Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, June 18, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, the familiar hymn of confidence, gratitude, and hope.

You, Lord, are 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 forever.

Praying this psalm, we are enfolded into the arms of a loving God.

This beautiful image, which is beloved to us even in our highly urbanized society, certainly held even greater meaning to the early Christians. They understood, from experience, the utter self-donation of a shepherd to his flock. The shepherd needs the sheep in order to live, just as they need the shepherd. Their lives were critically interdependent.

In a sense, the shepherd became one with the sheep. From sunrise to sunset, and even through the night, he led them to food, water, and rest. He protected them as they slept, by laying his own body across the sheep gate.


In our own time, a more familiar image might be that of a horse-whisperer, someone who through natural sensitivity and studious training, is able to understand and communicate with animals. Rather than “breaking” a horse, as seen in old westerns, the horse-whisperer leads them to trust by listening and responding to them through body-language.


As we pray with the image of the Good Shepherd today, we might imagine Jesus as our “Soul-Whisperer”. Jesus stands beside us in the vast, open loneliness of life, which sometimes tries to “break” us. But we are never alone. He is listening. As he opens our life before us, let us trust and follow him. He has made our welfare his own by becoming one of us.


Poetry: I Am the Door of the Sheepfold – Malcolm Guite

Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung,
Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place,
Not like the well-oiled openings that swung
So easily for Pilate’s practiced pace,

Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face
From house to house in brimming Bethlehem,
Not like the one that no man may assail,
The dreadful curtain, The forbidding veil
That waits your breaking in Jerusalem.

Not one you made but one you have become:
Load-bearing, balancing, a weighted beam
To bridge the gap, to bring us within reach
Of your high pasture. Calling us by name,
You lay your body down across the breach,
Yourself the door that opens into home.

Music: The Lonely Shepherd – Leo Rojas

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 17, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 136 in which the psalmist remembers in detail Israel’s long experience of God’s enduring fidelity.

The cadence of the psalm creates an underlying drumbeat to our prayer, a chant of gratitude and confidence. Reading it, I was reminded of two things.

The first is a scene from the movie “Glory” where the troops pray the night before battle. They pray in the classic style of the Black spiritual call-and-response song.

You may have seen it:

The prayer of these men, like the prayer of ancient Israel, is not just a walk down memory lane. No. Each proclamation is an act of of faith – and of gratitude for the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future.


Secondly, I was reminded of the simple and methodical cadence of a childhood ditty – S/he loves me S/he loves me not. Didn’t many of us try that magic practice at least once, maybe at our first young crush?

Well, God does love us – daisy or not. The proof is not in the petals, but in the story of our lives.

Today might be a good day
to “chant” gratefully
through our own catalogue with God
– remembering, thanking,
believing,and hoping.


Poetry: I thank you, God – e.e.cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Music: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – Etta James sings a classical example of the call-and-response spiritual

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home,

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see

Coming for to carry me home?

A band of angels coming after me,

Coming for to carry me home.

Sometimes I’m up, and sometimes I’m down,

(Coming for to carry me home)

But still my soul feels heavenly bound.

(Coming for to carry me home)

The brightest day that I can say,

(Coming for to carry me home)

When Jesus washed my sins away.

(Coming for to carry me home)

If I get there before you do,

(Coming for to carry me home)

I’ll cut a hole and pull you through.

(Coming for to carry me home)

If you get there before I do,

(Coming for to carry me home)

Tell all my friends I’m coming too.

(Coming for to carry me home)

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home,

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 116, a lyrical interweaving of thanksgiving and praise.

I love this beautiful psalm which expresses the heart’s overwhelming gratitude for the whole mystery of one’s life.

How shall I make a return to the LORD
    for all the good God has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
    and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:12-13

The gratitude is so profound
that we must call on the Holy Spirit
to understand our awed silence
and to pray within us.


This prayer always comes to my mind when one of our Sisters dies. The witness of her life, remembered in our funeral rituals, always stirs me to deeper faith and gratitude.

