Hope

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 29, 2019

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102919.cfm

Today, in Mercy, 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.

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.

Rm8_24 Hope

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.

Music:  Living Hope – Phil Wickham

Sound the Alarm!

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we have the first of two readings from the imaginative poet-prophet Joel. Joel lived at the time of a massive locust infestation in Israel. He compares that devastation to the conquest of an invading army which can be expected if the people do not repent.

Joel2_1

If you have the time, I suggest you read the whole brief book of Joel at one time. Doing so gives a clearer picture of the prophetic cadence Joel employs. It is repeated by most prophets and it goes like this:

  • Hey folks, things are a mess!
  • Guess what, they’re gonna’ get worse.
  • Besides that, it’s your own fault.
  • So wake up and repent.
  • But don’t worry because God still loves us.
  • God wants to and will make things better.
  • Motivate yourself by that hope.
  • And anyway, we’re all just waiting for that great and final day.
  • So praise God by your righteous life.

Oh, but gloriously literate Joel delivers this message with such passionate turns of phrase! Let yourself relish one of two of these startlers from today’s passage.

Listen for how they speak to your heart in the current circumstances of our world:

  • Gird yourself in sorrow
  • Spend the night in scratchy haircloth
  • The Day of the Lord comes as ruin from the Almighty
  • a day of darkness and of gloom,
  • a day of clouds and somberness
  • The enemy is numerous and mighty
  • Their like has never been seen before

You might say, “Gee, I’m not really feeling all that bad, and the sun’s out where I live!” 

Well, try reading the phrase as if you lived in Kurdish Syria, or war-torn Yemen. Hear the prophet’s warning as an immigrant fleeing your country, or a democracy-seeker in Hong Kong. Listen to this word of God as a person without a home, or food, or healthcare might hear it.

In many ways, things are a mess! What are we called to by today’s reading? What is the warning and the hope within it to impel us toward a more just and merciful life?

Music: Deep Within – David Haas

Write It Down with Your Life!

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 6, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy,  our readings combine to offer us a powerful message: we are the translators of God’s Word for our time. Our choices and actions for justice and mercy make the vision “readable” – visible for our sisters and brothers.

Hab2_2 vision

Habakkuk starts our challenge. He is in a bit of a struggle with God, asking repeatedly how long God is going to allow the people to suffer. ( I have had similar conversations with God, especially during these charged political times).

In so many words, God tells Habakkuk to look to his faith – his vision through God’s eyes. God sees that “the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” God tells him to “write the vision down”, to make it apparent in his own choices and actions for justice and mercy. In other words, Habakkuk, I’ve done what I am going to do. The rest is up to you, Buddy!

In a similar way, Paul reminds Timothy to “stir up the flame” – the gift of God given at his profession of faith. Paul reminds Timothy that, by grace, he knows what is right and just. He must not be chicken about living and speaking that Truth – to write the vision down by his choices and actions for justice and mercy.

In our Gospel, the disciples seem to want their faith increased because the commitment to witness is scary. They think they might feel a little better about it all if their faith consoled them more. But “writing the vision with our lives” takes guts, and the disciples seem a little lacking in today’s reading.

Jesus tells them to buck up. They are blessed to serve the Word of God by the witness of their lives. It won’t always feel good, safe or successful. Still they, and we, must unfailingly write the vision down by our choices and actions for justice and mercy, because even …

When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.

Jesus calls it like it is today. We are blessed to be God’s translators. We have an undeniable call to live God’s just and merciful vision. No excuses. Get it together. Keep the pencil sharp. No asking God when He’s going to make things better. The legible  (just and merciful) translation depends on us!

Music: The Vision – Patrick Love

Joys and Sorrows Mingled

Saturday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 28, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we begin a few weeks of readings from the minor prophets – Zechariah being today’s writer.  We also continue with Luke’s Gospel which will take us through to the season of Advent.

The combination of readings today brought to my mind a treasured and bittersweet quote from our beloved founder:

catherine_joys

Zechariah writes for a community with a foot in both worlds – joys and sorrows. They are freed from captivity but burdened with its harsh memory. They have committed in hope to the rebuilding of the temple, but they are filled with doubts about their ability to deliver. They have a plan for their restoration, but realize that God’s plan is beyond their imagination. They see a protected, walled-in future. God sees a “Jerusalem” without walls, circled only by the fire of God’s love.

Zechariah tells them to let go and fall into God’s Imagination, no matter how scary that might be for them:

People will live in Jerusalem as though in open country,
because of the multitude of men and beasts in her midst.
But I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the LORD,
and I will be the glory in her midst.

