Redeemed!

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 26, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are all about redemption… and what a free and glorious gift it is.

How thrilling are these verses?

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness:
for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.

When I read them, I so much want to meet Isaiah, to get him to sign my Bible, to come to my house for soup and bread! Because he is filled with hope and exultation at the Mercy of God, just like I want my life to be!

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Paul, sensing some jealous competition in his Corinthian buddies, tells them  — Get a grip! You are obsessing over incidentals when we have been redeemed and made one in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Then, when I read these beautiful, lilting lines in the Gospel …

He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.

…I so want to go live with Jesus too, right there on Capernaum’s shores, because he was the very House of Mercy inviting us all to dwell anew in him. 

Jesus is the Living Redemption prophesied by Isaiah. He is the reason Paul turned his life upside down. Jesus is the Great Light in our darkness.

Praise and thank our Generous God!

Music: Streets of Capernaum – Clay Crosse

The Sacred Ordinary

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It was a scrawny excuse for a plant, relegated to an after-holiday sale at Home Depot.  Nothing distinguished it except that it was the only green promise on a frozen, white January day.

I bought that Christmas cactus well over ten years ago with at least some small hope that it might someday yield the magnificent flower from which it draws its lofty name. No such thing!  For ten years, it remained just green and alive, but otherwise unremarkable.

Then one day in its eleventh year, I noticed a deep red spot at its tip.  Hopeless as I had become about the disappointing plant, I assumed someone had dropped a little spaghetti sauce over its perch in our kitchen.  But to my delight the next morning, that “sauce” had blossomed into a luxurious flower — a soft, pink symbol of the sacred power of life hidden within the ordinary.

Cactus

Life is like that cactus.  If we are young, or when we once were, we often expect life to blossom quickly with some extraordinary design for our existence.  More often than not, the years teach us that our great promise wears ordinary clothes and that we will find our deep happiness within the mundane routine of life.

shells

We sometimes pass by the moments of our lives as if they were abandoned shells on a beach.  And yet, if coaxed open by the gentle attention of hope, each moment contains its own precious pearl, sometimes realized only after we have lost the opportunity to cherish it.

There are times in life when our jobs, our relationships, our dreams for our children, our dreams for ourselves take on the tone of those grey, abandoned shells.  We get so caught up in our ordinary lives that we lose the capacity to see their inherent power and extraordinarybeauty.

As we begin the long season of “Ordinary Time”, may we be blessed by our “Sacred Ordinary”.  Through the grace of attentive love and patient hope, may we find in our daily lives a Light to inspire and delight us.  May we discover the Love that gave us life and waits to blossom every day in our hope – that wants to make everything better

Music: These Ordinary Days – Jars of Clay

The Unexpected within The Ordinary

The Epiphany of the Lord

January 5, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we travel with Isaiah, Paul, Matthew and the Three Kings into the revealed glory of the Lord!

Is60_1 splendor

It’s not always easy to find that glory though, is it?

Have you ever heard a troubled friend say, “I feel as if God has abandoned me! I can’t find God in my life!”? Well, I’d like to tell you a little story about that.

ducksOne spring morning, two country kids were walking to school across their local railroad tracks.  They had been drilled in the three essential steps before crossing: STOP, LOOK and LISTEN! On this particular morning, as they diligently executed these steps, they heard an unexpected, barely-audible sound.  Four tiny orphaned ducklings had taken refuge in a gully under one of the nearby ties.  What an epiphany!


Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany.  The word means much more than just “discovery”.  It means an unexpected revelation of divine grace within our ordinary circumstances.  The Unexpected within the Ordinary.

kings_gifts

When the Three Kings experienced the Epiphany, it was not simply “dumb luck”.  They had prepared for that moment throughout their entire lives, just never imagining where they would find it —  hidden in a cold stable.  Through study, prayer and living good lives, they had perfected the all-important practice:  STOP, LOOK and LISTEN to your ordinary life; to what is happening just underneath the surface, underneath appearances, underneath the silence. Allow yourself to follow the star and be surprised by God!

It is in the life underneath that God waits to be revealed to us everyday.  The revelation doesn’t come like a loud, anticipated train.  It comes in the unexpected whisper we would have missed had we not stopped, looked and listened to our lives.  It comes in the otherwise unspoken need of a friend, in the finally recognized destructive practice or relationship we must change, in the belated act of forgiveness, in the long over-due and grateful acknowledgement of our life as the blessing that it is.

Before we go too far in this New Year, think about this practice.  When we feel as if God or the Spirit is not part of our lives, we may not be looking in the right places.  Each morning and/or evening, give yourself at least fifteen quiet minutes to breathe.  Point a telescope to your day, and ask yourself “Where is God hidden in these moments?”  If we really STOP, LOOK and LISTEN, eventually, the Star of the Epiphany will rise for us!

