Lent: Written in Dust

April 3, 2022
Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus writes new rules for life in the venerable Jerusalem dust.

Jn8_1_11JPG

Jesus enjoys an early morning walk from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. The weather, no doubt, was typically beautiful since others easily gathered and sat around Jesus to hear his teaching.

But the Pharisees, vigilant for an opportunity to condemn Jesus, executed a mean-hearted plot.

Dragging a woman “caught in the act of adultery” before the encircled men, they demanded Jesus’s judgment of the distraught woman.

Woman Taken in Adultery – Rembrandt, National Gallery London

Imagine the woman’s terror.  Her poverty and loneliness have already forced her into an ignoble commerce. Had she the chance, she surely would have chosen an easier life.

Now, her meager quarters have been broken into, her privacy invaded in the most intimate of circumstances.  Her adulterous accomplice has either turned her in, or absconded in cowardice. She is surrounded by brutal accusers, many of whom are likely her former customers.

But Jesus sees the woman, not her sin. He responds to her heart not her actions.  He also sees these evil, plotting men and responds to their veiled motivations.


Wouldn’t we love to know what Jesus scribbled in the Temple dirt as these blood-thirsty hypocrites hung over him?

Might it have been the names of those who also visited the woman on earlier nights?

Might it have been some of their hidden sins?

Challenged to cast the first stone if they were sinless, the plotters slowly slink away.  Jesus is left to forgive and heal this suffering woman.

Jesus tells her to go and sin no more, to -as the first reading says – “remember not the things of the past”. Jesus has made her into a new person by the power of his mercy.


May that renewing Mercy touch us, and our world, where we sorely need it.

May it flow through our renewed hearts to everyone we encounter, no matter the circumstances.


Poetry: Two beautiful poems today. The first refers specifically to Rembrandt’s painting above:

Rembrandt, “The Woman Taken in Adultery,” National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London
by Peter Cooley, Senior Mellon Professor in the Humanities and Director of Creative Writing at Tulane University and lives in New Orleans.

Just as I came out of the Gallery,
I saw a gull among hoards of tourists
encircling the statue of Lord Nelson,
crazed while I prayed he'd make it out, resume
flight I attribute to all birds, boundless.
But my dying: I try to keep it lined
around the edges of the ordinary
so I can—shall I say—appreciate?

Drawn to that picture by the glowing dark
around the woman, kneeling, Christ standing,
the Scribes and Pharisees shrouded in black,
I saw she, too, has just discovered light,
knowing, moments ago, she escaped stoning.
She just this instant came to where I'm going.

The second poem is by the beautiful Franciscan poet, Irene Zimmerman, OSF.

From the angry crunch of their sandaled feet
as they left the courtyard, Jesus knew,
without looking up from his writing on the ground,
that the Pharisees and scribes still carried their stones.

The woman stood where they’d shoved her,
her hair hanging loose over neck and face,
her hands still shielding her head
from the stones she awaited.

“Woman,” he asked, “has no one condemned you?”

The heap of woman shuddered, unfolded.
She viewed the courtyard — empty now —
with wild, glazed eyes and turned back to him.
“No one, Sir,” she said, unsurely.

Compassion flooded him like a wadi after rain.
He thought of his own mother — had she known such fear? —
and of the gentle man whom he had called Abba.
Only when Joseph lay dying had he confided
his secret anguish on seeing his betrothed
swelling up with seed not his own.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said.
“Go your way and sin no more.”

Black eyes looked out from an ashen face,
empty, uncomprehending.
Then life rushed back.
She stood before him like a blossoming tree.

“Go in peace and sin no more,”
Jesus called again as she left the courtyard.

He had bought her at a price, he knew.
The stony hearts of her judges
would soon hurl their hatred at him.
His own death was a mere stone’s throw away.


Music:  Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd

Lent: Second Chances

March 9, 2022
Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, one line from our readings hit me like a lightening bolt:

The word of the LORD
came to Jonah
a second time.

Jonah 3:1

Yes, it’s the truth! God will keep coming back again and again to encourage us to hear the true message for our lives.

Our Gospel gives us a hint about how resistant we sometimes are to do this deep listening:

This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.

Luke 11:29

What is the sign of Jonah anyway?

To put it simply, it is the witness of the Resurrection – that overarching event that changed everything for believers. For just as Jonah was able to return from certain death in the whale’s belly, so Christ conquered death and rose to new life, promising us the same power.

This is the central, life-changing belief for Christians. It should make a difference in how we live.


