Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings assure us that God cares about our hungry spirits and will satisfy them.

Both the prophet Elisha and Jesus respond to the needs of the hungry crowds by the power of their faith. In each story, there is only a small amount of food to meet the overwhelming need of the people. But those small amounts, given selflessly and gratefully, renew themselves until all are satisfied.


Our spiritual hungers are deep, and much harder to fill than our physical ones. Sometimes, we don’t even know what we are longing for. Thus we may end up filling our emptiness with distractions and junk.


Today’s readings encourage us to turn our soul’s needs toward God. St. Augustine said this:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our hearts are restless (hungry)
until they rest in You.


Notice that in Jesus’s miracle of the loaves and fishes, there is one key action before the multiplication occurs.

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

Let’s sift through both the large and the small sustenances of our life for the things that we are grateful for. When we lift these up in thanksgiving, glimpsing the loving face of God, other graces will begin unexpectedly to multiply around and within us.

Music: O, My Soul Hungered – Corbin Allred

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a selection from Exodus which you will probably recognize from the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. It describes one of the most astounding displays of power in the Hebrew Scriptures.

by Frederick Arthur Bridgman

Stand with the author on the other side of the Red Sea and feel the pounding exultation:

I will sing to the LORD who is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot casting into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
who has been my savior.
my God, whom I praise;
the God of my father, whom I extol.

It is a beautifully cadenced victory chant, and I have always loved hearing it at the vigil as we celebrate our deliverance from death through Christ’s Resurrection.


Imagine those “chariots and charioteers”, ancient symbols of power and oppression!

So Pharaoh made his chariots ready and mustered his soldiers
six hundred first-class chariots
and all the other chariots of Egypt, with warriors on them all.

Exodus 14: 6-7

What chance did the unarmed, rag tag horde of fleeing Israelites hold against such power?

The power they held was this –
faith in God’s promise
and obedience to its unfolding
in their lives.

It wasn’t easy for them! Moses had to bolster them in their fear and hesitation.

But Moses answered the people,
“Fear not! Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today.
For these Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”

Exodus 14: 13-14

Within these readings, the parallels to our own lives are abundant. If not now, at least at some time, we will have overwhelming forces pursue us. We will be afraid. Our faith will be tested. We will doubt.

If we can “be still”, bolstering our trust in prayer, God will reveal our particular deliverance. It may not look like what we imagined, nor exactly fit what we might have prayed for.

But in trusting prayer, the flood waters of grace release and resurrect us from all that threatens our souls.

The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.

Exodus 15: 5-6

Poetry: I think the psalm is its own poem today.😉


Music: Horse and Chariot – let these kids wake up our faith today!

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 17, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 136 in which the psalmist remembers in detail Israel’s long experience of God’s enduring fidelity.

The cadence of the psalm creates an underlying drumbeat to our prayer, a chant of gratitude and confidence. Reading it, I was reminded of two things.

The first is a scene from the movie “Glory” where the troops pray the night before battle. They pray in the classic style of the Black spiritual call-and-response song.

You may have seen it:

The prayer of these men, like the prayer of ancient Israel, is not just a walk down memory lane. No. Each proclamation is an act of of faith – and of gratitude for the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future.


Secondly, I was reminded of the simple and methodical cadence of a childhood ditty – S/he loves me S/he loves me not. Didn’t many of us try that magic practice at least once, maybe at our first young crush?

Well, God does love us – daisy or not. The proof is not in the petals, but in the story of our lives.

Today might be a good day
to “chant” gratefully
through our own catalogue with God
– remembering, thanking,
believing,and hoping.


Poetry: I thank you, God – e.e.cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Music: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – Etta James sings a classical example of the call-and-response spiritual

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home,

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see

Coming for to carry me home?

A band of angels coming after me,

Coming for to carry me home.

Sometimes I’m up, and sometimes I’m down,

(Coming for to carry me home)

But still my soul feels heavenly bound.

(Coming for to carry me home)

The brightest day that I can say,

(Coming for to carry me home)

When Jesus washed my sins away.

(Coming for to carry me home)

If I get there before you do,

(Coming for to carry me home)

I’ll cut a hole and pull you through.

(Coming for to carry me home)

If you get there before I do,

(Coming for to carry me home)

Tell all my friends I’m coming too.

(Coming for to carry me home)

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home,

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, July 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 124 which is a raw remembering of how bad things could have been without God’s help.

The psalm opens with these lines:

Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say,
Had not the LORD been with us,
when all rose against us,
Then we would have been swallowed alive,
for fury blazed against us.

Psalm 124: 1-3

Have you been there? What flares up to swallow your life, your hope, can wear many disguises: 

 

or the many forms of hunger and dying.


