Law Yields to Love

Wednesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
January 18, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011823.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  the writer of Hebrews continues to shine light on the superior “priesthood” of Jesus Christ – that aspect of Christ’s ministry that breaks heaven open for us and reinstates us as God’s children.

heb2 priest

Hebrews calls Christ a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” – an order above and beyond the priesthood of Aaron and Levi.

Although there are a few references to Melchizedek in scripture, only one narrative refers to him:

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him,
the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine.
He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Genesis 14: 17-20

Melchizedek, whose priesthood preceded even Abraham, is offered in Hebrews as a prototype of Jesus who fulfills and perfects the Old Testament promises.

Does this matter to us modern day Christians who can barely say “Melchizedek “, let alone spell it? And if it does matter, how?

An answer may be revealed in our Gospel today. 

In it, Jesus challenges the old, pharisaical, law-bound way of thinking. As the new and perfect “priest”, Jesus breaks that way of thinking with the transformation of love. Jesus is the perfection of that which Melchizedek was only the forerunner.

Then he said to the Pharisees,
“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
But they remained silent.
Looking around at them with anger
and grieved at their hardness of heart,
Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
He stretched it out and his hand was restored.
The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel
with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

Mark 3:3-6
  • This man with the withered hand is more important than the law. 
  • This act of healing and wholeness is more important than ritual adherence. 
  • The priesthood of Jesus is the breakthrough revelation of what God really desires – mercy, not sacrifice.

Poetry: Excerpt from John Berryman’s Eleven Addresses to the Lord

John Berryman (1914 – 1972) was an American poet and scholar. He was a major figure in American poetry in the second half of the 20th century and is considered a key figure in the “confessional” school of poetry. Eleven Addresses to the Lord describes, with an interplay of sincerity and irony, the poet’s struggle to believe. Section 10 below reveals love over law as a key factor in Berryman’s evolving faith.

10

Fearful I peer upon the mountain path
where once Your shadow passed, Limner of the clouds
up their phantastic guesses. I am afraid,
I never until now confessed.
I fell back in love with you, Father, for two reasons:
You were good to me, & a delicious author,
rational & passionate. Come on me again,
as twice you came to Azarias & Misael.
President of the brethren, our mild assemblies
inspire, & bother the priest not to be dull;
keep us week-long in order; love my children,
my mother far & ill, far brother, my spouse.
Oil all my turbulence as at Thy dictation
I sweat out my wayward works.
Father Hopkins said the only true literary critic is Christ.
Let me lie down exhausted, content with that.

Music: Love Broke Thru ~ Toby Mac

Pray for the Church

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
January 16, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011623.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from Hebrews describes Jesus as the perfect high priest.  Through the Father’s call, Jesus took on our imperfect nature and transformed it by his Life, Death and Resurrection. In the Eucharist, Jesus left us a living memorial of this transformation so that we might participate in its saving mystery.

heb5_10 priest

Paul’s “perfected priest” is patient because his own weakness humbles him. He does not take honor upon himself, but receives it humbly from God.

Jesus, the model of this priesthood, 

… in the days when he was in the Flesh,
… offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.


The perfection of Christ’s priesthood was accomplished through suffering and obedience. This is how Jesus teaches us to live in reverence and humble service.

As I read and pray with this scriptural understanding of priesthood, I pray for our Church. The catastrophic scandals involving our priests and leaders have deeply shaken the faith of many Catholics over the past several years.

Many are frustrated by the continued refusal of some in our Church to open themselves to new models of priestly service which are grounded in mutuality, inclusivity and simplicity.

The accretions of institutionalization, hierarchical camouflage, and sexist rationale have mitigated the Church’s credibility to touch the lives of ordinary people, especially our emerging adults.


In our Gospel, Jesus talks about an old cloak that needs a patch to make it whole again. He talks about new wine that must be captured and preserved in new wine skins. For me, he is talking about our Church which must be continually renewed and grounded in the truth of the Gospel.

