The Souls We’ve Loved

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
(All Souls)

November 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we remember.

Romans6_4 souls

“Remember” is a word with a great depth of meaning. Most usually we think of it as a calling to mind. But it can also be thought of as kind of reconstructing – a restoring of the “members” to their rightful place in the whole.

Paul uses the word “members” in this way when he talks about the Body of the Church:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12: 12-13

When we pray a prayer of “remembering”, we consciously bring into the circle of eternal life all those whom time has hidden from us. We affirm the faith that, in Christ, death has already been conquered for all of us. In prayer, we lift the human veil that separates us from those who have died. We “remember” the Resurrected Body of Christ living in, and uniting, all of us beyond time.

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The feast of Holy Souls is a day to give thanks for all those whose physical or spiritual DNA lives in us. It is a time to bless what is good and forgive what was lacking. It is a day to connect the generations by telling the stories that have graced us, passing into the next generation’s hands the unbroken line of salvation history.

Today, we pray with and for all the holy souls who have touched our lives, even from a distance. May they, and we, be continually “remembered” into God’s eternal heart.

Music: Remember Me- Mark Schultz

Should We Bug God?

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings encourage us never to weary in our faith and prayer.

Ps121 lift hands

Look at Moses in our first reading! He keeps his hands raised in supplication throughout the entire battle, albeit with a little help from his friends.

This is a good reminder for us of the gift and importance of a praying community. There are times in every life when we need someone to hold us up in prayer.

In our second reading, Paul counsels Timothy never to grow weary in the pursuit of his ministry. 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
… proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient…

And in our Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the importune widow, who kept after the judge until she got the answer she wanted. Luke includes this information:

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always
without becoming weary. 

If a dishonest judge can be moved by persistence to grant justice, how much more will God do so for those God loves?

The point? Not that if we bug God, we’ll get what we want. Rather it is to remind us to stay in steadfast relationship with God who is always revealing the path of grace and wholeness to us.

So let’s take a clue from Moses. Let’s keep our hands up in faithful praise to God through all the blessings and challenges of our lives. By doing so, we will receive peace far beyond our persistent questions and concerns.

Total Praise – Richard Smallwood, sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir 

I have particularly loved this hymn from the first time I heard it sung by our wonderful Keystone Mercy Choir in my former workplace. The music itself is soul-shaking, but what most deeply moved my spirit was the faith of the singers, my beautiful workplace community. This video has the same effect on me – the faith of the singers and the audience is inspiring! (Lyrics below)

Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills
Knowing my health is coming from You
Your peace You give me in times of the storm
You are the source of my strength, Hallelujah
And You are the strength of my life, yes You are
I lift my hands in total praise to You
Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills
Knowing my health is coming from You
Your peace, You give me in times of the storm
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life

 

God Alone

Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the great Saint Teresa of Avila. 

Teresa prayer

Teresa was a Spanish noblewoman who became a Carmelite nun, mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian, and one of the 36 Doctors of the Church.

(Until 1970, no woman had been named a Doctor in the Church, but since then four women have been designated: Saints Teresa of Àvila, Catherine of Siena, Therese of the Child Jesus, and Hildegard of Bingen)

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Our reading today from Romans is a good one for Teresa’s feast. In it, Paul expresses his complete trust in and devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By this, Paul means more than the written words of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He means the entire gift of the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection, continuing among us in the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Teresa understood and lived this same trust and devotion. She said:

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.

Like Paul, Teresa was not ashamed to proclaim and live the Gospel. May these two strong and amazing saints help us to do the same.

Music: Christ Has No Body Now But Yours – David Ogden

A Grateful Spirit

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, two significant themes in our readings are gift-giving and gratitude.

In our first reading Naaman, a pretty hot-shot Syrian commander, is a leper. He takes the advice of a captured Israel slave girl who encourages Naaman to seek a cure from Elisa the prophet.

As Naaman approaches, Elisha sends word  to rinse in the Jordan. Naaman, who is obviously accustomed to personalized subservience, is not happy with Elisha’s absentee advice. Angry, Naaman sets out for home. But his servants encourage him to cool down and to act on Elisha’s instructions. 

Naaman receives the cure and he promises, half-heartedly, to from henceforth worship Yahweh. He then asks what he can pay for the gift of the cure. Elisha responds that there is no payment .

Notice: Naaman never says “Thank you”. Instead, he wants to pay, to owe nothing for the immense gift he has received. He doesn’t want to be beholden, even to God.

