Our Tender God

October 25, 2021
Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 68 which pictures a triumphant God, rising like the sun over the darkness of evil.

Arise, O God, and let your enemies be scattered;
let those who hate you flee.
Let them vanish like smoke when the wind drives it away; 
as the wax melts at the fire,
so let the wicked perish at your presence.

Psalm 68: 1-3

This psalm comforts us with a tender picture of God:

Protector of orphans, defender of widows,
the One who dwells in holiness,
who gives the solitary a home
and brings forth prisoners into freedom;
but the rebels shall live in dry places.

Psalm 68: 5-6

It is the same tenderness Paul presents in our first reading:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a spirit of adoption,
through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…

if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

And there we have the key line:
we are to live a life aligned with
the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.

And what will that kind of life look like? It will look like our merciful Jesus of today’s Gospel – who stepped out to see, comfort, and heal the suffering around him.

Jesus recognized the crippled woman as “an heir of God, and joint heir with him” to the fullness of life in God. We are called recognize ourselves and all of our sisters and brothers in the same way.


Poetry: WOMAN UN-BENT (LUKE 13:10–17) – by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

That Sabbath day as always
she went to the synagogue
and took the place assigned her
right behind the grill where,
the elders had concurred,
she would block no one’s view,
she could lean her heavy head,
and (though this was not said)
she’d give a good example to
the ones who stood behind her. 

That day, intent as always
on the Word (for eighteen years
she’d listened thus), she heard
Authority when Jesus spoke. 

Though long stripped
of forwardness,
she came forward, nonetheless,
when Jesus summoned her.
“Woman, you are free
of your infirmity,” he said. 

The leader of the synagogue
worked himself into a sweat
as he tried to bend the Sabbath
and the woman back in place. 

But she stood up straight and let
God’s glory touch her face.

Video: Jesus Heals the Bent-over Woman

If you’d still like a little music, this one seems to fit: Spirit Touch by Joseph Akins

Don’t Pass Me By

October 24, 2021
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 126, a song of irrepressible joy at Divine Deliverance:

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
    we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with rejoicing.

Then they said among the nations,
    “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
    we are glad indeed.

Psalm 126: 1-3

The psalm captures for us
a community which
recognizes, beseeches,
and thanks God for its deliverance.

Our Gospel presents us with a story of someone who is delivered – the blind man, Bartimeus. He is an otherwise unknown character in scripture. Yet this short passage suggests so much about him.

It is stated that he was the son of Timeus, apparently someone of note in the community – otherwise, why mention his name? And yet this notable man’s blind son is left to begging on the side of the road. Had disability driven father and son apart? Was Dad unable to accept a son with a physical challenge?

The passage also reveals that Bartimeus knew about Jesus. Perhaps while begging in the public square, he talked and listened. He daydreamed about what he planned to do if he should ever have a chance to meet Jesus!

His cronies in the marketplace were not very supportive. They told him to shut up, even as he pathetically cried for Jesus’s mercy. Still, Bartimues persisted and Jesus heard him.

When he comes to Jesus, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” It has always struck me as a strange question. The man is obviously blind, stumbling through the crowd on some disciple’s arm. Why did Jesus bother to ask what Bartimeus wanted?


This might be the lesson hidden in this Gospel. We need to name and claim our needs before God can reach through and transform them. If we don’t even know we’re “blind”, how can we know we’re cured? If we don’t present our needs to God, how can we believe that it is God Who has healed us?

The freshly cured Bartimeus, eyes wide open in grace, now follows along the path with Jesus. All the “shut-uppers” are silenced. Perhaps, Timeus weeps off in a doorway to see the power of his son’s faith and Jesus’s love.

How might our lives be changed if we had that kind of faith… that kind of love?


Poetry: Blind Bartimeus – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Blind Bartimeus at the gates
Of Jericho in darkness waits;
He hears the crowd;--he hears a breath
Say, "It is Christ of Nazareth!"
And calls, in tones of agony,
Ἰησοῦ ἐλέησόν με! (Have mercy on me!)

