Holy Saturday

 Alternative Reading for Today: Walter Brueggemann

Holy Saturday

Today, in Mercy, we join Mary and the disciples as they deal with Christ’s death. No doubt, the range of emotions among them was as great as it would be among any group or family losing someone they dearly loved.

They had entered, with heart-wrenching drama, into a period of bereavement over the loss of Jesus. Doubt, hope, loss, fear, sadness and remembered joy vied for each of their hearts. They comforted one another and tried to understand each other’s handling of their terrible shared bereavement.

They did just what we all do as families, friends and communities when our beloved dies.

But ultimately, our particular bereavement belongs to us alone, woven from the many experiences we have had with the person who has died. These are personal and indescribable, as is the character of our pain and loss.

Do not be afraid of your bereavement.  It is a gift of love.

Holy Saturday, like bereavement, is a time of infrangible silence. No matter how many “whys” we throw heavenward, no answer comes. It is a time to test what Love has meant to us and, even as it seems to leave us, how it will live in us.

As we pray today with the bereaved Mother and disciples, let us fold all our bereavements into their love.  We already know the joyful end to the story, so let us pray today with honesty but also with unconquerable hope that we will live and love again.

Separately, I will send two poems today that I hope may help with your prayer.

Music:  Farewell – Michael Hoppé

 

Will You Anoint Him?

Monday, April 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, as we set out with Jesus on the path to Calvary, we might consider his companions who accompanied him.

John12_3 Mary

Closest to Christ’s heart on this journey is his Father. Today’s first reading gives us some insight into that profound divine sharing:

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

In other words, “Have courage, Son, I am with you.”

His disciples, women and men committed to the Gospel, also share the dramatic events of these days. Our Gospel today gives us Mary of Bethany, a leader and gatherer of the early Christian community. Her heart is broken at the now obvious prospect of Jesus’s death. In the name of their primal church, Mary offers Jesus the first sacrament of anointing.

In other words, “Have courage, Beloved Leader, we are with you.”

On this Monday morning of Holy Week, where are we in the community gathered around Jesus? How are we speaking to him, comforting him, loving him?

Jesus’s Passion is enfleshed in our time in the suffering of the poor, the refugee, the sick, the disenfranchised, those called “vermin” by the powerful. How am I with Jesus in his anguish today?

Music:  Two offerings today, one classical, one modern.

Timor et Tremor – from Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence (Four Penitential Motets) by Francis Poulenc

 

Pour My Love on You –  Phillips, Craig & Dean

Song of Deliverance

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading tells us the captivating story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These young men were enslaved Hebrews in Babylon. Their Hebrew names – Hanania, Mishael, and Azaria – had been changed to the Babylonian forms we find in the story.

Dan_Abednego

When coerced by King Nebuchadnezzar to worship a false God, these three faithful men refused. They were thrown into a roaring furnace as capital punishment. But a fourth figure appeared in their midst and saved them from death.

The story assures us that God delivers those who are faithful.

In our Gospel, Jesus reiterates this assurance:

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

On a personal level, many of us can attest to God’s faithfulness which has delivered us from any number and forms of crises. But the core point of our readings today, so close to Passiontide, is to remind us of that quintessential deliverance given us on Calvary. We now live in an eternal, inextinguishable freedom of grace and love.

It is fitting that we share the jubilant prayer offered by the delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:
The Song of the Three Holy Youths – The Greek Orthodox Choir

The “Song of the Three Holy Youths” is part of the hymn called a canon sung during the Matins and other services in Orthodoxy. It can also be found in the Church of England Book of Common Prayer as the canticle called the Benedicite and is one of the traditional canticles that can follow the first scripture lesson in the Order of Morning Prayer. It is also an optional song for Matins in Lutheran liturgies, and either an abbreviated or full version of the Song is featured as the Old Testament Canticle in the Lauds liturgy for Sundays and Feasts in the Divine Office of the Catholic Church.

Also, can’t resist this classic, just for the beat!
Ford Leary Sings – From an old 1939 Vitaphone Jazz short “Larry Clinton & His Orchestra”

The True Heart

Monday, April 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings offer copious lessons as well as an enthralling drama from the Book of Daniel.

John8_12Light

We have heard the original story many times, and seen it repeated, down through the ages, in innumerable forms: a woman targeted by lecherous men, innocence betrayed by treachery, power exercised in destructive selfishness. When we see goodness vindicated in this story, we feel a certain victory for the ages! Am I right?

While the story’s surface addresses sexual assault and false condemnation, its heart is about power and truth. Susanna and Daniel embody these virtues. The two corrupt judges manifest their distortion.

In our Gospel, Jesus proclaims his identity as the Light of the World. He confronts the Pharisees because they “judge by appearances” rather than by truth. They use their power to oppress rather than to free.

