Psalm 27: Lift the Veil

Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 12, 2020

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Psalm 27JPG

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27, a popular psalm used often in the liturgy.

The psalm rocks back and forth between a desperate cry for light and a firm confidence that it will come. No wonder it’s so popular. Isn’t our whole life filled with that rocking?

How many times have we said or heard the plea, “God help me/us!”? I know someone who punctuates almost her entire conversation with similar exclamations. Whenever her own circumstances, or the world in general, disappoints or astounds her, some form of the aspiration arises. Often, it takes a secular form like, “Ay, ay, ay!”, but it is still the same prayer.😀


2bubble

How about you? Have you heard that kind of plea resounding in your own heart lately? The world has been pretty overwhelming recently with disease, death, brutality, anger, and hatred all spilling out like lava from a frightening volcano. And you’ve probably got your own few personal boilers to add!

Unless we’re living in some kind of bubble, it all has to have some impact on our faith, hope and joy.


Psalm 27 is made for these times. It does not fail to acknowledge the weight of circumstances:

Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me…
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off...

Nevertheless, under its pleading, rests a complete and steadfast confidence in God’s favor:

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

The psalmist invites us to share in this honest prayer, for ourselves and for all the anxious world which may carry troubles greater than our own.

(P.S. Be sure to read today’s first reading. Elijah was looking for God’s Face/Voice too. He found it in the most delightful way. Don’t miss it.)


For poetry today, a selection from the powerful poet Denise Levertov

The Tide

Where is the Giver to whom my gratitude
rose? In this emptiness
there seems no Presence.
*
How confidently the desires
of God are spoken of!
Perhaps God wants
something quite different.
Or nothing, nothing at all.
*
Blue smoke from small
peaceable hearths ascending
without resistance in luminous
evening air.
Or eager mornings—waking
as if to a song’s call.
Easily I can conjure
a myriad images
of faith.
Remote. They pass
as I turn a page.
*
Outlying houses, and the train’s rhythm
slows, there’s a signal box,
people are taking their luggage
down from the racks.
Then you wake and discover
you have not left
to begin the journey.
*
Faith’s a tide, it seems, ebbs and flows responsive
to action and inaction.
Remain in stasis, blown sand
stings your face, anemones
shrivel in rock pools no wave renews.
Clean the littered beach, clear
the lines of a forming poem,
the waters flood inward.
Dull stones again fulfill
their glowing destinies, and emptiness
is a cup, and holds
the ocean.

Music: Psalm 27 – Choir of St. John’s College Elora

Psalm 98: Nice Job, Lord!

Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle

June 11, 2020

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psalm 98 strings
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98, one of a small knot of psalms whose point is to shout praise over and over to God. It is a hymn psalm, and one of the ten Royal Psalms themed with “kingship”.

As we pray this exultant psalm, in Latin called “Cantate Domino” (Sing to the Lord), we can almost visualize the psalmist and fellow praisers clapping God on the back and chanting, “Great job! Nice work!”.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.


psalms
Walter Brueggemann has written extensively about the Psalms. He says this about the act of praise:

Praise articulates and embodies our capacity to yield, submit, and abandon ourselves in trust and gratitude to the One whose we are. … We have a resilient hunger to move beyond self. God is addressed not because we have need, but simply because God is God.
(Israel’s Praise: Doxology against Idolatry and Ideology)


We don’t have to be as articulate as the psalmist to weave praise into our prayer. 

Sometimes when we catch the sunrise at a morning window, we might quietly say, “Great job! Thank You, Radiant God”

When we look at the magnificence of a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon, we might abandon words and simply let our breathing be praise.

When we study the finely-aged face of a beloved elder, we might praise the monument of grace God has worked in her/his life.

When we finger the strings of our own faith history, we might, in our own words, echo the psalmist:

I sing You a new song in every moment, Lord
for You have done wondrous deeds;
Your loving hand has strung grace through my life,
your generous heart has blessed me amazingly.


Poetry today from Mary Oliver who rejoices in the redbird’s morning praise:

All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing
― A Thousand Mornings

Music: Cantate Domino – Claudio Monteverdi 

Psalm 16: The Secret

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 10, 2020

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psalm16

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 16.  This Psalm is introduced as “A Michtam of David”. “Michtam” can be interpreted as either “golden” or “secret” by various translators. 

