Saturday of the Second Week of Easter: God’s Breath and Heartbeat

April 30, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings invite us to consider our capacity to trust. Who, what, why and when do we feel that we can trust?


In Acts, we see a beautiful example of the community trusting itself – presenting a concern, having it heard, and coming to a mutual resolution.

As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,

Acts 6: 1-5

What a blessing such a process would be in any community from family, to work, social, and global communities!

But it’s not easy to come by that kind of trust, is it? It has to be proven – accumulated over small and consistent affirmations that such trust is safely given to the other, whoever that might be.


In our Gospel, the disciples’ ability to trust is tested.

When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea,
embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum.
It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.

John 6: 16-17

Jesus walks across the stormy water to meet his frightened disciples. They are afraid of the wind, the night and the wonder of Jesus.


One of my favorite quotes comes from the spiritually gifted Paula D’Arcy:

“Who would I be,
and what power would be expressed in my life,
if I were not dominated by fear.”

If you’re like me, your first inclination is to think, ” Well, I’m not dominated by fear!”

Just wait a minute. I encourage you to think about it. How has, or does, fear hold you back in your life?

As human beings, we harbor many fears even if we pretend to be very brave. We may be afraid of failure, loneliness, responsibility, insignificance, aging, dying or a thousand other things. Essentially, what we most fear is that we might be unloved or unlovable.


Just as he came to the disciples, Jesus comes to us through the night of any fear to prove that we are irrevocably safe in God’s Love. Even in darkness, we are the precious breath and heartbeat of God and cannot be extinguished by our fears.

IMG_5060

Poetry: Trust by Lizette Woodworth Reese, (1856-1935), an American poet and teacher. Born in Maryland, she taught English for almost five decades in the schools of Baltimore. Though Reese was successful in prose as well as in poetry, the latter was her forté. She was named Poet Laureate of Maryland in 1931.


I am thy grass, O Lord!
I grow up sweet and tall
But for a day; beneath Thy sword
To lie at evenfall.

Yet have I not enough
In that brief day of mine?
The wind, the bees, the wholesome stuff
The sun pours out like wine.

Behold, this is my crown;
Love will not let me be;
Love holds me here; Love cuts me down;
And it is well with me.

Lord, Love, keep it but so;
Thy purpose is full plain;
I die that after I may grow
As tall, as sweet again.


Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter: 2022

April 26, 2022

Nicodemus

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet two towering figures of the early Christian story, Barnabas and Nicodemus.

In our first reading, Barnabas is cited as a devout member of the community of believers which …

… was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.

Acts 4:32

Our Gospel brings us Nicodemus who “came to Jesus under cover of the night”.  Nicodemus, obviously Ph.D. material, has a long exchange with Jesus in the attempt to come to intellectual comfort with Jesus’s message.

Nicodemus wants his faith to make logical sense before committing to it, to the point that Jesus sounds a little astounded at the effort:

You are the teacher of Israel 
and you do not understand 
what I am saying to you?

John 3:10

I think a little bit of both Barnabas and Nicodemus lives within each of us.

barnabas seesaw

Like Nicodemus, we do believe, but we would like to understand more. We grapple with concepts of “God’s plan”, with the problem of evil, with what seems the random mercilessness of nature, and myriad other inexplicable realities.

Still, like Barnabas, we trust and are willing to lay our lives at the feet of Christ to be his agents in the world.

That balancing of trust with anxiety is the story of faith for most of us. And it’s OK.  Both Nickie and Barnie turned out to be giants for Christ.  And so will we with God’s help.


Poetry: The Night – BY HENRY VAUGHAN
John 3.2

Through that pure virgin shrine,
That sacred veil drawn o’er Thy glorious noon,
That men might look and live, as glowworms shine,
And face the moon,
Wise Nicodemus saw such light
As made him know his God by night.

Most blest believer he!
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long-expected healing wings could see,
When Thou didst rise!
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun!

O who will tell me where
He found Thee at that dead and silent hour?
What hallowed solitary ground did bear
So rare a flower,
Within whose sacred leaves did lie
The fulness of the Deity?

No mercy-seat of gold,
No dead and dusty cherub, nor carved stone,
But His own living works did my Lord hold
And lodge alone;
Where trees and herbs did watch and peep
And wonder, while the Jews did sleep.

