Alleluia: Grafted to God

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
June 30, 2022

Today’s readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/063022.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we move from Amos’s angry God to the gentle Jesus of our Gospel who gently lifts a broken man out of both his paralysis and sin.

These readings offer quite a leap as we try to image our invisible God! And, once again, our Alleluia Verse is the bridge that helps us do so.

The verse assures us that, in all circumstances, God in restoring us to a share in Divine Life.

Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:19


The image that comes to my mind is that of an expert gardener grafting a broken shoot on to a vibrant tree.

That “grafting” occurs within the context of our life stories. In Amos’s time, it was a story fraught with political struggles crippling the community’s moral life. The crowd gathered around Jesus are challenged by the crippling effects of their lack of faith. His cure of the paralytic demonstrates how God wishes to restore their spiritual freedom.

God continues to reconcile the world in Christ
even in our own time.
How am I a recipient
and how am I an agent
of that merciful, conciliatory grace? 

Praying with the elements of Responsorial Psalm 19 today suggests a guide for us. When our lives are reconciled with God, we should experience these gifts:

  • truth
  • justice
  • wholeness
  • refreshment
  • trustworthiness
  • wisdom
  • simplicity
  • right balance
  • joy
  • clarity
  • enlightenment
  • purity
  • steadfastness
  • and spiritual sweetness

Poetry: from Rumi

Find the sweetness 
in your own heart, 
then you may find the sweetness 
in every heart.

Music: Sweet Will of God – by Lelia Naylor Morris (1862 – 1929) an American Methodist hymn writer. In the 1890s, she began to write hymns and gospel songs; it has been said that she wrote more than 1,000 songs and tunes, and that she did so while doing her housework. In 1913, her eyesight began to fail; her son thereupon constructed for her a blackboard 28 feet (8.5 m) long with oversized staff lines, so that she could continue to compose.

In 1900, she published Sweet Will of God, about  the true “sweetness” of a deep spiritual life.

Two versions today. The first is the entire hymn sung by Amy Grant. The second is just the interlude so beautifully sung by Junior W. Smith that I had to share it. (Lyrics below)


Amy Grant

Junior W. Smith

My stubborn will at last hath yielded;
I would be Thine, and Thine alone;
And this the prayer my lips are bringing,
“Lord, let in me Thy will be done.”

Sweet will of God, still fold me closer;
Till I am wholly lost in Thee;
Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,
Till I am wholly lost in Thee.

Thy precious will, O conquering Saviour,
Doth now embrace and compass me;
All discords hushed, my peace a river,
My soul, a prisoned bird, set free.

Shut in with Thee, O Lord, forever,
My wayward feet no more to roam;
What power from Thee my soul can sever?
The centre of God’s will my home.

Alleluia: Love’s Silent Unity

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
June 15, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/061522.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we listen to Jesus’s instruction and promise about how to live at one with God.

Alleluia, alleluia.
If you love me and will keep my word,
and my Father will love you
and we will come to you.

What wonderful assurance! We don’t have to labor to find God, or worry about searching for God. 

God will come to us – will blossom in our hearts like a sacred flower, – if we love Jesus and keep his Word.


In the opening sentence of her book “Too Deep for Words”, Thelma Hall, r.c. says this:

There is an inner dynamic in the evolution of all true love that leads to a communication too deep for words.  There the lover becomes inarticulate, falls silent, and the beloved receives the silence as eloquence.

Our verse today carries
that same, exquisite mystery,
the silent and complete unity
that comes from mutual love. 

Our Gospel elaborates on the invitation. 

But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door,
and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Matthew 6:6

Let us savor these promises in our prayer today.


Poetry: in the silence – Rumi

In the silence 
between your heartbeat 
bides a summons
from Love.
Do you hear it? 
Name it if you must, 
or leave it forever nameless, 
but why pretend it is not there?

Music: The God of Silence – Bukas Palau

Lent: God Remembers

March 30, 2022
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings offer us the deeply comforting image of God as a mother, vigilant and caring for us even in our unawareness.

In our reading from Isaiah, the Israelites recently have been freed from their long sojourn in Babylon and have returned to Jerusalem. It is a time of great joy, but also of reorientation and reflection. God, Who may have seemed to abandon them to captivity, is assuring them that is not so:

Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!

