Psalm 119: A Lamp

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priestalso commonly known as Padre Pio.
Padre Pio died during the night of 23 September 1968, at the age of 81. On 16 June 2002, he was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II. In his homily, the Pope said, “The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord.”

September 23, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we continue praying with Psalm 119 which, with its 176 verses, is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. So this could go on forever, right?

Well, it doesn’t. Even though Psalm 119 is used for the Responsorial a total of 22 times during the total liturgical cycle, we won’t see it again for a week or so.

However, the liturgical frequency of this psalm should alert us to the importance of its teachings. Although long and somewhat complex in its acrostic structure, the psalm is direct and simple in its message:

Learn, love and live God’s ways.


Today’s verses liken such pursuit to finding a lamp in the darkness:

Praying with this refrain, we might be able to recall a time we were enveloped in darkness, either material, emotional, or spiritual. Most of us become at least a little frightened by such conditions. We get disoriented. We don’t know if we will be able to find our way out.

The psalmist attests to similar experiences, and voices a confident call on God for deliverance. That confidence grows from the psalmist’s desire and commitment to walk in holy discernment:

From every evil way I withhold my feet,
that I may keep your words.
Through your precepts I gain discernment;
therefore I hate every false way.
Falsehood I hate and abhor;
your law I love.

In this beautiful verse, the psalmist’s confidence is confirmed by God’s faithful endurance:

The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Your word, O LORD, endures forever;
it is firm as the heavens.


Poetry: One, One, One – Rumi

The lamps are different. 
But the Light is the same. 
So many garish lamps in the dying brain's lamp shop, 
Forget about them. 
Concentrate on essence, concentrate on Light. 
In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own holy fire, 
The Light streams toward you from all things, 
All people, all possible permutations of good, evil, thought, passion. 

The lamps are different, 
But the Light is the same. 
One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind, 
Endlessly emanating all things. 
One turning and burning diamond, 
One, one, one. 

Ground yourself, strip yourself down, 
To blind loving silence. 
Stay there, until you see 
You are gazing at the Light 
With its own ageless eyes.

Music: Beati Quorem Via – Charles Villiers Stanford, sung by voces 8
The title of this hymn is the first verse of Psalm 119 in Latin. Translation below.

Blessed are they whose road is straight,
who walk in the law of the Lord.

Beati quorum via integra est:
qui ambulant in lege Domini

Psalm 119: Guide Me, Lord

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with another of the Torah Psalms, Psalm 119. It is the prayer of one who delights in and lives by the Torah, the sacred law. ( See yesterday’s reflection for some scholarly words on the Torah Psalms.)

In today’s verses, with lovely antiphonal lilt, the psalmist describes the holy person, then asks for the virtues to become one.

  • Blessed are the blameless….. so guide me in your ways.
  • I want to meditate on your deeds …. so make me understand.
  • I want to observe your laws … so give me discernment
  • I delight in your path …. so lead me on it.
  • I will keep your law forever …. if you will just guide me.

I don’t think God can resist a sincere prayer like this. The psalmist is saying, “I want to love you, God, with my whole life. But you, Almighty, must help my weakness.”

Notice the guy on the right 🙂

As we pray today with Psalm 119, we might let a similar prayer rise up in our hearts.

We, too, want to love God well – completely. We, too, need Divine guidance to discern God’s continuing call in the complexities of our lives. We, too, long to deepen in discernment and commitment.


The psalmist gives us good example. Just tell God like it is. Tell God what you really want, what you really need to love as God wishes us to love.

If you hear yourself making requests for power, money, fame, security in any of their selfish forms, you better start all over again!😉

Remember the beginning of the psalm, the foundation of our prayer:

Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.

In the Christian scriptures, that foundation is proclaimed like this:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”


Let’s ask God for  the courage to offer a blameless prayer. The simple prayer of the Gospel centurion comes to mind:

Lord, I do believe. 
Help my unbelief.
Mark 9:24

Poetry: Morning Hymn by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley. They are considered founders of the Methodist religion.

Christ, whose glory fills the skies, 
Christ, the true, the only light, 
Sun of Righteousness, arise, 
Triumph o’er the shades of night:  
Day-spring from on high, be near:  
Day-star, in my heart appear.
  
Dark and cheerless is the morn  
Unaccompanied by thee,  
Joyless is the day’s return,  
Till thy mercy’s beams I see;  
Till thy inward light impart,  
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
  
Visit then this soul of mine,  
Pierce the gloom of sin, and grief,  
Fill me, Radiancy Divine,  
Scatter all my unbelief,  
More and more thyself display,  
Shining to the perfect day.

Music: Help My Unbelief – Audrey Assad

Psalm 139: Lord, You Know Me

Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 139, such a deeply personal and beautiful meditation. It is all we need for our prayer today.


