God’s Own — Wow!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, in our reading from Deuteronomy, God tells the People that they are loved in a unique way. So are you!

God says:  And today the LORD is making this agreement with you:

You are to be a people peculiarly his own

Dt16_18 peculiarly

The word “peculiarly” may strike us exactly as it says. It is a word whose usage has changed over the centuries. We think of it today as “odd” or “unusual”, a meaning given it only since the 18th century.

The word’s actual derivation is this:

Mid-15th century:  “belonging exclusively to one person,” from Latin peculiaris “of one’s own (property),” from peculium “private property,” literally “property in cattle” (in ancient times the most important form of property).

So Deuteronomy is telling us that we are to God as the herdsman’s possessions are to herdsman. We belong to God Who has invested everything in us. God will protect, nurture and strengthen us in a relationship of mutual investment and harmony — IF we do our part which is:

… provided you keep all his commandments,
he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory
above all other nations he has made,
and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God,
as he promised.

In our Gospel, Jesus outlines exactly how to do this.

Love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

In today’s world, so full of hate, greed and retribution, I suppose we are “peculiar”, in both senses of the word, when we live as Jesus asks.

Music: How He Loves Is ~David Crowder Band ( The Song may not resonate with at first, but stick with it. There is something deep in this melody..)

God’s Beloved Least Ones

Monday, March 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the voice of the Lord, in both Leviticus and Matthew, makes one thing abundantly clear: God lives in the “least ones”, and this is where we must love and serve God.

Mt25_45 least

In our first reading, God tells the people to be holy – not by offering God sacrifice and praise, but like this:

  • Don’t steal.
  • Don’t lie.
  • Don’t make an empty vow.
  • Don’t cheat.
  • Don’t hurt those already hurting.
  • Don’t make false judgments.
  • Don’t be prejudiced.
  • Don’t do nasty gossip.
  • Don’t ignore your neighbor’s need.
  • Don’t hate, take revenge on, or begrudge others.

In other words, 

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.

We are so accustomed to this passage that we may miss how startling it is! God asks nothing of us for himself! God asks only that we love God through our neighbor.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reiterates this command in the form of positive actions, adding how we will be judged by it. Jesus says:

  • Feed the hungry.
  • Hydrate the thirsty.
  • Welcome the stranger.
  • Clothe the naked.
  • Care for the sick.
  • Visit the imprisoned.

We are called to these works of mercy on many levels. Certainly the call is first to the physically suffering – the homeless, the refugee, the uncared for, the abused.

But we also know from our own experience that there are all kinds of hungers and thirsts in the human heart. There is a loneliness that persists even in a crowd. There is naked fear, depression and isolation even among those otherwise warmly dressed. There are sicknesses that come from selfishness and others that come from abandonment. There are prisons without bars.

We do not have to look far to find the “least ones” whom God wishes us to love and serve.

We do not have to look far to find God. We just have to look deep.

Music: The Circle of Mercy – Jeannette Goglia, RSM

A Covenant of Love

Sunday, February 24, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our reading from 1 Samuel tells the intriguing tale of David’s magnanimity toward Saul. Saul is enraged and jealous of David whom Samuel has anointed as king to replace Saul. David is continually in Saul’s crosshairs.

But one night, David stealthily enters Saul’s camp. Even though he has a chance to kill Saul, David spares his life out of respect for his kingship.

While it’s not exactly “love for his enemies”, David does demonstrate a largeness of spirit that foretells today’s Gospel. This gracious spirit demonstrates that David is in right relationship (covenant) with God.

Our Gospel is part of Jesus’s Great Sermon in which he restates and renews the covenant of right relationship. If our spirits are true to God, we will love as God loves. We are to be merciful as God is merciful.

Lk6_38 measure

This Law of Love is the essence of life in Christ. It is a profoundly challenging call.

How hard it must have been for David as he stood, spear in hand, over his sleeping enemy – over the one trying to kill him!

How hard it is for us not to be vengeful, retaliatory, and parsimonious when we feel threatened or exploited.

But we are called, in Christ, to the New Covenant of love. By that call, we are endowed with a right spirit.

Today, Jesus asks us to love, forgive, and judge all others as we ourselves would want to be treated. He asks us to live with a divinely magnanimous heart.

Let us pray for the strength to respond.

Music: O Mercy – Stu Garrard, Matt Maher and Audrey Assad

Got Troubles? Try These!

Sunday, February  17, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, hidden in our readings, are three challenges.

Where do we put our

faith

and

hope

How do we

love

?


In our Jeremiah reading, an unfortunate person has placed faith in an untrustworthy “friend”, and the results – typical of Jeremiah – are dire. But the prophet goes on to say that the one who puts trust and faith in the Lord will flourish like a tree near running water.

Jer17_7 tree

In the reading from Corinthians, Paul has some strong words about hope:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.

That sentence is powerful! It can be a life-long meditation.

In other words, where is our hope focused? Do we hope for comfort, success, healing, peace only for this earthly life? If so, we are missing the point, Paul says. Our one true hope is to be united with God in eternal life and our choices should lead to that fulfillment.

