Fools?

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time 
October 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
    and night to night imparts knowledge.
Not a word nor a discourse
    whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
    and to the ends of the world, their message.

Psalm 19:2-5

The psalm captures the point of Paul’s declaration that the natural revelation of God’s power is accessible to all of us in the magnificence of Creation.

For what can be known about God is evident to them,
because God made it evident to them.
Ever since the creation of the world,
God’s invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity
have been able to be understood and perceived in what God has made.

Romans 2:19-20

This natural gift inspires us to know and believe in God. In fact, Paul says we “have no excuse” for a lack of faith, calling those who fail to believe “fools”.


It’s a word Jesus uses in our Gospel to describe Pharisaical religion – a religion of appearances rather than loving practice.

The Lord said, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?

Luke 11:39-40

In our first reading, Paul expresses his complete trust in and devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By this, Paul means more than the written words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He means the entire gift of the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection, continuing among us in the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Today’s readings leave me with two intentions:

  • to be more deeply aware of and grateful for God speaking to me in my natural surroundings
  • to examine my heart for the sincerity of my faith proven in practice

Poetry: God’s Word Is in All Creation – Hildegard of Bingen

No creature has meaning
without the Word of God.
God’s Word is in all creation, visible and invisible.
The Word is living, being,
spirit, all verdant
all creativity.
This Word flashes out in
every creature.
This is how the spirit is in
the flesh – the Word is indivisible from God.

Music: For the Beauty of the Earth

He Fell in Love with God

October 4, 2021
Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 16 whose words beautifully capture the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi:

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to God, “My Lord are you.”
O God, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.

Psalm 16:1-2
Saint Francis by Sano DiPietro

Francis is among the most venerated Saints in Christianity. 

  • We are deeply moved by his utter embrace of poverty out of love for the poor.
  • We are inspired to reverence Creation by his love for all living things.
  • We are deepened in sacramental devotion by his dedication to Christ in the Eucharist.

But above all, Francis speaks to us because he was a person who fell completely in love with God. His way and his words encourage us toward the same kind of unconditional love.

I bless my God who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set God ever before me;
with God at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

Psalm 16:7-8

Francis can teach us so much and companion us as we grow deeper in our love for God, Creation, and all our sisters and brothers.

We pray in blessing and gratitude today for all our Franciscan sisters and brothers who bless our time with the spirit of their beloved founder – especially for our wonderful Sisters of St. Francis in Aston, PA.


Poem-Prayer: Fall in Love – Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Nothing is more practical than finding God, 
than falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, 
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, 
stay in love,and it will decide everything.

Music: Make Me a Channel of Your Peace written by Sebastian Temple, sung by Susan Boyle

God’s Two Great Books

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Thursday, September 30, 2021

St. Jerome in His Study by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Jerome is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin
(the translation that became known as the Vulgate)
and his commentaries on the whole Bible. 

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19 which Charles Spurgeon, noted 19th century preacher, calls “the study of God’s two great books—nature and Scripture”.

Psalm 19 is a beautiful prayer for this time of year when nature erupts in unparalleled beauty. It is also perfect for this day when we celebrate Jerome who shaped our scriptures into the form we cherish today.

The psalm concludes with a wholehearted confession of faith and hope. It is a prayer all of us long to offer God in the sincerity of our hearts.


Scripture scholar James L. Mays notes that to comprehend this final expression of faith, we must pray with the whole psalm.

  • The psalm is divided into three parts
  • Creation’s testimony to the Creator (vv. 1–6),
  • the incomparable value of the law of the LORD (vv. 7–10), 
  • the human need for divine forgiveness and protection (vv. 11–13).

Two poems and a song captured the flow of my prayer today.

  1. As I pray the first part of the psalm , my spirit is opened to Creation’s power and beauty – an expression of God’s omnipotence and glory.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.
Day unto day pours forth speech;
night unto night whispers knowledge.

Psalm 19:1-3

To Autumn – William Blake

Motherhouse Front Lawn – Merion, PA
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.
The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.
The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

2. Praying the second part of Psalm 19, I think about the gift of the scriptures, and how I turn to them in all the seasons of my life.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart.

Psalm 19: 8-9

After Her Death – Mary Oliver

I am trying to find the lesson
for tomorrow. Matthew something.
Which lectionary? I have not
forgotten the Way, but, a little,
the way to the Way. The trees keep whispering
peace, peace, and the birds
in the shallows are full of the
bodies of small fish and are
content. They open their wings
so easily, and fly. It is still
possible.
           I open the book
which the strange, difficult, beautiful church
has given me. To Matthew. Anywhere.

