Psalm 19: God’s Perfect Law

Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 2, 2020


Previous Prayer on Today’s Readings
June 30, 2016: Today, in Mercy, we pray in praise of God’s laws which hold the sun and moon in place, and make night and day turn softly into each other. We pray to love God’s law in our own hearts, respecting life in all its stages and expressions. May we see our own life as a marvelous manifestation of God’s divine balance, and may we so honor its risings and settings.


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19. The entire psalm opens with a familiar hymn to the Beauty of God’s Creation. and closes with a meditation on the beauty of God’s Law. Today’s verses focus on the psalm’s second half, lauding God’s flawless law. 

In both cadence and meaning, Psalm 19 is a song of balance. It dances back and forth between the immutable elegance of God’s Law and the perfection it offers to those who pursue it.

The concept of “law” might not immediately engender spiritual enthusiasm in our hearts. In our modern culture, the word “law” has become removed from the biblical sense of “justice”. 

In modern parlance, “law” is a set proclamations we may or may not agree with. The validity of this “law” depends on the morality of those who make it.

But law and justice in scripture are meant to be reflections of God’s perfection . They are the means to attaining right-balance in our lives, and in all Creation, according the God’s desire for us.

In fact, living a true biblical dimension of law and justice may require us, at times, to live outside a cultural sense of these words.  This happens when we protest “unjust laws” – a phrase whose seeming contradiction shows us just how difficult living justly might be.



How do we stay sharply and accurately aware of those contradictions so that we may discern a life of true Godly justice and right-balance in a culture that has become confused and calloused?

Psalm 19 is a good guide. Trusting its advice, we will find the virtues that lead to joy and peace.

Any “law” which does not lead to these blessings needs to be examined in the light of this beautiful psalm.


Poetry: God’s Grandeur– In Gerard Manley Hopkins’s exquisite poem, we see the magnificence of nature juxtaposed with human fragility.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Music: More Precious Than Gold – Acappella


They are more precious than gold 
Sweeter than the honey 
They are more precious than gold 
And the honey comb 

The laws of the Lord are perfect 
Reviving the soul, reviving the soul 
Reviving the soul 

They are more precious than gold 
Sweeter than the honey 
They are more precious than gold 
And the honey comb 

They make wise the simple 
They give joy to the heart 
Light to the eyes 
Enduring forever 
Righteous altogether 
They bring great reward 

The laws of the Lord are perfect 
Reviving the soul, reviving the soul 
Reviving the soul 

May the words of my mouth 
And the meditation of my heart 
Be pleasing in your sight 
O Lord my rock 
My rock and my redeemer 
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer 

The laws of the Lord are perfect 
Reviving the soul, reviving the soul 
Reviving the soul 
They are more precious than gold Sweeter than the honey 
They are more precious than gold 
And the honey comb

Psalm 139: God of Our Secrets

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

June 24; 2020

Psalm 139 (stained glass window by Ted Felen)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on the great feast of John the Baptist, we pray with Psalm 139, the prayer of awed gratitude.

June 24th is a pivotal date in my life. It became so in 1966 on the day I was first professed as a Sister of Mercy. Our then Mother General, who chose our Profession date, had deep devotion to John, and often spoke to us wide-eyed novices about his holiness.


In one such lecture, she solemnly pronounced the core of his sanctity – how he considered himself in relation to his cousin Jesus:

He must increase and I must decrease. 

Mother Bernard told us that this was the key to the spiritual life: let God grow in you as self recedes.


It was a beautiful lesson but a hard one to swallow. We were a gaggle of 20-somethings fired up to find our adulthoods. We were all about growing – making our statement in the world! 

Learning to discover, rely on, and magnify the hidden omnipresence of God within would – at least for some of us – takes a lifetime, just as it probably should.


Psalm 139 is a prayer that can lead us to God’s powerful secrets in our hearts, ready to be unfolded as the years pass. These treasures include:

  • that we are made of earth and stars and must find vigor in harmony with them
  • that we are woven of both the dances and the dyings of our mothers, fathers, and ancestors – each a mysterious blessing
  • that as we live our lives, it is God living within us
  • that God knows, loves, and redeems everything about us

June 24, 1966 came clothed in noontime sun and trumpet blasts all those years ago – shouting youth, hope, and a good deal of ambition.

The date’s passing iterations have gently mellowed the song God sings to me. Now it goes something like this:


Autumn Colors – Zamfir

Today, the date’s rising carries the sustained melody of a gentle pan flute. Within its breathy music, I cherish the gift of years, how intimately accompanied and tenderly cared for I have been … even from my mother’s womb until now.

