Psalm 119: The Truth

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 3, 2020

 

Today, in Mercy, we pray for a persevering faith. Sometimes, it is very late into our prayer that the unexpected answer comes to us. May we recognize it and welcome it out of the darkness. We pray especially for those who have endured long years of prayerful waiting: for those with chronic illnesses, for the elderly, for widows and widowers, for those who want to believe but can’t.

from 2016

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a return to Psalm 119. Set today between fascinating passages from both Jeremiah and Matthew, our psalm presents us with a particularly strong challenge:

Let my heart be perfect in your statutes,
that I be not put to shame.

In our first reading, the false prophet Hananiah tries to put Jeremiah to shame by preaching a rosy prophecy in contradiction to Jeremiah’s difficult but truthful “fire and brimstone” warnings. Hananiah eventually gets caught in his own lies.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter discovers another dimension of truth – that without faith, he cannot endure the storm


Psalm 119’s verses are a prayer to stay true to the Law, the Word, even in difficulty and storm. 

The psalmist recognizes our human propensity sometimes to create the world we want rather than face the one we have. We do it by lying to ourselves and others until, eventually, our alternative universe falls apart – just like Hananiah’s.

Because, like Peter, we focus on ourselves and our fears, we miss Jesus’s invitation to walk in faith over our life’s rough waters.


Our psalm today voices our prayer not to get twisted on life’s road, to have the courage to embrace the truth of ourselves, our environment, and our world. That truth is revealed when we love and live God’s Law by our justice and mercy toward all Creation.

From your ordinances I turn not away,
for you have instructed me.


Poetry: from Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,a
And that has made all the difference.

Music: Long and Winding Road – Beatles song sung by David Archuleta

Psalm 145: Laudato Sí

Eighteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time

August 2, 2020

For my prayer this morning, I re-read Pope Francis magnificent encyclical Laudato Si’ which instructs us and begs us to cherish the gift of our Common Home. – a world which God has so loved that God gave the only begotten Son that we should not perish.
This sacred document has become even more meaningful as a global pandemic exposes the fragmentations we have wrought upon the earth.

from Reflection for Earth Day 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145, a song of complete confidence that God will sustain us.

Set like diamond amidst our three beautiful readings, Psalm 145 offers us a rich and melodious way to praise our Creator and to recognize the glory of God’s gift of Creation.

St. Francis of Assisi used this psalm to inspire his own well-known Canticle of the Sun – which, in turn, inspired Pope Francis’s magnificent encyclical Laudato Sí.

For our prayer today, we might choose any of these texts, even a small taste, and savor it with thanksgiving and hope, letting our hearts sing on this Sunday morning.

Poetry:  Canticle of the Sun – Francis of Assisi

Original text in Umbrian dialect:

Altissimu, omnipotente bon Signore,
Tue so le laude, la gloria e l’honore et onne benedictione.
Ad Te solo, Altissimo, se konfano,
et nullu homo ène dignu te mentouare.
Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature,
spetialmente messor lo frate Sole,
lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui.
Et ellu è bellu e radiante cum grande splendore:
de Te, Altissimo, porta significatione.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora Luna e le stelle:
in celu l’ài formate clarite et pretiose et belle.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Uento
et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo,
per lo quale, a le Tue creature dài sustentamento.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor’Acqua,
la quale è multo utile et humile et pretiosa et casta.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate Focu,
per lo quale ennallumini la nocte:
ed ello è bello et iucundo et robustoso et forte.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre Terra,
la quale ne sustenta et gouerna,
et produce diuersi fructi con coloriti fior et herba.
Laudato si, mi Signore, per quelli ke perdonano per lo Tuo amore
et sostengono infirmitate et tribulatione.
Beati quelli ke ‘l sosterranno in pace,
ka da Te, Altissimo, sirano incoronati.
Laudato si mi Signore, per sora nostra Morte corporale,
da la quale nullu homo uiuente pò skappare:
guai a quelli ke morrano ne le peccata mortali;
beati quelli ke trouarà ne le Tue sanctissime uoluntati,
ka la morte secunda no ‘l farrà male.
Laudate et benedicete mi Signore et rengratiate
e seruiteli cum grande humilitate.