Elisha, in so many words, tells Naaman: What I was blessed to convey to you comes from God. The power is God’s. I am the instrument. You can’t buy or own it. I can’t sell it. It’s God’s – freely given.

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Paul repeats the theme to Timothy: the Word of God is not chained. God’s power, grace, and healing are given freely. We cannot earn them buy, them, control them, or ever thank God enough for them. But we should try.

In our Gospel, only one cured leper – a Samaritan – has the sense and humility to try to thank Jesus. Born of his faith, that gratitude saves him.

God is Infinite Gift. God’s love pours over us spontaneously and continually to bring us to wholeness. God can’t help loving us and hoping for our completeness in grace.

May we be delivered from any speck of entitlement, indifference, arrogance, or ingratitude in the face of such Goodness!

Music:  Thank You, Lord – Don Moen

The Lord’s Prayer

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 9, 2019

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(Some of you may recognize this reflection as a “recycle”, but I think it may be worth another read.)

Ollie praying

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.

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.

Pray Always

Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings suggest that there are many different ways to pray – to acknowledge and respond to God’s Presence in our lives, to deepen in relationship with God.

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Jonah has just finished his prayer of thanksgiving for deliverance from the chaos. This prayer is transformative. Jonah is different – open to God’s call – after it. The Ninivites, after hearing only one day of Jonah’s preaching, respond by acts of fasting and mortification . Their king, when he hears of their actions, himself formalizes a drastic national atonement. The repentant prayer of the Ninivite Kingdom is also transformative. They turn from their evil ways and open their hearts to God’s sovereignty.

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ps130_1 lament

Our Responsorial Psalm 130, a treasured and classic song of lament, shows us the transformative power of this kind of prayer. The one praying from the depths of her heart:

  • names her suffering
  • weeps with God because of it
  • begs deliverance
  • in the begging, relinquishes the outcome to God
  • receives peace in the relinquishment
  • is transformed by that peace and offers praise

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Our Gospel offers us another classic example of types of prayer, that of contemplation and that of service. In the story, Mary is affirmed for her singular attention to the presence of Christ – her contemplative prayer. Martha, on the other hand, pays attention to Christ by her service. Some have interpreted Martha’s as a lesser form of prayer. However, Macrina Weirdekehr, in her new book “The Flowing Grace of Now”, gives us this powerful insight into Martha’s prayer:

“Mary’s listening annoys Martha, who is busy serving. Yet if the full truth be known, Martha was also sitting at the feet of the teacher. She is sitting at the feet of service. Later, after dinner was served, with Jesus gone and Mary retired for the evening, I envision Martha finally sitting down by herself, and listening to the experience of the evening. As she reviewed the evening and her lament in the midst of her service, perhaps she began to realize that all of this was part of the wisdom offered by the school of life. We learn by contemplating our daily struggles.”


(I so highly recommend this deeply beautiful book available from:

Click here to go to Ave Maria Press or

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Today, we might consider our many ways to talk with and be with God, to give time and awareness to this all-encompassing relationship in our lives.

Music: Lord, I Need You – Matt Maher 

 

Transparent Prayer

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

Monday, October 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading is from the Book of Jonah, a drama with which we are all familiar.  Because of the fantastical nature of the tale, we may tend to read it simply on the level of allegory – the way we might read Aesop’s fables. But there is much spiritual depth to be found in this well-known story.

As I pray with the Jonah passages for these three days, I am using an article by Walter Bruggemann to inform my prayer.

You can access Bruggemann’s article here

Since today is the feast of the Holy Rosary, a prayer which has blessed the Church for centuries, Bruggemann’s consideration of Jonah’s prayer caught my attention:

The complexity of (Jonah’s) prayer is reflective of the complexity of all prayer.  Prayer purports to be single-minded in its communication with Yahweh.  Everyone who prays is complex, given to deception, distortion, and willfulness; our prayers are most often thick with mixed motives, distortions, and exhibits, even if only to the self.  There are “saints” who are more mature and more disciplined than this in their prayer.  But evidently Jonah is not among those mature, disciplined saints.  For that reason his compromising and manipulative maneuvers are highly visible in the prayer.  We may spot such maneuvers in his prayer and be driven to reflect on our own acts of seduction in prayer whereby we deceive ourselves, even if God is not deceived.

The Rosary, intended as a contemplation not a recitation, allows us the silence and time to sort out the complexities of our own prayer. It is a prayer not to be rushed. Praying it well requires us to lay aside our busy existence and excuses, and to place ourselves in the stillness of Divine Transparency.

rosary

The Rosary invites us to enter more deeply into the truth of Christ’s life, but also into our own. Seen in the light of Mary’s and Jesus’s lives, what is our own life teaching us?