May each of us today – in whatever season and sound of the journey – pray with our hidden, ever-present God who cherishes our being.


Called to Become
From Edwina Gateley, There Was No Path So I Trod One (1996, 2013)

You are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one is called to become
Who you are called to be.
It does not matter
How short or tall
Or thick-set or slow
You may be.
It does not matter
Whether you sparkle with life
Or are as silent as a still pool.
Whether you sing your song aloud
Or weep alone in darkness.
It does not matter
Whether you feel loved and admired
Or unloved and alone
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one's shadow
Should cloud your becoming.
No one's light
Should dispel your spark.
For the Lord delights in you.
Jealously looks upon you
And encourages with gentle joy
Every movement of the Spirit
Within you.
Unique and loved you stand.
Beautiful or stunted in your growth
But never without hope and life.
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
This becoming may be
Gentle or harsh.
Subtle or violent.
But it never ceases.
Never pauses or hesitates.
Only is—
Creative force—
Calling you
Calling you to become
A perfect creation.

Music: If I Take the Wings of Morning – John Rutter

Psalm 48: You Are a Holy City

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 23, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 48 which is tied to today’s first reading from the Book of Kings. You may wish to refer to that reading, or the story is recounted in our poem today. In both these accounts, we read a war diary in which God miraculously intervenes for the beloved Holy City Jerusalem.

While, indeed, Jerusalem is the Holy City of the Old Testament, there are other ways to pray with this symbol as we consider Psalm 48.


Paul, in writing to the Hebrews, uses the “Holy City” symbol to describe the majesty of their new-found faith. The passage can remind us too of the glorious gift of being part of the Body of Christ.

You have come to Mount Zion, to the Holy City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:22-24


That “City” is made holy by the presence of God in the Temple. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that God abides in us and makes us a holy temple, a city where the Spirit dwells.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 3: 16-17


Today, let us rejoice with the psalmist that the Spirit of God dwells among us and within us.  Let us pray for one another in this communion of saints which is the Holy City. With the psalmist, may we ponder, praise, and reach for that just and merciful hand – for the sake of our beautiful suffering cities and world.

O God, we ponder your mercy
within your temple.
As your name, O God, so also your praise
reaches to the ends of the earth.
Of justice your right hand is full.


Poetry: The poem for today is the story Sennacherib’s attempt to destroy Jerusalem. You can work hard and find some spiritual meaning in it. But I put it here because it’s just a wonderfully cadenced poem that retells today’s first EXCITING reading. Notice the fabulous sense of color Lord Byron had!

The Destruction of Sennacherib
by Lord Byron

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Music:  The Holy City – written by Michael Maybrick, and sung by the magnificent tenor Stanford Olsen with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I have always loved this gloriously uplifting hymn. The song has an interesting history which you might enjoy reading as well.

Last night I lay asleeping
There came a dream so fair
I stood in old Jerusalem
Beside the temple there.
I heard the children singing
And ever as they sang,
Methought the voice of Angels
From Heaven in answer rang.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem!
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna in the highest.
Hosanna to your King!”

And then methought my dream was chang’d
The streets no longer rang
Hushed were the glad Hosannas
The little children sang.
The sun grew dark with mystery
The morn was cold and chill
As the shadow of a cross arose
Upon a lonely hill.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem!
Hark! How the Angels sing,
Hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna to your King!”

And once again the scene was changed
New earth there seemed to be
I saw the Holy City
Beside the tideless sea
The light of God was on its streets
The gates were open wide
And all who would might enter
And no one was denied.

No need of moon or stars by night
Or sun to shine by day
It was the new Jerusalem
That would not pass away

“Jerusalem! Jerusalem
Sing for the night is o’er
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna for evermore!”

Psalm 16: A Night Prayer

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Saturday, June 13, 2020

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psalm16 path2

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Psalm 16. Verses 1-10 strike me as a perfect “nighttime” prayer.

In his musical Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Weber lyricizes about the “beauty of the night”.  

It’s a soulful song, and in itself could be used for prayer, especially when we pray in times of spiritual darkness or unknowing. In many ways, it reminds me of John of the Cross’s poem, “The Dark Night”. (Verses below for our poetry today).


All of us have times when our prayer seems to echo back to us without a response from God. Our faith may be tested and our trust stretched very thin. God seems so distant that we wonder what happened to cloud the relationship! We linger in a spiritual darkness that is dry and disconcerting.