Psalm 139
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 
How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

O God, You Search Me and You Know Me- Bernadette Farrell

Psalm 119: Divine Thread

Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

August 31, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119, a song of the wisdom that comes from holiness.

Your command has made me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers
when your decrees are my meditation.
I have more discernment than the elders,
because I observe your precepts.

Psalm 119: 97-98

And we’ve all met them, haven’t we – those grounded, simple, wise and joyful people whose spirits are tied to that Sacred Thread running through all Creation. These blessed souls may be young or old, schooled or not. No matter – they shine with the reflection of Wisdom Itself.

Paul humbly claims such wisdom in our first reading. It is not a worldly persuasiveness, but rather a demonstration of truth and power grounded in the Spirit.

… my message and my proclamation
were not with persuasive words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of spirit and power,
so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2: 4-5

In our Gospel, Jesus chooses his hometown synagogue to announce that he is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, the Spirit and Wisdom of God:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Luke 4: 18-19 (Isaiah 61: 1-2)

Jesus is the Incarnation of Wisdom, the Divine Spirit that surpasses all human understanding.

Many turned away from Jesus at this proclamation. May we never be among them.

From every evil way I withhold my feet,
that I may keep your words.
From your ordinances I turn not away,
for you have instructed me.

Psalm 119: 101-102

Poetry: Wisdom by Rumi

I have one small drop of knowing in my soul. 
Let it dissolve in Your ocean.


Music: Be Thou My Vision – Eden’s Bridge ( On the video, you can drop the menu you down using the little arrowhead on the right under the picture. The Irish and English lyrics will then be displayed.)

Psalm 63: The Longing

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 30, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the magnificent Psalm 63 which captures the soul’s deep longing for God.

It is a longing that, once released in the heart, must be satisfied.


In our first reading, Jeremiah experiences it akin to an addiction, the power of it consuming his life:

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah 20:9

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, says not to resist the longing, but to let ourselves be consumed by it like a sacrificial offering:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. 

Romans 12:1

Jesus, in our Gospel, is the One who surrenders himself fully to that holy longing. He calls us to imitate him:

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.


These are profound readings calling us a place that words cannot describe, a place where the Cross intersects with the truth of our lives. May we have the grace to hear and believe.


Poetry: The Longing – Rumi

There is a candle in your heart,
ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.

You feel it, don't you?
You feel the separation
from the Beloved.

Invite Love to quench you,
embrace the fire.

Remind those who tell you otherwise that 
Love
comes to you of its own accord, 
and the longing for it cannot be learned in any school.

Music: The Prayer – Montserrat Cabalé

Psalm 33:Love’s Design

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 28, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33, a song of praise calling the people to rejoice in God’s justice and kindness.

In its attitude of trust and freedom, the Psalm might remind us of Robert Browning’s verse:

God’s in his heaven. All’s right with the world.

But neither in the psalmist’s time, nor in Browning’s, was everything really “all right” with the world. Things are never really “all right” with the world. There is always war, crime, hunger, disease, natural disasters, and a slew of other troubles brewing somewhere.

So how can the psalmist or any other preacher invite us to trust, believe, and rejoice like this?

Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.


Keywords in this verse give us a clue: those who are just and upright will see the pattern of God’s mercy which lies deeper than the troubles of this world. They will trust and be comforted by God’s transcendent faithfulness to us in all things. Their faith and joy in the face of suffering will confound the faithless.


Calling us to the full meaning of Christ’s sacrificial love, Paul reiterates this mysteriously contradictory truth in our first reading :

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

For Christians, the Cross is the ultimate symbol of this profound wisdom and strength. It is a mystery too deep for our understanding, but by faith we may slowly become immersed in its Truth.


The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 18

As we pray with Psalm 33 today, let us be aware of the cause of our joy – a holy joy deeply rooted in God, trusting God’s Will for our salvation in the pattern of Jesus Christ.


For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all God’s works are trustworthy.
The LORD loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.


Poetry: Primary Wonder – Denise Levertov

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
                                                        And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Music: Your Cross Changes Everything – Matt Redman

Psalm 145: Prayer Answered

Memorial of Saint Monica

August 27, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Monica, we pray with Psalm 145.

We can almost picture the psalm’s sentiments pouring out in Monica’s prayer. For years, she had prayed for her son Augustine’s conversion. She was canonized for the level of her persevering prayer – a prayer blessed with the amazing answer of St. Augustine’s holy life.

Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.

Like the answer to most prayers, Monica’s came after the long working of God’s mysterious ways. Her own life was shaded by suffering and loss. But, she was steadfast in her hope over the nearly two decades it took to see Light dawn in Augustine.


Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.


