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

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 17, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 136 in which the psalmist remembers in detail Israel’s long experience of God’s enduring fidelity.

The cadence of the psalm creates an underlying drumbeat to our prayer, a chant of gratitude and confidence. Reading it, I was reminded of two things.

The first is a scene from the movie “Glory” where the troops pray the night before battle. They pray in the classic style of the Black spiritual call-and-response song.

You may have seen it:

The prayer of these men, like the prayer of ancient Israel, is not just a walk down memory lane. No. Each proclamation is an act of of faith – and of gratitude for the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future.


Secondly, I was reminded of the simple and methodical cadence of a childhood ditty – S/he loves me S/he loves me not. Didn’t many of us try that magic practice at least once, maybe at our first young crush?

Well, God does love us – daisy or not. The proof is not in the petals, but in the story of our lives.

Today might be a good day
to “chant” gratefully
through our own catalogue with God
– remembering, thanking,
believing,and hoping.


Poetry: I thank you, God – e.e.cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Music: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – Etta James sings a classical example of the call-and-response spiritual

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home,

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see

Coming for to carry me home?

A band of angels coming after me,

Coming for to carry me home.

Sometimes I’m up, and sometimes I’m down,

(Coming for to carry me home)

But still my soul feels heavenly bound.

(Coming for to carry me home)

The brightest day that I can say,

(Coming for to carry me home)

When Jesus washed my sins away.

(Coming for to carry me home)

If I get there before you do,

(Coming for to carry me home)

I’ll cut a hole and pull you through.

(Coming for to carry me home)

If you get there before I do,

(Coming for to carry me home)

Tell all my friends I’m coming too.

(Coming for to carry me home)

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home,

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 116, a lyrical interweaving of thanksgiving and praise.

I love this beautiful psalm which expresses the heart’s overwhelming gratitude for the whole mystery of one’s life.

How shall I make a return to the LORD
    for all the good God has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
    and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:12-13

The gratitude is so profound
that we must call on the Holy Spirit
to understand our awed silence
and to pray within us.


This prayer always comes to my mind when one of our Sisters dies. The witness of her life, remembered in our funeral rituals, always stirs me to deeper faith and gratitude.

Precious in your eyes, O LORD
    is the death of your faithful one,
your servant, who has freely
    and lovingly served you.
To you she has offered the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and called upon your name, O LORD.
Her vows to the LORD she has paid
    in the presence of all your people.

Psalm 116: 15-18

It is with perfect timing that this sacred psalm comes up in Friday’s liturgy. At the Motherhouse in Plainfield,NJ, a wonderful Sister of Mercy is laid to rest today – Sister Diane Szubrowski. Her vows to the Lord she has paid – with faith and mercy. May she rest in Glory!


Poetry: Grateful – Thomas Merton

To be grateful
is to recognize
the love of God
in everything.

Music: My Vows to the Lord – John Michael Talbot (lyrics below

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

In the presence of all His people

For precious in the eyes of the Lord

Is the sacrifice of love

Is the sacrifice of love

How shall I make a return

For all the good He has done for me

The cup of salvation I will take up

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

Your servant am I

Your handmaid’s son

Consecrated to the Lord

I will offer a sacrifice

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

How shall I make a return

For all the good He has done for me

The cup of salvation I will take up

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

In the sacrifice of love

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105 which depicts a “Remembering God” who calls us to respond as a “Remembering People”.

“Forever” is a word whose true meaning can be found only in an Eternal God. In Exodus, and in our Psalm 105, we see God inviting us to that fullness.

Our first reading recounts the Abrahamic covenant renewed with Moses. God, flaming out of a bush, tells Moses that God sticks by agreements.

God spoke further to Moses,
“Thus shall you say to the children of Israel:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.
    “This is my name forever;
        this my title for all generations.

Exodus 3:15

(I don’t know about you, but I’ve flashbacking all week to to Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic, The Ten Commandments.)


Our psalm reinforces the Exodus commitment:

God remembers forever the covenant 
    made binding for a thousand generations
    entered into with Abraham
    and by the oath to Isaac.

Psalm 105: 8-9

Our brief but beautiful Gospel shows us what God’s promise looks like in the tender person of Jesus:

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew 11: 28-30

Throughout the ages,
God’s reiterated fidelity
calls us to obedience – that “heart-listening”
which hears the invitation to Love.

Poetry: Everything That Was Broken – Mary Oliver

Everything that was broken has
forgotten its brokenness. I live
now in a sky-house, through every
window the sun. Also your presence.
Our touching, our stories. Earthy
and holy both. How can this be, but
it is. Every day has something in
it whose name is Forever.

Music; Forever – Edelis

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, always a source of sweet reflection on God’s mercy.

From today’s verses, this line rings out:

All my being, bless God’s holy name.

Psalm 103:1

It’s a call to make our lives a total prayer – every moment lived in and with the Presence of God.

The truth is that this is already our reality. God is present to our every moment because it is God’s Life which breathes within us. 

The psalm’s call is really to our awareness – the mandate fully to realize that God is living God’s life through us.


