Psalm 56: Light from Dark

Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, September 19, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 56, an unusual mix of lamentation and praise, of light and dark emotions. Many consider the psalm to be a prayer of David in the midst of his problems with Solomon.

Our prayer can be this kind of mix at times. We might feel stressed by the exigencies of life, calling on God to ease our angst and protect us. At the same time, we have a underlying confidence that God is with us, even in difficulty. Such a prayer is not unlike the one Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.


I cherish a verse from Psalm 56 not included in today’s reading. In beautiful simile, the line captures suffering still imbued with trust. I especially like the old translation from the King James Version:

Today’s verses reflect the confidence born of such honest and steadfast prayer. There comes a surety in God’s abiding, a shift from self-centered fear, a welling up of praise for the One who saves us, not only from our troubles, but from our anxious selves.

Now I know that God is with me.
In God, in whose promise I glory,
in God I trust without fear;
what can flesh do against me?


Poetry: Mount of Olives by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

He falls, crying,
“Help me, Father.”
Though his acquiescence rings
true as a well-tuned violin, the searing bow brings
tears of blood
as it plays across the taut strings
of his human dread of dying.

Music: Psalm 56 – by Share Faith

Psalm 100: Joy Hides in Sorrow

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 100, the “Jubilate Deo” – “Rejoice in the Lord”. These verses, on the feast of our Sorrowful Mother, might seem a bit contradictory:

Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.

But I think the seeming contradiction reveals a deep truth.

For those who live in God,
no sorrow can eradicate their resolute joy.


La Dolorosa (Lady of Sorrows or Mater Dolorosa) is a work by Cristóbal de Villalpando at the Musep Soumaya in Mexico City.

Certainly, like Mary, the faithful heart feels sorrow for both personal pain and the pain of all Creation. But the pain and sorrow is not the end of their feeling. There is a joyful hope because God abides with us in any suffering, promising that no evil can defeat the one who believes.

Mary believed that with all her heart and lived it. She invites us to the same courageous faith. As Psalm 100 assures us:

Know that the LORD is God;
Who made us, whose we are;
God’s people, the flock God tends.

For the Lord is good, 
whose kindness endures forever,
and whose faithfulness is to all generations.


Poem: Today’s poetic passage is from one of the great classics of Christian literature, A Woman Wrapped in Silence by Father John W. Lynch.

The book is a masterpiece best appreciated in reflective contemplation. I have chosen a sliver of its beauty today, one of many that captures Mary’s joy born of faith-filled suffering. This selection imagines what it was like when Mary remained in the Upper Room as the others, not knowing what to expect, went to the tomb early on Easter morning. The Resurrected Jesus comes to Mary first, before any other appearance.


Or is 
it true or thought of her she found no need
To search? And better said that she had known
Within, they’d not discover him again
Among the dead? That he would not be there
Entombed, and she had known, and only watched
Them now as they were whispering of him,

And let them go, and listened afterward
To footsteps that were fading in the dark.

To wait him here. Alone. Alone. A woman
Lonely in the silence and the trust
Of silence in her heart that did not seek,
Or cry, or search, but only waited him.

We have no word of this sweet certainty
That hides in her. There is not granted line
Writ meager in the scripture that will tell
By even some poor, unavailing tag
Of language what she keeps within the silence.
This is hers. We are not told of this,
This quaking instant, this return, this Light
Beyond the tryst of dawn when she first lifted
Up her eyes, and quiet, unamazed,
Saw He was near.

Music: Jubilate Deo – Mozart

We Set our Psalm Aside

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, I must put our Psalm in the background and refer to an earlier post for this Feast.

On this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, our readings include the sublime Philippians Canticle.

To me, this is the most beautiful passage in the Bible – so beautiful that nothing else needs to be said about it.

As we read it lovingly and prayerfully today, may we take all the suffering of the world to Christ’s outstretched arms – even our own small or large heartaches and longings.

