Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse gives us a powerful encouragement– “Shine”. That’s it – just shine because the Word of God has charged you with Light and Life.
Alleluia, alleluia. Shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life. ( Phil. 2:15-16)
As our verse so clearly indicates, the more we absorb the beauty of the scriptures into our hearts, the more we shine.
And it’s not just about reading the Bible. It’s about sitting down with the Word just like we would with an old and dear friend. It’s listening, not only to what is said, but the immensity that is unsaid or whispered – both by the scriptures and by our own self-examination.
It is taking what our heart hears and letting it change or deepen our lives. It is letting go of so much that doesn’t matter in order to hold on the the Word that does matter.
It is becoming a sanctuary where others see that Word shining and are strengthened.
May we shine with a Holy Light that draws others to God’s Brilliant Love.
Poetry: I found this little poem on the internet, author unknown. I think it works for today’s meditation.
You don’t have to tell how you live each day; You don’t have to tell if you work or play; A tried and true barometer stands in its place— You don’t have to tell, it will shine in your face. … If you live close to God and God’s infinite grace— You won’t have to tell, it will shine in your face.
Music: Walk in the Beautiful Light
I think this video is amazing. The hymn is being sung by a German speaking choir!
(Lyrics below — I especially like those “dewdrops of mercy”)
Walk in the light, beautiful light, come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright. Oh shine all around us by day and by night, Jesus is, Jesus is the light of the world;
Oh we shall walk in the light, beautiful light, come where the dewdrops of mercy shine bright. Oh shine all around us by day and by night, Jesus is, Jesus is the light of the world;
No need to worry, no need to fret, all of my needs, the man named Jesus has met. His love protects me from hurt and from harm, Jesus is, Jesus is the light of the world.
If the gospel be hid, it’s hid from the lost, my Jesus is waiting to look past your faults. Arise and shine, your light has come, Jesus is, I know that He is the only light of this world.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we inch closer to Holy Week, we meet both a very troubled Jeremiah and Jesus.
Jeremiah, the Old Testament mirror of Jesus’s sufferings, bewails the treachery even of his friends:
I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
That’s really raw, because you can get through almost anything in the company of true friends.
Jesus came as a Friend and hoped to find Friends of God by his ministry. And he did find many. But not all.
It takes some work to be a true friend of Jesus. Some didn’t have the courage, or generosity, or passion, or hopeful imagination to reach past their self-protective boundaries – to step into eternal life even as they walked the time-bound earth.
In today’s Gospel this band of resisters project their fears and doubts to the crowds around them. The evil sparks inflame the ready tinder of human selfishness. The mob turns on Jesus, spiritual misers scoffing at the generous challenge to believe.
Jesus pleads with them to realize what they are doing:
If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.
But Jesus and Jeremiah, though troubled, are grounded in God. Our Responsorial Psalm captures what might have been their silent prayer:
Poetry: The following transliteration of Psalm 18, composed by Christine Robinson, might help us to be with Jesus in his moment, and in our own moments of fear, anxiety, or doubt.
I open my heart to you, O God for you are my strength, my fortress, the rock on whom I build my life. I have been lost in my fears and my angers caught up in falseness, fearful, and furious I cried to you in my anguish. You have brought me to an open space. You saved me because you took delight in me. I try to be good, to be just, to be generous to walk in your ways. I fail, but you are my lamp. You make my darkness bright With your help, I continue to scale the walls and break down the barriers that fragment me. I would be whole, and happy, and wise and know your love Always.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet Azariah of Fiery Furnace – a great champion of faith ready to bolster ours in our own uncertain times.
In our reading from the Book of Daniel, Azariah (later Abednego) prays a moving prayer of urgency, repentance, supplication, and trust:
And now we follow you with our whole heart, we hold you in awe and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.
This prayer rang very true for me today, as I prayed for God’s mercy and miracles all over our suffering earth, especially in Ukraine.
And then we move to our Gospel, which brings before us the always thorny issue of forgiveness. Forgiveness is easy when it is something we seek for ourselves. Yes, we may have done something wrong. But we see the issue from inside our own heart. We know we didn’t mean it, made a mistake, or didn’t fully understand the harm we caused. We know we deserve forgiveness.
