Solitude Prayer

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 11, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011123.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Mark’s Gospel allows us to spend a day with Jesus during his early ministry.

After “church”, so to speak, Jesus and his buddies go to Simon’s house for a meal. Where Simon’s wife was we’re not told, but his mother-in-law seems to have been chief cook and bottle washer. Unfortunately, on that day, she’s not feeling well. However, with but a touch from Jesus, she’s restored and begins waiting on the guys.

The Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law by Rembrandt

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Mark 1:29-31

It seems like Jesus and his friends hung out through the heat of the day. As evening cool descends, neighbors begin arriving with their sicknesses and troubled spirits. Jesus cures many of those gathered. Can you just imagine the scene!


The next morning, even before dawn, Jesus goes off to a quiet place to pray. No doubt he wants to discern, with his Father and the Holy Spirit, the things that are happening in his life. Again can you imagine that conversation!

We know that, when asked, Jesus gave us the human words of the “Our Father” to teach us to pray. But how did Jesus himself pray in the solitude of his heart?

Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity
focused in relationship to one another
and yielding a Love
too immense for description!


In our own humble prayer today, may we lean against the heart of Jesus as he immersed himself in the Presence of the Creator and Spirit. May we pray in Christ’s pregnant silence.


Poetry: Solitude – Thomas Merton

When no one listens
To the quiet trees
When no one notices
The sun in the pool.

Where no one feels
The first drop of rain
Or sees the last star

Or hails the first morning
Of a giant world
Where peace begins
And rages end:

One bird sits still
Watching the work of God:
One turning leaf,
Two falling blossoms,
Ten circles upon the pond.

One cloud upon the hillside,
Two shadows in the valley
And the light strikes home.
Now dawn commands the capture
Of the tallest fortune,
The surrender
Of no less marvelous prize!

Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master,
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,

Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy Hand!

Now act is waste
And suffering undone
Laws become prodigals
Limits are torn down
For envy has no property
And passion is none.

Look, the vast Light stands still
Our cleanest Light is One!

Music: Intermezzo in B minor – Maureen McCarthy Draper

Becoming Wine

Christmas Weekday
January 7, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010723.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have the belovedly familiar story of the Miracle at Cana.

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”

John 2: 1-3

Like all good stories, this one is engaging on so many levels:

  • We see Mary and Jesus enjoying a social event in the same way we would.
  • We see Mary extending her solicitude and influence for the sake of the hosting family.
  • We see Jesus needing a swift nudge from his mother to do the right thing!
  • We see the Apostolic tipsters slowly waking up to the fact that Jesus is not just the guy next door!

We can pray with this Gospel passage by entering it from any one of these, or other, perspectives. We can easily sit right down at one of the wedding tables and watch the slow, human revelation of God in the world. But I think our first reading makes a strong case for us to pray the Cana story as a perfect example of how we should make our prayers of petition.


If you’re like me, you ask God for a lot of things every single day. Some of them are big deal things like “Please move hearts to stop the war on Ukraine.” And some of them are little deals like, “Please don’t let it rain on my picnic!”

In our first reading, John tells us how to pray our needs to God – with the utter confidence that, within God’s Will, we are heard.

Beloved:
We have this confidence in God,
that if we ask anything according to God’s will, we are heard.
And if we know that God hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked for is ours.

1 John 5: 14-15

This is the way Mary offers her petition in our Gospel story. She knows that Jesus will hear her and do the right thing. She doesn’t niggle him to death to get it done. She knows that by her “prayer”, she is now present to God’s infinite awareness of our needs.

His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”

John 2:5

In this case, that “right thing” was to turn huge vats of water into delicious wine. A very satisfying outcome! But what about when our prayer doesn’t result in a deluge of wine? What about when it seems like God paid no attention to our request? Can we still have the unyielding confidence which John encourages and Mary exemplifies?

