God’s Generous Jealousy

Monday, September 27, 2021
Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 102 which, together with our first reading from Zechariah, paints a picture of enduring love and hope:

  1. the desperate yet hopeful prayer of one overwhelmed by life

Let this be written for the generation to come,
    and let  future creatures praise the Lord:
“The LORD looked down from the holy height,
    from heaven  beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
    to release those doomed to die.”

Psalm 102: 19-21

2. the response of a faithful God, overwhelmed by love

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
I am intensely jealous for Zion,
        stirred to jealous wrath for her.
    Thus says the LORD:
I will return to Zion,
    and I will dwell within Jerusalem;
Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city,
    and the mountain of the LORD of hosts,
   the holy mountain.

Zechariah 8:1-3

The “jealous love” described here is an infinite and divine Love – the only Love entitled to be possessive because It has created us. 

It is a jealousy unlike our human pettiness, rooted instead in God’s desire for our free response to the gift of our creation. 

God loves us so much as to continually bring us home to Love despite any detours we take.

Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun,
    and from the land of the setting sun.
I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.
They shall be my people, and I will be their God,
    with faithfulness and justice.

Zechariah 8:8

In our prayer today, we might allow ourselves to be aware of God’s “jealousy” for us throughout our lives, never giving up on turning us toward Love – even when the turning may have been “like a hurricane”.


Poetry: GOD OF SHELTER, GOD OF SHADE (ISAIAH 4:6) by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

God of shelter from the rain,
God of shade from the heat,

I run from You
through the muddy street
of my uncommitted heart
till wild winds beat
against my doors,
blasting sand
through all my walls,
and I stand
without retreat,
hear Your command
to be the wheat. 

Sweet the giving!
Sweet this land! 

God of shelter from the rain.
God of shade from the heat.

Music: How He Loves Us – David Crowder Band

Autumn Equinox

Wednesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we mark the Autumn Equinox, we pray with a verse from our Responsorial Psalm:

Bless the Lord, all you chosen ones,
and may all of you praise God’s majesty.
Celebrate days of gladness, 
give God praise.

Tobit 13: 7-8
"EQUINOX"
- the beautiful heft of the word!
Four malleable vowels and
two steely consonants,
softened slightly by a third.
On the fulcrum of a middle "i",
"equ" pushes for balance
against the pressure of "nox",
whose mass bears 
winter's weighted threat.

However we may read the word “equinox”, it spells “change“. Trees put away their lithesome summer greens, like sleeveless tops folded on September’s shelf. Slowly, they wrap themselves within autumn’s deep gold and umber sweaters, trimmed in warm magenta.

We too return to the enterprise of warmth, of fueling fires, of lighting lamps. What nature gave, and we heedlessly received in bright July, is spent. Some chilled memory of solstice motivates us to prepare.


Our hearts too, in synch or out with seasons, cycle through such changes. This inner rhythm of need and abundance is the music through which the Holy Spirit shapes our understanding of God. As in all graceful dances, there must be a yielding. There must be abandon to the mystery into which each passing step dissolves.

God hums the infinite song in our souls, if we will listen. It is deeper than any single note of joy or sorrow. It is the fluid under-beat of Love which recreates and sustains us in every shifting moment of our lives. We belong to it as the waves belong to the Sea, as the leaves belong to the Seasons.


In Philadelphia, it is a glorious day – a perfect vestibule to a season of amazing beauty.  Nature prepares to shed the showy accretions of summer in a multi-colored ritual of leave-taking. It is time to return to the essentials – back to the branch, back to the buried root, back to the bare, sturdy reality that will anchor us in the coming winter.

On each of the coming days, some new layer of green will ignite in a blaze of scarlet or gold then turn out its light for a long winter’s sleep. Nature knows when things are finished.  It knows when it has had enough.  It knows its need for a season of emptying, for a clearing of the clutter, for the deep hibernation of its spirit.


