Time’s Shifting Seas

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
September 23, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read about time, that elusive framework that binds our days.  We are so conscious of time, still it defies all our efforts to define or control it. It lumbers when we want it to skip. It flies when we long for it to tarry. Once it has passed, we wonder where it went. We find the long, vibrant years compressed to a distant, gossamer memory.

Eces3_1 time

Time can create in us a sense of urgency, a deadline for us to make a mark on its surface. But Ecclesiastes counsels us to be patient, telling us there is a time for everything – a segment in our life story for us to plumb each emotion. 

As we read through this antiphonal list of life’s realities, we are conscious of the ones we would rather eliminate – the downside of experience. But the scribe suggests that even life’s shadowed side serves to hone us for eternity. 


Faith allows us to stand in balanced trust
on the crossbeam of our shifting lives.
Hope causes us to expect light
out of every darkness.
Love convinces us that our timeless God
abides with us beyond time’s testing.

In our Gospel, Jesus is conscious that he is coming to the end of his time. As many of us do when we are feeling unsure of ourselves, Jesus asks his disciples what people are saying about him. They respond in glowing accolades – Elijah, the Baptist returned from the dead, the Christ, Son of God. But Jesus knows it is not a time for accolades. He rebukes them with a somber forecast of darkening times.

Even Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, experienced time’s shifting waves. Praying the Gospel daily, living with Jesus through his highs and lows, is the steady fulcrum in our own uneven seas.


Poetry: from Burnt Norton – T.S. Eliot

These are the opening lines from Eliot’s long poem. I love Eliot but he definitely challenges his reader. If you are up to the challenge, here is a link to the whole poem. ( I find it best to read his poems in small doses, reflecting slowly on the depth of his suggestions.) http://www.coldbacon.com/poems/fq.html

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
                                   But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

Music: In His Time ~ CRC Worship

Alleluia:Faith and Hope

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 7, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080722.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are taught about the nature of faith and hope. 

Alleluia, alleluia.
Stay awake and be ready!
For you do not know 
on what day your Lord will come.

Our readings today are long, complex, and rich. Trying to pray with them this morning brought an image to mind.


Like many Dads, mine both loved and hated putting the lights on the Christmas tree. No matter how carefully he had stored them the previous year, those endless wires and tiny bulbs managed to morph into a ball of frustration when he opened the box.

But Dad persevered because he knew what the end result would be. After a few hours, when he finally leaned over to plug in his work, the whole family all held our breath both in anticipation and trepidation. That was because, most of time, nothing happened… no lights. Zilch.

Dad would then exclaim a litany over the fragile mess – one that I was prohibited from repeating. This chant signaled that we all immediately join in testing every single bulb to find the culprit which had caused the blackout. Ah! Family Christmas rituals!


Well, I think today’s readings are like those labyrinthine lights. Each passage contains a string of bulbs that must be twisted and turned over in our prayer to help us discover their illumination.

The central current for me is this: faith is a relationship, long and unbreakable. Even if a bulb goes out every now and again, keep searching for the energy and light, just as our foremothers and fathers did.

Our faith and hope are rooted in that sacred heritage:

In the ancient faith of Moses:

The night of the passover was known beforehand to our ancestors,
that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith,
they might have courage.

In the trusting songs of David

Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.

In the grounding insights of Paul

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen. 

And in the promise of Jesus to those who remain faithful

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”


Our readings assure us that, for those who hope and believe, there is no doubt what the end result will be. Our faith will be blessed by the glorious light of God.

Prose from Richard Rohr:

Music:

Alleluia: An Ageless Love

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 3, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080322.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited the people.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings carry the themes of Hope and Restoration.

Jeremiah tells the people that, even after all they’ve been through, God has an age-old love for them and therefore will not abandon them.

Jeremiah continues with a description of the future coming of the Savior, promising that Israel will be restored:

Yes, a day will come when the watchmen
will call out on Mount Ephraim:
“Rise up, let us go to Zion,
to the LORD, our God.”
For thus says the LORD:
Shout with joy for Jacob,
exult at the head of the nations;
proclaim your praise and say:
The LORD has delivered the people,
the remnant of Israel.

Our Alleluia Verse announces that this expected Savior has arrived in Jesus Christ, the Divine Shepherd, Lord, Guardian and Redeemer whom Jeremiah describes in our Responsorial Psalm.

Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited the people.


Matthew’s Gospel today, which can seem a little contentious in tone, actually demonstrates the surprising truth that Jesus came not only for the sake of Israel, but for all people — for us.

We are all beneficiaries of God’s age-old love for us.

Poetry: You are the future, the great sunrise red – Rainer Maria Rilke

You are the future, the great sunrise red
above the broad plains of eternity.
You are the cock-crow when time’s night has fled,
You are the dew, the matins, and the maid,
the stranger and the mother, you are death.

You are the changeful shape that out of Fate
rears up in everlasting solitude,
the unlamented and the unacclaimed,
beyond describing as some savage wood.

You are the deep epitome of things
that keeps its being’s secret with locked lip,
and shows itself to others otherwise:
to the ship, a haven — to the land, a ship.


Music: I Have Loved You – Michael Joncas 

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine;

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.

Seek the face of the Lord and long for him: He will bring you his light and his peace.

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine;

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.

Seek the face of the Lord and long for him: He will bring you his joy and his hope.

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine;

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.

Seek the face of the Lord and long for him: He will bring you his care and his love.

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine;

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.

Alleluia: The Amazing Promise

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 8, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/070822.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse makes an amazing promise.

Alleluia, alleluia.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
you will be guided to all truth
and reminded of all I told you.

John 16:13-14

We will be guided and re-minded by the Spirit of God! We will have a refreshed mind and sense of sacred purpose!


Perhaps like Hosea’s community, we have been exhausted, “collapsed” from a lack of grace and spiritual vitality. The lack may be within or around us, from our own negligence or from a world too heavy with evil. But Hosea proclaims that, if we turn to God with our “words” – our prayer – God will respond:

I will be like the dew for my beloved:
who shall blossom like the lily;
who shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth abundant shoots.
My dear one’s splendor shall be like the olive tree
with a fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.

Hosea 14: 6-7

Jesus continues and fulfills that promise in his own time and in ours. We live in a world still plagued by the sinfulness Jesus describes for his disciples in today’s Gospel. It is an overwhelming darkness at times and we can become heavy with it. We may feel we have no strength to stand against it, nor words to speak for change.


Jesus assures us that the refreshing “dew” of Hosea is abundantly available to us through our life in the Holy Spirit.

Do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your God speaking through you.

Matthew 10:19-20

Let’s not take that amazing gift and promise for granted. Let’s not fail to believe that the Spirit of Truth is with us to guide and remind us of our immense power for good.


Poetry: The World Is Too Much With Us – William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Music: Like the Dewfall – Mike Stanley

Alleluia: A Lamp to My Feet

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church
June 13, 2022

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/061322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy. we thank God for lighting our path.

Alleluia, alleluia.
A lamp to my feet is your word,
a light to my path.


I know each one of us has come home late at night, maybe in a heavy rain. The way home is dark and we are unsure of ourselves in the gloom. Depending on how far we’re coming from, the journey can be harrowing. We can’t wait to see that light in our very familiar and cozy front window.

This feeling is so universal that one hotel chain has capitalized upon it:


Our Alleluia Verse today recognizes that God has, and always will “leave the light on for us”. Grace awaits us in every circumstance if we turn our hearts to God.

The tough part is doing that when we feel a little bit panicky in the dark. It takes courage to be still and let God’s Light find us. We can become better and stronger by gratefully remembering all the times God has already brought us home to wholeness.

God has not failed us in the past and will not fail us now, or in the future.


Poetry: At a Window – Carl Sandburg

Give me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!
But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.

Music: Guiding Light – Alan Scott

Alleluia: Be Love!

June 9, 2022
Thursday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse holds the complete essence of Jesus’s life. If there ever was glorious “nutshell”, this is it:

Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you. (Jn. 13:34)

Our motherhouse chapel is breathtakingly beautiful. Thinking of it as a “chapel”, people who first walk through its doors are astounded at itscathedral-like dimensions. I know I certainly was as a wonder-struck eighteen-year-old on my first visit.

Our Chapel in the 1950s

For the next almost three years, I often sat in my little pew pondering the chapel’s central mural — and especially the words framing it.

The words are an invitation and a command. The painting beneath is the whole instruction on Love… “…love as I have loved you.”

