Whenever I Call You “Friend”

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 24, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus calls us his friends. What a magical, mysterious word! Making friends, being friends, keeping friends – these are some of the essential dynamics of a human life.

Jn15_15_friends

Many years ago, one of our family’s preschoolers was playing with his neighborhood buddies. His mom told him to introduce the boys to us. Very formally, little Charlie announced, “I would like you to meet my shrends.” He was not too sure yet about the word, but he was very clear on the concept. Among all his classmates, these guys shared something special with him.

Like all our relationships, Charlie’s would develop over time by trial and error, by imitation and intention – one confidence, care and joy shared, one after another. Trust and love would build, ultimately giving that irreplaceable gift of true and trusted friendship 

Jesus is telling us today that we share something special with him. Our spiritual life is all about building those mutual confidences and shared experiences that help us to know Christ’s heart and allow him to know ours.

Jesus has given himself fully to this friendship:

I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you
all that the Father has told me.

May we ever grow stronger and more generous in our response to Christ’s amazing gift. May we learn to love as Christ loves.

This is my commandment:
love one another as I love you.

No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Music:  Today’s choice is a popular contemporary song. Ever since I was a young teen, I sometimes, in prayer, choose to sing a popular song to God (mostly in my heart now, because my voice has gone the way of all flesh). Some of these songs can be perfect for what’s in the heart. If you have never tried it, this song might encourage you to. Maybe you have a favorite you’d like to sing to God, your Friend who loves you beyond description.

Whenever I Call You Friend – Michael Johnson and Alison Krause

 

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

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

In Mercy Broken

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

May 10, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, John gives us the core teaching of the Eucharist. 

Jn6_56 eucharist

For many, it is a hard teaching. How can Jesus give us his flesh and blood to nourish us? How can mere bread and wine embody this gift?

Have you ever been profoundly hungry? For most of us, probably not in a physical sense. But what about your heart and soul?

Have you ever longed to be loved, understood, accepted, or valued?

Have you ever felt famished for peace, rest, comfort, security, or solitude?

Have you ever longed to be delivered from gnawing anxiety, depression, fear, sorrow or loneliness?

Jesus recognizes all our hungers. He desires to enfold them in his Healing Mercy. He unites us to himself in the sacred reality of Eucharist, made visible to us in bread and wine.

In Eucharist , these fruits of the earth are not simply symbols pointing to another reality. By the power of God, they become sacraments embodying the reality themselves.

This mystery is one that must be embraced by the heart and soul, not one only to be analyzed by the mind. By opening the deep hungers of our spirit to the healing presence of Christ in Eucharist, we will be fed in ways we could never have imagined. In Mercy, we will become sources of nourishment for the broken world around us.

Music: Bread of the World in Mercy Broken – Reginald Heber

 

God So Loved the World

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter
May 1, 2019

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John3_16 so loved

Today, in Mercy, we encounter a scriptural passage that is often designated as the Golden Text of the Bible.

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life. John 3: 16-17

Exegetical volumes have been written about this single verse.

But for our prayer this morning, it may be enough to simply bask in God’s love for us. Within that grateful delight, remember that God loves every creature with the same divine intensity – enough to breathe God’s own Life into us each one, enough to give Jesus for our redemption.

Just those astounding thoughts may lead us to where God wants to meet us in prayer today.

Music: God So Loved the World – John Stainer (1840-1901] – sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whoso believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world
to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might be saved.

Be Born Again

Monday, April 29, 2019
Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church

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Jn.3_5JPG

Today, in Mercy, we move out of the intense blessings of Easter’s Octave into a time called “Eastertide”. For the next six weeks, we will continue to pray with Acts and John’s Gospel.

