Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 18, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts reveals the tensions in the Church between Jewish and Gentile believers. For the Jews, the ritual of circumcision was a key expression of covenantal faith. Some felt it was necessary for Gentile converts to undergo the ritual in order to become Christians.

Which way is the right way?

Like all start-ups, the Church had many friction points which required decisions about what was essential and what was only customary. Those customs being thousands of years old, the decisions become even harder. Readings later this week describe more conflict points.

Nevertheless, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and despite the venerability of custom, the nascent Church was able embrace a new reality rooted in Christ’s inclusive love.

These kinds of philosophical and theological tugs-of-war have accompanied the Church down through history. Some of them have helped reveal deeper insights into our faith. But, as in all human communities, some of the tugs have been motivated by fear, greed, power, and other selfish interests.

Watching how the early Church handles their particular situation may give us hints about how we should handle them today.


In our Gospel, Jesus makes clear what is essential and inviolable to the faith:

I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.

John 15:1-2
John15_4 Remain

I think “Remain” is a beautiful word. In the dictionary, it will be defined as ‘stay’. But it connotes much more to me.  Re–main asks us not just to choose to stay with Jesus, but to choose it over and over – like reenlist, renew, recommit.

Remain means to endure with the Beloved Vine through every season – winter’s cold and summer’s heat, and all that’s in between.

Remain means “Love Me, stay beside me, even when others fall away.”

May we remain.


Poetry: The Vine – Malcolm Guite

John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

How might it feel to be part of the vine?
Not just to see the vineyard from afar
Or even pluck the clusters, press the wine,
But to be grafted in, to feel the stir
Of inward sap that rises from our root,
Himself deep planted in the ground of Love,
To feel a leaf unfold a tender shoot,
As tendrils curled unfurl, as branches give
A little to the swelling of the grape,
In gradual perfection, round and full,
To bear within oneself the joy and hope
Of God’s good vintage, till it’s ripe and whole.
What might it mean to bide and to abide
In such rich love as makes the poor heart glad?


Music: I Am the Vine – John Michael Talbot

Tuesday of Fifth Week of Easter

May 17, 2022

Today, in in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus blesses his disciples, and us, with Peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’

John 14: 27-28

I used some beautiful poems to pray about Peace this morning. Listening to the music, placing myself in the artwork, pausing to breathe and listen for God’s whisper – it was a good prayer. I hope you are blessed by these poems as I was.


rudder

I Many Time Thought Peace Had Come – Emily Dickenson
I many times thought Peace had come
When peace was far away,
As wrecked men deem they sight the land
When far at sea they stay.

And struggle slacker, but to prove,
As hopelessly as I,
That many the fictitious shores
Before the harbor lie.


tagore

The Gardener LXI: Peace, My Heart – Rabindrinath Tagore
Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.


cummings

let it go – e.e. cummings
let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love


Music: Agnus Dei, Dona Nobis Pacem – City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
(Lamb of God, grant us peace.)

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 16, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts recounts some of the challenges Paul and Barnabas met as they continued spreading the Gospel. With such a reading, we see the beginnings of theological arguments in the unfolding teaching of the Church.

The Apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments
when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting,
“Men, why are you doing this?
We are of the same nature as you, human beings.
We proclaim to you good news
that you should turn from these idols to the living God,
who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.

Acts 14:14-15

One might wonder what turned yesterday’s Jewish and Gentile listeners into a stone-throwing mob. One wonders it today regarding some of the acrimonious factions within the Church.

It is one thing to receive the Gospel with one’s heart and spirit. It is another thing to receive it with one’s mind. As human beings, we resist mystery; we long for logic. We are more comfortable with a problem we can solve than with a Truth beyond our comprehension. Rather than Infinite Surprise, I think most of us prefer predictability and control.


Jn14_26 Everything

The Gospel can be fearsome. It asks that we let go of our limited human “geometry”; that we entrust everything to the Inclusive Love who is Jesus Christ. It asks us to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit who, ultimately, will “teach us EVERYTHING”.


question

In our recent readings, we’ve seen Thomas, Philip, and today, Jude the Apostle trying to reach this level of spiritual trust. It’s hard because such trust is more than human. It is a trust bred of the Holy Spirit within us. It is a trust born of living fully in Peace with that Presence.

Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him,
“Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us
and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“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.

John 14:22-23


It is a trust described like this in tomorrow’s Gospel reading:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

Let us pray for trust and peace
in ourselves, our Church, and our world.

Poetry: The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Music:  Wonderful Peace – an old Gospel song by Warren Cornell and William Cooper (1899), sung here by Don Moen 

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

Ah, soul! are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your Friend ere the shadows grow dark;
O accept of this peace so sublime!

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!

And I think when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Anchor of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

Fifth Sunday of Easter 2022

May 15, 2022

Today, in in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings celebrate the New Creation given us in Jesus Christ.

Rev_ new

Acts describes the continuing whirlwind journey of Paul and Barnabas. They buzz all over the Mediterranean basin, carrying the Good News to Jews and Gentiles. Their work and enthusiasm teach us what the word “apostolic” truly signifies- reaching out to all people with the message of Jesus. Paul and Barnabas return home jubilant, 

… reporting what God had done with them
and how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

Acts 14:27

In our second reading, John, the visionary and poet, has another kind of door opened for him. His vision is of a New Creation, joined with God in a covenant of love. God renews the promise once made to Abraham, this time embodied in the gift of Jesus Christ to all humanity:

Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people
and God himself will always be with them as their God.

Revelation 21:3

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us once again how it is that we become part of this New Creation:

I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

John 13:34

All of these glorious images may help us see our life in God through new eyes. Perhaps there are a few half-closed doors in our lives that need to be oiled with the grace of renewal. Simply recognizing these in prayer, in God’s presence, is a step toward a New Creation of our hearts and spirits. We are so beloved of God! Let us open our hearts to that renewing love.


Poetry: The Limits of Your Long – Ranier Marie Rilke, Book of Hours

Listen.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.


Music: Heaven on Earth by Stars GO Dim ( Lyrics below.)

I’ve been asleep
Head in the sand
Watching the time just ticking
Clock runs around
Days in and out
Can’t really call it living
Somewhere I let light go dark
But here’s where my new story starts
Take my life and let it be
Set on fire for all to see
Break me down, build me up again
Don’t leave me the way I’ve been
Take my heart into Your hands
Come and finish what You began
‘Til I seek Your kingdom first
‘Til I shine, shine
Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth
I wanna wake, I wanna see
All of the ways You’re moving
Show me the need
‘Cause I wanna be a part of what You’re doing
In my heart, let Kingdom come
Not my will but Yours be done
Take my life and let it be
Set on fire for all to see
Break me down, build me up again
Don’t leave me the way I’ve been
Take my heart into Your hands
Come and finish what You began
‘Til I seek Your kingdom first
‘Til I shine, shine
Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth
Help me move when I should move
Help me rest when I should rest
Help me give what I should give
All of me, nothing less
Help me speak with grace and truth
Help me fight for those who can’t
Help me love the way You love
Never holding nothing back (yeah like Heaven on earth)
Take my life and let it be
Set on fire for all to see
Break me down, build me up again
Don’t leave me the way I’ve been
Take my heart into Your hands
Come and finish what You began
‘Til I seek Your kingdom first
‘Til I shine, shine
Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth
Like Heaven on earth

Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Saturday, May 14, 2022

12

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts relates the story of Matthias and his inclusion as one of the Twelve. But besides Matthias, there was another man considered just as worthy of appointment, Justus. The lot did not fall on him and we never hear of him again.

So if there were two equally good men why didn’t they just widen the circle to thirteen Apostles?



This appointment of the twelfth apostle reflects the importance of the number twelve throughout Scripture. It is a number which signifies perfection, heritage, and strength.

Jacob 12
Jacob Blessing His Twelve Sons – T. Daziel (c.1893)

The Book of Genesis states there were twelve sons of Jacob and those twelve sons formed the twelve tribes of Israel. The New Testament tells us that Jesus had twelve apostles. According to the Book of Revelation, the kingdom of God has twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. 

So Matthias, the Twelfth, brought the circle of Apostles to wholeness.