In our Gospel, Jesus shows us how to love by placing before us the “least ones” whom he loves best. We too are to love and comfort those who are poor, hungry, bereaved and despised by the heartless.

Today’s readings invite us to look at our life. Is it blossoming with joy, grace and spiritual vitality? Or are we struggling with all the doubts, worries, dramas and depression that come from a self-absorbed life?

Maybe, like me, you sometimes look at a person carrying great difficulty in their lives and wonder at their joy. How can they maintain that trust and joy in the midst of their challenges? These readings offer an answer. They have put their faith and hope in the right place. They have learned to love like God.

Music: Faith, Hope and Love ~ David Ogden ( Lyrics below.)

Faith, hope, and love: let these remain among you.
Faith, hope, and love: the greatest of these is love.

The love of Christ has gathered us together; let us rejoice and be glad in him.
Let us fear and love the living God, and love each other from the depths of the heart.

When we are together, we should not be divided in mind;
Let there be an end to bitterness and quarrels, and in our midst be Christ our God.

In company with the blessed, may we see your face in glory,
pure and unbounded joy for ever and ever.

I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.
Faith, hope, and love, let these remain among you.
Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love.

Be Opened!

Friday, February 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are about being opened by the grace and power of God.

ephphatha

In the Genesis passage, Eve and Adam eat fruit from the tree of knowledge. Their eyes are opened to good and evil.

In our reading from Mark, Jesus opens the ears of a deaf man, allowing him both to hear and to speak clearly.

In the first passage, Adam and Eve’s new “openness” brings a burden. Their innocence now fractured, they must forever exercise their free will to choose good over evil.

In the second passage, the deaf man’s burdens are lifted. He now has no obstacle to hearing and proclaiming God’s mercy.

Like Adam and Eve, we bear the burden of knowledge in a disturbing and sinful world. Every choice challenges us to be and do good in a culture of human degradation.

But like the man who was cured, we have been transformed by Christ’s touch. We see, not just with the discernment of good and evil, but with God’s eyes – with the power to see past death to life.

This power is expressed in our lives by:

  • our faith in a world filled with uncertainty
  • our hope in a world trapped in despair
  • our love in a world blinded by selfishness and greed

Every morning, God wakes us and says, “Ephphatha – be a sign of my gracious openness in your world because I am that Openness for you.”

Today, in our prayer, let us find what is closed in us. We may have judged and shut out someone. We may have given up on a good and necessary practice. We may have withdrawn from a generous responsibility. We may have capitulated to a life-sapping addiction. Inside us somewhere, we may have curled up into  “No”!

God calls us to be a “Yes” to the abundance of life and grace God offers us. We are called to open, to be “uncurled”. This poem by e.e.cummings has helped me on occasion with such uncurling.

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: Open My Eyes, Lord

Valentine’s Poems

pexels-photo-220483

Consummation

You have been present to me, God
like light to flame,
like heat to flame
like fluid movement
and energy of shape to flame.

The wax of my life
is consumed in such Presence.
Shall I simply be content
that it burn,
or shall I seek the Transparency
to which it disappears?

 

ocean

Kairos

All the ages that have loved You
sometimes rush into me
like the white falls of a river,
and Your engagement of the earth
from all antiquity
is caught in a great gasp
by the walls of my soul.

In every creature that has ever been
or ever will be, You and I
have been loving each other.
All that treasure swells
in me for a moment
before it thins again into the Chronos
where I seek You in its shadows.

For a second, split in light
I may have held your still
eternal soul within my own.

Music: Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

Love Really Is Everything!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021419.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our reading from Genesis tells of the creation of Eve to be Adam’s companion.Theological volumes are written to interpret this passage. But for today’s prayer, let’s draw out one small phrase:

The LORD God said:
“It is not good for this human being to be alone.

Gen2_18 Eve

God, Who lives in the community of the Trinity, exists within relationship. God knows that is the only way that any life can exist. This leads us to realize that:

  • We were created from Love for Love
  • We were meant to learn love in one another’s company.
  • Our learning with one another is modeled on the perfect triune love of God.

On Valentine’s Day, our culture romanticizes the notion of love (and makes a lot of money doing so!) But it might also be a good day for us to consider what and whom we have fallen in love with all throughout our lives.

The late Father Pedro Arrupé, now being considered for sainthood, was once the superior general of the Jesuit community. Understanding what it meant to be in love with God and God’s Creation, Arrupé wrote this:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.

(I’ll be sending two of my love poems to God in a later email.  I hope you find them helpful to your prayer.)

Music: Love Changes Everything ~ Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, Don Black

Our Lady of Lourdes

Monday, February 11, 2019

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Tota Pulchra

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the lovely feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, commemorating Mary’s appearance to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, and her subsequent presence in the life of the faithful through devotion and miracles.

Therefore, today’s feast raises before us two important elements of our faith: our devotion to Mary, and our understanding of miracles.