The psalm tells us to remember that, in order to so live in us, God is continually merciful. And so God:

  • pardons all our iniquities
  • heals all your ills
  • redeems our life from destruction
  • and ultimately crowns us with kindness and compassion.

In other words, when we are open to Grace, God makes the best even of our mistakes – always allowing us repent, change, and deepen in love and mercy.

God redeems our life from every darkness
and crowns us with mercy and compassion,
God fills our days with light,
renews our young enthusiasm with the eagle’s strength.

Psalm 103:3-5

Poetry: The Presence of Love – Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

And in Life's noisiest hour,
There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,
The heart's Self-solace and soliloquy.
You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within;
And to the leading Love-throb in the Heart
Thro' all my Being, thro' my pulse's beat;
You lie in all my many Thoughts, like Light,
Like the fair light of Dawn, or summer Eve
On rippling Stream, or cloud-reflecting Lake.
And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you,
How oft! I bless the Lot that made me love you.

Music: With Me Now – Hillary Stagg

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 69 whose speaker, not to make a pun, is in bad straits!

I am sunk in the abysmal swamp
    where there is no foothold;
I have reached the watery depths;
    the flood overwhelms me.

Psalm 69:3

This is painful stuff – the kind of desperate pain we find threaded throughout the psalms in the prayers of lament.

These laments follow a pattern:

  • a petition for God’s help
  • multiple repetitions of this plea
  • detailed descriptions of the suffering being endured
  • proclamations of the sufferer’s innocence
  • assurances of the sufferer’s goodness
  • and often, a list of suggestions about how God should solve the problem

So the prayer, at least mine, would go something like this:

  • Dear God, please help me get out of this mess!
  • Do something, please. I know you can do something!
  • I am being harassed and destroyed. Let me tell you all about it.!
  • And it’s not my fault- (well, not completely anyway)
  • I try to be a good person and look what happens anyway!
  • I still believe in you and pray that you take care of my persecutors
  • (By the way, here are some tips on how you might do that, God.)

All in all, such a lament is a really healthy prayer. If we pray it completely, we get to the “BUT” of the pictured verse – that place where we allow God to teach and change us.

When we pray like this, we do these things in God’s Presence:

  • recognize our pain and name it
  • admit that we need help
  • analyze what’s really at the root of our pain
  • acknowledge our part in causing the suffering
  • rehearse our vengeance until we have exhausted it
  • reclaim our faith as a way to healing
  • THEN allow God to convert us to the Love of which we are made

The psalmist has given us a gift by laying out such vulnerability for us. It is healing to humbly and honestly pray this psalm when we are “overwhelmed” by hurt, confusion, anger, fear or any form of desperation.

The psalm is a script for
unburdening negation in God’s presence.
It is a script for rehabilitation to
the community of praise and thanks.

Walter Brueggemann

We may have to pray Psalm 69 many times before we let God through to teach us the real meaning of our suffering. It is only then that we might pray the psalm’s final verses:

See, you humble ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, take heart!
For the LORD hears us,
and does not turn away from our pain.
Let the heaven and the earth praise God,
the seas and whatever moves in them!
For God will rescue usand rebuild us
so that we can be at home with ourselves
as the dwelling place of God.

Psalm 69: 33-36

Poetry: Psalm 69 – Christine Robinson

Save me, O God,
I have gotten myself in deep waters.
and find no firm ground under my feet.

I am tired of crying.
I feel at war with myself and with others;
I’m unable to do what is expected of me.

O God, you know my foolishness and my faults—
Do you love me anyway?
I really am sinking.

These rushing, dark waters are going to swallow me up.
Answer me, God!
Your loving kindness would save me.

If I could see your face, it would be enough
to ease my distress and help me relax in the flood.
I will remember that you are here,
even in the torrent, even in the war.

I will give thanks for the small beauties
and kindnesses of the day.
And for the love that is in my heart.

Music: Deep Water – American Authors 

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, July 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 124 which is a raw remembering of how bad things could have been without God’s help.

The psalm opens with these lines:

Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say,
Had not the LORD been with us,
when all rose against us,
Then we would have been swallowed alive,
for fury blazed against us.

Psalm 124: 1-3

Have you been there? What flares up to swallow your life, your hope, can wear many disguises: 

 

or the many forms of hunger and dying.


The psalm calls us to remember these things for two reasons:

  1. so that we don’t get caught again
  2. and that if – sadly – we do, we remember who freed us

We were rescued like a bird 
    from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare, 
    and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124: 7-8

The release from such snares
does not return us to the way things were.
There will be
wounds and wisdom
to change us.
It depends on us which we choose to cherish.

“Re-membering” ourselves, pulling our new selves together in God, releases us to fuller, deeper life.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

… so surely that Omnipotent God can heal and remake us.

Remember, this and a few other of my images have been set beautifully into cards by Sister Judy Ward, RSM.
You can contact her at

Poetry: The Fowler by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1868-1962)

A wild bird filled the morning air 
With dewy-hearted song; 
I took it in a golden snare 
Of meshes close and strong. 
But where is now the song I heard? 
For all my cunning art, 
I who would house a singing bird 
Have caged a broken heart.

