Psalm 50: Love Bears Sacrifice

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

February 15, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 50, set as a scene from a court proceeding. That seems rather appropriate after watching the impeachment proceedings, doesn’t it!

Psalm 50 is written to evoke the imagery of trial in which God calls all Creation as witnesses.

God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
    from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Psalm 50: 1

God expresses displeasure to the people about two specific things.

  1. The substance of their sacrifices:

Offer praise as your sacrifice to God;
fulfill your vows to the Most High.
Then call on me on the day of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall honor me.

Psalm 50: 15-16

2. Their blatant hypocrisy:

But to the wicked God says:
“Why do you recite my commandments
and profess my covenant with your mouth?
You hate discipline;
you cast my words behind you!

Psalm 50: 17-18

in judgement, God requires a conversion in the people:

Now understand this, you who forget God,
lest I start ripping apart and there be no rescuer.

Psalm 50:23

The psalm’s imagery was no doubt effective for its first listeners because they, like us, had witnessed many a court proceeding that was all about “law” but very little about justice. They recognized hypocrisy clothed in pretense, even in themselves.

God, on the other hand speaks clearly about truth and justice:

Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me;
I will let him whose way is steadfast
look upon the salvation of God.

Psalm 50: 24

Praise is the prayer of a humble, aware, truthful, and obedient spirit. Our Gospel verse instructs us that we learn how to offer a sacrifice of praise by living in the pattern of Jesus:

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

John 14:6

Poetry: Praise Song for the Day by ELIZABETH ALEXANDER

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
hey would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Music: Total Praise – Richard Smallwood

I just love this hymn and this choir!

Lord, I will lift my eyes to the hills
Knowing my help is coming from You
Your peace You give me in time 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 You
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen

Psalm 32: You’re Lovable

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 14, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 32 in which the psalmist expresses joy at being delivered from great suffering.

On this Valentines Day, our culture incentivizes us to think about “love”.

But our psalm might ask us to ponder that the greatest suffering is to believe, quite falsely, that we are unloved – or worse, unloveable. Still, Psalm 32 assures us that we are never unloveable to our God:

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
    my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
    and you took away the guilt of my sin.

Psalm 32

One of the reasons we are drawn to love
is that the Beloved delivers us from “trouble”,
brings us light, peace, comfort, hope, courage.
The true Beloved allows us
to see ourselves as beloved too.
And we respond in love!

On this Valentines Day, you may have many dear human hearts to whom you wish to tell your love. But most important, in your prayer, tell the One Who is Love within you. And listen to Love telling you the same.

Poem: Bridges – Marion Strober


Music: Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel

Psalm 90: A Most Beautiful Prayer

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

February 13, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90, one of my favorites.

The psalm is so rich that it really needs no help to engage our prayer. But if you would like to pray with these, here are links to earlier reflections on Psalm 90.


Or, you might instead, wish to pray simply with the beautiful transliteration below and/or with one of these lovely pieces of music.

Poetry: Psalm 90 Life and Death - Christine Robinson
We have come out of the Earth
and to the Earth we return
Our lives are but a flash in the light of Eternity.
We are like beautiful flowers which live only a day.
We might live 70 years—more if our strength holds.
So much work and hardship!
How quickly the time passes.
Teach us then, to value our days
to treat each one as a sacred trust.
Fill our hearts with wisdom.
and a love for our lives.
In spite of all the grief and suffering
May we be always glad of this precious gift
And hallow the good in each day.

Music: Two selections today

  1. In Every Age: Janèt Sullivan Whitaker 
Long before the mountains came to be
And the land and sea and stars of the night,
Through the endless seasons of all time,
You have always been,
You will always be.
In ev'ry age, O God, you have been our refuge.
In ev'ry age, O God, you have been our hope.
Destiny is cast, and at your silent word
We return to dust and scatter to the wind.
A thousand years are like a single moment gone,
As the light that fades
At the end of day.
Teach us to make use of the time we have.
Teach us to be patient even as we wait.
Teach us to embrace our ev'ry joy and pain.
To sleep peacefully,
And to rise up strong.
You have been our refuge
You have been our hope.

2. Psalm 90: Marty Goetz

Psalm 8: God’s Handiwork

Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 8 which, in keeping with our first reading from Genesis, describes our Creator God in terms we can humanly understand.