MIRACLES
Scripture and tradition are replete with miracles, occurrences when some extraordinary reality points us clearly to God. Michael O’Neill in his book, Exploring the Miracles, writes this:

“No matter how strong we think our faith is or want it to be, we always want to know that God is there for us, and miracles are that sort of element that bridges the gap between our faith and our connection with God.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia offers an extensive and erudite definition of miracles for those interested. But, leaving a theological discussion of miracles aside, I would offer this quote for our consideration:

“There are only two ways to live your life:
as though nothing is a miracle,
or as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein 

MARY
As we pray with Mary today, specifically in her role as loving intercessor for us, we reflect on Mary’s total openness to grace. Free from the “original sin” that limits all humanity, Mary possessed a faith without shadow of doubt, a hope without burden of uncertainty, a love without taint of self-interest. She was the means through which Divine Breath was restored to us in Jesus Christ.

Some of you may be familiar with the book “The Reed of God” described on Amazon this way:
Caryll Houselander’s beautiful and profound mediation, The Reed of God, depicts the intimately human side of Mary, Mother of God, as an empty reed waiting for God’s music to be played through her. Houselander shares her insightful and beautiful vision of Mary on earth, Mary among us, Mary as a confused but trusting teenager whose holiness flowered with her eternal “Yes”.

Houselander says this about Mary, and it seems to capture perfectly Mary’s appearance to the world at Lourdes:


In the world as it is, torn with agonies and dissensions, we need some direction for our souls which is never away from us; which, without enslaving us or narrowing our vision, enters into every detail of our life. Everyone longs for some such inward rule, a universal rule as big as the immeasurable law of love, yet as little as the narrowness of our daily routine. It must be so truly part of us all that it makes us all one, and yet to each one the secret of his own life with God.

To this need, the imitation of Our Lady is the answer; in contemplating her we find intimacy with God, the law which is the lovely yoke of the one irresistible love.” 


Music: Tota Pulchra Es is an ancient Catholic prayer, written in the fourth century. The title means “You are completely beautiful” (referring to the Virgin Mary). It speaks of her immaculate conception. It takes some text from the book of Judith and other text from Song of Songs. (Latin and English lyrics below.)

Tota pulchra Es
Tota pulchra es, Maria.
Et macula originalis non est in Te.
Tu gloria Ierusalem.
Tu laetitia Israel.
Tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tu advocata peccatorum.
O Maria, O Maria.
Virgo prudentissima.
Mater clementissima.
Ora pro nobis.
Intercede pro nobis.
Ad Dominum Iesum Christum. 

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain of sin is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
you are the joy of Israel,
you give honour to our people.
You are an advocate of sinners.
O Mary,
Virgin most prudent,
Mother most merciful.
Pray for us,
Plead for us,
To the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Rouse One Another to Good

Thursday, January 31, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. John Bosco, Priest and Teacher. He is a saint I would not have paid much attention to except for someone very special to me.

hebrews10_24 inspire

St. John Bosco was the patron saint of Sister Mary Giovanni, my sponsor when I entered the Sisters of Mercy over fifty years ago.  She was my high school teacher and my later friend. 

Like her patron saint, she was humble, honest, loving and uncomplicated. Her quiet humor, evenness and easy acceptance of others inspired me.  She motivated me to want to be good and do good.

gio_graduation
Sister Giovanni with Three Musketeers from the Class of 1963

In reading Hebrews today, I thought of her immediately. Verse 10:24 reads:

We must consider
how to rouse one another
to love and good works.

That’s what she did for me. She wasn’t preachy.  She wasn’t bossy. She didn’t even obviously try to influence me. But her humble, honest, loving care for people wowed me. I wanted to live life the way she did.

This is what Paul is talking about in our first reading today. We need one another’s faith, goodness, and example to energize our Spirit life.

Certainly, teachers have a great opportunity for this kind of influence in shaping a person’s life. But so do we all – with youngsters and those not so young 😊!

Let’s try to be that kind of person today.

Let’s give thanks for the gift of those persons in our lives.

Music: In Your Hands ~ Ron Hiller and Judy Millar

While directed toward teachers, this song can motivate us all to think about how we “teach” with our lives. It can remind us of the many kinds of “teachers” who have blessed us.

Two Prayers

swan

Indwelling

You choose to own me
despite and within everything,
in a place
at the core of my life,
both removed and essential.

At that wordless
unwordable pool,
I bless You, singular
and whole,
and bow before Love as
it laps at the edges of my soul,

as it breaks
in pure revelation
that holiness
exceeds any act of will;
that grace is a desirous God
who possesses me there.


Union

Still ourselves, we are more one
than separate now,
Heart over heart, heart within Heart,
like a word’s meaning
caressed within its sound.

I drink from that union
like the verdant earth drinks
from its deep reserve of water.
It is Your color that flushes the shape
of every blossom sprung from me.

But that water, once tasted
precludes satiety by any other water.
There is no return for me now
to a season not fed by you.

What I have given you, then
is the whole seed of my life.

Love it in that way.

Music: Magnum Mysterium ~ Voces 8