God, please …

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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

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

Adoration – Contrition – Thanksgiving – Supplication

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

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

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

In our Gospel, Jesus describes the prayer of supplication :

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

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

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

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

ask-Receive

David Foster Wallace created a parable you may have heard:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Return Can I Make?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

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

Ps50_praise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music: To God Be the Glory ~ Andrae Crouch

Making Friends with Wisdom

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings weave together the themes of

Wisdom,
Law
and
Integrity.

Balanced in our soul, these offer the perfection of spiritual life.

Wisdom4_11

Sirach instructs us that the journey to this perfection is challenging but worthwhile.

Wisdom walks with us as a stranger
and at first she puts us to the test;
Fear and dread she brings upon us
and tries us with her discipline
until she try us by her laws and trust our souls.

How beautiful this passage is! Picture Wisdom-Sophia walking with you, through your life to your present days. As young people, many of us were challenged in learning spiritual discipline – the Law of Love. Many of us are challenged still at times. But wisdom walks with us, gently testing our resolve for goodness- forgiving, instructing, redeeming, encouraging us.

Eventually, there is between us and Wisdom, as with cherished old friends, a comfort and understanding which allows us to know each other’s thoughts and completely trust each other’s good will. An integrity of goodness grows within us.

Our Psalm 119 summarizes this blessed relationship:

O Lord, great peace have they
who love your law.

In the short pericope from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus drives home to his disciples that the grace of the Holy Spirit – the power for goodness – is not confined by our restrictive definitions, expectations,, or role assignments. All hearts at one with the Law of Wisdom and Love give glory to God.

In my prayer today, I remembered with grateful love the many guides who have taught me Wisdom in my life. I rested in quiet gratitude with Wisdom, my old friend.

My prayer led me to include this quote from one of my all-time favorite books:

(P.S. What five books would you take with you if stranded on an island for the rest of your life? I’d include this one.)

Every truth is a reflection; behind the reflection and giving it value, is the Light. Every being is a witness; every fact is a divine secret; beyond them is the object of the revelation, the Wisdom witnessed to. Everything true stands out against the Infinite as against its background; is related to it; belongs to it. A particular truth may indeed occupy the stage, but there are boundless immensities beyond. One might say a particular truth is only a symbol, a symbol that is real, a sacrament of the Absolute.
~ Antonio Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life

Music: The Perfect Wisdom Of Our God – Keith & Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

In Remembrance

mom seaside

Go on…

Now, my mother done her dying,
I come back again to my own life
that I had taken off,
the way you take a coat off
and hang it on a hook behind the door
when seasons change,
sometimes forgetting where it is
until you feel the cold again.

When word that she was ill
fell like a wounded bird
into time’s tranquil pool,
I just ignored the cold.
I walked out into night
to take her hand as she
left quickly for its distant edge.

Through four cold months, we pulled
stars down to light that edge,
blue-hot stars we’d fired
in long years of love.

Family, friends and names that
dozed like dormant flowers in a field
flew up in such a rush of love
around us that November turned to May.

Then, one icy day in January,
I cleared our sidewalk of a heavy snow,
in brief, staccatoed intervals,
lest leaving her too long, the
fragile thread would break
without my benediction.

It was Tuesday, I remember,
but time was caught behind
a wall of silence.  It moved
at half-speed.  Within its womb
that birthed my mother to another life,
I was timeless, still, unborn again.

When my mother died, she did it
just as I had left my life
four months before, with
love and not a glance behind,
no brief regret to do
what faith required her to do.

She drew that thin last breath
from air we shared, as my cheek
laid tenderly on hers, I whispered,
“Go on … and I love you.”

Music: Halleluia – Leonard Chen – played here by:
Violin: Leonardo Barcellos: Cello: Daniel Enache; Guitar: Leonardo Barcellos

To Life!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our passage from Hebrews is a strong encouragement for its readers to stay faithful to the hope that has been given us through our call.

eph1_17 call
from today’s Responsorial Psalm

Paul traces the evolution of that call by reminding his readers of Abraham who trusted God’s promise and patiently waited for its fulfillment. Paul says that God not only promised Abraham, God swore an oath to bless and multiply Abraham’s life.

