The Spread of the Gospel

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist
September 21, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092122.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, we are blessed with an inspiring reading from Ephesians. We are reminded that each of us is called in God according to our particular gifts. Paul encourages us to live “in a manner worthy of the call we have received” in our Baptism.

evangel Matthew

For most of us, it has been quite a while since we were washed in the waters of our Baptism. A lot of other waters have passed under the bridge since then. We may, or may not, have recognized and responded to our call, continually carried to us on those life waters.

Each moment, each choice, each act and decision asks us once again to choose Christ – over sin, over self, over meaninglessness. Each life opportunity calls us closer to Jesus, to the pattern of his Cross, to the witness of his Resurrection.


Matthew heard such a call as he sat, perhaps dulled by the unconscious disengagement of his life, by the failure to live with intention and openness to grace. As He passed by Matthew, Jesus reached into that ennui, calling Matthew to evangelize all the future generations by his Gospel.

Jesus calls us to be evangelists too – every moment, every day. Our “Yes” to our particular call writes its own Gospel, telling the Good News through our faith, hope and love.


Pope Francis says this:

The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.


Poetry: The Calling of Matthew by James Lasdun

Not the abrupt way, frozen
In the one glance of a painter’s frame
Christ in the doorway pointing. Matthew’s face
Bright with perplexity, the glaze
Of a lifetime at the countinghouse
Cracked in the split second’s bolt of being chosen.
But over the years, slowly,
Hinted at, an invisible curve;
Persistent bias always favoring
Backwardly the relinquished thing
Over the kept, the gold signet ring
Dropped in a beggar’s bowl, the eye not fully
Comprehending the hand, not yet;
Heirloom damask thrust in a passing
Stranger’s hand, the ceremonial saddle
(Looped coins, crushed clouds of inline pearl)
Given on an irresistible
impulse to a servant. Where it sat
A saddle-shaped emptiness
Briefly, obscurely brimming … Flagons
Cellars of wine, then as impulse steadied
into habit, habit to need,
Need to compulsion, the whole vineyard
The land itself, graves, herds, the ancestral house,
Given away, each object’s
Hollowed-out void successively
More vivid in him than the thing itself,
As if renouncing merely gave
Density to having; as if
He’s glimpsed in nothingness a derelict’s
Secret of unabated,
Inverse possession … And only then,
Almost superfluous, does the figure
Step softly to the shelter door;
Casual, foreknown, almost familiar,
Calmly received, like someone long awaited.

Music: When You Call My Name ~ Brian Doerksen & Steve Mitchinson

Presence

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and
Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
September 20, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092022.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings instruct us on what it means to belong to God – heart and soul.

Proverbs tosses out a series of minstrel-like two-liners that, because of their simplicity, might be overlooked for their beauty and depth. For example, the first couplet says: 

Like a stream is the king’s heart
in the hand of the LORD;

wherever it pleases God, God directs it.

Would we all not desire that kind of heart, where our thoughts and choices are so directed by God’s power and grace – held and guided into freedom by God’s loving hand? How confident, peaceful and joyful our lives would be!

Psalm 199 discern

Today’s Psalm 119 is a passionate prayer to be guided through an entangling world by our deep loyalty to God’s own truth, learned by meditating day and night on God’s goodness.


Our Gospel, in an often misinterpreted incident, shows us how Jesus considers his true disciples as close to him as his own mother and family.

So today, to deepen our own closeness to God, let us practice making our ordinary life into a constant prayer – allowing it to flow, like water, over God’s tender, guiding hand. 

We can do this by gratefully noticing God’s Presence in nature, in our companions, in the opportunities for kindness, honesty and service  that come to us today. 

Or, sadly, our experiences today might cause us to notice God’s absence in these places. This offers us an incentive to invite, beg and pester God to transform the desert places in our lives and world.

Whichever approach we take, it will open up a constant conversation with God about our life as we experience it at each moment. We begin to listen better to the Word of God revealing itself in our daily life. We begin to live more consciously in God’s Presence… in God’s dear family.

God’s Law is already written deep in the fabric of our lives. We pray for discernment to discover that guiding grace by opening our hearts to God’s Presence in our every experience.


Poetry: All Things – by Hadewijch

All things
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast
In the Infinite
I reach
for the Uncreated
I have
touched it,
it undoes me
wider than wide
Everything else
is too narrow
You know this well,
you who are also there.