The thronging multitudes increase;
Blind Bartimeus, hold thy peace!
But still, above the noisy crowd,
The beggar's cry is shrill and loud;
Until they say, "He calleth thee!"
Θάρσει ἔγειρε φωνεῖ σε! (Jesus is calling you)

Then saith the Christ, as silent stands
The crowd, "What wilt thou at my hands?"
And he replies, "Oh, give me light!
Rabbi, restore the blind man's sight."
And Jesus answers, "ὕπαγε
πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε!" (Your faith has saved you)

Ye that have eyes, yet cannot see,
In darkness and in misery,
Recall those mighty Voices Three,
Ἰησοῦ ἐλέησόν με! (Have mercy on me.)
Θάρσει ἔγειρε φωνεῖ σε! (Jesus is calling you.)
ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε! (Your faith has saved you.)

Music: Don’t Pass Me By – Fred Hammond (lyrics below)

There was a blind man on the road side, and he heard a commotion
It was Jesus passing by with a crowd and it stirred his emotions
He’d been displaced his whole life, should he even try

Don’t bother Jesus (they say you have nothing)
You have nothing to offer (stay in your place)
Right then he knew(he had to choose)
He had nothing to lose

So he cried Jesus (Jesus), I need you,  please don’t pass me by
He cried out Jesus, I’m not ashamed(to tell you) I need you in my life
(I need you in my life)

I’m not much different from that man, and this is the honest truth
Could this sinful one, with this messed up life, could I ever serve you
people and things clutter my mind, should I even try

Don’t bother Jesus (they say you have nothing)
You have nothing to offer (stay in your place)
Right then he knew (he had to choose)
He had nothing to lose

So I cry Jesus(Jesus), I need you
Please don’t pass me by
I’m crying out Jesus, I’m not ashamed to tell you I need you in my life

As the deer (as the deer panted)
Thirsty for the water yeah(thirsty for the water)
My soul desires and longs to be(to be with you)

Jesus, I need you, please don’t pass me by
I don’t mean to waste your time but I can’t listen to the crowd,
Situations in my life telling me to keep it down
But I need you

I know I’m broken, but you can heal me, Jesus, Jesus I’m calling you
(I might not be worth much)might not be worth much, but I’m still willing
Jesus, Jesus, I’m calling you

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.”

Seeking and Waiting

October 19, 2021
Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we pray with Psalm 40 in which the psalmist prays for all who seek God and faithfully wait on God’s salvation:

May all who seek you
    exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
    say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”

Psalm 40:17

Luke’s Gospel describes the expectant fidelity God gives us and desires from us. In other words, God waits for us too!

The master of the house was away on a long journey. Likely he would have tried to return home in daylight, because the ancient roads were dark and menacing at night. Perhaps the evening meal was already prepared in anticipation of his arrival. But he does not appear over the distant rise where all the household’s eyes are trained.


You know how they waited. You’ve waited for loved ones coming home in bad weather. You’ve waited for beloved holiday guests when flights are delayed or traffic is snarled.

You watch for headlights cresting down the far road. You listen for the sound of a car door closing. Minutes seem like hours. The perfectly prepared meal cools, and your energy slackens as you pick at the olives and breadsticks.


Sometimes our prayer life feels like that. We do all the things necessary to welcome God’s grace, but instead we feel distant from the Divine Presence. We long for God’s warm blessing over the feast of our life, but God tarries somewhere at the other edge of our hope.  We feel like these Gospel servants who wait, exhausted, even into the early morning hours.

But we don’t give up. Our hope remains steadfast because God has promised. And it is in that fidelity that our eyes are opened to realize that God had been present all along — just not looking as we had expected.

It turns out that God is the One who had been waiting… waiting for us to see.


Poetry: Waiting by Leza Lowitz

You keep waiting for something to happen,
the thing that lifts you out of yourself,

catapults you into doing all the things you've put off
the great things you're meant to do in your life,

but somehow never quite get to.
You keep waiting for the planets to shift

the new moon to bring news,
the universe to align, something to give.

