Psalm 2: A Political World

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious

January 4, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 2. The prayer seems a fitting reminder to all of us, and especially US citizens, as our new political season opens.

And now, O rulers, give heed;
take warning, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice before God;
with trembling rejoice…
Blessed are all who take refuge in God!


Although I was relieved to lessen my political attention after the November election, I realize that we always have a moral imperative both to pray for our leaders and to measure their efforts, and our own, against the standards of social justice. 

Click right triangle above to hear how Handel felt about it as he uses Psalm 2 in his Messiah.
Why do the nations so furiously rage together,
and who do the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord,
and against His Anointed.
George Frederic Handel: Messiah 
Psalm 2: 1-2

The interplay of politics and morality is on-going, and its energy rises once again with this month’s seating of the new Congress and inauguration of President Biden.

The U.S. and the world has been given stark lessons under the tenure of the exiting president. Some have learned from these experiences. Some have allowed their ignorances to be confirmed.

It has not been easy. We live in an age when truth and morality have been rendered elastic – seemingly malleable to multiple alternative narratives.


Another verse of Psalm 2 from Handel’s Messiah
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
(Psalm 2:3)

Psalm 2 reminds us of the one true narrative:
we are all creatures of God
charged to live in harmony
with one another and with the Creator.

Seen in a political light, we are a long way from achieving that charge. 

Our elected leaders have an almost impossible job to guide this fractured nation closer to our moral hope. But our prayer, and our sincere contribution to the effort, can make a huge difference in the result.

Despite any partisan leanings, can we pledge that contribution?


Poetry: The Paths of Love and Justice – Christine Robinson

Why are the nations in an uproar?
Why do the peoples mutter and threaten?
Why do the rich plot with the powerful?
They are rebelling against the demands of Love and Justice.
God laughs, cries, and says with anger:
I have set my Love in your hearts and my Justice in your minds.
You are my children and I have given you the universe
your lives, and the tasks of your days.
Be wise
Be warned
Stick to the paths of Love and Justice.
Your restless hearts will find me there.


Music: Justice and Mercy – Matt Redman

The Epiphany of Our Lord

January 3, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, and on this glorious feast, we pray with Psalm 72.

It is a gorgeous psalm that fills our senses with lights, and scents, and the tactile experience of an ancient and sacred world:

  • we inhale the flower of justice
  • wrap ourselves in its profound peace
  • gaze on a distant, moonless universe
  • stretch our prayer from sea to sea,
  • and our praise to the ends of the earth

We see the ancient nations gather in homage,
carrying the gems, spices and bounty of their homelands.

We, too, kneel in astounded wonder that this vulnerable child, 
hidden in the far reaches of both geography and imagination,
carries to us the Promise of the Ages.

We, too, trust the star, rising in our own hearts.


Psalm 72 echoes our beautiful first reading from Isaiah, another masterpiece that, in itself, is enough simply to read and savor:

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  
Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.

Isaiah 60: 1-2

In Isaiah, these magnificent verses follow two chapters of gloom and darkness. They break forth in true epiphany to say, “Your Light has come!” – now your life must begin to shine as well.

Epiphany is not simply about kings and camels. It is not simply about a  crèche and a star. 

It is about Divine Revelation hovering over our dailyness. It is about us, opening our eyes in faith and responsiveness to our ever-present God.

The feast of Epiphany reminds us:

Look at your life today.
The star did not pass you by.
Open your eyes and find it.
Once you have seen it,
live in its Light.

Poetry: The Journey of the Magi – T.S. Eliot

Eliot wrote the poem after his conversion to Anglicanism ( He had been a Unitarian.) The poem conveys his struggle to grow in the light of his new faith. The “journey” is life-long and demanding in a world that often  contradicts that faith.

“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.


Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


Music: The People that Walk in Darkness – Bob Dufford, SJ

The people that walk in darkness 
 have seen, have seen a great light.
 And on those who dwell in endless gloom, 
 a light has shone.
 
Refrain: 
For a Child is born this day: 
Rejoice, rejoice.
Daughter of Zion, awake. 
The glory of God is born.
 
And they shall name Him counselor, 
shall call Him mighty God.
And He shall rule from age to age: 
Prince of Peace.
 
Refrain
 
Darkness covers the earth; 
thick clouds govern its pe0ple.
But the Lord will bring them light; 
the Lord will bring them light.
 
