As Fall Begins…

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

Presence

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and
Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
September 20, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092022.cfm

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!

Psalm 199 discern

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

All things
are too small
to hold me,
I am so vast
In the Infinite
I reach
for the Uncreated
I have
touched it,
it undoes me
wider than wide
Everything else
is too narrow
You know this well,
you who are also there.

Music: Morning Prayer – Kitaro

God’s Eye-Apple

Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs
September 16, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091622.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 17, a confident prayer calling on God’s intervention.

The psalmist tenders a plea:

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer 
from lips without deceit. Psalm 17:1

But before reiterating that plea, the pray-er convinces God that she is worthy of an answer:

You have tested my heart,
searched it in the night.
You have tried me by fire,
but find no malice in me.
My mouth has not transgressed
as others often do.
As your lips have instructed me,
I have kept from the way of the lawless.Psalm 17: 3-4


It sounds a little boastful but it really isn’t. The one who prays this psalm is very familiar with God and God with her. There are no secrets between them. She knows that she is infinitely loved and protected, not despite her vulnerability but because of it. 

The psalmist, from long experience, is confident asking for help, as we would be asking a friend to turn and listen to us:

I call upon you; answer me, O God.
Turn your ear to me; hear my speech.Psalm 17: 7


Have you ever been asked for prayers because you are “a good prayer”? 
It happens to nuns all the time.

But no one’s prayer is more powerful than another. We say “Of course” to such requests because it is our intention to join our prayer with that of the requester.

Show your wonderful mercy,
you who deliver with your right arm
those who seek refuge from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wingsPsalm 17: 8-9

Each of us is God’s “eye-apple”. Each of us, when we give ourselves to a long familiarity with God, will be wrapped in the confidence of one whose prayer is always answered.

( In a second posting, I’ll be sending on an extra meditation on The Eye of God by Macrina Wiederkehr – beautifully profound.)


Poetry: As Kingfishers Catch Fire – Gerard Manley Hopkins

by Alcedo Atthis

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells 
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s 
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; 
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; 
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, 
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 

I say móre: the just man justices; 
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces; 
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is — 
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places, 
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his 
To the Father through the features of men’s faces. 


Music:   The Apple of My Eye by Umb-5 and Sam Carter

Sometimes a non-spiritual song captures a spiritual meaning in a beautiful way. Let God sing to you with this lovely song.

Alleluia: God’s Own Children

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 24, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/072422.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, a dominant theme connects all our readings: We are, and are loved as, God’s very own children.

Alleluia, alleluia.
You have received a Spirit of adoption,
through which we cry, Abba, Father.

God’s own children … hmmm.

In our reading from Genesis, some folks aren’t doing too well with that. Imagine being so bad that God would have to come down and check you out! Yikes! Not good! It’s like when you and your cousins were pillow-fighting in the basement and your Mom called down the stairs, “Don’t make me come down there!

Don’t Make Me Come Down There!!!!

You knew what to do, didn’t you? Just cut it out! Apparently, Moses isn’t quite so sure that his buddies will behave, but nevertheless does his level best to save the few good apples in the barrel.

This highly anthropomorphic story still carries a very solid truth:

God loves us without reservation
and wants us to return that love
by growing in God’s likeness.

Paul tells the Colossians that God has forgiven, redeemed and raised them with Christ

You were buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him
through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.

In our Alleluia Verse from Romans,
Paul describes our new status
as one of “adoption”,
allowing us to call God “Abba”.

Jesus shows us how to be God’s children by sharing with us the intimacies of his talks with his Father.

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.

Jesus indicates that we can put this prayer in action by being forgiving and selfless people.

If you then, who are inclined toward selfishness,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”


Poetry: O Magne Pater – Hildegard of Bingen

O magne Pater,
in magna necessitate sumus.
Nunc igitur obsecramus, obsecramus te
per Verbum tuum
per quod nos constituisti
plenos quibus indigemus.
Nunc placeat tibi, Pater,
quia te decet, ut aspicias in nos
per adiutorium tuum,
ut non deficiamus, et
ne nomen tuum in nobis obscuretur,
et per ipsum nomen tuum
dignare nos adiuvare.
O Father great,
in great necessity we are.
Thus we now beg, we beg of you
according to your Word,
through whom you once established us
full of all that we now lack.
Now may it please you, Father,
as it behooves you—look upon us
with your kindly aid,
lest we should fail again
and, lost, forget your name.
By that your name we pray—
please kindly help and bring us aid!
thanks to hildegard-society.org

Music: O Magne Pater – Hildegard of Bingen

Alleluia: Seedlings

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 20, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/072022.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God,
Christ is the sower;
all who come to him will live for ever.

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our first reading recounts Jeremiah’s call. Oh, and it has a sovereign ring to it, doesn’t it! You can almost hear trumpets accompanying the words:

The word of the LORD came to me thus:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

Jeremiah 1: 2-3

Long before Jeremiah knew, the Word had been instilled in him. At the appointed time, God called for that Word to bear fruit.