This promise and oath of God’s faithful covenant is the root of our Christian hope, and the “anchor” of our life.

Green Rope

On this day, when the Church prays for the protection of unborn children, let us be conscious that the “right to life” extends beyond the womb, from “cradle to grave”.

Let us pray to honor and reverence all life and all Creation – those who are troubled, poor, sick, different from us, homeless and seeking refuge. Let us pray for political and economic systems that protect both unborn and born children, resident and refugee, privileged and marginalized … nourishing their right to life, freedom and the happiness of well-being.

Beloveds, let us give thanks for the life and faith we have been given, and let us share it generously.

Music: You Are Life ~ Hillsong Worship

Children, it is the last hour …

Monday, December 31, 2018

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Jn1_2 NYE

Today, in Mercy, on this New Year’s Eve, our spirits are occupied with the passage of time – the endings and beginnings that compose a life.

In the public domain, this night is often characterized as one of wild celebrations, almost as if we need to prove our endurance within time.

But in the privacy of our hearts, there are the moments of quiet nostalgia, bittersweet memory, and vulnerable gratitude for all that has been in this past year and the years preceding.

On this Sacred Eve, as people of faith, we will hold time’s hourglass up to the Light of eternity, knowing that – in God – there is no time.

In God, there is only love – the only human capacity which endures beyond time. In heaven, we will not need faith because we will see. We will not need hope, because all will be fulfilled.

But we will always need love.

In the end, there are three things that last –
faith, hope, and love.
And the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

So before the tolls welcome midnight, let us raise up to God our Eucharist of 2018:

  • those whose lives have been completed; those who have just begun
  • the efforts we made which succeeded; those which failed
  • the dreams secured; the dreams abandoned
  • the opportunities for grace that we seized; those lost which we hope to have renewed
  • the prayers answered as we had desired; the prayers answered in ways we didn’t recognize
  • all that we have loved; all that we hope to love more worthily

As John says in our first reading, “Children, it is the last hour …” 

May we let it go with gratitude, wisdom and joy.

But as John also says in our Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God …
…. and from his fullness we have all received,
grace flowing upon grace …

May we welcome this grace of eternal life and hope given to us in another New Year.

Blessed 2019, dear friends.

Music: Amazing Grace ~ Salt Lake City Vocal Artists

What Is Your Heart-Season?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings are challenging. 

Revelation, a very complex book of the Bible, uses symbols, prophecies and allegorical references to make its point. There are huge bodies of scholarship written in the attempt to interpret these passages. Our Gospel has Jesus describing what it will be like in heaven – when our human perceptions will be erased and we will finally be absorbed into God’s understanding.

These are BIG thoughts and my mind, at least, needs some more manageable inspirations for my morning prayer. 😉 So here’s how I prayed with these readings today.

Lit yr flowerJPG

What both passages share are continual references to time – past, present and future. They reference then-time, now-time, and to-be-time. These passages, and others in Scripture like them, talk about time like this:

  • “in the days before”
  • “in the days after”
  • “in the day of”

So what is this day, November 24th, for me? How is God revealing Love to me in this, my time? 

Today is still among “the days after” Thanksgiving. The lingering familial and community blessings of Thursday continue to bless my prayer.

However, it is also among “the days before” the next big events of my life. So my prayer includes a petition for new and continued blessings.

And, most importantly, today is “a day of”. I ask God to help me see and receive the graces of this present moment – not to miss them because I am looking only back or forward. Let me look God square in the eye on this day, which is the only place that I can really find the God Who is always Now.

The entire liturgical year is built on this understanding of time. 

  • Advent and Lent are “the days before”, the days of preparation, anticipation, imagining, creating, hoping.
  • The feasts like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are “the days of”, days of celebrating, loving, being with.
  • The various Octaves are “the days after”, days of remembering, thanking, appreciating, understanding, mourning, forgiving and savoring

lit yr

Where are you today in the times of your life? It may be in a very different place from what is printed on the calendar. The events of our lives create their own personal liturgies. No matter where that happens to be, let us meet God there with full and open hearts.

 

Music: God of All My Days – Casting Crowns

 

“Beyond Gold” Friday

Friday, November 23, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112318.cfm

Today in Mercy,  we continue in the mood of thanksgiving. 