JofCross


In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that he chooses us all to be his friends. It is a friendship built on imitation of him, proven by keeping his commandments. His commandments are clear:

  • Love God
  • Love others as I have loved you

Every day, by prayer and reflective living, we deepen in our love for God and neighbor. We learn Love within the revelation of our own lives.

Jesus tells us that if we love like that our joy will be complete. May we be blessed by that holy joy.

Meditation: Instead of poetry and music today, a lovely meditation reflective of today’s Gospel, “No Longer Do I Call You Servants”

Share

Fourth Sunday of Easter 2022

May 8, 2022

invite

Today, in God’s Lavish 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.

Acts 13:48

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.

Revelation 2:9

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.

John 10:27


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.


Poetry: O Shepherd of Souls – Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)

O Shepherd of souls
and o first voice
through whom all creation was summoned,
now to you,
to you may it give pleasure and dignity
to liberate us
from our miseries and languishing.

Music: Come Worship the Lord – John Michael Talbot

Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia
Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia

And come, let us sing to the Lord
And shout with joy to the rock who saves us
Let us come with thanksgiving 
And sing joyful songs to the Lord

Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia
Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia

The Lord is God, the mighty God
The great King o’er all other gods
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
And the highest mountains as well
He made the sea, it belongs to him
The dry land too, was formed by his hand

Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia
Come, worship the Lord 
For we are his people 
The flock that he shepherds 
Alleluia

Come, let us bow down and worship
Bending the knee for the Lord our maker
For we are his people
We are the flock that he shepherds

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

May 7, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Peter is a headliner in both our readings.

Peter

I really love Peter. Can’t we relate to him on so many levels as he stumbles and shines through his growing relationship with Jesus? 

Some of my best prayers with Peter have been:

  • when he tries to walk on water to meet Jesus in the sea

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Mk.14:28


  • when he gets slammed for trying to stop Jesus from talking about his death

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Far be it from You, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to You!” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me!” Mt. 13:41


  • when his name is changed to Rock and he’s foretold his future

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Mt. 16:18


  • when he cowers in denial outside Jesus’s trial

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mk. 14:72


  • when he recognizes the Resurrected Jesus on the shore and swims to him

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. Jn.21:7


In today’s first reading, we see Peter in his full authority as the Vicar of Christ.

Jn6_68 shall we go

In our Gospel, we see Peter’s unequivocal confession of faith, voiced for the Church, voiced for all of us:

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
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.”


Let’s take whatever piece of Peter is in us today
and lay it at the feet of Jesus
in our own confession of faith and hope.

Poetry: Simon Peter – John Poch


There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Yes, four which I do not understand.
The way of an eagle in the air,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the heart of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid

–Prov. 30:18, 19

                              I
Contagious as a yawn, denial poured
over me like a soft fall fog, a girl
on a carnation strewn parade float, waving
at everyone and no one, boring and bored
There actually was a robed commotion parading.
I turned and turned away and turned. A swirl

of wind pulled back my hood, a fire of coal
brightened my face, and those around me whispered:
You’re one of them, aren’t you? You smell like fish.
And wine, someone else joked. That’s brutal. That’s cold,
I said, and then they knew me by my speech.
They let me stay and we told jokes like fisher-
men and houseboys. We gossiped till the cock crowed,
his head a small volcano raised to mock stone.

                              II
Who could believe a woman’s word, perfumed
in death? I did. I ran and was outrun
before I reached the empty tomb. I stepped
inside an empty shining shell of a room,
sans pearl. I walked back home alone and wept
again. At dinner. His face shone like the sun.

I went out into the night. I was a sailor
and my father’s nets were calling. It was high tide,
I brought the others. Nothing, the emptiness
of business, the hypnotic waves of failure.
But a voice from shore, a familiar fire, and the nets
were full. I wouldn’t be outswum, denied
this time. The coal-fire before me, the netted fish
behind. I’m carried where I will not wish.


Music:  Lord, to Whom Shall We Go? – Carolyn Arends

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

May 6, 2022

Dali
Institution of the Eucharist: Salvador Dali

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel is serious business. In it, Jesus reveals the lynchpin of our sacramental faith.

Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.

John 6: 53-54

It is a stark and shocking statement. The listening Jews “quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?’.”

