David, the King

January 24, 2022
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings place us at watershed moments in the lives of David and Jesus.

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:
“Here we are, your bone and your flesh.
In days past, when Saul was our king, 
it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back.
And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel 
and shall be commander of Israel.’”
When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, 
King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD, 
and they anointed him king of Israel.

2 Samuel 5:1-4

In 2 Samuel 5, David fully assumes the kingship through the approbation of the community. The scene marks the culmination of his rise to power and “the beginning of the rest of his life”.

Through our readings in Samuel until now, we have ascended with David to the pinnacle of his life. We are about to begin weeks of moving down “the other side of the mountain”.


Scholars generally see the David narrative in two primary units, the Rise of David (I Sam. 16:1—II Sam. 5:10) and the Succession Narrative (II Sam. 9:1—20:26; I Kings 1:1—2:46). Chapters 5:11—8:18, fall between two larger units. Whereas the first presents David in his ascendancy, the second presents David in his demise and expresses pathos and ambiguity. Our chapters thus come after the raw vitality of the rise of David and before the terrible pathos of the succession narrative. They show the painful process whereby this beloved chieftain is transformed into a hardened monarch, who now has more power than popular affection.

Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel

In our Gospel, Jesus also comes to a sort of “continental divide”. But rather than community approbation, Jesus encounters the condemnation of the scribes who have come from Jerusalem to assess him.

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, 
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and
“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Mark 3:22

From this moment in his life, Jesus too launches into his “kingship”, one that looks very different from David’s. The ensuing chapters of Samuel will reveal how David struggles and succumbs to the temptations of power and domination. The Gospels, on the other hand, describe Jesus’s “kingdom” as one of humility, mercy, and love for those who are poor and suffering.

Only through faith can we understand the inverse power of God present in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in our own lives. Jesus, the “new David”, is anointed in the Spirit to reveal and incorporate us into the kingdom of God.


Prose: from Immanuel Jakobovits who was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1967 to 1991.

To those without faith
there are no answers.
To those with faith, 
there are no questions.

Music: King David, music by Herbert Howells, sung by Sarah Connolly from a poem by Walter de la Mare

King David – Walter de la Mare

King David was a sorrowful man:
    No cause for his sorrow had he;
    And he called for the music of a hundred harps,
    To ease his melancholy.

    They played till they all fell silent:
    Played-and play sweet did they;
    But the sorrow that haunted the heart of King David
    They could not charm away.

    He rose; and in his garden
    Walked by the moon alone,
    A nightingale hidden in a cypress-tree
    Jargoned on and on.

    King David lifted his sad eyes
    Into the dark-boughed tree-
    ''Tell me, thou little bird that singest,
    Who taught my grief to thee?'

    But the bird in no wise heeded
    And the king in the cool of the moon
    Hearkened to the nightingale's sorrowfulness,
    Till all his own was gone.

Persevering Faith

January 14, 2022
Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings burst with lessons for our faith. We might center our prayer on these three dynamic elements:

Power
Praise
Perseverance


Power

In our first reading, Israel is in the midst of a profound power shift. Until this time, Israel has thrived in “covenantal localism” which released possibility and initiative within the broad community. But now, perhaps stressed by the Philistine threat, the elders lobby for the establishment of a kingship – a centralization of power, wealth, land control, and local self-determination.
( based on Walter Brueggemann: First and Second Samuel: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)


The Elders Ask Samuel for a King

Samuel isn’t happy with the elders’ suggestion and, apparently, neither is God. Samuel tells the elders so in a passionate speech against regalism. He pronounces that when the king has usurped all their rights, God will not deliver them as they once were delivered from a similar bondage in Egypt:

When this takes place,
you will complain against the king whom you have chosen,
but on that day the LORD will not answer you.

1 Samuel 8:18

The lesson for us is that the use and organization of power must always be for the sake of communal justice and well-being. Fostering these universal goods is the perpetual struggle of nations and institutions. As part of any community, we are called advocate for a just distribution of power for all people.