English Translation:
Most High, all powerful, good Lord, 
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong, 
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, 
especially through my lord Brother Sun, 
who brings the day; and you give light through him. 
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! 
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, 
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, 
and through the air, cloudy and serene, 
and every kind of weather through which 
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, 
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful 
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, 
who sustains us and governs us and who produces 
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, 
through those who give pardon for Your love, 
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace 
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, 
through our Sister Bodily Death, 
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin. 
Blessed are those whom death will 
find in Your most holy will, 
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, 
and give Him thanks 
and serve Him with great humility.

Music: Biblical Songs, Op.99, No.5 (Psalm 145) by Antonín Dvořák and, an added selection, a populair hymn based on Psalm 145. Remember, to sing is to pray twice! 🙂

Psalm 69: Stuck!

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 1, 2020

Today, in Mercy, we pray for the light of God’s Word in our hearts. God speaks to us in all things. Sometimes, all we need to do is ask God, “What are You saying to me in this circumstance?” Then listen for Love. The answer is always wrapped in Love – and Love is not always easy.

Thought from 2016, Friday of the 17th Week

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 69.  In today’s accompanying readings, Jeremiah and John the Baptist are living out the meaning.of the psalm.

Each of these great prophets has been ensnared by the civic evil of their times, personified in Old Testament princes and New Testament Herod and Herodias. The power structure surrounding each prophet stood in direct contradiction to their witness to God’s Word. Those structures, when confronted with a sacred truth, tried to overwhelm the messenger, like quicksand swallows an innocent traveler.

Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink!
may I be rescued from my foes,
and from the watery depths.
Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me,
nor the abyss swallow me up,
nor the pit close its mouth over me.


The psalm raises to our prayer the reality that such struggles continue in our time. We live in a wonderful but still sinful world where every person decides, everyday, where he or she will stand in the contest between good and evil.

The decision is sometimes very clear. At other times, the waters are so muddied with lies, propaganda, greed, fear, bias. and unexamined privilege that we feel mired in confusion or resistance.

But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69 throws us a rescue line in today’s final verse:

See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds God spurns not.

The steady path to truth lies with those who seek God among the humble and poor. The humble are the ones through whom the Lord speaks. They are God’s own. Jeremiah and the Baptist understood this truth and preached it by their lives.

We might examine our lives today in the light of their witness and the message of this challenging psalm.


Poetry:  Beginners – Denise Levertov


‘From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—‘


But we have only begun
to love the earth.
We have only begun
to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
—we have only begun
to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.

Music:  The Cry of the Poor – John Foley, SJ

Psalm 69: Answer Me, O Lord

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

July 31, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 69, a heart-felt lament whose verses are often paralleled with the sufferings of Jesus.

I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.

Psalm 69: 9

Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written,
“The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me”.

Roman 15: 3

Praying with Psalm 69 this morning, and in the light of both our first reading and Gospel, I am aware of how God’s prophets suffer to proclaim mercy, justice, and truth.

Jeremiah suffered in the hope and conviction that God imagined a future of justice for all God’s people. He stood in the midst of the Temple worshippers and condemned their pretense of righteousness.

Jesus stood at the center of his hometown synagogue to proclaim that the long hoped-for redemption had come. But like Jeremiah’s listeners, Jesus’s neighbors also turned on him.

In our own lifetimes, we see the persecution and hatred which is leveled at modern prophets who call the world to justice and mercy. Even within our own Church, we see how Pope Francis is vilified by those whose privileged excesses are threatened by his charity.


As I write this reflection, our country celebrates the life of one of its noblest prophets, the sainted John Lewis. In the image of all the great Justice Witnesses, John endured incredible suffering for the sake of people’s dignity and freedom. He was able to do so because, like Jeremiah and Jesus, he didn’t look inward at his wounds. He looked outward for the redemption of others … the prize of justice:

Never give up, never give in, never give out. 
Keep the faith, and keep your eyes on the prize. 
Together, we can redeem the soul of America.

John Lewis

Let us pray today that the voices of true prophets may be heard and heeded. In this age when technology and social media can quickly disseminate vitriol, hatred, and conspiracy, let us pray for discerning hearts and courageous wills.

But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.

Psalm 69; 14

Poetry: Prophet by Carl Dennis

Prophet
You'll never be much of a prophet if, when the call comes
To preach to Nineveh, you flee on the ship for Tarshish
That Jonah fled on, afraid like him of the people's outrage
Were they to hear the edict that in thirty days
Their city in all its glory will be overthrown.