Down through the ages, struggling believers have grappled with the same question. Or, perhaps less preferable, complacent believers have never even considered it.

I think Jesus wanted us to consider it, absorb it, be changed by it, live within it, because “unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you.”


As Catholics, we believe that Christ is truly and fully present in Eucharist and that, by Communion, becomes fully present in us, the Church.

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”. This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing in it as if we had been present there. Each member of the faithful can thus take part in it and inexhaustibly gain its fruits. This is the faith from which generations of Christians down the ages have lived.
(ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, Encyclical of John Paul II)


For me, it is a truth only appreciated when approached with more than the mind. It must be apprehended with the heart and soul. God so loves us in the person of Jesus Christ that God chooses to be eternally present with us, and in us, through the gift of Eucharist.

Praying with this truth over the years has led me to read authors like Edward Schillebeeckx (Christ the sacrament of the Encounter with God), Diarmuid O’Murchu (Quantum Theology), and Pierre Teilhard De Chardin (Hymn of the Universe).

deChardin

Me in my First Communion Dress
– and my handsome little brother

Still, despite all the Eucharistic theology, every time I receive the Eucharist, I let this simple hymn play in my heart – one I learned for my First Holy Communion. It still unites my heart to my desired faith which is, at once, both cosmic and intimate.


Poetry: “On the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar” by St Robert Southwell

Saint Robert Southwell (1561 – 1595) was an English Roman Catholic priest of the Jesuit Order. He was also a poet, hymnodist, and clandestine missionary in Elizabethan England. After being arrested and imprisoned in 1592, and intermittently tortured and questioned by Richard Topcliffe, Southwell was eventually tried and convicted of high treason for his links to the Holy See. On 21 February 1595, Father Southwell was hanged at Tyburn. In 1970, he was canonized by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. (Wikipedia)

His poetry, written in Early Modern English, demonstrates deep devotion to the Eucharist. Although most of us can interpret the English of the 16th century, the translation below is modernized for convenience. It’s a long poem, but it is well worth your time.


“On the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar” by St. Robert Southwell
From The Poems of Robert Southwell, S.J. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967),
edited by Fr James H. McDonald and Nancy Pollard Brown

In paschal feast the end of ancient rite
An entrance was to never ending grace,
Tips to the truth, dim glasses to the light,
Performing deed presaging signs did chase,
Christ's final meal was fountain of our good:
For mortal meat he gave immortal food.
That which he gave he was, O peerless gift,
Both God and man he was, and both he gave,
He in his hands himself did truly live:
Far off they see whom in themselves they have.
Twelve did he feed, twelve did their feeder eat,
He made, he dressed, he gave, he was their meat.
They saw, they heard, they felt him sitting near,
Unseen, unfelt, unheard, they him receiv'd,
No diverse thing though diverse it appear,
Though senses fail, yet faith is not deceiv'd.
And if the wonder of the work be new,
Believe the work because his word is true.
Here truth belief, belief inviteth love,
So sweet a truth love never yet enjoy'd,
What thought can think, what will doth best approve
Is here obtain'd where no desire is void.
The grace, the joy, the treasure here is such
No wit can with nor will embrace so much.
Self-love here cannot crave more than it finds,
Ambition to no higher worth aspire,
The eagerest famine of most hungry minds
May fill, yea far exceed their own desire:
In sum here is all in a sum express'd,
Of much the most, of every good the best.
To ravish eyes here heavenly beauties are,
To win the ear sweet music's sweetest sound,
To lure the taste the angels' heavenly fare,
To soothe the scent divine perfumes abound,
To please the touch he in our hearts doth bed,
Whose touch doth cure the deaf, the dumb, the dead.
Here to delight the wit true wisdom is,
To woo the will of every good the choice,
For memory a mirror shewing bliss,
Here all that can both sense and soul rejoice:
And if to all all this it do not bring,
The fault is in the men, not in the thing.
Though blind men see no light, the Sun doth shine,
Sweet cates are sweet, though fevered tastes deny it,
Pearls precious are, though trodden on by swine,
Each truth is true, though all men do not try it:
The best still to the bad doth work the worst,
Things bred to bliss do make them more accurst.
The angels' eyes whom veils cannot deceive
Might best disclose that best they do discern,
Men must with sound and silent faith receive
More than they can by sense or reason learn:
God's power our proofs, his works our wit exceed,
The doer's might is reason of His deed.
A body is endow'd with ghostly rights,
A nature's work from nature's law is free,
In heavenly Sun lie hidden eternal lights,
Lights clear and near yet them no eye can see,
Dead forms a never-dying life do shroud,
A boundless sea lies in a little cloud.

