Great and Glorious St. Patrick

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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St. PAddyToday, in Mercy, our readings are about types of citizenship.

  • In Deuteronomy , Abraham is given a land for himself and his descendants.
  • In Philippians, Paul tells us the “our citizenship is in heaven”.
  • In Luke, the transfigured Jesus shows us that heavenly reality.

These readings confirm that, in God, we are not a people bound by borders, ethnicities, religious cult, or any other human categorization.

Every human being belongs to God and is called to live in the fullness of that Creation.  This is our Divine citizenship.

Think about that in contrast to talk of border walls, ethnic and religious bans, white supremacy, anti-semitism, islamophobia and all the other multiple ways we try to isolate people from this Divine citizenship which makes us brothers and sisters in God.

Friends, on this blessed St. Patrick’s Day, when so many of us rejoice in our Hibernian heritage, let us pray for a world where every human being is respected and celebrated for the particular gifts she/he brings to Creation.

Music: Two Irish hymns today. What can I say? We Irish are noted for our loquaciousness. 😀☘️💚🇨🇮 (Keep scrolling. 2nd hymn way down.)

Hymn to Our Lady of Knock sung by Frank Patterson, “Ireland’s Golden Tenor”
(Lyrics below)

There were people of all ages gathered ’round the gable wall
poor and humble men and women, little children that you called
we are gathered here before you, and our hearts are just the same
filled with joy at such a vision, as we praise Your Name
Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland, all my cares and troubles cease
as we kneel with love before you, Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace

Though your message was unspoken, still the truth in silence lies
as we gaze upon your vision, and the truth I try to find
here I stand with John the teacher, and with Joseph at your side
and I see the Lamb of God, on the Altar glorified
Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland, all my cares and troubles cease
as we kneel with love before you, Lady of Knock, my Queen of Peace

And the Lamb will conquer and the woman clothed in the sun
will shine Her light on everyone
and the lamb will conquer and the woman clothed in the sun,
will shine Her light on everyone

Hymn: Be Thou My Vision – Gaelic version by Maire Brennan

(English below)

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true Child
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art
High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all

God, please …

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings talk about prayer – a particular kind: the prayer of supplication. 

As children, many of us learned this acronym for the types of prayer: ACTS
Ollie_pray

Adoration – Contrition – Thanksgiving – Supplication

The mnemonic has been helpful to me as an adult too. It reminds me to communicate with God only many levels, not just to ask for something. I know how I feel about someone who never talks to me unless they need something. I don’t want to be that way with God.

In our first reading, Esther prays a prayer of supplication for the deliverance of her people from death. Her prayer is not a simple, passing, “Please”. The passage tells us:

She lay prostrate upon the ground,
together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, (praying)

In our Gospel, Jesus describes the prayer of supplication :

Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

My prayers of supplication haven’t always seemed to get the results Esther got or that Jesus describes. Ever feel that way … that your prayer really hasn’t been answered?

Faith assures us that all our needs are met … even before we present them to God. God is acting in our lives whether or not we speak with God about it.

Our prayer, as it becomes deeper and truer, allows us to enter God’s action with faith, hope, love and courage. This is the perfect prayer of supplication – it allows us to float, content, in the water of God’s will always flowing around our lives.

ask-Receive

David Foster Wallace created a parable you may have heard:

Two young fish are swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What is water?”

Foster explains, “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

Our reality is that we exist in the “water” of God’s life and presence. May our “asking” of God lead us to understand that our life in God is already the answer.

Music: Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire – James Montgomery (1771–1854)

Montgomery wrote the lyrics at the request of Edward Bickersteth, who wanted them for his book Treatise on Prayer. Montgomery called this “the most attractive hymn I ever wrote.”

( I have included all the Lyrics below. Quite beautiful, I think.)

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains
That reach the Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air,
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters Heav’n with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, “Behold, he prays!”

