Lent: Fired by the Word

March 8, 2022
Tuesday of the First week of Lent

So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as I pray with today’s readings, I ask myself two questions:

“What has God’s Word accomplished in me?”
“What does God’s Word yet want to accomplish in me?”


If you’re like me, you’re always thinking about what you haven’t done, still must do, wish you had done.

Let’s just STOP that and, instead, praise our gracious God for the good accomplished through our lives. I know every one of you reading this blog is an amazingly good person. God has already done beautiful things in you and through you. Thank God. Give God the glory.


Let’s consciously pray for one another today as today’s Gospel encourages us:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


Poetry: My Psalm – Renee Yann, RSM

May my life be its own psalm of praise to You.
Within its melody, my whole being
bows to you in gratitude.
You chose to breathe your soul into me,
to warm my name in your cupped hands,
to wind your Divine Heart into the notes of my life.
Thank You.
My years have unfolded like flowers, 
slowly warming to your grace.
The petals of my years have each been kissed by You.
Whether in joy or sorrow,
silence or song, seen or unseen,
You have been with me.
Thank You.
You loved the child I once was and You played within me.
You loved the young girl who walked toward your call
along the precious, winding path of mercy.
You loved the woman I became, over and over,
as I learned to find You hiding in the world.
Thank You.
Now, as years deepen and with them,
our comfort in each other's love,
let my trust also deepen.
Let my faith reflect You,
like the face of a well-polished rock,
fully turned to your steadfast Light,
fully afire in your Abiding.
Thank You.

Music: My Tribute ( To God Be the Glory)

How can I say thanks
For the things You have done for me?
Things so undeserved,
Yet You gave to prove Your love for me;
The voices of a million angels
Could not express my gratitude.
All that I am and ever hope to be,
I owe it all to Thee.

To God be the glory,
To God be the glory,
To God be the glory
For the things He has done.

With His blood He has saved me,
With His power He has raised me;
To God be the glory
For the things He has done.

Just let me live my life,
Let it pleasing, Lord to Thee,
And if I gain any praise,
Let it go to Calvary.

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.)

Grateful

November 10, 2021
Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 82 considered, by at least one Biblical scholar, to be:

“the single most important text in the entire Christian Bible.”

John Domenic Crossan, an Irish-American New Testament scholar,
historian of early Christianity, and former Catholic priest

Council of the Gods by Raphael, (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Psalm 82 best summarizes for me the character of (the early Biblical) God.
It imagines a scene in which God sits among the gods and goddesses in divine council.
Those pagan gods and goddesses are dethroned not just because they are pagan,
nor because they are other, nor because they are competition.
They are dethroned for injustice, for divine malpractice, for transcendental malfeasance.
They are rejected because they do not demand and effect justice among the peoples of the earth.
And that justice is spelled out as protecting the poor from the rich,
protecting the systemically weak from the systemically powerful.

excerpts from Crossan: The Birth of Christianity

Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.
Defend the lowly and the fatherless;
    render justice to the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the lowly and the poor;
    from the hand of the wicked deliver them.
Psalm 82: 3-4


In today’s Gospel, we encounter this just and supreme God in the person of Jesus when we witness the cure of the ten lepers.  

You know, it would be startling enough to run into one leper on your daily walk, right?  But TEN! That must have been an astounding situation. And to see those sad, disfigured people restored to wholeness must have been nearly overwhelming for the entourage accompanying Jesus.

Can you imagine that the recipients of such a miracle wouldn’t have clung in gratitude to Jesus for the rest of their days??? But, wow, only one even bothered to say “Thank you”.

What might have kept the other nine away,
locked in their blind ingratitude?

Perhaps it’s not such a mystery if we allow ourselves to examine our own often ungrateful hearts. We don’t necessarily mean to be boorish in the face of God’s kindness and the generosity of others, but we sometimes suffer from …

  1. Distraction: our lives are filled with frenetic activity which causes our blessings to flit by us into dizzying forgetfulness
  2. Entitlement: we think we deserve or have earned those blessings
  3. Self-absorption: we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t even notice that our whole life is a gift
  4. Laziness: we might say thanks if we get around to it. But we never get around to it.
  5. Unresolved anger: we’re mad that we even needed help
  6. Non-intentionality: we fail to live with intention and reflection, thus missing the opportunities for gratitude 
  7. Pride: we are too proud to acknowledge that we need anything
  8. Fear: we are afraid something will be required of us in return for the gift
  9. Spiritual blindness: we just don’t see the nurturing power of God and others in our life

It’s likely that our nine ungrateful lepers had these human frailties. But don’t be thinking about them, or your acquaintances who share their failings.  

Let’s think about ourselves and how we want to be more grateful. Let’s think about our omnipotent God who is always Justice and Mercy.

