Both Felt and Yet Awaited …

Second Sunday of Advent
December 4, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120422.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah paints the vision of Shalom.

“Shalom” is a Hebrew word commonly translated to English as “peace”.

In Hebrew, words are built on “roots”, generally of three consonants. When the root consonants appear with various vowels and additional letters, a variety of words, often with some relation in meaning, can be formed from a single root. Thus from the root sh-l-m come the words shalom (“peace, well-being”), hishtalem (“it was worth it”), shulam (“was paid for”), meshulam (“paid for in advance”), mushlam (“perfect”), and shalem (“whole”).


Our passage from Isaiah indicates an even deeper concept of shalom – one in which there is such right-balance among all creatures that:


When I first get up each morning, I glance through the news on my iPad while my tea is steeping. It’s a bad habit that I have trouble resisting because I want to make sure the world is all in one piece before I really start my day.

And, you know what? It never is. It’s a mess – with people shot, carjacked and bombed; with puppies abandoned, idiots in government, and tornadoes all over the place. There is little or no peace typed across the top of CNN.


The morning news is never going to blast the headline:
A shoot has sprung from the Jesse’s root! 
God’s spirit rests on him!

See, here’s the thing. This “Jesse news” is what we are meant to set our mornings by, to set our lives by – because we are people of faith, and we have been taught the true meaning of “shalom”. Shalom is something that will never be found in our “apparent” world. Shalom is only to be found within each of us who live the promise of Isaiah fulfilled in Jesus.


Advent is about pondering how to live “shalom” in an often corrupt world. It is a time to ask ourselves if we really believe the Promise to which Advent points:

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.

Isaiah 11:1-4

While acknowledging the often leaden toxicity of our culture, our redeemed hearts will not be caught in it. We will live by and in the Promised Light because we understand that Isaiah’s “Day” started this morning when we decided to pray. We will live in the beautiful world that both has felt and yet awaits the touch of an Incarnate God.


Poetry: A World of Light – Elizabeth Jennings

Yes when the dark withdrew I suffered light
And saw the candles heave beneath the wax,
I watched the shadow of my old self dwindle
As softly on my recollection stole
A mood the senses could not touch or damage,
A sense of peace beyond the breathing word.
Day dawdled at my elbow. It was night
Within. I saw my hands, their soft dark backs
Keeping me from the noise outside. The candle
Seemed snuffed into a deep and silent pool:
It drew no shadow round my constant image
For in a dazzling dark my spirit stirred.
But still I questioned it. My inward sight
Still knew the senses and the senses' tracks,
I felt my flesh and clothes, a rubbing sandal,
And distant voices wishing to console.
My mind was keen to understand and rummage
To find assurance in the sounds I heard.
Then senses ceased and thoughts were driven quite
Away(no act of mine). I could relax
And feel a fire no earnest prayer can kindle;
Old parts of peace dissolved into a whole
And like a bright thing proud in its new plumage
My mind was keen as an attentive bird.
Yes fire, light, air, birds, wax, the sun's own height
I draw from now, but every image breaks.
Only a child's simplicity can handle
Such moments when the hottest fire feels cool,
And every breath is like a sudden homage
To peace that penetrates and is no

Music: Beautiful World – Louis Armstrong

No More Will You Weep

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
Saturday of the First Week of Advent
December 3, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147 coming after the consoling passage from Isaiah:

O my people,
no more will you weep;
I will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as I hear you, I will answer.

Isaiah 30:19

Our readings today assure us that God sees and cares about our suffering. Like a mother who sings to a crying child, God wants to comfort us.

God heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
God tells the number of the stars;
calling each by name.

Psalm 147:3-4

God’s lullaby is Jesus Christ. In Jesus, our Creator sings over us the melody of Infinite Love and Mercy. All we need do is calm ourselves and listen. 

Jesus is the Divine Song. 
He sings God’s Mercy
over all who suffer.

At the sight of the crowds, 
Jesus’s heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned.