And praying the third part of Psalm 19, I hear this hymn echoing in my spirit.

Only in God – John Michael Talbot

Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 138 which begins with the beautiful  verse:

I will praise You with my whole heart…

Abraham with the Three Angels – Rembrandt

As we celebrate the feast of the three great archangels, known to us by name because of their appearances in the Bible, we are invited to explore all the aspects of our spirituality – our whole heart.


As bodily beings, we might most often pray by using our senses:

  • with what we read and see with our eyes
  • with vocal prayer or soulful music
  • with the transporting aroma of incense
  • with the tactile assurance of a rosary over our fingertips

But we are also spiritual beings. There are dimensions of our experience that could never be put into words. There are melodies playing within us too profound to be rendered in notes.

There is a Presence within us beyond and greater than ourselves, breathed into us at our creation, and longing for the fulfillment of Heaven. Our human experience is like a shadow cast over time by the Great Light Who lives and loves in us.


The angels are beings released from that shadow. They completely dwell in and radiate the One Who breathed them forth in the fullness of Light. They are the ones who companion us to the wondrous edges of our own possibility –

as Raphael did for Tobit (Tobit 12:1-22)
as Michael did for Daniel (Daniel 10:13-21)
as Gabriel did for Mary (Luke 1:26-38)

These stories might inspire us today to speak and listen to our angels, one of whom is particularly charged to guide us.


Poetry: A Sonnet for St. Michael the Archangel – Malcolm Guite

Michaelmas gales assail the waning year,
And Michael’s scale is true, his blade is bright.
He strips dead leaves; and leaves the living clear
To flourish in the touch and reach of light.
Archangel bring your balance, help me turn
Upon this turning world with you and dance
In the Great Dance. Draw near, help me discern,
And trace the hidden grace in change and chance.
Angel of fire, Love’s fierce radiance,
Drive through the deep until the steep waves part,
Undo the dragon’s sinuous influence
And pierce the clotted darkness in my heart.
Unchain the child you find there, break the spell
And overthrow the tyrannies of Hell.

Music: Confitebor Tibi Domine – Francisco Valls

Psalmus 138Psalm 138
1 Confitebor tibi Domine in toto corde meo quoniam audisti verba oris mei in conspectu angelorum psallam tibi1 I will praise thee, O lord, with my whole heart: for thou hast heard the words of my mouth. I will sing praise to thee in the sight of his angels:
2 Adorabo ad templum sanctum tuum et confitebor nomini tuo super misericordia tua et veritate tua quoniam magnificasti super omne nomen sanctum tuum2 I will worship towards thy holy temple, and I will give glory to thy name. For thy mercy, and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.
3 In quacumque die invocavero te exaudi me multiplicabis me in anima mea virtute3 In what day soever I shall call upon thee, hear me: thou shall multiply strength in my soul.
4 Confiteantur tibi Domine omnes reges terrae quia audierunt omnia verba oris tui4 May all the kings of the earth give glory to thee: for they have heard all the words of thy mouth.
5 Et cantent in viis Domini quoniam magna gloria Domini5 And let them sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.
6 Quoniam excelsus Dominus et humilia respicit et alta a longe cognos cit6 For the Lord is high, and looketh on the low: and the high he knoweth afar off.
7 Si ambulavero in medio tribulationis vivificabis me super iram inimicorum meorum extendisti manum tuam et salvum me fecit dextera tua7 If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation, thou wilt quicken me: and thou hast stretched forth thy hand against the wrath of my enemies: and thy right hand hath saved me.
8 Dominus retribuet propter me Domine misericordia tua in saeculum opera manuum tuarum ne dispicias8 The Lord will repay for me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: O despise not the work of thy hands

God’s Generous Jealousy

Monday, September 27, 2021
Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 102 which, together with our first reading from Zechariah, paints a picture of enduring love and hope:

  1. the desperate yet hopeful prayer of one overwhelmed by life

Let this be written for the generation to come,
    and let  future creatures praise the Lord:
“The LORD looked down from the holy height,
    from heaven  beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
    to release those doomed to die.”

Psalm 102: 19-21

2. the response of a faithful God, overwhelmed by love

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
I am intensely jealous for Zion,
        stirred to jealous wrath for her.
    Thus says the LORD:
I will return to Zion,
    and I will dwell within Jerusalem;
Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city,
    and the mountain of the LORD of hosts,
   the holy mountain.

