Mary, Mother and Friend of God

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 18, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we encounter a reading we had reflected on just recently – when Philip asks Jesus to show him the Father. So, I will refer you to that reflection here, if you would like to revisit.

Click here for Philip’s Question

Instead, today, because this is a Saturday in May, we might like to pray with Mary of Nazareth. Do we know her?

May

The little we know of Mary we find in the New Testament. Like all women of the early Church, the power of Mary’s story was lost in the Romanized, masculinized Church of the 2nd century. Instead, the growing Church and the ensuing centuries’ cultures developed images of Mary, and other women disciples, which served the emerging characterization of women – gentle, passive, obedient and defined by their relationship to men. This did the real Mary a great disservice.

Beautiful Mother

Click here for hymn.

But, if you are like me, you grew up loving this re-characterized Mary. I pray to her as my Mother. I see her as a go-between with God, a Father who might not understand my needs. I love the old hymns I learned as child, and can still gustily sing almost all their flowery words. I still, and always will, have my favorites. 

Learning to think of Mary in a clearer and stronger light has been a challenge, and a gift, for me. Many women theologians have been helpful to me in this. Primary among these is Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ. This is a link to a superb article Dr. Johnson wrote for America magazine. It is a challenging and extremely worthwhile read. I encourage you to take time with it.

Click here to read Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ’s article

Today, as we pray, we may wish to use Mary’s own powerful hymn, given to us in Luke’s Gospel ( Luke 1: 46-55 )

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.

Music: Latin Magnificat – Daughters of Mary

Do You Have Your Housekey?

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 17, 2019

Click here for readings

Jn14_2 dwelling

Today, in Mercy, Paul continues his preaching in Antioch. He delivers a very powerful, and condemnatory line about the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders …

Though they found no grounds for a death sentence,
they asked Pilate to have Jesus put to death…

Being unable to accept the Truth that Jesus was, they conspired to destroy him.

Understanding, accepting and living within the Truth of God and of ourselves is the way to eternal life. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that he is this Way, Truth and Life.

It sounds so straightforward and simple, doesn’t it? 

But in our world, truth has lost its definition. Its edges have been stretched beyond recognition by propaganda, moral convenience, political pretense, false advertising, manipulative social media, and other forms of self-serving deceit.

truthThe distortion of truth has become epidemic among us, infecting us all in one way or another.

Just as in the presence of any disease, we need to take precautions to keep ourselves healthy – true to God and to ourselves:

  • placing ourselves honestly before God in prayer
  • practicing a brief examination of conscience at the end of each day
  • discerning how we use power and advantage in terms of self-interest
  • living by self-respect and respect for others
  • evaluating our actions and choices in the light of the command to love one another

In the Father’s House there are many dwelling places. Truth is their entry key:

I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ

Heritage of Faith

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 16, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our reading from Acts tells of Paul’s preaching in the synagogue at Antioch. Paul, himself steeped in the love and practice of his Jewish faith, comes before more faithful Jews to invite them to a transformed faith in Jesus, the Messiah they had been awaiting. That was no easy assignment!

Ps89_2_family of God

But Paul, learned and erudite, traces the entire hereditary line of the Jewish faith, through the House of David, and leading to Jesus Christ. It’s a rich and beautiful homily that redefines the meaning and reach of God’s Family.

In our Gospel, Jesus too describes what it means to belong to God’s family. He says that whoever receives him, and lovingly serves like him, is one with him and with the Father.

These readings give the inspiration to consider and pray on many points. Perhaps these three may be helpful:

Through what human means and heritage has our faith been handed down to us? Who are the parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and godparents of our cherished faith? Let’s pray with them today and remember their loving example.


What family of faith has been gifted to us through our community, church and graced friendships over our lifetime? Who are these with whom we share the DNA of our spirit, who have bolstered our faith throughout the journey? Let us pray in gratitude for the gift of these people in our life.


What about us? For whom are we a “faith family”? How do we give the gift of faith, love and service in that family?


Music: I Knew My Father Knew – Sally deFord and James Loynes

Do You Love Me?

Third Sunday of Easter

May 5, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Jesus asks Peter an open-ended question, the kind that leaves us very vulnerable to the answer:

Do you love me?

Jn21_17

Wow! What if Peter says “No”, or “Sort of” or worse yet, just stares off into the distance in silence?

And the question is kind of scary for Peter too. Maybe he’s thinking, “OK, this is it. Jesus wants me to lay it all on the line. Am I ready?”.