The story is a powerful wake-up call to do better than the poor lepers did by living this prayer:

May I live humbly and gratefully today.


Poetry: The Ten Lepers – by Rosanna Eleanor (Mullins) Leprohon who was both a poet and novelist. Born in Montreal in 1829, Rosanna Mullins was educated at the convent of the Congregation of Notre Dame.

’Neath the olives of Samaria, in far-famed Galilee,
Where dark green vines are mirrored in a placid silver sea,
’Mid scenes of tranquil beauty, glowing sun-sets, rosy dawn,
The Master and disciples to the city journeyed on.

And, as they neared a valley where a sheltered hamlet lay,
A strange, portentous wailing made them pause upon their way—
Voices fraught with anguish, telling of aching heart and brow,
Which kept moaning: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us now!”

Softly raised the gentle Saviour His eyes like midnight star,
And His mournful gaze soon rested on ten lepers, who, afar,
Stood motionless and suppliant, in sackcloth rudely clothed,
Poor Pariahs! by their nearest, their dearest, shunned and loathed.

Not unto Him prayed vainly those sore afflicted ten,
No! He yearned too fondly over the erring sons of men,
Even sharing in their sorrows, though He joined not in their feasts,—
So He kindly told the Lepers: “Show yourselves unto the priests.”

When, miracle of mercy! as they turned them to obey,
And towards the Holy Temple quickly took their hopeful way,
Lo! the hideous scales fell off them, health’s fountains were unsealed,
Their skin grew soft as infant’s—their leprosy was healed.

O man! so oft an ingrate, to thy thankless nature true,
Thyself see in those Lepers, who did as thou dost do;
Nine went their way rejoicing, healed in body—glad in soul—
Nor once thought of returning thanks to Him who made them whole.

One only, a Samaritan, a stranger to God’s word,
Felt his joyous, panting bosom, with gratitude deep stirred,
And without delay he hastened, in the dust, at Jesus’ feet,
To cast himself in worship, in thanksgiving, warm and meet.

Slowly questioned him the Saviour, with majesty divine:—
“Ten were cleansed from their leprosy—where are the other nine?
Is there none but this one stranger—unlearned in Gods ways,
His name and mighty power, to give word of thanks or praise?”

The sunbeams’ quivering glories softly touched that God-like head,
The olives blooming round Him sweet shade and fragrance shed,
While o’er His sacred features a tender sadness stole:
“Rise, go thy way,” He murmured, “thy faith hath made thee whole!”


Music:  Hymn of Grateful Praise – Folliott S. Pierpoint

Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, August 23, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 149, the beautiful praise song which is part of the rousing conclusion of this Book:

Let them praise God’s name in the festive dance,
    let them sing praise to God with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves this people,
    and adorns the lowly with victory.

Psalm 149: 3-4
Let them praise God’s Name in festive dance,
for the Lord takes delight in them.
Psalm 149: 3-4

Walter Brueggemann describes these final psalms here:

One of the richest deposits of such hymns of praise is at the conclusion of the Psalter in Psalms 146–150, in which the particulars of psalmic praise wanes, and the exuberance of praise becomes more vigorous and bold. In Psalm 148, the singers can imagine all creation, all creatures, including sea monsters and creeping things, united in praise of YHWH. By the culmination of the sequence in Psalm 150, there is a total lack of any specificity, and users of the psalm are invited to dissolve in a glad self-surrender that is to be enacted in the most lyrical way imaginable. Such praise is a recognition that the wonder and splendor of this God—known in the history of Israel and in the beauty of creation—pushes beyond our explanatory categories so that there can be only a liturgical, emotive rendering of all creatures before the creator.

Walter Brueggemann: From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

For me, these final psalms are like a resounding cymbal crash at the masterpiece’s end. It is a prayer simply to let these glorious lines sing and dance in our hearts:

Hallelujah!
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing the praises of God in the beloved community. 
Let us rejoice in our maker;
let us be joyful in our sovereign God.
Let us praise the name of the Lord in the dance;
let us sing praise to God with timbrel and harp. 
For the Lord takes pleasure in this people
and adorns the poor with victory. 
Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;
let them be joyful even as they rest.

Psalm 149

No poem today. Instead two pieces of music to delight in Psalm 149

  1. Total Praise: One of my favorite hymns beautifully performed here in sign language.

2. Psalm 149 by Antonín Leopold Dvořák, original Czech. English version and sample of music below.

English

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 17, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 136 in which the psalmist remembers in detail Israel’s long experience of God’s enduring fidelity.

The cadence of the psalm creates an underlying drumbeat to our prayer, a chant of gratitude and confidence. Reading it, I was reminded of two things.

The first is a scene from the movie “Glory” where the troops pray the night before battle. They pray in the classic style of the Black spiritual call-and-response song.

