The Grace at Our Border

Monday, November 5, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110518.cfm

Today, in Mercy,  we continue our readings from Paul’s inspiring letter to the Philippians. Paul sincerely loves this community and wants them to be perfected in Christ. 

This is what Jesus wants for us too.  Today’s Gospel is just one example of Jesus showing his followers the way to holiness. He uses the opportunity of a dinner to remind those gathered that they are very fortunate. Their lives are like a banquet compared with the lives of those who are poor and burdened.

He suggests that his followers do what God would do:

When you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be
because of their inability to repay you….

Just such an opportunity to be blessed awaits us, in the USA, at our southern border. A wave of God’s beloved poor and besieged washes toward us. Will we meet them with true mercy and justice born out of Christian charity? Or will we confront them with a brutal show of power born of fear and alienation?

Lk14_14 banquet

Of course, there are legitimate concerns with such a large migration. But these concerns must be met with wisdom and prudence, not prejudice and vilification. This is not a horde of animals attacking us. These are human beings desperately seeking a better life.

Jesus thought that his table companions, gifted as they were by God, had the moral capacity to respond to his challenge. Can he expect the same of us?

Let’s hope so, because our Gospel closes with a very compelling reason:

“For you will be repaid
(one way or the other, I might add)
at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Music: God of the Poor – Graham Kendrick

Wholehearted

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, both Deuteronomy and Mark proclaim the call to love God wholeheartedly.

woleheartedJPG

In Mark, it is one of the scribes who initiates this proclamation by asking Jesus which is the first – most important – of the commandments. Unlike many of Jesus’ encounters with the scribes and Pharisees, this one does not seem hostile. The man, as one might expect of an expert in the Law, wants to know if Jesus continues the priorities of the Torah. 

He is pleased with Jesus’ answer. And Jesus is pleased with him. We can almost see Christ’s smile at the scribe’s sincere and lived response. 

This man sees through the Pharisaical confusions which have been heaped upon this most important law. He understands that love of God and neighbor mean infinitely more than burnt offerings and public sacrifices.

How do we reach this wholehearted love in our complex lives? We’re not busy with burnt offerings, but we are distracted by so many forces that lay claim to our attention and devotion. 

We love many worthy and unworthy things in our lives. We often confuse real love with one of its masquerading forms – “loves” that are self-serving rather than other-serving.

Today’s Alleluia verse is an answer to our, “How?”.

Whoever loves me
will keep my word, says the Lord;
and my father will love him
and we will come to him.

Real love is proved by action. It’s that simple. What do my actions say about where my heart is? Let me just flip back through my last 24 hours to see if God would have smiled at my choices, words, and actions. And let me change what I need to change for tomorrow.

Music: V’Ahavta- Marty Goetz

V’Ahavta is part of the Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל)- a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services.

Seesaws

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Click here for readings

Lk14_11 seesaw

Today, in Mercy, Jesus gives us one of the many “seesaw“ choices of the Gospel:

  • with Me or against Me
  • sheep or goats
  • God or money 
  • being first or last
  • being humble or exalted

These phrases are both hard and kind. They’re hard because they leave us no middle ground. It’s either-or, not both-and. I don’t know about you but I like both-and. I like to have my cake and eat it too. But it doesn’t work, does it?

The phrases are kind because, if we trust them, they make our choices clear.

Today’s Gospel tells us the secret to true spiritual greatness – humility. In worldly terms, that’s a contradiction. Just observe the pompous, dishonest posturing of some of our politicians to see how the world rejects humility as a path to greatness!

But Jesus turns the world upside-down. In Christ’s world, the seesaws go backward. They dip to power by service; to love by sacrifice; to wealth by compassion. They are rides in contradiction to the world.

Our spiritual life is the constant challenge of balancing these seesaws toward God and God’s beloved poor, wounded, and marginalized. That’s how Jesus rode them. That’s how He’s asking us to do it.

Music: Humble – Audrey Assad

In Prayer, Memory, and Light

Friday, November 2, 2018

Click here for Readings

Today, in Mercy, we remember the beloved Holy Souls who have gone before us. They are never far from us. Some of us may visit cemeteries today. Some will place a list of names upon the altar. But all of us will whisper their names: grandparents, parents, spouses, children, brothers, sisters and beloved friends — meeting each name in a sacred memory.

Romans6_8 All Souls

May those memories, whatever they contain, be transformed by our loving prayers. May whatever grief remains in us be blessed by the grace of faith and thanksgiving. And may the Holy Ones we honor today brighten us with some of their overwhelming Eternal Light in God.

Music: Lux Aeterna- Eternal Light – Michael Hoppé

Lux aeterna
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.