But what about the other guys — the ones who hurt us or someone we love? They meant it, didn’t they!!!! Their treachery was no mistake. They understood all along the harm they would cause! How could we ever forgive them?
Isn’t that the way the tapes sometimes run in our heads when we are hurt by another, or when we witness such hurt?
In our Gospel, Jesus offers us the character of the forgiving master who represents our Creator. The parable teaches that God accepts and heals our weakness – God forgives. But once forgiven, we are called to be like God – forgiving others and desiring their healing.
Does this mean we ignore or forget the pain forced on others or ourselves? I don’t think so. It means that we use it as a catalyst to remember how in need of grace we and all our sisters and brothers are as we learn to live in love.
Poetry: As we pray with such awareness, how appropriate today’s psalm-poem is:
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. Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your kindness are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD; thus showing sinners the way. God guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble God’s way.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah continues his advice begun in yesterday’s reading. When he finishes the list of things we should and should not do, Isaiah tells us how God will respond:
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. God will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up ~
Isaiah 58: 8-12
Oh, who can resist these glorious Isaiahan lines. It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? To imagine it offers us great encouragement as we limp out of winter toward a spring horizon.
Each of our readings today carries a sense of shaking off old and lifeless ways to stretch toward a new promise.
The psalmist asks for God’s help in that stretching.
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.
As I thought about “stretching” in prayer this morning, an image came to me of an experience some of you might share. After my knee replacement, I had to learn to streeeeetch my old ligaments around the new implant. It wasn’t exactly “hell” to do so, but it was at least the edge of purgatory! My perseverance paid off though when I began to walk freely and painlessly.
Stretching into the depths of God also takes a full measure of willpower and HOPE. We can hear these pleas in the rest of Psalm 86:
Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me, for I am afflicted and poor. Keep my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for to you I call all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
They say that rehabbing from knee replacement surgery is a lot easier if you have exercised and kept in fair shape beforehand. In our Gospel, dear Matthew does a total , full-hearted stretch — one that he must have been preparing for all his life. Otherwise, how could he have been so immediately responsive to Christ’s unexpected invitation?
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Visualizing this scene, we can almost see Matthew not only get up — but his spirit actually jump up at the amazing invitation of God!
Lent is a time for us to do some jumping into grace — so many invitations come to us in this season’s beautiful scriptures and rituals. So many inspirations to grow come to us in our changing seasons! Let’s not be so distracted by our daily un-importances that we miss the call to streeeetch!
Poetry: St. Matthew by John Keble – this is a section of the poem which reflects on today’s Gospel passage.Matthew is the “meek publican” of the second stanza below. Amid all the clamor of the world around him, Keble’s Matthew has a clear eye and heart for Christ. John Keble, (1792 – 1866) was an English churchman and poet, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Keble College, Oxford, was named after him.
There are in this loud stunning tide Of human care and crime, With whom the melodies abide Of th' everlasting chime; Who carry music in their heart Through dusky lane and wrangling mart, Plying their daily task with busier feet, Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.
How sweet to them, in such brief rest As thronging cares afford, In thought to wander, fancy-blest, To where their gracious Lord, In vain, to win proud Pharisees, Spake, and was heard by fell disease- But not in vain, beside yon breezy lake, Bade the meek Publican his gainful seat forsake:
At once he rose, and left his gold; His treasure and his heart Transferred, where he shall safe behold Earth and her idols part; While he beside his endless store Shall sit, and floods unceasing pour Of Christ's true riches o'er all time and space, First angel of His Church, first steward of His Grace.
Nor can ye not delight to think Where He vouchsafed to eat, How the Most Holy did not shrink From touch of sinner's meat; What worldly hearts and hearts impure Went with Him through the rich man's door, That we might learn of Him lost souls to love, And view His least and worst with hope to meet above.
These gracious lines shed Gospel light On Mammon's gloomiest cells, As on some city's cheerless night The tide of sunrise swells, Till tower, and dome, and bridge-way proud Are mantled with a golden cloud, And to wise hearts this certain hope us given; “No mist that man may raise, shall hide the eye of Heaven.”
And oh! if e'en on Babel shine Such gleams of Paradise, Should not their peace be peace divine, Who day by day arise To look on clearer heavens, and scan The work of God untouch'd by man? Shame on us, who about us Babel bear, And live in Paradise, as if God was not there!