Refrain
 
The people that walk in darkness 
have seen, have seen a great light.
And on those who dwell in endless gloom, 
a light has shone.
 

Refrain

Psalm 98: An Ever-New Song

January 2, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98 which, once again, enjoins us to “sing a new song”.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
Who has done wondrous deeds;
Whose right hand has won victory,
by the holy arm.

You know what? We’re trying, aren’t we? God knows, we need a new song! And the coming of the New Year gives us the push to find it in ourselves. Right?

Because that’s where it has to come from — within each one of us. 

Other people can sing with us, accompany our song, or applaud our a cappellas.  But our song is not out there somewhere. Our song is deep within us, breathed there by a virtuoso God at our creation. It was meant to be sung – and sung by us.

Sing praise to the LORD with the lyre,
with the lyre and melodious song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout with joy to the King, the LORD.

Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell there.

Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy,

Psalm 98:7-9

The beauty of our song is that it can change
to adapt to the tone of our days
– sometimes an aria, sometimes a dirge.
Sometimes an anthem, sometimes a ballad.
Sometimes a canticle, sometimes a lullaby.
A requiem, a Kyrie, a Sanctus, an Alleluia!


Each song is inspired by the One Divine Song, whose voice is sounded in Creation by the consecration of our own song, given in sincerity and love.

The Lord has remembered us 
In mercy and faithfulness
All the ends of the earth have seen
the power of our God.
So shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth;
break into song; sing praise.

Psalm 98: 3-5

Let’s listen to God singing over us today, so that we can respond with our own heart-song:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
The Lord will rejoice over you with gladness;
will quiet you with love;
will exult over you with passionate singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

Poetry: Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman

Listen. 
God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing he’s made,
means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
trying to will himself into a stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing he’s made
there is given one shade
shaped exactly to the thing itself:
under the tree a darker tree;
under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
the things that bring him near,
made the mind that makes him go.
A part of what man knows,
apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing he’s made.

Music: Romance for the Violin – Michael Hoppé

Antiphon: O Wisdom

December 17, 2020
Thursday of the Third Week of Advent


Today, in Mercy, we begin the recitation of the O Antiphons.

The O Antiphons are Magnificat antiphonies used at Vespers of the last seven days of Advent. They are also used as the Alleluia Verse during the daily Mass.

Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:

  • 17 December: O Sapientia (O Wisdom
  • 18 December: O Adonai (O Beautiful Lord)
  • 19 December: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • 20 December: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
  • 21 December: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
  • 22 December: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
  • 23 December: O Emmanuel (O God With Us)

We begin today
with a heartfelt plea to God
to fill our world with a Wisdom
that orders all things
and teaches us prudence.

Oh, how our world needs this prayer to be answered!  How we need to discover a Wisdom rooted in truth, justice and mutual love!

Let us pray this prayer together today, dear friends, and wrap the whisper of longing around our whole aching world:

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!


As we begin this final week before Christmas, may each one of you feel a dawning of new grace and courage in your hearts. This will certainly be a very different, and perhaps difficult time for many. But let Wisdom teach us that there may be a new and unexpected grace even in this strange season.

Poetry:

Deep into Advent
white morning rises
out of night’s dark mystery.
It will be cold today in some corners
even of the heart.

Still, in a distant belfry
sweet bells awaken
Slowly, the western horizon
warms enough to melt stars.

It is a time of promises
dancing in and out of hope.
Once, we see Glory.
Once, we see Void.
Our stark challenge is just to hope,
no matter what we see.

Deceptively simple, it is a call
with caverns unimagined,
each one offering
its own circuitous journey
into Wisdom.

For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything and night had run half its course,
your Almighty Word leapt down from heavens throne into a doomed land.
Wisdom 18:14-15


Music: O Wisdom – Michael G. Hegeman, Performed by: The Lauda! Chamber Singers

Psalm 85: Rain Down, O Lord!

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

December 16, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85 – a song filled with urgency and expectation!

When we pray this psalm:

We are desperately thirsty nomads who hear promise in the hint of thunder.
We are the parched leaves stretching up to catch the first rain.
We are the foundered boat lifted on the gathering flume.

Tomorrow, we begin the exclamations of our answered hopes — the great O Antiphons.