Let us pray that the Church may continue to be transformed by humble obedience to God’s call – just as the high priest of our first reading was perfected.

Let us pray today for our good Pope Francs, bishops, theologians and spiritual leaders – and for the whole People of God – that we may hear and respond.


Prayer: In place of a poem today, this beautiful prayer written in 2019 by Rita Thiron, from the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions

Prayer for the Church

Heavenly Father,
In every age, you have been our refuge. 
Yet again and still, we stand before you 
asking for your protection on your holy Church.

For the victims of abuse and their families, 
pour out your healing and your peace.
For the Bishops of this country, 
inspire their decisions, 
and guide them with your Spirit.

For the thousands of good and faithful priests, 
who have followed your call 
to serve you and your people in holiness,
sustain them by your grace.

For the faithful who are angry, confused, 
and searching for answers, 
embrace them with your love,
restore their trust,
console them with your clear Gospel message, 
and renew them with your sacraments.

We place our Church in your hands, 
for without you we can do nothing.

May Jesus, our High Priest and true compass, 
continue to lead her in every thought and action
 – to be an instrument of justice,
a source of consolation,
a sacrament of unity,
and a manifestation of your faithful covenant.

Grant this through that same Jesus Christ, our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Music: Even Death on a Cross ~ Jason Silver

I Come to Do Your Will

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 15, 2023

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011523.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we see Jesus fully enrobed in the power of his mission and ready to embark on its accomplishment.


When I prayed with today’s readings, I pictured Jesus standing proudly before the Father saying, “I’m fully ready now to answer the call and become all that I am meant to be for the world.”

The image reminded me of a day long ago when I finally received the last little piece of the outfit I would wear as Mercy postulant. It was late August 1963, just a month before entrance, and very hot. Nevertheless, in a bit of girlish giddiness, I decided to don the entire regalia for the first time and see what my future would look like. After struggling into a few of the unfamiliar pieces, I ran down the stairs to my mother waiting in our living room.

I’ll never forget her face. It was an immense mix of pride, loss, hope, love and astonishment. Neither one of us said, nor had to say, a word. Everything that had been only a dream in my heart went forward – for real – from that moment. Mom knew I meant to do this thing. And, maybe for the first time, I knew it too.

I can picture God the Father looking on Jesus in somewhat the same way as Jesus now stands at the edge of a future he cannot yet imagine.


In our first reading, we see Jesus clothed in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy:

The LORD said to me: You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!

Isaiah 49:3,5

In our Responsorial Psalm, we can hear Jesus exuding Messianic commitment:

Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


In John’s Gospel, John the Baptist stands as a witness to Christ’s messianic authority to execute the Redemptive Act promised in Isaiah:

It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Isaiah 9:6

John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

John 1:32-34

With today’s readings, Jesus begins the great journey to redeem us. We begin with him, praying that throughout this liturgical year, we may be ever more deepened in the grace of that Redemption.


Poetry: The Lamb – William Blake

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

Music: Here I Am, Lord – written by Dan Schutte, sung here by John Michael Talbot (lyrics below)

I, the Lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

I, who made the stars of night
I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

I, the Lord of snow and rain
I have borne my people’s pain
I have wept for love of them
They turn away

I will break their hearts of stone
Give them hearts for love alone
I will speak my words to them
Whom shall I send?

God is Outside the Box!

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 13, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011323.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel tells of a memorable event – so memorable that it is described in detail.

Jesus preaches from a neighborhood living room. Every access point to the house is blocked with excited listeners and miracle-seekers. Jesus has been corralled by the enthusiastic faithful.

roof

Then some latecomers arrive carrying their paralyzed friend. It is easy to imagine that these are young guys, because Jesus later calls the paralytic “Child”. Perhaps their friend was injured in a soccer game or diving accident in which they all had participated. Perhaps, as well as carrying him, they are carrying the burden of “survivor guilt”.

