Psalm 19: Declare God’s Glory

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

September 21, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19, one of the unique “Torah Psalms” (1, 19, 119) in which Israel celebrates the divine structure of life in all Creation, including ourselves.

James Luther Mays, in his article The Place of the Torah-Psalms in the Psalter, suggests that these psalms serve as a guide to how all the other psalms are to be read, interpreted and prayed.


Walter Brueggemann describes life without God as “normless” – without the structure of grace and relationship with God that holds all Creation in abundant Life. He refers to the Torah as a “norming” dynamism, and writes:

And when Israel … used the term “Torah” (never meaning simply or simplistically “law”), it refers to the entire legacy of norming that is elastic, dynamic, fluid, and summoning. The outcome of that legacy in the Psalter is the great Torah Psalms in which Israel celebrates, with joy, that the creator God has not left the world as a normless blob but has instilled in the very structure of creation the transformative capacity for enacted fidelity. That is why Psalm 19 juxtaposes the glory of creation that attests the creator (vv. 1–6) with the commandments that are the source of life.


Our verses today for the Feast of St. Matthew include this phrase…

Their message goes out through all the earth.

… perhaps equating the universal ministry of the Apostles to the transformative power and witness of the heavens to God’s immutable glory.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge.
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.


The teaching of the Apostles is codified for Catholics in the Apostles Creed. We might want to pray it slowly today, attentive to those “norming ” beliefs – our sort of fundamental “Torah” – which hold our lives in graceful relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, 
Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, 
born of the Virgin Mary, 
suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; 
the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, 
and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; 
from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, 
the holy Catholic Church, 
the communion of saints, 
the forgiveness of sins, 
the resurrection of the body 
and life everlasting.
Amen.

Poetry: XIX Caeli Ennarant by Malcolm Guite

In that still place where earth and heaven meet
Under mysterious starlight, raise your head
And gaze up at their glory:  ‘the complete

Consort dancing’ as a poet said
Of his own words. But these are all God’s words;
A shining poem, waiting to be read

Afresh in every heart. Now look towards
The brightening east, and see the splendid sun
Rise and rejoice, the icon of his lord’s

True light. Be joyful with him, watch him run
His course, receive the gift and treasure of his light
Pouring like honeyed gold till day is done

As sweet and strong as all God’s laws, as right
As all his judgements and as clean and pure,
All given for your growth, and your delight!


Music: Wonderland – David Nevis

Psalm 145: Always Mercy

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 20, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145 which, with our Sunday readings, ties together the themes of call and commitment.

In our first reading, Isaiah proclaims a repentant urgency to that call:

Seek the LORD 
while he may be found,
call him 
while he is still near.


In our second reading, Paul confirms his own ultimate commitment to that call and urges his followers to imitate him:

Christ will be magnified in my body,
whether by life or by death….

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel.


But our Gospel reveals that not everyone responds immediately to God’s voice in their lives. Some of us come late to the call of grace. Nevertheless, our generous God seeks us, time and again, and embraces us fully no matter how close to the evening.

The early hires chafe against this system, imagining themselves somehow deprived by the Master’s abundance. Perhaps we heard attitudes like theirs expressed in self-sufficient phrases like:

  • but I’ve worked hard for everything I have
  • you need to earn your way in life
  • it’s not a free ride
  • if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen

Walter Brueggemann writes that the Psalms refute such an attitude:

The counter-world of the Psalms
contradicts our closely held world of self-sufficiency
by mediating to us a world confident in God’s preferential option
for those who call on him in their ultimate dependence.


Psalm 145 lifts us beyond our selfish imaginations. It expresses the grateful praise of one who, swaddled in God’s lavish blessing, recognizes that Divine Justice looks like Mercy not calculation.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.


Poem: by Rumi

By the mercy of God,
Paradise has eight doors.
One of those is the door of repentance, child. 
All the others are sometimes open, 
sometimes shut, 
but the door of repentance is never closed. 
Come seize the opportunity: 
the door is open; 
carry your baggage there at once.

