Psalm 138: Sing with the Angels

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 23, 2020

From 21st Sunday – 2017:
Today, in Mercy, we pray with the second reading, one of the magnificent Pauline hymns. The words wrap us in awed and humble worship of the mysterious majesty of God revealed to us in Christ. May we find it today in our own worship and prayer. To God be glory forever.
( An extra: Yes, a Christmas song again … but so beautiful an interpretation of our second reading.)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 138, a hymn of thanksgiving and hope.  

As usual with the Sunday readings, a common cord ties the passages together. The obvious one today is how God entrusts power to us for the establishment of God’s milieu in Creation.

Psalm 138 carries, as well, a more subtle but infinitely important thread: the heart of that power is always Divine Kindness – Mercy.  This fact is what generates our deep gratitude.

I will give thanks to your name,
because of your kindness and your truth:
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.


So power, to be like God’s Power, must always be exercised in kindness. What would the world be like if only that were true! What would our own daily lives be like?

Every one of us has tremendous power whether we realize it or not. Sometimes it is physical or positional power. But more often, it is the power of:
our words or our silence
our acknowledgment or indifference
our presence or absence
our support or our resistance.


We choose how to use our power –
either for or against,
either with or over others.


Psalm 138 tells us how God chooses to use power.

LORD, you are exalted, yet the lowly you see,
and the proud you know from afar.
Your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.

Our exalted and powerful God is kind, merciful. God loves the humble and lowly, but keeps distance from the proud, from those who lord it over others. This is the infinite wisdom and power of God and the mysteriously sacred way by which we are redeemed.

Psalm 138, just as our reading from Romans, is a song of amazed joy for God’s unsearchable wisdom and mercy.


Poem: Kindness – Naomi Shihab Nye


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.


Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.


Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.


Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Music: The Fragrance of Christ – sung by Alma de Rojas

Refrain: Lord, may our prayer rise like incense in your sight.
May this place be filled with the fragrance of Christ.

1. I will thank you, Lord, with all of my heart.
You have heard the words of my mouth.
In the presence of the angels, I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple.

2. I will thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness and love,
beyond all my hopes and dreams.
On the day that I called, you answered; you gave life to the strength of my soul.

3. All who live on earth shall give you thanks
when they hear the words of your voice, and all shall sing of your ways:
“How great is the glory of God!”

Psalm 69: Stuck!

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 1, 2020

Today, in Mercy, we pray for the light of God’s Word in our hearts. God speaks to us in all things. Sometimes, all we need to do is ask God, “What are You saying to me in this circumstance?” Then listen for Love. The answer is always wrapped in Love – and Love is not always easy.

Thought from 2016, Friday of the 17th Week

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 69.  In today’s accompanying readings, Jeremiah and John the Baptist are living out the meaning.of the psalm.

Each of these great prophets has been ensnared by the civic evil of their times, personified in Old Testament princes and New Testament Herod and Herodias. The power structure surrounding each prophet stood in direct contradiction to their witness to God’s Word. Those structures, when confronted with a sacred truth, tried to overwhelm the messenger, like quicksand swallows an innocent traveler.

Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink!
may I be rescued from my foes,
and from the watery depths.
Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me,
nor the abyss swallow me up,
nor the pit close its mouth over me.


The psalm raises to our prayer the reality that such struggles continue in our time. We live in a wonderful but still sinful world where every person decides, everyday, where he or she will stand in the contest between good and evil.

The decision is sometimes very clear. At other times, the waters are so muddied with lies, propaganda, greed, fear, bias. and unexamined privilege that we feel mired in confusion or resistance.

But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69 throws us a rescue line in today’s final verse:

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds God spurns not.

The steady path to truth lies with those who seek God among the humble and poor. The humble are the ones through whom the Lord speaks. They are God’s own. Jeremiah and the Baptist understood this truth and preached it by their lives.

We might examine our lives today in the light of their witness and the message of this challenging psalm.


