Psalm 31: An Inextinguishable Light

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

February 1, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31 which assures us that we can rest in God’s love if we will just hope.

Let your hearts take comfort,
all who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31: 25

Hope can be a complex virtue to understand.
The Catholic Catechism describes Hope in this way:
Hope is the theological virtue
by which we desire the kingdom of heaven
and eternal life as our happiness,
placing our trust in Christ’s promises
and relying not on our own strength,
but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
(CCC 1817)


This definition offers an important key. The kind of hope we are praying about in our psalm is a “virtue”, not a feeling. And in particular, hope is one of the three theological virtues which, according to the brilliant Thomas Aquinas means this:

… these virtues are called theological virtues
“because they have God for their object,
both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him,
and because they are infused into our souls by God alone,
as also, finally, because we come to know of them
only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures”.



Now, you know, Thomas wasn’t probably that fun to talk with, given all that theological Latin. But, wow, he nailed this one.

What I think he meant, in other words, is that we are not talking about the feeling of hope, as when we put a soufflé in the oven and hope it doesn’t collapse. Or when we study like crazy and hope the right questions are on the exam. Or even when, more importantly, we make a life choice like marriage or religious life and hope it will bring us a fulfilling, lasting joy.

These kinds of “hopes” might be better defined as optimistic expectations. If they fail to be fulfilled, we might give up on them, perhaps even stop trying to achieve the kind of joy they promised. (That’s a whole other reflection! 🙂 )

Instead, the Hope we are praying about today is not a feeling. It is a gift, given by God and nurtured by our faithful practice of scriptural prayer.

Just like “Life” which is breathed into us by God without any cooperation of our own, the virtue of Hope – along with Faith and Love – is infused into our souls in God’s loving act of creation.

And just like the principle of life,
Faith, Hope, and Love
reside in us forever.


These theological realities can be hard to grasp. To make it easier, I turn them into images for my prayer. I picture Faith, Hope and Love as three small but inextinguishable candle flames deep in my spirit. God is the One who fires their light and warmth.

The circumstances of my life, chosen or imposed, can affect my ability to see and feel the power of these gifts. But circumstances cannot extinguish them because they belong to God not to me.

Once I said in my anguish,
    “I am cut off from your sight”;
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
    when I cried out to you.

Psalm 31: 23

By prayer, and the faithful effort to be open to God’s Presence in my life, these virtues deepen in me. I can rest assured in their divine constancy. Their power and energy fuel my life both in the favorable and unfavorable “winds” of my circumstances.

Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
    The LORD keeps those who are constant,
    but more than requites those who act proudly.

Psalm 31: 24

I found this tender transliteration of Psalm 31 by Christine Robison helpful for my prayer:

I have come to you, O God, please, take me in.
Hear my prayers, be my rock, my stronghold, my castle.
Help me untangle myself from the web of confusions 
and self-deceptions that I’m stuck in.

I put my trust in you—I give you my life.
I have turned
from the temptation to trust the ten thousand things.
I have turned
from the temptation to despair of your love and help.

I have learned
to see you in my sorrows and afflictions
A lot of my life went by before I managed this,
which makes me sad.

Now, I practice trust and open-hearted acceptance
of my life as it is.
Now I practice trust and open-hearted acceptance
of You as You are.

Poetry: Hope – Lisel Mueller

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.
It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Music: Lavender Shadows – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 37: The Problem of Evil

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

January 29, 2021


from today’s first reading

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 37 which some interpret as a response to the problem of evil. The Hebrew scriptures often express this problem as a question: why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer? 

The valiant one whose steps are guided by the LORD,
who will delight in his way,
May stumble, but he will never fall,
for the LORD holds his hand.

Psalm 37: 23-24

I think many of us see the evil in the world and are saddened, stunned, and confused by it. We share the disillusionment posed in Rabbi Harold Kushner’s classic book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”.

I don’t know about you, but I even have gotten angry with God over the question. When I ministered as hospice chaplain, there were many nights I spent in tearful, protesting astonishment at God’s so-called “Will”.