Matthew 9:36

All of us, at some time in our lives, stand amidst the troubled crowd. Our friends and family members too stand there at times.

Today, as we pray Psalm 147, let us place all our troubles, and theirs, — all of the world’s troubles — into the loving embrace of God who sings the lullaby of Jesus over us. Let us beg for all who are hurting to be cradled in infinite grace, resilient hope, holy courage and lavish mercy.


Poetry: from Rumi

Every midwife knows
that not until a mother's womb
softens from the pain of labour
will a way unfold
and the infant find that opening to be born.
 
Oh friend! 
There is treasure in your heart, 
it is heavy with child.

Listen.

All the awakened ones, 
like trusted midwives are saying, 
'welcome this pain.'
It opens the dark passage of Grace.

Music: Quietly – Jay Stocker

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Out of Gloom, LIGHT!

Friday of the First Week of Advent
December 2, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120222.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah once again promises light despite the darkness, understanding despite the emptiness, life despite the devastating hold of poverty.

Thus says the Lord GOD:
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:18-19

Isaiah’s promises shone a beacon of hope to the oppressed people of his time. As I pray with his words today, I am deeply aware of the oppressions of our own time and the people who suffer under them.

Over the course of these days, I am praying with a delegation of people currently in Central America to remember, bless, learn from, and bear witness to the lives of four martyrs.


http://www.share-elsalvador.org/el-salvador-and-honduras-roses-delegation.html


The Roses in December delegation marks the 42nd anniversary of the martyrdom of four U.S. women religious. On December 2, 1980, members of the U.S.-trained-Salvadoran National Guard raped and killed lay worker Jean Donovan, Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford, MM, and Maura Clarke, MM, and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, OSU. The women had been accompanying the Salvadoran people displaced by war and poverty. Their witness cost them their lives. Their deaths shook the world and were emblematic of the violence suffered by the Salvadoran people and the power of accompaniment.

These women lived with the kind of hope and faith Isaiah describes. It is an active faith necessary in all times because, sadly, in all times there will be brutal and inhuman oppression of the vulnerable by the powerful. These woman chose to stand for the Gospel instead.


During an earlier anniversary of the Roses in December event, social justice activist Jean Stolkan asked the question, “What do these women call us to today?” Jean served in El Salvador herself and has continued to advocate for human rights and social justice. Jean is currently Social Justice Coordinator for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She offered these insights in answer to her question:

The challenges we face today are different from the challenges we faced when the four church women died. They call for new perspectives and new structures, new vision and new social movements to adequately respond to the need for justice for present and future generations.

Today our hearts go out to the peoples of El Salvador and Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, as they struggle with basic issues of survival and rebuilding of their lives after so many disasters: hurricanes and earthquakes, but also violence and poverty. We pray for an outpouring of compassion and solidarity, that we may continue to address in systemic ways the underlying human failings – structural poverty, racism, violation of human rights, destruction of the environment – that these and other natural and human disasters unmask with such brutal clarity.

Please join your own prayer today
for a new flowering of social justice,
respect for human rights,
and a mutual reverence for our common home
as we remember these valiant Gospel women.

Poetry: El Salvador – Javier Zamora

( Poet Javier Zamora was born in the small El Salvadoran coastal fishing town of La Herradura and immigrated to the United States at the age of nine, joining his parents in California. He earned a BA at the University of California-Berkeley and an MFA at New York University and was a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.)

Salvador, if I return on a summer day, so humid my thumb
will clean your beard of  salt, and if  I touch your volcanic face,

kiss your pumice breath, please don’t let cops say: he’s gangster.
Don’t let gangsters say: he’s wrong barrio. Your barrios

stain you with pollen, red liquid pollen. Every day cops
and gangsters pick at you with their metallic beaks,

and presidents, guilty. Dad swears he’ll never return,
Mom wants to see her mom, and in the news:

every day black bags, more and more of us leave. Parents say:
don’t go; you have tattoos. It’s the law; you don’t know

what law means there. ¿But what do they know? We don’t
have greencards. Grandparents say: nothing happens here.