Praise
Our Responsorial Psalm counsels that in all such human interactions, our focus must be on God and God’s Will for universal wholeness and peace – a peace evidenced in justice, joy, and praise.

Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;            
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,            
and through your justice they are exalted.

Psalm 89:16-17


Perseverance

Mark’s story of the cure of a paralyzed man demonstrates the power of faithful perseverance. This man’s community – his friends – persist until he fully benefits from God’s desire for his wholeness.

Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2:4-5

Such is our responsibility to pursue our own wholeness and the wholeness of our global community.


Poetry: Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelley

(The poem explores the fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion. (Wikipedia)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
”Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’


Music: Aria – composed by Friedrich Gulda, played by Tomoko Inoue

Cleansed in Mercy

January 13, 2022
Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings present a human cycle with which we all are familiar- the experience of falling and being lifted up again.

Failure
then
Mercy
then
Redemption

In our first reading, we hear about Hophni and Phinehas, sons of old Eli. They were not nice guys. They represent everything that happens when politics and power corrupt religion.

Now the sons of Eli were wicked; they had respect neither for the LORD
nor for the priests’ duties toward the people.

1 Samuel 2: 13-14

After a first defeat by the Philistines, the elders of Israel sent for the Ark of the Covenant to fortify them in battle. Hophni and Phineas, being the Ark’s tenders, accompanied it from Shiloh. But the presence of the Ark, representing God, didn’t bring victory. Israel lost a second battle.

The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;
every man fled to his own tent.
It was a disastrous defeat,
in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
The ark of God was captured,
and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

1 Samuel 4:11

Wow! You know it’s bad enough when we fail a first time! But after asking God to step in, we still fail??? Uh Oh!

Extraordinary Failure



Our Responsorial Psalm is the prayer of those recognizing themselves as utterly defeated, confused, and begging for redemption – the “Uh Oh People”!

Why do you hide your face,
            forgetting our woe and our oppression?
For our souls are bowed down to the dust,
            our bodies are pressed to the earth.
Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

Psalm 44:24-25

Extraordinary Redemption 


Mark’s Gospel tells the story of one devastated and utterly dependent on God to be restored, — a story of the immediacy of God’s Mercy when we open our hearts to it:

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him, 
“I do will it. Be made clean.”

Mark 1:40

Extraordinary Mercy


Listen, I’ve been an “uh oh person” many times in my life. Probably you have too. As we pray with these passages, our own failures and defeats may speak to us. Whether we are in their midst or simply wrapped in their recollection, let’s open our spirits to these extraordinary gifts:

  • honest recognition of our failures
  • a request for healing redemption 
  • gratitude for God’s Lavish Mercy


Poetry: The Leper – by Nathaniel Parker Willis

It’s a rather long poem, and may delight only the literary nerds like me. But it paints a wonderful story if you can take time to read it sometime.

“ROOM for the leper! room!” And, as he came,
The cry passed on—“Room for the leper! Room!”
Sunrise was slanting on the city gates
Rosy and beautiful, and from the hills
The early risen poor were coming in, 5
Duly and cheerfully to their toil, and up
Rose the sharp hammer’s clink and the far hum
Of moving wheels and multitudes astir,
And all that in a city murmur swells—
Unheard but by the watcher’s weary ear, 10
Aching with night’s dull silence, or the sick
Hailing the welcome light and sounds that chase
The death-like images of the dark away.
“Room for the leper!” And aside they stood—
Matron, and child, and pitiless manhood—all 15
Who met him on his way—and let him pass.
And onward through the open gate he came,
A leper, with the ashes on his brow,
Sackcloth about his loins, and on his lip
A covering, stepping painfully and slow, 20
And with a difficult utterance, like one
Whose heart is with an iron nerve put down,
Crying, “Unclean! unclean!”

