Matthew: Called By Name

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Matthew, the Apostle
by Anthony Van Dyke

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, we are blessed with a deeply  inspiring reading from Ephesians. 

… live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace…

Ephesians 4: 1-3

We are reminded that each of us is called in God according to our particular gifts. Paul encourages us to live “in a manner worthy of the call we have received” in our Baptism.

… grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

… some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4: 7, 11-12

For most of us, it has been quite a while since we were washed in the waters of our Baptism. A lot of other waters have passed under the bridge since then. We may, or may not, have recognized and responded to our call, continually carried to us on those life waters.

Each moment, each choice, each act and decision asks us once again to choose Christ – over sin, over self, over meaninglessness. Each life opportunity calls us closer to Jesus, to the pattern of his Cross, to the witness of his Resurrection.


Matthew heard such a call as he sat, perhaps dulled by the unconscious disengagement of his life, by the failure to live with intention and openness to grace. As He passed by Matthew, Jesus reached into that ennui, calling Matthew to evangelize all the future generations by his Gospel.

Jesus calls us to be evangelists too – every moment, every day. Our “Yes” to our particular call writes its own Gospel, telling the Good News through our faith, hope and love.

Pope Francis says this:

Poetry: Isaiah 43:1-2 (Isaiah is actually my favorite poet!)

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Music: When You Call My Name ~ Brian Doerksen & Steve Mitchinson

Change the World for Beauty

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Sunday readings each address, in some way, the motivations and judgments of the heart.


Most of us are good people, or at least we want to be. But life can still get us mixed up in situations and decisions which test our character and challenge our moral fortitude. A few characters from today’s readings seem beset with such dilemmas.


The voice within the Wisdom passage belongs to a hard-hearted and jealous person who finds the just person obnoxious. The speaker can’t stand being shown up by the good person’s character. It challenges the complainer’s comfortable, self-absorbed existence.


In our epistle, James gives us the powerful admonitions, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” He tells us that our hearts should be filled instead with the wisdom from above, yielding peace, gentleness and Mercy.


When I watch the news, or observe the day’s political dramas, I long for the honest, sincere and decent world James describes. I long for a world where we respect and honor each other beyond politics, gender, color, nation, religion, and sexual orientation – for a world where we make choices FOR one another, not against.

How can we help realize a world like that by the choices we make in our personal lives? How can we minimize the jealousy and hatred that are born of self-interest and prejudice?


In the Gospel, Jesus tells us the way. His disciples are busy trying to figure out which of them is the greatest, missing -as they so often do- the whole point of discipleship. 

Jesus is gentle with them. He tells them to look at a little child. There they will find what is most important – in simplicity, vulnerability, openness, innocence. They will see that this is the way Jesus is with them.

If we can approach and receive one another with just an ounce of such selflessness, we might begin to change the world – to do our part to make it even more beautiful.


Poetry:The Beautiful World by W. Lomax Childress (1867-1936)

Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world,
For the banner of blue that's above it unfurled,
For the streams that sparkle and sing to the sea,
For the bloom in the glade and the leaf on the tree;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Here's a song of praise for the mountain peak,
Where the wind and the lightning meet and speak,
For the golden star on the soft night's breast,
And the silvery moonlight's path to rest;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Here's a song of praise for the rippling notes
That come from a thousand sweet bird throats,
For the ocean wave and the sunset glow,
And the waving fields where the reapers go;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Here's a song of praise for the ones so true,
And the kindly deeds they have done for you;
For the great earth's heart, when it's understood,
Is struggling still toward the pure and good;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Here's a song of praise for the One who guides,
For He holds the ships and He holds the tides,
And underneath and around and above.
The world is lapped in the light of His love;
Here's a song of praise for a beautiful world.

Music: Two pieces today

  1. Ubi Caritas ~ Taizé Community

Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.
Where there is charity and love, God abides.

2. What A Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

Memorial Of St. John Chrysostom

Monday, September 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 28, a prayer of nine succinct verses in which the psalmist rides a seesaw emotion.

My prayer is like that sometimes. I try to pray the way Jesus would pray — the “Our Father” type of goodness and all.

But to be honest, “Thy Will be done” and “as we forgive those who trespass” are not always easy sentiments for me. How about you?