Music: I Will Praise Your Name – Marty Haugen, David Haas

Psalm 56: Light from Dark

Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, September 19, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 56, an unusual mix of lamentation and praise, of light and dark emotions. Many consider the psalm to be a prayer of David in the midst of his problems with Solomon.

Our prayer can be this kind of mix at times. We might feel stressed by the exigencies of life, calling on God to ease our angst and protect us. At the same time, we have a underlying confidence that God is with us, even in difficulty. Such a prayer is not unlike the one Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.


I cherish a verse from Psalm 56 not included in today’s reading. In beautiful simile, the line captures suffering still imbued with trust. I especially like the old translation from the King James Version:

Today’s verses reflect the confidence born of such honest and steadfast prayer. There comes a surety in God’s abiding, a shift from self-centered fear, a welling up of praise for the One who saves us, not only from our troubles, but from our anxious selves.

Now I know that God is with me.
In God, in whose promise I glory,
in God I trust without fear;
what can flesh do against me?


Poetry: Mount of Olives by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

He falls, crying,
“Help me, Father.”
Though his acquiescence rings
true as a well-tuned violin, the searing bow brings
tears of blood
as it plays across the taut strings
of his human dread of dying.

Music: Psalm 56 – by Share Faith

Psalm 118:

Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, September 17, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 118 (Confitemini Domino), part of the Hallel. Hallel consists of six Psalms (113–118), which are recited as a unit, on joyous occasions such as Passover.

This joy arises from the core belief
and experiential evidence that
 “God’s Mercy endures forever”.

Give thanks to the LORD, Who is good,
Whose mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“God’s mercy endures forever.”

Psalm 118: 1-2

Looking at the entire psalm, we see the prayer of a person delivered from enemies, one who has taken refuge in the Lord. And the Lord has responded both in protection and abiding relationship.


Our Gospel story of the woman with the alabaster jar reiterates this theme. Surely this woman is beset by enemies, both within and without. Ultimately, grace moves her to take refuge at the feet of Jesus’s Mercy. She does this by breaking through any inhibiting tradition in order to offer Jesus her own intimate act of tenderness. Moved, Jesus reciprocates.

As we seek to be fully embraced in God’s Lavish Mercy, what “ointments”, held too long, must we pour out to God. What illusions do we cling to convincing us we have no need for repentance, forgiveness, transformation?

What little jars of selfishness, pride, or arrogance keep us from fully giving and receiving Mercy?

In my distress, I poured my heart out to the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is with me now, I am not afraid;
darkness has no power against me.

Psalm 118: 13-14

Poem: Mended by Annie Villiers

Invisible mending
This is the place where souls come
To be mended                               where
Tatty ends of unfinished business
Or business                              unravelled
Are drawn together and tenderly
Made new.
Nimble stitches
Seen                           only by the weaver
Whose loving                                 fingers
Repair the frangible fabric of lives.


Music: Confitemini Domino – Taize Community

Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus, 
quoniam in sæculum misericordia ejus.

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious,
because his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 24: Vanity, Vanity

Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

Thursday, September 3, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 24 which encourages us to be sinless, pure of heart, and humble. And that’s hard!

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.


Do you remember the song “You’re So Vain”? Here is a reminder.

The song expresses a common understanding of the word “vanity”:

excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievement


We all know people who seem to think they’re hot stuff. Maybe we’re even one of them! But I think that often a person behaving vainly really is quite unsure of himself.

The apparent vanity is a veneer to hide the emptiness inside. It is a veiled fear that, rather than being “all that”, one is really “not enough”.

The word vanity comes from the Latin root vanus which means empty – not “empty” with a readiness to be filled. Instead it connotes an emptiness that rattles with accumulated pretenses and falsehoods. It is a place of loud but lonely echoes.


Paul addresses this kind of emptiness when he writes to the Corinthians. He tells them not to get caught up in the contest of human vanity because we already are sufficient in God’s love and grace. Everything important is already ours in Christ, in God.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.