Poetry:  Beginners – Denise Levertov


‘From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—‘


But we have only begun
to love the earth.
We have only begun
to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
—we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.

Music:  The Cry of the Poor – John Foley, SJ

Jeremiah’s Psalm

Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 24, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Jeremiah’s Psalm. The verses come from chapter 31, part of what is referred to as the “Book of Comfort”. (Chapter 31-33)

In total, the Book of Jeremiah is full of woe. It was written as a message to the Jews in Babylonian exile, blaming their faithlessness for their current predicament. The prophet admonishes the people, calling them to return to the Lord and allow themselves to be made new according to God’s design.

Jeremiah is notable for its complementary tactics of confronting the people with their sorrows while comforting them with God’s mercy. 

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd his flock.


Jeremiah forces his listeners to acknowledge that their destruction is deserved. They have shifted their trust from God’s Promise to a political power that devolved into greed, militarism, and the illusion of self-sufficiency. Once that acknowledgement is accomplished, repentance and renewal are possible.

Our passage today describes that possibility:

The LORD shall ransom Jacob,
he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror.
Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion,
they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings:
The grain, the wine, and the oil,
the sheep and the oxen.


Believing that scripture speaks to our experiences as well as to their own times, we may discover stark parallels between our world and that of Jeremiah. As we pray with this psalm, let’s ask to see where we have shifted from God’s hope for Creation. Where do we feel a sense of loss, confusion, desperation or anger? Where have we lost truth, compassion, and reverence for the life we share with all the human community?


As my small community watches the evening news, we audibly mourn the sorry state to which our world has come. We encourage one another to moral and political responsibility to change the forces that have led to this collapse.

This cycle of acknowledgement and grace-filled action can allow us to return, as did Jeremiah’s community, to God’s dream for Creation:

I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.


Poetry:  What Babylon Was Built About – Judson Crews (1917- 2010) American poet

Music: I Will Restore – Maranatha Music

What was lost in battle
What was taken unlawful
Where the enemy has planted his seed
And where health is ailing
And where strength is falling
I will restore to you all of this and more
I will restore to you all of this and more

I will restore
I will restore
I will restore to you all of this and more

I will restore
I will restore
I will restore to you all of this and more
I will restore to you all of this and more

Where your heart is breaking
And where dreams are forsaken
When it seems what was promised; will not be given to you
And where peace is confusion
And reality an illusion
I will restore
I will restore
I will restore to you all of this and more

Psalm 94: Tough Talk

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

July 15, 2020

From 2016:

Today, in Mercy, on this feast of St. Bonaventure, we pray for God to be revealed across our battered globe. God does not hide from us. We hide God in our sinful choices. May we, no matter our religion or politics, find the means to confront terrorism, war and domination by uniting in the God who made and loves us all.


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 94, a ruthless, stinging condemnation of greed, sinful arrogance, and hypocrisy. This morning’s prayer is not a comfortable one.

If you don’t think twice, you might feel like you’re reading today’s newspaper.

Set between Isaiah’s blistering condemnation of an “impious nation”, and Jesus’s expressed preference for the humble and innocent, this psalm scalds those who “trample” the widows, the stranger, the fatherless …


As I pray with the psalm’s uncompromising judgements, flashing before me are:

  • the faces of refugee families.
  • children in cages.
  • desperate parents pushed into buses to return to the terror they fled.
  • the Black and Brown faces of people consigned to our social and economic margins
  • the helpless eyes of those unfavored by a skewed justice system

Your people, O LORD, they trample down,
your inheritance they afflict.
Widow and stranger they slay,
the fatherless they murder.


My prayer is soaked with angry frustration at the unabated moral torpitude and social injustice of many with political power. When will they answer for their soulless actions and inactions!

And they say, “The LORD sees not;
the God of Jacob perceives not.”
Understand, you senseless ones among the people;
and, you fools, when will you be wise?


I take some solace in the promise of these final lines, stilling longing for a glimmer of the justice it describes:

For the LORD will not cast off his people,
nor abandon his inheritance;
But judgment shall again be with justice,
and all the upright of heart shall follow it.

