You’re Invited to a Baptism!

The Baptism of the Lord
January 9, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010923.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus makes a remarkable debut! 

Picture the scene. It is a beautiful morning in the Judean Valley where the Jordan Riven runs fresh and sparkling. Most scholars place the Baptism of Jesus sometime in January, which means the weather would have been relatively cool. But perhaps, like our own weather, an unusually warm day may have snuck in.

Rustic, fiery preacher John is baptizing in the Jordan River. Crowds have come to hear what he has to say. Some are convinced and dive into the cool water under his hand.

Others rim the hillside, not so sure John isn’t one of the many who have glorious visions but few facts.

Then, out from the pines on the far side of the river, comes Jesus, flanked by some of the Twelve. While his companions chat away to Jesus, his eyes are focused on John. In an instant, Jesus realizes that this is the moment for his revelation. In that same instant, all Creation realizes the same thing.

As Jesus walks slowly toward John, the birds and little animals speak to him, “My Lord and my God…”.  Wind whistling through the trees becomes an Oratorio praising him. All the surrounding colors deepen, breaking forth in unimaginable light.

John is stunned by the cosmic change he senses but cannot describe. Heart trembling, he looks into Jesus’s eyes and catches a glimpse of heaven. “I need to be baptized by you”, John says,”and yet you are coming to me?

Jesus smiles at his cousin, replying, 

“Let it be so now; 
it is proper for us to do this 
to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then John consented.

Perhaps those in the crowd, schooled in the ancient scriptures, heard Isaiah’s voice in the charged atmosphere:

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.


Matthew tells us:

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.

the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie
The Baptism Of Jesus is a painting by Jeff Haynie For purchase, see:https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-baptism-of-jesus-jeff-haynie.html

Can you see him light-heartedly splashing John as he shakes his dark curls free of the chilly water? Can you see his transfigured face as he hears his Father speak Love over him?

At that moment heaven was opened, 
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said, 

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

What a beautiful moment in time! Don’t we wish we might have been there in the blessed and awe-struck crowd? We can. Let your prayer of imagination take you there. What happens in your heart when the newly baptized Jesus catches your eyes?

Music: The Baptism of Jesus

Invisible Presence

Memorial of St. Leo the Great
November 10, 2022

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/111022.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus tells us a secret about the Kingdom of God:

“The coming of the Kingdom of God
cannot be observed,
and no one will announce,
‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God
is among you.”

And it remains a bit of a secret, even after He tells it, because it is often very hard to discern the “Kingdom among us”. There is nothing more invisible than something hiding in plain sight.

Lk17_21JPG

Through prayer, we discover that it is about our eyes – not about visibility. It is about the power of grace within us to see beyond appearances. We need a soul that can “peel the onion” of experience to find the face of God resident within all things.

  • With that kind of eyes, you don’t just have a business meeting today.
    You have an opportunity to build God’s Kingdom through respect, encouragement and mutuality.
  • You don’t just pass a person begging on the corner.
    You walk near Christ himself accompanying a broken spirit.
  • You don’t just encounter the hurts and challenges of your life.
    You are invited by God into a living faith that finds God’s will in all things.
  • You don’t live in the world with just other creatures.
    You meet and honor the Divine Presence in every living thing.

Indeed, the Kingdom of God is right here among us.

May we see it!
May we treasure it!
May we reveal it!


Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Poetry: In No Strange Land – Francis Thompson

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
’Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry;—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry,—clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!


Music:  Let Your Kingdom Come – Tommy Walker

Pentecost Sunday

June 5, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended to eternally enliven the Church.

We are that Church, living today in a world that sorely needs God’s renewing breath of life!


For today’s Responsorial Psalm, we pray with Psalm 104 – a fitting plea for this glorious Feast of Pentecost.

Lord, send out your Spirit, 
and renew the face of the earth.

It is a bold prayer, an extravagant request. It asks for everything – a Fire of Love so complete that the whole earth is remade in its Divine Power.

