Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 67 which calls on God to bless all people.

O God, be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of your countenance and come to us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
   among all nations, your salvation.

Psalm 67: 1-2

This psalm is notable for its inclusiveness of nations outside of Israel. Most psalms focus inwardly on Israel’s needs, hopes and memories. But Psalm 67 calls on God to gather and bless universally:

May the nations be glad and exult
    because you rule the peoples in equity;
    the nations on the earth you guide.


For this reason, Psalm 67 has been called “the missionary psalm”, and is such a fitting prayer on this feast of St. Ignatius who founded a community which has carried the faith throughout the world.


As we pray our psalm today, we might examine how our own faith reaches out, includes and blesses others.  

Our final verses today point back to our first reading from Leviticus. While the math and calendar counting could get me pretty mixed up, the message is clear. It is a Jubilee message:

  • Stop. 
  • Take a good look at your life and the harvest of your years. 
  • Be grateful.
  • Be just.
  • Share. 
  • Bring others into your bounty because it all belongs to God, not you.

When we do these things, Psalm 67 becomes our prayer:

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, 
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide all the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has brought forth its increase; 
may you, O God our God, bless us.
May you bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of you.


Poetry: This Is My Song by Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation;
may peace abound where strife has raged so long;
that each may seek to love and build together,
a world united, righting every wrong;
a world united in its love for freedom,
proclaiming peace together in one song.

Music: Finlandia, Opus 26

The above poem is sung to the tune of the final hymn in this work by Jean Sibelius. I think you will enjoy this beautiful video, especially the young ducks about midway through. Be sure to click the little arrowhead under the right side of the video to read the great history of this musical composition.

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103 whose verses this morning remind us of God’s munificence.

Munificent – it’s a wonderful word whose Latin roots literally mean gift-making, abundant generosity.

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
    slow to anger and abounding in kindness.

Psalm 103:8

Praying this morning, I realize that I can’t even begin to number the gifts God has given me.


But like Moses in today’s first reading, I want to visit God in the sacred tent of prayer – learning, thanking and awakening to the Mercy in my life.

… and, like Moses, to invite God into every moment, to ask God to keep company with me on my journey:

Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O LORD,
do come along in our company.


Poetry: Bearing the Light – Denise Levertov

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: In the Garden – written by C. Austin Miles in 1912. Miles wrote nearly 400 hymns, this one the most famous.

And who doesn’t love Anne Murray’s mellow voice!

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Monday, July 26, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 106 which, like its companion piece Psalm 105, is about the praise that comes from remembering.

The difference between the two psalms is this:

In Psalm 105, Israel has remembered God’s goodness, thus a celebratory tone

In Psalm 106, the psalmist recounts Israel’s forgetfulness of God’s goodness, thus a repentant tone.

In Psalm 106, a companion piece to Psalm 105, the same inventory is recited, but this time the focus is on the recurring recalcitrance of infidelity on the part of Israel. That is, it is a confession of sin, and it ends in petition: 

Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. (v.47)

Walter Brueggemann

The message for us? Here is what I take from this psalm:

1 – Never forget or overlook God’s presence and action in my life. 

But they soon forgot all God had done;
they had no patience for God’s plan.

Psalm 106:13

We have to give ourselves the time to search our circumstances for God’s presence and invitation to Grace. 

This practice has always helped me – pausing occasionally during the day, before or after my many tasks and encounters, simply to raise this question: Where is God in this moment?


2 – Structure my life in such a way that it calls me back to grateful remembering.

For their sake God remembered stayed fast to the covenant
and relented in abundant mercy,
Winning for them compassion
from all that held them captive.

Psalm 106: 45-46

Our lives are complex. We have a lot of responsibilities, needs, desires, obstacles, hopes, and frustrations. In trying to deal with life’s complexities, we might begin to think that it all depends on us. We might get tangled in our own machinations. We might forget that it is God who breathed us into life and holds us in it through all our experiences. 

Brief morning and evening prayers of gratitude, hope, reflection, repentance, and thanksgiving – these can keep us aware and focused. Slowly we may build to an hourly remembering of God’s companionship and action in our lives. Ultimately, with patience and practice, the awareness becomes constant and sustaining.


There are two wonderful books that have helped me with the prayer of awareness for those who might be interested.

  1. Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully Through the Hours of the Day by Macrina Wiederkehr
  1. Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day by Brother David Steindl-Rast

Poetry: I live my life in widening circles – Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Thought and Music: The Great Song – Brother David

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings assure us that God cares about our hungry spirits and will satisfy them.

Both the prophet Elisha and Jesus respond to the needs of the hungry crowds by the power of their faith. In each story, there is only a small amount of food to meet the overwhelming need of the people. But those small amounts, given selflessly and gratefully, renew themselves until all are satisfied.