But we humans often ignore the need for an “autumning” of our spirits.  We try to live every moment in the high energy of summer – producing, moving, anticipating, and stuffing our lives with abundance.  

But simplicity, solitude and clarity are necessary for our spirit to renew itself.  Autumn is the perfect time to prayerfully examine the harvest of our lives – reaping the essentials and sifting out the superfluous. In the quiet shade of a crimson maple tree, we may discover what we truly love, deeply believe and really need to be fully happy.

Take time on these crystal days to ask yourself what is really essential in your life.  Nurture those things with attention and care.  Don’t take them for granted.  After the flare of the summer has passed, these are the things that will sustain you: a strong faith, a faithful love and a loving compassion. Tend them in this season of harvest.

Music: Autumn from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Dance

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147, an invitation to praise God. It is one of the last five psalms in the Book of Psalms and, like the others in this group, begins and ends in Hebrew with the word “Hallelujah” (“Praise God”).

The psalm’s first line tells us that it is good for the soul to offer praise. A heart that sings praise is positive, joyful, and free. It has the right attitude toward life based on its sound relationship with its Creator.

Hallelujah!
How good to sing praise to our God;
how pleasant to give fitting praise.

Psalm 147: 1

Praying with this thought this morning, I think of my five-year old grandnephew, a child full of joy and life. Through a family move, his mother (my niece) recently acquired my very old 45 rpm rock & roll records plus their vintage player. And most of you know you can’t beat that music for lively joy!

Last night, his Mom flipped on Chuck Berry singing “Rock and Roll Music”. She sent me a delightful video of little Ollie skipping all over the living room exclaiming, “I can’t stop dancing!”


When we open our spirit
to hear God’s music
humming throughout Creation,
we feel the same way.

And, like our first reading from Deuteronomy, Psalm 147 offers us ample reasons to praise. It directs our attention to what matters in our lives.

God:

  • strengthens us
  • blesses us
  • grants us peace
  • sustains us
  • gives us a fruitful earth
  • teaches us
  • loves us faithfully

If we can focus our hearts on these gifts as we begin our day, we will rise in joy and praise. And no matter what heaviness might seep into our day, our spirits will be able to say, “I can’t stop dancing!”


Poetry: I Praise The Dance – George Goetsch

I praise the dance,
for it frees people from the heaviness of matter
and binds the isolated to community.
I praise the dance, which demands everything:
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.
Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people,
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain,
will, or feeling.
Dancing demands a whole person,
one who is firmly anchored in the center of life,
who is not obsessed by lust for people and things
and the demon of isolation in one’s own ego
Dancing demands a freed person,
one who vibrates with the equipoise of all one’s powers.
I praise the dance.
O Creature, learn to dance,
else the angels in heaven will not know
what to do with you.

Music: Dancing with God – words of Mechthild of Magdeburg conveyed in music by Briege O’Hare, OSC in her album Woman’s Song of God

Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207 – 1282), a Beguine, was a Christian medieval mystic, whose book Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of Divinity) is a compendium of visions, prayers, dialogues and mystical accounts.


Lyrics:

I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me
And if you want me to leap for joy,
Then you must be the first to dance and sing
And I will follow you, in your echo I will ring.
Then, only then,
Then, only then,
Then, only then, will I leap for joy!

I Cannot sing, O Lord, unless you lead me
And you want me to sing for joy,
Then You must be the first to sing out your song
And I will follow You and sing right along.Then, only then,
Then, only then,
Then, only then, I will sing for joy!

Lead me, Lord, in joyful dancing
I will follow in your dance of life.
Then all my living will be true to You,
My Loving God.

Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 18 which is a detailed poetic account of David’s jubilation at his victory as reported in 2 Samuel 22:

David sang to the Lord the words of this song
when the Lord delivered him
from the hand of all his enemies
and from the hand of Saul. 

