Latter Days

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Saturday, October 1, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/100122.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read how Job’s elder years were blessed with peace and prosperity — beautiful gifts!

We want this serenity and peace for all of our dear elders. They have traveled the road ahead of us, often showing us the way.

Job42_12

All of our beloved elders need and deserve appreciative love and respect from us. Tell your parents, grandparents and older friends what a blessing they are to you. Let them know they have shone a light on your path.


The writer imagines Job sitting with his children in the midst of his latter riches, having found a deep friendship with God through all the challenges of his life. His household has been blessed with the same friendship by learning from Job’s ardent faith.


Many times our elders need us to listen to their journey story. I remember a much older friend sadly telling me that no one was alive who shared her memories. Her words struck me as I realized the deep loneliness which accompanied them.

Our elders may need us to help them remember the worth and beauty of their long years. Even in advanced age, some may still be carrying regrets that we might help them forgive in themselves. Certainly all still bear losses that they may need to remember with us, and blessings that they need to re-celebrate in stories.

May we never take for granted what we have been given by the ones who go before us, on whose shoulders we stand. The simple act of listening may be the most perfect way to say “Thank You”.


Poetry: When You Are Old – William Butler Yeats
in this tender poem, Yeats writes to a young beloved about what her old age should be like – remembering both her own youth and his preceding death.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Music: To God Be the Glory – André Crouch

Alleluia: Lost and Found

Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 19, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081922.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
Teach me your paths, my God,
guide me in your truth.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with our Alleluia Verse and Psalm 107, grateful chants to God’s Mercy from the lost who have been found.

There are all kinds of “lost”. 

There are small “losts” like when I misinterpret my GPS and keep hearing “Recalculating route…”. 

Then there are huge “losts” like when a beloved dies and our life’s anchor breaks.

This morning’s psalm and reading are speaking of a particular kind of “lost”, one that comes from wandering away from Love, for whatever reason that happens to us.


As I pray these readings, the face of a good high school friend comes to mind. Judy was a super basketball player. Everything about her was vigor, coordination, and that all-American beauty that needed no makeup to impress anybody.

After graduation, I went into the silence of the pre-Vatican II convent and Judy disappeared into her future. When our five-year class reunion rolled around, I looked forward to reconnecting with her.

When I saw her, my heart broke. She was a shadow of herself, emaciated, listless, and lightless. She silently shouted a refrain like today’s verse from Ezekiel:

Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost, and we are cut off.

We were both twenty-three years old. I was just beginning to grow into my hopes. Judy was already divorced, alone, and the mother of a father-starved child.

That kind of “lost” feels almost irredeemable. 


But Psalm 107 assures us that, in faith, no loss, no alienation is irredeemable.

They cried to the LORD in their distress;
from their straits God rescued them.
And led them by a direct way
to the healing of community.


Judy and I stayed in touch for a few years. Despite her troubles, she kept faith. That was the key.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Teach me your paths, my God,
guide me in your truth.

She did the hard work to find herself again with the help of family, friends, counselors, and a supportive faith community. Eventually, she remarried and was happy the last time I saw her before she moved to the west coast.


This morning, I see such apparent parallels between Israel’s and Judy’s story. That helps me look back over my own life for the same, perhaps not so dramatic, parallels and to be grateful for the many times God found me.

Let them give thanks for God’s Mercy
and wondrous deeds to us,
Because God has satisfied the longing soul
and filled the hungry heart with good things.


Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Poetry: Lost – Carl Sandburg

Desolate and lone 
All night long on the lake 
Where fog trails and mist creeps, 
The whistle of a boat 
Calls and cries unendingly, 
Like some lost child 
In tears and trouble 
Hunting the harbor’s breast 
And the harbor’s eyes. 


Music: Amazing Grace – Sean Clive

Alleluia: How Beautiful!

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 5, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080522.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings offer me an invitation to write a more personal reflection than usual.

Recently, our community has experienced the deaths of two dearly loved sisters. Readers might remember that I mentioned Margery’s funeral a few days ago. And just yesterday, Clare Miriam died. Each of them was an amazing minister of the Gospel and lover of God’s poor.

See, upon the mountains there advances
the bearer of good news, 
announcing peace!
Celebrate your feasts, O beloved,
fulfill your vows!

Nahum 2:1

Because most of us live in communities – familial, social, and religious – we all move through ever-turning circles of hellos and good-byes. In those turnings, we touch one another’s lives in a thousand obvious and subtle ways, hopefully causing our own lives to spin ever closer to God.

