Trust and Fears

Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 13, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings are an interplay of trust and fear, just like most of our lives are.

Related image

The TV character Adrian Monk is the exaggerated personification of our human fears. You name it, he’s afraid of it. Most of us aren’t that bad off, thank God. But we all have fears at times, and maybe life-long ones.

We might entertain conquerable anxieties like fear of water, or public speaking, or heights. These limits to our courage can be stretched by lessons and practice. 

But the deeper fears, like those central to today’s readings, are radically existential and perhaps never fully conquerable. These might include fear of meaninglessness, loneliness, diminishment, and death.

Joseph’s brothers handle their doubts by straight-talking with him. They trust his assurances. Joseph addresses his concerns about burial by pressing a promise from these same brothers.

Mt10_sparrow

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us how to deal with our deepest worries and fears. He assures us that no one or nothing can break the insoluble bond of love God has for us. He promises that we will endure eternally within this love. He reminds us that, ultimately, this is the only thing that matters.

The image of the free and unfettered sparrow shows us how God wants us to live and enjoy our creaturehood. The image of a loving God, brushing our hair and counting every one of them, may inspire us to deeper trust as we pray today.

You may be familiar with the trusting phrase attributed to Julian of Norwich:

“All shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.”


Actually, it was Jesus who spoke the word to her in a vision:

“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It is true that sin is cause of all this pain, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

“These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.”


Indeed, we will meet the results of sin and darkness in the world and in ourselves. Julian grew to understand that, in God’s love, we are saved from that darkness:


And from the time that [the vision] was shown, I desired often to know what our Lord’s meaning was. And fifteen years and more afterward I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: ‘Would you know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.’  

    Thus I was taught that love was our Lord’s meaning. And I saw quite clearly in this and in all, that before God made us, he loved us, which love was never slaked nor ever shall be. And in this love he has done all his work, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us. And in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had a beginning. But the love wherein he made us was in him with no beginning. And all this shall be seen in God without end … 


Music: All Shall Be Well – Kathleen Deignan (Lyrics below)

All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

Receive the gift of healing
from the well of tears;
be washed anew
by grief and sorrowing.

Receive the gift of healing
from our mother Earth,
her deep and dark
and secret verdancy.

Receive the gift of healing
from the shaman’s touch:
the wounded healer’s power
to revive.

Receive the gift of healing
in the arms of love,
embraced in passion
and compassioning.

That Family Reunion!

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 12, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we read about a family reunion of biblical proportions!  After many years, Joseph – long-thought dead- is reunited with his grieving father, deceitful half-siblings, and beloved younger brother. Wow!

For better or worse, “Family” is a powerful force in every one of our lives. It both nurtures and siphons us; both exalts and critiques us; frees us and binds us.

Genesis46_30 family reunion

In many ways, family makes us who we are – by blood and genes – but more importantly by the hope and promise it places in us.  This was the case with Joseph, the great hope of his father Jacob and the misunderstood threat to his jealous brothers.

Today’s reading shows us a family who has made it through their devastating conflicts, not by their own effort, but by the abiding promise of God.

So many fractured families wish they could tell the same story of redeeming wholeness! What were the openings in this family’s brokenness that allowed God to enter and heal?

As so often in our human story, God comes dressed in ordinary clothes.  God wears the garments of our grief, repentance, forgiveness, hope and longing. He is disguised in our memories, cherished or painful. He peeks through our unresolved regrets, and dances in our acts of kindness, patience, and understanding.

We reach through to touch this God of Hope by our smallest mercy, our offered reconciling word, our tendered apology for a slight grown bigger with the years. And sometimes, we must simply let go of that which is unreconcilable, of those human hurts that can’t be healed because of time’s passage or unreachable hearts.

We let this God of Promise live in our families by honestly loving one another, supporting one another, thanking one another, and anticipating one another’s needs.

Being a strong family takes courage and sacrifice – something Joseph’s brothers were lucky to learn, however late. Let us pray in hope and thanksgiving for our own families – and for all families —  that God may give us that kind of self-sacrificing courage. Let us pray especially for young families, in today’s very inhospitable world, that they may grow strong in God’s and each other’s love.

Music: Family Prayer Song – The Promise Keepers

Oh, Brother!