Music:  Star of Wonder – lyrics and the music written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. circa 1857; sung here by Jennifer Avalon

 

What We Shall Be

Christmas Weekday

January 3, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, what thrilling words John uses to remind us of who we really are!

1 Jn3_2 children

God’s children by virtue of our creation in God’s image!


But then John ups the ante for us. We are even more than this, but we do not yet perceive or understand the “more”.

… what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like God,
for we shall see God as God is.

What we shall be! Oh, how we should treasure and stretch for that promise!


Sometimes, when I hear of the death of a young person, especially by war, negligence, or other violence, I mourn the loss of their promise — to those who love them and to the world. How can we ever crush a life that God has tenderly created, the way an artist breathes over her masterpiece!

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Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

In today’s first reading, John reminds us that “sin” is this act of stunting life – in large and small ways, in ourselves and others. We fall into this sin because we do not see the God who is being revealed in the midst of our ordinary lives.

In our Gospel, we have John the Baptist finally seeing Christ for whom he had directed his entire life. Imagine what John felt as he saw Jesus cresting the nearby hillside. The One in whom John had placed all his love, faith and hope was walking toward him!

God is walking toward us too, in every moment of our lives. Occasionally, we have the courage and insight to look up and see God looking out from the eyes of our sisters and brothers – looking into us as we pass the mirror!

Let’s try to do that more often in 2020!

Music: We Shall Behold Him –  LaKisha Jones

Waiting for God

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

December 30, 2019

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rembrant anna
Presentation in the Temple – Rembrandt van Rijn

Today, in Mercy, we meet the venerable prophetess Anna. Oh, what she has to teach us!

  • Perseverance: she had waited eight decades for the revelation

  • Unconditional Faith: throughout those decades, she prayed always believing
  • Pure Spirit: she believed that, like the pure in spirit, she would see God
  • Unquestioning Receptivity to the Holy: when the Savior appeared, not in glory nor a fiery chariot, she received his vulnerability without hesitation

  • Adoration: “She never left the temple,but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.”
  • Sacred Satisfaction: “And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God” because her faith and hope had been affirmed.

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There is soooooo much in this reading for each one of us. Find yourself somewhere within it today as you pray. Perhaps:

  • Am I expecting God in every moment of my life?
  • If I have received the gift of “old age”, how has the long wait blessed and/or challenged me to keep hold of God’s hand?
  • If I am still “young”, how do I invite God into my unfolding journey?
  • Am I asking God to continually reveal Divinity in my daily life?
  • Am I purifying my heart of self-interest so that I can better perceive God’s Presence?
  • Can I welcome God no matter how the Divine Presence clothes itself?
  • Do I stay with my prayer, creating a deep temple in my spirit?
  • Can I find contentment and peace with how God chooses to be with me – even in suffering?

(In a second post, I will share a powerful reflective poem by Leddy Hammock & Sue Kelly – Prayer of Imagination for Anna, the Prophetess. I hope you love this piece as much as do.)

Music: While I Wait – Lincoln Brewster

 

O Emmanuel

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

December 21, 2019

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O Emmanuel

Today, in Mercy, we pray:

O Emmanuel,
Who loved us so
You took our flesh,
come,
open our eyes
to see You here
ever near,
ever within us.

As Earth turns –
in so many ways –
to greatest darkness,
light the candle of
Your Indwelling
deep within our
longing hearts.

As Mary knew your
Closeness,
let us know You.

As Joseph held You
in mutuality of trust,
let us hold You and
be held by You.

Be born again
in the love that
we return to You
by loving one another
well and tenderly.

Cleave us to
Your Brilliant Light
though hidden in
life’s puzzling shadows,
God with Us,
God ever with Us!

O Emmanuel, come
be with us
on our longest nights.
Let us lean
soft into You
on our hardest days.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Music: Winter Cold Night – John Foley, SJ
(Lyrics below)

Winter Cold Night – John Foley, SJ

Dark, dark, the winter cold night, lu-lee-ley
Hope is hard to come by, lu-lee-ley
Hard, hard, the journey tonight, lu-lee-ley.
Star, guide, hope, hide
our poor, winter cold night.

And on earth peace, good will to men.

Lean, lean, the living’ tonight, lu-lee-lay.
Star seems darker sometimes, lu-lee-lay.

Unto you is born this day a Savior.

Pain, yes, in the bornin’ tonight, lu-lee-lay.
Star, guide, hope, hide
our poor, winter cold night.

O Key of David

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

December 20, 2019

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key of david

 

Today, in Mercy, we pray:

O Key of David,

O Blessed Freedom,
Who unlocks the secret of eternal life
within our hearts!

Come absolve
the sad incarcerations
shackling us!