Funerals – even though we don’t look forward to them – are times when the circling pauses. We see a beloved person’s complex and amazing existence like a still life masterpiece. We see the graceful details we may have overlooked or taken for granted. We appreciate the lights and shadows of their struggles and triumphs. We see God standing behind the easel of their story inviting us to deepen our own graces as we pray.

In a large and long-loved community like the Sisters of Mercy, we accompany one another through many funerals and many home-goings. It can feel a little heavy sometimes because of the love we bear another. But, oddly, it can also give an unexpected buoyancy to our hope and faith to honor these precious lives – one after another – so lovingly given, so faithfully lived, so beautifully completed.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.

Matthew 16:25-27

After Margery’s funeral Mass, my friend turned to me and said, “What a tribute to a truly beautiful soul …. and we live in a community full of them!” Indeed, and now another, dear Clare has lifted her life up to God as the rest of us sing, “Brava! Alleluia! Amen!”

Whenever I attend one of our sister’s funerals, of course, I consider my own. Sometimes, while the soulful music plays, I design the Mass booklet in my mind and the cover says this: 

My dear Sisters of Mercy,
thank you 
for the privilege and gift 
of living among you!


Poetry: The Neophyte- Alice Meynell

Who knows what days I answer for to-day?
   Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
   This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.
 Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
   Give one repose to pain I know not now,
   One check to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.
 O rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
   I fold to-day at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat
   I seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
   And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.

Music: The Circle of Mercy – Jeanette Goglia, RSM

Alleluia: Friends of God

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 27, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/072722.cfm

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

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings begin with Jeremiah’s heartfelt lament.

Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth!
a man of strife and contention to all the land!

Jeremiah 15:10

The cry reminds us of Isaiah’s words heard during Lent to describe Jesus’s Passion, words which inspired a magnificent aria in Handel’s Messiah::

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with sorrow. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Isaiah 53:3

It is not always easy to be a  “friend of God”. These scriptures paint a clear picture of the prophet’s painful path – whether Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jesus, or today’s prophets like Pope Francis. There will always be enemies who, for the sake of their twisted self-interest, attack good with evil.


But there is also always hope. God is with us, a stronghold of Mercy, as our Responsorial Psalm tells us:

But I will sing of your strength
and revel at dawn in your mercy;
You have been my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of distress.

O my strength! your praise will I sing;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
my merciful God!

Psalm 59: 10-11; 17,18

Our Gospel assures us that, though at times costly, there is no treasure greater than God’s friendship.

The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells everything to buy that field.

Notice that the person patiently plans to buy the whole field, not just the one discovered gem. Friendship with God never exhausts its hidden surprises. There are always more treasures in the field as we grow deeper in God’s love.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Poem: The Bright Field – R.S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Music: The Field – Kristene DiMarco (Lyrics below)

What do I have but Jesus
I have found no one Like Him
All the World has 
loses its Appeal
When He Stands beside me

[Chorus]
The World can keep its Praises
All its Riches and its Treasures
‘Cause there’s nothing
Like His Presence to me
And man may give their Favor
All their Fleeting awe and Honor
But there’s nothing
Like His Presence to me

[Verse 2]
What do I have but Jesus
Nothing I’ve gained Compares
His Friendship is all
The Strength I need
To never grow weary

[Chorus]
The World can keep its Praises
All its Riches and its Treasures
‘Cause there’s nothing
Like His Presence to me
And man may give their Favor
All their Fleeting awe and Honor
But there’s nothing
Like His Presence to me

[Outro]
I bought the Field
And I keep digging up
More Treasure
It turns out it’s here in the ground
I could never Measure
Is there even a Cost if I end up
Holding Heaven
Oh, the Beauty of Living
In Your Presence

Holding Hands with God

Picture two people, who love each other deeply, walking along a quiet beach. They may be a child and parent, committed spouses or devoted friends. They are walking, fully in each other’s presence. But at times, one or the other may wander off to study a shell or watch a sandpiper while the other continues slowly walking. Still, they are completely with each other and will often reconnect to share snatches of thought and imagination. In many ways, this image captures the meaning of the epistolary admonition, “Pray always.” On the beach of our lives, we are walking with God always.


But there are times in that walk when, for some reason, we will reach for the other’s hand. We will intensify and focus our attention to each other. The reason may be an awareness of something beautiful, poignant, frightening, joyful or overwhelming. We will remember these moments as specific experiences such as:

  • • “It was the time we saw the magnificent sunrise.”
  • • “It was the time we were frightened by the unexpected storm.”