The God of Hosts in slender host doth dwell,
Yea God and man, with all to either due:
That God that rules the heavens and rifled hell,
That man whose death did us to life renew,
That God and man that is the angels’ bliss,
In form of bread and wine our nurture is.

Whole may his body be in smallest bread,
Whole in the whole, yea whole in every crumb,
With which be one or ten thousand fed
All to each one, to all but one doth come,
And though each one as much as all receive,
Not one too much, nor all too little have.
One soul in man is all in every part,
One face at once in many mirrors shines,
One fearful noise doth make a thousand start,
One eye at once of countless things defines:
If proofs of one in many nature frame,
God may in stranger sort perform the same.
God present is at once in every place,
Yet God in every place is ever one,
So may there be by gifts of ghostly grace
One man in many rooms yet filling none.
Sith angels may effects of bodies shew,
God angels' gifts on bodies may bestow.
What God as auctor made he alter may,
No change so hard as making all of nought:
If Adam framed was of slimy clay,
Bread may to Christ's most sacred flesh be wrought.
He may do this that made with mighty hand
Of water wine, a snake of Moses' wand.

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

May 5, 2022

philip
unless

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, in our reading from Acts, we meet the Ethiopian eunuch who served the country’s Queen. The man was sitting in a chariot reading the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” Philip’s instruction results in this faith-filled man’s Baptism.

It’s a bible story I’ve loved since I was a novice and read the excellent book by Alexander Jones, “Unless Some Man Show Me”.  That long-ago era in my life was a time when Vatican II opened up to the faithful the power and beauty of scriptural study and prayer.

The 1960s were a wonderful time to be committing myself to a life-long spiritual journey. Over the next few years, I devoured the published documents of Vatican II which included the one on sacred scripture, the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (“Dei Verbum”).

Here’s a great description of the document.



Before Vatican II, like many Catholics, I had had limited experience with scripture. Mainly, we had it read to us at Mass. We had a Bible in my childhood home, but we used it mainly to record familial births and deaths inside the front cover.

Part of the reason for this scriptural vacuum was the long-held belief that most Christians were not theologically astute enough to interpret scripture on their own. Vatican II initiated a blessed change in that perception.


JB

In 1966, the same Alexander Jones, in the company of 27 colleagues, edited the magnificent Jerusalem Bible. My parents gave me this revered book as a gift for my Religious Profession and it has accompanied my prayer for more than a half-century. 

Reading the phrase in Acts today, “unless someone show me”, brought the whole sacred journey back to me. 

I offer this brief reminiscence to confirm how precious and important it is to build our prayer life on scripture. It is also important to educate ourselves continually by reading good commentary and spirituality. Such thinkers are like Philip in today’s passage. They are the ones who will “show” us, opening to us new understandings for our prayer.


  1. Walter Brueggemann 
  2. Elizabeth Johnson
  3. Thelma Hall
  4. Macrina Wiederkehr 
  5. Raymond Brown
  6. Brother David Steindl-Rast 
  7. Sandra Schneiders
  8. Margaret Farley
  9. Matthew Fox
  10. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I would love for some of you
(even though you are a shy audience)  
to list some of your biblical and spiritual guides
in the comment section, if you feel so inclined.



Poetry: Give Me a Name – Emily Ruth Hazel, a New York City-based poet and writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Magnolia: A Journal of Women’s Socially Engaged Literature, Kinfolks: A Journal of Black Expression, and Ruminate Magazine. In 2014, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship to develop a full-length poetry book manuscript during a residency at The Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences.


