Great and Glorious St. Patrick

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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St. PAddyToday, in Mercy, our readings are about types of citizenship.

  • In Deuteronomy , Abraham is given a land for himself and his descendants.
  • In Philippians, Paul tells us the “our citizenship is in heaven”.
  • In Luke, the transfigured Jesus shows us that heavenly reality.

These readings confirm that, in God, we are not a people bound by borders, ethnicities, religious cult, or any other human categorization.

Every human being belongs to God and is called to live in the fullness of that Creation.  This is our Divine citizenship.

Think about that in contrast to talk of border walls, ethnic and religious bans, white supremacy, anti-semitism, islamophobia and all the other multiple ways we try to isolate people from this Divine citizenship which makes us brothers and sisters in God.

Friends, on this blessed St. Patrick’s Day, when so many of us rejoice in our Hibernian heritage, let us pray for a world where every human being is respected and celebrated for the particular gifts she/he brings to Creation.

Music: Two Irish hymns today. What can I say? We Irish are noted for our loquaciousness. 😀☘️💚🇨🇮 (Keep scrolling. 2nd hymn way down.)

Hymn to Our Lady of Knock sung by Frank Patterson, “Ireland’s Golden Tenor”
(Lyrics below)

There were people of all ages gathered ’round the gable wall
poor and humble men and women, little children that you called
we are gathered here before you, and our hearts are just the same
filled with joy at such a vision, as we praise Your Name
Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland, all my cares and troubles cease
as we kneel with love before you, Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace

Though your message was unspoken, still the truth in silence lies
as we gaze upon your vision, and the truth I try to find
here I stand with John the teacher, and with Joseph at your side
and I see the Lamb of God, on the Altar glorified
Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland, all my cares and troubles cease
as we kneel with love before you, Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace

And the Lamb will conquer and the woman clothed in the sun
will shine Her light on everyone
and the lamb will conquer and the woman clothed in the sun,
will shine Her light on everyone

Hymn: Be Thou My Vision – Gaelic version by Maire Brennan

(English below)

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true Child
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art
High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all

Be A Rainbow

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, God blesses Noah and his children with blessings of fertility, power, and sanctity of life. All these are given to them because they are made in the image of God. God then renews the covenant with Creation, giving a rainbow as its sign.

Gen9_13 rainbow

Rainbows still bless us, allowing us to know that natural storms are over. Maya Angelou says that people can be rainbows for each other in stormy times.

Let’s pray today for all those who have offered us a rainbow in hard times. Let’s try to be that rainbow for someone in need of encouragement or support. It’s a childlike prayer, but they are sometimes the most profound.

Music: God Put a Rainbow in the Sky ~ sung here by the great “Queen of Gospel”, Miss Mahalia Jackson
(Lyrics below)

God put a rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
God put a rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky

It looked like the sun wasn’t gon’ shine no more
Oh, God put a rainbow in the sky.

When God shut Noah in the grand ol’ ark
God put a rainbow in the sky
Oh, yes, the sun grew dim and the days was dark
God put a rainbow in the sky.

Open to Hope

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, each of our readings talks, in some way, about hope and second efforts.

Gen8_6 hatch

Dear old Noah, getting cabin fever after nearly forty days with hundreds of animals, opens the hatch he has built into his ark. His action is a sign of hope. He sends a raven out to test if his hope is justified.

Alas, the raven finds no place to land.  So Noah tries a few more times by launching a dove through the hopeful hatch, until finally the dove returns with an olive leaf – the first sign of renewed Creation.

In our Gospel, even Jesus has to give his miracle a second try! The first time around, the blind man sees “walking trees”. So Jesus gives it a second shot, this time without spittle. The story is so human and so hopeful in God’s power!

These stories encourage us to pray with immovable hope for the things we need; to open the hatch of our heart and wait for the olive leaf; to trust that God will give us, in God’s own beautiful form, the perfect answer to our prayer.

Music: Beautiful Things ~ Gungor

The Ark of Your Hearts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021919.cfm

duck
Sent to me this morning by my beautiful niece in Atlanta where they are having rain

Today, in Mercy, and for the next few days we have the story of Noah. It’s both a terrifying and delightful story. 

It is frightening to think of the earth inundated by flood, all Creation wiped out because of the Creator’s disappointment! 

But it is delightful to think of these thousands of animal couples, holding hands, paws, fins or tentacles and skipping into Noah’s big boat.

In this passage, the writer imbues God with the same emotions and responses we have when our project fails mightily. We crumple it up, press delete, throw it in the garbage disposal, or smash it on the ground. In Genesis, God decides to “erase by flood”.

