Vigil

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we keep vigil with the “Children of Israel” as they begin the great Exodus.

Ex12_42 Vigil

Even the youngest of us understands what it means to “keep vigil”. Toddlers, on Christmas Eve, keep vigil for the sound of Santa’s footsteps on the roof.

Throughout our lives, the kinds of vigils we keep deepen in meaning. Any given night holds an array of vigil-keepers:

  • A nervous student pulls an all-nighter before a big exam.
  • An anxious parent watches over a feverish child.
  • A faith-filled soul sits in pre-dawn prayer.
  • A vigilant elder prays quietly at the death bed of a long-beloved.

As families and communities, we wait together for each other’s lives.

  • Together, we expect the births of each generation’s babies.
  • We wait and hope for college acceptances and new jobs.
  • We wait for test results of all kinds.
  • We wait to listen to one another’s stories of success or disappointment.
  • We wait and prepare for the dawning of great feasts like Christmas and Easter

When we keep vigil, we live in expectation of something or someone coming to us. But there is another important aspect to every vigil.

As we wait, something is also happening within us.
In the deep quiet of our waiting, we are transformed.

Thomas Merton, monk of Gethsemane, was assigned to keep a particular type of vigil at the abbey. It was called “fire watch”, a night-long lookout to ensure that no fire erupted in the old wooden buildings as the other monks slept.  Merton writes about that watch at the end of his book The Sign of Jonas:

The fire watch is an examination of conscience in which your task as watchman suddenly appears in its true light:  a pretext devised by God to isolate you, and to search your soul with lamps and questions, in the heart of darkness.
“Fire Watch, July 4, 1952”

Today, as we pray with Israel’s Passover vigil, let us consider our own vigils – current or past. Beyond their apparent meaning, to what secret transformation might God be inviting us? What is happening deep in our soul as we watch far out to the horizon of our hope?

Music: Firewatch – Chris Remo

The Flag

Independence Day

July 4, 2019

Suggested Reading for the Day

Today, in Mercy, I offer this opinion piece.


flag

In some ways, it’s hard to be an American today. We live in a country confused about its identity, a country enmeshed in questions about “who we really are” – about both the good and the evil we are capable of. Those questions, on days like July 4th, get all tangled up in symbols like our beautiful flag.

I don’t have the answers but, as usual, I have an opinion. I think we all do. And I’ll share mine for those who might want to read it.

Our flag, cobbled together on a narrow Philadelphia street, has run with the Massachusetts 54th up the Fort Wagner rampart, and has been hoisted on a bloody hill in Iwo Jima. It has been raised over singing, saluting schoolchildren, and wrapped around the caskets of our heroes. It has wafted from the shoulders of Olympians, and stretched – supersized -across our nation’s stadiums.

Woven into its stately stripes is our desire for human freedom, strength, pride, happiness, and peace. For me, our flag stands for this ideal and thus I will always respect and value it.

What I will not salute is the hijacking of our beloved symbol to stand for militarism, white nationalism, religious extremism, isolationism, imperialism, or racial and ethnic exceptionalism. These poisonous misappropriations have so clouded our flag that we struggle to retain the purity of its original call to us:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The men who wrote these lofty words didn’t fully comprehend or achieve their reach. They ignored whole segments of people – women, people of color, Native Americans – who should have been immediately embraced within the nascent ideal.

And now, after centuries, we still struggle to secure the full promise of these words for all people. In many ways we have even regressed in our efforts, retreating to the deadly “isms” mentioned above.

Whenever an ideology is used to suppress and control the legitimate freedoms of others, a malignant force is unleashed. And when that force conceals itself with our flag, we all suffer.

I believe that’s why Americans like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe protest the flag as they do. They are protesting the poisons poured into our flag  by these toxic ideologies. Rather than immortalizing or demonizing such protesters, we would do well to listen to them, discerning the truth they attempt to reveal to us.

But, as we face these challenges, let us not blame the flag. Let us blame ourselves and, in that honesty, resolve to go forward in the strength of our common humanity.

Today, let the flag do what it was intended to do. Let it call us to a determined commitment to freedom and mutual responsibility for one another’s well-being. Let the flag make us brave to face where we have failed one another – often grievously- in this pursuit. But let it also make us confident that the courage it has drawn from us over centuries will strengthen us as a just, compassionate, inclusive, free and strong nation.

Music: The Star-Spangled Banner- sung by The Voices of Gwynedd; arranged and conducted by Musical Director Carol Evans.

Fearful Yet Overjoyed

Easter Monday, April 23, 2019

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Mt28_8 fear_joy

Today, in Mercy,  we enter the Easter Season which will last until June 8th. The next day we will celebrate Pentecost.

Throughout these several weeks, we will have a thorough reading of the Acts of the Apostles. 

Theologian Walter Brueggemann says this about Acts:

In the Book of Acts the church is a restless, transformative agent
at work for emancipation and well-being in the world.

