Lessons in Love and Light

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
September 19, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings encourage us to live lives of Charity and Light.

Today’s first reading opens two weeks of inspiration from the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. These books include Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and parts of Psalms.

Wisdom literature differs from other books in the Old Testament in that the authors were sages rather than prophets or priests. Priests and prophets typically dealt with religious and moral concerns whereas sages generally focused on the practical aspects of how to live and the intellectual challenges that arise when contemplating the human experience. 

from: compellingtruth.org

Our passage from Proverbs offers a good dose of that sage advice with these basics of mutual charity:

  • Refuse no one the good on which they have a claim
  • Plot no evil against your neighbor,
  • Quarrel not with someone without cause,
  • Envy not lawless persons
  • Choose not their ways …

If we all followed that list, the world would be in pretty good shape. And, in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says that once we get that shaped-up, we can take it up a notch — into the Light:

No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, you place it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.

Matthew’s version adds this line:

Let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds 
and glorify God in heaven.

So how do I let Charity kindle God’s Light in me? The list from Proverbs can get me started, but what might my own “Charity Challenges” look like?

Poetry: Charity — The Greatest of All Three – Robert Morris

The soul serene, impenetrably just, 
Is first in CHARITY; we love to muse 
On such a model; knit in strictest bonds 
Of amity with spirits like disposed; 
Aiming at truth for her own sake, this one 
Passes beyond the golden line of Faith, 
Passes beyond the precious line of Hope, 
And sets foot unmoved on CHARITY . 
“A soul so softly radiant and so white, 
The track it leaves seems less of fire than light.”


Music: Lampstand – Ben Bigelow

(Spoiler alert: Those who are still able may want to dance by the end of this video!🤩 I just did a very good finger-snapping routine)

Earthshine & Bling!

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 18, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091822.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings make one thing very clear: we cannot serve both God and “mammon”.

The problem is that we have a hard time figuring out what mammon is. Experience tells us that it’s a lot more than just money, because there are people with money who do a good job serving God.

It seems to me that “mammon” is more the illusion that we are only our “possessions” — our money, house, car, looks, degrees, physical abilities — and that we (or anybody else) is nothing without them.

This misperception is so intrinsic to our inability to live the Gospel that it cripples our souls. The love of “mammon” becomes an overwhelming, incurable addiction that feeds on the well-being of our neighbor.

As our first reading tells us, living by this addiction invokes God’s eternal anger. Describing the abuse heaped upon the poor, God warns the abusers:

The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!

Amos 8:7

Our Gospel tells us that we can’t have it both ways. We either live within the generosity and inclusivity of God, or we’re outside it:

No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.

Luke 16:13

This is a challenging but fundamental teaching of the Gospel. It is essential that we consider how we live it.

Walter Bruggemann, in his book Money and Possessions says this:

Jesus said it … succinctly. You cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot serve God and do what you please with your money or your sex or your land. And then he says, “Don’t be anxious, because everything you need will be given to you.” But you must decide. Christians have a long history of trying to squeeze Jesus out of public life and reduce him to a private little Savior. But to do this is to ignore what the Bible really says. Jesus talks a great deal about the kingdom of God—and what he means by that is a public life reorganized toward neighborliness. . . .

Let’s have the courage to pray with that thought today. Although challenging, the question is rather simple: how do we use what we have to live a Gospel life, the essence of which Jesus stated like this:

Love God above all things

and your neighbor as yourself.

Mark 12:30-31


Poetry: Cullen in the Afterlife – P. K. Page

(This poet is new to me. She is a Canadian poet whose work is noted for its vibrant images. I liked this poem in which she imagines the experience of finding oneself in the afterlife. She notes the difficulty of embracing Love when hampered by “mammon” which she called “Earthshine”.

And how partake of such a gift when he
was handicapped by Earthshine—wore the stars,
badges and medals of privilege and success?
Desensitizers, brutalizers—all 
the tricks that mammon plays to make one sleep.