May that day come soon, dear God, for all Creation and for all your beloveds suffering under the willful injustice, selfishness, indifference, or complicity of others.


Poetry: Let America Be America Again – Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."
The free?
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again

Music: All Who Love and Serve Your City – Eric Routley

All who love and serve your city,
all who bear its daily stress,
all who cry for peace and justice,
all who curse and all who bless,
In your day of loss and sorrow,
in your day of helpless strife,
honor, peace, and love retreating,
seek the Lord, who is your life.

In your day of wrath and plenty,
wasted work and wasted play,
call to mind the word of Jesus,
“I must work while it is day.”
For all days are days of judgment,
and the Lord is waiting still,
drawing near a world that spurns him,
offering peace from Calvary’s hill.
Risen Lord! shall yet the city 
be the city of despair?
Come today, our Judge, our Glory;
be its name, “The Lord is there!”

Psalm 145: Is All Right with the World?

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 5, 2020

 

From 2017: Today, in Mercy, we  ask God to bless our country and all its people – to give us the grace to live in justice, peace and mutuality; to give us the insight to elect decent leaders who will forge these values; to give us the courage to model these values among nations; to teach us to use our freedom humbly, responsibly and mercifully.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145, a hymn psalm which is the last numerically to mention David in its origin.

The psalm is one of equilibrium and gratitude where the one praying is at peace within God’s generous fidelity.  By observing nature’s magnificent permanence, the psalmist both praises God and assures himself that things will be alright in the world.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.


Reading the psalm today, I thought of Robert Browning’s famous verses from his poetic drama Pippa Passes:

The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn:
God's in his heaven—
All's right with the world!
— from Act I: Morning

The verse, though it has endured, was considered naïve when published, due to an undercurrent of civil unrest in England and the rest of Europe. Times were not as peachy as the poem pretended.


With only a superficial glance, one might tend to feel similarly about Psalm 145. Times were tough for the Israelites, as many of the Psalms make clear. These lamenting psalms often ask for deliverance, and all kinds of retribution on enemies.

Psalm 145, and some other hymns, do not. They convey a sense of contentment with the status quo. We might ask ourselves, “Did the same people compose both these kinds of songs? Did this literature, in fact, arise out of the same national experience?


I think these are perfect questions as we, in the United States, continue to celebrate Fourth of July weekend. As we pray for our country, and for the world of which we are part, contrapuntal feelings surely enter our prayer.

  • a deep love of country countered with as deep a concern for its civic health and morality
  • an appreciation for our foremothers and fathers balanced with an awareness of their failures and limitations
  • a pride in our history tinged with shame and regret for its sins
  • a desire to honor civil servants and leaders tested by a realistic concern about their values and agenda
  • a profound gratitude for our national blessings pained by the realization that not all Americans share equitably in them

As is often the case, praying the psalm offers some guidance for our questions. Our third verse in today’s responsorial selection recognizes where God’s faithful generosity wants to be focused. Despite any personal equanimity, there are those who are falling. There are among us those who are bowed down:

The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

A nation – an earthly community – which sees and attends to those who are so burdened will be blessed by God with the same justice and balance that renders “all right in the heavens”.

Music: The Eyes of All Wait Upon Thee – Syracuse University Singers

Psalm 85: The Kiss

Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 4, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85, a testament to hope for the future. Couldn’t we all use a dose of the right now?

Glancing through Twitter last night, I came across a tweet asking for prayers because the writer had “begun to lose hope in the future”. I thought of and prayed for that person this morning when I read Psalm 85, a song of unmitigated hope and trust.


Despite the destruction of the Temple and their exile into Babylonian captivity, the Israelites remained convinced that God had promised them a future of blessedness.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people.

Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Trusting in God’s fidelity, they are freed to imagine and wait for that future’s slow and mysterious fulfillment. Note the future tense of the verbs in these verses:

Mercy and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Early 16th C. depiction of the Four Daughters of God: Mercy, Truth, Justice, and Peace (Angel in the middle)

The Israelites trusted God’s desire and will for their good. They so strongly believed in a blessed future that they were able to access it even in the midst of a disappointing present.

By faith, we too enter the timelessness of God’s love, finding – even in life’s challenges – the path to joy and peace. The “shalls” in the above verse are achieved through our belief in, and action for them. This is the power of the covenant between God and us.


Our faithful lives invite: 

  • God’s kiss of justice and peace
  • God’s springing forth in truth
  • God’s gaze of justice and mercy over Creation

God and we walk beside one another on the way to a sacred future where the journey is also the destination.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.


May we be given
the grace to believe
that we already live
within the wholeness of God.
May our life be
a hopeful and joyful witness
to that wholeness.


Poetry: Grace – Wendell Berry

Even though written as an autumn poem, these verses fit today’s reflection. Wendell Berry’s thoughts grace evoke a sense of hope and patience.

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

Music:  Mercy Like Rain, written by Rory Cooney, sung here by Alma deRojas

Let me taste your mercy like rain on my face;
here in my life, show me your peace.
Let us see with our own eyes your day breaking bright.
Come, O Morning; come, O Light!
 
What God has spoken I will declare:
Peace to the people of God everywhere.
God's saving presence is close at hand:
glory as near as our land!
 
Here faithful love and truth will embrace;
here peace and justice will come face to face.
God's truth shall water the earth like a spring,
while  justice will bend down and sing.
 
God will keep the promise indeed;
our land will yield the food that we need.
Justice shall walk before you that day,
clearing a path, preparing your way.
 
Let me taste your mercy like rain on my face;
here in my life,  show me your peace.
Let us see with our own eyes your day breaking bright.
Come, O Morning; come, O Light!

Psalm 74: Listen to me!

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 27, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 74 which complements Psalm 79 in the intensity of its lament. It too reflects the devastation of Israel at the destruction of the Temple and, with it, a whole way of life.

Praying these psalms doesn’t make for a light and happy morning! There is no dawning sunrise or birdsong woven through these verses. To tell the truth, I’d be inclined to avoid 47 if I could.

To deepen the umbra, our first reading comes from the Book of Lamentations, five anguished poems of wrenching bereavement.


But what these doleful songs remind me of this morning is that there is profound misery in the world, even if – thank God – I am not experiencing it personally. There are people who need my prayers, my awareness of their suffering, my attention, and my action for their easement. I am reminded that even if I am filled with contentment, these suffering people are irrevocably connected to me.

Psalm 74 reminds me that God needs instruments to heal the misery of the world. I am called – as you are – to be one of them. In small or large ways, in global or very personal efforts, we are the means by which God answers this plea:

Look to your covenant, Lord,
for the hiding places in the land and the plains are full of violence.
May the humble not retire in confusion;
may the afflicted and the poor praise your name.

In this verse, the psalmist asks God to look at his world’s suffering, believing that if God only sees, God will heal.

The psalm calls us to look too…

  • to not be impervious to the pain right before us nor at a distance from us
  • to hear the cry under appearances
  • to become a safe “hiding place” for those fleeing violence in its many forms – from bullying to genocide
  • to be Mercy in the world

Poetry: The poem today is Quaking Conversation by Lenelle Moïse. It looks at the world’s darkness through the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti. The poem is a modern Psalm 74, asking the reader to “sit down” and listen to its pain.

