Out of Gloom, LIGHT!

Friday of the First Week of Advent
December 2, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120222.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah once again promises light despite the darkness, understanding despite the emptiness, life despite the devastating hold of poverty.

Thus says the Lord GOD:
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:18-19

Isaiah’s promises shone a beacon of hope to the oppressed people of his time. As I pray with his words today, I am deeply aware of the oppressions of our own time and the people who suffer under them.

Over the course of these days, I am praying with a delegation of people currently in Central America to remember, bless, learn from, and bear witness to the lives of four martyrs.


http://www.share-elsalvador.org/el-salvador-and-honduras-roses-delegation.html


The Roses in December delegation marks the 42nd anniversary of the martyrdom of four U.S. women religious. On December 2, 1980, members of the U.S.-trained-Salvadoran National Guard raped and killed lay worker Jean Donovan, Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford, MM, and Maura Clarke, MM, and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, OSU. The women had been accompanying the Salvadoran people displaced by war and poverty. Their witness cost them their lives. Their deaths shook the world and were emblematic of the violence suffered by the Salvadoran people and the power of accompaniment.

These women lived with the kind of hope and faith Isaiah describes. It is an active faith necessary in all times because, sadly, in all times there will be brutal and inhuman oppression of the vulnerable by the powerful. These woman chose to stand for the Gospel instead.


During an earlier anniversary of the Roses in December event, social justice activist Jean Stolkan asked the question, “What do these women call us to today?” Jean served in El Salvador herself and has continued to advocate for human rights and social justice. Jean is currently Social Justice Coordinator for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. She offered these insights in answer to her question:

The challenges we face today are different from the challenges we faced when the four church women died. They call for new perspectives and new structures, new vision and new social movements to adequately respond to the need for justice for present and future generations.

Today our hearts go out to the peoples of El Salvador and Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, as they struggle with basic issues of survival and rebuilding of their lives after so many disasters: hurricanes and earthquakes, but also violence and poverty. We pray for an outpouring of compassion and solidarity, that we may continue to address in systemic ways the underlying human failings – structural poverty, racism, violation of human rights, destruction of the environment – that these and other natural and human disasters unmask with such brutal clarity.

Please join your own prayer today
for a new flowering of social justice,
respect for human rights,
and a mutual reverence for our common home
as we remember these valiant Gospel women.

Poetry: El Salvador – Javier Zamora

( Poet Javier Zamora was born in the small El Salvadoran coastal fishing town of La Herradura and immigrated to the United States at the age of nine, joining his parents in California. He earned a BA at the University of California-Berkeley and an MFA at New York University and was a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.)

Salvador, if I return on a summer day, so humid my thumb
will clean your beard of  salt, and if  I touch your volcanic face,

kiss your pumice breath, please don’t let cops say: he’s gangster.
Don’t let gangsters say: he’s wrong barrio. Your barrios

stain you with pollen, red liquid pollen. Every day cops
and gangsters pick at you with their metallic beaks,

and presidents, guilty. Dad swears he’ll never return,
Mom wants to see her mom, and in the news:

every day black bags, more and more of us leave. Parents say:
don’t go; you have tattoos. It’s the law; you don’t know

what law means there. ¿But what do they know? We don’t
have greencards. Grandparents say: nothing happens here.

Cousin says: here, it’s worse. Don’t come, you could be    ...    
Stupid Salvador, you see our black bags,

our empty homes, our fear to say: the war has never stopped,
and still you lie and say: I’m fine, I’m fine,

but if  I don’t brush Abuelita’s hair, wash her pots and pans,
I cry. Like tonight, when I wish you made it

easier to love you, Salvador. Make it easier
to never have to risk our lives.

Music: El Salvador – Peter, Paul and Mary

“El Salvador” is a 1982 protest song about United States involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War, written by Noel Paul Stookey and performed by Peter, Paul and Mary. The song originally appeared on the 1986 album No Easy Walk To Freedom.

