it is gathered,
make your people one.

Bread of life, hope of the world,
Jesus Christ, our brother:
feed us now, give us life,
lead us to one another.

We eat this living bread,
we drink this saving cup:
sign of hope in our broken world,
source of lasting love.

Hold us in unity,
in love for all to see;
that the world may believe in you,
God of all who live.

You are the bread of peace,
you are the wine of joy,
broken now for your people,
poured in endless love.