2 Samuel 22:1

I’m not a fan of modern “action movies”. When I see their trailers on TV, I feel overwhelmed by their “Bang! Bang!”, “Blow ‘em Up” special effects. And I felt a little bit like that when I read all of Psalm 18. 

The scenes described in both Samuel and Psalms are tumultuous! David has had one heck of a time trying to be king!


But reflecting on his deliverance from those times causes David to exclaim, “I love You, Lord, my God.”


As you read Psalm 18, notice that a significant word is missing: BECAUSE.

David never says that he loves God BECAUSE of all the magnificent things God has done for him.


David simply loves God.
And loving God,
David see all experience
as held in God’s hand.


Love, for God or for God’s creatures, isn’t a barometer. It doesn’t rise or fall according to life’s pressures.

Love is a magnet. It is a pulling into the life of the other which gives balance to my own being. Without that balance, it isn’t love.


We see this beautiful balance in David’s relationship with God:

He knows God through deep and constant relationship

I love you, Lord, my strength


He stays faithful throughout his trials.

… my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!


He gives glory to God, not himself.

Praised be the Lord, I exclaim
Extolled be God, my savior!


He asks God’s continued blessing on those for whom he is responsible.

You have shown kindness to me and my posterity forever.


Poetry: A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen – Malcolm Guite wrote this poem thinking of Leonard Cohen as a modern day David. Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death and romantic relationships. He is the composer of the very popular song “Hallelujah”.

Like David’s psalm you named our pain,
And left us. But the songs remain
To search our wounds and bring us balm,
Till every song becomes a psalm,
And your restraint is our refrain;

Between the stained-glass and the stain,
The dark heart and the open vein,
Between the heart-storm and the harm,
Like David’s psalm.I see you by the windowpane,
Alive within your own domain,
The light is strong, the seas are calm,
You chant again the telling charm,
That names, and naming, heals our pain,
Like David’s psalm.


Music: If It Be Your Will – Leonard Cohen

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 50 which enjoins us – from sunrise to sunset – to offer God a sacrifice of praise.


A sacrifice of praise!
It’s a phrase and concept
that pops up in scripture several times.
And it intrigues me.
What might that repeated phrase mean
for my life with God?

In our first reading, the Israelites took detailed steps to offer sacrifice to the Lord. Their efforts are summarized in this verse: 

We will do everything that the LORD has told us. 

But what is the difference between a “sacrifice of praise” and the ritualized blood sacrifice described in Exodus? 


I think of a “sacrifice of praise” as that moment in our spiritual lives when our focus shifts 

  • from “what we do to honor God” to “how God lives in us”
  • from practiced ritual to the awe of Sacred Presence
  • from my efforts to God’s fidelity
  • in other words…..
  • from me to God

At that moment, the “sacrifice” is of our natural self-absorption and self-involvement in order to free God’s presence and action through us.

It is a moment of recognition like that of John the Baptist who, busy as he had been establishing his ministry, on seeing Jesus said, “He must increase and I must decrease.


Our psalm tells us that God is faithfully responsive to such total awareness and commitment:

Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
     and fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
    I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.


Our psalm moves me to this prayer:

My intention, hope, and prayer, dear God, is

  • to praise You with my life
  • to act for You in all things
  • to be Mercy in the world as You would be

May these become a sacrifice of praise to You.


Poetry: St. John’s Eve –  Malcolm Guite

Midsummer night, and bonfires on the hill
Burn for the man who makes way for the Light:
‘He must increase and I diminish still,
Until his sun illuminates my night.’
So John the Baptist pioneers our path,
Unfolds the essence of the life of prayer,
Unlatches the last doorway into faith,And makes one inner space an everywhere.
Least of the new and greatest of the old,
Orpheus on the threshold with his lyre,
He sets himself aside, and cries “Behold
The One who stands amongst you comes with fire!”
So keep his fires burning through this night,
Beacons and gateways for the child of light.

Music: Praise You – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Lord I come to you today,

With a simple prayer to pray.

In everything I do,

Let my life O Lord praise you.