Zechariah 8:1-3

The “jealous love” described here is an infinite and divine Love – the only Love entitled to be possessive because It has created us. 

It is a jealousy unlike our human pettiness, rooted instead in God’s desire for our free response to the gift of our creation. 

God loves us so much as to continually bring us home to Love despite any detours we take.

Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun,
    and from the land of the setting sun.
I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.
They shall be my people, and I will be their God,
    with faithfulness and justice.

Zechariah 8:8

In our prayer today, we might allow ourselves to be aware of God’s “jealousy” for us throughout our lives, never giving up on turning us toward Love – even when the turning may have been “like a hurricane”.


Poetry: GOD OF SHELTER, GOD OF SHADE (ISAIAH 4:6) by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

God of shelter from the rain,
God of shade from the heat,

I run from You
through the muddy street
of my uncommitted heart
till wild winds beat
against my doors,
blasting sand
through all my walls,
and I stand
without retreat,
hear Your command
to be the wheat. 

Sweet the giving!
Sweet this land! 

God of shelter from the rain.
God of shade from the heat.

Music: How He Loves Us – David Crowder Band

God Delights in Us!

Memorial of Padre Pio 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 149, a call to praise God in festive celebration because God will enjoy that!

Praying with that thought today, I ask myself:

Is my God a happy God?

Our psalm says “Yes!” – a Lover of song, joy, praise, dance, timbrel and harp!

Hallelujah!
Sing to the Lord a new song; 
sing the praises of God in the company of the faithful. 
Let Israel rejoice in their maker;
let the children of Zion be joyful in their sovereign. 
Let them praise the name of the Lord in the dance;
let them sing praise to God with timbrel and harp. 
For the Lord takes pleasure in this people.

Psalm 149:1-4

Only a happy God could have imagined the beautiful gift of Creation we have been given. Stop today to listen, watch, and feel that happiness in sun, rain, wood scent, birdsong, cat purr, baby breath, child play, elder eyes, or the thousand other ways God will try to touch your soul today.


( Praying for the safety of all our friends in Australia with the earthquakes and for people of the Canary Islands.❤️🙏)


Poetry: The Creation of Birds – Renee Yann, RSM

O, the wonderful mood that seized You,
God, as you created birds;
you dancing there, twirling in light,
flinging your crystal arms to infinite music,
flicking your hands like magic fountains,
feathers and colors splashing out from your fingertips,
chattering, rainbowed profusions
of your Boundless Life.

Your inexhaustible, joy-filled soul laughing out
the soaring beings into the still universe,
peals of you infusing them each
to their measure with notes of your inner song.
O, I see your Holy Eyes flash color to them
as they fly, strobing their feathers
with shards of your prismed white light.

This morning, seeing only one, 
free and jubilant in a thin sycamore,
I consume it as part of your Delightful Essence,
this day’s communion with you, 
grey and orange wafer filling me 
with mysteries of the primal dance 
from which we both were born.

Music: You Delight in Me – Life Center Worship

Autumn Equinox

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we mark the Autumn Equinox, we pray with a verse from our Responsorial Psalm:

Bless the Lord, all you chosen ones,
and may all of you praise God’s majesty.
Celebrate days of gladness, 
give God praise.

Tobit 13: 7-8
"EQUINOX"
- the beautiful heft of the word!
Four malleable vowels and
two steely consonants,
softened slightly by a third.
On the fulcrum of a middle "i",
"equ" pushes for balance
against the pressure of "nox",
whose mass bears 
winter's weighted threat.

However we may read the word “equinox”, it spells “change“. Trees put away their lithesome summer greens, like sleeveless tops folded on September’s shelf. Slowly, they wrap themselves within autumn’s deep gold and umber sweaters, trimmed in warm magenta.

We too return to the enterprise of warmth, of fueling fires, of lighting lamps. What nature gave, and we heedlessly received in bright July, is spent. Some chilled memory of solstice motivates us to prepare.


Our hearts too, in synch or out with seasons, cycle through such changes. This inner rhythm of need and abundance is the music through which the Holy Spirit shapes our understanding of God. As in all graceful dances, there must be a yielding. There must be abandon to the mystery into which each passing step dissolves.

God hums the infinite song in our souls, if we will listen. It is deeper than any single note of joy or sorrow. It is the fluid under-beat of Love which recreates and sustains us in every shifting moment of our lives. We belong to it as the waves belong to the Sea, as the leaves belong to the Seasons.


