Lessons in Love and Light

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
September 19, 2022

Today’s Readings


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings encourage us to live lives of Charity and Light.

Today’s first reading opens two weeks of inspiration from the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. These books include Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and parts of Psalms.

Wisdom literature differs from other books in the Old Testament in that the authors were sages rather than prophets or priests. Priests and prophets typically dealt with religious and moral concerns whereas sages generally focused on the practical aspects of how to live and the intellectual challenges that arise when contemplating the human experience. 

from: compellingtruth.org

Our passage from Proverbs offers a good dose of that sage advice with these basics of mutual charity:

  • Refuse no one the good on which they have a claim
  • Plot no evil against your neighbor,
  • Quarrel not with someone without cause,
  • Envy not lawless persons
  • Choose not their ways …

If we all followed that list, the world would be in pretty good shape. And, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says that once we get that shaped-up, we can take it up a notch — into the Light:

No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, you place it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.

Matthew’s version adds this line:

Let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds 
and glorify God in heaven.

So how do I let Charity kindle God’s Light in me? The list from Proverbs can get me started, but what might my own “Charity Challenges” look like?

Poetry: Charity — The Greatest of All Three – Robert Morris

The soul serene, impenetrably just, 
Is first in CHARITY; we love to muse 
On such a model; knit in strictest bonds 
Of amity with spirits like disposed; 
Aiming at truth for her own sake, this one 
Passes beyond the golden line of Faith, 
Passes beyond the precious line of Hope, 
And sets foot unmoved on CHARITY . 
“A soul so softly radiant and so white, 
The track it leaves seems less of fire than light.”

Music: Lampstand – Ben Bigelow

(Spoiler alert: Those who are still able may want to dance by the end of this video!🤩 I just did a very good finger-snapping routine)

Prodigal: Another Word for “Lavish”

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 11, 2022

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Exodis tells a story of Moses’ intervention to save the people from God’s wrath. It is a story of God’s relenting … a theme which repeats itself endlessly in the Hebrew Scriptures.

This is the way we sometimes characterize the astonishment of Grace – God’s overwhelming passion to love and forgive us over and over. We just can’t imagine such mercy, such infinite generative love!

And so we imagine instead that Moses made God do it! Yeah, I don’t think so. 😉

We imagine that God cannot tolerate our sinful pursuits because we cannot tolerate them in ourselves or in others. But God is mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, wholeness, love. God can’t help loving us!

Of course, we shouldn’t be stupid and take advantage of the divine largesse… not because it would hurt God, but because it so damages us and limits our capacity for wholeness. But nevertheless, whether we’re stupid or not, God will always welcome us home.

Today’s readings are example of a word we’ve used few times in Lavish Mercy 


– that “gut love” that so describes God’s prodigal passion for us. We find the word again today in the heart-wrenching parable of the Prodigal Son.

prodigal son

You know the story. Near the end, as the devastated son returns seeking mercy…

While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion — with splancha – esplanchnisthē
Luke 15:20

Our God is a Love that is filled, overflowing – with no room for retribution or condemnation.

Indeed, our God, like the Prodigal Father, is soft-hearted, an easy mark, a pushover for our sincere repentance, trust, and hope. Our God would bleed for us — just as Jesus did!

This short but powerful scene from George Balanchine’s ballet, Prodigal Son, may inspire our prayer today. The father is steadfast, a monolith of strength and love. The son is broken, naked in his desperation. Let their magnetic reunion take you to God’s heart. Let God wrap you too in the mantle of Love for any hurt or emptiness that is within you.

George Balanchine “Prodigal Son” – Final Scene (Son- Barishnikov)

Claude Debussy also wrote a beautiful piece on this parable. If you have a contemplative space sometime this week, you may want to listen to Debussy’s moving opera (with my all-time fav Ms. Jessye Norman.)

Click here for full opera

If you have only a little time, do try this – short, and oh so beautiful!

Music: Debussy The Prodigal Son – Prelude

Life Guidance

Wednesday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
September 7, 2022

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Paul gives a little “life guidance” to the neophyte Christian community in Corinth. One might get the picture of him sitting, grandfather-like, in a lounge chair by the Korinthos Bay, thinking his instructions out loud.

You know, if you’re a virgin, that’s good.
– on the other hand -if you’re not, well that can work too.
And if you’re not married, great.
But – on the other had – if you are married,
hmm, you’re gonna suffer,
but you can still find a way.

Renee’s Translation of the passage below 🙂

In regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord,
but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.
So this is what I think best because of the present distress:
that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is.
Are you bound to a wife?  Do not seek a separation.
Are you free of a wife?  Then do not look for a wife.
If you marry, however, you do not sin,
nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries;
but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life,
and I would like to spare you that.