Music: Morning Prayer – Kitaro

Lessons in Love and Light

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
September 19, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings encourage us to live lives of Charity and Light.

Today’s first reading opens two weeks of inspiration from the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. These books include Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and parts of Psalms.

Wisdom literature differs from other books in the Old Testament in that the authors were sages rather than prophets or priests. Priests and prophets typically dealt with religious and moral concerns whereas sages generally focused on the practical aspects of how to live and the intellectual challenges that arise when contemplating the human experience. 

from: compellingtruth.org

Our passage from Proverbs offers a good dose of that sage advice with these basics of mutual charity:

  • Refuse no one the good on which they have a claim
  • Plot no evil against your neighbor,
  • Quarrel not with someone without cause,
  • Envy not lawless persons
  • Choose not their ways …

If we all followed that list, the world would be in pretty good shape. And, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says that once we get that shaped-up, we can take it up a notch — into the Light:

No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, you place it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.

Matthew’s version adds this line:

Let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds 
and glorify God in heaven.

So how do I let Charity kindle God’s Light in me? The list from Proverbs can get me started, but what might my own “Charity Challenges” look like?

Poetry: Charity — The Greatest of All Three – Robert Morris

The soul serene, impenetrably just, 
Is first in CHARITY; we love to muse 
On such a model; knit in strictest bonds 
Of amity with spirits like disposed; 
Aiming at truth for her own sake, this one 
Passes beyond the golden line of Faith, 
Passes beyond the precious line of Hope, 
And sets foot unmoved on CHARITY . 
“A soul so softly radiant and so white, 
The track it leaves seems less of fire than light.”


Music: Lampstand – Ben Bigelow

(Spoiler alert: Those who are still able may want to dance by the end of this video!🤩 I just did a very good finger-snapping routine)

Earthshine & Bling!

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 18, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091822.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings make one thing very clear: we cannot serve both God and “mammon”.

The problem is that we have a hard time figuring out what mammon is. Experience tells us that it’s a lot more than just money, because there are people with money who do a good job serving God.

It seems to me that “mammon” is more the illusion that we are only our “possessions” — our money, house, car, looks, degrees, physical abilities — and that we (or anybody else) is nothing without them.

This misperception is so intrinsic to our inability to live the Gospel that it cripples our souls. The love of “mammon” becomes an overwhelming, incurable addiction that feeds on the well-being of our neighbor.

As our first reading tells us, living by this addiction invokes God’s eternal anger. Describing the abuse heaped upon the poor, God warns the abusers:

The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!

Amos 8:7

Our Gospel tells us that we can’t have it both ways. We either live within the generosity and inclusivity of God, or we’re outside it:

No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.

Luke 16:13

This is a challenging but fundamental teaching of the Gospel. It is essential that we consider how we live it.

Walter Bruggemann, in his book Money and Possessions says this:

Jesus said it … succinctly. You cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot serve God and do what you please with your money or your sex or your land. And then he says, “Don’t be anxious, because everything you need will be given to you.” But you must decide. Christians have a long history of trying to squeeze Jesus out of public life and reduce him to a private little Savior. But to do this is to ignore what the Bible really says. Jesus talks a great deal about the kingdom of God—and what he means by that is a public life reorganized toward neighborliness. . . .

Let’s have the courage to pray with that thought today. Although challenging, the question is rather simple: how do we use what we have to live a Gospel life, the essence of which Jesus stated like this:

Love God above all things

and your neighbor as yourself.

Mark 12:30-31


Poetry: Cullen in the Afterlife – P. K. Page

(This poet is new to me. She is a Canadian poet whose work is noted for its vibrant images. I liked this poem in which she imagines the experience of finding oneself in the afterlife. She notes the difficulty of embracing Love when hampered by “mammon” which she called “Earthshine”.

And how partake of such a gift when he
was handicapped by Earthshine—wore the stars,
badges and medals of privilege and success?
Desensitizers, brutalizers—all 
the tricks that mammon plays to make one sleep.