But for today, let us relax into the certainty that, indeed, the Savior is coming – just as sure as the clouds turn silver with the weight of rain.

What is it in your heart today
that reaches for the cloudburst of grace?

Poetry: Last Night, the Rain Spoke to Me – Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,
smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches
and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,
and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment,
at which moment
my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars
and the soft rain—
imagine! imagine!
the wild and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Music: Spirit of God, Rain Down – Nelson Jose

Psalm 34: The Reason

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

December 15, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34.

When I read its refrain, my mind was triggered into a kind of “Jeopardy-like” exchange with God:

Answer: This is the reason God sent his Son,
and continues to redeem the world in us.

Question : What is “The Lord hears the cry of the poor”.

Psalm 34 reiterates a fundamental fact so often overshadowed by our highly secularized “Christmas unconsciousness”. The psalm refocuses us by consistently using words like this:

  • Let my soul glory in the LORD;
    the lowly will hear me and be glad.
  • When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
    and from all his distress he saved him.
  • When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
    and from all their distress he rescues them.
  • The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
    and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

Christmas is God’s response to the unrelenting cry of the poor. If we want to truly honor and celebrate Christmas, we must allow that merciful and healing response to flow through us.

How and where do I hear the cry of the poor?
How do I respond?

Poetry: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit Alice Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an American novelist, story writer, poet and social activist. In 1982, she wrote the novel The Color Purple for which she won the National Book Award hardcover fiction, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Did you ever understand this? 
If my spirit was poor, how could I enter heaven? 
Was I depressed? 
Understanding editing,
I see how a comma, removed or inserted
with careful plan,
can change everything.
I was reminded of this
when a poor young man
in Tunisia
desperate to live
and humiliated for trying
set himself ablaze; 
I felt uncomfortably warm
as if scalded by his shame.
I do not have to sell vegetables from a cart as he did
or live in narrow rooms too small for spacious thought; 
and, at this late date,
I do not worry that someone will
remove every single opportunity
for me to thrive.
Still, I am connected to, inseparable from,
this young man.
Blessed are the poor, in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus. (Commas restored) .
Jesus was as usual talking about solidarity: about how we join with others
and, in spirit, feel the world, and suffering, the same as them.
This is the kingdom of owning the other as self, the self as other; 
that transforms grief into
peace and delight.
I, and you, might enter the heaven
of right here
through this door.
In this spirit, knowing we are blessed,
we might remain poor 

Music: The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor – John Foley, SJ

Gaudete Sunday: Rejoice!

Third Sunday of Advent

December 13, 2020

The day takes its name from the Latin word Gaudete (“Rejoice”),
the first word of the Introit prayer for this day’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. 


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we prayerfully rejoice with Mary’s courageous and hopeful song:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed.

Today is a break day midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming. On Gaudete Sunday, the Church is no longer inviting us to adore merely “The Lord who is to come”, but calling upon us to worship and hail with joy “The Lord who is now nigh and close at hand“.


While the whole Church is called this Sunday to rejoice in the approach of the Christ-event,  Mary’s Magnificat calls us to celebrate a specific “nearness” – God’s preferential affinity for those who are poor:

The Lord has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
remembering the promise of mercy.

The Gaudete message is not about a cheap and frenzied Christmas celebration. It is a profound reminder that Divine Joy seeks its home in a holy emptiness – in a heart space that has been reflectively cleared of spiritual arrogance.

His mercy is from age to age
to those who bow in awe.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

Luke 150-51

How do we become, like Mary,
poor and humble before our God,
open to the Awesome Joy who is Christ?

We can pray according to Paul’s blessing to the Thessalonians in our second reading:

May the God of peace make us perfectly holy
and may we entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The One who calls us is faithful,
and will also accomplish it.


Poem: Heart Cave – Geoffrey Brown

I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And sweep it clean, make it warm, with fire on the hearth
And candles in their niches
The pictures on the walls glowing with quiet lights
I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And make the bed with the quilt from home
Strew rushes on the floor
And hang lavender and sage from the corners
I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And be there when you come.

