If … then. Uh oh!

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter 

May 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge us.

Jn15_20JPG

Jesus talks about the kind of blowback his disciples can expect for living their faith in  an inimical world. He gives us some “if … then” statements:

  • If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
  • If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.
  • If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.

Reading these verses makes me wonder if I am really living the Gospel, because I don’t feel all that persecuted.

And then I think that this is because I really live in two worlds. I live in first world comfort and security. But there is also a part of me that agonizes daily over the injustice rampant in our shared world. Today’s Gospel challenges me to live more intentionally in that second world.

Walter Brueggemann says this:

Faith is both the conviction
that justice can be accomplished
and the refusal to accept injustice.”
Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out

Jesus was not persecuted simply because he did miracles and preached love. This loving, life-giving ministry confronted the dominant, government-generated culture which relied on the subjugation and despair of those they dominated.

Jesus, just like other prophets, was killed because he gave hope to a people whose freedom threatened the status quo comfort of the dominators. Just like  Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Oscar Romero , Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Wang Zhiming , the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek  (All names are clickable to find more information.)

I don’t aspire to martyrdom. But I do want to be a true disciple of Jesus. The way available to us is to live and act with mercy and compassion for the poor, marginalized people Jesus so loves. We can do this by voting, advocating for, and sponsoring programs and agendas for social justice.  This link from the Sisters of Mercy is a help on how to do that:

Click here for Sisters of Mercy Advocacy page

Brueggemann also says this:

Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion.” (Prophetic Imagination)

May our hearts be moved by grace to the depth of compassion we have learned from Jesus.

P.S. I know that many of you have responded to this request I placed on Facebook. Thank you. For those who don’t do Facebook, this is an urgent request for help for refugees at our southern border. It’s an easy way to do some good things.It was received from Sisters of Mercy Leadership Team in D.C.

Music for today is below this request. 


appeal


Music: Compassion- The Gettys 

Anonymous in God

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter 

May 14, 2019

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Matthias

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Matthias, the one chosen by lot to take the place of Judas among the Twelve.

Matthias met the conditions for being an “Apostle” because he

… accompanied (the Apostles) the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,

beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us …

But there was another, upon whom the lot did not fall, who also met these conditions- Joseph Barsabbas Justus. This man was important enough to Luke, the writer of Acts, that his name is precisely recorded in history. But his name is all that we know of him. What he subsequently did for the spread of the Gospel remains folded in history’s shadows.

There are so many souls, down through these same shadows, who love and spread the Gospel but who remain relatively “anonymous in God”. I think of one such woman today, on what was once her Feastday.

Sister Mary Matthias Duggan was born in 1869 in the Irish Free State. She came to the United States in 1897. She joined the Sisters of Mercy as a lay sister, women who lacked the formal education to be teachers. Sister Matthias, and many others like her, cared for the household needs of the teaching sisters and resident students.

When I met Sister Matthias, she was in her nineties and lived on our infirmary wing. The trek from that wing to our Motherhouse chapel, though a skip and a jump for us novices, was a long journey on her cane for Sister Matthias. She carried ninety years of heavy work on her aged bones.

When any of us “youngsters” would come upon Sister Matthias or her peers on their chapel journey, we would offer an arm in accompaniment. Sister Matthias would give a lightly brogued “Thank you”, then begin a series of audible prayers for the accompanying novice. She always said, “These prayers are for your final perseverance.”

We will never know the blessed influence Joseph Barsabbas Justus had on the early Church. If it was anything near the Holy Gift that Sister Matthias quietly gave, then he too is a saint like she is.

Sister Mary Matthias Duggan, and all you Holy Women of Mercy, please continue to pray for us.

Music: For All the Saints

In Mercy Broken

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

May 10, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, John gives us the core teaching of the Eucharist. 

Jn6_56 eucharist

For many, it is a hard teaching. How can Jesus give us his flesh and blood to nourish us? How can mere bread and wine embody this gift?

Have you ever been profoundly hungry? For most of us, probably not in a physical sense. But what about your heart and soul?

Have you ever longed to be loved, understood, accepted, or valued?

Have you ever felt famished for peace, rest, comfort, security, or solitude?

Have you ever longed to be delivered from gnawing anxiety, depression, fear, sorrow or loneliness?

Jesus recognizes all our hungers. He desires to enfold them in his Healing Mercy. He unites us to himself in the sacred reality of Eucharist, made visible to us in bread and wine.

