Let God…

January 18, 2022
Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, three themes suggest themselves for our prayerful consideration. At various points in our spiritual lives we are called to:

Release what binds us
Reorient to what is good
Recommit to hope and promise

Our first reading begins the narrative of David, key figure of the Hebrew Scriptures and the archetype king who prefigured the Messiah.

Release
We read about Samuel’s commission to find a new kingly candidate and to anoint him. This is a big deal for Samuel, who first has to release his dream for Saul in whom he had misplaced his hope:

The LORD said to Samuel:
“How long will you grieve for Saul,whom I have rejected as king of Israel?


Reorient
God, Who already has a plan, encourages Samuel to pursue a new path:

Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.


Recommit
In a memorable series of attempts, Samuel tries to figure out who it is that God has set the kingly choice upon. After seven “not him”s, David appears – the unlikeliest of all the sons:

Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed him in the midst of his brothers;
and from that day on, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. 
When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.


Throughout this entire process, God is at the wheel. Samuel’s job — and Jesse’s, and David’s, and the unchosen brothers— is to listen, hear, and respond even to the unlikely and improbable.

Believe it or not, he will be King!

The lesson, perhaps, for us: God is at the wheel in our lives too. Of course, we will have failures. Often, we will miss the “holy point”. But God is always with us, reiterating faith’s promise and inspiring a new path to its fulfillment.


Poetry: Let God – Meister Eckhart

Let God work in you,
give the work to God,
and have peace.
Don’t worry if God works
through your nature
or above your nature,
because both are God’s,
nature and grace.

Music: Meditation – Yuhki Kuramoto

Blossoming Exultation!

January 11, 2022
Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time 2022:
The extraordinary reality is that we have been given the gift of life!
Each day we are given a new portion of grace to deepen in God!
Let us focus our reflections on the “hidden extraordinary”
– a word, thought, or challenge in each day’s readings
that we might otherwise have taken for granted.
May God give us the graceful appreciation to unwrap these gifts!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we awaken to extraordinary gifts revealed in three words from our readings:

Downcast – Amazed – Exultant

In our first reading, Hannah’s story continues to unfold. And we feel for her, don’t we? The woman is desperate to bear life! Not only does she long for her own sweet child; she longs as well for restored standing in her neighborhood and family as one who is fertile not barren. This meant everything in Hannah’s community as fertility defined a woman’s importance.

Have you ever prayed like Hannah prays in this chapter? Has any need in your life ever so demanded God’s mercy? These are times that ask for our complete vulnerability before God’s Omnipotence.

In her bitterness she prayed to the LORD, weeping copiously,
and she made a vow, promising: “O LORD of hosts,
if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid,
if you remember me and do not forget me,
if you give your handmaid a male child,
I will give him to the LORD for as long as he lives…

1 Samuel 1: 10-11
Vasili Petrovich Vereshchagin (1864)

Eli witnesses Hannah’s vulnerable prayer. He blesses her and hope cracks through her gloom:
She replied, “Think kindly of your maidservant,” and left.
She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband,
and no longer appeared downcast.

1 Samuel 1:18

Extraordinary Vulnerability!


Jesus Casts Out Demons – Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

In the Gospel reading, Jesus is still very early in his ministry. He has come to the synagogue to teach and people are “astonished” to hear the depth of his authority. But their astonishment grows even more when Jesus successfully commands the unclean spirit to leave the tortured man.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Mark 1:27

Can we let ourselves be constantly amazed at God’s Presence, Power, and Mercy in all Creation?


Extraordinary Holy Amazement!


Once again, our Responsorial Psalm offes a way to pray when our downcast desperation meets God’s amazing, transforming grace. It is the “Magnificat” of Hannah:

And Hannah prayed:

“My heart exults in the LORD,
my horn is exalted by my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in your victory.
There is no Holy One like the LORD;
there is no Rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2: 1-2

1 Samual 2: 1-2

Extraordinary Exultation!

Through our scripture-nourished prayer,
may we open the gifts of extraordinary vulnerability, extraordinary hope, and extraordinary exultation
wrapped in our own ordinary lives this day.

Poetry: Bare Tree – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Already I have shed the leaves of youth,
stripped by the wind of time down to the truth
of winter branches. Linear and alone
I stand, a lens for lives beyond my own,
a frame through which another's fire may glow,
a harp on which another's passion, blow.
The pattern of my boughs, an open chart
spread on the sky, to others may impart
its leafless mysteries that I once prized,
before bare roots and branches equalized,
tendrils that tap the rain or twigs the sun
are all the same, shadow and substance one.
Now that my vulnerable leaves are cast aside,
there's nothing left to shield, nothing to hide.
Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone,
so fragile and so fearless have I grown!