Cullen in the Afterlife – P. K. Page

He found it strange at first. A new dimension.  
One he had never guessed. The fourth? The fifth? 
How could he tell, who’d only known the third?
Something to do with eyesight, depth of field.
Perspective quite beyond him. Everything flat
or nearly flat. The vanishing point 
they’d tried to teach at school was out of sight
and out of mind. A blank.

Now, this diaphanous dimension—one
with neither up nor down, nor east nor west,
nor orienting star to give him north.
Even his name had left him. Strayed like a dog. 
Yet he was bathed in some unearthly light,
a delicate no-color that made his flesh
transparent, see-through, a Saran-Wrap self.
His body without substance and his mind
with nothing to think about—although intact—
was totally minus purpose. He must think.

Think of a Rubens, he said to himself. But where
Rubens had been there was a void, a vast
emptiness—no opulence. And then
Cézanne who broke all matter up—
made light of it, in fact. And mad Van Gogh
who, blinded by the light, cut off his ear.
Gone—that shadowy assembly—vanished, done. 
Gone without substance. Like himself. A shell.
Insensate in a flash. (What was that flash—
bereft of all but essence?) Was it death?
He wondered about the word, so filled with breath
yet breathless, breathless, breathless. A full stop.

“Divino Espirito Santo,” he had said
once in Brazil, “Soul of my very soul.”
He’d prayed in Portuguese, an easier tongue—
for newly agnostic Anglos—than his own,
burdened with shibboleths and past beliefs.
“Alma de minha alma”—liquid words
that made a calm within him. Where within?
Was there a word for it? Was it his heart?

Engulfed by love. Held in a healing beam
of love-light. Had he earned such love?
And how partake of such a gift when he
was handicapped by Earthshine—wore the stars,
badges and medals of privilege and success?
Desensitizers, brutalizers—all 
the tricks that mammon plays to make one sleep.
He must wake up. He must expose and strip
successive layers to find his soul again.
Where had the rubble come from? He was like
a junkyard—cluttered, filled with scrap iron, tin.
As dead as any metal not in use.
So he must start once more. He had begun
how many times? Faint glimmerings and dim
memories of pasts behind the past
recently lived—the animal pasts and vague
vegetable pasts—those climbing vines and fruits;
and mineral pasts (a slower pulse) the shine
of gold and silver and the gray of iron.
The “upward anguish.”
                                   What a rush of wings
above him as he thought the phrase and knew 
angels were overhead, and over them
a million suns and moons.

Music: a simple mantra, but powerful if we can live it: Love God, Love Neighbor by Dale Sechrest

Choose to Believe

Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091722.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Paul strongly confronts the doubts of the Corinthian community regarding the Resurrection.

Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? 
With what kind of body will they come back?”
You fool!

1 Corinthians 15:35

Remember that these post-Resurrection Christians had expected an immediate Parousia, or end of time. They thought that with the completion of Christ’s redemptive act, that was it! Time for heaven for all us believers. Yippee!

Well, not so fast!

When Parousia didn’t happen, the people grew a little confounded. They began to awaken to  the hard lesson  that redemption is not time-bound, but continues in the timeless gift of grace given to new generations. It is up to us to work through our own lives to become one with the Pascal Mystery of Christ.

In the miracle of God’s eternity, each of us has the chance to engage the power of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection by the faithful living of our own lives – no matter if we have lived in the first or the twenty-first century. 


God doesn’t do “time” and doesn’t have a calendar.

But still I feel for those struggling Corinthians! It’s hard to believe sometimes, don’t you agree? It’s hard to wade through the sometimes tumultuous unfolding of our lives and history to find God.

When I taught eighth graders many years ago, one intelligent young girl asked me this question:

What if everything you believe is wrong? 
Was the way you live your life worth it?

It was a powerful question and it has stayed with me for half a century. I continue to ask myself versions of the same question especially when I can’t find God in the circumstances of my life or world – when children are sick, or old people suffer, or human beings dreadfully hurt one another – and I have no answers.

Like the early Corinthians, I ask God, “Where are You? I thought your Resurrection healed all this? I thought You had redeemed our suffering world! 


Paul and Jesus, in our readings today, give us images to help us mature in a long and lasting faith that doesn’t answer but receives these questions with trust and hope.

What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.
And what you sow is not the body that is to be
but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind.

So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible.
It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious.
It is sown weak; it is raised powerful.
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.