Psalm 24 assures us that to participate in this blessing, to be embraced by God’s favor only this is sufficient:

Who can stand in God’s holy place?
The clean of hand and pure of heart,
who have not given their soul to useless things,
to what is vain.
They will receive blessings from the LORD,
and justice from their saving God.


Poetry: Vanity by George Herbert

The fleet astronomer can bore 
And thread the spheres with his quick-piercing mind: 
He views their stations, walks from door to door, 
         Surveys, as if he had designed 
To make a purchase there; he sees their dances, 
                   And knoweth long before 
Both their full-eyes aspècts, and secret glances. 
         
         The nimble diver with his side 
Cuts through the working waves, that he may fetch 
His dearly-earnèd pearl, which God did hide 
         On purpose from the venturous wretch; 
That he might save his life, and also hers 
                   Who with excessive pride 
Her own destruction and his danger wears. 
         
         The subtle chymic can divest 
And strip the creature naked, till he find 
The callow principles within their nest: 
         There he imparts to them his mind, 
Admitted to their bed-chamber, before 
                   They appear trim and dressed 
To ordinary suitors at the door. 
         
       What hath not man sought out and found, 
But his dear God? who yet his glorious law 
Embosoms in us, mellowing the ground 
         With showers and frosts, with love and awe, 
So that we need not say, “Where’s this command?” 
                   Poor man, thou searchest round 
To find out death, but missest life at hand.

Song: As We Seek Your Face – Divine Hymns

Psalm 67: Bless Us All!

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 16, 2020

Today, in Mercy, we read the story of the Canaanite woman whom Jesus first meets with a sarcastic banter. The banter however serves to expose some of the alienating prejudices of Jesus’s time which he then dissolves in a sweeping act of mercy and inclusion. His actions signify a new culture of divine justice offered to all people. The reading challenges us to confront our own prejudices and any limitations we place on who belongs to the Kingdom of God.

from this Sunday’s Reflection – 2017

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 67, a call to God for universal blessing on all Creation. Written to invoke a benediction on the land’s harvest, the Psalm blossoms into a generous prayer for the whole world to bask in God’s abundance.

May the nations be glad and rejoice;
for you judge the peoples with fairness,
you guide the nations upon the earth.

What if we prayed like that for all our brothers and sisters worldwide! What if we acted toward them with a justice that would make their abundance possible as well as our own! This is the Gospel mandate Jesus entrusted to us.

Psalm 67 shows the maturing of a nation from its own legitimate self-interests into its responsibility within all Creation.


In the USA, as our pre-election political awareness heightens, let’s learn from Psalm 67. Let’s broadly educate ourselves to the fundamental moral issues underlying various partisan platforms. 

For a religious person, voting is hard. There are profound moral issues on all sides of the question. A single issue approach does not work. An adamant stance on a single issue is the easy but inadequate approach. 


Even Jesus, in today’s Gospel, can be moved to a new way of thinking. The outcast Canaanite woman prevails on Jesus to broaden his kingdom. He opens his heart to another way of bringing mercy to all those longing for it.


Voting is a moral act. How we choose demonstrates the God we believe in.


May the peoples praise you, God;
may ALL the peoples praise you!


Poetry: Selah by Honoreé Fannane Jeffers

“The past few weeks were very hopeful for me, as an African-American. I saw images of young Black people out in the streets protesting, to make this country a better place. As an older person who stayed inside while these young folks put their bodies on the line, I wanted to celebrate them. I wrote this poem as a spiritual exaltation of Black faith, that our hoped-for change for our country is coming.”

