Psalm 119: A Lamp

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priestalso commonly known as Padre Pio.
Padre Pio died during the night of 23 September 1968, at the age of 81. On 16 June 2002, he was proclaimed a saint by Pope John Paul II. In his homily, the Pope said, “The life and mission of Padre Pio prove that difficulties and sorrows, if accepted out of love, are transformed into a privileged way of holiness, which opens onto the horizons of a greater good, known only to the Lord.”

September 23, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we continue praying with Psalm 119 which, with its 176 verses, is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. So this could go on forever, right?

Well, it doesn’t. Even though Psalm 119 is used for the Responsorial a total of 22 times during the total liturgical cycle, we won’t see it again for a week or so.

However, the liturgical frequency of this psalm should alert us to the importance of its teachings. Although long and somewhat complex in its acrostic structure, the psalm is direct and simple in its message:

Learn, love and live God’s ways.


Today’s verses liken such pursuit to finding a lamp in the darkness:

Praying with this refrain, we might be able to recall a time we were enveloped in darkness, either material, emotional, or spiritual. Most of us become at least a little frightened by such conditions. We get disoriented. We don’t know if we will be able to find our way out.

The psalmist attests to similar experiences, and voices a confident call on God for deliverance. That confidence grows from the psalmist’s desire and commitment to walk in holy discernment:

From every evil way I withhold my feet,
that I may keep your words.
Through your precepts I gain discernment;
therefore I hate every false way.
Falsehood I hate and abhor;
your law I love.

In this beautiful verse, the psalmist’s confidence is confirmed by God’s faithful endurance:

The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Your word, O LORD, endures forever;
it is firm as the heavens.


Poetry: One, One, One – Rumi

The lamps are different. 
But the Light is the same. 
So many garish lamps in the dying brain's lamp shop, 
Forget about them. 
Concentrate on essence, concentrate on Light. 
In lucid bliss, calmly smoking off its own holy fire, 
The Light streams toward you from all things, 
All people, all possible permutations of good, evil, thought, passion. 

The lamps are different, 
But the Light is the same. 
One matter, one energy, one Light, one Light-mind, 
Endlessly emanating all things. 
One turning and burning diamond, 
One, one, one. 

Ground yourself, strip yourself down, 
To blind loving silence. 
Stay there, until you see 
You are gazing at the Light 
With its own ageless eyes.

Music: Beati Quorem Via – Charles Villiers Stanford, sung by voces 8
The title of this hymn is the first verse of Psalm 119 in Latin. Translation below.

Blessed are they whose road is straight,
who walk in the law of the Lord.

Beati quorum via integra est:
qui ambulant in lege Domini

Psalm 119: Guide Me, Lord

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 22, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with another of the Torah Psalms, Psalm 119. It is the prayer of one who delights in and lives by the Torah, the sacred law. ( See yesterday’s reflection for some scholarly words on the Torah Psalms.)

In today’s verses, with lovely antiphonal lilt, the psalmist describes the holy person, then asks for the virtues to become one.

  • Blessed are the blameless….. so guide me in your ways.
  • I want to meditate on your deeds …. so make me understand.
  • I want to observe your laws … so give me discernment
  • I delight in your path …. so lead me on it.
  • I will keep your law forever …. if you will just guide me.

I don’t think God can resist a sincere prayer like this. The psalmist is saying, “I want to love you, God, with my whole life. But you, Almighty, must help my weakness.”

Notice the guy on the right 🙂

As we pray today with Psalm 119, we might let a similar prayer rise up in our hearts.

We, too, want to love God well – completely. We, too, need Divine guidance to discern God’s continuing call in the complexities of our lives. We, too, long to deepen in discernment and commitment.


The psalmist gives us good example. Just tell God like it is. Tell God what you really want, what you really need to love as God wishes us to love.

If you hear yourself making requests for power, money, fame, security in any of their selfish forms, you better start all over again!😉

Remember the beginning of the psalm, the foundation of our prayer:

Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.