Precious in your eyes, O LORD
    is the death of your faithful one,
your servant, who has freely
    and lovingly served you.
To you she has offered the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    and called upon your name, O LORD.
Her vows to the LORD she has paid
    in the presence of all your people.

Psalm 116: 15-18

It is with perfect timing that this sacred psalm comes up in Friday’s liturgy. At the Motherhouse in Plainfield,NJ, a wonderful Sister of Mercy is laid to rest today – Sister Diane Szubrowski. Her vows to the Lord she has paid – with faith and mercy. May she rest in Glory!


Poetry: Grateful – Thomas Merton

To be grateful
is to recognize
the love of God
in everything.

Music: My Vows to the Lord – John Michael Talbot (lyrics below

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

In the presence of all His people

For precious in the eyes of the Lord

Is the sacrifice of love

Is the sacrifice of love

How shall I make a return

For all the good He has done for me

The cup of salvation I will take up

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

Your servant am I

Your handmaid’s son

Consecrated to the Lord

I will offer a sacrifice

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

How shall I make a return

For all the good He has done for me

The cup of salvation I will take up

I will call on the name of the Lord

I will call on the name of the Lord

My vows to the Lord

I will fulfill

In the sacrifice of love

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105 which depicts a “Remembering God” who calls us to respond as a “Remembering People”.

“Forever” is a word whose true meaning can be found only in an Eternal God. In Exodus, and in our Psalm 105, we see God inviting us to that fullness.

Our first reading recounts the Abrahamic covenant renewed with Moses. God, flaming out of a bush, tells Moses that God sticks by agreements.

God spoke further to Moses,
“Thus shall you say to the children of Israel:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.
    “This is my name forever;
        this my title for all generations.

Exodus 3:15

(I don’t know about you, but I’ve flashbacking all week to to Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic, The Ten Commandments.)


Our psalm reinforces the Exodus commitment:

God remembers forever the covenant 
    made binding for a thousand generations
    entered into with Abraham
    and by the oath to Isaac.

Psalm 105: 8-9

Our brief but beautiful Gospel shows us what God’s promise looks like in the tender person of Jesus:

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew 11: 28-30

Throughout the ages,
God’s reiterated fidelity
calls us to obedience – that “heart-listening”
which hears the invitation to Love.

Poetry: Everything That Was Broken – Mary Oliver

Everything that was broken has
forgotten its brokenness. I live
now in a sky-house, through every
window the sun. Also your presence.
Our touching, our stories. Earthy
and holy both. How can this be, but
it is. Every day has something in
it whose name is Forever.

Music; Forever – Edelis

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 103, always a source of sweet reflection on God’s mercy.

From today’s verses, this line rings out:

All my being, bless God’s holy name.

Psalm 103:1

It’s a call to make our lives a total prayer – every moment lived in and with the Presence of God.

The truth is that this is already our reality. God is present to our every moment because it is God’s Life which breathes within us. 

The psalm’s call is really to our awareness – the mandate fully to realize that God is living God’s life through us.


The psalm tells us to remember that, in order to so live in us, God is continually merciful. And so God:

  • pardons all our iniquities
  • heals all your ills
  • redeems our life from destruction
  • and ultimately crowns us with kindness and compassion.

In other words, when we are open to Grace, God makes the best even of our mistakes – always allowing us repent, change, and deepen in love and mercy.

God redeems our life from every darkness
and crowns us with mercy and compassion,
God fills our days with light,
renews our young enthusiasm with the eagle’s strength.

Psalm 103:3-5

Poetry: The Presence of Love – Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

And in Life's noisiest hour,
There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,
The heart's Self-solace and soliloquy.
You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within;
And to the leading Love-throb in the Heart
Thro' all my Being, thro' my pulse's beat;
You lie in all my many Thoughts, like Light,
Like the fair light of Dawn, or summer Eve
On rippling Stream, or cloud-reflecting Lake.
And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you,
How oft! I bless the Lot that made me love you.