The psalm calls us to remember these things for two reasons:

  1. so that we don’t get caught again
  2. and that if – sadly – we do, we remember who freed us

We were rescued like a bird 
    from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare, 
    and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124: 7-8

The release from such snares
does not return us to the way things were.
There will be
wounds and wisdom
to change us.
It depends on us which we choose to cherish.

“Re-membering” ourselves, pulling our new selves together in God, releases us to fuller, deeper life.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

… so surely that Omnipotent God can heal and remake us.

Remember, this and a few other of my images have been set beautifully into cards by Sister Judy Ward, RSM.
You can contact her at

Poetry: The Fowler by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1868-1962)

A wild bird filled the morning air 
With dewy-hearted song; 
I took it in a golden snare 
Of meshes close and strong. 
But where is now the song I heard? 
For all my cunning art, 
I who would house a singing bird 
Have caged a broken heart.

Music: Peter Kater – Wings

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, July 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 37 which is widely interpreted as:

“a response to the problem of evil,
which the Old Testament often expresses as a question:
why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer?”

Wikipedia

It’s a question all of us struggle with, isn’t it?
And wouldn’t we manage things a lot differently
if we were in charge of the world?


Psalm 37 opens with this advice to help us deal with our consternation:

Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.

Like grass they wither quickly;
like green plants they wilt away.

Psalm 37: 1-2

The psalmist continues to demonstrate that even though evil doers seem to prosper, their prosperity is short-lived. Only goodness endures and ultimately thrives.

Psalm 37 sounds very much like a parent teaching a child not to be distressed by the apparent success of the selfish and scheming. God is not fooled by evildoers so neither should we be.

The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;

But my Lord laughs at them,
seeing that their day is coming.

Psalm 37: 12-13

The advice is easily spoken but perhaps not so easily practiced. So the psalmist offers some tips on how to live a spiritually fruitful life:

  • Trust in the LORD and do good.
  • Find your delight in the LORD.
  • Commit your way to the Lord.
  • Be still before the LORD.
  • Refrain from anger; abandon wrath;
  • Do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
  • Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more.
  • Turn from evil and do good,
    that you may be settled forever.
  • Wait eagerly for the LORD,
    and keep the Lord’s way;

The psalm indicates the result of such goodness, conditions that sound very much like the Beatitudes:

  • You will be raised up to inherit the earth.
  • Yes, the poor will inherit the earth,
    will delight in great prosperity.
  • Better the meagerness of the righteous one
    than the plenty of the wicked.
  • The LORD will sustain the righteous.
  • The LORD knows the days of the blameless;
    their heritage lasts forever.
  • They will not be ashamed when times are bad;
    in days of famine they will be satisfied.
  • For those blessed by the Lord will inherit the earth,
    but those accursed will be cut off.

It’s hard to live a life like the one this psalm invites us to. (At least, I think it is!) It’s hard to have that much faith, especially when evil is smacking us right in the face. The psalmist acknowledges this difficulty but does so with a beautiful assurance:

The valiant one whose steps are guided by the LORD,
who will delight in God’s way,
may stumble, but will never fall,
for the Lord holds their hand.


Poetry: Give Me Your Hand – Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as we are made, 
then walks with us silently out of the night. 
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: 
beauty and horror. 
Just keep going. 
No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life. 
You will know it by its seriousness. 
Give me your hand.

Music: Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand – Alfred Street Baptist Church

Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 30, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34. We do so in the light of our first reading which tells us the heart-wrenching story of Hagar. 

As Hagar sat opposite Ishmael, he began to cry.
God heard the boy’s cry,
and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven:
“What is the matter, Hagar?
Don’t be afraid; God has heard the boy’s cry in this plight of his.
Arise, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand;
for I will make of him a great nation.”
Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.
She went and filled the skin with water, and then let the boy drink.

Genesis 21: 15-19

Surely Hagar, and her baby Ishmael, are “poor ones” whose cries the Lord hears.

When the poor ones called out, the LORD heard,
and from all distress saved them.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear God, and delivers them.

Psalm 34: 7-8

Hagar is the embodiment of a faith that has surrendered everything to God. She is pressed to it by the circumstances of her life. But even in that press, she has a choice: God or godlessness. 

God sees her heart choice and opens her eyes to its power:

Then God opened her eyes,
and she saw a well of water.
She went and filled the skin with water,
and then let the boy drink.

The revelation I take from today’s readings?

Even in our deepest thirsts, there is a “well of water” awaiting us when we live in faith and reverence for God:

Fear the LORD, you holy ones,
for nought is lacking to those who fear God.
The great grow poor and hungry;
but those who seek God want for no good thing.

