“Ordinary” Assurance

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
May 30, 2023

Today’s readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we return to the Ordinary Time of the Church liturgical year. We might picture Ordinary Time as that great cycle of life which carries us through our “ordinary days”, the holy companion that helps us find God in our dailyness.

We left the ordinary cycle way back on February 22nd, when we launched into Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide. Now we pick up where we left off and, over the next two weeks, will finish the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Tobit which we were reading in February.

How has your life been in the meantime?

As we begin our scriptural prayer today, we might want to list the ups and downs, the ins and outs of the past few months. Have we walked through these round-about days holding fast to the anchor of scriptural prayer? How have we changed, grown or deepened in the process?

I know it has been a time of immense change for me. The “me” who was reading Mark’s Gospel on February 21st was a different “me” from the one who will pick it up today.

Realizing the pattern and constancy of our liturgical cycle can be a stabilizing influence in our spiritual lives. The liturgical year is steadily revolving under the frenzied whirling of the world. The unfolding of the scriptures is constant and true at the still core of our sometimes spiraling lives.

As we left Mark in February, the rich young man had just walked away sad and Jesus was talking about a camel passing through the needle’s eye. The metaphor was meant to teach us how hard it can be to live the Christian life well. In today’s reading, Peter begins to ask how much harder can it get for them because the disciples have already given up everything for Jesus.

But Jesus doesn’t even let Peter finish before assuring him that his life will be blessedly different because of all that he has given over to Christ. It will not be without difficulty, but it will be eternally vital and confirmed in God. As we pray with this holy Gospel – in our ordinary time – may we be blessed with the same assurance.

Peter began to say to Jesus,
‘We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age…
… with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first

Mark 18:28-31

Poetry: initial verses frrom Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot

Burnt Northon is the first of the Four Quartets, a series of magnifcent (and at times confounding) poems that are well worth contemplating. Below Burnt Norton is a link to the whole work if you are interested.

segment from BURNT NORTON
(No. 1 of ‘Four Quartets’)

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.


Music: Blessed Assurance – written by Fanny J. Crosby, (1820 – 1915), was an American mission worker, poet, lyricist, and composer. She was a prolific hymnist, writing more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, with more than 100 million copies printed. She is also known for her teaching and her rescue mission work. By the end of the 19th century, she was a household name. Crosby was known as the “Queen of Gospel Song Writers” and as the “Mother of modern congregational singing in America”, with most American hymnals containing her work.

Mary, Mother of the Church

May 29, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Mary, the Mother of Christ and thus of the Church. 

With her “Yes”, Mary engaged the Spirit of God and, like the ancient Holy City, became a dwelling place of Grace.

Glorious things are said of you,
    O city of God!
And of Zion they shall say:
    “One and all were born in her;
And the One who has established her
    is the Most High LORD.

Psalm 87

In her book “Truly Our Sister”, theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, helps us to understand Mary as a companion, guide, and inspiration:

One fruitful approach to the theology of Mary, historically the mother of Jesus, called in faith the Theotokos or God-bearer, is to envision her as a concrete woman of our history who walked with the Spirit.

As I pray with Mary today, I picture her sitting with the young disciples after the mind-blowing experience of Pentecost. The whiff of Divine Electricity still pervades the room, still jars their senses to an indescribable timbre!

Mary is stilled with a silent understanding. From the abundance of her wisdom, gained in her daily presence with Jesus, Mary gently focuses, calms and directs these new evangelists for the task before them.

Mary is someone who has had her own “visitation by the Spirit”, many years before. Pentecost, for Mary, is a kind of “second Annunciation “. She knows what the willing reception of the Spirit will mean for one’s life.

Indeed, this moment – and their response, like hers so long ago – will bear God’s life into their world.

We call on Mary today, as Church and as individuals, to be with us as we are re-fired in the Holy Spirit. As we reflect on her and the way she opened her life to God, may we grow in faith and desire to open our own lives to the Spirit’s transformative power.

