June 6, 2023
I wrote this poem as part of my retreat reflections this morning. I thought some of my readers might find it meaningful for their own prayer.
God's Mercy is everywhere and infinite.
I wrote this poem as part of my retreat reflections this morning. I thought some of my readers might find it meaningful for their own prayer.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings suggest a slight tone of “the after-Ascension” blues.
It’s a bit like how we might feel on the day after Christmas. The big celebration has come and gone. The company has all gone home. Maybe we’re exhausted from the preparations and clean-ups. Maybe we had been so busy that we didn’t take enough time to think about the meaning of the Feast. Maybe we feel like we’ve been spun around in time’s tumbler and can’t believe it’s now the end of the year. It’s a “what do we do next?” time when we come out of a flurry and need to get our bearings.
And for the disciples, it’s a morning they wake up and realize that Jesus has really gone home. In an otherwise chilly room, they might linger in their cozy cots reflecting on his parting words:
Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
These very special days between the Ascension and Pentecost offer the perfect time to quiet our spirits and get our spiritual bearings. Unlike the video of the deer above, it is a time to stop the spin, to clear the inner space, to ready ourselves for the promised and longed-for Spirit.
It’s a time not to be afraid of the silence or the echoing space deep in our hearts which longs for the presence of God.
Even if we are still in the midst of our busy lives, we can make a choice to be on “inner retreat” – to limit useless noise, directionless activity, and mumifying distractions.
If we have forgotten how to sit quietly enough to hear the wind and the distant meadowlark, let’s try to remember. Let’s try to make an inner chamber for the whisper of God Who hums through these ten days until bursting forth in Pentecost.
This decade of hours is a very special time to pray.
Poetry: excerpt from Sara Teasdale’s poem “Silence” (I love her archaic British term “anhungered“)
We are anhungered after solitude, Deep stillness pure of any speech or sound, Soft quiet hovering over pools profound, The silences that on the desert brood, Above a windless hush of empty seas, The broad unfurling banners of the dawn, A faery forest where there sleeps a Faun; Our souls are fain of solitudes like these.
and a second brief but powerful verse from Emily Dickinson:
Silence is all we dread.
There’s Ransom in a Voice –
But Silence is Infinity.
Himself have not a face.
Music: Achtsamkeit (German for “Mindfulness”) this is an hour’s worth of beautiful music. You can tap into various parts of the video to hear different pieces.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from Hebrews describes Jesus as the perfect high priest. Through the Father’s call, Jesus took on our imperfect nature and transformed it by his Life, Death and Resurrection. In the Eucharist, Jesus left us a living memorial of this transformation so that we might participate in its saving mystery.
Paul’s “perfected priest” is patient because his own weakness humbles him. He does not take honor upon himself, but receives it humbly from God.
Jesus, the model of this priesthood,
The perfection of Christ’s priesthood was accomplished through suffering and obedience. This is how Jesus teaches us to live in reverence and humble service.
As I read and pray with this scriptural understanding of priesthood, I pray for our Church. The catastrophic scandals involving our priests and leaders have deeply shaken the faith of many Catholics over the past several years.
Many are frustrated by the continued refusal of some in our Church to open themselves to new models of priestly service which are grounded in mutuality, inclusivity and simplicity.
The accretions of institutionalization, hierarchical camouflage, and sexist rationale have mitigated the Church’s credibility to touch the lives of ordinary people, especially our emerging adults.
In our Gospel, Jesus talks about an old cloak that needs a patch to make it whole again. He talks about new wine that must be captured and preserved in new wine skins. For me, he is talking about our Church which must be continually renewed and grounded in the truth of the Gospel.
Let us pray that the Church may continue to be transformed by humble obedience to God’s call – just as the high priest of our first reading was perfected.
Let us pray today for our good Pope Francs, bishops, theologians and spiritual leaders – and for the whole People of God – that we may hear and respond.
Prayer: In place of a poem today, this beautiful prayer written in 2019 by Rita Thiron, from the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions
Prayer for the Church Heavenly Father, In every age, you have been our refuge. Yet again and still, we stand before you asking for your protection on your holy Church. For the victims of abuse and their families, pour out your healing and your peace. For the Bishops of this country, inspire their decisions, and guide them with your Spirit. For the thousands of good and faithful priests, who have followed your call to serve you and your people in holiness, sustain them by your grace. For the faithful who are angry, confused, and searching for answers, embrace them with your love, restore their trust, console them with your clear Gospel message, and renew them with your sacraments. We place our Church in your hands, for without you we can do nothing. May Jesus, our High Priest and true compass, continue to lead her in every thought and action – to be an instrument of justice, a source of consolation, a sacrament of unity, and a manifestation of your faithful covenant. Grant this through that same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Music: Even Death on a Cross ~ Jason Silver
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 synagogueMark 1:29-31
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.