Do you  have a computer calendar that pops up reminders for you — appointments, due dates, anniversaries, etc.?

TGVNG cal

On this date, I am reminded of two very happy events:

  • the birth of one of my precious grand-nephews three years ago – a gift of beauty, love and hope to our family
  • the jubilant wedding of two dear friends six years ago – a covenant and sign of love, fidelity and courage in today’s unloving world

As we get older (as I have been blessed to do), our calendar blocks become more crowded with memories – with the years’ accumulation of joys and blessings. “Thanksgiving Friday” is a good day to mentally page through the gift of years, remembering, thanking, praying for all that has brought love, hope and encouragement to our hearts.

Every life we love copy

It’s a good strategy to resist the commercial lure of “Black Friday” and to keep our focus on what truly counts as GIFT – those treasures that are beyond gold in our life’s story.

Hopefully, God’s goodness came to us yesterday, and comes to us daily, in abundance and joy – of family, friends and blessings shared. 

But for some, God draws us closer through loneliness, loss or sadness shared. The great grace is that God abides with us in every season, and reveals Mercy’s loving face in both our sorrows and our joys. 

May we praise God and know the Comforting Presence in whatever the season of our hearts. Let us pray this for one another.

Music:  10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

Reflection for Thanksgiving

TY print

Emma, skewered by indecision, stared into her mother ‘s jewelry box. She had always loved those silver 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.

Surely it was a gratitude like this that brought Mary to the feet of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. It was a similar loving gratitude that Mary poured out from her treasured alabaster jar—every drop carrying her thanks for life, for faith restored, for forgiveness, for hope renewed.

We come to this Thanksgiving season with our own stories, with our own alabaster jars. Perhaps there is a great forgiveness we are thankful for, or just the small kindnesses that allow us to rise each morning with joy and hope. Perhaps there is a memory of compassion, like Emma’s or Mary’s, that we treasure—one that in turn has made us kinder and more honest.

God is our Mother waiting in the lamplight of this Thanksgiving to cup our face with love, to receive our joyful thanks for divine mercies. Like Emma, we may be astonished at the graciousness that has been given to us. Like Mary, we may respond by pouring out our thanks to God in a silent act of prayer.

Indeed, the deepest thanksgiving is wordless. It is the bowing of the spirit before God—who is Presence; who is Grace; who is Lavish Mercy. As we celebrate the season of harvest and thanksgiving, we sit quietly with our loving, generous God. We rejoice in the awareness of our many blessings: the gift of life, the beauty of Creation, the people who have loved us, the ability to choose, to love, to hope, to believe. We pour out to God our humble, grateful hearts. We listen for God’s own heart beating gently in the lamplight of our prayer.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. May God bless you and your loved ones with every reason for gratitude and joy.

( I published this early in case you’re using workplace computers to access the site. I wanted you all to have it for Thanksgiving. 🙏)

Thank You for My Life

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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Thank U for my life

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  This feast memorializes a story not present in Scripture. We know of it only from apocryphal writings, those considered of unsubstantiated origin. It tells of Mary’s dedication in the Temple at the age of three. Some versions say she remained there until the age of twelve, thus giving her life fully to God even from youth.

On the day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “we celebrate that dedication of herself which Mary made to God from her very childhood under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who filled her with grace … .” (Liturgy of the Hours)

As we move deeper into the final weeks of Ordinary Time, our readings continue to offer us stories about what it will be like at the end of time.  Today’s Gospel about the talents reminds us that we each have been given particular gifts with which to build up God’s Creation. Like the watchful Master, God expects – and needs- us to use these gifts, and to increase their value by sharing them with our sisters and brothers. Sometimes we think we have no real gifts to give. But the witness of a simple, faithful, generous life is beyond price.

During this Thanksgiving week, we will want to spend some prayer time reflecting on the many gifts we have been given – by God and by those who love us. Calling on Mary, let us pray too about how we choose to  “pay it forward” in gratitude.

Music: We Have Gifts to Share – Susan Kay Wyatts

This is a childlike song, but the point is profound. For those with young children and Grands, you might like to share this song with them.