Cousin says: here, it’s worse. Don’t come, you could be    ...    
Stupid Salvador, you see our black bags,

our empty homes, our fear to say: the war has never stopped,
and still you lie and say: I’m fine, I’m fine,

but if  I don’t brush Abuelita’s hair, wash her pots and pans,
I cry. Like tonight, when I wish you made it

easier to love you, Salvador. Make it easier
to never have to risk our lives.

Music: El Salvador – Peter, Paul and Mary

“El Salvador” is a 1982 protest song about United States involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War, written by Noel Paul Stookey and performed by Peter, Paul and Mary. The song originally appeared on the 1986 album No Easy Walk To Freedom.

There’s a sunny little country south of Mexico
Where the winds are gentle and the waters flow
But breezes aren’t the only things that blow in El Salvador

If you took the little lady for a moonlight drive
Odds are still good you’d come back alive
But everyone is innocent until they arrive in El Salvador

If the rebels take a bus on the grand highway
The government destroys a village miles away
The man on the radio says: “now, we’ll play South of the Border”

And in the morning the natives say
“We’re happy you have lived another day
Last night a thousand more passed away in El Salvador”
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

There’s a television crew here from ABC
Filming Rio Lempe and the refugees
Calling murdered children: “The Tragedy of El Salvador”

Before the government camera twenty feet away
Another man is asking for continued aid
Food and medicine and hand grenades for El Salvador

There’s a thump, a rumble, and the buildings sway
A soldier fires the acid spray
The public address system starts to play: “South of the Border”

You run for cover and hide your eyes
You hear the screams from paradise
They’ve fallen further than you realize in El Salvador
La la la, la la la la
La la la, la la la la la
Ooh, ooh ooh ooh ooh

Just like Poland is protected by her Russian friends
The junta is assisted by Americans
And if sixty million dollars seems too much to spend in El Salvador

They say for half a billion they could do it right
Bomb all day and burn all night
Until there’s not a living thing upright in El Salvador

And they’ll continue training troops in the USA
And watch the nuns that got away
And teach the military bands to play: “South of the Border”

Killed the people to set them free
Who put this price on their liberty
Don’t you think it’s time to leave El Salvador?
Oh, oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh, oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh

Another New Day

Thursday of the First Week of Advent
December 1, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120122.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah tells us that – “on that Day“, God’s People will sing a new song:

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:
 “A strong city have we;
        God sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
    Open up the gates
        to let in a nation that is just,
        one that keeps faith.

Isaiah 26:1-2

It is the song of a People who have recognized God’s abiding, protective Presence in their lives. That realization impels them to respond in faith and to open their lives ever more radically to God’s constant graces.


And so it is with us.
As we deepen in our trust
that God is with us in every circumstance,
and as we choose to live out of that trust,
our hearts too open
to ever deeper relationship with the Holy.


In our Gospel, Jesus says that this kind of faith is more than words. It is action, choice, presence, witness — all of which declare, “I choose to anchor my life in God and to invite God’s Mercy to live through me.”

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise person who built their house on rock. 
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.”

Matthew 7: 21;24-25

Just what are “these words” of Jesus
to which we must listen and respond?

Today’s Gospel passage comes from the first of the Five Discourses in Matthew’s Gospel by which Jesus teaches the New Law of Love. This first discourse holds treasures like the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule.

These are the “words” Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel passage — words we must hear and act on in order that God will recognize us “on that Day“. Maybe, if you have a little time, you might like to read through Matthew, chapters 5-7, to savor this First Discourse.


Poetry: Let’s use today’s Responsorial Psalm as our poem-prayer. In it, God’s People celebrate God’s Mercy which has brought them to the “gate” of a new relationship of gratitude and trust with the Holy One.

Give thanks to the LORD, Who is good, 
    Whose mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in human appearances.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in human power. 

Open to me the gates of justice and mercy;
    I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
    the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
    and have been my savior.

O LORD, grant salvation!
    O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD;
    we bless you from the house of the LORD.
    The LORD is God, and has given us Light.

