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

Psalm 23: Ever Comforting

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

Saturday, February 6, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, that lovingly familiar song which, over the ages, has comforted so many.

Beside Still Waters by Greg Olsen

We may wish to simply pray this psalm gently and slowly, remembering the many times it has comforted us.

(Below is the inclusive language translation from the Inclusive Language Liturgical Psalter of the Canadian Anglican Synod. Other inclusion collections include Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the Psalter for the Christian People, The Saint Helena Psalter and the Canadian publication, Songs for the Holy One.)

Psalm 23 (Dominus regit me)
The Lord is 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 for ever.


Music: Shepherd Me, O God – Marty Haugen

Psalm 15: Camping with the Beloved

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious

November 17, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 15 which often is called an ‘entrance liturgy’, where a worshipper asks the conditions of entering the worship place and a priest answers.

The psalm’s first line, not included in today’s verses, asks that question of the Lord:

LORD, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy mountain?

Psalm 15:1

Reading this line immediately reminded me of Jesus’s first encounter with his chosen twelve. Upon meeting Jesus, and obviously struck with his unique charisma, the disciples ask, “Lord, where do you live?”. They want to be with him, to learn about him. We do too.


It’s a gift to be invited to someone’s home – to see where and how they live, to share their dailyness. It is a first portal to the intimacy of friendship, a gift beyond price when it proves mutual and true.

In today’s Gospel, in a sort of reverse proposal, Jesus invites himself to dinner at Zaccheus’s home. Throughout all the Gospels, we often see Jesus inviting and accepting invitations which prove to be conversions and calls for his followers.

by Plautilla Nelli, an Italian nun who is said to have taught herself to paint in the 16th century. This is a section of her “Last Supper,” painted around 1568, and now newly installed in the old refectory of the Santa Maria Novella Museum. Of course, it shows Jesus with the “beloved” disciple.

In the reading from Revelation, the invitation takes an apocalyptic and corrective tone, but its heart is the same. In essence, God invites us to an intimacy of which we are capable only under certain conditions, i.e. “if you hear my voice“:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If you hear my voice and open the door,
then I will enter and dine with you,
and you with me.
I will give the victor the right 
to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory
and sit with my Father on his throne.


Today’s segment from Psalm 15 tells us what some of those conditions look like. It says to be someone who:

  • walks blamelessly and does justice 
  • thinks the truth in your heart
  • slanders not with your tongue.
  • harms not your fellow human beings,
  • takes up no reproach against your neighbor
  • despises not the reprobate
  • honors those who fear the LORD
  • lends not your money at usury
  • accepts no bribe against the innocent

Our challenge from the psalm is to meditate on that list to see what such behavior looks like in modern terms. Beneath the psalmist’s ancient language, we might discover our attitudes and examine our conscience toward issues like:

  • criminal justice
  • capital punishment
  • war
  • poverty
  • immigration policy
  • refugee resettlement
  • propagandist media
  • economic equity
  • felon rehabilitation
  • respect for other religions
  • political oppression
  •  – just to suggest a few.

Psalm 15 tells us, and our other readings affirm, that the one who gets these things right not only gets invited, but gets to remain in God’s house, God’s “tent”.

The one who does these things
shall never be disturbed.

I know that’s Who I want to go eternally camping with! How about you?


Poem: Rainer Maria Rilke, Poems from the Book of Hours

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: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ

Psalm 138: Heart Waves

Feast of Saints  Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

September 29, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 138, a lilting hymn of praise to God.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.


From the time I grew up in my beloved parish of St. Michael’s Church, I have always loved this feast and its prayers and readings. The thought of angels as our friends and champions was very much a part of our early education.

St. John’s vision, as recounted in our readings from Revelation and Daniel today, was depicted in a huge mural at the church’s side altar. And, as most parishes in those pre-Vatican II times, we said the prayer to St. Michael at the end of every Latin Mass.


So Michael, who has no body, no gender, and never held a sword, has been my friend for many, many years. And over that long friendship, I have come to know Michael very differently.

The Michael I know now is the Breath of God, very much like me, but breathed into a different form of beauty. God lives in the angels the way God lives in music, nature, color, emotion, poetry, and virtue. No form can fully hold such a Spirit. It permeates, embraces and uplifts that which it meets in love.

The angels’ songs are beyond our human hearing, but not beyond our understanding. They sound like those deep heart waves that we can never express – the love too deep for words, the sorrow beyond tears, that mingling with nature that silences us, the irrational but invincible hope, the faith that cannot be broken.

It is within those heart waves that I have come to know Michael who sings with and for me to our beautiful God.


