Persevering Faith

January 14, 2022
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings burst with lessons for our faith. We might center our prayer on these three dynamic elements:

Power
Praise
Perseverance


Power

In our first reading, Israel is in the midst of a profound power shift. Until this time, Israel has thrived in “covenantal localism” which released possibility and initiative within the broad community. But now, perhaps stressed by the Philistine threat, the elders lobby for the establishment of a kingship – a centralization of power, wealth, land control, and local self-determination.
( based on Walter Brueggemann: First and Second Samuel: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)


The Elders Ask Samuel for a King

Samuel isn’t happy with the elders’ suggestion and, apparently, neither is God. Samuel tells the elders so in a passionate speech against regalism. He pronounces that when the king has usurped all their rights, God will not deliver them as they once were delivered from a similar bondage in Egypt:

When this takes place,
you will complain against the king whom you have chosen,
but on that day the LORD will not answer you.

1 Samuel 8:18

The lesson for us is that the use and organization of power must always be for the sake of communal justice and well-being. Fostering these universal goods is the perpetual struggle of nations and institutions. As part of any community, we are called advocate for a just distribution of power for all people.


Praise
Our Responsorial Psalm counsels that in all such human interactions, our focus must be on God and God’s Will for universal wholeness and peace – a peace evidenced in justice, joy, and praise.

Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;            
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,            
and through your justice they are exalted.

Psalm 89:16-17


Perseverance

Mark’s story of the cure of a paralyzed man demonstrates the power of faithful perseverance. This man’s community – his friends – persist until he fully benefits from God’s desire for his wholeness.

Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2:4-5

Such is our responsibility to pursue our own wholeness and the wholeness of our global community.


Poetry: Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelley

(The poem explores the fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion. (Wikipedia)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
”Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’


Music: Aria – composed by Friedrich Gulda, played by Tomoko Inoue

Sing Mercy in the Sadness

December 7, 2021
Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Ambrose

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are blessed, once again, with magnificent readings!

Our psalm coaches us to rejoice and sing – a song that will heal the nations.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
    sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless the LORD’s name;
    announce God’s salvation, day after day.

Psalm 96:1-2

Our first reading is the exquisite “Comfort” passage from Isaiah. And our Gospel gives us Jesus tenderly seeking the single lost lamb.

The first and last words of these two readings – COMFORT, LOST – capture the whole intent of today’s message:


Life is a maze whose walls are heightened
by our incivility to one another.
Isaiah calls us 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.
We are called to be Mercy in a suffering world.


These beautiful and challenging readings come to us this year at a time when Pope Francis has offered a clear and similar challenge to the world. Last week, during his visit to the refugee encampment on the Greek island of Lesbos, Francis voiced his profound pain at the international immigration tragedy:

“Let us not let our sea (mare nostrum) be transformed into a desolate sea of death (mare mortuum),” the Pope concluded.  “Let us not allow this place of encounter to become a theatre of conflict.  Let us not permit this “sea of memories” to be transformed into a “sea of forgetfulness”.  Please, let us stop this shipwreck of civilization.”

“It is an illusion to think it is enough to keep ourselves safe, to defend ourselves from those in greater need who knock at our door”, Pope Francis said.  “In the future, we will have more and more contact with others.  To turn it to the good, what is needed are not unilateral actions but wide-ranging policies.  History teaches this lesson, yet we have not learned it.” 

Source for quotes: Vatican News – vaticannews.va

During his address, the Pope asked every man and woman, “to overcome the paralysis of fear, the indifference that kills, the cynical disregard that nonchalantly condemns to death those on the fringes.” 


Resource: To learn about and reflect on the issue of immigration, here is a link to NETWORK. Founded by Catholic Sisters in the progressive spirit of Vatican II, NETWORK works to create a society that promotes justice and the dignity of all in the shared abundance of God’s creation.


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.

Grateful

November 10, 2021
Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 82 considered, by at least one Biblical scholar, to be:

“the single most important text in the entire Christian Bible.”

John Domenic Crossan, an Irish-American New Testament scholar,
historian of early Christianity, and former Catholic priest

Council of the Gods by Raphael, (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Psalm 82 best summarizes for me the character of (the early Biblical) God.
It imagines a scene in which God sits among the gods and goddesses in divine council.
Those pagan gods and goddesses are dethroned not just because they are pagan,
nor because they are other, nor because they are competition.
They are dethroned for injustice, for divine malpractice, for transcendental malfeasance.
They are rejected because they do not demand and effect justice among the peoples of the earth.
And that justice is spelled out as protecting the poor from the rich,
protecting the systemically weak from the systemically powerful.

excerpts from Crossan: The Birth of Christianity

Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.
Defend the lowly and the fatherless;
    render justice to the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the lowly and the poor;
    from the hand of the wicked deliver them.
Psalm 82: 3-4


In today’s Gospel, we encounter this just and supreme God in the person of Jesus when we witness the cure of the ten lepers.  

