Holy Saturday

 Alternative Reading for Today: Walter Brueggemann

Holy Saturday

Today, in Mercy, we join Mary and the disciples as they deal with Christ’s death. No doubt, the range of emotions among them was as great as it would be among any group or family losing someone they dearly loved.

They had entered, with heart-wrenching drama, into a period of bereavement over the loss of Jesus. Doubt, hope, loss, fear, sadness and remembered joy vied for each of their hearts. They comforted one another and tried to understand each other’s handling of their terrible shared bereavement.

They did just what we all do as families, friends and communities when our beloved dies.

But ultimately, our particular bereavement belongs to us alone, woven from the many experiences we have had with the person who has died. These are personal and indescribable, as is the character of our pain and loss.

Do not be afraid of your bereavement.  It is a gift of love.

Holy Saturday, like bereavement, is a time of infrangible silence. No matter how many “whys” we throw heavenward, no answer comes. It is a time to test what Love has meant to us and, even as it seems to leave us, how it will live in us.

As we pray today with the bereaved Mother and disciples, let us fold all our bereavements into their love.  We already know the joyful end to the story, so let us pray today with honesty but also with unconquerable hope that we will live and love again.

Separately, I will send two poems today that I hope may help with your prayer.

Music:  Farewell – Michael Hoppé

 

Fearful Tuesday

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, as Holy Week deepens, so does confusion, fear, and even betrayal among Christ’s disciples.

fearful tuesday

In today’s Gospel, we see Judas turn from his own truth to a disastrous treachery.

We see John and Peter full of questions, confused by the turn of events. Jesus foretells the impending denial by Peter, his chosen successor.

The great trials of Christ’s Passion and Death emerge from the shadows of rumor and deception. Jesus makes it clear that the end is near.

As we read the passage, we can feel the fear mounting in everyone but Jesus. In him, we see see Isaiah’s description strengthening- the Lord’s Glorious Servant rising as the Light of Nations.

Fear destroys while trust and hope liberate.

Praying with this Gospel this morning, I remember the face of a woman I had seen on the evening news. At a contentious political rally, she was loudly shouting her preference to live under a dictator rather than live in a country “full of filthy immigrants”. She thought her raging made her strong. But I saw a person filled with ignorance and fear.

I can’t forget her face. It so saddened me to see the child of a beautiful God so distorted by weakness, prejudice and fear. She could no longer see the face of God in another human being. I think hers would have been the face I saw on Judas, had I met him as he left the Last Supper.

Fear is a disfiguring disease. It seeps into our heart and mind to blind and deafen us to God’s power in our life. It cripples our graced potential. It eventually kills the “glorious servant” we too have been called to become.

Paula D’Arcy says this:

Who would I be,
and what power
would be expressed in my life,
if I were not dominated by fear?

It’s a powerful question.

How does fear keep me:

  • from loving?
  • from hoping?
  • from believing?
  • from giving?
  • from receiving?

Today’s Responsorial Psalm, filled with beautiful phrases, offers us a heartfelt prayer as we place our fears in God’s hands:

R. I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge,

a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
For you are my hope, O LORD;

my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
My mouth shall declare your justice,

day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

Music:  Where Feet May Fail – Hillsong

God’s Loving Promises

Friday, March 29, 2019

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Hosea14

Today, in Mercy, Hosea, the composer of passionate love songs, tells us this:

I will heal your weaknesses, says the LORD,
I will love you freely;
for my wrath is turned away.
I will be like the dew for you:
you shall blossom like the lily;
You shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth your shoots.
Your splendor shall be like the olive tree
and your fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again you shall dwell in the shade
and raise grain;
You shall blossom like the vine,
and your fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

The passage sings of new life, strength, vigor – the hope of Easter! Today as we pray, what withering branches in our lives do we wish to place in the warmth of this promise?

Mc 12,28-34 e
You are not far from the kingdom of God

In our Gospel, the good scribe asks for Jesus’s confirmation that he is on the right track to holiness. Jesus blesses him by saying:

You are not far from the kingdom of God

God is so good to us. Let us ask God’s generous help as we seek to grow in holiness, goodness and peace this Lent, so that we may be blessed by the same promises.

Music: Good to Me – Audrey Assad 

Skies Darken for Jesus

Friday, March 22, 2019

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Agnus Dei

Today, in Mercy, we begin with the powerful and moving story of Joseph – sweet, innocent son of of Jacob who was betrayed by his brothers. Jacob sends Joseph to work with his brothers, believing they love him. He was wrong.

Our Gospel then tells the story of the frustrated landowner who sent his son on mission to settle his accounts. though the landowner’s servants had been abused by the tenants, he believed his son would be respected. He was wrong.