Our spiritual hungers are deep, and much harder to fill than our physical ones. Sometimes, we don’t even know what we are longing for. Thus we may end up filling our emptiness with distractions and junk.


Today’s readings encourage us to turn our soul’s needs toward God. St. Augustine said this:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord,
and our hearts are restless (hungry)
until they rest in You.


Notice that in Jesus’s miracle of the loaves and fishes, there is one key action before the multiplication occurs.

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

Let’s sift through both the large and the small sustenances of our life for the things that we are grateful for. When we lift these up in thanksgiving, glimpsing the loving face of God, other graces will begin unexpectedly to multiply around and within us.

Music: O, My Soul Hungered – Corbin Allred

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 50 which enjoins us – from sunrise to sunset – to offer God a sacrifice of praise.


A sacrifice of praise!
It’s a phrase and concept
that pops up in scripture several times.
And it intrigues me.
What might that repeated phrase mean
for my life with God?

In our first reading, the Israelites took detailed steps to offer sacrifice to the Lord. Their efforts are summarized in this verse: 

We will do everything that the LORD has told us. 

But what is the difference between a “sacrifice of praise” and the ritualized blood sacrifice described in Exodus? 


I think of a “sacrifice of praise” as that moment in our spiritual lives when our focus shifts 

  • from “what we do to honor God” to “how God lives in us”
  • from practiced ritual to the awe of Sacred Presence
  • from my efforts to God’s fidelity
  • in other words…..
  • from me to God

At that moment, the “sacrifice” is of our natural self-absorption and self-involvement in order to free God’s presence and action through us.

It is a moment of recognition like that of John the Baptist who, busy as he had been establishing his ministry, on seeing Jesus said, “He must increase and I must decrease.


Our psalm tells us that God is faithfully responsive to such total awareness and commitment:

Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
     and fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
    I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.


Our psalm moves me to this prayer:

My intention, hope, and prayer, dear God, is

  • to praise You with my life
  • to act for You in all things
  • to be Mercy in the world as You would be

May these become a sacrifice of praise to You.


Poetry: St. John’s Eve –  Malcolm Guite

Midsummer night, and bonfires on the hill
Burn for the man who makes way for the Light:
‘He must increase and I diminish still,
Until his sun illuminates my night.’
So John the Baptist pioneers our path,
Unfolds the essence of the life of prayer,
Unlatches the last doorway into faith,And makes one inner space an everywhere.
Least of the new and greatest of the old,
Orpheus on the threshold with his lyre,
He sets himself aside, and cries “Behold
The One who stands amongst you comes with fire!”
So keep his fires burning through this night,
Beacons and gateways for the child of light.

Music: Praise You – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Lord I come to you today,

With a simple prayer to pray.

In everything I do,

Let my life O Lord praise you.

Praise you, praise you, praise you

Let my life, praise you

Praise you, praise you, praise you

Let my life, O lord praise you

Lord you formed me out of clay,

And for your glory I was made.

Use this vessel as you choose.

Let my life O Lord praise you

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, June 23, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19, a testament to God’s Word as living and real in our lives. This psalm foreshadows the beautiful words from John’s Gospel.

Our first reading recounts God’s presentation of the Ten Commandments on Sinai. This code was the basic framework for the community’s response to God’s gift of relationship. God was saying, “Here’s what I need from you to make this thing work.”

Psalm 19 shows us that even though this “Law” was “carved in stone”, it was lived in the hearts of the faithful. It was dynamic, required nuance and interpretation, needed human engagement to fully come to life.

In other words, the “Law” had to live, come off the stone, and into hearts.


When this happens, we grow in the essence of “law”, which is love, reverence, mutuality, and generosity. We experience God’s Word as gift and delight. We long to learn more perfectly what, in our choices and actions, can bring us closer to God.

Then the law becomes, as Psalm 19 tells us:

  • perfect, refreshing the soul
  • trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple
  • right, rejoicing the heart
  • clear, enlightening the eye.
  • pure, enduring forever;
  • true,
  • just
  • more precious than gold
  • sweeter also than syrup
  • or honey from the comb.

We all know people who claim to live by a static, lifeless but recite-able law. They can readily quote some out-of-context scripture to judge, reprimand, or condemn. It’s sad because the Word has died in them.

The Law of Love grows in the rich soil of today’s Gospel. It meets life with an honest, open, and loving spirit to find the unique adventure of grace God wants for each of us.

Pope Francis, when speaking of the Law, said this:

Our God is the God of nearness, a God who is near, who walks with his people. That image in the desert, in Exodus: the cloud and the pillar of fire to protect the people: He walks with his people. He is not a God who leaves the written prescriptions and says, “Go ahead.” He makes the prescriptions, writes them with his own hands on the stone, gives them to Moses, hands them to Moses, but does not leave the prescriptions and leaves: He walks, He is close. “Which nation has such a close God?” It’s the nearness. Ours is a God of nearness.


