Psalm 8: Hymn of the Universe

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

October 17, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 8.

O LORD, our LORD,
how glorious is your Name over all the earth!
You have exalted your majesty above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings
you have fashioned praise ….

Psalm 8:2-3

Just yesterday, I got an email from the amazingly organized Sister who manages our grounds. She wanted to alert us that there would be a small “star-gazing” event this weekend, sponsored by our school, in case we might wonder about unusual nighttime visitors.


The note took me back to my own star-gazing days, residues of which percolate from time to time, especially during meteor showers. These days I do most of my “gazing” out our kitchen window, but when I studied for my certification in Earth Sciences, I had several opportunities for “instructed” star-gazing with excellent West Chester University astronomers. In a subsequent reflection, I described one such experience like this:

There are a few places where nature offers an experience of darkness so absolute it can be terrifying.  Assateague Island lies along the barrier coast of Virginia.  On a winter night, darkness there feels complete, enveloping.  As evening lengthens, night pulls its velvet canopy from the black ocean, covering the beach in silence. The whisper of rustling sea oats along invisible dunes is the only link to a land left behind.  But slowly, like sparks rolling through dry tinder, stars burn one by one through heaven’s blanket.  By midnight, their incomparable brilliance convinces the soul that it has never been and can never be alone.


Three thousand years ago, our psalmist felt the same way:

When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place—
What are we  that you should be mindful of us,
we human beings that you should care for us?

Psalm 8:4-5

Charles Spurgeon, revered Baptist preacher, calls this psalm “the song of the Astronomer“, as gazing at the heavens inspires the psalmist to meditate on God’s creation and humanity’s place in it.

You have made us little less than the angels,
and crowned us with glory and honor.
You have given us rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under our feet.

Psalm 8:6-7

Pope John Paul II said this:

 …. for those who have attentive ears and open eyes, creation is like a first revelation that has its own eloquent language: it is almost another sacred book whose letters are represented by the multitude of created things present in the universe. St. John Chrysostom says: “The silence of the heavens is a voice that resounds louder than a trumpet blast: this voice cries out to our eyes and not to our ears, the greatness of Him who made them.

General Audience – January 30, 2002

And our dear Pope Francis reiterates this thought so beautifully in his epic encyclical:

At the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God, and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which with us, will share in unending plenitude.

Laudato Si’

Let’s rest in all this beauty as we pray today with Psalm 8


Music: Beautiful Universe – Tim Janis

Psalm 1: The First Word

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1.

Patrick D. Miller, Hebrew Scriptures scholar, suggests that Psalm 1 “sets the agenda for the Psalter through its identification of the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked as well as their respective fates” along with “its emphasis on the Torah, the joy of studying it and its positive benefits for those who do“.

Blessed the one who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

What does it really mean to “meditate on God’s law day and night”? Become a monk? Read the Bible all day? Never sleep?

Of course not. I think it means to live in the firm belief that God is in everything, and to train our hearts to see and respond to that Omnipresent Love.

We all know people who, no matter the circumstances, are focused on good and radiate a joyful confidence. There is a light within them and a peace around them. The living of their ordinary lives is a meditation on God’s order in all things.

Such a person …

… is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever that faithful one does, prospers.

Psalm 1:3

It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges … even protests, righteous anger, sadness and pain. Think of Jesus as he overturned the Temple tables!

It means rather that the focus is never lost because …
Creation’s sacred order is our Light;
and God’s law has taught ours hearts 
to find our joy in its Beauty.

my transliteration of Psalm 1:2

Let’s be that tree near
the running water of Grace!🙏


Poem: On Beauty by Khalil Gibran

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
     And he answered:
     Where shall you seek beauty, and how
shall you find her unless she herself be your
way and your guide?
     And how shall you speak of her except
she be the weaver of your speech?
    
The aggrieved and the injured say,
“Beauty is kind and gentle.
     Like a young mother half-shy of her
own glory she walks among us.”
     And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is
a thing of might and dread.
     Like the tempest she shakes the earth
beneath us and the sky above us.”
    
The tired and the weary say, “Beauty is
of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
     Her voice yields to our silences like a faint
light that quivers in fear of the shadow.”
     But the restless say, “We have heard her
shouting among the mountains,
     And with her cries came the sound of
hoofs, and the beating of wings and
the roaring of lions.”
    
