If … then. Uh oh!

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge us.

Jn15_20JPG

Jesus talks about the kind of blowback his disciples can expect for living their faith in  an inimical world. He gives us some “if … then” statements:

  • 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.
  • If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.

Reading these verses makes me wonder if I am really living the Gospel, because I don’t feel all that persecuted.

And then I think that this is because I really live in two worlds. I live in first world comfort and security. But there is also a part of me that agonizes daily over the injustice rampant in our shared world. Today’s Gospel challenges me to live more intentionally in that second world.

Walter Brueggemann says this:

Faith is both the conviction
that justice can be accomplished
and the refusal to accept injustice.”
Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out

Jesus was not persecuted simply because he did miracles and preached love. This loving, life-giving ministry confronted the dominant, government-generated culture which relied on the subjugation and despair of those they dominated.

Jesus, just like other prophets, was killed because he gave hope to a people whose freedom threatened the status quo comfort of the dominators. Just like  Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Oscar Romero , Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Wang Zhiming , the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek  (All names are clickable to find more information.)

I don’t aspire to martyrdom. But I do want to be a true disciple of Jesus. The way available to us is to live and act with mercy and compassion for the poor, marginalized people Jesus so loves. We can do this by voting, advocating for, and sponsoring programs and agendas for social justice.  This link from the Sisters of Mercy is a help on how to do that:

Click here for Sisters of Mercy Advocacy page

Brueggemann also says this:

Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion.” (Prophetic Imagination)

May our hearts be moved by grace to the depth of compassion we have learned from Jesus.

P.S. I know that many of you have responded to this request I placed on Facebook. Thank you. For those who don’t do Facebook, this is an urgent request for help for refugees at our southern border. It’s an easy way to do some good things.It was received from Sisters of Mercy Leadership Team in D.C.

Music for today is below this request. 


appeal


Music: Compassion- The Gettys 

Live in Christ

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us the powerful metaphor of the Vine and the Branches.

John15_2 vine

How do we grow more deeply into God? Or how do we let God grow more deeply into us? Or do we even want those things to happen?

If our lives seem to be riding along on their own, we may not pay all that much attention to God’s Presence in our experiences. And that’s where we miss the opportunity to be grafted on to the Vine.

How unfortunate if we never learn to befriend our own souls, because that is the place where God speaks to us. St. Teresa of Avila put it this way:


What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul, which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?
— St. Theresa of Avila, The Interior Castle


Some practices to help that “befriending” are the appreciation of quiet, the routine of prayer, the love of scripture, the reverence of nature and humanity, and the practice of charity.

The Little Flower offers us great insight into friendship with God:


I understand and I know from experience that: ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ Jesus has no need of books or teachers to instruct souls; He teaches without the noise of words. Never have I heard Him speak, but I feel that He is within me at each moment; He is guiding and inspiring me with what I must say and do. I find just when I need them certain lights that I had not seen until then, and it isn’t most frequently during my hours of prayer that these are most abundant but rather in the midst of my daily occupations.”
― St. Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul – the Autobiography of St. Therese


Lest my men readers fear I’ve gone all girly with these women saints (and by the way, they were not girly.  They were powerhouses of spiritual dynamism!), try this from St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits:


Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet, always ready for whatever our Lord may wish to work in you. it is certainly a higher virtue of the soul, and a greater grace, to be able to enjoy the Lord in different times and different places than in only one.
― Saint Ignatius, Letter to Francisco de Borja, Duke of Gandía


Summary of all this thought: God lives in us and we live in God, as branches live in the Vine. May we let ourselves absorb, cherish and celebrate this astounding Gift!

PS: Sending another personal thought on a little later this evening. 

Music: I Am the Vine- John Michael Talbot

Finding Peace

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel offers us a profound message: what does it mean to live in the peace of God?

jn14_28 peace

So many things, from the monumental to the trivial, can make us unpeaceful. If we made a list, we might tire before we completed it! This lack of peace takes many forms in us – worry, anxiety, second guessing, distraction, self-doubt and myriad other forms of inner fragmentation.

For some of us, gaining inner peace is more difficult than for others. So much depends on the trust we have felt in our lives. For those who have felt betrayed by family, friends, or God, the journey to a peaceful heart can be a tortuous one.

But Jesus says we can do it because he showed us how.

Don’t you think he might have been confused and bewildered at times by what the Father was asking of him? Don’t you think he was disillusioned at times by the wavering faith of his disciples? Don’t you think he was frightened by the kind of death he faced?

So just how did Jesus grow to such a fullness of peace that he was able to bequeath it to us as our inheritance?

He said:

Not as the world gives peace do I give it to you.

The world gives peace by removing or dominating challenges. God gives peace by accompanying us through challenges.

Jesus came to the point, in his very human life, where he chose not to let his heart be troubled because he had found this accompaniment.

