Pour It All Out for Love

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Acts describes Peter in the full energy of his discipleship. The infant Church was at peace, being built up by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter, completely filled with this sacred power, raises a woman from the dead. He does this in the Name of Jesus to Whom he has given his entire being.

pour faith

Our Gospel describes the moment of Peter’s total commitment. Some have turned away from Jesus because of his teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus asks the Twelve if they to wish to go too.

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

At pivotal points in our faith life, Jesus asks us the same question. May we always have the strength and insight to turn toward Christ. May we pour our hearts into the welcoming love of Jesus, just as Peter did.

Music: To Whom Shall We Go – Robin and Staci Calamaio – Father and daughter team

Grace and Power

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

May 6, 2019

Today, in Mercy, Acts tells us more about Stephen, who was introduced in Saturday’s reading as “a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit”.

Acts6_8 Stephen

Stephen is among the first group of Christians designated as deacons “to serve at table” – in other words, to do the administrative tasks that kept the community whole.

However, Stephen’s gifts went well beyond these services. Acts describes him like this:

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.

This man was radiant with Holy Spirit! He had so opened his soul to God’s grace and power that he was transformed even to the point that, when indicted:

All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

That same grace and power that fired Stephen’s spirit are available to us. In this holy Eastertide, as we await the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, let us give sincere time and intention to praying for these gifts – for ourselves, for our faith communities, our communities of love, for our leaders, for our world.

This poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins might help us picture how the Holy Spirit waits to be welcomed into our hearts and lives:

God’s Grandeur

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.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89).  Poems.  1918.)

Music: J.S.Bach – Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe (Think of us with your Love)
– from Cantata BWV 29 – Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir (Tranlations below)

Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe,
Schleuß uns in dein Erbarmen ein!
Segne die, so uns regieren,
Die uns leiten, schützen, führen,
Segne, die gehorsam sein!

Think of us with your love,
enclose us in your pity!
Bless those who govern us,
those who guide, protect and lead us,
bless those who are obedient!

Making Friends with Wisdom

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings weave together the themes of

Wisdom,
Law
and
Integrity.

Balanced in our soul, these offer the perfection of spiritual life.

Wisdom4_11

Sirach instructs us that the journey to this perfection is challenging but worthwhile.

Wisdom walks with us as a stranger
and at first she puts us to the test;
Fear and dread she brings upon us
and tries us with her discipline
until she try us by her laws and trust our souls.

How beautiful this passage is! Picture Wisdom-Sophia walking with you, through your life to your present days. As young people, many of us were challenged in learning spiritual discipline – the Law of Love. Many of us are challenged still at times. But wisdom walks with us, gently testing our resolve for goodness- forgiving, instructing, redeeming, encouraging us.

Eventually, there is between us and Wisdom, as with cherished old friends, a comfort and understanding which allows us to know each other’s thoughts and completely trust each other’s good will. An integrity of goodness grows within us.

Our Psalm 119 summarizes this blessed relationship:

O Lord, great peace have they
who love your law.

In the short pericope from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus drives home to his disciples that the grace of the Holy Spirit – the power for goodness – is not confined by our restrictive definitions, expectations,, or role assignments. All hearts at one with the Law of Wisdom and Love give glory to God.

In my prayer today, I remembered with grateful love the many guides who have taught me Wisdom in my life. I rested in quiet gratitude with Wisdom, my old friend.

My prayer led me to include this quote from one of my all-time favorite books:

(P.S. What five books would you take with you if stranded on an island for the rest of your life? I’d include this one.)

Every truth is a reflection; behind the reflection and giving it value, is the Light. Every being is a witness; every fact is a divine secret; beyond them is the object of the revelation, the Wisdom witnessed to. Everything true stands out against the Infinite as against its background; is related to it; belongs to it. A particular truth may indeed occupy the stage, but there are boundless immensities beyond. One might say a particular truth is only a symbol, a symbol that is real, a sacrament of the Absolute.
~ Antonio Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life

Music: The Perfect Wisdom Of Our God – Keith & Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

Sophia-Wisdom

Monday, February 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  we begin a series of readings from the Book of Sirach. Today’s is particularly beautiful as it describes Wisdom – Sophia, a feminine principle of God’s nature.

sirach

The passage itself is poetically inspiring, and certainly doesn’t need my words to explain it. Each of us will draw our own inspiration from this reading. For me, this scripture stretches my perception of God’s nature, neither male nor female, but embodying and generating the beauty of both.

This thought provoking quote from theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, may enrich your reflection as it did mine.