After those initial years, I chose those precious words for the motto to be engraved on my ring. I have prayed ever since that it might someday be engraved on my heart. In a culture that can so misunderstand the nature of love, I always appreciate the chance to visit that altar or to look at that ring.

May we have the courage to be
“Alleluia Lovers”
in this love-hungry world!

Poetry: from one of the greatest poets, Paul in his letter to the Corinthians

If I speak in the tongues in human or angelic tongue 
but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but have not love,
I am nothing.
If I give away all I have,
and if I deliver up my body to be burned,
but have not love,
I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; 
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never ends. 
As for prophecies, they will pass away;
as for tongues, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I grew up, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; 
but the greatest of these is love.

Music: Love Never Ends – by The Corner Room

Lent: Look to a New Day

March 27, 2022
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Laetare Sunday

It’s optional, but I’ve always liked it — when the Church’s sacred ministers wear “pink” on Laetare Sunday — Roman Catholicism’s Fourth Sunday of Lent.

The day’s theme comes from the entrance antiphon reflecting on Isaiah 66:10-11: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.”

Laetare is the first word — meaning “rejoice” — in the Latin text. On Laetare Sunday (as similarly with the Third Sunday of Advent’s Gaudete Sunday) the Church expresses hope and joy in the midst of our Lenten fasts and penances. Call it pink — or, more fittingly, rose — this change in color indicates a glimpse of the joy that awaits us at Easter, just before we enter into the somber days of Passiontide.

MICHAEL R. HEINLEIN -https://www.simplycatholic.com/laetare-sunday/

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, halfway through Lent, we see in our readings glimpses of new life.

The captivity in Egypt had been TOUGH on Israel. During those many decades, they had appeared to be abandoned and forgotten by God.  It was a harsh reckoning for them … hard to be forgotten. Even then, when they thought they had found freedom, they still wandered for forty years in the desert.

But now Israel stands at a new horizon.  Moses has died and Joshua has become Israel’s leader.  God tells him that it is a new day:

“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”



In our second reading, Paul tells us:

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.


And in our revered Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells us:

This beloved child of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
was lost, and has been found.


All of these passages speak to us in our Lenten journey, and in our Life journey.  We have experienced our own “Egypts”, times when we felt disconnected, even abandoned, by God.  We have sometimes felt we were journeying aimlessly toward an unknown goal. We have at times wandered, like the prodigal son, from the path of God’s love. We have darknesses in our memories that still long for Light.

This poem from Mary Oliver might capture the feeling for us:

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~ Mary Oliver ~


In today’s readings, God is reminding us that the Light awaits us. Forgiveness, reconciliation, new energy and grace are the gifts of Easter – the gifts where we must keep our eyes focused as we journey.


So let us do as e.e.cummings encourages us in this poem:

Let It Go – e.e. cummings

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love


Music: Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd
(Lyrics below)

Remember not the things of the past;
now I do something new,
do you not see it?
Now I do something new, says the Lord.

In our distress God has grasped us by the hand,
opened a path in the sea, and we shall pass over,
we shall pass over, free at last.

In our parched land of hypocrisy and hate,
God makes a river spring forth,
a river of mercy, truth and compassion; come and drink.

And who among us is sinless in God’s sight?
Then who will cast the first stone, when he who was sinless
carried our failings to the cross?

Pressing ahead, letting go what lies behind,
may we be found in the Lord, and sharing his dying,
share in his rising from the dead.

Lent: Stretching toward God

March 5, 2022
Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah continues his advice begun in yesterday’s reading. When he finishes the list of things we should and should not do, Isaiah tells us how God will respond:

Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
God will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up ~

Isaiah 58: 8-12

Oh, who can resist these glorious Isaiahan lines. It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? To imagine it offers us great encouragement as we limp out of winter toward a spring horizon.


Each of our readings today carries a sense of shaking off old and lifeless ways to stretch toward a new promise.

The psalmist asks for God’s help in that stretching.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Psalm 86:11

As I thought about “stretching” in prayer this morning, an image came to me of an experience some of you might share. After my knee replacement, I had to learn to streeeeetch my old ligaments around the new implant. It wasn’t exactly “hell” to do so, but it was at least the edge of purgatory! My perseverance paid off though when I began to walk freely and painlessly.



Stretching into the depths of God also takes a full measure of willpower and HOPE. We can hear these pleas in the rest of Psalm 86:

Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.