Poetry: What is the Root? – Hafiz

What
Is the
Root of all these
Words?

One thing: love.
But a love so deep and sweet
It needed to express itself
With scents, sounds, colors
That never before
Existed.

Music: Your Word is Life to Me – Travis Cottrell

I am a stranger in this place

This world is not my home

I want more than it can give

I am a desert needing rain

I’m thirsty for Your voice

The very reason that I live

You are the Word, my one desire

And all consuming Holy fire

The very breath that I am longing for

My heart is desperate for Your ways

Refine me in Your holy blaze

If that is what it takes to know You more

You are the Truth that sets me free

Your word is life to me

Only the power of Your Word

Can melt away these chains

That have held me far too long

So light the fire and let it burn

These shackles and restraints

And I will sing this freedom song

You are the Word, my one desire

And all consuming Holy fire

The very breath that I am longing for

My heart is desperate for Your ways

Refine me in Your holy blaze

If that is what it takes to know You more

You are the Truth that sets me free

Your word is life to me

Lamp unto my feet, light unto my path

Shine, shine on

Lamp unto my feet, light unto my path

Shine, shine on

Lamp unto my feet, light unto my path

Shine, shine on

Lamp unto my feet, light unto my path

Shine, shine on

You are the Word, my one desire

And all consuming Holy fire

The very breath that I am longing for

My heart is desperate for Your ways

Refine me in Your holy blaze

If that is what it takes to know You more

You are the Truth that sets me free

Your word is life to me

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 63, a prayer of both longing and fulfillment.

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.

Psalm 63: 2-4

And isn’t our spiritual life exactly like that?
We feel our lives caressed by God,
and yet we long for greater oneness
with Infinite Love.

Mary Magdalen is the embodiment of that longing and embrace. And so the Church applies to her the powerful intimacy of our first reading:

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

Song of Songs 3:1-4

Within each one of us is a sacred mystic who longs for and seeks God’s embrace. Perhaps that mystic hibernates like a little bear hidden under all the distractions of our lives. But if we give ourselves to silence and holy waiting, the sleeping hermit will awake! 😴 

We might pray with beautiful Mary Magdalen today to let that seeker in us reach for God Who is also waiting.


Poem: Song of the Soul That Is Glad to Know God by Faith – St. John of the Cross

English version by Antonio T. de Nicolas
Original Language Spanish

Well I know the fountain that runs and flows,
though it is night!


This eternal fountain is hidden deep.
Well I know where it has its spring,
Though it is night!

In this life’s dark night,
Faith has taught where this cold fountain lies,
Though it is night!

Its origin I cannot know, it has none,
And I know all origins come from it,
Though it is night!

And I know there can be nothing more fair,
The heavens and earth drink there,
Though it is night!

And I know it has no bed,
And I know no one can cross its depths,
Though it is night!

Its clarity is never clouded,
And I know all light shines from it,
Though it is night!

I know her streams swell so abundantly,
They water people, heaven and even hell,
Though it is night!

The current born of this fountain
I know to be wide and mighty,
Though it is night!

And from these two another stream flows,
And I know neither comes before,
Though it is night!

I know Three in only one water live,
And each the other feeds,
Though it is night!

This eternal fountain is hiding from sight
Within this living bread to give us life,
Though it is night!

He calls all creatures to this light,
And of this water they drink, though in the dark,
Though it is night!

This living fountain I desire,
I see it here within this living bread,
Though it is night!


Music: I Found My Beloved – John Michael Talbot

So I found my beloved in the mountains
On the lonely and far distant isles
O’er resounding waters
I heard the whispering of love’s breezes
To heal my broken heart
Oh tranquil evening, silent music
And the sounding solitude of the rising dawn
It is there that I hear You
There that I taste of You
In love’s banquet to fill my heart
Chorus:
And I found Your footprints
In the sands by the sea
And like Your maiden
I ran along the way to a secret chamber
And there you gave to me
There you taught me, O so well
And I drank of your sweet spiced wine
The wine of God
And there I gave to You
Keeping nothing for myself
And I promised You forever
To be your bride
(Repeat Chorus)
So I have abandoned
All I ever sought to be
And in dying
My spirit has been released

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

(Since today’s readings are so similar to yesterday’s, I decided to offer this reflection from 2019. I hope you like it.)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read that triumphant Exodus passage in which the Israelites pass through the walled-up waters of the Red Sea. The images and exultations abound!

