The Wisdom of God

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the Church links three readings which, at first glance, seem unrelated.

  • Our first reading from Wisdom reminds us of God’s infinite wisdom, incomprehensible to our human minds.
  • Paul, in his letter to Philemon, begs for the loving inclusion of Onesimus, an enslaved person, into the Colossian community.
  • In today’s Gospel, Jesus  makes the harsh pronouncement:

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.

How might we interpret these disparate passages to find a message of wholeness for our prayer?

Wis9_13 gods mind

Let’s start with Jesus. In no uncertain terms, he challenges his disciples to move out of their small worlds into God’s big world. That Godly world is not defined by family, nor by any condition other than our common Creaturehood in God … not by:

word gram

Jesus says the sacred community is defined only by shared and irrevocable commitment to the Gospel of love and mercy.

Paul knows and loves Onesimus, the slave, as a brother in this community. In his letter, Paul encourages Philemon to do the same.

Sometimes as human beings, filled with all kinds of insecurities, we tend to build enclaves that make us feel safe. We like to be with “our kind”. We invent borders to filter out those whose differences we don’t understand. We allow fear to grow out of that lack of understanding. Within the enclosure of our self-protectionism, we eventually forget that we are all one, equal, precious, beautiful and beloved by God.

Such toxic attitudes are the soil for slavery, war, ethnic cleansing, racial supremacy,   human trafficking, destructive nationalism, and all the other sacrileges committed by humans against the human family.

Wisdom reminds us that only God can open the tight circle of our fears, judgments and isolations – only God whose infinite love encompasses all. Jesus tells us that we find that love only by lifting up the cross and following him.

Wisdom tells us to put it in God’s hands, and to respond to God’s challenge in the preaching of Jesus Christ.

Who can know your way of thinking, O God
… except you give us wisdom

 and send your Holy Spirit from on high
 thus stretching the hearts of those on earth

Today I pray, may God do this for me, and for all our tight, convoluted and troubled world.

Music: Who Has Known (an Advent hymn, but perfect I think for today’s readings)

God’s Thank You Note

Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

August 26, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we begin eight days of Thessalonians, coupled with the final section of Matthew’s Gospel before the Passion, Death and Resurrection narrative.

First Thessalonians is a love note, a thank you note. In it, Paul speaks to the community with great affection and gratitude because they have caught fire with the Gospel he shared with them.

Paul’s words carry the loving, grateful voice of God to us who also try, with all our hearts, to give ourselves to the Gospel.

1 Thes 1:5 Thank You

In today’s Gospel, Matthew gives us the sad counterpoint to Paul’s joy. Jesus thunders woe over the Pharisees who, unlike the Thessalonians, smother the ardent message he offers them.

They bind. They control. They peddle a religion rooted in parsimonious law rather than generous freedom. They promote a system that sustains their privilege.

Jesus tells us that Pharisaical religion sucks the soul from people, binding them in a self-serving, spiritless law – where power and material prosperity supersede truth, loving community, and sincere worship.

In Paul’s words, God blesses and thanks us for our true faith which – by generosity, hope, love, sacrifice and hopeful endurance – builds the Community of God.

Throughout history, some people have used the scripture to justify the kind of pharisaical selfishness bewailed in today’s Gospel. They isolate and demonize other human beings by the deceitful turning of the holy Word. They are clever and convincing. They appeal to our rationality rather than our souls.

Today’s readings remind us to take great care in discerning the Spirit. We will never find Her where there is no love, mercy, kindness, freedom, forgiveness, and joy.

Music: one of my favorite hymns. Though from Ephesians, it carries the same message as our reading from Thessalonians today. I pray this prayer for all of you, dear friends.

Ephesians 1 – by Suzanne Toolan, RSM

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In him we were chosen to live through love in his light.
That is why I never cease to give thanks to God for you.
And pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ
will grant you the Spirit of wisdom
and knowledge of himself
that you may  glory, glory in his goodness.

The Good, The True and The Beautiful

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

June 16, 2019

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Trinity

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Blessed Trinity, a mystery of our faith beyond full human comprehension. Clearly realizing this, John Wesley, founder of the Methodist religion said this:


Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man,
and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God.


Still, as we pray, we have some limited conceptualization of this Divine Mystery. We reshape it into human terms we can relate to:


Father, Son, Spirit
Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier


These give us some insight into the heart of the Triune God, but only from the limits of our human perspective. It is a mystery so infinite that even in heaven we may not plumb its depths.

Many theologians and philosophers have tried to stretch our perspectives. The great Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes:


The One, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, these are
what we call the transcendental attributes of Being,
because they surpass all the limits of essences
and are coextensive with Being.


It may be helpful in our prayer to think of the Trinity in these terms- The Good, The True, and the Beautiful. These concepts, while we can experience them clearly in an individual or an object, far surpass that one particular presence or circumstance.