The sea storm that harried Jonah won't harry you.
No big fish will be waiting to swallow you whole
And keep you down in the dark till your mood
Shifts from fear to thankfulness and you want to serve.
No. You'll land safe at Tarshish and learn the language
And get a job in a countinghouse by the harbor
And marry and raise a family you can be proud of
In a neighborhood not too rowdy for comfort.

If you're going to be a prophet, you must listen the first time.
Setting off at sunrise, you can't be disheartened
If you arrive at Nineveh long past midnight,
On foot, your donkey having run off with your baggage.
You'll have to settle for a room in the cheapest hotel
And toss all night on the lice-ridden mattress
That Jonah is spared. In the space of three sentences
He jumps from his donkey, speaks out, and is heeded, while you,

Preaching next day in the rain on a noisy corner,
Are likely to be ignored, outshouted by old-clothes dealers
And fishwives, mocked by schoolboys for your accent.
And then it's a week in jail for disturbing the peace.
There you'll have time, as you sit in a dungeon
Darker than a whale's belly, to ask if the trip
Is a big mistake, the heavenly voice mere mood,

The mission a fancy. Jonah's biggest complaint
Is that God, when the people repent and ask forgiveness,
Is glad to forgive them and cancels the doomsday
Specified in the prophecy, leaving his prophet
To look like a fool. So God takes time to explain
How it's wrong to want a city like this one to burn,
How a prophet's supposed to redeem the future,
Not predict it. But you'll be left with the question
Why your city's been spared when nobody's different,

Nobody in the soup kitchen you open,
Though one or two of the hungriest
May be grateful enough for the soup to listen
When you talk about turning their lives around.
It will be hard to believe these are the saving remnant
Kin to the ten just men that would have sufficed
To save Gomorrah if Abraham could have found them.

You'll have to tell them frankly you can't explain
Why Nineveh is still standing though you hope to learn
At the feet of a prophet who for all you know
May be turning his donkey toward Nineveh even now.
[from Practical Gods (2001)

Music: Lord, in Your Great Love – Orchard Enterprises

Psalm 146: Abundance

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 30, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, the first of five final concluding praise Psalms in the Psalter. This is one of six Psalms involving preaching to self, where the evocative phrase “O my soul” is used. (Psalms 42, 43, 103, 104, 116 and 146)

Do you ever talk to your soul like that? You know, “Wake up”. “Don’t be afraid!”, “Stop thinking about yourself.”, “Get over it”. These prayers come out of our scarcity, and our longing for fullness, security and peace. We recognize there is something so much more infinite to love than the malaise we are entangled in.

As we pray the Psalms of Praise, particularly these five, we are invited to live out of our abundance rather than our scarcity. That “abundance attitude” is rooted in God’s infinite mercy and generosity, God Who is always creating fullness of life for God’s creatures:

The Maker of heaven and earth,
the seas and all that is in them,
Who keeps faith forever …

(146:6)

Psalm 146 recommends that, when we slip into attitudes of scarcity, we need to talk to ourselves – not that worrisome mumbling that constantly replays our troubles and annoyances. Instead, we should counsel ourselves to remember and trust in God’s faithfulness to us, asking to be big-hearted:

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


So today, Psalm 146 tells us to change our mental tapes if we have to. If there is a strain of worry, ingratitude, unholy self-reliance or any other negativity plaguing our prayer, let’s eject it.

Let’s replace it with the sacred conversation that begins and ends with:
Thank You”
“I trust You”
“My souls praises You”,
“I am at peace in You.”
“How could I ever thank You enough for loving me!

“Poetry: Prayers for the Protection and Opening of the Heart – Ya’akov Hakohen, translated by Peter Cole Ya’akov Hakohen belonged to a circle of Jewish mystics that was active in mid-thirteenth-century Castile and Provence.

                                  i 
May the Name send its hidden radiance
       to open the gates of deliverance
to His servants—and shine in their hearts,
which now are shut in silent darkness.

May the great King be moved
       to act in perfection and righteousness—
to open the gates of wisdom for us
and waken the love of old, the love of ancient days.

                                                    ii

By the power of the hidden Name I-am-that-I-am,
and by the dew of Desire and Blessing, the dead will live again...