The way home is a desolate road
through the desert. Only my driver and I
roll through the noonday heat. Ahead of us,
the air shimmers. Then out of a cloud
of dust, a man runs up behind us.
He calls out, Who are you reading?
A poet’s vision unfurls in my lap.
I’m thirsty for company, someone to walk
between these lines with me,
clear a path through my own wilderness.
The stranger says he’s well acquainted
with this writer. If he knows who I am,
he doesn’t let on. He climbs in
and we plunge beneath the words.
Whose story is this, anyway?
The one who takes a vow of silence,
an outcast whose most loyal friend is
heartache—is this a portrait of the poet
or of another? I hold the words like water
in my palms, my face reflected in them.
Back in Jerusalem, I was an unexpected guest
in God’s house. There I was dark enough
that I’d never pass as a native.
In a land of divided rooms,
neither side claims me.
Smooth chinned, voice unchanged,
even among my own, I am always other.
My educated tongue surprises.
I read the way my people envy
and despise me in the same blink.
The jewel of Ethiopia, our warrior queen,
trusts me with the nation’s treasure.
But power of the purse came with a price.
Still a boy when I was taught my body
could not be trusted, I was like a lamb
that hears the metal scraping
hot against the stone. When they came for me,
my gut churned. A boulder sealed
my throat. Only mangled moans escaped.
They carved me into a loyal servant
ashamed of my own voice.
Deep in my chest liquid rage
threatened to erupt. I tried to swallow
the unspeakable. Learned to amputate
everything I felt. Any part of me that trembled
was a danger best denied.
All the boys I knew marched into manhood
believing courage hung between their legs.
But I’m my mother’s child.
Long after the men who tore me from my home
washed my blood off their blade,
I remembered my mother
had shown me how to be brave.
Wherever I go, I’m described by my difference,
defined by what I cannot do or be, haunted by
echoes of violence known but unnamed.
Never to look into a young face and recognize
my likeness, I’m tired of being seen
as an absence, a shadow that merely calls
attention to what is touched by light.
Here in this barren place, riding with
a stranger, I feel like I belong.
The wheels of my world slow to a stop.
I step out of the story I’ve been told
must be mine. The man I’ve just met
stands beside me as we wade into a river.
He holds my shoulders. Dips me
into the muddy water. Not as I was held down
years ago. This time, I’ve chosen
to be held. I feel the muscles in my back
relax against his arm. Memory stirs,
half-awake: my mother’s gentle hands
bathe me as a baby.
Raised up again, my body breaks
the surface. Bright sky overwhelms.
Boulder rolled away, my tongue
unguarded now. Laughing and coughing,
mouth full of water and silt and suddenly a song
in a language I’ve never heard.
God of the unsung, God of the present
and the missing, God who translates
phantom pain, who holds the map of all
my scars, may this body be your temple.
Some say my branches died before they bloomed,
water too precious to be wasted on me.
Don’t let me wither under the blistering sun,
cursed for bearing no fruit.
If I can offer shelter to someone called
to walk a lonely road, maybe that’s enough.
God of the forgotten, God of the never begotten,
will my story, at least, outlive me?
Give me a name worth remembering,
a name that will never be cut off.

Music:  Thy Word – Amy Grant

Third Sunday of Easter

May 1, 2022

Today, in God’s Mercy, Jesus asks Peter an open-ended question, the kind that leaves both parties very vulnerable to the answer:

Do you love me?

Jn21_17

Wow! What if Peter says “No”, or “Sort of” or worse yet, just stares off into the distance in silence? Would that break Jesus’ heart?!

And the question is kind of scary for Peter too. Maybe he’s thinking, “OK, this is it. Jesus wants me to lay it all on the line. Am I ready?” — because, as Jesus says so clearly, the measure of true love is service and sacrifice:

Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”

John 21: 17-19

The Gospel poses questions to each of us today as well:

  • Who and what do I really love?
  • How does my primary love drive my life choices?
  • Are there places in my life that lack love – places where prejudice, blindness, selfishness or hate have filled in the emptiness?
  • How inclusive is my love? How redemptive? How merciful? How Christlike?
  • Where is God in my loves?


Prose: St. John of the Cross wrote this:

At the end of our lives we will be judged on love.
Learn therefore to love God as God wishes to be loved.


Music: Where Charity and Love Prevail – a lovely English translation of Ubi Caritas, written in Gregorian chant.