Psalm 105: Wondrous Deeds

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105 celebrating God’s covenanted faithfulness to us.

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke God’s name;
    make known among the nations God’s deeds.
Sing, sing God’s praise,
    proclaim all God’s wondrous deeds.
(because…) The Lord remembers the covenant for ever.

Psalm 105: 1-2, 8

We certainly can spend some time in prayer today remembering God’s faithfulness to us personally. A grateful review of our life journey can always offer new insights into God’s love and generosity.

But more specifically, our psalm calls us to plumb the two readings which it connects.

  • Hebrews reminds us that God’s love is so extreme that God took Flesh in Jesus to teach us, in terms we could understand, the degree of God’s love.
  • In Mark, we see the early expression of that love, as Jesus reveals his healing power to the wretchedly suffering crowds.

In these readings, we learn that God’s promise endures to each generation:

God remembers the covenant forever
    which was made binding for a thousand generations– 
Which was entered into with Abraham
    and by God’s oath to Isaac.

Psalm 105: 8

In Chronos Time, this enduring covenant was enfleshed in Jesus. It continues in Kairos Time through each person’s Baptism into Christ through the Holy Spirit.

In other words,
we are the agents of God’s covenant with the world. Our lives must enflesh God’s Mercy for our times.

In his letter to Titus, Paul puts this clearly:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, we were saved not because of righteous things we had done, but because of God’s mercy. God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by God’s grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  

Titus 3: 4-7

May the message of these readings free us,
inspire us, and impel us
to a grace-filled response.


Poetry: Grace by Jill Peláez Baumgartner

Is it the transparency
and lift of air?
Is it release
as when the pebble
flings out of the slingshot
or the tethered dog
suddenly is without lead?

Or is it more like standing
on a dark beach
at midnight,
the surf loud
with its own revolution,
the horizon invisible,
the entire world the threat
of rushing water?

No one who swims 
at night in the ocean
feels weightless
embracing armfuls of water
against the ballast
of the waves’ fight.

Swimming:
toward the shore lights
or out into the vast bed
of the sea's white fires?

Music: Confitemini Domino – Psalm 105 – Orlando di Lasso (first published in 1562)

Confitemini Domino et invocate nomen ejus,

annuntiate inter gentes opera ejus,

cantate ei et psallite ei.

Narrate omnia mirabilia ejus,

laudamini in nomine sancto ejus,

laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum.

Give glory to the Lord, and call upon his name,

declare his deeds among the Gentiles,

sing to him, yea sing praises to him.

Relate all his wondrous works,

Glory ye in his holy name,

let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.

Psalm 97: Ordinary?

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 11,2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 97 which reminds us that, as Jesus begins his earthly ministry, he is accompanied by the unseen powers of heaven.

The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
Let all his angels worship him.

Psalm 97: 6-7

The psalm is reflective of the glorious passage from our first reading describing the Divinity of Jesus:

The Son of God is…
the refulgence of God’s glory, 
the very imprint of God’s being,
who sustains all things by his mighty word.
When he had accomplished purification from sins, 
he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
as far superior to the angels
as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Hebrews 1: 3-4

These seem perfect readings to begin a season described as “Ordinary Time” because they remind us that the power of Jesus Christ is far from ordinary.

And our days do not feel like ordinary times, do they? They are both fraught with threat and charged with hope.

They are times belabored by pandemic struggle, political vitriol, climate dissolution, global strife and systemic oppression.

But they are also times bristling with breakthrough discovery, civic renewal, social consciousness, communal courage and spiritual awakening.


Just as in our Gospel on this first day of “Ordinary Time”, Jesus asks his disciples to “Come”, dream extraordinary dreams with him, so he asks us. 

He asks us to believe
that there are unseen angels attending us.
 
He asks us to remember that we, like him,
are made in the refulgent image of God.


He calls us, like Simon and Andrew, to believe
that our “ordinary time” is actually the “time of fulfillment”:

This is the time of fulfillment.
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the Gospel.

