This Cup Is Your Life

October 17, 2021
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 which

“proclaims the LORD as the one

in whom the righteous may place their trust and hope.”

James L. Mays: Psalms (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)

Upright is the word of the LORD,
    and all his works are trustworthy.
God loves justice and right;
    of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those in awe,
    upon those who hope for God’s kindness,
To deliver them from death
    and preserve them in spite of famine.

Psalm 33: 4-5; 18-19

This is a good psalm to be reminded of as we encounter readings from Isaiah and Mark which sound almost Lenten in tone. Our psalm reminds us that, despite adverse appearances, God abides with us and fosters our well-being.


Isaiah gives us the image of a broken Jesus, crushed by a “suffering that justifies many”.

Christ as the Man of Sorrows – Albert Durer

Mark recounts the story of the two rather oblivious disciples asking to sit in glory beside Jesus. They do not realize that the path to this glory is through Gethsemane and Calvary.

Jesus asks these disciples the same question he asks us throughout our lives:

“Can you drink the cup that I will drink?”

Each of our sufferings and sacrifices may be small or large in life. But when they are united with Christ in faith and hope, they all are redemptive.

We will be asked, as Jesus was, to lay down our life in love. 

  • It may be in the unselfish raising of a family, or the humble pastoring of a church community. 
  • It may be in the long-term care of an elderly parent or neighbor. 
  • It may be in a ministry of healing, teaching, or encouragement where another requires our labor, patience and mercy. 
  • It may be as a public servant who actually serves, or as a private nurse who tenderly nurses. 
  • It may be as a community member who builds life by respect, responsibility, and mutuality.

We will come to realize, as did the ambitious sons of Zebedee, that true discipleship is not flash and glam. It is the daily choice to quietly lift the cup we have been given, and raise it to the honor of God – in openness, trust, joy and delight that we are called to share in the life of Christ.


Poetry: Can you Drink the Cup – Scott Surrency, OFM.Cap

Can you drink the cup?
Drink, not survey or analyze,
ponder or scrutinize –
from a distance.
But drink – imbibe, ingest,
take into you so that it becomes a piece of your inmost self.
And not with cautious sips
that barely moisten your lips,
but with audacious drafts
that spill down your chin and onto your chest.
(Forget decorum – reserve would give offense.)

Can you drink the cup?
The cup of rejection and opposition,
betrayal and regret.
Like vinegar and gall,
pungent and tart,
making you wince and recoil.
But not only that – for the cup is deceptively deep –
there are hopes and joys in there, too,
like thrilling champagne with bubbles
that tickle your nose on New Year’s Eve,
and fleeting moments of almost – almost – sheer ecstasy
that last as long as an eye-blink, or a champagne bubble,
but mysteriously satisfy and sustain.

Can you drink the cup?
Yes, you — with your insecurities,
visible and invisible.
You with the doubts that nibble around the edges
and the ones that devour in one great big gulp.
You with your impetuous starts and youth-like bursts of love and devotion.
You with your giving up too soon – or too late – and being tyrannically hard on yourself.
You with your Yes, but’s and I’m sorry’s – again.
Yes, you – but with my grace.

Can you drink the cup?

Can I drink the cup?

Yes.


Music: The Cup of Salvation ~Shane & Shane (Lyrics below.)

I love the Lord for He heard my voice
And answered my cry for mercy
Because He listened to me
I will call upon Him as long as I live

CHORUS

What shall I render to the Giver of life and who all things are made
What shall I render to the One who paints the oceans blue
Jesus Christ

I will lift up a cup of salvation
Call on the Name of the Lord
How do I repay the life that You gave
I’ll call on the Name of the Lord
Lift up a cup, You have already poured

What kind of rendering is found in this taking
Found in this drinking of love
Love so abundant He meets me in depravity
With one thing to give

CHORUS

You have delivered my soul from death
My eyes from tears
My feet from stumbling
And I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living

CHORUS

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

Grace … God’s Life in Us

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time 
October 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98

God has made salvation known:
    in the sight of the nations revealing justice.
God has remembered mercy and faithfulness
    toward God’s People.

Psalm 98: 2-3

Indeed God has made salvation known through the gift of Sacred Scripture. And I feel so enthused about the next month’s prayer because, also today, we begin about a month of readings from Paul’s letter to the Romans. (We will also continue with Luke’s Gospel all the way up to Advent.)