There’s a sunny little country south of Mexico
Where the winds are gentle and the waters flow
But breezes aren’t the only things that blow in El Salvador

If you took the little lady for a moonlight drive
Odds are still good you’d come back alive
But everyone is innocent until they arrive in El Salvador

If the rebels take a bus on the grand highway
The government destroys a village miles away
The man on the radio says: “now, we’ll play South of the Border”

And in the morning the natives say
“We’re happy you have lived another day
Last night a thousand more passed away in El Salvador”
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

There’s a television crew here from ABC
Filming Rio Lempe and the refugees
Calling murdered children: “The Tragedy of El Salvador”

Before the government camera twenty feet away
Another man is asking for continued aid
Food and medicine and hand grenades for El Salvador

There’s a thump, a rumble, and the buildings sway
A soldier fires the acid spray
The public address system starts to play: “South of the Border”

You run for cover and hide your eyes
You hear the screams from paradise
They’ve fallen further than you realize in El Salvador
La la la, la la la la
La la la, la la la la la
Ooh, ooh ooh ooh ooh

Just like Poland is protected by her Russian friends
The junta is assisted by Americans
And if sixty million dollars seems too much to spend in El Salvador

They say for half a billion they could do it right
Bomb all day and burn all night
Until there’s not a living thing upright in El Salvador

And they’ll continue training troops in the USA
And watch the nuns that got away
And teach the military bands to play: “South of the Border”

Killed the people to set them free
Who put this price on their liberty
Don’t you think it’s time to leave El Salvador?
Oh, oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh, oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh

The Lingering “Why?”

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest
September 27, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092722.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Wow! Job is as distraught as anybody I’ve ever seen! He is sorry he was ever born, that’s how terrible his circumstances are.

Job Why

Hopefully, none of us has ever been at such a “Job Point”. But we’ve had our own small brinks where we’ve stood and yelled into the silence, “Why?”  

  1. Why me? 
  2. Why my family? 
  3. Why someone so good? 
  4. Why now? 
  5. Why like this?

All these “whys” are fragments of the essential question of the Book of Job:
                          How can a good God allow evil to exist?
The question even has its own name: theodicy – defined as the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil.

Philosophers and theologians have proposed an array of explanations. But these fall short of satisfying us when we are the ones at the brink.

When we try to balance the concepts of evil with God’s goodness, we are wrestling with a mystery, not a problem. Problems, like unsolved math equations, have answers – even though we may not have found them yet.

Mysteries do not have finite answers. Sacred mysteries engage our faith to grow deeper in relationship with God, Who shares our life and suffering beyond our human understanding. 

As we pray with Job today, let us pray for the courage to trust and engage our incomprehensible God.


Poetry: Mystery – Rumi

God writes mysteries on our hearts
where they wait silently for discovery.

Music: Untouchable ~ Mars Lasar

Alleluia: Blessings or Woe

Memorial of The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 22, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/082222.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we jump into several weeks of readings from:

  • Paul’s letters – a little of Thessalonians and a lot of Corinthians
  • a little of Matthew’s Gospel and a lot of Luke’s

Still centering on our daily Alleluia Verse, as we have been since after Eastertide, we open our prayer to the experience of these early communities as they deepened in their Christian story.

Thessoloniki, Greece

Thessalonika was one of the first cities where Paul worked to form a Christian community. That church suffered persecution but showed “endurance and faith”. Paul obviously has great affection for these steadfast believers, an affection which reflects God’s own love for them.


We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters,
as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more,
and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.


Matthew’s Gospel shows us Jesus in an opposite situation from Paul. Jesus is speaking out to a faithless group – Pharisees and scribes who pervert religion with meaningless superficialities which make it harder for people to reach God. 

Animation character designs by Cedric Hohnstadt of the Pharisees for the video series “What’s In The Bible?”

Rather than gratitude and blessing, Jesus preaches woe to those who so subvert the faith journey of their community.

Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?


“religious” distortions vs. sincere faith

One would think it should be easy to tell the difference between true faith and manipulative “religion“. But apparently, it’s not so easy. In every age, including our own, we see people caught up in the distortions of religion which disrespect human rights and freedom.

When we see religion used as a pretext for violence, exclusion, political advancement or economic domination, those “woes” should start ringing in our head.

One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by the one who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by the one who is seated on it.

This advice from Jesus could be a little confusing, but in essence it calls us to be sincere and direct in our approach to God and to our sisters and brothers. It is a teaching offered more clearly in an earlier Matthean passage, the Sermon on the Mount:

But I tell you do not swear at all, either by heaven since that is God’s throne, or by earth, since that is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is ‘Yes’ if you mean ‘yes’, ‘No’ if you mean ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the Evil One.