They say that rehabbing from knee replacement surgery is a lot easier if you have exercised and kept in fair shape beforehand. In our Gospel, dear Matthew does a total , full-hearted stretch — one that he must have been preparing for all his life. Otherwise, how could he have been so immediately responsive to Christ’s unexpected invitation?

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.

Luke 5:27

Visualizing this scene, we can almost see Matthew not only get up — but his spirit actually jump up at the amazing invitation of God!


Lent is a time for us to do some jumping into grace — so many invitations come to us in this season’s beautiful scriptures and rituals. So many inspirations to grow come to us in our changing seasons! Let’s not be so distracted by our daily un-importances that we miss the call to streeeetch!


Poetry: St. Matthew by John Keble – this is a section of the poem which reflects on today’s Gospel passage.Matthew is the “meek publican” of the second stanza below. Amid all the clamor of the world around him, Keble’s Matthew has a clear eye and heart for Christ.
John Keble, (1792 – 1866) was an English churchman and poet, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Keble College, Oxford, was named after him.

There are in this loud stunning tide
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide
Of th' everlasting chime;
Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.
How sweet to them, in such brief rest
As thronging cares afford,
In thought to wander, fancy-blest,
To where their gracious Lord,
In vain, to win proud Pharisees,
Spake, and was heard by fell disease-
But not in vain, beside yon breezy lake,
Bade the meek Publican his gainful seat forsake:
At once he rose, and left his gold;
His treasure and his heart
Transferred, where he shall safe behold
Earth and her idols part;
While he beside his endless store
Shall sit, and floods unceasing pour
Of Christ's true riches o'er all time and space,
First angel of His Church, first steward of His Grace.
Nor can ye not delight to think
Where He vouchsafed to eat,
How the Most Holy did not shrink
From touch of sinner's meat;
What worldly hearts and hearts impure
Went with Him through the rich man's door,
That we might learn of Him lost souls to love,
And view His least and worst with hope to meet above.
These gracious lines shed Gospel light
On Mammon's gloomiest cells,
As on some city's cheerless night
The tide of sunrise swells,
Till tower, and dome, and bridge-way proud
Are mantled with a golden cloud,
And to wise hearts this certain hope us given;
“No mist that man may raise, shall hide the eye of Heaven.”
And oh! if e'en on Babel shine
Such gleams of Paradise,
Should not their peace be peace divine,
Who day by day arise
To look on clearer heavens, and scan
The work of God untouch'd by man?
Shame on us, who about us Babel bear,
And live in Paradise, as if God was not there!

Music: Stretch Out – Gospel/Soul song by the Institutional Radio Choir

The Institutional Radio Choir was a gospel choir that recorded between 1962-2003. The choir began in 1954 at the Institutional COGIC in Brooklyn, NY, under Bishop Carl E Williams Sr. After recording an album entitled: “Well Done,” the choir backed up Shirley Caesar on her two albums, I’ll Go and My Testimony. Caesar allotted the choir’s director two songs on the album, one of which was entitled (When Trouble Comes) Stretch Out. The song went on to become a gospel standard, especially in Pentecostal circles. The choir went on to record over 20 albums, most of which charted in the Top 10 on the Gospel Billboard charts.

When troubles come and storms begin to rise
Hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting, keep on praying
Hold on and learn to stretch out

When Satan get on your track
And tries to turn me back
I won’t worry, i won’t fret. i just stretch out
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When days are dark and cloudy are my skies
I hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting, keep on believing
Hold on and learn to stretch out

Cause the race isn’t given to the swift
Neither is it given to the strong
But to him that endureth to the end
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When troubles come and storms begin to rise
Hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting keep on believing
Hold on and learn to stretch out

Cause the race isn’t given to the swift
Neither is it given to the strong
But to him that endureth to the end
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When i am lost, when i am sad
Jesus is there, he’ll make me glad
The Lord won’t deceive you
The Lord he won’t leave you

Stretch out

Stretch out
Stretch out
Stretch out on his word

Stretch out
Stretch out
Stretch out
Oh, stretch out

Stretch out!

What Is Hope?

February 28, 2022
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the word “HOPE” binds our readings together.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
ept in heaven for you…

1 Peter 1:3

Wow! That’s uplifting isn’t it!

But praying with this passage, I am aware of how hard it is to really define hope. We can get it mixed up with wishing or imagining.

