Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings center on the themes of grief, honor, and mercy.
In the passage from 2 Samuel, Saul has been killed in battle. The news is brought to David by a scheming Amalekite who (later verses reveal) hopes to profit from his enterprise. He has stripped Saul’s dead body of its kingly insignia, obsequiously depositing it at David’s feet. The messenger expects David’s vengeful rejoicing and a hefty reward.
Instead David, with reverence and honor appropriate to a future king, launches a deep public mourning for Saul and Jonathan. It is a bereavement necessary to both cleanse and heal the community’s heart from all the strife leading up to it.
David seized his garments and rent them, and all the men who were with him did likewise. They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the soldiers of the LORD of the clans of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
2 Samuel 1:11-12
David’s lament is profound; it is”splancha”, sprung from his innards, like the anguish Jesus felt for the suffering persons he encountered, as described in our Gospel.
A callous or indifferent heart cannot comprehend such pathos. Seeing it in Jesus, even his relatives thought him insane!
Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Poem: David and Jonathan by Abraham Crowley, an English poet born in the City of London in 1618. He was one of the leading English poets of the 17th century.
Still to one end they both so justly drew, As courteous Doves together yok'd would do. No weight of Birth did on one side prevaile, Two Twins less even lie in Natures Scale, They mingled Fates, and both in each did share, They both were Servants, they both Princes were. If any Joy to one of them was sent; It was most his, to whom it least was meant, And fortunes malice betwixt both was crost, For striking one, it wounded th'other most. Never did Marriage such true Union find, Or mens desires with so glad violence bind; For there is still some tincture left of Sin, And still the Sex will needs be stealing in. Those joys are full of dross, and thicker farre These, without matter, clear and liquid are. Such sacred Love does he'avens bright Spirits fill, Where Love is but to Understand and Will, With swift and unseen Motions; such as We Somewhat express in heightned Charitie. O ye blest One! whose Love on earth became So pure that still in Heav'en 'tis but the same There now ye sit, and with mixt souls embrace, Gazing upon great Loves mysterious Face, And pity this base world where Friendship's made A bait for sin, or else at best a Trade.
Music: Lascia Ch’io Pianga (Let Me Weep)- Georg Frideric Handel – a single piece of beautiful music today in two version, an aria and an instrumental interpretation.
Julia Lezhneva – soprano
Stjepan Hauser – cellist
Lascia ch’io pianga la cruda sorte, e che sospiri la libertà. Il duolo infranga queste ritorte de’ miei martiri sol per pietà.
Let me weep cruel fate, and sigh for liberty.
May sorrow break these chains Of my sufferings, for pity’s sake.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are full of drama and meaning enveloped in two of the greatest speeches of the Hebrew Scriptures – one from David, the other from Saul. The use of speeches to unfold the narrative is characteristic of the high points of Scripture. And these are two winners.
In the passage from Samuel, David spares Saul’s life even though Saul is in murderous pursuit of him. The result is the final dissolution of Saul’s kingship. It is a scene that could be right out of MGM! (Here is a video for kids featuring the moment. But I thought it was pretty cool. Maybe you will too.)
Is David noble or naïve? Is he magnanimous or stupid? Is he sincere or clever? Various scripture scholars interpret these passages in a host of ways. But as I pray this morning, I ask myself what it is that God might be saying to me through this passage.
Two things rise up:
Above all else, David is motivated by a deep respect for God’s Will and Presence in his life. He doesn’t force God’s Will by seizing the kingship. David waits and listens for God’s intention.
David said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him, for he is the LORD’s anointed.”
2. David engages Saul directly and respectfully, perhaps in the hope of reaching a resolution of their issues. This honesty appears to motivate Saul to see himself and his situation clearly. It is a consummate act of reconciliation.
When David finished saying these things to Saul, Saul answered, “Is that your voice, my son David?” And Saul wept aloud.