Our faith calls us to believe that God is present with us in all things. Our prayer opens us to seek that Presence and to respond in faith to our circumstances knowing that even when the vessels seem empty, God abides. Ours is a life in God not limited to one petition, or one prayer. It is an incremental immersion into an Eternal Truth which transcends any particular circumstance. God is always with us and that alone is the source of our confident prayer.

We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true, in God’s Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:20

Poetry: Cana Wine – Irene Zimmerman, OSF

“The weather’s so hot
and no more wine’s to be bought
in all of Cana!
It’s just what I feared—
just why I begged my husband
to keep the wedding small.”

“Does he know?” Mary asked.

“Not yet. Oh, the shame!
Look at my son and his beautiful bride!
They’ll never be able
to raise their heads again,
not in this small town.” 
“Then don’t tell him yet.”
Mary greeted the guests
as she made her way
through crowded reception rooms.
“I must talk to you, Son,”
she said unobtrusively. 

Moments later he moved
toward the back serving rooms.
They hadn’t seen each other
since the morning he’d left her—
before the baptism
and the desert time. 

There was so much to tell her,
so much to ask.
But this was not the time!
They could talk tomorrow
on the way to Capernaum.
She spoke urgently, her words
both request and command to him:
“They have no wine.”
But he hadn’t been called yet!
He hadn’t felt it yet.
Would she send him so soon
to the hounds and jackals?
For wine? 

Was wine so important then? 

“Woman, what concern is that
to you and me?
My hour has not yet come.”

Her unflinching eyes reflected to him
his twelve-year-old self
telling her with no contrition:
“Why were you searching for me?
Did you not know I must be
in my Father’s house?” 

She left him standing there—
vine from her stock,
ready for fruit bearing—
and went to the servants.
“Do whatever he tells you,” she said. 

From across the room
she watched them fill water jars,
watched the chief steward
drink from the dripping cup,
saw his eyes open in wide surprise. 

She watched her grown son
toast the young couple,
watched the groom’s parents
and the guests raise their cups.

She saw it all clearly:
saw the Best Wine
pouring out for them all.

Music: od Hears Our Prayers – Mandy Lining

Now, Dismiss Your Servant

December 29, 2022
The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as I begin to create today’s reflection, Pope Francis has asked the world to pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who is mortally ill. Perhaps by the time you red this, God will already have taken Benedict home. If so, may he rest in peace.


Today’s readings fit so well for this moment for Benedict and for the Church. Our first reading offers us John’s perfect honesty and simplicity:

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.

1 John 2:5-6

Yes, it’s that simple and that hard!


It is so fitting that as we pray Pope Benedict home to heaven, we meet Simeon in our Gospel. He speaks with the holy confidence of a long and well-lived life. His lifelong dream was that he might not die before seeing the Messiah. That dream now fulfilled, Simeon intones one of the most beautiful prayers in Scripture:

Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Luke 2: 29-32

If we live by the Light, we too will see the Messiah within our own life’s experiences. We too will come to our final days confident and blessed by that enduring recognition.

For as John also assures us:

Whoever says they are in the light,
yet hates their brother or sister is still in the darkness.
But whoever loves their brother and sister remains in the light …

1 John 2:9-10

Let’s pray today for those all who are dying, that they may know this kind of peace, especially for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Let us pray for ourselves, that when our time comes, we too may experience this confidence.


Poetry: Nunc Dimittis – Joseph Brodsky  
(from Joseph Brodsky, A Part of Speech by George L. Kline (NY: Noonday, 1996)
The poem is long but exceptionally beautiful. I hope you can take the time to enjoy it.


‘Nunc Dimittis’

When Mary first came to present the Christ Child
to God in His temple, she found—of those few
who fasted and prayed there, departing not from it—
devout Simeon and the prophetess Anna.

The holy man took the Babe up in his arms.
The three of them, lost in the grayness of dawn,
now stood like a small shifting frame that surrounded
the Child in the palpable dark of the temple.

The temple enclosed them in forests of stone.
Its lofty vaults stooped as though trying to cloak
the prophetess Anna, and Simeon, and Mary—
to hide them from men and to hide them from Heaven.

