Thank You, God, For Loving Me

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Friday, November 29,2019

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Today, in Mercy, let us continue to bask in the deep gratitude of our hearts for God’s tremendous love for us.

earring

I wrote this reflection for the Sisters of Mercy blog several years ago. They republished it yesterday for Thanksgiving Day. Some of you may not have had the chance to read it. I would be honored if you did.:

Click here to find my reflection of the Sisters of Mercy blog

Music: Amazing Love – some gorgeous instrumental music for your prayer time.

Thanksgiving Prayers

Thanksgiving Day

November 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Thanksgiving readings are so beautiful! Please take some time to read them. Let them bless you wherever you are in life’s journey.

1Cor1_4 Thanks

Throughout this Thanksgiving week, I have prayed by letting your names flow through my mind with deep gratitude. Every life that touches us leaves some kind of blessing or challenge. I am thankful for the gift each one of you has given me.

I know that many of you carry some heaviness through these days – the loss or illness of loved ones, challenges with your own health, or some of the other sorrows life weaves into our joy.

May God reach through any burden you bear to convince you of his Presence in your life,  to assure you with the blessing of our first reading (which I have adapted slightly).

And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters our good from our mother’s womb,
and fashions us according to his mysterious plan for us!
May God grant us joy of heart
and may peace abide among us;
May God’s goodness toward us endure
to deliver us to joy
even through clouds of any passing sorrow.

May you and your loved ones be abundantly blessed on this Thanksgiving!

Music: I Thank My God

 

Thanksgiving Prayer

Blessed God, Great Spirit
Your Breath fills all creation.
It fills this country, making sacred
the land, the water, the sky.
It fills each of us,
making us all Your children,
sisters and brothers of many roots and colors,
who blessedly call ourselves “Americans.”

We give thanks to You today
for Your many gifts to us,
Your beauty and depth are mirrored to us
in the many faiths and cultures
that enrich us as a people.
Help us to reverence our diversity
as an expression of Your Divine Creativity.

We are a people with many names.
We thank You especially
for the names that have shaped us as Americans:
Washington, Lincoln, King –
Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth –
Geronimo, Joseph of the Nez Percé, Sacajawea.

We thank You for those whose names
have blended into the silence of history;
for the Native American who held this land
as a sacred trust;
for pilgrim, pioneer and patriot,
for suffragette, soldier, public servant, and saint…
for those in our own families
who first came – full of hope – to these shores,
and for the searching immigrants who come here now
to find the dream of peace.

We have many hopes and fears, dear God,
as a nation, as individuals, and as world citizens.
On this Thanksgiving Day, move us to bless and
reverence one another as sisters and brothers
and to renew ourselves ,
as your children, in the grace
of awareness, respect, justice and mercy.

Amen.

(Thanks)Giving

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

November 27, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, in our reading from Daniel, King Belshazzar sees “the handwriting on the wall”. We all know how that feels! It’s a feeling that tells us to pay attention to our lives.

As Thanksgiving comes closer, I hope this reflection will help us all pay attention to what is most precious in our lives, and to give thanks.


TY families

Thanksgiving is a most heart-warming time. While culture seems to have eroded Christmas into a holiday of “presents”, Thanksgiving remains a time of “presence” – a day simply to gather family and friends in fellowship and love.  It is a day full of remembering, ritual, hope and encouragement.  It is a time when we are brought back to our true selves by the people who know us best and share our memories.

No matter how many years pass, on Thanksgiving morning we can remember our mother’s kitchen – the early morning bustle of chopping, peeling and mixing; the aroma of roasting turkey rising steadily through the day. For some, the memory is of the gathering of cousins for a football game, or the community of aunts for the pie-baking marathon. Always, it is a memory of togetherness and comfortable acceptance.

For me, a precious memory rests with the turkey heart. Both Dad and I loved this rare treat. But, alas, the turkey has only one heart! So we created a ritual of “alternative years” where I got the heart one year, Dad the next. Somehow, every year, Dad said he had had it last year – until I grew old enough to recognize his generous ploy. Then, as the years passed, I grew up. I realized it was my turn – and my joy – to always say that I “had the heart last year, Dad.”