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 10, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our journey through Genesis leads us into the thick of the Joseph narrative. This is a long and intricate story, covering thirteen chapters in Genesis. The drama is rich in theological and psychological themes. Even outside the Bible, its scenes would stand the test of literary craftsmanship. Today’s reading offers us just one example.

Ford_Madox_Brown_-_The_Coat_of_Many_Colours_-_Google_Art_Project
Joseph’s Bloodstained Coat by Ford Maddox Brown

We enter the story a little later in the action. Joseph, the favored son of Jacob and thus hated by his jealous brothers, has been sold by them to a band of Midianite merchants. Ending up as a slave In Egypt, Joseph, by means of a series of dreams, saves the Egyptians from a terrible famine. He is greatly honored for this, becoming almost the equal of the grateful Pharaoh.

During the widespread famine, Joseph’s treacherous brothers come to Egypt seeking grain. He recognizes them although they are unaware of who he is. After leading them through a series of trials, Joseph ultimately forgives and reconciles with them. He brings his whole family to live in Egypt, protected by the aura of his unexpected prosperity.

One of the many suggestions for our prayer today might center on the inevitable dramas within families and communities fueled by favoritism, jealousy, even treachery. But reading Joseph’s story, we must consider these inevitabilities in the long-term light of God’s abiding grace, the power of forgiveness, and God’s will to give us new life even as we stand in our concupiscent ashes.

At times in our own life story, we may act as, or be impacted by, behaviors like those of doting Jacob, the envious brothers, or entitled Joseph. We might find ourselves entangled in a drama to rival this dysfunctional family of Jacob! Our prayer leads us to ask, “How were they ultimately delivered to freedom, restored to love?” 

The controlling, underlying theme of the Joseph narrative is that our hidden God remains with us in all of life’s roller coaster episodes. This God longs to grace us with the redemptive powers of repentance, forgiveness, hope, renewal and generosity. These graces can heal our bruised human story, letting it announce the saving power of God if we but open our hopes, choices, and dreams to it.

Music: Any Dream Will Do – from Joseph and the Amazing, Technicolor Dreamcoat, Andrew Lloyd Weber

Fount of Love and Mercy

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Clcik here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart, a day of deep devotion and gratitude for God’s lavish mercy to us.

All of our readings today suggest the image of a good shepherd caring for his sheep. This metaphor, perhaps more meaningful for the agrarian society in which these scriptures were written, still retains for us the imagery of tenderness, attentive responsibility, strength, protection, and vigilant presence.

Ez34_15 shepherd

Our first reading comes from Ezekiel whose ministry occurred in Babylon during the second captivity there. God calls Ezekiel to prophesy against Israel’s leaders who have forgotten their defenseless sheep, who have fed themselves instead of their flock. Today’s particular verses have God speaking, taking over the shepherding duties, because the human “shepherds” (kings and priests) have so badly failed their sheep. 

The Lord makes clear who will be the beneficiaries of his tenderness:

The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

As I prayed with this passage, I was struck by the awareness of how some things never change. The parallels to our Church and society are painfully evident. Immorally self-indulgent “pastors” and self-serving, indifferent leaders still plague their “flocks”. The poor and weak are still abandoned by those they had depended on.

Our reading from Romans and Matthew raise before us the model of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who both renders us infinite compassion, and teaches us how to dispense it as his disciples. We are invited to become one with the sacred, compassionate Heart of Jesus, being healed ourselves to become healers.

Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart.

Our world aches for this healing. Let us pray together today for God to inspire and energize us to be Mercy for our world.

Music: Sweet Heart of Jesus – sung by the Irish soprano Maureen Hegarty

(I know this hymn is tinged with a bit of the old, sentimental spirituality. Still, I have loved it from my long-ago youth and it touches me deeply. I hope it will touch you as well.❤️ Lyrics below.)

Sweet Heart of Jesus!
Fount of love and mercy,
Today we come,
thy blessings to implore;
Oh touch our hearts, so
cold and so ungrateful,
And make them Lord,
Thine own for evermore.

Sweet Heart of Jesus!
We implore
Oh, make us love Thee
more and more.

Sweet Heart of Jesus!
Make us know and love thee.
Unfold to us
the treasures of thy grace.
That so our hearts, from
things of earth uplifted,
May long alone
to gaze upon Thy face.

Is Scrooge My Hero?