You know, it would be startling enough to run into one leper on your daily walk, right?  But TEN! That must have been an astounding situation. And to see those sad, disfigured people restored to wholeness must have been nearly overwhelming for the entourage accompanying Jesus.

Can you imagine that the recipients of such a miracle wouldn’t have clung in gratitude to Jesus for the rest of their days??? But, wow, only one even bothered to say “Thank you”.

What might have kept the other nine away,
locked in their blind ingratitude?

Perhaps it’s not such a mystery if we allow ourselves to examine our own often ungrateful hearts. We don’t necessarily mean to be boorish in the face of God’s kindness and the generosity of others, but we sometimes suffer from …

  1. Distraction: our lives are filled with frenetic activity which causes our blessings to flit by us into dizzying forgetfulness
  2. Entitlement: we think we deserve or have earned those blessings
  3. Self-absorption: we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t even notice that our whole life is a gift
  4. Laziness: we might say thanks if we get around to it. But we never get around to it.
  5. Unresolved anger: we’re mad that we even needed help
  6. Non-intentionality: we fail to live with intention and reflection, thus missing the opportunities for gratitude 
  7. Pride: we are too proud to acknowledge that we need anything
  8. Fear: we are afraid something will be required of us in return for the gift
  9. Spiritual blindness: we just don’t see the nurturing power of God and others in our life

It’s likely that our nine ungrateful lepers had these human frailties. But don’t be thinking about them, or your acquaintances who share their failings.  

Let’s think about ourselves and how we want to be more grateful. Let’s think about our omnipotent God who is always Justice and Mercy.

The story is a powerful wake-up call to do better than the poor lepers did by living this prayer:

May I live humbly and gratefully today.


Poetry: The Ten Lepers – by Rosanna Eleanor (Mullins) Leprohon who was both a poet and novelist. Born in Montreal in 1829, Rosanna Mullins was educated at the convent of the Congregation of Notre Dame.

’Neath the olives of Samaria, in far-famed Galilee,
Where dark green vines are mirrored in a placid silver sea,
’Mid scenes of tranquil beauty, glowing sun-sets, rosy dawn,
The Master and disciples to the city journeyed on.

And, as they neared a valley where a sheltered hamlet lay,
A strange, portentous wailing made them pause upon their way—
Voices fraught with anguish, telling of aching heart and brow,
Which kept moaning: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us now!”

Softly raised the gentle Saviour His eyes like midnight star,
And His mournful gaze soon rested on ten lepers, who, afar,
Stood motionless and suppliant, in sackcloth rudely clothed,
Poor Pariahs! by their nearest, their dearest, shunned and loathed.

Not unto Him prayed vainly those sore afflicted ten,
No! He yearned too fondly over the erring sons of men,
Even sharing in their sorrows, though He joined not in their feasts,—
So He kindly told the Lepers: “Show yourselves unto the priests.”

When, miracle of mercy! as they turned them to obey,
And towards the Holy Temple quickly took their hopeful way,
Lo! the hideous scales fell off them, health’s fountains were unsealed,
Their skin grew soft as infant’s—their leprosy was healed.

O man! so oft an ingrate, to thy thankless nature true,
Thyself see in those Lepers, who did as thou dost do;
Nine went their way rejoicing, healed in body—glad in soul—
Nor once thought of returning thanks to Him who made them whole.

One only, a Samaritan, a stranger to God’s word,
Felt his joyous, panting bosom, with gratitude deep stirred,
And without delay he hastened, in the dust, at Jesus’ feet,
To cast himself in worship, in thanksgiving, warm and meet.

Slowly questioned him the Saviour, with majesty divine:—
“Ten were cleansed from their leprosy—where are the other nine?
Is there none but this one stranger—unlearned in Gods ways,
His name and mighty power, to give word of thanks or praise?”

The sunbeams’ quivering glories softly touched that God-like head,
The olives blooming round Him sweet shade and fragrance shed,
While o’er His sacred features a tender sadness stole:
“Rise, go thy way,” He murmured, “thy faith hath made thee whole!”


Music:  Hymn of Grateful Praise – Folliott S. Pierpoint

Winds of Change

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119, the longest and very familiar psalm which pleads for God to mercifully teach us:

  • Wisdom
  • Knowledge
  • Goodness 
  • Generosity
  • Kindness
  • Compassion

In our readings, Paul asserts that without God’s Grace we can never attain these gifts. Jesus calls us to use these gifts and to practice a holy life by recognizing and responding justly to the challenges of our times.