In our Gospel, Jesus has begun to gently hint that the disciples’ future may not be as they would like to imagine. At this point in the Gospel story, joys are running pretty high- lots of miracles, crowds growing, the awesomeness of the Transfiguration still lighting up their dreams.

But Jesus drops a little reality, a little sorrow into the mix:

Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.

The disciples don’t fully comprehend the warning. It is too much for them to take. We understand, don’t we? Is there anything harder to swallow than sorrow, loss, the crash of a bright dream?

Remembering Zechariah ‘s words may strengthen us when the mix of sorrow seems too much for us:

But I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the LORD,
and I will be the glory in her midst. …
Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.

Music: Where Joy and Sorrow Meet – Ultimate Tracks

Big Prayers

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

September 5, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Jesus and Paul teach us how to pray for one another.

I like to call it “gifting prayer” because it is, indeed, a generous offering we give to others.


Little Prayers

little prayers

I sometimes pray for simple things – that a family member wins the lottery, or it doesn’t rain on a friend’s wedding.

And I pray for consequential things – improved health for a neighbor, safety for travelers, deliverance from disaster.

These prayers are rooted in the wish for material improvement. But there is a deeper kind of prayer that we can offer.


The Big Prayer

Gifting Prayer is a wide halo of love and hope we generate
by our desire for someone else’s eternal good – for their holiness.

This kind of prayer is much bigger than the small prayers we say for others. 

Paul describes what such prayer should ask for – that our beloved:

  • be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
  • gain all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • be fully pleasing, in every good work 
  • bear fruit and grow in the knowledge of God,
  • be strengthened with all endurance and patience,
  • and give thanks, with joy, to the Father for the gift of faith

Now THAT’S a prayer!


Gospel Clues

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, gives us a clue about how to pray such a prayer. He says that it’s kind of like catching fish. The Gospel fishermen have labored all night with no results. Sometimes our prayer feels like that, doesn’t it?

Lk5_4 nets

Jesus says no matter. Keep on fishing – keep on praying. Shift perspective a little bit “to the other side of the boat” – to God’s way of seeing good for those we pray for.

Ask for God to do what God deems best. This attitude in prayer opens us to divine possibilities. It hopefully brings unimagined resolutions to those we pray for.

Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch…
…When they had done this, they caught so great a number of fish
that their nets were bursting.

Let God burst the tight net by which we might define our prayer. Let’s be amazed by all that God desires to give us beyond our small wishes.

Music: Trust His Heart – Babbie Mason

The Chandelier

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

September 2, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy,  our scriptures may lead us to think about where we have come from and where we are going.

Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord,
that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord,
will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.

My reflection on this passage will be rather personal today. I hope you don’t mind.

As I write, I am blessed to be sitting in a beautiful breeze at our community’s vacation house. It couldn’t be a more lovely day.

1 Th4_17 chandelier

While I pray about these scriptures, a simple chandelier over our dining room table sways in the soft wind. Under its corona, I can’t help remembering all the friends who, over many years, have shared a meal and enjoyed past summer days here.

What an indescribable blessing it is to live in community with holy, joyful and loving women! 

Many of them, over these present days, drop in for a cup of home made soup or a glass of wine. We love one another, and we are entwined in each other’s journey to God. We inspire one another by our radical embrace of the Gospel, and our longing to give even more for God. What a comforting, sturdy, and supportive fabric we weave to enfold one another!

The chandelier rhythmically dances, like a fragrant censor over a sacred table. I remember with immense gratitude those beloved Sisters, now gone, who have blessed my life here at this refreshing seaside. Their names surround me in a grateful litany: Kitty, Marie, Fidelis, Jodi, Maureen, Suzanne, Ronnie, Janet, Giovanni, Mary Joan …

Others too who have sat at this table – not Sisters only, but family in faith, love and ministry bless me as I let the Holy Spirit of the waning summer waft over me.

We have shared crabs and meatballs, tears and laughter, prayer and politics, movies and ball games, hope and a holy, honest ember that warms the soul.

My dear Sisters, as you read this, you will have your own Sea Isle litanies to pray. Are we not indescribably blessed in one another!

Others of you, my dear readers, you will let you own loving list write itself across your heart as you pray.

A family is an eternal line between God and the generations, clear and stable.

A community is a wider path, rich in differences and, because of them, profound in its gifts.

In an interesting reversal, this holiday has come to be more about leisure than labor. And it is at leisure where we are most easily blessed by the joy, sincerity, trust and love of our families, friends, and communities.

Let us thank God for them today, remembering the past, cherishing the present, trusting the future.

Happy Labor Day!

Music: Sea Breeze – Keiko Matsui 

God’s Thank You Note

Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

August 26, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we begin eight days of Thessalonians, coupled with the final section of Matthew’s Gospel before the Passion, Death and Resurrection narrative.