Cullen in the Afterlife – P. K. Page

He found it strange at first. A new dimension.  
One he had never guessed. The fourth? The fifth? 
How could he tell, who’d only known the third?
Something to do with eyesight, depth of field.
Perspective quite beyond him. Everything flat
or nearly flat. The vanishing point 
they’d tried to teach at school was out of sight
and out of mind. A blank.

Now, this diaphanous dimension—one
with neither up nor down, nor east nor west,
nor orienting star to give him north.
Even his name had left him. Strayed like a dog. 
Yet he was bathed in some unearthly light,
a delicate no-color that made his flesh
transparent, see-through, a Saran-Wrap self.
His body without substance and his mind
with nothing to think about—although intact—
was totally minus purpose. He must think.

Think of a Rubens, he said to himself. But where
Rubens had been there was a void, a vast
emptiness—no opulence. And then
Cézanne who broke all matter up—
made light of it, in fact. And mad Van Gogh
who, blinded by the light, cut off his ear.
Gone—that shadowy assembly—vanished, done. 
Gone without substance. Like himself. A shell.
Insensate in a flash. (What was that flash—
bereft of all but essence?) Was it death?
He wondered about the word, so filled with breath
yet breathless, breathless, breathless. A full stop.

“Divino Espirito Santo,” he had said
once in Brazil, “Soul of my very soul.”
He’d prayed in Portuguese, an easier tongue—
for newly agnostic Anglos—than his own,
burdened with shibboleths and past beliefs.
“Alma de minha alma”—liquid words
that made a calm within him. Where within?
Was there a word for it? Was it his heart?

Engulfed by love. Held in a healing beam
of love-light. Had he earned such love?
And how partake of such a gift when he
was handicapped by Earthshine—wore the stars,
badges and medals of privilege and success?
Desensitizers, brutalizers—all 
the tricks that mammon plays to make one sleep.
He must wake up. He must expose and strip
successive layers to find his soul again.
Where had the rubble come from? He was like
a junkyard—cluttered, filled with scrap iron, tin.
As dead as any metal not in use.
So he must start once more. He had begun
how many times? Faint glimmerings and dim
memories of pasts behind the past
recently lived—the animal pasts and vague
vegetable pasts—those climbing vines and fruits;
and mineral pasts (a slower pulse) the shine
of gold and silver and the gray of iron.
The “upward anguish.”
                                   What a rush of wings
above him as he thought the phrase and knew 
angels were overhead, and over them
a million suns and moons.

Music: a simple mantra, but powerful if we can live it: Love God, Love Neighbor by Dale Sechrest

Alleluia: The Fig Tree

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
August 24, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/082422.cfm

Jn 1_48 fig

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel. As with many of the Apostles, little is known of Bartholomew’s life outside of a few Gospel stories. John’s Gospel tells the wonderful story of Nathaniel’s call by Christ.

The encounter is a very personal one. Jesus and Nathaniel share a conversation that must have impressed the other listeners because it was remembered and recounted word for word in the Gospel.

One exchange, in particular, carries deep significance for Nathaniel. Jesus says that there is no duplicity, or pretense, in Nathaniel. There is a transparency in him shared even with God. Nathaniel wonders out loud , “How do you know me?” Jesus answers, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

Saint Bartholomew – El Greco

What was going on with Nathaniel under that fig tree? A moment of intense prayer, questioning, decision, doubt, hope? Whatever it was, Jesus had shared it, even at a distance. When Nathaniel realizes this, his faith in Jesus and vocation to follow Him are confirmed. Nathaniel professes, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”


Where are the fig trees in your life story — those moments when, looking back, you realize that God was with you even though seeming distant?

What have been the turning points in your faith, when you came out from under the shadow of a challenging experience, to the grateful amazement that God had accompanied you through it?

What are those pivotal, intimate moments when it was just you and God – those transparent moments that changed your life?

If you can’t recall any such moments, perhaps you are not giving yourself the time and space to let God reach you.

It might be time to seek out a “fig tree” – a place of spiritual solitude where you may speak honestly and directly to God about the most important things in your life. Open your heart, like Nathaniel, to hear what God already knows about you.