So many of us have a Rosary in our drawer or purse that we haven’t touched for a while. Many of these beads were given to us by, or belonged to, someone who loved us – who wished us the blessings that come from its devotion. Perhaps we might like to rekindle our love for the Rosary today while remembering that beloved person. In the drawer beside my bed, my Dad’s well worn rosary is waiting for me.

Music: Ave Maria – Bach, sung by Jessye Norman

Walk in Him

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

September 10, 2019

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Today in Mercy, Beloveds, our first reading allowed the reflection to almost write itself. Savor the sweet words. They are all we need today.

Col2_6 Walk

Walk in Him.

Trust in Him.

Hope in Him.

Delight in Him.

Risk in Him.

Act in Him.

Love in Him.

Rest in Him.

Believe in Him.

Walk in Him. (Hold hands.)

Music: Just a Closer Walk with Thee – anonymous composition from the 1800s, sung here by the great Patsy Cline and the inimitable Willie Nelson
Lyrics below

1 I am weak but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Refrain:
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

2 Thro’ this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee. [Refrain]

3 When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore. [Refrain]

Big Prayers

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

September 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus and Paul teach us how to pray for one another.

I like to call it “gifting prayer” because it is, indeed, a generous offering we give to others.


Little Prayers

little prayers

I sometimes pray for simple things – that a family member wins the lottery, or it doesn’t rain on a friend’s wedding.

And I pray for consequential things – improved health for a neighbor, safety for travelers, deliverance from disaster.

These prayers are rooted in the wish for material improvement. But there is a deeper kind of prayer that we can offer.


The Big Prayer

Gifting Prayer is a wide halo of love and hope we generate
by our desire for someone else’s eternal good – for their holiness.

This kind of prayer is much bigger than the small prayers we say for others. 

Paul describes what such prayer should ask for – that our beloved:

  • be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
  • gain all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • be fully pleasing, in every good work 
  • bear fruit and grow in the knowledge of God,
  • be strengthened with all endurance and patience,
  • and give thanks, with joy, to the Father for the gift of faith

Now THAT’S a prayer!


Gospel Clues

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, gives us a clue about how to pray such a prayer. He says that it’s kind of like catching fish. The Gospel fishermen have labored all night with no results. Sometimes our prayer feels like that, doesn’t it?

Lk5_4 nets

Jesus says no matter. Keep on fishing – keep on praying. Shift perspective a little bit “to the other side of the boat” – to God’s way of seeing good for those we pray for.

Ask for God to do what God deems best. This attitude in prayer opens us to divine possibilities. It hopefully brings unimagined resolutions to those we pray for.

Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch…
…When they had done this, they caught so great a number of fish
that their nets were bursting.

Let God burst the tight net by which we might define our prayer. Let’s be amazed by all that God desires to give us beyond our small wishes.

Music: Trust His Heart – Babbie Mason

Faithful Monica

Memorial of Saint Monica

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo.

Monica
Santa Monica e Sant’Agostino by Giuseppe Riva (This work is in the public domain n its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.)

Monica had a difficult life, burdened by an autocratic pagan husband. She was forbidden to have her children baptized. Augustine worried her deeply because he developed into a wayward and lazy young man. Eventually he was wooed by the Manichaean heresy which denied Christ as God. This was too much for Monica. She asked him to leave her house.

But Monica continued for seventeen years to pray for and encourage Augustine to return to a faithful, moral life. Finally through the influence of St. Ambrose, Augustine was converted.

How many mothers and fathers, friends and spouses have prayed like this for someone they love? How many of us have had a “lost sheep” right in the center of our family but beyond its touch?

Monica’s great love and faithful devotion to her son are reminiscent of Paul’s love for his Thessalonian flock:

… we were gentle among you,
as a nursing mother cares for her children.
With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you
not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well,
so dearly beloved had you become to us.

This is the way God loves us and draws us to himself. It is the way that we, who carry God’s love in the world, must be with one another.

Our Gospel gives us another example of how disgusted Jesus is with those who pretend the “exteriors” of faith but on the inside are “blind hypocrites… full of plunder and self-indulgence”.

Instead, we need a faith like Monica’s, humble and generous but at the same time tenacious and persevering in seeking good.

Music: Give Me the Faith Which Can Remove – written by Charles Wesley, younger brother of John Wesley, founder of Methodism