Don’t Miss Sirach!

Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr
June 1, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with one of our last few readings from the Book of Sirach. On Saturday, we will finish this book and, on Monday, move on to the Book of Tobit.

Both Sirach and Tobit are considered deuterocanonical (or “second list”) books of the Bible. That’s a really big word that makes you sound smart but its meaning is simple. The term refers to a group of writings composed sometime in the 300 years before the birth of Christ. The Catholic Church considers them part of the Old Testament. Most Protestant denominations do not.

Therefore, my readers who are not Catholic may be unfamiliar with these books. The Protestant Bible is composed of the protocanonical (or “first list”) of books, the earlier texts which comprised the Hebrew scriptures. Catholic translations of the Bible include both proto and deutero books.

So who cares, you might be saying. Well, I think it’s helpful to realize that the formulation of what comprises the Bible was a fluid process. Jews, Catholics and Protestants mean different things when they say “my Bible”. We share many of the same readings, but may never have heard some others. Sirach and Tobit are good examples of those sometimes missed readings.

And what a shame it would be to miss the wise and lyrical Sirach who was a real poet writing around 200 years before Jesus was born. His work was preserved, popular and shared. Many references in the New Testament indicate that Jesus and the disciples were familiar with Sirach’s work. That’s cool, don’t you think? I like to think of Jesus listening to sacred stories or reading books like Sirach before he went to bed at night.

And maybe Jesus, as we might this morning, walked along the beach or sat by a dawn-lit window praying with these beautiful words:

Now will I recall God’s works;
what I have seen, I will describe.
At God’s word were his works brought into being;
they do his will as he has ordained for them.
As the rising sun is clear to all,
so the glory of the LORD fills all his works;
Yet even God’s holy ones must fail
in recounting the wonders of the LORD,
Though God has given these, his hosts, the strength
to stand firm before his glory.

Sirach 2:15-17

Our Gospel may lead us to pray with Bartimeus, begging for the kind of sight Sirach describes – an inner sight that comes from allowing God to plumb our hearts:

He plumbs the depths and penetrates the heart;
their innermost being he understands.
The Most High possesses all knowledge,
and sees from of old the things that are to come:
He makes known the past and the future,
and reveals the deepest secrets.

Sirach 42:18-19

Poetry: how about if we just enjoy more of Sirach’s elegant poetry

How beautiful are all God's works!
even to the spark and fleeting vision!
The universe lives and abides forever;
to meet each need, each creature is preserved.
All of them differ, one from another,
yet none of them has God made in vain,
For each in turn, as it comes, is good;
can one ever see enough of their splendor?

Music: Across the Universe – John Lennon and the Beatles

This song reminds me that God’s Universe is everlasting. Nothing will change God’s Presence to us. The phrase “Jai Guru Deva” is a Sanskrit phrase which can be translated “Glory to the Shining Remover of Darkness”, reminding us of Bartimeus’s experience of being healed from his blindness.

Do You Love Me?

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest
May 26, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we stand beside Peter as Jesus asks him the most important question of his life.

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

John 21:15

What was Jesus really getting at? Here they all are enjoying a nice breakfast on the beach. Their hearts are overjoyed to be in the presence of their Eastered Lord. Life must have felt good that sunny, post-Resurrection morning. And probably all that Peter really wanted out of life was another piece of fired fish or toasted bread, and for their seashore picnic to linger into an eternal evening.

Then here comes Jesus with his cosmic questions! What does he mean, “Do I love him”! Of course, I love him! Haven’t I hung around for three years trying to make this thing work, climbing out of my several missteps to try to be everything he wanted and needed? Oh my goodness, where is he going to call me now with this confusing question: Do you love me?

Yes, Jesus knows that Peter loves him in Peter’s way. He trusts Peter’s affection, devotion, and utter commitment to him. But Jesus’s question is pulling Peter way beyond the salted scents of that Tiberias beach. He wants Peter to love him in God’s way!