First Thessalonians is a love note, a thank you note. In it, Paul speaks to the community with great affection and gratitude because they have caught fire with the Gospel he shared with them.

Paul’s words carry the loving, grateful voice of God to us who also try, with all our hearts, to give ourselves to the Gospel.

1 Thes 1:5 Thank You

In today’s Gospel, Matthew gives us the sad counterpoint to Paul’s joy. Jesus thunders woe over the Pharisees who, unlike the Thessalonians, smother the ardent message he offers them.

They bind. They control. They peddle a religion rooted in parsimonious law rather than generous freedom. They promote a system that sustains their privilege.

Jesus tells us that Pharisaical religion sucks the soul from people, binding them in a self-serving, spiritless law – where power and material prosperity supersede truth, loving community, and sincere worship.

In Paul’s words, God blesses and thanks us for our true faith which – by generosity, hope, love, sacrifice and hopeful endurance – builds the Community of God.

Throughout history, some people have used the scripture to justify the kind of pharisaical selfishness bewailed in today’s Gospel. They isolate and demonize other human beings by the deceitful turning of the holy Word. They are clever and convincing. They appeal to our rationality rather than our souls.

Today’s readings remind us to take great care in discerning the Spirit. We will never find Her where there is no love, mercy, kindness, freedom, forgiveness, and joy.

Music: one of my favorite hymns. Though from Ephesians, it carries the same message as our reading from Thessalonians today. I pray this prayer for all of you, dear friends.

Ephesians 1 – by Suzanne Toolan, RSM

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In him we were chosen to live through love in his light.
That is why I never cease to give thanks to God for you.
And pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ
will grant you the Spirit of wisdom
and knowledge of himself
that you may  glory, glory in his goodness.

How Do You Know Me?

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Apostle Bartholomew, thought by some to be the same man as our Gospel’s Nathaniel. This Nathaniel has been my prayer companion since 1964 when I received his name at my Religious Reception.

Tissot
Nathaniel Under the Fig Tree by James Tissot (1836-1902)

At first we were surface friends. I imagined what he might have been doing under the fig tree. I was a little shocked at his easy banter with Jesus. I thought about his skepticism, trying to discern how it could eventually yield his sanctity. I wondered if he ever achieved that vision of “angels of God ascending and descending ...”

But as the years passed, and I prayed beside him more often, we came to understand each other better. Nathaniel began to teach me about Jesus and, with that, Jesus began to teach me through Nathaniel.

It was all about being honest with God and opening my perspective to God’s vision.

You see, we are all under various “fig trees” at points in our lives, those small but confining perimeters of shadow which veil God. Sometimes the shadow consists of an event or experience that makes us says, “How can God possibly be in this?” Sometimes the shadow comes from all the obstacles we have placed in Light’s way. Sometimes it is simply the waning energy required by faith’s long journey.

Whatever its source, the shadow captures us in its incarcerating grasp, isolating us from the outrageous hope and possibility of God awaiting us in every circumstance.

Then a voice – our particular “Philip” – suggests we just step away from the umbra.  A person, a book, a memory, a prayerful insight – A GRACE – invites us to “Come and see” more deeply, to let go of all that we thought secured us, to yield to hope, trust, and an incredible new vision.

Jn1_51 NathanielJPG

It is an irreversible moment of unconditional love. It is the moment we make our own proclamation, not unlike Nathaniel’s:

Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.

Nathaniel’s guileless, faith-filled surrender to Jesus opens the way for his transformation. Jesus tells him, “You will see greater things…”. In other words,

God is so much bigger than you think at this moment.
Open your heart and soul to that Infinity!
Your life in Christ is all about going deeper,

(as the Angel invites us in our first reading from Revelation).

We don’t hear much about Nathaniel after that day. Like many of the other Apostles, he lived out his ministry beyond written records. But we can trust that this man “without duplicity” deepened in his honest dialogue with the God he met and embraced on that amazing Judean afternoon.

Music: Touch of Heaven- Hillsong Worship

Wherever … with Love

Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

August 23, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, I thank God that we have gotten to the Book of Ruth. The wars and subterfuges of the Judges we’re sorely testing me!😂 But the beautiful story of Ruth and Naomi, familiar and beloved, offers us a more spontaneous inspiration for prayer.

Naomi’s husband and only two sons have died. Her only remaining family are her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpha. Naomi, resigning herself to a lonely death, urges these two young women to return to their kinsmen and begin new lives. Orpha acquiesces. 

Naomi RuthJPG
Ruth Swearing Allegiance to Naomi by Jans Victor (1619-1676)

But Ruth abides. Together, she and her mother-in-law return to Bethlehem, Naomi’s homeland. There, by her humble and steadfast work to support Naomi, Ruth attracts the love and admiration of Boaz, whom she eventually marries.