By our Lenten repentance, we can be like Jonah, grasping the second chance God always gives us to respond to our life circumstances with faith, hope, and love.

I would bet there is something in your life right now that is calling you to such a response. Someplace in your life, you may be caught in a bit of a “whale’s belly 🐳” about some issue, am I right?

God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when He intends to resolve them. He gives us needs that He alone can satisfy, and awakens capacities that He means to fulfill. Any perplexity is liable to be a spiritual gestation, leading to a new birth and a mystical regeneration.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas

Today’s readings remind us that we already have the glorious sign of the Resurrection to inspire us to leap from that dark “belly” into God’s hope for us!


Poetry: WE ARE JONAH – Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

In Rabbi Eliezer’s vision
Jonah entered the whale’s mouth
as we enter a synagogue.
Light streamed in through its eyes.
Jonah approached the bimah, the whale’s head.
Show me wonders, he said, as though
his own life weren’t a miracle.

The whale obliged, swimming down
to the foundation stone,
the navel of creation
fixed deep beneath the land.
Tsk tsk, chided the fish:
you’re beneath God’s temple —
you should pray.

Prayer requires stillness.
Running away had always been
so easy. Sitting silent
in self-judgement — forget it!
But waves only churn the surface.
In the deep beneath the deep
Jonah was wholly present.

We all flee
from uncomfortable conversations
the drip of a hospital IV
the truths we don’t want to own
the work we don’t want to do.
Now we’re in the belly of the whale,
someplace deep and strange.

God calls us to awareness:
to stand our ground
in the place where we are,
to do the work which needs doing.
To bring kindness and mercy
even to those who are unlike us.
Are we listening?


Music: a fun song “In the Belly of Whale” – The Newsboys

The Greatest Sin

February 15, 2022
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, James continues with his spiritual encouragements.

For one thing, he makes it clear that God doesn’t tempt us. Some of us make the mistake of thinking that, saying things like, “God is testing me.”

James, outlining a perfect way to examine one’s conscience, says this:

No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”;
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and God himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his own desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

James 1:13-15

Sin is an uncomfortable topic, and it’s an elusive one. Most of us aren’t outright blatant sinners. I think most of our sins are quiet indifferences, failures to love, unacknowledged greeds, self-imposed blindnesses to our responsibilities toward one another. These generate excuses that allow us to gossip, judge, blame, ignore, hurt and even use others both in our immediate world and in the larger global community.

In my experience, these desires are usually disguised, pretending to be beneficial for us at first sight. But underneath, they are rooted in selfishness and excess, diverting us from our center in God.

So if we have some little labyrinths of temptation and sinful habits ensnaring us, we should listen to James. He encourages us to examine and check our own concupiscent desires as they are the seeds of our spiritual undoing.


In the second part of this passage, James takes the tone up a notch. He reminds us that, once centered on God, we realize that only good things come from God.

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

James :17

I particularly love that last phrase, rendered in our hymn today like this:

It’s beautiful to see how James, as a real spiritual leader, is so aware of his flock’s human struggles. No doubt, he shares them. What a blessing that his wise and loving guidance has come down through the ages to us!


Prose: from Carl Jung

The worst sin is unconsciousness,
but it is indulged in with the greatest piety
even by those who should serve humankind
as teachers and examples.


Music: Great Is Thy Faithfulness – sung by Chris Rice

Failure and Forgiveness

January 29, 2022
Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

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.

Nathan Denounces David’s Sin
William Brassey Hole

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 

Faithful Heart

January 17, 2022
Monday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Anthony. Abbot

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings help us understand the basic process for spiritual growth – the evolution from self-centered practice to God-centered faith.

The passages highlight three elements of a deeply faithful life:

Obedience – a listening heart
Discipline – a right heart
Freedom – a selfless heart

Obedience – The Listening Heart

In our first reading, Saul has fulfilled all God’s commands regarding the mission against the Amalekites – but he has still missed the point. Saul was given a divine mandate through Samuel to completely destroy the Amalekites. Instead, Saul kept the plunder, using some as a burnt sacrifice to God.

According to Samuel, Saul messed up big time. He had an unlistening heart. God didn’t want sacrifice, but rather a fully listening obedience.

But Samuel said:
            “Does the LORD so delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
            as in obedience to the command of the LORD?
            Obedience is better than sacrifice,
                        and submission than the fat of rams.
            For a sin like divination is rebellion,
                        and presumption is the crime of idolatry.
            Because you have rejected the command of the LORD,
                        the LORD too, has rejected you as ruler.”