Music: Stretch Out – Gospel/Soul song by the Institutional Radio Choir
The Institutional Radio Choir was a gospel choir that recorded between 1962-2003. The choir began in 1954 at the Institutional COGIC in Brooklyn, NY, under Bishop Carl E Williams Sr. After recording an album entitled: “Well Done,” the choir backed up Shirley Caesar on her two albums, I’ll Go and My Testimony. Caesar allotted the choir’s director two songs on the album, one of which was entitled (When Trouble Comes) Stretch Out. The song went on to become a gospel standard, especially in Pentecostal circles. The choir went on to record over 20 albums, most of which charted in the Top 10 on the Gospel Billboard charts.
When troubles come and storms begin to rise Hold on and learn to stretch out Oh keep on fasting, keep on praying Hold on and learn to stretch out
When Satan get on your track And tries to turn me back I won’t worry, i won’t fret. i just stretch out Stretch out, oh stretch out
When days are dark and cloudy are my skies I hold on and learn to stretch out Oh keep on fasting, keep on believing Hold on and learn to stretch out
Cause the race isn’t given to the swift Neither is it given to the strong But to him that endureth to the end Stretch out, oh stretch out
When troubles come and storms begin to rise Hold on and learn to stretch out Oh keep on fasting keep on believing Hold on and learn to stretch out
Cause the race isn’t given to the swift Neither is it given to the strong But to him that endureth to the end Stretch out, oh stretch out
When i am lost, when i am sad Jesus is there, he’ll make me glad The Lord won’t deceive you The Lord he won’t leave you
Stretch out Stretch out Stretch out on his word
Stretch out Stretch out Stretch out Oh, stretch out
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings call us to consider and to cherish our relationship with our merciful God.
In our first reading, God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David with the enormity of his sin. With the parable of the ravaged little lamb, Nathan captures all the horrific implications of David’s blind selfishness.
David listens and agrees with the condemnation, still blind that the story is about him! Nathan then unleashes the zinger, “You are the man!”
But here is the key point of the passage. When David realizes his culpability, he does not retreat into his shame (as, for example, Judas does many years hence.) David acknowledges his fault and asks to be restored to relationship with the God Who has loved him so much.
David focuses on God not himself. He does not wallow in self-recrimination or excuses. David looks to God’s Mercy not into the mirror of self-justification:
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan answered David: “For his part, the LORD has removed your sin. You shall not die…
2 Samuel 12:13
It all transpires in this one verse. That simple, definitive change wrought by divine forgiveness constitutes the structure of Psalm 51 as well as the 2 Samuel narrative. It is the same structure in Christian liturgy as well. In psalm, narrative, and liturgy, it is a move from failure to restoration, a move from confession to assurance, even if the assurance is only implied in Psalm 51. The exchange is between human failure and divine assurance, made possible by human honesty and a divine readiness to begin again in mercy, steadfast love, and compassion.
Walter Brueggemann - From Whom No Secrets Are Hid
For prayer today, a deep reflection on Psalm 51 may bring us light and healing, for our own spirits and for the spirit of the world we share.
Poetry: Psalm 51 – A New Heart – Christine Robinson
Have mercy on me, O God,
For I’ve messed up again
Sinned against You in thought, word and deed,
and in what I have left undone.
Been--all too human.
Can you make me a new heart, O God?
and a right spirit? Can you break my willful plundering
of all that is Yours?
If I got it together again, others would follow—
I could teach, guide, help—and I would!
O Lord, open my lips,
that I may praise you.
I know you don’t want ritual sacrifice
were I to give a burnt offering you’d be exasperated.
What you want is that new heart and right spirit.
For this, I pray.
Music: Miserere Mei (Have Mercy on Me, O God) – Gregorio Allegri
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings place us at watershed moments in the lives of David and Jesus.
All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.’” When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD, and they anointed him king of Israel.
2 Samuel 5:1-4
In 2 Samuel 5, David fully assumes the kingship through the approbation of the community. The scene marks the culmination of his rise to power and “the beginning of the rest of his life”.
Through our readings in Samuel until now, we have ascended with David to the pinnacle of his life. We are about to begin weeks of moving down “the other side of the mountain”.