Dear night! this world’s defeat
The stop to busy fools; care’s check and curb;
The day of spirits; my soul’s calm retreat
Which none disturb!
Christ’s progress, and His prayer time;
The hours to which high heaven doth chime;

God’s silent, searching flight;
When my Lord’s head is filled with dew, and all
His locks are wet with the clear drops of night;
His still, soft call;
His knocking time; the soul’s dumb watch,
When spirits their fair kindred catch.

Were all my loud, evil days
Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark tent,
Whose peace but by some angel’s wing or voice
Is seldom rent,
Then I in heaven all the long year
Would keep, and never wander here.

But living where the sun
Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tire
Themselves and others, I consent and run
To every mire,
And by this world’s ill-guiding light,
Err more than I can do by night.

There is in God, som say,
A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear.
O for that night! where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim!


Music: Ye Must Be Born Again – sung by The Sensational Nightingales, a beloved Black Gospel Quartet that, with several membership changes, has been popular for over seven decades.  (Lyrics below)

Ye Must Be Born Again
written by William T. Sleeper in 1877

A ruler once came to Jesus by night,
To ask Him the way of salvation and light;
The Master made answer in words true and plain,
“Ye must be born again!”
“Ye must be born again!”
“Ye must be born again!”
“I verily, verily say unto thee,
Ye must be born again!”

Ye children of men, attend to the word
So solemnly uttered by Jesus, the Lord,
And let not this message to you be in vain,
“Ye must be born again.”

Oh, ye who would enter that glorious rest,
And sing with the ransomed the song of the blest;
The life everlasting if ye would obtain,
“Ye must be born again.”

Easter Tuesday: Yet We Believe

April 19, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings present us with a picture of the nascent Church as it works toward understanding itself in the physical absence of Jesus.

Throughout the Gospels, we see a Christian community forming around a Leader they can see, hear and touch. Acts reveals how that community awakens to itself when Jesus is no longer materially present.

Acts shows us a Church like us. We have never seen Christ, nor heard him, nor touched him. And yet we believe, or want to believe.


In our reading today, Peter preaches with brutal honesty:

Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 2:26
acts2_38_heartstruck

Peter’s message gets through to the assembly, to the point that, when they hear it, they are “cut to the heart”. This phrase indicates a profound conversion in the way they believed. Peter tells them that their faith, like Jesus’ life, must now become a sign of contradiction to a “corrupt generation “.


What might this powerful passage say to us?

For one thing, the reading calls us to be honest about the sincerity of our faith.

  • Is it the core of our lives?
  • Or is it, at best, a Sunday hobby?
  • Does it pervade our relationships and choices, giving witness to Christ’s commission to love?
  • Or is it a tool to judge and vilify those who differ from us?

The reading doesn’t demand that we “preach our faith out loud”. It calls us to a much deeper and more courageous witness:

  • to be Truth in a world of lies
  • to be Peace in violence
  • to be Justice in the face of abuse and domination
  • to be Servant rather than be served
  • to be Love for those deemed unlovable
  • in other words, to be like Jesus

And to do it all because we have been “cut to the heart” by the witness of the Cross and Resurrection.


Poetry: attributed to St. Teresa of Ávila

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.


Music: By Faith-Keith & Kristyn Getty

Easter Monday: Waking Ourselves to Resurrection

April 18, 2022

Mt28_8 fear_joy

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we enter the Easter Season which will last until June 4th. The next day we will celebrate Pentecost.

Throughout these several weeks, we will have a thorough reading of the Acts of the Apostles. 

Theologian Walter Brueggemann says this about Acts:

In the Book of Acts the church is
a restless, transformative agent
at work for emancipation

and well-being in the world.


As Easter People, transformed by the Resurrection of Jesus, that’s what we’re all called to be:

transformative agents
at work for emancipation

and well-being in the world.


Our models and inspiration will be found in these early women and men we read about over the next few weeks. This was a community fully committed and learning to be disciples. This was a community that acted – within a culture of death – for an alternative, life-giving world.

“The whole book of Acts is about power from God that the world cannot shut down. In scene after scene, there is a hard meeting between the church and worldly authorities, because worldly authorities are regularly baffled by this new power and resentful of it.”
At one point, in chapter 17, the followers of Jesus are accused of “turning the world upside down.
” (Brueggemann)


Our world sorely needs such an active Church, speaking clearly to the issues that threaten and limit human life and wholeness in God. It’s not easy to be that witness, but it is critical. Our Gospel suggests the difficulty, but also defines the motivation:

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went away quickly from the tomb,

fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the good news …


May we, though sometimes fearful, choose to be agents of the joyful Good News for our times. By our choices, attitudes and actions, may we be brave in witnessing Christ, even in trying circumstances!