Our psalmist seems to have some trouble too … but with points of light and redemption in the end:

O Lord, I call to you;
my rock, do not be deaf to my cry;
lest, if you do not hear me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
FEAR
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, 
when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies.
PLEADING
Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers,
who speak peaceably with their neighbours,
while strife is in their hearts.
JUDGEMENT
Repay them according to their deeds,
and according to the wickedness of their actions.
According to the work of their hands repay them,
and give them their just deserts.
VENGEANCE
They have no understanding of your doings,
nor of the works of your hands;
therefore you will break them down
and not build them up.
PRIDE
Blessed are you, O Lord!
For you have heard the voice of my prayer.
FAITH
O Lord, you are my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in you, and I have been helped;
therefore my heart dances for joy,
and in my song will I praise you.
TRUST
You are the strength of your people,
a safe refuge for your anointed.
SECURITY
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
shepherd them and carry them for ever.
PRAYER

What I learn from this psalm is to tell God the truth when I pray – but the real truth -the truth that we hear back from God when we listen in our prayer. And that listening should always be done in sync with the Gospel. It is as if we cup the Gospel around our prayer the way we bend an ear to the faint but longed-for sound.


Poetry: Lost – David Whyte

Stand still. 
The trees ahead and the bushes beside you 
Are not lost. 
Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. 
Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying 
Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still.
The forest knows Where you are.
You must let it find you.”

Music: The Golden Forest – Tim Janis

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Sunday readings increase in dramatic tone.  The passage from Isaiah describes a Savior bent on his mission despite mounting resistance and expressed hatred.

The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
    have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
    from buffets and spitting.

Isaiah 50:5-6

Psalm 116 paints a person set upon by suffering and death threats, still trusting in the Lord’s saving grace.

The cords of death encompassed me;
    the snares of the netherworld seized upon me;
    I fell into distress and sorrow,
And I called upon the name of the LORD,
    “O LORD, save my life!”

Psalm 116: 3-4

In the Epistle, James says we must demonstrate our faith by our works — by putting our money where our mouth is.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith but does not have works? 

James 2:14

And in our Gospel, Jesus says we demonstrate our faith by following him, renouncing ourselves and taking up our cross.

This is heavy stuff. Jesus wants us to be like him — and it would be so much easier not to be!  It would be so much easier to think that our life is all about ourselves, and that we have no responsibility for Beloved Creation.

It would be so much easier not to give our lives to Christ to allow Him to bless the world through our love.

But if we wish to “save” our lives like this, we will — in the end — lose them for eternity.

Let us pray today for the grace to take our life and lay it down over the Cross of Christ.

In that laying down, to conform ourselves to the pattern of his love, to place the weight of our burdens and hopes on the crossbeam of his strength.

Let us ask for the strength to live 

  • for God
  • for others
  • for good in the world
  • and never for self when it injures or lessens others or our Sacred Home.

This is the way we will keep our lives in Christ.

Music: Renouncement – Michael Hoppé

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray in the power of the Gospel:

Ephphatha!  Be opened:

All minds to God’s omnipresence

All hearts to God’s infinite love

All spirits to God’s tender proposals

All eyes to God’s eternal vision 

All ears to God’s cry in the poor

All mouths to speak God’s Word in justice

All plans to the rhythm of God’s freedom

All dreams to God’s dream for all.

Be opened – especially in me today.
🙏 Amen!


Poetry: Be Opened! – Malcolm Guite

Be opened. Oh if only we might be!
Speak to a heart that’s closed in on itself:
‘Be opened and the truth will set you free’,
Speak to a world imprisoned in its wealth:
 
'Be opened! Learn to learn from poverty’,
 Speak to a church that closes and excludes,
And makes rejection its own litany:
‘Be opened, opened to the multitudes
 
For whom I died but whom you have dismissed
 Be opened, opened, opened,’ how you sigh
And still we do not hear you. We have missed
Both cry and crisis, we make no reply.
 
Take us aside, for we are deaf and dumb
Spit on us Lord and touch each tongue-tied tongue.

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98 which we reflected on just this past Saturday on the feast of St. Augustine. Here’s a refresher if you’d care to glance back.

Because they proclaim God’s faithfulness, today’s psalm verses ready us to receive the Gospel’s expansive injunction: 

As we pass through the waters of life, we each meet our own “deeps”. Sometimes we do not recognize them as the sacred places where we are to meet God’s call.

Sometimes we see only their choppy surface, their tangled riptides, their frightening shadows.