Elizabeth Johnson encourages us:

“to relate to Miriam of Nazareth as a partner in hope in the company of all the graced women and men who have gone before us; to be encouraged by her mothering of God to bring God to birth in our own world; to reclaim the power of her dangerous memory for the flourishing of suffering people; and to draw on the energy of her memory for a deeper relationship with the living God and stronger care for the world.”

Poetry: Annunciation – Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished, 
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
       Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions

       The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
         God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.


Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
         Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
More often
those moments
      when roads of light and storm
      open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from

in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
                                 God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.


She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
  only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

                     Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–

but who was God.
This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,
She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.
              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Music: Vespro Della Beata Vergine – Claudio Monteverdi

From the baroque period, Monteverdi praises Mary in his masterpiece, Vespro Della Beata Vergine commonly referred to as Vespers of 1610. The work is monumental in scale and difficult to perform, requiring two large choirs who are skillful enough to cover up to 10 voice parts accompanied by an orchestral ensemble. Here is just an excerpt.

Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum: lauda Deum tuum, Sion.
Quoniam confortavit seras portarum tuarum: benedixit filiis tuis in te.
Qui posuit fines tuos pacem: et adipe frumenti satiat te.
Qui emittit eloquium suum terræ: velociter currit sermo ejus.
Qui dat nivem sicut lanam: nebulam sicut cinerem spargit.
Mittit crystallum suam sicut buccellas: ante faciem frigoris ejus quis sustinebit?
Emittet verbum suum, et liquefaciet ea: flabit spiritus ejus, et fluent aquæ.
Qui annunciate verbum suum Jacob: justitias et judicia sua Isræl.
Non fecit taliter omni nationi:
et judicia sua non manifestavit eis.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen

Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion.
For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee.
He maketh peace in thy borders,
and filleth thee with the finest wheat.
He sendeth his commandment to the earth; his word runneth swiftly.
He giveth snow like wool;
he scattereth hoar frost like ashes.
He casteth forth his ice like morsels; before his cold who can stand?
He sendeth out his word, and melteth them; his spirit blows, and the waters flow.
He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Isræl.
He hath not dealt so with any nation;
and his judgments he hath not made manifest.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, without end. Amen.

Do You Love Me?

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest
May 26, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we stand beside Peter as Jesus asks him the most important question of his life.

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

John 21:15

What was Jesus really getting at? Here they all are enjoying a nice breakfast on the beach. Their hearts are overjoyed to be in the presence of their Eastered Lord. Life must have felt good that sunny, post-Resurrection morning. And probably all that Peter really wanted out of life was another piece of fired fish or toasted bread, and for their seashore picnic to linger into an eternal evening.

Then here comes Jesus with his cosmic questions! What does he mean, “Do I love him”! Of course, I love him! Haven’t I hung around for three years trying to make this thing work, climbing out of my several missteps to try to be everything he wanted and needed? Oh my goodness, where is he going to call me now with this confusing question: Do you love me?

Yes, Jesus knows that Peter loves him in Peter’s way. He trusts Peter’s affection, devotion, and utter commitment to him. But Jesus’s question is pulling Peter way beyond the salted scents of that Tiberias beach. He wants Peter to love him in God’s way!

Jesus is calling Peter to a timeless answer and a transcendent love. What he is asking Peter is this:

  • Will you leave the man who was “Simon, son of John” to become “Peter, the Rock on which I build my Church”.
  • Will you love me to the point of giving yourself completely so that I may continue to love through you?

Today, as we settle into the sandy dunes with Jesus and his BFFs, Jesus might glance at us as he passes his smoked fish our way. His beautiful eyes might hold a question for us as well as for Peter. Through each of us, Jesus wants to continue to love the world into wholeness. Let’s ask his help in learning how to do that.