Prose: from Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Discipleship never consists
in this or that specific action:
it is always a decision
either for or against
Jesus Christ.


Music: Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate – sung by Regula Mühlemann

Be sure to wait after the applause for the Alleluia segment.

Exsultate, jubilate,
o vos animae beatae!
Dulcia cantica canendo,
cantui vestro respondendo,
psallant aethera cum me.

Fulget amica dies,
iam fugere et nubila et procellae;
exortus est justis inexspectata quies.
Undique obscura regnabat nox;
surgite tandem laeti,
qui timuistis adhuc,
et iucundi aurorae fortunatae
frondes dextera plena et lilia date.

Tu, virginum corona,
tu nobis pacem dona.
Tu consolare affectus,
unde suspirat cor. Alleluia.

Exult, rejoice,
o blessed souls!
Singing sweet songs,
singing your song,
the heavens sing praise with me.

A friendly day shines forth,
clouds and thunderstorms recede;
unforeseen peace has come to the righteous.
Darkness was all over the world;
arise joyfully at last
you, who were hitherto in fear,
and, leaning to the blissful morning light
lavishly present wreaths of leaves and lilies.

You, the Virgin’s garland ,
grant us peace.
Dull the grief,
which makes our heart sigh. Halleluja.

Holy Tuesday:Faithful Waiting

April 12, 2022
Tuesday of Holy Week

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel tells the sad story of Jesus’s betrayal by his closest friends.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
“Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.

The Last Supper (1630–1631) is an oil painting by Peter Paul Rubens. The painting depicts Jesus and the Apostles during the Last Supper, with Judas dressed in blue turning back towards the viewer and away from the table. Other than Jesus, the most prominent figure is Judas. Judas holds his right hand to his mouth with his eyes avoiding direct contact with the other figures in the painting creating a nervous expression. (Wikipedia)

Pope Francis, in his 2020 Palm Sunday homily, reflected on the depth of these betrayals:

Jesus suffered betrayal by the disciple who sold him and by the disciple who denied him.  He was betrayed by the people who sang hosanna to him and then shouted: “Crucify him!” He was betrayed by the religious institution that unjustly condemned him and by the political institution that washed its hands of him.  

We can think of all the small or great betrayals that we have suffered in life.  It is terrible to discover that a firmly placed trust has been betrayed.  From deep within our heart a disappointment surges up that can even make life seem meaningless.  This happens because we were born to be loved and to love, and the most painful thing is to be betrayed by someone who promised to be loyal and close to us.  We cannot even imagine how painful it was for God who is love.


thorns

These first three days of Holy Week are like the days in our lives when we know there is a wave of suffering coming but it hasn’t quite broken over us. Something just isn’t right in our bodies, minds, spirits, or in the world around us. In such times, the actual pain might be muted, but the fear, loneliness, anxiety and dark imaginations can be acute.

It’s hard to be with ourselves or with another in this kind of suffering. We see in our Gospel how hard it was for the disciples.

All one really has in such moments are the faith and trust that God ever abides with us. It is the kind of assurance Jesus had with the Father.


As we walk beside Jesus on this Fearful Tuesday, let us confide our sufferings, current or remembered, asking to be gracefully transformed by them. Let us listen to Jesus’s pain and heart-break, asking to be a source of comfort and love to Him.

With Jesus, may we carry in our prayer all those throughout the world suffering abandonment, fear, loss, or betrayal at this painful time.


Saint Judas – James Wright

When I went out to kill myself, I caught
A pack of hoodlums beating up a man.
Running to spare his suffering, I forgot
My name, my number, how my day began,
How soldiers milled around the garden stone
And sang amusing songs; how all that day
Their javelins measured crowds; how I alone
Bargained the proper coins, and slipped away.
Banished from heaven, I found this victim beaten,
Stripped, kneed, and left to cry. Dropping my rope
Aside, I ran, ignored the uniforms:
Then I remembered bread my flesh had eaten,
The kiss that ate my flesh. Flayed without hope,
I held the man for nothing in my arms.