                ’Twas now the first    

Of the Judean autumn, and the leaves,
Whose shadows lay so still upon his path, 25
Had put their beauty forth beneath the eye
Of Judah’s palmiest noble. He was young,
And eminently beautiful, and life
Mantled in eloquent fulness on his lip,
And sparkled in his glance; and in his mien 30
There was a gracious pride that every eye
Followed with benisons—and this was he!
With the soft airs of summer there had come
A torpor on his frame, which not the speed
Of his best barb, nor music, nor the blast 35
Of the bold huntsman’s horn, nor aught that stirs
The spirit to its bent, might drive away.
The blood beat not as wont within his veins;
Dimness crept o’er his eye: a drowsy sloth
Fettered his limbs like palsy, and his mien, 40
With all its loftiness, seem’d struck with eld.
Even his voice was changed; a languid moan
Taking the place of the clear silver key;
And brain and sense grew faint, as if the light
And very air were steeped in sluggishness. 45
He strove with it awhile, as manhood will,
Ever too proud for weakness, till the rein
Slacken’d within his grasp, and in its poise
The arrowy jeered like an aspen shook.
Day after day, he lay, as if in sleep. 50
His skin grew dry and bloodless, and white scales,
Circled with livid purple, cover’d him.
And then his nails grew black, and fell away
From the dull flesh about them, and the hues
Deepen’d beneath the hard unmoisten’d scales, 55
And from their edges grew the rank white hair,
—And Helon was a leper!

                Day was breaking,    

When at the altar of the temple stood
The holy priest of God. The incense lamp
Burn’d with a struggling light, and a low chant 60
Swell’d through the hollow arches of the roof
Like an articulate wail, and there, alone,
Wasted to ghastly thinness, Helon knelt.
The echoes of the melancholy strain
Died in the distant aisles, and he rose up, 65
Struggling with weakness, and bow’d down his head
Unto the sprinkled ashes, and put off
His costly raiment for the leper’s garb:
And with the sackcloth round him, and his lip
Hid in a loathsome covering, stood still, 70
Waiting to hear his doom:—

Depart! depart, O child
Of Israel, from the temple of thy God!
For He has smote thee with His chastening rod;
And to the desert-wild, 75
From all thou lov’st away, thy feet must flee,
That from thy plague His people may be free.

Depart! and come not near
The busy mart, the crowded city, more;
Nor set thy foot a human threshold o’er; 80
And stay thou not to hear
Voices that call thee in the way; and fly
From all who in the wilderness pass by.

Wet not thy burning lip
In streams that to a human dwelling glide; 85
Nor rest thee where the covert fountains hide;
Nor kneel thee down to dip
The water where the pilgrim bends to drink,
By desert well or river’s grassy brink;

And pass thou not between 90
The weary traveller and the cooling breeze;
And lie not down to sleep beneath the trees
Where human tracks are seen;
Nor milk the goat that browseth on the plain,
Nor pluck the standing corn, or yellow grain. 95

And now, depart! and when
Thy heart is heavy, and thine eyes are dim,
Lift up thy prayer beseechingly to Him
Who, from the tribes of men,
Selected thee to feel His chastening rod, 100
Depart! O Leper, and forget not God!

And he went forth—alone! not one of all
The many whom he loved, nor she whose name
Was woven in the fibres of the heart
Breaking within him now, to come and speak 105
Comfort unto him. Yea—he went his way,
Sick, and heart-broken, and alone—to die!
For God had cursed the leper!

                        It was noon,    

And Helon knelt beside a stagnant pool
In the lone wilderness, and bathed his brow, 110
Hot with the burning leprosy, and touched
The loathsome water to his fever’d lips,
Praying that he might be so blest—to die!
Footsteps approach’d, and with no strength to flee,
He drew the covering closer on his lip, 115
Crying, “Unclean! unclean!” and in the folds
Of the coarse sackcloth shrouding up his face,
He fell upon the earth till they should pass.
Nearer the Stranger came, and bending o’er
The leper’s prostrate form, pronounced his name— 120
“Helon!” The voice was like the master-tone
Of a rich instrument—most strangely sweet;
And the dull pulses of disease awoke,
And for a moment beat beneath the hot
And leprous scales with a restoring thrill. 125
“Helon! arise!” and he forgot his curse,
And rose and stood before Him.