Meanwhile, the pile of papers, the laundry, the dishes, the job –
it all stacks up while you keep hoping

for some miracle to blast down upon you,
scattering the piles to the winds.

Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life.
Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking.

But all the while, life goes on in its messy way.
And then you turn forty. Or fifty. Or sixty...

and some part of you realizes you are not alone
and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom

when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over,
it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched,

and when caterpillar turns to butterfly
if the pupa is brushed, it will die –

and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg
it's because the thing is too small, too small,

and it needs to break out.
And midlife walks you into that wisdom

that this is what transformation looks like –
the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life,

the yearning and writhing and pushing,
until one day, one day

you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn

and the dusk of the body,
glistening, beautiful

just as you are.

Music: A country tune today, maybe overly simple. But I find some country music has a profound nugget of truth buried in the twang. I hope you can enjoy it.

He Was There All the Time ~ Gary S. Paxton

Promise Remembered

Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
October 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105, a recounting of the marvelous works God has done from the Abrahamic covenant to the Exodus. Indeed, our psalm celebrates God”s faithfulness to Abraham and to all generations, even us!

God remembers forever the sacred covenant
    which God made binding for a thousand generations –

Psalm 105:8

In our reading from Romans, Paul preaches about that Covenantal Promise. The text is a little deep, and I had to dig a bit to get my inspiration. But there are gems in these dense words!

It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.

This is a spiritually freeing passage. It assures us that God is with us through our faith, not through the perfection with which we keep laws and rules.


Our Gospel reinforces the message:

Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven

… the proverbial “bad apple”!

The passage is a little scary when first read, because we all hope we haven’t done anything to offend the Holy Spirit. But I think what Jesus is telling his listeners is this:

If a person criticizes or rejects my life and teaching, forgiveness is still possible when they come to their senses and repent. It’s like cutting the bad spot out of an otherwise good apple.

But if a person chooses to live a life which blasphemes (mocks, dismisses) the Spirit of life, love, mercy and peace, that person can never be forgiven — because they can never repent. They will be rotten to the core.


So the advice of Paul and Jesus boils down to this. Befriend the Holy Spirit by your life of faithful choices. Listen to the Spirit’s inspiration. Help others to do the same. And do not worry when you make a few mistakes. God stands by the promise to be with us always.


Poetry: The Promise Written by Rumi
Translated and read by Fatemeh Keshavarz

(Remember when reading that, for the Sufi mystic poets, everything was about God. Modern users often apply these poetic sentiments to human relationships, but they were not composed in that light.)

When pain arrives side by side with your love
I promise not to flee
When you ask me for my life
I promise not to fight

I am holding a cup in my hand
By God if you do not come
Till the end of time
I promise not to pour out the wine
Nor to drink a sip

Your bright face is my day
Your dark curls bring the night
If you do not let me near you
I promise not to go to sleep…nor rise

Your magnificence has made me a wonder
Your charm has taught me the way of love
I am the progeny of Abraham
I’ll find my way through fire

Please, let me drink water from the jug
This love is not a short-lived fancy
It is the daily prayer, the year-after-year fast
I live it, like an act of worship, till the end of my life

But then, a tree
Blessed not with fruits of your bounty
Will be dry wood for fire
Even if it drinks the ocean

On the wings of the Friend, fly o my heart!
Fly and look upward
For high on the peak of presence
Earthlings like you will not be let in

Others praise God at the time of affliction
You stay awake day and night
Steady, watchful like the wheel of the firmament

Time to stop speaking of the Friend
Jealousy won’t let me scatter the perfume to the wind


Music: Spirit of the Living God – Divine Hymns

Pure Grace

Thursday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time 
October 14, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 130 which promises that, even when we are in the depths, God offers us “the fullness of redemption”.

Let Israel hope in the LORD,
For with the LORD is mercy,
and plenteous redemption.

Psalm 130:7

For Paul in our first reading today, who is preaching a universal salvation in Jesus Christ, those “depths” are sin:

For there is no distinction; (between Jew and Gentile)
all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.