Music: Peter Kater – Wings

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are filled with God’s glory and blessings. 

The magnificent passage from Ephesians is considered an example of the great Pauline Hymns. These are places in Paul’s writing where he breaks into lyrical songs of praise and thanksgiving, so overwhelmed is he by the goodness of God.


Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

Have you ever felt like that – just so grateful to God for the blessings of your life? So blessed to wake up in the morning, with the capacity to believe, to hope, and to love!

A practice I learned many years ago has helped me focus on this kind of prayerful gratitude. As soon as I realize I am awake in the morning (and sometimes that takes a while) I say this simple prayer:

Thank you, God, for my life.

On a special morning, I might pause and expand that prayer quite a bit. (And, come on now, isn’t every morning special just for the fact that you woke up!)

But every day, even dull and rainy ones, I start with at least that brief phrase.


Poetry: Savor Paul’s eloquence in his hymn of praise today. Let your heart recognize God’s goodness and sing even a silent, personal Thank You.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.

Ephesians 1:3

Music: Ephesians Hymn ~ Suzanne Toolan, RSM, who is Sister of Mercy at Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA. She has mentored many people in centering prayer in retreats and in prisons. She is prolific composer of liturgical music, including the iconic hymn, “I Am the Bread of Life”.

Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105, using some of its earlier verses than yesterday’s.

Verses 1-15 tell the same story as 1 Chronicles 16:8–22:
“a ‘canonical’ inventory of YHWH’s faithful, transformative actions.”
(Brueggemann, From Whom No Secrets Are Hidden)


As the faith community recounts this inventory, again and again down through the ages, we are deepened and strengthened in our grateful love for God Who abides.

Today’s readings once again invite us to count our blessings, and to repeat the practice daily.

Doing so allows us to hear the music of God’s omnipotent love, swirling grace through every chord of our lives.

We are summoned
to glory in that Loving Presence;
our spirits dancing
in thanksgiving.


Give thanks to the LORD, invoke God’s name;
    make known among the nations God’s deeds.
Sing to God, sing praise,
    proclaim all God’s wondrous deeds.
Glory in God’s holy name;
    rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD’s strength;
    seek to serve God constantly.

Pslam 105:1-4

Poetry: Forever Dance from D. Ladinsky, I Heard God Laughing – Renderings of Hafiz

I am happy even before I have a reason.
I am full of Light even before the sky
Can greet the sun or the moon.
Dear companions,
We have been in love with God
For so very, very long.
What can Hafiz now do but Forever Dance.


Music: Dance of Innocents – Nawang Khechog and Peter Kater

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, July 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 37 which is widely interpreted as:

“a response to the problem of evil,
which the Old Testament often expresses as a question:
why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer?”

Wikipedia

It’s a question all of us struggle with, isn’t it?
And wouldn’t we manage things a lot differently
if we were in charge of the world?


Psalm 37 opens with this advice to help us deal with our consternation:

Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.

Like grass they wither quickly;
like green plants they wilt away.

Psalm 37: 1-2

The psalmist continues to demonstrate that even though evil doers seem to prosper, their prosperity is short-lived. Only goodness endures and ultimately thrives.

Psalm 37 sounds very much like a parent teaching a child not to be distressed by the apparent success of the selfish and scheming. God is not fooled by evildoers so neither should we be.

The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;

But my Lord laughs at them,
seeing that their day is coming.

Psalm 37: 12-13

The advice is easily spoken but perhaps not so easily practiced. So the psalmist offers some tips on how to live a spiritually fruitful life:

  • Trust in the LORD and do good.
  • Find your delight in the LORD.
  • Commit your way to the Lord.
  • Be still before the LORD.
  • Refrain from anger; abandon wrath;
  • Do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
  • Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more.
  • Turn from evil and do good,
    that you may be settled forever.
  • Wait eagerly for the LORD,
    and keep the Lord’s way;

The psalm indicates the result of such goodness, conditions that sound very much like the Beatitudes:

  • You will be raised up to inherit the earth.
  • Yes, the poor will inherit the earth,
    will delight in great prosperity.
  • Better the meagerness of the righteous one
    than the plenty of the wicked.
  • The LORD will sustain the righteous.
  • The LORD knows the days of the blameless;
    their heritage lasts forever.
  • They will not be ashamed when times are bad;
    in days of famine they will be satisfied.
  • For those blessed by the Lord will inherit the earth,
    but those accursed will be cut off.

It’s hard to live a life like the one this psalm invites us to. (At least, I think it is!) It’s hard to have that much faith, especially when evil is smacking us right in the face. The psalmist acknowledges this difficulty but does so with a beautiful assurance:

The valiant one whose steps are guided by the LORD,
who will delight in God’s way,
may stumble, but will never fall,
for the Lord holds their hand.


Poetry: Give Me Your Hand – Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as we are made, 
then walks with us silently out of the night. 
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: 
beauty and horror. 
Just keep going. 
No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life. 
You will know it by its seriousness. 
Give me your hand.

Music: Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand – Alfred Street Baptist Church