In our Gospel, Jesus calls his disciples to live in the world in just such a way – to bring healing and wholeness in the Name of Christ, for the sake of Love.
Our Alleluia Verse today captures the essence of Christ’s call to them —- and to us:
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of that reconciliation.
Poetry:Saul And David by Anthony Hecht, 1923 – 2004, was an American poet. His work combined a deep interest in form with a passionate desire to confront the horrors of 20th century history, with the Second World War, in which he fought, and the Holocaust being recurrent themes in his work.
It was a villainous spirit, snub-nosed, foul Of breath, thick-taloned and malevolent, That squatted within him wheresoever he went …….And possessed the soul of Saul.
There was no peace on pillow or on throne. In dreams the toothless, dwarfed, and squinny-eyed Started a joyful rumor that he had died …….Unfriended and alone.
The doctors were confounded. In his distress, he Put aside arrogant ways and condescended To seek among the flocks where they were tended …….By the youngest son of Jesse,
A shepherd boy, but goodly to look upon, Unnoticed but God-favored, sturdy of limb As Michelangelo later imagined him, …….Comely even in his frown.
Shall a mere shepherd provide the cure of kings? Heaven itself delights in ironies such As this, in which a boy’s fingers would touch …….Pythagorean strings
And by a modal artistry assemble The very Sons of Morning, the ranked and choired Heavens in sweet laudation of the Lord, …….And make Saul cease to tremble.
Music: To Fill the World with Love sung by Richard Harris (Lyrics below, but you will no doubt recall them from the fabulous film “Goodbye Mr. Chips”.)
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.
(Chorus) 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
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?
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read about Jesus’s first public miracle at Cana. It is a story that has always fascinated me, mostly because of what is left unsaid – what is written between the lines.
The Gospel begins by telling of a wedding and “the mother of Jesus was there”. The suggestion is that Mary had been staying at the wedding site and that she had a special role in the preparations. Perhaps she was the aunt or good friend of the bride or groom. Whatever the case, Mary seems to have had some unique responsibility for the ceremony’s success.
This responsibility motivates her to solicit Jesus’s help when she notices the wine is running out. Did she expect a miracle in return for her remark? We don’t know. Perhaps she just wanted Jesus and his young friends to run down to the local wine store for replenishments.
It was Jesus who decided to turn the request into an occasion for a miracle. Why? It seems like a frivolous miracle when there were sick to be cured and dead to be raised!
The final lines of this section might help answer that question:
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.
Jesus decided to first reveal his glory at a wedding feast, a party, an ordinary celebration of life and love. The dramatic, life-saving miracles would come – demons grabbing pigs and diving headlong into the sea.
But this first one, the one his closest family and friends would especially remember, was all about joy, dancing, music, friendship – the divine strength of our shared and graced humanity.
Probably most of us don’t expect to encounter a really eye-popping miracle in our lives. But maybe in our challenges we, like Mary, could walk up behind Jesus and whisper, “This situation needs your touch”.
Oh, how Jesus might surprise us – by letting us pour out an everyday miracle right before our eyes! Let’s be aware today of the miracles we might take for granted – life, laughter, love, friendship, hope, courage, delight in nature ….
Poetry: The Gourd – Paul Laurence Dunbar The poet suggests in these lines that it is in simplicity, and poverty of spirit, that life’s true miracles are revealed to us.
In the heavy earth the miner Toiled and laboured day by day, Wrenching from the miser mountain Brilliant treasure where it lay. And the artist worn and weary Wrought with labour manifold That the king might drink his nectar From a goblet made of gold.
On the prince’s groaning table Mid the silver gleaming bright Mirroring the happy faces Giving back the flaming light, Shine the cups of priceless crystal Chased with many a lovely line, Glowing now with warmer colour, Crimsoned by the ruby wine.
In a valley sweet with sunlight, Fertile with the dew and rain, Without miner’s daily labour, Without artist’s nightly pain, There there grows the cup I drink from, Summer’s sweetness in it stored, And my lips pronounce a blessing As they touch an old brown gourd.