Mark 1:15

Poetry: Maya Angelou – Touched by an Angel

We, unaccustomed to courage,
exiles from delight,
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Music: Ordinary Time – Marie Bellet

There will come a day for quiet kitchen mornings
Lunches with the girls, book clubs in the afternoon
There will come a day for chintz flowers on my sofa
Just the perfect lipstick, matching purse and shoes.

There will come a day without constant interruption
Confusing all my senses, my reason and my rhyme
But for now I trip on the backpacks in the hallway
Scrub the crayon from the walls that mark this ordinary time.

There will come a day for uneventful dinners
When no one drops their fork or spills their milk upon the floor
There will come a day, I’ll be wiser, I’ll be thinner
I will finish conversations before running out the door.

Well, isn’t that the way it is for all those happy women
Who smile at me from magazines there in the checkout line?
What about the tired, the simple and forgotten?
Blessed be the ordinary here in ordinary time.

He said “Who will feed my sheep?
Who will heed their cry?”
I said “I am vain and weak
But surely I will try.

You know everything
And You know that I’m
Just an ordinary woman 
here in ordinary time”.

There will come a day when everything is order
And I will be the queen of everything I see
But how my heart will leap to find one backpack in the hallway
With the promise of a face, and a story just for me.

So may I never yearn for those cocktail conversations
Clever observations made for fashionable minds
May I finally learn to be happy and have patience
With the constant changing rhythm of this ordinary time,
The constant changing rhythm of this ordinary time.

Psalm 29: Holy Splendor

The Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2021
We celebrate the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. The Christmas season, which celebrates the revelation of God through Christ, closes with this liturgy. Jesus’ Baptism begins his public ministry.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 29 in which the psalmist invites the pray-ers to find the power of God in the storm.

One can picture a small group huddled onshore as thunder ripples across the sea. The psalmist says not to focus on the storm itself, but:

  • to see the Power Who creates it
  • to find more than meteorological meaning in the experience
  • to be soaked not only in rain, but in grace.

Give to the LORD, you children of God,
give to the LORD glory and might;
Give to the LORD the glory due God’s name.
Bow down before the LORD’s holy splendor!

Psalm 29: 1-2

The psalmist invites the community to be sanctified by nature’s manifestation of God’s power.


As I wrote earlier this week, “This short post-Epiphany season is all about “manifestation” – how Jesus begins to show us the face of God-become-flesh.” Today’s Baptism of Jesus marks the glorious culmination of these manifestations.

I have always loved this feast. I imagine it as a moment in time when everything changes – when the Timeless Trinity steps through our human perceptions to fully reveal Itself in light, color, and sound. It is a quantum moment when, time suspended, Omnipotence speaks.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
    the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
    the voice of the LORD is majestic.

Psalm 29: 3-4

In an earlier blog, I offer a reflection on these thoughts. It contains a beautiful picture which I received the artist’s permission to share. I hope you can take time to read it again.


Our lives, too, are filled with potential manifestations of God’s power, with invitations to be bathed in God’s grace. As we pray today, let us allow our psalm to lower the barriers that keep us from hearing God’s voice in our own experiences.


Poetry: God Speaks by Rainer Marie Rilke

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

Music: “Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam” BWV 684 – “Christ our Lord came to the Jordan”) is a hymn by Martin Luther written in 1541. It has been set in many musical compositions, including cantatas and chorale preludes by Johann Sebastian Bach

Organist: Cecilia Yae-Jin Lee, Seoul Catholic Singers (On Youtube, there are several more prestigious organists playing this piece on magnificent organs. But I thought this young woman was extremely impressive rendering it on a rather simple instrument.)

Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam
Nach seines Vaters Willen,
Von Sanct Johann’s die Taufe nahm,
Sein Werk und Amt zu ‘rfüllen.
Da wollt’ er stiften uns ein Bad,
Zu waschen uns von Sünden,
Ersäufen auch den bittern Tod
Durch sein selbst Blut und Wunden,
Es galt ein neues Leben.

Christ our Lord came to the Jordan
in accordance with his father’s will,
he received baptism from Saint John,
to fulfil his work and ministry.
By this he wanted to establish for us a bath
to wash us from our sins,
to drown also bitter death
through his own blood and wounds.
This meant a new life.

Psalm 149: Let’s Dance Again!

Saturday after Epiphany

January 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 149.

