So Much More Than a Holiday!

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Some of us begin this day simply grateful for a holiday. Perhaps some of us forget, or some are too young to remember, how this “holiday” came to be.

But there are some among us who are old enough to remember his actual voice; to have listened — live – on that sweltering August day in 1963 when he inspired us with the words:

I have a dream.

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There are some of us who saw him stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on that golden day, the personification of President Lincoln’s vision of justice and equality.

 There are some of us who listened and watched every step he took, every prayer he said, every challenge he met with equanimity and courage.


 There are some of us who remember the very night he told us:

I have been to the mountaintop 
and I have seen the Promised Land.
I may not get there with you.
But I want you to know that we,
as a people,
will get to the promised land.

 

There was a whole world of us who cried when he was martyred the very next day.


Monday is no mere holiday. It is the commemoration of a giant soul who changed the world forever. And he did it not in the way that many have done it throughout history — through wars and conquest.

Martin Luther King changed the world by non-violent protest, by a leadership of love, by a faith that endures beyond the assassin’s gun.

Say his name in reverence on this commemorative day. He has given all of us — no matter our color — the hope of a more human existence. If you have not had the gift of living in his time, ask your elders who remember his face, his sound, his power to tell you the story of the freedom God gave each of us.

 In his memory, and to continue to realize his dream, we might consider these 12 steps to non-violence for our own lives.


12 Steps to Non-Violence

  1. Acknowledge your powerlessness — that our lives/culture are co-opted by subversive and pervasive violence
  2. Believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to right relationship.
  3. Decide to turn our will and our lives over to that Power.
  4. Examine fearlessly our own violent inclinations.
  5. Admit to that Power, to ourselves and to another person the exact nature of our own violence.
  6. Be open to have that inclination removed.
  7. Ask to have all violence removed from our hearts and actions.
  8. List all persons to whom we have been violent by word or deed and be willing to make amends to them.
  9. Amend directly to these people wherever possible and prudent.
  10. Self-examine continuously; promptly admit recurring violence in ourselves.
  11. Seek through prayer and meditation to know the nature of Peace and Mercy.
  12. Carry the message of non-violence to others and practice it in all our interactions.

Music: “Abraham, Martin and John” is a 1968 song written by Dick Holler and sung here by Marvin Gaye. It is a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans, all icons of social change: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. It was written in response to the assassination of King and that of Robert Kennedy in April and June 1968, respectively. (Wikipedia)

The song reflects the mix of awe, hope, sorrow and disappointment the nation felt in those tumultuous times.

 

 

Mercy says, “Of course…”

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 16, 2020

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( Our Gospel today nearly repeats a passage in Luke about which I wrote last year. Being a little lazy tonight, and wanting to watch Jeopardy- GOAT, I am offering that earlier reflection to you again. Besides, I liked it.  I hope you do, dear Friends.)

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This is the Greek word for “Of course!”

Today, in Mercy, Jesus shows us how to live a merciful life – through loving, generous, joyfully responsive service.

A pitiable leper interrupts Jesus on his journey to ask for help. People like this man were scorned, feared, and isolated. Their leprosy impoverished them, making them annoying beggars. Their cries usually met with indifference at best and banishment at worst.

But when this leper poses his proposal to Jesus – “If you want to, you can heal me.” — Jesus gives the spontaneous answer of a true, merciful heart: “Of course I want to!”

There is no annoyance, no suggestion that other concerns are more important. There is just the confirmation that – Yes- this is the purpose of my life: to heal, love, show mercy toward whatever suffering is in my power to touch. There is just the clear message that “You, too, poor broken leper, are Beloved of God.”

What an example and call Jesus gives us today! We are commissioned to continue this merciful touch of Christ along the path of our own lives. When circumstances offer us the opportunity to be Mercy for another, may we too respond with enthusiasm, “Of course I want to!” May we have the eyes to see through any “leprosy” to find the Beloved of God.

Music: Compassion Hymn – Kristyn and Keith Getty

The Righteous Kingdom

Monday After Epiphany

January 6, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, John instructs us in the meaning of true righteousness. 