And only a chance ray of light struck the hair
of that sleeping Infant, who stirred but as yet
was conscious of nothing and blew drowsy bubbles;
old Simeon's arms held him like a stout cradle.

It had been revealed to this upright old man
that he would not die until his eyes had seen
the Son of the Lord. And it thus came to pass. And
he said: ‘Now, O Lord, lettest thou thy poor servant,

according to thy holy word, leave in peace,
for mine eyes have witnessed thine offspring: he is
thy continuation and also the source of
thy Light for idolatrous tribes, and the glory

of Israel as well.' The old Simeon paused.
The silence, regaining the temple's clear space
oozed from all its corners and almost engulfed them,
and only his echoing words grazed the rafters,

to spin for a moment, with faint rustling sounds,
high over their heads in the tall temple's vaults,
akin to a bird that can soar, yet that cannot
return to the earth, even if it should want to.

A strangeness engulfed them. The silence now seemed
as strange as the words of old Simeon's speech.
And Mary, confused and bewildered, said nothing—
so strange had his words been. He added, while turning

directly to Mary: ‘Behold, in this Child,
now close to thy breast, is concealed the great fall
of many, the great elevation of others,
a subject of strife and a source of dissension,

and that very steel which will torture his flesh
shall pierce through thine own soul as well. And that wound
will show to thee, Mary, as in a new vision
what lies hidden, deep in the hearts of all people.’

He ended and moved toward the temple's great door.
Old Anna, bent down with the weight of her years,
and Mary, now stooping gazed after him, silent.
He moved and grew smaller, in size and in meaning,

to these two frail women who stood in the gloom.
As though driven on by the force of their looks,
he strode through the cold empty space of the temple
and moved toward the whitening blur of the doorway.

The stride of his old legs was steady and firm.
When Anna's voice sounded behind him, he slowed
his step for a moment. But she was not calling
to him; she had started to bless God and praise Him.

The door came still closer. The wind stirred his robe
and fanned at his forehead; the roar of the street,
exploding in life by the door of the temple,
beat stubbornly into old Simeon's hearing.

He went forth to die. It was not the loud din
of streets that he faced when he flung the door wide,
but rather the deaf-and-dumb fields of death's kingdom.
He strode through a space that was no longer solid.

The rustle of time ebbed away in his ears.
And Simeon's soul held the form of the Child—
its feathery crown now enveloped in glory—
aloft, like a torch, pressing back the black shadows,

to light up the path that leads into death's realm,
where never before until this present hour
had any man managed to lighten his pathway.
The old man's torch glowed and the pathway grew wider.

Music:  Nyne Otpushchayeshi ~Sergei Rachmaninoff (translated Nunc Dimittis, Now Let Your Servant Go). This was sung at Rachmaninoff’s funeral, at his prior request. 

Do Not Be Afraid

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
December 20, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122022.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray the O Antiphon:

“O Key of David,
come and bring forth
from his prison house
the captive.”  

We might not think of ourselves as captives. But simply by virtue of our humanity, we are probably inhibited in some way – by fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, self-doubt… 

Paula D’Arcy puts it like this: “Who would I be, and what power would be expressed in my life, if I were not dominated by fear?”
(Or maybe anger, some type of “ism’, greed, pride, and on and on.) 

Let us pray this prayer together, dear friends, for all held captive in both visible and invisible ways. May we pray especially for those captured by drugs, alcohol, or any other addiction. Pray also for those held in any kind of oppression through poverty, political manipulation, war and disregard for human rights.

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Our Gospel is the cherished passage of the Annunciation, a scripture we pray so often when we say the Hail Mary. Different lines and thoughts may strike our hearts as we pray these familiar verses. One stood out for me today:

Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

It’s such a tender exchange! It reveals Mary’s honest humanity in that, of course, she was stunned and a little fearful when an angel jumped into her bedroom! And the message wasn’t too easy to comprehend either!