Music: Gaudete – Steeleye Span 

This British folk rock group had a hit in 1973 (No. 14, UK singles chart) with an a cappella recording of the song. Guitarist Bob Johnson heard the song when he attended a folk-carol service with his father-in-law. 
This single is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung fully in Latin (the others were both recordings of “Pie Jesu” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s
Requiem)

Guadalupe: The Largesse of Mercy

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray in praise of Mary, with a passage from the Book of Judith as our Responsorial Psalm:

Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the LORD God, 
the creator of heaven and earth.

Judith 13:18

Judith rescues her people’s future by an act of heroism against the enemy. That “deed of hope” saves the whole community from deadly oppression.

You are the highest honor of our human race.
Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God.

Judith 13:19

Judith’s deeds foreshadow Mary’s sublime obedience to the power of God. Her dynamic faith and trust free Mary to respond to God’s outrageous willingness to become flesh for our salvation.

Mary said,
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38

Down through history, Mary continues to inspire that kind of faith in God’s People. Today, we remember two such inspired individuals:

Saint Juan Diego who, in receiving graces from Our Lady of Guadalupe, offered a “deed of hope” for the Mexican people.


Venerable Catherine McAuley who, in responding to her founder’s call, released the “deed of hope” ever afterward known as “the Sisters of Mercy”.


What “deed of hope” wants firing
in your heart today?

Let’s look to Mary and the Saints she has inspired, to encourage us.

Poetry: from Hafiz

Light
Will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage,

For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown in an ancient fertile plain
You hold the title to.

Love will surely burst you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy…
A life–giving radiance will come,
The Beloved’s gratuity will come…..


Music: Sub Tuum Praesidium- “Beneath Thy Protection” – is the oldest preserved extant hymn to the the Blessed Virgin Mary. (mid 3rd century)

Sub tuum praesidium
confugimus,
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

Psalm 1: Trust the Light

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

December 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 and its confident responsorial verse.

Last night we watched a public television Christmas special, “Rick Steves’s European Christmas“. From its many beautiful scenes, one in particular remained with me: a little group of friends tobogganing down a snow covered hill at night. Their only lights came from the small lanterns they held and the full moon’s generous luster against the white snow.

My first reaction to the scene was to wonder, “What if their light goes out?”. Then I realized that there was a light beyond them which would guide their way.


There are times in our lives when the light, if it doesn’t go out, at least flickers. I wrote about that awareness in this story a few years ago: 

She had arranged to visit with an old college friend. They had been separated too long by the distancing choices that life often demands. She wanted to reconnect to that rare experience of shared transparency found just once or twice in a lifetime – the gift of a real friend.

They sat on a porch overlooking a gentle pond. The day was bright, the coffee hot, the chairs comfortable. But the magic was gone.  Only half her friend had arrived for the cherished conversation. The other half – joy, adventure and the excess of youthful hope – had been lost. Somewhere in the intervening years, the light had gone out. Her friend had suffered a wound she did not share. This one afternoon would be too short a time to give that wound a name.

During our Advent journey, God is waiting in the seeming darkness to guide us. God already knows the wounds we carry. God sees where our heart’s light has dimmed. Holding our half-heartedness next to the Divine Heart, God yearns to rekindle us.


Today’s psalm reminds us that there is a always Light waiting beyond us to guide our way.

Blessed the one follows not
the counsel of darkness
nor walks in it ways,
nor remains in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on its Light day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Poetry: from Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Music: Christ, Be Our Light – Bernadette Farrell

Psalm 145:The Hint of God

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

December 10, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145 in which the psalmist once again assures us that our God is 

The psalm extends the promises of our first reading from Isaiah:

The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

Isaiah 41:17

We need promises like those of Isaiah and our psalmist, especially in times when we feel tested, alone, frightened, desperate, or abandoned. Even a taste of these radical emotions is hard to bear without some glimmer of promise.

Faith tells us that the Promise is already fulfilled in the Gift of Jesus Christ. 


Advent is our annual liturgical practice in waiting … in the recommitment

  • to a faith that cannot yet see,
  • to a hope that waits yet believes,
  • to a trust that praises even in the predawn shadows.

Advent is our promise to lean
on an invisible God. 

Christmas is the astounding Divine response –
Jesus Christ – God made visible.

Poetry: Paul’s great poem from Colossians 1: 15-23

Christ is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.

For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.i

He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.

He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.

For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Music: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (1867) – Walter Chalmers Smith.
The original, beautiful final verses of this hymn have been lost in the English translation. Here they are, and worth their own meditation:

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.
All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.