Heritage of Faith

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our reading from Acts tells of Paul’s preaching in the synagogue at Antioch. Paul, himself steeped in the love and practice of his Jewish faith, comes before more faithful Jews to invite them to a transformed faith in Jesus, the Messiah they had been awaiting. That was no easy assignment!

Ps89_2_family of God

But Paul, learned and erudite, traces the entire hereditary line of the Jewish faith, through the House of David, and leading to Jesus Christ. It’s a rich and beautiful homily that redefines the meaning and reach of God’s Family.

In our Gospel, Jesus too describes what it means to belong to God’s family. He says that whoever receives him, and lovingly serves like him, is one with him and with the Father.

These readings give the inspiration to consider and pray on many points. Perhaps these three may be helpful:

Through what human means and heritage has our faith been handed down to us? Who are the parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and godparents of our cherished faith? Let’s pray with them today and remember their loving example.


What family of faith has been gifted to us through our community, church and graced friendships over our lifetime? Who are these with whom we share the DNA of our spirit, who have bolstered our faith throughout the journey? Let us pray in gratitude for the gift of these people in our life.


What about us? For whom are we a “faith family”? How do we give the gift of faith, love and service in that family?


Music: I Knew My Father Knew – Sally deFord and James Loynes

Open to the Light

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

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May 15, 2019

Today, in Mercy, Jesus calls himself the Light.

Jn12_46_Light

Surely he came to bring us out of darkness which is light’s polar opposite. Most of us receive that deliverance with gratitude, understanding it to be our redemption from sin and separation from God.

As we grow deeper in our spiritual life, we may realize that there are many degrees of opposition to the Light. We may not find ourselves in the deep darkness of habitual sin, but rather on those tantalizing edges of spiritual laziness that can halt our soul’s growth:

  • the fog of faithless religious practice
  • the clouds of unresolved hurts and failures in forgiveness
  • the shadows of our religious prejudices
  • the dusk of our early energy for charity and community
  • the eclipse of hope and confidence in God

May God give us the grace to see that Light, too, comes in many forms, beaming through the smallest openings in our spirit. Every act, every choice, every silent prayer made for the sake of Love allows that Light to grow. You may like to pray with that thought while appreciating this poem of Denise Levertov:

Bearing the Light

Rain-diamonds, this winter morning, 
embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs; 
each solitaire, placed, it appears, with considered judgement, 
bears the light beneath the rifted clouds – 
the indivisible shared out in endless abundance.

Music: some beautiful instrumental music from Kathryn Kaye for your prayer time.

Anonymous in God

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter 

May 14, 2019

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Matthias

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Matthias, the one chosen by lot to take the place of Judas among the Twelve.

Matthias met the conditions for being an “Apostle” because he

… accompanied (the Apostles) the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,

beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us …

But there was another, upon whom the lot did not fall, who also met these conditions- Joseph Barsabbas Justus. This man was important enough to Luke, the writer of Acts, that his name is precisely recorded in history. But his name is all that we know of him. What he subsequently did for the spread of the Gospel remains folded in history’s shadows.

There are so many souls, down through these same shadows, who love and spread the Gospel but who remain relatively “anonymous in God”. I think of one such woman today, on what was once her Feastday.

Sister Mary Matthias Duggan was born in 1869 in the Irish Free State. She came to the United States in 1897. She joined the Sisters of Mercy as a lay sister, women who lacked the formal education to be teachers. Sister Matthias, and many others like her, cared for the household needs of the teaching sisters and resident students.

When I met Sister Matthias, she was in her nineties and lived on our infirmary wing. The trek from that wing to our Motherhouse chapel, though a skip and a jump for us novices, was a long journey on her cane for Sister Matthias. She carried ninety years of heavy work on her aged bones.

When any of us “youngsters” would come upon Sister Matthias or her peers on their chapel journey, we would offer an arm in accompaniment. Sister Matthias would give a lightly brogued “Thank you”, then begin a series of audible prayers for the accompanying novice. She always said, “These prayers are for your final perseverance.”