Dali John of Cross
Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali (1951) – Kenmore Art Gallery, Glasgow

These times in the spiritual life were experienced and described by writers like John of the Cross and the author of “The Cloud of Unknowing”. They are times when our experiences and prayer invite us to a new and deeper understanding of God. They ask us to let go of our intellectual certainties and abandon ourselves to God without demands.


Recently, while describing how disappointed he was in God, a friend told me that he had “lost” his faith long ago. Well, obviously, he hadn’t because he still held expectations of the “God” who was disappointing him. I told him that I had lost my faith a few times too, and that every time I got it back, it was new and deeper than the one I had lost. My “septuagenarian God” is very different from the one I came to follow when I was eighteen!


Our minds and souls are so small next to God’s Infinity. But slowly, through a life of prayerful fidelity and loving service, God stretches our capacity to know and return a Love which is beyond reason.

But the stretching times can be dark – times when Psalm 16 is a comforting prayer.

I like to pray with this transliteration by Steven Mitchell – A Book of Psalms

Unnamable God,
I feel you with me at every moment.
You are my food, my drink,
my sunlight, and the air I breathe.
You are the ground I have built on
and the beauty that rejoices my heart. 

I give thanks to you at all times
for lifting me from my confusion,
for teaching me in the dark
and showing me the path of life. 

I have come to the center of the universe;
I rest in your perfect love.
In your presence there is fullness of joy
and blessedness forever and ever.

Music: Path of Life – The Dameans

Poetry: The Dark Night – Stanzas Of The Soul

( Some people find John of the Cross surprising, if not strange or shocking, in his imagery. He was a grace-filled mystic and poet whose images of God expanded beyond the boundaries we might be accustomed to. And that very extravagance is John’s beauty — he invites us to a place we might not otherwise think to go.)

1. One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
— ah, the sheer grace! —
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
— ah, the sheer grace! —
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
— him I knew so well —
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

Psalm 25: Through the Maze

Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

June 4, 2020

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Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25.

Psalm 25_9JPG

In today’s liturgy, this Psalm clearly ties together our first and second readings where both Timothy and a scribe seek clearer understanding of what faith requires:

  • Paul reminds Timothy that it takes perseverance and fidelity to live our faith
  • Jesus affirms for the scribe that there is no greater commandment than love

In Psalm 25, we find David working through his own faith challenges. He is asking God to show him the way, presumably out of some trouble or dilemma, one of the many faced by David over his lifetime.

Like Paul, Timothy, and the Gospel scribe, David realizes that the pursuit of justice is a circuitous journey, one that requires the accompaniment of God.


In today’s excerpt, we have only a few verses of Psalm 25, but the entire psalm paints David as feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed. Nevertheless, in his prayer, he draws on his long, trusting relationship with God.

Walter Brueggemann calls Psalm 25 a “psalm of candor”, one in which the psalmist honestly lays out his confusion, need, or pain. Praying the psalm today, we might do the same, asking God’s merciful insight and direction for ourselves, our loved ones, our country or our world.

There is certainly enough need for a lot of candor on our part! I know that I am feeling more than a bit overwhelmed by our current realities. Racial injustice, pandemic, economic hurt, and political confusion have all combined to make these very troubling times. 

  • But like David, we can lay down our fears, needs and concerns before a loving God.
  • Like David, we can trust God’s desire to lead us.
  • Like David, we can remember God’s mercies and be confident they will continue.
  • Like David, we can ask for and follow God’s direction to justice and peace.

degrebber_david-plagen_grt
King David at Prayer by Pieter deGrabber


swords
Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich in the United Nations Art Collection

In our poem today, Rudyard Kipling does much the opposite of what I suggest above. He is deeply angry after WWI has claimed the life of his son John. His poem speaks of “justice” but suggests revenge or retribution. The justice he describes is one that demands the last drop of the opponent’s blood before it is satisfied .

I read the poem to better understand my own feelings.  What fragments of darkness still hide in my longing for light?

Kipling’s poem is available here.


Kipling’s angry passion is completely understandable, rational, and politically powerful. But it is not the justice or “right relationship“ of the Gospel. The pursuit of such Gospel justice is an arduous and winding journey of the heart and soul. It is the trying walk of sacrificial love which Jesus taught us. May we have the courage to walk it for our time. Thus the cry of our Psalm 25:


Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

Music: Psalm 25 – Karl Kolhase

Turn and See

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

March 12, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our readings offer us studies in dramatic contrasts.

the barren bush in a lava waste
vs.
the tree planted beside the waters

that turns its roots to the stream

Jere17_7barrentree



a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen

vs.
a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores

Gustave_Dore_Lazarus_and_the_Rich_Man
Lazarus and the Rich Man by Gustave Dore (1891)

 

What are Jeremiah and Jesus teaching us with these unforgettable images?