The willingness of Jesus to live, suffer, and die according to the Father’s Will gives us the pattern on which to build our peace.

Throughout the ages, many saints have found and lived this peace according to their own call from God. One of the many who inspire me is Julian of Norwich.  Julian was an English anchorite of the Middle Ages.  She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.

Julian was worried about the presence of sin in the world. It seems she wondered, like many of us might, why God didn’t just fix that!


“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.

But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.”


This also is a lovely quote from Julian to pray with:

“From the time these things were first revealed I had often wanted to know what was our Lord’s meaning. It was more than fifteen years after that I was answered in my spirit’s understanding. ‘You would know our Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold on to this and you will know and understand love more and more. But you will not know or learn anything else — ever.”

Music: Meg Barnhouse’s modern interpretation of Julian’s writing, which Meg has obviously studied.

 

A Reflection and A Heartfelt Request

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our reading from Acts  shows that everything wasn’t always a bowl of cherries for the Apostles.  Paul recounts that both the change-resistant Jews and Gentiles wanted to attack and stone him and Barnabas. So they left and went to Lystra where Paul cured a paralyzed man. This won them approval to the point that the populace thought they were gods!

It seems that this was a time of “feast or famine” for Paul and the other disciples. They had to stay true to their mission while learning to balance the reactions and expectations of the people to whom they preached. 

They had to balance their own expectations too. Not everyone they encountered was able to receive the Word.

Our Gospel gives us an insight into how the Apostles might have felt when they met someone who was hard of heart and spirit. Jude, who has nothing but this to say in the whole Gospel, asks Jesus:

Master, then what happened
that you will reveal yourself to us

and not to the world?

In other words, why are we blessed with faith when others are not?

John14_23

Jesus’ answer is mysterious but simple:

Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.

John’s  phraseology, as usual,  is a little roundabout but the meaning is clear – love Me and do what I have asked of you, and your heart will open to My Truth.

We love Jesus by getting to know him intimately in Scripture and tradition, in ritual and sacrament, and in the faces of our sisters and brothers. If we do this, Jesus will reveal his heart to us.

Speaking of hearts, dear friends, my precious 3-year-old grandnephew will have surgery on Tuesday morning to repair a hole in his heart. My family and I would be so grateful for your prayers for his complete healing and for the skill of those who treat him. His name is Oliver and, of course, we love him beyond words. Thank you.

me_Ollie

Music today is an old come-all-ya, and the accompanying art is so saccharin, I know! But I still love this hymn and Daniel O’Donnell could sing me the ABCs and I’d be happy. As Ollie faces his surgery, the hymn is very comforting to me, and I hope to you in whatever needs you have.

Sweet Heart of Jesus – Daniel O’Donnell

Do You Have Your Housekey?

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 17, 2019

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Jn14_2 dwelling

Today, in Mercy, Paul continues his preaching in Antioch. He delivers a very powerful, and condemnatory line about the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders …

Though they found no grounds for a death sentence,
they asked Pilate to have Jesus put to death…

Being unable to accept the Truth that Jesus was, they conspired to destroy him.

Understanding, accepting and living within the Truth of God and of ourselves is the way to eternal life. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is this Way, Truth and Life.

It sounds so straightforward and simple, doesn’t it? 

But in our world, truth has lost its definition. Its edges have been stretched beyond recognition by propaganda, moral convenience, political pretense, false advertising, manipulative social media, and other forms of self-serving deceit.

truthThe distortion of truth has become epidemic among us, infecting us all in one way or another.

Just as in the presence of any disease, we need to take precautions to keep ourselves healthy – true to God and to ourselves:

  • placing ourselves honestly before God in prayer
  • practicing a brief examination of conscience at the end of each day
  • discerning how we use power and advantage in terms of self-interest
  • living by self-respect and respect for others
  • evaluating our actions and choices in the light of the command to love one another

In the Father’s House there are many dwelling places. Truth is their entry key:

I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ

Open to the Light

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

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May 15, 2019

Today, in Mercy, Jesus calls himself the Light.

Jn12_46_Light

Surely he came to bring us out of darkness which is light’s polar opposite. Most of us receive that deliverance with gratitude, understanding it to be our redemption from sin and separation from God.

As we grow deeper in our spiritual life, we may realize that there are many degrees of opposition to the Light. We may not find ourselves in the deep darkness of habitual sin, but rather on those tantalizing edges of spiritual laziness that can halt our soul’s growth:

  • the fog of faithless religious practice
  • the clouds of unresolved hurts and failures in forgiveness
  • the shadows of our religious prejudices
  • the dusk of our early energy for charity and community
  • the eclipse of hope and confidence in God

May God give us the grace to see that Light, too, comes in many forms, beaming through the smallest openings in our spirit. Every act, every choice, every silent prayer made for the sake of Love allows that Light to grow. You may like to pray with that thought while appreciating this poem of Denise Levertov:

Bearing the Light

Rain-diamonds, this winter morning, 
embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs; 
each solitaire, placed, it appears, with considered judgement, 
bears the light beneath the rifted clouds – 
the indivisible shared out in endless abundance.