In our lifelong walk with God, this reaching for and holding each other’s hands is a good image for the act of prayer. It may be initiated by God or by us, or perhaps by both at once. It may be vocal or silent. It is an experience which has a beginning and an end. Like the shared moments on the beach, these acts of prayer are definite moments, for example:

  • • “It was the time I was overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s gift of my family and prayed that gratitude as I watched them around our family table.”
  • • “It was the time I became aware of the call to greater generosity and service and prayed aloud for God’s guidance and support.”

These acts of prayer change us. They open us to greater depth in our journey with God. They deepen the sense of God’s presence within our total experience. They thin the veil which separates us from the Divine.

To become pray-ers like this, we must first become constant listeners. God is whispering to us in every moment and experience of our lives. As we learn to hear God in our own lives, we become better at hearing God in other’s hearts. Our prayers become a response to that Voice which first and constantly speaks to us.

Some music for you all:

Tony O’Connor – Whispering Sea

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 20, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus calls us friends. Just think about that!

Think about what it means to really be a friend.

We might have a little trouble reclaiming the true meaning in today’s culture. After all, in our world, you can be “friends” with thousands of people on Facebook, many of whom you might not even know.

On the other hand, if you have been blessed to have really good friends in your life, consider what created that friendship: love, honesty, acceptance, sacrifice, forgiveness, reverence, trust, fidelity, humor.

This is the kind of relationship to which Jesus invites each one of us – where He is part of us and we of Him..

Jn15_15 Friends

If we listen to Jesus in today’s Gospel, we’ll see clearly what makes us a Friend of God:

  • We love God to the point of laying down our lives.
  • We obey God’s command to love unselfishly and inclusively.
  • We seek ever to know God more fully.
  • We acknowledge God’s love as a blessing and gift, not a right.
  • We act on our responsibility to share the love we have received.

Pope Francis has said that the saints are “Friends of God” because they loved with all their hearts. But he stresses that:

“They are like us; they are like each of us: They are people who, before reaching the glory of heaven, lived a normal life, with joys and griefs,
struggles and hopes….When they recognized the love of God, they
followed him with all their heart, without conditions and hypocrisies.”

“The saints give us a message. They tell us: Be faithful to the Lord, because the Lord does not disappoint! He does not disappoint ever, and he is a good friend, always at our side.”

Pope Francis

Let’s spend some prayer time in thanksgiving for God’s gift of friendship, asking how we might learn to be an even better friend, to love God even more.


Poetry: Neighbor God – Rainer Maria Rilke

You, neighbor God, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.
Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.

Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.

The wall is builded of your images.

They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.

And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.


Music: Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel

Failure and Forgiveness

January 29, 2022
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings call us to consider and to cherish our relationship with our merciful God.

In our first reading, God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David with the enormity of his sin. With the parable of the ravaged little lamb, Nathan captures all the horrific implications of David’s blind selfishness.

Nathan Denounces David’s Sin
William Brassey Hole

David listens and agrees with the condemnation, still blind that the story is about him! Nathan then unleashes the zinger, “You are the man!


But here is the key point of the passage. When David realizes his culpability, he does not retreat into his shame (as, for example, Judas does many years hence.) David acknowledges his fault and asks to be restored to relationship with the God Who has loved him so much.

David focuses on God not himself.  He does not wallow in self-recrimination or excuses. David looks to God’s Mercy not into the mirror of self-justification:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan answered David: “For his part, the LORD has removed your sin. You shall not die…

2 Samuel 12:13
It all transpires in this one verse. That simple, definitive change wrought by divine forgiveness constitutes the structure of Psalm 51 as well as the 2 Samuel narrative. It is the same structure in Christian liturgy as well. In psalm, narrative, and liturgy, it is a move from failure to restoration, a move from confession to assurance, even if the assurance is only implied in Psalm 51. The exchange is between human failure and divine assurance, made possible by human honesty and a divine readiness to begin again in mercy, steadfast love, and compassion.
Walter Brueggemann - From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

For prayer today, a deep reflection on Psalm 51 may bring us light and healing, for our own spirits and for the spirit of the world we share.


Poetry: Psalm 51 – A New Heart – Christine Robinson

Have mercy on me, O God,
   For I’ve messed up again
Sinned against You in thought, word and deed,
   and in what I have left undone.
Been--all too human.

Can you make me a new heart, O God?
   and a right spirit? Can you break my willful plundering
   of all that is Yours? 
If I got it together again, others would follow—
I could teach, guide, help—and I would!

O Lord, open my lips,
  that I may praise you.
I know you don’t want ritual sacrifice
   were I to give a burnt offering you’d be exasperated.
What you want is that new heart and right spirit. 
   For this, I pray.