In the Christian scriptures, that foundation is proclaimed like this:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”


Let’s ask God for  the courage to offer a blameless prayer. The simple prayer of the Gospel centurion comes to mind:

Lord, I do believe. 
Help my unbelief.
Mark 9:24

Poetry: Morning Hymn by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley. They are considered founders of the Methodist religion.

Christ, whose glory fills the skies, 
Christ, the true, the only light, 
Sun of Righteousness, arise, 
Triumph o’er the shades of night:  
Day-spring from on high, be near:  
Day-star, in my heart appear.
  
Dark and cheerless is the morn  
Unaccompanied by thee,  
Joyless is the day’s return,  
Till thy mercy’s beams I see;  
Till thy inward light impart,  
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
  
Visit then this soul of mine,  
Pierce the gloom of sin, and grief,  
Fill me, Radiancy Divine,  
Scatter all my unbelief,  
More and more thyself display,  
Shining to the perfect day.

Music: Help My Unbelief – Audrey Assad

Psalm 19: Declare God’s Glory

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

September 21, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19, one of the unique “Torah Psalms” (1, 19, 119) in which Israel celebrates the divine structure of life in all Creation, including ourselves.

James Luther Mays, in his article The Place of the Torah-Psalms in the Psalter, suggests that these psalms serve as a guide to how all the other psalms are to be read, interpreted and prayed.


Walter Brueggemann describes life without God as “normless” – without the structure of grace and relationship with God that holds all Creation in abundant Life. He refers to the Torah as a “norming” dynamism, and writes:

And when Israel … used the term “Torah” (never meaning simply or simplistically “law”), it refers to the entire legacy of norming that is elastic, dynamic, fluid, and summoning. The outcome of that legacy in the Psalter is the great Torah Psalms in which Israel celebrates, with joy, that the creator God has not left the world as a normless blob but has instilled in the very structure of creation the transformative capacity for enacted fidelity. That is why Psalm 19 juxtaposes the glory of creation that attests the creator (vv. 1–6) with the commandments that are the source of life.


Our verses today for the Feast of St. Matthew include this phrase…

Their message goes out through all the earth.

… perhaps equating the universal ministry of the Apostles to the transformative power and witness of the heavens to God’s immutable glory.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge.
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.


The teaching of the Apostles is codified for Catholics in the Apostles Creed. We might want to pray it slowly today, attentive to those “norming ” beliefs – our sort of fundamental “Torah” – which hold our lives in graceful relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, 
Creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, 
born of the Virgin Mary, 
suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; 
the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, 
and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; 
from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, 
the holy Catholic Church, 
the communion of saints, 
the forgiveness of sins, 
the resurrection of the body 
and life everlasting.
Amen.

Poetry: XIX Caeli Ennarant by Malcolm Guite

In that still place where earth and heaven meet
Under mysterious starlight, raise your head
And gaze up at their glory:  ‘the complete

Consort dancing’ as a poet said
Of his own words. But these are all God’s words;
A shining poem, waiting to be read

Afresh in every heart. Now look towards
The brightening east, and see the splendid sun
Rise and rejoice, the icon of his lord’s

True light. Be joyful with him, watch him run
His course, receive the gift and treasure of his light
Pouring like honeyed gold till day is done

As sweet and strong as all God’s laws, as right
As all his judgements and as clean and pure,
All given for your growth, and your delight!


Music: Wonderland – David Nevis

Psalm 145: Always Mercy

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 20, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145 which, with our Sunday readings, ties together the themes of call and commitment.

In our first reading, Isaiah proclaims a repentant urgency to that call:

Seek the LORD 
while he may be found,
call him 
while he is still near.


In our second reading, Paul confirms his own ultimate commitment to that call and urges his followers to imitate him:

Christ will be magnified in my body,
whether by life or by death….

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel.


But our Gospel reveals that not everyone responds immediately to God’s voice in their lives. Some of us come late to the call of grace. Nevertheless, our generous God seeks us, time and again, and embraces us fully no matter how close to the evening.