Isaiah 49: 8-9

We too may have times when we think God isn’t paying attention to us, or to the world that seems to be falling apart around us. We may be tempted to think that Divine attention is turned to us only when we demand it by intense prayer of supplication.

In Isaiah 49, God – through a outlay of abundant promises, – tells us otherwise:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Isaiah 49:14-15

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us the same things in a little bit of a different way.

My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.

John 5: 17

When he says this, Jesus is in the midst of the recalcitrant, vengeful Pharisees who have placed their faith only in their own arrogance – who have come to depend only on their own wealth and power rather than on the mercy and love of God.

Jesus offers his own outlay of Divine promises, showing how he and God the Creator are One in their constant desire for each of us to share fully in the Divine Life, even to the point of taking flesh to redeem us:

For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life …

John 5: 26-29

We might ask in our prayer today to be deepened in our awareness of God’s constant, loving Presence in our lives. There is no moment or circumstance that doesn’t offer us an invitation to greater grace and holiness. But, unlike the Pharisees, we must open our hearts to trust God’s Presence in all things and to find that path to God’s heart.


In these final weeks of Lent, and in this particular passage from John, we see Jesus doing exactly what we must do. As Calvary began to loom unrelentingly on the horizon, Jesus could not have found it easy to accept the path unfolding before him. But he trusted. He knew the Father was with him. He believed that he walked toward Resurrection even though all he could see was a dark lonely hill.

May our Lenten prayer let us learn from Jesus.


Poetry: Forgetting by Joy Ladin

Zion says, “The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her baby, or disown the child of her womb? Though she might forget, I never could forget you.
—Isaiah 49:14–15

You never remember anything, do you?
How I formed you in your mother’s womb;
nursed you; bathed you; taught you to talk;

led you to springs of water?
I sang your name before you were born.
I’m singing your name now.

You’re clueless as an infant.
When I tell you to shout for joy,
you hear a bicycle, or a cat.

Sometimes, memories of me come back
like children you forgot you had:
a garden; a bride; an image of  your mother,

your best friend, your brother, or a cop, or snow, or afternoon.
The heavens shout; mountain becomes road;
gardenias burst into song.

Whose are these? you wonder.
Then you forget, and feel forgotten,
like an infant who falls asleep

at a mother’s breast
and wakes up hungry again.
Your mother might forget you, child,

but I never forget.
I’ve engraved your name
on the palms of my hands.

I show you trees, I lay you down in the grass,
I shower you with examples of my love—
sex and birds, librarians and life skills, emotions, sunlight, compassion.

Nothing connects.
Every dawn, every generation,
I have to teach you again:

this is water; this is darkness;
this is a body
fitting your description;

that’s a crush;
these are bodily functions;
this is an allergic reaction.

This is your anger.
This is mine.
This is me

reminding you to eat.
Turn off the stove.
Take your medication.

This is the realization
that I am yours and you are mine. This is you
forgetting.

Music: Will Never Forget You – Carey Landry

Tell It Like It Is

February 23, 2022
Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, James continues to “tell it like it is”.

Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town,
spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”–
you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.

James 4: 13

James offers that hard truth to his listeners, Jewish Christians dispersed outside of Israel. It’s an insight many of us might not like hearing, because we thrive on making plans for future growth and improvement.

When a current situation is looking a little dim, we like to think that “there is always tomorrow”. James says, “Maybe not! Make sure you humbly do all that you can TODAY.”


James reminds me of my Nana.

My great-grandmother was born in Ireland in 1869. She was no-nonsense Irish, probably because of the no-nonsense times during which she grew up. She was highly religious and stringently moral, and she worked to insure that the family benefitted from all the lessons she had learned in her challenging life.


Her accent was as thick as porridge, but after a while I, a perspicacious little toddler, began imitating it. I listened intently to her oft-repeated phrases and folded them into my own conversations. One such phrase made an indelible impression on me to the point that I can hear it even now in her soft, rolling brogue.