I have a dear and abundantly faithful friend who swears she will tell God off when she gets to heaven. Ever been like her?😉

Over the years I’ve come to understand that, well actually, we just don’t understand. I have also come to trust that God mysteriously abides with us in our suffering, drawing us ever deeper into that ineffable mystery.

Psalm 37 encourages that trust, and its ensuant behavior, within our own lives:

Trust in the LORD and do good,
    that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
    and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
Commit to the LORD your way;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
    bright as the noonday shall be your vindication. 

Psalm 37: 3-6

Psalm 37 acknowledges that, though we trust, our trust is often tested by what we see in the world.

The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
    who is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
    the Lord delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in God.

Psalm 37: 39-40

Perhaps for our prayer today, we would like to test our hearts against this trust, given the circumstances and awarenesses of our own lives. Where is it that we “take refuge” when “bad things happen”?


Poetry: “Talking to Grief” by Denise Levertov

Ah, grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.

I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.

You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog.

Music: You Want It Darker – by Leonard Cohen who was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death and romantic relationships. Many will be familiar with his highly popularized and beautifully haunting song


Cohen invokes in the song what seem to be phrases from the story of the “binding of Isaac” in Genesis 22, when God commanded Abraham to slaughter his beloved son, Isaac. The Hebrew word Hineni, which means “Here I am,” is repeated thrice in the “You Want It Darker” song and in Genesis 22 (vs. 1, 7, 11). …

“Hineni” resonates with obedient readiness. It is what a faithful Jew says to God when summoned and called, even in the face of the “valley of the shadow of death.” But Cohen is not so willing to embrace this word in the face of such deep darkness. Indeed, he “wants out” if thus is how the Dealer deals. He will not simply submit without protest against death, without shouting out from within the dark mystery that enfolds humanity.

Dr. Tom Neal – Academic Dean and Professor of Spiritual Theology, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, LA

Psalm 110: A Chasuble of Justice

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

January 18, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 110 where we are re-introduced to Melchizedek, the first priest mentioned in Genesis 14.



Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor;
    before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.”
The LORD has sworn, and will not repent:
    “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

Psalm 110: 3-4

And our two readings today show us Jesus, the one High Priest, through whom we are fully redeemed.

In the days when he was in the Flesh,
Jesus offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Hebrews 5: 7-9

It is so appropriate to consider the meaning of priesthood as we commemorate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. In the image of Christ, Dr. King wore a chasuble of justice for our time.

A priest is one :

  • who is set apart
  • who mediates the Divine
  • who bears witness
  • who ministers
  • who offers sacrifice
  • who transforms through prophetic hope

As a Catholic priest vests with the chasuble for Mass, this prayer is said:

Domine, qui dixisti:
Jugum meum suave est et onus meum leve:
fac, ut istud portare sic valeam,
quod consequar tuam gratiam.

Lord, you have said:
My yoke is sweet and my burden is light.
Grant that I may carry your yoke well
so as to obtain your grace.

Indeed, Martin Luther King “carried the yoke well”
to obtain the grace of justice for all of us.


Poetry: two poems in which the poet, Margaret Walker, uses the persona of Amos the Prophet to describe Martin Luther King. One poem is written before, and one after, Dr. King’s assassination.

Amos, 1963 – Margaret Walker – 1914-1997

Amos is a Shepherd of suffering sheep;
A pastor preaching in the depths of Alabama
Preaching social justice to the Southland
Preaching to the poor a new gospel of love
With the words of a god and the dreams of a man
Amos is our loving Shepherd of the sheep
Crying out to the stricken land
“You have sold the righteous for silver
And the poor for a pair of shoes.
My God is a mighty avenger
And He shall come with His rod in His hand.”
Preaching to the persecuted and the disinherited millions
Preaching love and justice to the solid southern land
Amos is a Prophet with a vision of brotherly love
With a vision and a dream of the red hills of Georgia
“When Justice shall roll down like water
And righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Amos is our Shepherd standing in the Shadow of our God
Tending his flocks all over the hills of Albany
And the seething streets of Selma and of bitter Birmingham.