The words also reveal the great sensitivity of Gabriel, the fearless angel who noticed, understood, and comforted Mary’s uneasiness.


When we feel God speaking to us, particularly in challenging situations, it might ease us as well to think of these words. “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.” Indeed, every one of us has found favor with God through the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.


Poetry: Annunciation – Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

____________________________

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

______________________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –
but who was God.
This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
                                Spirit,
                                          suspended,
                                                            waiting.

______________________________

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                                                       raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                                  consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
                               and the iridescent wings.
Consent,
              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Music;  Michael G. Hegeman

Her Morning

Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121822.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our scripture readings roll out before our prayer the long line of salvation history. It is a line that we can walk in wonder, winding from Isaiah’s prophecy, through the House of David, down to Joseph dreaming in the Nazarene night, and Mary fully waking to God in the Nazarene morning.

line

It is a story filled with words we love because, ever since our childhood, they have carried to us the fragrant scent of Christmas. These readings are the thrilling stuff of prophecies and dreams, all the more wonderful because we know them now fulfilled.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.

For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:20

O Emmanuel

This long wick of Promise, burning slowly through the biblical years, bursts into light with the birth of Jesus Christ, the Fire of God.

Through our faith, that Divine Light kindles us – we who now, through our Baptism, carry the sacred DNA of Jesus into our times.

On this final Sunday of Advent, when the world’s “crazy Xmas” tries to hijack our  souls, let us be very intentional about the true meaning of these days. Let us take the time to “go into our heart cave” and prepare for Jesus.


Poetry: And in Her Morning – Jessica Powers

The Virgin Mary cannot enter into
my soul for an indwelling. God alone
has sealed this land as secretly His own;
but being mother and implored, she comes
to stand along my eastern sky and be
a drift of sunrise over God and me.

God is a light and genitor of light.
Yet for our weakness and our punishment
He hides Himself in midnights that prevent
all save the least awarenesses of Him.
We strain with dimmed eyes inward and perceive
no stir of what we clamored to believe.
Yet I say: God (if one may jest with God),
Your hiding has not reckoned with Our Lady
who holds my east horizon and whose glow
lights up my inner landscape, high and low.
All my soul’s acres shine and shine with her!
You are discovered, God; awake, rise
out of the dark of Your Divine surprise!

Your own reflection has revealed Your place,
for she is utter light by Your own grace.
And in her light I find You hid within me,
and in her morning I can see Your Face. 

Music: Emmanuel – Tim Manion (Lyrics below)

Baby born in a stall.
Long ago now and hard to recall
Cold wind, darkness and sin,
your welcoming from us all.

 How can it be true?
A world grown so old now, how can it be new?
Sorrow’s end, God send,
born now for me and you

Emanuel, Emanuel
What are we that You have loved us so well?
A song on high, a Savior’s high, angel hosts rejoice
Thy glory to tell

 Lord, lead us to know.
You lay like a beggar, so humble, so low;
no place for Your head and straw for a bed,
the glory of God to show.

 Babe on mother’s knee,
child so soon to be nailed to a tree;
all praise, till the end of our days;
O Lord, You have set us free

Imagine!

Monday of the First Week of Advent
November 28, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112822.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah teaches us how to imagine with the power of faith.

We’ve probably all done this, at least in small ways. It’s a mechanism for getting through some of the tougher spots in our lives. For example, when I have an unpleasant dental procedure, I calm myself by imagining the pizza I will pick up on the way home. I even envision a specific time when the procedure will be over and I’ll be in line at the pizzeria.


Isaiah is coaching us in the same coping mechanisms, but on a much grander scale. 

On that day,
The branch of the LORD will be luster and glory,
and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor
for the survivors of Israel.
He who remains in Zion
and he who is left in Jerusalem
Will be called holy:
every one marked down for life in Jerusalem.

During his lifetime, Isaiah lived in a war torn land where the poor and the vulnerable were particularly threatened. These daily anxieties challenged their faith and eroded their confidence in God. Their intent to build and participate in a faithful community suffered because they could not see beyond their pain.