We will never know the blessed influence Joseph Barsabbas Justus had on the early Church. If it was anything near the Holy Gift that Sister Matthias quietly gave, then he too is a saint like she is.

Sister Mary Matthias Duggan, and all you Holy Women of Mercy, please continue to pray for us.

Music: For All the Saints

Open Your Heart’s Gate

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings again visit the question, “Who belongs to family of God?”.

love like God

Peter, upon returning to Jerusalem from Joppa, faces the Jewish Christians who are only learning how to live their new faith. They don’t get it that Gentiles are invited too to this emerging faith community.

They, like many of us, find security in the categories we build into our lives. We separate those who belong and don’t belong – sometimes to assure ourselves that we belong in certain preferred categories. We decide who is OK and who is not. The Gentiles were not OK church members for the Jerusalem Christians.

Peter is very patient with these critics. Point by point, he explains how his own understanding was informed by the Holy Spirit, so that he saw clearly that Christ’s invitation was for all people.

This reading challenges us to examine our “categories”, our biases and prejudices. Who is OK in my book, and who is suspect or questionable? In my thinking, who has a “right” to certain goods, positions and privileges? Who would I not invite to my table based on my predetermined “categories”?

With Christ, there are no privileged categories. We are each the privileged child of God, universally redeemed in the blood of Christ.

As I pray with this thought today, how might my attitudes and choices be affected?

Music: We are Called – David Haas

The Amazing Invitation

The Fourth Sunday of Easter 

May 12, 2019

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invite

Today, in Mercy, our three readings make one thing very clear – we are ALL invited to membership in the Body of Christ. We are ALL welcome in the Beloved Community.

In our first reading,  Paul and Barnabas preach to Jews, converts to Judaism and to Gentiles – to the effect that:

All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.

In our second reading:

John, had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb.

And in our Gospel, Jesus says:

My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

These readings describe the family of God to which every human being has been given entrance through the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Think about that: 

  • when you look into people’s eyes today
  • when you see their stories on the news
  • when you people-watch at the airport or the mall
  • when you drive by a cemetery where lives are remembered in stone 
  • when you look at your children, your friends, your foes
  • when you take that last look in the mirror tonight before you fall asleep

This person has been invited, with me, to the family of God. How might that thought influence my choices and actions each day?

All of us – ALL OF US- are welcome; all of us, equally loved.

Music: All Are Welcome – Marty Haugen

Pour It All Out for Love

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Acts describes Peter in the full energy of his discipleship. The infant Church was at peace, being built up by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter, completely filled with this sacred power, raises a woman from the dead. He does this in the Name of Jesus to Whom he has given his entire being.

pour faith

Our Gospel describes the moment of Peter’s total commitment. Some have turned away from Jesus because of his teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus asks the Twelve if they to wish to go too.

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.

At pivotal points in our faith life, Jesus asks us the same question. May we always have the strength and insight to turn toward Christ. May we pour our hearts into the welcoming love of Jesus, just as Peter did.

Music: To Whom Shall We Go – Robin and Staci Calamaio – Father and daughter team

In Mercy Broken

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

May 10, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, John gives us the core teaching of the Eucharist. 

Jn6_56 eucharist

For many, it is a hard teaching. How can Jesus give us his flesh and blood to nourish us? How can mere bread and wine embody this gift?

Have you ever been profoundly hungry? For most of us, probably not in a physical sense. But what about your heart and soul?

Have you ever longed to be loved, understood, accepted, or valued?

Have you ever felt famished for peace, rest, comfort, security, or solitude?

Have you ever longed to be delivered from gnawing anxiety, depression, fear, sorrow or loneliness?

Jesus recognizes all our hungers. He desires to enfold them in his Healing Mercy. He unites us to himself in the sacred reality of Eucharist, made visible to us in bread and wine.

In Eucharist , these fruits of the earth are not simply symbols pointing to another reality. By the power of God, they become sacraments embodying the reality themselves.

This mystery is one that must be embraced by the heart and soul, not one only to be analyzed by the mind. By opening the deep hungers of our spirit to the healing presence of Christ in Eucharist, we will be fed in ways we could never have imagined. In Mercy, we will become sources of nourishment for the broken world around us.