Honoreé Fanonne Jeffers

Selah
after Margaret Walker’s “For My People”


The Lord clings to my hands
             after a night of shouting. 
                           The Lord stands on my roof 
             & sleeps in my bed. 
Sings the darkened, Egun tunnel— 
             cooks my food in abundance, 
                           though I was once foolish 
             & wished for an emptied stomach. 
The Lord drapes me with rolls of fat 
             & plaits my hair with sanity. 
                           Gives me air, 
             music from unremembered fever. 
This air
                            oh that i may give air to my people 
                            oh interruption of murder 
                                         the welcome Selah
The Lord is a green, Tubman escape. 
             A street buzzing with concern, 
                           minds discarding answers. 
             Black feet on a centuries-long journey.
The Lord is the dead one scratching my face, 
             pinching me in dreams. 
                           The screaming of the little girl that I was, 
             the rocking of the little girl that I was— 
the sweet hush of her healing. 
             Her syllables 
                           skipping on homesick pink. 
             I pray to my God of confused love, 
a toe touching blood 
             & swimming through Moses-water. 
                           A cloth & wise rocking. 
             An eventual Passover, 
outlined skeletons will sing 
             this day of air 
                           for my people—
                                         oh the roar of God 
                                         oh our prophesied walking

Music: Charles Ives – Psalm 67

Psalm 78: It’s Harsh

Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 13, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 78, one of the twelve “Psalms of Asaph”. These psalms have a common theme of God’s judgement relative to Israel’s faithlessness to the Law.

Psalm 78 is the second longest psalm, the whole of which reads a lot like a history lesson. It recounts God’s enduring faithfulness even in the face of Israel’s fickleness.

They tempted and rebelled against God the Most High,
and kept not his decrees.
They turned back and were faithless like their fathers;
they recoiled like a treacherous bow.


The psalm fits well with today’s readings. Poor Ezekiel is commanded by God to act out the impending Assyrian devastation of the kingdom. He has to pack up, dig through a wall, hide his face, and escape into the night — just as Israel will have to do when the conquerors besiege them. All this, because God is passing judgement on Israel’s infidelities and God wants them to recognize it.

They angered him with their high places
and with their idols roused his jealousy.
God heard and was enraged
and utterly rejected Israel.


Psalm 78 remembers this history and retells it for the instruction of the generations. It is a reminiscence not unlike one that we all practice, I think.

Sometimes, especially in prayer or retreat, don’t we look back over our lives to rediscover how God was with us even in difficulty and darkness? Even in our poorest choices and most stupid sins? Aren’t we gratefully surprised that God’s Mercy was the ultimate fruit of such trials? When we face new challenges, don’t we remind ourselves of these things for the sake of our future courage and hope?

That’s what Psalm 78 is doing. Israel messed up, suffered judgement, and was made new in Mercy. The psalmist wants future generations never to forget.


Each of us, both as individuals and within our communities, experience such cycles of sin and redemption. Each turn should make us stronger, grateful, more faithful. Our witness to God’s abiding mercy should be shared for the sake of the generations… our personal Psalm 78 – written not in words, but in the fidelity of our lives.

Psalm 78 is not pretty or easy. Life isn’t always that way either. In our Gospel, Jesus assures us that God is a generous Creator who wants to redeem us in Mercy. But we have to do our part too, or we could wind up like the unfaithful servant – defeated by our own selfish choices.


Poetry: Mercy by David Baker

Small flames afloat in blue duskfall, beneath trees
anonymous and hooded, the solemn trees—by ones
and twos and threes we go down to the water's level edge
with our candles cupped and melted into little pie-tins
to set our newest loss free. Everyone is here.

Everyone is wholly quiet in the river's hush and appropriate dark.
The tenuous fires slip from our palms and seem to settle
in the stilling water, but then float, ever so slowly,
in a loose string like a necklace's pearls spilled,
down the river barely as wide as a dusty road.

No one is singing, and no one leaves—we stand back
beneath the grieving trees on both banks, bowed but watching,
as our tiny boats pass like a long history of moons
reflected, or like notes in an elder's hymn, or like us,
death after death, around the far, awakening bend.

Music:  Mercy – Amanda Cook

Psalm 102: For the Generations

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest

August 4, 2020

The USCCB website (that you click for daily readings) has been beautifully updated. Make sure you take a look!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 102. Today’s chosen verses proclaim the psalmist’s confidence that the Covenant Promise will endure through the generations.