1 Corinthians :25-28

I can picture myself sitting in that crowd, turning to a companion to say, “WHAT the heck is he talking about!?”. And hopefully that companion would be tuned in enough to say, “He’s talking about life and how hard it is to truly appreciate what life is all about before it’s too late.”

I think that is the key and precious tidbit in this reading:

Life in Christ is the inverse of worldly definitions.
It is a heartbeat humming under appearances,
between the layers of our experience,
which renders them infinitely more grace-filled
than we might perceive.

I tell you the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping, 
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

1 Corinthians 7: 29-21

We need deeper vision, a blessed listening to perceive this Sacred Heartbeat.

We need a peaceful courage and holy insight to enter it, to sing with it. Paul, in this reading and Jesus, in our Gospel, invite us to step into the spiritual counterpoint of God’s song.

Counterpoint is a compositional technique in which two or more melodic lines complement one another but act independently. The term comes from the Latin punctus contra punctum, which means “point against point.” Composers use counterpoint to create beautiful, complementary polyphonic music.

Paul’s lesson isn’t about being a virgin or not, being married or not. It’s about finding that sweet spot in your life, between the layers, where you can best hear God breathing within you and open your life, in counterpoint, to that Eternal Song.

Jesus says we will have found that sweet spot when we understand and live the “inverse richness” – the “counterpoint” of the Beatitudes which are offered in a perhaps less familiar form today by Luke:

Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.  

Poetry: The Layers – Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives, some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Music: Inside This River – Gary Schmidt ( more great counterpoint)

Wisdom, please ….

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 4, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we continue to move into the final segments of Luke’s Gospel which we have been reading on Sundays throughout this liturgical year.

Today, the Church links three readings which, at first glance, might seem unrelated.

  • Our first reading from Wisdom reminds us of God’s infinite wisdom, incomprehensible to our human minds.
  • Paul, in his letter to Philemon, begs for the loving inclusion of Onesimus, an enslaved person, into the Colossian community.
  • In our Gospel, Jesus makes this harsh pronouncement:

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.

How might we interpret these disparate passages to find a message of wholeness for our prayer?

Wis9_13 gods mind

Let’s start with Jesus. In no uncertain terms, he challenges his disciples to move out of their small worlds into God’s big world. That Godly world is not defined by family, nor by any condition other than our common Creaturehood in God … not by:

word gram

Jesus says the sacred community is defined only by shared and irrevocable commitment to the Gospel of love and mercy.

Paul knows and loves Onesimus, the slave, as a brother in this community. In his letter, Paul encourages Philemon to do the same.

Sometimes as human beings, filled with all kinds of insecurities, we tend to build enclaves that make us feel safe. We like to be with “our kind”. We invent borders to filter out those whose differences we don’t understand. We allow fear to grow with that lack of understanding. Within the enclosure of our self-protectionism, we eventually forget that we are all one, equal, precious, beautiful and beloved by God.

Such toxic attitudes are the soil for slavery, war, ethnic cleansing, racial supremacy, human trafficking, destructive nationalism, and all the other sacrileges committed by humans against the human family.

Wisdom reminds us that only God can open
the tight circle of our fears, judgments and isolations
– only God whose infinite love encompasses all.
Jesus tells us that we find that love
only by lifting up the cross and following him.

Wisdom tells us to put it in God’s hands, and to respond to God’s challenge in the preaching of Jesus Christ.

Who can know your way of thinking, O God
… except you give us wisdom

 and send your Holy Spirit from on high
 thus stretching the hearts of those on earth

Today I pray, may God do this for me,
and for all our tight, convoluted
and troubled world.

Poetic Prayer of Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen (c. 1098 – 17 September 1179), was a German Benedictine abbess and polymath active as a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and as a medical writer and practitioner during the High Middle Ages. She is one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, as well as the most recorded in modern history. She has been considered by scholars to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.

I am Wisdom. 
Mine is the blast of the resounding Word 
through which all creation came to be, 
and I quickened all things with my breath 
so that not one of them is mortal in its kind; 
for I am Life.

Indeed I am Life, whole and undivided 
-- not hewn from any stone, 
or budded from branches, 
or rooted in virile strength; 
but all that lives has its root in Me.
For Wisdom is the root 
whose blossom is the resounding Word....
I flame above the beauty of the fields 
to signify the earth 
-- the matter from which humanity was made.

I shine in the waters to indicate the soul, 
for, as water suffuses the whole earth, 
the soul pervades the whole body. 