At our creation, God breathed the Divine Word into our hearts too. Jesus says it was like a farmer planting seed. And our humble, patient Creator waits to see if we turn out to be rich soil.

A sower went out to sow.
… some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.

Some fell on rocky ground, 
…. the sun rose it was scorched,

Some seed fell among thorns
which choked it.

But some seed fell on rich soil, 
and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.
(from Matthew 13: 1-9)

When Jeremiah heard about the Word in his heart, he didn’t immediately have “ears to hear”. At first, he resisted:

“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said,
“I know not how to speak;
I am too young.”

Jeremiah

Every day, God continues to call forth the fruitful Word from us. Sometimes we resist. Our lives can be a little rocky, thorny, or we might just be off the path a bit.

We also might make excuses to ignore the call of grace:

  • too young
  • too old
  • too tired
  • too busy
  • too afraid
  • too weak

We might just too … too… too ourselves into spiritual quicksand!


Our beautiful psalm tells what to say instead of our “too”s:

For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.

My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.

Psalm 71: 5-6; 15,17

Poetry: Two poems today – one from Wendell Berry and one from me. His is way better. 🙂

The Wild Geese – Wendell Berry

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end.  In time's maze
over the fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves.  We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes.  Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here.  And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear.  What we need is here.

If You Are Mother – Renee Yann, RSM

If you are Mother, God
don’t let us hurt ourselves;
keep freedom in us
as freedom,
not as willfulness,
so that we grow
even if we must grow down
like a dark, hidden root.

Remember,
if life dies in us,
You change.  We are not
isolated seedlings
you left somewhere
in lonely hope one spring.
You are the ground, and the
growth, and the growth’s nourishment.
When we green, it is You
who thrive.

Music: Listen and blossom, dears❤️

Alleluia: Wonderful Signs

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 19, 2022

Today’s Readings 

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071922.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse reiterates that the love of God is a mutual exchange. God loves us first. But God blossoms in us to the degree that we respond to God’s Word.

Alleluia, alleluia.
If you love me
you will keep my Word,
and my Father will love you
and we will come to you.


Our first reading demonstrates, with beautiful images, the longing of Micah’s community for this kind of relationship:

Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
That dwells apart in a woodland,
in the midst of Carmel.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead,
as in the days of old;
As in the days when you came from the land of Egypt,
show us wonderful signs.

Micah 7:14-15

Show us wonderful signs! 

Micah 7:15

It’s a prayer that we can all say at times in our lives. We long to see where and how God is present in our sometimes chaotic world. We want God to wave a sacred wand over our pain, confusion, loss, anger, loneliness and a thousand other burdens. Perhaps we want God to say, “Look! It’s only Me hiding in the corners of your life!”

Our Alleluia Verse says that if we live in God’s Word those signs of Presence will become apparent to us. 

They are there – woven through our everyday experiences. It is our alignment to the Word, nurtured by prayer and good works, that will reveal them to us.


Prose: Thich Nhat Hanh, from “The Sun My Heart”

There is no phenomenon in the universe 
that does not intimately concern us, 
from a pebble resting at the bottom of the ocean, 
to the movement of a galaxy millions of light years away.

Music: Diamonds in Rain – Michael Hoppè

Hoppè dedicated this piece of music to the poet Edward Thomas who, like all good poets, could see diamonds hidden in the rain – signs of wonder and grace. One of ET’s poems in below for your enjoyment.

Out in the dark over the snow
The fallow fawns invisible go
With the fallow doe;
And the winds blow
Fast as the stars are slow.

Stealthily the dark haunts round
And, when the lamp goes, without sound
At a swifter bound
Than the swiftest hound,
Arrives, and all else is drowned;

And star and I and wind and deer,
Are in the dark together,—near,
Yet far,—and fear
Drums on my ear
In that sage company drear.

How weak and little is the light,
All the universe of sight,
Love and delight,
Before the might,
If you love it not, of night.

Alleluia: Refreshed

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin
July 14, 2022

Today’s Readings 

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071422.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse offers us a loving, comforting invitation:

Alleluia, alleluia.
Come to me,
all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.


Each of today’s readings offers beautiful lines that can be caressed in prayer to deepen our relationship with our Merciful God.

Isaiah’s heartfelt longing for God keeps him alert day and night to God’s Presence:

My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you…

Isaiah 26:9

And even though times are tough for Isaiah’s community, he expresses a hope born of faith – like morning dew filled with first daylight:

Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,
the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.
But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise;
awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the land of shades gives birth.

Isaiah 26: 18-19

Our Responsorial Psalm picks up the theme and gives it as a promise to future generations:

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let God’s future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven and beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.

Psalm 102: 19-21

And in our beautiful Gospel, Jesus embodies the promise in his merciful invitation:

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.