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?
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
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,John 2: 1-3
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.”
Like all good stories, this one is engaging on so many levels:
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:1 John 5: 14-15
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.
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,John 2:5
“Do whatever he tells you.”
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 come1 John 5:20
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.
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
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 42, oh and what a lovely gift it is!
As the deer longs for the running waters,
so my soul longs for you, O God.Psalm 42:2
Dear friends, hasn’t every one of us known this longing – just to understand, to see, to be at one with the ways of God in our lives, our world….
Paul, in today’s passage to the Philippians, is feeling tremendous pressures of persecution and fatigue. He seems to share that deep longing for certainty and peace:
I long to depart this life and be with Christ, ….
Yet this I know with confidence,
that I shall remain and continue
in the service of all of you
for your progress and joy in the faith…Philippians 3:23-24
As we pray with Psalm 42 today, we might ask God to come into our deepest longing, to open our hearts to the Divine Presence in those desires, to help us to find the Face of God in our daily experience, to love that Face, and to rest in the peace in its Presence:
Poems: Poems I wrote on two past retreats:
Location This wood on this morning; these birds singing; these plaintive calls from boats along the Mississippi, through this crystal Sunday air; This moment among all others, which You have known eternally, when I would pause, and You, like a deer in stillness, shedding camouflage, would step out to gaze at me.
Love Gaze Caught in the ferocious wind of my own inadequacies, I cling by finest web to the energy You are, fixing my soul on yours in that precarious holding. You are the magnet, gathering all my emptiness beyond itself. As if my fears were only stones to tread upon, You come into the marshes of my life as stillness, paused and vibrating like a deer among the reeds in half-light. I cannot word what it is to swim in the deep pool of your Eyes. All the universe, and all my understanding turn aside in reverent silence.
Music: As the Deer – David Nevue
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are gifted with another magnificently beautiful prayer from Ephesians. Friends, there are times when simply nothing more can be said.
Let your heart kneel in God’s Presence as you savor this powerful prayer:
I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to accomplish
far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Poetry: God is Today – Jessica Power
God is today.
He is not yesterday.
He is not tomorrow.
God is the dawn, wakening earth to life;
the first morning ever,
shining with infinite innocence; a revelation
older than all beginning, younger than youth.
God is the noon, blinding the eye of the mind
with the blaze of truth.
God is the sunset, casting over creation
a color of glory
as He withdraws into mysteries of light.
God is today.
He is not yesterday.
He is not tomorrow.
He never is night.
Music: Dwelling Place- John Foley, SJ
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Gospel gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is a story in which we can all find ourselves, maybe changing roles in the changing circumstances of our lives.
Have we ever been the robbers, the bullies, the outlaws who in some way used force or subterfuge to gain their own advantage? We don’t have to be a criminal to do this. We can do it by our prejudices, our preferential treatment, our gossip, our secrets and our cliques. We can do it by our uninformed or willful choices which deprive others of their needs and rights.
Have we ever been the Levite, the one who claims a special religious place by family heritage? Have we ever, like the Levite in the parable, bypassed someone because of her religion or ethnic origins – because she isn’t “like us”?
Have we ever been this pathetic priest who so completely misunderstands the role of minister – who ignores God’s suffering creature for fear of some imagined contamination?
Have we ever been the victim, the one set upon by the meanness of others, the one unable to heal himself from injury? Has the memory made us more like the Samaritan or like the robbers once we were healed?
And finally, have we ever been the Samaritan? Do we even want to be? Or do we think him foolish to have given his own time and treasure for a stranger?
This parable is a study in differences and how we respond to them. Some use differences to separate rather than enrich their world. They fail to understand that we all belong to each other and will live forever as one family in heaven. If we don’t learn to do it in this life, we won’t be part of it in the life to come.
Realizing this may change how we might have responded on that ancient road – or the road right now where we’re all just walking each other home.
Poetry: Vagrant – Mary Wickham, rsm
I am the mad one you will not shelter;
I am the beggar you will not own;
I am the ranter, the intemperate raver;
I am the self you hurl from home.
My passion frightens and dismays you,
I am garrulously obscene and wild.
My rage your own unleashes for view;
I am your willful, untameable child.
Reject, deny, revile, deride me-
until you embrace me I am bound;
my need will cry till I am free,
you are lost unless I am found.