As Easter People, transformed by the Resurrection of Jesus, that’s what we’re all called to be. Our models and inspiration will be found in these early women and men we read about over the next few weeks. This was a community that acted – within a culture of death – for an alternative, life-giving world.

“The whole book of Acts is about power from God that the world cannot shut down. In scene after scene, there is a hard meeting between the church and worldly authorities, because worldly authorities are regularly baffled by this new power and resentful of it.”
At one point, in chapter 17, the followers of Jesus are accused of “turning the world upside down.
” (Brueggemann)

Our world sorely needs such an active Church, speaking clearly to the issues that threaten and limit human life and wholeness in God. It’s not easy to be that witness, but it is critical. Our Gospel suggests the difficulty, but also defines the motivation:

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
went away quickly from the tomb,

fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the good news …

May we, though sometimes fearful, choose to be agents of the joyful Good News for our times.

Music: Alleluia from Mozart’s Exultate et Jubilate- sung by Barbara Bonney

Be Made New!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus writes new rules for life in the venerable Jerusalem dust.

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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.

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.

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

With Your Whole Heart

Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, as we begin the holy season of Lent, this one question might lead us on our 40 Day journey:

What wholeness does God
imagine for me?

Lent is about bringing to wholeness in God all the fragmentations within us. It is about finding completeness in a journey of infinite love – a journey that passes through Calvary but triumphs in Resurrection.

Jesus has both made the journey for us, and will make the journey with us. Our challenge this Lent is to discover how Jesus makes these steps within our lives. 

Joel2_12

We are called to open our hearts and circumstances to the transformation of Paschal grace – a grace offered to us within the joys and sacrifices, miracles and challenges of our own lives.

What fragments do we bring before the healing touch of Christ this Lent?

  • Broken or lifeless vows, promises, dreams
  • Severed relationships, responsibilities
  • Closed doors and hopes, ungiven forgiveness
  • Despair with our Church, our communities, our families
  • Despair with ourselves, our smallnesses, our addictions, our spiritual procrastination, our stingy souls

We need only make a singular, determined commitment: in each day’s scriptures, let us find a word or phrase that mirrors our own life. Let us seek Christ’s face beside ours in that mirror. Let us listen to the wholeness He imagines for us and make the choices to achieve it.

Music: Return to Me ~ John Michael Talbot

Ordinary Time?

Monday, January 14, 2019

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heb1_3 refulgence

Today, in Mercy,  we enter into the first of thirty-three weeks of what the Church calls “Ordinary Time”. It’s a great double misperception!

No “time” is ordinary as long as we breathe with the Divine Breath.

And “time” itself is an illusion we humans have created to help us feel in control of our lives. With God, there is no time.

What if, instead, we called these long coming weeks the “Season of Eternal Presence” – that space when we deepen our relationship with God through steadfast prayer and focused reflection on Scripture.

This is our season to “learn” Jesus, just as – in the Gospels – it was Jesus’s time to be with and to learn us during his season on earth.

This is the beginning of our annual journey of amazement that the Word truly became flash and lives in the incidentals of our lives.

Paul starts us off today with an exquisite passage in Hebrews:

In these last days,
God has spoken to us through the Son,
whom he made heir of all things
and through whom he created the universe,
This Son is the refulgence of God’s glory,
the very imprint of his being,
and who sustains all things by his mighty word.

During this “Ordinary Time” or, if you will, this “Season of Eternal Presence”, we are to be attentive to where that “Divine Refulgence” breaks through in our own daily experiences.

In every moment of our lives, even the seemingly mundane ones, the Creator is speaking the Word – “Jesus” in and through our lives. It is a time of constant and extraordinary grace.

Today, let us begin the journey with a holy enthusiasm and grateful joy!

(Refulgence: the word derives from Latin “refulgēre,” which means “to shine brightly”.)

Music: O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright, an ancient hymn composed by St. Ambrose in the 4th century. Here given a modern rendition by Zac Hicks 

May God Bless Us in Mercy

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

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Jesus, Mary and Joseph, bless our year.

Ps67 NY 2019

Today, in Mercy, we welcome the hope of 2019. When we were young nuns, we were introduced to the custom of letting the first thing we wrote in the New Year Be this phrase:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph

I’ve always kept the custom. It is good to remember with whom we step into this next moment in time.

Praying with our Gospel today:

  • It is good to rest with the infant Jesus in unconditional trust in the Father’s plan.
  • It is good to ponder with Mary that each moment’s meaning extends into eternity.
  • It is good to be with silent Joseph in listening trust and holy readiness.

As we begin again in hope and grace, let us do so in the company of this Holy Family. Let them bless us in mercy, as our psalm prays. 

May we have simple trust in their presence with and care for us. May this give us the courage to live another year with renewed faith, courageous hope and transformative love.

Happy New Year, dear friends!

Music: from our beautiful Responsorial Psalm 67, rendered here in Gaelic. (English below)

God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.

