The Peaceable Kingdom

November 29, 2021
Monday of the First Week of Advent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Isaiah, Matthew and Psalm 122.

Our first reading sets us out on nearly two weeks of passages from Isaiah. The passionate hope of Isaiah’s writing, as well as its literary elegance, can reach into our hearts and powerfully renew us.

For these reasons, “Isaiah’s Vision” is among the most beloved and influential books of the Bible. The book has so influenced Christianity that it often is referred to as “The Fifth Gospel”.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
    nor shall they train for war again.

Isaiah 2:4

Isaiah’s images, written to fire the souls of the ancient Hebrews, still have the power to enkindle our today as we await the quickening grace of our Prince of Peace. We still have little and big wars all around us, and some within us. Still there are swords and spears between us that cry for a peaceable bending.

Isaiah asks us to acknowledge them and offer them for transformation so that we may, with our psalmist, “go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”


In our Gospel, Jesus paints a picture of the sacred house, an inclusive table where all are fed with Eternal Life.

I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven

Matthew 8:11

Today’s centurion
– by virtue of his humble, resolute faith –
already has partaken of that peaceable feast.
The early invitation is open to us as well.🤗


Poetry: An Appendix to the Vision of Peace by Yehuda Amichai

Yehuda Amichai is recognized as one of Israel’s finest poets. His poems, written in Hebrew, have been translated into 40 languages, and entire volumes of his work have been published in English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, and Catalan. “Yehuda Amichai, it has been remarked with some justice,” according to translator Robert Alter, “is the most widely translated Hebrew poet since King David.”

  • from Poetry Foundation

    Don’t stop after beating the swords
    into plowshares, don’t stop! Go on beating
    and make musical instruments out of them.
    Whoever wants to make war again
    will have to turn them into plowshares first.


Music: Lo Yisa Goy – Utah Philharmonic

Lo Yisa Goy is a jewish folk song based on Isaiah 2. Translation below.

Lo yisa goy
El goy cherev
Lo yil’medu
Od milchamah.

A nation shall not raise
A sword against a nation
And they shall not learn 
Any more war.

Promise Fulfilled

First Sunday of Advent
November 28, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we begin our Advent journey remembering a promise:

The days are coming, says the LORD, 
    when I will fulfill the promise 
    I made to the house of Israel and Judah.

Jeremiah 33:14

“Promise” is a powerfully dynamic concept whose meaning we sometimes constrict. 

We might say something like, “I promise to pay you back someday” – thereby limiting “promise” to some future event that may or may not happen.

But “promise”, in its richer meaning, is an inward turning toward a journey, each step a necessary component of the ultimate fulfillment. 

In this sense, “promise” is more akin to “vow” or “covenant”. It unfolds as life unfolds. It grows through stages, like a fruit tree from a tiny seed. Its meaning, at first indistinctly seen, blossoms as it is fed with faith, hope, and enduring love.

This is the nature of God’s promise to us. It is not only some salvific event in our future. It is the flowering of grace, again and again, in our life choices for God. 

It is the classic example of that insightful phrase, “The journey is the destination.” In other words, Jesus cannot be born for us on Christmas if He is not born in us every day.


Thus, Psalm 25 is the perfect prayer as we reflect on our journey during Advent.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
   teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my savior,
   and for you I wait all the day. 

All Your paths are kindness and constancy
   toward those who keep Your covenant and decrees.
Your friendship is with those 

who hold themselves in awe before You,
   and Your covenant is for their daily instruction.

Psalm 25: 4-5; 10,14

As we begin this Advent,
let us ask God to show us
the promise longing for fulfillment
in each moment and
in every event of our daily lives.
Let us give our hearts to it.

Poetry: Advent Credo from Walking on Thorns by Allan Boesak

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.


Music: Psalm 26 – Kendrick and Redman

The Last Day

November 27, 2021
Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we come – FINALLY – to the last day in Ordinary Time. And, believe me, the readings are as daunting as their predecessors suggested they would be.

They are so daunting that I will leave you to them if you wish, but I choose to close the Liturgical Year with another story I wrote years ago.

