With Open Arms

Friday, January 7, 2022
Friday after Epiphany

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.

Jesus cleans the leper, Mosaic detail, 12thC,
Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily

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.

Greek rendering of phrase “Of course I do!”

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 – from In 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.

Music: Compassion Hymn – Kristyn and Keith Getty

Who Would I Be?

January 5, 2022
Wednesday after the Epiphany
Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop

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.

Jesus Walks on Water- William Brassey Hole

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?

Paula D’Arcy

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.

Music:  All Shall Be Well – Michelle Sherliza

The Miracle is Love

January 4, 2022
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are full of surprises for Jesus’s new followers and for us.  

Jesus begins to reveal what his Presence among us is all about. The message is this: I am here for the poor, hungry, sick and abandoned:

The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor
and to proclaim liberty to captives.

Luke 4:18

And Jesus wants us to be like him.


In our first reading, John makes that sound so simple:

Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:8

Someone might read that line and think, “OK! I can do that! I love lots of people and things. I know how to love.” 

But then our Gospel suggests that maybe we, like the disciples, have a lot to learn about how God loves. Mark shows us that Jesus is living a new kind of love.


Imagine the situation. John the Baptist has been murdered. The new disciples are returning from their first “apostolic gig”. They, and probably Jesus, are shocked, saddened and tired. Jesus recognizes this and tells them:

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 

Multiplication of the Loaves – Michael Wolgemut

But instead the hungry crowds followed them, their needs intruding on the deserved and desired solitude. The disciples sound a little annoyed in their practicality:

By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already very late. 
Dismiss them so that they can go 
to the surrounding farms and villages
and buy themselves something to eat.” 

Mark 6: 35-36

But when Jesus saw the crowd, his response was not annoyance or practicality.

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd…

Mark 6:34

In the Greek translation, the word for “moved with pity” is “ἐσπλαγχνίσθη” (Esplanchnisthē) – “splancha”

“Splancha”, in my mind, says that the heart of Jesus ”rumbled with mercy”; that he was so shaken to his roots with compassion that he pulled heaven down in a miracle to feed these people who were hungry at every level of their being.

The crowds, and indeed the disciples, are surprised not just by the cataract of fish and bread. But they are even more deeply astounded at this astounding demonstration of how God loves – with impractical, unlimited, immediate, miraculous generosity!


The lesson for us? Just as the disciples were commissioned to distribute the basketsful of miracles, we are charged to carry God’s mercy in our time.

Through the grace of Baptism, we have it within us to be the agent of miracles – the power to let God love through us. As John encourages us:

Beloved, let us love one another,
    because love is of God;
    everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.

1 John 4:7

Poetry: Miracles by Robert William Service

Each time that I switch on the light
A Miracle it seems to me
That I should rediscover sight
And banish dark so utterly.
One moment I am bleakly blind,
The next–exultant life I find.
Below the sable of the sky
My eyelids double darkness make.
Sleep is divine, yet oh how I
Am glad with wonder to awake!
To welcome, glimmery and wan
The mighty Miracle of Dawn.
For I’ve mad moments when I seem,
With all the marvel of a child,
To dwell within a world of dream,
To sober fact unreconciled.
Each simple act has struck me thus–
Incredibly miraculous.
When everything I see and do
So magical can seem to me,
How vain it is to seek the True,
The riddle of Reality . . .
So let me with joy lyrical
Proclaim all Life a Miracle.


Music: Beloved, Let Us Love One Another – a perky encouragement for your prayer 🙂

Begin Again…

January 3, 2022
Monday after Epiphany

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, in this week after the Epiphany, we continue with John’s inspirational readings. They are intended to deepen us in love, truth and simplicity.

And we also have several Gospels this week that take us with Jesus as he begins his public ministry.


Today’s Gospel opens with a tinge of sadness. Jesus has just heard that John had been arrested. Reality dawns on them both that theirs will be no easy missionary journey. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if these cousins could have teamed up, gone about preaching unhindered by the fears and bullying of the powerful?

But a free and easy story is not the one God chose to tell us, because our own stories are not always free and easy. Some, yes, more so than others. But all people suffer in some way and we all need a God who understands and shares that suffering.

So, “hearing that John had been arrested”, Jesus bravely begins. He goes to the Capernaum lakeshore where the common people gather to refresh themselves. He will find them hungry, confused, sinful, questioning, bereft, and battered. And he will begin by feeding and soothing them.