In Philadelphia, it is a glorious day – a perfect vestibule to a season of amazing beauty.  Nature prepares to shed the showy accretions of summer in a multi-colored ritual of leave-taking. It is time to return to the essentials – back to the branch, back to the buried root, back to the bare, sturdy reality that will anchor us in the coming winter.

On each of the coming days, some new layer of green will ignite in a blaze of scarlet or gold then turn out its light for a long winter’s sleep. Nature knows when things are finished.  It knows when it has had enough.  It knows its need for a season of emptying, for a clearing of the clutter, for the deep hibernation of its spirit.


But we humans often ignore the need for an “autumning” of our spirits.  We try to live every moment in the high energy of summer – producing, moving, anticipating, and stuffing our lives with abundance.  

But simplicity, solitude and clarity are necessary for our spirit to renew itself.  Autumn is the perfect time to prayerfully examine the harvest of our lives – reaping the essentials and sifting out the superfluous. In the quiet shade of a crimson maple tree, we may discover what we truly love, deeply believe and really need to be fully happy.

Take time on these crystal days to ask yourself what is really essential in your life.  Nurture those things with attention and care.  Don’t take them for granted.  After the flare of the summer has passed, these are the things that will sustain you: a strong faith, a faithful love and a loving compassion. Tend them in this season of harvest.

Music: Autumn from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi

Change the World for Beauty

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Sunday readings each address, in some way, the motivations and judgments of the heart.


Most of us are good people, or at least we want to be. But life can still get us mixed up in situations and decisions which test our character and challenge our moral fortitude. A few characters from today’s readings seem beset with such dilemmas.


The voice within the Wisdom passage belongs to a hard-hearted and jealous person who finds the just person obnoxious. The speaker can’t stand being shown up by the good person’s character. It challenges the complainer’s comfortable, self-absorbed existence.


In our epistle, James gives us the powerful admonitions, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” He tells us that our hearts should be filled instead with the wisdom from above, yielding peace, gentleness and Mercy.


When I watch the news, or observe the day’s political dramas, I long for the honest, sincere and decent world James describes. I long for a world where we respect and honor each other beyond politics, gender, color, nation, religion, and sexual orientation – for a world where we make choices FOR one another, not against.

How can we help realize a world like that by the choices we make in our personal lives? How can we minimize the jealousy and hatred that are born of self-interest and prejudice?


In the Gospel, Jesus tells us the way. His disciples are busy trying to figure out which of them is the greatest, missing -as they so often do- the whole point of discipleship. 

Jesus is gentle with them. He tells them to look at a little child. There they will find what is most important – in simplicity, vulnerability, openness, innocence. They will see that this is the way Jesus is with them.

If we can approach and receive one another with just an ounce of such selflessness, we might begin to change the world – to do our part to make it even more beautiful.


Poetry:The Beautiful World by W. Lomax Childress (1867-1936)

Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world,
For the banner of blue that's above it unfurled,
For the streams that sparkle and sing to the sea,
For the bloom in the glade and the leaf on the tree;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Here's a song of praise for the mountain peak,
Where the wind and the lightning meet and speak,
For the golden star on the soft night's breast,
And the silvery moonlight's path to rest;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Here's a song of praise for the rippling notes
That come from a thousand sweet bird throats,
For the ocean wave and the sunset glow,
And the waving fields where the reapers go;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Here's a song of praise for the ones so true,
And the kindly deeds they have done for you;
For the great earth's heart, when it's understood,
Is struggling still toward the pure and good;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Here's a song of praise for the One who guides,
For He holds the ships and He holds the tides,
And underneath and around and above.
The world is lapped in the light of His love;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Music: Two pieces today

  1. Ubi Caritas ~ Taizé Community

Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.
Where there is charity and love, God abides.

2. What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

Memorial: St. Peter Claver

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 150, an all-out summons to praise God.

Psalm 150, with its four predecessors, creates a rousing chorus of praise to God. As the closing piece of the Book of Psalms, Psalm 150 summons all Creation to unbounded praise.


The prayer of praise may not come as easily to us as other types of prayer. We find the prayer of supplication easy – asking God for something. Even the prayer of thanks is natural to us. But even Pope Francis says that the prayer of praise might not come so readily:

The prayer of praise is quite different than the prayer we normally raise to God,
the Pope continued, when “we ask something of the Lord”
or even “thank the Lord”.

“We often leave aside the prayer of praise”.
It doesn’t come so easily to us, he said.
Some might think that this kind of prayer is only
“for those who belong to the renewal in the spirit movement,
not for all Christians.