Why, the miracle at Cana In the land of Galilee, Tho’ it puzzles all the scholars, Is no longer strange to me. For the poorest and the humblest Could a priceless wine afford, If they’d only dip up water With a sunlight-seasoned gourd.
So a health to my old comrade, And a song of praise to sing When he rests inviting kisses In his place beside the spring. Give the king his golden goblets, Give the prince his crystal hoard; But for me the sparkling water From a brown and brimming gourd!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings burst with lessons for our faith. We might center our prayer on these three dynamic elements:
Power Praise Perseverance
In our first reading, Israel is in the midst of a profound power shift. Until this time, Israel has thrived in “covenantal localism” which released possibility and initiative within the broad community. But now, perhaps stressed by the Philistine threat, the elders lobby for the establishment of a kingship – a centralization of power, wealth, land control, and local self-determination. ( based on Walter Brueggemann: First and Second Samuel: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)
Samuel isn’t happy with the elders’ suggestion and, apparently, neither is God. Samuel tells the elders so in a passionate speech against regalism. He pronounces that when the king has usurped all their rights, God will not deliver them as they once were delivered from a similar bondage in Egypt:
When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the LORD will not answer you.
1 Samuel 8:18
The lesson for us is that the use and organization of power must always be for the sake of communal justice and well-being. Fostering these universal goods is the perpetual struggle of nations and institutions. As part of any community, we are called advocate for a just distribution of power for all people.
Praise Our Responsorial Psalm counsels that in all such human interactions, our focus must be on God and God’s Will for universal wholeness and peace – a peace evidenced in justice, joy, and praise.
Blessed the people who know the joyful shout; in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk. At your name they rejoice all the day, and through your justice they are exalted.
Mark’s story of the cure of a paralyzed man demonstrates the power of faithful perseverance. This man’s community – his friends – persist until he fully benefits from God’s desire for his wholeness.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Such is our responsibility to pursue our own wholeness and the wholeness of our global community.
Poetry: Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelley
(The poem explores the fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion. (Wikipedia)
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed: And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! ”Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.’
Music: Aria – composed by Friedrich Gulda, played by Tomoko Inoue
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings present a human cycle with which we all are familiar- the experience of falling and being lifted up again.
Failure then Mercy then Redemption
In our first reading, we hear about Hophni and Phinehas, sons of old Eli. They were not nice guys. They represent everything that happens when politics and power corrupt religion.
Now the sons of Eli were wicked; they had respect neither for the LORD nor for the priests’ duties toward the people.
1 Samuel 2: 13-14
After a first defeat by the Philistines, the elders of Israel sent for the Ark of the Covenant to fortify them in battle. Hophni and Phineas, being the Ark’s tenders, accompanied it from Shiloh. But the presence of the Ark, representing God, didn’t bring victory. Israel lost a second battle.
The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.
1 Samuel 4:11
Wow! You know it’s bad enough when we fail a first time! But after asking God to step in, we still fail??? Uh Oh!
Our Responsorial Psalm is the prayer of those recognizing themselves as utterly defeated, confused, and begging for redemption – the “Uh Oh People”!
Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression? For our souls are bowed down to the dust, our bodies are pressed to the earth. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
Mark’s Gospel tells the story of one devastated and utterly dependent on God to be restored, — a story of the immediacy of God’s Mercy when we open our hearts to it:
A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Listen, I’ve been an “uh oh person” many times in my life. Probably you have too. As we pray with these passages, our own failures and defeats may speak to us. Whether we are in their midst or simply wrapped in their recollection, let’s open our spirits to these extraordinary gifts:
honest recognition of our failures
a request for healing redemption
gratitude for God’s Lavish Mercy
Poetry: The Leper – by Nathaniel Parker Willis
It’s a rather long poem, and may delight only the literary nerds like me. But it paints a wonderful story if you can take time to read it sometime.