Sometimes we miss the bounty held in the mystery of these moments. We fold our nets and try to sail away. 

As he did for the weary disciples, Jesus

  • lovingly contradicts our fear, 
  • releases our hope, 
  • fills the flimsy net of our faith to bursting … 

… if we will just trust his Word, and cast out with him over the waters of our lives.


A little visual “poetry” today:

Music: Cast Your Net – Timothy R. Smith

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27 which pivots around two themes:

  • the first theme in verses 1-6: God’s infinite power and our convinced hope in God’s protection 

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the LORD’s house
all the days of my life,
To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,
to visit his temple.
For God will hide me in his shelter
in time of trouble,
He will conceal me in the cover of his tent;
and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27: 4-5

  • the second theme in verses 7-14: a confession of faith and a call to perseverance 

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

Psalm 27: 13-14

The psalm follows so well on our reading from Thessalonians in which Paul calls upon that community to:

trust
hope
believe
persevere

These practices are the linchpins of a vibrant faith. They hold us fast to God’s heart, allowing us to live in God’s house – and God in ours.


Our Gospel today shows us that it is certainly possible for dark spirits to take up residence in our hearts. Praying a prayer like Psalm 27 puts a watchman on our heart’s door, inviting the Holy One alone to live at our core.


Poetry: Covenant – Margaret Halaska, OSF

God
knocks at my door
seeking a home for his son.

Rent is cheap, I say.

I don’t want to rent. I want to buy, says God.

I’m not sure I want to sell, 
but you might come in and look around.

I think I will, says God.

I might let you have a room or two.

I like it, says God. I’ll take the two. You might decide to give me more some day. 
I can wait, says God.

I’d like to give you more, 
but it’s a bit difficult. I need some space for me.

I know, says God, but I’ll wait. I like what I see.

Hm, maybe I can let you have another room. 
I really don’t need that much.

Thanks, says God, I’ll take it. I like what I see.

I’d like to give you the whole house 
but I’m not sure …

Think on it, says God. I wouldn’t put you out. 
Your house would be mine and my son would live in it. 
You’d have more space than you’d ever had before.

I don’t understand at all.

I know, says God, but I can’t tell you about that. 
You’ll have to discover it for yourself. 
That can only happen if you let me have the whole house.

A bit risky, I say.

Yes, says God, but try me.

I’m not sure – 
I’ll let you know.

I can wait, says God, I like what I see.

Music: Psalm 27 – Marc Antoine Charpentier

This Latin chant is noted here as Psalm 26 which would have been its designation in the Vulgate translation of the Bible in Charpentier’s era.)

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we read from James who writes elegantly to his community. He reminds them and us that all gifts originate in our changeless, loving God Who breathed us into life from Infinite and Lavish Mercy.

Then James just so simply enjoins us:

  • So hear God’s Word of Love in your hearts
  • Be good by doing good for the afflicted

James says that doing this is
“religion pure and undefined”.

James 1:27

In our Gospel, Jesus reinforces this truth. The Pharisees want to condemn Jesus and the disciples for breaking a ritual hand-washing rule. Jesus says those human rules are lip-worship. What God wants is a loving and sincere heart proven by loving and sincere deeds.

On this last Sunday of August, let us rejoice in the gifts God has given us- life, faith, the ability to love and hope. Let us reach out by prayer and service to those who might be blessed by our sharing. 

That reach can be so simple: a smile, a phone call, a small courtesy, a solitary prayer. Or it can be huge: a long-delayed forgiveness, a turning from unhealthy or unholy behaviors, a commitment to faith and service. We ask the Creator of Lights to inspire us.


Poetry – excerpt from George MacDonald’s poem “Light”. I’ll post the entire poem separately today – long and very beautiful. Many of you may enjoy it.

Gentle winds through forests calling;
    Big waves on the sea-shore falling;
    Bright birds through the thick leaves glancing;
    Light boats on the big waves dancing;
    Children in the clear pool laving;
    Mountain streams glad music giving;
    Yellow corn and green grass waving;
    Long-haired, bright-eyed maidens living;
    Light on all things, even as now--
    God, our Father, it is Thou!
    Light, O Radiant! thou didst come abroad,
    To mediate 'twixt our ignorance and God;
    Forming ever without form;
    Showing, but thyself unseen;
    Pouring stillness on the storm;
    Making life where death had been!
    If thou, Light, didst cease to be,
    Death and Chaos soon were out,
    Weltering o'er the slimy sea,
    Riding on the whirlwind's rout;
    And if God did cease to be,
    O Beloved! where were we?
    