Praise you, praise you, praise you

Let my life, praise you

Praise you, praise you, praise you

Let my life, O lord praise you

Lord you formed me out of clay,

And for your glory I was made.

Use this vessel as you choose.

Let my life O Lord praise you

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalen

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 63, a prayer of both longing and fulfillment.

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.

Psalm 63: 2-4

And isn’t our spiritual life exactly like that?
We feel our lives caressed by God,
and yet we long for greater oneness
with Infinite Love.

Mary Magdalen is the embodiment of that longing and embrace. And so the Church applies to her the powerful intimacy of our first reading:

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

Song of Songs 3:1-4

Within each one of us is a sacred mystic who longs for and seeks God’s embrace. Perhaps that mystic hibernates like a little bear hidden under all the distractions of our lives. But if we give ourselves to silence and holy waiting, the sleeping hermit will awake! 😴 

We might pray with beautiful Mary Magdalen today to let that seeker in us reach for God Who is also waiting.


Poem: Song of the Soul That Is Glad to Know God by Faith – St. John of the Cross

English version by Antonio T. de Nicolas
Original Language Spanish

Well I know the fountain that runs and flows,
though it is night!


This eternal fountain is hidden deep.
Well I know where it has its spring,
Though it is night!

In this life’s dark night,
Faith has taught where this cold fountain lies,
Though it is night!

Its origin I cannot know, it has none,
And I know all origins come from it,
Though it is night!

And I know there can be nothing more fair,
The heavens and earth drink there,
Though it is night!

And I know it has no bed,
And I know no one can cross its depths,
Though it is night!

Its clarity is never clouded,
And I know all light shines from it,
Though it is night!

I know her streams swell so abundantly,
They water people, heaven and even hell,
Though it is night!

The current born of this fountain
I know to be wide and mighty,
Though it is night!

And from these two another stream flows,
And I know neither comes before,
Though it is night!

I know Three in only one water live,
And each the other feeds,
Though it is night!

This eternal fountain is hiding from sight
Within this living bread to give us life,
Though it is night!

He calls all creatures to this light,
And of this water they drink, though in the dark,
Though it is night!

This living fountain I desire,
I see it here within this living bread,
Though it is night!


Music: I Found My Beloved – John Michael Talbot

So I found my beloved in the mountains
On the lonely and far distant isles
O’er resounding waters
I heard the whispering of love’s breezes
To heal my broken heart
Oh tranquil evening, silent music
And the sounding solitude of the rising dawn
It is there that I hear You
There that I taste of You
In love’s banquet to fill my heart
Chorus:
And I found Your footprints
In the sands by the sea
And like Your maiden
I ran along the way to a secret chamber
And there you gave to me
There you taught me, O so well
And I drank of your sweet spiced wine
The wine of God
And there I gave to You
Keeping nothing for myself
And I promised You forever
To be your bride
(Repeat Chorus)
So I have abandoned
All I ever sought to be
And in dying
My spirit has been released

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the beautiful Psalm 91, so full of images to help us experience the steadfast tenderness of God.

Our Gospel shows us this tender mercy in the story of Jesus and two complementary healings – the woman who suffered for twelve years, and the young girl who has lived only twelve years.

In both cases Jesus, by a touch received or given, gathers a broken soul under Mercy’s wing. In the mystery of that grace-filled shade, the soul is restored to the fullness of Light.

As we pray Psalm 91 today let us, like the Gospel’s woman and young girl, reach for any healing and wholeness we long for. 

Is there something in us
that has died too soon
and longs to be reborn?

Is there something
crippled in us
that longs to leap once more
and run free?

May we find new life under God’s infinitely caring wing which ever hovers over us in love.


Poetry: A video mix of Rumi and Hafiz, a dynamite combo!


Music: Shadow of Your Wings – Jeff Nelson

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Friday, June 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Isaiah for our Responsorial Psalm:

God indeed is my savior;
    I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
    who has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
    at the fountain of salvation.