For prayer this morning, I focused on “secret” because, in the psalm, David expresses what he considers the secret to a joyful, holy life even in difficulty.

O LORD, my allotted portion and cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

The last line of this verse immediately brought to mind St. Teresa of Avila’s transcendent advice:

Nada te turbe
nada te espante
Todo se pasa
Dios no we muda.
La paciencia todo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene
nada le falta
Solo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing.
God alone is changeless.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

Repeating this Psalm slowly and intentionally, let us pray for that kind of peace today:

  • for ourselves
  • our beloveds
  • our world, especially those from whom peace has been stolen by injustice, war, greed, and hate.

Music: Psalm 16 – Shane and Shane

There is fullness
Of joy
Of joy
At Your right hand
There are pleasures
Forevermore
Forevermore

My heart is glad and my soul rejoices
My flesh it dwells secure
Because You put on flesh
Lived a blameless life
My curse on the cross You bore

Then You ripped the doors off the City of Death
And the chains fell to the floor
Now the serpent’s crushed
It has been finished
And You reign forevermore

You are my portion
My cup and you make my lot secure
The lines have fallen
For me in pleasant places
A beautiful inheritance

Psalm 121: A Climbing Song

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 8, 2020

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Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 121, another of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent.

(Placing the hymn early today. You might want to play it as you read the psalm.)
Waldorf Davies: Psalm 121 St. John’s College Choir Cambridge

 


climber

Picture the ancient pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem. They carry in their hearts all the joys and burdens of their lives, just like everyone else in the world.

Psalm 121 eyes
What blesses them particularly is that they have turned their eyes toward God as they journey, singing both their griefs and their delights in hope and thanksgiving.


The psalm moves from a plea for help in the beginning: 

I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;
whence shall help come to me?

To, at the close, a triumphant confidence in that help in perpetuity:

The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your coming and your going,
both now and forever.


May we, too, fix our eyes on God,
vigilantly seeking God’s truth
at the core of our experiences.

May our faithful, lifelong dialogue with God
lead us, like the psalmist,
to the same blessed assurance.


Just for a little added joy, here is the glorious hymn Blessed Assurance
– sung by CeCe Winans honoring Cicely Tyson at the Kennedy Center Honors.


Poem: Prayer by David Gioia

(In this poem, we glimpse one particular pilgrim and the prayer he is carrying. The poet addresses God in lovely ways, ( I really loved “Jeweller of the spiderweb”). Finally he prays for protection for a beloved. I think we’ve all prayed that kind of prayer.)

Echo of the clocktower, footstep
in the alleyway, sweep
of the wind sifting the leaves.
Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur
of autumn’s opulence, blade of lightning
harvesting the sky.
Keeper of the small gate, choreographer
of entrances and exits, midnight
whisper traveling the wires.
Seducer, healer, deity or thief,
I will see you soon enough—
in the shadow of the rainfall,
in the brief violet darkening a sunset—
but until then I pray watch over him
as a mountain guards its covert ore
and the harsh falcon its flightless young.

Poems for Psalm 119

I forgot to include some poetry for today’s Psalm.  These are two of mine. I hope they are helpful for your prayer. Thank you for receiving them.


Morning Prayer

rain

I walk the earth, soft
from yesterday’s long rain.
Mists ascend like incense
under my indulgent footsteps.
Bird songs thin themselves
between the early light;
a chanting, contrapuntal, in
the well-laved trees.

Nothing grey is left now
in the wide sky.
Rinsed in light,
it spreads to dry
in sere, blue wind.

Momentarily, earth
is wholly God’s;
deep, true colors fall to it,
rich, unshadowed.
Your Word, Creator,
WaterGod, has penetrated.
It comes back to You in
crystal images
from an uncomplicated world.

As if within a lucent globe
I hold You still,
in perfect, silent love,
clear, inexplicable
like sunlit rain.


 

hands

Reconciliation

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 all held in God’s hands,
healing self-estrangement.

I come to God’s hands
like parched 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.