“ROOM for the leper! room!” And, as he came, The cry passed on—“Room for the leper! Room!” Sunrise was slanting on the city gates Rosy and beautiful, and from the hills The early risen poor were coming in, 5 Duly and cheerfully to their toil, and up Rose the sharp hammer’s clink and the far hum Of moving wheels and multitudes astir, And all that in a city murmur swells— Unheard but by the watcher’s weary ear, 10 Aching with night’s dull silence, or the sick Hailing the welcome light and sounds that chase The death-like images of the dark away. “Room for the leper!” And aside they stood— Matron, and child, and pitiless manhood—all 15 Who met him on his way—and let him pass. And onward through the open gate he came, A leper, with the ashes on his brow, Sackcloth about his loins, and on his lip A covering, stepping painfully and slow, 20 And with a difficult utterance, like one Whose heart is with an iron nerve put down, Crying, “Unclean! unclean!”
’Twas now the first
Of the Judean autumn, and the leaves, Whose shadows lay so still upon his path, 25 Had put their beauty forth beneath the eye Of Judah’s palmiest noble. He was young, And eminently beautiful, and life Mantled in eloquent fulness on his lip, And sparkled in his glance; and in his mien 30 There was a gracious pride that every eye Followed with benisons—and this was he! With the soft airs of summer there had come A torpor on his frame, which not the speed Of his best barb, nor music, nor the blast 35 Of the bold huntsman’s horn, nor aught that stirs The spirit to its bent, might drive away. The blood beat not as wont within his veins; Dimness crept o’er his eye: a drowsy sloth Fettered his limbs like palsy, and his mien, 40 With all its loftiness, seem’d struck with eld. Even his voice was changed; a languid moan Taking the place of the clear silver key; And brain and sense grew faint, as if the light And very air were steeped in sluggishness. 45 He strove with it awhile, as manhood will, Ever too proud for weakness, till the rein Slacken’d within his grasp, and in its poise The arrowy jeered like an aspen shook. Day after day, he lay, as if in sleep. 50 His skin grew dry and bloodless, and white scales, Circled with livid purple, cover’d him. And then his nails grew black, and fell away From the dull flesh about them, and the hues Deepen’d beneath the hard unmoisten’d scales, 55 And from their edges grew the rank white hair, —And Helon was a leper!
Day was breaking,
When at the altar of the temple stood The holy priest of God. The incense lamp Burn’d with a struggling light, and a low chant 60 Swell’d through the hollow arches of the roof Like an articulate wail, and there, alone, Wasted to ghastly thinness, Helon knelt. The echoes of the melancholy strain Died in the distant aisles, and he rose up, 65 Struggling with weakness, and bow’d down his head Unto the sprinkled ashes, and put off His costly raiment for the leper’s garb: And with the sackcloth round him, and his lip Hid in a loathsome covering, stood still, 70 Waiting to hear his doom:—
Depart! depart, O child Of Israel, from the temple of thy God! For He has smote thee with His chastening rod; And to the desert-wild, 75 From all thou lov’st away, thy feet must flee, That from thy plague His people may be free.
Depart! and come not near The busy mart, the crowded city, more; Nor set thy foot a human threshold o’er; 80 And stay thou not to hear Voices that call thee in the way; and fly From all who in the wilderness pass by.
Wet not thy burning lip In streams that to a human dwelling glide; 85 Nor rest thee where the covert fountains hide; Nor kneel thee down to dip The water where the pilgrim bends to drink, By desert well or river’s grassy brink;
And pass thou not between 90 The weary traveller and the cooling breeze; And lie not down to sleep beneath the trees Where human tracks are seen; Nor milk the goat that browseth on the plain, Nor pluck the standing corn, or yellow grain. 95
And now, depart! and when Thy heart is heavy, and thine eyes are dim, Lift up thy prayer beseechingly to Him Who, from the tribes of men, Selected thee to feel His chastening rod, 100 Depart! O Leper, and forget not God!