Prayer to St. Michael:

written, in Latin, by Pope Leo XIII. Below is the prayer as it was prayed in Ireland, as quoted in James Joyce’s Ulysses. We used this translation too in my very Irish parish.🙏❤️

St Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, 
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; 
may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; 
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, 
by the power of God, cast into hell Satan 
and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Music:  Confitebor tibi, Domine – Psalm 138 by Josef Rheinberger

Latin text
Confitebor tibi, Domine, in toto corde meo.
Retribue servo tuo, ut vivam et custodiam sermones tuos.
Vivifica me secundum verbum tuum, Domine

English translation
I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart,
O do well unto thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word:
Quicken me according to thy word, O Lord

Psalm 103: Be Like God

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, and its gentle comforting refrain:

The Lord is kind and merciful, 
slow to anger, and rich in compassion.


Our Sunday readings encourage to become like this merciful, forgiving, patient, compassionate Lord.

I’m not doing so well at that. Anybody else with me? Sometimes I feel like we’re living in a desert devoid of humanness and reverence.

Somehow, in our current political and cultural environment, too often I feel angry and even outraged. Those kinds of feelings don’t leave much room for compassion and its accompanying virtues!


Recently I witnessed two wonderful friends openly spat on social media because of their opposing political camps. I’ve seen family members shut each other out for the same reasons. We can’t turn on the TV without seeing a barrage of hateful words and actions unleashed against other human beings.

I feel poisoned and sick when I see the culture we have brewed for ourselves!


In our first reading, Sirach seems to have felt pretty sickened by his environment too. He counsels his listeners:

Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?


Paul, in our second reading, tells us why we should change our hateful behavior:

None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.


In our Gospel, Jesus uses a stunning parable to drive home the commandment for forgiveness. I don’t think any of us really wants to end up like the selfish, wicked servant – handed over to the torture of our own hatreds.

This Sunday’s readings are serious. They’re not kidding. We have to change any sinful incivility or hate that resides in our hearts. We may not be able to change our feelings. But we can stop feeding them with lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories.

What we can change are our actions and words. And we must.


Poetry: Love my enemies, enemy my love by Rebecca Seiferle

Oh, we fear our enemy’s mind, the shape
in his thought that resembles the cripple
in our own, for it’s not just his fear
we fear, but his love and his paradise
.
We fear he will deprive us of our peace
of mind, and, fearing this, are thus deprived,
so we must go to war, to be free of this
terror, this unremitting fear, that he might

he might, he might. Oh it’s hard to say
what he might do or feel or think.
Except all that we cannot bear of
feeling or thinking—so his might

must be met with might of armor
and of intent—informed by all the hunker
down within the bunker of ourselves.
How does he love? and eat? and drink?

He must be all strategy or some sick lie.
How can reason unlock such a door,
for we bar it too with friends and lovers,
in waking hours, on ordinary days?

Finding the other so senseless and unknown,
we go to war to feel free of the fear
of our own minds, and so come
to ruin in our hearts of ordinary days.

Music: Kyrie Eleison – Lord, have Mercy

This is an extended, meditative singing of the prayer. I like to listen to it in the very early morning. Just doing that is a good prayer for me.

Psalm 95:Hear the Voice

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95, a favorite of liturgists, and one we have met several times before. What different light might it offer us today as we pray?

The psalm today serves as a bridge between powerful readings about neighborly love and fraternal correction. These readings tell us to listen for God’s heartbeat in our world and to enter its rhythm. 

They also tell us to love our neighbor enough that, if she or he is out of synch with God’s rhythm, we help align them by our counsel and example.

Have you ever tried to do that? It’s really tough!


First of all, we have to be so vigilant about the purity of our own intentions. We can’t instruct our friends in righteousness out of our own confusion. So often, our desire for others to “improve” grows out of our opinionated self-interest. You might remember what Jesus said about extracting the plank from our own eye before removing the splinter from our neighbor’s!


Next we really have to love our sister or brother and sincerely want their good. We have to forgive them any hurt they have caused us. We have to be bigger than most of us, speaking for myself, are inclined to be.

As the psalm tells us, we can’t have hard hearts. As we approach our sister or brother, our hearts must be softened by listening, patience, understanding, humility and hope. We have to be sure the “voice” we’re sharing comes from God not self.

Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.

And the flip of all this, of course, is that when we are the one out of rhythm, we receive loving correction in the same spirit of openness.

Lots of Grace is needed on both sides of this dance! May we learn and receive it!


Poetry: The Gift by Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Music: Let Me Hear Your Voice – Francesca LaRose