Fearful Yet Overjoyed

Easter Monday, April 23, 2019

Click here for readings

Mt28_8 fear_joy

Today, in Mercy,  we enter the Easter Season which will last until June 8th. The next day we will celebrate Pentecost.

Throughout these several weeks, we will have a thorough reading of the Acts of the Apostles. 

Theologian Walter Brueggemann says this about Acts:

In the Book of Acts the church is a restless, transformative agent
at work for emancipation and well-being in the world.

As Easter People, transformed by the Resurrection of Jesus, that’s what we’re all called to be. Our models and inspiration will be found in these early women and men we read about over the next few weeks. This was a community that acted – within a culture of death – for an alternative, life-giving world.

“The whole book of Acts is about power from God that the world cannot shut down. In scene after scene, there is a hard meeting between the church and worldly authorities, because worldly authorities are regularly baffled by this new power and resentful of it.”
At one point, in chapter 17, the followers of Jesus are accused of “turning the world upside down.
” (Brueggemann)

Our world sorely needs such an active Church, speaking clearly to the issues that threaten and limit human life and wholeness in God. It’s not easy to be that witness, but it is critical. Our Gospel suggests the difficulty, but also defines the motivation:

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went away quickly from the tomb,

fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the good news …

May we, though sometimes fearful, choose to be agents of the joyful Good News for our times.

Music: Alleluia from Mozart’s Exultate et Jubilate- sung by Barbara Bonney

Will You Anoint Him?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Click here for readings.

Today, in Mercy, as we set out with Jesus on the path to Calvary, we might consider his companions who accompanied him.

John12_3 Mary

Closest to Christ’s heart on this journey is his Father. Today’s first reading gives us some insight into that profound divine sharing:

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

In other words, “Have courage, Son, I am with you.”

His disciples, women and men committed to the Gospel, also share the dramatic events of these days. Our Gospel today gives us Mary of Bethany, a leader and gatherer of the early Christian community. Her heart is broken at the now obvious prospect of Jesus’s death. In the name of their primal church, Mary offers Jesus the first sacrament of anointing.

In other words, “Have courage, Beloved Leader, we are with you.”

On this Monday morning of Holy Week, where are we in the community gathered around Jesus? How are we speaking to him, comforting him, loving him?

Jesus’s Passion is enfleshed in our time in the suffering of the poor, the refugee, the sick, the disenfranchised, those called “vermin” by the powerful. How am I with Jesus in his anguish today?

Music:  Two offerings today, one classical, one modern.

Timor et Tremor – from Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence (Four Penitential Motets) by Francis Poulenc

 

Pour My Love on You –  Phillips, Craig & Dean

According to Thy Word

Monday, March 25, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. It is a sacred and beloved feast.  Have we not come to love its phrases, ringing in our hearts like treasured memories? Let us pray with them today, asking to welcome the astonishing Will of God in our own life as Mary did.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth…

Annunciation,_Rome_-_Fra_Lippi
by Fra Filippo Lippi

And the angel said:
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

Botticelli,_annunciazione_di_cestello_02
by Botticelli

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus, for nothing is impossible for God.

BURNE-Jones,_Edward_The_Annunciation_1876-79
by Edward Burne-Jones

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896
by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Music: Ave Maria – Franz Schubert

None like You, Merciful God

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings pour out the lavish mercy of God. Our prayer invites us bask in that warmth and understanding.

Prodigal son

The prophet Micah asks,

“Who is there like You … the God who delights in clemency?”

Our Psalm reminds us that “the Lord is kind and merciful”:

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.

(Two musical selections today.)

Then Jesus tells us the tender parable of the Prodigal Son, which is really more about the Merciful Father. He receives his contrite child in the same way that God receives us in our repentance.

Sometimes we become so content with ourselves that we fail to realize our need for contrition. Sometimes our failures are buried so deep and so long in us that we become blind to them. Repentance is the grace to break through that blindness.

We were created to be an image of the merciful God we meet in today’s scripture. Where we are short of that in our actions, words, choices and attitudes – that’s where we have need of repentance.

Rembrandt’s magnificent painting captures a sacred feeling that might help our prayer. Sometimes we are the gracious Father – loving, forgiving, hoping and working for life in others. Sometimes we are the son, returning from our own destructive selfishness to seek a new beginning. Sometimes we are a little bit of each.

Music: Father, I Have Sinned – Eugene O’Reilly

Our Lady of Lourdes

Monday, February 11, 2019

Click here for Readings

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. 

Find Yourself in This Feast

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

Presentation
Icon from The Menologion of Basil II, an illuminated manuscript designed as a church calendar or Eastern Orthodox Church service book (menologion) that was compiled c. 1000 AD, for the Byzantine Emperor Basil II

This event is layered with human and Divine dimensions. It is filled with memorable characters and key moments in their lives. One or more of their stories may touch your own experience as you pray today.

The infant Jesus, just forty days old, is presented and dedicated in the Temple, setting in motion his whole life as the fulfillment of Jewish expectation. We may reflect on the power of our own Baptisms. If we were infants when baptized, we may recall who carried us to the font and who stood for our dedication to Christ.

Mary and Joseph came to the Temple that day for the ritual of Purification. They place their young marriage, and their beginning parenthood, into the circle of their Jewish faith. We may reflect on those points of religious dedication in our own lives – marriage, religious profession, ordination, Confirmation, and just how much the sacred nature of these events impacts our daily living.

Anna and Simeon, long-faithful servants of God, rejoice in the fulfillment of their hopes for the Messiah. Those of us richer in years might gratefully reflect on God’s fidelity to us over the course of our lifetime, and what sacred hopes we still might long to have fulfilled.

Simeon, so completed by seeing his Savior, intones the moving prayer Nunc Dimittis – “Now You may dismiss your servant in peace.” We might pray for those who are nearing their life’s close that they may be blessed with peace. We might also pray for ourselves that we will experience peace and joy at the end of our lives.

And finally venerable Anna who, woman to woman, stood beside young Mary as Mary faced Simeon’s painful words:

Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

For a beautiful meditation on Anna, click here.

Music: Bach – Cantate BWV 125 – Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
Johann Sebastian Bach composed the cantata Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin With peace and joy I depart), BWV 125, for use in a Lutheran service. He composed this in 1725 for the feast for the Purification of Mary which is celebrated on 2 February and is also known as Candlemas. The cantata is based on Martin Luther’s 1524 Hymn.

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
In Gottes Willen,
Getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,
Sanft und stille.
Wie Gott mir verheißen hat:
Der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden.

With peace and joy I go on my way
in God’s will.
My heart and mind are comforted,
peaceful and calm.
As God promised me
death has become my sleep.

 

What! Jesus Insensitive?

Tuesday,  January 29, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel describes a scene that has always nettled me a bit.

mk3_35 mother_brothers

Jesus is teaching a group inside his small house in Capernaum. He has moved there as he begins his public ministry. Word of his preaching and miracles has created a hubbub all around him, to the point that he can’t get a chance to eat or to rest.

Just a few lines earlier in the Gospel, Mark describes how concerned Jesus’s relatives are about his well-being. Mark 3:21 goes so far as to say:

“When his relatives heard ( how besieged he was) they set out to seize him,
for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’.”

In today’s passage Jesus’s “mother, brothers and sisters” arrive at his home, prevented from entering by the large crowd. They stand outside asking for him. When Jesus hears this, he delivers the nettling remark:

“Who are my mother and my brothers?”

It seems so insensitive, doesn’t it? These people have loved Jesus, played with him, grown up with him! And his mother! My goodness, we all know to listen to, respect, and welcome our mothers!

Praying with this passage though may reveal another dimension in our understanding of Jesus. What Jesus may be saying is this:

All of you, my followers, are closer to me than even the most precious human ties. My  family is now the all-encompassing family of my Father. My path is now the Father’s will, not my human family’s hopes and expectations.

Jesus is, at once, acknowledging to his family, his followers and, no doubt, himself that the Father is about to use his life in ways that will transform, awe and shock the world.

He is telling his disciples to be prepared for the same thing if they truly follow him.

I have always imagined Jesus, in the unrecorded memory of this passage, taking Mary aside afterward, gently explaining his purpose. I see her hand on his maturing lightly-whiskered cheek, tears both of pride and fear in her eyes, and a perfect mutual understanding in their smiles.

Music: Perfect Love – Mary’s Song

There is No Wine

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012019.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we read about Jesus’s first public miracle at Cana. It is a story that has always fascinated me, mostly because of what is left unsaid – what is written between the lines.

jn2_1 can

The Gospel begins by telling of a wedding and “the mother of Jesus was there”. The suggestion is that Mary had been staying at the wedding site and that she had a special role in the preparations. Perhaps she was the aunt or good friend of the bride or groom. Whatever the case, Mary seems to have had some unique responsibility for the ceremony’s success.

This responsibility motivates her to solicit Jesus’s help when she notices the wine is running out. Did she expect a miracle in return for her remark? We don’t know. Perhaps she just wanted Jesus and his young friends to run down to the local wine store for replenishments.

It was Jesus who decided to turn the request into an occasion for a miracle. Why? It seems like a frivolous miracle when there were sick to be cured and dead to be raised!

The final lines of this pericope might help answer that question

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

Jesus decided to first reveal his glory at a wedding feast, a party, an ordinary celebration of life and love. The dramatic, life-saving miracles would come – demons grabbing pigs and diving headlong into the sea.

But this first one, the one his closest family and friends would especially remember, was all about joy, dancing, music, friendship – the divine strength of our shared and graced humanity.

Probably most of us don’t expect to encounter a really eye-popping miracle in our lives. But maybe in our challenges we, like Mary, could walk up behind Jesus and whisper, “This situation needs your touch”.

Oh, how Jesus might surprise us!