Maxim: from St. John of the Cross, a 16th century mystic, who understood Jesus’s eternal question and answered it in this way:

In the evening of our lives we will be judged on love.
Let us therefore learn to love God as God wishes to be loved.

Music: Fill the World with Love – from “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse

In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise.
At a moment in my life when the world is new.
And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me,
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

In the noontime of my life I shall look to the sunshine,
At a moment in my life when the sky is blue.
And the blessing I shall ask shall remain unchanging.
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset,
At a moment in my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only God can answer.
Was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?

Did I fill the world with love?
Did I fill the world with love?
Did I fill the world with love
My whole life through?


Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
May 23, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we listen to both Jesus and Paul as they offer their farewell addresses to their beloved disciples.

It seems an appropriate time for these readings here as students close their educational years and move on to their future. The disciples of Jesus and Paul are doing the same thing. And their valedictorians are the beloved masters on whom they have come to depend.

Paul and his disciples share a tearful good-bye as he departs for Rome

In Acts, Paul prepares to depart from Ephesus where he has lived for three years. It is his cherished community as we can assess from the beautiful letters Paul writes to the Church there. The disciples are heartbroken to see Paul leave, and he is quite emotional himself in his remarks:

I earnestly bore witness for both Jews and Greeks
to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus.
But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.
What will happen to me there I do not know…

But now I know that none of you
to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels
will ever see my face again.
And so I solemnly declare to you this day
that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you,
for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.

Acts 20

Paul, declaring that he has done all that he can for the Gospel, sternly charges his followers to carry on the work of evangelization.

Jesus is a little gentler but no less dramatic in describing the charge to his disciples:

I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you

John 17

Both these readings speak to us, not only about the disciples’ experience of commissioning, but of our own. Our Baptismal incorporation into the faith came with a price tag — “Carry on the Gospel in your life.”

As we listen to the passion with which both Jesus and Paul advised their followers, let’s hear them speaking to us as well. Let’s listen for the unique call we are receiving through the circumstances of our particular life. Not everyone is called to be Paul, or Peter, or Lydia, or Apollos, or Silas or the others we have read about throughout Eastertide.

But we ARE called to be

(Fill in your name)
a believer and doer in the Name of Jesus Christ

Poem: by Hafiz from Love Poems from God – Daniel Ladinsky

I am
a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through—
listen to this

Music: By Faith – Keith and Kristyn Getty

Eternal Life

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 21, 2023

Today’s Readings:


A little explanation: For those of my readers who do not live in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, today’s readings will be different from the ones used for the reflection. In the archdioceses and dioceses within the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha, and Philadelphia, the Ascension of the Lord always falls on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter and is a Holyday of Obligation. In all other archdioceses and dioceses, the Ascension of the Lord is transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

If you wish, you may use the Ascension reflection from last Thursday, or refer to this reflection by the always excellent Mary McGlone from this week’s NCR.

Could this be a rarely seen 1st century photo of Mary (in blue)
with some friends and the Eleven.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from Acts gives us a group photo of the “Apostolic Council”. Think of it as the foundational selfie of Catholic history. And all the big names are there in indelible magic marker with a few “also ran”s mentioned as a seeming afterthought.

Let’s talk about those “also ran”s – those unnamed champions of the faith who are there, who show up, who do the heavy lifting, and whose names disappear into history like the black powder in an Etch-a-Sketch. Let’s talk about them because they are us.

In his letter, Peter tells us to be joyful when our devotion to the faith brings us suffering! Doing so, we become the unnamed disciples of the Gospel carrying human history forward to eternal life.

Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ,
so that when his glory is revealed
you may also rejoice exultantly.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Living with that kind of resolute joy is a huge challenge unless we understand the reason for it. Jesus explains the reason clearly in our Gospel – eternal life.

Father, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.