Music: Listen to the Trees

Find Your Star

December 13, 2021
Monday of the Third Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Lucy

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the beautiful, humble Psalm 25. Pastor Christine Robinson interprets the prayer in this way:

I put my trust in you, O God, as best as I am able. 
   May I be strong. May I not be afraid
May all who open their hearts
  hear your voice and know your love.
Lead me, teach me, help me to trust.

You are gracious to us, O God
You guide us, you forgive our clumsy ways
You help us prosper.

When I am sad and anxious
  I school my heart to trust
I act with integrity and uprightness
  And hope to feel your touch in my heart.
May it be so for all the peoples of the earth
  Who call you by many names.

Psalms for the New World – Christine Robinson

The psalm anchors our other readings today to suggest a theme of searching for Light in the darkness. Certainly, this was the quest of St. Lucy whose memorial we also mark today.

Lucy is the patroness of the blind. She 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.


In our first reading, we hear the first messianic prophecy of the Bible. It is offered by a source perhaps unfamiliar to us — a teller of the future, Balaam.


Balaam is a diviner in the Torah (Pentateuch) whose story begins in Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. Every ancient reference to Balaam considers him a non-Israelite, a prophet, and the son of Beor.King Balak of Moab offered him money to curse Israel (Numbers 22–24), but Balaam blessed the Israelites instead as dictated by God. Nevertheless, he is reviled as a "wicked man" in both the Torah and the New Testament. (Wikipedia)

That story is the one we read today, and it contains a beautiful prophecy to be fulfilled fifteen hundred years after its utterance:

The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor,
        the utterance of the man whose eye is true,
    The utterance of one who hears what God says,
        and knows what the Most High knows,
    Of one who sees what the Almighty sees,
        enraptured, and with eyes unveiled.
    I see him, though not now;
        I behold him, though not near:
    A star shall advance from Jacob,
        and a staff shall rise from Israel.

Sometimes we just need to be pointed toward that star, don’t we? We kind of “see God – but not now; behold God — but not near”. It’s not always easy to believe, to trust.

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.

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 — leading us to a “Christmas Resurrection”.


Prose: from The Seaboard Parish by George Macdonald

The world ... is full of resurrections...
Every night that folds us up in darkness
is a death; and those of you that have
been out early, and have seen the
first of dawn, will know it -
the day rises out of the night like
a being that has burst its tomb
and escaped into life.

Music: Creator of the Stars of Night

Freshness and Light

December 9, 2021
Thursday of the Second Week in Advent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with inspired Isaiah who must have had such a beautiful mind – a mind to imagine God making a tired world new!

In our first reading, Isaiah shows us what our radiant and nourishing God can do for those who live in darkness, destitution and fear. (Once we get past the unfortunate metaphor of being called a worm!)

I will open up rivers on the bare heights,
    and fountains in the broad valleys;
I will turn the desert into a marshland,
    and the dry ground into springs of water.
I will plant in the desert the cedar,
    acacia, myrtle, and olive;
I will set in the wasteland the cypress,
    together with the plane tree and the pine,
That all may see and know,
    observe and understand,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
    the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Isaiah 41:18-20

Psalm 145 reminds that God is with us – on our side – in both Advent and our Life Journey.


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

We all have parched and painful situations, unanswered hopes, lingering fears.  Let us bring them out of the shadows today and open them to the refreshing grace of God who made the stars to give us hope.

Jupiter Over the Motherhouse

Poetry:

Music: Fiona Joy Hawkins – Blue Dream

Delighted by Hope

December 6, 2021
Monday of the Second Week of Advent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Advent readings increase in joyously expectant tone. They offer us wonderful images for our hope! 

1. Our First Reading – A Blossoming Desert

Isaiah’s exultant description of the Peaceful Kingdom

2. Our Psalm – An Expectant Heart

the Psamist’s confidence in God’s intervention

3. Our Gospel – A Merciful, Rule-Breaking Savior!

Jesus’s miracle, and probable delight, for the paralyzed man lowered through the roof!
(Here is Mark’s version of the same incident as in Luke today.)

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. I remember with delight how my toddler nieces, nephew, and grands responded to their first snow! It’s a wonder that makes us want to be young again and eager for what may seem otherwise incredible.

May we open our hearts
with innocent hope toward God’s promise
that we are loved beyond our wildest dreams
– by a God Who will redeem us!

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 in the desert – (or icy white magic from the sky!)


Poetry: Snow by Gillian Clarke 

The dreamed Christmas,
flakes shaken out of silences so far
and starry we can’t sleep for listening
for papery rustles out there in the night
and wake to find our ceiling glimmering,
the day a psaltery of light.