God Language and Women

“What is the right way to speak about God in light of women’s reality? Ideas of God are cultural creatures related to the time and place in which they are conceived. We have traced one pattern of Christian feminist language arising from diverse experiences: the Spirit’s universal quickening and liberating presence, the living memory of Wisdom’s particular path in the history of Jesus, and inconceivable Holy Wisdom herself who brings forth and orients the universe. We have explored the ways in which these discourses coalesce into the symbol of the Trinity, a living communion of mutual and equal personal relations. Divine capacity for relation has led to speaking about Sophia-God’s participation in the suffering of the world that empowers the praxis of freedom, a discourse that takes place in the energizing matrix of the one God’s sheer liveliness named with the symbol SHE WHO IS. All of the above chapters are clues, starting points, commencements. This generation needs to keep faith with this question, creating, testing, reflecting, discarding, keeping. No language about God will ever be fully adequate to the burning mystery which it signifies. But a more inclusive way of speaking can come about that bears the ancient wisdom with a new justice.”

from her book She Who Is

Music: Sanctus  –  from the Mass of St. Cecilia  – Gounod (sung by Jessie Norman)

No Explanation Necessary

Monday, January 28, 2019

Click here for readings for St. Thomas Aquinas Liturgy

Today, in Mercy, we  celebrate the Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church.

theology

The influence of Aquinas on Catholic theology and resultant culture cannot be overstated.  He is considered by many to be the foremost articulator of the Catholic tradition of reason and of divine revelation. For centuries, his thought became the underlying curriculum for priestly and religious training, universally influencing Catholic education, preaching, and theology.

Thomistic thought has been a great blessing to the Church. On the other hand, there are concerns about those who enshrine 13th century concepts without ongoing theological examination and development.

St. Anselm, outstanding theologians of the 11th century said, “Theology is faith seeking understanding.” It is trying to know all we can about God, but it always falls short of knowing God.

Many modern theologians develop emerging thought using Aquinas as their foundation, while deconstructing the unhelpful medieval constrictions of his work. Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ is one of my favorites. She has been noted as offering “new ways to think and speak about God within the framework of traditional Catholic beliefs and motifs.

As well as his immense body of theology, Thomas Aquinas was the composer of many treasured hymns. You might enjoy this one today.

Music: Adorote Devote ~ Thomas Aquinas 

See below for both Latin and English lyrics

1. Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quae sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subiicit,
Quia te contemplans, totum deficit. 

2. Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur;
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,
Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius. 

3. In Cruce latebat sola Deitas.
At hic latet simul et humanitas:
Ambo tamen credens, atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro paenitens. 

4. Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor:
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere. 

5. O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus vitam praestans homini:
Praesta meae menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere. 

6. Pie pellicane Iesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo Sanguine:
Cuius una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere. 

7. Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio,
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae.
Amen.

1.Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

2. Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

3. On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

4. I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

5. O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

6. Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

7. Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight.
Amen.

Look Good or Do Good? Hmmm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings continue the theme of sincere faith versus hypocritical practices.

Paul really lets the Galatian community have it. Apparently, their behavior had slipped pretty low!  Paul’s list of things to be avoided contains some shocking stuff, like orgies, bursts of fury, and drinking bouts. Sounds bad! A lot worse, I hope, than any list he might make about us if he were writing now. I wonder?

Lk 11_42 spices

In our Gospel, Jesus let’s loose on some of the Pharisees too. He points out that they practice the tiniest, visible observances so that people see them as holy. But they ignore the more important requirements of love, justice and mercy. In other words, they look good but don’t do good.

As we pray with these readings, we could try to address the small hypocrisies in our own lives – a kind of “weed the garden” approach. Surely it would help our spiritual life to get rid of anything like orgies, fury and drunkenness. But I think most of us, dear readers, are pretty much beyond that. 🙏

I prefer to take my cues from Paul’s accompanying list of virtues to be pursued: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. How obvious are these things in my life? When I lie my head on the pillow at night, are these the things I remember about my day? Have I given these gifts to others? Have I received them with gratitude?

As we read about the tithes of mint, rue and other garden herbs, the cooks among us might like to imagine life as a great bouillabaisse, perfectly seasoned for God with all the spices on Paul’s menu. What little herb do you need to add right now?

Music: The Fruits of the Spirit ~ Selah

Our Breath within God’s Own

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

          Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090418.cfm

Ps145_kindJPG

Today, in Mercy, we have an awesome first reading from Corinthians in which Paul assures us:

We have not received the spirit of the world
but the Spirit who is from God,
so that we may understand the things freely given us by God.

What joy to realize that God’s own Spirit dwells within us making us one with God, breath within Breath. We have that intimate comfort of knowing God as our dearest Friend, Confidant, and Lover.

Nothing in our lives falls outside God’s embrace and compassion. God’s kindness, graciousness and lavish mercy sustain and inspire us always to believe, to hope, and to love.

In thanksgiving, we pray today’s most fitting Psalm 145.

Music: The Lord Is Kind and Merciful – Jeanne Cotter; David Haas

Fear or Faith?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

       Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082818.cfm

Mt 23_24 camael gnat

Today, in Mercy, Paul talks seriously with the community at Thessalonika. Some early Christians expected the final coming of Christ to happen imminently. They had become upset, and somewhat obsessed, with concerns and rumors about “the end times”. Reactions range from fear to panic to denial.