1 Corinthians 15

By faith, the power of Christ’s Resurrection has been sown in us like a seed. Because we are creatures of time, that power needs time to root itself in every aspect of our lives – our choices, actions, our very nature.

Jesus tells us that God is sowing the seeds of the Resurrection in our lives. Our job is simply provide good soil by choosing to believe and act on God’s Word.

“This is the meaning of the parable. 
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, 
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,
and bear fruit through perseverance.”

Luke 8:5-11

Poetry: Flickering Mind – Denise Levertov

Lord, not you
it is I who am absent.
At first
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away -- and back,
circling.
I have long since uttered your name
but now
I elude your presence.
I stop
to think about you, and my mind
at once
like a minnow darts away,
darts
into the shadows, into gleams that fret
unceasing over
the river's purling and passing.
Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
anywhere,
everywhere it can turn.  Not you,
it is I am absent.
You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow.
You the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.
How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?

Music: Out of Time – Liz Story

God’s Eye-Apple

Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs
September 16, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091622.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 17, a confident prayer calling on God’s intervention.

The psalmist tenders a plea:

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer 
from lips without deceit. Psalm 17:1

But before reiterating that plea, the pray-er convinces God that she is worthy of an answer:

You have tested my heart,
searched it in the night.
You have tried me by fire,
but find no malice in me.
My mouth has not transgressed
as others often do.
As your lips have instructed me,
I have kept from the way of the lawless.Psalm 17: 3-4


It sounds a little boastful but it really isn’t. The one who prays this psalm is very familiar with God and God with her. There are no secrets between them. She knows that she is infinitely loved and protected, not despite her vulnerability but because of it. 

The psalmist, from long experience, is confident asking for help, as we would be asking a friend to turn and listen to us:

I call upon you; answer me, O God.
Turn your ear to me; hear my speech.Psalm 17: 7


Have you ever been asked for prayers because you are “a good prayer”? 
It happens to nuns all the time.

But no one’s prayer is more powerful than another. We say “Of course” to such requests because it is our intention to join our prayer with that of the requester.

Show your wonderful mercy,
you who deliver with your right arm
those who seek refuge from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wingsPsalm 17: 8-9

Each of us is God’s “eye-apple”. Each of us, when we give ourselves to a long familiarity with God, will be wrapped in the confidence of one whose prayer is always answered.

( In a second posting, I’ll be sending on an extra meditation on The Eye of God by Macrina Wiederkehr – beautifully profound.)


Poetry: As Kingfishers Catch Fire – Gerard Manley Hopkins

by Alcedo Atthis

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells 
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s 
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; 
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; 
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, 
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 

I say móre: the just man justices; 
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces; 
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is — 
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places, 
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his 
To the Father through the features of men’s faces. 


Music:   The Apple of My Eye by Umb-5 and Sam Carter

Sometimes a non-spiritual song captures a spiritual meaning in a beautiful way. Let God sing to you with this lovely song.

Mater Dolorosa

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
September 15, 2022

Today’s Readings for Our Mother of Sorrows

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/0915-memorial-our-lady-sorrows.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Our Mother of Sorrows.

sorrows

Poetry: Pieta – R.S. Thomas

Always the same hills
Crown the horizon,
Remote witnesses
Of the still scene
And in the foreground
The tall Cross,
Sombre, untenanted,
Aches for the Body
That is back in the cradle
of a maid's arms.

Mary’s greatest sorrows came, not from circumstances she bore personally, but from her anguish at the sufferings of Jesus. Like so many mothers, fathers, spouses, children and friends, Mary suffered because she loved.

It is so hard to watch someone we love endure pain. We feel helpless, lost and perhaps angry. We may be tempted to turn away from our beloved’s pain because it empties us as well as them.

This is the beauty and power of Mary’s love: it did not turn. Mary’s devotion accompanied Jesus – even through crucifixion and death – for the sake of our salvation.

Today’s liturgy offers us the powerful sequence “Stabat Mater”.

Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time. It is based upon the prophecy of Simeon that a sword was to pierce the heart of His mother, Mary (Lk 2:35). The hymn originated in the 13th century during the peak of Franciscan devotion to the crucified Jesus and has been attributed to Pope Innocent III (d. 1216), St. Bonaventure, or more commonly, Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), who is considered by most to be the real author.