I burn in the sun and the moon to denote Wisdom, 
and the stars are the innumerable words of Wisdom.

Music: Who Has Known (an Advent hymn, but perfect I think for today’s readings)

Alleluia: The Fig Tree

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
August 24, 2022

Today’s Readings:


Jn 1_48 fig

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel. As with many of the Apostles, little is known of Bartholomew’s life outside of a few Gospel stories. John’s Gospel tells the wonderful story of Nathaniel’s call by Christ.

The encounter is a very personal one. Jesus and Nathaniel share a conversation that must have impressed the other listeners because it was remembered and recounted word for word in the Gospel.

One exchange, in particular, carries deep significance for Nathaniel. Jesus says that there is no duplicity, or pretense, in Nathaniel. There is a transparency in him shared even with God. Nathaniel wonders out loud , “How do you know me?” Jesus answers, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

Saint Bartholomew – El Greco

What was going on with Nathaniel under that fig tree? A moment of intense prayer, questioning, decision, doubt, hope? Whatever it was, Jesus had shared it, even at a distance. When Nathaniel realizes this, his faith in Jesus and vocation to follow Him are confirmed. Nathaniel professes, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Where are the fig trees in your life story — those moments when, looking back, you realize that God was with you even though seeming distant?

What have been the turning points in your faith, when you came out from under the shadow of a challenging experience, to the grateful amazement that God had accompanied you through it?

What are those pivotal, intimate moments when it was just you and God – those transparent moments that changed your life?

If you can’t recall any such moments, perhaps you are not giving yourself the time and space to let God reach you.

It might be time to seek out a “fig tree” – a place of spiritual solitude where you may speak honestly and directly to God about the most important things in your life. Open your heart, like Nathaniel, to hear what God already knows about you.

Poetry: The Banyan Tree – Rabindranath Tagore

O you shaggy-headed banyan tree
standing on the bank of the pond,
have you forgotten the little child,
like the birds that have
nested in your branches and left you?

Do you not remember
how he sat at the window
and wondered at
the tangle of your roots
plunged underground?

The women would come
to fill their jars in the pond,
and your huge black shadow
would wriggle on the water
like sleep struggling to wake up.

Sunlight danced on the ripples
like restless tiny shuttles
weaving golden tapestry
Two ducks swam by the weedy margin
above their shadows, and
the child would sit still and think.

He longed to be the wind
and blow through your resting branches,
to be your shadow and
lengthen with the day on the water,
to be a bird and perch
on your topmost twig, and to float like
those ducks among the weeds and shadows.

Forest Lake with Boy Fishing – Alfred Wahlberg

Music: The Memory of Trees – Enya (Some lyrical New Age music to listen to under your fig tree!)

Alleluia: Discerning Word

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
August 23, 2022

Today’s Readings:


Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus and Paul both get downright serious about true spiritual discernment — in other words,

“Stop the bull(ony)!

The passage from Thessalonians indicates that “conspiracy theories” are not just a sick modern phenomenon. Apparently some religious charlatans were trying to delude the neophyte Christian community with threats about the end of the world. Paul is adamant in his advice:

Do not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly,
or to be alarmed either by a “spirit,”
or by an oral statement,
or by a letter allegedly from us
to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.
Let no one deceive you in any way.

2 Thessolians 2:2

Jesus “woes” the Pharisees once again for a similar type of deluding behavior. For their own advancement, they impose minute religious entanglements which block the true purpose of the law:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.

Matthew 23:23

Jesus employs a great image to correct such delusions:

You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.

Matthew 23:25

In matters of faith, always look inside the cup for “justice, mercy and fidelity”. If instead you find “plunder and self-indulgences”, you can be sure it is not the word of God.

Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Poetry: A Cup Story – Author Unknown

You are holding a cup of coffee when 
someone comes along and accidentally bumps you 
and shakes your arm, 
making you spill coffee everywhere.
Why did you spill the coffee?
Because someone bumped into you, right?
Wrong answer.
You spilled the coffee because coffee was in the cup.
If tea had been in it, you would have spilled tea.
Whatever is inside the cup is what will come out.
Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you,
whatever is inside of you will come out. 
So each of us has to ask ourselves..... what's in my cup?
When life gets bumpy, what spills over?
Joy, gratefulness, peace, and humility?
Or anger, bitterness, harsh words, and reactions?
We choose what's in our cup!