Requiem aeternam
dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord,
with Your saints forever,
for You are Mercy.

Eternal rest
give to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May Their Memories Be A Blessing

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110118.cfm

Today, in Mercy, on this Solemnity of All Saints, let us pray especially for our recent saints and martyrs – victims of hate, violence and irresponsible policy. Let us know them to be now in the arms of Love, a Love Whom we beg to heal us who remain, impelling us to true justice and mercy.

All Saints_namesJPG

As we pray, let us reflect on the following hymn for the Holy Innocents, resolving to protect sacred life in ALL its manifold ages and expressions.

1.Salvete, flores Martyrum,
In lucis ipso lumine
Quos sevus ensis messuit,
Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.

2.Vos prima Christi victima,
Grex immolatorum tener,
Aram sub ipsam simplices
Palma et coronis luditis.

3.Qui natus es de Virgine
Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Cum Patre, cumque Spiritu,
In sempiterna secula.

1. Flowers of martyrdom, all hail!
Smitten by the tyrant foe
On life’s threshold – as the gale
Strews the roses ere they blow.

2. First to bleed for God, sweet lambs!
 In innocence you died!
Rising with your wreath and palms
At the very altar-side!

3. Honor, glory, virtue, merit,
Be to Thee, O Living God,
With Creator, and the Spirit
While eternal ages run. – Amen.

Music: Salvete, Flores Martyrum -Tomás Luis de Victoria · Lluis Vich

To Touch God’s Heart

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/103118.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus sets out a stringent formula for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Strive to enter through the narrow gate,

for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter

but will not be strong enough.

Jesus goes on to say that some will get to the threshold of the kingdom and be denied entrance because they are not recognized. These petitioners will be shocked, saying, “But we ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.”

The passage teaches us that there is more to faith than religion, more to prayer than words, more to relationship than ritual. We may be the most observant Catholic, Lutheran, or Jew. We may stay praying in church longer than anyone else. We may know the catechism by heart. But if our deep heart hasn’t touched God’s, we will not be recognized at the narrow gate.

Where will we find God’s heart? The Gospel seems to suggest that we would do best to look among those who are considered “last” – those who are poor, humble, suffering, marginalized. At “the gate”, they will be “first” – so they must have the secret to that stringent formula.

There is little or nothing between these blessed ones and the touch of God – no power, pride or wealth. Their strength lies in their utter dependence on God – God knows them in that dependence.

It is hard for us to reach that place of trust and unity with God. Our possessions and accomplishments get in the way. Our independence and self-reliance get in the way. Our pride and penchant for control get in the way. It is a very narrow gate through these things that lets us find God – our God Who is not far … Who waits in the spaces between our self-importance.

Music: Enter the Narrow Gate! – John Michael Talbot

Enter the narrow gate

The gate that leads to life

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Pray for your enemies Those who abuse you

Love them and do not hate And love will follow you.

Enter the narrow gate

The gate that leads to life

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Forgive those who offend And seek their forgiveness And when you bring your gift You will be forgiven.

Enter the narrow gate

The gate that leads to life

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OhojjbYVdLs

Rachel Weeps

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/103018.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus poses a question to his followers:

“What is the Kingdom of Heaven like?” It is rhetorical question and he goes on to explain, in beautiful symbols, the joy and fullness of heaven.

But were Jesus walking physically among us today, He might answer his own question by saying:

This is what it is NOT like:

  • the killing of innocents because of their faith, heritage, lifestyle or politics
  • the starvation and incarceration of children from Yemen to Mexico to Syria
  • the fueling of war by an economy of arms sales
  • the destruction of an environment given to us in trust
  • the systematic dehumanization of humanity through violence, lies, greed, and political arrogance
  • the ignorant indifference in “good” people which blindly fosters such dehumanization

Indeed, Rachel weeps for her beloved martyrs in Pittsburgh, for her dear children in Jeffersonville – as do all of decent and loving heart. And she weeps also for thousands who die daily from the failure of love. She weeps for all of us. In a society this sick with violence and hate, we are all victims.

Let us all choose the only survival — to act in mercy, justice and love. Let us do so to the memory of these martyrs and the many whom they follow.

Music: Shalom Aleichem

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gP2S5KPQID4

Her First Look into God’s Eyes

Monday, October 29, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102918.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus touches the bent-over woman, uncurling her infirmity into unimagined glory. This passage, like a time-lapse photo, shows her long-burdened spirit awaken, stretch into grace, and blossom at the fingertips of God!

O Sacred Spring for her long-wintered soul!

We pray with her today to our gracious Jesus, Who bypasses laws of Sabbath and humans, to spring loose the Spirit from any hibernation.