Romans 3:2-24

Paul then declares a core teaching of the New Covenant

They are justified freely by God’s grace
through the redemption in Christ Jesus…

Romans 3:24

Paul is preaching to a community in which a few “boasters” have surfaced – people who felt they could reinterpret and codify the Gospel their own way – like the Pharisees and lawyers do with the Mosaic Law in our reading from Luke today .

Paul is correcting that falsehood. He uses a lot of words to explicate the Gospel’s core tenet of universal redemption by grace. But for me, they are “theology words” not “prayer words”.


What I choose to pray with is this awesome truth:

God loves me so much
as to redeem me
from the depths of spiritual alienation
through the Gift of Jesus Christ.

The people in today’s Gospel refused to recognize and accept that all-defining gift. If they had, everything about their lives would have been transformed. And worse yet, by their exalted positions as scholars and leaders, they used their power to block others from learning about and receiving this Transcendent Grace.


In every generation, there are “religionists” who decide what elements of doctrine satisfy their own needs and desires. They preach that fragmented and divisive catechism to advance their self-serving agendas. They design laws which inhibit rather than assist people in opening their spirits to God’s merciful fullness.


Our readings today call us rise from the depths of any such inhibitions:

  • to cherish the gift of our redemption in Christ
  • to meditate on and educate ourselves in a true understanding of that gift
  • to test ourselves for an honest and inclusive faith rooted in the righteousness of God

Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law,
though testified to by the law and the prophets,
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ
for all who believe.

Romans 3:21

Poetry: CONSUMED IN GRACE – Catherine of Siena 
From ‘Love Poems From God‘ by Daniel Ladinsky. 

I first saw God when I was a child, six years of age.
the cheeks of the sun were pale before Him,
and the earth acted as a shy
girl, like me.
Divine light entered my heart from His love
that did never fully wane,
though indeed, dear, I can understand how a person’s 
faith can at time flicker,
for what is the mind to do
with something that becomes the mind’s ruin:
a God that consumes us
in His grace.
I have seen what you want;
it is there,
a Beloved of infinite 
tenderness.

Music: Amazing Grace – written by John Newton, sung by Il Divo

Don’t Be a Louse!

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
October 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, pray with Psalm 62 which offers us sound advice about what is important in life:

Only in You, God, is my soul at rest;
    from You comes my salvation.
You only are my rock and my salvation,
    my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all.

Psalm 62: 6-7

Hopefully, we take the advice because … Oh boy, Paul and Jesus stick it to hypocrites in today’s readings. And I’m like, “Yeah! Go get those fakesters, those lying hypocrites” – and I have a whole slew of people in mind!

Then, WHOA!  I see Paul’s no-nonsense warning:

For by the standard by which you judge another
you condemn yourself,

since you, the judge, do the very same things.

Romans 2:1

This is a definite “clean up your act” reading. And don’t deflect your own sinfulness on to the people around you!


Jesus takes the same advice to the Pharisees by throwing a couple of serious “woes” at them:

  • Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others.
  • Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces.
  • Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.

Yipes!

I mean “Yipes”! I don’t want to be like an unseen grave, do you?!

Neither did one of the scholars who responded to Jesus,
Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too!


But Jesus is undeterred: 

Woe also to you scholars of the law!
You impose on people burdens hard to carry,
but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.

Lke 11:46

Today’s readings offer us a clear message
to take a good look at ourselves.
Are we guilty of the very uglinesses
that we condemn in others?


Poetry: In his poem “To A Louse”, Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the famous line:

O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!