                                                   iii

I-Am is the power of your Name in concealment,
and one who knows its mystery dwells in eternity’s instant.

Over the world, it pours forth abundance and favor,
and on it all worlds hang, like grapes in a cluster.

Send the dew of blessing, the dew of grace;
renew my dispensation, and grant me length of days.

Bring light to my eyes with your teaching, and let not the husks
       that surround your hosts obstruct me.
May Heaven and Adam’s children judge me with mercy.

Sustain me with their strength and fortune—
but do not leave me in need of the gifts of men.

Music: Praise the Lord, My Soul – John Foley, SJ

1… Praise the lord, my soul,
Let fire and rain give praise to Him,
Give praise to Him who is merciful, slow to judge;
Bless the lord, O my soul!

2…Bless the Lord, my soul,
Let all I am give praise to Him,
And not forget he is kind, He forgives our sins;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

3… Merciful and kind,
He knows that man is made of dust,
And like the flowers that flourish he soon must die;
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

4…Glory to our God,
Let all that is give praise to Him,
Give praise all you creatures who live His love,
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Psalm 59: Did Martha Pray It?

Memorial of Saint Martha

July 29, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Martha, we pray with Psalm 59.

The psalm is introduced with an interesting phrase: a miktam of David, when Saul sent people to watch his house and kill him. 

The meaning of the word mitkam is unclear, but the meaning of the rest of the phrase is abundantly evident. David felt threatened by the forces of King Saul who surrounded his house day and night awaiting an opportunity to attack him.

The psalm bemoans that situation. In two complementary stanzas, the psalmist asks God for victory and deliverance. Each ends with a refrain of praise and gratitude.


As I pray this psalm today, my mind goes to a house in Bethany. Three siblings live there who are friends of Jesus. Each loves Jesus in her or his own way, according to their personalities. 

The Gospels give us a vivid perception of Mary’s love. We can easily imagine the immensely grateful love of resurrected Lazarus. 

Then there is Martha of whom we know so little. A woman who found comfort in creating a hospitable home. A woman who commanded a well-functioning kitchen. A woman who, silent except for her famous sisterly complaint, let her works speak her love.

As their friendship with Jesus grew, and as Jesus became more notorious to the Jewish leaders, their little house no doubt became the object of inimical fascination.

Jesus’s enemies watched him, but that also watched his friends, frightening many away from Jesus’s side.

As this reality intensified, perhaps phrases of Psalm 59 rose in Martha’s heart as she prayed:

Rescue me from my enemies, O my God;
from my adversaries defend me….
… For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
mighty men come together against me,
Not for any offense or sin of mine, O LORD.

We can only guess what this little family suffered in order to be Jesus’s friends, both during his lifetime and by their witness in the subsequent early Christian Church. But by faith, we can be certain they rejoiced in the Divine Gift these sufferings brought them.

But I will sing of your strength
and revel at dawn in your mercy;
You have been my stronghold,
my refuge in the day of distress.
O my strength! your praise will I sing;
for you, O God, are my stronghold,
my merciful God!

Let us pray today to be, like Martha of Bethany, devoted friends of God.

Poetry:  You, neighbor God – Rainer Maria Rilke

You, neighbor god, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.
Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.
Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.
The wall is builded of your images.
They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.
And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.

Music: Psalm 59 – Esther Mui

Psalm 79: Brought Low, O Lord!

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 28, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 79, which is identified as “a psalm of Asaph”. The Psalms of Asaph are the twelve psalms numbered as 50 and 73–83 and either transcribed by Asaph or sung by the Asaphic choir. So Asaph is a bit like the Andrew Lloyd Weber of the Psalms, absorbing David’s prayers and rendering them in song.

One of the most important aspects of the Psalms is the deep honesty of their prayer. Those praying do not pretend to be anything but what they are: frightened, bereft, angry, delighted, grateful beyond words – whatever the situation of their lives.

Psalm 79 is a particularly moving hymn of communal lament. The psalmist prays for all the People with a nearly startling honesty:

Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.

Each evening, in this pandemic time, I find myself saying a very similar prayer.

Dear God, please be merciful to all our world.
We are in terrible trouble.

Help us to hold on and lead us out of darkness.