Matthew 11: 28-30

Poetry: Dew Drop – Rabindranath Tagore

Through many years,
At great expense,
Journeying through many countries,
I went to see high mountains,
I went to the oceans.

Only I had not seen at my very doorstep,
The dew drop glistening
On the ear of the corn.


Music: Zuni Sunrise – Wil Numkena

The Zuni People are Native Americans of New Mexico, USA

A morning prayer to greet the sunrise. Let the sound pray in you without words.

Alleluia: Simplicity

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 13, 2022

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse evokes the tender image of Jesus with innocent little children.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
you have revealed to little ones
the mysteries of the Kingdom.

The verse is so gentle that it may seem out of place following a ferocious first reading. Without exegeting that passage from Isaiah, let’s just say it is all about PRIDE and ARROGANCE toward God’s Will. These two vices are the downfall of the spiritual life.


Their corrective is diagnosed into today’s Gospel. It is to have the simplicity and trust that makes us spiritually childlike – not “childish” – childlike.

  • This means to recognize that our life is a gift which belongs to our Creator. 
  • It means to trust in that Gift Giver to care for us the way a parent cherishes their child.
  • It means to be faithful even when we don’t understand and to seek to deepen in our understanding through prayer.
  • It means to mature to a deep relationship of mutual love with God.

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.

Matthew 11: 25-26

We may wish to pray today considering the simple beauty of the children in our lives. Here are my “grand” inspirations:

Love, Love, Love and Love!

Quote: Leonardo Da Vinci

Simplicity is the greatest sophistication.

Music: ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple

Alleluia: Just Listen!

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 12, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071222.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are once again enjoined:

Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.

In other words, just listen!

This verse is repeated so often because it’s so important! And the rest of our readings illustrate that fact.

In our first reading King Ahaz is in a mess with a lot of cleverly named guys trying to take over Jerusalem. Apparently Ahaz is a nervous wreck about the situation when God says, “Just listen – it’s going to be OK!”


And don’t you just love the way God encourages Isaiah to support Ahaz. God tells Isaiah to stay calm and calls the bad guys “two stumps of smoldering brands”:

Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear;
let not your courage fail
before these two stumps of smoldering brands
the blazing anger of Rezin and the Arameans,
and of the son Remaliah,


In our Gospel, Jesus warns his Capernaum neighbors about what can happen when we ignore God’s voice. Jesus loves this little village and has settled there in his early ministry. But he is upset with them:

And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the nether world.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Matthew 11: 22-24

So, even though today’s readings are pretty heavy, the message is simple:

  • Soften your heart in silence and reflection
  • Just listen to God speaking in your life
  • Act on the loving Word given to you

Prose: from Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery it is.
In the boredom and pain of it,
no less than in the excitement and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way
to the holy and hidden heart of it,
because in the last analysis
all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.


Music: Ave Generose – Maureen McCarthy Draper

Alleluia: Arise

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 4, 2022

Today’s Readings 

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/070422.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the power of eternal life flows in an Almighty Current through our readings.

Hosea imagines an amorous God who allures the beloved to full and faithful relationship.


Beautiful Psalm 145 might be read as the grateful response of that redeemed beloved … of us as we are continually gathered back into God’s heart.

The Alleluia Verse assures us that the ultimate “gathering back” has occurred through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are forever allured, redeemed, arisen in Christ!

Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.


Today’s Gospel, tells the miraculous stories of two women – one young, one old – touched to new life by Jesus. Each of us could linger in these stories at the thousand places where our own lives might mirror the needs of that breathless little girl or that exhausted woman. We pause with one or the other of them today, have a little talk in our prayer, see how the power of Jesus covered them.

In our scriptures today, all kinds of death are destroyed through the infinite gift of God’s love and mercy. What deathly threats might we bring to God’s touch as we pray today?


Poetry: WOMAN UN-BENT (LUKE 13:10–17) – Irene Zimmerman, OSF

That Sabbath day as always
she went to the synagogue
and took the place assigned her
right behind the grill where,
the elders had concurred,
she would block no one’s view,
she could lean her heavy head,
and (though this was not said)
she’d give a good example to
the ones who stood behind her. 

That day, intent as always
on the Word (for eighteen years
she’d listened thus), she heard
Authority when Jesus spoke. 

Though long stripped
of forwardness,
she came forward, nonetheless,
when Jesus summoned her.
“Woman, you are free
of your infirmity,” he said. 

The leader of the synagogue
worked himself into a sweat
as he tried to bend the Sabbath
and the woman back in place. 

But she stood up straight and let
God’s glory touch her face.

Music: He Touched Me – Gaithersburg Brothers 

This extremely popular American Gospel song was written by Bill Gaithers in 1963. It has been recorded and released over 10 times by artists such as Jimmy Durante, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Lawrence Welk and Elvis Presley.