May the story inspire you as we stand on beautiful Advent’s doorstep. Within it, may you find love, hope, tenderness, mercy and gratitude to carry with you into the new Church Year.

The Earring

Young Emma, skewered by indecision, had stared into her mother’s jewelry box. She had always loved those bejeweled earrings, a gift to her mother from her grandmother—an heirloom now, a treasure beyond price. She wanted so to wear them on this special date, but they were “hands off” and she knew it. Still, her mother at work and unaware of her desire, Emma had succumbed to temptation.


The dance had been wonderful, a whirlwind of such delight that Emma had not noticed when her left earring had brushed against her partner’s shoulder, tumbling hopelessly under the dancers’ trampling feet. Only at evening’s end, approaching her front door exhausted and dreamy, had she reached up to unclip the precious gems.


Her mother sat waiting for her in the soft lamplight, having already noticed the earrings missing from her dresser. Awaiting retribution, Emma knelt beside her mother and confessed the further sacrilege of loss. But her mother simply cupped Emma’s tearful face in her hands, whispering, “You are my jewel. Of course I forgive you.”  Though accustomed to her mother’s kindness, this act of compassion astonished Emma, filling her with an indescribable, transformative gratitude.


Like Emma, we may be astonished at the graciousness that has been given to us. We may respond by pouring out our thanks to God in a silent act of prayer.

May we also have the courage to become like our merciful God, anticipating the other’s need for our forgiveness and compassion. May we seek the strength not to harbor injury, but too release it to make room for further grace in our hearts.


Advent 2021

I am so excited about Advent – my favorite time of the Church Year! The readings are magnificent — especially lyrical, prophetic Isaiah!

Advent offers us the wonderful call “to relish expectation” – to believe in, to hope for, and to love what we cannot yet see. It is a time of blind but unshakeable trust which teaches us to live within our deep, invisible spirit.

Looking forward to being with all of you tomorrow as we begin the journey through this season of profound hope.


Poetry: I Hear the Oriole’s Always-Grieving Voice – Anna Akhmatova

I chose this poem because it captures a spirit of hope – yet unrealized, but nevertheless convinced.

I hear the oriole’s always-grieving voice,
And the rich summer’s welcome loss I hear
In the sickle’s serpentine hiss
Cutting the corn’s ear tightly pressed to ear.
And the short skirts of the slim reapers
Fly in the wind like holiday pennants,
The clash of joyful cymbals, and creeping
From under dusty lashes, the long glance.

I don’t expect love’s tender flatteries,
In premonition of some dark event,
But come, come and see this paradise
Where together we were blessed and innocent.


Music: Gracias a la Vida – Mercedes Sosa and Joan Baez ( English lyrics below.) Thanks to my friend Beth who shared this lovely song on Facebook today.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
Can perfectly distinguish black from white
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
And from within the multitude The one that I love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me an ear that, in all of its width
Records— night and day—crickets and canaries,
Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms,
And the tender voice of my beloved.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me sound and the alphabet.
With them the words that I think and declare:
“Mother,” “Friend,” “Brother” and the light shining.
The route of the soul from which comes love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me the ability to walk with my tired feet.
With them I have traversed cities and puddles
Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.
And your house, your street and your patio.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me a heart, that causes my frame to shudder,
When I see the fruit of the human mind,
When I see good so far from bad,
When I see within the clarity of your eyes…

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me laughter and it gave me longing.
With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
The two materials from which my songs are formed,
And your song, as well, which is the same song.
And everyone’s song, which is my very song.
Thanks to life

Thanks to life
Thanks to life
Thanks to life

Visions

November 26, 2021

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112621.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with some pretty dramatic passages from the Book of Daniel. I mean, it’s the stuff of a rather scary special effects movie!

Even Daniel indicates how disturbing his visions are:

Because of this, my spirit was anguished and I, Daniel, was terrified by my visions.

Daniel: 7:15

So does the Church, or even God, want us to be disturbed in our prayer today and tomorrow with our last two readings before Advent?

Listen! If you’re not disturbed already by the strain of unholiness in the world, then Daniel isn’t going to rock your boat!