At night the watchmen of the city say,
“Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the
east.”
     And at noontide the toilers and 
the wayfarers say, 
“We have seen her leaning over
the earth from the windows of the sunset.”
    
In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall
come with the spring leaping upon the hills.”
     And in the summer heat the reapers say,
“We have seen her dancing with the autumn
leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.”
     All these things have you said of beauty,
     Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of
needs unsatisfied,
     And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
     It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty
hand stretched forth,
     But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
     It is not the image you would see nor the
song you would hear,
     But rather an image you see though you
close your eyes and a song you hear though
you shut your ears.
     It is not the sap within the furrowed bark,
nor a wing attached to a claw,
     But rather a garden for ever in bloom and
a flock of angels for ever in flight.
    
People of Orphalese, beauty is life when
life unveils her holy face.
     But you are life and you are the veil.
     Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.


Music: I Delight in You, Lord – David Baroni

Psalm 105: God at the Center

Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 10, 2020


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.

Sing to God, sing praise,
proclaim all God’s wondrous deeds.
Glory in the Holy Name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!

Psalm 105: 2-3

Our psalm today enjoins us to remember God’s faithful mercy to us and to praise God as we remember.

Such sacred “remembering” is an act of radical faith which, first, recognizes God as the Center of our life, and second, acts from that radical awareness.


The word “obedience”, so commonly misconstrued as subservience, is another way of describing this radical faith which hears, listens, acknowledges, responds and centers itself on the voice of God. The word “obedience” comes from the same root as the word “listen”.

This freely-given and continually deepened obedience allows us to hear and discern the loving truth God weaves through our lives.

The counter-world of the Psalms contradicts our closely held world of amnesia and mediates to us a world of lively remembering….
… In Psalm 105, a long recital of the great deeds climaxes, “in order that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws” (v. 45). The purpose of remembering is thus to evoke a contemporary practice of obedience in the wake of the memory. The implied negative is that when the inventory of miracles is forgotten, there will be no contemporary obedience .

Walter Brueggemann, From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

In the encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis points out how this obedience, (this holy remembering, listening and acting), is tied to the course of human affairs. Francis quotes JPII here:

In this regard, I wish to cite the following memorable statement: “If there is no transcendent truth, in obedience to which the human person achieves full identity, then there is no sure principle for guaranteeing just relations between people. Their self-interest as a class, group or nation would inevitably set them in opposition to one another. If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to make full use of the means at their disposal in order to impose personal interests or opinion, with no regard for the rights of others… The root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by very nature the subject of rights that no one may violate – no individual, group, class, nation or state.

St. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991)

Rootedness in this “remembering obedience” begins with each person’s own sincere prayer. With the psalmist, let us remember God’s loving fidelity to us and, in grateful response, live that Love faithfully into our conflicted world:

Look to the LORD’s strength;
seek to serve the Lord constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that God has wrought,
the signs, and the graces God has spoken in your life.

Psalm 105: 4-5

Poem: Called to Become – Edwina Gateley

You are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one else is called to become
Who you are called to be.
It does not matter
How short or tall
Or thick-set or slow
You may be.
It does not matter
Whether you sparkle with life
Or are as silent as a still pool.
Whether you sing your song aloud
Or weep alone in darkness.
It does not matter
Whether you feel loved and admired
Or unloved and alone
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
No one's shadow
Should cloud your becoming.
No one's light
Should dispel your spark.
For the Lord delights in you.
Jealously looks upon you
And encourages with gentle joy
Every movement of the Spirit
Within you.
Unique and loved you stand.
Beautiful or stunted in your growth
But never without hope and life.
For you are called to become
A perfect creation.
This becoming may be
Gentle or harsh.
Subtle or violent.
But it never ceases.
Never pauses or hesitates.
Only is—
Creative force—
Calling you
Calling you to become
A perfect creation.

Music: Psalm 105 – Give Thanks – Sean Dayton

Mercy Day Reverie

This morning, as I prayed in preparation for a Mercy Day blog, I found it hard to pull the bright thread of Mercy out from the jumble of concerns now enveloping me – and I think most of us.