Power and truth suffer terribly in today’s world. They are obscured by the same darknesses we see in the story of Susanna – conspiracy, secrecy, false accusation, dissimulation, malfeasance, and total disregard for human pain. Ultimately, it is always the innocent and poor who suffer most in such an atmosphere.

We pray today for Divine Light for every hidden darkness, for bravery like Daniel’s, for fidelity like Susanna’s, and for truthfulness to make us worthy of the Name of Christ.

Music: A mantra based on John 14 – The Spirit of Truth

Be Made New!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus writes new rules for life in the venerable Jerusalem dust.

Jn8_1_11JPG

Jesus enjoys an early morning walk from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. The weather, no doubt, was typically beautiful since others easily gathered and sat around Jesus to hear his teaching.

But the Pharisees, vigilant for an opportunity to condemn Jesus, executed a mean-hearted plot.

Dragging a woman “caught in the act of adultery” before the encircled men, they demanded Jesus’s judgment of the distraught woman.

Imagine the woman’s terror.  Her poverty and loneliness have already forced her into an ignoble commerce. Had she the chance, she surely would have chosen an easier life.

Now, her meager quarters have been broken into, her privacy invaded in the most intimate of circumstances.  Her adulterous accomplice has either turned her in, or absconded in cowardice. She is surrounded by brutal accusers, many of whom are likely her former customers.

But Jesus sees the woman, not her sin. He responds to her heart not her actions.  He also sees these evil, plotting men and responds to their veiled motivations.

Wouldn’t we love to know what Jesus scribbled in the Temple dirt as these blood-thirsty hypocrites hung over him?

Might it have been the names of those who also visited the woman on earlier nights?

Might it have been some of their hidden sins?

Challenged to cast the first stone if they were sinless, the plotters slowly slink away.  Jesus is left to forgive and heal this suffering woman.

Jesus tells her to go and sin no more, to -as the first reading says – “remember not the things of the past”. Jesus has made her into a new person by the power of his mercy.

May that renewing mercy touch us, and our world, where we sorely need it.

May it flow through our renewed hearts to everyone we encounter, no matter the circumstances.

Music:  Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd

The Lamb of God

Saturday, April 6, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our hearts begin to break for Jesus. He is the good, sweet Lamb being led to slaughter. And he knows it. He knows that the hard hearts he had so hoped to soften are recalcitrant. He knows that the souls he has longed to open to Love have turned to hate. He knows that the energy he had wished to turn to generous service has instead turned inward, fearful and self- protective.

How his heart must have ached in these days before Calvary! Jeremiah gives us an insight in to the pain in today’s first reading. 

Jeremiah’s experience is a foreshadowing of Christ’s. As we pray with the passage, we might allow ourselves simply to share that pain as we look at our own grace-resistant world.

Jer.11_19 plot

Where do we find the opportunity to comfort Jesus today?

On a global basis, we see the persecution of innocence and vulnerability in our own world. We see corrupted laws used as an excuse to extinguish the human spirit. We see people coerced into the maze of power and political domination. We see the poor slaughtered on the altar of indifferent greed.

In our closer daily experience, we see people lost, isolated, infirm, bereaved, lonely and broken, even in small places. We may be tempted to leave their suffering for another caring touch. But we can do much to comfort by our listening, presence and honesty.

When we see these things, we see the Passion of Christ in our time. Let us listen to His suffering. Let us not pretend we care if we don’t act to comfort Him.

Music: Handel’s Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God

 

 

 

 

When the Hour Comes…

Friday, April 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, John let’s us know how difficult things were for Jesus. Even very early in John’s Gospel, doubt, criticism, jealousy, and hatred swirl around Jesus. He realizes that people are trying to kill Him. All this because he does good and preaches love! How can that be?

Jn7_30 hourJPG

Jesus upset the apple cart, and many people didn’t like that. They preferred control over love, familiarity over faith. There were others who wanted a more violent shake-up, a political overthrow rather than a spiritual transformation. Basically, people wanted to remake Jesus’s message in their own design. And we’ve been doing the same thing ever since.

Eventually these opposing forces meet in the contradiction of the Cross – that place where Love seems to lose, and Life seems to die. But when Jesus’s hour comes – that timeless moment when Eternal Love and Life break open in the Resurrection – our faith in Christ will be confirmed.

We pray today for all those experiencing great trauma or testing in their lives. May their faith sustain, restore and surprise them.

We pray for ourselves that, like Jesus, when our “hour comes” we are ready because we have already deepened and steadied our hearts in prayer and fidelity.

Music: I Need Thee Every Hour – Annie Hawks (May 28, 1836 – January 3, 1918), an American poet and Gospel hymnist who wrote a number of hymns with her pastor, Robert Lowry.

In 1872, the hymn by which Hawks is most widely known, “I Need Thee Every Hour”, was written. It is said to have been translated into more foreign languages than any other modern hymn at the time of her death. Hawks stated:— “For myself, the hymn was prophetic rather than expressive of my own experiences, for it was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of personal sorrow.”

