Ears to Hear

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  we hear the very familiar parable of the sower and the seed, teaching us that God’s grace needs to fall on a fertile heart in order to bear fruit.

It seems like a pretty straightforward lesson although, according to the passage, many listeners missed the point. The situation begs the question of why Jesus used parables if some people wouldn’t understand them.

ears

A parable is like a poem. Both say so much more than the words that comprise them.

Jesus is teaching his listeners truths that go beyond language. Each parable will live beyond its time to bring fresh insights down through the generations.

But the key is having the “ears to hear”.

These are ears of the heart and soul, ears that listen always for God’s silent conversation running under all reality. These “ears” are a metaphor for the contemplative spirit which trains itself in wordless prayer to find the Word in all experience.

We will have innumerable conversations today with ourselves and others. We use the many languages of human interaction: business jargon, friendly banter, diplomatic dialogues, lover’s whispers, profound heart-to-hearts, body language, and even pregnant silence. 

Running under each exchange is a level of divine engagement where God speaks, revealing the true meaning of our human experience.  Our whole life – every moment of it – is a parable of God’s infinite love for us and all Creation. Our whole life is a conversation with God!

Let those who have ears to hear, hear!

(Speaking of “words” and “poems” today, I thought I would share a few of my poems on occasion for those who might enjoy them.  I have chosen two that are about contemplative prayer. They will come in a separate email. I hope you enjoy them)

Music: Will You Not Listen?~ Michael Card

What! Jesus Insensitive?

Tuesday,  January 29, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel describes a scene that has always nettled me a bit.

mk3_35 mother_brothers

Jesus is teaching a group inside his small house in Capernaum. He has moved there as he begins his public ministry. Word of his preaching and miracles has created a hubbub all around him, to the point that he can’t get a chance to eat or to rest.

Just a few lines earlier in the Gospel, Mark describes how concerned Jesus’s relatives are about his well-being. Mark 3:21 goes so far as to say:

“When his relatives heard ( how besieged he was) they set out to seize him,
for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’.”

In today’s passage Jesus’s “mother, brothers and sisters” arrive at his home, prevented from entering by the large crowd. They stand outside asking for him. When Jesus hears this, he delivers the nettling remark:

“Who are my mother and my brothers?”

It seems so insensitive, doesn’t it? These people have loved Jesus, played with him, grown up with him! And his mother! My goodness, we all know to listen to, respect, and welcome our mothers!

Praying with this passage though may reveal another dimension in our understanding of Jesus. What Jesus may be saying is this:

All of you, my followers, are closer to me than even the most precious human ties. My  family is now the all-encompassing family of my Father. My path is now the Father’s will, not my human family’s hopes and expectations.

Jesus is, at once, acknowledging to his family, his followers and, no doubt, himself that the Father is about to use his life in ways that will transform, awe and shock the world.

He is telling his disciples to be prepared for the same thing if they truly follow him.

I have always imagined Jesus, in the unrecorded memory of this passage, taking Mary aside afterward, gently explaining his purpose. I see her hand on his maturing lightly-whiskered cheek, tears both of pride and fear in her eyes, and a perfect mutual understanding in their smiles.

Music: Perfect Love – Mary’s Song

No Explanation Necessary

Monday, January 28, 2019

Click here for readings for St. Thomas Aquinas Liturgy

Today, in Mercy, we  celebrate the Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church.

theology

The influence of Aquinas on Catholic theology and resultant culture cannot be overstated.  He is considered by many to be the foremost articulator of the Catholic tradition of reason and of divine revelation. For centuries, his thought became the underlying curriculum for priestly and religious training, universally influencing Catholic education, preaching, and theology.

Thomistic thought has been a great blessing to the Church. On the other hand, there are concerns about those who enshrine 13th century concepts without ongoing theological examination and development.

St. Anselm, outstanding theologians of the 11th century said, “Theology is faith seeking understanding.” It is trying to know all we can about God, but it always falls short of knowing God.

Many modern theologians develop emerging thought using Aquinas as their foundation, while deconstructing the unhelpful medieval constrictions of his work. Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ is one of my favorites. She has been noted as offering “new ways to think and speak about God within the framework of traditional Catholic beliefs and motifs.

As well as his immense body of theology, Thomas Aquinas was the composer of many treasured hymns. You might enjoy this one today.

Music: Adorote Devote ~ Thomas Aquinas 

See below for both Latin and English lyrics

1. Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quae sub his figuris vere latitas;
Tibi se cor meum totum subiicit,
Quia te contemplans, totum deficit. 

2. Visus, tactus, gustus in te fallitur,
Sed auditu solo tuto creditur;
Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius,
Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius. 