When one of the family retired for the night, it was common to say, ” Good night. God bless you.” Sometimes we added, ” I’ll see you in the morning” and if we did, Nana invariably responded:

if God spares us!


I think that is exactly what James is saying in his no-nonsense epistles.

We depend on God’s goodness and mercy for everything. We need to remember and acknowledge that truth, and to live in hopeful gratitude.

… you should say,
“If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.”
But instead you are boasting in your arrogance.
All such boasting is evil.
So for one who knows the right thing to do
and does not do it, it is a sin.

I think that most of us aren’t really arrogant. We just forget. We get confused. We let our lives slip off their center on God. And then we might start to think that we are the center of everything! Big mistake!


Our Responsorial Psalm for today reinforces these truths. I love the way Pastor Christine Robinson has interpreted Psalm 49:

Here is my wisdom—Listen to my song!
I am surrounded by those who put their trust
in possessions and money
I am not taken in.

What is precious in life can’t be had in the marketplace
What is important about us is not what we acquire,
but what we do to add love, goodness, and
beauty to the world.

It’s the size of our hearts, not the size of our houses,
It’s our understanding, not our fame.
What we own is taken from the earth and from others.
It returns to them when we die.

But love, wisdom, and beauty,
they strengthen the fabric of creation.
They accrue to God, enlarge our very souls.
These are our true legacy and our ongoing life.


Music: Who Am I? – Casting Crowns

Mary, Beautiful Beloved

Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate one of the many feasts honoring Mary, Mother of Jesus.

Anna and Joachim

Today’s feast can be confusing to people. It is sometimes mixed up with the Virgin Birth – the moment when Jesus was born. What we celebrate today, however, is the moment Mary was conceived by her parents, Anna and Joachim.

Over the centuries, devotional practice has tended to make Mary more than human – to separate her from the rest us because of her great holiness. However, many theologians today encourage us to find in Mary the same human struggles and triumphs we all meet in life. In this way, we can learn from her and be supported on our own path to holiness.

Today, as we pray with our many images, devotions and understandings of Mary, may we open our hearts to be inspired by her singular witness to God’s desire to be among us.


Poetry: On a separate entry today, I have copied a few passages from the beautiful classic, ” A Woman Wrapped in Silence”. I absolutely love this book and it has been my treasured companion through at least fifty Advents (and Lents). I highly recommend it to you. Read it in small doses that you can break open in your prayer.


Music: The Magnificat – Mary’s radical prayer for justice and mercy, sung here in Latin by the Daughters of Mary (English below)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their seat s
and has exalted the humble and meek.
He has filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he has sent empty away.
Remembering his mercy, he has helped his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his posterity forever. 

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128. It describes the blessed scene that might ensue from the kind of hopeful and just community described in yesterday’s reflection. Because of its final verse, I like to think of it as a “Grandparents’ Blessing”.

Happy are they all who fear the Lord,
and who follow in the ways of God!
You shall eat the fruit of your labor; 
happiness and prosperity shall be yours.
Your beloved shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, 
your children like olive shoots round about your table.
The one who fears the Lord 
shall thus indeed be blessed.
The Lord bless you from Zion,
and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem 
all the days of your life.

May you live to see your children’s children; 
may peace be upon your household.


In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that we achieve such blessedness by actions, not simply by words.

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.

Matthew 23: 1-3

I took that admonition to heart today. I do a lot of “preaching” on these pages. Following the example of Jesus, I need to see if those words come to life in my actions.

Are you with me?


Poetry: The Words We Speak – Hafiz

The words
We speak
Become the house we live in.
Who will want to sleep in your bed
If the roof leaks
Right above
It?
Look what happens when the tongue
Cannot say to kindness,
“I will be your slave.”
The moon
Covers her face with both hands
And can’t bear
To look.

Music: Without Words – Bethel Music

Just a pretty cool instrumental to reflect with today.

Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 40, and wow, do we need it after an astounding heartless first reading!

The Return of Jephthah
by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini
The Yorck Project ( Public Domain)

The story of Jephthah and his daughter is one of the most disturbing in the Bible! It contains so many flaws in faith and reason that it becomes almost unusable for prayer. Then again, maybe that’s the very reason we should pray with it.