So we’re out over the snow fields
before it’s all seen off with a salt-lick
of Atlantic air, then home at dusk, snow-blind
from following chains of fox and crow and hare,
to a fire, a roasting bird, a ringing phone,
and voices wondering where we are.

A day foretold by images
of glassy pond, peasant and snowy roof
over the holy child iconed in gold.
Or women shawled against the goosedown air
pleading with soldiers at a shifting frontier
in the snows of television,

while in the secret dark a fresh snow falls
filling our tracks with stars.


Music: Winter Snow Song – Audrey Assad

[Verse 1]
Could’ve come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could’ve come like a forest fire
With the power of Heaven in Your flame

[Chorus]
(But) You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

[Verse 2]
Oh You could’ve swept in like a tidal wave
Or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
To wipe away the things that we’ve scarred

[Chorus]
(But) You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

[Bridge]
Ooh no, Your voice wasn’t in a bush burning
No, Your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind
It was still, it was small, it was hidden

[Chorus]
(But) You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

[Outro]
Falling, oh yeah, to the earth below
You came falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below

In a very little while …

December 3, 2021
Friday of the First Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Francis Xavier

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we stand with Isaiah on the rim of hope. We wait, trusting that “in a very little while”, the Lord will make Creation whole.

It’s a precipitous place, this cliff called “Hope”. It requires that we risk ourselves solely on the promises of a God we cannot see. It invites us to leap into a mist we cannot control.

Or can we?


In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites the blind men to the cliff’s edge by asking them:

Do you believe that I can do this?

Well, that’s everything, isn’t it? If our answer is “No”, “Maybe”, or “Kinda’”, we might as well just lie down on this side of the Promise.

But if our answer is brave, like the Gospel blind ones, we too may have our vision cleared to see that there is no leap required. We already stand beside God.

When his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy;
they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Isaiah 29:23


Poetry:Hope – Lisel Mueller

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: Amazing Grace sung by Il Divo

The Eternal Song

December 2, 2021
Thursday of the First Week of Advent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah promises the people that they will sing a song in the land of Judah.  It will be a song that celebrates confidence in God, justice, enduring faith, peace and trust.


Do you ever sing to God when your heart is filled like that? I don’t mean Church-singing or words somebody else wrote. 

I mean that sweet, indecipherable whisper a mother breathes over her child, or the mix of a hundred half-remembered melodies we hum when we are lost in the fullness of our lives.

And I don’t just mean the happy songs.

I mean the songs of loss and longing, awe and wonderment at life’s astounding turns. I mean even the sounds of silence when the refrain within us cannot be spoken.

When your heart is really stuck, unable to find the words to express the depth of your joy, longing or sorrow, try singing to God like that. So many times, I have done this while out on a solitary walk, or sitting by the water’s edge, or even driving on an open road. Sometimes, God even sings back!


Isaiah’s people were able to sing their song because they held on to faith and acted in justice. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that this must be the way of our prayer too. He says that simply saying, “Lord, Lord” won’t cut it!

Real prayer is not just words. It is a life given to hearing God’s Word and acting on it. Real prayer is about always singing our lives in rhythm with the infinite, merciful melody of God.


Poetry: Every Riven Thing ~ Christian Wiman

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.


Music: Bless the Lord, My Soul – Matt Redman

The Last Day

November 27, 2021
Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we come – FINALLY – to the last day in Ordinary Time. And, believe me, the readings are as daunting as their predecessors suggested they would be.

They are so daunting that I will leave you to them if you wish, but I choose to close the Liturgical Year with another story I wrote years ago.

May the story inspire you as we stand on beautiful Advent’s doorstep. Within it, may you find love, hope, tenderness, mercy and gratitude to carry with you into the new Church Year.

The Earring

Young Emma, skewered by indecision, had stared into her mother’s jewelry box. She had always loved those bejeweled earrings, a gift to her mother from her grandmother—an heirloom now, a treasure beyond price. She wanted so to wear them on this special date, but they were “hands off” and she knew it. Still, her mother at work and unaware of her desire, Emma had succumbed to temptation.


The dance had been wonderful, a whirlwind of such delight that Emma had not noticed when her left earring had brushed against her partner’s shoulder, tumbling hopelessly under the dancers’ trampling feet. Only at evening’s end, approaching her front door exhausted and dreamy, had she reached up to unclip the precious gems.


Her mother sat waiting for her in the soft lamplight, having already noticed the earrings missing from her dresser. Awaiting retribution, Emma knelt beside her mother and confessed the further sacrilege of loss. But her mother simply cupped Emma’s tearful face in her hands, whispering, “You are my jewel. Of course I forgive you.”  Though accustomed to her mother’s kindness, this act of compassion astonished Emma, filling her with an indescribable, transformative gratitude.