Amos (Postscript, 1968)

From Montgomery to Memphis he marches
He stands on the threshold of tomorrow
He breaks the bars of iron and they remove the signs
He opens the gates of our prisons.
He speaks to the captive hearts of America
He bares raw their conscience
He is a man of peace for the people
Amos is a Prophet of the Lord
Amos speaks through Eternity
The glorious Word of the Lord!

Music: American Dream – Bobby Womack

Psalm 19: What Is Truth?

Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, January 16, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19, a hymn to the beauty of God’s Law.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
    refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
   giving wisdom to the simple.

Psalm 19: 8

Placed as it is in today’s liturgy, the psalm brings added emphasis to our exquisite first reading from Hebrews:

The Word of God is living and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
penetrating even between soul and spirit,
joints and marrow,
and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Hebrews 4: 12

LAW…WORD…TRUST…TRUTH…WISDOM…SPIRIT

These themes shout out to us from today’s readings. And they need to shout in order to be heard above the clamor of a culture that has so enfeebled “truth” that it can barely speak.

At the electoral confirmation hearings, after the Capitol insurrection, Mitt Romney bravely said, “The best way we could show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth”.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a novel idea in our fallacious political culture.

Praying Psalm 19 challenges me to recognize my role in reclaiming a mutually truthful, respectful, and reverently attentive society. It also summons me to demand the same from my political and religious leaders.


Poetry: two poems today

truth - Gwendolyn Brooks
And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?
Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?
Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?
Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.
The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.

And this one from a Franciscan friend and revered mentor in social justice – Marie Lucey, OSF

A Justice- Seeker’s Journey
In high school art class—and in life--
I stayed within the lines.
“Timid soul,” the teacher branded me.
In English class I stood—green girl
in more ways than uniform--
to argue with the wiser nun
that men were more intelligent than women.
(Forgive me, God, and sisters!)

How did I get from there—a lifetime ago--
to here?
Over time layers of knowing peeled away,
core truths revealed.
Cries of people suffering—oppression,
injustice, human cruelty,
and my own dark nights,
insisted that I stand up, speak up, act up,
kneel down, reach out, reach in,
march, be cuffed and fined,
and even jailed just once.
Neither brave nor timid
I try to follow Jesus
who walked outside the lines.

Music: The Trouble with Truth – Joan Baez

Oh the trouble with the truth
Is it’s always the same old thing
So hard to forget, so impossible for me to change
Every time I try to fight it
I know I’ll be left to blame.

Oh the trouble with the truth
Is it’s always the same old thing
And the trouble with the truth
Is it’s just what I need to hear
Ringing so right, deep down inside my ear.


And it’s everything I want
And it’s everything I fear
Oh the trouble with the truth
Is it’s just what I need to hear

It had ruined the taste of the sweetest lies
Burned through my best alibis
Every sin that I deny
Keeps hanging round my door
Oh the trouble with the truth
Is it always begs for more

That’s the trouble, trouble with the truth
That’s the trouble, trouble with the truth
And the trouble with the truth
Is it just won’t let me rest
I run and hide, but there’s always another test
And I know that it won’t let me be
‘Till I’ve given it my best
The trouble with the truth
Is it just won’t let me rest

Psalm 78: Don’t Forget

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 15, 2021

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

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

Psalm 78: 3-4

And the teaching is this:

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

Psalm 78: 6-7

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

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

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

Psalm 78: 8

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

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

Psalm 78: 56-59

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Music: Learn Your Lessons Well from Godspell

Psalm 97: Ordinary?

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 11,2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 97 which reminds us that, as Jesus begins his earthly ministry, he is accompanied by the unseen powers of heaven.

The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
Let all his angels worship him.