I have always thought of these verses as the “Psalm of the Knitting God” who weaves the cloth of Creation to clothe us:

When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars which you set in place—
What are we that you should be mindful of us ,
    or that you should care for us?

Psalm 8:4

As beautiful as its images are, Psalm 8 contains a challenging verse which some, over time, have interpreted to support human domination of all creation:

You have made humans little less than the angels,
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them rule over the works of your hands,
    putting all things under their feet.

Psalm 8:6-7

Elephant Trophy Hunting

The verse has been manipulated to justify an attitude of supremacy rather than unity and cooperation with nature. That misinterpretation supports such activities as uncontrolled extraction mining, land seizure, trophy hunting and many other forms of natural exploitation.

More recent theology has helped to understand our role in Creation in a humbler, truer light, as stated in the introduction to Laudato Sí:


LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.


To prepare for prayer this morning, I reflected on “The Way of Beauty”, Stations of the Cross composed by Gilbert Choondal, SDB, a Salesian Priest of Don Bosco. He holds a PhD in Catechetics and Youth Ministry from the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome. Presently he is the president of the Indian Catechetical Association.
You may find these prayerful reflections helpful, especially as we approach the season of Lent. (You may have to double-click the picture of the Good Shepherd to make the document come up.)


Poetry: Hovering – Joseph Stroud

(for Tom Marshall)
Tom and I are walking Last Chance Road
down from the mountain where we had been
hunting mushrooms under a stand of coast oaks,
walking down and looking out to the Pacific
shimmering in the late fall sun, the light
on the surface like glittering flakes of mica,
when we see a white-tailed kite hovering
in the air, hovering over a green pasture,
hovering over the day, over the two of us,
our very lives hovering as well, there
on the California coast, in the fall, in the sun,
on our way home, with a sack of chanterelles,
with our love for this world, with so much time,
and so little time—all of it—hovering—
and hovering still.


Music: Take Care of the Planet – a delightful reminder from Australia🤗

Psalm 147: Brokenhearted?

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 7, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147 which invites us to:

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
    sing praise to our God, Who is gracious;
    Whom it is fitting to praise.

It is a psalm for the left-brained who, like Job in our first reading, might need some explanation about just why we should praise when life seems so unpraiseworthy at times!

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
    Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
    a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
    and troubled nights have been allotted to me.

Job 7: 1-4

Job, like many of us when we suffer, feels crushed under life’s burdens. However, an extended reading of the Book of Job reveals that humility and repentance allow Job to “see God”, and to rediscover the richness and flavor of his life.

Calling us to the same kind of awareness, Psalm 147 presents a series of reasons for praising God, including God’s continual attention to the city of Jerusalem, to brokenhearted and injured individuals, to the cosmos, and to nature.

For me, the most moving of these reasons comes in verse 3:

The Lord heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
The Lord tells the number of the stars;
    calling each by name.


This is a beautiful picture of our infinitely compassionate God who is able to recognize our broken-heartedness. 

This loving God, who knows the stars by name, knows us as well. We, like Job, begin to heal within the divine lullaby God patiently sings over our broken hearts.

Jesus is that Healing Song, the Word hummed over the world by the merciful Creator. In today’s Gospel, we see that Melody poured out over the suffering:

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Mark 1: 32-34

As we pray today,

let us hear God’s song of mercy
being sung over all Creation.
Let us rest our own brokenness
there in its compassionate chords.
Let us bring the world’s pain to our prayer.

Poetry: A Cure Of Souls by Denise Levertov

The pastor
of grief and dreams
guides his flock towards
the next field
with all his care.
He has heard
the bell tolling
but the sheep
are hungry and need
the grass, today and
every day. Beautiful
his patience, his long
shadow, the rippling
sound of the flocks moving
along the valley.

Music: God Heals My Broken Heart – Patty Felker

If Job were singing his sadness today, it might sound like this song.

Psalm 23: Ever Comforting

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs

Saturday, February 6, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, that lovingly familiar song which, over the ages, has comforted so many.

Beside Still Waters by Greg Olsen

We may wish to simply pray this psalm gently and slowly, remembering the many times it has comforted us.

