Who Will Stand in the End?

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 17, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings carry the full flavor of the “end times” warnings, those repeated annually as we move closer to Advent ( which is only two weeks away!)

Malachi is very direct:

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
 when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble…

Wow! Really? Our reaction might range from “Good! Go get ‘em, God!” to “Oh, dear God, I hope it’s not me!!!”.

But Paul resets us on the right track. He says something like this:

Listen! You must imitate your teachers in Christ.
Live with integrity, justice and generous mercy.
Navigate the world with these as your compass.
Then you will welcome the end times.


Lk21_19 perseverance

In our world, we see the opposing forces of good and evil clearly pulling against one another. In our decisions and attitudes, we are confronted with the choice between sin and selflessness.

The “elephant in the room” this week for many of us is the impeachment hearings. How do we view this event as people of Gospel faith? How do we respond?

elephant

While some of us believe strongly in separation of Church and State, still we acknowledge that our FAITH is exercised in a political world. We pursue our full conversion in Christ through “polity“:  our just and compassionate interactions with all Creation.

Right in front of us this week, we have seen  amazing displays of courage and morality standing against venal self-interests. How does what we see align with our own living of justice and mercy?

Political scientist Harold Lasswell defined politics as “who gets what, when, and how“. If this isn’t the same challenge tackled in the Gospel, I don’t know what is! Jesus said that the poor and disenfranchised should be the first to “get” – through peace, love and mercy. Making that happen is our Christian call.

However, it is likely impossible to communicate God’s vision for the world in the language of politics.  Walter Brueggemann says this:

The prophet’s task is to imagine the world as though Yahweh, the God of Israel and the creator of heaven and earth, were a real character and a lively agent in the life of the world.  I believe that such a claim, then and now, has to be articulated poetically in order not to be co-opted by political absolutism or theological orthodoxy.
~Walter Brueggemann 

Our readings today give us this poetic vision and challenge. Read them with great longing to hear God’s voice for our times. The world so sorely needs the answer that will grow in our souls.

Music:  Let Justice Roll

Let Wisdom Show Us

Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop

Monday, November 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, On this Memorial of St. Martine of Tours, we begin a week of readings from the Book of Wisdom. Written in the century surrounding the birth of Christ, Wisdom is the work of a poet, theologian, philosopher, and moralist. Whether the writer was one person or several is uncertain. It was written in Greek and based on the Hebrew Scriptures which marks its composer as learned.

Today’s passage is part of the initial Exhortation to Pagan Kings: Rule according to divine justice and seek wisdom! (1:1-11).

For wisdom is a kindly spirit,
yet she acquits not the blasphemer of his guilty lips;
Because God is the witness of his inmost self
and the sure observer of his heart
and the listener to his tongue.
For the Spirit of the Lord fills the world,
is all-embracing, and knows what man says.

I can think of a few people to whom I would like to tweet this passage, can’t you? 

The erudite Wisdom writer realizes that faith and politics MUST mix in an ever more complex world because the goal of both disciplines is the wholeness and freedom of the human person.

Reading this passage today, let us pray for all who hold any responsibility for the welfare of others that they may be responsive to the inspiration of Wisdom in their leadership.

millstoneJPG
Dorieo [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
For as our Gospel tells us today:

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the one through whom they occur.  
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

MUSIC: Kristyn and Keith Getty

 

The Land of the Living

Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

November 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our scripture passages are all about confidence in our salvation.

Psalm27- land of living

Do you ever wonder if you’re going to get to heaven? Maybe even worry about it a little? If so, today’s readings are for you.

Paul tells the faithful:

For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

And Jesus, using the symbol of a lost sheep, counsels the critical Pharisees:

I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.

Key to both readings is the call to a repentant, Christian life.

Our beautiful Responsorial Psalm captures the joy of the repentant sinner, the very ones for whom Christ died:

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

We might want to turn toward the searching Shepherd today while praying this Psalm of repentance and faith.

Music:  In the Land of the Living – Eric Becker

Let the Spirit Pray in Your Heart

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells us that our life is about getting to know God ever more intimately. Otherwise, when we come to our final moments, we may not be recognized by our Lord and Master.

