Word

Sunday, January 27, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings focus on Scripture as the revealed Word of God.

lk1_scroll word

Ezra, from our first passage, lived almost 500 years before Christ during the Babylonian captivity, a time when much of the population of Judea was deported to what is modern day Iraq. When the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, the Jews were permitted to return to Judea.

During the sixty-year enslavement, many Jews lost touch with their culture, language and religion. Our reading describes Ezra’s efforts to restore the Jewish character of the community by reintroducing them to the Torah. He has to read to them, translating the Hebrew for those who no longer speak it.

In a gesture foretelling the liberating ministry of Jesus, Ezra unrolls the scroll – symbolic of bringing to light that which has been hidden or buried.

In our Gospel, Jesus too unrolls the scroll. In doing so, Jesus reveals the heart of faith which had been buried within the Law. Jesus preaches in a new “language” – the language of God’s all-inclusive mercy, forgiveness, and love.

For us who believe, the holy scriptures are a Living Word which, through thoughtful prayer, will continually reveal God’s heart to us. It is worth our time and attention to become friends with these sacred messages.

Many of you, dear readers, will be familiar with the ancient prayer practice of “lectio divina”. In her book “Too Deep for Words”, Sister Thelma Hall describes the practice:

… a wholistic way of prayer which disposes, opens, and “in-forms” us for the gift of contemplation God waits to give, by leading us to a place with him at our deepest center … It begins this movement by introducing us to the power of the Word of God in scripture to speak to the most intimate depths of our hearts …

Sister Thelma Hall’s Book, a classic, is available on Amazon for those who might enjoy exploring Lectio Divina. I highly recommend it. My copy, nearly 30 years old, is beginning to show its age, but then again, so am I! 😂 I would never part with it. 

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Music:  Word of God Speak ~ Mercy Me

Fan the Love into Flame

SATURDAY, JANUARY 26, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have the beautiful letter from Paul to Timothy, filled with tenderness, encouragement, hope and the sweet suggestion of loving memories.

2 tim1_6 fan to flame

When we travel life’s road, what an indescribable blessing to have even one companion who loves us the way Paul loved Timothy — to care for our whole life,  our whole soul, and our whole “forever”.

In his letter, Paul reveals that Timothy has been immensely blessed with such love.  Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois have already – for many years –  tendered Timothy in the faith.

In this lovely letter, Paul notes that he prays for Timothy daily.

Do we pray for those who have blessed us and loved us in our lives? Do we tell them so, if they are living? Do we thank and remember them if they have gone home to God?

Paul closes this part of his letter with such beautiful words to Timothy:

For this reason,
I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have
through the laying on of my hands.

Many people have rested their hands on your spirit, on your heart.  Be filled with love and gratitude for them today and everyday. For those who have done otherwise, forgive them and let them go.

I remember in a special way today my mother who died on this date thirty-one years ago.  In a separate email, I share a poem I wrote after Mom’s death.  It is a little sad in tone, but it may touch and help some of you, my readers, who are experiencing grief.

Stay with your grief, beloveds, long enough to find the blessing within it.

Some meditative music: for your remembering prayerJames Last – Coulin

The WHOLE World

Friday, January 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Acts paints a detailed picture of Saul’s conversion and call on the road to Damascus. It’s a colorful and dramatic account befitting the biography of the  great “Apostle to the Gentiles”.

mk16_15 whole world

Think about this. Almost all the very first Christians (and Christ himself) were Jews. Early Christian ritual grew out of Jewish ritual. In the immediate post-Resurrection period, there were few, of any, Gentile Christians.

This is one of the reasons Paul is such a big deal. As a Roman citizen and a devout Jew, he lived with a foot in two worlds, as opposed to the Jewish fishermen who composed the original Twelve. They were local guys with minimal exposure to the non-Jewish world.

When the original Twelve (eventually Eleven) heard Jesus’s Apostolic Commission, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News…”, they may have felt that world was confined to Israel’s borders! Paul, the post-Resurrection Apostle, demonstrated otherwise.


Paul traveled over 10,000 miles proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. His journeys on land and sea took him primarily through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece.
(from Loyola Press. See website for great summary of Paul’s journeys.

Click here for Paul’s Journeys 


How encompassing is our vision of “the whole world”, that world which hungers for the message, mercy and love of Christ?

Our Gospel today impels us with the same apostolic call as these early disciples. God’s love and fullness of life belong to all. What can I do to make that a greater reality?

Music:  Facing a Task Unfinished-~ Lyrics:Frank Houghton. Performed by the Gettys 

Heyday Jesus

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Mark’s Gospel portrays Jesus in his “heyday”. 

heydayjpg

It is early in his ministry. Word is spreading about his teaching and his miracles. He is the “hot ticket” in any town he visits. But what was Jesus thinking in the midst of all the hubbub?

We get a few good hints in our Gospel.