1 Samuel 15: 22-23

Discipline – The Right Heart

Our Responsorial Psalm continues the theme:

Why do you recite my statutes,
            and profess my covenant with your mouth,
Though you hate discipline
            and cast my words behind you?”…

The ones that offers praise as a sacrifice glorifies me;
            and to them that go the right way I will show the salvation of God

Psalm 50: 16-17;23

Freedom – The Selfless Heart

Mark’s Gospel complements the lessons of our first two readings. It paints a joyful picture of Jesus and his disciples. 

They are in the “salad days” of Christ’s earth-shaking ministry. Listening to Jesus, these disciples are in the Presence of a new and radical Truth. They fill their hearts and minds with its transformative power. Cherishing God’s Presence with them allows the disciples to release a inner love and generosity to fuel their ministry.

The nosy Pharisees, seeing all this joyful exuberance, question their unpenitential attitude:

The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast.
People came to Jesus and objected,
“Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast,
 but your disciples do not fast?”

MARK 2:18

Does all this mean that there is never a time in the spiritual life for sackcloth, ashes and fasting? No – even Jesus didn’t say that:

Jesus answered the Pharisees,
“Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?
As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.
But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast on that day.

Mark 2:20

What I think it does mean is that a healthy spiritual life is centered on the Presence of God with us, not the absence. There are times when we should take stock of those “absences” and open them to repentance and healing. But then our spiritual energy should be turned to God in praise not toward our own penitential achievements.


Poetry: Flickering Mind – Denise Levertov

Lord, not you
it is I who am absent.
At first
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away -- and back,
circling.
I have long since uttered your name
but now
I elude your presence.
I stop
to think about you, and my mind
at once
like a minnow darts away,
darts
into the shadows, into gleams that fret
unceasing over
the river's purling and passing.
Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
anywhere,
everywhere it can turn.  Not you,
it is I am absent.
You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow.
You the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.
How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?

Music: Sapphire Days – Anne Sweeten

Holy Innocents

December 28, 2021

Today, in Mercy, we are lifted to Light by John’s sacred words in our first reading:

Beloved:
This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ
and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:5

Simply hearing it, we long to abide in that whole and healing Light.


But then we read our Gospel, among the saddest accounts in all of Scripture – the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Their needless deaths come at the hands of a power-crazed and fearful man.  So hungry for his own aggrandizement, he tries to assure it by killing a generation of children.

It sounds impossible, doesn’t it, that anyone could be so hardened by evil? It sounds impossible that good people would execute this order of a mad man! It sounds impossible that human beings could be so blind to the sanctity of another’s life!


Dear friends, we must confront our own blindness. We must look into the eyes of our 21st century children – the border children, the victims of school shootings, the children of Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan … the children of war, violence, drugs and poverty.

We must hear the cry of God, their Mother, and choose legislators and leaders who will honor life; who will shape global policies and relationships recognizing the common life we share in God – who will make true pro-life choices regarding gun control, arms sales, and an economy of endless war.

Our attitudes, our advocacy and our votes will either condemn or exonerate us when that Great Light ultimately reveals our hearts. When a society’s children become the victims of its indefensible corruption, we must say “Enough!” and act on our word.


Poetry: Holy Innocents by Christina Rossetti – 1830-1894
We might offer this wish and prayer for all the world’s children.


Sleep, little Baby, sleep;
The holy Angels love thee,
And guard thy bed, and keep
A blessed watch above thee.
No spirit can come near
Nor evil beast to harm thee:
Sleep, Sweet, devoid of fear
Where nothing need alarm thee.

The Love which doth not sleep,
The eternal Arms surround thee:
The Shepherd of the sheep
In perfect love hath found thee.
Sleep through the holy night,
Christ-kept from snare and sorrow,
Until thou wake to light
And love and warmth to-morrow.