It is a prayer based in mutual invitation as, in the Sequence, we invite the Holy Spirit to renew us:

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

Pentecost Sequence

And, as in any true relationship, the Spirit invites us too – to open our hearts to the infinite grace of this feast. The Book of Revelation describes this reciprocity in this profound passage:

“ I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22: 16-17

On this Birthday of the Church, we pray not only for our own soul’s kindling, but for the whole People of God. May the Grace of Pentecost ignite a new fire of charity over all the earth. May that fire clear the way for the Spirit’s gifts to flower, for Her fruits to blossom, for Her power to surprise us as it bursts forth in our hearts!


Poetry: The Golden Sequence

Veni Sancte Spiritus, sometimes called the Golden Sequence, is a sequence prescribed in the Roman Liturgy for the Masses of Pentecost and its octave. It is usually attributed to either the thirteenth-century Pope Innocent III or to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Stephen Langton, although it has been attributed to others as well.

“Veni Sancte Spiritus” is one of only four medieval Sequences which were preserved in the Roman Missal published in 1570 following the Council of Trent (1545–63).

The other three occasions when we hear these beautiful ancient hymns are Easter Sunday (“Victimae Paschali Laudes”), Corpus Christi (“Lauda Sion Salvatorem”) and Our Lady of Sorrows (“Stabat Mater Dolorosa”). On Easter Sunday and Pentecost, the sequence must be sung, whereas on Corpus Christi and Our Lady of Sorrows, the sequence is optional.

Wikipedia

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.

Music: Veni Santé Spiritus – Chant of the Mystics

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

May 30, 2022

Today , in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read in Acts about Baptism in the Spirit and the powers it bestows. When Paul encounters some believers who have received the Baptist’s rite of repentance, he asks if they had received the Holy Spirit.

Their simple answer kind of amuses me:

We’ve never even heard of him!

Paul remedies the situation with a few quick sacramental steps and:

… they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul laid his hands on them,
the Holy Spirit came upon them,
and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.


When I read passages like this, I sometimes wonder what has happened in the millennia since those early Spirit-filled Baptisms… since the days when the Holy Spirit seems to have burst out all over in flames, wonders and eloquence.

battery

Has the Holy Spirit changed? Diminished? Is Her battery running low? Or have we changed … the Church and we members who comprise it?

I guess we all know the answer, given our faith in a changeless God.


So why doesn’t the Holy Spirit blaze for us as She did for those twelve Ephesians in today’s reading?

I think it’s a matter of how we see, and listen. 

Sir John Lubbock, a 19th century scientist and polymath wrote this:
“What we see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.”

John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In

Might not this wisdom apply as well to how we perceive the Spirit in our lives?

If in our daily experiences and interactions, we remain on a superficial, distracted relationship with what is sacred in all Creation, then we – like the fellows in our reading – may “never even hear” of the Holy Spirit.

But if, by prayer and contemplation, we open ourselves to what is holy in everything around us, then what we see and hear, what we feel and respond to begins to change — to catch fire.

Hopkins_wings


During this week leading up to Pentecost, we might try this practice: let’s look more intensely for the Spirit in our daily lives by noticing the presence (or absence) of the Spirit’s gifts.

  • How are our choices, conversations, judgements, reactions reflective of these gifts?
  • In my experiences each day, what persons or circumstances have mirrored these gifts? What has overshadowed or eradicated them?

The Holy Spirit’s heart beats alive and well within all Creation. I might just need to dust off my stethoscope a bit to hear it! Maybe this beautiful poem will help.

God’s Grandeur- Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

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.

Meditation: God’s Grandeur- read so beautifully by Samuel West

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 24, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus counsels the disciples as they grieve his impending departure. He assures them that they will be consoled and animated by the Holy Spirit whom he will send to them.

Jn16_7 spiritJPG

We all understand how the disciples feel. They love Jesus. They have been through hell and high water with him. They are comfortable with him. They have learned to be brave with him beside them.

All in all, they can’t imagine going on without him by their side.

Jesus, as he has so often had to tell them, says “You don’t quite get it!”. He explains that there will be no vacuum – that the Divine Presence will forever be with them in the form of the Holy Spirit. They are about to catch fire with the Love between Jesus and the Father! They should rejoice!