Where would Jesus begin with you? If you sat along that seashore in those first days, what would you lay before his tender mercy? Perhaps the need does not belong precisely to you, but to someone you love, someone who needs love in a harsh world.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Picture yourself there this morning. The sun begins to warm the salty edges of the sea. The crowd is large but quiet, as if they think themselves in church. Jesus looks out over all the gathered. But for one moment, his eyes meet yours, and that moment is enough to begin.


Poetry: To the Sea of Galilee – Benjamin Waugh (1839-1908)
(It’s not a great voice of literature, but I think this little poem is charming.)

O PEARL of seas! how fairly set, thou lovely Galilee!
Well may all waters of the world for beauty envy thee.

For more than beauty! On thy shores heaven’s purest feet have trod;
And in thy face, as now yon sun, was mirrored once my God.

He loved to walk with thee beside; He gazed into thy face; 5
Thy troubled moods He calmed for thee; thou seem’st His child of grace.

But yet why envy thee, fair sea, by Jesus favoured thus?
Far more than He hath favoured thee hath Jesus favoured us.

Not for thy waters Jesus came His precious work to do;
’Twas not to give thy troubles peace that Him from glory drew. 10

Thine was a brief, a passing joy, as transient as thy flowers;
Thy side He left, and went away—He never leaveth ours.

Yet, sea of seas, I envy thee, thou small, but greatest deep
For on thy bosom Jesus found the place where He might sleep.

His weary frame, His heavy heart were pillowed on thy breast. 15
As John on Him, so He on thee found place where He might rest.

Jesus, if thou, by work or wrong, should’st sad or weary be,
Come seek within my heart the place once found on Galilee.


Music: Lord, You Have Come to the Seashore

Anno Domini – New Year’s Day

January 1, 2022
The Octave Day of Christmas – Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

Happy New Year, everyone!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate Mary, Mother of Jesus.

Theotokos, a mosaic mural from the Gelati Monastery, Georgia, (1125-1130 AD)

I begin my prayer today by asking a question posed by distinguished theologian, Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ:

What would be a theologically sound, spiritually empowering and ethically challenging theology of Mary, mother of Jesus the Christ, for the 21st century? This question has no simple answer, for the first-century Jewish woman Miriam of Nazareth, also held in faith to be Theotokos, the God-bearer, is arguably the most celebrated woman in the Christian tradition. One could almost drown surveying the ways different eras have honored her in painting, sculpture, icons, architecture, music and poetry; venerated her with titles, liturgies, prayers and feasts; and taught about her in spiritual writings, theology and official doctrine.


In my own prayer today, though, I am not reaching for a deeper theological understanding of Mary. I simply want to talk with her as my Mother, my older Sister, my Friend. I want to seek her guidance and her inspiration. I want to thank her for her continual willingness to bear Christ into the world, and into my life.


How significant it is that the Church begins the year inviting us all to Mary’s Light! Our first reading blesses us in a way that Mary might bless us:

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly
and give you peace!

Mary was all about giving us the LORD, not giving us herself. We see Mary best when we see her holding Christ toward us – the “God-bearer” or “Theotokos”.

Theotokos Vladimirskaya icon, Vologda, Vladimirskaya Church, mid-end 16 century

This title, used especially in Eastern Christianity, originated in the 3rd century Syriac tradition. It affirms Mary as the Mother of Jesus, Who was both human and divine in nature.

Our reading from Galatians assures us that we too, by our Baptism, are the daughters and sons of God – thus becoming Mary’s own. She is our Mother too by the power of this sacrament.


Our Gospel reveals the spirituality of Mary who “pondered” all the mysterious workings of God deep in her heart. This Mary is my revered sister, guiding me as I meet the unfolding of God in my own life.

Today, let us pray with Mary, our Mother, our Sister, Bearer of God. Let us pray for the whole Church, the whole world – all of whom she tenderly loves.


Poetry: Mary Poems – Lucille Clifton (1936 –2010) was an American poet, writer, and educator from Buffalo, New York. She was Poet Laureate of Maryland and twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Clifton traced her family’s roots to the West African Kingdom of Dahomey, now the Republic of Benin. Growing up, she was told by her mother, “Be proud, you’re from Dahomey women!”. (You will catch some of her Creole cadence in the verses below.)

Her uniquely insightful poems about Mary capture aspects of Mary’s humanity, vulnerability and womanhood that we might otherwise not consider in a religious tradition that highly spiritualizes Mary.