But if you, like most good people, have trouble even watching the evening news without anguish, then Daniel is speaking to you.

The writer of Daniel was delivering a message to the people of his/her time:

The visions of chapters 7–12 reflect the crisis which took place in Judea in 167–164 BCE when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek king of the Seleucid Empire, threatened to destroy traditional Jewish worship in Jerusalem.

The message was:

pay attention to the changing world

focus on God in the disturbing change

choose to be faithful, hopeful, and brave

God will always remain faithful to us and most important of all:

God is coming to deliver us!

For us, these elements can be the core pre-Advent encouragements from Daniel. Trusting them, we are moved to pray with all Creation which is ever steadfast in praising God:

Give glory and eternal praise to him!
“Mountains and hills, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.”
“Everything growing from the earth
“You springs, bless the Lord;
“Seas and rivers, bless the Lord;
“You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
“All you birds of the air, bless the Lord;
“All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
    praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R.    Give glory and eternal praise to him!

Poetry: The Second Coming – William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Music: Michael Hoppé – Shadows Fall

I’m a little on the fly today… big turkey to cook. Publishing from phone – so not too fancy. I hope y’all had a beautiful Thanksgiving Day.❤️

Happy Thanksgiving – 2021

Passing the Thanksgiving Baton

Families pass batons much like relay teams do.  One generation hands its gifts and stories on to the next.  Eventually the cycle of love and tradition wears a deep path in time that becomes known by your family name.


Our Youngest and his Dad!
Our first girl of the next generation!

How often do we see a newborn child and comment that she has her grandmother’s eyes.  How many times have we said to someone, “You remind me so much of your father.” Whenever we see the pattern of strength and generosity repeated through the generations, we are given reason to hope and be grateful.


In our family, the joint making of Thanksgiving favorites is a great tradition: chocolate pie, deviled eggs, sweet potato casserole, homemade stuffing.  Over the years, tradition has passed from my grandmother to my mother, my father, me, and my brother and his family.  

I remember a day, over twenty years ago, when I went into the kitchen to find my young teen  niece preparing the pie crust.  Under their mother’s supervision, the three younger siblings were all about the deviling, sweetening and cubing of elements for the feast. 

My parents had died not too long before, but I saw their spirit, alive and joyful, in the midst of that loving activity. The scene left a sacred impression on my heart undimmed over two decades. Looking at those beloved children, I thought how Mom and Dad would have loved them. And once again I realized that they are the precious hope of our family’s future and the blessed confirmation of its past. 


Now, the years have passed over our household in blessing, and these dear “youngsters” are themselves Moms, Dads, Aunts, and Uncles guiding our new young ones in the blessings of faith, family, friendship, and generosity.


Be especially mindful of your children this Thanksgiving. Confirm in them the traditions they continue and the newness they contribute to your family.  Whether they sit over at the kids’ table or have joined you at the “big table”, make Thanksgiving Day a special time to love them.  Tell them stories that connect them to their history and offer them an irreplaceable stability as they create their own chapter of your family’s story.


Let us pray for one another on this Thanksgiving Day, and for families who struggle with any burden. May we, and they, find the hope, strength, courage and support to live in joy, peace, and gratitude.


Music: We Are Family

Toward Thanksgiving…

November 23, 2021
Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in Mercy, our readings echo the end-time themes we have been considering for several days. And we may continue to pray with these as we approach Advent.


But as we approach Thanksgiving, I want to shift gears and offer you some reflections I have written over the years in celebration of this holiday. For these next few days, I will focus on these. In the past, readers have used them for their prayer and at their own Thanksgiving tables. I hope you find them beneficial.

You’re Welcome

Bill was a big Mid-western guy with the boots and belt buckles to prove it. His wife of thirty years was a patient in our east coast cancer wing. Hearing of a break-through experimental treatment, they had come seeking a cure despite every indication of its hopelessness.

Being away from home, Bill had a lot of empty time outside of visiting hours. He spent much of it observing things that would ordinarily go unnoticed in the bustle of his regular life: weather, nature and human idiosyncrasies.

