If … then. Uh oh!

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge us.

Jn15_20JPG

Jesus talks about the kind of blowback his disciples can expect for living their faith in  an inimical world. He gives us some “if … then” statements:

  • If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
  • If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.
  • If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.

Reading these verses makes me wonder if I am really living the Gospel, because I don’t feel all that persecuted.

And then I think that this is because I really live in two worlds. I live in first world comfort and security. But there is also a part of me that agonizes daily over the injustice rampant in our shared world. Today’s Gospel challenges me to live more intentionally in that second world.

Walter Brueggemann says this:

Faith is both the conviction
that justice can be accomplished
and the refusal to accept injustice.”
Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out

Jesus was not persecuted simply because he did miracles and preached love. This loving, life-giving ministry confronted the dominant, government-generated culture which relied on the subjugation and despair of those they dominated.

Jesus, just like other prophets, was killed because he gave hope to a people whose freedom threatened the status quo comfort of the dominators. Just like  Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Oscar Romero , Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Wang Zhiming , the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek  (All names are clickable to find more information.)

I don’t aspire to martyrdom. But I do want to be a true disciple of Jesus. The way available to us is to live and act with mercy and compassion for the poor, marginalized people Jesus so loves. We can do this by voting, advocating for, and sponsoring programs and agendas for social justice.  This link from the Sisters of Mercy is a help on how to do that:

Click here for Sisters of Mercy Advocacy page

Brueggemann also says this:

Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion.” (Prophetic Imagination)

May our hearts be moved by grace to the depth of compassion we have learned from Jesus.

P.S. I know that many of you have responded to this request I placed on Facebook. Thank you. For those who don’t do Facebook, this is an urgent request for help for refugees at our southern border. It’s an easy way to do some good things.It was received from Sisters of Mercy Leadership Team in D.C.

Music for today is below this request. 


appeal


Music: Compassion- The Gettys 

Finding Peace

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel offers us a profound message: what does it mean to live in the peace of God?

jn14_28 peace

So many things, from the monumental to the trivial, can make us unpeaceful. If we made a list, we might tire before we completed it! This lack of peace takes many forms in us – worry, anxiety, second guessing, distraction, self-doubt and myriad other forms of inner fragmentation.

For some of us, gaining inner peace is more difficult than for others. So much depends on the trust we have felt in our lives. For those who have felt betrayed by family, friends, or God, the journey to a peaceful heart can be a tortuous one.

But Jesus says we can do it because he showed us how.

Don’t you think he might have been confused and bewildered at times by what the Father was asking of him? Don’t you think he was disillusioned at times by the wavering faith of his disciples? Don’t you think he was frightened by the kind of death he faced?

So just how did Jesus grow to such a fullness of peace that he was able to bequeath it to us as our inheritance?

He said:

Not as the world gives peace do I give it to you.

The world gives peace by removing or dominating challenges. God gives peace by accompanying us through challenges.

Jesus came to the point, in his very human life, where he chose not to let his heart be troubled because he had found this accompaniment.

The willingness of Jesus to live, suffer, and die according to the Father’s Will gives us the pattern on which to build our peace.

Throughout the ages, many saints have found and lived this peace according to their own call from God. One of the many who inspire me is Julian of Norwich.  Julian was an English anchorite of the Middle Ages.  She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.

Julian was worried about the presence of sin in the world. It seems she wondered, like many of us might, why God didn’t just fix that!


“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.

But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.”


This also is a lovely quote from Julian to pray with:

“From the time these things were first revealed I had often wanted to know what was our Lord’s meaning. It was more than fifteen years after that I was answered in my spirit’s understanding. ‘You would know our Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold on to this and you will know and understand love more and more. But you will not know or learn anything else — ever.”

Music: Meg Barnhouse’s modern interpretation of Julian’s writing, which Meg has obviously studied.

 

Bright with Love

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

May 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the inevitable shadow falls over the early Christian community. Stephen is martyred – the first, the proto-martyr of many, down through the centuries, who will die for their faith.

Acts8_2 Stephen

This slaughter of innocence happened at the feet, and at the approbation, of Saul – yet untouched by the glorious grace of Christ.

How the community must have mourned beloved Stephen who, as our hymn describes him, was “bright with Love”:

  • Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5)
  • Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8)
  • All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen and saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15)
  • Stephen, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God  (Acts 7:8)
  • Stephen, as they were stoning him, called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. ( Acts 7:55)
  • What a treasure of a man! What a devastation to see his young, gracious life crushed by rejection, suffering and pain!