Jephthah:

  • was so full of his own lust for victory that he made a promise to God which God would never want.
  • was so focused on himself that he ignored the maxim against human sacrifice
  • had such a distorted concept of God that he made an excuse to kill on God’s supposed behalf

The lesson for me? Don’t be like Jephthah.

We can use God, distort God, and manufacture what we believe to be God’s Will. Countless people have done so down through the centuries and are still doing it. Just shake a history book, and a thousand Jephthahs fall out wrapped in other inglorious names.

We constantly see religion manipulated into a tool for political and personal aggression. The world is full of people who purport to know God’s Will for the rest of us.


Psalm 40 blessedly contradicts this kind of idolatry. We must never attempt to create God in our own image, to satisfy our own agendas.

Psalm 40 lists those practices that will help us to sincere relationship with God and God’s power in our lives:

  • steadfast trust
  • unvarnished honesty
  • humble praise
  • prayerful obedience
  • responsiveness to grace

Happy are they who trust in the Lord!
they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.
Great things are they that you have done, O Lord my God! 
how great your wonders and your plans for us!
There is none who can be compared with you.
Oh, that I could make them known and tell them, 
but they are more than I can count.
In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure
(you have given me ears to hear you);
burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required.

Psalm 40:4-8

These virtues are powereded by a deeply prayerful and reflective life which roots God’s Goodness in our souls.

And so I said, “Behold, I come.
In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:
‘I love to do your will, O my God; 
your law is deep within my heart.’”

Psalm 40:

Poetry: I Know What You Want – a Psalm 40 prayer by Rev. Christine Robinson

I have trusted You, Holy One
  and waited for You.
When I was mired in misery
  you touched me with your spirit.
You pulled me out
  and set me on solid ground.
You put a song in my heart and work in my hands. 
  I praise you.
I know what you want from me,
  and where the meaning of my life lies—
Not in rituals, offerings, sacrifices, or creeds,
  just my heart; open to others, and open to You.
I try to live that way.
  I fail often but you nudge and beckon and I follow.
I pray that my words, my song, my life
  show forth your light and light others’ way.
May all who seek you find you.
Touch us with your spirit, that we may be glad.

Music: Take, Lord, Receive – John Foley, SJ

This prayer is the Suscipe of St. Ignatius Loyola found in the final part of his book, “The Spiritual Exercises”.

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, July 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 37 which is widely interpreted as:

“a response to the problem of evil,
which the Old Testament often expresses as a question:
why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer?”

Wikipedia

It’s a question all of us struggle with, isn’t it?
And wouldn’t we manage things a lot differently
if we were in charge of the world?


Psalm 37 opens with this advice to help us deal with our consternation:

Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.

Like grass they wither quickly;
like green plants they wilt away.

Psalm 37: 1-2

The psalmist continues to demonstrate that even though evil doers seem to prosper, their prosperity is short-lived. Only goodness endures and ultimately thrives.

Psalm 37 sounds very much like a parent teaching a child not to be distressed by the apparent success of the selfish and scheming. God is not fooled by evildoers so neither should we be.

The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;

But my Lord laughs at them,
seeing that their day is coming.

Psalm 37: 12-13

The advice is easily spoken but perhaps not so easily practiced. So the psalmist offers some tips on how to live a spiritually fruitful life:

  • Trust in the LORD and do good.
  • Find your delight in the LORD.
  • Commit your way to the Lord.
  • Be still before the LORD.
  • Refrain from anger; abandon wrath;
  • Do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
  • Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more.
  • Turn from evil and do good,
    that you may be settled forever.
  • Wait eagerly for the LORD,
    and keep the Lord’s way;

The psalm indicates the result of such goodness, conditions that sound very much like the Beatitudes:

  • You will be raised up to inherit the earth.
  • Yes, the poor will inherit the earth,
    will delight in great prosperity.
  • Better the meagerness of the righteous one
    than the plenty of the wicked.
  • The LORD will sustain the righteous.
  • The LORD knows the days of the blameless;
    their heritage lasts forever.
  • They will not be ashamed when times are bad;
    in days of famine they will be satisfied.
  • For those blessed by the Lord will inherit the earth,
    but those accursed will be cut off.