Eastertide is a time of great joy in the Church. This joy takes voice in special prayers used only, or with greater frequency, during this time, for example:

Vidi Aquam


Te Deum


Regina Caeli


and a proliferation of Alleluias

We, as Church, are celebrating our rebirth in Christ. It is a miracle even to have been given the gift of life. But, as Jesus tells Nicodemus in today’s Gospel, it is a gift beyond description to be reborn in the Spirit of God:

What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
“You must be born from above”.

Let’s pray in thanksgiving today for the gift of life for ourselves and all those we love. Let us pray for the continual rebirth of our spirits in the abundant Easter grace of the Risen Christ. (Below the music is a Birthday Prayer that you might save for your own birthday celebration.)

Music: Gradual and Alleluia – Catholic Songs, Gregorian Chant


“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you… (Jeremiah 5:1)

 On this, the day of your birth, God says to you:

Of all the myriad gifts of my creation, this is the day I made you. Rest in that thought. I made you –  For this time in history, to be in the world with these people, to live in this place, to know these times, these cultures, this evolution of my creation.

 On the day I made you, I made thousands of other creatures. Human beings, each reflecting some facet of my infinite image. Beautiful birds, riotous monkeys, infinitesimal ants. My lava broke through earth’s crusts to form new islands. I folded unseen mountains into yet undiscovered gorges, bent rivers into surprise journeys, washed entire beaches onto new shores. I was busy the day I made you. War raged and I welcomed its many victims into heaven. More creatures died on your birthday than were born. More came home to me than went out to begin their journey.

 But you were one who went out. When I opened my hand and breathed your journey into you, I smiled. I saw the wonders that could bless the world because of you. I saw a rainbow of love, generosity, mutuality, happiness, encouragement, and faith gathered like an unhatched egg in your heart. I saw the storms and winds that would release that prism in your soul. I saw it spread across a wide sky because of all the years and experiences that I would give you.

 I saw the hint of sunrise in you. Its name was mercy. It was a gift fired by the energy of My own heart. I looked beyond you to the cold and shadowed world that you would comfort with its light and warmth.

 I was happy on the day I made you. I was filled with hope for the blessing you would be. I am still filled with joy, hope and love for you on this your long-after birthday. You have tried to live my sacred dream for you.

As the sun rises glorious in the eastern sky, I promise you a future full of love.  Notice that the western sky reflects the brilliance of the sunrise, just as all the years now past assure you of my presence at the core of your life. You have been and are infinitely loved. Be love in return.  Your days are replete with mercy. Be mercy in return. Be born again this day!

©Renee Yann, RSM

 

 

The Raising of Lazarus

800px-Raising-of-Lazarus
from wiki commons

Evidently, this was needed. Because people need
to be screamed at with proof.
But Jesus knew his friends. Before they were,
he knew them; and they knew
that he would never leave them
desolate here. So he let his exhausted eyes close
at first glimpse of the village.
And immediately he seemed
to be standing in their midst.
Here was Martha, the dead boy’s sister.
He knew he would always find her
at his right hand, and beside her
Mary. They were all here.
Yet opening his eyes it was not so.
He was standing apart,
even the two women
slowly backing away,
as if from concern for their good name.

Then he began to hear voices
muttering under their breath
quite distinctly; or thinking,
Lord, if you had been here
our friend might not have died
.
(At that, he seemed to reach out
to touch someone’s face
with infinite gentleness,
and silently wept.) He asked them the way
to the grave. And he followed
behind them, preparing
to do what is not done
to that green silent place
where life and death are one. 

Merely to walk down this road
had started to feel like a test,
or a poorly prepared-for performance
with actors unsure of their lines,
or which play they were supposed to be in;
a feverish outrage rising inside him
at the glib ease with which words like “living”
and “being dead” rolled off their tongues.
And awe flooded his body
when he hoarsely cried,
“Move the stone!”

“By now he must stink,”
somebody helpfully shouted.
(And it was true, the body
had been lying in the tomb
four days.) But he was far away,
too far away inside himself
to hear it, beginning
to fill with that gesture
which rose through him:
no hand this heavy
had ever been raised, no human hand
had ever reached this height
shining an instant in air, then
all at once clenching into itself
at the thought all the dead might return
from that tomb where
the enormous cocoon
of the corpse was beginning to stir.