                    Love and awe    

Mingled in the regard of Helon’s eye
As he beheld the Stranger. He was not
In costly raiment clad, nor on His brow 130
The symbol of a princely lineage wore;
No followers at His back, nor in His hand
Buckler, or sword, or spear,—yet in His mien
Command sat throned serene, and if He smiled,
A kingly condescension graced His lips, 135
The lion would have crouch’d to in his lair.
His garb was simple, and His sandals worn;
His stature modell’d with a perfect grace;
His countenance, the impress of a God,
Touch’d with the open innocence of a child; 140
His eye was blue and calm, as is the sky
In the serenest noon; His hair unshorn
Fell to His shoulders; and his curling beard
The fulness of perfected manhood bore.
He looked on Helon earnestly awhile, 145
As if His heart were moved, and stooping down,
He took a little water in His hand,
And laved the sufferer’s brow, and said, “Be clean,”
And lo! the scales fell from him, and his blood
Coursed with delicious coolness through his veins, 150
And his dry palms grew moist, and his lips
The dewy softness of an infant’s stole,
His leprosy was cleansed, and he fell down
Prostrate at Jesus’ feet and worshipped Him.

Music: Healing – Paul Avgerinos

The Miracle is Love

January 4, 2022
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are full of surprises for Jesus’s new followers and for us.  

Jesus begins to reveal what his Presence among us is all about. The message is this: I am here for the poor, hungry, sick and abandoned:

The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor
and to proclaim liberty to captives.

Luke 4:18

And Jesus wants us to be like him.


In our first reading, John makes that sound so simple:

Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:8

Someone might read that line and think, “OK! I can do that! I love lots of people and things. I know how to love.” 

But then our Gospel suggests that maybe we, like the disciples, have a lot to learn about how God loves. Mark shows us that Jesus is living a new kind of love.


Imagine the situation. John the Baptist has been murdered. The new disciples are returning from their first “apostolic gig”. They, and probably Jesus, are shocked, saddened and tired. Jesus recognizes this and tells them:

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 

Multiplication of the Loaves – Michael Wolgemut

But instead the hungry crowds followed them, their needs intruding on the deserved and desired solitude. The disciples sound a little annoyed in their practicality:

By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already very late. 
Dismiss them so that they can go 
to the surrounding farms and villages
and buy themselves something to eat.” 

Mark 6: 35-36

But when Jesus saw the crowd, his response was not annoyance or practicality.

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd…

Mark 6:34

In the Greek translation, the word for “moved with pity” is “ἐσπλαγχνίσθη” (Esplanchnisthē) – “splancha”

“Splancha”, in my mind, says that the heart of Jesus ”rumbled with mercy”; that he was so shaken to his roots with compassion that he pulled heaven down in a miracle to feed these people who were hungry at every level of their being.

The crowds, and indeed the disciples, are surprised not just by the cataract of fish and bread. But they are even more deeply astounded at this astounding demonstration of how God loves – with impractical, unlimited, immediate, miraculous generosity!


The lesson for us? Just as the disciples were commissioned to distribute the basketsful of miracles, we are charged to carry God’s mercy in our time.

Through the grace of Baptism, we have it within us to be the agent of miracles – the power to let God love through us. As John encourages us:

Beloved, let us love one another,
    because love is of God;
    everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.