As we reflect on the generations of our own families, and the decades of our own lives, there are many “Monica-Augustine” stories. Whenever we pray for life to lead us and our beloveds to God, we pray like Monica.

Today, let’s bring our own “Augustines” to God in hopeful prayer. And let’s thank God for any “Monica” who has done this loving service for us over our lives.

I think this morning of my mother’s well-worn prayer book. The little devotional volume had been fattened with a number of prayer cards stuffed in its thin pages. One day, just before my mother died, I noticed this one: Prayer for My Daughter, a Nun. I can’t say I was exactly surprised by it. I supposed Mom prayed for me. But the card blessed me in a vey tender way and made me confident that my life would continue to be blessed.


Discovering the card also made me aware of my responsibility to pray daily for my family, friends, and community. They are my “Augustines” in whatever challenges they may face in life – just as I hope I am somebody’s too. Because, friends, we belong to one another in the Communion of Saints, and our “family” is fed not by blood, but by the Spirit.

The generations discourse of the power of your awesome deeds
and declare your greatness.
They publish the fame of your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your justice.


Poetry: St. Augustine and Monica by Charles Tennyson Turner

Her weeping kiss – for years, her sorrow flowed
At last into his wilful blood; he owed
To her his after-life of truth and bliss:
And her own joy, what words, what thoughts could paint!
When o’er his soul, with sweet constraining force,
Came Penitence – a fusion from remorse –
And made her boy a glorious Christian saint.
Oh ye, who tend the young through doubtful years
Along the busy path from birth to death,
Parents and friends! forget not in your fears
The secret strength of prayer, the holy breath
That swathes your darlings! think how Austin’s faith
Rose like a star upon his mother’s tears!


Music: (something for opera fans among us) La Conversione di Sant Agostino, Oratorio by Johann Adolph Hasse

Hasse begins La Conversione di Sant’ Agostino with an orchestral introduction that establishes the work‘s tonal center in the key of B-flat major, with most arias composed within related keys. From the grandeur and dynamic intensity of the Introduction comes the first vocal entrance of the oratorio. The listener acts as a voyeur into a conversation between Simpliciano (tenor), a priest, and Monica (soprano), the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo, in which Monica expresses her fears that her son may never change his wicked ways. This urgent desire becomes the core dramatic theme throughout the oratorio with Alipio (alto), the friend, and Navigio (bass), the brother, serving to intensify the desperate desire for conversion. The role of Saint Augustine (alto) is secondary to that of his mother, Monica. Saint Augustine only has two arias, both dealing with his desire to find release from his sinful ways. His conversion is explicitly stated in the Part Two aria in which he begs God to look upon him with compassion following the censure of his own heart.

Psalm 96: Singing in the Rain

 Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

August 25, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96 which calls the people to praise God in music and dance because they have been chosen and confirmed as God’s People. 

The psalm may have been composed by David to mark the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. At that time, Israel had a sense of great victory, restoration, and security as David assumed kingship at God’s command.

But today’s particular verses have an eschatological tone. They turn the attention of the praise singer to the overarching fact that God is infinitely larger than any present small victory. They imply that the only true victory and restoration are found in complete abandonment to God’s power in our lives no matter our situation.

Say among the nations: The Lord is king.
God has made the world firm, not to be moved;
God governs the peoples with equity.


That Divine Power is easy enough to sing about when things go well for us, as they were for Israel at that time. But can we still praise God’s dominion and power when things seem bleak, when we don’t feel in control of our reality?

Psalm 96 invites us to that deep abandonment of self into God’s unfailing Mercy, no matter our life’s weather.

Declare among the nations: The LORD is king.
The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken.
God rules the peoples with fairness.

When we struggle to find that kind of holy equanimity, Psalm 96 suggests we look to nature, and to its persistent return to Divine Balance, even after upheaval. So too will any unbalance in us be restored within the infinite arc of God’s abiding love. And that is the real reason to always sing God’s praise!

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.

Before the Lord Who comes;
Who comes to rule the earth.
God shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with constancy.

Poetry: To Him Who Is Feared by Eleazar Ben Kalir
Translated by Lady Katie Magnus
from the Liturgy for Rosh Hashana

To Him who is feared a Crown will I bring.
Thrice Holy each day acclaim Him my King;
At altars, ye mighty, proclaim loud His praise,
And multitudes too may whisper His lays.
Ye angels, ye men, whose good deeds He records—
Sing, He is One, His is good, our yoke is the Lord’s!
Praise Him trembling to-day, His mercy is wide—
Ye who fear for His wrath—it doth not abide!
Ye seraphim, high above storm clouds may sing;
Men and angels make music, th’ All-seeing is king. 
As ye open your lips, at His Name they shall cease—
Transgression and sin—in their place shall be peace;
And thrice shall the Shophar re-echo your song
On mountain and altar to whom both belong. 