In the end, though, nobody stood
there at its entrance
but the young man
who had freed his right arm
and was pulling at his face,
at small strips of grave wrappings.
Peter looked across at Jesus
with an expression that seemed to say
You did it, or What have you done? And all
saw how their vague and inaccurate
life made room for him once more.

~ by Franz Wright from a fragment by Rainer Maria Rilke ~

Music: Franz Schubert – The Raising of Lazarus ( For more info on music, click here )

Come Forth from the Darkness

Saturday, April 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings make it clear that, now, no one in Jerusalem is indifferent about Jesus.

Lazarus come forth

The raising of Lazarus from the dead has pretty much sealed the deal for Jesus. Imagine what that scene must have been like! Picture yourself at the cemetery, laying your Easter palm crosses, and suddenly your beloved rises from the dead!

The Gospel offers an unbelievably stoical comment: 

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done
began to believe in him.

Are you kidding me? You bet I’d believe in someone with that kind of power!

So what held the others back from believing? What holds us back from giving it all to God?

Fear?
Jealousy?
Loss of control?
A shallow heart?
A dulled spirit?

In our first reading, God once again promises:

I will deliver them from all their sins of faithlessness,
and cleanse them so that they may be my people
and I may be their God.

Just as Christ delivered Lazarus from the grave, and Mary and Martha from their mourning, may we be delivered from anything that binds us from the fullness of life in God.

(I will send a powerful poem along later today. I think it is worth taking time with.)

Music: Lazarus, Come Forth – The Bishops (Lyrics below)

Lazarus, Come Forth

Heartbroken, tears fallin’
Martha found Jesus
She questioned why Lazarus had died.
When she had thus spoken
Her doubts were then silenced
He walked toward the body and cried.

(Chorus)
Lazarus, come forth,
Awake like the morning
Arise with new hope,
A new life is born.

Lazarus, come forth,
From death now awaken,
For Jesus has spoken,
Death’s chains have been broken
Lazarus, come forth.

The tomb now was empty,
Martha stopped crying
Her brother now stood by her side.
The Pharisees wondered
About what had happened,
How could one now live who had died.

The reason this story
Gives hope to so many
Is although we know we must die,
Our bodies won’t stay there
In cold and dark silence
We’ll hear Jesus cry from on high.

Children come forth,
Awake like the morning
Arise with new hope,
A new life is born.
Children, come forth,

From death now awaken,
For Jesus has spoken,
Death’s chains have been broken
Children, come forth.

For Jesus has spoken,
Death’s chains have been broken
My children, come forth.

 

 

God’s Forever Covenant

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings focus on the inviolable power of covenant.  

gn17_Covenant

The word “covenant” is derived from the Latin “convenire ”- to gather, to assemble, to fit.

We get the sense of an artist pulling together the pieces of a mosaic to form a masterpiece. Or we may think of a poet choosing the perfect words to convey feelings otherwise unwordable.

In our first reading, God fashions his covenant by weaving together the family lines descending from Abraham:

I will maintain my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Jesus deepens the Abrahamic promise by revealing that he is the Son of God sent to fulfill the ancient promise:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”

These promises are passed on to us in many ways. Today’s reading might remind us of the role our families have played in transmitting the faith to us. They, together with our early teachers, opened our hearts to the amazing possibilities of grace.

I pray in thanksgiving today for my parents and all the generations who formed them. I pray for the good Sisters who modeled a captivating holiness to me. I pray for my beloved Mercy family as they continue to show me the face of God.

For whom would you offer a grateful prayer today? You might simply say their names in your prayer, or write their names in your own mosaic of thanksgiving. Or just listen to this music and let them bless your heart today.

Music:  By Faith – Keith & Kristyn Getty