For fun, here is the Standard English Translation

Ha! Where are you going, you crawling wonder? Your impudence protects you sorely,
I can not say but you swagger rarely
Over gauze and lace,
Though faith! I fear you dine but sparingly On such a place

You ugly, creeping, blasted wonder, Detested, shunned by saint and sinner, How dare you set your foot upon her – Such fine a lady!
Go somewhere else and seek your dinner On some poor body
Off! in some beggar’s temples squat:

There you may creep, and sprawl, and scramble, With other kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Where horn nor bone never dare unsettle
Your thick plantations

Now hold you there! you are out of sight, Below the falderals, snug and tight;
No, faith you yet! you will not be right, Until you have got on it —
The very topmost, towering height Of misses bonnet.
My sooth! right bold you set your nose out, As plump and gray as any gooseberry:

O for some rank, mercurial resin,
Or deadly, red powder,
I would give you such a hearty dose of it, Would dress your breech!
I would not have been surprised to spy You on an old wife’s flannel cap:

Or maybe some small ragged boy,
On his undervest;
But Miss’s fine balloon bonnet! fye! How dare you do it.
O Jenny do not toss your head,
And set your beauties all abroad! You little know what cursed speed The blastie’s making!

Those winks and finger-ends, I dread, Are notice takiing!
O would some Power the gift to give us To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us, And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us, And even devotion.


Music: Britt Nicole – Through Your Eyes (a chance to think about how our loving God sees us, and everyone else/)

Fools?

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time 
October 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
    and night to night imparts knowledge.
Not a word nor a discourse
    whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
    and to the ends of the world, their message.

Psalm 19:2-5

The psalm captures the point of Paul’s declaration that the natural revelation of God’s power is accessible to all of us in the magnificence of Creation.

For what can be known about God is evident to them,
because God made it evident to them.
Ever since the creation of the world,
God’s invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity
have been able to be understood and perceived in what God has made.

Romans 2:19-20

This natural gift inspires us to know and believe in God. In fact, Paul says we “have no excuse” for a lack of faith, calling those who fail to believe “fools”.


It’s a word Jesus uses in our Gospel to describe Pharisaical religion – a religion of appearances rather than loving practice.

The Lord said, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?

Luke 11:39-40

In our first reading, Paul expresses his complete trust in and devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By this, Paul means more than the written words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He means the entire gift of the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection, continuing among us in the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Today’s readings leave me with two intentions:

  • to be more deeply aware of and grateful for God speaking to me in my natural surroundings
  • to examine my heart for the sincerity of my faith proven in practice

Poetry: God’s Word Is in All Creation – Hildegard of Bingen

No creature has meaning
without the Word of God.
God’s Word is in all creation, visible and invisible.
The Word is living, being,
spirit, all verdant
all creativity.
This Word flashes out in
every creature.
This is how the spirit is in
the flesh – the Word is indivisible from God.

Music: For the Beauty of the Earth

Out of the Gloom

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 9. It, together with Psalm 10, forms an acrostic which ultimately proclaims profound hope in God’s immutable justice, especially toward the poor and oppressed. But it takes us through a lot fire and brimstone to get there!


When we read the entire Psalm 9, we realize that the psalmist starts out in a lot of trouble:

Be gracious to me, LORD;
see how my foes afflict me!
You alone can raise me from the gates of death

Psalm 9:14

Match that with Joel’s community which is in the midst of a terrible drought. Joel uses the situation to teach that we must withstand many evils in life — not just droughts — in order to keep faith with God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
    sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
    for the day of the LORD is coming;
Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
    a day of clouds and somberness!

Joel 2:1-2

In the end however, Joel assures the community — as does the psalmist — that God is present even in treacherous circumstances and will finally bring “right-balance” or justice to all things.

The LORD sits enthroned forever;
setting up a throne for judgment.
God judges the world with justice;
and governs the peoples with equity.

Psalm 9:8-9

I think these readings are difficult to pray with, but it’s worth a try. How we respond to challenge in our personal circumstances – and even evil in the world at large – depends a lot on how we view God’s Presence in our lives. Both Joel and the psalmist ask us to hold fast to our confidence in God.

Praying with these readings may provoke questions like this for us:  Do I believe God’s justice and mercy truly will prevail in Creation? And how will I help bring about this holy “equity”?

Poetry: Faith is the Pierless Bridge – Emily Dickinson

Faith is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not
Too slender for the eye
It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side
It joins behind the Veil
To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

Music: Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel