The link below will take you to Mercy International Center’s website. About mid-page, you can click to see Catherine McAuley’s story, “In God Alone”. It is a wonderful short film. Please take time to enjoy it and to thank God with the Sisters of Mercy for our blessed founder, dear Catherine. Blessings and love to all our Mercy family throughout the world!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 126
This six-verse psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and other Protestant liturgies. It is well known in Judaism as the preliminary psalm recited before the Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals) on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and as such is sung to a wide variety of melodies.
Shir hama'alot (Psalm 126) - cantor Yossele Rosenblatt
Psalm 126 can be described as:
The psalm is divided into two parts.
Joys remembered: The first three verses gratefully reflect on the joy and freedom felt upon return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.
Joys anticipated: The second three verses attest to the difficulties subsequent to that return. They voice a plea for restoration of joy.
This is a prayer most of us can relate to. Can you remember a time when you were so delighted to obtain a certain item, or status, or goal that you felt it was “almost like a dream” situation?
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion, we were like those dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.
But perhaps, once that reality was obtained, it wasn’t so easy to manage, or complete, or enjoy! Perhaps there were “dry spells” like the torrent-less desert of 126:
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the torrents in the southern desert. Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Psalm 126: 4-5
For example, I’ve heard a few young couples express delight upon buying their first home – a “fixer upper”. But often, the “fixing up” requires a lot more resources than expected!
Such was the situation for the Israelites who joyfully returned to Jerusalem — only to find a city in ruins, bereft of their beloved Temple, with devastated fields and vineyards.
Still, Psalm 126 is a testament to hope and resilience. It is an affirmation that we can go forward by faith, hope, trust, patience, and by drawing on the power of remembered mercies.
Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, They shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.
Poem: Blessing to Summon Rejoicing – Jan Richardson
When your weeping has watered the earth. When the storm has been long and the night and the season of your sorrowing. When you have seemed an exile from your life, lost in the far country, a long way from where your comfort lies. When the sound of splintering and fracture haunts you. When despair attends you. When lack. When trouble. When fear. When pain. When empty. When lonely. When too much of what depletes you and not enough of what restores and rests you. Then let there be rejoicing. Then let there be dreaming. Let there be laughter in your mouth and on your tongue shouts of joy. Let the seeds soaked by tears turn to grain, to bread, to feasting. Let there be coming home.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 100, called the “Jubilate Deo” because of its opening pronouncement:
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you peoples; serve the Lord with gladness; come before the Lord with joyful song.
Psalm 100: 1-2
This is such a perfect prayer today for our Mercy community as we will gather to celebrate the Jubilee of many of our sisters this afternoon. It will be a huge celebration in which the Jubilarians of both 2020 and 2021 will be honored, due to last year’s Covid restrictions.
For many of us, the most moving parts of the celebration are the procession and recession. These celebratory passages are a testament to God’s faithfulness over many lifetimes, and to the women who have received and responded to God’s gifts.
Some sisters, who have been given the gift of long years, will process with a cane or walker to assist them. Some will move with an achieved maturity, and some still with the vigor of youth.
But our Mercy family, gathered in the pews, walks in Spirit with each of the Jubilarians, carrying her within a bond of mutual love. As we see each sister whom we have lived with, worked with, loved and learned from, our hearts indeed sing with them, “Jubilate!”
Poetry: The Neophyte – Alice Meynell
Who knows what days I answer for to-day:
Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.
Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
Give one repose to pain I know not now,
One leaven to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.
Oh, rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
I fold to-day at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat
I seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.