Isaiah tells them that a better day is coming. He invites Israel to stretch their faith, to trust in God’s promise, and to believe that God abides with them and will deliver them to glory.

Then will the LORD create,
over the whole site of Mount Zion
and over her place of assembly,
A smoking cloud by day
and a light of flaming fire by night.
For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from storm and rain.


Isaiah is asking a lot of these bereft people. It is really hard to live in the Light when there is nothing around you but darkness. But it is possible to do so by the power of faith.


In our Gospel, Jesus meets a man who has that kind of powerful faith. When Jesus offers to come cure the man’s paralyzed servant, the man says there is no need to come. He already trusts that God is with that servant and will bring him to wholeness.

Hearing the man, Jesus was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to amaze Jesus with our faith!

Indeed, as we pray today, Isaiah and Jesus may be asking us for the same kind of faith. There is a lot of pain and darkness in the larger world we share, and in many of our individual worlds. As we make our Advent journey, God asks us to live in a way that does not ignore the gloom, but still sees through it to trust the Light – a faith that proclaims God is already with us, bringing us to wholeness.


Come and save us, LORD our God;
let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Poetry: To Imagination – Emily Brontë

When weary with the long day's care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While thou canst speak with such a tone! 

So hopeless is the world without;
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
Have undisputed sovereignty.

What matters it, that, all around,
Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom's bound
We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days? 

Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature's sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart, how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown: 

But, thou art ever there, to bring
The hovering vision back, and breathe
New glories o'er the blighted spring,
And call a lovelier Life from Death,
And whisper, with a voice divine,
Of real worlds, as bright as thine.

I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet, still, in evening's quiet hour,
With never-failing thankfulness,
I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
Sure solacer of human cares,
And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!

Music: Imagine – John Lennon

Faithful Forever

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
November 23, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  our Responsorial Verse captures the essence of all the readings:

Rev 2_10JPG

It’s one of those scripture passages that makes one want to say, “Oh, really? Is that all?” 

Because, you know, it’s a pretty tall order to remain faithful until death. Sometimes it’s a real pinch to remain faithful for a week! 


Remember that exercise bike you bought in January 2020? Yeah, that one with your yoga pants, umbrella, and assorted tote bags hanging on it.

Or what about that South Beach diet book you’re using to prop open the closet door? How did all that faithfulness work out?

So, given our very human condition, what is the “faithfulness” these readings enjoin?

I believe it is not a faithfulness that never fails.

Rather, it tries. When it does fail, it believes in and seeks forgiveness. It trusts, even in its weakness. It is grateful, abiding, and loving. It is not afraid to begin again and again, because our faithfulness depends on God’s mercy not our strength.


When we were young nuns making our final vows, this phrase was part of our commitment: 

“… and to persevere, until death …” 

One of our wise leaders, Mother Bernard, told us, “Don’t pray for final perseverance. Pray to be worthy of it.”


I think we become worthy of perseverance by that trusting faithfulness which turns again and again into Mercy’s waiting, understanding arms. It is a faithfulness that fully believes these words from the Book of Lamentations:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
God’s mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
so great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3: 22-23

Poetry: What God Hath Promised – Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) was born in Vineland, NJ. Incapacitated by severe arthritis, she started composing religious poetry, and became “a renowned writer across the Christian world.” Her popular poems include He Giveth More Grace and Christmas Carols, which were published in Christian Endeavour World and Sunday School Times. (Wikipedia)

God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,

Unfailing sympathy, undying love.


Music: Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Westminster Abbey

This is probably not the most perfect rendition of this beautiful hymn, but I just love seeing all these various people singing their praise. Imagine all of the stories and histories of faith woven through this worshipping congregation — and each one of them grateful for God’s faithfulness. As Catherine McAuley would say, “Oh what a joy even to think of it!”

The Winepress

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
November 22, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112222.cfm

Rev 14_19 furyJPG

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are struck, once again, with Revelation’s images of the end time!