1 John 4:7

Poetry: Miracles by Robert William Service

Each time that I switch on the light
A Miracle it seems to me
That I should rediscover sight
And banish dark so utterly.
One moment I am bleakly blind,
The next–exultant life I find.
Below the sable of the sky
My eyelids double darkness make.
Sleep is divine, yet oh how I
Am glad with wonder to awake!
To welcome, glimmery and wan
The mighty Miracle of Dawn.
For I’ve mad moments when I seem,
With all the marvel of a child,
To dwell within a world of dream,
To sober fact unreconciled.
Each simple act has struck me thus–
Incredibly miraculous.
When everything I see and do
So magical can seem to me,
How vain it is to seek the True,
The riddle of Reality . . .
So let me with joy lyrical
Proclaim all Life a Miracle.


Music: Beloved, Let Us Love One Another – a perky encouragement for your prayer 🙂

The Holy Family

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sorry for the late post today. Blame it on my being the big cook today and on my Aunt Peg’s wonderful pineapple casserole. She went home to God almost 30 years ago. But she lives in my kitchen anytime I cook a ham…and so many other times in my heart. ❤️ Merry Christmas once again, my friends.

in case you’d like to try it!

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our prayer is turned to the Holy Family, that unique configuration of love which nurtured the developing life of Jesus. Can you imagine how tenderly the Father shaped this triad, this nesting place of love for God’s own Word?

Today, we look to the Holy Family so that we might see our own families through their lens of grace and mercy. We pray to the Holy Family so that we might be strengthened in the virtues that will help us build our own families: sacrificial love, reverence, courage, unfailing support, committed presence, shared faith, gentle honesty, unconditional acceptance.

“Family” is the primordial place where we learn who we are. The lessons it teaches us about ourselves – for better or worse — remain with us forever. 

This is my crew. How blessed I am in them!

Not everyone is blessed by their family. Family can ground us in confidence or undermine us with self-doubt. It can free us from fear or cripple us with reservation. It can release either possibility or perpetual hesitation within us.

Some families are so dysfunctional that we spend the rest of our lives trying to recover from them. But some, like the Holy Family, allow God’s dream to be nurtured in us and to spread to new families, both of blood and spirit.


The challenge today is to thank God for whatever type of family bore us. Lessons can be learned from both lights and shadows. Let us spend time this morning looking  at our own families with love, gratitude, forgiveness, understanding. Where there are wounds to be healed, let us face them. Where there are belated thanks to be offered, let us give them. Where there are negligence and oversights to confess, let us use them as bridges to a new devotion.


For some, it may seem too late to heal or bless our family. Time may have swallowed some of our possibilities. But it is never too late to deepen relationships through prayer, both for and to our ancestors.

May this feast strengthen us for the families who need us today. May it be the beginning of refuge for families broken and tested by migration and worldwide inhospitality


Music: God Bless My Family ~ Anne Hampton Calloway

Sing Mercy in the Sadness

December 7, 2021
Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Ambrose

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are blessed, once again, with magnificent readings!

Our psalm coaches us to rejoice and sing – a song that will heal the nations.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
    sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless the LORD’s name;
    announce God’s salvation, day after day.

Psalm 96:1-2

Our first reading is the exquisite “Comfort” passage from Isaiah. And our Gospel gives us Jesus tenderly seeking the single lost lamb.

The first and last words of these two readings – COMFORT, LOST – capture the whole intent of today’s message:


Life is a maze whose walls are heightened
by our incivility to one another.
Isaiah calls us to be a leveler of walls,
a straightener of twists, a bridge over deadly valleys.
Jesus calls us to seek and carry the lost sheep.
We are called to be Mercy in a suffering world.


These beautiful and challenging readings come to us this year at a time when Pope Francis has offered a clear and similar challenge to the world. Last week, during his visit to the refugee encampment on the Greek island of Lesbos, Francis voiced his profound pain at the international immigration tragedy:

“Let us not let our sea (mare nostrum) be transformed into a desolate sea of death (mare mortuum),” the Pope concluded.  “Let us not allow this place of encounter to become a theatre of conflict.  Let us not permit this “sea of memories” to be transformed into a “sea of forgetfulness”.  Please, let us stop this shipwreck of civilization.”