Paul sounds a lot like someone approaching the microphone at “Sinners Anonymous”:

I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.
The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the evil I do not want.

Romans 7:18-20

Paul basically attests to the fact that for human beings, even him, will and actions often don’t synch up. Sure, we want to be good people, but as Nike says, do we …

Paul’s says no. The only way we do the good we will to do is by the grace of Jesus Christ.


In our Gospel, Jesus affirms the slowness of the human spirit to act on the realities around us. In some translations, Jesus uses a phrase which caught on with the architects of Vatican II: the signs of the times.

Jesus tells his listeners and us that we need to be alert to the circumstances of our world. It both weeps and rejoices. Where it weeps, we must be a source of mercy and healing. Where it rejoices, we must foster and celebrate the Presence of the Spirit.


In the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), we read:

In every age, the church carries the responsibility
of reading the signs of the times
and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task.
In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer
the ever recurring questions which people ask
about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come,
and how one is related to the other.
We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings,
and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live.

Although written in the 1960s, these powerful words hold true today. We are the Church of which the document speaks. We are the ones whom Jesus calls to respond with authentic justice and mercy to the signs of the times. 

Read the newspaper in that light today. Watch the news in that light. Meet your brothers and sisters in that light today.


Poetry: Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Perhaps more than anything else, Shelley wanted his message of reform and revolution spread, and the wind becomes the symbol for spreading the word of change through the poet-prophet figure. Some also believe that the poem was written in response to the loss of his son William in 1819 (born to Mary Shelley – author of “Frankenstein”). The ensuing pain influenced Shelley. The poem allegorizes the role of the poet as the voice of change and revolution. (Wikipedia)

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, 
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead 
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, 
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, 
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, 
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed 
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, 
Each like a corpse within its grave, until 
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow 
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill 
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) 
With living hues and odours plain and hill: 
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; 
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear! 

II 

Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion, 
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed, 
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean, 
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread 
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge, 
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head 
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge 
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height, 
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge 
Of the dying year, to which this closing night 
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre, 
Vaulted with all thy congregated might 
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere 
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear! 

III 

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams 
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, 
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams, 
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay, 
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers 
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day, 
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers 
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou 
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers 
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below 
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear 
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know 
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear, 
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear! 

IV 

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; 
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; 
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share 
The impulse of thy strength, only less free 
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even 
I were as in my boyhood, and could be 
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven, 
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed 
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven 
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. 
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! 
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! 
A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d 
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. 

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: 
What if my leaves are falling like its own! 
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies 
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone, 
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, 
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! 
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe 
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth! 
And, by the incantation of this verse, 
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth 
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth 
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, 
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


Music: The Times They Are A’changin’ – Bob Dylan 

Dylan’s songs in the 50s and 60s became anthems for the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied popular music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture. (Wikipedia) 
Ah, it was a good time to be young! (me)

The Swedish Academy awarded Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Out of the Gloom

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 9. It, together with Psalm 10, forms an acrostic which ultimately proclaims profound hope in God’s immutable justice, especially toward the poor and oppressed. But it takes us through a lot fire and brimstone to get there!


When we read the entire Psalm 9, we realize that the psalmist starts out in a lot of trouble:

Be gracious to me, LORD;
see how my foes afflict me!
You alone can raise me from the gates of death

Psalm 9:14

Match that with Joel’s community which is in the midst of a terrible drought. Joel uses the situation to teach that we must withstand many evils in life — not just droughts — in order to keep faith with God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
    sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
    for the day of the LORD is coming;
Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
    a day of clouds and somberness!

Joel 2:1-2

In the end however, Joel assures the community — as does the psalmist — that God is present even in treacherous circumstances and will finally bring “right-balance” or justice to all things.

The LORD sits enthroned forever;
setting up a throne for judgment.
God judges the world with justice;
and governs the peoples with equity.

Psalm 9:8-9

I think these readings are difficult to pray with, but it’s worth a try. How we respond to challenge in our personal circumstances – and even evil in the world at large – depends a lot on how we view God’s Presence in our lives. Both Joel and the psalmist ask us to hold fast to our confidence in God.

Praying with these readings may provoke questions like this for us:  Do I believe God’s justice and mercy truly will prevail in Creation? And how will I help bring about this holy “equity”?

Poetry: Faith is the Pierless Bridge – Emily Dickinson

Faith is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not
Too slender for the eye
It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side
It joins behind the Veil
To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

Music: Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 15 which begins by asking a crystal clear question:

LORD, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy mountain?