So it is with the nature of the Trinity. We perceive it simply in glimpses. Though Its totality far surpasses our comprehension, perhaps these glimpses are enough:
C.S. Lewis puts it this way:


Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun
which you could never get from reading books on astronomy.
These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’
in the woods of our experience.


What does all this mean in our daily spirituality? How can we find a Trinitarian spirituality in our daily encounter with God? How can we find the “patches of Godlight”?

Pope Francis brings it down to our experience of family:


All of the love that God has in Himself,
all the beauty that God has in Himself,
all the truth that God has in Himself,
He gives to the family.


So, in the sincere love – given and received – of a family or community, we find the reflection of this immense mystery.

And St. Catherine of Siena confidently prays about this truth in this way:


You, Eternal Trinity, are my Creator,
and I am the work of Your hands,
and I know through the new creation
which You have given me in the blood of Your Son,
that You are enamored of the beauty of Your workmanship.


Music: Amazing Love – Billy Martin, Peggy Dequesnel, Steve Hall

We Are A New Creation

Saturday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  we are reminded of two fundamentals of our spiritual life.

  1. In Christ, we are a New Creation. (2 Cor.5:17)
  2. We are called to live in the fullness of that Truth  (Mt.5:37)

If we could only believe and act from that power how our lives might be transformed!

2Cor5_7 new

Often, we let the relentless passing of time convince us each day that, rather than “new”, we are an older creation. Some of us tend to meet the cycles of life as challenges rather than opportunities. We use old, comfortable solutions that don’t quite meet the test. We get stuck, because life can be hard work!

But what if we realized that, every morning, God is imagining us into new possibility? That together with God, we have another day to become a sign of the Spirit in the world?

What if we consciously chose to meet any dispiriting situation with the attitude Jesus might take toward it? What if we lived life as an unfolding, glorious mystery rather than a problem?

What if we lived fully in the Truth that we are God’s beloved and, with God, capable of eternal life?

Today’s scriptures invite us to consider these questions with openness and faith.

Music: I Am a New Creation- The Worship Collection

Glory following Glory

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

June 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Anthony. Many of us are close friends with him, as we mislay our keys, glasses, phones and wallets on a regular basis. But we might want to consider St. Anthony’s more universal contribution to the Church. A Franciscan friar, Anthony was noted by his contemporaries for his powerful preaching, expert knowledge of scripture, and undying love and devotion to the poor and the sick – virtues we are called to imitate by his canonization.

On another note, today’s readings for Ordinary Time focus on seeing past the letter of the Law to its Spirit.

 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus, preaching charity over ritual, says:

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.

In the magnificent passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul, describing the Old Law of requirements as a veil over our eyes, writes:

2Cor3_18

Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.

All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
as from the Lord who is the Spirit.

glory

May our lives, blessed by the freedom of the Holy Spirit, move gratefully, humbly, and joyously “from glory to glory” – growing ever more deeply into the merciful Heart of God.

Music:  Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ

Learning Mary

Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

June 10, 2019

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Mary EcclesiaJPG

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate a rather new memorial feast. On February 11, 2018, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (yes, that really exists, even though it sounds a little bit like something from Harry Potter!) inscribed a new obligatory Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, into the General Roman Calendar. This memorial is celebrated every year on the Monday after Pentecost.

We might wonder why we need another feast and title for Mary after 2000 years of devotion to her. But the intent is to open our hearts and minds to new and more dynamic understandings of the role of Mary in our spirituality and theology.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said, upon announcing the feast:

This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life
must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ
in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed.

When any new Feast is decreed, liturgical readings and texts are assigned to it. For this memorial, a Latin hymn was designated, written by the modern Latin poet Anselmo Lentini:

O virgo mater, filia tui beata Filii,
sublimis et humillima præ creaturis omnibus,

Divini tu consilii fixus ab ævo terminus,
tu decus et fastigium naturæ nostræ maximum:

Quam sic prompsisti nobilem,
ut summus eius conditor in ipsa per te fieret arte miranda conditus.

In utero virgine o amor revixit igneus,
cuius calore germinant flores in terra cæ lici.

Patri sit et Paraclito tuo que Nato gloria,
qui veste te mirabili circumdederunt gratiæ. Amen.

Interestingly, Lentini’s text is a clear replication of Dantė’s “Divine Comedy” – Paradiso Canto XXXIII, here translated by Longfellow:

Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son
Humble and high beyond all other creature,
The limit fixed of the eternal counsel,
Thou art the one who such nobility
To human nature gave, that its Creator
Did not disdain to make himself its creature.
Within thy womb rekindled was the love,
By heat of which in the eternal peace
After such wise this flower has germinated.
Here unto us thou art a noonday torch
Of charity, and below there among mortals
Thou art the living fountain—head of hope.
Lady thou art so great, and so prevailing,
That he who wishes grace, nor runs to thee
His aspirations without wings would fly.
Not only thy benignity gives succor
To him who asketh it, but oftentimes
Forerunneth of its own accord the asking
In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,
In thee magnificence, in thee unites
Whate’er of goodness is in any creature.