Like Emma, we may be astonished at the graciousness that has been given to us. We may respond by pouring out our thanks to God in a silent act of prayer.

May we also have the courage to become like our merciful God, anticipating the other’s need for our forgiveness and compassion. May we seek the strength not to harbor injury, but too release it to make room for further grace in our hearts.


Advent 2021

I am so excited about Advent – my favorite time of the Church Year! The readings are magnificent — especially lyrical, prophetic Isaiah!

Advent offers us the wonderful call “to relish expectation” – to believe in, to hope for, and to love what we cannot yet see. It is a time of blind but unshakeable trust which teaches us to live within our deep, invisible spirit.

Looking forward to being with all of you tomorrow as we begin the journey through this season of profound hope.


Poetry: I Hear the Oriole’s Always-Grieving Voice – Anna Akhmatova

I chose this poem because it captures a spirit of hope – yet unrealized, but nevertheless convinced.

I hear the oriole’s always-grieving voice,
And the rich summer’s welcome loss I hear
In the sickle’s serpentine hiss
Cutting the corn’s ear tightly pressed to ear.
And the short skirts of the slim reapers
Fly in the wind like holiday pennants,
The clash of joyful cymbals, and creeping
From under dusty lashes, the long glance.

I don’t expect love’s tender flatteries,
In premonition of some dark event,
But come, come and see this paradise
Where together we were blessed and innocent.


Music: Gracias a la Vida – Mercedes Sosa and Joan Baez ( English lyrics below.) Thanks to my friend Beth who shared this lovely song on Facebook today.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
Can perfectly distinguish black from white
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
And from within the multitude The one that I love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me an ear that, in all of its width
Records— night and day—crickets and canaries,
Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms,
And the tender voice of my beloved.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me sound and the alphabet.
With them the words that I think and declare:
“Mother,” “Friend,” “Brother” and the light shining.
The route of the soul from which comes love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me the ability to walk with my tired feet.
With them I have traversed cities and puddles
Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.
And your house, your street and your patio.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me a heart, that causes my frame to shudder,
When I see the fruit of the human mind,
When I see good so far from bad,
When I see within the clarity of your eyes…

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me laughter and it gave me longing.
With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
The two materials from which my songs are formed,
And your song, as well, which is the same song.
And everyone’s song, which is my very song.
Thanks to life

Thanks to life
Thanks to life
Thanks to life

Confident Hope

Wednesday, November 4, 2021
Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27:


Our scripture passages are all about confidence in our salvation.

Do you have that confidence?
Do you ever wonder if you’re going to get to heaven?
Maybe even worry about it a little?


If so, today’s readings are for you.

Paul tells the faithful:

For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

And Jesus, using the symbol of a lost sheep, counsels the critical Pharisees:

I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.

Key to both readings is the call to a repentant, Christian life.


Our beautiful Responsorial Psalm captures the joy of the repentant sinner, the very ones for whom Christ died. It’s a beautiful psalm. We might want to just slowly relish it in our prayer today.

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.


We might want to turn toward
the searching Shepherd of today’s Gospel
while praying this Psalm of repentance and faith.


Poetry: The Shepherd Boy Sings in the Valley of Humiliation – John Bunyan (1628–1688), a Christian writer and preacher, most famous for The Pilgrim’s Progress.

He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.

Fullness to such a burden is
That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age.


Music:  In the Land of the Living – Eric Becker

That Little Seed

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
October 26, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Psalm 126, a song of hope fulfilled:

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
    we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with rejoicing.

Then they said among the nations,
    “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
    we are glad indeed.

Psalm 126: 1-3

In our readings, we are called to be people of hope – to live in gratitude for hopes fulfilled, and to live in confidence of future blessing.


Paul blesses us with some of his most powerful words:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

Romans 8:18

How often, over the ensuing centuries, have these words uplifted and embravened a struggling heart! Paul reminds us of what he so passionately believed – that we are not here for this world alone; that we, with all Creation, are being transformed for eternal life in God.


Jesus too reminds us that our life in faith is so much bigger than we perceive. We see a tiny mustard seed, but God sees the whole tree of eternal life blossoming in us.  We see a fingertip of yeast, but God sees the whole Bread of Life rising in us.

Paul tells us to be People of Hope who do not yet expect to see the object of their hope but who, nonetheless, believe and love with all their hearts.

May we pray this today for ourselves, and for anyone burdened by suffering or hopelessness at this time in their lives.


Poetry: Hope – Czeslaw Milosz

Hope is with you when you believe
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
that sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all thing you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.
You cannot enter. But you're sure it's there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.
Some people say that we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
There are the ones who have no hope.
They think the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hand of thieves.

Music:  Living Hope – Phil Wickham