Father of Lights, pure and unspeakable,
    On whom no changing shadow ever fell!
    Thy light we know not, are content to see;
    And shall we doubt because we know not Thee?
    Or, when thy wisdom cannot be expressed,
    Fear lest dark vapors dwell within thy breast?
    Nay, nay, ye shadows on our souls descending!
    Ye bear good witness to the light on high,
    Sad shades of something 'twixt us and the sky!
    And this word, known and unknown radiant blending,
    Shall make us rest, like children in the night,--
    Word infinite in meaning: God is Light.
    We walk in mystery all the shining day
    Of light unfathomed that bestows our seeing,
    Unknown its source, unknown its ebb and flow:
    Thy living light's eternal fountain-play
    In ceaseless rainbow pulse bestows our being--
    Its motions, whence or whither, who shall know?
    O Light, if I had said all I could say
    Of thy essential glory and thy might,
    Something within my heart unsaid yet lay,
    And there for lack of words unsaid must stay:
    For God is Light.

Music: Every Good Gift ~ One:A Worship Collective

Every good gift flows from Your heart, O God.

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we pray with Psalm 34, our Sunday readings present us with spiritual ultimatums.

In our first reading, sensing his impending death, Joshua gathers the tribes on the Great Plains of Shechem – the land of their father Abraham. Joshua requires a commitment from the people:

“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve …
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15

In other words, “fish or cut bait” – you’re either with God, or you’re not. And your lives should reflect the choice.

In our Gospel, Jesus too feels death’s approach. His teachings have become more intense and direct, particularly regarding the Eucharist. This intensity has caused some of his listeners to waver. They’re not sure they can accept his words. Some drift away.

Jesus challenges the Twelve, those on whom he depends to carry his message after his death.

“Do you also want to leave?


These readings talk about the big choices, the soul’s orientation, either:

  • to seek and respond to God in our daily interactions
  • to be indifferent toward God’s Presence in our lives

Jesus’s question is before us all the time?
Do we hear it?


(As for the unfortunate and contested second reading from Ephesians, this long but superb article from Elizabeth Johnson is worth your time.)

https://bcm.bc.edu/issues/summer_2004/features.html


Poetry: Choose – Rainer Maria Rilke

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
The darkness that comes with every infinite fall
And the shivering blaze of every step up.
So many live on and want nothing
And are raised to the rank of prince
By the slippery ease of their light judgments
But what you love to see are faces
That do work and feel thirst…
You have not grown old,
And it is not too late to dive
Into your increasing depths where life
Calmly gives out its own secret.

Music:  I Will Choose Christ – Tom Booth

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings capture the essence of life in God through Christ.

The first reading from Kings tells how Elijah, after eating the food God had provided him, was able to endure the long journey to God’s mountain. There, the sweetest whisper carried to Elijah the voice of God!


In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus makes clear that no one makes that journey into the heart of God unless God calls us. But Jesus says that the invitation is given to all who believe. He says that, just as with Elijah, the Father gives us food – Jesus himself – the bread of life.


The second reading from Ephesians says that we have already “been sealed for the day of redemption through the Holy Spirit.” Paul says that, given this amazing gift, we have only one job:

So be imitators of God, as beloved children,
and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

We are so accustomed to hearing these astounding passages that we may miss how astounding they really are. But Macrina Wiederkehr says:

When Jesus’ words begin to sound naive
to our 21st century minds,
let us look through the words,
in between the words,
underneath for a deeper truth.

Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the great Jesuit mystical theologian, upon reading these passages, saw the mystery of the Body of Christ. He saw our call to be the heart of Christ in the world. He saw Christ’s promise to become one with us in Eucharist. He saw that, through this Infinite Love played out in our ordinary lives, God continues to redeem Creation.

In each soul,
God loves and partly saves
the whole world which that soul sums up
in an incommunicable and particular way.

The Divine Milieu

Poetry: Love after Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come when with elation
you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here, eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self

Give wine, give bread.
Give back your heart to itself,
to the stranger who has loved you all your life
whom you ignored for another
who knows you by heart

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


Music: Quintessence – Spencer Brewer

May this lovely instrumental piece help take us to a deeply prayerful place as we contemplate God’s gift in Jesus.