This new memorial of Mary is a further development of the hopes of Pope Paul VI as indicated in his encyclical “Marialis Cultus”:

“ ( There is) the need for Episcopal conferences, local churches, religious families, and communities of the faithful to promote a genuine creative activity in proceeding to a careful revision of expressions and exercise of the piety directed toward the Blessed Virgin. We would like this revision to be respectful of sound tradition and open to the legitimate desires of today’s people.”

Elizabeth Johnson summarizes: “This renewed Mariology should be

  • biblical, (rooted in scripture) 
  • liturgical, (respecting Mary’s role especially in Advent and Pentecost) 
  • ecumenical, (be in harmony with agreements already in place among Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholics) 
  • anthropological (conscious of the changing role of women in society, especially as women take on leadership in society: an image of Mary as passive and subservient is not acceptable to many modern women) 
  • theological (it would have God as the center – with Mary placed in relation to Christ and to the Church” 

Catholic Update, “In Search of the Real Mary,” by Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, (Cincinnati : St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001)

Music: Pascal Heni – Paradiso 33

Pentecost Sunday

June 9, 2019

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Dear Friends,

For this beautiful Feast, let us simply savor the words of the Pentecostal Sequence.
Let us not be hesitant to pray with the Holy Spirit Who lives in our hearts! Alleluia!

Pentecost


Sequence: Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Amen.
Alleluia.


May the Holy Spirit fill your hearts with hope, courage and joy!

Music: Veni Creator Spiritus — so beautiful!

Consecrated in Truth

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter 

June 5, 2019

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Today in Mercy, we experience both Paul and Jesus praying for their followers. They each use similar words.

Paul:
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.

Jn17_17

Jesus:
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.

As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

Do you pray for others? To protect those you love? To change those who are bound in Spirit? To alleviate those who suffer? To awaken those that are caught in the vortex of selfishness or self-destruction? To increase the blessings of the generous?

Perhaps the greatest prayer we can offer for another is one  like that of Paul and Jesus – a plea for the other to stand Blessed in the Truth of who they are in God — CONSECRATED by their Creaturehood, their Baptism, their faith, and their infinite power for Life in the Holy Spirit.

Today, we might pray like this for our Beloveds, and for those we might like to love better; for those who are unloved, and those unaware of how much they are loved.

The Prayer – Celine Dion and Josh Groban

Farewell

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter 

June 4, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have two farewell readings.

Jn17_2

It’s an appropriate theme at this time of weddings, graduations, retirements, house-hunting, and other temporary or final leave-takings.

Farewells are tough, aren’t they? They are an uneven mix of sadness and joy, one party often more heavily burdened than the other.

I think of the day I left home to enter the convent. I was bursting with joy, enthusiasm, curiosity and wonder. But I was woefully unaware of my parent’s profound sense of loss. It was a stunningly uneven farewell that I only came to understand in my growing maturity.

In our readings today, Paul and Jesus are poignantly aware of their farewells. 

Paul says:

But now I know that none of you
to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels
will ever see my face again.

And Jesus says:

And now I will no longer be in the world,
but (my followers) are in the world,
while I am coming to the Father.

Both Paul and Jesus use their farewells to pray for their disciples, to confirm their strength, and to proclaim that their followers are ready to carry on the mission. You can almost envision these two great mentors releasing their disciples into the fullness of their own call.

Over our lifetimes, we will love and mentor many people: children, friends, students, protégés. There will come times when we must release them into new dimensions of their lives.

Sometimes we are the ones breaking forth to a new horizon, strengthened by the generous direction of those we leave behind.

In each situation, may we treasure the love that is generous enough to give new life. May we bless one another with a magnanimity like that of Jesus when He made his farewell:

I pray for you and …
I will ask the Father
and he will give you his Spirit
to be with you always.

As I look back on that day long ago, standing with my parents at the front door of the Motherhouse, it was that kind of farewell that they unselfishly gave to me.

Music: Spirit of Life by Carolyn McDade

Jesus Ascends into Heaven

Ascension Thursday

May 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel describes the Ascension of Jesus into heaven – a glorious and bittersweet moment for his disciples.

ascension

Our second reading from Ephesians is so perfectly chosen for that moment. Even though the passage is written by Paul much later, one can imagine Jesus blessing his surrounding friends with a similar prayer just as he returns to the Father.

This beautiful passage and the song accompanying it need no further words from me. Let us be with Jesus on this holy day and receive all the blessings and love he wishes to give us.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe…

Music: Ephesians Hymn I – Suzanne Toolan, RSM

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Through him, we were chosen to live through love in his light
That is why I never cease to give thanks to God for you
And pray that the God of Our Lord, Jesus Christ
May grant you the Spirit of Wisdom and knowledge if Himself
That you may Glory, Glory in his goodness.