Balance Plus Minus

But, you know, it took these disciples three years of see-saw living with Jesus to fully embrace his Presence. It’s going to take more than a speech to kindle in them the full wonder of the Holy Spirit. It’s going to take a lifetime. It’s going to take thousands of little matches striking again and again in their hearts.

Decision by decision, action by action, they must now allow the Spirit to bring God’s Presence to life within them.


Slide1

When Catherine McAuley, the first Sister of Mercy, died, her beloved sisters kneeling at her bedside felt a lot like the disciples in today’s Gospel. How would they carry on the works of mercy without Catherine beside them? But as those of us who never knew Catherine realize, she left a living Spirit burning within those sisters which has descended to all her followers for nearly 200 years.

Within Catherine, as within all faithful disciples of Jesus, the Holy Spirit inspires, generates, and sustains the Presence of God for the sanctification of all Creation. The Spirit pours out over the world in our works of mercy toward all who hunger for Life.


Like the early disciples, we may wish Jesus would come along and cook us a beach breakfast so we could just sit down and talk to him in the flesh. But Jesus tells us today, as he told his disciples:

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send the Spirit to you.

Let us ask for the kind of faith that can believe, see, and sit down with that Holy Spirit in our hearts, catching Her fire, lighting the world with Mercy.


Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins

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: Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God – The Gettys
(with Gabriel’s Oboe from the movie  “The Mission”)

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 16, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Acts recounts some of the challenges Paul and Barnabas met as they continued spreading the Gospel. With such a reading, we see the beginnings of theological arguments in the unfolding teaching of the Church.

The Apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their garments
when they heard this and rushed out into the crowd, shouting,
“Men, why are you doing this?
We are of the same nature as you, human beings.
We proclaim to you good news
that you should turn from these idols to the living God,
who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.

Acts 14:14-15

One might wonder what turned yesterday’s Jewish and Gentile listeners into a stone-throwing mob. One wonders it today regarding some of the acrimonious factions within the Church.

It is one thing to receive the Gospel with one’s heart and spirit. It is another thing to receive it with one’s mind. As human beings, we resist mystery; we long for logic. We are more comfortable with a problem we can solve than with a Truth beyond our comprehension. Rather than Infinite Surprise, I think most of us prefer predictability and control.


Jn14_26 Everything

The Gospel can be fearsome. It asks that we let go of our limited human “geometry”; that we entrust everything to the Inclusive Love who is Jesus Christ. It asks us to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit who, ultimately, will “teach us EVERYTHING”.


question

In our recent readings, we’ve seen Thomas, Philip, and today, Jude the Apostle trying to reach this level of spiritual trust. It’s hard because such trust is more than human. It is a trust bred of the Holy Spirit within us. It is a trust born of living fully in Peace with that Presence.

Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him,
“Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us
and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

John 14:22-23


It is a trust described like this in tomorrow’s Gospel reading:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

Let us pray for trust and peace
in ourselves, our Church, and our world.

Poetry: The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Music:  Wonderful Peace – an old Gospel song by Warren Cornell and William Cooper (1899), sung here by Don Moen 

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

Ah, soul! are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your Friend ere the shadows grow dark;
O accept of this peace so sublime!

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!

And I think when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Anchor of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 11, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings have a global, even universal, feel to them. By the power of God, the Apostles begin to go out and preach to the whole world.

Acts tells us that:

… the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”
Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 13:2-3

Our Responsorial Psalm gives us this universal prayer:

May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.

Psalm 67:2-3

And Jesus assures us in the Gospel:

I came into the world as light,
so that everyone who believes in me
might not remain in darkness.

John 12:45

Jn12_46 LightJPG

For our prayer, we might want to place before God’s Radiance all those places in the world, and within ourselves, which long for Light. The whole world shares at least one dark shadow in the global pandemic. That shadow has emphasized some of the tenebrous corners in our own hearts where fear, loneliness, loss, and doubt cower and now want to creep out in our required isolation.

And, spread across our world, there are so many other darknesses famished for Light! War, gun violence, gender violence, economic oppression, a global sacrilegious inhumanity to other human beings.

Together, let us give all of these shadows to God’s power as we pray. May that power release us and all our sisters and brothers into its glorious resplendence. Like the Apostles, may a brilliant, steady energy go out from our hearts, convinced of and empowered by the Light of the Gospel.