Whatever the situation, these friends are determined that the young man shall see Jesus. Confronted with the barricading crowd, they climb up on the roof, opening the turf plates to make an entry point. Jesus had to laugh as he saw to rooftop disappearing above him!


Would that we had such a wild desire to be in God’s Presence
– to know God face to face, and heart to heart!

Can we peel away the many barricades to such relationship? We have only our limited human images of God. While these can help us pray, they can also box God.

Faulty theology and exaggerated ritual can, believe or not, put a lid on God’s power!

It is important to read, listen, and grow within good theology. One measure of that value is the degree of limitation any “theology” puts on God. A theology that limits God to male, white, Catholic, Evangelical, Republican or Democrat (or whatever religion) – that kind of false theology limits us as well. 

A theology that is used as validation for political, economic, or moral domination distorts God, making God an idol of our own greed and selfishness. Such ”theologies” have, for centuries, made excuses for slavery, apartheid, pogroms, wars and holocausts. 

Let’s try to “take the roof off” our theology today. Let’s be sure our tightly held perceptions and beliefs are really leading us to the absolute freedom of a God Who cherishes all Beings, all Creation.


Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Music: God Beyond All Names ~ Bernadette Farrell 

Heart-Softening

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 12, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011223.cfm

psalm 95 copy

Today, in Mercy, our first reading quotes at length from Psalm 95, and the message is reprised in the Responsorial Psalm.

Harden not your hearts.

We all know what it feels like to harden our hearts. We do it out of anger, fear, exhaustion, frustration and so many other reasons. We feel like the only way to protect ourselves and our space is to build a wall! Put up those bricks made out of our stony faces, curt words, numbing silence, distancing indifference – our hardened hearts.


Today’s reading tells us that this is never God’s way.

The way to freedom, peace, self-respect, joy and fullness of life is always found in relationship – as God is in relationship with all Creation.

Jesus demonstrates that relationship in today’s Gospel by connecting with the leper. This leper has been walled off from society by illness and disfigurement. Most people’s hearts are hardened against him, but Jesus is “moved by pity” at the leper’s isolation.

The leper, too, has built a bridge by reaching through his own hardened heart in faith and trust. Surely all the years of mistreatment had made him wary of trust, had immobilized him in self-protection. But he allows himself a courageous plea to Jesus, and he is heard.

Jesus Cures a Leper – Rembrandt


It is no easy challenge to soften a hardened heart. Some of our walls are very high, some of our bricks very heavy. But, one by one, we can choose opportunities for forgiveness, kindness, understanding, patience, encouragement, listening and companionship – even, and especially, toward those estranged in any way from us or from themselves. And we can do this even toward ourselves when we have become hardened to our own beauty and goodness.

To begin might take only a smile, a prayer, a phone call, a small kindness, an invitation, a moment of ordinary conversation…. just these might start to crumble a wall, to soften a heart.

Let’s ask God’s grace today to do this heart-softening wherever we might need it. Let’s ask this grace for others in need as well.


Poetry: The Altar by George Herbert – Herbert wrote this poem in the shape of an altar. He describes the spiritual process of allowing his “hard heart” to be built into an altar for God’s praise.

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,

 Made of a heart and cemented with tears:

  Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;

No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.

                   A HEART alone

                   Is such a stone,

                  As nothing but

                  Thy pow’r doth cut.

                  Wherefore each part

                  Of my hard heart

                  Meets in this frame,

                  To praise thy name:

       That if I chance to hold my peace,

 These stones to praise thee may not cease.

   Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,

     And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.


Music: Soften My Heart, Lord (and adding a second song, just because I think you’ll like it.)

Solitude Prayer

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 11, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011123.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Mark’s Gospel allows us to spend a day with Jesus during his early ministry.

After “church”, so to speak, Jesus and his buddies go to Simon’s house for a meal. Where Simon’s wife was we’re not told, but his mother-in-law seems to have been chief cook and bottle washer. Unfortunately, on that day, she’s not feeling well. However, with but a touch from Jesus, she’s restored and begins waiting on the guys.

The Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law by Rembrandt

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Mark 1:29-31

It seems like Jesus and his friends hung out through the heat of the day. As evening cool descends, neighbors begin arriving with their sicknesses and troubled spirits. Jesus cures many of those gathered. Can you just imagine the scene!


The next morning, even before dawn, Jesus goes off to a quiet place to pray. No doubt he wants to discern, with his Father and the Holy Spirit, the things that are happening in his life. Again can you imagine that conversation!

We know that, when asked, Jesus gave us the human words of the “Our Father” to teach us to pray. But how did Jesus himself pray in the solitude of his heart?

Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity
focused in relationship to one another
and yielding a Love
too immense for description!


In our own humble prayer today, may we lean against the heart of Jesus as he immersed himself in the Presence of the Creator and Spirit. May we pray in Christ’s pregnant silence.


Poetry: Solitude – Thomas Merton

When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool.

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

Or hails the first morning
Of a giant world
Where peace begins
And rages end:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

One cloud upon the hillside,
Two shadows in the valley
And the light strikes home.
Now dawn commands the capture
Of the tallest fortune,
The surrender
Of no less marvelous prize!

Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,

Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!

Now act is waste
And suffering undone
Laws become prodigals
Limits are torn down
For envy has no property
And passion is none.

Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!

Music: Intermezzo in B minor – Maureen McCarthy Draper

You’re Invited to a Baptism!

The Baptism of the Lord
January 9, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010923.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus makes a remarkable debut! 

Picture the scene. It is a beautiful morning in the Judean Valley where the Jordan Riven runs fresh and sparkling. Most scholars place the Baptism of Jesus sometime in January, which means the weather would have been relatively cool. But perhaps, like our own weather, an unusually warm day may have snuck in.

Rustic, fiery preacher John is baptizing in the Jordan River. Crowds have come to hear what he has to say. Some are convinced and dive into the cool water under his hand.

Others rim the hillside, not so sure John isn’t one of the many who have glorious visions but few facts.

Then, out from the pines on the far side of the river, comes Jesus, flanked by some of the Twelve. While his companions chat away to Jesus, his eyes are focused on John. In an instant, Jesus realizes that this is the moment for his revelation. In that same instant, all Creation realizes the same thing.

As Jesus walks slowly toward John, the birds and little animals speak to him, “My Lord and my God…”.  Wind whistling through the trees becomes an Oratorio praising him. All the surrounding colors deepen, breaking forth in unimaginable light.

John is stunned by the cosmic change he senses but cannot describe. Heart trembling, he looks into Jesus’s eyes and catches a glimpse of heaven. “I need to be baptized by you”, John says,”and yet you are coming to me?

Jesus smiles at his cousin, replying, 

“Let it be so now; 
it is proper for us to do this 
to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then John consented.

Perhaps those in the crowd, schooled in the ancient scriptures, heard Isaiah’s voice in the charged atmosphere:

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.


Matthew tells us:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.

the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie
The Baptism Of Jesus is a painting by Jeff Haynie For purchase, see:https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie.html

Can you see him light-heartedly splashing John as he shakes his dark curls free of the chilly water? Can you see his transfigured face as he hears his Father speak Love over him?

At that moment heaven was opened, 
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said, 

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

What a beautiful moment in time! Don’t we wish we might have been there in the blessed and awe-struck crowd? We can. Let your prayer of imagination take you there. What happens in your heart when the newly baptized Jesus catches your eyes?

Music: The Baptism of Jesus

Seeing What We Look At

The Epiphany of the Lord
Sunday, January 8, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010823.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the great feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord, a day which commemorates Christ’s manifestation to the Gentiles.

is60_5 epiphanyjpg

Perhaps on this day, as little children, some of us placed the Three Kings in the crèche, fascinated by their journey and their majesty (and of course by the camels.). These figures represented all nations bringing their gifts to the newborn Savior. In their humble generosity, the journeyers eyes were opened and they recognized Divinity in the most unlikely of places.