Music: Inside of the Cup – Ernst Samuel

Alleluia: Blessings or Woe

Memorial of The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 22, 2022

Today’s Readings:


Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we jump into several weeks of readings from:

  • Paul’s letters – a little of Thessalonians and a lot of Corinthians
  • a little of Matthew’s Gospel and a lot of Luke’s

Still centering on our daily Alleluia Verse, as we have been since after Eastertide, we open our prayer to the experience of these early communities as they deepened in their Christian story.

Thessoloniki, Greece

Thessalonika was one of the first cities where Paul worked to form a Christian community. That church suffered persecution but showed “endurance and faith”. Paul obviously has great affection for these steadfast believers, an affection which reflects God’s own love for them.

We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters,
as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more,
and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.

Matthew’s Gospel shows us Jesus in an opposite situation from Paul. Jesus is speaking out to a faithless group – Pharisees and scribes who pervert religion with meaningless superficialities which make it harder for people to reach God. 

Animation character designs by Cedric Hohnstadt of the Pharisees for the video series “What’s In The Bible?”

Rather than gratitude and blessing, Jesus preaches woe to those who so subvert the faith journey of their community.

Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?

“religious” distortions vs. sincere faith

One would think it should be easy to tell the difference between true faith and manipulative “religion“. But apparently, it’s not so easy. In every age, including our own, we see people caught up in the distortions of religion which disrespect human rights and freedom.

When we see religion used as a pretext for violence, exclusion, political advancement or economic domination, those “woes” should start ringing in our head.

One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by the one who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by the one who is seated on it.

This advice from Jesus could be a little confusing, but in essence it calls us to be sincere and direct in our approach to God and to our sisters and brothers. It is a teaching offered more clearly in an earlier Matthean passage, the Sermon on the Mount:

But I tell you do not swear at all, either by heaven since that is God’s throne, or by earth, since that is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is ‘Yes’ if you mean ‘yes’, ‘No’ if you mean ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the Evil One.

Matthew 5:34-37

Poetry: Poetics of Faith – Denise Levertov 

‘Straight to the point’
           can ricochet,
Circumlocution, analogy,
           parable’s ambiguities, provide
                      context, stepping-stones.
Most of the time. And then
the lightning power
           amidst these indirections,
                      of plain
unheralded miracle!
           For example,
                      as if forgetting
to prepare them, He simply
           walks on water
                      towards them, casually –
and impetuous Peter, empowered,
           jumps from the boat and rushes
                      On wave-tip to meet Him –
a few steps, anyway –
           (till it occurs to him,
                      ‘I can’t, this is preposterous’
and Jesus has to grab him,
           tumble his weight
                      back over the gunwale).
Sustaining those light and swift
           steps was more than Peter
                      could manage. Still,
years later,
           his toes and insteps, just before sleep,
                      would remember their passage.

Music: Roberto Cacciapaglia – Angel Falls

just some lovely instrumental music to accompany your thoughts as you pray.

Alleluia: Who’s Coming to the Party?

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 21, 2022

Today’s Readings:


Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father, except through me.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we glimpse what the great gathering in heaven might be like.

The Kingdom of Heaven by Frank Bramley

Have you ever gotten an e-vite in your email? Perhaps an invitation to a gala event or a birthday party? All you need do to respond is to click a “Yes” or “ No” button. And then you can look to see who else has been invited and what response each has clicked. You can get a pretty clear picture of what the party will be like – chummy, snobby, noisy, elegant, boring, mind-blowing ….

Isaiah records a guest list for us of all who will be invited to God’s party. That “party” described in Isaiah 66 imagines a restored Jerusalem and a rebuilt Temple. It is an image of what Creation will look like when enveloped in God at the end times. It’s pretty cool!

They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations
as an offering to the LORD,
on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries,
to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD…

Isaiah’s community really needed to hear that encouraging vision because the Temple-less Jerusalem they were living in had been devastated by the Babylonian invasions. For the Israelites, the Temple and the Holy City modeled the Kingdom to come. They had a long way to go before their environment was restored to Isaiah’s predicted dimensions. Isaiah helps them journey through present reality for the sake of future hope.

In our second reading, Paul gives a similar kind of encouragement to Hebrew converts who were finding difficulties in the pursuit of their new Christian faith. They too had to learn to suffer through in order to realize their hope.

At the time,
all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness
to those who are trained by it.
So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. 
Make straight paths for your feet,
that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

When questioned about heaven, Jesus says it’s not a piece of cake to get in. You have to “know somebody”, and that somebody is the God of your heart.

Jesus answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough. 

Jesus echoes Isaiah in describing the glorious mix of guests at the heavenly party:

And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. 
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.

Christ Surrounded by Singing and Music – Hans Hemling

I know I want to be at that party. And we all want to see one another there, right?!