Poetry: The Banyan Tree – Rabindranath Tagore

O you shaggy-headed banyan tree
standing on the bank of the pond,
have you forgotten the little child,
like the birds that have
nested in your branches and left you?

Do you not remember
how he sat at the window
and wondered at
the tangle of your roots
plunged underground?

The women would come
to fill their jars in the pond,
and your huge black shadow
would wriggle on the water
like sleep struggling to wake up.

Sunlight danced on the ripples
like restless tiny shuttles
weaving golden tapestry
Two ducks swam by the weedy margin
above their shadows, and
the child would sit still and think.

He longed to be the wind
and blow through your resting branches,
to be your shadow and
lengthen with the day on the water,
to be a bird and perch
on your topmost twig, and to float like
those ducks among the weeds and shadows.


Forest Lake with Boy Fishing – Alfred Wahlberg

Music: The Memory of Trees – Enya (Some lyrical New Age music to listen to under your fig tree!)

Alleluia: Discerning Word

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
August 23, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/082322.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus and Paul both get downright serious about true spiritual discernment — in other words,

“Stop the bull(ony)!

The passage from Thessalonians indicates that “conspiracy theories” are not just a sick modern phenomenon. Apparently some religious charlatans were trying to delude the neophyte Christian community with threats about the end of the world. Paul is adamant in his advice:

Do not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly,
or to be alarmed either by a “spirit,”
or by an oral statement,
or by a letter allegedly from us
to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.
Let no one deceive you in any way.

2 Thessolians 2:2

Jesus “woes” the Pharisees once again for a similar type of deluding behavior. For their own advancement, they impose minute religious entanglements which block the true purpose of the law:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.

Matthew 23:23

Jesus employs a great image to correct such delusions:

You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.

Matthew 23:25

In matters of faith, always look inside the cup for “justice, mercy and fidelity”. If instead you find “plunder and self-indulgences”, you can be sure it is not the word of God.

Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.


Poetry: A Cup Story – Author Unknown

You are holding a cup of coffee when 
someone comes along and accidentally bumps you 
and shakes your arm, 
making you spill coffee everywhere.
Why did you spill the coffee?
Because someone bumped into you, right?
Wrong answer.
You spilled the coffee because coffee was in the cup.
If tea had been in it, you would have spilled tea.
Whatever is inside the cup is what will come out.
Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you,
whatever is inside of you will come out. 
So each of us has to ask ourselves..... what's in my cup?
When life gets bumpy, what spills over?
Joy, gratefulness, peace, and humility?
Or anger, bitterness, harsh words, and reactions?
We choose what's in our cup!

Music: Inside of the Cup – Ernst Samuel

Alleluia: The Invitation

Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 18, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081822.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we see how the soul becomes “dressed” or prepared for the kingdom.

In our passage from Ezekiel, God does a major makeover for Israel, as a matter of fact, God actually recreates Israel:

I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.

Ezekiel’s God is fed up with Israel’s sinfulness and decides to “make them live by my statutes”. According to Ezekiel, this rejuvenation is done for God’s sake, not Israel’s.

Thus says the LORD:
I will prove the holiness of my great name, 
profaned among the nations, 
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.


The king in our Gospel gets pretty fed up too with people rejecting his invitation to the wedding. When his recalcitrant invitees killed his servants, the king blew a gasket. He even took a snap on the poor schlep who showed up in business-casual attire!

No Wedding Garment

How are we to interpret these dramatic
(and kinda mean)
images of God and of God’s
invitation to the Kingdom? 

As when praying with all scripture passages, we must receive them in light of the circumstances and culture in which they were written. Our prayer, rooted in our own relationship with God, will allow us to peel away the cultural layers to discover the unchanging message which pertains to us.

