Psalm 117: Praise the Lord

Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle

July 3, 2020

One of my favorite past reflections on faith vs. doubt – for this Feast of Saint Thomas


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117 which is the shortest of all the Psalms. But 117, also called the Laudate Dominum, still packs a huge spiritual punch.

The psalm is called a “doxology” which simply means it is a short prayer of praise, the type we often add at the end of longer prayers. We are very familiar with the following doxology:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be
,
world without end. Amen


Psalm 117 follows the same pattern in that it has two complementary parts.

The first invites us to praise God:
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify God, all you peoples!

The second tells us why God deserves our praise:
For steadfast is God’s kindness for us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.

Notable about Psalm 117 is the fact that this Old Testament invitation to praise goes out “to ALL nations”. Scholars interpret this as pointing to the fulfillment, in Jesus, of God’s promise that Abraham would be the father in faith of many nations. Psalm 117 is a treasured and often repeated prayer throughout the Judea-Christian traditions.


Practicing this pattern of prayer can enrich our personal prayer life as well. I like to pray like this as soon as I wake each morning. Glancing out my window, I might say,

“I praise You in the sunrise, my Beautiful Creator.
Thank you for the gift of my life.”

Beginning the day with our own “doxology” gives us a head start on living joyfully and gratefully in the Presence of God for our next circuit of the sun.


Poetry: Morning Poem – Mary Oliver

Every morning 
the world 
is created. 
Under the orange
sticks of the sun 
the heaped 
ashes of the night 
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches— 
and the ponds appear 
like black cloth 
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies. 
If it is your nature 
to be happy 
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination 
alighting everywhere. 
And if your spirit 
carries within it
the thorn 
that is heavier than lead— 
if it's all you can do 
to keep on trudging—
there is still 
somewhere deep within you 
a beast shouting that the earth 
is exactly what it wanted—
each pond with its blazing lilies 
is a prayer heard and answered 
lavishly, 
every morning,
whether or not 
you have ever dared to be happy, 
whether or not 
you have ever dared to pray

Music: Laudate Dominum – Mozart, sung by Barbara Hendricks

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!”

Daniel 3: Bless the Lord

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

June 7, 2020

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Daniel3_Benedicite

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity.

For the Responsorial Psalm we have, not really a psalm, but an exultant canticle from the Book of Daniel – The Benedicite (Bless!)

Today’s segment of this extended and glorious canticle addresses God directly. The ensuing lines, not in today’s liturgy, invite all the elements of Creation to bless and glorify God.


3 men
The prayers are those said by the three young men, rescued by an angel, and delivered from Nebuchadnezzer’s furnace.

As we pray for our country, and the world, to be delivered from the furnace of hate, racism, violence, militarism, and disease, let us call on all Creation to bless and beseech God – Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit.

 



In God’s magnificent handiwork,
we see the perfection of peace,
the elegance of simplicity,
and the power of obedience to God’s design.

globe

Focus on whatever in nature speaks most to you today. Enter the depth of that part of Creation. Let it speak healing and wholeness to you and to our aching world. Praise the Adorable Trinity who gave us the gift of life with all Creation.

Music: Benedictus es Domine – this Latin chant is today’s Responsorial Psalm.


For our poetry today, we have the remaining verses of Daniel’s Canticle with a musical rendition at the end.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord,
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord,
bless the Lord, you heavens.
Bless the Lord, all you waters above the heaven,
bless the Lord, all powers.
Bless the Lord, sun and moon,
bless the Lord, stars of heaven.
Bless the Lord, all rain and dew,
bless the Lord, all winds.
Bless the Lord, fire and heat,
bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat.
Bless the Lord, dews and snows,
bless the Lord, ice and cold.
Bless the Lord, frosts and snows,
bless the Lord, nights and days.
Bless the Lord, light and darkness,
bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds.
Let the earth bless the Lord;
let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills,
bless the Lord, all that grows on the earth.
Bless the Lord, you springs,
bless the Lord, seas and rivers.
Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters,
bless the Lord, all birds of the air.
Bless the Lord, all beasts and cattle,
Bless the Lord, you sons of men.
Bless the Lord, O Israel;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord,
bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord.
Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous,
Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart.
Bless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Music:  Benedicite Omnia Opera Domini Domino – sung by Lionheart/Tydings True