Music: I Will Carry You – Sean Clive
You might hear this song in many ways. Perhaps Jesus comforts you with it. Or you might comfort Jesus in his escalating suffering. Or together, Jesus and you may sing it over a suffering world.
(Lyrics below)

I will carry you when you are weak.
I will carry you when you can’t speak.
I will carry you when you can’t pray.
I will carry you each night and day.

I will carry you when times are hard.
I will carry you both near & far.
I’ll be there with you whenever you fall.
I will carry you through it all.

My arms are wider than the sky,
softer than a little child,
stronger than the raging,
calming like a gentle breeze.
Trust in me to hold on tight because

I will carry you when you can’t stand.
I’ll be there for you to hold your hand.
And I will show you that you’re never alone.
I will carry you and bring you back home.

Not pain, not fear, not death, no nothing at all
can separate you from my love.
My arms and hands will hold you close.
Just reach out and take them in your own.
Trust in me to hold on tight.
I will carry you.

Holy Monday – Love’s Oil

April 11, 2022
Monday of Holy Week

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel places a fundamental question before us.  How should the precious oil be used – tenderly poured out or reasonably saved?  It is a question that challenges us to balance justice with mercy, reality with hope, law with passion.  How are we being asked to open our alabaster jar?

anointing at Bethany

This poem by Malcolm Guite may offer inspiration for our prayer:

Come close with Mary, Martha, Lazarus
so close the candles stir with their soft breath
and kindle heart and soul to flame within us,
lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
in quietness and intimate encounter.
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
is broken open for the world’s true Lover.

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
with all the yearning such a fragrance brings.
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
here at the very center of all things,
here at the meeting place of love and loss,
we all foresee, and see beyond the cross.

(Malcolm Guite: The Anointing at Bethany)


anoint_bethany

Jesus, give us courage to accompany you in your final journey. May your passion, death and resurrection bring us new life.

As we make this Holy Week journey, may we prove our love by our actions. May we live generously, hopefully, and gratefully in the Mercy of God.


Music:  Pour My Love on You by Craig and Dean Phillips

Lent: Redemptive Suffering

April 8, 2022
Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we inch closer to Holy Week, we meet both a very troubled Jeremiah and Jesus.

V0034343 The prophet Jeremiah wailing alone on a hill. Engraving.
The Prophet Jeremiah Weeping Alone on a Hill (from the Wellcome Trust)

Jeremiah, the Old Testament mirror of Jesus’s sufferings, bewails the treachery even of his friends:

I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.

Jeremiah 20:10

That’s really raw, because you can get through almost anything in the company of true friends.


Jesus weeps
Jesus Weeping Over Jerusalem by Ary Scheffer (1795-1858)

Jesus came as a Friend and hoped to find Friends of God by his ministry. And he did find many. But not all.

It takes some work to be a true friend of Jesus. Some didn’t have the courage, or generosity, or passion, or hopeful imagination to reach past their self-protective boundaries – to step into eternal life even as they walked the time-bound earth.


In today’s Gospel this band of resisters project their fears and doubts to the crowds around them. The evil sparks inflame the ready tinder of human selfishness. The mob turns on Jesus, spiritual misers scoffing at the generous challenge to believe.

Jesus pleads with them to realize what they are doing:

If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

John 10:37-38

But Jesus and Jeremiah, though troubled, are grounded in God. Our Responsorial Psalm captures what might have been their silent prayer:

Psalm18 distress

Poetry: The following transliteration of Psalm 18, composed by Christine Robinson, might help us to be with Jesus in his moment, and in our own moments of fear, anxiety, or doubt.

I open my heart to you, O God
for you are my strength, my fortress,
the rock on whom I build my life.

I have been lost in my fears and my angers
caught up in falseness, fearful, and furious
I cried to you in my anguish.
You have brought me to an open space.
You saved me because you took delight in me.
I try to be good, to be just, to be generous
to walk in your ways.
I fail, but you are my lamp.
You make my darkness bright
With your help, I continue to scale the walls
and break down the barriers that fragment me.
I would be whole, and happy, and wise
and know your love
Always.


Music: Overcome – Psalm 18 by James Block

Lent: Toward a Future Unimagined

April 7, 2022
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Abraham
Abraham Looks to the Heavens from Bible Pictures by Charles Foster (1897)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Yahweh is very clear with Abram that he is now in a life-changing situation:

My covenant with you is this:
you are to become the father of a host of nations.
No longer shall you be called Abram;
your name shall be Abraham,
for I am making you the father of a host of nations.