We human beings can get very confused about this term. Some have used it to imply that observable religious practice makes one superior, holier than others. We can all visualize the “righteous” preacher pouring fire and brimstone over the lowly congregation. The beautiful term “righteousness” has been disserved by this image.

In his first letter, John describes the root of true righteousness, that state of graceful balance within a Gospel-powered life:

Beloved:
We receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in the early stages of his public ministry. He is slowly teaching the people how different his “power” and “righteousness” will be from the worldly power they might have expected.

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Jesus’s “Kingdom” stands in stark contrast to the Roman Empire and the principles of domination, aggression and disregard for life which fed it. Jesus’s is a Kingdom built by uniting our differences, especially those of the poor and sick, into the oneness of God’s love.

Jesus went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,

curing every disease and illness among the people.
His fame spread to all of Syria,

and they brought to him
all who were sick with various diseases

and racked with pain,
those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics,
and he cured them.


Praying with these readings today brings me face to face “the elephant in the room”. In this Lavish Mercy community, we hope together for the growth of the Gospel Kingdom in a global community. But now that yet unrealized community stands at the brink of war because nations have so badly blurred the lines between the righteous Gospel Kingdom and the self-righteous Empire.

RSM statement
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas join with people across the world in condemning the Trump Administration’s drone strike assassination of Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Quds force, outside of Baghdad. Far from fostering peace in a troubled part of the world, this reckless decision will only escalate violence and increase suffering for millions of people. We call on our government to reject violence and militarism and instead to engage in the hard work of diplomacy. –Sister Patricia McDermott, RSM, president, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

It is difficult to look at the “elephant” without getting political, but I am trying hard to refrain from political opinion here. What I can say with confidence is that we as faith-impelled people cannot stay silent in the face of the world’s current situation. When our voice is heard – at the ballot box and through direct advocacy – may it reflect the fundamental Gospel imperatives for which Jesus lived and died.


These clippings from Pope Francis’s visit to Hiroshima helped me in my prayer today:

“How can we propose peace if we constantly invoke the threat of catastrophic war as a legitimate recourse for the resolution of conflicts?”

“May the abyss of pain endured here in Hiroshima remind us of boundaries that must never be crossed. A true peace can only be an unarmed peace.”

“In a single plea to God and to all men and women of good will, on behalf of all the victims of atomic bombings and experiments, and of all conflicts, let us together cry out: Never again war, never again the clash of arms, never again so much suffering,” 

“Indeed, if we really want to build a more just and secure society, we must let the weapons fall from our hands.”

Pope Francis quoted Gaudium et Spes, which states that “peace is not merely the absence of war … but must be built of ceaselessly.” He added that the lessons of history show that peace is the fruit of justice, development, solidarity, care for our common home, and promotion of the common good.

“I am convinced that peace is no more than an empty word unless it is founded on truth, built up in justice, animated and perfected by charity, and attained in freedom.”

Music: Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber

Get By with a Little Help from…

Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

January 2, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we lay aside our holiday experiences and dress once again in our ordinary dailyness. It is time to begin again, in this new year, the faithful living of our lives.

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 copyright: Photo: Wikipedia / Shakko

The Church encourages us with the celebration of two great friends, Basil and Gregory. These men are particularly venerated, with St. John Chrysostom, in the Eastern Churches, whose character they highly impacted. These tremendously influential ministers supported and inspired one another to do great things for God in a time when the faith was sorely tested.

To learn more about these great saints called the Three Hierarchs, click here.


The friendship and legacy of these iconic saints reminds us that we need one another’s support and example to stay strong in our own faith. In our first reading, John tells us the same thing.

We live in a world not unlike that of Basil, Gregory, and Chrysostom. Conflicting, and often deceitful, forces twist the faith to distort its original truth. In our world, these false perceptions are used as excuses for all kinds of evils: war, nationalism, prejudicial exclusion, and racial and economic domination.

But John the Evangelist says this in our first reading:

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you.
If what you heard from the beginning remains in you,
then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.
And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life.