Isaiah 12:2-3

This fountain of salvation is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


I woke up before dawn today. Not really wanting to formally begin my day, I lingered on the pillows for my early morning prayer. Having always loved this feast, I began placing all my suffering loved ones into Jesus’s heart – one by one, asking for their strength and healing.

The list was long, because there are all kinds of suffering, and I love a lot of people – even ones I don’t know personally! Finally I said to Jesus, “You know, life is HARD!” 

And in my spirit, I heard this answer,
“I know. I lived it for the love of every one of you.”

To me, this is the meaning
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
– that merciful companionship
which Infinity assumed for us
in the person of Jesus Christ.

That fountain of love and mercy continues to nourish our lives in the Eucharistic community of faith practicing the works of mercy. We are the threads which bind one other to God’s heart.


Paul knew this. That’s why he prayed this beautiful prayer for his beloved Ephesian community. Our second reading offers an example of Paul’s magnificent benedictions and doxologies. As he prays for the Ephesians, so he prays for us. These prayers are exalted, yet simple. They thrill the soul who prays them. They place us, in awe and thanksgiving, fully in the divinely generous, Sweet Heart of Christ.

Let’s pray for our beloveds today and for the world:

For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


Music: Two songs today:

Threads – by David Leonard

We beseech the Sacred Heart today that all who suffer any kind of fragmentation may find tenderness, wholeness, and comfort in him.
(To hear the song, click on “Watch on YouTube” in the black clock below.)

This one is old school, but it still works for me:

Sacred Heart of Jesus – James Kilbane

Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119, a repeated favorite on the blog – you might like to re-visit any of the 13 entries:


Today, let’s pray with 119 in the light of Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, … 
was not “yes” and “no,” but always “YES”.
God’s promises … find their “Yes” in him.

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

Here’s what those slightly cryptic but profoundly meaningful phrases mean to me.

No doubt, sometime in your life you have heard someone powerful say “No” to you. Or perhaps life itself has said it with some insurmountable limitations.

It is in those moments that we truly understand what “Yes” means because it has eluded us!

That meaning takes various forms depending on our circumstances. “Yes” can mean freedom, love, mercy, forgiveness, renewal, possibility, hope, fulfillment.

And “Yes” is always a beginning … a mystery that longs to be unfurled, unpeeled – like this beautiful red onion ( that I bought yesterday for a salad that turned into a reflection!)


Psalm 119 “unpeels” the layers of our relationship with God. Here’s how I hear it in my prayer:

O Lovely God,
You are wonderful.
You are my Light.
You amaze me
by the “Yes” of your Love.
You fire my spirit
to love You in return.

Lavish Mercy, turn to me
because I love You.
Steady me in my shadows.
Draw my “yes” 
into the Light 
of your beautiful Face.

based on Psalm 119:129-135

Poem: love is a place – e.e.cummings 

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

Music: The Beauty We Love

Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs

June 3, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128 which is a recounting of how blessed we are when we live in God’s Presence.

Our Gospel reveals the clear and essential key to attaining that Presence – love of God and neighbor.

The scribe in today’s Gospel is well on his way to living in God’s embrace.

We might choose to go with him to Jesus today to ask what is most important for us as we continually try to open our lives to God’s grace.

How can we increase
our understanding, strength, and charity
in our everyday choices?
….
How can we love more like God loves?


Poetry: Love as if … by Vinita Hampton Wright

Love as if loving is the first thing on your to-do list.
Love as if you have no other plan but to love.
Love as if you are confident that love makes good things happen.
Love as if this is your first opportunity to love.
Love as if this is your last opportunity to love.
Love as if loving can heal all wounds.
Love as if loving is your first purpose on earth.
Love as if loving is your favorite choice.
Love as if you have that kind of power.
Love as if it will keep the earth spinning in vast, beautiful space.

Music: You Shall Love the Lord with All Your Heart