The Gospel poses questions to each of us today as well:

  • Who and what do I really love?
  • How does my primary love drive my life choices?
  • Are there places in my life that lack love – places where prejudice, blindness, selfishness or hate have filled in the emptiness?
  • Where is God in my loves?

St. John of the Cross wrote this:

At the end of our lives we will be judged on love.
Learn therefore to love God as God wishes to be loved.

More than enough to pray on today.❤️

Music: Where Charity and Love Prevail – a lovely English translation of Ubi Caritas, written in Gregorian chant.

The Name

Easter Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Click here for readings

Acts3_6

Today, in Mercy, our passage from Acts describes a sacred practice of the early Church – the invocation of the Name of Jesus as a source of spiritual power.

Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”

These first Christians were so invested in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they claimed the right to act in his Name. They also clearly believed that they had no power themselves, but only in that blessed Name.

To call someone by their given name is an act of familiarity, if not intimacy. For those closest to us, we often have nicknames or pet names, conveying a unique understanding of each other.

Calling God by name is an act of both intimacy and worship. In the book of Exodus, God takes the first step in that deeper friendship:

God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord.
I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob
as God Almighty,
but by my name “the Lord”
I did not make myself fully known to them.

With the Incarnation of Jesus, God took the ultimate step in loving friendship with us. To help us understand the nature of this friendship, Jesus gives himself some “nicknames” throughout the Gospel:

  • Good Shepherd
  • Lamb of God
  • the Vine
  • the Way, the Truth, the Life
  • the Bread of Life
  • the Light of the World

Each of these names helps us to enter more deeply into the infinite love God has for us.

Do you have a special name for God? Sometimes, early in the morning when First Light touches my window, I pray with that Name. I ask my Bright God to light my life and the lives of those I love this day. At night, that same window is full of Sweet Darkness, a Name I call God as I ask that we all find a peaceful, protected sleep.

We might also ask if God has a special name for us. At different moments and moods of your life, does God speak to you with a personal, loving “nickname”? If you haven’t heard it yet, why not ask God to whisper it to you in your next prayer?

Music: Jesus the Lord – Roc O’Connor, SJ

Jesus, Jesus
Let all creation bend the knee to the Lord.

1. In Him we live, we move and have our being;
In Him the Christ, In Him the King!
Jesus the Lord.

2. Though Son, He did not cling to Godliness,
But emptied Himself, became a slave!
Jesus the Lord.

3. He lived obediently His Father’s will
Accepting His death, death on a cross!
Jesus the Lord.

Fearful Tuesday

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Click here for readings.

Today, in Mercy, as Holy Week deepens, so does confusion, fear, and even betrayal among Christ’s disciples.

fearful tuesday

In today’s Gospel, we see Judas turn from his own truth to a disastrous treachery.

We see John and Peter full of questions, confused by the turn of events. Jesus foretells the impending denial by Peter, his chosen successor.

The great trials of Christ’s Passion and Death emerge from the shadows of rumor and deception. Jesus makes it clear that the end is near.

As we read the passage, we can feel the fear mounting in everyone but Jesus. In him, we see see Isaiah’s description strengthening- the Lord’s Glorious Servant rising as the Light of Nations.

Fear destroys while trust and hope liberate.

Praying with this Gospel this morning, I remember the face of a woman I had seen on the evening news. At a contentious political rally, she was loudly shouting her preference to live under a dictator rather than live in a country “full of filthy immigrants”. She thought her raging made her strong. But I saw a person filled with ignorance and fear.

I can’t forget her face. It so saddened me to see the child of a beautiful God so distorted by weakness, prejudice and fear. She could no longer see the face of God in another human being. I think hers would have been the face I saw on Judas, had I met him as he left the Last Supper.

Fear is a disfiguring disease. It seeps into our heart and mind to blind and deafen us to God’s power in our life. It cripples our graced potential. It eventually kills the “glorious servant” we too have been called to become.

Paula D’Arcy says this:

Who would I be,
and what power
would be expressed in my life,
if I were not dominated by fear?

It’s a powerful question.

How does fear keep me:

  • from loving?
  • from hoping?
  • from believing?
  • from giving?
  • from receiving?