Matthew 5:34-37

Poetry: Poetics of Faith – Denise Levertov 

‘Straight to the point’
           can ricochet,
                      unconvincing.
Circumlocution, analogy,
           parable’s ambiguities, provide
                      context, stepping-stones.
 
Most of the time. And then
 
the lightning power
           amidst these indirections,
                      of plain
unheralded miracle!
           For example,
                      as if forgetting
to prepare them, He simply
           walks on water
                      towards them, casually –
and impetuous Peter, empowered,
           jumps from the boat and rushes
                      On wave-tip to meet Him –
a few steps, anyway –
           (till it occurs to him,
                      ‘I can’t, this is preposterous’
and Jesus has to grab him,
           tumble his weight
                      back over the gunwale).
Sustaining those light and swift
           steps was more than Peter
                      could manage. Still,
years later,
           his toes and insteps, just before sleep,
                      would remember their passage.
 

Music: Roberto Cacciapaglia – Angel Falls

just some lovely instrumental music to accompany your thoughts as you pray.

Lent: Redemptive Suffering

April 8, 2022
Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we inch closer to Holy Week, we meet both a very troubled Jeremiah and Jesus.

V0034343 The prophet Jeremiah wailing alone on a hill. Engraving.
The Prophet Jeremiah Weeping Alone on a Hill (from the Wellcome Trust)

Jeremiah, the Old Testament mirror of Jesus’s sufferings, bewails the treachery even of his friends:

I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.

Jeremiah 20:10

That’s really raw, because you can get through almost anything in the company of true friends.


Jesus weeps
Jesus Weeping Over Jerusalem by Ary Scheffer (1795-1858)

Jesus came as a Friend and hoped to find Friends of God by his ministry. And he did find many. But not all.

It takes some work to be a true friend of Jesus. Some didn’t have the courage, or generosity, or passion, or hopeful imagination to reach past their self-protective boundaries – to step into eternal life even as they walked the time-bound earth.


In today’s Gospel this band of resisters project their fears and doubts to the crowds around them. The evil sparks inflame the ready tinder of human selfishness. The mob turns on Jesus, spiritual misers scoffing at the generous challenge to believe.

Jesus pleads with them to realize what they are doing:

If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

John 10:37-38

But Jesus and Jeremiah, though troubled, are grounded in God. Our Responsorial Psalm captures what might have been their silent prayer:

Psalm18 distress

Poetry: The following transliteration of Psalm 18, composed by Christine Robinson, might help us to be with Jesus in his moment, and in our own moments of fear, anxiety, or doubt.

I open my heart to you, O God
for you are my strength, my fortress,
the rock on whom I build my life.

I have been lost in my fears and my angers
caught up in falseness, fearful, and furious
I cried to you in my anguish.
You have brought me to an open space.
You saved me because you took delight in me.
I try to be good, to be just, to be generous
to walk in your ways.
I fail, but you are my lamp.
You make my darkness bright
With your help, I continue to scale the walls
and break down the barriers that fragment me.
I would be whole, and happy, and wise
and know your love
Always.


Music: Overcome – Psalm 18 by James Block

No Regrets

February 1, 2022
Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

You have followed the story in these daily passages. Absalom rebels, designing to usurp his father’s throne. A massive battle rises between them. David, as commander-in-chief, remains behind, but gives instructions to his generals to spare Absalom’s life. Joab ignores the command, killing Absalom in a moment of vulnerability.

David is devastated.

David and Absalom – Marc Chagall
(Fair Use)

I think there is no more wrenching human emotion than regret. When I ministered for nearly a decade as hospice chaplain, and later in the emergency room, I saw so much regret.

People who had waited too long to say “I’m sorry”, “I forgive you”, “Let’s start over”, “Thank you for all you did for me”, “I love you”…..

Instead, these people stood at lifeless bedsides saying things like, “I should have”, “I wish…”, “If only…”


Life is complex and sometimes difficult. We get hurt, and we hurt others — sometimes so hurt that we walk away from relationship, or stay but wall ourselves off.

We might think that what is missing in such times is love. But I think it is more likely truth. In times of painful conflict, if we can hear and speak our truth to ourselves and one another, we open the path to healing.


If you want the truth, I’ll tell you the truth.
Listen to the secret sound,
the real sound, which is inside you.

Kabir

That healing may demand adjustments, agreements, even a willingness to step apart in mutual respect. But if the changes emerge from shared truth, restoration and wholeness are possible.


