God’s Own — Wow!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, in our reading from Deuteronomy, God tells the People that they are loved in a unique way. So are you!

God says:  And today the LORD is making this agreement with you:

You are to be a people peculiarly his own

Dt16_18 peculiarly

The word “peculiarly” may strike us exactly as it says. It is a word whose usage has changed over the centuries. We think of it today as “odd” or “unusual”, a meaning given it only since the 18th century.

The word’s actual derivation is this:

Mid-15th century:  “belonging exclusively to one person,” from Latin peculiaris “of one’s own (property),” from peculium “private property,” literally “property in cattle” (in ancient times the most important form of property).

So Deuteronomy is telling us that we are to God as the herdsman’s possessions are to herdsman. We belong to God Who has invested everything in us. God will protect, nurture and strengthen us in a relationship of mutual investment and harmony — IF we do our part which is:

… provided you keep all his commandments,
he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory
above all other nations he has made,
and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God,
as he promised.

In our Gospel, Jesus outlines exactly how to do this.

Love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

In today’s world, so full of hate, greed and retribution, I suppose we are “peculiar”, in both senses of the word, when we live as Jesus asks.

Music: How He Loves Is ~David Crowder Band ( The Song may not resonate with at first, but stick with it. There is something deep in this melody..)

God, please …

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings talk about prayer – a particular kind: the prayer of supplication. 

As children, many of us learned this acronym for the types of prayer: ACTS
Ollie_pray

Adoration – Contrition – Thanksgiving – Supplication

The mnemonic has been helpful to me as an adult too. It reminds me to communicate with God only many levels, not just to ask for something. I know how I feel about someone who never talks to me unless they need something. I don’t want to be that way with God.

In our first reading, Esther prays a prayer of supplication for the deliverance of her people from death. Her prayer is not a simple, passing, “Please”. The passage tells us:

She lay prostrate upon the ground,
together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, (praying)

In our Gospel, Jesus describes the prayer of supplication :

Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.

My prayers of supplication haven’t always seemed to get the results Esther got or that Jesus describes. Ever feel that way … that your prayer really hasn’t been answered?

Faith assures us that all our needs are met … even before we present them to God. God is acting in our lives whether or not we speak with God about it.

Our prayer, as it becomes deeper and truer, allows us to enter God’s action with faith, hope, love and courage. This is the perfect prayer of supplication – it allows us to float, content, in the water of God’s will always flowing around our lives.

ask-Receive

David Foster Wallace created a parable you may have heard:

Two young fish are swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, “What is water?”

Foster explains, “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

Our reality is that we exist in the “water” of God’s life and presence. May our “asking” of God lead us to understand that our life in God is already the answer.

Music: Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire – James Montgomery (1771–1854)

Montgomery wrote the lyrics at the request of Edward Bickersteth, who wanted them for his book Treatise on Prayer. Montgomery called this “the most attractive hymn I ever wrote.”

( I have included all the Lyrics below. Quite beautiful, I think.)

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains
That reach the Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air,
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters Heav’n with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, “Behold, he prays!”

The saints in prayer appear as one
In word, in deed, and mind,
While with the Father and the Son
Sweet fellowship they find.

Nor prayer is made on earth alone;
The Holy Spirit pleads,
And Jesus, on th’eternal throne,
For sinners intercedes.

O Thou by whom we come to God,
The life, the truth, the way,
The path of prayer Thyself hast trod:
Lord, teach us how to pray.

The Word is Near You

Sunday, March 10, 2019

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Mt4_4 Word

Today, in Mercy,  our reading from Romans tells us:

The word is near you,
in your mouth and in your heart.

How is the Word of God near us, with us? 

Certainly, our sincere study and prayer with scripture is one way. Sitting quietly with scriptural passages, letting them speak to us, inviting them to inform our lives is a life-giving discipline.

Sometimes, we might choose just one word or phrase from a beloved reading, turning it over and over, gently in our prayer. How has this precious word informed our lives, inspired us, called us, comforted us? How is it speaking to us in this moment?

As we move more deeply into the “words” of scripture, we move closer to the Word – the Incarnate God. John writes: 

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made;
without him nothing was made that has been made.