The saints in prayer appear as one
In word, in deed, and mind,
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.

Nor prayer is made on earth alone;
The Holy Spirit pleads,
And Jesus, on th’eternal throne,
For sinners intercedes.

O Thou by whom we come to God,
The life, the truth, the way,
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray.

Time with the Beloved

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray. His prayer is simple and direct, like talking to your Dad over a morning cup of coffee.

What about us? How do we pray?

Our first learned prayers are a lot like Jesus’s simple Our Father. We praise God, giving thanks, and asking for what we need.

Abba Father

Then we grow up and get sophisticated. We may begin to “say” or read prayers rather than use our own words. While such a practice can deepen our understanding of prayer, it places a layer between us and our conversation with God.

Sometimes others lead our prayer in the community of faith. This too can enrich us as we are inspired by a shared faith. But it is a little like trying to have a private conversation in an elevator.

Just as Jesus often went off in solitude to pray, this kind of prayer is our most intimate time with God – a time when God allows us to know God and ourselves in a deeper way. This sacred time alone with God may be spent in words, song, or the silence that speaks beyond words.

It is a time to be with the Beloved as we would our dearest, most faithful companion. We rest in the field of our experiences, letting them flow over God’s heart in tenderness. We listen with the ear of absolute trust to the secrets God tells us in the quiet.

Music: In His Presence – Sandi Patty

The Word is Near You

Sunday, March 10, 2019

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Mt4_4 Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music: Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

Choose Life

Thursday, March 7, 2019

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Dt30_19 Life

Today, in Mercy, our first reading gives us Moses’ compelling speech to the newly covenanted Israelites: 

3_7mirror
Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom…
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live.

We might ask ourselves, “Who wouldn’t choose life over death, for Heaven’s sake?”

Really? Well then ask yourself these questions:

Do I ever ignore health warnings, cancel doctor’s appointments, eat unhealthy food, smoke, drink and drive, drive and text, skip daily medicine, fail to exercise and get enough sleep … Should I go on?🧐

But even deeper than these external choices are the choices we make for the life of our souls. 

  • Do we pray daily, take quiet time to hear God in our lives?
  • Do we recognize any toxic relationships or habits in our lives and work to remove them?
  • Do we challenge our negative attitudes and try to grow beyond them?
  • Do we call ourselves to generosity, forgiveness, gratitude, hope and other life-giving attitudes?

God has given us the gift of life. But it is up to us to LIVE our lives in the fullness of their possibility.

Music: Choose Life ~ Big Tent Revival (Lyrics below)

A choice is set before you now
living or dying, blessing or cursing
You know, the time has come around
to turn from your fighting
and rest in his mercy

Choose life, that you might live
the life that He gives
He gives you forever
Choose life, the way that is true
from the one who chose you
your father in Heaven
Choose life
Trust the Lord with all your heart
all of your soul and all of your being

Hold on, listen and obey
surrender your life into His keeping
And the weight you’re under
will be lifted away
And the world will wonder
what happened here today
then you’ll stand right here and say

Making Friends with Wisdom

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings weave together the themes of

Wisdom,
Law
and
Integrity.

Balanced in our soul, these offer the perfection of spiritual life.

Wisdom4_11

Sirach instructs us that the journey to this perfection is challenging but worthwhile.

Wisdom walks with us as a stranger
and at first she puts us to the test;
Fear and dread she brings upon us
and tries us with her discipline
until she try us by her laws and trust our souls.

How beautiful this passage is! Picture Wisdom-Sophia walking with you, through your life to your present days. As young people, many of us were challenged in learning spiritual discipline – the Law of Love. Many of us are challenged still at times. But wisdom walks with us, gently testing our resolve for goodness- forgiving, instructing, redeeming, encouraging us.

Eventually, there is between us and Wisdom, as with cherished old friends, a comfort and understanding which allows us to know each other’s thoughts and completely trust each other’s good will. An integrity of goodness grows within us.