Psalm 79 compares the troubles to being imprisoned… trapped, no escape. Certainly, that is the feeling for many of us during these days when “we are brought very low” by a global disease and a dysfunctional political culture.

Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;
with your great power free those doomed to death.


Ah, there is the hinge for our faith to hold on to … God’s great Power in all things. That merciful Power is at work despite appearances. God is able and will bring Light out of darkness, Life out of destruction.

One day – perhaps not now – but one day, we will recognize that Power. The waiting is called Faith.

Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
through all generations we will declare your praise.


Poetry: Prayer by John Frederick Nims


Music: Psalm 79 by Psalms Reborn

Deuteronomy 32: Moses’ Psalm

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 26, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Deuteronomy 32, commonly referred to as the Song of Moses. Most biblical scholars agree that the selection was composed long after Moses died and inserted in Deuteronomy perhaps at the time of the prophet Samuel.

As literature, the poem shows Moses prophesying the troubles that will come upon the people because of their faithlessness. As history, these troubles have already occurred and are referenced as a lesson for the future.


The verses highlighted today are unhappy ones. With exaggerated anthropomorphism, God is characterized as really mad and passive-aggressive with Israel. It’s not a nice picture of how God relates to us. It’s not real either.

Still, the writer was a human being searching for some rational way to understand the trauma Israel was experiencing at the hands of their enemies. The logic, or illogic, goes something like this:

  • things are a mess
  • it must be our fault
  • we did bad things
  • so God’s mad and did bad things back
  • we better straighten up
  • then God might relent

We are all tempted to reason like this when we experience misfortune, pain, and trauma. We think evil should make sense. It doesn’t. The interplay of good and evil is a mystery we will never understand in this life.


What we can understand is faithfulness – God’s to us, and ours to God.

God, you are my Rock—how faultless are your deeds,
how right all your ways!
You are faithful God, without deceit,
You are Justice, Righteousness, and Mercy

This is the true message of the Song of Moses: Our merciful God is always faithful. When we experience suffering in life, – even the kind we bring on ourselves and one another – let our sorrow draw us ever closer to God’s Mercy which abides with us in all our troubles. Within the sacred mystery of grace, that Mercy seeks to transform us into Mercy ourselves.


Poetry:  Possible Answers to Prayer by Scott Cairns
The poem gives a wake up call about self-absorption in our prayers, and – with its own touch of anthropomorphism – images how God might perceive narrow prayers. The poem encourages us to accompany others in their greater sufferings.

Your petitions—though they continue to bear
just the one signature—have been duly recorded.
Your anxieties—despite their constant,

relatively narrow scope and inadvertent
entertainment value—nonetheless serve
to bring your person vividly to mind.

Your repentance—all but obscured beneath
a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more
conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.

Your intermittent concern for the sick,
the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes
recognizable to me, if not to them.

Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly
righteous indignation toward the many
whose habits and sympathies offend you— 
      
these must burn away before you’ll apprehend
how near I am, with what fervor I adore
precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.

Music: Audite Caeli – Michel Richard Delalande

This motet captures the opening words of the Song of Moses, Deuteronomy 32.

Audite, caeli, quae loquor: audiat terra verba oris mei.
Concrescat ut pluvia doctrina mea, fluat ut ros eloquium meum,
quasi imber super herbam, et quasi stillae super gramina.
Quia nomen Domini invocabo: date magnificentiam Deo nostro.
Dei perfecta sunt opera, et omnes viae ejus judicia.

Hear, O ye heavens, the things I speak,
let the earth give ear to the words of my mouth.Let my doctrine gather as the rain, let my speech distil as the dew,
as a shower upon the herb, and as drops upon the grass.
Because I will invoke the name of the Lord: give ye magnificence to our God.
The works of God are perfect, and all his ways are judgments.

Psalm 119:Acrostic Prayer

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 26, 2020


Today, in Mercy, we pray with young Solomon, as God asks him to carry the weight of leadership. Of all that Solomon might have asked from God, he requested only wisdom, which is described in James 3:17. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, teachable, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” We pray for wisdom for ourselves in the discharge of our responsibilities. We pray for this gift for all who hold power in our world.

from 2017 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119, the longest psalm, and a meticulously constructed poem. It is one of about twelve acrostic poems in the Bible, employing the twenty-two characters of the Hebrew alphabet to teach a lesson about love of the Torah, the Law.