What I found in today’s passages are these thoughts:

  • God loves us so much and would do anything to hold us in faithful relationship 
  • If our spiritual life had died, or is on life support, God will do a heart transplant if we repent and open ourselves to grace.
  • We are all invited to eternal life with God, but we can get so distracted by our entanglements that we miss or ignore the invitation.
  • Turn down the noise in your life so that you can hear God’s ringtone on your heart.
  • It matters how we respond to this amazing invitation. We need to put on our best “clothes” – our best selves – so that we can fully welcome God’s life.

Poetry and Music: Here’s a simple but delightful representation of today’s Gospel. Enjoy it, friends.

Alleluia: Good Shepherd

Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
August 17, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081722.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is
living and effective,
able to discern the reflections
and thoughts of the heart.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Ezekiel gets another tough assignment from God:

The word of the Lord came to me:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel,
in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds:
Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who have been pasturing themselves!
Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?

Ezekiel 34: 1-2

With prophetic insight, Ezekiel understands that Israel’s corrupt leaders will cause its downfall. He takes on the unhappy responsibility of summoning them – and the people – to repentance and conversion of heart.

By comparing Israel’s kings and princes to shepherds, Ezekiel points out how their leadership is a perversion of the ministry to which they have been called. He tells them that God won’t put up with their malfeasance because God has a tenderness for the “sheep” – particularly the struggling ones.

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I swear I am coming against these shepherds.
I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.
I will save my sheep, 
that they may no longer be food for their mouths.

For thus says the Lord GOD: 
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

Ezekiel 34: 10-11

The parallels to our present world are so stark that it’s difficult not to launch into political opining here! But I choose not to because the call within these readings goes much deeper than even current global circumstances.

And it is the call embodied in our Alleluia Verse:

Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Each one of us is created to live in the sincere light of God’s Word; to discern our relationships within Creation through the ‘living and effective” lens offered to us through our Baptism.

Whether we are leader or follower, these relationships must be built on reverence, honesty, justice, peace and mercy. Only then can we forestall the corporate corruptions that fester in the absence of grace.

The promissory nature of Ezekiel’s oracles articulates what good leadership looks like…in government, in corporations, all through the private sector. That rule consists in:
– Seeking the lost
– Bringing back the strayed
– Binding up the injured
– Strengthening the weak
– Feeding the hungry
In a word, good leadership consists in the restoration of the common good so that all members of the community, strong and weak, rich and poor, may live together in a common shalom of shared resources.

Walter Brueggemann, On Ezekiel 34

In our Gospel, the landowner refuses to be bound by corporate definitions regarding how he treats his laborers. He chooses to be generous, no doubt realizing the laborers’ underlying need for a decent day’s pay. Doing so, the landowner mirrors God whose generosity has granted the landowner life and livelihood.


As we pray today, let’s consider where we serve a leaders, and who depends on our sincere and generous heart for their subsistence. Some of these relationships might be obvious to us – such as the children in our lives, and others whom we support by our presence, care and love.

But others may not be so obvious. There may be others who need us to recognize that they’re waiting to be noticed and invited just like the late laborers of today’s Gospel. Is our world, and our generosity, big enough to include them?


Poetry: Shepherd – Rumi

Be a lamp, 
or a lifeboat, 
or a ladder. 
Help someone’s soul heal. 

Walk out of your house 
like a shepherd.

Music: The Lonely Shepherd – Zamfir

Alleluia: Green Grapes!

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the core of our readings is about innocence and authenticity. But you have to dig a little to get to that. Maybe, like me, you finished  our first reading asking, “So what’s with the green grapes!?”

A common expression in ancient Israel suggested that people’s bad luck was a punishment for their parent’s sins. It was a handy way of avoiding responsibility for one’s own foolish actions, often the actual source of one’s misfortune.

Ezekiel uses the expression to teach a lesson about the nature of God’s love and forgiveness. God loves us completely – without prejudice, without vengeance. There is no record of faults to “set our teeth on edge”. There are no “green grapes” on God’s table. God only wants our wholeness.

Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel,
each one according to their own ways, says the Lord GOD.
Turn and be converted from all your crimes,
that they may be no cause of guilt for you.
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.