Of course, there’s the relentless pandemic. But there is a host of other burdensome issues pre-dating Covid 19 that seem to have gotten entangled with that global worry:

  • world poverty and hunger
  • endless war
  • climate crisis
  • racial injustice
  • poisonous politics
  • depersonalization of refugees and immigrants

I spent a long part of the morning wondering what I could write about Mercy in the shadow of these worries.


Then an image came to me … a delightful memory of my childhood in 1950s North Philadelphia. 

I’ve always treasured the fact that I grew up in a “real” neighborhood of row houses and still safe streets.  It was a geography of unarticulated intimacy, respect, and protection. You knew when your next door neighbor got up in the morning and ran the bath tub. The walls were shared with people of every possible ethnicity and religion. Even our telephone was on a “party line”, connected with a neighbor at the end of the block whom, of course, we never listened in on.

As little kids, we went out on a summer morning and never came home until we heard our mothers call from the doorsteps of our compacted houses. We spent the hours playing street games like Baby-in-the-Air, handball, hose ball, jacks, jumping rope, Red Rover. If you’ve never played them or even heard of them, I’m so sorry. You won’t find any fun like them in today’s video game stores!


But the frolic that came to mind this morning was the simple game of Tag and its core element of “base”. I pictured Petey Nicolo standing, eyes covered, against the corner telephone pole, chanting Tag’s magic formula:

Five, ten, fifteen, twenty ……
Anybody around my base is “It”!

The chant revealed this key component the game: if you touched “base” (the telephone pole), you were immune from the tag. You were safe.


Maybe my little reverie back to my childhood doesn’t seem much like a Mercy Day prayer, but here’s the thing. 

Our merciful God is our “base”, our Refuge. Touching into God’s abiding love for us, we are safe from the “tag” of life’s multitudinous worries. This is so, not because the worries disappear, but we are able to look through them to the Mercy of God who will always deliver us to grace if we ask.

On this strange Mercy Day, we are prevented in so many ways from touching one another. Let us, nevertheless, listen through the pandemic walls that separate us. Let us tap into one another’s “party line”. Let us run together, loved and protected children, toward Mercy Who calls us even, and maybe especially, in our tumultuous times. Let us place all the tangles in God’s gentle, unraveling fingers.

And as we run, let’s grab the hands of those our selfish culture wants to leave behind, pulling them with us to Lavish Mercy.

Music – Home by David Nevue

Psalm 17: Apple of God’s Eye

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, September 18, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 17, a confident prayer calling on God’s intervention.

The psalmist tenders a plea:

Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer
from lips without deceit.

Psalm 17:1

But before reiterating that plea, the pray-er convinces God that she is worthy of an answer:

You have tested my heart,
searched it in the night.
You have tried me by fire,
but find no malice in me.
My mouth has not transgressed
as others often do.
As your lips have instructed me,
I have kept from the way of the lawless.

Psalm 17: 3-4

It sounds a little boastful but it really isn’t. The one who prays this psalm is very familiar with God and God with her. There are no secrets between them. She knows that she is infinitely loved and protected, not despite her vulnerability but because of it. 

The psalmist, from long experience, is confident asking for help, as we would be asking a friend to turn and listen to us:

I call upon you; answer me, O God.
Turn your ear to me; hear my speech.

Psalm 17: 7

Have you ever been asked for prayers because you are “a good prayer”?
It happens to nuns all the time.

But no prayer is more powerful than another. We say “Of course” to such requests because it is our intention to join our prayer with that of the requester.

Show your wonderful mercy,
you who deliver with your right arm
those who seek refuge from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings

Psalm 17: 8-9

Each of us is God’s “eye-apple”. Each of us, when we give ourselves to a long familiarity with God, will be wrapped in the confidence of one who is always answered.

( In a second posting, I’ll be sending on an extra meditation on The Eye of God by Macrina Wiederkehr – beautifully profound.)


Poetry: As Kingfishers Catch Fire – Gerard Manley Hopkins

by Alcedo Atthis

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells 
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s 
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; 
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; 
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, 
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 

I say móre: the just man justices; 
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces; 
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is — 
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places, 
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his 
To the Father through the features of men’s faces. 