Music: With Me Now – Hillary Stagg

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, July 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 124 which is a raw remembering of how bad things could have been without God’s help.

The psalm opens with these lines:

Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say,
Had not the LORD been with us,
when all rose against us,
Then we would have been swallowed alive,
for fury blazed against us.

Psalm 124: 1-3

Have you been there? What flares up to swallow your life, your hope, can wear many disguises: 

 

or the many forms of hunger and dying.


The psalm calls us to remember these things for two reasons:

  1. so that we don’t get caught again
  2. and that if – sadly – we do, we remember who freed us

We were rescued like a bird 
    from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare, 
    and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124: 7-8

The release from such snares
does not return us to the way things were.
There will be
wounds and wisdom
to change us.
It depends on us which we choose to cherish.

“Re-membering” ourselves, pulling our new selves together in God, releases us to fuller, deeper life.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

… so surely that Omnipotent God can heal and remake us.

Remember, this and a few other of my images have been set beautifully into cards by Sister Judy Ward, RSM.
You can contact her at

Poetry: The Fowler by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1868-1962)

A wild bird filled the morning air 
With dewy-hearted song; 
I took it in a golden snare 
Of meshes close and strong. 
But where is now the song I heard? 
For all my cunning art, 
I who would house a singing bird 
Have caged a broken heart.

Music: Peter Kater – Wings

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, July 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 37 which is widely interpreted as:

“a response to the problem of evil,
which the Old Testament often expresses as a question:
why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer?”

Wikipedia

It’s a question all of us struggle with, isn’t it?
And wouldn’t we manage things a lot differently
if we were in charge of the world?


Psalm 37 opens with this advice to help us deal with our consternation:

Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.

Like grass they wither quickly;
like green plants they wilt away.

Psalm 37: 1-2

The psalmist continues to demonstrate that even though evil doers seem to prosper, their prosperity is short-lived. Only goodness endures and ultimately thrives.

Psalm 37 sounds very much like a parent teaching a child not to be distressed by the apparent success of the selfish and scheming. God is not fooled by evildoers so neither should we be.

The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;

But my Lord laughs at them,
seeing that their day is coming.

Psalm 37: 12-13

The advice is easily spoken but perhaps not so easily practiced. So the psalmist offers some tips on how to live a spiritually fruitful life:

  • Trust in the LORD and do good.
  • Find your delight in the LORD.
  • Commit your way to the Lord.
  • Be still before the LORD.
  • Refrain from anger; abandon wrath;
  • Do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
  • Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more.
  • Turn from evil and do good,
    that you may be settled forever.
  • Wait eagerly for the LORD,
    and keep the Lord’s way;

The psalm indicates the result of such goodness, conditions that sound very much like the Beatitudes:

  • You will be raised up to inherit the earth.
  • Yes, the poor will inherit the earth,
    will delight in great prosperity.
  • Better the meagerness of the righteous one
    than the plenty of the wicked.
  • The LORD will sustain the righteous.
  • The LORD knows the days of the blameless;
    their heritage lasts forever.
  • They will not be ashamed when times are bad;
    in days of famine they will be satisfied.
  • For those blessed by the Lord will inherit the earth,
    but those accursed will be cut off.

It’s hard to live a life like the one this psalm invites us to. (At least, I think it is!) It’s hard to have that much faith, especially when evil is smacking us right in the face. The psalmist acknowledges this difficulty but does so with a beautiful assurance:

The valiant one whose steps are guided by the LORD,
who will delight in God’s way,
may stumble, but will never fall,
for the Lord holds their hand.


Poetry: Give Me Your Hand – Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us as we are made, 
then walks with us silently out of the night. 
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: 
beauty and horror. 
Just keep going. 
No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life. 
You will know it by its seriousness. 
Give me your hand.

Music: Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand – Alfred Street Baptist Church

Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105, one of the psalms which Walter Brueggemann characterizes as “lively remembering”.