Psalm 118:1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a

Music: The Breath at Dawn – Gary Schmidt – some lovely music to start your “new day”.

At Once, He Believed!

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle
November 29, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/113022.cfm

Rom 10_17 Andrew

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew, the brother of Peter, also a fisherman, a beloved Apostle and friend of Jesus.

Our Gospel tells the story of Andrew’s call. The spontaneity of Andrew and Peter’s response to Jesus is stunning and deeply inspiring!

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.

Matthew 4:18-20

Another favorite passage about Andrew is when he points out to Jesus that, in the famished crowd, there is a young boy with five loaves and two fish.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip,
 “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 
He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages
to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 
 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,
but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” 

John 6: 5-10

How simple and complete was Andrew’s faith! Those seven little items must have seemed so minute among 5000. Can you picture Andrew looking into Jesus’s eyes as if to say, “I know it’s not much but you can do anything!” Maybe it was that one devoted look which prompted Jesus to perform this amazing miracle!


We trust that our deep devotion and faith can move God’s heart too. On this feast of St. Andrew, many people begin a prayer which carries them through to Christmas. Praying it, we ask for particular favors from God.

I love this prayer because it was taught to me by my mother, a woman blessed with simple faith like Andrew’s. As I recite it, I ask to be gifted with the same kind of faith.

( Another reason I love it is this: how often in life do you get a chance to say a word like “vouchsafe“! )

St. Andrew Christmas Novena
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born

of the most pure Virgin Mary,
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God,
to hear my prayer and grant my desires
through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother. Amen.


Like the hungry five thousand.
our hurting world needs sustenance and healing.
Let’s fold our Advent prayers around its many wounds,
asking God for miracles
with a simple faith like Andrew’s.

Poetry: St. Andrew’s Day – John Keble

In this thought-provoking poem, the poet uses Andrew’s and Peter’s relationship to reflect on the meaning of being true brothers (and of course SISTERS).

When brothers part for manhood's race,
What gift may most endearing prove
To keep fond memory its her place,
And certify a brother's love?
'Tis true, bright hours together told,
And blissful dreams in secret shared,
Serene or solemn, gay or bold,
Shall last in fancy unimpaired.
E'en round the death-bed of the good
Such dear remembrances will hover,
And haunt us with no vexing mood
When all the cares of earth are over.

But yet our craving spirits feel,
We shall live on, though Fancy die,
And seek a surer pledge-a seal
Of love to last eternally.
Who art thou, that wouldst grave thy name
Thus deeply in a brother's heart?
Look on this saint, and learn to frame
Thy love-charm with true Christian art.
First seek thy Saviour out, and dwell
Beneath this shadow of His roof,
Till thou have scanned His features well,
And known Him for the Christ by proof;
Such proof as they are sure to find
Who spend with Him their happy days,
Clean hands, and a self-ruling mind
Ever in tune for love and praise.
Then, potent with the spell of Heaven,
Go, and thine erring brother gain,
Entice him home to be forgiven,
Till he, too, see his Savior plain..
Or, if before thee in the race,
Urge him with thine advancing tread,
Till, like twin stars, with even pace,
Each lucid course be duly aped.
No fading frail memorial give
To soothe his soul when thou art gone,
But wreaths of hope for aye to live,
And thoughts of good together done.
That so, before the judgment-seat,
Though changed and glorified each face,
Not unremembered ye may meet
For endless ages to embrace.

Music:  Hear my prayer, O Lord is an eight-part choral anthem by the English composer Henry Purcell (1659–1695). The anthem is a setting of the first verse of Psalm 102 in the version of the Book of Common Prayer. Purcell composed it c. 1682 at the beginning of his tenure as Organist and Master of the Choristers for Westminster Abbey.

That Day Is Today!

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
November 29, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah greets us once again with the inspiring phrase, “On that day …”

That day … the one whose dawning we are all awaiting, when all shall be complete and well in God:

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

Isaiah 11:9

How will we know when that day has come? Will it be dramatically different from today or yesterday? Will time have paused and the world be turned upside down? 