Music:   The Apple of My Eye by Umb-5 and Sam Carter

Sometimes a non-spiritual song captures a spiritual meaning in a beautiful way. Let God sing to you with this lovely song.

Psalm 116: The Return?

Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, September 12, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with the lilting Psalm 116, an intimate, tender, and powerful prayer.

The psalmist, overwhelmed by God’s goodness, asks a clear and urgent question:

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good God has done for me?


The verse itself shows the spiritual awareness of the questioner. Some people don’t believe God has done anything for them. They think they’ve done everything for themselves! And it’s sad to see somebody lost in that illusion.

They never feel awe and gratitude that they have received, as pure gift from God:

  • the breath of life
  • the capacity to believe, hope and love
  • the beauty of all Creation
  • the heritage of faith, family and friendship
  • the blessing of community in its many forms
  • the particular gifts that make them unique in the world
  • the capacity to care, act, and change things toward good
  • the irrevocable invitation to befriend God
  • the Lavish Mercy and steadfast accompaniment of that Divine Inviter
  • the promise of eternity

As we grow in our capacity to recognize and live out of these gifts, we deepen in our “sacrifice of praise”.

Walter Brueggemann describes a sacrifice of praise like this:

It must be an intimate, yielding act of trustful submission of “spirit and heart,” not “sacrifice and burnt offerings”. The speaker (psalmist), now situated in glad praise, can imagine an intimacy and communion in which contact between God and self is available and in which the distinction between the two parties is clear and acknowledged—God in splendor, the self in “brokenness”.


That “brokenness” is fully given to God to heal and empower with grace so that one’s life becomes a witness to God’s love.

To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.


The “sacrifice of praise” is not accomplished in a single declaration or decision. It can begin like that. But to last, it must be “lived into”, moment by moment, through an intentional, prayerful life. That is the lesson of today’s Gospel – it is how we build our “house” on rock.


Poetry: God of Shelter, God of Shade – by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

God of shelter from the rain,
God of shade from the heat, 
I run from You
through the muddy street
of my uncommitted heart
till wild winds beat
against my doors,
blasting sand
through all my walls,
and I stand
without retreat,
hear Your command
to be the wheat. 
Sweet the giving!
Sweet this land! 
God of shelter from the rain.
God of shade from the heat.
Music: Alvin Slaughter and Inside out - The Sacrifice of Praise

Psalm 84: The Presence

Friday, September 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 84 in which the psalmist expresses great love and longing to dwell in God’s protection.

My soul yearns and pines 
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.


The psalm, while it alludes to the Temple as God’s house, offers a broader and deeper understanding of that sacred dwelling place. Psalm 84 describes an abiding so universal that it welcomes even the sparrow into its embrace.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your sanctuaries, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!


Praying today with this lovely psalm, I focus on my desire to be completely embraced by God – to feel that unquestioning faith, trust, hope and love in all circumstances of my life . This kind of confidence doesn’t come from any temple, building, or church. It comes from the Presence we find WITHIN our “temples”. If that Presence is gone, the “temple”is simply a pile of bricks.


An image rose in my mind of my niece Katelyn when she was about 18 months old. My mother had just died. When my brother and family arrived at Mom’s house shortly after, little Katelyn scurried quickly to the kitchen, my mother’s usual habitat. She wanted that irreplaceable hug from Grandmom. But the kitchen chair was empty. Katelyn touched the chair and, still pre-verbal, looked up at me wondering and confused – much like I was. The kitchen had become a temple without a presence. Neither she nor I were sure where to touch the love that had once been there.

Katelyn’s glance is burned on my memory even now, over 30 years later. I have seen it in so many eyes since then, where lives have been struck with a sadness or tragedy that takes their heart away.


Psalm 84 reminds us that the healing of such bereavements happens in the Heart of God, the immutable Presence holding all our “temples” in its palm.

Blessed they who dwell in Your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed they whose strength you are!
their hearts are set faithfully upon life’s journey.


We experience all kinds of death, loss, darkness and emptiness in our lives. In those times, how do we touch God’s abiding love? How do we find Light?

Psalm 84 encourages us to be honest with God, to express our longing, to believe God wants our good, and to be sincere in our desire for God’s Presence in our lives.