It is so hard to lose our prophets and saints!

I still remember, with great awe, the funeral of our Sister Mary Joanna Regan – one of the graced treasures of the Sisters of Mercy. Our Beloved Community was raw with her loss – as was the larger community of her love and influence.

Joanna’s dear friend, Father John Comey, SJ – now also of beloved memory – preached the sermon at her funeral liturgy. This was his first sentence:

How can such a woman die?

Dear Readers, haven’t we all felt that way in the face of some great loss? Whenever human frailty seems to bend to the powers of death, hatred, or oppression, our souls are crushed. We are astounded that life and goodness seem to yield. So was the early Christian Church when Stephen seemed to fall to hateful hands.

Nevertheless, they believed that there is an eternal life in God beyond that apparent yielding.  They persisted in the ardent work of building up the reign of Christ.

Now those who had been scattered
continued preaching the word. … and
there was great joy in that city.

And the witness of Stephen impelled not only them, but twenty centuries of committed Christians who find their fullness of life in Jesus Christ.

Certainly our Church, with its many recent fractures and falls, needs a resilient, faithful community to lift it up and carry it forward. Let’s pray to St. Stephen today that we may be that community!

(English and Latin canticle today, plus lovely poem after them)

Music:  Sancte Dei, Pretiose  – sung by the Benedictine Monks of St. Michael’s de Laudes

Latin Version
Sancte Dei, pretiose,
Protomartyr Stephane,
Qui virtute caritatis
Circumfulsus undique,
Dominum pro inimico
Exorasti populo
Et coronae qua nitescis
Almus sacri nominis,
Nos, qui tibi famulamur,
Fac consortes fieri :
Et expertes dirae mortis
In die Judicii.
Gloria et honor Deo
Qui te flora roseo
Coronavit et locavit
In throno sidereo :
Salvet reos, solvens eos
A mortis aculeo. Amen.

English Version
Saint of God, elect and precious,
Protomartyr Stephen, bright
With thy love of amplest measure,
Shining round thee like a light;
Who to God commendest, dying,
Them that did thee all despite.
Glitters now the crown above thee,
Figured in thy honored name:
O that we, who truly love thee.
May have portion in the same;
In the dreadful day of judgment
Fearing neither sin nor shame.
Laud to God, and might, and honor,
Who with flowers of rosy dye
Crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee
In the starry throne on high:
He direct us, He protect us,
From death’s sting eternally.


Poem: St. Stephen by Malcolm Guite

Witness for Jesus, man of fruitful blood,
Your martyrdom begins and stands for all.
They saw the stones, you saw the face of God,
And sowed a seed that blossomed in St. Paul.
When Saul departed breathing threats and slaughter
He had to pass through that Damascus gate
Where he had held the coats and heard the laughter
As Christ, alive in you, forgave his hate,
And showed him the same light you saw from heaven
And taught him, through his blindness, how to see;
Christ did not ask ‘Why were you stoning Stephen?’
But ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
Each martyr after you adds to his story,
As clouds of witness shine through clouds of glory

Do Not Be Afraid

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter 

May 4, 2019

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Jn6-20 It is I

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel recounts a scary episode for the disciples. Just as in most scary stories, “It was a dark and rainy night”. Worse yet, these guys were out in the middle of a turbulent sea!

Been there? Maybe not in actual nautical terms, but we’ve all had our storms. Right?

The miracle in our Gospel story is that Jesus comes to the disciples out of the midst of the storm. And he will do the same thing for us, if faith can clear our eyes to see him.

In a spiritual direction relationship, where we share our soul’s journey with a guiding companion, that mentor will often ask the question:

Where is God in this situation?

It is the perfect question to ask ourselves in both our small and mighty storms. In all that happens within and around us, God abides – perhaps in the center calling us to new depths; perhaps at the edges calling us away from darkness.

Where is God today for you, dear friends?

Music: Sometimes He Calms the Storm – Scott Krippayne

(You might want just to linger over the words of this beautiful song, so I have printed them below.)

All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong

Suddenly fear is like white water
Pounding on the soul
Still we sail on knowing
That our Lord is in control

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace,  “Be still.”
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will

Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

He has a reason for each trial
That we pass through in life
And though we’re shaken
We cannot be pulled apart from Christ

No matter how the driving rain beats down
On those who hold to faith
A heart of trust will always
Be a quiet peaceful place

Songwriters: Benton Kevin Stokes / Tony W. Wood
Sometimes He Calms the Storm lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

Infinite Grace

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
May 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  in our reading from Acts, the disciples continue to show immense courage in preaching the Word.  They are bursting with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, soon to be confirmed in them on Pentecost.