Perhaps today in our prayer, we can commit ourselves to a deepening love of scripture, of the Word given to us there.

In his book, “ The Bible Makes Sense”, Walter Bruggemann says this:

The Bible is not an “object” for us to study but a partner with whom we may dialogue. It is usual in our modern world to regard any “thing” as an object that will yield its secrets to us if we are diligent and discerning. And certainly this is true of a book that is finished, printed, bound, and that we can buy, sell, shelve, and carry in a briefcase or place on a coffee table…[But] reading the Bible requires that we abandon the subject-object way of perceiving things… [If we do,] the text will continue to contain surprises for us, and conversely we discover that not only do we interpret the text but we in turn are interpreted by the text… We may analyze, but we must also listen and expect to be addressed.

Music: Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

Let the Light In

Saturday, March 9, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah tells us how to spiritually balance our lives.

Reading the passage, I thought of my Dad. He was a magnificent, though largely uncredentialed, handyman. One of many important lessons he taught me was how to “true up” a panel of wet wallpaper before pressing it into place. This was particularly necessary if the wallpaper had a vertical pattern or stripe. Failure here led to visitors sitting askew on the living room couch, trying to balance themselves out! 😂

Isaiah says we have to be as careful in our spiritual lives. He says we have to take certain measures to “true up” our souls with the heritage of grace God plans for us. He tells us to remove these imbalances:

oppression
false accusation
malicious speech

Wow! Can’t our world really use that advice?!

Isaiah further says to: 

bestow your bread on the hungry
satisfy the afflicted; THEN …. and ONLY THEN…

Is58_8 light rise

In our Gospel, Jesus calls a man whose career was about all about “balances” – Matthew, the tax collector. Jesus takes Matthew from a world of impersonalized requirements to a world of eternal abundance, calling him to align with the divine scale of mercy.

3_9mirror

Are there places in our lives where we are measuring with the wrong scale; failing to true up the lines with God’s meridian? Lent is about checking it out and making the adjustments we need to make in order to let the Light in.

 

Music:  There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy – Frederick Faber

Mercy Not Sacrifice

Friday, March 8, 2019

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Is58_8 LightJPG

Today, in Mercy,  Isaiah “cries out, full throated and unsparingly”, to call the Israelites’ attention to their sins. He delivers God’s message that, despite all their showy religious efforts, they have missed the whole point.

Both Isaiah and Jesus, in today’s passages, challenge their listeners about the purpose of fasting. They call us  to use fasting as a tool to focus our hearts and minds on the presence of God in our daily lives.

Isaiah indicates that we will encounter God’s presence in our exercise of the works of mercy:

3_8mirror

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

I was told a story once about an older Sister whom I never knew. She had died before I entered the community. But her beloved memory lived on because of her vibrant personality and deep spirituality. One day, greatly at peace with her declining health, she left her friends with this question:

What would it be like
to get to the end of your life
and realize you had missed the whole point?

Our readings today want to save us from any such realization. They want us to get the point right now that God desires mercy and goodness not empty ritual and pretensive sacrifice.

Only then, God says, “shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.”

Music:  No Sacrifice ~ Jason Upton

Choose Life

Thursday, March 7, 2019

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Dt30_19 Life

Today, in Mercy, our first reading gives us Moses’ compelling speech to the newly covenanted Israelites: 

3_7mirror
Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom…
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live.

We might ask ourselves, “Who wouldn’t choose life over death, for Heaven’s sake?”

Really? Well then ask yourself these questions:

Do I ever ignore health warnings, cancel doctor’s appointments, eat unhealthy food, smoke, drink and drive, drive and text, skip daily medicine, fail to exercise and get enough sleep … Should I go on?🧐

But even deeper than these external choices are the choices we make for the life of our souls. 

  • Do we pray daily, take quiet time to hear God in our lives?
  • Do we recognize any toxic relationships or habits in our lives and work to remove them?
  • Do we challenge our negative attitudes and try to grow beyond them?
  • Do we call ourselves to generosity, forgiveness, gratitude, hope and other life-giving attitudes?

God has given us the gift of life. But it is up to us to LIVE our lives in the fullness of their possibility.