The hymn is often associated with the Stations of the Cross. In 1727 it was prescribed as a Sequence for the Mass of the Seven Sorrows of Mary (September 15) where it is still used today. (preces-latinae.org)

Music: Stabat Mater Dolorosa – Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
This is a glorious rendition. If you have time, you might listen to it on a rainy afternoon or evening as you pray.

STABAT Mater dolorosa
iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius. 
At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last. 
Cuius animam gementem,
contristatam et dolentem
pertransivit gladius. 
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed. 
O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta,
mater Unigeniti! 
O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One. 
Quae maerebat et dolebat,
pia Mater, dum videbat
nati poenas inclyti. 
Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son. 
Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio? 
Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold? 
Quis non posset contristari
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio? 
Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold? 
Pro peccatis suae gentis
vidit Iesum in tormentis,
et flagellis subditum. 
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
she beheld her tender Child
All with bloody scourges rent: 
Vidit suum dulcem Natum
moriendo desolatum,
dum emisit spiritum. 
For the sins of His own nation,
saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent. 
Eia, Mater, fons amoris
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam. 
O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord: 
Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum
ut sibi complaceam. 
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord. 
Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide. 
Holy Mother! pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified: 
Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide. 
Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died. 
Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifixo condolere,
donec ego vixero. 
Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live: 
Iuxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero. 
By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give. 
Virgo virginum praeclara,
mihi iam non sis amara,
fac me tecum plangere. 
Virgin of all virgins blest!,
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine; 
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere. 
Let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine. 
Fac me plagis vulnerari,
fac me Cruce inebriari,
et cruore Filii. 
Wounded with His every wound,
steep my soul till it hath swooned,
in His very Blood away; 
Flammis ne urar succensus,
per te, Virgo, sim defensus
in die iudicii. 
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
lest in flames I burn and die,
in His awful Judgment Day. 
Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
da per Matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriae. 
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
by Thy Mother my defense,
by Thy Cross my victory; 
Quando corpus morietur,
fac, ut animae donetur
paradisi gloria. Amen. 
While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
safe in paradise with Thee. Amen.
From the Liturgia Horarum. Translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

The Sign of the Cross

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091422.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, 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 this canticle 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: Jessica Powers – The Sign of the Cross

The lovers of Christ lift out their hands 
to the great gift of suffering. 
For how could they seek to be warmed and clothed 
and delicately fed, 
to wallow in praise and to drink deep draughts 
of an undeserved affection,
have castle for home and a silken couch for bed, 
when He the worthy went forth, wounded and hated, 
and grudged of even a place to lay His head?
This is the badge of the friends of the Man of Sorrows: 
the mark of the cross, faint replica of His, 
become ubiquitous now; it spreads like a wild blossom 
on the mountains of time and in each of the crevices. 
Oh, seek that land where it grows in a rich abundance 
with its thorny stem and its scent like bitter wine, 
for wherever Christ walks He casts its seed
and He scatters its purple petals. 

It is the flower of His marked elect, 
and the fruit it bears is divine. 
Choose it, my heart. It is a beautiful sign.

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

Heartfelt Mercy

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Paul reminds us and calls us to live as Christ’s Body.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not a single part, but many.
Now you are Christ’s Body, and individually parts of it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Our prayer might lead us to ask ourselves, “How exactly have I been part of Christ’s Body in my life today?”.


The Gospel story of the widow of Nain could help us answer. Reading it, I remember standing by a large walkway window at the Louisville Airport on a sweltering July day in 2005.

Down on the heat-softened tarmac, a small bevy of soldiers stood at attention. Slowly, a flag-draped casket was lowered into their waiting arms. Just to the side, a huddled family, waited as well. Two children clung to either side of their young mother. An older couple stood behind her, hands gentled on her shoulders.

At the window, several other travelers gathered in silence. A few teenage boys removed their inverted baseball caps when they noticed a distinguished older gentleman stand tall and hold a salute.

No one who witnessed that brief ceremony will ever forget it. The grief, reverence and astonishment at life’s fragility emblazoned the moment on every witnessing heart.



When Jesus passed the gates of Nain on that ancient morning, he had a like experience. He saw this “only son of a widowed mother”. Once again, shaken to his roots with compassion –splancha, he pulled heaven down to heal heart-breaking loss.