BENEDICITE, omnia opera Domini, Domino;
laudate et superexaltate eum in saecula.
BENEDICITE, caeli, Domino,
benedicite, angeli Domini, Domino.
BENEDICITE, aquae omnes, quae super caelos sunt, Domino,
benedicat omnis virtutis Domino.
BENEDICITE, sol et luna, Domino,
benedicite, stellae caeli, Domino.
BENEDICITE, omnis imber et ros, Domino,
benedicite, omnes venti, Domino.
BENEDICITE, ignis et aestus, Domino,
benedicite, frigus et aestus, Domino.
BENEDICITE, rores et pruina, Domino,
benedicite, gelu et frigus, Domino.
BENEDICITE, glacies et nives, Domino,
benedicite, noctes et dies, Domino.
BENEDICITE, lux et tenebrae, Domino,
benedicite, fulgura et nubes, Domino.
BENEDICAT terra Dominum:
laudet et superexaltet eum in saecula.
BENEDICITE, montes et colles, Domino,
benedicite, universa germinantia in terra, Domino.
BENEDICITE, maria et flumina, Domino,
benedicite, fontes, Domino.
BENEDICITE, cete, et omnia, quae moventur in aquis, Domino,
benedicite, omnes volucres caeli, Domino.
BENEDICITE, omnes bestiae et pecora, Domino,
benedicite, filii hominum, Domino.
BENEDICITE, Israel, Domino,
laudate et superexaltate eum in saecula.
BENEDICITE, sacerdotes Domini, Domino,
benedicite, servi Domini, Domino.
BENEDICITE, spiritus et animae iustorum, Domino,
benedicite, sancti et humiles corde, Domino.
BENEDICITE, Anania, Azaria, Misael, Domino,
laudate et superexaltate eum in saecula.
BENEDICAMUS Patrem et Filium cum Sancto Spiritu;
laudemus et superexaltemus eum in saecula.
BENEDICTUS es in firmamento caeli
et laudabilis et gloriosus in saecula.

Amen.

Mary, Mother of the Church

Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

June 1, 2020

Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.


 

web3-the-annunciation-by-henry-ossawa-tanner
Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

It is a day to honor Mary for giving life to Jesus
for the sake of all humanity.

It is day to beg her intercession
for a world so desperately in need of
Christ’s continued revelation.

door of Mercy

Mary is the Door through which
Heaven visited earth
to heal it from sinful fragmentation.


 

Ave

May Mary continue to carry her beautiful grace
to broken hearts and even
to the twisted souls who broke them. 

Through her, may we all find healing.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, intercede for all Creation
that we may embrace the Love your Son taught us.


Music: Ave Maria – Michael Hoppé

Pentecost 2020

Pentecost Sunday 

May 31, 2020

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Today, in 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!

Let us pray the beautiful Pentecost Sequence, beseeching God to fill the world again with the Love, Mercy and Light of the Holy Spirit.

(You may wish to choose one or more of the pictures below to center your prayer as you listen to the music available at the bottom of the screen.)

01

 

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

Music:  Veni Sancte Spiritus – Mozart

Under Her Fiery Wings

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

May 25, 2020

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Today , in 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 Spirits seems to have burst out all over in flames, wonders and eloquence.

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

Well, 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 the Holy 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 the Sacred within all Creation, 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!🤗 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

Paul’s Great Sermon

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 20, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, Paul gives a magnificent oration at the Areopagus in Athens. It was a big deal billing!

V&A_-_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)
St. Paul at the Areopagus by Raphael (c.1515)

Areopagus, earliest aristocratic council of ancient Athens. The name was taken from the Areopagus (“Ares’ Hill”), a low hill northwest of the Acropolis, which was its meeting place.

In pre-classical times (before the 5th century BC), the Areopagus was the council of elders of the city, similar to the Roman Senate. Like the Senate, its membership was restricted to those who had held high public office.

The Areopagus, like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times, and it was from this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God that Paul is said to have delivered the famous speech, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Wikipedia)


diamonds
The sermon has so many beautiful lines, like glorious diamonds that can be turned over and over in prayer. Here are a few that glistened for me:


God … does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands
(Instead, God dwells within us)


God is not served by human hands because God needs nothing.
(Instead, our everything comes from God)


God made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth.
(We are all connected in the One Creation)


God fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions,
so that people might seek God,
even perhaps grope for him and find him,
though indeed he is not far from any one of us.
(We do grope, sometimes in darkness.)


