Psalm 23: The Banquet

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, a familiar, comforting and beloved prayer.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

Psalm 23: 1-3

The psalm comes between readings that assure us of a waiting and sumptuous banquet to which we gain entrance by both mercy and grace.  

Isaiah describes the feast in the future tense:

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

Isaiah 25: 9

But Paul reminds us of the truth we often forget. The banquet is NOW!

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:20

In our Gospel, Jesus invites his guests to that feast with both an immediacy and a demand. The celebration of abundance is open to all. But we must at least make the effort to don a wedding garment – that reverent, grateful attitude which gives glory to the Source of our abundance. 

The edge of the white choir mantle is visible below the veils.

In ancient times – when I first came to religious life 🙂 – we would add a special garment to our habit to celebrate a great feast. The white choir mantle was a symbol of our awareness of a particularly sacred moment.

Miraculously, it is that reverent awareness that opens our eyes to the plentitude in our midst. It releases us to the freedom of a hope already realized, but hidden from those whose hearts refuse to be dressed in grace.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

Our readings invite us to live as not only invited and but saved people, completely convinced of God’s eternal welcome and protection.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23:6

What would the world be like if we lived out this conviction? 

How might the reproaches fear, competition, domination, selfishness,
and hoarding be removed from our midst?

How might the rush of generosity, forgiveness, and mercy
flow out of our confident hearts to wash the earth in God’s restful waters?

Poem: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Music: Abundant Life – written by Ruth Duck, sung by Marty Haugen

We cannot own the sunlit sky, 
the moon, the wild-flowers growing, 
For we are part of all that is 
within life’s river flowing.

With open hands receive and share 
the gifts of God’s creation, 
That all may have abundant life 
in every earthly nation.

When bodies shiver in the night 
and weary wait for morning,
When children have no bread but tears, 
and war horns sound their warning. 

God calls humanity to awake, 
to join in common labor,
That all may have abundant life, 
oneness with their neighbor.

God calls humanity to join as partners
in creating a future free
from want or fear.
Life’s goodness celebrating, 

that new world beckons from afar,
Invites our shared endeavor 
that all might have abundant life 
and peace endure forever.

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 …


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.

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.


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...


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!

Live from Your Abundance

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Today, in Mercy, we read the wonderful story of Elijah and the Widow. Both were in “drought and darkness” situations, but they did not lose hope. Trusting in the Lord, they chose to live out of their abundance rather than their scarcity. And their small, shared abundance sustained them.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus encourages us to live from and to share our abundance, whatever that might be. Sometimes we may feel that we don’t have much to offer to the world. Our personal difficulties may thwart our spiritual energy. But we are children of God, filled with Divine potential. Life will always break through if we live with faith, hope and love. It just may look different from what we had planned or expected.

Light 6_12_18

There is a modern school of “abundance vs. scarcity” thinking, a self-improvement practice presented by the late Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Whether or not he intended it, Mr. Covey delivers scriptural truths in secular language:

“ An abundance mentality springs from internal security, not from external rankings, comparisons, opinions, possessions, or associations.”

“ People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.”

Bottom line from 1 Kings, Matthew 5, Covey? Trust, and live generously. Be light. Be salt. Doing so will open the space for God’s abundance.

Music: A New Age piece that may be helpful if some negativity is blocking our Light.

I Am Light ~ India Arie