Music: Two lovely pieces of music suggested themselves today.  I hope you enjoy them.

  1. Eric Whitaker  – Lux Aurumque (“Light and Gold”) is a choral composition in one movement. It is a Christmas piece based on a Latin poem of the same name.

Lux,
Calida gravisque pura velut aurum
Et canunt angeli molliter
modo natum.

Light,
warm and heavy as pure gold
and angels sing softly
to the new-born babe.
Edward Esch, b.1970
(Translated to Latin by Charles Anthony Silvestri)


2. Spirit Seeking Light and Beauty – Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ

Spirit seeking Light and Beauty,
Hearts that longeth for Thy rest,
Soul that asketh understanding, only thus can you be blest.
Through the vastness of creation though your restless heart may roam,

God is all that you may long for,
God is all His creatures’ home.
Taste and see it, feel and hear it,
Hope and grasp His unseen Hand.

Though the darkness seems to hide Him,
Faith and love can understand
God Who loveth all His creatures,
All our hearts are known to Thee.
Lead us through the Land of Shadows
To Your vast eternity

Failure and Forgiveness

January 29, 2022
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings call us to consider and to cherish our relationship with our merciful God.

In our first reading, God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David with the enormity of his sin. With the parable of the ravaged little lamb, Nathan captures all the horrific implications of David’s blind selfishness.

Nathan Denounces David’s Sin
William Brassey Hole

David listens and agrees with the condemnation, still blind that the story is about him! Nathan then unleashes the zinger, “You are the man!


But here is the key point of the passage. When David realizes his culpability, he does not retreat into his shame (as, for example, Judas does many years hence.) David acknowledges his fault and asks to be restored to relationship with the God Who has loved him so much.

David focuses on God not himself.  He does not wallow in self-recrimination or excuses. David looks to God’s Mercy not into the mirror of self-justification:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan answered David: “For his part, the LORD has removed your sin. You shall not die…

2 Samuel 12:13
It all transpires in this one verse. That simple, definitive change wrought by divine forgiveness constitutes the structure of Psalm 51 as well as the 2 Samuel narrative. It is the same structure in Christian liturgy as well. In psalm, narrative, and liturgy, it is a move from failure to restoration, a move from confession to assurance, even if the assurance is only implied in Psalm 51. The exchange is between human failure and divine assurance, made possible by human honesty and a divine readiness to begin again in mercy, steadfast love, and compassion.
Walter Brueggemann - From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

For prayer today, a deep reflection on Psalm 51 may bring us light and healing, for our own spirits and for the spirit of the world we share.


Poetry: Psalm 51 – A New Heart – Christine Robinson

Have mercy on me, O God,
   For I’ve messed up again
Sinned against You in thought, word and deed,
   and in what I have left undone.
Been--all too human.

Can you make me a new heart, O God?
   and a right spirit? Can you break my willful plundering
   of all that is Yours? 
If I got it together again, others would follow—
I could teach, guide, help—and I would!

O Lord, open my lips,
  that I may praise you.
I know you don’t want ritual sacrifice
   were I to give a burnt offering you’d be exasperated.
What you want is that new heart and right spirit. 
   For this, I pray.

Music: Miserere Mei (Have Mercy on Me, O God) – Gregorio Allegri 

David, the King

January 24, 2022
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings place us at watershed moments in the lives of David and Jesus.

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:
“Here we are, your bone and your flesh.
In days past, when Saul was our king, 
it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back.
And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel 
and shall be commander of Israel.’”
When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, 
King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD, 
and they anointed him king of Israel.

2 Samuel 5:1-4

In 2 Samuel 5, David fully assumes the kingship through the approbation of the community. The scene marks the culmination of his rise to power and “the beginning of the rest of his life”.

Through our readings in Samuel until now, we have ascended with David to the pinnacle of his life. We are about to begin weeks of moving down “the other side of the mountain”.