Despite the woeful drama, the story is filled with hope. God has not completely given up. He just wants to start over again.

Throughout the voluminous rest of scripture, God starts over with us innumerable times. Think of the Prodigal Son, the Adulterous Woman, Joseph and his Brothers.  Forgiveness and new beginnings are the story of our relationship with a God Who loves us too much to let us fail.

So, if your faith life is a little stormy just now, take refuge in the “ark of your heart” – your trust, hope and faith in God. Pray for fairer weather and believe that God will send it. Ask for the eyes to recognize it when it comes.

Music: Eye of the Storm ~ Ryan Stevenson (a little bit country, but the message works)

My Brother’s Keeper

Monday, February 18, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Genesis tells the story of the first murder. Driven by jealousy and resentment, Cain takes the life of his own brother, Abel. Cain then denies any responsibility for the crime with the now oft-repeated line:

Am I my brother’s keeper?

Gen 2_4 Cain

God’s outrage is the answer to Cain’s question. God bans Cain from the soil which had been his livelihood, because that same soil now cries out with Abel’s blood.

The account is appalling and traumatic. We have gotten so used to hearing it that we may be immune to the abomination. Brother turned against brother. God’s gift of life and hope taken irrevocably in a moment of selfish anger. All of First Creation must have fallen on its knees in sadness and shock at this primal crime.

Friends, as you pray today, pick up the newspaper. See Cain’s crime repeated over and over again as humanity becomes more and more desensitized to its horror. We have even devolved to the point that some murders are “legal” under the pseudonyms of war, abortion, genocide, and capital punishment. Our culture is rife with the abuse of life in so many forms that we have become hardened to its reality just to protect our souls.

When Jesus meets such hardness of heart in our Gospel, he refuses to give them a sign of his power. He just walks away.

Let us pray that God will not walk away from our desensitized generation – that he will give us a sign of grace to open our eyes.

Music: Kyrie Eleison Lord, have mercy) ~ Michael Hoppè
(Visuals appear to be filmed at Normandy, soil filled with the blood of those who died on D-Day)

P.S. I am sending a second reflection later today that has been heavily on my mind. I hope some of you find a spiritual benefit in it.

Genesis – Get Out of My Garden!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

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in every age

Today, in Mercy, Adam and Eve get to “pay the piper”. Now, they have to answer to God for the delicious, forbidden bite!

And God is tough on them! No hint of that “lavish mercy”! Of course, the writer(s) of Genesis had to fold a lot of explanations into this story such as:

  • why we feel body shame
  • why we are estranged from nature
  • why women suffer labor
  • why men work hard to no avail
  • why we die

We know that these explanations were written originally to meet the questions of an ancient culture. They were told and retold in the form of a story with all that structure’s inherent possibilities and handicaps.

Some of us are inclined to accept “story” only as history, demanding that the events recount specific concrete people and interactions. In other words, we demand that Adam and Eve were real people with a historical identity.

Some of us accept the “story” only as myth, not necessarily integral to the foundation of our modern faith.

The great biblical scholar Walter Bruggemann says neither stance is accurate. He says that these sacred stories are “mystery” which continue to unfold through the ages in the faith-life and sharing of the living community.

As we pray with these passages, we may deepen our faith by looking for the revelations within them:

  • God created us in God’s own image
  • God formed a covenant of love with us
  • We are called to be responsive to that loving covenant 
  • We sometimes fail and reap the fruits of that failure
  • But God did not dissolve Creation nor the Covenant
  • And so, in every age, we place our hope in Jesus Christ, the New Creation and New Covenant

Music: In Every Age ~ Janet Sullivan Whitaker

Valentine’s Poems

pexels-photo-220483

Consummation

You have been present to me, God
like light to flame,
like heat to flame
like fluid movement
and energy of shape to flame.

The wax of my life
is consumed in such Presence.
Shall I simply be content
that it burn,
or shall I seek the Transparency
to which it disappears?

 

ocean

Kairos

All the ages that have loved You
sometimes rush into me
like the white falls of a river,
and Your engagement of the earth
from all antiquity
is caught in a great gasp
by the walls of my soul.

In every creature that has ever been
or ever will be, You and I
have been loving each other.
All that treasure swells
in me for a moment
before it thins again into the Chronos
where I seek You in its shadows.

For a second, split in light
I may have held your still
eternal soul within my own.

Music: Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

Original Innocence

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Genesis gives us a picture of our “Original Innocence“. It is a beautiful story, the earth freshly sprung from nothingness, our Ancient Ancestor cradled to life in the palm of God’s hand.

Gen2_7 breath

See God gazing at this work of his fingers, bending over it in love. See God draw up his own eternal breath and gently whisper it into this yet lifeless image of God’s own Divinity.