God has overlooked the times of ignorance,
but now he demands that all people everywhere repent…
(Without Christ, we were in shadows of unknowing. With Christ, we are in Light.)


And my favorite:

Acts17_24 everything

What is the “everything” that God is giving you today? What is the abundance of grace, or hope, or longing in your heart as you pray today? Let God’s fullness embrace any emptiness as you offer God your silence and waiting.

Music: Everything – Lauren Daigle

Be Kindled

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 19, 2020

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Today, in 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.

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

Facing the Demons

Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

January 27, 2020

Click here for readings

(Sorry for the late post.  I had a brief episode of social life this afternoon. 🙂 )

Today, in Mercy, our readings talk about the polar opposites of unity and division.

Our first reading gives us David, embraced by his kinsmen, and anointed King. Strong in his unified reign, David leads his people to victory over all their enemies. His is the idyllic kingdom – the “Camelot” of the Old Testament.

Then Mark gives us Jesus, of whom David was but a pale foreshadowing. Today’s passage follows the incident in which Jesus’s kinsmen, rather than embrace him, try to “seize”him because they think he’s “out of his mind”.

Clearly, the Kingdom of Mercy for sinners and outcasts is not as acceptable as David’s kingdom of prosperity and military might. Jesus had a hard sell on his hands as his listeners have their old definitions and expectations shattered. His family can’t accept his challenge – they think he’s crazy. And now his neighbors say he is possessed by the devil!

Pretty dispiriting for Jesus, right? 

No way! Here, very early in Mark, Jesus – despite challenge – emerges as “the stronger one”:

But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.

Jesus’s strength lies in his Oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Divine Community that embraces and inspires his mission. Human rejection, even in the ultimate form of Calvary, will not change or diminish his Truth.

Mk3_29 demons


When Jesus talks about blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, it is that kind of rejection he is describing – that place where a human heart is hardened against an abandonment to grace.

Here the sin is unforgivable because those who charge Jesus
with demonic possession see goodness as evil, and therefore
are closed to the action of God’s Spirit. This makes sense for
Mark’s readers only in terms of the preceding narrative
where Jesus, endowed with the Spirit, preaches the good news of God.  The unforgivable sin in biblical thought is similar to “hardness of heart”.

The Gospel of Mark ~ John R. Donahue, SJ, Daniel J. Harrington, SJ


Today’s Gospel reminds us to continually purify that inner heart where God wants to dwell in us. The demons that would petrify us are often more subtle than the ones in our Gospel story. They masquerade under the guise of a false “gospel” that fails to require our inner conversion to mercy, justice and love.

May we pray with today’s Responsorial Psalm that God’s faithfulness and mercy guide us as we seek to deepen in the Mystery of Christ.

Music: Deeper – Hillsong

Anointed

Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 18, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, Samuel anoints Saul King of Israel.

Then, from a flask he had with him, Samuel poured oil on Saul’s head;
he also kissed him, saying:
“The LORD anoints you commander over his heritage.
You are to govern the LORD’s people Israel,
and to save them from the grasp of their enemies.

1Sam10_1

Throughout Scripture, the act of anointing signifies being blessed, commissioned by grace. The sacred oil heals and strengthens the anointed to do the work of God.

We share in the grace of anointing through the sacraments – Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick. We may not think about the power these rituals give us to live our lives in the pattern of Christ. But it is an amazing power which creates saints out of ordinary human beings like you and me!


 

Caritas_Bruegel
Caritas, The Seven Acts of Mercy, pen and ink drawing by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1559. Counter-clockwise from lower right: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, ransom the captive, bury the dead, shelter the stranger, comfort the sick, and clothe the naked

In a less formal way, we can anoint one another by our acts of generosity, honesty, justice and love. Think of the woman who anointed Jesus with nard from her alabaster jar. How that act strengthened him for the suffering he had to face!

There are so many chaffed and sore places in our world awaiting the oil of mercy!

works of Mercy

We can also “anoint” our own life by gratefully remembering God’s presence in our lives:  the blessings we have received, the challenges we have gracefully met, the love we have both given and received – all that strengthened us to do the work of God over our lifetime.

Music:  Holy, Anointed One – Vineyard Worship