Both these stories are prototypes of the Father sending Jesus to redeem us. The intention is the same. The hope is the same. Unfortunately, the result is the same.

In our Gospel, Jesus realizes that the Father’s hope for him will not be met with openness and acceptance. He sees the Pharisees milling around in hateful conversation.  Referencing the parable, Jesus says:

“The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for the crowds regarded him as a prophet.

This morning, let’s pray for all those who send their beloveds out in hope to do good in the world:

  • for police officers, firefighters, first responders whose families send them out each day always fearing for their safety
  • for medical personnel who risk sickness in their care for others
  • for missionaries and justice workers who encounter threat and danger in helping others
  • for peacekeepers and military who work to end war and tyranny
  • for all of us when we reach out in justice and courage, hoping to be received with respect and mutuality

May the example of Christ inspire and sustain us to do our part for God’s continuing redemption of the world.

Music: Agnis Dei – Michael Hoppè

Be A Rainbow

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, God blesses Noah and his children with blessings of fertility, power, and sanctity of life. All these are given to them because they are made in the image of God. God then renews the covenant with Creation, giving a rainbow as its sign.

Gen9_13 rainbow

Rainbows still bless us, allowing us to know that natural storms are over. Maya Angelou says that people can be rainbows for each other in stormy times.

Let’s pray today for all those who have offered us a rainbow in hard times. Let’s try to be that rainbow for someone in need of encouragement or support. It’s a childlike prayer, but they are sometimes the most profound.

Music: God Put a Rainbow in the Sky ~ sung here by the great “Queen of Gospel”, Miss Mahalia Jackson
(Lyrics below)

God put a rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
God put a rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky

It looked like the sun wasn’t gon’ shine no more
Oh, God put a rainbow in the sky.

When God shut Noah in the grand ol’ ark
God put a rainbow in the sky
Oh, yes, the sun grew dim and the days was dark
God put a rainbow in the sky.

Open to Hope

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, each of our readings talks, in some way, about hope and second efforts.

Gen8_6 hatch

Dear old Noah, getting cabin fever after nearly forty days with hundreds of animals, opens the hatch he has built into his ark. His action is a sign of hope. He sends a raven out to test if his hope is justified.

Alas, the raven finds no place to land.  So Noah tries a few more times by launching a dove through the hopeful hatch, until finally the dove returns with an olive leaf – the first sign of renewed Creation.

In our Gospel, even Jesus has to give his miracle a second try! The first time around, the blind man sees “walking trees”. So Jesus gives it a second shot, this time without spittle. The story is so human and so hopeful in God’s power!

These stories encourage us to pray with immovable hope for the things we need; to open the hatch of our heart and wait for the olive leaf; to trust that God will give us, in God’s own beautiful form, the perfect answer to our prayer.

Music: Beautiful Things ~ Gungor

Got Troubles? Try These!

Sunday, February  17, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, hidden in our readings, are three challenges.

Where do we put our

faith

and

hope

How do we

love

?


In our Jeremiah reading, an unfortunate person has placed faith in an untrustworthy “friend”, and the results – typical of Jeremiah – are dire. But the prophet goes on to say that the one who puts trust and faith in the Lord will flourish like a tree near running water.

Jer17_7 tree

In the reading from Corinthians, Paul has some strong words about hope:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.

That sentence is powerful! It can be a life-long meditation.

In other words, where is our hope focused? Do we hope for comfort, success, healing, peace only for this earthly life? If so, we are missing the point, Paul says. Our one true hope is to be united with God in eternal life and our choices should lead to that fulfillment.

In our Gospel, Jesus shows us how to love by placing before us the “least ones” whom he loves best. We too are to love and comfort those who are poor, hungry, bereaved and despised by the heartless.

Today’s readings invite us to look at our life. Is it blossoming with joy, grace and spiritual vitality? Or are we struggling with all the doubts, worries, dramas and depression that come from a self-absorbed life?

Maybe, like me, you sometimes look at a person carrying great difficulty in their lives and wonder at their joy. How can they maintain that trust and joy in the midst of their challenges? These readings offer an answer. They have put their faith and hope in the right place. They have learned to love like God.

Music: Faith, Hope and Love ~ David Ogden ( Lyrics below.)

Faith, hope, and love: let these remain among you.
Faith, hope, and love: the greatest of these is love.

The love of Christ has gathered us together; let us rejoice and be glad in him.
Let us fear and love the living God, and love each other from the depths of the heart.

When we are together, we should not be divided in mind;
Let there be an end to bitterness and quarrels, and in our midst be Christ our God.

In company with the blessed, may we see your face in glory,
pure and unbounded joy for ever and ever.

I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.
Faith, hope, and love, let these remain among you.
Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love.

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