Want a Sign? Wake Up!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

 Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy,  our readings talk about the “sign of Jonah”? What is that really, and how does it speak to me?

The passage from the Book of Jonah describes a remarkable event. Jonah, finally coughed up from the belly of a whale, marches part way through Nineveh announcing its impending destruction.

What if somebody did that in your neighborhood ? Would you ignore them, call the police, or maybe move? Not the Ninevites. They LISTENED! They recognized Jonah’s message as a last ditch chance to get their act together! Talk about conversion! Even the king ripped his robes and sat in ashes!

Ps51_miserere

When those questioning Jesus ask for a sign that they should repent and change, Jesus has had it with them. He basically says “No sign; learn a lesson from Jonah.“ In so many words, he tells them “I am your Jonah. I am your last ditch chance at conversion.”

Is there a message for us? Are we as bad off as the Ninevites or the dense crowds missing Jesus’s point? Are there realities in our lives that need conversion of heart?

Often, when asking ourselves such a question, we look to the sins we commit through our weakness and selfishness. We confess, own up, seek forgiveness for the things we have done.

But sometimes we are blind to our sins of omission – the things we haven’t done that we should have – the forgiveness withheld, the support never offered, the gratitude unexpressed, the half-hearted work for which we claim full payment, the family and community where we take but seldom give, the times we let ourselves and others be less than their best selves.

I don’t think Jesus wants us to sit in the ashes over these things, but rather to be honest with ourselves and shape up. Through prayer and reflection, we need to ask for the grace to hear Jonah’s voice in our lives.

Music: I Repent – Steve Green

The Word is Near You

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Click here for readings

Mt4_4 Word

Today, in Mercy,  our reading from Romans tells us:

The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart.

How is the Word of God near us, with us? 

Certainly, our sincere study and prayer with scripture is one way. Sitting quietly with scriptural passages, letting them speak to us, inviting them to inform our lives is a life-giving discipline.

Sometimes, we might choose just one word or phrase from a beloved reading, turning it over and over, gently in our prayer. How has this precious word informed our lives, inspired us, called us, comforted us? How is it speaking to us in this moment?

As we move more deeply into the “words” of scripture, we move closer to the Word – the Incarnate God. John writes: 

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.

Perhaps today in our prayer, we can commit ourselves to a deepening love of scripture, of the Word given to us there.

In his book, “ The Bible Makes Sense”, Walter Bruggemann says this:

The Bible is not an “object” for us to study but a partner with whom we may dialogue. It is usual in our modern world to regard any “thing” as an object that will yield its secrets to us if we are diligent and discerning. And certainly this is true of a book that is finished, printed, bound, and that we can buy, sell, shelve, and carry in a briefcase or place on a coffee table…[But] reading the Bible requires that we abandon the subject-object way of perceiving things… [If we do,] the text will continue to contain surprises for us, and conversely we discover that not only do we interpret the text but we in turn are interpreted by the text… We may analyze, but we must also listen and expect to be addressed.

Music: Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

Mercy Not Sacrifice

Friday, March 8, 2019

Click here for readings.

Is58_8 LightJPG

Today, in Mercy,  Isaiah “cries out, full throated and unsparingly”, to call the Israelites’ attention to their sins. He delivers God’s message that, despite all their showy religious efforts, they have missed the whole point.

Both Isaiah and Jesus, in today’s passages, challenge their listeners about the purpose of fasting. They call us  to use fasting as a tool to focus our hearts and minds on the presence of God in our daily lives.

Isaiah indicates that we will encounter God’s presence in our exercise of the works of mercy:

3_8mirror

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

I was told a story once about an older Sister whom I never knew. She had died before I entered the community. But her beloved memory lived on because of her vibrant personality and deep spirituality. One day, greatly at peace with her declining health, she left her friends with this question:

What would it be like
to get to the end of your life
and realize you had missed the whole point?

Our readings today want to save us from any such realization. They want us to get the point right now that God desires mercy and goodness not empty ritual and pretensive sacrifice.

Only then, God says, “shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.”

Music:  No Sacrifice ~ Jason Upton

Let the Children Come to Me

Saturday, March 2, 2019

 Click here for readings

Mk10_14

Today, in Mercy, let this picture carry home the message of today’s Gospel for our time. Let us consider our moral and civic responsibilities to this child and the thousands like him throughout the world.  Let us pray in the spirit of Jesus to understand what Mercy requires of us.

Enough said.

If you would like to help our Sister Anne Connolly working directly at our southern border with refugee families:

Gifts may be sent to:
Sisters of Mercy
(Please mark “Border Aid”)
c/o Sisters of Mercy-Border Aid
Development Office
515 Montgomery Avenue
Merion, PA.  19066

If you would like to connect directly with  Sister Anne:
(215) 539 7393
annecbba@yahoo.com

Music: Take All the Lost Home 

 

Rely on the Lord

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Sirach advises us to rely on the Lord and nothing else – not our own strength, not endless forgiveness for our poor choices, not deceitful wealth. These, the reading admonishes, will not help when we are judged.

Sirach5_trust

Our Psalm confirms that we should place our reliance – our HOPE – in God:

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
They are like trees
planted near running water,
That yield fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever they do prospers.

Mark describes what happens to those who choose a merciful life, and to those who don’t!