Or will it simply be that in my heart – right here and now – a “new day” has dawned?


Isaiah indicates that the “new day” is potentially present in the day we have, that when we see experience through God’s eyes, the stagnated stump of our lives blossoms in sacred possibility. 

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.

Isaiah 11: 1

What a glorious description Isaiah offers us of the world transformed by the longed-for Messiah, that shoot which shall sprout from the stump of Jesse:


The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Isaiah 11:2-5

As we pray these magnificent words this morning, we should let them thrill us with the truth that the “new day” has come! Indeed, since Christ has transformed us through his Incarnation, that “new day” dawns through us when we choose to live our lives impelled by its graces.


In our Gospel, Jesus says we can live in that divine possibility simply by trusting God the way a child trusts.

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike. 
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. 
All things have been handed over to me by my Father. 
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Luke 10:21-22

Let’s know and believe that Jesus turns to us as well as we pray today’s Gospel:

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Luke 10:23-24

Poetry: Advent Good Wishes – David Grieve

I found this poem in a book by one of my favorite poets, Malcolm Guite. It’s a great book for Advent if you are interested.

Give you joy, wolf, 
when Messiah makes you meek 
and turns your roar into a cry that 
justice has been done for the poor. 
Give you joy, lamb, 
when Messiah saves you from jeopardy  
and all fear is overwhelmed 
by his converting grace. 
Give you joy, wolf and lamb together, 
as Messiah brings worldwide peace 
and, side by side, you shelter  
under Jesse’s spreading shoot.

Music: Memory – Trevor Nunn / Thomas Stearns Eliot / Andrew Lloyd-webber / Otto Eckelmann

In this beautiful song from Cats, the writers tap some of the same feelings Isaiah calls up – acknowledgement of the night, hope for the morning, and trust that “that new day” can begin.

Imagine!

Monday of the First Week of Advent
November 28, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112822.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah teaches us how to imagine with the power of faith.

We’ve probably all done this, at least in small ways. It’s a mechanism for getting through some of the tougher spots in our lives. For example, when I have an unpleasant dental procedure, I calm myself by imagining the pizza I will pick up on the way home. I even envision a specific time when the procedure will be over and I’ll be in line at the pizzeria.


Isaiah is coaching us in the same coping mechanisms, but on a much grander scale. 

On that day,
The branch of the LORD will be luster and glory,
and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor
for the survivors of Israel.
He who remains in Zion
and he who is left in Jerusalem
Will be called holy:
every one marked down for life in Jerusalem.

During his lifetime, Isaiah lived in a war torn land where the poor and the vulnerable were particularly threatened. These daily anxieties challenged their faith and eroded their confidence in God. Their intent to build and participate in a faithful community suffered because they could not see beyond their pain.

Isaiah tells them that a better day is coming. He invites Israel to stretch their faith, to trust in God’s promise, and to believe that God abides with them and will deliver them to glory.

Then will the LORD create,
over the whole site of Mount Zion
and over her place of assembly,
A smoking cloud by day
and a light of flaming fire by night.
For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from storm and rain.


Isaiah is asking a lot of these bereft people. It is really hard to live in the Light when there is nothing around you but darkness. But it is possible to do so by the power of faith.


In our Gospel, Jesus meets a man who has that kind of powerful faith. When Jesus offers to come cure the man’s paralyzed servant, the man says there is no need to come. He already trusts that God is with that servant and will bring him to wholeness.

Hearing the man, Jesus was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to amaze Jesus with our faith!

Indeed, as we pray today, Isaiah and Jesus may be asking us for the same kind of faith. There is a lot of pain and darkness in the larger world we share, and in many of our individual worlds. As we make our Advent journey, God asks us to live in a way that does not ignore the gloom, but still sees through it to trust the Light – a faith that proclaims God is already with us, bringing us to wholeness.


Come and save us, LORD our God;
let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Poetry: To Imagination – Emily Brontë

When weary with the long day's care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While thou canst speak with such a tone! 