Please join us in your grateful prayers for these Sisters of Mercy:
Jubilarians 2020 80 years Sister Rita Powell
70 years Sister Mary Georgina Hasson Sister Mary Hentz Sister Kathleen Kelly Sister Marie Lynch Sister Antoinette Medori Sister Clare Miriam Schrant Sister Marianna Walsh
60 Years Sister Rosellen Bracken Sister Mary Elizabeth Burke Sister Emily Therese Connor Sister Marie Michele Donnelly Sister Patricia Anne Flynn Sister Kathleen Marie Fox Sister Mary Ann Giordano Sister Patricia Anne Kennedy Sister Barbara Ann MacWilliams Sister Kathleen McAlpin Sister Mercedes Joan McCann Sister Kathleen McGovern Sister Josephine McGrory Sister Mary Sarah McNally Sister Mary Anne Nolan Sister Stella Mary O’Brien Sister Frances Paglione Sister Rose Carmel Scalone Sister Barbara Smiley Sister Patricia Talone Sister Angela Welsh
50 years Sister Mary Beth Geraghty Sister Mary Jane Morrison Sister Katherine Bednarcik
Jubilarians 2021 75 years Sister Mary Ann Basile Sister Marie Helene Bradley Sister Mary Janet Doughty Sister Kathleen Mary Long Sister Marita Lyons Sister Catherine Rawley Sister Ethel Sweeney
70 years Sister Therese Marie Kenny Sister Alice Mary Meehan Sister Rose Morris Sister Kathleen Waugh Sister Anne Marie Berenato Sister Mary Anton Frick
60 years Sister Francis Haddow Sister Anna Marie Lesutis Sister Margery Lowry Sister Mary Mester Sister Sheila Murphy Sister Anne Marie Weisglass Sister Joanne Whitaker Sister Beverly Wilde
50 years Sister Maureen Conklin Sister Susan Myslinski
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103 whose verses this morning remind us of God’s munificence.
Munificent – it’s a wonderful word whose Latin roots literally mean gift-making, abundant generosity.
Praying this morning, I realize that I can’t even begin to number the gifts God has given me.
But like Moses in today’s first reading, I want to visit God in the sacred tent of prayer – learning, thanking and awakening to the Mercy in my life.
… and, like Moses, to invite God into every moment, to ask God to keep company with me on my journey:
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship. Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O LORD, do come along in our company.
Poetry: Bearing the Light – Denise Levertov
Rain-diamonds, this winter morning, embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs; each solitaire, placed, it appears, with considered judgement, bears the light beneath the rifted clouds — the indivisible shared out in endless abundance.
Music: In the Garden – written by C. Austin Miles in 1912. Miles wrote nearly 400 hymns, this one the most famous.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, always a source of sweet reflection on God’s mercy.
From today’s verses, this line rings out:
It’s a call to make our lives a total prayer – every moment lived in and with the Presence of God.
The truth is that this is already our reality. God is present to our every moment because it is God’s Life which breathes within us.
The psalm’s call is really to our awareness – the mandate fully to realize that God is living God’s life through us.
The psalm tells us to remember that, in order to so live in us, God is continually merciful. And so God:
pardons all our iniquities
heals all your ills
redeems our life from destruction
and ultimately crowns us with kindness and compassion.
In other words, when we are open to Grace, God makes the best even of our mistakes – always allowing us repent, change, and deepen in love and mercy.
God redeems our life from every darkness and crowns us with mercy and compassion, God fills our days with light, renews our young enthusiasm with the eagle’s strength.
Poetry: The Presence of Love – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
And in Life's noisiest hour, There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee, The heart's Self-solace and soliloquy. You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within; And to the leading Love-throb in the Heart Thro' all my Being, thro' my pulse's beat; You lie in all my many Thoughts, like Light, Like the fair light of Dawn, or summer Eve On rippling Stream, or cloud-reflecting Lake. And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you, How oft! I bless the Lot that made me love you.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 in which the psalmist is clearly awestruck by both the power and the mercy of God. It is a prayer of radical awareness that God is Creator and we are creature.
The psalm has two divisions. In part one, the community is called to praise God because God deserves it.
Rejoice, you righteous, in the LORD; praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp; on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise.
Sing to God a new song; skillfully play with joyful chant.
For the LORD’s word is upright; and works are trustworthy.
Psalm 33: 1-4
In part two, that praise is articulated by recounting God’s caring intervention in the community’s experience.
From heaven the LORD looks down and observes the children of Adam,
From that dwelling place surveying all who dwell on earth.
The One who fashioned together their hearts and who knows all their works.
Psalm 33: 13-15
Psalm 33 can be summarized in this way:
Because Yahweh rules with righteousness, justice, and unfailing love, we must worship Yahweh with songs and praise and by rejecting all false sources of salvation.
Lynn Jost, Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies – Tabor College, Kansas
Praying Psalm 33 reminds me that one can never demand mercy. We cannot require the other to hold us in continual compassion. We can only hope and be grateful.
Mercy is the gift of a heart moved beyond itself by love and tenderness. Such outpouring is the very nature of God in whose image we are created.
Thus for God, and for us, to be unmerciful is to be unnatural. In Psalm 33, we pray not only to receive mercy, but to become mercy.