Jeremiah summarizes his point in the very first verse:

Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.

In his parable, Jesus has Abraham deliver the point:

You received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.


Praying with these passages, we might determine to make sure we don’t end up like the barren bush or the ultimately tormented rich person. 

But how can we do that?

I think the key lies in Jeremiah’s phrase, “one whose heart turns away from the LORD.” 

In his parable, Jesus shows us what that “turning” looks like. It is any blind indifference in us that allows us to ignore another’s suffering. 

Most of us don’t consciously choose that indifference. We simply fail to turn from our own comfort … plans, needs, agenda … to observe the pain or need around us.

So as we leave our prayer today, perhaps we can do so determined to turn from our self-interests … to see if there is a “Lazarus” right beside us whom we had failed to notice.

Music: Turn My Heart – Lynn DeShazo (Lyrics below)

Turn my heart O Lord
Like rivers of water
Turn my heart O Lord
By Your hand
‘Til my whole life flows
In the river of Your Spirit
And my name
Bring honor to the Lamb

Lord I surrender to
Your work in me
I rest my life within
Your loving hands

(Repeat chorus 3 times)

‘Til my name brings honor
‘Til my name brings honor
To the Lamb

Beyond Measure

Friday of the First Week of Lent

March 6, 2020

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ps130 iniquities

Today, in Mercy, our readings could confuse us with their threads of legalistic logic. We see several examples of “if-then” admonitions that can make us picture God as an accountant measuring every choice we make.

  • If the wicked man turns, … then he shall surely live
  • If the virtuous man turns, … then none of his good deeds shall be remembered.
  • If you, O Lord, Mark iniquities … then who can stand.
  • If you go to the altar unreconciled … then leave and be reconciled.

measure

Sometimes, we can get obsessive about the “if-then” aspects of religion. And IF we do, THEN we probably miss the whole point. Because folded in today’s “if-then” seesaws is the truth of these passages: that the Lord does NOT sit miserly in Heaven to mark our iniquities.

The Lord measures the righteousness of love.


“Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.—Jeremiah 9:23-24


Today’s Responsorial Psalm offers us a beautiful prayer for this morning as we pray in the embrace of God’s Lavish Mercy:

I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
My soul waits for the LORD
more than sentinels wait for the dawn.
Let Israel wait for the LORD.
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.

Let’s wait for the Lord today to see where God’s Grace invites us to the righteousness of Love.

Music: Everlasting Love – Mark Hendrickson & Family (Lyrics below)

Chorus
With an everlasting love
I love you I love you
With an everlasting love
a love that’ll never end
a love that’ll never end
I love you.

Till the stars lose their way
In the heavens up above
And the oceans all run dry
Till the clouds in the sky
Keep the rain all to themselves
Even longer I’ll love you
This I promise I’ll love you
My word I give it’s true
I love you

Till the morning sun ceases to arise
And the moon forgets to shine
Until heaven’s blue is erased from the sky
Even longer I’ll love you
This I promise I’ll love you
My word I give it’s true
I love you

Sheep or Goat?

Monday of the First Week of Lent

March 2, 2020

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sheep mosaic

Today, in Mercy, we are invited to be like God:

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel
and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

Our first reading goes on to tell us how: be a decent person.

  • Don’t steal, lie, or cheat
  • Pay just wages
  • Respect and help those physically burdened
  • Be impartial and just
  • Defend life
  • Don’t slander, hate, take revenge, or hold a grudge

Basically, the message is about kindness … deep kindness, the type that comes from realizing how infinitely kind God is to us.

Leviticus, after a long list of practical examples, sums it up:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.


Our Gospel tells us what happens when we make the choice to take the Old Testament advice — or not.

little lamb

We are all familiar with the parable of the sheep and the goats. And we all hope our scorecard gets us in the right herd “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him …”

 


Basically, in this parable, Jesus puts the advice of Leviticus into practical form for his followers. But he adds one dynamic element that not only invites but impels our wholehearted response:

Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.

Leviticus invites us to become holy as God is holy. But Jesus reveals the secret that this Holy God lives in the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned and sick. By embracing these most beloved of God, we find the pattern of Holiness.