So hopeless is the world without;
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
Have undisputed sovereignty.

What matters it, that, all around,
Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom's bound
We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days? 

Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature's sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart, how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown: 

But, thou art ever there, to bring
The hovering vision back, and breathe
New glories o'er the blighted spring,
And call a lovelier Life from Death,
And whisper, with a voice divine,
Of real worlds, as bright as thine.

I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet, still, in evening's quiet hour,
With never-failing thankfulness,
I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
Sure solacer of human cares,
And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!

Music: Imagine – John Lennon

Wake up, Beloved!

First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112722.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,we embark once again on an age-old journey — the path through Advent to Christmas. It is a spiritual journey about which we must be intentional because there are so many cultural distractions to waylay us from the path.

Beloved Isaiah, beautiful poet and prophet, stands along the sideline rallying us:

In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!


Isaiah is telling us that it is time to get moving – moving deeper into our relationship with God. 

Like the “House of Jacob”, winding through a long journey, we may forget where we are really going in our lives. We are not going to material, social, or political success. We are not traveling life’s roads in order to end up at a cushy retirement.

Our lives are about moving deeper and deeper into the heart of God — that’s all. If we are not doing that by engaging the grace of our everyday lives, then we are missing the whole point!


Paul trusts that we understand this. He says, “You know the time … wake up!”

You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light…


I have a sleepy friend who loves to linger in her blankets in the morning. When we need to be up and “at ‘em”, I can sound a lot like Paul. “Look at the time!”, “We don’t want to be late!”, “Throw off those blankets of night!”

Friends, the Church gives us the gift of Advent so that we will not be late for the ultimate “God-Party” which is our life’s glorious destination. The potential to reach this “destination” is offered us, not only in some future parousia, but in each moment of our existence by our choice for grace.


In our Gospel, Jesus reiterates the profound importance of our wakeful awareness of God’s Presence in our lives.

For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.


So, let the journey begin! Begin today to receive every moment as an invitation to God’s house — God’s heart. Whether the moment comes in darkness or light, joy or sorrow, God is in it – calling.

May this Advent bless each of us
with deeper understanding of
God’s Love incarnate in our lives.


Poetry: Advent Calendar – Rowan Williams

He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

Music: wake – TuneCore

Face to Face

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
November 26, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112622.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we come to the end of our readings from Revelation.  ( I can hear a few of you muttering, “Thank goodness!”) They have been challenging, to say the least.

The passage from Luke’s Gospel today is just as confronting.  God is serious about wanting our complete love!


Our prayer over these past few days has led us to deeper understanding of a challenging truth: life as we know it will be transformed and we will be judged at the transformation.

But hopefully our reflections have also assured us that the Master and Judge of Life is the same merciful God who forgave and healed the sinful and suffering.

By our faithfulness to this merciful God, we will be redeemed. Revelation puts it this way:

The servants of God
will look upon God’s face,
and God’s name
will be on their foreheads.


When a person is filled with goodness (or evil), we often say it is “written all over her face”.  So it is with those who love and long for God and for God’s peaceable kingdom.

God will recognize us at the judgment because our hope and desire for God are written all over our face. And God’s love for us will be written all over that Divine Countenance as we see it clearly for the first time! And once more, as Catherine McAuley might say, “Oh what a joy, even to think of it!”


Poetry: In Memoriam A.H.H. – Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) was the Poet Laureate of England during much of Queen Victoria’s reign. A number of phrases from Tennyson’s work have become commonplace in the English language, including “Nature, red in tooth and claw” (“In Memoriam A.H.H.”), “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all”, “Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die”, “My strength is as the strength of ten, / Because my heart is pure”, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”, “Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers”, and “The old order changeth, yielding place to new”. He is the ninth most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

Below is the first section of the poem. It is a requiem for the poet’s beloved Cambridge friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly, aged 22. It contains some of Tennyson’s most accomplished lyrical work, and is an unusually sustained exercise in lyric verse. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest poems of the 19th century. (Wikipedia)

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
   Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
   By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
   Thou madest Life in man and brute;
   Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
   The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
   Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems have their day;
   They have their day and cease to be:
   They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
   For knowledge is of things we see
   And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
   But more of reverence in us dwell;
   That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,

But vaster. We are fools and slight;
   We mock thee when we do not fear:
   But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

Forgive what seem'd my sin in me;
   What seem'd my worth since I began;
   For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

Forgive my grief for one removed,
   Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
   I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
   Confusions of a wasted youth;
   Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.