(Below is the inclusive language translation from the Inclusive Language Liturgical Psalter of the Canadian Anglican Synod. Other inclusion collections include Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the Psalter for the Christian People, The Saint Helena Psalter and the Canadian publication, Songs for the Holy One.)

Psalm 23 (Dominus regit me)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
You make me lie down in green pastures 
and lead me beside still waters.
You revive my soul 
and guide me along right pathways 
for your name’s sake.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil, 
and my cup is running over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


Music: Shepherd Me, O God – Marty Haugen

Psalm 27: Unchained Psalmody

Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr

February 5, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27, a song of intimate relationship with God. The psalmist is suffused with God’s Presence in the way morning light permeates the shadows.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
    whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
    of whom should I be afraid? 

Psalm 27:1

Because of this deeply abiding Love,  the psalmist fears nothing – not armies, nor any other threat to peace and grace-filled confidence.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
    even then will I trust.

Psalm 27:3

We have little, or maybe big, wars at times, don’t we? Armies of pain, or sadness, struggle or confusion standing at the border of our hearts? In such times, Psalm 27 invites to remember and trust:

For God will hide me in the holy abode
    in the day of trouble;
will conceal me in the shelter of God’s tent,
    will set me high upon a rock.

With the psalmist, we pray with longing – we implore God to show us this comforting, protective love.

Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
    do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.


Poetry: from The Spiritual Canticle – John of the Cross

Oh, then, soul, 
most beautiful among all creatures, 
so anxious to know 
the dwelling place of your Beloved 
so you may go in search of him 
and be united with him, 
now we are telling you that 
you yourself are his dwelling 
and his secret inner room and hiding place. 
There is reason for you to be elated 
and joyful in seeing that all your good and hope 
is so close as to be within you, 
or better, that you cannot be without him. 
Behold, exclaims the Bridegroom, 
the kingdom of God is within you.

Music: Unchained Melody – sung by Susan Boyle

Psalm 27 reminds me of this modern classic which, no doubt, was written about a different kind of love. But listening to the song as a prayer, a holy longing can be unchained in our spirits.

Psalm 103: Praise List

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

February 3, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, an extended exhortation to bless and praise the Lord.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
    and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 103: 1-2

Running through all of Psalm 103, the psalmist creates a list of reasons to bless God.

For me, it was a good morning to create my own list and simply pray with that opening phrase:

I bless you, Lord and thank you…for …

The beauty outside my window was a good place to start.

Where would you start your “praise list” today?


Poetry: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening – Robert Frost
Appreciating God’s beauty and blessings may lead us to act on our prayer, as it seems to for the poet:

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
   
My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.
  
He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.
  
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Music: Winter Snow – Chris Tomlin

Psalm 24: Your Face

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.
– St. Thomas Aquinas


January 28, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 24 which expresses our longing to be in God’s Presence.

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Psalm 24:6

Of course, we know that we are always in God’s Presence. What the prayer really asks for is to recognize that we are in God’s Presence and to feel that accompanying comfort.


Psalm 24 may have been written by David after he acquired the Temple Mount, intending for it to be sung at the dedication of the Temple by his son, Solomon. In verses 7 and 9, David instructs the gates of the Temple to open to receive God’s glory at that time. 

The complete psalm is divided into three parts which:

  1. acknowledge God as Supreme Creator and Lord of All

The earth is the LORD’s and all it holds


2. describe who may come into God’s Presence

Who may go up the mountain of the LORD?
Who can stand in his holy place?
The clean of hand and pure of heart,
who has not given his soul to useless things,
what is vain.


3. implore admission into that Presence

Lift up your heads, O gates;
be lifted, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may enter.


Psalm 24 presents a great pattern for our own prayer:

  • say “Hello” to God in greetings of praise and gratitude
  • talk to God about the disposition of our souls, asking to be transparent before God
  • express our deep desire to be always aware of and attuned to God’s Presence in our lives

With Psalm 24, we are asking God to bring us, every moment, into the joy of the Divine Presence. We are asking to be admitted to God’s “party of unending grace”. As I prayed the psalm, I couldn’t help hearing today’s song in my mind. I think it was received by God as a playful prayer to deepen our friendship, love, and joy.😉 (I think God likes to play sometimes too.)


