Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, September 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 62 and the heart of its prayer of confidence, verses 6-9.

Carroll Stuhlmueller, revered Old Testament scholar, places Psalm 62 among the Wisdom psalms – those which “seek the harmonious, stable order of life”. They do this by presenting a kind of curriculum for spiritual happiness.

That teaching is clear in Psalm 62: we find our soul’s fulfillment “only in God”.

Does that mean nothing else in our lives matter? That we should push all but God to the margins?
No. The psalm encourages us to look deeply at all of life and to find God in every aspect.


Often, a spiritual director will ask this question of the directee:

“Where is God in this situation, in this moment?”

The question points us to the realization that we can’t compartmentalize God to our “prayer time”, or Sundays, or “religious experiences”. 


God lives within us, and lives every moment of our lives with us. Until we align ourselves with God’s loving Presence, we will not find complete peace.

Trust in God at all times, O my people!
    Pour out your hearts before God;
    God is our refuge!

Psalm 62:9

Prose: from the Confessions of St. Augustine, Book 1, Chapter 1

Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; 
great is Your power, 
and of Your wisdom there is no end. 
And we, being a part of Your creation, 
desire to praise You….
You move us to delight in praising You; 
for You have made us for Yourself, 
and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

Cor nostrum inquietum est donec requiescat in Te.

Lord, teach me to know and understand 
which of these should be first: 
to call on You, or to praise You; 
and likewise to know You, or to call on You.
But who calls upon You without knowing You? 
For the one that knows You not 
may call upon You as other than You are. 
Or perhaps we call on You 
that we may know You.

But how shall they call on Him 
in whom they have not believed? 
Or how shall they believe without a preacher?

Romans 10:14

And those who seek the Lord shall praise the Lord. 
For those who seek shall find God, 

Matthew 7:7

and those who find God shall praise God. 
Let me seek You, Lord, in calling on You, 
and call on You in believing in You; 
for You have been preached unto us. 
O Lord, my faith calls on You — 
that faith which You have imparted to me, 
which You have breathed into me 
through the incarnation of Your Son, 
through the ministry of Your preacher 1.
1 (Here Augustine is referring to St. Ambrose, his mentor)

Music: Only in God – John Michael Talbot

Psalm 47: Imagining God

Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

January 23, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 47 which describes God as a King ascending to the throne amid shouts of joy.

God mounts the throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

Psalm 47: 6-7

This description reminds me of a pageant like the recent inauguration, where fanfare horns announce the President’s arrival. For the psalmist, the horn might have been a shofar.

It’s a beautiful and triumphant way to imagine what God might be like. But that’s all it is – an image, a product of human imagination. Like the psalmist, we all engage in that creative effort – we picture God. We draw God out of the media stored in our own hearts and spirits.


The freedom we have to imagine God can be both a blessing and a curse. As a blessing, it has allowed us to create tender, triumphant, and splendid constructs of an otherwise unimaginable Love. As a curse, it has given us the power to distort God’s image for our own selfish ends.


It is an awesome power. Even the great Saint Augustine struggled with it:

Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

What art Thou then, my God? 
Most highest, most good, 
most potent, most omnipotent; 
most merciful and most just; 
most hidden and most present; 
most beautiful and most strong, 
standing firm and elusive, 
unchangeable and all-changing; 
never new, never old; 
ever working, ever at rest; 
gathering in and [yet] lacking nothing; 
supporting, filling, and sheltering;
creating, nourishing, and maturing; 
seeking and [yet] having all things. 
And what have I now said,

my God, my life, my holy joy? 
or what says anyone who speaks of Thee? 
And woe to the one who keeps silent about you, 
since many babble on and say nothing.


Praying with Psalm 47, I consider my own “photo album” of the Holy One. I talk with God about those pictures. I ask to know and love God more clearly, so that, made in God’s image, I may more honestly reflect it.

God has given us the ultimate self-portrait in the Person of Jesus who is:

… the image of the unseen God,
the firstborn over all creation.

Colossians 1: 15

Poetry: from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 

Have among yourselves the same attitude
that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2: 6-11

Music: Philippians Hymn – John Michael Talbot

Psalm 85: Be A Neighbor

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

“A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer.”

Evangelium vitae, 100

January 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85, a Psalm we have prayed with seven times in the past six months. Have we wrung it dry, do you think?😉

Never! That’s the beauty of scripture and particularly of the Psalms. They speak to us in a new voice with each new day’s blessings and challenges.

The verse that grasps my heart this morning is this:

Near indeed is salvation to those who fear God
glory dwelling in our land.

Psalm 85: 10

What will “glory”, or well-being,
look like when it dwells in our land,
throughout our earth?


Walter Brueggemann, in his many writings about the Old Testament and the Psalms, stresses the concept of “neighborliness” as integral to communal well-being.