Music: The Mediaeval Baebes – Coventry Carol

The “Coventry Carol” is an English Christmas Carol dating from the 16th century. The carol was traditionally performed in Coventry, England as part of a mystery play called “The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors”. The play depicts the Christmas story from chapter two in the Matthew’s Gospel. The carol itself refers to the massacre of the Holy Innocents in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed, and takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children.
(Information from Wikipedia)

Lullay, Thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.
O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.
Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Sacred Tears

November 18, 2021
Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 50, “a prophetic imagining of God’s judgement on the Israelites”. (Wikipedia)

Our first reading from the Book of Maccabees introduces us to Mattathias, revered leader of the Jews in the city of Modein. He violently refuses the Greek Seleucid command to worship their gods, thus initiating the Maccabean Revolt. The wars lasted nearly a decade. Final victory is commemorated in the Feast of Hanukkah:

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee’s (Mattathias’s son)victory over the Seleucids. According to tradition, victorious Maccabees could find only a small jug of oil that had remained pure and uncontaminated by virtue of a seal, and although it contained only enough oil to sustain the Menorah for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time further oil could be procured. (Wikipedia)

Our first reading is really describing the beginning of civil and intercultural wars by which dedicated Jews sought to establish both their religion and their nation. Core to their motivation was the desire to be in relationship with their one God according to their own custom and law.


In our Gospel, Jesus has come as the full manifestation of that One God. He has invited the Jewish people to a new and complete relationship with God, but they have resisted.

Now, as he nears his final fate in Jerusalem, Jesus realizes that his dream for the People will not be fully realized. They will experience a destruction like the one once feared by Mattathias. The reality causes Jesus to weep.

Are the passages only about the Jews, their religion and their history?

For us, these passages are about choosing a faithful,
evolving relationship with God
– a relationship that will demand truth,
action and at times suffering
as we pursue ever deeper understanding
of God’s Presence in our lives.

Our world and its culture place many godless choices before us, choices that could make Jesus weep because of the suffering they cause others. These choices are not as easy to identify as they were in the time of Mattathias. They don’t come dressed as a pagan soldier ready to quash our resistance.

They come in the large subtleties of politics, economics, human rights, global relationships. These choices show themselves in the small exercise of our respect, care, and reverence for all Creation. But they do come to us in every moment and they demand our witness.

Jesus wants the new Kingdom to rise in us when we open our hearts to his Word. It is an ongoing and daily Resurrection. Let’s pray for the courage for it!


Poetry: The World Is Too Much with Us – William Wordsworth

Wordsworth wrote this poem during the Industrial Revolution when he felt the complexities of the world were inhibiting our appreciation of the sacredness of nature.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Music:  When Jesus Wept – William Billings

One of the most well-known of the early American canons, originally appeared in the New England Psalm Singer. It was written in 1770 by William Billings, a self-taught singing-school teacher and composer who served as choir leader at Old South Church in Boston.

(Lyrics below)

When Jesus wept, the falling tear
In Mercy flowed beyond all bound;
When Jesus groaned at rambling fear
Seized all the guilty world around.

Per a valued friend:

There is a statue in Oklahoma City called “Jesus Wept.”  It is on the grounds of St. Joseph Church in the city – which is right across from where the Oklahoma City Federal Building had been located.  The people of the parish wanted to erect the statue on their grounds because the memorial on the federal property couldn’t be religious.  It is a very moving statue.

Confident Hope

Wednesday, November 4, 2021
Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27:


Our scripture passages are all about confidence in our salvation.

Do you have that confidence?
Do you ever wonder if you’re going to get to heaven?
Maybe even worry about it a little?


If so, today’s readings are for you.

Paul tells the faithful:

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.

And Jesus, using the symbol of a lost sheep, counsels the critical Pharisees:

I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.

Key to both readings is the call to a repentant, Christian life.


Our beautiful Responsorial Psalm captures the joy of the repentant sinner, the very ones for whom Christ died. It’s a beautiful psalm. We might want to just slowly relish it in our prayer today.

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

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

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

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.

R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.


We might want to turn toward
the searching Shepherd of today’s Gospel
while praying this Psalm of repentance and faith.


Poetry: The Shepherd Boy Sings in the Valley of Humiliation – John Bunyan (1628–1688), a Christian writer and preacher, most famous for The Pilgrim’s Progress.

He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.

I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because Thou savest such.

Fullness to such a burden is
That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age.


Music:  In the Land of the Living – Eric Becker

Zap?

October 23, 2021
Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 24 in which the psalmist expresses the heart’s deep longing for God:

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
    or who may stand in that holy place?
The one whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
    who desires not what is vain.
Who shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
    a reward from God the savior.
Such is the race that seeks for God,
    that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 24: 5-6

But achieving those sinless hands and clean heart is not always an easy task. It takes a life focused on faith and rooted in love.

Jesus talks about that focus in today’s Gospel.

Jesus gives us a parable which, at first, appears to say, “Get your act together fast, or God might zap you.” From Jesus’s words, we can assume that some public disasters have recently occurred. Those in the gathered crowd are unnerved by these events.