Don’t You Love Something New?

Monday, April 1, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings speak to our innate desire to have another chance, to start fresh.

IMG_8789

Don’t you love to get something new? A new outfit that refashions not only your appearance but your attitude? A fresh coat of paint on a room that has grown commonplace? A few new plantings in your winter-dried flower boxes?

Even as a kid, didn’t you treasure that new box of crayons? That unscuffed baseball when the season started? That second piece of construction paper when your first effort flopped?

Isaiah knows how we feel. He is speaking, in today’s passage, to a people bereft by their circumstances and recent history. They have suffered invasion, exile, tribal strife, and the destruction of the Temple. The faith of the masses had been weakened almost beyond repair.

But Isaiah challenges his listeners to renew their hearts. God is greater than all they have suffered. And God is offering them that second chance, that fresh sheet of paper, that  box of whole crayons:

Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.

What we have to understand from this passage is that God is talking to us! We are Jerusalem! Any suffering in our lives, the pain, disappointment, brokenness, heartache and sin that might burden us is going to be transformed. In the Eternal Creation, all will be joy and fullness of life.

And we don’t have to wait until we die to experience that new creation. Our faith, ever deepened by God’s grace, lets us live in that joy even in the midst of our everyday challenges.

This is the profound lesson Jesus is about to teach us by his Passion, Death and Resurrection. This week’s readings, in a dynamic mix of joy and sorrow, lead us more deeply into that understanding.

Music:  O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines –  Carl P. Daw

A New Day Awaits

Sunday, March 31, 2019

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1 Cor new creation

Today, in Mercy,  halfway through Lent, we see in our readings glimpses of new life.

The captivity in Egypt had been TOUGH on Israel. During those many decades, they had appeared to be abandoned and forgotten by God.  It was a harsh reckoning for them … hard to be forgotten. Even then, when they thought they had found freedom, they still wandered for forty years in the desert.

But now Israel stands at a new horizon.  Moses has died and Joshua has become Israel’s leader.  God tells him that it is a new day:

“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”

In our second reading, Paul tells us:

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

And in our revered Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells us:

This beloved child of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
was lost, and has been found.

All of these passages speak to us in our Lenten journey, and in our Life journey.  We have experienced our own “Egypts”, times when we felt disconnected, even abandoned, by God.  We have sometimes felt we were journeying aimlessly toward an unknown goal. We have at times wandered, like the prodigal son, from the path of God’s love. We have darknesses in our memories that still long for Light.

This poem from Mary Oliver might capture the feeling for us:

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~ Mary Oliver ~

In today’s readings, God is reminding us that the Light awaits us. Forgiveness, reconciliation, new energy and grace are the gifts of Easter – the gifts where we must keep our eyes focused as we journey.

So let us do as e.e.cummings encourages us in this poem:

Let It Go – e.e. cummings

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love


Music: Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd
(Lyrics below)

Remember not the things of the past;
now I do something new,
do you not see it?
Now I do something new, says the Lord.

In our distress God has grasped us by the hand,
opened a path in the sea, and we shall pass over,
we shall pass over, free at last.

In our parched land of hypocrisy and hate,
God makes a river spring forth,
a river of mercy, truth and compassion; come and drink.

And who among us is sinless in God’s sight?
Then who will cast the first stone, when he who was sinless
carried our failings to the cross?

Pressing ahead, letting go what lies behind,
may we be found in the Lord, and sharing his dying,
share in his rising from the dead.

Skies Darken for Jesus

Friday, March 22, 2019

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Agnus Dei

Today, in Mercy, we begin with the powerful and moving story of Joseph – sweet, innocent son of of Jacob who was betrayed by his brothers. Jacob sends Joseph to work with his brothers, believing they love him. He was wrong.

Our Gospel then tells the story of the frustrated landowner who sent his son on mission to settle his accounts. though the landowner’s servants had been abused by the tenants, he believed his son would be respected. He was wrong.

Both these stories are prototypes of the Father sending Jesus to redeem us. The intention is the same. The hope is the same. Unfortunately, the result is the same.

In our Gospel, Jesus realizes that the Father’s hope for him will not be met with openness and acceptance. He sees the Pharisees milling around in hateful conversation.  Referencing the parable, Jesus says:

“The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for the crowds regarded him as a prophet.

This morning, let’s pray for all those who send their beloveds out in hope to do good in the world:

  • for police officers, firefighters, first responders whose families send them out each day always fearing for their safety
  • for medical personnel who risk sickness in their care for others
  • for missionaries and justice workers who encounter threat and danger in helping others
  • for peacekeepers and military who work to end war and tyranny
  • for all of us when we reach out in justice and courage, hoping to be received with respect and mutuality

May the example of Christ inspire and sustain us to do our part for God’s continuing redemption of the world.

Music: Agnis Dei – Michael Hoppè