Be Opened!

Friday, February 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are about being opened by the grace and power of God.

ephphatha

In the Genesis passage, Eve and Adam eat fruit from the tree of knowledge. Their eyes are opened to good and evil.

In our reading from Mark, Jesus opens the ears of a deaf man, allowing him both to hear and to speak clearly.

In the first passage, Adam and Eve’s new “openness” brings a burden. Their innocence now fractured, they must forever exercise their free will to choose good over evil.

In the second passage, the deaf man’s burdens are lifted. He now has no obstacle to hearing and proclaiming God’s mercy.

Like Adam and Eve, we bear the burden of knowledge in a disturbing and sinful world. Every choice challenges us to be and do good in a culture of human degradation.

But like the man who was cured, we have been transformed by Christ’s touch. We see, not just with the discernment of good and evil, but with God’s eyes – with the power to see past death to life.

This power is expressed in our lives by:

  • our faith in a world filled with uncertainty
  • our hope in a world trapped in despair
  • our love in a world blinded by selfishness and greed

Every morning, God wakes us and says, “Ephphatha – be a sign of my gracious openness in your world because I am that Openness for you.”

Today, in our prayer, let us find what is closed in us. We may have judged and shut out someone. We may have given up on a good and necessary practice. We may have withdrawn from a generous responsibility. We may have capitulated to a life-sapping addiction. Inside us somewhere, we may have curled up into  “No”!

God calls us to be a “Yes” to the abundance of life and grace God offers us. We are called to open, to be “uncurled”. This poem by e.e.cummings has helped me on occasion with such uncurling.

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

Music: Open My Eyes, Lord

Our Lady of Lourdes

Monday, February 11, 2019

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Tota Pulchra

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the lovely feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, commemorating Mary’s appearance to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, and her subsequent presence in the life of the faithful through devotion and miracles.

Therefore, today’s feast raises before us two important elements of our faith: our devotion to Mary, and our understanding of miracles.

MIRACLES
Scripture and tradition are replete with miracles, occurrences when some extraordinary reality points us clearly to God. Michael O’Neill in his book, Exploring the Miracles, writes this:

“No matter how strong we think our faith is or want it to be, we always want to know that God is there for us, and miracles are that sort of element that bridges the gap between our faith and our connection with God.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia offers an extensive and erudite definition of miracles for those interested. But, leaving a theological discussion of miracles aside, I would offer this quote for our consideration:

“There are only two ways to live your life:
as though nothing is a miracle,
or as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein 

MARY
As we pray with Mary today, specifically in her role as loving intercessor for us, we reflect on Mary’s total openness to grace. Free from the “original sin” that limits all humanity, Mary possessed a faith without shadow of doubt, a hope without burden of uncertainty, a love without taint of self-interest. She was the means through which Divine Breath was restored to us in Jesus Christ.

Some of you may be familiar with the book “The Reed of God” described on Amazon this way:
Caryll Houselander’s beautiful and profound mediation, The Reed of God, depicts the intimately human side of Mary, Mother of God, as an empty reed waiting for God’s music to be played through her. Houselander shares her insightful and beautiful vision of Mary on earth, Mary among us, Mary as a confused but trusting teenager whose holiness flowered with her eternal “Yes”.

Houselander says this about Mary, and it seems to capture perfectly Mary’s appearance to the world at Lourdes:


In the world as it is, torn with agonies and dissensions, we need some direction for our souls which is never away from us; which, without enslaving us or narrowing our vision, enters into every detail of our life. Everyone longs for some such inward rule, a universal rule as big as the immeasurable law of love, yet as little as the narrowness of our daily routine. It must be so truly part of us all that it makes us all one, and yet to each one the secret of his own life with God.

To this need, the imitation of Our Lady is the answer; in contemplating her we find intimacy with God, the law which is the lovely yoke of the one irresistible love.” 


Music: Tota Pulchra Es is an ancient Catholic prayer, written in the fourth century. The title means “You are completely beautiful” (referring to the Virgin Mary). It speaks of her immaculate conception. It takes some text from the book of Judith and other text from Song of Songs. (Latin and English lyrics below.)

Tota pulchra Es
Tota pulchra es, Maria.
Et macula originalis non est in Te.
Tu gloria Ierusalem.
Tu laetitia Israel.
Tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tu advocata peccatorum.
O Maria, O Maria.
Virgo prudentissima.
Mater clementissima.
Ora pro nobis.
Intercede pro nobis.
Ad Dominum Iesum Christum. 

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain of sin is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
you are the joy of Israel,
you give honour to our people.
You are an advocate of sinners.
O Mary,
Virgin most prudent,
Mother most merciful.
Pray for us,
Plead for us,
To the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Get Back in the Game!