Music: Miserere Mei (Have Mercy on Me, O God) – Gregorio Allegri 

Jonathan, Loyal Friend

January 20, 2022
Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read about the elements of a good and Godly friendship:

Trust
Loyalty
Courage

In our first reading, Saul, insecure because of David’s success where Saul had failed, becomes more obsessed with nullifying David’s popularity:

Saul discussed his intention of killing David 
with his son Jonathan and with all his servants.
But Saul’s son Jonathan, who was very fond of David, told him:
“My father Saul is trying to kill you.
Therefore, please be on your guard tomorrow morning; 
get out of sight and remain in hiding.
I, however, will go out and stand beside my father 
in the countryside where you are, and will speak to him about you.
If I learn anything, I will let you know.”


David and Jonathan – Giovanni Battista Cima de Conegliano

Jonathan had made a covenant of friendship with David right after David defeated Goliath. That friendship grew and Jonathan came to accept David as the divine choice for king.

At great risk to himself, Jonathan becomes David’s powerful advocate in the face of Saul. Jonathan should have been in solidarity with his father, if not out of duty, then out of self-interest (for the sake of his own chance at the throne). The narrative, however, presents Jonathan acting against both his duty and his self-interest… Jonathan could do that only if he trusted in how Yahweh would build his kingdom and if he aligned himself with it.

Walter Brueggemann: I and II Samuel

I read a line that captures all of this so perfectly:

Jonathan loved David
and that love surely
compelled him to act,
but he found freedom
and strength to act
by putting his trust in God.

Joy Lockwood, Senior Pastor, Lakewood Presbyterian Church,
Jacksonville, FL

While the story of Jonathan and David has much to teach us about the nature of devoted friendship, it – together with our psalm and Gospel – has more to say about our friendship with God.

I am bound, O God, by vows to you;
            your thank offerings I will fulfill.
For you have rescued me from death,
            my feet, too, from stumbling;
            that I may walk before God in the light of the living.


Our trust grows as we reflect on God’s steadfast loyalty to us, rescuing us from all the big and small stumblings of our life. Recognizing that generous Omnipresence, we deepen in courage to live honest, holy, just and merciful lives.


In our Gospel, we see Jesus being that kind of devoted and divine friend of those unbefriended by the merciless world. It is obviously a stressful ministry for which Jesus depends on communion with his Father and the Holy Spirit to sustain him. 


Let’s imagine that Triune Trust, Loyalty and Courage which we call the Holy Trinity. We can invite that Sacred Energy into our own hearts in a mutual friendship. This is the gift offered to us in our Baptism.


Poetry: You, neighbor God, if sometimes in the night – Rainer Maria Rilke

You, neighbor God, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.
Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.

Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.

The wall is builded of your images.

They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.

And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.


Music: O Lux Beata Trinitas – Slovenian Philharmonic Choir

O lux beata Trinitas,
Et principalis unitas,
Iam sol recedat igneus,
Infunde lumen cordibus.

Te mane laudum carmine,
Te deprecemur vespere:
Te nostra supplex gloria
Per cuncta laudet sæcula.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Ejusque soli Filio,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito,
Et nunc et in perpetuum.

O Trinity of blessed light,
O Unity of princely might,
The fiery sun now goes his way;
Shed Thou within our hearts Thy ray.

To Thee our morning song of praise,
To Thee our evening prayer we raise;
Thy glory suppliant we adore
Forever and forevermore.

All laud to God the Father be;
All praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete.

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!

Seventh Sunday of Easter

May 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, the best known and best loved of the psalms of praise.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
    and all my being, bless God’s holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
    and forget not all God’s benefits.

Psalm 103:1-2

Blessing the Lord is easy for me today.

My life is filled with those “benefits” –  happiness, love, friends, and celebration.

My dear brother and sister-in-law are visiting from Tennessee after nearly a two year hiatus.

My precious grandniece is being baptized today.

And my Sister in community is celebrating her 75th birthday.
(And, yes, I did just about find time to write this blog! 🙂


Psalm 103 reminds us that in both joyful and sorrowful days,  God’s Presence is our abiding blessing. And for this, we can always bless God:


In a 2016 Facebook post (a precursor of the blog) for this day, I wrote: 

Today, in Mercy, we humbly praise God for being present in every moment of our lives. We lift our hands in praise for the joys that have revealed God’s beauty, and for the sorrows that have revealed God’s compassion. May we reverently live our thanks by our kindness to one another.

That simple prayer holds true today. Amen.


Music: Bless His Holy Name – Daniel Mount