Here are the obvious ones:

  • Sea (the agent of delivery/salvation)
  • Wind (the grace of change)
  • Chariots (the inevitable challenges/obstacles)
  • Night (the mystery in which faith operates)
  • Fiery Cloud/The Lord’s Glance (God’s intervention)
  • Song (humble acknowledgement and thanksgiving)

Just as the newborn is carried through the birth canal on the waters of life, so too God’s neonate people finally begin the fullness of life promised to Abraham. God accomplishes this great “delivery” by a masterful intertwining of omnipotence, human choices, and natural phenomena. The result is breathtaking!


Just as it is in our lives!

Like any great Bible story, this one invites us to find ourselves somewhere within it. At the least, we are all making a sometimes treacherous passage through life. And at particular times, maybe even now, the threats may be intense.

At times, we stand at the edge of intimidating seas, wondering how we will make it to the other side. But if we reflect on our history, we must acknowledge that – with prayer and patience – the parting wind does come. Those “chariots” at our heels become mired in our resilience, hope and trust in God.

Even through the dark night of faith,
the Bright Mystery speaks to us.

In moments of astounding though quiet grace, we catch the glance of God. And we sing in thanksgiving.

The glory of this magnificent reading is captured in the Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil.


Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle's perfect praises.)

(V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.)
V. Lift up your hearts.
R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R. It is right and just.

 
It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.  
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.

Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.

May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

R. Amen.

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a selection from Exodus which you will probably recognize from the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. It describes one of the most astounding displays of power in the Hebrew Scriptures.

by Frederick Arthur Bridgman

Stand with the author on the other side of the Red Sea and feel the pounding exultation:

I will sing to the LORD who is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot casting into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
who has been my savior.
my God, whom I praise;
the God of my father, whom I extol.

It is a beautifully cadenced victory chant, and I have always loved hearing it at the vigil as we celebrate our deliverance from death through Christ’s Resurrection.


Imagine those “chariots and charioteers”, ancient symbols of power and oppression!

So Pharaoh made his chariots ready and mustered his soldiers
six hundred first-class chariots
and all the other chariots of Egypt, with warriors on them all.

Exodus 14: 6-7

What chance did the unarmed, rag tag horde of fleeing Israelites hold against such power?

The power they held was this –
faith in God’s promise
and obedience to its unfolding
in their lives.

It wasn’t easy for them! Moses had to bolster them in their fear and hesitation.

But Moses answered the people,
“Fear not! Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today.
For these Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.
The LORD will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”

Exodus 14: 13-14

Within these readings, the parallels to our own lives are abundant. If not now, at least at some time, we will have overwhelming forces pursue us. We will be afraid. Our faith will be tested. We will doubt.

If we can “be still”, bolstering our trust in prayer, God will reveal our particular deliverance. It may not look like what we imagined, nor exactly fit what we might have prayed for.

But in trusting prayer, the flood waters of grace release and resurrect us from all that threatens our souls.

The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.

Exodus 15: 5-6

Poetry: I think the psalm is its own poem today.😉


Music: Horse and Chariot – let these kids wake up our faith today!

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, June 18, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, the familiar hymn of confidence, gratitude, and hope.

You, Lord, are my shepherd; 
I shall not be in want.
You make me lie down in green pastures 
and lead me beside still waters.
You revive my soul 
and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Praying this psalm, we are enfolded into the arms of a loving God.

This beautiful image, which is beloved to us even in our highly urbanized society, certainly held even greater meaning to the early Christians. They understood, from experience, the utter self-donation of a shepherd to his flock. The shepherd needs the sheep in order to live, just as they need the shepherd. Their lives were critically interdependent.

In a sense, the shepherd became one with the sheep. From sunrise to sunset, and even through the night, he led them to food, water, and rest. He protected them as they slept, by laying his own body across the sheep gate.


In our own time, a more familiar image might be that of a horse-whisperer, someone who through natural sensitivity and studious training, is able to understand and communicate with animals. Rather than “breaking” a horse, as seen in old westerns, the horse-whisperer leads them to trust by listening and responding to them through body-language.


As we pray with the image of the Good Shepherd today, we might imagine Jesus as our “Soul-Whisperer”. Jesus stands beside us in the vast, open loneliness of life, which sometimes tries to “break” us. But we are never alone. He is listening. As he opens our life before us, let us trust and follow him. He has made our welfare his own by becoming one of us.


Poetry: I Am the Door of the Sheepfold – Malcolm Guite

Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung,
Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place,
Not like the well-oiled openings that swung
So easily for Pilate’s practiced pace,

Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face
From house to house in brimming Bethlehem,
Not like the one that no man may assail,
The dreadful curtain, The forbidding veil
That waits your breaking in Jerusalem.

Not one you made but one you have become:
Load-bearing, balancing, a weighted beam
To bridge the gap, to bring us within reach
Of your high pasture. Calling us by name,
You lay your body down across the breach,
Yourself the door that opens into home.

Music: The Lonely Shepherd – Leo Rojas