In Eucharist , these fruits of the earth are not simply symbols pointing to another reality. By the power of God, they become sacraments embodying the reality themselves.

This mystery is one that must be embraced by the heart and soul, not one only to be analyzed by the mind. By opening the deep hungers of our spirit to the healing presence of Christ in Eucharist, we will be fed in ways we could never have imagined. In Mercy, we will become sources of nourishment for the broken world around us.

Music: Bread of the World in Mercy Broken – Reginald Heber

 

One Heart, One Mind

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter, April 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we read about the Love which unified the early Christian community.

Acts4_32 One

Their love and faith so satisfied their needs that they voluntarily disposed themselves for the good of others. That mutual self-donation generated a shared abundance beyond expectation. And the witness of radical community inspired new generosity:

Thus Joseph, also named by the Apostles Barnabas
(which is translated Ason of encouragement”),
a Levite, a Cypriot by birth,
sold a piece of property that he owned,
then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles.

Our Christian communities today may never experience the simple unity of the early Church. The complexities and sophistications of centuries now impede us. But the principle within that simple unity is still available to us:

We are One Body and
the basic needs (both material and spiritual)
of all should be met
through our mutual generosity,
so that everyone may be free to worship in peace.

That principle must never be obscured by institutionalization, divisive interpretation of dogma, or pharisaical religious elitism.

May God inspire us to be a generous and merciful Church!

Music: One Heart, One Mind – David Haas ( Lyrics below)

May we be of one heart, one mind
Giving our lives for each other
All that we are, we hold in common
By the grace of the Lord
May there be no one among us
Who is need or alone
May we be of one heart, one mind

Grounded in hope, strong by faith
Filled with joy, led in peace
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Courage lived, wisdom shared
Mercy shown, truth be told
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Wonders and signs, day by day
One in love, offering praise
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

4.Unity, generous hearts
Table spread, breaking bread
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

5.Kingdom bound, blind now see
Hungry fed, poor no more
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

No more tears, fear has fled
Dead are raised, justice reigns
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Silver or gold, we do not have
Only the name of the Lord
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Spirit poured, prophecy sung
Visions and dreams by old and young
Blest by God, one in the Body of Christ!

Cast a Merciful Shadow

Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings continue to show us the rising power of Christ after the Resurrection.

Acts5_15 shadow

Acts demonstrates how powerfully He lives in his disciples, and in the faith of the emerging Church.

… the people esteemed them.
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord,
great numbers of men and women, were added to them.
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets
and laid them on cots and mats
so that when Peter came by,
at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.

Our Gospel recounts two Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus where He bolsters that faith for these still fledgling followers. They were gathered in the Upper Room, doors locked and fearful. When Jesus appears, the first thing he says is, “Peace”, because that is what his little flock most needs.

In the course of the reading, we discover Thomas’s adamant doubt unless he can see and touch evidence of the Christ he once knew in the flesh. His doubt is so strong that his faith, when it comes, overwhelms him.

My Lord, and my God!

In these first sainted founders of the faith, we can find a mirror image of our own call to witness Christ. We are delegated to be his presence in the world, to cast a shadow that bears his blessing in the midst of suffering and confusion.

But in the locked room of our hearts, we may still be afraid. We may feel, like Thomas, that we were absent when the affirmation and courage were distributed!

Knowing our own weaknesses – and captured in the maze of their little dramas – we may be skeptical that Christ desires to rise in us, to preach by our lives.

What Jesus said to these very fragile witnesses, he says to us

Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me,
so I send you.

Let us look around today in awareness of those who fall in the shadow of our faith: our children and families, our religious communities, our elders, our neighbors, our friends and co-workers. As we pass through life together, does our presence bless them with a trace of God?

As we pray today, let us place our doubts, fears, weaknesses and self-concerns into Christ’s sacred wounds. Let us leave them there in confidence as we humbly choose to be his Presence and Mercy for others by the simple, selfless choices of our lives.

Music: My Lord, My God  – Vineyard Music

Witnesses 2

On Friday night, my religious community shares the joy of celebrating the lives of such witnesses, our Sisters marking 25, 50, 60, 70, 75, 80 and 85 years of faithful, merciful service. I  list their names with two poems I used while praying for them this morning. Please join us in grateful prayer for these dear Sisters today.