During one cafeteria lunch, over a bowl of hot soup, he observed, “People around here don’t say ‘You’re welcome’. They hold a door. You say ‘Thank you’. They just say ‘Uh huh’”.  Bill didn’t like that. It made him feel invisible. He said it was like one hand clapping.

In this season of Thanksgiving, it’s something to consider. Thanks are not offered in a vacuum. They are given to benefactors, both human and Divine, on whom we depend for a reciprocity of love, companionship, care and courage. Bill, at such a vulnerable, lonely place in his life, was infinitely sensitive when his thanks received no answer.

During this special time, we may hear a “Thank You” offered to us. In this cold age of our digital distractions, can we receive it consciously? Can we return it with a mutuality of gratitude that says, “You’re welcome! You are welcome in the embrace of my life. I see you as a unique and precious life and I rejoice at any kindness I can give you.”? A simple, sincere smile can say all that. Such is the power of our conscious spirits!

Doing this, we might even hear the Creator’s whisper, saying the same thing to us as we offer our Thanksgiving prayers: “I have created you from an abundance of love. You are precious to me and I believe in you. I hear your “Thank You” and you are welcome in the embrace of my infinite love.”


Poetry/Prayer


Music:  Thanksgiving Classical Playlist (You may want to play this hour-long compilation during your Thanksgiving meal.)

Wake Up!

November 22, 2021
Memorial of St. Cecilia

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a passage from Daniel for our Responsorial Psalm:

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our forebearers,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
    praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages

Daniel 3:52

This week we continue with a series of readings from the Book of Daniel. It is the only time throughout the Liturgical Year that we get a good dose of Daniel. And it is well placed, coming in this final week before Advent.

The Prophet Daniel by Michelangelo (Sistine Chapel)

Daniel is apocalyptic literature, a genre which conveys the author’s perception of the end times through dreams, visions and prophecies. Like many of our readings of the past weeks, Daniel focuses us on God’s Final Coming into time by interpreting current circumstances in a spiritual light.


Today’s Gospel does the same thing, but in a little different way. 

Jesus tells the story of the poor widow who gave everything she had for the sake of the poor. This widow, in a sense, already lives in the “end times”, a time when our only “possessions” will be the good we have done in our lives.

Both these readings set us up to reflect on our lives and times as we approach Advent. This sacred season is the annual reenactment of Christ’s First Coming in order to prepare us for:

  • Christ’s daily revelation in our lives
  • Christ’s Final Coming at the end of time

All of Daniel’s complex visions and prophecies can feel a little confusing, but we can focus on this:

  • God is continually revealing Godself in the ordinary circumstances of time.
  • We can open ourselves to this revelation by our humble prayer and good works.
  • Staying awake like this in our hearts and souls will allow us to pass seamlessly into God’s Presence when the end times come.

Poetry: Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows (from Jerusalem) – William Blake

Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! expand!
I am in you and you in me, mutual in love divine:
Fibres of love from man to man thro Albions pleasant land.
In all the dark Atlantic vale down from the hills of Surrey
A black water accumulates, return Albion! return!
Thy brethren call thee, and thy fathers, and thy sons,
Thy nurses and thy mothers, thy sisters and thy daughters
Weep at thy souls disease, and the Divine Vision is darkend:
Thy Emanation that was wont to play before thy face,
Beaming forth with her daughters into the Divine bosom
Where hast thou hidden thy Emanation lovely Jerusalem
From the vision and fruition of the Holy-one?
I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!
Ye are my members O ye sleepers of Beulah, land of shades!

Music: Sleepers Awake from the beautiful album by Chris Wyton, “Music for Deep Meditation “

A Heart Beholding

November 20, 2021
Feast of Christ the King

For some, the lofty, politically-tinged title might obscure the rich devotion offered by this feast. The title “king” carries with it suggestions of exaggerated power, wealth and dominance not compatible with our Gospel perception of Jesus.

We may be more comfortable with images of Christ as infant, brother, shepherd, lamb, vine, gate, way, truth, life…

But what all these images point out is that our ability to comprehend the fullness of Christ is severely limited by our humanity. We usually choose a specific image based on our circumstances and spiritual needs.