On the surface, and appropriately, we may read the story to be about Naomi and Ruth, their response to devastating bereavement, and their ultimate, fruitful devotion to each other.

However, on a deeper level, we may see Naomi as a symbol of suffering and need, and Ruth as an icon of God. In that manner of reading:

  • God suffers our diminishments with us
  • God refuses to abandon us 
  • God accompanies us to a new understanding of ourselves
  • God works to feed our poverty of mind, heart and spirit
  • God brings our brokenness to wholeness by loving fidelity to us

What a different kind of message from Judges the Book of Ruth brings us – a tender and merciful God more like the God of the Gospel. Although the author of the Book of Ruth is unknown, some think – because of the tone and characters – that it was written by a woman. I like that thought.

May our prayer today take us to the place where God abides with us in any suffering or spiritual longing we hold. May God’s faithful companionship heal and transform us. May God’s song of fidelity thrill, delight and sustain us. May we return it with generosity and joy.

Music: Covenant Song – Rory Cooney and Gary Daigle (Lyrics below)

Wherever you go, I will follow, Wherever you live is my home.
Though days be of blessing or sorrow, though house be of canvas or stone,
Though Eden be lost to the past, though mountains before us be vast,
Wherever you go, I am with you. I never will leave you alone.

Whatever you dream, I am with you, when stars call your name in the night
Though shadows and mist cloud the future,
together we bear there a light.
Like Abram and Sarah we stand, with only a promise in hand.
But lead where you dream: I will follow. To dream with you is my delight.

And though you should fall, you will find me, when no other friend can you claim,
when foes beat you down or betray you, and others desert you in shame.
When home and dreams aren’t enough, and you run away from my love,
I’ll raise you from where you have fallen. Faithful to you is my name.

Wherever you die, I will be there to sing you to sleep with a psalm,
to soothe you with tales our journey, your fears and your doubts I will calm.
We’ll live when journeys are done forever in mem’ry as one.
And we will be buried together, and awaken to greet a new dawn.

Wherever you go, I will follow. Behold! The horizon shines clear.
The possible gleams like a city: together we’ve nothing to fear.
So speak with words bold and true the message my heart speaks to you.
You won’t be alone, I have promised. Wherever you go, I am here.

Bearer of Hope

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 11, 2019

Click here for readings

Hebrews11_1 Fith_hope

Today, in Mercy, we have a few slightly complex readings. But, as with all Sunday lectionary choices, they are strung together by a single theme. 

Upon first reading, we might think that theme is FAITH since the word is mentioned at least eight times. And, indeed, “faith” is the foundation of these readings – the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Desert Jews, the disciples, and the new Christian community. 

It is the testimony of this ancient and enduring faith that encourages us to be ready, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

This phrase of Jesus reveals another, deeper, theme: courageous hope.

How awesome that God, in covenant with God’s People, could keep alive – for 400 years- the hope of salvation! How miraculous that these ordinary farmers, milkmaids, herdsman, and shepherds could sustain their hope through numerous generations!

Today’s readings are sending us this message:


Be courageous!
You are the Bearer of Hope
to this generation!


It may seem in our world, and in our individual lives, that God tarries beyond tolerance in answering our hope – for peace, civility, equality, security, goodness.  But we must remember that with God there is no time. God is already responding within the long fidelity of our hope. (Our clocks and Apple watches just are obscuring our view. 😉)

That faithful hope creates the space for charity. And charity is the human face of Divine Love already Abiding.

Faith, Hope, and Charity – the theological virtues (Remember that from your Baltimore Catechism?). 

Virtues
The Theological and Cardinal Virtues with Wisdom: Hope, Faith, Charity, Fortitude, Temperance, Liberality, Justice and Sapientia by Maarten de Vos (1532-1603)

These virtues are the foundation of the spiritual life. Contemporary theology ties these irrevocably to the virtue of justice – the seeking of right relationship in all Creation.

Anselm Min, Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University, has edited a powerful book on this subject. (Unfortunately, now out print and thus hugely expensive). One reviewer of the book, Lameck Banda, Professor at Justo Mwale University in Lusaka, Zambia, offers this insight into Min’s collection:

“The running thread throughout this book is that, whichever way the contemporary culture may seek to view and treat faith, hope, and love, the ultimate goal of these virtues is to radically and comprehensively address issues which tend to undermine the agenda of justice.”

That summary in itself gave me a lot to think and pray about. I hope it inspires you as well. God bless your Sunday!

Rohr

Music: Hymn of Hope from The Secret Garden by Rolf Lovland