Jesus uses that nervousness to talk about repentance. He tells the people that tragedy can make us wake up to the fact that life is fragile and fleeting. That awareness should make us want to use our time on earth well, to give glory to God.

The repentance Jesus encourages is not just a contrition, or turning from sin. It is an opening of the soul’s eyes to see our lives and circumstances as God sees them.

Is God going to zap us if we don’t have that kind of repentance? No, I think not.

God is always Mercy …
always, always Mercy.

With the parable of the fruitless fig tree, Jesus assures us that God is with us, giving us every grace and opportunity to bear spiritual fruit. God is patient and nurturing. But, in every human life, there is a limit to the time we have to respond.


Poetry: The Facts of Life – Pádraig Ó Tuama

That you were born
and you will die.

That you will sometimes love enough
and sometimes not.

That you will lie
if only to yourself.

That you will get tired.

That you will learn most from the situations
you did not choose.

That there will be some things that move you
more than you can say.

That you will live
that you must be loved.

That you will avoid questions most urgently in need of
your attention.

That you began as the fusion of a sperm and an egg
of two people who once were strangers
and may well still be.

That life isn’t fair.
That life is sometimes good
and sometimes better than good.

That life is often not so good.

That life is real
and if you can survive it, well,
survive it well
with love
and art
and meaning given
where meaning’s scarce.

That you will learn to live with regret.
That you will learn to live with respect.

That the structures that constrict you
may not be permanently constricting.

That you will probably be okay.

That you must accept change
before you die
but you will die anyway.

So you might as well live
and you might as well love.
You might as well love.
You might as well love.


Music: Calm the Soul – Poor Clares Galway

Promise Remembered

Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
October 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105, a recounting of the marvelous works God has done from the Abrahamic covenant to the Exodus. Indeed, our psalm celebrates God”s faithfulness to Abraham and to all generations, even us!

God remembers forever the sacred covenant
    which God made binding for a thousand generations –

Psalm 105:8

In our reading from Romans, Paul preaches about that Covenantal Promise. The text is a little deep, and I had to dig a bit to get my inspiration. But there are gems in these dense words!

It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.

This is a spiritually freeing passage. It assures us that God is with us through our faith, not through the perfection with which we keep laws and rules.


Our Gospel reinforces the message:

Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will not be forgiven

… the proverbial “bad apple”!

The passage is a little scary when first read, because we all hope we haven’t done anything to offend the Holy Spirit. But I think what Jesus is telling his listeners is this:

If a person criticizes or rejects my life and teaching, forgiveness is still possible when they come to their senses and repent. It’s like cutting the bad spot out of an otherwise good apple.

But if a person chooses to live a life which blasphemes (mocks, dismisses) the Spirit of life, love, mercy and peace, that person can never be forgiven — because they can never repent. They will be rotten to the core.


So the advice of Paul and Jesus boils down to this. Befriend the Holy Spirit by your life of faithful choices. Listen to the Spirit’s inspiration. Help others to do the same. And do not worry when you make a few mistakes. God stands by the promise to be with us always.


Poetry: The Promise Written by Rumi
Translated and read by Fatemeh Keshavarz

(Remember when reading that, for the Sufi mystic poets, everything was about God. Modern users often apply these poetic sentiments to human relationships, but they were not composed in that light.)

When pain arrives side by side with your love
I promise not to flee
When you ask me for my life
I promise not to fight

I am holding a cup in my hand
By God if you do not come
Till the end of time
I promise not to pour out the wine
Nor to drink a sip

Your bright face is my day
Your dark curls bring the night
If you do not let me near you
I promise not to go to sleep…nor rise

Your magnificence has made me a wonder
Your charm has taught me the way of love
I am the progeny of Abraham
I’ll find my way through fire

Please, let me drink water from the jug
This love is not a short-lived fancy
It is the daily prayer, the year-after-year fast
I live it, like an act of worship, till the end of my life

But then, a tree
Blessed not with fruits of your bounty
Will be dry wood for fire
Even if it drinks the ocean

On the wings of the Friend, fly o my heart!
Fly and look upward
For high on the peak of presence
Earthlings like you will not be let in

Others praise God at the time of affliction
You stay awake day and night
Steady, watchful like the wheel of the firmament

Time to stop speaking of the Friend
Jealousy won’t let me scatter the perfume to the wind


Music: Spirit of the Living God – Divine Hymns