Psalm 33 closes with a plea for our hearts to be deepened in their affinity to God, to mirror God by our patience, joy, hope, and mercy.
Our soul waits for the LORD, Who is our help and shield.
For in God our hearts rejoice; in God’s holy name we trust.
May your mercy, LORD, be upon us; as we put our hope in you.
Psalm 33: 20-22
Poetry: To Live in the Mercy of God BY DENISE LEVERTOV
To lie back under the tallest oldest trees. How far the stems rise, rise before ribs of shelter open! To live in the mercy of God. The complete sentence too adequate, has no give. Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of stony wood beneath lenient moss bed. And awe suddenly passing beyond itself. Becomes a form of comfort. Becomes the steady air you glide on, arms stretched like the wings of flying foxes. To hear the multiple silence of trees, the rainy forest depths of their listening. To float, upheld, as salt water would hold you, once you dared. . To live in the mercy of God. To feel vibrate the enraptured waterfall flinging itself unabating down and down to clenched fists of rock. Swiftness of plunge, hour after year after century, O or Ah uninterrupted, voice many-stranded. To breathe spray. The smoke of it. Arcs of steelwhite foam, glissades of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion— rage or joy? Thus, not mild, not temperate, God’s love for the world. Vast flood of mercy flung on resistance.
Music: As you listen to David Arkenstone’s instrumental, you may want to remember Shakespeare’s famous description of mercy. See below the music.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 17, a prayer which captures our deep desire to live in the Light of God’s Face.
We, like the psalmist and like Jacob in our first reading, want to know, to understand, to name the Holy in our experience.
From you let my judgment come; your eyes behold what is right. Though you test my heart, searching it in the night, though you try me with fire, you shall find no malice in me.
When Jacob struggles with the heavenly visitor, he wants a blessing and the visitor’s name. Jacob wants to define what has happened to him in the night.
The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
The Spirit does bless Jacob, but remains nameless, beyond the confines of Jacob’s definition. It is only after the visitor has departed that Jacob realizes whom he has encountered:
With that, the visitor bade him farewell. Jacob named the place Peniel, “Because I have seen God face to face,” he said, “yet my life has been spared.”
In our own lives, Heaven visits us constantly though we may be unaware. Discovering God’s Face depends so much on where we look and how we have learned to see.
Psalm 17 tells us that, if we stand in the light of justice and mercy, God’s face is revealed to us.
This was the light in which Jesus lived – to the point that, as we read in today’s Gospel, he could discover God’s face even under the guise of a poor demoniac.
Poetry: God BY KAHLIL GIBRAN
In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips, I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, “Master, I am thy slave. Thy hidden will is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.”
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, “Creator, I am thy creation. Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.”
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed away.
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain and spoke unto God again, saying, “Father, I am thy child. In pity and love thou hast given me birth, and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills he passed away.
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, “My God, my aim and my fulfillment; I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow. I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, and together we grow before the face of the sun.”
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness, and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me. And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there also.
We behold the splendor of God shining on the face of Jesus. We behold the splendor of God shining on the face of the Son.
[Verse1] And oh, how his beauty transforms us, the wonder of presence abiding. Transparent hearts give reflection of Tabor’s light within, of Tabor’s light within.
[Verse 2] Jesus, Lord of Glory, Jesus, Beloved Son, oh, how good to be with you; ow good to share your light; how good to share your light.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117. We do so in the spirit of Thomas, who now offers his unquestioning faith to our patient and forgiving Jesus.
Praise the LORD, all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples! For steadfast is his kindness for us, and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever
Psalm 117: 1-2
Faith is not a commodity or an achievement. Faith is relationship and a journey.
It is a gift and an exercise of grace. Never stretched, it withers like a brittle ligament.
It ebbs and flows with our personal and communal dramas. It deepens with prayer, silent reaching, and a listening obedience to our lives. It shallows with our demands, like Thomas’s, only to see and to touch.
It is fed by the Lavish Mercy of God Who never cuts its flow to our souls if we but take down the seawall around our heart.
On this day when we celebrate the power of tested and proven faith, may we bring our needs into the circle gathered in that Upper Room.
Standing beside Thomas today in our prayer, may we place our trust in the glorified wounds of Christ.
A video today for our prayer: Blessed Are They That Have Not Seen
Music: Healing Touch – Deuter
As we reach out in faith with Thomas to touch Christ’s wounds, let us open our hearts to receive the returning touch of God’s Lavish Mercy.