As Jesus drew near to the gate of the city
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his widowed mother.

How I wished Jesus were flying out of Louisville that day in 2005! But then I realized He was there. The miracle was hidden, but still real. The Divine Compassion flowed through me, through the reverent gathering beside me, through the soldiers’ honoring arms, through the long prayerful memory we would all forever share.

That young man from Nain was raised from the dead… for a while. He, like all of us, eventually died. The miracle was not about him and his life. The miracle was the visible sign of God’s Lavish Mercy for us – God’s “feeling-with-us” in all our experiences. That compassion, whether miraculously visible or not, is always with us. It just took a different form that day in Louisville.

The baptismal commission to be Christ’s Body in the world calls each of us to the same type of compassion, of “being with” those who suffer, of honoring the God-given life of every person, and of believing in its ultimate resurrection.

Poetry: FIRSTBORN SONS AND THE WIDOW OF NAIN (LUKE 7:11–15)
by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

Jesus halted on the road outside Nain
where a woman’s wailing drenched the air.
Out of the gates poured a somber procession
of dark-shawled women, hushed children,
young men bearing a litter that held
a body swathed in burial clothes,
and the woman, walking alone.

A widow then—another bundle
of begging rags at the city gates.
A bruised reed!

Her loud grief labored and churned in him till
“Halt!” he shouted.
The crowd, the woman, the dead man stopped.
Dust, raised by sandaled feet,
settled down again on the sandy road.
Insects waited in shocked silence.
He walked to the litter, grasped a dead hand.
“Young man,” he called
in a voice that shook the walls of Sheol,
“I command you, rise!” The linens stirred.
Two firstborn sons from Nazareth and Nain
met, eye to eye. He placed the pulsing hand into hers.
“Woman, behold your son,” he smiled.

Music:  The Body of Christ – Sarah Hart

Entwined in Faith

Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
September 10, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091022.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, both Paul and Jesus caution their listeners to be single-hearted and resolute in their faith and practice.

Paul tells these early Corinthian Christians not to participate in dinners served at pagan temples. The meat at these meals had been sacrificed to idols so that to participate in the dinner appeared to give approbation to the idolatrous practice.

My beloved ones, avoid idolatry.
I am speaking as to sensible people;
judge for yourselves what I am saying.

….

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons.
You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons.


Paul’s key message is that now this baptized community belongs to a new faith which worships one God through Jesus Christ. Their lives must witness this gift and commitment.

My beloved ones, avoid idolatry.
I am speaking as to sensible people;
judge for yourselves what I am saying.
The cup of blessing that we bless,
is it not a participation in the Blood of Christ?
The bread that we break,
is it not a participation in the Body of Christ?
Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one Body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.


In our Gospel, Jesus describes that steadfast witness in terms of a tree. When we are truly knit into the love of God in Jesus Christ, we flourish with God’s own life.

A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.
A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good,
but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil;
for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Each day, each moment, gives us the opportunity to root our lives deeply in our faith. We ask God for that sacred entwining – like a tree which reaches deep into the ground for life, or like a well-founded house whose bedrock is deep and stable.

I will show you what someone is like who comes to me,
listens to my words, and acts on them.
That one is like someone building a house,
who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock;
when the flood came, the river burst against that house
but could not shake it because it had been well built.

Poetry: Love and Harmony – William Blake

This poem is often interpreted to describe the picture of a perfect marriage where love and harmony allow otherwise separate entities to “entwine”. However, Blake was, beyond a poet, a mystic. His poems almost always contain a central analogy of the human relationship with the Divine. I think this poem does as well and can be read as a type of prayer to be fully entwined with God, in love and harmony.

Love and harmony combine,
And round our souls entwine
While thy branches mix with mine,
And our roots together join.
Joys upon our branches sit,
Chirping loud and singing sweet;
Like gentle streams beneath our feet
Innocence and virtue meet.
Thou the golden fruit dost bear,
I am clad in flowers fair;
Thy sweet boughs perfume the air,
And the turtle buildeth there.
There she sits and feeds her young,
Sweet I hear her mournful song;
And thy lovely leaves among,
There is love, I hear his tongue.
There his charming nest doth lay,
There he sleeps the night away;
There he sports along the day,
And doth among our branches play.

Music: The Memory of Trees- Enya