Paul basically tells the community to settle down – “Hold fast to the traditions that you were taught.” In other words, focus on the core teachings of your faith – love, service, and grateful, joyful worship – not on the imagined fears of some unenlightened shouters.

We see such misdirection manifested in fundamentalism, scrupulosity, exaggerated devotional practices, cultic behaviors, even superstitions – the kinds of attitudes Jesus condemns in today’s Gospel.  These conditions cause us to become judgmental, elitist and superficial. They distract us from attention to the heart of our faith – mutual love, unselfish service, merciful justice, Christlike inclusivity.

Even as I write this reflection, we have a Church — like Thessolonia — fraught with turmoil.  Many call it unprecedented, although any student of Church History knows it is not. Still. it is a time when we who love the Catholic faith must pray for light, courage and fidelity. Let us pray too for Pope Francis that he may rely on the Holy Spirit to help him act courageously and definitively, as Paul did, to right the Beloved Community.

As for each of us, the fullness of God needs a large soul – not one shrunken by its own pettiness, fears, and self-righteousness. As St. Augustine prayed:

Narrow is the mansion of my soul;
enlarge Thou it,
that Thou mayest enter in.

Music: A Heart Like Yours ~ CeCe Winans

Would God Divorce Us?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we hear from Jeremiah, a “sock-it-to-‘em” prophet. He lived in a disastrous time for Judah, and had to deliver some difficult challenges to the people. Today’s passage is called the Temple Sermon. It confronts his listeners with the fact that there is a big difference between their professed faith and their daily practice. In other words, they are living a lie.

Jeremiah7_5

The people seem to think that no matter how idolatrous or immoral their choices are, the Temple building will protect them from God’s anger. It’s a mentality that might remind us of the film “The Godfather”, where the mafioso kill and cheat all week but always fulfill their sacramental obligations.

God tells Jeremiah to go stand at the Temple gate and tell the people that their fake piety won’t work. Instead they are to:

  • thoroughly reform their ways and deeds
  • deal justly with their neighbor
  • no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow
  • no longer shed innocent blood in this place (cease human sacrifice)
  • or follow strange gods to their own harm

Otherwise, Jeremiah says, they risk losing God because God will not live in a desecrated Temple.

The message to us that comes wrapped in the ancient words of Jeremiah?

  • Examine your life.
  • Is our faith sincere, proven by our practices?
  • Do we give others not only the benefit of the doubt, but also the benefit of our kindness?
  • Do we support and foster immigrants, orphans, widows … in other words the vulnerable?
  • Do we stand against the suffering of innocents caused by war and unjust policy?
  • Do we resist the “gods” competing for our souls — all the destructive isms and addictions of our time?

Otherwise, Jeremiah says, we risk losing God because God will not live in a heart-temple that is desecrated.

Music: Fill This Temple – Don Moen

Truth on Friday 13th

Friday, July 13, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071318.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we pray with the word “Truth”. The word appears 137 times in the Bible. God clearly has something to tell us about it!

Jn16_13

A truth theme runs through today’s readings like a magnetic thread, drawing us to deeper self-understanding. Friday the 13th is a good day for that, don’t you think – a day fraught with superstitions and falsehoods?

When I was a teenager, my parents decided to wallpaper our living room. Dad, a master craftsman at just about any DIY project, had been physically incapacitated by several heart attacks. So, while he was the architect, I was the contractor for this home project.

Dad was an exact yet patient teacher. I learned how to cut, paste and match seams. I absorbed the craftsperson’s essential mantra: measure twice, cut once. Even the mysteries and miracles of Dad’s old, treasured toolbox were opened to me.

One morning, Dad said we had to “true up” a wall and that we were going to “drop a plumb line”. It was Greek to me. But he explained that no building is perfectly level. If we didn’t begin our papering from a leveled line, we would end up feeling like our living room was a tilted funhouse. 

Don’t you sometimes feel like our world is that funhouse? But it isn’t really very much fun, is it? We live in a time when information and communication are at our fingertips. Yet, we are confused by half-truths and distorted facts. We are assailed with propaganda and cyber-manipulation. We are fed a diet of constant cabled lies AND we consume them to satisfy our biases. Even in our personal lives, we may be undercut by false friends and masquerading enemies. Like Pontius Pilate, we are left with the question, “Truth! What is “Truth”?

Today’s readings drop a plumb line into that skewed world. 

  • Hosea tells us, “Straight are the paths of the Lord; in them the just walk.” 
  • Our Psalm implores God to create in us a true heart. 
  • Our Gospel tells us that, even in the midst of deceit, that true heart will be guided by the Holy Spirit.

On this Friday the 13th, we can start by truing up our own spirits. Let’s pray for the grace today to be true friends – not fair weather; true patriots – not nationalists; true believers – not Pharisees. 

Behold, you are pleased with sincerity of heart,
and in my inmost being you teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be purified;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(from today’s Psalm)

Music: Change My Heart, O God! – Maranatha Music