A Song of Mary

somewhere it being yesterday.
i a maiden in my mother’s house.
the animals silent outside.
is morning.
princes sitting on thrones in the east
studying the incomprehensible heavens.
joseph carving a table somewhere
in another place.
i watching my mother.
i smiling an ordinary smile.

****************

Mary’s Dream

winged women was saying
"full of grace" and like.
was light beyond sun and words
of a name and a blessing.
winged women to only i.
i joined them, whispering
yes.

****************

Holy Night

Joseph, I afraid of stars,
their brilliant seeing.
so many eyes, such light.
joseph, I cannot still these limbs,
I hands keep moving toward I breasts,
so many stars. so bright.
joseph, is wind burning from east
joseph, I shine, oh joseph, oh
illuminated night.

****************

Island Mary

after the all been done and i
one old creature carried on
another creature's back, i wonder
could i have fought these thing?
surrounded by no son of mine save
old men calling Mother like in the tale
the astrologer tell, i wonder
could i have walk away when voices
singing in my sleep? i one old woman.
always i seem to worrying now for
another young girl asleep
in the plain evening.
what song around her ear?
what star still choosing?


Music: A Peaceful Hymn to the Theotokos – Nuns of the Carmazani Monastery in Romania

Faithful Waiting

December 30, 2021
Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Presentation in the Temple – Rembrandt van Rijn

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet the venerable prophetess Anna. Oh, what she has to teach us!

  • Perseverance: she had waited eight decades for the revelation
  • Unconditional Faith: throughout those decades, she prayed always believing
  • Pure Spirit: she believed that, like the pure in spirit, she would see God
  • Unquestioning Receptivity to the Holy: when the Savior appeared, not in glory nor a fiery chariot, she received his vulnerability without hesitation
  • Adoration: “She never left the temple,but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”
  • Sacred Satisfaction: “And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God” because her faith and hope had been affirmed.

There is so much in this reading for each one of us. Find yourself somewhere within it today as you pray. Perhaps:

  • Am I expecting God in every moment of my life?
  • If I have received the gift of “old age”, how has the long wait blessed and/or challenged me to keep hold of God’s hand?
  • If I am still “young”, how do I invite God into my unfolding journey?
  • Am I asking God to continually reveal Divinity in my daily life?
  • Am I purifying my heart of self-interest so that I can better perceive God’s Presence?
  • Can I welcome God no matter how the Divine Presence clothes itself?
  • Do I stay with my prayer, creating a deep temple in my spirit?
  • Can I find contentment and peace with how God chooses to be with me – even in suffering?

(In a second post, I will share a powerful reflective poem by Leddy Hammock & Sue Kelly – Prayer of Imagination for Anna, the Prophetess. I hope you love this piece as much as do.)


Music: While I Wait – Lincoln Brewster

No More Tears

December 4, 2021
Saturday of the First Week of Advent

Today, in Mercy, Isaiah – in glorious prophecy – promises God’s People better times.

Thus says the Lord GOD,
    the Holy One of Israel:
O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem,
    no more will you weep;
GOD will be gracious to you when you cry out,
    answering as soon as you are heard.
The Lord will give you the bread you need
    and the water for which you thirst.
No longer will your Teacher be hidden,
    but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
    “This is the way; walk in it,”
    when you would turn to the right or to the left.

Isaiah 30: 19-21

Oh my, don’t we all long for the fulfillment of that promise! So much in both our larger and smaller worlds longs for healing!


Perhaps we can use our prayer within these readings today to call on God for the promised healing.

It is a healing that requires our cooperation. Isaiah says that we must name our pain to God – for ourselves and for all who suffer in our world:

The Lord will be gracious to you when you cry out,
answering as soon as you are heard.


The prophet says that this crying out will change us. We will see the Lord with us in our suffering. God will lead us through that suffering by our acts of faith, hope, love, justice and mercy:

No longer will your Teacher be hidden,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or to the left.


Our Gospel tells us that we are called to be Christ’s disciples, and that disciples are healers. By letting our lives become sources of healing in the world, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled for our time.

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

Matthew 10:5-8

How we do these wondrous deeds in the world is an ongoing revelation. When I was very young, I took the proclamation quite literally. But I soon lost the expectation that I would ever help “cure” anyone of anything!

Life has blessed me with the realization that there is a difference between “curing” and “healing” – and that there are many degrees of healing.