Jesus is calling Peter to a timeless answer and a transcendent love. What he is asking Peter is this:

  • Will you leave the man who was “Simon, son of John” to become “Peter, the Rock on which I build my Church”.
  • Will you love me to the point of giving yourself completely so that I may continue to love through you?

Today, as we settle into the sandy dunes with Jesus and his BFFs, Jesus might glance at us as he passes his smoked fish our way. His beautiful eyes might hold a question for us as well as for Peter. Through each of us, Jesus wants to continue to love the world into wholeness. Let’s ask his help in learning how to do that.

Maxim: from St. John of the Cross, a 16th century mystic, who understood Jesus’s eternal question and answered it in this way:

In the evening of our lives we will be judged on love.
Let us therefore learn to love God as God wishes to be loved.

Music: Fill the World with Love – from “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse

In the morning of my life I shall look to the sunrise.
At a moment in my life when the world is new.
And the blessing I shall ask is that God will grant me,
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

In the noontime of my life I shall look to the sunshine,
At a moment in my life when the sky is blue.
And the blessing I shall ask shall remain unchanging.
To be brave and strong and true,
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love
And to fill the world with love my whole life through.

In the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset,
At a moment in my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only God can answer.
Was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?

Did I fill the world with love?
Did I fill the world with love?
Did I fill the world with love
My whole life through?

Amid Trumpet Blasts

The Ascension of the Lord
May 18, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 47, one of seven enthronement psalms which celebrate a “coronation” of God.

All you peoples, clap your hands,
    shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
    is the great king over all the earth.

Psalm 47: 1

Used for the feast of the Ascension, the point of the psalm is much more than an exercise of pageantry. It is an act of faith and reverence to God, the Loving Omnipotence who chose to redeem us by assuming our humanity.

It is a confirmation that we believers do see the Supreme Being in the human Jesus we have come to love. This is what Paul prays for the Ephesians in our second reading:

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:18-21

The Great Commission, found in today’s Gospel, is the true gift of the Ascension.

Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

Mark 16: 15

Jesus tells us that his time on earth is complete. The lesson of Incarnational Love has been taught. We now are given the power to continue the message for all time. 

Jesus promises that our faith will:

overcome evil
-create new possibilities to preach the Gospel
-show courage against antagonism
-resist suppression
-heal and strengthen others to believe

These signs will accompany those who believe:

-in my name they will drive out demons,
-they will speak new languages.
-They will pick up serpents with their hands,
-drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

If we believe and open our hearts to this message, indeed, it is a day for trumpet blasts! Here are a few from one of my favorite triumphal pieces! If the Apostles had only had trumpets, they might have played something like this for the Lord as He ascended 🙂

Poetry: Ascension Sonnet – Malcolm Guite

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.

We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,

Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,

His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed.

Music: Psalm 47 – Rory Cooney

Faith and Truth

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
May 17, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Paul is the headliner at the famed Areopagus in Athens.

The Areopagus is a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. The name Areopagus also referred, in classical times, to the Athenian governing council, because they convened in this location. It was the ancient version of a stadium, but one provided by nature rather than human hands.

Paul’s address, from Acts today, has been perfectly crafted for his audience who are Gentile intellectuals and philosophers. We are familiar, up until now, with Paul’s speeches to Jews whom he wishes to convert. In those circumstances, he drew on the Hebrew scriptures with which they are familiar. But for the Athenians, Paul uses their art, poetry and philosophy to lead them to the topic of Jesus as the one true God.

And things go well for Paul in his long and finely detailed oration. The thoughtful Athenians are listening, that is until they hit a snag:

(Paul proclaimed) God demands that all people everywhere repent
because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world
with justice’ through a man he has appointed,
and he has provided confirmation for all
by raising him from the dead.”

When they heard about resurrection of the dead,
some began to scoff, but others said,
“We should like to hear you on this some other time.”
And so Paul left them.

