Be Made New!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Jesus writes new rules for life in the venerable Jerusalem dust.

Jn8_1_11JPG

Jesus enjoys an early morning walk from the Mount of Olives to the Temple. The weather, no doubt, was typically beautiful since others easily gathered and sat around Jesus to hear his teaching.

But the Pharisees, vigilant for an opportunity to condemn Jesus, executed a mean-hearted plot.

Dragging a woman “caught in the act of adultery” before the encircled men, they demanded Jesus’s judgment of the distraught woman.

Imagine the woman’s terror.  Her poverty and loneliness have already forced her into an ignoble commerce. Had she the chance, she surely would have chosen an easier life.

Now, her meager quarters have been broken into, her privacy invaded in the most intimate of circumstances.  Her adulterous accomplice has either turned her in, or absconded in cowardice. She is surrounded by brutal accusers, many of whom are likely her former customers.

But Jesus sees the woman, not her sin. He responds to her heart not her actions.  He also sees these evil, plotting men and responds to their veiled motivations.

Wouldn’t we love to know what Jesus scribbled in the Temple dirt as these blood-thirsty hypocrites hung over him?

Might it have been the names of those who also visited the woman on earlier nights?

Might it have been some of their hidden sins?

Challenged to cast the first stone if they were sinless, the plotters slowly slink away.  Jesus is left to forgive and heal this suffering woman.

Jesus tells her to go and sin no more, to -as the first reading says – “remember not the things of the past”. Jesus has made her into a new person by the power of his mercy.

May that renewing mercy touch us, and our world, where we sorely need it.

May it flow through our renewed hearts to everyone we encounter, no matter the circumstances.

Music:  Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd

The Lamb of God

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our hearts begin to break for Jesus. He is the good, sweet Lamb being led to slaughter. And he knows it. He knows that the hard hearts he had so hoped to soften are recalcitrant. He knows that the souls he has longed to open to Love have turned to hate. He knows that the energy he had wished to turn to generous service has instead turned inward, fearful and self- protective.

How his heart must have ached in these days before Calvary! Jeremiah gives us an insight in to the pain in today’s first reading. 

Jeremiah’s experience is a foreshadowing of Christ’s. As we pray with the passage, we might allow ourselves simply to share that pain as we look at our own grace-resistant world.

Jer.11_19 plot

Where do we find the opportunity to comfort Jesus today?

On a global basis, we see the persecution of innocence and vulnerability in our own world. We see corrupted laws used as an excuse to extinguish the human spirit. We see people coerced into the maze of power and political domination. We see the poor slaughtered on the altar of indifferent greed.

In our closer daily experience, we see people lost, isolated, infirm, bereaved, lonely and broken, even in small places. We may be tempted to leave their suffering for another caring touch. But we can do much to comfort by our listening, presence and honesty.

When we see these things, we see the Passion of Christ in our time. Let us listen to His suffering. Let us not pretend we care if we don’t act to comfort Him.

Music: Handel’s Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God

 

 

 

 

When the Hour Comes…

Friday, April 5, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, John let’s us know how difficult things were for Jesus. Even very early in John’s Gospel, doubt, criticism, jealousy, and hatred swirl around Jesus. He realizes that people are trying to kill Him. All this because he does good and preaches love! How can that be?

Jn7_30 hourJPG

Jesus upset the apple cart, and many people didn’t like that. They preferred control over love, familiarity over faith. There were others who wanted a more violent shake-up, a political overthrow rather than a spiritual transformation. Basically, people wanted to remake Jesus’s message in their own design. And we’ve been doing the same thing ever since.

Eventually these opposing forces meet in the contradiction of the Cross – that place where Love seems to lose, and Life seems to die. But when Jesus’s hour comes – that timeless moment when Eternal Love and Life break open in the Resurrection – our faith in Christ will be confirmed.

We pray today for all those experiencing great trauma or testing in their lives. May their faith sustain, restore and surprise them.

We pray for ourselves that, like Jesus, when our “hour comes” we are ready because we have already deepened and steadied our hearts in prayer and fidelity.

Music: I Need Thee Every Hour – Annie Hawks (May 28, 1836 – January 3, 1918), an American poet and Gospel hymnist who wrote a number of hymns with her pastor, Robert Lowry.

In 1872, the hymn by which Hawks is most widely known, “I Need Thee Every Hour”, was written. It is said to have been translated into more foreign languages than any other modern hymn at the time of her death. Hawks stated:— “For myself, the hymn was prophetic rather than expressive of my own experiences, for it was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of personal sorrow.”