Psalm 34: 10-11

Poetry: Hagar in the Wilderness by Tyehimba Jess

My God is the living God,
God of the impertinent exile.
An outcast who carved me
into an outcast carved
by sheer and stony will
to wander the desert
in search of deliverance
the way a mother hunts
for her wayward child.
God of each eye fixed to heaven,
God of the fallen water jug,
of all the hope a vessel holds
before spilling to barren sand.
God of flesh hewn from earth
and hammered beneath a will
immaculate with the power
to bear life from the lifeless
like a well in a wasteland.
I'm made in the image of a God
that knows flight but stays me
rock still to tell a story ancient as
slavery, old as the first time
hands clasped together for mercy
and parted to find only their own
salty blessing of sweat.
I have been touched by my God
in my creation, I've known her caress
of anointing callus across my face. 
I know the lyric of her pulse
across these lips...  and yes,
I've kissed the fingertips
of my dark and mortal God.
She has shown me the truth
behind each chiseled blow
that's carved me into this life,
the weight any woman might bear 
to stretch her mouth toward her
one true God, her own
beaten, marble song.
sculptor: Edmonia Lewis (1845-1907), an African/Native American expatriate who was phenomenally successful in Rome.

Music: El Roi (Hagar’s Song)

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 26, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Mary’s exquisite prayer, the Magnificat. This prayer is so rich that we can pray it in many ways. Today’s other readings suggest to me to pray it as a prayer of spirited possibility.

For you, my God,
have done great things for me,
and Holy is your Name.
Your Mercy is from age to age
for those wrapped in awe of you.


In our first reading, Abraham and Sarah are the prototypes of such holy awe. Recognizing something godly in his visitors, Abraham welcomes them extravagantly.

Sarah is so struck by their predictions that she turns giddy.

Sometimes when we are overawed by our circumstances, we dissemble rather than quiet ourselves in reverence. God calls Abraham and Sarah to be still within the holy moment by asking the divine rhetorical question:


In our Gospel, the centurion has his own holy moment. Already committed in faith, he hopes for more from Jesus because of his need. With profound trust and humility, the centurion  invites God’s Word to act completely and spontaneously in his life.


We may not have visible angels visiting our homes today, like Abraham and Sarah did.

We may not find Jesus walking into our local town like the centurion did.

Still, by faith, we trust that the Holy is present in every moment of our lives.


With Abraham and Sarah, may we open the tent of our lives to heavenly intervention.

With Mary, let us ask God to release the miracle of sacred possibility over our lives and over our world.

Your mercy reaches from age to age 
for those in awe of you.
You have shown strength with your arm; 
you have scattered the proud in their conceit; 
you have deposed the mighty from their thrones 
and raised the lowly to high places.
You have filled the hungry with good things, 
while you have sent the rich away empty. 
You have come to the aid of Israel your servant, 
mindful of your mercy―
the promise you made to our ancestors―
to Sarah and Abraham and their decendants forever.


Poem: SARAH’S LAUGHTER (GENESIS 18:1–15) by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

When Abraham had hurried back
to the three Strangers with bread
and meat, milk and curds,
Sarah, obediently hiding her faded
beauty behind the tent flaps,
watched them feasting beneath the oak.

From there the Strangers’ words
came winging to where she stood—
in shocked disbelief at first,
having grown old and used to
the sterile disfavor of Abraham’s God,
then exploding in peals of laughter
that ricocheted off the oaks of Mamre
and the stony hills of promise. 

“How many can you count, Sarah?”
Abraham asked as they held each other
beneath a blanket of stars.
“How many children will there be?”

The words set her off again,
and Abraham too,
with irrepressible mirth
till the hills whooped and hollered
and the stars blazed their Aha
in the pregnant desert night.

Music: Two songs today. One just to laugh! Enjoy the possibilities!🤗

  1. Sarah Laughed – Joe Buchanan
Miracles abound, In front of you and all around 
You and I, she and him, It’s a miracle that life begins 
Every time we think we’re lost for good 
The world keeps turning, just like it should 

And out of the darkness came let there be light 
And it’s a miracle we’re sharing space, here in this life 
The universe is a concert, everything moves in time 
Anything can happen when the moment is right 
And Sarah laughed… 

The day begins the same way each time 
The sun and moon and stars, they all know their lines 
Life has a heartbeat of its own, you know 
The only thing unpredictable… the human soul 

And out of the darkness came let there be light 
And it’s a miracle we’re sharing space, here in this life 
The universe is a concert, everything moves in time 
Anything can happen when the moment is right 
And Sarah laughed… 

And we’re the change in things 
The dreamers and the shapers, we’re the crafters and makers 
All building our lives 
And I try so hard to find G-d’s plan in mine 
But I’m a rocky start… maybe that’s by design 
And then I laugh, And Sarah laughed 