God will not let us hide behind excuses like a bogus “Green Grapes Theory”. As in any loving relationship, we must be honest with God, own our faults, seek forgiveness, and love ardently.

Jesus uses the example of a little child to show us how to do this. Each one of us is born with a core of innocence and authenticity. These are the attributes of God’s life in us. Throughout our lives there are times when we hide these blessings under our sinfulness. Some people bury them so deep that they lose touch with their own sacred integrity.

Jesus calls us back out of our excuses and our excesses, just as the Lord called Ezekiel’s community. We are invited to an eternal covenant rooted in the gift of divine innocence and authenticity given to us at our creation.

Jesus said:
Let the children come to me,
and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven
belongs to such as these.

Poetry: The Pursuit – Henry Vaughn

LORD ! what a busy, restless thing
Hast Thou made man !
Each day and hour he is on wing,
Rests not a span ;
Then having lost the sun and light,
By clouds surpris’d,
He keeps a commerce in the night
With air disguis’d.
Hadst Thou given to this active dust
A state untir’d,
The lost son had not left the husk,
Nor home desir’d.
That was Thy secret, and it is
Thy mercy too ;
For when all fails to bring to bliss,
Then this must do.
Ah, Lord ! and what a purchase will that be,
To take us sick, that sound would not take Thee !

Music: Tender Hearted – Jeanne Cotter

Alleluia: Called

Memorial of Saint Dominic, Priest
August 8, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080822.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
God has called you through the Gospel
to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.


by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican between 1508 to 1512

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we begin nearly two weeks of first readings from the prophet Ezekiel, and this first one is a real WOW!

As I looked, a stormwind came from the North,
a huge cloud with flashing fire enveloped in brightness,
from the midst of which (the midst of the fire)
something gleamed like electrum.
Within it were figures resembling four living creatures
that looked like this: their form was human.

Ezekiel 1:4-6

Walter Brueggemann calls Ezekiel “the prophet who had fantasies and hallucinations”. Nevertheless, Ezekiel is considered a prophet because like all prophets, Ezekiel “noticed what no one else noticed” — Ezekiel “saw death coming” to Israel.

Ezekiel did not blame the king, the government, the military or the war planners for this terrible death to come. He blamed the religious community, the clergy, the prophets: “My hands will be against the prophets who see delusive visions and give lying messages” (13:9). Ezekiel blamed the religious community because that community is responsible for truth-telling.

Truth-Telling and Peacemaking: A Reflection on Ezekiel
by Walter Brueggemann

I think it might be safe to say that most religious communities – and the people who comprise them – do not want to hear such things about themselves. Abraham Heschel, one of the greatest theologians and philosophers of the 20th century said this:

The prophets had disdain for those to whom God was comfort and security; to them God was a challenge, an incessant demand. He is compassion, but not a compromise; justice, but not inclemency. Tranquility is unknown to the soul of a prophet. The miseries of the world give him no rest. While others are callous, and even callous to their callousness and unaware of their insensitivity, the prophets remain examples of supreme impatience with evil, distracted by neither might nor applause, by neither success nor beauty. Their intense sensitivity to right and wrong is due to their intense sensitivity to God’s concern for right and wrong. They feel fiercely because they hear deeply.

from: What Are Prophets For?

By Abraham Joshua Heschel
MARCH 25, 2020

In today’s Gospel, Jesus informs his disciples that he too will endure a prophet’s suffering:

As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee,
Jesus said to them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
And they were overwhelmed with grief.

Matthew 17:22-23

As we reflect on what these readings mean for us in our lives, our Alleluia Verse offers a key phrase:

Alleluia, alleluia.
God has called you through the Gospel
To possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

…through the Gospel

Unless we know and cherish the Gospel, we Christians cannot hear our call.