Today’s Gospel shows us that even John the Baptist had to juggle thorny religious questions in order to stay focused on the core truth of Christ. The Baptist keeps this focus by his singular faith and humility:

… there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.

So today, inspired by these great saints, let us take up the call to be true humble followers of Jesus, making our faith evident by our choices for mercy, justice and love in a conflicted world.

Music: Hymn of the Cherubim- Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom 

Comfort the Lost

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

December 10, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have the exquisite “Comfort” passage from Isaiah. Our Gospel gives us Jesus tenderly seeking the single lost lamb.

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The first and last words of these two readings – COMFORT, LOST – capture the whole intent of God’s message:
Life is a maze whose walls are heightened by our incivility to one another. Isaiah calls to be a leveler of walls, a straightener of twists, a bridge over deadly valleys; Jesus calls us to seek and carry the lost sheep. They call us to be Mercy.

The US southern border is one of the many places in our world crying out for these acts of mercy. Please listen to our Sister Anne Connolly describe the cry:

 


Music: Comfort Ye from Handel’s Messiah – sung by Jerry Hadley

As we pray this glorious music today, let us ask for the strength and courage to be Mercy for the world, to find the ways to comfort God’s people, close by and at life’s borders.

The Banquet

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

December 4, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings take us to the Lord’s banquet. It is a rich image that threads through scripture and helps us understand what characterizes the perfect reign of God.

The readings, coming just on the heels of Thanksgiving, present familiar images to us. You may have been part of the preparation of the feast for your family and friends. Maybe you’re the master carver, or brought sides of old family recipes. Or you might be the table decorator or, most important, the clean-up guru!

Or maybe you were the one who steered the conversation so that all felt welcomed and included in the gathering. Maybe you were the one who took someone aside if they needed an extra portion of care. Maybe you were the one who invited someone with no other place to go.

That Thanksgiving meal, and every meal, can be a symbol of the heavenly banquet.


 

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Isaiah’s banquet is all elegance and fullness. He describes an end-time when, despite a path through suffering, all is brought to perfection in God:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.


IMG_1628Jesus’s feast in more “now”, and more rustic. He takes the ordinary stuff of present life and transforms it to satisfy the needs of those gathered. With sparse and simple ingredients, Jesus creates the “miracle meal” for the poor and hungry.

He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied. 

Christ’s presence with us in the Eucharist is both kinds of meal.

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  • It points us to the perfection of heaven, where the “web” will be lifted from our eyes and we will see ourselves as one in Christ.
  • It calls us to be Christ for one another in this world – creating miracles of love and mercy so that all are adequately fed, in body and soul, for the journey we share.

Music:  Banquet- Graham Kendrick (Lyrics below)

There’s no banquet so rich
As the bread and the wine
No table more holy
No welcome so kind
There’s no mercy so wide
As the arms of the cross
Come and taste, come and see
Come find and be found

There’s no banquet so rich
For what feast could compare
With the body of Jesus
Blessed, broken and shared?
Here is grace to forgive
Here is blood that atoned
Come and taste, come and see
Come know and be known

Take the bread, drink the wine
And remember His sacrifice
There’s no banquet so rich
As the feast we will share
When God gathers the nations
And dines with us here
When death’s shadow is gone
Every tear wiped away
Come and eat, come and drink
Come welcome that day

There’s no banquet so rich
For our Saviour we find
Present here in the mystery
Of these humble signs
Cleansed, renewed, reconciled
Let us go out as one
Live in love, and proclaim
His death till he comes

The Hearings

Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

November 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, as the first public impeachment hearings begin, our readings seem eerily in synch with current events.

First of all, the hearings begin on the date we celebrate Frances Xavier Cabrini, first naturalized citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. 

As I write about her, the US Supreme Court opens the DACA hearings, testing three cases against the Trump administration’s decision in 2017 to end deportation protections for so-called Dreamers. The Court will decide whether the decision to end the program was based on legally sound reasons.
(The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants deferral from deportation and work permits to nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children.)

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Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom is crystal clear about the moral responsibilities of leaders to act with justice tempered by mercy, and always to exhibit special concern for the poor and marginalized.