David and Absalom never found that path because they were so absorbed in their own self-interests. Theirs was the perfect formula for regret – that fruitless stump that perpetually sticks in the heart.


Poetry: How Clear, How Lovely Bright – A.E. Houseman

How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
    Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea   
Soars the delightful day.
To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
    Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
    I never kept before.
Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
    Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
    Falls the remorseful day

I remember a trauma surgeon leaving the hospital late one night after an unsuccessful effort to save a young boy who had been shot.

The doctor carried the loss so heavily as he walked into the night barely whispering to me, “I’m just going to go home and hug my kids.”

As we pray over David and Absalom today, let us examine our lives for the fractures that are still healable and act on them. Let us “hug” the life we have within and all around us. Regret is a lethal substitute.



When David Heard – Eric Whitaker ( The piece builds. Be patient. Lyrics below)

When David heard that Absalom was slain,
he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept,
and thus he said;

My son, my son,
O Absalom my son,
would God I had died for thee!

When David heard that Absalom was slain,
he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept,
and thus he said;

My son, my son.

This Cup Is Your Life

October 17, 2021
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 which

“proclaims the LORD as the one

in whom the righteous may place their trust and hope.”

James L. Mays: Psalms (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)

Upright is the word of the LORD,
    and all his works are trustworthy.
God loves justice and right;
    of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those in awe,
    upon those who hope for God’s kindness,
To deliver them from death
    and preserve them in spite of famine.

Psalm 33: 4-5; 18-19

This is a good psalm to be reminded of as we encounter readings from Isaiah and Mark which sound almost Lenten in tone. Our psalm reminds us that, despite adverse appearances, God abides with us and fosters our well-being.


Isaiah gives us the image of a broken Jesus, crushed by a “suffering that justifies many”.

Christ as the Man of Sorrows – Albert Durer

Mark recounts the story of the two rather oblivious disciples asking to sit in glory beside Jesus. They do not realize that the path to this glory is through Gethsemane and Calvary.

Jesus asks these disciples the same question he asks us throughout our lives:

“Can you drink the cup that I will drink?”

Each of our sufferings and sacrifices may be small or large in life. But when they are united with Christ in faith and hope, they all are redemptive.

We will be asked, as Jesus was, to lay down our life in love. 

  • It may be in the unselfish raising of a family, or the humble pastoring of a church community. 
  • It may be in the long-term care of an elderly parent or neighbor. 
  • It may be in a ministry of healing, teaching, or encouragement where another requires our labor, patience and mercy. 
  • It may be as a public servant who actually serves, or as a private nurse who tenderly nurses. 
  • It may be as a community member who builds life by respect, responsibility, and mutuality.

We will come to realize, as did the ambitious sons of Zebedee, that true discipleship is not flash and glam. It is the daily choice to quietly lift the cup we have been given, and raise it to the honor of God – in openness, trust, joy and delight that we are called to share in the life of Christ.


Poetry: Can you Drink the Cup – Scott Surrency, OFM.Cap

Can you drink the cup?
Drink, not survey or analyze,
ponder or scrutinize –
from a distance.
But drink – imbibe, ingest,
take into you so that it becomes a piece of your inmost self.
And not with cautious sips
that barely moisten your lips,
but with audacious drafts
that spill down your chin and onto your chest.
(Forget decorum – reserve would give offense.)

Can you drink the cup?
The cup of rejection and opposition,
betrayal and regret.
Like vinegar and gall,
pungent and tart,
making you wince and recoil.
But not only that – for the cup is deceptively deep –
there are hopes and joys in there, too,
like thrilling champagne with bubbles
that tickle your nose on New Year’s Eve,
and fleeting moments of almost – almost – sheer ecstasy
that last as long as an eye-blink, or a champagne bubble,
but mysteriously satisfy and sustain.

Can you drink the cup?
Yes, you — with your insecurities,
visible and invisible.
You with the doubts that nibble around the edges
and the ones that devour in one great big gulp.
You with your impetuous starts and youth-like bursts of love and devotion.
You with your giving up too soon – or too late – and being tyrannically hard on yourself.
You with your Yes, but’s and I’m sorry’s – again.
Yes, you – but with my grace.

Can you drink the cup?

Can I drink the cup?

Yes.


Music: The Cup of Salvation ~Shane & Shane (Lyrics below.)