You may have seen it:

The prayer of these men, like the prayer of ancient Israel, is not just a walk down memory lane. No. Each proclamation is an act of of faith – and of gratitude for the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future.


Secondly, I was reminded of the simple and methodical cadence of a childhood ditty – S/he loves me S/he loves me not. Didn’t many of us try that magic practice at least once, maybe at our first young crush?

Well, God does love us – daisy or not. The proof is not in the petals, but in the story of our lives.

Today might be a good day
to “chant” gratefully
through our own catalogue with God
– remembering, thanking,
believing,and hoping.


Poetry: I thank you, God – e.e.cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Music: Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – Etta James sings a classical example of the call-and-response spiritual

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home,

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see

Coming for to carry me home?

A band of angels coming after me,

Coming for to carry me home.

Sometimes I’m up, and sometimes I’m down,

(Coming for to carry me home)

But still my soul feels heavenly bound.

(Coming for to carry me home)

The brightest day that I can say,

(Coming for to carry me home)

When Jesus washed my sins away.

(Coming for to carry me home)

If I get there before you do,

(Coming for to carry me home)

I’ll cut a hole and pull you through.

(Coming for to carry me home)

If you get there before I do,

(Coming for to carry me home)

Tell all my friends I’m coming too.

(Coming for to carry me home)

Swing low, sweet chariot

Coming for to carry me home,

Swing low, sweet chariot,

Coming for to carry me home.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are filled with God’s glory and blessings. 

The magnificent passage from Ephesians is considered an example of the great Pauline Hymns. These are places in Paul’s writing where he breaks into lyrical songs of praise and thanksgiving, so overwhelmed is he by the goodness of God.


Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

Have you ever felt like that – just so grateful to God for the blessings of your life? So blessed to wake up in the morning, with the capacity to believe, to hope, and to love!

A practice I learned many years ago has helped me focus on this kind of prayerful gratitude. As soon as I realize I am awake in the morning (and sometimes that takes a while) I say this simple prayer:

Thank you, God, for my life.

On a special morning, I might pause and expand that prayer quite a bit. (And, come on now, isn’t every morning special just for the fact that you woke up!)

But every day, even dull and rainy ones, I start with at least that brief phrase.


Poetry: Savor Paul’s eloquence in his hymn of praise today. Let your heart recognize God’s goodness and sing even a silent, personal Thank You.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.

Ephesians 1:3

Music: Ephesians Hymn ~ Suzanne Toolan, RSM, who is Sister of Mercy at Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA. She has mentored many people in centering prayer in retreats and in prisons. She is prolific composer of liturgical music, including the iconic hymn, “I Am the Bread of Life”.

Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105, one of the psalms which Walter Brueggemann characterizes as “lively remembering”.

These are psalms which gratefully inventory God’s generosity and faithfulness to Israel. The long list evokes holy surprise, gratitude, trust, and commitment in the believer’s heart.


Today’s verses pertain particularly to the wonderful story of Joseph cited in our first reading. But the entire psalm remembers a Divine Generosity covering generations.

Recall the wondrous deeds God has done,
wonders and words of judgment,

You descendants of Abraham God’s servant,
offspring of Jacob the chosen one!

Psalm 105: 5-6

Reading Psalm 105 always makes me remember a little blond kid from my long ago teaching days. 

We regularly gathered our school community for a “Children’s Mass”, either on Sunday or some special occasion. Bobby, a very good reader for a third grader, had volunteered to deliver the Responsorial Psalm. 

And he delivered, loud and clear:

Remember the “marbles”
the Lord has done.

Four times, the school body of 500+ children obediently responded in kind, apparently visualizing the same “marbles” as Bobby did.


Did God care? No, I think God enjoyed it as much as we teachers did. 

And as I remember the moment this morning, I can’t help considering how innocently garbled my own prayer must seem to God. Because honestly, how can we even imagine God, let alone find the words to speak the mysteries of our soul!

Glory in his holy name;
let hearts that seek the LORD rejoice!

Seek out the LORD’s might;
constantly seek God’s face.

Psalm 105: 3-4

So, praying our psalm today, we might want to hold up silently before God, who created the vastness of universe, all the tiny “marbles” in our hearts – those brilliant but impenetrable mysteries of love, hope, suffering, and joy which roll around in the deep universe of our lives.

Like the psalmist, we can unroll an inventory of God’s faithfulness to us which allows us to imagine a future full of hope – for ourselves and the generations to follow us.


Poetry: Ode to Marbles BY MAX MENDELSOHN

I love the sound of marbles   
scattered on the worn wooden floor,   
like children running away 
in a game of hide-and-seek.   
I love the sight of white marbles,   
blue marbles,   
green marbles, black,   
new marbles, old marbles,   
iridescent marbles,   
with glass-ribboned swirls,   
dancing round and round.   
I love the feel of marbles,   
cool, smooth,   
rolling freely in my palm,   
like smooth-sided stars   
that light up the worn world.