Using these scripture verses, Pope Leo XIII wrote two of his many compelling encyclicals. His writings, and the entire legacy of Catholic Social teaching, guide us as we discern who, how, and why to use our voting power to advance justice for all people.

The following excerpts, though a little long, are well worth our attention to provide a foundation for our prayer during these strained partisan times. Perhaps we might pray them in short doses over the course of these hearings.

from: Encyclical Letter Immortale Dei, Pope Leo XIII

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They, therefore, who rule should rule
with evenhanded justice, not as masters,
but rather as parents,
for the rule of God over humanity is most just,
and is tempered always with a parent’s kindness.

Government should, moreover, be administered
for the well-being of the citizens,
because they who govern others possess authority
solely for the welfare of the State.
Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to
the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons,
inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all. 

But, if those who are in authority rule unjustly,
if they govern overbearingly or arrogantly,
and if their measures prove hurtful to the people,
they must remember that the Almighty
will one day bring them to account,
the more strictly in proportion to the sacredness of their office
and preeminence of their dignity.


Diurturnum

from: Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII, Diuturnum

But in order that justice may be retained in government,
it is of the highest importance that those who rule States
should understand that political power
was not created for the advantage of any private individual;
and that the administration of the State
must be carried on to the profit of those
who have been committed to their care,
not to the profit of those to whom it has been committed. 

On this account
they are warned in the oracles of the sacred Scriptures,
that they will have themselves some day to render an account
to the King of kings and Lord of lords;
if they shall fail in their duty,
that it will not be possible for them in any way
to escape the severity of God:
“The Most High will examine your work
and search out your thoughts:
because being ministers of his kingdom
you have not judged rightly…
Horribly and speedily will he appear to you,
for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule…
For God will not accept any man’s person,
neither will he stand in awe of any man’s greatness;
for he made the little and the great,
and he hath equally care of all.
But a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty”


Music: O Lord, the Clouds Are Gathering – Graham Kendrick

With Honor, Prevent One Another

Tuesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

November 5, 2019

Readings: Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, Paul gives us one of his most heartfelt and beautiful passages, and Jesus offers us a puzzling parable about the kingdom.

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Paul’s exhortation to sincere holiness is a passage that warrants frequent reading. At any given point in our lives, one or another of its encouragements will seem to ring profoundly true with our circumstances.

One of the lines that I particularly cherish goes like this in the old Douay-Rheims version, which is where I first encountered it as a young girl:

Love one another with fraternal charity:
with honor preventing one another.

The bolded phrase fascinated me. I didn’t understand what it meant. From what were we to prevent one another?

It was not until I came to the convent that I begin to discern the power of this verse. At the time (during the Dark Ages, of course), the Sisters lived under the 1952 Constitutions of the Sisters of Mercy, an adaptation of the ancient Rule of St. Augustine. As postulants, we each received a 4×6, 128 page copy of the Rule. In direct and intentional language, it set the frame for our whole lives.

I nearly memorized it, especially Chapter 14 on Union and Charity. Right in the middle of the Chapter, I found this precious line:

They (the Sisters) shall sincerely respect one another. The young shall reverence the old and all shall unceasingly try in true humility to promote constant mutual cordiality and deference, “with honor preventing one another”.

Sister Inez, our dear early instructor, explained that this meant to anticipate the needs of our beloved sisters, especially the elderly; to do for them what might be difficult for them before they had to ask. In other words, to prevent their need. She said that this anticipatory charity should mark our service toward everyone, especially the poor, sick and ignorant whom we would vow to serve.

The more all of us can live together with this mutual love and respect, the closer we come to the kingdom of God, to the banquet table described in today’s Gospel. Jesus came to gather us all around this table. Pity on those who resist his invitation because their lives are entangled in self-interested endeavors. Their places are taken by “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” and all those on the margins of society.

As we join our sisters and brothers at the banquet of life, may we love and serve one another sincerely, always with honor preventing one another.

Music: a little motion mantra this morning. Maybe you might want to get up outta’ that chair and join in🤗

You’re Invited – (and so is everyone else)

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 1, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings share the common theme of humility, instructing us that the virtue is essential to our salvation.