These are psalms which gratefully inventory God’s generosity and faithfulness to Israel. The long list evokes holy surprise, gratitude, trust, and commitment in the believer’s heart.


Today’s verses pertain particularly to the wonderful story of Joseph cited in our first reading. But the entire psalm remembers a Divine Generosity covering generations.

Recall the wondrous deeds God has done,
wonders and words of judgment,

You descendants of Abraham God’s servant,
offspring of Jacob the chosen one!

Psalm 105: 5-6

Reading Psalm 105 always makes me remember a little blond kid from my long ago teaching days. 

We regularly gathered our school community for a “Children’s Mass”, either on Sunday or some special occasion. Bobby, a very good reader for a third grader, had volunteered to deliver the Responsorial Psalm. 

And he delivered, loud and clear:

Remember the “marbles”
the Lord has done.

Four times, the school body of 500+ children obediently responded in kind, apparently visualizing the same “marbles” as Bobby did.


Did God care? No, I think God enjoyed it as much as we teachers did. 

And as I remember the moment this morning, I can’t help considering how innocently garbled my own prayer must seem to God. Because honestly, how can we even imagine God, let alone find the words to speak the mysteries of our soul!

Glory in his holy name;
let hearts that seek the LORD rejoice!

Seek out the LORD’s might;
constantly seek God’s face.

Psalm 105: 3-4

So, praying our psalm today, we might want to hold up silently before God, who created the vastness of universe, all the tiny “marbles” in our hearts – those brilliant but impenetrable mysteries of love, hope, suffering, and joy which roll around in the deep universe of our lives.

Like the psalmist, we can unroll an inventory of God’s faithfulness to us which allows us to imagine a future full of hope – for ourselves and the generations to follow us.


Poetry: Ode to Marbles BY MAX MENDELSOHN

I love the sound of marbles   
scattered on the worn wooden floor,   
like children running away 
in a game of hide-and-seek.   
I love the sight of white marbles,   
blue marbles,   
green marbles, black,   
new marbles, old marbles,   
iridescent marbles,   
with glass-ribboned swirls,   
dancing round and round.   
I love the feel of marbles,   
cool, smooth,   
rolling freely in my palm,   
like smooth-sided stars   
that light up the worn world.

Music: Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers
– synchronized with MARBLES!
By DoodleChaos

Allow this video to open up your amazement. Invite into that amazement your gratitude for God’s astounding goodness to you. Perhaps like prayerfully walking a labyrinth, you can roll with the marbles through your faith journey.

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 in which the psalmist is clearly awestruck by both the power and the mercy of God. It is a prayer of radical awareness that God is Creator and we are creature.

According to Walter Brueggemann,
Psalm 33 describes Yahweh
as the settled sovereign, securely in control,
who need only speak
to have the command fulfilled.

The psalm has two divisions. In part one, the community is called to praise God because God deserves it.

Rejoice, you righteous, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.

Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise.

Sing to God a new song;
skillfully play with joyful chant.

For the LORD’s word is upright;
and works are trustworthy.

Psalm 33: 1-4

In part two, that praise is articulated by recounting God’s caring intervention in the community’s experience.

From heaven the LORD looks down
and observes the children of Adam,

From that dwelling place surveying
all who dwell on earth.

The One who fashioned together their hearts
and who knows all their works.

Psalm 33: 13-15

Psalm 33 can be summarized in this way:

Because Yahweh rules with righteousness, justice, and unfailing love,
we must worship Yahweh with songs and praise
and by rejecting all false sources of salvation.

Lynn Jost, Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies – Tabor College, Kansas

Praying Psalm 33 reminds me that one can never demand mercy. We cannot require the other to hold us in continual compassion. We can only hope and be grateful.

Mercy is the gift of a heart moved beyond itself by love and tenderness. Such outpouring is the very nature of God in whose image we are created.

Thus for God, and for us, to be unmerciful is to be unnatural. In Psalm 33, we pray not only to receive mercy, but to become mercy.