3. In Cruce latebat sola Deitas.
At hic latet simul et humanitas:
Ambo tamen credens, atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro paenitens. 

4. Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intueor,
Deum tamen meum te confiteor:
Fac me tibi semper magis credere,
In te spem habere, te diligere. 

5. O memoriale mortis Domini,
Panis vivus vitam praestans homini:
Praesta meae menti de te vivere,
Et te illi semper dulce sapere. 

6. Pie pellicane Iesu Domine,
Me immundum munda tuo Sanguine:
Cuius una stilla salvum facere
Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere. 

7. Iesu, quem velatum nunc aspicio,
Oro, fiat illud, quod tam sitio,
Ut te revelata cernens facie,
Visu sim beatus tuae gloriae.
Amen.

1.Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

2. Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

3. On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

4. I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

5. O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

6. Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran—
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

7. Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight.
Amen.

Word

Sunday, January 27, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings focus on Scripture as the revealed Word of God.

lk1_scroll word

Ezra, from our first passage, lived almost 500 years before Christ during the Babylonian captivity, a time when much of the population of Judea was deported to what is modern day Iraq. When the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, the Jews were permitted to return to Judea.

During the sixty-year enslavement, many Jews lost touch with their culture, language and religion. Our reading describes Ezra’s efforts to restore the Jewish character of the community by reintroducing them to the Torah. He has to read to them, translating the Hebrew for those who no longer speak it.

In a gesture foretelling the liberating ministry of Jesus, Ezra unrolls the scroll – symbolic of bringing to light that which has been hidden or buried.

In our Gospel, Jesus too unrolls the scroll. In doing so, Jesus reveals the heart of faith which had been buried within the Law. Jesus preaches in a new “language” – the language of God’s all-inclusive mercy, forgiveness, and love.

For us who believe, the holy scriptures are a Living Word which, through thoughtful prayer, will continually reveal God’s heart to us. It is worth our time and attention to become friends with these sacred messages.

Many of you, dear readers, will be familiar with the ancient prayer practice of “lectio divina”. In her book “Too Deep for Words”, Sister Thelma Hall describes the practice:

… a wholistic way of prayer which disposes, opens, and “in-forms” us for the gift of contemplation God waits to give, by leading us to a place with him at our deepest center … It begins this movement by introducing us to the power of the Word of God in scripture to speak to the most intimate depths of our hearts …

Sister Thelma Hall’s Book, a classic, is available on Amazon for those who might enjoy exploring Lectio Divina. I highly recommend it. My copy, nearly 30 years old, is beginning to show its age, but then again, so am I! 😂 I would never part with it. 

Click here for Amazon

Music:  Word of God Speak ~ Mercy Me

In Remembrance

mom seaside

Go on…

Now, my mother done her dying,
I come back again to my own life
that I had taken off,
the way you take a coat off
and hang it on a hook behind the door
when seasons change,
sometimes forgetting where it is
until you feel the cold again.

When word that she was ill
fell like a wounded bird
into time’s tranquil pool,
I just ignored the cold.
I walked out into night
to take her hand as she
left quickly for its distant edge.

Through four cold months, we pulled
stars down to light that edge,
blue-hot stars we’d fired
in long years of love.

Family, friends and names that
dozed like dormant flowers in a field
flew up in such a rush of love
around us that November turned to May.

Then, one icy day in January,
I cleared our sidewalk of a heavy snow,
in brief, staccatoed intervals,
lest leaving her too long, the
fragile thread would break
without my benediction.

It was Tuesday, I remember,
but time was caught behind
a wall of silence.  It moved
at half-speed.  Within its womb
that birthed my mother to another life,
I was timeless, still, unborn again.

When my mother died, she did it
just as I had left my life
four months before, with
love and not a glance behind,
no brief regret to do
what faith required her to do.

She drew that thin last breath
from air we shared, as my cheek
laid tenderly on hers, I whispered,
“Go on … and I love you.”

Music: Halleluia – Leonard Chen – played here by:
Violin: Leonardo Barcellos: Cello: Daniel Enache; Guitar: Leonardo Barcellos

Fan the Love into Flame

SATURDAY, JANUARY 26, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have the beautiful letter from Paul to Timothy, filled with tenderness, encouragement, hope and the sweet suggestion of loving memories.

2 tim1_6 fan to flame

When we travel life’s road, what an indescribable blessing to have even one companion who loves us the way Paul loved Timothy — to care for our whole life,  our whole soul, and our whole “forever”.

In his letter, Paul reveals that Timothy has been immensely blessed with such love.  Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois have already – for many years –  tendered Timothy in the faith.

In this lovely letter, Paul notes that he prays for Timothy daily.

