Turn Toward Grace

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
September 30, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/093022.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus castigates the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and even his beloved Capernaum for their lack of faith.

In these Galilean villages, nearby to his own hometown, Jesus has performed many of his miracles and cures. These people have been the audience for his most memorable sermons. But now, Jesus begins to meet resistance and doubt as his disciples assume greater participation in his ministry. 

Lk10_13 Chorazin

Jesus is preparing for the time when he will no longer be here. He wants to see strong faith in his followers, but he is disappointed. He tells the crowds that they will regret their hard-heartedness, their slowness of conversion. They will be more harshly judged because they failed to respond to more abundant graces.


This passage is filled with spiritual lessons. We, too, have received so many blessings from God. How have we responded? 

It is a sad thing to look back on any part of our lives with regret – to say, “I wish I had…” or “I wish I hadn’t”. The only benefit of such sadness is to learn a lesson for our future.


Let’s pray today to live ever more intentional lives – giving ourselves time to recognize and respond to our blessings, to the needs of others, and to the deepening call of faith within our spirits.

May this prayer help us turn our spirits from any crippling self-interest and lukewarm faith to a dynamic, life-giving spirituality. As our responsorial psalm today encourages us: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”


Poetry: Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith by Mary Oliver

Every summer
I listen and look 
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear
anything, I can't see anything -- 
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green 
stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker -- 
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk. 
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing -- 
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves, 
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet -- 
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum. 
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear? 
One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

Music: I Can Hear Your Voice ~ Michael W. Smith

A Gallery of Sinners!

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
September 6, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/090622.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Corinthians might leave us thinking, “Wow, maybe I’m a sinner but I’m sure not as bad as those guys!”

Their Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent 🙂

Paul generates quite a list of reprobates, doesn’t he!

Do not be deceived;
neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers
nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves
nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers
will inherit the Kingdom of God.

The list is so compelling that we might be blinded by it and miss the message that the reading has for us. And I think the message is this – what do Paul’s miscreants have in common?

They have violated and scorned
the sanctity of
RELATIONSHIP
which demands commitment, trust,
reverence and integrity.


When, in our prayer, we examine our conscience and honestly place before God the best we have done with our day, how does it look in terms of right-relationship?

How committed, honest, respectful and caring
have we been toward those God has given us
in the circle of our lives?

Paul’s catalogue of sinners use others for their own selfish purposes. There is no mutuality, responsibility or investment in one another’s good. And while our wrongdoings may not make Paul’s Most Wanted List, they will be characterized by the same failings.


The question Paul offers us is this: how reverent, honest, respectful, merciful and loving am I in each of my relationships – with God, myself, Creation, my immediate and larger world?
Or whom might I instead “write off” as fodder for my contempt, gossip, judgements, disregard, indifference or exclusion?

NAMASTE

Maybe we don’t mean to do these things, but I think we might be surprised if we really took a good look at ourselves — myself included.

In calling the  Corinthians to get it together, Paul is also calling me.


Poetry: When I Am Among the Trees – Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It's simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Music: We Are All One – 

Alleluia: Peace and Abundance

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 3, 2022

Today’s Readings 

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/070322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse encapsulates the message of the readings: Christ is the Source of our peace and our abundance.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts;
let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

Colossians 3:15-16


Isaiah describes that peace and abundance like this:

For thus says the LORD:
Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms,
and fondled in her lap;
as a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.

Isaiah 66: 12-13


In Galatians, we meet a community that has been arguing over a few things, but especially whether circumcision should continue to be a mark of faith. Paul sounds a little frustrated with the argument.

He claims his “peace and abundance” from the marks of his long ministry and what he has suffered for Christ:

From now on, let no one make troubles for me;
for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.

Galatians 6:17


In Luke, Jesus indicates that “peace and abundance” will be spread in the New Creation through the sometimes difficult ministry of his disciples:

Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.

Luke 10: 3-9

The Gospel message meant to bring peace will, no doubt, bring fear and judgement to those hostile to it:

The kingdom of God is at hand for you.

If we sincerely open our hearts to this message, how might it affect our daily lives? Peace and abundance? A frantic need for repentance? Or maybe just an angry, indifferent, or deaf ear?

Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts;
let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.


Poem: one of my favorite poems, The Heart Cave by Geoffrey Brown

The Heart Cave

I must remember
To go down to the heart cave
& sweep it clean; make it warm
with a fire on the hearth,
& candles in their niches,
the pictures on the walls
       glowing with a quiet light.
       I must remember
To go down to the heart cave
       & make the bed
with the quilt from home,
strew
the rushes on the floor
hang
lavender and sage
         from the corners.
         I must go down
                                           To the heart cave & be there
                                           when You come.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ

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.