Acts 17:30-33

Jesus Christ, Risen from the dead is the touchstone of our Christian faith. It is the Sacred Reality that surpasses and changes every other reality we encounter.

Resurrection faith is not something we can study, analyze, or comprehand with simply the powers of our minds. That’s what the Athenians tried to do, but their analytical inclinations blocked them.

Resurrection faith is a Divine gift, given through the Spirit, to a heart opened in trust and readiness to God. It defies logic and philosophy because it is greater than they are. For one who has this kind of faith, explanations are not only unnecessary, they are restrictive and superfluous.

Jesus understood that to live with such faith is challenging. He suggests that the disciples cannot bear the weight of it without the indwelling companionship of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when the Spirit comes, the Spirit of truth,
you will be guided to all truth.

John 16:12-13

As people desiring to grow in faith, we can learn from the Athenians who walked away from the Grecian hillside. Is my capacity to believe limited by what my small human intellect can define? Or are my heart and mind given in trust to the infinite God Who loves me into the fullness of Truth.

Poetry: Tell All the Truth, but Tell It Slant – Emily Dickenson

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –

Music: The Faith – Leonard Cohen

The sea so deep and blind
The sun, the wild regret
The club, the wheel, the mind,
O love, aren’t you tired yet?
The club, the wheel, the mind
O love, aren’t you tired yet?

The blood, the soil, the faith
These words you can’t forget
Your vow, your holy place
O love, aren’t you tired yet?
The blood, the soil, the faith
O love, aren’t you tired yet?

A cross on every hill
A star, a minaret
So many graves to fill
O love, aren’t you tired yet?
So many graves to fill
O love, aren’t you tired yet?

The sea so deep and blind
Where still the sun must set
And time itself unwind
O love, aren’t you tired yet?
And time itself unwind
O love, aren’t you tired yet?


Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
May 16, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet people who are deeply dedicated to their life commitments – sometimes for good, sometimes for woe.

In Acts, we meet the unnamed “jailer”. Paul and Silas have been manhandled and thrown into prison. Their jailer receives the instruction to “guard them securely” and he takes it very seriously, binding them in chains in the innermost dungeon.

This man revels in his job, to the degree that it is his only identification in the scriptures. We never know his real name.

His job gives him authority and power he would not have in his ordinary circumstances. Perhaps his job has even become his identity so that without it, he feels like little or nothing. When God decides to “earthquake” Paul and Silas out of their chains, the guard freaks. It’s more than an earthquake to him – his very identity is crumbling in the tumult.

And how about Paul? Is he cool in this reading, or what??? Paul’s power relies not on an assumed identity but on God’s centrality in his life.

When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open,
he drew his sword and was about to kill himself,
thinking that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
“Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”

The jailer’s awed response is full-hearted! He does a transformational flip which transfers all his past “job dedication” into his new spiritual conversion. Not only does he allow the disciples to go free, he guides them to his own house, ministers to them, and is baptised. No doubt, his past employers were not too happy with him!

In our Gospel, the disciples, who are deeply dedicated to their vocations, still demonstrate a bit of job-jitters.

Jesus has made it clear that he’s on his way to another dimension and that his disciples will to have to carry on the evangelization business on their own. He promises them all kinds of supernatural help but they can’t imagine functioning without him.

Finally Jesus tells them that, in his physical absence, the Spirit will give them an enhanced power to promulgate the Gospel:

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes he will convict the world
in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation

Both our readings today remind us that it’s all about what really makes us tick. Do we really understand that it is God’s life with us that gives us “importance”, security and identity? Do we tap into that Infinite Power to give us hope, confidence and transformational resilience in life’s many earthquakes? If so, we like the disciples, will be “unchainable” — because it isn’t about us. It is about the God we love whose Spirit lives in us.