Music: Bread of the World in Mercy Broken – Reginald Heber

 

Word

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 9, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Acts gives us the memorable story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.

IMG_9263

When I was novice (back in the Middle Ages), I loved a book called “Unless Some Man Show Me” written by Alexander Jones. It was one of the first books that opened my mind to the study of scripture. At that time, the Church itself was continuing to explore a new age of scriptural scholarship.

Those of a certain age, like myself, will recall that we did not read the Bible directly when we were young. In school, we had “Bible Study”, but most of us never handled a real Bible. Even at Mass, the Gospel was read in Latin. We followed along in an English missal if we were lucky enough to have one.

In 1943, Pope Pius XII had issued the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (Inspired by the Holy Spirit). The letter called for new translations of the Bible into vernacular forms. In a huge shift, the Pope encouraged the use of the original languages for these translations, rather than the historically used Latin Vulgate. 

This allowed for the removal of pietistical and dogmatic accretions which had been added over the many centuries of Vulgate interpretations. The eminent Catholic biblical scholar Raymond Brown described  the encyclical as a “Magna Carta for biblical progress”.

How fortunate we were in the 1960s to be exposed to the opening of the Church to a new dimension. I remember, as a high schooler being taught the exquisite Gelineau Psalms, my first taste of pure scripture.

By 1966, scholars had published the magnificent Jerusalem Bible, originally translated to French from the root languages, and then to English. I cherished that Bible, gifted to me by my parents for my final profession that very year. It stills sits beside my chair and accompanies my morning prayer.

Unless someone show us…” we may not grow in our love for sacred scripture. We may not realize that this Word lives in our lives and works to bring us to God!

I encourage you today, if you are so inclined, to deepen yourselves in the love and understanding of holy scripture. Below are some of my favorite authors who, over the past 50 years, have led me to a deep love of God’s Word.

(Sorry for the delayed post today.  I got caught down memory lane with some of these theologians!)

 Music: Breathe – Michael W. Smith

Jean Daniélou
Daniel Harrington
Marie-Joseph Lagrange
Edward Schillebeeckx
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Yves Congar
Hans Küng
Bernard Lonergan
Johann Baptist Metz
Mary Daly
Karl Rahner
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
Marcus Borg
Walter Bruggemann
Thomas Berry
Leonardo Boff
Charles Curran
Elizabeth Johnson
Thelma Hall, RC
Karhryn Sullivan, RSCJ

Bright with Love

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

May 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the inevitable shadow falls over the early Christian community. Stephen is martyred – the first, the proto-martyr of many, down through the centuries, who will die for their faith.

Acts8_2 Stephen

This slaughter of innocence happened at the feet, and at the approbation, of Saul – yet untouched by the glorious grace of Christ.

How the community must have mourned beloved Stephen who, as our hymn describes him, was “bright with Love”:

  • Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5)
  • Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8)
  • All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen and saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15)
  • Stephen, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God  (Acts 7:8)
  • Stephen, as they were stoning him, called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. ( Acts 7:55)
  • What a treasure of a man! What a devastation to see his young, gracious life crushed by rejection, suffering and pain!

It is so hard to lose our prophets and saints!

I still remember, with great awe, the funeral of our Sister Mary Joanna Regan – one of the graced treasures of the Sisters of Mercy. Our Beloved Community was raw with her loss – as was the larger community of her love and influence.

Joanna’s dear friend, Father John Comey, SJ – now also of beloved memory – preached the sermon at her funeral liturgy. This was his first sentence:

How can such a woman die?

Dear Readers, haven’t we all felt that way in the face of some great loss? Whenever human frailty seems to bend to the powers of death, hatred, or oppression, our souls are crushed. We are astounded that life and goodness seem to yield. So was the early Christian Church when Stephen seemed to fall to hateful hands.

Nevertheless, they believed that there is an eternal life in God beyond that apparent yielding.  They persisted in the ardent work of building up the reign of Christ.