I love the Lord for He heard my voice
And answered my cry for mercy
Because He listened to me
I will call upon Him as long as I live

CHORUS

What shall I render to the Giver of life and who all things are made
What shall I render to the One who paints the oceans blue
Jesus Christ

I will lift up a cup of salvation
Call on the Name of the Lord
How do I repay the life that You gave
I’ll call on the Name of the Lord
Lift up a cup, You have already poured

What kind of rendering is found in this taking
Found in this drinking of love
Love so abundant He meets me in depravity
With one thing to give

CHORUS

You have delivered my soul from death
My eyes from tears
My feet from stumbling
And I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living

CHORUS

Stirred, Not Shaken

Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 9, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 97 which is built on two themes:

  • God reigns over all the earth
  • those who acknowledge God’s power have abundant reason to rejoice

This is good news for the people to whom Joel is preaching! Joel’s community has been devastated by locusts and drought. They are surrounded by adversaries. Life is just not easy for them. They have felt abandoned by God.

But Joel tells them that indeed God is annoyed, but still is always on the side of the faithful.

The LORD roars from Zion,
    and from Jerusalem raises his voice;
The heavens and the earth quake,
    but the LORD is a refuge to his people,
    a stronghold to the children of Israel.
Then shall you know that I, the LORD, am your God,
    dwelling on Zion, my holy mountain;
Jerusalem shall be holy,
    and strangers shall pass through her no more.


Psalm 97 reflects the same confident promise to all who suffer. Despite everything we are to rejoice!

The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
    before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim God’s justice,
    and all peoples see God’s glory.
R.    Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
    and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
    and give thanks to God’s holy name.


So we are encouraged to heed Joel’s advice – to stir up our hearts in faith, to look around at all the faith-filled promises of nature mentioned in our first reading. We can learn:

  • from the sun which both rises and sets
  • from the moon which turns its mood but never disappears
  • from snow and rain which cycle invisibly through the years
  • from the leaves which hold the secret of eternal life

God abides with us, even amidst the “droughts” and “locusts”. And if we are faithful, all will be well.


Poetry: There are many wonderful images in Joel 4. One is that of the “Valley of Decision”, an image that has lent itself to many applications in art and literature. Here is one such poem:

OK — two of my “favoritest” actors!!!!

The Valley of Decision by John Oxenham

The World is in the Valley of Decision; 
It is standing at the parting of the ways; 
Will it climb the steps of God to realm elysian — 
Or fall on horror of still darker days? 

Will it free itself of every shameful shackle? 
Will it claim the glorious freedom of the brave? 
Will it lose the soul of Life in this debacle, 
And sink into a mean dishonored grave?

All the world is in the Valley of Decision, 
And out of it there is but one sure road; 
Eyes unsealed can still foresee the mighty vision 
Of a world in travail turning unto God.
 
All the world is in the Valley of Decision. 
Who shall dare its future destiny foretell? 
Will it yield its soul unto the Heavenly Vision, 
Or sink despairing into its own hell?

The World is in the Valley of Decision; 
— It is standing at the parting of the ways; 
Will it climb the steps of God to realm elysian — 
— Or fall on horror of still darker days?


Will it free itself of every shameful shackle?
— Will it claim the glorious freedom of the brave? 
Will it lose the soul of Life in this debacle, 
— And sink into a mean dishonored grave?
 
All the world is in the Valley of Decision, —
And out of it there is but one sure road; 
Eyes unsealed can still foresee the mighty vision 
— Of a world in travail turning unto God. 

All the world is in the Valley of Decision. 
— Who shall dare its future destiny foretell? 
Will it yield its soul unto the Heavenly Vision,
— Or sink despairing into its own hell?


Music: It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco

Out of the Gloom

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time 
October 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 9. It, together with Psalm 10, forms an acrostic which ultimately proclaims profound hope in God’s immutable justice, especially toward the poor and oppressed. But it takes us through a lot fire and brimstone to get there!


When we read the entire Psalm 9, we realize that the psalmist starts out in a lot of trouble:

Be gracious to me, LORD;
see how my foes afflict me!
You alone can raise me from the gates of death

Psalm 9:14

Match that with Joel’s community which is in the midst of a terrible drought. Joel uses the situation to teach that we must withstand many evils in life — not just droughts — in order to keep faith with God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
    sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
    for the day of the LORD is coming;
Yes, it is near, a day of darkness and of gloom,
    a day of clouds and somberness!