Psalm 97: 6-7

The psalm is reflective of the glorious passage from our first reading describing the Divinity of Jesus:

The Son of God is…
the refulgence of God’s glory, 
the very imprint of God’s being,
who sustains all things by his mighty word.
When he had accomplished purification from sins, 
he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
as far superior to the angels
as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Hebrews 1: 3-4

These seem perfect readings to begin a season described as “Ordinary Time” because they remind us that the power of Jesus Christ is far from ordinary.

And our days do not feel like ordinary times, do they? They are both fraught with threat and charged with hope.

They are times belabored by pandemic struggle, political vitriol, climate dissolution, global strife and systemic oppression.

But they are also times bristling with breakthrough discovery, civic renewal, social consciousness, communal courage and spiritual awakening.


Just as in our Gospel on this first day of “Ordinary Time”, Jesus asks his disciples to “Come”, dream extraordinary dreams with him, so he asks us. 

He asks us to believe
that there are unseen angels attending us.
 
He asks us to remember that we, like him,
are made in the refulgent image of God.


He calls us, like Simon and Andrew, to believe
that our “ordinary time” is actually the “time of fulfillment”:

This is the time of fulfillment.
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the Gospel.

Mark 1:15

Poetry: Maya Angelou – Touched by an Angel

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: Ordinary Time – Marie Bellet

There will come a day for quiet kitchen mornings
Lunches with the girls, book clubs in the afternoon
There will come a day for chintz flowers on my sofa
Just the perfect lipstick, matching purse and shoes.

There will come a day without constant interruption
Confusing all my senses, my reason and my rhyme
But for now I trip on the backpacks in the hallway
Scrub the crayon from the walls that mark this ordinary time.

There will come a day for uneventful dinners
When no one drops their fork or spills their milk upon the floor
There will come a day, I’ll be wiser, I’ll be thinner
I will finish conversations before running out the door.

Well, isn’t that the way it is for all those happy women
Who smile at me from magazines there in the checkout line?
What about the tired, the simple and forgotten?
Blessed be the ordinary here in ordinary time.

He said “Who will feed my sheep?
Who will heed their cry?”
I said “I am vain and weak
But surely I will try.

You know everything
And You know that I’m
Just an ordinary woman 
here in ordinary time”.

There will come a day when everything is order
And I will be the queen of everything I see
But how my heart will leap to find one backpack in the hallway
With the promise of a face, and a story just for me.

So may I never yearn for those cocktail conversations
Clever observations made for fashionable minds
May I finally learn to be happy and have patience
With the constant changing rhythm of this ordinary time,
The constant changing rhythm of this ordinary time.

Psalm 72: Endow Our Leaders in Justice

Thursday after Epiphany

January 7, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 72:1-2

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


Poetry: Beclouded by Emily Dickinson

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

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

Under Mary’s Protection

January 1, 2021
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

( I was invited to offer a reflection for my community for the celebration of New Year’s. I wanted to share it with our larger community here.)


Over the threshold of midnight, we step into the New Year 2021.

And, oh, how we have longed for it

  • run toward it 
  • run away from what the old year pressed on us 
  • from what we heard unceasingly referred to as “these unsettling times”

Dear friends the phrase puts it mildly, doesn’t it?


Every one of us- to some degree- has felt the

  • loss 
  • sadness 
  • fear 
  • anxiety 
  • loneliness

We have been tested in our faith

  • our hope 
  • our love 
  • and, surely, our courage

Some have walked through the middle of hell
and some only on the edge.
But we have all felt its fire.

We are a world truly brought to its knees as we clothe ourselves in 2021’s first morning.


We come to our prayer to do as our reading from Numbers encourages us, emboldens us to do – to seek a blessing for the New Year:

May the Lord bless us and keep us 
shine the face of mercy on us 
be gracious to us 
look upon us kindly 
give us peace

But how will we find such a blessing, my friends, when we know that its hope is hidden in the unrelenting circumstances of our lives?


Let’s consider our Gospel today.
Just as Christ lay shining 
but in the damp hay of a dark manger…
Just as the word of his coming was announced 
but by rude shepherds who carried the angelic words,
so the blessing will come to us….clothed in the ordinariness of what we already know.