Music: Take All the Lost Home ~ Joe Wise
September 22, 2022
I thought some of you might enjoy this repeat from last year. Happy Autumn, dear friends! May it be a season full of blessings for you.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we mark the Autumn Equinox, we pray with verses from our Responsorial Psalm:
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
"EQUINOX" - the beautiful heft of the word!
Four malleable vowels and two steely consonants,
softened slightly by a third.
On the fulcrum of a middle "i",
"equ" pushes for balance
against the pressure of "nox",
whose mass bears winter's weighted threat.
However we may read the word “equinox”, it spells “change“. Trees put away their lithesome summer greens, like sleeveless tops folded on September’s shelf. Slowly, they wrap themselves within autumn’s deep gold and umber sweaters, trimmed in warm magenta.
We too return to the enterprise of warmth, of fueling fires, of lighting lamps. What nature gave, and we heedlessly received in bright July, is spent. Some chilled memory of solstice motivates us to prepare.
Our hearts too, in synch or out with seasons, cycle through such changes. This inner rhythm of need and abundance is the music through which the Holy Spirit shapes our understanding of God. As in all graceful dances, there must be a yielding. There must be abandon to the mystery into which each passing step dissolves.
God hums the infinite song in our souls, if we will listen. It is deeper than any single note of joy or sorrow. It is the fluid under-beat of Love which recreates and sustains us in every shifting moment of our lives. We belong to it as the waves belong to the Sea, as the leaves belong to the Seasons.
In Philadelphia, it is a glorious time of year – a perfect vestibule to a season of amazing beauty. Nature prepares to shed the showy accretions of summer in a multi-colored ritual of leave-taking. It is time to return to the essentials – back to the branch, back to the buried root, back to the bare, sturdy reality that will anchor us in the coming winter.
On each of the coming days, some new layer of green will ignite in a blaze of scarlet or gold then turn out its light for a long winter’s sleep. Nature knows when things are finished. It knows when it has had enough. It knows its need for a season of emptying, for a clearing of the clutter, for the deep hibernation of its spirit.
But we humans often ignore the need for an “autumning” of our spirits. We try to live every moment in the high energy of summer – producing, moving, anticipating, and stuffing our lives with abundance.
Still simplicity, solitude and clarity are necessary for our spirit to renew itself. Autumn is the perfect time to prayerfully examine the harvest of our lives – reaping the essentials and sifting out the superfluous. In the quiet shade of a crimson maple tree, we may discover what we truly love, deeply believe and really need to be fully happy.
Take time on these crystal days to ask yourself what is really essential in your life. Nurture those things with attention and care. Don’t take them for granted. After the flare of the summer has passed, these are the things that will sustain you: a strong faith, a faithful love and a loving compassion. Tend them in this season of harvest.
Music: Autumn from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings instruct us on what it means to belong to God – heart and soul.
Proverbs tosses out a series of minstrel-like two-liners that, because of their simplicity, might be overlooked for their beauty and depth. For example, the first couplet says:
Like a stream is the king’s heart
in the hand of the LORD;
wherever it pleases God, God directs it.
Would we all not desire that kind of heart, where our thoughts and choices are so directed by God’s power and grace – held and guided into freedom by God’s loving hand? How confident, peaceful and joyful our lives would be!
Today’s Psalm 119 is a passionate prayer to be guided through an entangling world by our deep loyalty to God’s own truth, learned by meditating day and night on God’s goodness.
Our Gospel, in an often misinterpreted incident, shows us how Jesus considers his true disciples as close to him as his own mother and family.
So today, to deepen our own closeness to God, let us practice making our ordinary life into a constant prayer – allowing it to flow, like water, over God’s tender, guiding hand.
We can do this by gratefully noticing God’s Presence in nature, in our companions, in the opportunities for kindness, honesty and service that come to us today.
Or, sadly, our experiences today might cause us to notice God’s absence in these places. This offers us an incentive to invite, beg and pester God to transform the desert places in our lives and world.
Whichever approach we take, it will open up a constant conversation with God about our life as we experience it at each moment. We begin to listen better to the Word of God revealing itself in our daily life. We begin to live more consciously in God’s Presence… in God’s dear family.
God’s Law is already written deep in the fabric of our lives. We pray for discernment to discover that guiding grace by opening our hearts to God’s Presence in our every experience.
Poetry: All Things – by Hadewijch
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast
In the Infinite
for the Uncreated
it undoes me
wider than wide
is too narrow
You know this well, you who are also there.
Music: Morning Prayer – Kitaro