Hope is very different,
and much more powerful, than wishing.
It is a share in the power of God
to animate our world with divine life.

When we wish, we imagine better things and often do what we can to make them happen. Sometimes our prayers take the form of wishes – our desire for people or circumstances to be well or better. Those wishes may or may not come true. And if they don’t, we may lose what we incorrectly defined as “hope”.


We see that kind loss happen in the young man from our Gospel today. He wishes to be a better person. He wishes to truly center his life on God. He even takes the first step to make his wish come true by asking Jesus for advice:

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Mark 10:17

Jesus immediately loves this sincere young man. But says tells him that he has too many “wishes” cluttering his hope for God. Jesus encourages him to clear out space in his life for God’s Presence to transform him. Then everything will become an expression of the divine life within him.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me.”

Mark 17:21

Sadly, the man cannot summon the spiritual strength to tap into his gift of hope – to rely fully on God in his life. The gift of hope is within him, as it is within all of us. But the way to it is so tangled with all his possessions that he despairs of finding it.

At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.

Mark 17:22

The Catholic encyclopedia says this:

Hope is defined to be a Divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God’s help, to reach eternal felicity as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it.


Being a “Divine virtue” means that hope, like faith and love, is given by God to each of us as a share in God’s own nature. It’s like a “divine” family trait that marks us as children of God.

When we see a child that looks exactly like a parent, we might hear people say, “You could never deny him. He looks exactly like you!” That’s how it is with the “divine virtues”. They allow people to see God in us and so to deepen their own faith.

Hope is that confidence in God which is so complete that it does not have to be proven by miracles or fulfilled wishes. Hope endures in all circumstances. It throbs within us like sacred DNA. All we have to do is clear the way for it to shine.


Poetry: Two of my favorite poems today:

  1. Emily Dickinson, in her masterfully woven metaphor, says that hope is feathered:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.


And one of my favorite poets, Lisel Mueller, says that hope is “all we know of God”:

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.


Music: Living Hope – Phil Wickham

Tell It Like It Is

February 23, 2022
Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, James continues to “tell it like it is”.

Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town,
spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”–
you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.

James 4: 13

James offers that hard truth to his listeners, Jewish Christians dispersed outside of Israel. It’s an insight many of us might not like hearing, because we thrive on making plans for future growth and improvement.

When a current situation is looking a little dim, we like to think that “there is always tomorrow”. James says, “Maybe not! Make sure you humbly do all that you can TODAY.”


James reminds me of my Nana.

My great-grandmother was born in Ireland in 1869. She was no-nonsense Irish, probably because of the no-nonsense times during which she grew up. She was highly religious and stringently moral, and she worked to insure that the family benefitted from all the lessons she had learned in her challenging life.


Her accent was as thick as porridge, but after a while I, a perspicacious little toddler, began imitating it. I listened intently to her oft-repeated phrases and folded them into my own conversations. One such phrase made an indelible impression on me to the point that I can hear it even now in her soft, rolling brogue.

When one of the family retired for the night, it was common to say, ” Good night. God bless you.” Sometimes we added, ” I’ll see you in the morning” and if we did, Nana invariably responded:

if God spares us!


I think that is exactly what James is saying in his no-nonsense epistles.

We depend on God’s goodness and mercy for everything. We need to remember and acknowledge that truth, and to live in hopeful gratitude.

… you should say,
“If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.”
But instead you are boasting in your arrogance.
All such boasting is evil.
So for one who knows the right thing to do
and does not do it, it is a sin.

I think that most of us aren’t really arrogant. We just forget. We get confused. We let our lives slip off their center on God. And then we might start to think that we are the center of everything! Big mistake!


Our Responsorial Psalm for today reinforces these truths. I love the way Pastor Christine Robinson has interpreted Psalm 49:

Here is my wisdom—Listen to my song!
I am surrounded by those who put their trust
in possessions and money
I am not taken in.

What is precious in life can’t be had in the marketplace
What is important about us is not what we acquire,
but what we do to add love, goodness, and
beauty to the world.

It’s the size of our hearts, not the size of our houses,
It’s our understanding, not our fame.
What we own is taken from the earth and from others.
It returns to them when we die.

But love, wisdom, and beauty,
they strengthen the fabric of creation.
They accrue to God, enlarge our very souls.
These are our true legacy and our ongoing life.


Music: Who Am I? – Casting Crowns