The early hires chafe against this system, imagining themselves somehow deprived by the Master’s abundance. Perhaps we heard attitudes like theirs expressed in self-sufficient phrases like:

  • but I’ve worked hard for everything I have
  • you need to earn your way in life
  • it’s not a free ride
  • if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen

Walter Brueggemann writes that the Psalms refute such an attitude:

The counter-world of the Psalms
contradicts our closely held world of self-sufficiency
by mediating to us a world confident in God’s preferential option
for those who call on him in their ultimate dependence.


Psalm 145 lifts us beyond our selfish imaginations. It expresses the grateful praise of one who, swaddled in God’s lavish blessing, recognizes that Divine Justice looks like Mercy not calculation.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.


Poem: by Rumi

By the mercy of God,
Paradise has eight doors.
One of those is the door of repentance, child. 
All the others are sometimes open, 
sometimes shut, 
but the door of repentance is never closed. 
Come seize the opportunity: 
the door is open; 
carry your baggage there at once.

Music: I Will Praise Your Name – Marty Haugen, David Haas

Psalm 56: Light from Dark

Saturday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, September 19, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 56, an unusual mix of lamentation and praise, of light and dark emotions. Many consider the psalm to be a prayer of David in the midst of his problems with Solomon.

Our prayer can be this kind of mix at times. We might feel stressed by the exigencies of life, calling on God to ease our angst and protect us. At the same time, we have a underlying confidence that God is with us, even in difficulty. Such a prayer is not unlike the one Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.


I cherish a verse from Psalm 56 not included in today’s reading. In beautiful simile, the line captures suffering still imbued with trust. I especially like the old translation from the King James Version:

Today’s verses reflect the confidence born of such honest and steadfast prayer. There comes a surety in God’s abiding, a shift from self-centered fear, a welling up of praise for the One who saves us, not only from our troubles, but from our anxious selves.

Now I know that God is with me.
In God, in whose promise I glory,
in God I trust without fear;
what can flesh do against me?


Poetry: Mount of Olives by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

He falls, crying,
“Help me, Father.”
Though his acquiescence rings
true as a well-tuned violin, the searing bow brings
tears of blood
as it plays across the taut strings
of his human dread of dying.

Music: Psalm 56 – by Share Faith

Psalm 17: Apple of God’s Eye

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, September 18, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 17, a confident prayer calling on God’s intervention.

The psalmist tenders a plea:

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer
from lips without deceit.

Psalm 17:1

But before reiterating that plea, the pray-er convinces God that she is worthy of an answer:

You have tested my heart,
searched it in the night.
You have tried me by fire,
but find no malice in me.
My mouth has not transgressed
as others often do.
As your lips have instructed me,
I have kept from the way of the lawless.

Psalm 17: 3-4

It sounds a little boastful but it really isn’t. The one who prays this psalm is very familiar with God and God with her. There are no secrets between them. She knows that she is infinitely loved and protected, not despite her vulnerability but because of it. 

The psalmist, from long experience, is confident asking for help, as we would be asking a friend to turn and listen to us:

I call upon you; answer me, O God.
Turn your ear to me; hear my speech.

Psalm 17: 7

Have you ever been asked for prayers because you are “a good prayer”?
It happens to nuns all the time.

But no prayer is more powerful than another. We say “Of course” to such requests because it is our intention to join our prayer with that of the requester.

Show your wonderful mercy,
you who deliver with your right arm
those who seek refuge from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings

Psalm 17: 8-9

Each of us is God’s “eye-apple”. Each of us, when we give ourselves to a long familiarity with God, will be wrapped in the confidence of one who is always answered.

( In a second posting, I’ll be sending on an extra meditation on The Eye of God by Macrina Wiederkehr – beautifully profound.)


Poetry: As Kingfishers Catch Fire – Gerard Manley Hopkins

by Alcedo Atthis

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells 
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s 
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; 
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; 
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, 
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 

I say móre: the just man justices; 
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces; 
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is — 
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places, 
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his 
To the Father through the features of men’s faces. 


Music:   The Apple of My Eye by Umb-5 and Sam Carter

Sometimes a non-spiritual song captures a spiritual meaning in a beautiful way. Let God sing to you with this lovely song.