Today’s Responsorial Psalm, filled with beautiful phrases, offers us a heartfelt prayer as we place our fears in God’s hands:

R. I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge,

a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
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.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
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.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

Music:  Where Feet May Fail – Hillsong

Mother God

Here are two of my poems to go with tomorrow’s reflection. I hope they are useful for your prayer. Also, this interesting excerpt I found online.

The Hebrew word for mother is emm, the Aramaic word is immah, and the Arabic word is umm. The liturgical word amen, which at its core means “confirmation, support”, is derived from the words for “mother”.  ( From Dr. Goodword’s Language BlogClick here to go to blog)


root

If You Are Mother

 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.


hands

 The Hands of God

 The hands of God love me
when I cannot see God’s face.
Like salve, they warmly run
over in and out of me,
pausing where my hurt is knotted,
barbed to their approach…

 mother’s hands, lover’s, friend’s,
my own hands held in God’s hands,
healing self-estrangement.

 I come to God’s hands
like broken earth
stretches for redeeming rain.

 Even in the deep night,
where God will not speak,
those loving hands are words
which I answer in the darkness.

 

God Remembers Us

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we have, from Isaiah, one of most beloved and comforting passages in Scripture:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Isaiah49_15 Mother

Not to forget is to remember. And to “re-member” is to put back together all the pieces that have fallen apart.

Because God “remembers” us at every moment in our lives, we are held together in that Divine Memory through all the exigencies of time. We are held together in the wholeness of our Creation, in the fullness of grace that God imagines for us. Even when we cannot feel or believe it, God continues to dream us into Eternal Life.

Whenever we feel in our hearts a lament like Zion’s

“The Lord has forsaken me…” 

let us place ourselves in the heart of our Mother God Who cradles us with infinite, unconditional affection and tenderness, Who is alway re-membering us.

Music: God Our Mother – The Litugists

This song, though short, is a good one to repeat as a mantra as we pray. Lyrics below

God our Father
Giver of daily bread
Blessing our hands and covering our heads

God our Mother
Leading us into peace
Drawing and comforting all those in need

Hallowed, hallowed be thy name
Hallowed, hallowed be thy name
Hallowed, hallowed be thy name in all the earth

Jesus, brother, guiding our very step
Deliver us and grant places of rest
Jesus, savior, grabbing us from the grave
Cheating the fall and bringing the light of day

Play Ball!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings tell us to LISTEN!

opening day

Looking at my graphic for today, you may wonder how I’m going to connect that command to baseball’s Opening Day. Watch! 😊⚾️

There’s no better feeling than an “opening day” feeling. No matter how bad you were last year, you have a clean slate for the new season. You’ve had a chance to assess your weaknesses and rehab them. You’ve been able to add some strengths you needed but had neglected. You’ve got another carte blanche chance to be everything you were born to be! Now you’re standing in the batter’s box just listening for that thrilling phrase, “Play ball!”

Guess what! You’ve been doing all the same things throughout Lent. You’ve taken a look at your life and straightened a few things out. You’ve dusted off the plate, so to speak, and you’re ready to start fresh as Easter approaches.

Today’s readings are telling us to tune in, listen, for God’s coaching in our lives. The game of life plays out for us in ways we could never imagine. But God imagines- and will guide us through to home plate if we just “hear God’s voice and harden not our hearts”.

So, “Play ball”, friends! 

Music: The Voice of God – 4HIM


None like You, Merciful God

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings pour out the lavish mercy of God. Our prayer invites us bask in that warmth and understanding.

Prodigal son

The prophet Micah asks,

“Who is there like You … the God who delights in clemency?”

Our Psalm reminds us that “the Lord is kind and merciful”:

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.

(Two musical selections today.)

Then Jesus tells us the tender parable of the Prodigal Son, which is really more about the Merciful Father. He receives his contrite child in the same way that God receives us in our repentance.

Sometimes we become so content with ourselves that we fail to realize our need for contrition. Sometimes our failures are buried so deep and so long in us that we become blind to them. Repentance is the grace to break through that blindness.

We were created to be an image of the merciful God we meet in today’s scripture. Where we are short of that in our actions, words, choices and attitudes – that’s where we have need of repentance.

Rembrandt’s magnificent painting captures a sacred feeling that might help our prayer. Sometimes we are the gracious Father – loving, forgiving, hoping and working for life in others. Sometimes we are the son, returning from our own destructive selfishness to seek a new beginning. Sometimes we are a little bit of each.

Music: Father, I Have Sinned – Eugene O’Reilly