And it is this:

The power of God is always hidden 
in the flesh of our daily lives.


Let us turn to Mary today to remind ourselves of this mystery.

Before the Annunciation, when young Mary imagined the Messiah’s coming, do you think she pictured a godforsaken manger and a birth in a barn?

Do you think she imagined herself receiving ponderable angelic words through the mouths of illiterate shepherds?

Our inscrutable God comes to us
in ways we never imagine … yes, dear friends, even through pandemic suffering,
and the painful graces
it breaks open in our hearts.

Mary, whom we celebrate and invoke today, shows us how to take the next step into a new year —a year that will not perceptibly change in its challenges for some time to come.

It, too, will be filled with what looks like mangers and shepherds rather than the heavenly palaces and angels we might desire.

But Mary shows us that faith finds God by surrender to the grace of our ordinary lives.

Today, what we pray for one another through Mary’s intercession, is the grace to find the blessing in this mystery.

We pray to be encouraging witnesses for one another of:

  • faith even in darkness
  • resilience and courage during extraordinary challenge
  • hope in the face of discouragement
  • perseverance when we languish
  • loving service despite fear
  • Mercy pouring over pain

When we do these things, we become the blessing that we seek.

When we, like Mary, keep these things in our heart, we allow Christ to be born again even in our “unsettling” times.


Maria de Mercede, fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1472)

The most ancient prayer to Mary is the Sub Tuum Praesidium, dating from the 2nd century. It seems a perfect way to close our reflection today, and to open our hearts to hope for the New Year:

Under your protection,
we take our refuge, 
O Holy Mother of God:
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us from all evil,
O pure and blessed one.
Amen.

A truly blessed and joyful New Year to you all, Beloveds.


Music: Sub Tuum Praesidium in Latin (see above for English)

Psalm 96: Let the Whole Earth Sing

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

December 29, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, an exuberant song of praise and an imperative to radical hope.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless the Holy Name.

In the scriptures, hope is both a spiritual and political act. Hope stands up in the midst of pressing contradictions and declares, “God is with us. We give praise because of this conviction”.


Walter Brueggemann defines these elements in true praise:

  • First, praise is an act of imagination, not description. It sees the world through the lens of faith and dares to line out a world engaged in dialogical transactions between Creator and Creation.
  • Second, hymns of praise are acts of devotion with political and polemical overtones. Their work is to engage in “world making.” The very act of praise itself envisions a new world, a different world, a world alternative to the one in front of us.
  • Third, the Psalms voice and are embedded in a larger narrative in which YHWH (God) is the key character and lively agent.
  • Fourth, doxology (praise) is the exuberant abandonment of self over to God. In singing praise, all claims for the self are given up as the self is ceded over to God.
  • And fifth, such songs do not passively accommodate to an economic, political, and psychological status quo. They run the risks of being disruptive for the sake of another world 

—- a “Christed” world in which God is intimately engaged with our lives.


Thus we can rejoice in the closing verses of this dynamic psalm:

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;g
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them.
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice
before the LORD who comes,
who comes to govern the earth,
To govern the world with justice
and the peoples with faithfulness.

Psalm 96: 12-14

As the new week unfolds, and we move lingeringly away from Christmas comforts, we may forget what we have just commemorated…

Emmanuel- God With Us

As we re-enter a world still in frightening shadows, we must believe in the Light. As we slowly re-robe in the clothing of our daily responsibilities, we must not forget the Garment of Salvation we have just celebrated and received. 

Our Psalm calls us to be a daily witness to the Love we have been given:

Announce the Lord’s salvation, day after day.
Tell the Lord’s glory among the nations;
among all peoples, God’s wondrous deeds.