Be Light!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Click here for readings

Jn5_35 light

Today, in Mercy, the Gospel gives us Jesus claiming his throne. He is setting his disciples straight before he is no longer with them. He drives home each of the pillars of his Messiahship, like so many stakes in the ground:

  • I have testimony greater than John’s.
  • The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.
  • The Father has testified on my behalf.
  • I came in the name of my Father.

Jesus is saying these things to his persecutors, but he says them for the benefit of his surrounding disciples. He wants them to remember these things to sustain them in the dark times to come.

In this passage, Jesus also pays a glorious compliment to John the Baptist:

He was a burning and shining lamp.

Now Jesus wants his followers, fired by their faith, to burn with an even greater light. He wants us to do the same, to burn with a flame steadied by Christ’s assurances, by the stunning testimony of his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Music:  But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming – Handel

But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.

Mother God

Here are two of my poems to go with tomorrow’s reflection. I hope they are useful for your prayer. Also, this interesting excerpt I found online.

The Hebrew word for mother is emm, the Aramaic word is immah, and the Arabic word is umm. The liturgical word amen, which at its core means “confirmation, support”, is derived from the words for “mother”.  ( From Dr. Goodword’s Language BlogClick here to go to blog)


root

If You Are Mother

 If You are Mother, God
don’t let us hurt ourselves;
keep freedom in us
as freedom,
not as willfulness,
so that we grow,
even if we must grow down
like a dark, hidden root.

 Remember,
if life dies in us,
You change.  We are not
isolated seedlings
you left somewhere
in lonely hope one Spring.

 You are the ground, and the
growth, and the growth’s nourishment.
When we green, it is You
who thrive.


hands

 The Hands of God

 The hands of God love me
when I cannot see God’s face.
Like salve, they warmly run
over in and out of me,
pausing where my hurt is knotted,
barbed to their approach…

 mother’s hands, lover’s, friend’s,
my own hands held in God’s hands,
healing self-estrangement.

 I come to God’s hands
like broken earth
stretches for redeeming rain.

 Even in the deep night,
where God will not speak,
those loving hands are words
which I answer in the darkness.

 

God Remembers Us

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we have, from Isaiah, one of most beloved and comforting passages in Scripture:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Isaiah49_15 Mother

Not to forget is to remember. And to “re-member” is to put back together all the pieces that have fallen apart.

Because God “remembers” us at every moment in our lives, we are held together in that Divine Memory through all the exigencies of time. We are held together in the wholeness of our Creation, in the fullness of grace that God imagines for us. Even when we cannot feel or believe it, God continues to dream us into Eternal Life.

Whenever we feel in our hearts a lament like Zion’s

“The Lord has forsaken me…” 

let us place ourselves in the heart of our Mother God Who cradles us with infinite, unconditional affection and tenderness, Who is alway re-membering us.

Music: God Our Mother – The Litugists

This song, though short, is a good one to repeat as a mantra as we pray. Lyrics below

God our Father
Giver of daily bread
Blessing our hands and covering our heads

God our Mother
Leading us into peace
Drawing and comforting all those in need

Hallowed, hallowed be thy name
Hallowed, hallowed be thy name
Hallowed, hallowed be thy name in all the earth

Jesus, brother, guiding our very step
Deliver us and grant places of rest
Jesus, savior, grabbing us from the grave
Cheating the fall and bringing the light of day

Law or Love?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings bring to mind the role of religion in our spiritual life.

take up mat 2

The dictionary defines religion as a particular system of faith and worship. The origin of the word “religion” is from the Latin “religare”: to bind.

In the magnificent passage from Ezekiel, we are given a metaphorical description of grace flowing from the Temple, the locus of faith for Israel. Ezekiel is led by a radiant vision to this source of abundant life symbolized by water. Slowly and incrementally, this abundance deepens for Ezekiel, until he is swimming in its grace. 

Ezekiel’s vision demonstrates what happens in us when religion, ritual and law enhance grace. The beauty, power and architectural symmetry of the Temple symbolize the great benefits of religious practice.

Our Gospel, on the other hand, shows us a Pharisaical religion built on empty practice and bereft of heart. When Jesus cures on the Sabbath, he moves beyond these skeletal boundaries to mercy, which is the reason for all religious practices.

take up mat
Jesus Cures on the Sabbath

Jesus shows us that when religion – and its ensuing ritual and law – bind grace, it needs to be set aside. His whole life was predicated on a faith which generated mercy, not sacrifice. The alleviation of suffering and need always supersede observance – even on the Sabbath.

When we see any so-called faith or religion which places law over mercy, we see an empty temple where the river of grace has run dry. Our culture is filled with fake holiness that measures, condemns and ostracizes others. We see religion distorted into political bullying. We see it redefined as an excuse for excessive wealth. We even see it used as legitimization for nationalism, violence, racism, and war.