Adam bursts forth, the dazzling image of God Who, liking what He has made, draws a second, even more lovely creature from its side.

All was given to these two glorious creatures – all but the right to consume the knowledge of good and evil. It almost seems that God feared their innocence could not sustain such knowledge. And it ensues that God is right (of course!)

The elegantly profound poet Ranier Maria Rilke captures the drama with this poem:

I read it here in your very Word

I read it here in your very Word,
From the story of the gestures
With which your hands cupped themselves
Around our becoming, warm and wise.

 You said, live loudly and die softly,
And over and over again you said: be.

But before the first death came Murder.

At this, a rift tore
through your ripened spheres,
And a crying-out,
And tore away the voices
That had just begun to gather
To speak you
To carry you,
Over the chasm of everything–

 And what they’ve since then stammered
Are fragments
Of your ancient name.

I’ll leave you with this poem, and with your own prayerful thoughts on the divine image of your soul, its original innocence, and the reclamation of that innocence in the gift of Jesus Christ.

Music: For the Music of Creation ~ Shirley Elena Murray & Daniel Nelson
(Lyrics below)

For the music of creation,
for the song your Spirit sings,
for your sound’s divine expression,
burst of joy in living things:

       God, our God, the world’s composer,
hear us, echoes of your voice —
music is your art, your glory,
let the human heart rejoice!

Psalms and symphonies exalt you,
drum and trumpet, string and reed,
simple melodies acclaim you,
tunes that rise from deepest need,

       hymns of longing and belonging,
carols from a cheerful throat,
lilt of lullaby and lovesong
catching heaven in a note.

All the voices of the ages
in transcendent chorus meet,
worship lifting up the senses,
hands that praise, and dancing feet;

       over discord and division
music speaks your joy and peace,
harmony of earth and heaven,
song of God that cannot cease.

Incline My Heart

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we launch into about two weeks of readings from Genesis and from Mark.

Adam and Eve

 

The story of Genesis is one of the first Bible stories we learn as children. Because of this, some of us, myself included, tend to read Genesis on a simplistic level, picturing the now unattainable Garden, the first animals, and the humans ultimately dressed in their grassy outfits. 


These two weeks offer us a great opportunity to take our understanding of this beautiful book up a notch.

Imagine what the Genesis story meant to the first community to hear it! Their faith had been invested in an array of gods, both friendly and inimical, who seemed to control their daily experiences. Many times, these gods were in competition among themselves with disastrous results for humans!

By contrast, the God of Genesis is One God, All-Powerful and All-Knowing – the Author of all Creation. Human beings are created in the image of this One God with Whom they are in unique and special covenant. 

Roger Nam, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon, summarizes this special character of Genesis. I found his description helpful to my prayer:

As you consider the wondrous nature of creation, it is important to recognize the radical, remarkable, and revolutionary nature of the Genesis creation in its original context. This presentation of God comes as a wonderful relief and assurance to the family of ancient Israel.

The God of Genesis 1-2:4a provides assurance to those who work to raise crops against their numerous natural challenges. The God of Genesis 1-2:4 brings peace to the nation struggling for survival against the numerous encroaching enemies from all sides. God is one. God is powerful. And God created us in his image. This opening passage of our Bible constitutes the essence of good news.

As we pray today, we might ask God to conform our hearts to the perfect order of Creation, the Law and Covenant of Mutual Love. We pray with today’s responsorial psalm:

Ps119 incline my heart

Instead of music today, a reflective reading from Genesis: 

Prayer to Honor a Beautiful Sunset

(Because the sunset was so magnificent tonight,
I thought I might share this prayer I wrote many, many years ago.)

sunsetJPG

Degreeing Prayer
(To Yield Graciously to Life by Degrees – Like the Sun)

O God, my Beginning and my End,
I do not choose to “rage into the night”.
I choose to bleed into it,
graciously, as
Jesus bled…

by willing peace in face of curdled power,
by willing love in face
of irrational hate,
by willing acquiescence in the face of
time’s inexorable demand.

I want to be that strong…
to be so gentle, because
I think that
Jesus looked into the Dark
and saw Your Face
to learn antithesis of violence.

You are the Yielding One,
eschewing power for the sake of love.

You are Creator, granting
freedom in the will of those to whom
You bind Yourself by love.

You are the Contradiction
of control.

You are the Silent Source
of all
ennobled dying,
by those grafted to your Mystery
in the constant dark.

Absorb me,
as I near the forward edge of night.

Grade me,
like the colors of a yielding spectrum,
to softly welcome Your deepest darkness.

Music: Beyond the Sunset