Poetry: Peter and the Angel – Denise Levertov

(This poem is not about Paul and Silas, but rather about Peter when he too was freed from prison by Divine intervention (Acts 12:5-17))

Delivered out of raw continual pain,
smell of darkness, groans of those others
to whom he was chained—
unchained, and led
past the sleepers,
door after door silently opening—
And along a long street's
majestic emptiness under the moon:
one hand on the angel's shoulder, one
feeling the air before him,
eyes open but fixed . . .
And not till he saw the angel had left him,
alone and free to resume
the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
what he had still to do,
not till then did he recognize
this was no dream. More frightening
than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
Had the angel's feet
made any sound? He could not recall.
No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
He himself must be
the key, now, to the next door,
the next terrors of freedom and joy.

Music: Love is the Only Way – from the film Paul, Apostle of Christ by Jan Kaczmarek

An extra treat to bless your day: this beautiful and powerful rendition of “Unchained Melody’

The Musikschau der Nationen invites army orchestras from almost a dozen countries the U.S. Army website classifies as “Europe’s biggest brass band music festival.” Though not always consecutive, the festival enjoys over 35 years of time-honored traditions. Some participants besides the U.S. included Vietnam, Russia, and Mexico, among others. In 2002, they performed an all-orchestra version of “Unchained Melody”. The performance represented the largest millitary orchestra in the world.

Colorful Faith

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
May 15, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our first reading opens with the beautiful image of Paul and co-ministers sailing off into the Mediterranean blue, finally ending up in Philippi.

There they meet Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth”. Lydia was a notable figure. Some scripture scholars say she was businesswoman and head of a significant household who offered hospitality to Paul’s entire traveling team. Others see her as a morally questionable “huckster” whose invitation of men to her home would have been morally questionable.

In a magnificent paper for her doctoral dissertation, Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay argues for Lydia as the “Perceptive Disciple” whose true heart became an agent for God’s Word.

A complex but excellent read for those who might be interested.

However we imagine Lydia, Acts clearly notes that she was already a “worshipper of God”, Lydia listened to the disciples’ evangelization. God opened her heart and she accepted Jesus Christ. This is most significant because her heart-opening, much like Mary’s, allowed the Gospel to pass through to her household and, symbolically, to all of Asia Minor.

Halliday, Edward Irvine; St Paul Meeting Lydia of Thyatira; University of Liverpool;

Lydia is the first Christian convert in Philippi, a church which Paul grew to love deeply as we can discern from his beautiful letter to the Philippians. As Paul and his company finish their initial evangelization in Philipppi, the community is entrusted to the hands of Lydia and her devoted neighbors.

What exactly was Lydia’s role as Paul sailed on to other horizons? As in so many cases involving early Church women, history folds that answer into the opinionated edits of 2000 years of monks and translators.

I choose to think that Lydia continued at least as a presbyter, if not a priest. The community had long gathered around her generous and dynamic leadership. Why would that change after Paul departed?

In our Gospel, Jesus is speaking to people like Lydia and like us, down through the ages. He indicates that once we are transformed in the Holy Spirit, we can’t help but cry out the wonder of God in our lives.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

John 15:26-27

Let’s pray to and for all true disciples, especially the women God has chosen to stand at the center of an ever-evolving Church and to weave its energy always toward an inclusive community.

Poetry: Epilogue – Sister Lou Ella Hickman, a widely published poet whose collection ” she:robed and wordless” captures the essence of many biblical women. Her poem cited here attracted me because of the colors – purple, of course, then oranges and reds. I can almost hear our Lydia reciting such a poem!

Music: Piano instrumental of the beautiful song Deep Purple

Upside-Down, Inside-Out

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter
May 4, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our two readings take us on a journey. We sail through Israel’s long and spectacular salvation history from Moses through David and forward to Jesus. And in the sailing, we get turned head over heels.

In our first reading, Paul encapsulates twelve hundred years in a few elegant verses. (Nice job, Paul!)