Pope Pius XI promoted the concept of Christ the King in his 1925 encyclical Quas Primas, in response to growing international secularism and nationalism. His intent was not to compare Christ to the challenged world leaders of the time. It was to raise the perceptions of all people to the lessons of Divine Leadership: mercy, justice, inclusivity, and peace.

Oh, how we could benefit from the same understanding today! 

In this age with its culture of continual war, the human pain it causes, refugee crises, climate devastation, wealth distortion and indifference to the poor, how our hearts long for just, wise and loving leadership!

In his encyclical, Pius XI wrote:

Christ the King reigns “in the human hearts,” both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all humanity. He reigns, too, in our wills, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors. He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his “charity which exceedeth all knowledge.”

— Quas primas, §7[4]

Let’s pray for these virtues for all who are charged with any form of power or leadership:

  • keen spiritual intellect
  • deep heart’s knowledge
  • uncompromising truth
  • obedience to grace
  • holy inspiration 
  • noble character
  • and surpassing charity for all Creation

May Christ the King truly live and reign among us. May we behold the “sweet light in His eyes”!


Poetry: A King Inside Who Listens - Rumi

There are many people with their eyes open
whose hearts are shut. What do they see?
Matter.

But someone whose love is alert,
even if the eyes go to sleep,
he or she will be waking up thousands of others.

If you are not one of those light-filled lovers,
restrain your desire-body's intensity.
Put limits on how much you eat
and how long you lie down.

But if you are awake here in the chest,
sleep long and soundly.

Your spirit will be out roaming and working,
even on the seventh level.

The Prophet says, I close my eyes and rest in sleep,
but my love never needs rest.

The guard at the gate drowses.
The king stays awake.

You have a king inside who listens
for what delights the soul.

That king's wakefulness
cannot be described in a poem.

Music: We Shall Behold Him – offered in American Sign Language by Kayla Seymour; sung by Sandi Patty

Thoughts of Heaven

November 20, 2021
Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 9 and its beautiful verse which is echoed in several other Psalms:

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart;
    I will declare all your wondrous deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, Most High.

Psalm 9: 2-3

Like so many of our readings lately, today’s point us toward a consideration of the “afterlife” or the “end times”. I know you may have had enough of such considerations, but the Church isn’t giving up quite yet!


Antiochus IV, wikipedia

Maccabees gives us a colorful account of the defeat, dismay and ultimate death of Antiochus IV, persecutor of the Jews. The account, like most of the Books of Maccabees, is primarily historical, not spiritual or theological. But threaded through the books, of course, is the underlying biblical orientation that God-Yahweh is present and active in all life’s circumstances.

Today’s passage has even pagan Antiochus considering how God/Fate has brought him to judgement- to “payback” time:

But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem,
when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver
that were in it, and for no cause
gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed.
I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me;
and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land.

1 Maccabees 6:11-13

In our Gospel account, some Sadducees question Jesus about marriage laws and the afterlife. Their questioning reminds me of modern songwriter Eric Clapton’s musings in his song:

Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton

Jesus doesn’t sing to the Sadducees, as far as I know. Rather, he answers them this way:

Those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.

Luke 20:35-36

So for us today, the questions and concerns of both Antiochus and the Sadducees might lead us to consider how we feel about the “afterlife”.

Do you ever wonder what heaven will be like? Will we see our beloveds once again? Will we see our “unbeloveds” too and what will that be like!! Do you calculate whether or not you’ll even make the cut through the Pearly Gates?

When I think about heaven these two promises of Jesus sustain, comfort and animate me. Maybe you’ll consider their power too as you pray today.

I have come that you may have life,
and have it to the full.

John 10:10

Eternal life is this, that they know you,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 17:3

Poetry: Heaven-Haven (1864) – Gerard Manley Hopkins

A nun takes the veil

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail,
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

Music: Here’s a beautiful piece of music to accompany you in your “considerations”.

Nocturne No.20 in C-Sharp Minor – Frédéric Chopin, played by Joshua Bell