An epiphany is a special kind of vision.
It is an insight to see something amazingly deeper
in what we thought we had already perceived.

We might walk by a tree, a house, a person day after day taking them completely for granted. We see them – but don’t really see them. Then, one day, a certain turn of sun on leaves might let us see that tree differently. An open window with its curtains billowing might transform that house into a home. A caring exchange might change that person into a friend.

And we say things like, “Gosh, why had I never noticed that before…”


The Three Kings were given the grace of Epiphany to see God where others saw only a poor newborn. They were given the wisdom to see Herod’s treachery where he pretended to offer only homage.


This feast reminds us that a sacred dimension exists beneath the surface of all appearances. Every reality contains the capacity for holiness, for goodness, for wisdom, for love. The more we are attuned to Grace, the more we recognize the presence (or the absence, as with Herod) of this capacity. The more we begin to live in deeper relationship with the seemingly ordinary in our lives.

Because actually, nothing is ordinary! Everything that comes to us is fraught with grace and divine possibility. We just need to live intentionally – to ask for and respond to the gift of Epiphany as it is given in our particular circumstances.


Poetry: I think the sentiments of today’s feast thread through a beautiful poem by William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood – particularly in these lines:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Poetry lovers might like to read the entire poem here: 

Click here for full poem


Music: Walking through Clouds – Bernward Koch
Please enjoy this gentle music as you pray your Epiphanies:

Becoming Wine

Christmas Weekday
January 7, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010723.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have the belovedly familiar story of the Miracle at Cana.

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”

John 2: 1-3

Like all good stories, this one is engaging on so many levels:

  • We see Mary and Jesus enjoying a social event in the same way we would.
  • We see Mary extending her solicitude and influence for the sake of the hosting family.
  • We see Jesus needing a swift nudge from his mother to do the right thing!
  • We see the Apostolic tipsters slowly waking up to the fact that Jesus is not just the guy next door!

We can pray with this Gospel passage by entering it from any one of these, or other, perspectives. We can easily sit right down at one of the wedding tables and watch the slow, human revelation of God in the world. But I think our first reading makes a strong case for us to pray the Cana story as a perfect example of how we should make our prayers of petition.


If you’re like me, you ask God for a lot of things every single day. Some of them are big deal things like “Please move hearts to stop the war on Ukraine.” And some of them are little deals like, “Please don’t let it rain on my picnic!”

In our first reading, John tells us how to pray our needs to God – with the utter confidence that, within God’s Will, we are heard.

Beloved:
We have this confidence in God,
that if we ask anything according to God’s will, we are heard.
And if we know that God hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked for is ours.

1 John 5: 14-15

This is the way Mary offers her petition in our Gospel story. She knows that Jesus will hear her and do the right thing. She doesn’t niggle him to death to get it done. She knows that by her “prayer”, she is now present to God’s infinite awareness of our needs.

His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”

John 2:5

In this case, that “right thing” was to turn huge vats of water into delicious wine. A very satisfying outcome! But what about when our prayer doesn’t result in a deluge of wine? What about when it seems like God paid no attention to our request? Can we still have the unyielding confidence which John encourages and Mary exemplifies?

Our faith calls us to believe that God is present with us in all things. Our prayer opens us to seek that Presence and to respond in faith to our circumstances knowing that even when the vessels seem empty, God abides. Ours is a life in God not limited to one petition, or one prayer. It is an incremental immersion into an Eternal Truth which transcends any particular circumstance. God is always with us and that alone is the source of our confident prayer.

We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true, in God’s Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:20

Poetry: Cana Wine – Irene Zimmerman, OSF

“The weather’s so hot
and no more wine’s to be bought
in all of Cana!
It’s just what I feared—
just why I begged my husband
to keep the wedding small.”