Genesis 17: 3-4

pregnant

Having witnessed how young fathers are upended by the news of impending fatherhood, I can’t even imagine what Abraham felt like when he heard this:

I will render you exceedingly fertile;
I will make nations of you;
kings shall stem from you.

But aside from the practical ramifications of God’s promise, what Abraham is invited to is a whole new outlook on the world.  God lays out before him a vision of the ages, infinitely beyond the confines of Abraham’s current understanding.

dangles

It is an existence beyond time and human definition. It is the infinite place of God’s timelessness, where we all exist, but forget when we are born. Our lifetime is a spiritual journey back to remembrance.


In our Gospel, Jesus uses a rather cryptic phrase as he challenges his listeners to look beyond their circumscribed perspectives:

Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death….
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.

John 8:51
Jn8_56 Abraham

By fully embracing his covenant with God, Abraham saw beyond death.  The vision of heaven was opened to him and he lived his life by its power. He lived then within the Day of the Lord, not within any small confined perspective.

Jesus offers us the same invitation. We can choose to see with God’s eyes, or with only our own. We can choose to live within God’s infinity, or in only our own earthbound borders.

In our current global situation, where some humans have lost the sense of anything beyond themselves, it may be a good time to remember the eternal character of our heart.  It may be time to have a sit-down with God about our covenant, like the conversation God had with Abraham.


Poetry: The Unwavering Nomad – Jessica Powers

I love Abraham, that old weather-beaten
unwavering nomad; when God called to him
no tender hand wedged time into his stay.
His faith erupted him into a way
far-off and strange. How many miles are there
from Ur to Haran? Where does Canaan lie,
or slow mysterious Egypt sit and wait?
How could he think his ancient thigh would bear
nations, or how consent that Isaac die,
with never an outcry nor an anguished prayer?
I think, alas, how I manipulate
dates and decisions, pull apart the dark
dally with doubts here and with counsel there,
take out old maps and stare.
Was there a call after all, my fears remark.
I cry out: Abraham, old nomad you,
are you my father? Come to me in pity.
Mine is a far and lonely journey, too.

Music: In the Day of the Lord  – M.D. Ridge

Refrain:
In the day of the Lord, the sun will shine
like the dawn of eternal day.
All creation will rise to dance and sing
the glory of the Lord!

1.
“And on that day will justice triumph,
on that day will all be free:
free from want, free from fear, free to live! Refrain

2.
Then shall the nations throng together
to the mountain of the Lord:
they shall walk in the light of the Lord! Refrain

3.
And they shall beat their swords to plowshares;
there will be an end to war:
one in peace, one in love, one in God! Refrain

4.
For Israel shall be delivered,
and the desert lands will bloom.
Say to all, “Do not fear. Here is your God!” Refrain

5.
And on that day of Christ in glory,
God will wipe away our tears,
and the dead shall rise up from their graves! Refrain

6.
O give us eyes to see your glory,
give us hearts to understand.
Let our ears hear your voice ’til you come! Refrain

Lent: Through Fire and Storm

April 6, 2022
Wednesday of he Fifth Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we see faith tested by fire.

7SRCYZFA2A

In our first reading, three young men stand convinced of God. Even the threat of a fiery death cannot shake them from that conviction.

And their faith is not a quid pro quo – a case where they say to God, “I’ll believe if you do ‘X’ for me.” No, their commitment is unqualified and complete:

If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue.

Daniel 3: 17-18

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are cast into the furnace, a fourth figure appears with them, an angel of God who delivers them safely through their trial.

fire

In our Gospel, even “the Jews who believed” in Jesus begin to quibble with him. They stand with him at the threshold of his Passion and Death, the great fire that will test them all. Like the three young men at the furnace, they face the ultimate choice:

Who do you really believe in?
What God will you give your life to?

Jesus challenges them to follow him into the fire that faces him:

Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you …
… if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.

John 8: 34-36

Throughout our lives, our faith will be tested many times. That’s why it’s called “faith” and not “certainty ”. Our life circumstances will ask us, again and again, if our faith is strong enough to stand in the fire, to walk the Calvary road with Jesus.

Let the testimony of the ages inspire us with courage. From our scriptural heritage, we know the fire hid an angel. We know the road continued past the bloody hill and on to the Resurrection. We know that every storm will pass and leave us washed anew in grace if we make that ultimate choice to be faithful.