  • a crowned Christ wielding a sharp sickle
  • angels commanding the final harvest of the earth

and perhaps the most powerful

  • the earth’s vintage thrown into the great winepress of God’s fury!

This author could write! We can almost imagine the scene, filmed with all the pyro-technics of today’s computer age.

But besides the amazing imagery,
what does the passage say to our hearts?

In Biblical symbolism, the winepress almost always stands for judgment. The passage reminds us that we all will be judged.  The divine winepress will compress the sinful gaps that plague our human existence.  In the end time, there will be no “other” — no judgmental spaces separating us from one another.  We will all be one, like wine mingled.

We will be judged on how we lived that oneness in this life, on where we have stood in the worldly gap between the:

  • rich and poor
  • well and sick
  • citizen and refugee
  • abled and disabled
  • powerful and vulnerable

The questions for us as we pray today amy be these:

  • Do we live in ignorance or indifference to those who suffer on the other side of the human scale?
  • Have we been impervious to the imbalances of justice and charity in this world?
  • And how do we respond?

The passage suggests that we do some weeding of our spiritual gardens before the harvest of our souls. The intention of this fiery writer is to tell us that we still have a little time to do so.

Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

Poetry: Barnfloor and Winepress – Gerard Manley Hopkins

And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee?
out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? 
2 Kings VI: 27

Thou that on sin's wages starvest, 
Behold we have the joy in harvest: 
For us was gather'd the first fruits, 
For us was lifted from the roots, 
Sheaved in cruel bands, bruised sore, 
Scourged upon the threshing-floor; 
Where the upper mill-stone roof'd His head, 
At morn we found the heavenly Bread, 
And, on a thousand altars laid, 
Christ our Sacrifice is made! 
Thou whose dry plot for moisture gapes, 
We shout with them that tread the grapes: 
For us the Vine was fenced with thorn, 
Five ways the precious branches torn; 
Terrible fruit was on the tree
In the acre of Gethsemane; 
For us by Calvary's distress
The wine was racked from the press; 
Now in our altar-vessels stored
Is the sweet Vintage of our Lord.
In Joseph's garden they threw by 
The riv'n Vine, leafless, lifeless, dry: 
On Easter morn the Tree was forth, 
In forty days reach'd heaven from earth; 
Soon the whole world is overspread; 
Ye weary, come into the shade.
The field where He has planted us
Shall shake her fruit as Libanus, 
When He has sheaved us in His sheaf, 
When He has made us bear his leaf. - 
We scarcely call that banquet food, 
But even our Saviour's and our blood, 
We are so grafted on His wood. 

Music:  The Day Is Surely Drawing Near – written by the prolific 16th century Lutheran hymnist Bartholomaüs Ringwaldt. This piece is a majestic instrumental rendering, but if you would like to see the words, they are below. 

1 The day is surely drawing near
When Jesus, God’s anointed,
In all His power shall appear
As judge whom God appointed.
Then fright shall banish idle mirth,
And flames on flames shall ravage earth
As Scripture long has warned us.

2 The final trumpet then shall sound
And all the earth be shaken,
And all who rest beneath the ground
Shall from their sleep awaken.
But all who live will in that hour,
By God’s almighty, boundless pow’r,
Be changed at His commanding.

3 The books are opened then to all,
A record truly telling
What each has done, both great and small,
When he on earth was dwelling,
And ev’ry heart be clearly seen,
And all be known as they have been
In thoughts and words and actions.

4 Then woe to those who scorned the Lord
And sought but carnal pleasures,
Who here despised His precious Word
And loved their earthly treasures!
With shame and trembling they will stand
And at the judge’s stern command
To Satan be delivered.

5 My Savior paid the debt I owe
And for my sin was smitten;
Within the Book of Life I know
My name has now been written.
I will not doubt, for I am free,
And Satan cannot threaten me;
There is no condemnation!