Music: Everyday Miracles ~ Sara Groves

Today ~ “Hodie”

Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Christmas Day

hodie 12_25

Click here for Readings from three Masses

Hodie Christus natus est
Christ is born today

The miracle of Christmas lies in this Latin word, “hodie”. 

The Divine Immediacy of it!
The Eternal Regeneration of it!
The Omnipotent Presence of it!
Hodie – Today!  Now!

Christ is born in this moment, in this effort, this thought, this choice, this breath of my life.

As this Christmas morning dawns, indeed we commemorate an historical event that has redirected history toward Grace. But hidden in that sacred observance is the deep mystery of what we truly celebrate.

The birth of Christ, Eternal Love, is not contained by time. Every breaking moment bears Christ to the world. As history rolls on beneath this mystery, every generation – every human being – becomes the agent of His birth.

Christ was born in Bethlehem, and we rejoice.

But Christ is born in me – today, and today, and today. And we are awe-struck by Eternal Love.

I open my heart in humility, readiness and worship for Emmanuel’s Presence in my life.

This is the “Christus Moment”, where those passing vagaries of time which conspire to break our hearts, to break our lives, to break our world, are rendered soulless.

This is the moment when death is eviscerated, sin erased, division healed, brokenness  soothed, and hope blazingly restored. This is the “Hodie Moment” of Christ’s eternal birth in my heart, in our Church, in our world.

As we listen to the glorious chant of Christmas morning, “Christus Natus Est”, may we let our lives proclaim its transforming melody by:

  • every peaceful word we speak
  • every forgiving glance
  • every courageous stretch to hope
  • every grateful generosity

May Christ be born in us today

  • by our active love for Him in suffering humanity
  • by the vigor of our merciful justice
  • by our steady dismantling of selfishness to allow Him the fullness of glory

May Mary, who carried Jesus to life, teach us and guide us to be Bearers of Christ today – “hodie” – and every day.

Music: Hodie Christus Natus Est

Merry Christmas and God’s blessings to all of you and your loved ones!

Today is Christ born; today the Savior has appeared;
today the Angels sing, the Archangels rejoice;
today the righteous rejoice, saying: Glory to God in the highest. Alleluia!

Hodie Christus natus est hodie Salvator apparuit:
hodie in terra canunt Angeli, laetantur Archangeli:
hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo, Alleluia.

Mary, Sacred Chamber

Sunday, December 23, 2018

 Click here for Readings

MAry 12_23

Today, in Mercy, our readings offer a harmonious exultation of Mary, beloved mother of Jesus.

The prophet Micah foretells the time “when she who is to give birth has borne.”

Even the ancient voices spoke of Mary, long before time knew her name. Their hope depended on her cosmic “Yes”, long before she spoke her first childish word.

Hebrews speaks of the Body of Christ, that physical place where the grandeur of God took flesh, that tabernacle woven of Mary’s own body and blood, that temple made possible by her “Fiat”.

The Gospel gives us two loving women, Elizabeth and Mary, rejoicing in God’s power manifested in their lives. They need no proclamations, executive orders, bills, or injunctions. Just a soft greeting, a leap within, a confirmed trust carried in each other’s eyes.

This poem by Mark Strand captures their moment for me. These two women had waited with all Creation for the redeeming Messiah. Now it was about to happen within their lives:

The Coming of Light
Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.

Music: Agni Parthene (Greek: Ἁγνὴ Παρθένε), rendered “O Virgin Pure”, is a Greek Marian Hymn composed by St. Nectarios in the late 19th century. The dulcet melody is sung here in both Greek and English. Lyrics are below.

O Virgin Pure
by St. Nectarios

Refrain: O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

O Virgin pure, immaculate/ O Lady Theotokos
O Virgin Mother, Queen of all/ and fleece which is all dewy
More radiant than the rays of sun/ and higher than the heavens
Delight of virgin choruses/ superior to Angels.
Much brighten than the firmament/ and pure than the sun’s light
More holy than the multitude/ of all the heav’nly armies.
O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

O Ever Virgin Mary/ of all the world, the Lady
O bride all pure, immaculate/ O Lady Panagia
O Mary bride and queen of all/ our cause of jubilation
Majestic maiden, Queen of all/ O our most holy Mother
More hon’rable than Cherubim/ beyond compare more glorious
than immaterial Seraphim/ and greater than angelic thrones.

O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

Rejoice, O son of Cherubim/ Rejoice, O hymn of angels
Rejoice, O ode of Seraphim/ the joy of the archangels
Rejoice, O peace and happiness/ the harbor of salvation
O sacred chamber of the Word/ flower of incorruption
Rejoice, delightful paradise/ of blessed life eternal
Rejoice, O wood and tree of life/ the fount of immortality

O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.

I supplicate you, Lady/ now do I call upon you
And I beseech you, Queen of all/ I beg of you your favor
Majestic maiden, spotless one/ O Lady Panagia
I call upon you fervently/ O sacred, hallowed temple
Assist me and deliver me/ protect me from the enemy
And make me an inheritor/ of blessed life eternal.

O Rejoice, Bride Unwedded.