We not talking about a good life, a happy life, a complete life, an inspiring life. They are all really wonderful things. What we’re talking about here is THE only thing that matters:

Let’s ask for it. Let’s pray for it. Let’s do everything we can to open our hearts to it!

Poetry: Forever Is Composed of Nows – Emily Dickinson

Forever – is composed of Nows –
’Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –

From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years …

Music: Song to the Moon – from Rusalka

Rusalka Op. 114, is an opera (‘lyric fairy tale’) by Antonín Dvořák. The “Song to the Moon” is so beautiful and one of my favorite arias. The vocal version is thrilling, but I found this instrumental version which is more fitting for meditation. I hope you enjoy it.

Teaching the Faith

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
May 20, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings remind us that there are many ways to learn about and grow deeper in our relationship with God.

We can learn from teachers, each of whom has a different tincture to enrich the body of Christian teaching. Today, we meet a few of these very early teachers – Apollos, Priscilla, Aquila, and of course the Teaching Master, Jesus.

Apollos, Aquila and Priscilla

Apollos was a Jewish Christian from Alexandria, Egypt. He was brilliant, steeped in the knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. He was a compelling presenter and an exceptional logician. Luke tells us that Apollos had been instructed in the “Way of the Lord”. When he arrived in Ephesus, Apollos immediately began to “speak boldly” in the synagogue.

There was a problem though. Even though he knew the “Way” or the Gospel, Apollos hadn’t completed the whole course, so to speak. He knew only the baptism of John and not that of the Holy Spirit. So there were some gaps in his “curriculum”, gaps which were evident to two other excellent teachers – the husband and wife team of Priscilla and Aquila.

Priscilla was so kind. She took Apollos aside and quietly redirected some of his thinking. He must have been so grateful for her wise attention and gentle collegial wisdom. And Apollos deserves credit too. He was receptive to the fraternal correction, even that of a woman! Imagine!

This passage from Acts offers us so much food for thought. As we learn and share our faith and spiritual understanding, we must seek guiding input from well-grounded teachers. We should be willing to speak up when we hear the Gospel poorly interpreted or used inappropriately for the advancement of personal and political agendas.

Over the 2000-year evolution of Christianity, many suspect offshoots have arisen. In the early centuries, Christian teachers coped with various heresies which you may have studied in high school such as Arianism, Pantheism, Pelagianism, Gnosticism, etc.

In our modern world, major religions deal with such aberrations as the distortions of the “prosperity Gospel”, exaggerated fundamentalism, and abusive Sharia law.

In our Gospel, Jesus is clear that true faith resides in those who love him, and who love as He has loved. They live and teach in His Name. Without love like Christ’s at its core, any purported religious teaching is a mere shell of the true Gospel.

The hour is coming
when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech,
but I will tell you clearly about the Father.
On that day you will ask in my name,
and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.
For the Father himself loves you because you have loved me
and have come to believe that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world.
Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.

John 16:25-28

Prose: from Rabindranath Tagore

A teacher can never truly teach
unless he too continues to teach himself.
One lamp can never light another
unless it continues to burn its own flames.

Similarly, the teacher who has come
to the end of his subject,
and has no living traffic with his knowledge
but merely repeats his lessons to his students,
can only burden their minds,
he cannot inspire them.

Truth not only must inform
but also inspire;
if this inspiration dies out
and information merely keeps on accumulating,
then truth loses its infinity.

Music: Teach Us, Good Lord (The Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola – see below) – Music, David Ogden

Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve;
to give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labor, and not to ask for reward,
except that of knowing
that we are doing your will.


Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
May 16, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet people who are deeply dedicated to their life commitments – sometimes for good, sometimes for woe.

In Acts, we meet the unnamed “jailer”. Paul and Silas have been manhandled and thrown into prison. Their jailer receives the instruction to “guard them securely” and he takes it very seriously, binding them in chains in the innermost dungeon.

This man revels in his job, to the degree that it is his only identification in the scriptures. We never know his real name.