Poetry: The Call of a Christian – John Greenleaf Whittier

Not always as the whirlwind's rush 
On Horeb's mount of fear, 
Not always as the burning bush 
To Midian's shepherd seer, 
Nor as the awful voice which came 
To Israel's prophet bards, 
Nor as the tongues of cloven flame, 
Nor gift of fearful words,-- 
Not always thus, with outward sign 
Of fire or voice from Heaven,
The message of a truth divine, 
The call of Godis given! 
Awaking in the human heart 
Love for the true and right,-- 
Zeal for the Christian's better part, 
Strength for the Christian's fight. 
Nor unto manhood's heart alone
The holy influence steals 
Warm with a rapture not its own, 
The heart of woman feels! 
As she who by Samaria's wall
The Saviour's errand sought,-- 
As those who with the fervent Paul 
And meek Aquila wrought: 
Or those meek ones whose martyrdom 
Rome's gathered grandeur saw 
Or those who in their Alpine home
Braved the Crusader's war, 
When the green Vaudois, trembling, heard, 
Through all its vales of death, 
The martyr's song of triumph poured 
From woman's failing breath. 
And gently, by a thousand things 
Which o'er our spirits pass, 
Like breezes o'er the harp's fine strings, 
Or vapors o'er a glass, 
Leaving their token strange and new 
Of music or of shade, 
The summons to the right and true 
And merciful is made. 
Oh, then, if gleams of truth and light
Flash o'er thy waiting mind, 
Unfolding to thy mental sight 
The wants of human-kind; 
If, brooding over human grief,
The earnest wish is known 
To soothe and gladden with relief 
An anguish not thine own; 
Though heralded with naught of fear, 
Or outward sign or show; 
Though only to the inward ear 
It whispers soft and low; 
Though dropping, as the manna fell, 
Unseen, yet from above, 
Noiseless as dew-fall, heed it well,--- 
Thy Father's call of love!

Music: God is Calling through the Whisper

Alleluia: God’s Word Brings Grace

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori,
Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Monday, August 1, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080122.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings convey compelling stories and life-changing miracles.

The passage from Jeremiah tells the tale of the false prophet Hananiah. He didn’t tell the people the truth. He was a kind of ancient “prosperity preacher” who spun a message similar to one we might hear today.

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, the gospel of success, or seed faith)is a religious belief among some Protestant Christians that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. Material and especially financial success is seen as a sign of divine favor.

Wikipedia

Prosperity religion in centered on “me” and what I have to do to have “enough” and “more than enough” material goods and spiritual assurances.


Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.

In our reading from Matthew, Jesus acts out the true Gospel. It is centered on others,especially those in need.

Picture the moment. Jesus has been gut-punched by the barbarous murder of his beloved friend and cousin John. He wants to be alone to mourn. Watch him, in your heart’s eye, as he rows alone across the lake to a place of longed-for solitude. Every swish and pull through the water is a memory of John, is a hope and fragment of the dream they shared. Every oar’s dipping is a word with his Father to understand the “why”.

And yet, on the lake’s other side, where the needy crowd has found him out, he sets his own need aside. Jesus heals. He feeds. He teaches. He IS for the other not himself.

His words summarize what his actions model. He tells the gathered people that he has fed their bodies – met their material needs. But there is so much more to spiritual wholeness. Every word from the mouth of God — even the word that John had died — every word brings grace, and the call to feed and heal the world around us.

Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.


Poetry: Not By Bread Alone – James Terry White

If thou of fortune be bereft,
And thou dost find but two loaves left
To thee—sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

But not alone does beauty bide
Where bloom and tint and fragrance hide;
The minstrel's melody may feed
Perhaps a more insistent need.

But every beauty, howe'er blent
To ear or eye, fails to content;
Only the heart, with love afire,
Can satisfy the soul's desire.

Music:  Not by Bread Alone- M. Roger Holland II

Alleluia: Rise from the Dead!

Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus
Friday, July 29, 2022

Today’s Readings: (for this wonderful feast, I have used the alternate readings for Martha, Mary and Lazarus)

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/0729-memorial-martha.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we enter the stories of three closest friends of Jesus – Martha, Mary and Lazarus. There were the bosom buddies of Jesus – doing salvation things with him for sure, but also laughing, remembering, supporting, challenging and, like all good friends, loving.