Music: O Sing Unto the Lord – Handel

Moses’ Psalm: Light and Dark

Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

August 17, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Deuteronomy 32, the Psalm of Moses. Today’s verses describe an angry God who decides to take vengeance a faithless people. 

To pray with these verses is not easy. Taken in isolation, they paint a God who contradicts our larger experience of mercy and tenderness. But the Psalm, like the jarring first reading from Ezekiel, has a lesson for us.

Ezekiel from Biblical Images by James Padgett

In that reading, Ezekiel suffers the sudden death of his beloved wife. The experience opens his prophetic spirit to more fully understand God’s relationship with Israel. He allows his life to be a witness for the people that God expects their repentance and faithfulness.

Like many Old Testament readings, these portray God by way of human analogy because that is the only context we have available to us. Therefore, the temptation when reading these passages might be to think of God solely in human terms playing tit-for-tat with us when we stray from the Law. But God is infinitely greater than any capacity we, or the scripture writers, have to describe Divinity.


The narrative provided by this prophetic book is not one of comfort; its merciless accusations and its violent imagery do not make it an easy scroll to swallow (Ezek 2:8–3:3). While much of Ezekiel’s language, imagery, and reasoning will appear foreign to modern readers, his narrative would have been clearly intelligible to his contemporaries—even though presumably it would have been hard to accept. The exile, according to this narrative, is both inevitable and deserved; it is portrayed as God’s judgement for the constant and complete failure of God’s people.

At the same time, it is not God’s last word. While resisting both optimism and despair, Ezekiel offers a narrative that sheds light on his present and arrives at an original, if peculiar, imagination of hope, founded solely on theological conviction.

Janina M. Hiebel – Hope in Exile: In Conversation with Ezekiel

So then, what might we take from today’s dark readings? For me, it is this:

God is always Light.
It is we who get caught in darkness.


God does speak to us in our circumstances, as God did to Ezekiel and Moses. By faithful prayer and sincere desire, we can deepen in our love and understanding of God through every experience of our lives, even the painful ones. When we live with that kind of faith and hope, our lives witness to God’s fidelity and love.


Poetry: two offerings today

Motto – Bertold Brecht

In the dark times 
Will there also be singing? 
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.

Light – Alice Jones

The morning when I first notice
the leaves starting to color,
early orange, and back-lit,
I think how rapture doesn't
vanish, merely fades into
the background, waits for those
moment between moments.

I think this and the door pens,
the street takes on its glistening
look, Bay fog lifting, patches of sun
on sycamore -- yellow sea.
I am in again, and swimming.

Music: Lavender Shadows – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 113: Awesome!

Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 12, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 113, a magnificent hymn praising God in the heavens. 

The psalm is commonly used at Vespers, the evening prayer of the Church – and no wonder. How often in the evening do we look to the glorious skies, emblazoned with the setting sun, and turn our minds to God!

Who is like the LORD, our God, who is enthroned on high,
and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?


It is in contemplating the sky’s immensity that we begin to appreciate the Divine Infinity.


Last night, I FaceTimed with my niece and her toddler boy, a joy she frequently offers me. During the call, my grandnephew carried his little tablet to the window, opened his “SkyView” app, and began exploring the heavens. Even the youngest “pueri” (Latin for “boys, children, servants”) spontaneously offer our Vespers in answer to God’s Beauty!


As we pray this psalm, at whatever time of day, we can let ourselves rest in silent awe, aware of God’s majesty – that Majesty which deigns to create, love and eternally sustain each one of us beloved “pueri”.


Poetry: Stars by Majorie Pickthall

Photo by Ruvim on Pexels.com
Now in the West the slender moon lies low, 
And now Orion glimmers through the trees, 
Clearing the earth with even pace and slow, 
And now the stately-moving Pleiades, 
In that soft infinite darkness overhead 
Hang jewel-wise upon a silver thread. 
And all the lonelier stars that have their place, 
Calm lamps within the distant southern sky, 
And planet-dust upon the edge of space, 
Look down upon the fretful world, and I 
Look up to outer vastness unafraid 
And see the stars which sang when earth was made. 

Music: Laudate Pueri – Claudio Monteverdi

Laudate, pueri, Dominum; 
laudate nomen Domini.
Sit nomen Domini benedictum 
ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.
A solis ortu usque ad occasum 
laudabile nomen Domini.
Excelsus super omnes gentes Dominus, 
et super caelos gloria ejus.
Quis sicut Dominus Deus noster, 
qui in altis habitat, 
et humilia respicit in caelo et in terra?
Suscitans a terra inopem, 
et de stercore erigens pauperem:
ut collocet eum cum principibus, 
cum principibus populi sui.
Qui habitare facit sterilem in domo, 
matrem filiorum laetantem.