The psalm really rings a bell for me today. We are expecting two new babies in my family within the next month. The excitement and joy are building throughout the family branches, scattered over several states and hundreds of miles.

Due to Covid-19, I probably won’t be with these new “grands” for a long time. That’s why I am so grateful for FaceTime to help me feel a real part of their lives.


Psalm 102 is David’s FaceTime.
Through it, he looks into a future
physically distant from him.
He has confidence that that future
is already blessed by God
through the faith which it inherits.


Thinking about this, I realize that I am someone’s “future” – my parents, grandparents and all the long line of ancestors before them. They thought about me, hoped in me, prayed for me the way I am praying for these coming babies.

Those Elders passed on to me a strong faith, hard-earned on the soils of Ireland, hard-carried over immigrant waters, hard-kept in a highly secularized culture. Like David, they wanted God’s faithfulness to be remembered by all who came after them:

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let God’s future creatures praise the LORD …


When my Aunt Mary died last October, I became the oldest living member of our family. I take that role seriously. I pray for our entire family, by blood and law, every day.

Each day, I pick one who gets special prayers for blessing on his or her life. Sometimes I know they need it for a certain reason. Sometimes, they have no idea I am praying for them – or perhaps, if they are distant relatives, that I even know their names.


As we pray Psalm 119 today, let’s consider our place in the generations of faith, and our responsibility to give and receive the riches of that faith to one another.

The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD  and God’s praise
may be ever declared;
When the peoples gather together
and the families, to serve the LORD.


Poetry: Isaac’s Blessing by Janet Eigner whose adult daughter died young, leaving the freckled boy in this poem:

When Isaac, a small, freckled boy 
approaching seven, visits us for Family Camp, 
playing pirate with his rubber sword,

sometimes he slumps in grief, 
trudging along, his sacrifice and small violin 
in hand, his palm over his chest,

saying, Mother is here 
in my heart. Before he leaves for home, 
we ask if he’d like a Jewish blessing.

Our grandson’s handsome face ignites; 
he chirps a rousing, yes, for a long life. 
We unfold the prayer shawl,

its Hebrew letters silvering the spring light, 
hold the white tallis above his head, 
recite the blessing in its ancient language

and then the English, adding, for a long life. 
Isaac complains, the tallis didn’t 
touch his head, so he didn’t feel the blessing.

We lower its silken ceiling 
to graze his dark hair, 
repeat the prayer.

Music: As for Me and My House – a prayer for our families for the generations 

Psalm 59: Did Martha Pray It?

Memorial of Saint Martha

July 29, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Martha, we pray with Psalm 59.

The psalm is introduced with an interesting phrase: a miktam of David, when Saul sent people to watch his house and kill him. 

The meaning of the word mitkam is unclear, but the meaning of the rest of the phrase is abundantly evident. David felt threatened by the forces of King Saul who surrounded his house day and night awaiting an opportunity to attack him.

The psalm bemoans that situation. In two complementary stanzas, the psalmist asks God for victory and deliverance. Each ends with a refrain of praise and gratitude.


As I pray this psalm today, my mind goes to a house in Bethany. Three siblings live there who are friends of Jesus. Each loves Jesus in her or his own way, according to their personalities. 

The Gospels give us a vivid perception of Mary’s love. We can easily imagine the immensely grateful love of resurrected Lazarus. 

Then there is Martha of whom we know so little. A woman who found comfort in creating a hospitable home. A woman who commanded a well-functioning kitchen. A woman who, silent except for her famous sisterly complaint, let her works speak her love.

As their friendship with Jesus grew, and as Jesus became more notorious to the Jewish leaders, their little house no doubt became the object of inimical fascination.

Jesus’s enemies watched him, but that also watched his friends, frightening many away from Jesus’s side.