  • There are many ways in which living people are caught in deadly lives.
  • There are all kinds of “lepers” in our society, rendered so by the prejudices of others.
  • Certainly, many of us carry all sorts of crippling demons.

All these situations, and others like them, invite us to offer the gift of sacred healing implanted in us at our Baptism.

Acknowledging the pain in ourselves and others,
and trusting that God wants us to be healed and whole,
is the work of true discipleship.

Let’s draw strength from Isaiah’s promise in order to find a generous, merciful courage for our call to be “healed healers”.


Poetry: The Cure of Souls – Denise Levertov

The pastor
of grief and dreams

guides his flock towards
the next field

with all his care.
He has heard

the bell tolling
but the sheep

are hungry and need
the grass, today and

every day. Beautiful
his patience, his long

shadow, the rippling
sound of the flocks moving

along the valley.


Music: Your Healing Touch – Joe Bongiorno

That Sweet Light

November 30, 2021
Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the Apostle Andrew – one who was called and gifted to bring the Good News – and with the Paul, and Isaiah ‘s beautiful song:

As Isaiah has written,
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!
But not everyone has heeded the good news;
for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?
Thus faith comes from what is heard,
and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
But I ask, did they not hear?
Certainly they did; for

    Their voice has gone forth to all the earth,
        and their words to the ends of the world
.

Romans 10:16-18

 As we stand just past Advent’s front threshold, it is fitting to do so here beside Andrew, on his feast, remembering how one day Jesus invited him to launch out into a whole new world.

Today teases us with something we cannot yet imagine. Tomorrow, it will be December – the last month of 2021. And, as for the past two years, we still wait for the world to be delivered from pandemic. It is a waiting that takes great faith, courage, and perseverance – virtues, at times, difficult to summon.

Still as people of faith, we know that Advent is time to wait in silence for unfathomed miracles. Advent teases us with something we can not yet imagine.

What graces will these days hold for us as we prepare for Christmas?


Jesus teased Andrew and Peter too with the promise to be “fishers of men”. Wading knee-deep in the Galilean Sea, do you think they had any hint of what Jesus was talking about? I don’t. I think they simply caught the faith, hope and love in his eyes the way a match catches flame when it’s struck.

Let’s stand with Andrew today in these beginning hours of Advent, on the edge of the long nights or days of December (depending on our hemisphere)

Let’s trust the fire we find in Christ’s eyes as we pray through this Holy Season. Let’s be very intentional not to miss the point of these sacred days by losing them to the fears or frenzies that may threaten us.


An old devotion that I still love is the St. Andrew Novena. The prayer, prayed from November 30 until December 24th, is meant to remind us of the true meaning of these days leading to Christmas. Because my mother said it with me when I was a little girl, it carries both spiritual and emotional riches for me.

It is traditionally suggested that we say it fifteen times a day. I will confess that I say it only once a day, but I do that slowly, focusing on the sacred mystery held within the words.


Poetry – Prayer

I also have created my personal version without specific petitions. I think God knows what we need and provides for us. God’s Lavish Mercy is enough and everything.


My St. Andrew’s Prayer:

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment
at which the Son of God was born
of our dear Mother Mary
in a stable
at midnight
in Bethlehem
in the piercing cold.
At that hour, I ask you dear God,
to hear my prayer and grant my hope
that you fill our world again
with your Loving Presence.
Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother.
Amen
.


Music: We Shall Behold Him – Ron Kenoly (Lyrics below)

I love this hymn, especially the line “the sweet light in his eyes shall enhance those awaiting”. Maybe that’s the light Andrew saw. May we see it too!

Wake Up!

November 22, 2021
Memorial of St. Cecilia

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a passage from Daniel for our Responsorial Psalm:

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our forebearers,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages

Daniel 3:52

This week we continue with a series of readings from the Book of Daniel. It is the only time throughout the Liturgical Year that we get a good dose of Daniel. And it is well placed, coming in this final week before Advent.

The Prophet Daniel by Michelangelo (Sistine Chapel)

Daniel is apocalyptic literature, a genre which conveys the author’s perception of the end times through dreams, visions and prophecies. Like many of our readings of the past weeks, Daniel focuses us on God’s Final Coming into time by interpreting current circumstances in a spiritual light.


Today’s Gospel does the same thing, but in a little different way. 

Jesus tells the story of the poor widow who gave everything she had for the sake of the poor. This widow, in a sense, already lives in the “end times”, a time when our only “possessions” will be the good we have done in our lives.