Could this be possible? Could God not recognize the work of his own hands, the one made in God’s own image?

Probably not. But what I think the Gospel suggests is that if, throughout our whole lives, we have never prayed or drawn closer to God, God’s own image in us may be quite obscured after that disconnected lifetime.

Sometimes we might hear a person say that they don’t know how to get started talking with God in prayer. They seem to feel it’s kind of like a blind date where you end up realizing you have nothing in common with each other.

St. Paul says no, wait a minute. God is already within you simply by the nature of your creaturehood . You are made of the very stuff of God. In fact, the Spirit of God deep within our souls is like the fiery magma from a volcano. It erupts from our love and prays for us to the Creator – if we will only let it.

Rm8_26 groanings

Let us give the Spirit the space, time and invitation to rise up in our hearts, praying with us and through us. In the deep love of that relationship, we will know ourselves to be recognized and loved. We can trust that all things are working together for our good.

Music: Spirit Seeking Light and Beauty – by Janet Erskine Stuart, interpreted here by the Daughters of St. Paul (Lyrics below)

Spirit seeking light and beauty,
Heart still longing for your rest
In your search for understanding,
Only thus can you be blest,

Through the vastness of creation,
Though your restless thought may roam,
God is all that you can long for,
God is all creation’s home.

Taste and see God, feel and hear God,
Hope and grasp the unseen hand;
Though the darkness seem to hide you,
Faith and love can understand.

Loving Wisdom, guiding Spirit,
All our hearts are made anew.
Lead us through the land of shadows
‘Til we come to rest in you.

Hope

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 29, 2019

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102919.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Paul blesses us with some of his most powerful words:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

How often, over the ensuing centuries, have these words uplifted and embravened a struggling heart! Paul reminds us of what he so passionately believed – that we are not here for this world alone; that we, with all Creation, are being transformed for eternal life in God.

Jesus too reminds us that our life in faith is so much bigger than we perceive. We see a tiny mustard seed, but God sees the whole tree of eternal life blossoming in us.  We see a fingertip of yeast, but God sees the whole Bread of Life rising in us.

Rm8_24 Hope

Paul tells us to be People of Hope who do not yet expect to see the object of their hope but who, nonetheless, believe and love with all their hearts.

May we pray this today for ourselves, and for anyone burdened by suffering or hopelessness at this time in their lives.

Music:  Living Hope – Phil Wickham

That Fish Was Sooo…..

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 27, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, in our readings:

  • Sirach assures us that the prayer of the humble reaches the ear of God
  • Paul readies himself for death
  • Jesus gives us one of his most memorable parables. 

The thread running through all of these? Humility- that beautiful virtue which allows us to be who we truly are before God and humanity.

Oh my goodness friends, how many times have we been with “the Pharisees”, such as Jesus describes, at a meeting or dinner? They are so unsure and unaware of their true value in God, that they begin to create an illusion to protect their fear.

We know the statements (or attitudes) by heart. Sometimes, they’re harmless; sometimes not. We may be guilty of a few of them ourselves:

fish

But there are other statements, such as the Pharisee’s, that can certainly make us question a person’s self- perception: 

  • There has never been a better leader, CEO, deal-maker, neighbor, human being
  • I am smarter than the generals, the lawyers, the financiers, the scientists
  • Nobody does things better than me
  • I am the smartest person of all time

Certainly, it’s angering, but more than that, it’s sad. It’s really sad to miss the whole point of one’s true greatness: that we are beloved and redeemed by God – just like every Creature! That we are called, in that belovedness , to serve God in our sisters and brothers. Knowing this inalienable truth is the source of all humility, courage, joy, and perseverance in faith. It is the whole reason we were created. What a tragedy to, like the Pharisee, miss the whole point!

Let us pray with Paul and the humble tax collector today. “O God, be merciful to me a sinner – a redeemed, grateful, and joyful sinner.”

Music: Miserere Mei – Gregorio Allegri 

Zap Time?

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 26, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel takes on some difficult themes.

lightening

Jesus gives a parable which, at first, appears to say, “Get your act together fast, or God might zap you.” From Jesus’s words, we can assume that some public disasters have recently occurred. The gathered crowd are unnerved by these events.