Quaking Conversation

i want to talk about haiti.
how the earth had to break
the island’s spine to wake
the world up to her screaming.
how this post-earthquake crisis
is not natural
or supernatural.

i want to talk about disasters.
how men make them
with embargoes, exploitation,
stigma, sabotage, scalding
debt and cold shoulders.
talk centuries
of political corruption
so commonplace
it's lukewarm, tap.

talk january 1, 1804
and how it shed life.
talk 1937
and how it bled death.
talk 1964.  1986.  1991.  2004.  2008.
how history is the word
that makes today
uneven, possible.
talk new orleans,
palestine, sri lanka,
the bronx and other points
or connection.
talk resilience and miracles.

how haitian elders sing in time
to their grumbling bellies
and stubborn hearts.
how after weeks under the rubble,
a baby is pulled out,
awake, dehydrated, adorable, telling
stories with old-soul eyes.
how many more are still
buried, breathing, praying and waiting?
intact despite the veil of fear and dust
coating their bruised faces?

i want to talk about our irreversible dead.
the artists, the activists, the spiritual leaders,
the family members, the friends, the merchants
the outcasts, the cons.
all of them, my newest ancestors,
all of them, hovering now,
watching our collective response,
keeping score, making bets.

i want to talk about money.
how one man's recession might be
another man's unachievable reality.
how unfair that is.
how i see a haitian woman’s face
every time i look down at a hot meal,
slip into my bed, take a sip of water,
show mercy to a mirror.
how if my parents had made different
decisions three decades ago,
it could have been my arm
sticking out of a mass grave

i want to talk about gratitude.
i want to talk about compassion.
i want to talk about respect.
how even the desperate deserve it.
how haitians sometimes greet each other
with the two words “honor”
and “respect.”
how we all should follow suit.
try every time you hear the word “victim,”
you think “honor.”
try every time you hear the tag “john doe,”
you shout “respect!”
because my people have names.
because my people have nerve.
because my people are
your people in disguise

i want to talk about haiti.
i always talk about haiti.
my mouth quaking with her love,
complexity, honor and respect.
come sit, come stand, come
cry with me. talk.
there’s much to say.
walk. much more to do.

Musi: God of the Poor – Graham Kendrick

Psalm 4: To See God’s Face

Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 9, 2020

Click here for readings

king harp

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 4, a lament written to be sung with stringed instruments.

The psalmist expresses confidence that God rewards the prayer of the just, warning the “dull of heart” to wake up!

 


When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
Have pity on me, and hear my prayer!
Men of rank, how long will you be dull of heart?
Why do you love what is vain and seek after falsehood?

Surely, the psalmist’s sentiments echo in our hearts:

  • We all pray, in these conflicted times, for the grace to wake up to the justice and mercy of God.
  • We pray, like the psalmist, to see the face of God in ourselves and in our neighbor.
  • We pray to finally be able to break through the falsehood of racism to the Presence of our Creator in every person.

shane mccrae
The poem I offer today was written by Shane McCrae, an American poet and recipient of a 2011 Whiting Award. McCrae earned a BA at Linfield College, an MA at the University of Iowa, an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a JD at Harvard Law School. He currently teaches at Columbia University.

In this poem, the poet and his young daughter trace faces in the waves, the way many of us have in waves or clouds.

psalm4

Like all great poems, this one allows us to find our own meaning within it. I see a father looking to find the reflection of his own face in our representations of God, and hoping that his little child might do so a well. We sense their hopes disappear in the waves and in a culture that has enthroned God’s image as a white male.

Still When I Picture It the Face of God Is a White Man’s Face

Before it disappears
on the sand his long white      beard before it disappears
The face of the man
in the waves I ask her does she see it ask her does
The old man in the waves      as the waves crest she see it does
she see the old man his
White     his face crumbling face it looks
as old as he’s as old as
The ocean looks
and for a moment almost looks
His face like it’s     all the way him
As never such old skin
looks my / Daughter age four
She thinks it might he might be real she shouts Hello
And after there’s no answer answers No



Music:
  The Whole Book of Psalmes: Psalm 4, “Oxford Tune”
written by – Thomas Ravenscroft (1588 – 1635)
rendered here by Richard Muenz

 

Psalm 123: Song of the Caged Bird

Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs

Charles Lwango
St. Kizito being baptised by St. Charles Lwanga at Munyonyo – stained glass at Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine

Charles Lwanga (1860 – 1886) was a Ugandan convert to the Catholic Church, who was martyred for his faith and is revered as a saint by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.