When I think of the home of this Bethany family, many characteristics come to mind. Foremost for me is hospitality. We must be welcomed into a place in order to find friendship there. We must be comfortable, cared about, and appreciated. We must feel at home.

We’ve all been in homes that make us feel this way, and hopefully our own home offers such hospitality to us and others. I think this morning of three old friends now at home with God. They were the sisters of a beloved pastor with whom I worked. We got to know them well at the time of his death and continued our friendship until they too died.

We often visited their old but perfectly appointed little home. And their hospitality took very evident forms: a prepared pitcher of Manhattans in the fridge, little snacks that we might have mentioned we liked, lively conversation, and the sharing of life-making stories – with a few secrets sprinkled in between.

I think that’s the same kind of hospitable home Mary, Martha, and Lazarus offered Jesus – a tasty meal, some good wine, and the sharing of life, laughter, and tears.

We may not immediately think of these things as holy — but I think they are. The way we welcome one another – visit, feed, listen, appreciate, care for and enjoy one another – these things open the door to more fully absorb God’s love. Hospitality is very definitely a ministry and a sacrament.

When we open our hearts to be the presence of God’s own welcome, we too can share the bread of life, the wine of experience, and the certainty of love with our infinitely hospitable Creator.

What immeasurable gifts! Having received them from God, may we offer them to others especially those who find them nowhere else.

May all our loving hospitality create a dwelling place for God in our hearts!


Imagine what is was like for Jesus to decide to raise this dearest friend Lazarus FROM THE DEAD!!!!

Imagine what it was like for Lazarus for the rest of his life to be the guy – “Hey? Weren’t you DEAD once????)

There may be things in our own lives that echo these feelings. Have we ever given everything for a friend or beloved when others don’t understand?

Have we come back from a place of death which, once again, no one really understands?

Talk with Jesus and Lazarus about your experiences in your prayer toady.

Poetry: The Raising of Lazarus by Franz Wright
from a fragment by Rainer Maria Rilke

But Jesus knew his friends. Before they were,
he knew them; and they knew
that he would never leave them
desolate here. So he let his exhausted eyes close
at first glimpse of the village.
And immediately he seemed
to be standing in their midst.

 Here was Martha, the dead boy’s sister.
He knew he would always find her
at his right hand, and beside her
Mary. They were all here.
Yet opening his eyes it was not so.
He was standing apart,
even the two women
slowly backing away,
as if from concern for their good name.

 Then he began to hear voices
muttering under their breath
quite distinctly; or thinking,
Lord, if you had been hereour friend might not have died. 

(At that, he seemed to reach out
to touch someone’s face
with infinite gentleness,
and silently wept.) He asked them the way
to the grave. And he followed
behind them, preparing
to do what is not done
to that green silent place
where life and death are one. 

 Merely to walk down this road
had started to feel like a test,
or a poorly prepared-for performance
with actors unsure of their lines,
or which play they were supposed to be in;
a feverish outrage rising inside him
at the glib ease with which words like “living”
and “being dead” rolled off their tongues.
And awe flooded his body
when he hoarsely cried,
“Move the stone!”

 “By now he must stink,”
somebody helpfully shouted.
(And it was true, the body
had been lying in the tomb
four days.) But he was far away,
too far away inside himself
to hear it, beginning
to fill with that gesture
which rose through him:
no hand this heavy
had ever been raised, no human hand
had ever reached this height
shining an instant in air, then
all at once clenching into itself
at the thought all the dead might return
from that tomb where
the enormous cocoon
of the corpse was beginning to stir.

In the end, though, nobody stood
there at its entrance
but the young man
who had freed his right arm
and was pulling at his face,
at small strips of grave wrappings.
Peter looked across at Jesus
with an expression that seemed to say
You did it, or What have you done? And all
saw how their vague and inaccurate
life made room for him once more.


Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ (Click ” Watch on YouTube” )

Let’s be a place where God, and all God’s creatures, find a dwelling place of hospitality.