Scholars generally see the David narrative in two primary units, the Rise of David (I Sam. 16:1—II Sam. 5:10) and the Succession Narrative (II Sam. 9:1—20:26; I Kings 1:1—2:46). Chapters 5:11—8:18, fall between two larger units. Whereas the first presents David in his ascendancy, the second presents David in his demise and expresses pathos and ambiguity. Our chapters thus come after the raw vitality of the rise of David and before the terrible pathos of the succession narrative. They show the painful process whereby this beloved chieftain is transformed into a hardened monarch, who now has more power than popular affection.

Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel

In our Gospel, Jesus also comes to a sort of “continental divide”. But rather than community approbation, Jesus encounters the condemnation of the scribes who have come from Jerusalem to assess him.

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, 
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and
“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Mark 3:22

From this moment in his life, Jesus too launches into his “kingship”, one that looks very different from David’s. The ensuing chapters of Samuel will reveal how David struggles and succumbs to the temptations of power and domination. The Gospels, on the other hand, describe Jesus’s “kingdom” as one of humility, mercy, and love for those who are poor and suffering.

Only through faith can we understand the inverse power of God present in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in our own lives. Jesus, the “new David”, is anointed in the Spirit to reveal and incorporate us into the kingdom of God.


Prose: from Immanuel Jakobovits who was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1967 to 1991.

To those without faith
there are no answers.
To those with faith, 
there are no questions.

Music: King David, music by Herbert Howells, sung by Sarah Connolly from a poem by Walter de la Mare

King David – Walter de la Mare

King David was a sorrowful man:
    No cause for his sorrow had he;
    And he called for the music of a hundred harps,
    To ease his melancholy.

    They played till they all fell silent:
    Played-and play sweet did they;
    But the sorrow that haunted the heart of King David
    They could not charm away.

    He rose; and in his garden
    Walked by the moon alone,
    A nightingale hidden in a cypress-tree
    Jargoned on and on.

    King David lifted his sad eyes
    Into the dark-boughed tree-
    ''Tell me, thou little bird that singest,
    Who taught my grief to thee?'

    But the bird in no wise heeded
    And the king in the cool of the moon
    Hearkened to the nightingale's sorrowfulness,
    Till all his own was gone.

Unfold the Word

January 23, 2022
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings focus on Sacred Scripture as the revealed Word of God.

Ezra, from our first passage, lived almost 500 years before Christ during the Babylonian captivity, a time when much of the population of Judea was deported to what is modern day Iraq. When the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, the Jews were permitted to return to Judea.

Ezra Reads the Law to the People – Gustave Dore

During the sixty-year enslavement, many Jews lost touch with their culture, language and religion. Our reading describes Ezra’s efforts to restore the Jewish character of the community by reintroducing them to the Torah. He has to read to them, translating the Hebrew for those who no longer speak the language.

In a gesture foretelling the liberating ministry of Jesus, Ezra unrolls the scroll – symbolic of bringing to light that which has been hidden or buried.

Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth – Anonymous

In our Gospel, Jesus too unrolls the scroll. In doing so, Jesus reveals the heart of faith which had been buried within the Law. Jesus preaches in a new “language” – the language of God’s all-inclusive mercy, forgiveness, and love.


For us who believe, the holy scriptures are a Living Word which, through thoughtful prayer, will continually reveal God’s heart to us. It is worth our time and attention to become friends with these sacred messages.

Many of you, dear readers, will be familiar with the ancient prayer practice of “lectio divina”. In her book “Too Deep for Words”, Sister Thelma Hall describes the practice:

… a wholistic way of prayer which disposes, opens, and “in-forms” us for the gift of contemplation God waits to give, by leading us to a place with him at our deepest center … It begins this movement by introducing us to the power of the Word of God in scripture to speak to the most intimate depths of our hearts …

Sister Thelma Hall’s book, a classic, is available on Amazon for those who might enjoy exploring Lectio Divina. I highly recommend it. My copy, nearly 30 years old, is beginning to show its age, but then again, so am I!

Poetry: The Word Of God – George MacDonald

Where the bud has never blown
Who for scent is debtor?
Where the spirit rests unknown
Fatal is the letter.
In thee, Jesus, Godhead-stored,
All things we inherit,
For thou art the very Word
And the very Spirit!

Music: Word of God Speak ~ Mercy Me