The touchpoints of his homily are these:

  • the sojourn in the land of Egypt. 
  • forty years in the desert.
  • destruction of Canaan,
  • judges up to Samuel the prophet.
  • King Saul, for forty years. 
  • King David whose descendants gave Israel …
  • then a little mention of John the Baptist

Paul’s succinct preaching allows us to see God’s powerful arm reaching through the long sleeve of Isreal’s history, finally handing the Chosen People the ultimate gift — Jesus Christ the Messiah.

Ah, but then we have our Gospel – which does today what it always does so well. It turns everything upside down and inside-out.

Through the twelve hundred years of Israel’s pre-Christian history, we see an agonizingly slow rise to power and glory culminating in David’s reign. How deeply later Israelites longed for a future Savior who would shine like the royal David had – who would restore the glory of Israel. That was their cherished expectation.

But Jesus turns that long sleeve of salvation history inside out. He preaches an inverse power fueled by service, a glory dressed in humble acts of mercy and forgiveness.

His longing is not for a worldly restoration, but for a whole New Creation born of sacrificial love. His hope is not for a secular kingdom but for a transformational community enlivened in the Triune God.

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

John 12:16-20

As we read and pray the scriptures, we get better at seeing the sacred understory of grace sustaining us. Upside-down, inside-out, our daily life is filled with divine mystery and revelation. We just have to look at the flip side to catch hold of the sail.

I was a teenager during the golden age of the 33 and 45 rpm records. I had a slew of Elvis, Fats Domino, Roy Orbison, The Everley Brothers, Ray Charles, The Supremes and many others. Each record had a hit on one side, and I rarely bothered to look at the other side. One day I flipped one of my “Top 10s” (The Wildcat Blues) to take a look at the other side, only to find what would become one of my favorite songs of all time: Petite Fleur. After the 1950s, it faded from the top ten list, but it has stayed on my list for 60 years.

When I hear that song, it sinks into my spirit creating a feeling that resists words. Like much good music, it reorders something in my spirit so that I see the world a little differently. And I would never have found it if I hadn’t turned things upside down to listen to the understory.

If we allow ourselves to dive deep under the scriptures – to go to the “flip side” – as Jesus invites us to do in today’s Gospel, we will find our own “petite fleurs” of insight and grace.

If you understand this,
blessed are you if you do it.

John 13:17

Prose: from Seeing by Annie Dillard

The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. 
If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever 
I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts 
after any lunatic at all. 

But although the pearl may be found,
it may not be sought. 
The literature of illumination reveals this above all: 
although it comes to those who wait for it, 
it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, 
a gift and a total surprise… 

I cannot cause light; 
the most I can do is try to put myself 
in the path of its beam. 
It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. 
Light, be it particle or wave, has force: 
you rig a giant sail and go. 

The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind.
Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, 
whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

Music: Petite Fleur – Chris Barber

The Noble Shepherd

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
May 1, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel invites us, once again, to pray in the company of the Good Shepherd. (The Greek phrase could better be translated as “The Noble Shepherd“)

Just a bit earlier in his sermon, Jesus delivered this blockbuster to the gathered crowd:

I came so that you might have life
and have it more abundantly.

John 10:10

I don’t know how those on the ancient hillside received this stunning announcement, but I know that I have heard and read it a thousand times with a dull and stupid heart.

We let ourselves get used to the scriptures. We hear the priest humdrumming the words while we entertain a tumble of distractions in our foggy heads. We pray the words in our quiet rooms while sleep nibbles away at their astounding meaning.

But here’s what our Gospel shouts to us this morning:

I am here to give you abundant life!
For heaven’s sake, let your heart and soul stand up,
open your arms, and embrace the gift I offer you.

Several deep lessons reside within today’s reading, but we might choose to focus on this:

I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10: 11-12

Jesus is telling us
that he is our “good shepherd” for this reason:
because he knows and loves us with the same intensity
that he and the Father know and love each other.