Poetry: God’s Love for Us – Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)

The love of God most High for our soul
is so wonderful that it surpasses all
knowledge. No created being can fully know
the greatness, the sweetness, the
tenderness, of the love that our Maker has
for us. By his Grace and help therefore let
us in spirit stand in awe and gaze, eternally
marvelling at the supreme, surpassing,
single-minded, incalculable love that God,
Who is all goodness, has for us.

from Revelations of Divine Love

Music: Philippians Canticle ~ John Michael Talbot

And if there be therefore any consolation
And if there be therefore any comfort in his love
And if there be therefore any fellowship in spirit
If any tender mercies and compassion

We will fulfill His joy
And we will be like-minded
We will fulfill His joy
We can dwell in one accord
And nothing will be done
Through striving or vainglory
We will esteem all others better than ourselves

This is the mind of Jesus
This is the mind of Our Lord
And if we follow Him
Then we must be like-minded
In all humility
We will offer up our love

Though in the form of God
He required no reputation
Though in the form of God
He required nothing but to serve
And in the form of God
He required only to be human
And worthy to receive
Required only to give

Psalm 33: Unfailing Trust

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

August 29, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 33. Today’s verses console us with the reminder that God is watching over us, as individuals and as communities.

Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people chosen for God’s own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
seeing all humanity.

You know, sometimes I wonder! How can God see some of the things going on in the world and not intervene? How can God let innocence suffer? The psalm seems to promise that intervention, but does it really?

But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear God,
upon those who hope for God’s kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.

That last line is the zinger. It doesn’t say there will be no famine. It simply says that the God-fearing will be preserved despite the famine.


Hasn’t your life taught you that? We’ve all been through lots of things that we asked God to take away – pain, sadness, fear, loss. Probably most, if not all, of those burdens remained with us until we worked through them. 

By faith and God’s Grace, we came through the other side stronger, deeper, more faithful. If we can trust God, “wait on the Lord”, the way comes to us – a way that leads us more deeply into God’s freedom and joy.

Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in God our hearts rejoice;
in God’s holy name we trust.

Let’s pray for that kind of faith and trust for ourselves and for our beloveds. Let’s pray for the courage to learn it by unfailing prayer and practice.


Poetry: In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 54
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Oh, yet we trust that somehow good 
         Will be the final end of ill, 
         To pangs of nature, sins of will, 
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood; 

That nothing walks with aimless feet; 
         That not one life shall be destroy'd, 
         Or cast as rubbish to the void, 
When God hath made the pile complete; 

That not a worm is cloven in vain; 
         That not a moth with vain desire 
         Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire, 
Or but subserves another's gain. 

Behold, we know not anything; 
         I can but trust that good shall fall 
         At last—far off—at last, to all, 
And every winter change to spring. 

So runs my dream: but what am I? 
         An infant crying in the night: 
         An infant crying for the light: 
And with no language but a cry. 

Music: The Passion of John – Johann Sebastian Bach

This piece is not about John the Baptist. It is an excerpt from two hour meditation of the Passion narrative in John the Evangelist’s Gospel.

However, this beautiful excerpt fits so well with today’s reflection.

Psalm 33:Love’s Design

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 28, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33, a song of praise calling the people to rejoice in God’s justice and kindness.

In its attitude of trust and freedom, the Psalm might remind us of Robert Browning’s verse:

God’s in his heaven. All’s right with the world.

But neither in the psalmist’s time, nor in Browning’s, was everything really “all right” with the world. Things are never really “all right” with the world. There is always war, crime, hunger, disease, natural disasters, and a slew of other troubles brewing somewhere.

So how can the psalmist or any other preacher invite us to trust, believe, and rejoice like this?

Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.


Keywords in this verse give us a clue: those who are just and upright will see the pattern of God’s mercy which lies deeper than the troubles of this world. They will trust and be comforted by God’s transcendent faithfulness to us in all things. Their faith and joy in the face of suffering will confound the faithless.


Calling us to the full meaning of Christ’s sacrificial love, Paul reiterates this mysteriously contradictory truth in our first reading :

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

For Christians, the Cross is the ultimate symbol of this profound wisdom and strength. It is a mystery too deep for our understanding, but by faith we may slowly become immersed in its Truth.


The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 18

As we pray with Psalm 33 today, let us be aware of the cause of our joy – a holy joy deeply rooted in God, trusting God’s Will for our salvation in the pattern of Jesus Christ.


For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all God’s works are trustworthy.
The LORD loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.


Poetry: Primary Wonder – Denise Levertov

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
                                                        And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Music: Your Cross Changes Everything – Matt Redman