So let’s help each other:

  • get on our “horses, chariots, carts, mules, dromedaries” or any other assistance for our journey
  • strengthen our drooping hands to reach for righteousness
  • find the narrow gate and pass through it
  • finally recline at the table

Poetry: God – Khalil Gibran

In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips, I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, “Master, I am thy slave. Thy hidden will is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.”

But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.

And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, “Creator, I am thy creation. Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.”

And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain and spoke unto God again, saying, “Father, I am thy son. In pity and love thou hast given me birth, and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”

And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills he passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, “My God, my aim and my fulfilment; I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow. I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, and together we grow before the face of the sun.”

Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness, and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me.

And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there also.

Music: Paradise by Mehdi – a beautiful composition to put a little kick in your step on the way up the Mountain! 🙂

Alleluia: God is God; We Are Not

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 16, 2022

Today’s Readings:


Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich
So that by his poverty you might become rich.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings confront us with a few spiritual cautions.

In our first reading, Ezekiel lets the Prince of Tyre know that he has really messed up his spiritual life:

Thus says the Lord GOD:

Because you are haughty of heart,
you say, “A god am I!
I occupy a godly throne
in the heart of the sea!”—
And yet you are a man, and not a god,
however you may think yourself like a god.

This Tyrian prince Ithobalus reigned over a wealthy and politically powerful nation – a nation which had become arrogant and domineering in its relationship to other peoples. The word Ezekiel uses describes the condition perfectly: haughty. The prince was so haughty that he considered himself equal to — and in no need of — God.

We, of course, can learn a lesson from vainglorious Ithobalus. No material possession or personal strength makes us equal to God or renders us independent of God’s governance and care. According to Ezekiel, old Itho was about to find that out the hard way!

In our Gospel, Jesus talks about how we can get caught up in ourselves similarly to Ithobaal.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

When we read this passage, I think most of us picture material riches. And certainly the saying holds true in that case. But it also holds true for other types of “riches” – strengths or possessions that we use in arrogance and indifference toward others’ needs.

Prose: Pope Francis preached about such things in a homily on this passage from the prophet Amos:

Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory! . They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles. (Am 6:1,4)

How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. “Woe to the complacent in Zion”, says the prophet. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up flat, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jer 2:5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not the image and likeness of material objects, of idols!

Pope Francis – September 29, 2013

Music: Jesu, Joy of Our Desiring – J.S. Bach, interpreted by Daniel Kobialka

Alleluia: Green Grapes!

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2022

Today’s Readings:


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the core of our readings is about innocence and authenticity. But you have to dig a little to get to that. Maybe, like me, you finished  our first reading asking, “So what’s with the green grapes!?”

A common expression in ancient Israel suggested that people’s bad luck was a punishment for their parent’s sins. It was a handy way of avoiding responsibility for one’s own foolish actions, often the actual source of one’s misfortune.

Ezekiel uses the expression to teach a lesson about the nature of God’s love and forgiveness. God loves us completely – without prejudice, without vengeance. There is no record of faults to “set our teeth on edge”. There are no “green grapes” on God’s table. God only wants our wholeness.

Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel,
each one according to their own ways, says the Lord GOD.
Turn and be converted from all your crimes,
that they may be no cause of guilt for you.
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

God will not let us hide behind excuses like a bogus “Green Grapes Theory”. As in any loving relationship, we must be honest with God, own our faults, seek forgiveness, and love ardently.

Jesus uses the example of a little child to show us how to do this. Each one of us is born with a core of innocence and authenticity. These are the attributes of God’s life in us. Throughout our lives there are times when we hide these blessings under our sinfulness. Some people bury them so deep that they lose touch with their own sacred integrity.

Jesus calls us back out of our excuses and our excesses, just as the Lord called Ezekiel’s community. We are invited to an eternal covenant rooted in the gift of divine innocence and authenticity given to us at our creation.

Jesus said:
Let the children come to me,
and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven
belongs to such as these.

Poetry: The Pursuit – Henry Vaughn

LORD ! what a busy, restless thing
Hast Thou made man !
Each day and hour he is on wing,
Rests not a span ;
Then having lost the sun and light,
By clouds surpris’d,
He keeps a commerce in the night
With air disguis’d.
Hadst Thou given to this active dust
A state untir’d,
The lost son had not left the husk,
Nor home desir’d.
That was Thy secret, and it is
Thy mercy too ;
For when all fails to bring to bliss,
Then this must do.
Ah, Lord ! and what a purchase will that be,
To take us sick, that sound would not take Thee !

Music: Tender Hearted – Jeanne Cotter