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious

June 21, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Jesus puts the whole spiritual life in a nutshell:

Luke heart treasure

When I was a kid (and maybe even now), one of my favorite cartoon characters was Uncle Scrooge McDuck.

Scrooge

I was amazed to think that someone could accumulate all that money, and fascinated to see that all he wanted to do was sit on it!

Both Uncle Scrooge and Jesus pose some deep questions to us today.

  • How much do we really need to make us happy?
  • Will having it actually make us happy in the long run?
  • Where does our happiness come from, if we have happiness at all?

We have seen the theme in a hundred books and movies – poor little rich boy or girl starving for love. We all seem to realize that true wealth comes from love. But do we live and choose by that understanding?

Possessions can distract us from what is truly essential for our soul. Greed and selfishness can kill the Spirit within us.

Our coöptation by materialism and greediness doesn’t have to rise to the level of Scrooge’s mounted millions. So often a miserly heart is crippled by things much more complex than money. We can be sinfully stingy with:

  • our attention to those deemed unimportant
  • our kindness to those struggling with life
  • our forgiveness to the unappreciative 
  • our presuppositions about what belongs to whom

The following parable has always shaken me down at the root of my assumed entitlements:

A young woman was waiting to catch a flight in the boarding area of the airport. Given that her wait was going to be several hours she decided to buy a book to read along with a packet of cookies to enjoy. She sat down in an armchair in the VIP room of the airport to relax and read her book in peace. 

Beside the armchair where the packet of cookies lay, a man was seated next to her reading his magazine.  When the woman reached into the packet of cookies to take the first cookie, the man next to her also took one. She was irritated but said nothing. “What nerve this man has!” she thought.  For each cookie she took the man also took a cookie. 

She was infuriated but didn’t want to cause a scene. When only one cookie remained she thought to herself, “what will this horrible man do now?” The man reached down and broke the cookie into even halves and handed one half to her. It was more than she could handle!  She grabbed her things in a huff, refused the half, and stormed off to the boarding area.  

When she got onto her seat on the plane she reached into her purse to get her reading glasses and, to her surprise, her packet of cookies was sitting there untouched and unopened.

We might wish to spend some prayer time considering the application of this story to our own attitudes.

Music: Where Your Treasure Is – Marty Haugen

Be Perfected in Mercy

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

June 18, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, both Jesus and Paul teach us about the true meaning of charity and community.

Mt5_43_48 PerfectJPG

Throughout his journey among the Gentile Christians, Paul conducts a collection for the poor of the Jerusalem Church.


Galatians 2:9-10

James, Cephas, and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.


Romans 15:25-26

Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem.


In today’s passage, Paul encourages the Corinthians to contribute by holding up to them the generosity of the churches of Macedonia. Great strategy, eh?

In our Gospel, Jesus shows how deep our generosity, hospitality, mercy, forgiveness,  and love should be: boundless. He gives such a reasonable argument:

For if you love those who love you,
what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?

Jesus tells us that we must far exceed the tax collectors, that we must be “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” – perfected, whole, and completed by Mercy and Love.

For Paul, this meant embracing both the Jewish and Gentile Christians as one community.

For Jesus, it means loving all Creation as God Loves.

Beloved friends, what does it mean for us?

Music: In Perfect Charity – Randall deBruyn (Lyrics below)

Verse 1

O most high and glorious God,
Cast your light into the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith, and certain hope,
And perfect, perfect charity.
Give me true insight, Lord, and wisdom,
That I may always live within your ever holy will,
Lord may your light within me burn,
Shining out in perfect charity.

Verse 2

O most high and glorious God,
Open wide the door that leads me to your love.
Give me your firm, yet gentle strength;
May I live that perfect charity.
Lord, may your peace be ever in me,
That I may always seek to serve your children here on earth;
That I may find my home in you,
And live in perfect charity.

Verse 3

Then most high and thankful praise
I will sing unto the glory of your name:
To Father, Son, and Spirit bright,
Living Presence, Perfect Charity.
Praise to the Love that shines in splendour,
That lights the pathways of my heart,
And brings me close to you. O Holy One,
Invite me in, where you live in perfect charity.

Consecrated in Truth

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter 

June 5, 2019

Click here for readings

Today in Mercy, we experience both Paul and Jesus praying for their followers. They each use similar words.

Paul:
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.

Jn17_17

Jesus:
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.