If you would like to read the entire poem, follow this link:

https://poets.org/poem/memoriam-h-h


Music: The Face of God – Karen Drucker

Stay with the Journey

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
November 25, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112522.cfm


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 84, a praise and pilgrimage hymn. 

It is a perfect prayer for us if we have any small sense of alienation, loss, or confusion in our own pilgrimage.

And, honestly, who doesn’t!?

Even in the best of times, life can be a twist! And in “pandemic” times, politically charged times, economically shaky times??? Never a better time to say, “God help us!”


But Psalm 84 orients us. It announces what the journey is really about … the desire to find a resting place in God. Once we realize that, the road slowly straightens with the power of faith.

In Psalm 84, the pilgrim’s heart, hungry for God, sets out on the spiritual journey.

My soul yearns and pines 
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.

There can be a deep trust in our journeying heart because “even the sparrow” finds a home in God’s tender care.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!


The secret, though, is constancy.:

  • We pilgrims must stay with the essence of our journey – the deep desire for God. 
  • We must listen to scripture’s “directions” about where God dwells – with the poor, humble, and merciful. 
  • We must not let the flashy road signs of the “Me Culture” distract us.



“The Narcissism Epidemic,” 
by psychologists Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell 
studies the increase of narcissism or “me-ism” in our culture. 
Here’s an excerpt:

Although these seem like a random collection of current trends, all are rooted in a single underlying shift in the American psychology: the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture. Not only are there more narcissists than ever, but non-narcissistic people are seduced by the increasing emphasis on material wealth, physical appearance, celebrity worship, and attention seeking. Standards have shifted, sucking otherwise humble people into the vortex of granite countertops, tricked-out MySpace pages, and plastic surgery. A popular dance track repeats the words “money, success, fame, glamour” over and over, declaring that all other values have “either been discredited or destroyed.”


Let’s pray today for “staying power”. We have been given the grace to seek God in our lives. Let’s dwell in that seeking, moving from strength to strength in any twists life tosses in front of us.

Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed are we whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength.


Poetry: The Journey – Tagore

The morning sea of silence broke into ripples of bird songs; 
and the flowers were all merry by the roadside;
and the wealth of gold was scattered through the rift of the clouds
while we busily went on our way and paid no heed.

We sang no glad songs nor played;
we went not to the village for barter;
we spoke not a word nor smiled;
we lingered not on the way.

We quickened our pace more and more as the time sped by.
The sun rose to the mid sky and doves cooed in the shade. 
Withered leaves danced and whirled in the hot air of noon.

The shepherd boy drowsed and dreamed in the shadow of the banyan tree, 
and I laid myself down by the water
and stretched my tired limbs on the grass.

My companions laughed at me in scorn;
they held their heads high and hurried on;
they never looked back nor rested;
they vanished in the distant blue haze.
They crossed many meadows and hills,
and passed through strange, far-away countries.

All honor to you, heroic host of the interminable path!
Mockery and reproach pricked me to rise, 
but found no response in me.

I gave myself up for lost
in the depth of a glad humiliation
—in the shadow of a dim delight.

The repose of the sun-embroidered green gloom 
slowly spread over my heart.
I forgot for what I had traveled,
and I surrendered my mind without struggle 
to the maze of shadows and songs.

At last, when I woke from my slumber and opened my eyes, 
I saw thee standing by me, flooding my sleep with thy smile. 
How I had feared that the path was long and wearisome, 
and the struggle to reach thee was hard!


Music: How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place – Jesuit Music