Like the rest of Sacred Scripture, which has God for its transcendent author, Paul’s Letter to the Romans has a spiritual and theological depth that is literally inexhaustible.

Scott W. Hahn: Romans

In praying with Romans, I am using a book by Scott W. Hahn, Father Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology at Steubenville University. In his introduction, Hahn says this:


Today’s reading offered me these elements to ponder and pray with:

  • Paul calls himself a “slave” of Jesus Christ
  • He invokes his call as an Apostle
  • He sets himself in the company of the prophets
  • He appeals to Jews who revere David
  • but proclaims Christ, through his Resurrection, as Messiah beyond human lineage
  • He proclaims his mission to the Gentiles
  • to bring about “the obedience of faith”

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve read or heard this passage maybe a hundred times in my lifetime, and it has meant little or nothing to me. At best, it has sounded like a formal introduction such as those we hear from government “whereas” type decrees.

But I took Dr. Hahn’s advice, studying the passage, and reading it slowly and prayerfully. Here’s what I received:

  • Paul’s Apostolic call, to which he willingly enslaved his heart, was to preach the Good News of our redemption in Jesus Christ – to preach it to Jews, Romans, Gentiles, and all people.
  • It is an awesomely incredible message that can be received only through the gift of faith.
  • It is a message rooted in the scripture stories we love, and where we look to find a reflection of our own life stories.
  • Learning from these realities will help us come to a faith which expresses itself in action and gives glory to God in our own time.


Luke gives us one such story today. Jesus reminds the crowd of two familiar passages – that of Jonah and the “Queen of the South” (the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10).

Jesus indicates that the people in these stories
believed without a sign.


Jesus tells the people gathered around him  to learn from this. The crowd demands a sign, but Jesus says the sign is right in front of you – it is only your open heart that is lacking.

In his introduction, Paul prays for such open hearts in the Romans:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

By that same grace, may we receive faith’s blessing as well.


Poetry: The Avowal – Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding GRACE.

Music: Grace and Peace – Fernando Ortega

My Dad’s Rosary

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary 
October 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1, its very opening verses.

Blessed the one who follows not
    the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
    and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-3

Scripture scholar James L. Mays says that the psalm’s primacy is not accidental:

The Book of Psalms begins with a beatitude. Not a prayer or a hymn, but a statement about human existence. Here at the threshold of the Psalter we are asked to consider the teaching that the way life is lived is decisive for how it turns out. This opening beatitude also serves as an introduction to the book. Its location as the first psalm is not accidental; the psalm is there to invite us to read and use the entire book as a guide to a blessed life.

Psalms: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching

Psalm 1 helps us to understand that praying the Psalter is a tool for spiritual guidance. It is not just about the people and times it mentions. It is about us and our lifelong journey with God.

In a sense the rosary, which we think about today as we pray with Mary, is a similar tool. And I’ll be honest with you, it’s a tool I didn’t appreciate until much later in my life.


Most Catholics have a history with the rosary. It’s a form of prayer we learned as children at our grandmother’s or first grade teacher’s knee. But for me as a six-year old, it was just too long. I became bored mid-second decade. I even used to cheat, drop the rosary on the floor, and pick it up a few decades further down the beads!

Me – on the right! 🙂

Of course, as a young nun, I prayed the rosary. I even wore the rosary at my hip and fingered its cool beads throughout the day. But I still didn’t appreciate or love it. Not until I was 36 years old and my father died.

My Dad lived an extremely simple, and I think holy, life. He didn’t vow it, but he practiced the evangelical counsel of poverty beautifully. He possessed very little that was his alone. When he died, almost everything important and precious to him (besides his family) could be found in the bottom drawer of our old China closet. That’s where I found his rosary on the day after his funeral.


It was cuddled in a wrinkled pouch imprinted with the phrase “My Rosary”. I smiled when I read that, thinking one didn’t really need to be reminded what was inside! But there was actually more inside than I expected.