Psalm 15:1

In other words, “What is it you’re looking for in me that I may be your friend, living under your protection?”.


In our first reading, Abraham is in the process of deciphering the answer to this question by responding wholeheartedly to God’s invitation and promise.

One of Abraham’s first actions when becoming God’s friend is an act of justice toward  his nephew Lot. Both their holdings had grown very large and their families began competing for resources. So Abraham gave Lot a choice to have his own land so both could live in security and peace.


Justice is the core of today’s readings, and it’s the ticket to God’s tent. I think it is a virtue which confuses many of us. We get it mixed up with concepts of law, vengeance, preferential judgements. But here’s the definition from the Catholic Catechism and I like it. It sounds academic, but it’s exactly what Abraham did for Lot in our first reading – he acted for “right relationship” which is the heart of justice. All in all, justice is just another face of Mercy.

Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward persons disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Thomas Aquinas must have thought people were confused about justice too. He defined and explained it exhaustively in the Summa Theologiae


Psalm 15, though, makes it simpler for us. Here’s Christine Robinson’s transliteration:

How do truly good people live?
They speak the truth from their hearts
  have no hidden agendas, are
  loyal friends. 
They offer respect to their neighbors, but
  avoid the company of the selfish and the foolish,
They honor good people wherever they find them.
They live to do good, keep their word
   make their living with honest work
   and give generously from their abundance.
Their way of life makes them strong in heart.


I like people like that, and I want to be one of them – for God’s sake, other people’s, and my own. Praying with Psalm 15 can help us do that.


Poetry: Making Peace – Denise Levertov

A voice from the dark called out,
             ‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’
                                   But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
                                       A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
                                              A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .
                        A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.

Music: Conserva Me, Domine (Psalm 15) – Marc Antoine Charpentier

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

April 20, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31 whose verses carry the echo of Jesus on Calvary.

The psalm, following the reading from Acts describing Stephen’s martyrdom, creates a sacred link between these two deaths. Ever since, that link has sanctified every Christian martyr’s death.

We might think that martyrdom is an atrocity only of the early Christian times. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Throughout the centuries and today, Christians die in witness to their faith.


Today, we might pray to St. Stephen for all throughout the world who suffer for their faith and their commitment to social justice.

Be my rock of refuge,
    a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
    for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.

Psalm 31:3-4

We might pray as well for a conversion of heart for those who persecute, shun and disrespect others because of their own fears and insecurities. The psalmist chose to curse them with the literary chutzpah common in the psalms:

Do not let me be put to shame,
for I have called to you, LORD.
Put the wicked to shame;
reduce them to silence in Sheol.

Strike dumb their lying lips,
which speak arrogantly against the righteous
in contempt and scorn.

Psalm 31: 18-19

But in our charity, let us pray for their enlightenment and repentance:

Love the LORD, all you who are faithful to him.
The LORD protects the loyal,
but repays the arrogant in full.

Psalm 31:24

Poetry: Be Soft not Stony-Hearted – from Rumi

… may Jesus’s breath serve as your cure,
make you, like Itself so blessed and pure.
Don’t claim in spring on stone some verdure grows;
be soft, like soil, to raise a lovely rose.
For years you’ve been a stony-hearted man,
Try being like the soil now if you can!


Music: Sancte Dei Pretiosi


Saint of God, elect and precious,
Protomartyr Stephen, bright
With thy love of amplest measure,
Shining round thee like a light;
Who to God commendest, dying,
Them that did thee all despite.
Glitters now the crown above thee,
Figured in thy honored name:
O that we, who truly love thee,
May have portion in the same;
In the dreadful day of judgment
Fearing neither sin nor shame.
Laud to God, and might, and honor,
Who with flowers of rosy dye
Crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee
In the starry throne on high:
He direct us, He protect us,
From death’s sting eternally.

Sancte Dei, pretiose,
Protomartyr Stephane,
Qui virtute caritatis
Circumfulsus undique,
Dominum pro inimico
Exorasti populo:
2. Et coronae qua nitescis
Almus sacri nominis,
Nos, qui tibi famulamur,
Fac consortes fieri:
Et expertes dirae mortis
In die Judicii.
3. Gloria et honor Deo
Qui te flora roseo
Coronavit et locavit
In throno sidereo :
Salvet reos, solvens eos
A mortis aculeo. Amen.

Psalm 96: There Are No Others

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

January 26, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, a call to witness God’s sovereignty over and faithfulness to the whole world.