Poetry: Touched by an Angel – Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage 
exiles from delight 
live coiled in shells of loneliness 
until love leaves its high holy temple 
and comes into our sight 
to liberate us into life. 

Love arrives 
and in its train come ecstasies 
old memories of pleasure 
ancient histories of pain. 
Yet if we are bold, 
love strikes away the chains of fear 
from our souls. 

We are weaned from our timidity 
In the flush of love’s light 
we dare be brave 
And suddenly we see 
that love costs all we are 
and will ever be. 
Yet it is only love 
which sets us free.


Music: Praise You in This Storm – Casting Crowns

Lent: Trust the Light

April 4, 2022
Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our first reading offers us one of the most captivating, and perhaps infuriating, stories of the Bible – the story of Susanna. This is a tale that can offer us many points of reflection. Rather than offer you my own, I would like to refer you to this excellent article by Dr. Malka Zeiger Simkovich is a the Crown-Ryan Chair of Jewish Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and the director of their Catholic-Jewish Studies program.


Our Gospel for today picks of the themes of knowledge, truth and judgement we have found in Daniel.

Jesus in facing mounting harassment and criticism from those threatened by his message. In today’s passage, a group of Pharisees engages in a verbal duel with Jesus:

The Pharisees said to him,
“You testify on your own behalf,
so your testimony cannot be verified.”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Even if I do testify on my own behalf, my testimony can be verified,
because I know where I came from and where I am going.
But you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone.

Jesus makes it clear that such mental gymnastics, devoid of heart and spirit, are nothing but a journey in darkness:

Jesus spoke to them again, saying,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”


We’ve all met people who want to make faith into a mental Rubik’s cube. But deep faith will never fit into blocks and clever twists. Deep faith releases us from the need to have everything fit – from the futile imagination that we are in control of anything but our power to love.

As we pray with the little pieces of Susanna, Pharisees, and wicked elders we might discover in our own lives, let’s ask for the courage and grace to relax into the Light that Jesus offers us today.


Poetry: Peter Quince at the Clavier – Wallace Stevens

  I 

Just as my fingers on these keys 

Make music, so the selfsame sounds 

On my spirit make a music, too. 

Music is feeling, then, not sound; 

And thus it is that what I feel, 

Here in this room, desiring you, 

Thinking of your blue-shadowed silk, 

Is music. It is like the strain 

Waked in the elders by Susanna: 

Of a green evening, clear and warm, 

She bathed in her still garden, while 

The red-eyed elders, watching, felt 

The basses of their beings throb 

In witching chords, and their thin blood 

Pulse pizzicati of Hosanna. 

                                              II 

In the green water, clear and warm, 

Susanna lay. 

She searched 

The touch of springs, 

And found 

Concealed imaginings. 

She sighed, 

For so much melody. 

Upon the bank, she stood 

In the cool 

Of spent emotions. 

She felt, among the leaves, 

The dew 

Of old devotions. 

She walked upon the grass, 

Still quavering. 

The winds were like her maids, 

On timid feet, 

Fetching her woven scarves, 

Yet wavering. 

A breath upon her hand 

Muted the night. 

She turned— 

A cymbal crashed, 

And roaring horns. 

                                           III 

Soon, with a noise like tambourines, 

Came her attendant Byzantines. 

They wondered why Susanna cried 

Against the elders by her side; 

And as they whispered, the refrain 

Was like a willow swept by rain. 

Anon, their lamps’ uplifted flame 

Revealed Susanna and her shame. 

And then, the simpering Byzantines 

Fled, with a noise like tambourines. 

                                             IV 

Beauty is momentary in the mind— 

The fitful tracing of a portal; 

But in the flesh it is immortal. 

The body dies; the body’s beauty lives. 

So evenings die, in their green going, 

A wave, interminably flowing. 

So gardens die, their meek breath scenting 

The cowl of winter, done repenting. 

So maidens die, to the auroral 

Celebration of a maiden’s choral. 

Susanna’s music touched the bawdy strings 

Of those white elders; but, escaping, 

Left only Death’s ironic scraping. 

Now, in its immortality, it plays 

On the clear viol of her memory, 

And makes a constant sacrament of praise.


Music: Bach: Prelude in C Major, BWV 846, The Well-Tempered Clavier