Poetry: Letter to Lewis Smedes about God’s Presence – Rod Jellema

Dear Lew,
I have to look in cracks and crevices.
Don't tell me how God's mercy
is as wide as the ocean, as deep as the sea.
I already believe it, but that infinite prospect
gets farther away the more we mouth it.
I thank you for lamenting His absences —
from marriages going mad, from the deaths
of your son and mine, from the inescapable
terrors of history: Treblinka. Viet Nam.
September Eleven. It's hard to celebrate
His invisible Presence in the sacrament
while seeing His visible absence from the world.
This must be why mystics and poets record
the slender incursions of splintered light,
echoes, fragments, odd words and phrases
like flashes through darkened hallways.
These stabs remind me that the proud
and portly old church is really only
that cut green slip grafted into a tiny nick
that merciful God Himself slit into the stem
of His chosen Judah. The thin and tenuous
thread we hang by, so astonishing,
is the metaphor I need at the shoreline
of all those immeasurable oceans of love.
(Adapted from an e-mail discussion, summer 2002)

Music: Let Me In – The Sensations

Let me in whee-ooh (whee-ooh, whee-ooh, hoop-whee-ooh)
(Whee-ooh, whee-ooh, hoo-ooh-oop-whee-ooh, whee-ooh)
I can see the dancin’ (let me in)
The silhouettes on the shade
I hear the music (music), all the lovers on parade
Open up (let me in), I want to come in again
I thought you were my friend
Pitter patter of those fee-ee-ee-ee-eet
Movin’ and a-groovin’ with that be-eat
Jumpin’ and stompin on the flo-o-o-o-oor
(Lemme in) Let me in!
(Open up) Open up!
Why don’t you open up that door? (let me in)
I-uh (open up) hear music let me in (music)
I want to come in again
Let me in (let me in),
a-well I heard it just then
I thought you were my friend
Pitter patter of the fee-ee-ee-ee-eet
Movin’ and a-groovin’ with that be-eat
Jumpin’ and stompin on the flo-o-o-o-oor
(Lemme in) Let me in!
(Open up) Open up!
Why don’t you open up that door? (let me in)
I-uh-I-uh-I (open up) hear music, let me in (music)
Oh I heard it just then
Let me in (let me in)
I want to come in again
I thought you were my friend

Psalm 25: Let Your Word Teach Me

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Sunday of the Word of God

January 24, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25, a simple, heartfelt plea to learn God’s ways and to be blessed by that learning.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
    teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my savior.

Psalm 25: 4-5

The psalmist’s prayer is so fitting
for this special Sunday
which is dedicated as the
“Sunday of the Word of God”.

Pope Francis called for this commemoration with his Apostolic Letter “Aperuit illis”. The Latin words come from Luke 24:45, referring to Jesus’s post-Resurrection appearance to his confused disciples.

Then he opened their minds
to understand the scriptures.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

Luke 24: 36-45

The Pope’s letter institutes the annual observance
of the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
as “Sunday of the Word of God”,
devoted to the celebration, study and
dissemination of the Word of God.

Pope Francis wrote this:

A profound bond links sacred Scripture and the faith of believers. Since faith comes from hearing, and what is heard is based on the word of Christ (cf. Rom 10:17), believers are bound to listen attentively to the word of the Lord, both in the celebration of the liturgy and in their personal prayer and reflection.

Aperuit Illis, 7

If you are reading this blog, you already seek an ever deeper, more loving relationship with God through sacred scripture. But with our Infinite God, there is always more.

Let us use today’s Psalm 25 to reflect on and reaffirm that core relationship in our lives. Let’s re-examine the dedicated time we give to scriptural prayer and “lectio divina” to make it more intentional, quiet, and consistent.


For a good explanation of lectio divina, see the Transforming Center’s website:


In the spirit of Psalm 25, we pray to always be held in God’s merciful attention, and to hold God in ours through prayer and desire.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
    and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
    because of your goodness, O LORD.

Psalm 25: 6-7

These are two books that I love, and have mentioned before, to help deepen our scriptural prayer:

Too Deep for Words – Thelma Hall

The Flowing Grace of Now – Macrina Wiederkehr – (Kindle edition on sale now for just $2.99)


Poetry: The Opening of Eyes – David Whyte

That day I saw beneath dark clouds 
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

Music: Word of God Speak – MercyMe