Our psalm contains a brief line tucked at its center which foreshadows the entire message of the Gospel. 

Let them praise God’s name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves us,
and adorns the lowly with victory.


We will find a dancing, singing joy when we give ourselves to these truths:

  • God loves us irrevocably
  • We can fully receive this great love to the degree that we become like Christ whose image we find among the poor, lowly, and suffering.

Poetry: Dance from Rumi

Come to me, and I shall dance with you
In the temples, on the beaches, through the crowded streets
Be you man or woman, plant or animal, slave or free
I shall show you the brilliant crystal fires, shining within
I shall show you the beauty deep within your soul
I shall show the path beyond Heaven.
Only dance, and your illusions will blow in the wind
Dance, and make joyous the love around you
Dance, and your veils which hide the Light
Shall swirl in a heap at your feet.

Music: Psalm 149 – Antonín Dvořák

Psalm 72: Governed with Mercy

Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop

January 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 72 which will be familiar to us because it is used six times throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons.

O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.

Psalm 72: 1-2

This short post-Epiphany season is all about “manifestation” – how Jesus begins to show us the face of God-become-flesh.

The core message, conveyed to us in the daily progressive reading of 1 John, is that God is Love.


Our Gospel today, the feeding of the 5000, shows how that Love is expressed – merciful action for those in need.

Our psalm, written a thousand years before Christ, exults in the expectation of such a merciful Messiah:


The mountains shall yield peace for the people,
and the hills justice.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Let us begin once again, in this new year,
to soak in the words and images
describing this longed-for and loving Savior.


Poetry: When Little Was Enough – Irene Zimmerman, OSF

(LUKE 9:10–17)

“Send the people away from this deserted place
to find food and lodgings,” the twelve urged Jesus,
“for the day is advanced and it is almost evening.”

Jesus looked at the crowd (there were about five thousand)
and looked at his disciples, still excited and tired
from their first mission journey.

What had they learned from the villagers of Galilee
who shared bread and sheltered them from cold night winds?
What had they learned of human coldness on the way?

He remembered the pain in his mother’s voice
as she told of his birth night when they found no room
in all of Bethlehem, House of Bread.

“You give them something to eat!” he said.

“We have only five loaves and two fish!” they protested.
“How can we feed so many with so little?”
He understood their incredulity.

They had yet to learn that a little was enough
when it was all they had—
that God could turn these very stones to bread.

“Have the crowd sit down in groups of fifty,” he said.
Jesus took the food and looked up to heaven.
He blessed it, broke it, gave it to the disciples
to distribute to the new-formed churches.

Afterwards, when everyone was satisfied,
the twelve filled twelve baskets of bread left over—
as faith stirred like yeast within them.


Music: Justice Shall Flourish – Rory Cooney

Under Mary’s Protection

January 1, 2021
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

( I was invited to offer a reflection for my community for the celebration of New Year’s. I wanted to share it with our larger community here.)


Over the threshold of midnight, we step into the New Year 2021.

And, oh, how we have longed for it

  • run toward it 
  • run away from what the old year pressed on us 
  • from what we heard unceasingly referred to as “these unsettling times”

Dear friends the phrase puts it mildly, doesn’t it?


Every one of us- to some degree- has felt the

  • loss 
  • sadness 
  • fear 
  • anxiety 
  • loneliness

We have been tested in our faith

  • our hope 
  • our love 
  • and, surely, our courage

Some have walked through the middle of hell
and some only on the edge.
But we have all felt its fire.

We are a world truly brought to its knees as we clothe ourselves in 2021’s first morning.


We come to our prayer to do as our reading from Numbers encourages us, emboldens us to do – to seek a blessing for the New Year:

May the Lord bless us and keep us 
shine the face of mercy on us 
be gracious to us 
look upon us kindly 
give us peace

But how will we find such a blessing, my friends, when we know that its hope is hidden in the unrelenting circumstances of our lives?


Let’s consider our Gospel today.
Just as Christ lay shining 
but in the damp hay of a dark manger…
Just as the word of his coming was announced 
but by rude shepherds who carried the angelic words,
so the blessing will come to us….clothed in the ordinariness of what we already know.