His job gives him authority and power he would not have in his ordinary circumstances. Perhaps his job has even become his identity so that without it, he feels like little or nothing. When God decides to “earthquake” Paul and Silas out of their chains, the guard freaks. It’s more than an earthquake to him – his very identity is crumbling in the tumult.

And how about Paul? Is he cool in this reading, or what??? Paul’s power relies not on an assumed identity but on God’s centrality in his life.

When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open,
he drew his sword and was about to kill himself,
thinking that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
“Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”

The jailer’s awed response is full-hearted! He does a transformational flip which transfers all his past “job dedication” into his new spiritual conversion. Not only does he allow the disciples to go free, he guides them to his own house, ministers to them, and is baptised. No doubt, his past employers were not too happy with him!

In our Gospel, the disciples, who are deeply dedicated to their vocations, still demonstrate a bit of job-jitters.

Jesus has made it clear that he’s on his way to another dimension and that his disciples will to have to carry on the evangelization business on their own. He promises them all kinds of supernatural help but they can’t imagine functioning without him.

Finally Jesus tells them that, in his physical absence, the Spirit will give them an enhanced power to promulgate the Gospel:

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes he will convict the world
in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation

Both our readings today remind us that it’s all about what really makes us tick. Do we really understand that it is God’s life with us that gives us “importance”, security and identity? Do we tap into that Infinite Power to give us hope, confidence and transformational resilience in life’s many earthquakes? If so, we like the disciples, will be “unchainable” — because it isn’t about us. It is about the God we love whose Spirit lives in us.

Poetry: Peter and the Angel – Denise Levertov

(This poem is not about Paul and Silas, but rather about Peter when he too was freed from prison by Divine intervention (Acts 12:5-17))

Delivered out of raw continual pain,
smell of darkness, groans of those others
to whom he was chained—
unchained, and led
past the sleepers,
door after door silently opening—
And along a long street's
majestic emptiness under the moon:
one hand on the angel's shoulder, one
feeling the air before him,
eyes open but fixed . . .
And not till he saw the angel had left him,
alone and free to resume
the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
what he had still to do,
not till then did he recognize
this was no dream. More frightening
than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
Had the angel's feet
made any sound? He could not recall.
No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
He himself must be
the key, now, to the next door,
the next terrors of freedom and joy.

Music: Love is the Only Way – from the film Paul, Apostle of Christ by Jan Kaczmarek

An extra treat to bless your day: this beautiful and powerful rendition of “Unchained Melody’

The Musikschau der Nationen invites army orchestras from almost a dozen countries the U.S. Army website classifies as “Europe’s biggest brass band music festival.” Though not always consecutive, the festival enjoys over 35 years of time-honored traditions. Some participants besides the U.S. included Vietnam, Russia, and Mexico, among others. In 2002, they performed an all-orchestra version of “Unchained Melody”. The performance represented the largest millitary orchestra in the world.

Colorful Faith

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
May 15, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our first reading opens with the beautiful image of Paul and co-ministers sailing off into the Mediterranean blue, finally ending up in Philippi.

There they meet Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth”. Lydia was a notable figure. Some scripture scholars say she was businesswoman and head of a significant household who offered hospitality to Paul’s entire traveling team. Others see her as a morally questionable “huckster” whose invitation of men to her home would have been morally questionable.

In a magnificent paper for her doctoral dissertation, Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay argues for Lydia as the “Perceptive Disciple” whose true heart became an agent for God’s Word.

A complex but excellent read for those who might be interested.

However we imagine Lydia, Acts clearly notes that she was already a “worshipper of God”, Lydia listened to the disciples’ evangelization. God opened her heart and she accepted Jesus Christ. This is most significant because her heart-opening, much like Mary’s, allowed the Gospel to pass through to her household and, symbolically, to all of Asia Minor.