Music: The Least of These – Karl Kohlhase

Creeping Up to Lent?

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

February 25, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we are creeping up to Lent’s doorstep.

Doorstep

Are you beginning to consider your Lenten rituals? Our readings today might help orient us.

They leave this question hanging in the air: Who do I really want to be in my life?

Mk9_34 first last

James says that if we are someone who loves the world, we will find ourselves at enmity with God. James defines “the world” as a place in discord, conflicted by covetousness, envy, frustration, and death-dealing.

James is directly addressing damaging squabbles within the Church itself. Infighting has caused fractures within his believing community. Failures in mutual charity and sincere prayer have generated “wars” among the members.

Why would anybody choose to contribute to such a negative environment? 

James pins it on one thing: jealousy. We are jealous to be, have, control, and possess more than others. We are tempted by power, riches and esteem. We want our opinions to be honored, our needs to be met above and before others.


The reality exists today as well, as we know too well.

  • We see it in the Church from factions who want to bend the Gospel to their own agenda.
  • We see it within and between nations who raise the advantage of some over the welfare of others.
  • We see it in families, businesses, and social circles where individuals volley for position, influence, or control over others.

These conflicts pour out in criticism, judgements, biases, shunning, and all kinds of failures in compassion, respect, and honesty. They blind us to our common creaturehood in God, and to its demand for an equity of love, mercy, and justice.

Otherwise, 

  • How could we ever kill or enslave one another, either by aggression or neglect?
  • How could we separate parents from their children and put babies in cages?
  • How could we participate in a global economic tyranny that leaves some without land, homes, health care, or hope?
  • How could we use other human beings – or their vital resources – only for our own pleasure, power or enrichment?

Most of us do not outrightly choose these sinful behaviors. But we must ask ourselves to what degree we are complicit in them by our failures in just judgement, advocacy, political responsibility, globally sustainable choices, — just plain care and reverence for all human beings, all Creation.


The approach of Lent is a great time to revisit the question James hangs in the air for us:

  • Who do I really want to be in my life? 
  • Do I need to make changes to do that? 
  • How can I prepare for a Lent that helps me make those Grace-filled changes?

We are grown-ups now, and our Lenten repentances demand more than those we learned in grade school. Fasting from candy won’t cut it anymore. 

  • How about we fast from cable news that feeds our biases?
  • Or actually do something for our parish besides critique the Sunday sermon?
  • Maybe give up some of our polluting behaviors requiring plastic and other non-recyclables?
  • How about including a outsider in something where they are otherwise ignored?
  • Or providing for someone’s need who would hesitate to ask for your attention?

I think James would approve of choices like that because he says:

God bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says:
God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.
So submit yourselves to God.

Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Music: When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Simple Not Easy

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 23, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our readings focus us on how to live a good,honest, holy life.

Leviticus makes it simple:

Lv19_18 neighbor

But “simple” does not mean easy. Jesus makes that clear in the Gospel. He tells us that we may thinks it’s enough to love our neighbor by:

  • an “eye for an eye” justice
  • accepting that one slap on the cheek
  • giving over some of our possessions
  • serving them for the time they ask

But Jesus says, “No. Not enough!” We must go all in for love:

  • take no “eye”, no legal repayment 
  • turn the other cheek
  • give both shirt AND jacket off your back
  • work twice as long and hard as demanded

kidding


Guess what? He’s not kidding. He goes on to double down on his words:

  • Don’t just love your neighbor as yourself, as Leviticus requires. Love your enemy that way too.
  • Do it because your Creator loves you, and all of us, that way — with Lavish Mercy.
  • Be that Mercy in the world.

Paul gives us an added incentive for living this challenge. He acknowledges that to live in Christian love and mercy seems foolish in the eyes of the world … BUT:

Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:

The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.


As I said at the outset, it’s simple, but it’s not easy. So much in our culture promotes the opposite approach to life – me first, exclude others, win at all costs, money matters over everything, use people and things then discard them, and on and on…..

Using our beautiful Responsorial Psalm, let us pray for the insight to see through to God’s Truth and Love, and for the courage to live them. 

Music: The Lord Is Kind and Merciful – Jean Cotter 

Refrain
The Lord is kind and merciful;
The Lord is kind and merciful.
Slow to anger, rich in kindness,
The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
All my being bless God’s name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
Forget not all God’s blessings.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, full of kindness.
God is good to all creation,
Full of compassion.

The goodness of God is from age to age,
Blessing those who choose to love.
And justice toward God’s children;
On all who keep the covenant.