Today’s readings tell us to be on guard. The forces which twist religion are very subtle and pervasive in our culture. They dress themselves in impressive words and practices, just like the Pharisees did, but their costumes hide an ugly hate and fear.

To the fearful and weak, these forces preach power – but it is a power over not for others.

Jesus has shown us what faithful practice looks like: mercy and love. It is vulnerable, courageous, inclusive, and humble. It sees the suffering of others and responds. It waters the Temple of our hearts to make them verdant with hope, joy and generosity.

Music: Come to the Water – John Foley, SJ and Matt Maher

Don’t You Love Something New?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Click here for readings.

Today, in Mercy, our readings speak to our innate desire to have another chance, to start fresh.

IMG_8789

Don’t you love to get something new? A new outfit that refashions not only your appearance but your attitude? A fresh coat of paint on a room that has grown commonplace? A few new plantings in your winter-dried flower boxes?

Even as a kid, didn’t you treasure that new box of crayons? That unscuffed baseball when the season started? That second piece of construction paper when your first effort flopped?

Isaiah knows how we feel. He is speaking, in today’s passage, to a people bereft by their circumstances and recent history. They have suffered invasion, exile, tribal strife, and the destruction of the Temple. The faith of the masses had been weakened almost beyond repair.

But Isaiah challenges his listeners to renew their hearts. God is greater than all they have suffered. And God is offering them that second chance, that fresh sheet of paper, that  box of whole crayons:

Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.

What we have to understand from this passage is that God is talking to us! We are Jerusalem! Any suffering in our lives, the pain, disappointment, brokenness, heartache and sin that might burden us is going to be transformed. In the Eternal Creation, all will be joy and fullness of life.

And we don’t have to wait until we die to experience that new creation. Our faith, ever deepened by God’s grace, lets us live in that joy even in the midst of our everyday challenges.

This is the profound lesson Jesus is about to teach us by his Passion, Death and Resurrection. This week’s readings, in a dynamic mix of joy and sorrow, lead us more deeply into that understanding.

Music:  O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines –  Carl P. Daw

A New Day Awaits

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Click here for readings

1 Cor new creation

Today, in Mercy,  halfway through Lent, we see in our readings glimpses of new life.

The captivity in Egypt had been TOUGH on Israel. During those many decades, they had appeared to be abandoned and forgotten by God.  It was a harsh reckoning for them … hard to be forgotten. Even then, when they thought they had found freedom, they still wandered for forty years in the desert.

But now Israel stands at a new horizon.  Moses has died and Joshua has become Israel’s leader.  God tells him that it is a new day:

“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”

In our second reading, Paul tells us:

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

And in our revered Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells us:

This beloved child of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
was lost, and has been found.

All of these passages speak to us in our Lenten journey, and in our Life journey.  We have experienced our own “Egypts”, times when we felt disconnected, even abandoned, by God.  We have sometimes felt we were journeying aimlessly toward an unknown goal. We have at times wandered, like the prodigal son, from the path of God’s love. We have darknesses in our memories that still long for Light.

This poem from Mary Oliver might capture the feeling for us:

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~ Mary Oliver ~

In today’s readings, God is reminding us that the Light awaits us. Forgiveness, reconciliation, new energy and grace are the gifts of Easter – the gifts where we must keep our eyes focused as we journey.

So let us do as e.e.cummings encourages us in this poem:

Let It Go – e.e. cummings

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love


Music: Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd
(Lyrics below)

Remember not the things of the past;
now I do something new,
do you not see it?
Now I do something new, says the Lord.

In our distress God has grasped us by the hand,
opened a path in the sea, and we shall pass over,
we shall pass over, free at last.

In our parched land of hypocrisy and hate,
God makes a river spring forth,
a river of mercy, truth and compassion; come and drink.

And who among us is sinless in God’s sight?
Then who will cast the first stone, when he who was sinless
carried our failings to the cross?

Pressing ahead, letting go what lies behind,
may we be found in the Lord, and sharing his dying,
share in his rising from the dead.

Mercy, like spring rain…

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Click here for readings

Hosea6_3 rainJPG

Today, in Mercy, our two readings encourage us to be humble and repentant.

In the reading from Hosea, God is very clear:

For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God
rather than burnt offerings.

In our Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the proud Pharisee and the humble tax collector. The Pharisee’s prayer shows his judgmental self-satisfaction with all the sacrifices he’s made:

O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.

I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

On the other hand, we have the scorned tax collector ( a status we can understand this time of year:-)  who admits his weakness and need for God’s mercy.

Oh God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

The readings are really about seeing ourselves in the light of God’s truth, while knowing that our merciful God loves us infinitely, even in our weakness. They are about being open to that mercy so that we can know the fullness of God’s grace.

Music: Humble – Audrey Assad