Psalm 96:2-3

Poetry: Hope by Philip Booth

Old spirit, in and beyond me,
keep and extend me. Amid strangers
friends, great trees and big seas breaking,
let love move me. Let me hear the whole music,
see clear, reach deep. Open me to find due words,
that I may shape them to ploughshares of my own making.
After such luck, however late, give me to give to
the oldest dance… Then to good sleep,
and - if it happens - glad waking.

Music: Sing a New Song – J.P. Putnam, sung here by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

I wanna sing a new song
Shout it out louder than before
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
Yeah yeah
Oh-oh-oh...

There is a place
We can seek his face
Changed in his presence
Touched by his grace

There is a sound
I hear it all around
Worship is rising
And people crying out

I wanna sing a new song
Shout it out louder than before
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing

It's a song of praise
A song for all of the redeem
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing

Never the same
He's taken my chains
There's freedom in Jesus
Power to save
There is a name
Like no other name (like no other name)
There's freedom in Jesus

(Come on, let's shout it)
Shout out his name
I wanna sing a new song
Shout it out louder than before
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
It's a song of praise
A song for all of the redeemed

Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I wanna sing a new song
Shout it out louder than before
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
It's a song of praise
A song for all of the redeem

Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Oh yes, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah say
(Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah)

One more time sing
(Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah)
Somebody say God, you're glorious
(God, you are glorious)
God, you are glorious
(God, you are glorious)

Psalm 31: Soak in the Graces

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

December 26, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, we pray with Psalm 31.

The Stoning of St. Stephen – Giovanni Lucini

Even while the gentle lights of Christmas linger, the Church reminds us that life in Christ requires a complete self-donation. Like Stephen, we pray to embrace that cost with courage and faith:

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.

Psalm 31: 6-8

Liturgically, we will be in the Christmas and Epiphany Season until January 10th. We have plenty of time to soak up the heavenly lights and the angelic songs as we slowly step back into an often shadowy world.

And I think the Church puts Stephen’s martyrdom so starkly at this juncture to remind us to SOAK – to fill our tanks with Christmas grace so that we are ready to accompany Christ in his ministry.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.

Psalm 31: 3-4
Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco – Caravaggio

While your crèche is still enshrined in your home, take a morning to kneel beside Mary. Ask to learn her secrets for living fully in Christ. 

  • Do the same one morning with Joseph. Learn from his silent strength.
  • Learn from the shepherds who received astounding revelation with simple, unquestioning faith.
  • Learn from the animals who stand pure and guileless in the presence of God.
  • Ask to be ready, like Stephen, to give everything for what you learn.

I trust in you, LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My destiny is in your hands;
rescue me from any darkness,
from all pulls me away from you.
Let your face shine on your me
embrace me completely in your mercy.

Psalm 31: 16-17

Poem: THE STABLE by Sr. M. Chrysostom, O.S.B.

The winds were scornful,
Passing by;
And gathering Angels 
Wondered why
A burdened Mother 
Did not mind 
That only animals 
Were kind.
For who in all the world 
Could guess 
That God would search out 
Loneliness.

Music: Martyr Dei ( Martyr of God)

Martyr Dei, qui (quæ) unicum
Patris sequendo Filium,
victis triumphas hostibus,
victor (victrix) fruens cælestibus.
Tui precatus munere
nostrum reatum dilue,
arcens mali contagium,
vitæ repellens tædium.
Soluta sunt iam vincula
tui sacrati corporis;
nos solve vinclis sæculi,
amore Filii Dei.
Honor Patri cum Filio
et Spiritu Paraclito,
qui te corona perpeti
cingunt in aula gloriæ.

Martyr of God, whose strength was steeled
To follow close God’s only Son,
Well didst thou brave thy battlefield,
And well thy heavenly bliss was won!
Now join thy prayers with ours, who pray
That God may pardon us and bless;
For prayer keeps evil’s plague away,
And draws from life its weariness.
Long, long ago, were loosed the chains
That held thy body once in thrall;
For us how many a bond remains!
O Love of God release us all.
All praise to God the Father be,
All praise to Thee, eternal Son;
All praise, O Holy Spirit, to Thee
While never ending ages run.