  • Jesus withdrew toward the sea
  • He wanted a boat ready lest the crowd would crush him
  • He warned the unclean spirits not to make him known

These phrases suggest that Jesus was a bit overwhelmed by the furor. No doubt he realizes that his identity and message go far beyond the show of miracles. Can the “fandom” of these early crowds be converted to deep and committed discipleship?

This reading might incline me to consider my own faith. 

Do I love and follow just the “heyday Jesus” – the One who is powerful over the demons and deaths I fear?

Or have I learned to love and follow the deeper Jesus, the One who suffers and dies for justice, goodness and love – the One Who lives in the poor?

One way to answer these questions is to ask ourselves where we find Jesus in our daily lives.

Is he confined to our Bible, our church, our prayerbooks and our moral judgments?

Or is our faith deep enough to see and love him in the suffering face of humanity – perhaps where it is inconvenient, costly and sometimes unsettling to find him? 

Music: God of the Poor ~ Graham Kendrick

Jesus Breaks Through

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  the writer of Hebrews continues to shine light on the superior  “priesthood” of Jesus Christ – that aspect of Christ’s ministry that breaks heaven open for us and reinstates us as God’s children.

heb2 priest

Hebrews calls Christ a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” – an order above and beyond the priesthood of Aaron and Levi.

Although there are a few references to Melchizedek in scripture, only one narrative refers to him:

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Genesis 14:17-20

Melchizedek, whose priesthood preceded even Abraham, is offered in Hebrews as a prototype of Jesus who fulfills and perfects the Old Testament promises.

Does this matter to us modern day Christians who can barely say “Melchizedek “, let alone spell it? And if it does matter, how?

An answer may be revealed in our Gospel today. 

In it, Jesus challenges the old, Pharisaical, law-bound way of thinking. As the new and perfect “priest”, Jesus breaks that way of thinking with the transformation of love. 

  • This man with the withered hand is more important than the law. 
  • This act of healing and wholeness is more important than ritual adherence. 
  • The priesthood of Jesus is the breakthrough revelation of what God really desires – mercy, not sacrifice.

Music: Love Broke Thru ~ Toby Mac

To Life!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our passage from Hebrews is a strong encouragement for its readers to stay faithful to the hope that has been given us through our call.

eph1_17 call
from today’s Responsorial Psalm

Paul traces the evolution of that call by reminding his readers of Abraham who trusted God’s promise and patiently waited for its fulfillment. Paul says that God not only promised Abraham, God swore an oath to bless and multiply Abraham’s life.

This promise and oath of God’s faithful covenant is the root of our Christian hope, and the “anchor” of our life.

Green Rope

On this day, when the Church prays for the protection of unborn children, let us be conscious that the “right to life” extends beyond the womb, from “cradle to grave”.

Let us pray to honor and reverence all life and all Creation – those who are troubled, poor, sick, different from us, homeless and seeking refuge. Let us pray for political and economic systems that protect both unborn and born children, resident and refugee, privileged and marginalized … nourishing their right to life, freedom and the happiness of well-being.

Beloveds, let us give thanks for the life and faith we have been given, and let us share it generously.

Music: You Are Life ~ Hillsong Worship

Jesus, Humble Priest

Monday, January 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our reading from Hebrews describes Jesus as the perfect high priest.  Through the Father’s call, Jesus took on our imperfect nature and transformed it by his life, death and Resurrection. In the Eucharist, Jesus left us a living memorial of this transformation so that we might participate in its saving mystery.

heb5_10 priest

Paul’s “perfected priest” is patient because his own weakness humbles him. He does not take honor upon himself, but receives it humbly from God.

Jesus, the model of this priesthood, 

… in the days when he was in the Flesh,
… offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.

The perfection of Christ’s priesthood was accomplished through suffering and obedience. This is how Jesus teaches us to live in reverence and humble service.

As I read and pray with this scriptural understanding of priesthood, I pray for our Church. The catastrophic scandals involving our priests and leaders have deeply shaken the faith of many Catholics, including my own.

Many of us are frustrated by the continued refusal of our Church to open itself to new models of priestly service which are grounded in mutuality, inclusivity and simplicity.

The accretions of institutionalization, hierarchical camouflage, and sexist rationale have mitigated the Church’s credibility to touch the lives of ordinary people, especially our emerging adults.

In our Gospel, Jesus talks about an old cloak that needs a patch to make it whole again. He talks about new wine that must be captured and preserved in new wine skins. For me, he is talking about our Church which must be continually renewed and transformed. 

May our present suffering and confusion be transformed by our humble obedience to God’s call – just as the high priest of our first reading was perfected.

Let us pray today for our good Pope, bishops, theologians and spiritual leaders – and for the whole People of God – that we may hear and respond.

Music: Even Death on a Cross ~ Jason Silver

Let’s Blow the Lid Off!

Friday, January 18, 2010

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells of a memorable event – so memorable that it is described in detail.