Neither of these readings spares any harsh words. They are so confronting that we may be tempted to “read over them”, not really engaging their message to our lives. 

Do we have any hard choices to make about 

  • where we place our confidence?
  • the integrity of our choices?
  • how we use our wealth and resources?
  • how we respond to others’ needs?
  • the example we are offering for those who depend on us?

I know I want to do all I can to avoid any millstones around my neck! Right? 

Let’s take a deep look at our hearts today for any trace of merciless choices or sinful self-reliance, thinking we might even know better than God! Sometimes, when we are frightened or unsure, we forget to lay it all down before the Lord. But we can trust God completely, and doing so will bless us. What we have to learn is that God may take us, by a different route, to our joy.

Music:  Trust in the Lord

Wait on the Lord

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

 Click here for Readings

Today, in Mercy,  we find so many singular, profound words in Sirach. Each word is like a deep pool that can be prayed into, like a diver becoming one with the water.

Sirach2_2

Sirach is instructing his “son” on relationship with God. As we pray with the reading, we can focus on these words. We can ask for the grace to enrich our friendship with God by deepening in these virtues:

Justice —- Sincerity—- Steadfastness—-
Peacefulness —- Patience —- Trust —-
Mercy —- Hope —- Spiritual Insight—-
Compassion —- Forgiveness

In our Gospel, the disciples need a reminder about which virtues lead to true greatness. Like them, we all get off track sometimes about our own self-importance.

Jesus brings their focus back to truth by placing a little child in their midst. Let’s pray today for a graceful re-focusing of our hearts.

“If anyone wishes to be first,   
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, Jesus placed her in their midst,   

and putting his arms around her, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Music: Be Still – Mary McDonald – Sunday 7pm Choir

A Covenant of Love

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Click here for readings

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

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

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

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

Lk6_38 measure

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray for the strength to respond.

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

Genesis – Get Out of My Garden!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Click here for readings

in every age

Today, in Mercy, Adam and Eve get to “pay the piper”. Now, they have to answer to God for the delicious, forbidden bite!

And God is tough on them! No hint of that “lavish mercy”! Of course, the writer(s) of Genesis had to fold a lot of explanations into this story such as:

  • why we feel body shame
  • why we are estranged from nature
  • why women suffer labor
  • why men work hard to no avail
  • why we die

We know that these explanations were written originally to meet the questions of an ancient culture. They were told and retold in the form of a story with all that structure’s inherent possibilities and handicaps.

Some of us are inclined to accept “story” only as history, demanding that the events recount specific concrete people and interactions. In other words, we demand that Adam and Eve were real people with a historical identity.

Some of us accept the “story” only as myth, not necessarily integral to the foundation of our modern faith.

The great biblical scholar Walter Bruggemann says neither stance is accurate. He says that these sacred stories are “mystery” which continue to unfold through the ages in the faith-life and sharing of the living community.

As we pray with these passages, we may deepen our faith by looking for the revelations within them:

  • God created us in God’s own image
  • God formed a covenant of love with us
  • We are called to be responsive to that loving covenant 
  • We sometimes fail and reap the fruits of that failure
  • But God did not dissolve Creation nor the Covenant
  • And so, in every age, we place our hope in Jesus Christ, the New Creation and New Covenant

Music: In Every Age ~ Janet Sullivan Whitaker

Be Opened!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Click here for readings.

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

ephphatha

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

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

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

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

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

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

This power is expressed in our lives by:

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

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

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

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

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

Music: Open My Eyes, Lord

Witness for the …

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Click here for readings

I bet I know the first word that popped into your mind when you read today’s headline:  PROSECUTION!

Agatha-Christies-Witness-for-the-Prosecution-set-for-BBC-One-remake-767x421

Today, in Mercy, our readings invite us to consider WITNESS — not for the prosecution, but for the RESURRECTION!

Is6_8 witness

In our first reading, we see Isaiah dramatically commissioned to WITNESS to the vision of faith in his heart. He responds wholeheartedly:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Our second reading, Paul describes how Christ appeared to him and commissioned him, “the least of the Apostles” to be his WITNESS. Paul, too, responds wholeheartedly:

He appeared to me.
Therefore, … so we preach and so you believed.

In our Gospel, Simon Peter, James and John are awed by the miraculous power of Jesus as their nets pull hundreds of fish from the otherwise unproductive sea. Jesus tells them that, by their WITNESS, they will attract hundreds of souls to his message. They also respond wholeheartedly:

When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.


For the Word of God to live,
WITNESS is everything.


Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, in her beautiful book, “Seven Sacred Pauses”, describes the level of WITNESS in the first disciples:

They were impelled to continue proclaiming the Gospel in the face of opposition. They were zealous in preaching because they felt passionate about being entrusted with the scared message.

Think of this often-heard philosophical conundrum:

If a tree falls in the forest,
and no one is there to hear it,
does it make a sound?

Logic tells us that it does. But what does it matter if no one hears it?

If the Resurrection happened, and no one bears witness to it, what does it matter? That is the importance of our call to WITNESS –   just like Isaiah, Paul, Peter, James, John, and two millennia of believers who carry on the sound of that tomb bursting open to eternal life.

How will we witness to our faith today – not by preachy words or empty opinions, but by our active passion for justice and mercy in the world, and in our own choices?

Music: I Will Stand as a Witness for Christ