Oh, let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously
And govern the nations on earth.

Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Then the earth shall yield her increase;
God, our own God, shall bless us.God shall bless us,
And all the ends of the earth shall obey Him.

Today ~ “Hodie”

Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Christmas Day

hodie 12_25

Click here for Readings from three Masses

Hodie Christus natus est
Christ is born today

The miracle of Christmas lies in this Latin word, “hodie”. 

The Divine Immediacy of it!
The Eternal Regeneration of it!
The Omnipotent Presence of it!
Hodie – Today!  Now!

Christ is born in this moment, in this effort, this thought, this choice, this breath of my life.

As this Christmas morning dawns, indeed we commemorate an historical event that has redirected history toward Grace. But hidden in that sacred observance is the deep mystery of what we truly celebrate.

The birth of Christ, Eternal Love, is not contained by time. Every breaking moment bears Christ to the world. As history rolls on beneath this mystery, every generation – every human being – becomes the agent of His birth.

Christ was born in Bethlehem, and we rejoice.

But Christ is born in me – today, and today, and today. And we are awe-struck by Eternal Love.

I open my heart in humility, readiness and worship for Emmanuel’s Presence in my life.

This is the “Christus Moment”, where those passing vagaries of time which conspire to break our hearts, to break our lives, to break our world, are rendered soulless.

This is the moment when death is eviscerated, sin erased, division healed, brokenness  soothed, and hope blazingly restored. This is the “Hodie Moment” of Christ’s eternal birth in my heart, in our Church, in our world.

As we listen to the glorious chant of Christmas morning, “Christus Natus Est”, may we let our lives proclaim its transforming melody by:

  • every peaceful word we speak
  • every forgiving glance
  • every courageous stretch to hope
  • every grateful generosity

May Christ be born in us today

  • by our active love for Him in suffering humanity
  • by the vigor of our merciful justice
  • by our steady dismantling of selfishness to allow Him the fullness of glory

May Mary, who carried Jesus to life, teach us and guide us to be Bearers of Christ today – “hodie” – and every day.

Music: Hodie Christus Natus Est

Merry Christmas and God’s blessings to all of you and your loved ones!

Today is Christ born; today the Savior has appeared;
today the Angels sing, the Archangels rejoice;
today the righteous rejoice, saying: Glory to God in the highest. Alleluia!

Hodie Christus natus est hodie Salvator apparuit:
hodie in terra canunt Angeli, laetantur Archangeli:
hodie exsultant justi, dicentes: Gloria in excelsis Deo, Alleluia.

What Is Your Heart-Season?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings are challenging. 

Revelation, a very complex book of the Bible, uses symbols, prophecies and allegorical references to make its point. There are huge bodies of scholarship written in the attempt to interpret these passages. Our Gospel has Jesus describing what it will be like in heaven – when our human perceptions will be erased and we will finally be absorbed into God’s understanding.

These are BIG thoughts and my mind, at least, needs some more manageable inspirations for my morning prayer. 😉 So here’s how I prayed with these readings today.

Lit yr flowerJPG

What both passages share are continual references to time – past, present and future. They reference then-time, now-time, and to-be-time. These passages, and others in Scripture like them, talk about time like this:

  • “in the days before”
  • “in the days after”
  • “in the day of”

So what is this day, November 24th, for me? How is God revealing Love to me in this, my time? 

Today is still among “the days after” Thanksgiving. The lingering familial and community blessings of Thursday continue to bless my prayer.

However, it is also among “the days before” the next big events of my life. So my prayer includes a petition for new and continued blessings.

And, most importantly, today is “a day of”. I ask God to help me see and receive the graces of this present moment – not to miss them because I am looking only back or forward. Let me look God square in the eye on this day, which is the only place that I can really find the God Who is always Now.

The entire liturgical year is built on this understanding of time. 

  • Advent and Lent are “the days before”, the days of preparation, anticipation, imagining, creating, hoping.
  • The feasts like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are “the days of”, days of celebrating, loving, being with.
  • The various Octaves are “the days after”, days of remembering, thanking, appreciating, understanding, mourning, forgiving and savoring

lit yr

Where are you today in the times of your life? It may be in a very different place from what is printed on the calendar. The events of our lives create their own personal liturgies. No matter where that happens to be, let us meet God there with full and open hearts.

 

Music: God of All My Days – Casting Crowns

 

It Was Winter

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Readings: Acts  11:19-26, Psalm 87;  John 10:22-30

Today, in Mercy, we accompany Jesus as He walks in the Temple area known as Solomon’s portico. In a very human touch, John tells us, “It was winter.” Thus, we can draw the conclusion that Jesus went inside to be warm. To think of Jesus experiencing the seasons – just as we do – makes him all the more real for us. Like us, Jesus experienced “inner seasons” too – that undulating range from sorrow to joy. When it is “winter” in our souls, and we seek the warmth of prayer, Jesus walks beside us.

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