6 May Christ our intercessor be
And through His blood and merit
Read from His book that we are free
With all who life inherit.
Then we shall see Him face to face,
With all His saints in that blest place
Which He has purchased for us. 

7 O Jesus Christ, do not delay,
But hasten our salvation;
We often tremble on our way
In fear and tribulation.
O hear and grant our fervent plea;
Come, mighty judge, and make us free
From death and ev’ry evil.

Power in Fragility

Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs
October 19, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/101922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  Paul proclaims his mission to the Gentiles, announcing that through the Gospel, salvation is offered to all people. He says that, by grace, he became a minister of this Gospel – called to preach “the inscrutable riches of Christ”.

Lk12_48 much given

And Paul certainly did an extraordinary job. He had been given much by God, and he gave it back wholeheartedly.

In the Gospel, Jesus talks about that same kind of investment. In answer to Peter’s confusion about the call to be ready for God, Jesus tells the story of wily steward.

This servant had been given much: trust, responsibility, power and probably higher pay. But when the master is away, the trusted servant fails him, acting cruelly and greedily in his own interest.

Jesus ends the story with a pronouncement that has always shaken me a little: 

For unto whomever much is given,
much will be required. 

I know I’ve been given a stunning abundance by God: faith, family, friends and a thousand other graces.  But my will and ability to give back sometimes feels as fragile as a decaying leaf. Ever feel like that?

It turns out that even Paul, great Apostle to the Gentiles, felt that way too. He says so in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul asks God to remove his fragility.

But He said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, 
for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

Let’s pray today to be good stewards of the amazing riches God has given us – in Creation, Faith, Grace and Community. Let us invite God’s power to perfect our weakness, all for the sake of God’s glory.

Even a lacy leaf can be beautiful when it is filled with Light.


Poetry: To Autumn – John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
  Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
  Steady thy laden head across a brook;
  Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Music: My Grace is Sufficient for You – Keith and Amy Amano 

Alleluia: Green Grapes!

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the core of our readings is about innocence and authenticity. But you have to dig a little to get to that. Maybe, like me, you finished  our first reading asking, “So what’s with the green grapes!?”

A common expression in ancient Israel suggested that people’s bad luck was a punishment for their parent’s sins. It was a handy way of avoiding responsibility for one’s own foolish actions, often the actual source of one’s misfortune.

Ezekiel uses the expression to teach a lesson about the nature of God’s love and forgiveness. God loves us completely – without prejudice, without vengeance. There is no record of faults to “set our teeth on edge”. There are no “green grapes” on God’s table. God only wants our wholeness.

Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel,
each one according to their own ways, says the Lord GOD.
Turn and be converted from all your crimes,
that they may be no cause of guilt for you.
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.


God will not let us hide behind excuses like a bogus “Green Grapes Theory”. As in any loving relationship, we must be honest with God, own our faults, seek forgiveness, and love ardently.

Jesus uses the example of a little child to show us how to do this. Each one of us is born with a core of innocence and authenticity. These are the attributes of God’s life in us. Throughout our lives there are times when we hide these blessings under our sinfulness. Some people bury them so deep that they lose touch with their own sacred integrity.

Jesus calls us back out of our excuses and our excesses, just as the Lord called Ezekiel’s community. We are invited to an eternal covenant rooted in the gift of divine innocence and authenticity given to us at our creation.

Jesus said:
Let the children come to me,
and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven
belongs to such as these.

Poetry: The Pursuit – Henry Vaughn

LORD ! what a busy, restless thing
Hast Thou made man !
Each day and hour he is on wing,
Rests not a span ;
Then having lost the sun and light,
By clouds surpris’d,
He keeps a commerce in the night
With air disguis’d.
Hadst Thou given to this active dust
A state untir’d,
The lost son had not left the husk,
Nor home desir’d.
That was Thy secret, and it is
Thy mercy too ;
For when all fails to bring to bliss,
Then this must do.
Ah, Lord ! and what a purchase will that be,
To take us sick, that sound would not take Thee !

Music: Tender Hearted – Jeanne Cotter