Psalm 33 closes with a plea for our hearts to be deepened in their affinity to God, to mirror God by our patience, joy, hope, and mercy.

Our soul waits for the LORD,
Who is our help and shield.

For in God our hearts rejoice;
in God’s holy name we trust.

May your mercy, LORD, be upon us;
as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33: 20-22

Poetry: To Live in the Mercy of God BY DENISE LEVERTOV

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
               before ribs of shelter
                                           open!
To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.
And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
                      Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.
To float, upheld,
                as salt water
                would hold you,
                                        once you dared.
                  .
To live in the mercy of God.
To feel vibrate the enraptured
waterfall flinging itself
unabating down and down
                              to clenched fists of rock.
Swiftness of plunge,
hour after year after century,
                                                   O or Ah
uninterrupted, voice
many-stranded.
                              To breathe
spray. The smoke of it.
                              Arcs
of steelwhite foam, glissades
of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion—
rage or joy?
                              Thus, not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world. Vast
flood of mercy
                      flung on resistance.

Music: As you listen to David Arkenstone’s instrumental, you may want to remember Shakespeare’s famous description of mercy. See below the music.

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 17, a prayer which captures our deep desire to live in the Light of God’s Face.

 

We, like the psalmist and like Jacob in our first reading, want to know, to understand, to name the Holy in our experience. 

From you let my judgment come;
    your eyes behold what is right.
Though you test my heart, searching it in the night,
    though you try me with fire, you shall find no malice in me.

Psalm 17:6-7

When Jacob struggles with the heavenly visitor, he wants a blessing and the visitor’s name. Jacob wants to define what has happened to him in the night.

The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Genesis 32:27-28

The Spirit does bless Jacob, but remains nameless, beyond the confines of Jacob’s definition. It is only after the visitor has departed that Jacob realizes whom he has encountered:

With that, the visitor bade him farewell.
Jacob named the place Peniel,
“Because I have seen God face to face,” he said,
“yet my life has been spared.”

Genesis 32:30-31

In our own lives, Heaven visits us constantly though we may be unaware. Discovering God’s Face depends so much on where we look and how we have learned to see.

Psalm 17 tells us that, if we stand in the light of justice and mercy, God’s face is revealed to us.

This was the light in which Jesus lived – to the point that, as we read in today’s Gospel, he could discover God’s face even under the guise of a poor demoniac.


Poetry: God BY KAHLIL GIBRAN

In the ancient days,
when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain
and spoke unto God, saying,
“Master, I am thy slave.
Thy hidden will is my law
and I shall obey thee
for ever more.”

But God made no answer,
and like a mighty tempest passed away.

And after a thousand years
I ascended the holy mountain
and again spoke unto God, saying,
“Creator, I am thy creation.
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me
and to thee I owe mine all.”

And God made no answer,
but like a thousand swift wings passed away.

And after a thousand years
I climbed the holy mountain
and spoke unto God again, saying,
“Father, I am thy child.
In pity and love
thou hast given me birth, and through love and worship
I shall inherit thy kingdom.”

And God made no answer,
and like the mist that veils the distant hills he passed away.

And after a thousand years
I climbed the sacred mountain
and again spoke unto God, saying,
“My God, my aim and my fulfillment;
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow.
I am thy root in the earth
and thou art my flower in the sky,
and together we grow
before the face of the sun.”

Then God leaned over me,
and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook
that runneth down to her, he enfolded me.
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains
God was there also.


Music:

We behold the splendor of God shining on the face of Jesus. 
We behold the splendor of God shining on the face of the Son.

[Verse1]
And oh, how his beauty transforms us, the wonder of presence abiding. 
Transparent hearts give reflection of Tabor’s light within, of Tabor’s light within.

(Repeat Chorus)

[Verse 2]
Jesus, Lord of Glory, Jesus, Beloved Son, oh, how good to be with you; 
ow good to share your light; how good to share your light.