25 years
Mary Paula Cancienne

50 years
Anna Salzman

60 years
Kathleen Boyce
Joan Freney
Kathleen Gennett
Janet Henry
Maryann Horan
Marie Bernadette Kinniry
Louise Marie Luby
Eleanor McCann
Maureen Murray
Barbara Ann Newton
Katherine O’Donnell
Anne Quigley
Joan Scary
Margaret Taylor
Anne Woodeshick

70 Years
Joan Donahue
Muriel Kershaw
Miriam Theresa Lavelle

75 Years
Margaret Kelly (RIP last week)
Mary Rita Robinson
Helen Cahill

80 Years
Elaine Buckley

85 Years
Mary Berenice Eltz


Poem 1:  The Neophyte by Alice Meynelle
Picture1( This poem was given to me decades ago by one of our old Sisters.  The poem describes how, at first profession, the young novice – in faith – gives ALL her years to God, even before she lives through them.)

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 check to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.

O 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.


Poem 2: Silver by Jeannette Encinias

( This beautiful poem makes me think about what God would say to our dear sisters as they are blessed to age into God’s Love over decade upon decade.)

Elaine

“How many years of beauty do I have left?
she asks me.
How many more do you want?
Here. Here is 34. Here is 50.

When you are 80 years old
and your beauty rises in ways
your cells cannot even imagine now
and your wild bones grow luminous and
ripe, having carried the weight
of a passionate life.

When your hair is aflame
with winter
and you have decades of
learning and leaving and loving
sewn into
the corners of your eyes
and the children come
to find their own history
in your face.

When you know what it feels like to fail
ferociously
and have gained the
capacity
to rise and rise and rise again.

When you can make your tea
on a quiet and ridiculously lonely afternoon
and still have a song in your heart
Queen owl wings beating
beneath the cotton of your sweater.
Because your beauty began there
beneath the sweater and the skin,
remember?

This is when I will take you
into my arms and coo
YOU BRAVE AND GLORIOUS THING
you’ve come so far.
I see you.
Your beauty is breathtaking.”

Song: My Tribute – To God Be the Glory

 

God’s Forever Covenant

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings focus on the inviolable power of covenant.  

gn17_Covenant

The word “covenant” is derived from the Latin “convenire ”- to gather, to assemble, to fit.

We get the sense of an artist pulling together the pieces of a mosaic to form a masterpiece. Or we may think of a poet choosing the perfect words to convey feelings otherwise unwordable.

In our first reading, God fashions his covenant by weaving together the family lines descending from Abraham:

I will maintain my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Jesus deepens the Abrahamic promise by revealing that he is the Son of God sent to fulfill the ancient promise:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”

These promises are passed on to us in many ways. Today’s reading might remind us of the role our families have played in transmitting the faith to us. They, together with our early teachers, opened our hearts to the amazing possibilities of grace.

I pray in thanksgiving today for my parents and all the generations who formed them. I pray for the good Sisters who modeled a captivating holiness to me. I pray for my beloved Mercy family as they continue to show me the face of God.

For whom would you offer a grateful prayer today? You might simply say their names in your prayer, or write their names in your own mosaic of thanksgiving. Or just listen to this music and let them bless your heart today.

Music:  By Faith – Keith & Kristyn Getty

Be Made New!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus writes new rules for life in the venerable Jerusalem dust.

Jn8_1_11JPG

Jesus enjoys an early morning walk from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. The weather, no doubt, was typically beautiful since others easily gathered and sat around Jesus to hear his teaching.

But the Pharisees, vigilant for an opportunity to condemn Jesus, executed a mean-hearted plot.

Dragging a woman “caught in the act of adultery” before the encircled men, they demanded Jesus’s judgment of the distraught woman.

Imagine the woman’s terror.  Her poverty and loneliness have already forced her into an ignoble commerce. Had she the chance, she surely would have chosen an easier life.

Now, her meager quarters have been broken into, her privacy invaded in the most intimate of circumstances.  Her adulterous accomplice has either turned her in, or absconded in cowardice. She is surrounded by brutal accusers, many of whom are likely her former customers.

But Jesus sees the woman, not her sin. He responds to her heart not her actions.  He also sees these evil, plotting men and responds to their veiled motivations.

Wouldn’t we love to know what Jesus scribbled in the Temple dirt as these blood-thirsty hypocrites hung over him?

Might it have been the names of those who also visited the woman on earlier nights?

Might it have been some of their hidden sins?