Psalm 119: Your Awesome Word

Memorial of Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

June 5, 2020

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Psalm 119_word

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119 which is considered a hymn psalm, meant for offering praise for God’s handiwork.

bird

This psalm, the longest in the Bible, is an extended string of delight in God’s beauty, power, and tenderness. It reminds me of a mockingbird’s lovely, tireless song, lilting up into the morning or evening sky.

Though long, the psalm is a very simple yet profound prayer. Seeing its length, we might tend to set it aside for a shorter psalm. Instead, don’t tackle the whole thing. Pick one verse that speaks to you. Sit down beside it. Let it crawl into to your lap like a small child. Cradle it and let your soul hum with it.


I remember, as a young novice, learning to pray this beautiful psalm in Latin. Its innocent clarity echoed my desire simply to deepen in God’s ways. Psalm 119 has been one of my favorites for nearly sixty years now, carrying God’s Word to me in myriad ways.

119


Today in our prayer, we might want to contemplate what single word God is speaking most clearly to us in this moment. The words vary over the course and circumstances of our lives. Let us listen and respond to what we hear today in quiet prayer.

wordcloud

Music: Word of God, Speak – MercyMe

Psalm 25: Through the Maze

Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

June 4, 2020

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Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25.

Psalm 25_9JPG

In today’s liturgy, this Psalm clearly ties together our first and second readings where both Timothy and a scribe seek clearer understanding of what faith requires:

  • Paul reminds Timothy that it takes perseverance and fidelity to live our faith
  • Jesus affirms for the scribe that there is no greater commandment than love

In Psalm 25, we find David working through his own faith challenges. He is asking God to show him the way, presumably out of some trouble or dilemma, one of the many faced by David over his lifetime.

Like Paul, Timothy, and the Gospel scribe, David realizes that the pursuit of justice is a circuitous journey, one that requires the accompaniment of God.


In today’s excerpt, we have only a few verses of Psalm 25, but the entire psalm paints David as feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed. Nevertheless, in his prayer, he draws on his long, trusting relationship with God.

Walter Brueggemann calls Psalm 25 a “psalm of candor”, one in which the psalmist honestly lays out his confusion, need, or pain. Praying the psalm today, we might do the same, asking God’s merciful insight and direction for ourselves, our loved ones, our country or our world.

There is certainly enough need for a lot of candor on our part! I know that I am feeling more than a bit overwhelmed by our current realities. Racial injustice, pandemic, economic hurt, and political confusion have all combined to make these very troubling times. 

  • But like David, we can lay down our fears, needs and concerns before a loving God.
  • Like David, we can trust God’s desire to lead us.
  • Like David, we can remember God’s mercies and be confident they will continue.
  • Like David, we can ask for and follow God’s direction to justice and peace.
degrebber_david-plagen_grt
King David at Prayer by Pieter deGrabber

swords
Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich in the United Nations Art Collection

In our poem today, Rudyard Kipling does much the opposite of what I suggest above. He is deeply angry after WWI has claimed the life of his son John. His poem speaks of “justice” but suggests revenge or retribution. The justice he describes is one that demands the last drop of the opponent’s blood before it is satisfied .

I read the poem to better understand my own feelings.  What fragments of darkness still hide in my longing for light?

Kipling’s poem is available here.


Kipling’s angry passion is completely understandable, rational, and politically powerful. But it is not the justice or “right relationship“ of the Gospel. The pursuit of such Gospel justice is an arduous and winding journey of the heart and soul. It is the trying walk of sacrificial love which Jesus taught us. May we have the courage to walk it for our time. Thus the cry of our Psalm 25:


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.

Music: Psalm 25 – Karl Kolhase

Psalm 123: Song of the Caged Bird

Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs

Charles Lwango
St. Kizito being baptised by St. Charles Lwanga at Munyonyo – stained glass at Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine

Charles Lwanga (1860 – 1886) was a Ugandan convert to the Catholic Church, who was martyred for his faith and is revered as a saint by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.


June 3, 2020

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Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 123. How fitting that this particular prayer should bless us at this time!

Psalm 123 is one of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent (120-134). It is thought that these prayer songs were sung by pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem, expressing the joys, sorrows, needs and sufferings of the community.