Jesus preaches from a neighborhood living room. Every access point to the house is blocked with excited listeners and miracle-seekers. Jesus has been corralled by the enthusiastic faithful.

roof

Then some latecomers arrive carrying their paralyzed friend. It is easy to imagine that these are young guys, because Jesus later calls the paralytic “Child”. Perhaps their friend was injured in a soccer game or diving accident in which they all had participated. Perhaps, as well as carrying him, they are carrying the burden of “survivor guilt”.

Whatever the situation, these friends are determined that the young man shall see Jesus. Confronted with the barricading crowd, they climb up on the roof, opening the turf plates to make an entry point. Jesus had to laugh as he saw to rooftop disappearing above him!

Would that we had such a wild desire to be in God’s Presence – to know God face to face, and heart to heart!

Can we peel away the many barricades to such relationship? We have only our limited human images of God. While these can help us pray, they can also box God.

Faulty theology and exaggerated ritual can, believe or not, put a lid on God’s power!

It is important to read, listen, and grow within good theology. One measure of that value is the degree of limitation any “theology” puts on God. A theology that limits God to male, white, Catholic (or whatever religion)- that kind of false theology limits us as well. 

A theology that is used as validation for political, economic, or moral domination distorts God, making God an idol of our own greed and selfishness. Such ”theologies” have, for centuries, made excuses for slavery, apartheid, pogroms, wars and holocausts. 

Let’s try to “take the roof off” our theology today. Let’s be sure our tightly held perceptions and beliefs are really leading us to the absolute freedom of a God Who cherishes all Beings, all Creation.

Music: God Beyond All Names ~ Bernadette Farrell 

Jesus Prayed

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Mark’s Gospel allows us to spend a day with Jesus during his early ministry. 

After “church”, so to speak, Jesus and his buddies go to Simon’s house for a meal. Where Simon’s wife was we’re not told, but his mother-in-law seems to have been chief cook and bottle washer. Unfortunately, on that day, she’s not feeling well. However, with but a touch from Jesus, she’s restored and begins waiting on the guys. 

It seems like Jesus and his friends hung out through the heat of the day. As evening cool descends, neighbors begin arriving with their sicknesses and troubled spirits. Jesus cures many of those gathered. Can you just imagine the scene!

pray

The next morning, even before dawn, Jesus goes off to a quiet place to pray. No doubt he wants to discern, with his Father and the Holy Spirit, the things that are happening in his life. Again can you imagine that conversation!

We know that, when asked, Jesus gave us the human words of the “Our Father” to teach us to pray. But how did Jesus himself pray in the solitude of his heart? 

Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity
focused in relationship to one another
and yielding a Love
too immense for description!

In our own humble prayer today, may we lean against the heart of Jesus as he immersed himself in the Presence of the Creator and Spirit. May we pray in Christ’s pregnant silence.

Music: a very simple, yet very profound hymn: Father, I Place into Your Hands

The Path through Suffering

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we again read from the epistle to the Hebrews and the Gospel of Mark. We will be doing this for the next month or so.

heb2_10 sufferingjpg

Hebrews is unique in that it was written rather specifically for Jews who had become Christians. They were people who were steeped in the spirituality and expectations of the Old Testament. They had been waiting for a militant Messiah who would deliver them from earthly suffering by a display of power and might.

During the first century of Christianity, as the nascent Church experienced persecution, that hope for delivery re-emerged. Although they had accepted a Resurrected Christ, the community’s own present suffering fixated them on the Passion and death of Jesus. They questioned how that anguished man could really be the One foretold in their Hebrew Scriptures, and how he could transform their lives.

Can’t we empathize with those early Judea-Christians? The mystery of suffering and death still haunts us. Don’t we sometimes question why Jesus had to die like that – why we have to die, why the people we love have to die? Don’t we feel at least some resistance to this overwhelming mystery?

The author of Hebrews tries to address those doubts by showing that the majesty of Christ resides not just in his divine nature, but in his loving willingness to share our human nature. By doing so, Jesus demonstrated in his flesh the path we must take to holiness. He leads the way through our doubts if we put our faith in him.

This is the core mystery of our faith: that God brings us to eternal life not by a path outside our human experience. Rather, Jesus shows us how to pattern our lives on the profound sacrificial love which is the lavish Mercy of God. The path to eternal life is not around our human frailties but through them.

Mark gives us just one Gospel example of that love today in the healing of the man with the unclean spirit. That spirit was one of resistance to the Word of God, screaming out as Jesus began to preach a Gospel of love, faith, and forgiveness.

As we pray these scriptures today, let us put before God’s healing touch any resistance in our hearts to Jesus’s call to be merciful love in the world.

Music:  Crown Him with Many Crowns, an 1851 hymn with lyrics written by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Turing and sung to the tune ‘Diademata‘ by Sir George Job Elvey.

This majestic hymn reflects how mid-19th century theology attempted to embrace the Redemptive mystery. Still, many of its suggestions, though cast in an earlier idiom, are well worth reflection.