Music: Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers
– synchronized with MARBLES!
By DoodleChaos

Allow this video to open up your amazement. Invite into that amazement your gratitude for God’s astounding goodness to you. Perhaps like prayerfully walking a labyrinth, you can roll with the marbles through your faith journey.

Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, July 2, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 106 which is a prayerful inventory of Israel’s long story with God. In today’s liturgy, the psalm follows a similar Genesis recounting of the story of the Abraham-Sarah family.


These two readings remind me of my own family as we have gathered, in our many configurations, over the seven decades of my life. For many early years, I was the listener to the old tales and legends. Gradually, as new generations were born, I became a guardian and teller of our history.


Psalmist 106 is a teller of Israel’s many ups and downs to the place where they now find themselves. By remembering both the darkness and light, the calms and the storms, our psalm testifies to God’s faithful and enduring mercy.

Blessed are they who observe what is right,
    who do always what is just.
Remember us, O LORD, as you favor your people. 

That testimony encourages the listeners that this faithful God can be trusted now and in the future – to abide, forgive, renew, and call believers. 

It holds out for us a heritage of fidelity promising to bless the generations with whom we share it.


If you sat down with your life at the table of holy memory, what would your stories be? What storms and rainbows mark your journey? How would your psalm of memory and gratitude read? How is your faith life transmitting this heritage to the next generations?

Visit me with your saving help,
That I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
    rejoice in the joy of your people,
    and glory with your inheritance.


Poetry: Naked Truth – A Jewish tale retold as a poem by Heather Forest

Naked Truth walked down the street one day.
People turned their eyes away.
Parable arrived, draped in decoration.
People greeted Parable with celebration.

Naked Truth sat alone, sad and unattired,
“Why are you so miserable?” Parable inquired.
Naked Truth replied, “I’m not welcome anymore.
No one wants to see me. They chase me from the door.”

“It is hard to look at Naked Truth,”Parable explained.
“Let me dress you up a bit. Your welcome will be gained.”
Parable dressed Naked Truth in story’s fine attire, 
with metaphor, poignant prose, and plots to inspire.

With laughter and tears and adventure to unveil,
Together they went forth to spin a tale.
People opened their doors and served them their best.
Naked Truth dressed in story was a welcome guest. 

Music: Heritage of Faith – Babbie Mason (lyrics below)

The patriarchs of old
The saints that now are gone
To their great reward
Held fast to the struggle
Persistent through the years
Forging through their fears
They fought to change their world
For the sake of the gospel

May their love for Jesus
Never go unnoticed
May they spur us on to all
That lies before us
This heritage of faith
This legacy of love
We must pass to our daughters
Hand down to our sons
We must raise the standard high
And proclaim the name of Christ
That others may know the way
And this heritage of faith

In my heart I hear the call
That echoes from the cross
Where the sacrifice for man
Was freely rendered
It's the call to stand for right
Keep the faith and fight the fight

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

April 22, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 66, a hymn of rousing gratitude for God’s loving and responsive protection.

Bless our God, you peoples,
    loudly sound his praise;
God has given life to our souls,
    and has not let our feet slip.

Psalm 66: 8-9

The psalmist encourages us to let people know that we recognize God’s presence and grace in our lives always. That Presence may be a gentle, otherwise imperceptible, constant unless we give it voice and honor by our actions.

Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
    what God has done for me.
When I appealed to God in words,
    praise was on the tip of my tongue.

Psalm 66: 16-17

Poetry: Come to Dust – Ursula Le Guin

Spirit, rehearse the journeys of the body
that are to come, the motions
of the matter that held you.
Rise up in the smoke of palo santo.
Fall to the earth in the falling rain.
Sink in, sink down to the farthest roots.
Mount slowly in the rising sap
to the branches, the crown, the leaf-tips.
Come down to earth as leaves in autumn
to lie in the patient rot of winter.
Rise again in spring’s green fountains.
Drift in sunlight with the sacred pollen
to fall in blessing.
                                   All earth’s dust
has been life, held soul, is holy.

Music: Bless Our God – John Foley, SJ – I love this beautiful hymn … definitely in my top ten.

Bless our God the Father of Jesus the Lord of our ways. 
Every gift is ours in our life, in the Lord of our days.
 
Refrain:
Praise to his name, we are made for the praise of his glorious name. 
He chose us to be those who trust in his ways.

May our God give light to the eyes of your mind for your days. 
May he give you wisdom and knowledge of him, in his ways. 

Bless our God, he grants us the gifts of our lives in his ways. 
Bless our God, he saved us he gave us the Christ for our days.