Friday, February 1, 2019

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hebres10_36endurance

Today, in Mercy, Paul reminds his listeners of all the sufferings they endured when they first embraced the Christian faith. He goes on to encourage them to persevere, even in the midst of ongoing challenges:

… do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.

It’s a speech with all the overtones of a great pep talk. At first it reminded me of our old coach Miss Weed (seriously), back in the days when I played basketball. She never gave up; never gave in.

cast

During one game, I called time out because I was pretty sure I had just broken my finger blocking a shot. Miss Weed unsympathetically told me, “No time outs! No broken bones! Get back in and finish the game!” Later, waiting to get my hand casted at the clinic, I reflected on what I had learned.

Maybe that’s the way Paul’s community felt as they read this passage. “Time out, Coach! This Christian stuff is tough!”

But Paul had an amazing caveat that Miss Weed didn’t have. Paul held up before his audience the promise of eternal life. Things comparable to broken fingers pale in that Light!

So today, let’s get back in the game with all our hearts – living our life in Christ with gusto and joy. Often it is not easy. But always look to the Light. And …

… do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.

Music: We’ve Got This Hope – Ellie Holcomb (Lyrics below)

We’ve got this hope
We’ve got a future
We’ve got the power of the resurrection living within
We’ve got this hope
We got a promise
That we are held up and protected in the palm of His hand
And even when our hearts are breaking
Even when our souls are shaking

Oh, we’ve got this hope

Even when the tears are falling
Even when the night is calling

Oh, we’ve got this hope

And we’re not alone
Our God is with us
We can approach the throne with confidence
Cause He made a way
When troubles comes
He’ll be our fortress
We know that those who place their hope in Him will not be ashamed

And even when our hearts are breaking
Even when our souls are shaking

Oh, we’ve got this hope

Even when the tears are falling
Even when the night is calling

Oh, we’ve got this hope

Our hope is grounded in an empty grave
Our hope is founded on the promise that He made

To Life!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our passage from Hebrews is a strong encouragement for its readers to stay faithful to the hope that has been given us through our call.

eph1_17 call
from today’s Responsorial Psalm

Paul traces the evolution of that call by reminding his readers of Abraham who trusted God’s promise and patiently waited for its fulfillment. Paul says that God not only promised Abraham, God swore an oath to bless and multiply Abraham’s life.

This promise and oath of God’s faithful covenant is the root of our Christian hope, and the “anchor” of our life.

Green Rope

On this day, when the Church prays for the protection of unborn children, let us be conscious that the “right to life” extends beyond the womb, from “cradle to grave”.

Let us pray to honor and reverence all life and all Creation – those who are troubled, poor, sick, different from us, homeless and seeking refuge. Let us pray for political and economic systems that protect both unborn and born children, resident and refugee, privileged and marginalized … nourishing their right to life, freedom and the happiness of well-being.

Beloveds, let us give thanks for the life and faith we have been given, and let us share it generously.

Music: You Are Life ~ Hillsong Worship

May God Bless Us in Mercy

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

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Jesus, Mary and Joseph, bless our year.

Ps67 NY 2019

Today, in Mercy, we welcome the hope of 2019. When we were young nuns, we were introduced to the custom of letting the first thing we wrote in the New Year Be this phrase:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph

I’ve always kept the custom. It is good to remember with whom we step into this next moment in time.

Praying with our Gospel today:

  • It is good to rest with the infant Jesus in unconditional trust in the Father’s plan.
  • It is good to ponder with Mary that each moment’s meaning extends into eternity.
  • It is good to be with silent Joseph in listening trust and holy readiness.

As we begin again in hope and grace, let us do so in the company of this Holy Family. Let them bless us in mercy, as our psalm prays. 

May we have simple trust in their presence with and care for us. May this give us the courage to live another year with renewed faith, courageous hope and transformative love.

Happy New Year, dear friends!

Music: from our beautiful Responsorial Psalm 67, rendered here in Gaelic. (English below)

God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.

Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously
And govern the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Then the earth shall yield her increase;
God, our own God, shall bless us.God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall obey Him.

Children, it is the last hour …

Monday, December 31, 2018

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Jn1_2 NYE

Today, in Mercy, on this New Year’s Eve, our spirits are occupied with the passage of time – the endings and beginnings that compose a life.

In the public domain, this night is often characterized as one of wild celebrations, almost as if we need to prove our endurance within time.

But in the privacy of our hearts, there are the moments of quiet nostalgia, bittersweet memory, and vulnerable gratitude for all that has been in this past year and the years preceding.

On this Sacred Eve, as people of faith, we will hold time’s hourglass up to the Light of eternity, knowing that – in God – there is no time.

In God, there is only love – the only human capacity which endures beyond time. In heaven, we will not need faith because we will see. We will not need hope, because all will be fulfilled.

But we will always need love.