We hold ourselves
and one another captive
by our fears, our greed,
our terrible need
to control
Your power within us.

We are afraid of Love,
because once released in us,
Love asks for everything…

… for everything to be
unbound, unbarred
and given to Your
Unrestricted Grace,
in flesh named “Jesus”.

Love asks us to
become like You,
but we are locked
in smaller dreams.

O Key of David,
come free our dreams
with Yours.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Music:  O Clavis David

O Adonai

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

December 18, 2019

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O Adonai

Today, in Mercy, we pray:

O, Adonai,
we reach for your outstretched arm.

How we need to lean on You,
to be upheld by You,
to be embraced by You,

Compassionate Lord, who
leads us through a life
that can be unbearable
alone.

We pray, with longing hearts,
that You uplift all the fallen –
whether into pain, or loss,
confusion, or the sad distress
we inflict upon ourselves
and one another.

Adonai, Beautiful One,
set a fire before us,
as You did for Moses.

Lead the way for us
with Flame of Love
and Light of Faith
into your outstretched Mercy.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Music: O Adonai – Gloriae Dei Cantores

Gaudete! Rejoice!

Third Sunday of Advent

December 15, 2019

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Gaudete 2019

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, a name which comes from the first word of the Introit of today’s Mass:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

Our readings, too, counsel us to rejoice, and to do so with patience and honesty before God.


REJOICE:
Those whom the LORD has ransomed
…. will meet with joy and gladness (Isaiah 35:10)


BE PATIENT:
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:8)


SPEAK HONESTLY WITH GOD:
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2)


As we pray with these verses, we might ask, similarly to John the Baptist:

  • Is the coming of the Lord really at hand?
  • Is our long wait to be complete in God really over?
  • Hasn’t this gone on for 2000 years with no Second Coming? 

Well, it all depends on how we look at it.

time

 

With our feet and our experiences firmly planted in a time-bound world, it is hard for us to enter God’s timeless view of our salvation.

 

With God there is no waiting. We already live in the fullness of God’s eternal life.

Our time-bound life is our chance to open ourselves to that Fullness by allowing our experiences to fashion us in the image of Christ.

Every moment, every encounter, every experience carries the invitation to this Complete Love. Continually answering this invitation brings us into an ever deeper transparency with God.

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When we see and live our lives this way, joy captures us. Circumstances may not always leave us happy or satisfied (I mean, look at John, he was imprisoned). But they cannot claim our joy, because we see patiently through time’s veil to the eternity already within us.

This sacred insight is the gift of our Baptism in Christ.

Today, we draw closer to the celebration of his presence with us in history by his birth on Christmas. But the deeper celebration is Christ’s continual rebirth in our lives of joy, patience and honest relationship with God.

Music: Patience People – John Foley, SJ (Lyrics below)

Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
See the farmer await the yield of the soil.
He watches it in winter and in spring rain.

Patience, people,
for the Lord is coming. Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
You have seen the purpose of the Lord.
You know of His compassion and His mercy.

Patience, people,
for the Lord is coming. Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
Steady your hearts for the Lord is close at hand.
And do not grumble, one against the other.
Patience, people, for the Lord is coming.

The Promise of Wholeness

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Saturday, December 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah – in glorious prophecy – promises God’s People better times.

hope

Oh my, don’t we all long for the fulfillment of that promise! Sometimes, I can’t even watch the news anymore because the world is in such seemingly irreversible pain!


Perhaps we can use our prayer within these readings today to call on God for the healing they promise.

It is a healing that requires our cooperation. Isaiah says that we must name our pain to God – for ourselves and for all who suffer in our world:

The Lord will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as he hears he will answer you.

Is30_21 Walk

The prophet says that this crying out will change us. We will see the Lord with us in our suffering. God will lead us through that suffering by our acts of faith, hope, love, justice and mercy:

No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or to the left.


 

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Healing Peter’s mother-in-law by John Bridges, 19th century

Our Gospel tells us that we are called to be Christ’s disciples, and that disciples are healers. By letting our lives become sources of healing in the world, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled for our time.

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

How we do these wondrous deeds in the world is an ongoing revelation. When I was very young, I took the proclamation quite literally. I soon lost confidence that I would ever really “cure” someone of anything!

Life has blessed me with the realization that there are many degrees of healing. There  many ways in which living people are caught in deadly lives. There are all kinds of “lepers ” in our society, rendered so by the prejudices of others. Certainly, many of us carry all sorts of crippling demons.

Acknowledging the pain in ourselves and others, and trusting that God wants us to be healed and whole, is the work of true discipleship. Let’s keep our eyes on Isaiah’s promise to give us a generous, merciful courage for our call! Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus as he shows us the way.

Music: (Can you take a little hint of “country” this morning?)

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus – written by Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961) and sung here by Alan Jackson, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records.