And it is this:

The power of God is always hidden 
in the flesh of our daily lives.


Let us turn to Mary today to remind ourselves of this mystery.

Before the Annunciation, when young Mary imagined the Messiah’s coming, do you think she pictured a godforsaken manger and a birth in a barn?

Do you think she imagined herself receiving ponderable angelic words through the mouths of illiterate shepherds?

Our inscrutable God comes to us
in ways we never imagine … yes, dear friends, even through pandemic suffering,
and the painful graces
it breaks open in our hearts.

Mary, whom we celebrate and invoke today, shows us how to take the next step into a new year —a year that will not perceptibly change in its challenges for some time to come.

It, too, will be filled with what looks like mangers and shepherds rather than the heavenly palaces and angels we might desire.

But Mary shows us that faith finds God by surrender to the grace of our ordinary lives.

Today, what we pray for one another through Mary’s intercession, is the grace to find the blessing in this mystery.

We pray to be encouraging witnesses for one another of:

  • faith even in darkness
  • resilience and courage during extraordinary challenge
  • hope in the face of discouragement
  • perseverance when we languish
  • loving service despite fear
  • Mercy pouring over pain

When we do these things, we become the blessing that we seek.

When we, like Mary, keep these things in our heart, we allow Christ to be born again even in our “unsettling” times.


Maria de Mercede, fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio (c. 1472)

The most ancient prayer to Mary is the Sub Tuum Praesidium, dating from the 2nd century. It seems a perfect way to close our reflection today, and to open our hearts to hope for the New Year:

Under your protection,
we take our refuge, 
O Holy Mother of God:
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us from all evil,
O pure and blessed one.
Amen.

A truly blessed and joyful New Year to you all, Beloveds.


Music: Sub Tuum Praesidium in Latin (see above for English)

Psalm 103: Merciful and Gracious

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

December 9, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103 which bursts with music even as we silently read it!

forget-me-not
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

Our psalm rests today between two Advent readings which pick up its melody of grace and mercy.


First is the passage from Isaiah 40 musically captured in this familiar hymn:

Our Gospel offers Jesus’s most comforting promise. Let him sing it to you:

For our prayer today, it is enough to rest in these gifts.


Poetry: Come – Christina Rossetti 

‘Come,’ Thou dost say to Angels,
To blessed Spirits, ‘Come’:
‘Come,’ to the lambs of Thine own flock,
Thy little ones, ‘Come home.’

‘Come,’ from the many-mansioned house
The gracious word is sent;
‘Come,’ from the ivory palaces
Unto the Penitent.

O Lord, restore us deaf and blind,
Unclose our lips though dumb:
Then say to us, ‘I will come with speed,’
And we will answer, ‘Come.’

Psalm 85: Transformed Landscape

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

December 7, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our liturgy repeats yesterday’s verses from Psalm 85. That’s how important they are to our Advent prayer! So let’s pray with our psalm in the light of the readings which surround it today.

Today, in our first magnificent reading from the poet-prophet Isaiah, we read about the transformation God can accomplish even over the most broken and desolated landscapes. Isaiah encourages us to exuberant hope:

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
coming with vindication;
With divine recompense –
coming to save you.

Isaiah 35: 3-4

In our Gospel, Jesus transfigures both the inner and outer “landscape” of a young paralytic who has good and creative friends.

And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. 
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus. 
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.” 

Luke 5: 18-20

Our psalm reflects the transformative power in both readings as we pray:

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD – who proclaims peace to the people.
Near indeed is salvation to those who reverence God,
glory dwelling in our land.

Psalm 85:9-10

“Glory dwelling in our land”
– the land of our earth,
and the land of our hearts.
Let’s hope for it, believe it,
invite it in our prayer today.

Poetry: Rumi

And you?
When will you begin
that long journey into yourself?
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Music: Handel: Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind Be Opened / He Shall Feed His Flock

Psalm 85: Near But Not Yet

Second Sunday of Advent

December 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85 which, sprinkled heavily with “will”s and “shall”s, is written almost completely in the future tense.