Often, for this feast, we emphasize the aspect of “thanks”, because we are so blessed and have so much to be grateful for. But perhaps a more powerful part of the celebration is “giving”. This blessed day is a time to renew ourselves in giving – and forgiving.  Our giving may be expressed in many forms:

  • I love you
  • I thank you
  • I am proud of you
  • I will help you
  • I understand, or perhaps just something like this:

I had the heart last year.

Such words bless us, dear family and friends, beyond the years. May you and your loved ones hear them from one another on this Thanksgiving Day.

Music: Thanksgiving Song – Mary Chapin Carpenter

You’re Welcome

Tuesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

November 26, 2019

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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.

thnkgvg_mercy


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.”

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

A Grateful Spirit

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, two significant themes in our readings are gift-giving and gratitude.

In our first reading Naaman, a pretty hot-shot Syrian commander, is a leper. He takes the advice of a captured Israel slave girl who encourages Naaman to seek a cure from Elisa the prophet.

As Naaman approaches, Elisha sends word  to rinse in the Jordan. Naaman, who is obviously accustomed to personalized subservience, is not happy with Elisha’s absentee advice. Angry, Naaman sets out for home. But his servants encourage him to cool down and to act on Elisha’s instructions. 

Naaman receives the cure and he promises, half-heartedly, to from henceforth worship Yahweh. He then asks what he can pay for the gift of the cure. Elisha responds that there is no payment .

Notice: Naaman never says “Thank you”. Instead, he wants to pay, to owe nothing for the immense gift he has received. He doesn’t want to be beholden, even to God.

Elisha, in so many words, tells Naaman: What I was blessed to convey to you comes from God. The power is God’s. I am the instrument. You can’t buy or own it. I can’t sell it. It’s God’s – freely given.

2Tim2_9JPG

Paul repeats the theme to Timothy: the Word of God is not chained. God’s power, grace, and healing are given freely. We cannot earn them buy, them, control them, or ever thank God enough for them. But we should try.

In our Gospel, only one cured leper – a Samaritan – has the sense and humility to try to thank Jesus. Born of his faith, that gratitude saves him.

God is Infinite Gift. God’s love pours over us spontaneously and continually to bring us to wholeness. God can’t help loving us and hoping for our completeness in grace.

May we be delivered from any speck of entitlement, indifference, arrogance, or ingratitude in the face of such Goodness!

Music:  Thank You, Lord – Don Moen

God’s Thank You Note

Monday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

August 26, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we begin eight days of Thessalonians, coupled with the final section of Matthew’s Gospel before the Passion, Death and Resurrection narrative.

First Thessalonians is a love note, a thank you note. In it, Paul speaks to the community with great affection and gratitude because they have caught fire with the Gospel he shared with them.

Paul’s words carry the loving, grateful voice of God to us who also try, with all our hearts, to give ourselves to the Gospel.

1 Thes 1:5 Thank You

In today’s Gospel, Matthew gives us the sad counterpoint to Paul’s joy. Jesus thunders woe over the Pharisees who, unlike the Thessalonians, smother the ardent message he offers them.

They bind. They control. They peddle a religion rooted in parsimonious law rather than generous freedom. They promote a system that sustains their privilege.

Jesus tells us that Pharisaical religion sucks the soul from people, binding them in a self-serving, spiritless law – where power and material prosperity supersede truth, loving community, and sincere worship.

In Paul’s words, God blesses and thanks us for our true faith which – by generosity, hope, love, sacrifice and hopeful endurance – builds the Community of God.

Throughout history, some people have used the scripture to justify the kind of pharisaical selfishness bewailed in today’s Gospel. They isolate and demonize other human beings by the deceitful turning of the holy Word. They are clever and convincing. They appeal to our rationality rather than our souls.

Today’s readings remind us to take great care in discerning the Spirit. We will never find Her where there is no love, mercy, kindness, freedom, forgiveness, and joy.

Music: one of my favorite hymns. Though from Ephesians, it carries the same message as our reading from Thessalonians today. I pray this prayer for all of you, dear friends.

Ephesians 1 – by Suzanne Toolan, RSM

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In him we were chosen to live through love in his light.
That is why I never cease to give thanks to God for you.
And pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ
will grant you the Spirit of wisdom
and knowledge of himself
that you may  glory, glory in his goodness.

Your Grace Amazes Me

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 12, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Moses recounts for the people God’s immense generosity toward them.