Scholars generally see the David narrative in two primary units, the Rise of David (I Sam. 16:1—II Sam. 5:10) and the Succession Narrative (II Sam. 9:1—20:26; I Kings 1:1—2:46). Chapters 5:11—8:18, fall between two larger units. Whereas the first presents David in his ascendancy, the second presents David in his demise and expresses pathos and ambiguity. Our chapters thus come after the raw vitality of the rise of David and before the terrible pathos of the succession narrative. They show the painful process whereby this beloved chieftain is transformed into a hardened monarch, who now has more power than popular affection.
Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel
In our Gospel, Jesus also comes to a sort of “continental divide”. But rather than community approbation, Jesus encounters the condemnation of the scribes who have come from Jerusalem to assess him.
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”
From this moment in his life, Jesus too launches into his “kingship”, one that looks very different from David’s. The ensuing chapters of Samuel will reveal how David struggles and succumbs to the temptations of power and domination. The Gospels, on the other hand, describe Jesus’s “kingdom” as one of humility, mercy, and love for those who are poor and suffering.
Only through faith can we understand the inverse power of God present in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in our own lives. Jesus, the “new David”, is anointed in the Spirit to reveal and incorporate us into the kingdom of God.
Prose: from Immanuel Jakobovits who was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1967 to 1991.
To those without faith there are no answers. To those with faith, there are no questions.
Music: King David, music by Herbert Howells, sung by Sarah Connolly from a poem by Walter de la Mare
King David – Walter de la Mare
King David was a sorrowful man: No cause for his sorrow had he; And he called for the music of a hundred harps, To ease his melancholy.
They played till they all fell silent: Played-and play sweet did they; But the sorrow that haunted the heart of King David They could not charm away.
He rose; and in his garden Walked by the moon alone, A nightingale hidden in a cypress-tree Jargoned on and on.
King David lifted his sad eyes Into the dark-boughed tree- ''Tell me, thou little bird that singest, Who taught my grief to thee?'
But the bird in no wise heeded And the king in the cool of the moon Hearkened to the nightingale's sorrowfulness, Till all his own was gone.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, three themes suggest themselves for our prayerful consideration. At various points in our spiritual lives we are called to:
Release what binds us Reorient to what is good Recommit to hope and promise
Our first reading begins the narrative of David, key figure of the Hebrew Scriptures and the archetype king who prefigured the Messiah.
Release We read about Samuel’s commission to find a new kingly candidate and to anoint him. This is a big deal for Samuel, who first has to release his dream for Saul in whom he had misplaced his hope:
The LORD said to Samuel: “How long will you grieve for Saul,whom I have rejected as king of Israel?
Reorient God, Who already has a plan, encourages Samuel to pursue a new path:
Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.
Recommit In a memorable series of attempts, Samuel tries to figure out who it is that God has set the kingly choice upon. After seven “not him”s, David appears – the unlikeliest of all the sons:
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David. When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.
Throughout this entire process, God is at the wheel. Samuel’s job — and Jesse’s, and David’s, and the unchosen brothers— is to listen, hear, and respond even to the unlikely and improbable.
The lesson, perhaps, for us: God is at the wheel in our lives too. Of course, we will have failures. Often, we will miss the “holy point”. But God is always with us, reiterating faith’s promise and inspiring a new path to its fulfillment.
Poetry: Let God – Meister Eckhart
Let God work in you, give the work to God, and have peace. Don’t worry if God works through your nature or above your nature, because both are God’s, nature and grace.
Ordinary Time 2022: The extraordinary reality is that we have been given the gift of life! Each day we are given a new portion of grace to deepen in God! Let us focus our reflections on the “hidden extraordinary” – a word, thought, or challenge in each day’s readings that we might otherwise have taken for granted. May God give us the graceful appreciation to unwrap these gifts!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we awaken to extraordinary gifts revealed in three words from our readings:
Downcast – Amazed – Exultant
In our first reading, Hannah’s story continues to unfold. And we feel for her, don’t we? The woman is desperate to bear life! Not only does she long for her own sweet child; she longs as well for restored standing in her neighborhood and family as one who is fertile not barren. This meant everything in Hannah’s community as fertility defined a woman’s importance.
Have you ever prayed like Hannah prays in this chapter? Has any need in your life ever so demanded God’s mercy? These are times that ask for our complete vulnerability before God’s Omnipotence.