For a sun and a shield is the LORD God;
grace and glory bestowing;
The LORD withholds no good thing
from those who walk in sincerity. 


Poetry: To Be Held – Linda Hogan

To be held
by the light
was what I wanted,
to be a tree drinking the rain,
no longer parched in this hot land.
To be roots in a tunnel growing
but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves
and the green slide of mineral
down the immense distances
into infinite comfort
and the land here, only clay,
still contains and consumes
the thirsty need
the way a tree always shelters the unborn life
waiting for the healing
after the storm
which has been our life.

Music: Heinrich Schütz set Psalm 84 in the German translation by Martin Luther as part of his Op.2, Psalmen Davids sampt etlichen Moteten und Concerten.

Psalm 139: Lord, You Know Me

Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 139, such a deeply personal and beautiful meditation. It is all we need for our prayer today.


Psalm 139
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 
How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

O God, You Search Me and You Know Me- Bernadette Farrell

Psalm 145: Prayer Answered

Memorial of Saint Monica

August 27, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Monica, we pray with Psalm 145.

We can almost picture the psalm’s sentiments pouring out in Monica’s prayer. For years, she had prayed for her son Augustine’s conversion. She was canonized for the level of her persevering prayer – a prayer blessed with the amazing answer of St. Augustine’s holy life.

Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.

Like the answer to most prayers, Monica’s came after the long working of God’s mysterious ways. Her own life was shaded by suffering and loss. But, she was steadfast in her hope over the nearly two decades it took to see Light dawn in Augustine.


Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.


As we reflect on the generations of our own families, and the decades of our own lives, there are many “Monica-Augustine” stories. Whenever we pray for life to lead us and our beloveds to God, we pray like Monica.

Today, let’s bring our own “Augustines” to God in hopeful prayer. And let’s thank God for any “Monica” who has done this loving service for us over our lives.

I think this morning of my mother’s well-worn prayer book. The little devotional volume had been fattened with a number of prayer cards stuffed in its thin pages. One day, just before my mother died, I noticed this one: Prayer for My Daughter, a Nun. I can’t say I was exactly surprised by it. I supposed Mom prayed for me. But the card blessed me in a vey tender way and made me confident that my life would continue to be blessed.


Discovering the card also made me aware of my responsibility to pray daily for my family, friends, and community. They are my “Augustines” in whatever challenges they may face in life – just as I hope I am somebody’s too. Because, friends, we belong to one another in the Communion of Saints, and our “family” is fed not by blood, but by the Spirit.

The generations discourse of the power of your awesome deeds
and declare your greatness.
They publish the fame of your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your justice.


Poetry: St. Augustine and Monica by Charles Tennyson Turner

Her weeping kiss – for years, her sorrow flowed
At last into his wilful blood; he owed
To her his after-life of truth and bliss:
And her own joy, what words, what thoughts could paint!
When o’er his soul, with sweet constraining force,
Came Penitence – a fusion from remorse –
And made her boy a glorious Christian saint.
Oh ye, who tend the young through doubtful years
Along the busy path from birth to death,
Parents and friends! forget not in your fears
The secret strength of prayer, the holy breath
That swathes your darlings! think how Austin’s faith
Rose like a star upon his mother’s tears!


Music: (something for opera fans among us) La Conversione di Sant Agostino, Oratorio by Johann Adolph Hasse

Hasse begins La Conversione di Sant’ Agostino with an orchestral introduction that establishes the work‘s tonal center in the key of B-flat major, with most arias composed within related keys. From the grandeur and dynamic intensity of the Introduction comes the first vocal entrance of the oratorio. The listener acts as a voyeur into a conversation between Simpliciano (tenor), a priest, and Monica (soprano), the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo, in which Monica expresses her fears that her son may never change his wicked ways. This urgent desire becomes the core dramatic theme throughout the oratorio with Alipio (alto), the friend, and Navigio (bass), the brother, serving to intensify the desperate desire for conversion. The role of Saint Augustine (alto) is secondary to that of his mother, Monica. Saint Augustine only has two arias, both dealing with his desire to find release from his sinful ways. His conversion is explicitly stated in the Part Two aria in which he begs God to look upon him with compassion following the censure of his own heart.

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!”