As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

Do you pray for others? To protect those you love? To change those who are bound in Spirit? To alleviate those who suffer? To awaken those that are caught in the vortex of selfishness or self-destruction? To increase the blessings of the generous?

Perhaps the greatest prayer we can offer for another is one  like that of Paul and Jesus – a plea for the other to stand Blessed in the Truth of who they are in God — CONSECRATED by their Creaturehood, their Baptism, their faith, and their infinite power for Life in the Holy Spirit.

Today, we might pray like this for our Beloveds, and for those we might like to love better; for those who are unloved, and those unaware of how much they are loved.

The Prayer – Celine Dion and Josh Groban

Power Failure?

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
June 3, 2019
Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Acts gives us a brief lesson on the difference between John’s and Jesus’ baptism. John’s is a baptism of repentance, cleansing and preparing the soul for Christ. 

Baptism in Jesus unites us with Christ through the power of the indwelling Spirit. It is a dynamic and life-changing transformation.

But we are often so unaware of its power within us!

Col3_1

We are like the disciples in today’s Gospel. They think that, because they understand Christ’s word,  they have it all together. But Jesus warns them:

Do you believe now?
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.

The distractions of this world can distort and muffle our Baptismal call. Jesus is warning his disciples that it is not easy to live a truly Christian life. Jesus tells them and us to “take courage”, to open our hearts to his power in us. And our Gospel verse from Colossians shows us the way:

If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

We are to make the higher choice always:

  • mercy over harshness
  • justice over retribution
  • forgiveness over vengeance
  • honesty over pretense
  • love over indifference
  • service over selfishness

In this way, our Baptismal power will shine, strengthening not only us, but the world we touch.

Music: The Lord Bless You and Keep You – John Rutter 

Let pray this prayer for one another today, Beloveds. May God strengthen and uplift your hearts in the power of your Baptism.

Embraced by Love

Seventh Sunday of Easter

June 2, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings might make us burst out with, “Isn’t June a beautiful month!”

It is the month building up to Pentecost, when Christ again and again assures us of his love.  Look at this from Revelations today:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
Let the hearer say, “Come.”
Let the one who thirsts come forward,
and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.

And this from our Alleluia Verse:

I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord.
I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice.

And this from our Gospel:
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Oh, how Jesus loves us. And now, as He prepares to rejoin the Father, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, so that we who believe may be embraced by the Infinitely Complete Love that is Trinity.

jn17_20_24

Friends, these are wonderful readings. On this warm June morning, let yourselves be loved by them.

Music: Cherubic Hymn to the Trinity- Tchaikovsky (English Lyrics below)

Let us represent the cherubim in mystic harmony, mystic harmony,
praise the Father, Son and Spirit,
raise our three-fold song, raise our three-fold song,
praise the Trinity, praise the Trinity, raise our three-fold song to the Trinity,
Let us now cast aside, cast aside, let us cast aside all this earthly life,
cast aside, cast aside, cast aside, all this earthly life.  Amen.

King of all, we may receive God the King, we may receive Him!
He who in glory enters in with mighty hosts of angels,
with mighty hosts of angels. Alleluia!

Good-bye Can Break Your Heart (Open)

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 28, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Jesus offers his good-byes as time approaches for him to return to the Father.

Jn16_5

His friends are sad. Wouldn’t you be? What a guy to have known, and palled around with, and loved – in person! But now it’s time for Jesus to return to his role in the Blessed Trinity. And it is time for the Holy Spirit’s continuing role in the world to begin.

Jesus describes the Spirit’s role as one that will set things right by: 

  • showing the world its mistake in rejecting Jesus
  • making clear that Jesus’s teaching was right and just
  • condemning any evil that denies Christ’s teaching

The Holy Spirit will do all this in a different way from Jesus. Jesus was beside his disciples showing them the way to live – and he still is. But the Holy Spirit in within the People of God, working through our communal love, mercy, and justice to transform all Creation.

So Jesus is telling us not to be sad. He is still with us in Scripture and Sacrament. But now our experience of being with God is enriched by the indwelling Spirit who breathes Life to the world through our faith.

What an astounding good-bye Gift! Do we appreciate it, respond to it — even realize we have received it? We are capable of so much more than a small understanding of God. Let us ask to be opened to that Power.

Music: Holy Spirit Rain Down