Do we pray for those who have blessed us and loved us in our lives? Do we tell them so, if they are living? Do we thank and remember them if they have gone home to God?

Paul closes this part of his letter with such beautiful words to Timothy:

For this reason,
I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have
through the laying on of my hands.

Many people have rested their hands on your spirit, on your heart.  Be filled with love and gratitude for them today and everyday. For those who have done otherwise, forgive them and let them go.

I remember in a special way today my mother who died on this date thirty-one years ago.  In a separate email, I share a poem I wrote after Mom’s death.  It is a little sad in tone, but it may touch and help some of you, my readers, who are experiencing grief.

Stay with your grief, beloveds, long enough to find the blessing within it.

Some meditative music: for your remembering prayerJames Last – Coulin

The WHOLE World

Friday, January 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Acts paints a detailed picture of Saul’s conversion and call on the road to Damascus. It’s a colorful and dramatic account befitting the biography of the  great “Apostle to the Gentiles”.

mk16_15 whole world

Think about this. Almost all the very first Christians (and Christ himself) were Jews. Early Christian ritual grew out of Jewish ritual. In the immediate post-Resurrection period, there were few, of any, Gentile Christians.

This is one of the reasons Paul is such a big deal. As a Roman citizen and a devout Jew, he lived with a foot in two worlds, as opposed to the Jewish fishermen who composed the original Twelve. They were local guys with minimal exposure to the non-Jewish world.

When the original Twelve (eventually Eleven) heard Jesus’s Apostolic Commission, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News…”, they may have felt that world was confined to Israel’s borders! Paul, the post-Resurrection Apostle, demonstrated otherwise.


Paul traveled over 10,000 miles proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. His journeys on land and sea took him primarily through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece.
(from Loyola Press. See website for great summary of Paul’s journeys.

Click here for Paul’s Journeys 


How encompassing is our vision of “the whole world”, that world which hungers for the message, mercy and love of Christ?

Our Gospel today impels us with the same apostolic call as these early disciples. God’s love and fullness of life belong to all. What can I do to make that a greater reality?

Music:  Facing a Task Unfinished-~ Lyrics:Frank Houghton. Performed by the Gettys 

Heyday Jesus

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Mark’s Gospel portrays Jesus in his “heyday”. 

heydayjpg

It is early in his ministry. Word is spreading about his teaching and his miracles. He is the “hot ticket” in any town he visits. But what was Jesus thinking in the midst of all the hubbub?

We get a few good hints in our Gospel.

  • Jesus withdrew toward the sea
  • He wanted a boat ready lest the crowd would crush him
  • He warned the unclean spirits not to make him known

These phrases suggest that Jesus was a bit overwhelmed by the furor. No doubt he realizes that his identity and message go far beyond the show of miracles. Can the “fandom” of these early crowds be converted to deep and committed discipleship?

This reading might incline me to consider my own faith. 

Do I love and follow just the “heyday Jesus” – the One who is powerful over the demons and deaths I fear?

Or have I learned to love and follow the deeper Jesus, the One who suffers and dies for justice, goodness and love – the One Who lives in the poor?

One way to answer these questions is to ask ourselves where we find Jesus in our daily lives.

Is he confined to our Bible, our church, our prayerbooks and our moral judgments?

Or is our faith deep enough to see and love him in the suffering face of humanity – perhaps where it is inconvenient, costly and sometimes unsettling to find him? 

Music: God of the Poor ~ Graham Kendrick

Jesus Breaks Through

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  the writer of Hebrews continues to shine light on the superior  “priesthood” of Jesus Christ – that aspect of Christ’s ministry that breaks heaven open for us and reinstates us as God’s children.

heb2 priest

Hebrews calls Christ a priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” – an order above and beyond the priesthood of Aaron and Levi.

Although there are a few references to Melchizedek in scripture, only one narrative refers to him:

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
    who delivered your enemies into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Genesis 14:17-20

Melchizedek, whose priesthood preceded even Abraham, is offered in Hebrews as a prototype of Jesus who fulfills and perfects the Old Testament promises.

Does this matter to us modern day Christians who can barely say “Melchizedek “, let alone spell it? And if it does matter, how?

An answer may be revealed in our Gospel today. 

In it, Jesus challenges the old, Pharisaical, law-bound way of thinking. As the new and perfect “priest”, Jesus breaks that way of thinking with the transformation of love. 

  • This man with the withered hand is more important than the law. 
  • This act of healing and wholeness is more important than ritual adherence. 
  • The priesthood of Jesus is the breakthrough revelation of what God really desires – mercy, not sacrifice.

Music: Love Broke Thru ~ Toby Mac