In the end, there are three things that last –
faith, hope, and love.
And the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

So before the tolls welcome midnight, let us raise up to God our Eucharist of 2018:

  • those whose lives have been completed; those who have just begun
  • the efforts we made which succeeded; those which failed
  • the dreams secured; the dreams abandoned
  • the opportunities for grace that we seized; those lost which we hope to have renewed
  • the prayers answered as we had desired; the prayers answered in ways we didn’t recognize
  • all that we have loved; all that we hope to love more worthily

As John says in our first reading, “Children, it is the last hour …” 

May we let it go with gratitude, wisdom and joy.

But as John also says in our Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God …
…. and from his fullness we have all received,
grace flowing upon grace …

May we welcome this grace of eternal life and hope given to us in another New Year.

Blessed 2019, dear friends.

Music: Amazing Grace ~ Salt Lake City Vocal Artists

Rejoice!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. 

Gaudete

Advent was originally, like Lent, a time of fasting. Midway in the fast, the Church took a break from the fast and rejoiced prematurely for the coming Christmas. 

Pink vestments worn for the liturgy indicate joy, as do the uplifting readings.

In our first reading, Zephania tells us that “the Lord will rejoice over us with gladness!”

Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always!”

Even serious John the Baptist seems to tingle with expectation of the coming Savior. He’s just a little more taciturn in his proclamations.

In our terribly commercialized holiday world, let us stop and remember the true cause of our hope and celebration.

What gives your heart true joy as we approach the sacred celebration of Christmas? 

Let’s make a deeper effort this week, which will require so much bustle of us, to settle our hearts for a moment with God – remembering that his presence with us is what this whole season is about. 

Music: Gaudete in Domino sung by the Schola of St. Meinrad Abbey (Latin and English lyrics below)

Gaudete in Domino semper
iterum dico gaudete.
Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus.
Dominus prope est.
Nihil solliciti sitis
sed in omni oratione et obsecratione
cum gratiarum actione petitiones vestrae innotescant apud Deum.
Et pax Dei quae exsuperat omnem sensum custodiat corda vestra et intellegentias vestras in Christo Iesu [Domino nostro].

Rejoice in the Lord always:
and again I say, rejoice.
Let your moderation be known unto all men.
The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing;
but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus [our Lord].

Light in Our Darkness

Thursday, December 13, 2018: 

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Is45_8 LucyJPG

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, patroness of the blind. Lucy was a brave young woman, martyred during the persecutions. 

Her name meaning “Light”, she has been venerated for millennia as one who can bring clarity and insight to places of darkness. 

Today’s first reading shows us what our Radiant God can do for those who live in darkness, destitution and fear.

As the year moves closer to its time of deepest darkness, may we know God’s brightness in our hearts. May we sense God lighting, once again, the dark places in our lives and in our world.

We all have painful situations, unanswered hopes, lingering fears.  Let us bring them out of the shadows today with the help of St. Lucy and our Brilliant God who made the stars to give us hope.

Music:  Hail, Gladdening Light – Etcetera: the Civil Service Choir

Hope for Incredible Things

Monday, December 10, 2018

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Today, in Mercy, our Advent readings increase in joyously expectant tone: 

  • Isaiah’s exultant description of the Peaceful Kingdom
  • the Psamist’s confidence in God’s intervention
  • Jesus’s miracle, and probable delight, for the paralyzed man lowered through the roof! 
Lk5_26 incrediible
We have seen incredible things.. Luke 5:26

These passages are filled with an exuberant expectation, much like children feel as they discover an amazing gift. May we open our hearts with innocent hope toward God’s promise.

If you can, take the time today to read these passages slowly, listening for the particular word that will fall upon your heart like a blossom of hope.

Music: O Come, Divine Messiah – Jennie Lee Riddle and Robbie Seay

Prince of Peace

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

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Today, in Mercy,  majestic Isaiah bursts out, full-throated, in proclamation! 

Is 11_not by appear copy

Messianic Psalm 72 picks up his jubilant strain.

Justice shall flourish in his time,
and fullness of peace for ever.

And in our Gospel, Jesus affirms that the childlike will share the jubilation.

What a joy to hear these hope-filled readings once again!

We look forward with avid anticipation to  the redemption of all Creation in Christ.  We long for the One born in the Spirit of the Lord who will lead us with wisdom and understanding.

As Handel intones in today’s musical selection, “The government shall be upon his shoulders …” – that realm of peace, love, mutual respect and appreciation that will allow even the rival animals to lie down beside one another in security.

Today, let us pray with Jesus as he speaks with his Father in our Gospel: “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth…” 

… and I ask you to bless our world with a foretaste of the peace you have promised. Let us see one another as sister and brother, not as enemy, foreigner, or rival. Let us put away the words of alienation, stereotyping and hatred. Let us all become your children once again.

Music:  For Unto Us A Child Is Word – Handel’s Messiah