As this reality intensified, perhaps phrases of Psalm 59 rose in Martha’s heart as she prayed:

Rescue me from my enemies, O my God;
from my adversaries defend me….
… For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
mighty men come together against me,
Not for any offense or sin of mine, O LORD.

We can only guess what this little family suffered in order to be Jesus’s friends, both during his lifetime and by their witness in the subsequent early Christian Church. But by faith, we can be certain they rejoiced in the Divine Gift these sufferings brought them.

But I will sing of your strength
and revel at dawn in your mercy;
You have been my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of distress.
O my strength! your praise will I sing;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
my merciful God!

Let us pray today to be, like Martha of Bethany, devoted friends of God.

Poetry:  You, neighbor God – Rainer Maria Rilke

You, neighbor god, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.
Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.
Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.
The wall is builded of your images.
They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.
And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.

Music: Psalm 59 – Esther Mui

Deuteronomy 32: Moses’ Psalm

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 26, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Deuteronomy 32, commonly referred to as the Song of Moses. Most biblical scholars agree that the selection was composed long after Moses died and inserted in Deuteronomy perhaps at the time of the prophet Samuel.

As literature, the poem shows Moses prophesying the troubles that will come upon the people because of their faithlessness. As history, these troubles have already occurred and are referenced as a lesson for the future.


The verses highlighted today are unhappy ones. With exaggerated anthropomorphism, God is characterized as really mad and passive-aggressive with Israel. It’s not a nice picture of how God relates to us. It’s not real either.

Still, the writer was a human being searching for some rational way to understand the trauma Israel was experiencing at the hands of their enemies. The logic, or illogic, goes something like this:

  • things are a mess
  • it must be our fault
  • we did bad things
  • so God’s mad and did bad things back
  • we better straighten up
  • then God might relent

We are all tempted to reason like this when we experience misfortune, pain, and trauma. We think evil should make sense. It doesn’t. The interplay of good and evil is a mystery we will never understand in this life.


What we can understand is faithfulness – God’s to us, and ours to God.

God, you are my Rock—how faultless are your deeds,
how right all your ways!
You are faithful God, without deceit,
You are Justice, Righteousness, and Mercy

This is the true message of the Song of Moses: Our merciful God is always faithful. When we experience suffering in life, – even the kind we bring on ourselves and one another – let our sorrow draw us ever closer to God’s Mercy which abides with us in all our troubles. Within the sacred mystery of grace, that Mercy seeks to transform us into Mercy ourselves.


Poetry:  Possible Answers to Prayer by Scott Cairns
The poem gives a wake up call about self-absorption in our prayers, and – with its own touch of anthropomorphism – images how God might perceive narrow prayers. The poem encourages us to accompany others in their greater sufferings.

Your petitions—though they continue to bear
just the one signature—have been duly recorded.
Your anxieties—despite their constant,

relatively narrow scope and inadvertent
entertainment value—nonetheless serve
to bring your person vividly to mind.

Your repentance—all but obscured beneath
a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more
conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.

Your intermittent concern for the sick,
the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes
recognizable to me, if not to them.

Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly
righteous indignation toward the many
whose habits and sympathies offend you— 
      
these must burn away before you’ll apprehend
how near I am, with what fervor I adore
precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.

Music: Audite Caeli – Michel Richard Delalande

This motet captures the opening words of the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32.

Audite, caeli, quae loquor: audiat terra verba oris mei.
Concrescat ut pluvia doctrina mea, fluat ut ros eloquium meum,
quasi imber super herbam, et quasi stillae super gramina.
Quia nomen Domini invocabo: date magnificentiam Deo nostro.
Dei perfecta sunt opera, et omnes viae ejus judicia.

Hear, O ye heavens, the things I speak,
let the earth give ear to the words of my mouth.Let my doctrine gather as the rain, let my speech distil as the dew,
as a shower upon the herb, and as drops upon the grass.
Because I will invoke the name of the Lord: give ye magnificence to our God.
The works of God are perfect, and all his ways are judgments.