In other words, Jesus loves us with a love that absorbs us into the heart of God. There, we are fed with that love and given an infinitely abundant life – a life that demands to be given and shared.

Jesus tells us that he will lay down his life for his sheep, because this is the nature of Divine Love — it is fully self-giving. The Creator gave everything for us in the gift of Jesus. Jesus gave everything for us in the Paschal Gift. We, recipients of these infinite gifts, are called to give everything for the sake of God’s love in the world.

Does this mean we all have to run out and try to be martyrs? Certainly not. It might be even harder to respond to this call with consistent dailyness than it would be to do so with martyrish abandon.

Our reading from Acts helps us understand what this divine love looks like in an ordinary life. It looks like openness to the Holy Spirit, willingness to change for the sake of others’ good, inclusion of all people in the loving community, actions that build unity and reverence for one another.

The Good Shepherd is a Giving Shepherd who teaches us that we have such an abundance of life in him that we are safe giving our small portion of life for others. We do not need to bury, fortify, protect, and squirrel away our life like misers and hoarders – because, in God, all that we give is continually replaced with even greater plentitude.

We do not have to be first, smartest, prettiest, richest, most powerful, always right or all the other perfectionisms we sometimes are deluded by.

What we have to be is kind, merciful, open, forgiving, honest, generous and humble. These are the true currencies of abundant life in Christ. With the amazing gift we have been given, we are called to allow God to “shepherd” through us in our own particular “sheepfold”.

In his transcendent love, Jesus laid his life down willingly for our sake, and that utter willingness allowed him to take it up again in glory. We might be invited to do a little “life-laying down” ourselves today. Can we find Christ’s invitation, promise, and power within that ordinariness?

The Good Shepherd by James Tissot

Poetry: On Generosity – Walter Brueggemann

On our own, we conclude:
there is not enough to go around
we are going to run short
of money
of love
of grades
of publications
of sex
of beer
of members
of years
of life
we should seize the day
seize our goods
seize our neighbours goods
because there is not enough to go around
and in the midst of our perceived deficit
you come
you come giving bread in the wilderness
you come giving children at the 11th hour
you come giving homes to exiles
you come giving futures to the shut down
you come giving easter joy to the dead
you come – fleshed in Jesus.
and we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing
we watch
and we take food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbours who sustain us
when we did not deserve it.
It dawns on us – late rather than soon-
that you “give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
By your giving, break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance………mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing.
Sink your generosity deep into our lives
that your muchness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving we may endlessly give
so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder,
without coercive need but only love,
without destructive greed but only praise
without aggression and invasiveness….
all things Easter new…..
all around us, toward us and
by us
all things Easter new.
Finish your creation, in wonder, love and praise. Amen.

Music: The Lonely Shepherd – written by James Last and played here by Louis Grosari

God of Abundance

Friday of the Second Week of Easter
April 21, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings offer us two very human, accessible stories.

The first, from Acts, is about the Pharisee named Gamaliel. Gamaliel was a big deal. An esteemed authority in the powerful Sanhedrin, he was the son and grandson of highly respected Jewish teachers. He was wise, prudent, honest and practical. Gamaliel was the “real deal” himself, and he recognized it in others.

Gamaliel and Nicodemus Mourn the Death of Stephen – Carlo Saracini -1615 AD

In today’s reading, Gamaliel intervenes in the Sanhedrin’s relentless pursuit of the early disciples. He basically tells his colleagues, “Hey, wait a minute. If these guys are “the real deal”, there is nothing we can do to undermine them. If they are not, they will undermine themselves. So just cool it for a while.”

While there is scant verifiable evidence to the fact, tradition holds that Gamaliel converted to Christianity. He is venerated as a saint in both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox traditions.

Our Gospel tells us the familiar yet still amazing account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

It’s a wonderful story. I mean just put yourself in this noisy, curious, hungry crowd of 5000 people! Picture Jesus going up the mountainside so they could – maybe – hear what he might say.