And out of the darkness came let there be light 
And it’s a miracle we’re sharing space, here in this life 
The universe is a concert, everything moves in time 
Everything can happen when the moment is right 
And Sarah laughed… 

2. Abraham and Sarah Had to Laugh – Bryan Sirchio

Abraham and Sarah were very old and gray
And angel of the LORD showed up and said to them one day
We know you’re very old and that you’ve never had a kid
But God says, “better find a baby crib!”
And they said…

(Chorus)
Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!
You can’t have a baby when you get this old
Abraham and Sarah had to laugh
O boy that’s a knee slapper!
Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!
But now Abraham and Sarah know
That nothing is too hard for God

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 107, a poem filled with images that hold secrets for our spiritual journey:

They who sailed the sea in ships,
    trading on the deep waters,
These saw the works of the LORD
    and God’s wonders in the abyss.

Psalm 107:23-24

Those who have the opportunity to see the ocean in its many moods will quickly understand the analogy. 

Life is an ocean, but we are not sailing it alone.

That’s what the Lord suggests to Job in our first reading, and what Jesus points out to the nervous disciples in our Gospel.

Psalm 107 tells us that when life distresses us we should do just what the disciples did:

They cried to the LORD in their distress;
    from their straits he rescued them,
God hushed the storm to a gentle breeze
    and the billows of the sea were stilled

Psalm 107: 28-29

It also suggests us that we can hope for this result:

They rejoiced that they were calmed,
    and  brought to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks fo the Lord’s kindness
    and  wondrous deeds to us all.

Psalm 107:30-31

The message of today’s readings for me is trust and hope
— in both calm and storm. Let’s pray for it.


Poetry: blessing of the boats – Lucille Clifton

                                    (at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that.


Music: Secret Ocean – Peter Kater

Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34 once again. With its two accompanying readings, the psalm hits me right between the eyes with this awareness:

Those of us trying to live in God’s presence, the world isn’t going to help us. We will be in contradiction to many, if not most, popular values. Our choices may be questioned, if not ridiculed. Our values may be explained away. Our integrity may be challenged. 

What’s it like to live a faith-based life in today’s culture? The image that comes to my mind is that of trying to play soccer with a square ball! 

Paul felt the dissonance:

But the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
So I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ …


Jesus put the contradiction in a nutshell for us:

No one can serve two masters.
You will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.


So we need to figure out our “mammon” and vanquish it. We need to make the choice that Paul, the psalmist, and Jesus made. Let’s pray on it today.


Poetry: Contraband – Denise Levertov

The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason.
That’s why the taste of it
drove us from Eden. That fruit
was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder
for use a pinch at a time, a condiment.
God had probably planned to tell us later
about this new pleasure.
                                   We stuffed our mouths full of it,
gorged on but and if and how and again
but, knowing no better.
It’s toxic in large quantities; fumes
swirled in our heads and around us
to form a dense cloud that hardened to steel,
a wall between us and God, Who was Paradise.
Not that God is unreasonable – but reason
in such excess was tyranny
and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell
reflecting our own faces. God lives
on the other side of that mirror,
but through the slit where the barrier doesn’t
quite touch ground, manages still
to squeeze in – as filtered light,
splinters of fire, a strain of music heard
then lost, then heard again.


Music: I Choose You Now – Rend Collective

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25 which is our Alleluia Verse.

Psalm 25, in total, is a psalm of lament. But today’s single phrase is a golden thread in an otherwise somber weave. It is a simple act of faith and dependence on God. It is the yielding of one’s life into God’s unfolding promise.


Praying with this psalm today, I am nostalgic. On June 9th, 58 years ago, I graduated from high school.

I guess for some, high school graduation isn’t a remarkable or memorable event. But for me, and the two other young women in this photo, it was a time of earth-shaking choices and profound commitments. It was a moment in our personal stories that would shape our lives forever – we had decided to become Sisters of Mercy.


Every life has one – or likely a few – such moments. They are the hinges on which our life story revolves. Praying gratefully with them helps us to recognize God’s enduring Presence in our lives and to rejuvenate our faith. 

When you get as old as I am, the accumulation of gratitude is overwhelming and the trust in God’s continued abiding is assuring.

Robert Frost seems to have been having such a prayer when he wrote his beloved poem. Maybe it will help your prayer today or at some other date of holy reminiscence in your life.


Poetry: The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Music: The Magnificat Medley – John Michael Talbot

I chose this song today for two reasons.

  1. It is the verse in our Responsorial Psalm:

Holy is the Lord our God.

Psalm 99:7

2. The Magnificat was such a moment in Mary’s life.