Among them Psalm 123 is a lament, particularly for the scorn and contempt the Israelites felt as they tried to live lives of faith in a hostile world. Verses 3 and 4, (not included in today’s passage) plead:

Show us favor, LORD, show us favor,
for we have our fill of contempt.
Our souls are more than sated
with mockery from the insolent,
with contempt from the arrogant.

Praying with Psalm 123, we might think of today’s “pilgrims”, traveling the streets in protest of racial injustice. The integrity of their cause has been polluted by the rioters and looters infiltrating them, drawing contempt even from some who might otherwise have supported them.

Geo_Floyd

Still, people of faith must not be distracted from the truth, nor should we hide from the reality of our own complicity in normalizing unjust systems.  We must hear the lament of all those who long for justice. We must acknowledge that our current structures have grievously failed people of color, the poor and the refugee. We must make the choices that justice and mercy demand of us.


Today’s Responsorial verses may help us. In our hearts and souls, let us stand beside one another as we pray, each of us created to serve God by serving one another:

To you I raise my eyes,
to you enthroned in heaven.
Yes, like the eyes of servants
on the hand of their masters,

Like the eyes of a maid
on the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes are on the LORD our God,
till we are shown favor.


A poem to enrich your reflection:

cage

Caged Bird
A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
~ Maya Angelou


Music: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Ad te levavi oculos meos (Psalm 123)

Ad te levavi oculos meos, qui habitas in caelis.
Ecce sicut oculi servorum in manibus dominorum suorum;
sicut oculi ancillae in  manibus dominae suae:
ita oculi nostri ad Dominum Deum nostrum,
donec misereatur nostri.

Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri,
quia multum repleti sumus despectione;
quia multum repleta est anima nostra
opprobrium abundantibus, et despectio superbis.

Psalm 90: Where the Bees Hum

Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

June 2,2020

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Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90. As we re-enter Ordinary Time, I was so happy to see this beautiful psalm as the first in our new reflective approach!

Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is the only psalm attributed to Moses. Reading it, one can imagine him in his older years, considering his long relationship with God. As the story of his graced life unfolds in prayer, Moses prays too for the community with whom his years have been intwined.

Some of his same sentiments may fill our hearts as we pray for our own communities in the troubled times:

Relent, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Fill us at daybreak with your mercy,
that all our days we may sing for joy.


Sister Beatrice Brennan, RSCJ wrote an article entitled, Praying at 93”.  Sister reminded me of Moses when she wrote:

To live this long is an amazing grace. One of its unexpected joys is how alive one can feel spiritually as the slow dismantling of other human processes goes on.
The Bible speaks of “laughing in the latter day.” Prayer, for me, is like that at times. And always, a song of gratitude and joy.

I think Psalm 90 is that kind of prayer, one marinated in a long fidelity and trust. As Sister Beatrice goes on to say:

At a deeper, quieter level of consciousness runs an undefined awareness of God’s presence, similar, I think, to that union of old married couples who may rarely or never put love into words. It has become their life. So prayer becomes a steady underlying trust bearing me along.


Two poems that I hope will enrich your reflection:

IMG_3944

Now I Become Myself
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before—”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!
~ May Sarton


 

IMG_3948

A Long Faith
This is the way of love, perhaps
near the late summer,
when the fruit is full
and the air is still and warm,
when the passion of lovers
no longer rests against
the easy trigger
of adolescent spring,
but lumbers in the drowsy silence
where the bees hum—
where it is enough
to reach across the grass
and touch each other’s hand.
~ Renee Yann, RSM


Music: Psalm 90 – Marty Goetz

Mary, Mother of the Church

Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

June 1, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.


 

web3-the-annunciation-by-henry-ossawa-tanner
Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

It is a day to honor Mary for giving life to Jesus
for the sake of all humanity.

It is day to beg her intercession
for a world so desperately in need of
Christ’s continued revelation.

door of Mercy

Mary is the Door through which
Heaven visited earth
to heal it from sinful fragmentation.


 

Ave

May Mary continue to carry her beautiful grace
to broken hearts and even
to the twisted souls who broke them. 

Through her, may we all find healing.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, intercede for all Creation
that we may embrace the Love your Son taught us.


Music: Ave Maria – Michael Hoppé