Jn3_34

We, too, have these gifts confirmed in us, not only when we receive the sacrament of Confirmation, but each time we open our hearts without reserve to the Holy Spirit and her ensuing abundance:

Wisdom
Understanding
Counsel, or Right Judgment
Fortitude, or Courage
Knowledge
Piety, or Reverence
Fear of the Lord, or Awesome Wonder

Sometimes, we unfortunately forget to call on these infinite gifts as we navigate life’s challenges. It is a blessing to remember that we are not doing this thing called “Life” alone, just as the early disciples were charged by the power of God.

Our Gospel confirms the availability of God’s unbounded Grace to all who believe:

For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.

Let’s consciously claim that unrationed grace today! Oh, what a difference it might make in our lives!

Music: Mozart: Veni Sancte Spiritus (Latin and English Lyrics below)

Veni sancte Spiritus:
Reple tuorum corda fidelium:
et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
qui per diversitatem linguarum cunctarum
gentes in unitate fidei congregasti.
Alleluia.


Come Holy Spirit:
fill the hearts of your faithful,
and kindle your love in them.

You have gathered the nations
together in the unity of faith.
Alleluia.

Cast a Merciful Shadow

Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings continue to show us the rising power of Christ after the Resurrection.

Acts5_15 shadow

Acts demonstrates how powerfully He lives in his disciples, and in the faith of the emerging Church.

… the people esteemed them.
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord,
great numbers of men and women, were added to them.
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets
and laid them on cots and mats
so that when Peter came by,
at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.

Our Gospel recounts two Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus where He bolsters that faith for these still fledgling followers. They were gathered in the Upper Room, doors locked and fearful. When Jesus appears, the first thing he says is, “Peace”, because that is what his little flock most needs.

In the course of the reading, we discover Thomas’s adamant doubt unless he can see and touch evidence of the Christ he once knew in the flesh. His doubt is so strong that his faith, when it comes, overwhelms him.

My Lord, and my God!

In these first sainted founders of the faith, we can find a mirror image of our own call to witness Christ. We are delegated to be his presence in the world, to cast a shadow that bears his blessing in the midst of suffering and confusion.

But in the locked room of our hearts, we may still be afraid. We may feel, like Thomas, that we were absent when the affirmation and courage were distributed!

Knowing our own weaknesses – and captured in the maze of their little dramas – we may be skeptical that Christ desires to rise in us, to preach by our lives.

What Jesus said to these very fragile witnesses, he says to us

Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
so I send you.

Let us look around today in awareness of those who fall in the shadow of our faith: our children and families, our religious communities, our elders, our neighbors, our friends and co-workers. As we pass through life together, does our presence bless them with a trace of God?

As we pray today, let us place our doubts, fears, weaknesses and self-concerns into Christ’s sacred wounds. Let us leave them there in confidence as we humbly choose to be his Presence and Mercy for others by the simple, selfless choices of our lives.

Music: My Lord, My God  – Vineyard Music

Witnesses 2

On Friday night, my religious community shares the joy of celebrating the lives of such witnesses, our Sisters marking 25, 50, 60, 70, 75, 80 and 85 years of faithful, merciful service. I  list their names with two poems I used while praying for them this morning. Please join us in grateful prayer for these dear Sisters today.

25 years
Mary Paula Cancienne

50 years
Anna Salzman

60 years
Kathleen Boyce
Joan Freney
Kathleen Gennett
Janet Henry
Maryann Horan
Marie Bernadette Kinniry
Louise Marie Luby
Eleanor McCann
Maureen Murray
Barbara Ann Newton
Katherine O’Donnell
Anne Quigley
Joan Scary
Margaret Taylor
Anne Woodeshick

70 Years
Joan Donahue
Muriel Kershaw
Miriam Theresa Lavelle

75 Years
Margaret Kelly (RIP last week)
Mary Rita Robinson
Helen Cahill

80 Years
Elaine Buckley

85 Years
Mary Berenice Eltz


Poem 1:  The Neophyte by Alice Meynelle
Picture1( This poem was given to me decades ago by one of our old Sisters.  The poem describes how, at first profession, the young novice – in faith – gives ALL her years to God, even before she lives through them.)

Who knows what days I answer for to-day?
Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.

Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way
Give one repose to pain I know not now,
One check to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.

O rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
I fold to-day at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat

I seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.


Poem 2: Silver by Jeannette Encinias

( This beautiful poem makes me think about what God would say to our dear sisters as they are blessed to age into God’s Love over decade upon decade.)

Elaine

“How many years of beauty do I have left?
she asks me.
How many more do you want?
Here. Here is 34. Here is 50.

When you are 80 years old
and your beauty rises in ways
your cells cannot even imagine now
and your wild bones grow luminous and
ripe, having carried the weight
of a passionate life.

When your hair is aflame
with winter
and you have decades of
learning and leaving and loving
sewn into
the corners of your eyes
and the children come
to find their own history
in your face.

When you know what it feels like to fail
ferociously
and have gained the
capacity
to rise and rise and rise again.

When you can make your tea
on a quiet and ridiculously lonely afternoon
and still have a song in your heart
Queen owl wings beating
beneath the cotton of your sweater.
Because your beauty began there
beneath the sweater and the skin,
remember?

This is when I will take you
into my arms and coo
YOU BRAVE AND GLORIOUS THING
you’ve come so far.
I see you.
Your beauty is breathtaking.”

Song: My Tribute – To God Be the Glory

 

The Starboard Side

Easter Friday, April 26, 2019

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Late April and the sweet fullness of a spring morning pours down on the silver water. It had been a fruitless night for the weary fishermen, but not an unpleasant one. They had distracted one another from their labors by singing their ancient folksongs and telling the stories of their recent epiphanies. As dawn cracked through darkness, they trailed their fingers in the gentle wake and turned their tired souls towards shore.

Jn21_6 cast net

And He stood there, misted in diffused radiance. “The starboard side”, he called. “Why?,” they thought; and then again, “Why not?”. With just that small opening in the closed door of their hopelessness, they were overwhelmed with the stunning presence of possibility.

How could these seasoned fishermen have failed to notice the abundance swimming at their side? How could they, so accustomed to the rocking sea, have been narcotized by its lulling darkness?

When we have abandoned hope and tired of the rolling waves; when we have turned the bow toward shore in acquiescence to a hungry morning, remember these disciples. Like them, may we listen for the soft suggestion, “Children…the starboard side…”.

There is always another side, another path to the fullest of life. The hopeless dirges we repeat in our darkness are the devil’s deceptions. The truth is that life runs beside us and with in us, just below the surface of our fears. Love stands on the shore and encourages us to go back for a moment into the darkness, to look again for the hidden blessing, and then to come to the feast in Love’s abiding presence.

Today, we are the Apostles. What bold command is Jesus calling to us in the morning mist?

Music: Edward Elgar – The Apostles – a long, beautiful piece you may want to play in the background if you have a quiet space in your day.

Click here for an excellent guide if you wish to learn more about Elgar’s The Apostles 

Fearful Yet Overjoyed

Easter Monday, April 23, 2019

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Mt28_8 fear_joy

Today, in Mercy,  we enter the Easter Season which will last until June 8th. 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. 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 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.

Music: Alleluia from Mozart’s Exultate et Jubilate- sung by Barbara Bonney

Hold His Gaze

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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IMG_8978 

Today, in Mercy,  the shadows of “Spy Wednesday” threaten. In our Gospel, Judas asks the chief priests,

“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”

 How terribly sad! This man whom Judas loved and admired! This man who loved and trusted Judas in return! Judas sells Divine Friendship for thirty pieces of silver … about a season’s wages. Hence, for all time, the name “Judas” has been tied to betrayed trust.

 We give a great gift when we trust someone. We hope they will be honest and respectful of that gift. We hope they will be truthful in relationship with us. We hope that, if the relationship frays, they will try with us to re-knit it, or at least to lay it aside in reverence and gratitude. Judas proved unworthy of the trust Jesus had given him.

 Trust is a precious and scant commodity in our modern culture. Our entertainment media presents us constantly with examples of cheating, treachery, greed, and a host of other deadly sins. It shows us relationships built on whim and appearances rather than long and tested fidelity and honor. Our culture has become confused, like Judas, about what is really important for our lives.

 Perhaps some of our errant culture has seeped into our spiritual lives? Today is a good day to test the quality of our relationship with God. Do we trust him, speak with him, choose for him, stand by him? Will God find us faithful? Or are there some little pieces of silver in our lives for which we sometimes trade him?

 Music: May the Lord Find Us Faithful – Mac and Beth Lynch