And he went forth—alone! not one of all The many whom he loved, nor she whose name Was woven in the fibres of the heart Breaking within him now, to come and speak 105 Comfort unto him. Yea—he went his way, Sick, and heart-broken, and alone—to die! For God had cursed the leper!
It was noon,
And Helon knelt beside a stagnant pool In the lone wilderness, and bathed his brow, 110 Hot with the burning leprosy, and touched The loathsome water to his fever’d lips, Praying that he might be so blest—to die! Footsteps approach’d, and with no strength to flee, He drew the covering closer on his lip, 115 Crying, “Unclean! unclean!” and in the folds Of the coarse sackcloth shrouding up his face, He fell upon the earth till they should pass. Nearer the Stranger came, and bending o’er The leper’s prostrate form, pronounced his name— 120 “Helon!” The voice was like the master-tone Of a rich instrument—most strangely sweet; And the dull pulses of disease awoke, And for a moment beat beneath the hot And leprous scales with a restoring thrill. 125 “Helon! arise!” and he forgot his curse, And rose and stood before Him.
Love and awe
Mingled in the regard of Helon’s eye As he beheld the Stranger. He was not In costly raiment clad, nor on His brow 130 The symbol of a princely lineage wore; No followers at His back, nor in His hand Buckler, or sword, or spear,—yet in His mien Command sat throned serene, and if He smiled, A kingly condescension graced His lips, 135 The lion would have crouch’d to in his lair. His garb was simple, and His sandals worn; His stature modell’d with a perfect grace; His countenance, the impress of a God, Touch’d with the open innocence of a child; 140 His eye was blue and calm, as is the sky In the serenest noon; His hair unshorn Fell to His shoulders; and his curling beard The fulness of perfected manhood bore. He looked on Helon earnestly awhile, 145 As if His heart were moved, and stooping down, He took a little water in His hand, And laved the sufferer’s brow, and said, “Be clean,” And lo! the scales fell from him, and his blood Coursed with delicious coolness through his veins, 150 And his dry palms grew moist, and his lips The dewy softness of an infant’s stole, His leprosy was cleansed, and he fell down Prostrate at Jesus’ feet and worshipped Him.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings lead us through an evolution of grace from:
Revelation to Presence to Purpose
How simply charming yet powerful is the wonderful story of Samuel’s call! We can picture the tousled-hair boy sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant, youthfully unaware of his awesome surroundings.
God’s voice insists into Samuel’s unawareness, finally capturing his attention after four tries.
From that moment, Samuel lives fully in the Presence of the Lord:
Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect. Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the LORD.
1 Samuel 3: 19-20
Mark’s Gospel narrates another call for us – the emerging call of Jesus and his mentoring of his disciples to share his sacred ministry:
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
Mark 1: 35-39
As we pray this reflection today, we may be just waking up as Samuel was. We may be slowly emerging from the desert of our sleep. Or we may be at a point in our spiritual lives where the Light is dawning on us for some other reason.
Wherever we are, let’s be aware that each “dawning” brings
a newRevelation of grace
a deeper invitation to God’s Presence
a fresh call to engage God’s Purpose for our lives
Poetry: The Collar by George Herbert (1593 – 1633) a poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. Herbert is considered one of the great metaphysical poets. In this poem, he writes about the evolution of his desire to fully answer God’s call, symbolized in the priestly collar that he wore. The final lines remind me of Samuel’s call.
I struck the board, and cried, “No more;
I will abroad!
What? shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free, free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it,
No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted?
Not so, my heart; but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away! take heed;
I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears;
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need
Deserves his load.”
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Child!
And I replied My Lord.