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Humility, of course, gets a bad rap in our dominating, “me” culture. We tend to think of humiliation, servitude, inelegance rather than the actual root of the word: humus -“of the earth”.

I was fascinated last week by a small fracas arising from the unconsidered remarks of one of our Phillies baseball players. The team has been running hot and cold – with a little bit too much cold for some fans. The famous Philly “boos” have been flying. Frustrated with these, outfielder Sean Rodriguez referred to the disgruntled fans as “entitled”. 

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Uh oh! They didn’t like that. We prefer to think of ourselves as “deserving “, right?

Humility is that virtue which helps us realize that we are not “entitled” or “deserving” of anything over and above other human beings. It roots us in the respect for each other that refuses to rank the worth of other human beings. 

The social leverage that comes from wealth, power, and influence can beguile us. We become lost in a maze of stereotypes, rankings and prejudices which are the foundation of social injustice.

 

We hear among ourselves justifying phrases for our entitlement like:

  • well, I earned what I have
  • at least I paid for it
  • “they” need to work if they want to have …(food, healthcare, housing…)
  • it’s their own fault for … (dropping out of school, taking drugs, ….)
  • that’s just the way it is in “those” countries. The people are …(lazy, stupid, violent …)
  • “they” don’t need what I need. “They” are used to being … (poor, disabled, sick …)

And probably the most dangerous of all the phrases:

  • it’s not my problem
  • I’m not the one exiling, bombing, blocking, trafficking, enslaving “them”

Today’s readings enjoin us: it is my problem. My attitude, choices, vote, conversation, and lifestyle matter at the banquet of life we are all meant to share.

My intention to humbly join and rejoice with all Creation, to take a seat beside and never above my sister and brother – this is my “entitlement” to the one banquet that matters.

When you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Music:  A Place at the Table – Lori True and Shirley Elena Murray

Wide Mercy

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

August 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  in our reading from Judges, we meet two guys who are polar opposites of each other: Jotham and Abimelech.

Jotham was the youngest of the 70 sons of Gideon (yes, 70 – not a typo. Makes one think of The King and I.) Abimelech is his half-brother, son of Gideon’s Shechemite concubine.

To put the story in a nutshell, Jotham is the goodie and Abimelech is the baddie. Abimelech, lusting to be king, engages his Shechemite family to kill the 70 sons of Gideon. Only Jotham survives. So in our reading, Jotham  prophesies by parable, warning the people that they have made a serious mistake in allowing Abimelech to grasp the kingship.

Praying with this reading, we may realize that some things never change. Human beings still jockey for political power and economic domination. Nations still slaughter and suppress other nations in that pursuit. Some leaders still commandeer control by deception and pretense. The voting populace still allows itself to be hoodwinked by tyrants in disguise.

Jotham doesn’t accept the old adage that religion and politics don’t mix (or however they may have phrased it in his day). He says true leadership must grow from the good faith of both leaders and followers. He says, in parable form, that leaders must be willing to set their own pursuits aside for the good of the people. Otherwise, an avaricious fire burns up the heart of the people.

The landowner in Matthew’s Gospel is a leader in the pattern of God. He administers his charge in such a way that all find benefit. His methods are contradictory and irrational to anyone who fails to see the universal creaturehood of the human family. He reigns from mercy not merit, because he knows that all have full merit in God.

wide mercy

Certainly, my prayer leads me to consider how these principles affect my own leadership responsibilities whether within family, community, workplace, or world.

I am also led to consider how I must respond, just as Jotham did, to any leader or administration that stands in contradiction to these principles.

Faith and morality not only mix with politics, they are its core. Bereft of these, politics becomes nothing but a power game in which the poorest and weakest are the chips.

But, in this Gospel parable, Jesus says his “game” is just the opposite. At his table, the first shall be last and the last first.

These readings have much to offer us as we daily try to right our hearts with the God of infinite mercy.

Music: There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy – written by Frederick Faber in 1862
Rendered here by Nate Macy

https://youtu.be/l5LN1ZvwWfs