“It is an illusion to think it is enough to keep ourselves safe, to defend ourselves from those in greater need who knock at our door”, Pope Francis said.  “In the future, we will have more and more contact with others.  To turn it to the good, what is needed are not unilateral actions but wide-ranging policies.  History teaches this lesson, yet we have not learned it.” 

Source for quotes: Vatican News – vaticannews.va

During his address, the Pope asked every man and woman, “to overcome the paralysis of fear, the indifference that kills, the cynical disregard that nonchalantly condemns to death those on the fringes.” 


Resource: To learn about and reflect on the issue of immigration, here is a link to NETWORK. Founded by Catholic Sisters in the progressive spirit of Vatican II, NETWORK works to create a society that promotes justice and the dignity of all in the shared abundance of God’s creation.


Music: Comfort Ye from Handel’s Messiah – sung by Jerry Hadley

As we pray this glorious music today, let us ask for the strength and courage to be Mercy for the world, to find the ways to comfort God’s people, close by and at life’s borders.

God Knows My Truth

November 8, 2021
Monday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the comforting yet challenging Psalm 139, a prayer of awareness, intimacy, and trust.

O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
    you know when I sit and when I stand;
    you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
    with all my ways you are familiar.

Psalm 139:1-3

The thought that God knows us so intimately might be both assuring and/or scary — depending on how we know and understand ourselves. The psalmist describes an overwhelming wonder at the thought of God’s closeness:

Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
    and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    too lofty for me to attain.

Psalm 139:4-6

As we pray Psalm 139, the awe settles into a deep awareness that God’s penetrating Presence in our spirits is ever beneficent and merciful. We pray to yield to its Love and seek its Wisdom.

Where can I go from your spirit?
    From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I sink to the nether world, you are present there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there your hand shall guide me,
    and your right hand hold me fast.

Psalm 139:7-10

On this 32nd Monday, we begin a week of readings from the Book of Wisdom. Written in the century surrounding the birth of Christ, Wisdom is the work of a poet, theologian, philosopher, and moralist. 

Today’s passage alerts us, as does our Gospel, that holding God’s Presence within us, we must live lives that bear it witness:

For wisdom is a kindly spirit,
yet she acquits not blasphemers of their guilty lips;
Because God is the witness of the inmost self
and the sure observer of the heart
and the listener to the tongue.
For the Spirit of the Lord fills the world,
is all-embracing, and knows what the person truly bespeaks by their lives.

Wisdom 1:6-7

A millstone at someone’s feet …

For as our Gospel tells us today:

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the one through whom they occur.  
It would be better to have a millstone hung around the neck
and be thrown into the sea
than to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

Luke 17:1-2

Poetry: Wisdom – Tagore

The small wisdom 
is like water in a glass:
clear, transparent, pure.

The great wisdom 
is like the water in the sea:
dark, mysterious, impenetrable.

Music: The Perfect Wisdom of Our God – The Gettys

Paid in Full

November 5, 2021
Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98, a beautiful hymn celebrating God’s munificence.

Our readings are about spiritual wealth, stewardship and Godly generosity.

Paul starts us off by proclaiming that the wealth/riches of salvation belong to ALL humanity. He presents himself as a unique “steward “ of those riches to the Gentiles.

Thus I aspire to proclaim the Gospel
not where Christ has already been named,
so that I do not build on another’s foundation,
but as it is written:

    Those who have never been told of him shall see,
    and those who have never heard of him shall understand.

Romans 15:21

Our Gospel gives us a second interpretation of “stewardship” in the parable the wily steward. This fella’ gets called on the carpet for squandering his employer’s resources. Pink slip time! 

So the steward calls in some of the debtors and reduces their debt by the amount of his own commission. By doing this, he hopes to make some friends to support him in his impending unemployment.


Talbots

Many years ago, there was a Talbot’s outlet in the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philly (I know. Heaven, right?) You could get an amazing deal on the clearance items. But you got an even better deal if you went to a certain cashier for your checkout.