Psalm 118:

Thursday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, September 17, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 118 (Confitemini Domino), part of the Hallel. Hallel consists of six Psalms (113–118), which are recited as a unit, on joyous occasions such as Passover.

This joy arises from the core belief
and experiential evidence that
 “God’s Mercy endures forever”.

Give thanks to the LORD, Who is good,
Whose mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“God’s mercy endures forever.”

Psalm 118: 1-2

Looking at the entire psalm, we see the prayer of a person delivered from enemies, one who has taken refuge in the Lord. And the Lord has responded both in protection and abiding relationship.


Our Gospel story of the woman with the alabaster jar reiterates this theme. Surely this woman is beset by enemies, both within and without. Ultimately, grace moves her to take refuge at the feet of Jesus’s Mercy. She does this by breaking through any inhibiting tradition in order to offer Jesus her own intimate act of tenderness. Moved, Jesus reciprocates.

As we seek to be fully embraced in God’s Lavish Mercy, what “ointments”, held too long, must we pour out to God. What illusions do we cling to convincing us we have no need for repentance, forgiveness, transformation?

What little jars of selfishness, pride, or arrogance keep us from fully giving and receiving Mercy?

In my distress, I poured my heart out to the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
The LORD is with me now, I am not afraid;
darkness has no power against me.

Psalm 118: 13-14

Poem: Mended by Annie Villiers

Invisible mending
This is the place where souls come
To be mended                               where
Tatty ends of unfinished business
Or business                              unravelled
Are drawn together and tenderly
Made new.
Nimble stitches
Seen                           only by the weaver
Whose loving                                 fingers
Repair the frangible fabric of lives.


Music: Confitemini Domino – Taize Community

Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus, 
quoniam in sæculum misericordia ejus.

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious,
because his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 33: Convinced!

Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with verses from Psalm 33, the whole of which is the steadfast prayer of a person convinced of God!

As we read through Psalm 33, there is no hem and haw, no grey! It’s about God as the center of the psalmist’s, and the nation’s, life:

Know that the LORD is God;
Who made us, Whose we are;
God’s people, the flock God tends.


Our first reading grows from a similar conviction. Paul tells the Corinthians that our rootedness in God is not about spiritual eloquence, knowledge or holy detachment. He allows that it’s a little bit about faith and hope. But, over all things, it’s about love.


Lesson: We can’t be like the Gospel’s marketplace children. There should be but one song in our hearts – the same one Love sang as Love created each one of us in Her image.

For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.


Poetry: Great Heart of God – (Nicholas) Vachel Lindsay (1879 – 1931), an American poet who is considered a founder of modern singing poetry, as he referred to it, in which verses are meant to be sung or chanted.

O great heart of God, 

Once vague and lost to me, 
Why do I throb with your throb to-night, 
In this land, eternity? 

O little heart of God, 
Sweet intruding stranger, 
You are laughing in my human breast, 
A Christ-child in a manger. 

Heart, dear heart of God, 
Beside you now I kneel, 
Strong heart of faith. O heart not mine, 
Where God has set His seal. 

Wild thundering heart of God 
Out of my doubt I come, 
And my foolish feet with prophets' feet, 
March with the prophets' drum. 

Music: Coulin – James Last – just a lovely instrumental to pray with today. ❤️

Psalm 100: Joy Hides in Sorrow

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 100, the “Jubilate Deo” – “Rejoice in the Lord”. These verses, on the feast of our Sorrowful Mother, might seem a bit contradictory:

Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.

But I think the seeming contradiction reveals a deep truth.

For those who live in God,
no sorrow can eradicate their resolute joy.


La Dolorosa (Lady of Sorrows or Mater Dolorosa) is a work by Cristóbal de Villalpando at the Musep Soumaya in Mexico City.

Certainly, like Mary, the faithful heart feels sorrow for both personal pain and the pain of all Creation. But the pain and sorrow is not the end of their feeling. There is a joyful hope because God abides with us in any suffering, promising that no evil can defeat the one who believes.

Mary believed that with all her heart and lived it. She invites us to the same courageous faith. As Psalm 100 assures us:

Know that the LORD is God;
Who made us, whose we are;
God’s people, the flock God tends.

For the Lord is good, 
whose kindness endures forever,
and whose faithfulness is to all generations.


Poem: Today’s poetic passage is from one of the great classics of Christian literature, A Woman Wrapped in Silence by Father John W. Lynch.

The book is a masterpiece best appreciated in reflective contemplation. I have chosen a sliver of its beauty today, one of many that captures Mary’s joy born of faith-filled suffering. This selection imagines what it was like when Mary remained in the Upper Room as the others, not knowing what to expect, went to the tomb early on Easter morning. The Resurrected Jesus comes to Mary first, before any other appearance.


Or is 
it true or thought of her she found no need
To search? And better said that she had known
Within, they’d not discover him again
Among the dead? That he would not be there
Entombed, and she had known, and only watched
Them now as they were whispering of him,

And let them go, and listened afterward
To footsteps that were fading in the dark.

To wait him here. Alone. Alone. A woman
Lonely in the silence and the trust
Of silence in her heart that did not seek,
Or cry, or search, but only waited him.

We have no word of this sweet certainty
That hides in her. There is not granted line
Writ meager in the scripture that will tell
By even some poor, unavailing tag
Of language what she keeps within the silence.
This is hers. We are not told of this,
This quaking instant, this return, this Light
Beyond the tryst of dawn when she first lifted
Up her eyes, and quiet, unamazed,
Saw He was near.

Music: Jubilate Deo – Mozart

Psalm 103: Be Like God

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, and its gentle comforting refrain:

The Lord is kind and merciful, 
slow to anger, and rich in compassion.


Our Sunday readings encourage to become like this merciful, forgiving, patient, compassionate Lord.

I’m not doing so well at that. Anybody else with me? Sometimes I feel like we’re living in a desert devoid of humanness and reverence.

Somehow, in our current political and cultural environment, too often I feel angry and even outraged. Those kinds of feelings don’t leave much room for compassion and its accompanying virtues!


Recently I witnessed two wonderful friends openly spat on social media because of their opposing political camps. I’ve seen family members shut each other out for the same reasons. We can’t turn on the TV without seeing a barrage of hateful words and actions unleashed against other human beings.

I feel poisoned and sick when I see the culture we have brewed for ourselves!


In our first reading, Sirach seems to have felt pretty sickened by his environment too. He counsels his listeners:

Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?


Paul, in our second reading, tells us why we should change our hateful behavior:

None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.


In our Gospel, Jesus uses a stunning parable to drive home the commandment for forgiveness. I don’t think any of us really wants to end up like the selfish, wicked servant – handed over to the torture of our own hatreds.

This Sunday’s readings are serious. They’re not kidding. We have to change any sinful incivility or hate that resides in our hearts. We may not be able to change our feelings. But we can stop feeding them with lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories.

What we can change are our actions and words. And we must.


Poetry: Love my enemies, enemy my love by Rebecca Seiferle

Oh, we fear our enemy’s mind, the shape
in his thought that resembles the cripple
in our own, for it’s not just his fear
we fear, but his love and his paradise
.
We fear he will deprive us of our peace
of mind, and, fearing this, are thus deprived,
so we must go to war, to be free of this
terror, this unremitting fear, that he might

he might, he might. Oh it’s hard to say
what he might do or feel or think.
Except all that we cannot bear of
feeling or thinking—so his might

must be met with might of armor
and of intent—informed by all the hunker
down within the bunker of ourselves.
How does he love? and eat? and drink?

He must be all strategy or some sick lie.
How can reason unlock such a door,
for we bar it too with friends and lovers,
in waking hours, on ordinary days?

Finding the other so senseless and unknown,
we go to war to feel free of the fear
of our own minds, and so come
to ruin in our hearts of ordinary days.

Music: Kyrie Eleison – Lord, have Mercy

This is an extended, meditative singing of the prayer. I like to listen to it in the very early morning. Just doing that is a good prayer for me.