Both these readings set us up to reflect on our lives and times as we approach Advent. This sacred season is the annual reenactment of Christ’s First Coming in order to prepare us for:

  • Christ’s daily revelation in our lives
  • Christ’s Final Coming at the end of time

All of Daniel’s complex visions and prophecies can feel a little confusing, but we can focus on this:

  • God is continually revealing Godself in the ordinary circumstances of time.
  • We can open ourselves to this revelation by our humble prayer and good works.
  • Staying awake like this in our hearts and souls will allow us to pass seamlessly into God’s Presence when the end times come.

Poetry: Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows (from Jerusalem) – William Blake

Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! expand!
I am in you and you in me, mutual in love divine:
Fibres of love from man to man thro Albions pleasant land.
In all the dark Atlantic vale down from the hills of Surrey
A black water accumulates, return Albion! return!
Thy brethren call thee, and thy fathers, and thy sons,
Thy nurses and thy mothers, thy sisters and thy daughters
Weep at thy souls disease, and the Divine Vision is darkend:
Thy Emanation that was wont to play before thy face,
Beaming forth with her daughters into the Divine bosom
Where hast thou hidden thy Emanation lovely Jerusalem
From the vision and fruition of the Holy-one?
I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!
Ye are my members O ye sleepers of Beulah, land of shades!

Music: Sleepers Awake from the beautiful album by Chris Wyton, “Music for Deep Meditation “

Sacred Tears

November 18, 2021
Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 50, “a prophetic imagining of God’s judgement on the Israelites”. (Wikipedia)

Our first reading from the Book of Maccabees introduces us to Mattathias, revered leader of the Jews in the city of Modein. He violently refuses the Greek Seleucid command to worship their gods, thus initiating the Maccabean Revolt. The wars lasted nearly a decade. Final victory is commemorated in the Feast of Hanukkah:

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee’s (Mattathias’s son)victory over the Seleucids. According to tradition, victorious Maccabees could find only a small jug of oil that had remained pure and uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and although it contained only enough oil to sustain the Menorah for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time further oil could be procured. (Wikipedia)

Our first reading is really describing the beginning of civil and intercultural wars by which dedicated Jews sought to establish both their religion and their nation. Core to their motivation was the desire to be in relationship with their one God according to their own custom and law.


In our Gospel, Jesus has come as the full manifestation of that One God. He has invited the Jewish people to a new and complete relationship with God, but they have resisted.

Now, as he nears his final fate in Jerusalem, Jesus realizes that his dream for the People will not be fully realized. They will experience a destruction like the one once feared by Mattathias. The reality causes Jesus to weep.

Are the passages only about the Jews, their religion and their history?

For us, these passages are about choosing a faithful,
evolving relationship with God
– a relationship that will demand truth,
action and at times suffering
as we pursue ever deeper understanding
of God’s Presence in our lives.

Our world and its culture place many godless choices before us, choices that could make Jesus weep because of the suffering they cause others. These choices are not as easy to identify as they were in the time of Mattathias. They don’t come dressed as a pagan soldier ready to quash our resistance.

They come in the large subtleties of politics, economics, human rights, global relationships. These choices show themselves in the small exercise of our respect, care, and reverence for all Creation. But they do come to us in every moment and they demand our witness.

Jesus wants the new Kingdom to rise in us when we open our hearts to his Word. It is an ongoing and daily Resurrection. Let’s pray for the courage for it!


Poetry: The World Is Too Much with Us – William Wordsworth

Wordsworth wrote this poem during the Industrial Revolution when he felt the complexities of the world were inhibiting our appreciation of the sacredness of nature.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Music:  When Jesus Wept – William Billings

One of the most well-known of the early American canons, originally appeared in the New England Psalm Singer. It was written in 1770 by William Billings, a self-taught singing-school teacher and composer who served as choir leader at Old South Church in Boston.

(Lyrics below)

When Jesus wept, the falling tear
In Mercy flowed beyond all bound;
When Jesus groaned at rambling fear
Seized all the guilty world around.

Per a valued friend:

There is a statue in Oklahoma City called “Jesus Wept.”  It is on the grounds of St. Joseph Church in the city – which is right across from where the Oklahoma City Federal Building had been located.  The people of the parish wanted to erect the statue on their grounds because the memorial on the federal property couldn’t be religious.  It is a very moving statue.