It’s hard to live a life like the one this psalm invites us to. (At least, I think it is!) It’s hard to have that much faith, especially when evil is smacking us right in the face. The psalmist acknowledges this difficulty but does so with a beautiful assurance:

The valiant one whose steps are guided by the LORD,
who will delight in God’s way,
may stumble, but will never fall,
for the Lord holds their hand.


Poetry: Give Me Your Hand – Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as we are made, 
then walks with us silently out of the night. 
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: 
beauty and horror. 
Just keep going. 
No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life. 
You will know it by its seriousness. 
Give me your hand.

Music: Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand – Alfred Street Baptist Church

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter

April 24, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 116. Today’s verses are such a lovely prayer of recognition and thanksgiving for God’s goodness.

Praying with this phrase this morning, I realized that there is no adequate answer to the psalmist’s question. We could never repay the munificence of God.

What we can do is to allow God’s Lavish Mercy to flow through our lives returning praise for God’s love. 

My vows to the LORD I will pay
    in the presence of all his people.
Precious in your eyes, O Lord,
    is the living and dying of your faithful ones.

Psalm 116: 14-15

All that we are and have, in life and death,
is through God’s graciousness.
Living out of that understanding changes everything.


Poetry: Little Flute- Tagore

You have made me endless, 
such is Your pleasure. 
This frail vessel You empty again and again, 
and fill it ever with fresh life. 
This little flute of a reed 
You have carried over hills and dales, 
and have breathed through it 
melodies eternally new. 
At the immortal touch of Your hands,
my little heart loses its limits in joy 
and gives birth to utterance ineffable. 
Your infinite gifts come to me 
only on these very small hands of mine. 
Ages pass, and still You pour, 
and still there is room to fill.

Music: Beautiful Dream – Zamfir

Psalm 46: Secret Stream

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

March 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 46 which celebrates the felt assurance of God’s presence no matter surrounding circumstances.

God is our refuge and our strength,
    an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken
    and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.

Psalm 46: 2-3

That kind of faith is pretty amazing! It’s easy to celebrate God when things are going well – but earth shaking and mountains plunging? That’s something else. What’s the secret to that kind of faith?


Such believers seem to have found the “stream”:

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
    the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
    God will help it at the break of dawn.

Psalm 46: 4-5

In her “Four Waters of Prayer”, St. Teresa of Ávila describes how we find this stream. Imagine your soul as a garden that needs to be nourished by prayer.

  • The first way to nourish it is like drawing water from a well. It is a very active kind of prayer in which we use our faculties to come closer to God.
  • The second way is like a water-wheel. As we accustom ourselves to prayer, it becomes easier to enter a sacred space.
  • The third way is a stream. It is the point in our spiritual lives where prayer, awareness of God, flows throughout our day.
  • The Fourth Water is the prayer of ecstasy when we are filled with and by God as by a luxuriant rain.

You can read St. Teresa’s descriptions here. The language is that of the 16th century but the wisdom is eternal. 


Poetry: Poem for St. John of the Cross by Lisa Zimmerman

 In the dark night of the soul,
bright flows the river of God

John of the Cross
Saint John of the Cross,
Your father married for love
an orphan below his noble station.
Discarded by his wealthy kindred
they say your parents nurtured you in poverty—
and the bread was as sweet as any bread

and the days offered their shiny hands
and their little streams of water
singing in the glades.

I see you wandering happily as a boy,
the sun a crown on your small head,
your bare feet scuffing the dust.
God chirped like a wood lark
in the throat of afternoon
and the lonely months in prison
were far ahead beneath the great shadow
of the future.

I try to follow you there, O mystic,
to watch you defy your greedy brethren
monks who will reject your reforms, your love
of less, of days returned to prayer and fasting.

Fat and threatened, they silenced you
in a narrow stone cell, one tiny window
like the one in the soul where day after day
the voice of God pierced your suffering.

Out of emptiness, a full heart—
out of abandonment, a poem of seeking—
out of utter darkness, a gleam of pure light—
love’s last trembling boat waiting for you
to get in, and row.

Music: Streams in the Desert – Abigail Miller