Dt10_7awesome God

Have you ever heard yourself, or someone dear to you, saying, “God has been so good to me!” Such a statement rises out of our awe at God’s love and mercy to us.

The deeper our faith, the clearer our insight into these gifts. I have heard people in the sparest of circumstances utter such a prayer. How can they do that, we might ask?

In all cases, there is a beautiful humility, trust, and generosity emanating from their spirits. Gratitude has transformed them. Hope, not wishing, has freed them.

Moses wants his People to be like that. He says:

Think! The heavens, even the highest heavens,
belong to the LORD, your God,
as well as the earth and everything on it.
Yet in his love for your fathers the LORD was so attached to them
as to choose you, their descendants …

This is your glory, he, your God,
who has done for you those great and awesome things
which your own eyes have seen.

I want to be that kind of grateful, faith-filled person too. Don’t you?

Today’s profound advice from Moses can help us.

Music: Your Grace Still Amazes Me – Philips, Craig and Dean

Climbing Toward God

Friday of the Tenth Week  in Ordinary Time

June 14, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul, follows on yesterday’s magnificent passage about

the Gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God.

The power of this Gospel is the “treasure” about which Paul writes in today’s first reading.

2Cor4_7

In this passage, Paul describes the miracle of contradiction in us who believe. We carry the  infinite light of God’s Glory in the fragile, imperfect vessels of our existence. By the power of God, the omnipotent sublime shines from within the ordinary.

We see, in these lines, Paul the humble and tested preacher. He has grown in his deep understanding of himself as God’s imperfect instrument.

All of us who want to live the Gospel are called to experience a deepening like Paul’s. The poet Mary Oliver reflects such a transformation in her poem On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate (Psalm 145). Here is the last delightful stanza, which may inspire our prayer today. (I will send the full poem a little later.)

Every morning I want to kneel down on the golden
cloth of the sand and say
some kind of musical thanks for
the world that is happening again—another day—
from the shawl of wind coming out of the
west to the firm green
flesh of the melon lately sliced open and
eaten, its chill and ample body
flavored with mercy. I want
to be worthy—of what? Glory? Yes, unimaginable glory.
O Lord of melons, of mercy, though I am
not ready, nor worthy, I am climbing toward you.

Music: Earthen Vessels – John Foley, SJ

Jesus Ascends into Heaven

Ascension Thursday

May 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel describes the Ascension of Jesus into heaven – a glorious and bittersweet moment for his disciples.

ascension

Our second reading from Ephesians is so perfectly chosen for that moment. Even though the passage is written by Paul much later, one can imagine Jesus blessing his surrounding friends with a similar prayer just as he returns to the Father.

This beautiful passage and the song accompanying it need no further words from me. Let us be with Jesus on this holy day and receive all the blessings and love he wishes to give us.

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe…

Music: Ephesians Hymn I – Suzanne Toolan, RSM

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Through him, we were chosen to live through love in his light
That is why I never cease to give thanks to God for you
And pray that the God of Our Lord, Jesus Christ
May grant you the Spirit of Wisdom and knowledge if Himself
That you may Glory, Glory in his goodness.

God’s Forever Covenant

Thursday, April 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings focus on the inviolable power of covenant.  

gn17_Covenant

The word “covenant” is derived from the Latin “convenire ”- to gather, to assemble, to fit.

We get the sense of an artist pulling together the pieces of a mosaic to form a masterpiece. Or we may think of a poet choosing the perfect words to convey feelings otherwise unwordable.

In our first reading, God fashions his covenant by weaving together the family lines descending from Abraham:

I will maintain my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Jesus deepens the Abrahamic promise by revealing that he is the Son of God sent to fulfill the ancient promise:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”

These promises are passed on to us in many ways. Today’s reading might remind us of the role our families have played in transmitting the faith to us. They, together with our early teachers, opened our hearts to the amazing possibilities of grace.

I pray in thanksgiving today for my parents and all the generations who formed them. I pray for the good Sisters who modeled a captivating holiness to me. I pray for my beloved Mercy family as they continue to show me the face of God.

For whom would you offer a grateful prayer today? You might simply say their names in your prayer, or write their names in your own mosaic of thanksgiving. Or just listen to this music and let them bless your heart today.

Music:  By Faith – Keith & Kristyn Getty