In her bitterness she prayed to the LORD, weeping copiously, and she made a vow, promising: “O LORD of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child, I will give him to the LORD for as long as he lives…
1 Samuel 1: 10-11
Eli witnesses Hannah’s vulnerable prayer. He blesses her and hope cracks through her gloom: She replied, “Think kindly of your maidservant,” and left. She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and no longer appeared downcast.
1 Samuel 1:18
In the Gospel reading, Jesus is still very early in his ministry. He has come to the synagogue to teach and people are “astonished” to hear the depth of his authority. But their astonishment grows even more when Jesus successfully commands the unclean spirit to leave the tortured man. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
Can we let ourselves be constantly amazed at God’s Presence, Power, and Mercy in all Creation?
Extraordinary Holy Amazement!
Once again, our Responsorial Psalm offes a way to pray when our downcast desperation meets God’s amazing, transforming grace. It is the “Magnificat” of Hannah:
And Hannah prayed:
“My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted by my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in your victory. There is no Holy One like the LORD; there is no Rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2: 1-2
1 Samual 2: 1-2
Poetry: Bare Tree – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Already I have shed the leaves of youth, stripped by the wind of time down to the truth of winter branches. Linear and alone I stand, a lens for lives beyond my own, a frame through which another's fire may glow, a harp on which another's passion, blow. The pattern of my boughs, an open chart spread on the sky, to others may impart its leafless mysteries that I once prized, before bare roots and branches equalized, tendrils that tap the rain or twigs the sun are all the same, shadow and substance one. Now that my vulnerable leaves are cast aside, there's nothing left to shield, nothing to hide. Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone, so fragile and so fearless have I grown!
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the beautiful, humble Psalm 25. Pastor Christine Robinson interprets the prayer in this way:
I put my trust in you, O God, as best as I am able. May I be strong. May I not be afraid May all who open their hearts hear your voice and know your love. Lead me, teach me, help me to trust.
You are gracious to us, O God You guide us, you forgive our clumsy ways You help us prosper.
When I am sad and anxious I school my heart to trust I act with integrity and uprightness And hope to feel your touch in my heart. May it be so for all the peoples of the earth Who call you by many names.
Psalms for the New World – Christine Robinson
The psalm anchors our other readings today to suggest a theme of searching for Light in the darkness. Certainly, this was the quest of St. Lucy whose memorial we also mark today.
Lucy is the patroness of the blind. She was a brave young woman, martyred during the persecutions. Her name meaning “Light”, she has been venerated for millennia as one who can bring clarity and insight to places of darkness.
In our first reading, we hear the first messianic prophecy of the Bible. It is offered by a source perhaps unfamiliar to us — a teller of the future, Balaam.
Balaam is a diviner in the Torah (Pentateuch) whose story begins in Chapter 22 of the Book of Numbers. Every ancient reference to Balaam considers him a non-Israelite, a prophet, and the son of Beor.King Balak of Moab offered him money to curse Israel (Numbers 22–24), but Balaam blessed the Israelites instead as dictated by God. Nevertheless, he is reviled as a "wicked man" in both the Torah and the New Testament. (Wikipedia)
That story is the one we read today, and it contains a beautiful prophecy to be fulfilled fifteen hundred years after its utterance:
The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor,
the utterance of the man whose eye is true,
The utterance of one who hears what God says,
and knows what the Most High knows,
Of one who sees what the Almighty sees,
enraptured, and with eyes unveiled.
I see him, though not now;
I behold him, though not near:
A star shall advance from Jacob,
and a staff shall rise from Israel.
Sometimes we just need to be pointed toward that star, don’t we? We kind of “see God – but not now; behold God — but not near”. It’s not always easy to believe, to trust.
We all have painful situations, unanswered hopes, lingering fears. Let us bring them out of the shadows today with the help of St. Lucy and our Brilliant God who made the stars to give us hope.
As the year moves closer to its time of deepest darkness, may we know God’s brightness in our hearts. May we sense God lighting, once again, the dark places in our lives and in our world — leading us to a “Christmas Resurrection”.
Prose: from The Seaboard Parish by George Macdonald
The world ... is full of resurrections... Every night that folds us up in darkness is a death; and those of you that have been out early, and have seen the first of dawn, will know it - the day rises out of the night like a being that has burst its tomb and escaped into life.