Music: God’s Calling – George Melendez
I wonder if George Herbert could have appreciated this rap song😀
Ordinary Time 2022: The extraordinary reality is that we have been given the gift of life! Each day we are given a new portion of grace to deepen in God! Let us focus our reflections on the “hidden extraordinary” – a word, thought, or challenge in each day’s readings that we might otherwise have taken for granted. May God give us the graceful appreciation to unwrap these gifts!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we awaken to extraordinary gifts revealed in three words from our readings:
Downcast – Amazed – Exultant
In our first reading, Hannah’s story continues to unfold. And we feel for her, don’t we? The woman is desperate to bear life! Not only does she long for her own sweet child; she longs as well for restored standing in her neighborhood and family as one who is fertile not barren. This meant everything in Hannah’s community as fertility defined a woman’s importance.
Have you ever prayed like Hannah prays in this chapter? Has any need in your life ever so demanded God’s mercy? These are times that ask for our complete vulnerability before God’s Omnipotence.
In her bitterness she prayed to the LORD, weeping copiously, and she made a vow, promising: “O LORD of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the LORD for as long as he lives…
1 Samuel 1: 10-11
Eli witnesses Hannah’s vulnerable prayer. He blesses her and hope cracks through her gloom: She replied, “Think kindly of your maidservant,” and left. She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and no longer appeared downcast.
1 Samuel 1:18
In the Gospel reading, Jesus is still very early in his ministry. He has come to the synagogue to teach and people are “astonished” to hear the depth of his authority. But their astonishment grows even more when Jesus successfully commands the unclean spirit to leave the tortured man. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
Can we let ourselves be constantly amazed at God’s Presence, Power, and Mercy in all Creation?
Extraordinary Holy Amazement!
Once again, our Responsorial Psalm offes a way to pray when our downcast desperation meets God’s amazing, transforming grace. It is the “Magnificat” of Hannah:
And Hannah prayed:
“My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted by my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in your victory. There is no Holy One like the LORD; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2: 1-2
1 Samual 2: 1-2
Poetry: Bare Tree – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Already I have shed the leaves of youth, stripped by the wind of time down to the truth of winter branches. Linear and alone I stand, a lens for lives beyond my own, a frame through which another's fire may glow, a harp on which another's passion, blow. The pattern of my boughs, an open chart spread on the sky, to others may impart its leafless mysteries that I once prized, before bare roots and branches equalized, tendrils that tap the rain or twigs the sun are all the same, shadow and substance one. Now that my vulnerable leaves are cast aside, there's nothing left to shield, nothing to hide. Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone, so fragile and so fearless have I grown!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, that moment in time when Christ entered into his ministry, announced by the thundering voice of Divine Infinity.
Maybe you’re not like me in this, but I must confess to sometimes letting the scriptures become very ordinary and pedantic. These passages have been read at me in church, sometimes well, often poorly, for seven decades. They have been plastered on billboards, bumper stickers and Church marquees for just as long. All that mundane exposure has demystified some of the most amazing words ever written.
But just think about what today’s Gospel describes.
Think about the greatest prophet of both the Old and New Testament standing waist-deep in the Jordan, eyes locked on Christ.
Think about Jesus, perfectly communed with the Father, walking slowly past the bird-filled trees and bushes to a moment that had been waiting for Him since all eternity. Did not those works of the Creator’s hands sing in worship as he passed?
Think about the pulsing sky already filled with the Creator’s waiting breath, ready to burst with the proclamation of the Son – this Son who said “Yes” to the greatest act of love in history!
For a few moments this morning, let yourself be there. Be filled with nature’s orchestra. Be filled with the pulsing colors of God’s astonishing revelation. Be filled with the Baptist’s profound reverence. Be filled with Christ’s omnipotent freedom and joy.
Let us enter with gratitude and celebration into the Baptism of Jesus!
Poetry: Jesus’ Baptism – Malcolm Guite
Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one; The river runs, the clouds are torn apart, The Father speaks, the Spirit and the Son Reveal to us the single loving heart That beats behind the being of all things And calls and keeps and kindles us to light. The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings ‘You are belovèd, you are my delight!’