Music: some beautiful instrumental music from Kathryn Kaye for your prayer time.

Anonymous in God

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter 

May 14, 2019

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Matthias

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Matthias, the one chosen by lot to take the place of Judas among the Twelve.

Matthias met the conditions for being an “Apostle” because he

… accompanied (the Apostles) the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,

beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us …

But there was another, upon whom the lot did not fall, who also met these conditions- Joseph Barsabbas Justus. This man was important enough to Luke, the writer of Acts, that his name is precisely recorded in history. But his name is all that we know of him. What he subsequently did for the spread of the Gospel remains folded in history’s shadows.

There are so many souls, down through these same shadows, who love and spread the Gospel but who remain relatively “anonymous in God”. I think of one such woman today, on what was once her Feastday.

Sister Mary Matthias Duggan was born in 1869 in the Irish Free State. She came to the United States in 1897. She joined the Sisters of Mercy as a lay sister, women who lacked the formal education to be teachers. Sister Matthias, and many others like her, cared for the household needs of the teaching sisters and resident students.

When I met Sister Matthias, she was in her nineties and lived on our infirmary wing. The trek from that wing to our Motherhouse chapel, though a skip and a jump for us novices, was a long journey on her cane for Sister Matthias. She carried ninety years of heavy work on her aged bones.

When any of us “youngsters” would come upon Sister Matthias or her peers on their chapel journey, we would offer an arm in accompaniment. Sister Matthias would give a lightly brogued “Thank you”, then begin a series of audible prayers for the accompanying novice. She always said, “These prayers are for your final perseverance.”

We will never know the blessed influence Joseph Barsabbas Justus had on the early Church. If it was anything near the Holy Gift that Sister Matthias quietly gave, then he too is a saint like she is.

Sister Mary Matthias Duggan, and all you Holy Women of Mercy, please continue to pray for us.

Music: For All the Saints

Open Your Heart’s Gate

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings again visit the question, “Who belongs to family of God?”.

love like God

Peter, upon returning to Jerusalem from Joppa, faces the Jewish Christians who are only learning how to live their new faith. They don’t get it that Gentiles are invited too to this emerging faith community.

They, like many of us, find security in the categories we build into our lives. We separate those who belong and don’t belong – sometimes to assure ourselves that we belong in certain preferred categories. We decide who is OK and who is not. The Gentiles were not OK church members for the Jerusalem Christians.

Peter is very patient with these critics. Point by point, he explains how his own understanding was informed by the Holy Spirit, so that he saw clearly that Christ’s invitation was for all people.

This reading challenges us to examine our “categories”, our biases and prejudices. Who is OK in my book, and who is suspect or questionable? In my thinking, who has a “right” to certain goods, positions and privileges? Who would I not invite to my table based on my predetermined “categories”?

With Christ, there are no privileged categories. We are each the privileged child of God, universally redeemed in the blood of Christ.

As I pray with this thought today, how might my attitudes and choices be affected?

Music: We are Called – David Haas

The Amazing Invitation

The Fourth Sunday of Easter 

May 12, 2019

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invite

Today, in Mercy, our three readings make one thing very clear – we are ALL invited to membership in the Body of Christ. We are ALL welcome in the Beloved Community.

In our first reading,  Paul and Barnabas preach to Jews, converts to Judaism and to Gentiles – to the effect that:

All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.

In our second reading:

John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb.

And in our Gospel, Jesus says:

My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

These readings describe the family of God to which every human being has been given entrance through the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Think about that: 

  • when you look into people’s eyes today
  • when you see their stories on the news
  • when you people-watch at the airport or the mall
  • when you drive by a cemetery where lives are remembered in stone 
  • when you look at your children, your friends, your foes
  • when you take that last look in the mirror tonight before you fall asleep

This person has been invited, with me, to the family of God. How might that thought influence my choices and actions each day?

All of us – ALL OF US- are welcome; all of us, equally loved.

Music: All Are Welcome – Marty Haugen

Pour It All Out for Love

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Acts describes Peter in the full energy of his discipleship. The infant Church was at peace, being built up by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter, completely filled with this sacred power, raises a woman from the dead. He does this in the Name of Jesus to Whom he has given his entire being.

pour faith

Our Gospel describes the moment of Peter’s total commitment. Some have turned away from Jesus because of his teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus asks the Twelve if they to wish to go too.

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

At pivotal points in our faith life, Jesus asks us the same question. May we always have the strength and insight to turn toward Christ. May we pour our hearts into the welcoming love of Jesus, just as Peter did.

Music: To Whom Shall We Go – Robin and Staci Calamaio – Father and daughter team