He was a tall, flamboyant and loudly funny guy. If a price tag was missing on an item, you got it virtually for free. He would make outlandish comments like, “Oh, honey, this isn’t your color so let’s discount it 50%.” If you bought two of the same item, he might announce,”Two for one today”, charging for only one. He was a living example of the Biblical steward! Over time, he developed a devoted buying community – those who had learned the secret of why people waited in his long line!


In today’s parable, Jesus isn’t advocating that we cheat our employers. The parable isn’t really about that at all. It is about the way he wants his disciples to be profligate in preaching the mercy of God.

Remember that this parable comes in between two blockbusters about Mercy – the Prodigal Son and Lazarus and the Rich Man. In a way, you might say Jesus is on a tear about the unbounded generosity of God in forgiveness and hope for us. Jesus makes clear that the wealth of Divine Love is delivered to us by our unbounded Christian love for one another.


So today, maybe we can think about the Talbot’s guy. We have been abundantly blessed by God’s love for us. Let’s pay it forward over and over today… and every day. Let’s generously share the infinite discount of Mercy.


Poetry: Mercy – by Charles Mackay, (1814 – 1889), a Scottish poet, journalist, author, anthologist, novelist, and songwriter.

A little stream had lost its way
Amid the grass and fern;
A passing stranger scooped a well,
Where weary men might turn;
He walled it in and hung with care
A ladle at the brink;
He thought not of the deed he did,
But judged that all might drink.
He passed again, and lo! the well,
By summer never dried,
Had cooled ten thousand parching tongues,
And saved a life beside.

A nameless man, amid a crowd
That thronged the daily mart,
Let fall a word of hope and love,
Unstudied, from the heart;
A whisper on the tumult thrown,
A transitory breath–
It raised a brother from the dust,
It saved a soul from death.
O germ! O fount! O word of love!
O thought at random cast!
Ye were but little at the first, But mighty at the last.


Music: Jesus Paid It All – Elvira M. Hall (1865) This rendition of the hymn by Kristian Stanfill (born 1983) is so interesting. Offered here with modern instrumentation, the words date back to the era of the US Civil War. Past and present meld in the ever eternal love God has for us. An original version is below in case you’d like to compare the music. i think both are beautiful.

Zap?

October 23, 2021
Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 24 in which the psalmist expresses the heart’s deep longing for God:

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
    or who may stand in that holy place?
The one whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
    who desires not what is vain.
Who shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
    a reward from God the savior.
Such is the race that seeks for God,
    that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 24: 5-6

But achieving those sinless hands and clean heart is not always an easy task. It takes a life focused on faith and rooted in love.

Jesus talks about that focus in today’s Gospel.

Jesus gives us a parable which, at first, appears to say, “Get your act together fast, or God might zap you.” From Jesus’s words, we can assume that some public disasters have recently occurred. Those in the gathered crowd are unnerved by these events.

Jesus uses that nervousness to talk about repentance. He tells the people that tragedy can make us wake up to the fact that life is fragile and fleeting. That awareness should make us want to use our time on earth well, to give glory to God.

The repentance Jesus encourages is not just a contrition, or turning from sin. It is an opening of the soul’s eyes to see our lives and circumstances as God sees them.

Is God going to zap us if we don’t have that kind of repentance? No, I think not.

God is always Mercy …
always, always Mercy.

With the parable of the fruitless fig tree, Jesus assures us that God is with us, giving us every grace and opportunity to bear spiritual fruit. God is patient and nurturing. But, in every human life, there is a limit to the time we have to respond.


Poetry: The Facts of Life – Pádraig Ó Tuama

That you were born
and you will die.

That you will sometimes love enough
and sometimes not.

That you will lie
if only to yourself.

That you will get tired.

That you will learn most from the situations
you did not choose.

That there will be some things that move you
more than you can say.

That you will live
that you must be loved.

That you will avoid questions most urgently in need of
your attention.