This psalm, though filled with hope, is italicized with a sense of “then, but not just yet”. In the midst of a long waiting, it fuels our patience with words like “near”:

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD— who proclaims peace to the people.
Near indeed is salvation to those who are awed by the Lord,
glory dwelling in our land.

Psalm 85: 9-10

Oh, my! Do we know how that long patience feels? 

The feeling recalls my Dad’s answer on any long journey when I repeatedly queried, “Are we there yet.”

Not yet. But near.
Not now. But soon.

The whole world shares a similar feeling right now. As we see the promise of a vaccine rising on the horizon, we still live in the worry and isolation of this pandemic. Are we safe yet?

Not yet. But near.
Not now. But soon.


Let us not miss the practical lessons nor the spiritual ones that emerge as we read the psalmist’s ancient words in our current stressful times.

The practical lessons for our situation are clear:

  • a vaccine is near
  • be patient, prepare
  • mask up
  • wash hands
  • stay home if possible
  • respect your bubble and everyone else’s

Some of the spiritual inspirations might be these.

  • Amazing Grace is always near to us
  • be patient, prepare
  • learn from your solitude
  • clear your spirit of any impediments to grace
  • find your home in God’s Presence
  • rest in that Presence until you are renewed

The psalm assures us that God is with us; that the Sacred Presence will appear as we open our eyes to God’s justice and mercy.

The LORD  will give us benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before the Lord
and prepare the way of God’s steps.

Psalm 85: 13-14

Isaiah and Mark direct our hearts to the voice of the prophet John the Baptist who proclaims, “Prepare a way for the Lord!” That’s how near God is! Just on the other side of our soul’s expectation.

In our second reading, Peter reminds us of how to be ready for the moment when  “soon” becomes “now”.

But according to God’s promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before the Lord, at peace.

2 Peter 3:13-14

Poetry: ADVENT (On a Theme by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) by Pamela Cranston

Look how long
the tired world waited,
locked in its lonely cell,
guilty as a prisoner.

As you can imagine,
it sang and whistled in the dark.
It hoped. It paced and puttered about,
tidying its little piles of inconsequence.

It wept from the weight of ennui
draped like shackles on its wrists.
It raged and wailed against the walls
of its own plight.

But there was nothing
the world could do
to find its freedom.

The door was shut tight.
It could only be opened
from the outside.

Who could believe the latch
would be turned by the flower
of a newborn hand?

Music: Soon and Very Soon written and sung by Andraé Crouch, accompanied here by Jessy Dixon

Andraé Edward Crouch (July 1, 1942 – January 8, 2015) was an American Gospel singer, songwriter, arranger, record producer and pastor. Referred to as “the father of modern gospel music” by gospel music professionals.

Jessy Dixon (March 12, 1938 – September 26, 2011) was an American Gospel music singer, songwriter, and pianist, with success among audiences across racial lines. He garnered seven Grammy Award nominations during his career.

Psalm 147: Jesus- God’s Lullaby

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

December 5, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147 coming after the consoling passage from Isaiah:

O my people,
no more will you weep;
I will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as I hear you, I will answer.

Isaiah 30:19

Our readings today assure us that God sees and cares about our suffering. Like a mother who sings to a crying child, God wants to comfort us.

God heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
God tells the number of the stars;
calling each by name.

Psalm 147: 3-4

God’s lullaby is Jesus Christ. In Jesus, our Creator sings over us the melody of Infinite Love and Mercy. All we need do is calm ourselves and listen. 

Jesus is the Divine Song.
He sings God’s Mercy over all who suffer.

At the sight of the crowds,
Jesus’s heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned.

Matthew 9:36

All of us, at some time in our lives, stand amidst the troubled crowd. Our friends and family members too stand there at times.

Today, as we pray Psalm 147, let us place all our troubles, and theirs, in the loving embrace of God who sings the lullaby of Jesus over us.


Poetry: from Rumi

Every midwife knows
that not until a mother's womb
softens from the pain of labour
will a way unfold
and the infant find that opening to be born.
 
Oh friend! 
There is treasure in your heart, 
it is heavy with child.

Listen.

All the awakened ones, 
like trusted midwives are saying, 
'welcome this pain.'
It opens the dark passage of Grace.

Music: Quietly – Jay Stocker