Joel 2:1-2

In the end however, Joel assures the community — as does the psalmist — that God is present even in treacherous circumstances and will finally bring “right-balance” or justice to all things.

The LORD sits enthroned forever;
setting up a throne for judgment.
God judges the world with justice;
and governs the peoples with equity.

Psalm 9:8-9

I think these readings are difficult to pray with, but it’s worth a try. How we respond to challenge in our personal circumstances – and even evil in the world at large – depends a lot on how we view God’s Presence in our lives. Both Joel and the psalmist ask us to hold fast to our confidence in God.

Praying with these readings may provoke questions like this for us:  Do I believe God’s justice and mercy truly will prevail in Creation? And how will I help bring about this holy “equity”?

Poetry: Faith is the Pierless Bridge – Emily Dickinson

Faith is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not
Too slender for the eye
It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side
It joins behind the Veil
To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

Music: Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Friday, June 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Isaiah for our Responsorial Psalm:

God indeed is my savior;
    I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
    who has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
    at the fountain of salvation.

Isaiah 12:2-3

This fountain of salvation is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


I woke up before dawn today. Not really wanting to formally begin my day, I lingered on the pillows for my early morning prayer. Having always loved this feast, I began placing all my suffering loved ones into Jesus’s heart – one by one, asking for their strength and healing.

The list was long, because there are all kinds of suffering, and I love a lot of people – even ones I don’t know personally! Finally I said to Jesus, “You know, life is HARD!” 

And in my spirit, I heard this answer,
“I know. I lived it for the love of every one of you.”

To me, this is the meaning
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
– that merciful companionship
which Infinity assumed for us
in the person of Jesus Christ.

That fountain of love and mercy continues to nourish our lives in the Eucharistic community of faith practicing the works of mercy. We are the threads which bind one other to God’s heart.


Paul knew this. That’s why he prayed this beautiful prayer for his beloved Ephesian community. Our second reading offers an example of Paul’s magnificent benedictions and doxologies. As he prays for the Ephesians, so he prays for us. These prayers are exalted, yet simple. They thrill the soul who prays them. They place us, in awe and thanksgiving, fully in the divinely generous, Sweet Heart of Christ.

Let’s pray for our beloveds today and for the world:

For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


Music: Two songs today:

Threads – by David Leonard

We beseech the Sacred Heart today that all who suffer any kind of fragmentation may find tenderness, wholeness, and comfort in him.
(To hear the song, click on “Watch on YouTube” in the black clock below.)

This one is old school, but it still works for me:

Sacred Heart of Jesus – James Kilbane

Friday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

June 4, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, a song of uninhibited delight and thanksgiving to God.

Coming after our reading from Tobit, we see just what such utter delight looks like.

That “angelic fish gall” re-lit the world for Tobit in a way he had never imagined before!


Sometimes we too have to experience a profound blindness before we really begin to see rightly. Let’s be honest: haven’t we all been blind a few times in our lives.

  • Blessings unrecognized
  • Friendships taken for granted
  • Kindnesses overlooked
  • People misjudged 
  • Needs ignored
  • Expectations unsurrendered 
  • Biases unexamined
  • Opportunities bypassed
  • Perhaps even responsibilities shirked

Praying with Psalm 146, we might take note of those whom the Lord favors:

the oppressed, the hungry. captives, those who are bowed down; 
the just, strangers, orphans and widows

These favored of God share a common trait – a vulnerability learned through suffering.


None of us seeks suffering in our lives. But we all will encounter it personally at least to some degree. Further, all in the community of faith are called to share the sufferings of others by our works of mercy.

In both instances, can we allow suffering to let us see the world differently, to lift the scales of any blindness in our hearts? Because here is the beautiful mystery: the God of Mercy is with us in our lights and shadows — and is always Light.

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
    I will praise the LORD all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God while I live. 

Psalm 146:1

Poetry: God Pours Light – Hafiz

God
pours light
into every cup,
quenching darkness.
The proudly pious
stuff their cups with parchment
and critique the taste of ink
while God pours light
and the trees lift their limbs
without worry of redemption,
every blossom a chalice.
May I seduce those withered souls
with words that wet their parched lips
as light
pours like rain
into every empty cup
set adrift on the Infinite Ocean.


Music: Amazing Grace – Leo Rojas