Halliday, Edward Irvine; St Paul Meeting Lydia of Thyatira; University of Liverpool; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/st-paul-meeting-lydia-of-thyatira-66511

Lydia is the first Christian convert in Philippi, a church which Paul grew to love deeply as we can discern from his beautiful letter to the Philippians. As Paul and his company finish their initial evangelization in Philipppi, the community is entrusted to the hands of Lydia and her devoted neighbors.

What exactly was Lydia’s role as Paul sailed on to other horizons? As in so many cases involving early Church women, history folds that answer into the opinionated edits of 2000 years of monks and translators.

I choose to think that Lydia continued at least as a presbyter, if not a priest. The community had long gathered around her generous and dynamic leadership. Why would that change after Paul departed?

In our Gospel, Jesus is speaking to people like Lydia and like us, down through the ages. He indicates that once we are transformed in the Holy Spirit, we can’t help but cry out the wonder of God in our lives.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

John 15:26-27

Let’s pray to and for all true disciples, especially the women God has chosen to stand at the center of an ever-evolving Church and to weave its energy always toward an inclusive community.

Poetry: Epilogue – Sister Lou Ella Hickman, a widely published poet whose collection ” she:robed and wordless” captures the essence of many biblical women. Her poem cited here attracted me because of the colors – purple, of course, then oranges and reds. I can almost hear our Lydia reciting such a poem!

Music: Piano instrumental of the beautiful song Deep Purple

Confirmed in the Spirit

Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, many of our readings this week prepare us for the Ascension event, a leave-taking with deep gifts and emotions attached.

Our readings from Acts assure us that the early Church, despite the physical absence of Jesus, burst into blossom throughout much of Asia Minor. Today’s passage notes this flowering even in Samaria, where the Jewish faith had been truncated ever since the reign of Jereboam a thousand years before Christ. We read today about the Samaritans receiving their Confirmation:

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God,
they sent them Peter and John,
who went down and prayed for them,
that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
for it had not yet fallen upon any of them;
they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid hands on them
and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8: 14-17

In our Gospel, we see Jesus preparing the disciples for their own Confirmation which will come on Pentecost. Jesus is tender yet intentional in his instruction of the disciples. He knows that it will be challenging for them to move the Gospel forward without him right beside them. But he assures them that the Holy Spirit will sustain them through that challenge.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.

John 14:15-18

What about us – those charged with moving the Gospel forward today. We, like the disciples, must garner the courage to do this even though Jesus is not physically with us.

And we too have been given the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit! Do we ever think about our Confirmation? Or do we remember it only as a symbolic event that happened in our childhood?

How foolish we are if that’s the case! We have buckets of supernatural gifts to empower and nourish us if only we pay attention and ask. We, like the disciples, have not been left orphans of grace!

(Click on the buckets to enlarge if you wish.)

Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings:

Music: I Will Not Leave You Orphans – Carey Landry


Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
May 13, 2023

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings can serve to remind us that Christian discipleship is not always a smooth ride. There are “potholes” — as in all of life.

Pothole 1: Rejection in Lycaonia
Paul, after being stoned, rejected and otherwise harassed, takes off for Derbe and Lystra to test the readiness of that community to receive the Gospel. There, Paul meets Timothy who would become a beloved friend and companion, traveling and ministering with Paul for the next decade.

Pothole 2: Sorry, Tim!
But the relationship starts out with a problem. Timothy’s dad was Greek and, per custom, did not have Timothy circumcised at birth. Even though the Jerusalem apostles had adjudicated circumcision as unnecessary, Paul – who had been its main critic – requires the rite for Timothy. Paul was convinced that the Jews to whom they would be preaching would reject Timothy otherwise.

Pothole 3: Rejection in Asia
They traveled through the Phrygian and Galatian territory
because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit
from preaching the message in the province of Asia.
(Acts 16:6)

Pothole 4: Bypassing Bithynia
When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on into Bithynia,
but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,
so they crossed through Mysia and came down to Troas.
(Acts 16:7)

When we see the massive success and widespread influence of the Church today, we might think it was easy to get this whole thing started – to light the fire of faith in the early years. It wasn’t! And it’s still not easy, despite some appearances.