In that quick light and life, as water spills And streams around the Man like quickening rain, The voice that made the universe reveals The God in Man who makes it new again. He calls us too, to step into that river To die and rise and live and love forever.
Music: Jesus the Lord – Roc O’Connor
Refrain: Jesus, Jesus Let all creation bend the knee to the Lord.
In Him we live, we move and have our being; In Him the Christ, In Him the King! Jesus the Lord.
Though Son, He did not cling to Godliness, But emptied Himself, became a slave! Jesus the Lord.
He lived obediently His Father’s will Accepting His death, death on a cross! Jesus the Lord!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, John and Jesus continue to teach us.
In our first reading, we hear John preaching to a community that has become confused. Some have begun to doubt and to teach a watered-down version of Christ and the Gospel.
John convinces his community, and us, that we are invited into God’s own life through Baptism, the Paschal-Eucharistic Mystery, and through the Holy Spirit. This is the truth of Jesus Christ which we embrace by a faithful life.
This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and Blood. The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth. So there are three who testify, the Spirit, the water, and the Blood, and the three are of one accord.
1 John 5:6
In our Gospel, Jesus shows us how to live that faithful life – through loving, generous service such as he models.
A pitiable leper interrupts Jesus on his journey to ask for help. People like this man were scorned, feared, and isolated. Their leprosy impoverished them, making them annoying beggars. Their cries usually met with indifference at best and banishment at worst.
But when this leper poses his proposal to Jesus – “If you want to, you can heal me.” — Jesus gives the spontaneous answer of a true, merciful heart: “Of course I want to!” He responds with open arms and open heart.
There is no annoyance, no suggestion that other concerns are more important. There is just the confirmation that – Yes- this is the purpose of my life: to heal, love, show mercy toward whatever suffering is in my power to touch. There is just the clear message that “You, too, poor broken leper, are Beloved of God.”
What an example and call Jesus gives us today! We are commissioned to continue this merciful touch of Christ along the path of our own lives. When circumstances offer us the opportunity to be Mercy for another, may we too respond with enthusiasm, “Of course I want to!” May we have the eyes to see through any “leprosy” to find the Beloved of God.
Prose: Mother Teresa – fromIn the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers
Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have a few references to fear — and to its perfect antidote, Love.
John continues to instruct us in prose that stuns us with its sacred clarity:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
1 John 4:18
In our Gospel, we meet some pretty fearful disciples. First of all, they are still spinning from the avalanche of loaves and fishes gushing forth from the perfect faith of Jesus.
Today, they are rowing a storm-tossed lake in the pitch of night. Enough to strike fear into even a crusty fisherman’s heart! But wait a minute! As if all these scary things are not enough, here comes a ghost across the threatening waves!
And how about Jesus in this passage? A little nonchalant, or what?
About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out.
Jesus wasn’t worried about the waves.
Jesus, full of Love, and eternally perfected in the Creator’s Presence, has no need or place for fear. He lives in the accomplished wholeness of God where, as Julian of Norwich says, “All manner of things shall be well.”
Like me, you may not think about your fears very often. But when I read this line from Paula D’Arcy, I consider that there are all kinds of unrecognized fears inhibiting us:
Who would I be, and what power would be expressed in my life, if I were not dominated by fear?
Fears. What are some that we may not recognize:
Fear of feeling unimportant, overlooked, naive.
Fear of failure, loss, death, loneliness, dependence.
Fear of looking foolish, of making a mistake
Fear of getting old, being sick, losing my comfort zone.
Fear of meaninglessness, unusefulness, of being held responsible?
Could we go on and on?
But what about the biggest fear – of being unloved, and maybe even unlovable.
Dear God, as we pray today, help us to grow into your amazing love for us. Help us to recognize the fears that limit our love, to cast them out upon the choppy waters of our life and to live in your perfect freedom and joy.