Our Psalm 119 summarizes this blessed relationship:

O Lord, great peace have they
who love your law.

In the short pericope from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus drives home to his disciples that the grace of the Holy Spirit – the power for goodness – is not confined by our restrictive definitions, expectations,, or role assignments. All hearts at one with the Law of Wisdom and Love give glory to God.

In my prayer today, I remembered with grateful love the many guides who have taught me Wisdom in my life. I rested in quiet gratitude with Wisdom, my old friend.

My prayer led me to include this quote from one of my all-time favorite books:

(P.S. What five books would you take with you if stranded on an island for the rest of your life? I’d include this one.)

Every truth is a reflection; behind the reflection and giving it value, is the Light. Every being is a witness; every fact is a divine secret; beyond them is the object of the revelation, the Wisdom witnessed to. Everything true stands out against the Infinite as against its background; is related to it; belongs to it. A particular truth may indeed occupy the stage, but there are boundless immensities beyond. One might say a particular truth is only a symbol, a symbol that is real, a sacrament of the Absolute.
~ Antonio Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life

Music: The Perfect Wisdom Of Our God – Keith & Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

Wait on the Lord

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

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

Sirach2_2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be A Rainbow

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, God blesses Noah and his children with blessings of fertility, power, and sanctity of life. All these are given to them because they are made in the image of God. God then renews the covenant with Creation, giving a rainbow as its sign.

Gen9_13 rainbow

Rainbows still bless us, allowing us to know that natural storms are over. Maya Angelou says that people can be rainbows for each other in stormy times.

Let’s pray today for all those who have offered us a rainbow in hard times. Let’s try to be that rainbow for someone in need of encouragement or support. It’s a childlike prayer, but they are sometimes the most profound.

Music: God Put a Rainbow in the Sky ~ sung here by the great “Queen of Gospel”, Miss Mahalia Jackson
(Lyrics below)

God put a rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
God put a rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky
A rainbow in the sky

It looked like the sun wasn’t gon’ shine no more
Oh, God put a rainbow in the sky.

When God shut Noah in the grand ol’ ark
God put a rainbow in the sky
Oh, yes, the sun grew dim and the days was dark
God put a rainbow in the sky.

My Brother’s Keeper

Monday, February 18, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Genesis tells the story of the first murder. Driven by jealousy and resentment, Cain takes the life of his own brother, Abel. Cain then denies any responsibility for the crime with the now oft-repeated line:

Am I my brother’s keeper?

Gen 2_4 Cain

God’s outrage is the answer to Cain’s question. God bans Cain from the soil which had been his livelihood, because that same soil now cries out with Abel’s blood.

The account is appalling and traumatic. We have gotten so used to hearing it that we may be immune to the abomination. Brother turned against brother. God’s gift of life and hope taken irrevocably in a moment of selfish anger. All of First Creation must have fallen on its knees in sadness and shock at this primal crime.

Friends, as you pray today, pick up the newspaper. See Cain’s crime repeated over and over again as humanity becomes more and more desensitized to its horror. We have even devolved to the point that some murders are “legal” under the pseudonyms of war, abortion, genocide, and capital punishment. Our culture is rife with the abuse of life in so many forms that we have become hardened to its reality just to protect our souls.

When Jesus meets such hardness of heart in our Gospel, he refuses to give them a sign of his power. He just walks away.

Let us pray that God will not walk away from our desensitized generation – that he will give us a sign of grace to open our eyes.

Music: Kyrie Eleison Lord, have mercy) ~ Michael Hoppè
(Visuals appear to be filmed at Normandy, soil filled with the blood of those who died on D-Day)

P.S. I am sending a second reflection later today that has been heavily on my mind. I hope some of you find a spiritual benefit in it.

Genesis – Get Out of My Garden!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

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in every age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music: In Every Age ~ Janet Sullivan Whitaker