Jesus counseled his disciples that it would be this way, and encouraged them:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.
Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.”

John 15:18-21

That encouragement was enough for Paul and Timothy to keep going. May it be so for us, and for all who would lead the Church into the future Jesus desired for us..

Poetry: Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk from The Romance of Self-Discovery

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Music: just for some pothole fun today – I Love My Juggernaut – an Irish lorry driven bemoans the pothole problem. Lyrics below.

This is an enjoyable Irish song highlighting a long-standing pothole problem in Cavan, a small city near the border with Northern Ireland. The town is located on the junction of two national routes, the N3 to Dublin and N55 to Athlone. Until recently there was no bypass around Cavan town to eliminate the heavy traffic passing through an already congested town –thus, the legendary pothole problem!

Oh believe it or believe it not, I love me Juggernaut !!
I’ve been all over Ireland, to the North I’ve seen the lot.
I’m hauling great big bales of hay, I’m heading for Mayo.
With potholes all through Cavan, sure I’ll have to drive so slow.

In the morning I’m up early on the road at half past five.
The air is fresh and crispy boy it’s great to be alive.
I fall in behind a crawler put me foot down on the gas.
But the roads are to bumpy for me Juggernaut to pass.


Oh believe it or believe it not i love me Juggernaut !!
I’ve been all over Ireland, to the North I’ve seen the lot.
I’m hauling great big bales of hay, I’m heading for Mayo.
With potholes all through Cavan, sure i’ll have to drive so slow.

(Johnny) “Breaker, Breaker, I’m looking for a copy”
(Richie) “10/4…This is big Rich’ come back”
(Johnny) “Ah, this is your auld pal Johnny”
(Richie) “A, Johnny what’s your 20”

I’m in the County Offaly and I’m awfully sorry now.
I broke the mirrors of me cab and I’d like to tell you how.
With sceachs, bows and bushes rubbing of me load.
I wish the county council would trim along the road.


Oh believe it or believe it not I love me Juggernaut !!
I‘ve been all over Ireland, to the North I’ve seen the lot.
I’m hauling great big bales of hay, I’m heading for Mayo.
With potholes all through Cavan, sure I’ll have to drive so slow.

(Richie) “Come back Johnny, come back”

Some people call us Juggernaut’s, Artic’s or big trucks.
Some people even give us horrid dirty looks.
I know you’ve got your reasons, sometimes for to frown.
But did you ever try to drive a Scania through your town.


Oh believe it or believe it not I love me Juggernaut !!
I’ve been all over Ireland to the North, I’ve seen the lot.
I’m hauling great big bales of hay, I’m heading for Mayo.
With potholes all through Cavan, sure I’ll have to drive so slow.

(Richie) “Stay wut her Johnny, stay wut her”
(Johnny ) “That’s right, that’s the truth, rev’er on the corners”
(Richie) “And face her for Mount Leinster”

I know I swing me volvo all around your market square.
I know that you think lorry drivers we just don’t care.
But the streets are so narrow, built so many years ago.
They were built for horses carts, not juggernauts you know.


Oh believe it or believe it not I love me juggernaut!!
I’ve been all over Ireland, to the North I’ve seen the lot.
I’m hauling great big bales of hay, I’m heading for Mayo.
With potholes all through Cavan, sure I’ll have to drive so slow.

(Richie) “Come back Johnny, come back, we’ll leave the last one to you”

I’m in the County Offaly and I’m awfully sorry now.
I broke the mirrors off me cab and I’d like to tell you how.
With sceachs, bows and bushes the council will not cut.
When I get back to the depot, the boss will do his nut.
Oh when I get back to the depot, the boss will do his nut.