Acrostic poems have been popular throughout history because they let the reader examine a theme from multiple, memorable perspectives. Although often tricky to compose, they are simple to read, and sometimes so commonplace as to be transparent.

Here is an example of an acrostic poem from 19th century America


So why did the psalmist take the trouble to compose a complicated verse like Psalm 119? The answer seems apparent, I think. The love of the Law was that important to the writer. It was the one true treasure, and he wanted others to share the treasure.

The theme of “treasure” ties together all of our Sunday readings.

In our first reading, young Solomon could have asked God for anything. But Solomon already treasures the Wisdom of God:

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.


Our second reading confirms that those who love God, like Solomon did, are blessed with the treasure of confidence and peace:

We know that all things work for good
for those who love God.


Matthew’s Gospel tells us to seek that treasure buried in the field of our lives. When we find it, we should give everything to make it our own:

When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.


Praying Psalm 119 allows us to appreciate the treasure of God’s Law, God’s heartbeat, in our lives. It holds the Word up before us, facet by facet, the way we would lift a diamond to the Light. When we come to love Wisdom/Word/Law as Solomon did, we give everything to possess it fully.


Poetry: Last Hike Before Leaving Montana by Patricia Traxler.
In this poem, the poet is ostensibly talking about a bear, but listen a little deeper and she is talking about God.

Late winter, almost spring. It's like finding a diamond;
now I don't want to leave. I sit in the dirt and put my hands
in your tracks. For the first time in a long time I don't
doubt. Now I know I always knew you were here. You
are the beginning of disclosure, the long-felt presence

Suddenly incarnate. Behind me my friend warns, If we
see the bear, get into a fetal position. No problem,
I tell her, I'm always in a fetal position—I was born
in a fetal position. Did you know, she says, the body
of a shaved bear looks exactly like a human man?
I skip a stone, feel a sudden bloat of grief, then laugh.
I ask her, Who would shave a bear? We climb

Farther up Rattlesnake Creek, watch winter sun glitter
off dark water. No matter how high we go I look higher.
Sometimes absence can prove presence. That's not exactly
faith, I know. All day, everywhere, I feel you near at hand.
There's so much to understand, and everything to prove.
Up high the air is thin and hard, roars in the ears like love.

Music: Lord, You Are More Precious Than Silver – Divine Hymns

Psalm 126: The Rhythm of Life

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

July 25, 2020 

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 126, one of fifteen Psalms of Ascent, which meant it would be sung in gratitude when “ascending” for prayer.

You may enjoy listening to the Psalm read accompanied by music.
Psalm 126 – Milken Archive, Jewish Choral Art in America.


Psalm 126 is popular and immediately recognizable to Jews and Christians. Thought to be written by either Ezra or the prophets at the return from the Babylonian Captivity, the psalm celebrates restoration while remembering the lessons of exile.

Israel is overwhelmed with gratitude at their deliverance, barely able to comprehend God’s goodness.

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.


Have you ever had a feeling like that, perhaps when you’ve gotten to the other side of a really rough patch in your life? Feeling like we’ve come through a dream – maybe a bad one – we can’t even find the words to thank God for helping us. We might simply laugh or cry for joy.

Psalm 126 reminds us not to let that tumultuous gratitude dissipate. The repetition of the psalm inscribes that gratitude on our hearts, transforming it to renewed hope and trust in God. As Catherine McAuley reminds us, life is a series of joys and sorrows. Both cycles can deepen our faith when we receive them in union with God.

This is your life,
joys and sorrow mingled,
one succeeding the other.

Letter to Francis Warde – May 28, 1841

Julien Dupré (French, 1851-1910)

Psalm 126 assures us that we can meet our life experiences with hope and trust because God is faithful. Within both our “comings” and our “goings”, God abides with us and will deliver us to joy.

Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.


Poetry:  A Short Testament by Anne Porter

Whatever harm I may have done 
In all my life in all your wide creation creation
If I cannot repair it 
I beg you to repair it, 

And then there are all the wounded 
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed 
As if I were not one of them. 
Where I have wronged them by it 
And cannot make amends 
I ask you 
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near 
That I've destroyed in blind complicity, 
And if I cannot find them 
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them. I beg you to remember them

When winter is over 
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death's bare branches.

Music: Hallelujah- Leonard Cohen