Imagine that you’re Philip when Jesus turns to him and asks,
“Where will we get enough food for this crowd?”

Do you see the unspoken answers written all over Philip’s face,
“How should I know? Why are you asking ME!!!!”

The passage says that Jesus was testing Philip, but it was more like a tease when I picture it. Can’t you see the mischievous little smile on Jesus’s face? Jesus knew what he was going to do about the crowd’s hunger. He wanted to be sure his disciples paid strict attention to what was about to happen. So he got them involved with his testing questions.

God wants us to pay attention, too, to what happens when we bring our hungers before God’s merciful goodness. Like the few fish and loaves, God takes the smallest parts of us and builds them up with the gift of grace. God finds the willing fragments of faith, hope and love in us and multiplies them with God’s own power.

With this miracle, Jesus shows his followers and all of us, that there is a sacred reality and Truth beyond the thin scarcities we at first perceive. Deep faith allows us to plumb that reality and to live in its expansive promise. Walter Brueggemann puts it this way:

The feeding of the multitudes … is an example of the new world coming into being through God. When the disciples, charged with feeding the hungry crowd, found a child with five loaves and two fishes, Jesus took, blessed ,broke and gave the bread. These are the four decisive verbs of our sacramental existence. Jesus conducted a Eucharist, a gratitude. He demonstrated that the world is filled with abundance and freighted with generosity. If bread is broken and shared, there is enough for all. Jesus is engaged in the sacramental, subversive reordering of public reality.

Walter Brueggemann, The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity

Gamaliel opened his heart to this Truth,
as did the first disciples.
It’s our turn now.

(Insert your name), where will we get the food
to feed these hungers in our world?

Poetry: Miracles – Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

Music: God of Abundance – Kat Mills

A Good Heart, an “Easter-ed Heart”

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
April 20, 2023

Today’s Readings:

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the post-Resurrection Apostles continue their unstoppable testimony to Jesus Christ. Their persistence “infuriates” the Sanhedrin who fear the blood of Christ being called down upon them!

“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men. 
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Acts 5: 28-33

There is an interesting play in the words and concepts of this reading from Acts.

  • While the Sanhedrin are infuriated, or filled with the fire of denial and sin, the Apostles are inflamed with the unquenchable Fire of the Holy Spirit.
  • While the Sanhedrin fear the blood of Christ called down upon them, the disciples hearts are transformed by its power.

The contrast in their responses to God’s Word is stunning.

In our Gospel, John captures this contrast in a nutshell:

The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly
and speaks of earthly things.

John 3:31

In other words, those transformed in the power of the Resurrection see the world with God’s eyes — “from above”. Those unconverted by that Power still see the world in godlessness.

Our Gospel calls us to be like the disciples not like the Sanhedrin.  It calls us to open our hearts:

  • to see the Truth Who is Jesus Christ
  • to believe that the Truth of his Resurrection lives in us
  • to become that Truth through the witness of our lives.

The Gospel calls us to live a whole-hearted faith which allows the Holy Spirit to be expressed in every aspect of our lives. Jesus does not ration the gift of the Spirit, nor should we:

Whoever does accept Christ’s testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.

John 3:33-34

How do we live such a life of Christian witness? Do we have to shout the witness out loud with every action of our lives?  I don’t think so.

Brother David Steindl-Rast describes believers like this:

People who have faith in life are like swimmers who entrust themselves to a rushing river. They neither abandon themselves to its current nor try to resist it. Rather, they adjust their every movement to the watercourse, use it with purpose and skill, and enjoy the adventure.

And the great St. Teresa of Avila blesses believers with this prayer:

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.

Poetry: Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith by Mary Oliver

Every summer
I listen and look 
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything — 
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green 
stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker — 
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk. 

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing — 
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves, 

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet — 
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum. 

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear? 

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

Music: A Good Heart – Marc Enfroy