That you began as the fusion of a sperm and an egg
of two people who once were strangers
and may well still be.

That life isn’t fair.
That life is sometimes good
and sometimes better than good.

That life is often not so good.

That life is real
and if you can survive it, well,
survive it well
with love
and art
and meaning given
where meaning’s scarce.

That you will learn to live with regret.
That you will learn to live with respect.

That the structures that constrict you
may not be permanently constricting.

That you will probably be okay.

That you must accept change
before you die
but you will die anyway.

So you might as well live
and you might as well love.
You might as well love.
You might as well love.


Music: Calm the Soul – Poor Clares Galway

Winds of Change

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119, the longest and very familiar psalm which pleads for God to mercifully teach us:

  • Wisdom
  • Knowledge
  • Goodness 
  • Generosity
  • Kindness
  • Compassion

In our readings, Paul asserts that without God’s Grace we can never attain these gifts. Jesus calls us to use these gifts and to practice a holy life by recognizing and responding justly to the challenges of our times.


Paul sounds a lot like someone approaching the microphone at “Sinners Anonymous”:

I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.
The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the evil I do not want.

Romans 7:18-20

Paul basically attests to the fact that for human beings, even him, will and actions often don’t synch up. Sure, we want to be good people, but as Nike says, do we …

Paul’s says no. The only way we do the good we will to do is by the grace of Jesus Christ.


In our Gospel, Jesus affirms the slowness of the human spirit to act on the realities around us. In some translations, Jesus uses a phrase which caught on with the architects of Vatican II: the signs of the times.

Jesus tells his listeners and us that we need to be alert to the circumstances of our world. It both weeps and rejoices. Where it weeps, we must be a source of mercy and healing. Where it rejoices, we must foster and celebrate the Presence of the Spirit.


In the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), we read:

In every age, the church carries the responsibility
of reading the signs of the times
and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task.
In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer
the ever recurring questions which people ask
about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come,
and how one is related to the other.
We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings,
and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live.

Although written in the 1960s, these powerful words hold true today. We are the Church of which the document speaks. We are the ones whom Jesus calls to respond with authentic justice and mercy to the signs of the times. 

Read the newspaper in that light today. Watch the news in that light. Meet your brothers and sisters in that light today.


Poetry: Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Perhaps more than anything else, Shelley wanted his message of reform and revolution spread, and the wind becomes the symbol for spreading the word of change through the poet-prophet figure. Some also believe that the poem was written in response to the loss of his son William in 1819 (born to Mary Shelley – author of “Frankenstein”). The ensuing pain influenced Shelley. The poem allegorizes the role of the poet as the voice of change and revolution. (Wikipedia)

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, 
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead 
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, 
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, 
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou, 
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed 
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, 
Each like a corpse within its grave, until 
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow 
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill 
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) 
With living hues and odours plain and hill: 
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; 
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear! 

II 

Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion, 
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed, 
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean, 
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread 
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge, 
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head 
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge 
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height, 
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge 
Of the dying year, to which this closing night 
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre, 
Vaulted with all thy congregated might 
Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere 
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear! 

III 

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams 
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay, 
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams, 
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay, 
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers 
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day, 
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers 
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou 
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers 
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below 
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear 
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know 
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear, 
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear! 

IV 

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; 
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; 
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share 
The impulse of thy strength, only less free 
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even 
I were as in my boyhood, and could be 
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven, 
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed 
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven 
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need. 
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! 
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! 
A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d 
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. 

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: 
What if my leaves are falling like its own! 
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies 
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone, 
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, 
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! 
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe 
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth! 
And, by the incantation of this verse, 
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth 
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! 
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth 
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, 
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?


Music: The Times They Are A’changin’ – Bob Dylan 

Dylan’s songs in the 50s and 60s became anthems for the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied popular music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture. (Wikipedia) 
Ah, it was a good time to be young! (me)

The Swedish Academy awarded Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”