The tone of Psalm 96 is slightly different from some other psalms which call for national rejoicing. It does not suggest that God loves Israel better than other nations, therefore taking their side in history. Psalm 96 simply encourages gratitude for and witness to God’s saving power:

Sing to the LORD a new song;
    sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
    among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Psalm 96: 1-3

Like Israel, we walk a fine line in discerning how God loves us, both individually and as a member of the many “tribes” with which we align ourselves. Does God love Americans more? Or white people? Or Black people? Or Italians? Or the Irish? Or straight people? Or Christians? Or the wealthy? Or Phillies fans? (Well, yeah, probably Phillies fans 🙂 )


Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950) was an Indian Hindu sage. He is regarded by many as an outstanding enlightened being. He was a charismatic person, and attracted many devotees,
some of whom saw him as an avatar and the embodiment of Shiva.

He was once asked,
“How should we treat others?”
He replied,
“There are no others.”


It seems that we have some innate need to compare ourselves favorably against “others”. That need, unchecked and fed by fear, is at the root of any oppressive nationalism, such as the white Christian nationalism we saw displayed in the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Jason Meyer, Pastor for Preaching and Vision in Minneapolis, writes this:
” We must always reject any attempt to fuse together one’s national/political identity with one’s Christian identity in a way that equates or conflates allegiance to country with allegiance to God.”


In an excellent article from Sojourners, Walter Brueggemann elucidates the prophet’s role in contradicting the forces that enshrine the totalism which leads to idolatries like distorted nationalism.
(totalism: the practice of a dictatorial one-party state that regulates every form of life such as that which existed under King Solomon in ancient Israel)


Psalm 96 gives us another view of what really made Israel “chosen” – their example to all nations to praise our shared Creator as the Source of all stability and equity.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
    give to the LORD glory and praise;
    give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
Who made the world firm, not to be moved;
    who governs the peoples with equity.

Psalm 96: 7-8

Poetry: For Whom the Bell Tolls – John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Music: Imagine – John Lennon

Psalm 19: What Is Truth?

Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, January 16, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19, a hymn to the beauty of God’s Law.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
    refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
   giving wisdom to the simple.

Psalm 19: 8

Placed as it is in today’s liturgy, the psalm brings added emphasis to our exquisite first reading from Hebrews:

The Word of God is living and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
penetrating even between soul and spirit,
joints and marrow,
and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Hebrews 4: 12

LAW…WORD…TRUST…TRUTH…WISDOM…SPIRIT

These themes shout out to us from today’s readings. And they need to shout in order to be heard above the clamor of a culture that has so enfeebled “truth” that it can barely speak.

At the electoral confirmation hearings, after the Capitol insurrection, Mitt Romney bravely said, “The best way we could show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth”.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a novel idea in our fallacious political culture.

Praying Psalm 19 challenges me to recognize my role in reclaiming a mutually truthful, respectful, and reverently attentive society. It also summons me to demand the same from my political and religious leaders.


Poetry: two poems today

truth - Gwendolyn Brooks
And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?
Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years—
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?
Shall we not shudder?—
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?
Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.
The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.

And this one from a Franciscan friend and revered mentor in social justice – Marie Lucey, OSF

A Justice- Seeker’s Journey
In high school art class—and in life--
I stayed within the lines.
“Timid soul,” the teacher branded me.
In English class I stood—green girl
in more ways than uniform--
to argue with the wiser nun
that men were more intelligent than women.
(Forgive me, God, and sisters!)

How did I get from there—a lifetime ago--
to here?
Over time layers of knowing peeled away,
core truths revealed.
Cries of people suffering—oppression,
injustice, human cruelty,
and my own dark nights,
insisted that I stand up, speak up, act up,
kneel down, reach out, reach in,
march, be cuffed and fined,
and even jailed just once.
Neither brave nor timid
I try to follow Jesus
who walked outside the lines.

Music: The Trouble with Truth – Joan Baez

Oh the trouble with the truth
Is it’s always the same old thing
So hard to forget, so impossible for me to change
Every time I try to fight it
I know I’ll be left to blame.

Oh the trouble with the truth
Is it’s always the same old thing
And the trouble with the truth
Is it’s just what I need to hear
Ringing so right, deep down inside my ear.


And it’s everything I want
And it’s everything I fear
Oh the trouble with the truth
Is it’s just what I need to hear

It had ruined the taste of the sweetest lies
Burned through my best alibis
Every sin that I deny
Keeps hanging round my door
Oh the trouble with the truth
Is it always begs for more

That’s the trouble, trouble with the truth
That’s the trouble, trouble with the truth
And the trouble with the truth
Is it just won’t let me rest
I run and hide, but there’s always another test
And I know that it won’t let me be
‘Till I’ve given it my best
The trouble with the truth
Is it just won’t let me rest