Now those who had been scattered
continued preaching the word. … and
there was great joy in that city.

And the witness of Stephen impelled not only them, but twenty centuries of committed Christians who find their fullness of life in Jesus Christ.

Certainly our Church, with its many recent fractures and falls, needs a resilient, faithful community to lift it up and carry it forward. Let’s pray to St. Stephen today that we may be that community!

(English and Latin canticle today, plus lovely poem after them)

Music:  Sancte Dei, Pretiose  – sung by the Benedictine Monks of St. Michael’s de Laudes

Latin Version
Sancte Dei, pretiose,
Protomartyr Stephane,
Qui virtute caritatis
Circumfulsus undique,
Dominum pro inimico
Exorasti populo
Et coronae qua nitescis
Almus sacri nominis,
Nos, qui tibi famulamur,
Fac consortes fieri :
Et expertes dirae mortis
In die Judicii.
Gloria et honor Deo
Qui te flora roseo
Coronavit et locavit
In throno sidereo :
Salvet reos, solvens eos
A mortis aculeo. Amen.

English Version
Saint of God, elect and precious,
Protomartyr Stephen, bright
With thy love of amplest measure,
Shining round thee like a light;
Who to God commendest, dying,
Them that did thee all despite.
Glitters now the crown above thee,
Figured in thy honored name:
O that we, who truly love thee.
May have portion in the same;
In the dreadful day of judgment
Fearing neither sin nor shame.
Laud to God, and might, and honor,
Who with flowers of rosy dye
Crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee
In the starry throne on high:
He direct us, He protect us,
From death’s sting eternally.


Poem: St. Stephen by Malcolm Guite

Witness for Jesus, man of fruitful blood,
Your martyrdom begins and stands for all.
They saw the stones, you saw the face of God,
And sowed a seed that blossomed in St. Paul.
When Saul departed breathing threats and slaughter
He had to pass through that Damascus gate
Where he had held the coats and heard the laughter
As Christ, alive in you, forgave his hate,
And showed him the same light you saw from heaven
And taught him, through his blindness, how to see;
Christ did not ask ‘Why were you stoning Stephen?’
But ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
Each martyr after you adds to his story,
As clouds of witness shine through clouds of glory

The Unfathomable Gift

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter 

May 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the crowd demands a sign from Jesus “that they may believe” in him. They refer to their ancestral memory of when God sent manna to their forebears in the desert – a miracle that restored their faith.

bread of life

But although Jesus worked many wonders, he was not sent simply to be a “wonder worker”. The faith of the New Creation was not to be built on miracles but on sacrificial love.

Jesus tells the assembled crowd:

“ My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven

and gives life to the world.”

He is talking about himself, the ultimate gift of God, feeding not just the body but the spirit – giving new life to all Creation.

The sacrament of the Eucharist embraces this mystery and extends it through the ages. Embodied in the Sacred Bread, this mystery is also incarnated in the People of God as they believe, hope and love God’s Presence into the world.

As with all sacred mysteries, we cannot simply choose to believe as a rational act. This faith is not willed by us, but rather gifted to us, as Jesus says:

“ You cannot come to Me
unless the Father draw you.”

The crowd gathered around Jesus in today’s Gospel is asking  him for a sign before they will believe. Let us instead ask God for the grace  to open our hearts undemandingly to the deep gift of faith God wishes to give us.

Music: Bread of Heaven – Jessie Manibusan  (Lyrics below)

Bread of heaven, Savior broken,
cup of life outpoured;
we your people thirst and hunger.
Come renew us, Lord;
come renew us, Lord.

From the mountain, blessing spoken
where we came to pray;
with the simple truth before us:
love them in my name;
love them in my name.

From the garden dark with sorrow,
from the tears you wept,
bloomed the flower of salvation:
new life born of death,
new life born of death.

From the hill where love was lifted
on the heavy wood,
flow the blood and streams of mercy
where your Mother stood,
where your Mother stood.

From the tomb that could not hold you
in the dark of night,
broke that morning of redemption,
raising us to life,
raising us to life.