“Does he know?” Mary asked.

“Not yet. Oh, the shame!
Look at my son and his beautiful bride!
They’ll never be able
to raise their heads again,
not in this small town.” 
“Then don’t tell him yet.”
Mary greeted the guests
as she made her way
through crowded reception rooms.
“I must talk to you, Son,”
she said unobtrusively. 

Moments later he moved
toward the back serving rooms.
They hadn’t seen each other
since the morning he’d left her—
before the baptism
and the desert time. 

There was so much to tell her,
so much to ask.
But this was not the time!
They could talk tomorrow
on the way to Capernaum.
She spoke urgently, her words
both request and command to him:
“They have no wine.”
But he hadn’t been called yet!
He hadn’t felt it yet.
Would she send him so soon
to the hounds and jackals?
For wine? 

Was wine so important then? 

“Woman, what concern is that
to you and me?
My hour has not yet come.”

Her unflinching eyes reflected to him
his twelve-year-old self
telling her with no contrition:
“Why were you searching for me?
Did you not know I must be
in my Father’s house?” 

She left him standing there—
vine from her stock,
ready for fruit bearing—
and went to the servants.
“Do whatever he tells you,” she said. 

From across the room
she watched them fill water jars,
watched the chief steward
drink from the dripping cup,
saw his eyes open in wide surprise. 

She watched her grown son
toast the young couple,
watched the groom’s parents
and the guests raise their cups.

She saw it all clearly:
saw the Best Wine
pouring out for them all.

Music: od Hears Our Prayers – Mandy Lining

The Invitation

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious
January 4, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010423.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, the first American born saint.

Elizabeth Seton was born on August 28, 1774, of a wealthy and distinguished Episcopalian family. She was baptized in the Episcopal faith and was a faithful adherent of the Episcopal Church until her conversion to Catholicism.

She established her first Catholic school in Baltimore in 1808; in 1809, she established a religious community in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After seeing the expansion of her small community of teaching sisters to New York and as far as St. Loius, she died on January 4, 1821, and was declared a saint by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975. She is the first native born American to be canonized a saint.

(from CatholicCulture.org)


Jn 1_39

In our Gospel, we find the first disciples encountering Jesus. They are curious about him because the Baptist has just described him as “the Lamb of God”.

The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?”
They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher),
“where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

John 1: 37-40

We can picture Andrew and his unnamed buddy trailing behind Jesus, watching him, listening to him. Finally they hazard a question, “Rabbi, where do you live?”

It’s kind of a loaded question. What it might really mean are things like these:

  • Where did you come from all of sudden?
  • How could you possibly be the Messiah if you’re walking around looking just like us?
  • Do you go back to heaven at night or are you really one of us?
  • Can we just hang out and find out more about you?

Their faith is tentative, hopeful and maybe just a little bit suspicious. Does your faith ever feel like that? 


When we pray, are we convinced that God hears us? When we suffer, do we believe God abides with us? When we choose, act or respond, do we trust that God cares about our actions? Do we believe, in these and all circumstances, that the power of God is present in our lives?

To have that kind of faith, we have to “learn” Christ, to become as close and comfortable with him as with an intimate friend. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us how to do that: “Come and see.” 

In other words:

Spend time with me.
Talk with me about ordinary things.
Watch sunsets and sunrises with me.
Tell me your secrets.
Let me tell you mine.
Laugh with me.
Be silent with me.
Trust that you are never separate from me.

If we do these things, even slowly and steadily as the first disciples, we will eventually say with Andrew, “l have found the Messiah” – and he is living right within my life!


Poetry: the calling of the disciples – Lucille Clifton

some Jesus
has come on me

i throw down my nets
into the water he walks

i loose the fish
he feeds to cities

and everyone calls me
an old name

as i follow out
laughing like God’s fool
behind this Jesus

Music: Come and See – Bob Bennett