Music: Choose Life ~ Big Tent Revival (Lyrics below)

A choice is set before you now
living or dying, blessing or cursing
You know, the time has come around
to turn from your fighting
and rest in his mercy

Choose life, that you might live
the life that He gives
He gives you forever
Choose life, the way that is true
from the one who chose you
your father in Heaven
Choose life
Trust the Lord with all your heart
all of your soul and all of your being

Hold on, listen and obey
surrender your life into His keeping
And the weight you’re under
will be lifted away
And the world will wonder
what happened here today
then you’ll stand right here and say

With Your Whole Heart

Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019

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3_6mirror

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

What Return Can I Make?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge us to consider what we might offer to God in return for all the good we have received.

Ps50_praise

When I was young, and on a stressful occasion still, I have been known to bargain with God.  It goes something like this:
“Dear God, please, if You will only do X, I promise to do Y.”

The process reminds me of a game my Uncle Joe played with me when I was a toddler. He would give me some pennies to buy candy from him that he had just purchased at the corner store. He intended to teach me simple math. But I also learned what is was like to have resources, to possess buying power.

The glitch in the process was this: none of the resources really belonged to me. Everything belonged to Uncle Joe who allowed me to use his resources to learn and grow.

When we think about what we can offer God, it’s sort of a similar model. We have nothing that doesn’t first and already belong to God. We can give God nothing to “buy” God’s love and grace. God gives these freely and without restriction.

All that we really have to offer God is our love, demonstrated by our charitable actions. That’s what Sirach is talking about today.

In our Gospel, Peter – ever a guileless and simple soul – wants to make sure Jesus knows how much Peter has given up for God. Jesus affirms Peter’s offering, but says that God’s generosity exceeds it a hundredfold.

We live in loving relationship with an infinitely generous God. Our only currency in this relationship is the return of love, praise and thanksgiving.

When I regress to my bargaining stance with God, I think God smiles at me the way Jesus probably smiled at Peter. The smile says, “I am already giving you everything you need. Let yourself rest in Me.”

Music: To God Be the Glory ~ Andrae Crouch

Turn To Me

Monday, March 4, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are steeped with the scent of Lent, coming this week.

Sirach 17 turn

Sirach appeals to us to be penitent, to turn around and look at the Lord with new eyes. Mark describes the entrance to God’s Kingdom as smaller than a needle’s eye!

The word “penitent” comes from a Latin root paenitere which carries a sense of being filled with regret at what is missing or lacking in our lives.

In Mark, Jesus meets a good young man longing for something more in his life.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,

“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

These readings set us up perfectly for the coming Lenten season. It is a good day to think about what is lacking in our spiritual life, what it will take for us to follow Jesus more wholeheartedly.

Let us turn our hearts to look at Jesus who loves us as much as he loved that young man. Let us ask Jesus to accompany us on the coming journey, giving us the courage to change whatever in us needs change in order to pass through the needle’s eye.

Music: Turn Around – The Vogues

Being Ourselves with God

Sunday, March 3, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings invite us to spiritual honesty with its accompanying transparency.

husksJPG
In a fabulous metaphor, Sirach tells us that under stress, the measure of our honesty will be evident:

When the sieve is shaken,
the husks appear.

Don’t we try to hide our weaknesses, fears, worries, and doubts? Sometimes we even hide them from ourselves! And God! But under stress, these “husks” rise to the surface and affect our behavior and interactions. Sometimes we create a life-long attitude that attempts to conceal these negativities but causes people – even ourselves – to wonder why we’re so mean, aloof, distracted or angry all the time.

Luke likens this concealment to a “plank”in our inner eye, a blindness which will not let us see ourselves as we are before God – beautiful, beloved and whole. We myopically see instead all our own and other’s annoying fragmentations.

Corinthians tells us that this kind of negative thinking is death-dealing; that it is a product of living only by law and not by spirit. Paul says:

The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ

Lk6_43 fruit

These readings help us to deepen our understanding that only when we open our lives to God will we fully be open to ourselves. Then, as our Psalm explains:

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall they grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

Music: O God, You search Me and You Know Me By Bernadette Farrell