Dad always loved the poems of James Metcalfe, published daily in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. One little poem was folded neatly inside the pouch:


A Dad’s Prayer

Almighty Father help me be . . . 
A good and loving dad . . . 
That my dear children may enjoy . . . 
The blessings I have had . . . 
Give me the wisdom I should use . . . 
To teach them right from wrong . . . 
And how to keep on going when . . . 
The road is rough and long . . . 
To do the duty that is theirs . . . 
Until its very end . . . 
To look for lasting beauty and . . . 
Appreciate a friend . . . 
Endow me with the grace I need . . . 
To mold their gentle youth . . . 
According to the measurements . . . 
Of loyalty and truth . . . 
Enable me to comfort them . . . 
Whenever they are sad . . . 
And O my Father, grant that they . . . 
Will always love their dad. 


Every morning after I discovered Dad’s rosary, I ran the beads through my fingers, wanting in some way to touch Dad again.

I began to read about the rosary and its purpose as a means of meditation on the life of Christ. I began to pray it differently, slowly – eventually using the vocal prayers only as a rhythm underneath the thought of Jesus’s experiences.

Sometimes, rather than rushing through a decade as I had before, I couldn’t stay long enough to absorb all that Jesus or Mary chose to share with me in one of the rosary’s mysteries.


Maybe on this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, we might renew our love, understanding,and appreciation of this beautiful means of prayer. Online, I found this guide created by the Knights of Columbus which I liked. You might find it helpful. (I didn’t check, but I think it might be printable.)


Music: Verde by Guido and Mauricio deAngelis

(One of my Dad’s favorite pieces of music.)

Forgiveness

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 86 which, following our first reading about vindictive Jonah, shows us a heart converted to mercy.

These readings are so powerful. I think a little “Jonah” lives in most of us – that part of us that wants “them” to get what they deserve. We can’t quite get ourselves to want “them”, instead, to receive the unmerited mercy of God.

In our first reading, God tries to help stingy-hearted Jonah face his unforgiveness toward the Ninevites.

Our psalm, on the other hand, is prayed by a humble servant who understands forgiveness because they need it themselves.

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
    for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
    and attend to the sound of my pleading.

Psalm 86: 3-6

Psalm 86 invites us to grow in our spiritual life in two ways:

  • to recognize our need for forgiveness because we are not without sin
  • to extend that forgiving desire to those who have sinned against us

It is the lesson Jesus affirms in today’s Gospel:

Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say:
    Father, hallowed be your name,
        your Kingdom come.
        Give us each day our daily bread
        and forgive us our sins
        for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”


Poetry: Forgiveness – John Greenleaf Whittier

My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!

Music: Lord, Teach Us to Pray – Joe Wise

Lord, teach us to pray…

It’s been a long and cold December kind of day.
With our hearts and hands all busy in our private little wars.
We stand and watch each other now from separate shores.
We lose the way.

I need to know today the way things should be in my head.
I need to know for once now the things that should be said.
I’ve got to learn to walk around as if I were not dead.
I’ve got to find a way to learn to live. (Refrain)

I still get so distracted by the color of my skin.
I still get so upset now when I find that I don’t win.
I meet so many strangers—I’m slow to take them in.
I’ve got to find a way to really live. (Refrain)

I stand so safe and sterile as I watch a man fall flat.
I’m silent with a man who’d like to know just where I’m at.
With the aged and the lonely I can barely tip my hat.
I need to see the sin of “I don’t care.” (Refrain)

I stand so smug and sure before the people I’ve out-guessed.
To let a man be who he is I still see as a test.
And when it all comes down to “must,” I’m sure my way is best.
I’ve got to find what “room” means in my heart. (Refrain)

Lord, teach us to pray.
We believe that we can find a better way.
Teach us to pray. We lose the way.
Teach us to pray.

Out of the Depths

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 130, a “Psalm of Ascents” in which the whole community joined in a prayer of intense supplication as they gathered at the Temple.

Although prayed as a community, the psalm is written in an individual voice, helping us to connect our times of personal desperation to the prayer.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD
    LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to my voice in supplication.

Psalm 130: 1-2

Jonah, in the chapter before today’s first reading, gives us a graphic image of what “the depths” feel like.  Not only is Jonah swallowed by the sea, but also by a whale which carries him – imprisoned – to the very bottom of the ocean!