The prayer of praise is a Christian prayer for all of us.
Each day during Mass, when we sing:
‘Holy, Holy…’, this is the prayer of praise.
We praise God for his greatness, for he is great.
And we tell him beautiful things, because we like it to be so”.

And it does not matter if we are good singers, the Pope remarked.
In fact, he said, it is impossible to imagine that
“you are able to shout out when your team scores a goal
and you cannot sing the Lord’s praises,
and leave behind your composure a little to sing.

Praising God is “totally gratuitous”, Pope Francis continued.
“We do not ask, we do not thank. We praise: you are great.
‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit…’. 

L’ Osservatore Romano

Psalm 150 calls us to a prayer of pure praise:

Hallelujah! Praise the Lord in the holy temple;
praise God in the firmament of divine power.
Praise the Lord for mighty acts;
praise God for excellent greatness.
Praise the Lord with the blast of the ram’s-horn; 
praise God with lyre and harp.
Praise the Lord with timbrel and dance; 
praise God with strings and pipe.
Praise the Lord with resounding cymbals; 
praise God with loud-clanging cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Hallelujah!

Psalm 150

By the culmination of the sequence in Psalm 150, there is a total lack of any specificity, and users of the psalm are invited to dissolve in a glad self-surrender that is to be enacted in the most lyrical way imaginable. Such praise is a recognition that the wonder and splendor of this God—known in the history of Israel and in the beauty of creation—pushes beyond our explanatory categories so that there can be only a liturgical, emotive rendering of all creatures before the creator.

Walter Brueggemann

We might try to offer this type of prayer in a simple manner, by naming God’s goodness – the goodness that we love and adore. We can do this in the same way that we tell any beloved being that we love them. Some prayer phrases might be:

  • You are beautiful in all Creation – in this morning’s dawn, this evening’s sunset.
  • You are just yet everlastingly kind.
  • Your power is stunningly gentle in a bird’s wing; it is overwhelming in the storm’s roar.
  • You are so humble to live within and among us.
  • You are infinitely loving through the gift of Jesus

Thoughts like these might also inspire us to a silent awe in which we offer wordless praise to our awesome God.


Music: No poem today, but two very different musical interpretations of Psalm 150 to inspire your prayer of praise

~ from Taize

Caesar Franck

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, August 30, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96. Following as it does on our first reading from Thessalonians, the psalm is an encouragement to trust God completely and to demonstrate that trust in unconditional praise.

The tone of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians suggests that, since his last visit, many of their community have died. The people are grieving, and they are unsure of what their new faith offers them.

Reading this passage today, I was taken back a few months to the first wave of COVID through our local Mercy community. Several of our sisters died. Their deaths came relentlessly, one after the other. There was a painful point at which we hated to hear the phone ring in the morning because it carried so many daily losses to us.

When, after weeks of bereavement, we were unlocked to visit one another again, there was a stunning emptiness in so many of the beloved spaces of our community!

We, who loved these sisters and the brave beauty of their generous lives, felt a grief reminiscent of the emotions in this plaintive song from Les Miserables.

That same kind of grief ripped though our nation this week with the murders of thirteen service members and nearly 200 Afghans at the Kabul airport as they sought freedom and peace.

from PBS.org

Death is cruel, and when it comes in a ravenous cluster, it is overwhelming. It was to such an overwhelmed community that Paul wrote these words:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessolonians 4:13-14

This remarkable hope, this blessed assurance, is the defining character of the Christian heart. It is the power that lifts us out of darkness and gives us the courage to praise God in all circumstances.

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.
Sing to the Lord and bless the divine name;
proclaim the good news of our salvation from day to day.
Declare the glory of the Lord among the nations 
and the wonders of God among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, 
more awesome than all other gods….

Psalm 96: 1-4

… “more awesome than all our gods”…

even the false gods of death and war …

We are a people called to believe the declaration of today’s Gospel, that Jesus Christ is among us to restore Creation to eternal life:

He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
        because he has anointed me
            to bring glad tidings to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
        and recovery of sight to the blind,
            to let the oppressed go free,
    and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll,
he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21

And it is fulfilled every day,
in our lights and even in our shadows,
if we but believe.

Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven,
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginning, but one equal eternity;
in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end.

Prayer of John Donne

Poetry: John Donne (1572–1631)- Death Be Not Proud (Holy Sonnet X)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Music: Benedictus – 2Cellos