Jesus uses that nervousness to talk about repentance. He tells the people that tragedy can make us wake up to the fact that life is fragile and fleeting. That awareness should make us want to use our time on earth well, to give glory to God.

The repentance Jesus encourages is not just a contrition, or turning from sin. It is an opening of the soul’s eyes to see our lives and circumstances as God sees them.

Is God going to zap us if we don’t have that kind of repentance? No.

With the parable of the fruitless fig tree, Jesus assures us that God is with us, giving us every grace and opportunity to bear spiritual fruit. God is patient and nurturing. But, in every human life, there is a limit to the time we have to respond.

Music: Calm the Soul – Poor Clares Galway

Sinners Anonymous

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul sounds a lot like someone approaching the microphone at “Sinners Anonymous“:

I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.
The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the evil I do not want.

Paul basically attests to the fact that for human beings, even him, will and actions often don’t synch up. Sure, we want to be good people, but as Nike says, do we:

Do itJPG

Paul’s says no. The only way we do the good we will to do is by the grace of Jesus Christ.

In our Gospel, Jesus affirms the slowness of the human spirit to act on the realities around us. In some translations, Jesus uses a phrase which caught on with the architects of Vatican II: the signs of the times.

In our Gospel, Jesus is telling his listeners and us that we need to be alert to the circumstances of our world. It both weeps and rejoices. Where it weeps, we must be a source of mercy and healing. Where it rejoices, we must foster and celebrate the Presence of the Spirit.

In the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), we read:

In every age, the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which people ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live.

Although written in the 1960s, these powerful words hold true today. We are the Church of which the document speaks. We are the ones whom Jesus calls to respond with authentic justice and mercy to the signs of the times. Read the newspaper in that light today. Watch the news in that light. Meet your brothers and sisters in that light today.

Music: The Times They Are A’changin’ – Bob Dylan whose songs in the 50s and 60sbecame anthems for the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied popular music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture. (Wikipedia) (Ah, it was a good time to be young!)

The Swedish Academy awarded Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.

An Obedient Heart

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 23, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul and Jesus both instruct and challenge their listeners and us.

Rm6_17 obedient heart

Paul wants us to understand that, through our Baptism, we are living in a whole new power for goodness and grace. The world may look the same as it did before we belonged to Christ, but it isn’t. 

To use a phrase from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins,

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

If we see with the new eyes of grace, we will be able to respond to Jesus’s challenge:

Stay awake!
For you do not know when the Son of Man will come.

Stay awake. See the world and your life as they truly are  – places where God awaits you in every moment. Give your heart to listen lovingly to the sound of the Holy Spirit in your life. That obedient heart is precious to God!

Music:  Speak, O Lord – Kristyn Getty

Living Parables

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul contrasts the sin of “Adam” to the gift of Jesus, demonstrating the specifics of Christ’s redemptive act.

Adam

A key phrase for our prayer might be the following. The concupiscence of human nature will always make the sinful choice a possibility. But we can gain courage and strength from this powerful line from Paul:

Where sin increased,
grace overflowed all the more….

Jesus teaches a lesson about perseverance in the spiritual life. He says if we stick with it, God will welcome us the way a generous master thanks and embraces a loyal servant. He adds a comforting thought for those of us of “a certain age”.

And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.

Yesterday, I attended a 95th birthday party for my Mistress of Novices. Fifty plus years ago, she guided a gaggle of hopeful and naive young nuns toward the depths of the spiritual life. She didn’t do it by words alone. She did it by faithful, humble, steadfast and joyful living in the Presence of God. Now, in the third watch, she is still doing the same thing – and she has done it for all the years in between…indeed, a blessed servant!

Catherine Rawley
Sister Catherine Rawley, RSM Happy 95th Birthday

This is what Jesus is talking about today. Look around you and see the parables alive in your own life, your own history, your own heart.

Music: Song of a Faithful Servant

(A simple, childlike song. Please excuse the spelling. There’s no way for me to fix it although I desperately want to)