Challenged to cast the first stone if they were sinless, the plotters slowly slink away.  Jesus is left to forgive and heal this suffering woman.

Jesus tells her to go and sin no more, to -as the first reading says – “remember not the things of the past”. Jesus has made her into a new person by the power of his mercy.

May that renewing mercy touch us, and our world, where we sorely need it.

May it flow through our renewed hearts to everyone we encounter, no matter the circumstances.

Music:  Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd

Law or Love?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings bring to mind the role of religion in our spiritual life.

take up mat 2

The dictionary defines religion as a particular system of faith and worship. The origin of the word “religion” is from the Latin “religare”: to bind.

In the magnificent passage from Ezekiel, we are given a metaphorical description of grace flowing from the Temple, the locus of faith for Israel. Ezekiel is led by a radiant vision to this source of abundant life symbolized by water. Slowly and incrementally, this abundance deepens for Ezekiel, until he is swimming in its grace. 

Ezekiel’s vision demonstrates what happens in us when religion, ritual and law enhance grace. The beauty, power and architectural symmetry of the Temple symbolize the great benefits of religious practice.

Our Gospel, on the other hand, shows us a Pharisaical religion built on empty practice and bereft of heart. When Jesus cures on the Sabbath, he moves beyond these skeletal boundaries to mercy, which is the reason for all religious practices.

take up mat
Jesus Cures on the Sabbath

Jesus shows us that when religion – and its ensuing ritual and law – bind grace, it needs to be set aside. His whole life was predicated on a faith which generated mercy, not sacrifice. The alleviation of suffering and need always supersede observance – even on the Sabbath.

When we see any so-called faith or religion which places law over mercy, we see an empty temple where the river of grace has run dry. Our culture is filled with fake holiness that measures, condemns and ostracizes others. We see religion distorted into political bullying. We see it redefined as an excuse for excessive wealth. We even see it used as legitimization for nationalism, violence, racism, and war.

Today’s readings tell us to be on guard. The forces which twist religion are very subtle and pervasive in our culture. They dress themselves in impressive words and practices, just like the Pharisees did, but their costumes hide an ugly hate and fear.

To the fearful and weak, these forces preach power – but it is a power over not for others.

Jesus has shown us what faithful practice looks like: mercy and love. It is vulnerable, courageous, inclusive, and humble. It sees the suffering of others and responds. It waters the Temple of our hearts to make them verdant with hope, joy and generosity.

Music: Come to the Water – John Foley, SJ and Matt Maher

A New Day Awaits

Sunday, March 31, 2019

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1 Cor new creation

Today, in Mercy,  halfway through Lent, we see in our readings glimpses of new life.

The captivity in Egypt had been TOUGH on Israel. During those many decades, they had appeared to be abandoned and forgotten by God.  It was a harsh reckoning for them … hard to be forgotten. Even then, when they thought they had found freedom, they still wandered for forty years in the desert.

But now Israel stands at a new horizon.  Moses has died and Joshua has become Israel’s leader.  God tells him that it is a new day:

“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”

In our second reading, Paul tells us:

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

And in our revered Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells us:

This beloved child of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
was lost, and has been found.

All of these passages speak to us in our Lenten journey, and in our Life journey.  We have experienced our own “Egypts”, times when we felt disconnected, even abandoned, by God.  We have sometimes felt we were journeying aimlessly toward an unknown goal. We have at times wandered, like the prodigal son, from the path of God’s love. We have darknesses in our memories that still long for Light.

This poem from Mary Oliver might capture the feeling for us:

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~ Mary Oliver ~

In today’s readings, God is reminding us that the Light awaits us. Forgiveness, reconciliation, new energy and grace are the gifts of Easter – the gifts where we must keep our eyes focused as we journey.

So let us do as e.e.cummings encourages us in this poem:

Let It Go – e.e. cummings

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love


Music: Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd
(Lyrics below)

Remember not the things of the past;
now I do something new,
do you not see it?
Now I do something new, says the Lord.

In our distress God has grasped us by the hand,
opened a path in the sea, and we shall pass over,
we shall pass over, free at last.

In our parched land of hypocrisy and hate,
God makes a river spring forth,
a river of mercy, truth and compassion; come and drink.

And who among us is sinless in God’s sight?
Then who will cast the first stone, when he who was sinless
carried our failings to the cross?

Pressing ahead, letting go what lies behind,
may we be found in the Lord, and sharing his dying,
share in his rising from the dead.