June 3, 2020

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Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 123. How fitting that this particular prayer should bless us at this time!

Psalm 123 is one of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent (120-134). It is thought that these prayer songs were sung by pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem, expressing the joys, sorrows, needs and sufferings of the community.

Among them Psalm 123 is a lament, particularly for the scorn and contempt the Israelites felt as they tried to live lives of faith in a hostile world. Verses 3 and 4, (not included in today’s passage) plead:

Show us favor, LORD, show us favor,
for we have our fill of contempt.
Our souls are more than sated
with mockery from the insolent,
with contempt from the arrogant.

Praying with Psalm 123, we might think of today’s “pilgrims”, traveling the streets in protest of racial injustice. The integrity of their cause has been polluted by the rioters and looters infiltrating them, drawing contempt even from some who might otherwise have supported them.

Geo_Floyd

Still, people of faith must not be distracted from the truth, nor should we hide from the reality of our own complicity in normalizing unjust systems.  We must hear the lament of all those who long for justice. We must acknowledge that our current structures have grievously failed people of color, the poor and the refugee. We must make the choices that justice and mercy demand of us.


Today’s Responsorial verses may help us. In our hearts and souls, let us stand beside one another as we pray, each of us created to serve God by serving one another:

To you I raise my eyes,
to you enthroned in heaven.
Yes, like the eyes of servants
on the hand of their masters,

Like the eyes of a maid
on the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes are on the LORD our God,
till we are shown favor.


A poem to enrich your reflection:

cage

Caged Bird
A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
~ Maya Angelou


Music: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Ad te levavi oculos meos (Psalm 123)

Ad te levavi oculos meos, qui habitas in caelis.
Ecce sicut oculi servorum in manibus dominorum suorum;
sicut oculi ancillae in  manibus dominae suae:
ita oculi nostri ad Dominum Deum nostrum,
donec misereatur nostri.

Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri,
quia multum repleti sumus despectione;
quia multum repleta est anima nostra
opprobrium abundantibus, et despectio superbis.

What “World” Do You Live In?

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 16, 2020

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Jn15:18 world

Today, in Mercy, Jesus talks about “the world”.

That word can cause a little confusion, both as we find it in scripture and in the history of Christian thought.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology says five connotations for “world” may be found in scripture:

  • The physical world – the actual plant Earth
  • The human world – the land and seas we can navigate
  • The moral world – the universe of good and evil
  • The temporal world – the world that will someday end
  • The coming world – eternal existence 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking about the moral world which, in the New Testament, refers to those people who are indifferent and hostile to Christ’s teaching.

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
but because you do not belong to the world…
the world hates you.


wolf-clipart-57
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

We understand this use of the word. We see the evil in the world. We are saddened, angered and confounded by it when we recognize it.

But do we always recognize it?

Blatant evils like murder are readily recognized. But the most insidious evils are those that masquerade as good.

These masquerading evils often pretend to protect our rights, our security, our safety. But they usually do so at the expense of someone else’s rights – the poor, the refugee, the aged, the homeless, people of color……and all who have become “disposable” in our society.


These deceptions hide behind brave and noble words like “America First”, “Second Amendment Rights”, “Protect Life” and a rash of other slogans which fail to examine the whole impact of single-issue politics. 

It’s confusing because we love America, right? We believe in people’s constitutional rights, right? We respect life, right?

What if our slogans instead more clearly reflected Gospel values:

  • The Human Family First
  • Safety Rights for Everyone
  • Health Security for All Life – Womb to Tomb

CriticalConcerns-Poster-FINAL

How can we be spiritually discerning about what is good within such realities and what is rooted in sinful self-interest? Jesus tells us in these words:

Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.

We must look to the one who is hated and persecuted to find the Face of Christ. We must love that Face and learn its heartaches. We must become a companion in their search for wholeness. We must set aside any costume of self-righteousness and put on the garment of Mercy:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Colossians 3:14-16

Music: The Mercy Song – Paul Alexander