Jonah prayed to the LORD, his God, from the belly of the fish:
Out of my distress I called to the LORD,
Who answered me;
From the womb of Sheol I cried for help,
and you heard my voice.

Jonah 2:2-3

Sheol” is a Hebrew term which could be translated as “place of the dead spirits”. It is different from the grave, which harbors the body. In other words, “Sheol” is a place where our spirits can die before we physically die.


We can experience this kind of spiritual death in so many ways. Some come upon us not by our own choice. Certainly in the illness of depression we feel this darkness. Profound bereavement and debilitating sickness can overwhelm us as well. Praying Psalm 130 may help at such times. But they also call for reaching out to friends, counselors, and professional support to help in our healing.


But the psalm more specifically addresses those times when we get caught in a deadly spiral due to our own sinful and selfish choices – by allowing prejudice, hate, willful ignorance or any of the seven deadly sins to overtake us.

Lord, hear my cry!
May your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, keep account of sins,
Lord, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness
and so you are revered.

Psalm 130: 2-4

Psalm 130 tells us that God is present to us in both situations- whether our suffering is brought on by our own choices or not. God will walk us through to the Light when we open ourselves to Grace:

Let us wait patiently 
to discern God’s way,
For with God is kindness
    and plenteous redemption;
God will restore us
    from every darkness;
God’s way is mercy.

Psalm 130: 7-8

Let’s pray for that kind of faith in our hearts, and the hearts of those we love, especially for anyone suffering “the depths” right now.


Poetry: De Profundis – Christina Rossetti 

Oh why is heaven built so far, 
Oh why is earth set so remote? 
I cannot reach the nearest star 
That hangs afloat. 
I would not care to reach the moon, 
One round monotonous of change; 
Yet even she repeats her tune 
Beyond my range. 
I never watch the scatter'd fire 
Of stars, or sun's far-trailing train, 
But all my heart is one desire, 
And all in vain: 
For I am bound with fleshly bands, 
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope; 
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands, 
And catch at hope. 

Music: Out of the Deep – John Rutter

Psalm 130, ‘Out of the deep have I called unto thee O Lord’ begins darkly with an unaccompanied cello solo in C minor, later giving way to a more positive C major at the words ‘for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption’.

Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
O let thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint.
If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?
For there is mercy with thee: therefore shalt thou be feared.
I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him; and in his word is my trust.
My soul fleeth unto the Lord before the morning watch; I say, before the morning watch.
O Israel, trust in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his sins.

Blessing Our Children – 1

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 3, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128 which offers us a tender blessing.  One of the most striking phrases of the blessing is “May you see your children’s children.”

Behold, thus is the one blessed
    who lives in awe of the LORD.
The LORD bless you:
    may you see the prosperity of heart
    all the days of your life.
May you see your children’s children.
    Peace be upon you always!
May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives.

based on Psalm 128

Indeed, how grateful we are for the children in our families — no matter how old they are! What a gift to be renewed by their simplicity, openness, courage and dearness. 

My Three Nieces and Nephew about 2001

What a joy to watch these next generations rise to their adulthood in grace and honor. What a particular blessing to live to see their children claim a heritage of life and goodness.

My Great-nephews and Niece with their Uber Aunt, the young one on the left in the 2001 photo above!

How important it is to let our younger family and friends know how we love them, what great hope and joy we find in them, how grateful we are for them.  We should pray constantly for their life in the Spirit, for their strength in this shifting world, and for their friendship with God. We should be light for them, as our elders have been for us.

May we never take for granted what we have been given by the ones who come after us, who carry our hope and life into the future.

(In a separate post today, I offer a story you might enjoy about one way I tried to live by my own counsel in this regard.)


Poetry: Testament by Carolyn M. Rodgers

child, 
in the august of your life 
you come barefoot to me 
the blisters of events 
having worn through to the 
soles of your shoes.
it is not the time
this is not the time
there is no such time
to tell you
that some pains ease away
on the ebb & toll of
themselves.
there is no such dream that
can not fail, nor is hope our
only conquest.
we can stand boldly in burdening places (like earth here)
in our blunderings, our bloomings
our palms, flattened upward or pressed,
an unyielding down.

Music: – sung by the inimitable Bob Dylan, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature – a singer whom one either loves or hates. I hope you love his rendition of Forever Young.