What joy or hope lies dormant in us – or in our beloveds – from years of doubt, fear or unbelieving? Is there a needed grace or healing we have grown almost tired of desiring?

Let us bring it to God in trust today, walking beside this bent-over woman. Though she could not yet look in His eyes, she knew He saw her, loved her, and would heal her.

We might pray with a poem by Mary Oliver which captures some of the same emotions as the powerful Gospel passage:

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches—
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it
the thorn
that is heavier than lead—
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging—
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted—
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not you have ever
dared to pray.

Music: Healer of My Soul – John Michael Talbot

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=K5PLdnz5UdU

What Do You Want Me To Do for You?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel presents the blind man, Bartimeus. He is an otherwise unknown character in scripture. Yet this short passage suggests so much about him.

Mk 10_51 Bartimeus

It is stated that he was the son of Timeus, apparently someone of note in the community – otherwise, why mention his name? And yet this notable man’s blind son is left to begging on the side of the road. Had disability driven father and son apart? Was Dad unable to accept a son with a physical challenge?

The passage also reveals that Bartimeus knew about Jesus. Perhaps while begging in the public square, he talked and listened. He daydreamed about what he planned to do if he should ever have a chance to meet Jesus!

His cronies in the marketplace were not very supportive. They told him to shut up, even as he pathetically cried for Jesus’s mercy. Still, Bartimues persisted and Jesus heard him.

When he comes to Jesus, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” It has always struck me as a strange question. The man is obviously blind, stumbling through the crowd on some disciple’s arm. Why did Jesus bother to ask what Bartimeus wanted?

This might be the lesson hidden in this Gospel. We need to name and claim our needs before God can reach through and transform them. If we don’t even know we’re “blind”, how can we know we’re cured? If we don’t present our needs to God, how can we believe that it is God Who has healed us?

The freshly cured Bartimeus, eyes wide open in grace, now follows along the path with Jesus. All the “shut-uppers” are silenced. Perhaps, Timeus weeps off in a doorway to see the power of his son’s faith and Jesus’s love.

How might our lives be changed if we had that kind of faith… that kind of love?

Music: Don’t Pass Me By – Fred Hammond (lyrics below)

There was a blind man on the road side, and he heard a commotion
It was Jesus passing by with a crowd and it stirred his emotions
He’d been displaced his whole life, should he even try

Don’t bother Jesus (they say you have nothing)
You have nothing to offer (stay in your place)
Right then he knew(he had to choose)
He had nothing to lose

So he cried Jesus (Jesus), I need you,  please don’t pass me by
He cried out Jesus, I’m not ashamed(to tell you) I need you in my life
(I need you in my life)

I’m not much different from that man, and this is the honest truth
Could this sinful one, with this messed up life, could I ever serve you
people and things clutter my mind, should I even try

Don’t bother Jesus (they say you have nothing)
You have nothing to offer (stay in your place)
Right then he knew (he had to choose)
He had nothing to lose

So I cry Jesus(Jesus), I need you
Please don’t pass me by
I’m crying out Jesus, I’m not ashamed to tell you I need you in my life

As the deer (as the deer panted)
Thirsty for the water yeah(thirsty for the water)
My soul desires and longs to be(to be with you)

Jesus, I need you, please don’t pass me by
I don’t mean to waste your time but I can’t listen to the crowd,
Situations in my life telling me to keep it down
But I need you

I know I’m broken, but you can heal me, Jesus, Jesus I’m calling you
(I might not be worth much)might not be worth much, but I’m still willing
Jesus, Jesus, I’m calling you
Songwriters: Fred Hammond / Kim Rutherford / Tommie Walker

Oh, Fig!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings are not reassuring. They basically tell us that it’s a tough world out there, and it might get us – body and/or soul. They tell us to straighten up and live right before it’s too late!

Lk 13_7 fig tree

I don’t really like the “in your face” readings, but they certainly are clear and effective. Just picture that poor fig tree, trying like crazy – for three years – to bear fruit! I know that I’ve been trying my whole life to overcomes some of my fruitlessness. I certainly hope God continues to be patient with me!

Nevertheless, the message of today’s Gospel is clear. Don’t take that patience for granted.Repent of any small godlessness you’re clinging to.

  • Forgive the recent and long ago hurts you’ve locked up inside.
  • Make amends for any meannesses you can remember.
  • “Show and Tell” your love to the people who love you.
  • Show and Tell your blessing to the people who don’t.
  • Be Mercy every time you get a chance.

Paul says it like this: Live the truth in love.

Let’s do it while we can.

Music: Amazing Grace ~ sung by Sean Clive