The well-being of the neighborhood, inspired by the biblical texts, makes possibleand even insists uponan alternative to the ideology of individualism that governs our society’s practice and policy. This kind of community life returns us to the arc of God’s giftsmercy, justice, and law. The covenant of God in the witness of biblical faith speaks now and demands that its interpreting community resist individualism, overcome commoditization, and thwart the rule of empire through a life of radical neighbor love.
(Description of Brueggemann’s book, God, Neighbor, Empire: The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good)

Praying with Psalm 85, we might hear echos of President Biden’s Inaugural Address which called on our capacity for “neighborliness”:

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.
We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.
We can treat each other with dignity and respect.
We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.
For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.
No progress, only exhausting outrage.
No nation, only a state of chaos.


The President also said this:

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, the saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.
What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?
I think I know.
Opportunity.
Security.
Liberty.
Dignity.
Respect.
Honor.
And, yes, the truth.


Thousands of years ago, the psalmist clearly described the glorious community which God promises to those who live in mercy, truth, justice and peace:

Mercy and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

The LORD  will give benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before the Lord,
and salvation, along the way of God’s pattern.

Psalm 85

Prose: Here is the quote from St. Augustine referenced by President Biden, as well as the passage from Cicero which inspired Augustine

If one should say, ‘a people is the association of a multitude of rational beings united by a common agreement on the objects of their love,’ then it follows that to observe the character of a people we must examine the objects of its love.”

St. Augustine, City of God 19.24

A republic is a numerous gathering brought together by legal consent and community of interest. The primary reason for this coming together is not so much weakness as a sort of innate desire on the part of human beings to form communities. For our species is not made up of solitary individuals.

Cicero, Republic, 1.39-40 

Music: After Cicero and Augustine, a little music from our own modern philosopher, Mr. Rogers❤️

Beautiful God Within

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 28, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, celebrate the Feast of St. Augustine who gave us such beautiful quotes as these:

late have i loved

These quotes reflect a clarity of soul Augustine pursued all his life. He was a brilliant philosopher, intellectual, and poet. His early spiritual practice struggled for years to break through the shell of philosophy into the heart of true faith.

made us for yourself

Eventually, through the prayers of his mother Monica and the gentle guidance of St. Ambrose, Augustine’s searching soul found God as reflected in today’s choice for a Responsorial Psalm:

Lord, you have searched me and known me;
you understand everything I do;
you are closer to me than my thoughts.
You see through my selfishness and weakness,
into my inmost self. 

There is not one corner of my mind
that you do not know completely.
You are present before me, behind me,
and you hold me in the palm of your hand. 

Such knowledge is too awesome to grasp:
so deep that I cannot fathom it.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence? 

If I take the wings of the morning and fly to the ends of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me
and your spirit will give me strength.

~  A Book of Psalms by Stephen Mitchell

Some of us , no matter how hard we try, have a tortuous path to spiritual peace. Augustine is a saint because he never abandoned that path.

Paul’s Thessalonians seemed to have had an easier way:

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly,
that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us,
you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God,
which is now at work in you who believe.

Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel continues his tirade against those who only appear to seek that path to spiritual sincerity and whole-heartedness:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

The etymological root of the word “hypocrisy” is to “under decide” – a kind of half-heartedness, a falsely comfortable pretense, a neither “here nor there” attitude that safeguards our worldly advantage but paralyzes us on the path to holiness.

Augustine lived in that limbo for a long time. He came late to true Beauty, Love and Clarity. Oh, but what a transformation!

What does he want to teach us today?

Music: Late Have I Loved You – Len Sroka

Faithful Monica

Memorial of Saint Monica

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo.

Monica
Santa Monica e Sant’Agostino by Giuseppe Riva (This work is in the public domain n its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.)

Monica had a difficult life, burdened by an autocratic pagan husband. She was forbidden to have her children baptized. Augustine worried her deeply because he developed into a wayward and lazy young man. Eventually he was wooed by the Manichaean heresy which denied Christ as God. This was too much for Monica. She asked him to leave her house.

But Monica continued for seventeen years to pray for and encourage Augustine to return to a faithful, moral life. Finally through the influence of St. Ambrose, Augustine was converted.

How many mothers and fathers, friends and spouses have prayed like this for someone they love? How many of us have had a “lost sheep” right in the center of our family but beyond its touch?

Monica’s great love and faithful devotion to her son are reminiscent of Paul’s love for his Thessalonian flock:

… we were gentle among you,
as a nursing mother cares for her children.
With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you
not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well,
so dearly beloved had you become to us.

This is the way God loves us and draws us to himself. It is the way that we, who carry God’s love in the world, must be with one another.

Our Gospel gives us another example of how disgusted Jesus is with those who pretend the “exteriors” of faith but on the inside are “blind hypocrites… full of plunder and self-indulgence”.

Instead, we need a faith like Monica’s, humble and generous but at the same time tenacious and persevering in seeking good.

Music: Give Me the Faith Which Can Remove – written by Charles Wesley, younger brother of John Wesley, founder of Methodism