Undimmable Light

Friday of the Second Week of Advent
December 9, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120922.cfm

(Today, I am re-publishing an earlier blog. I used it for my own prayer this morning and I thought it really deserved another read. I hope you agree.)

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 and its confident responsorial verse.

Last night we watched a public television Christmas special, “Rick Steves’s European Christmas“. From its many beautiful scenes, one in particular remained with me: a little group of friends tobogganing down a snow covered hill at night. Their only lights came from the small lanterns they held and the full moon’s generous luster against the white snow.

My first reaction to the scene was to wonder, “What if their light goes out?”. Then I realized that there was a light beyond them which would guide their way.


There are times in our lives when the light, if it doesn’t go out, at least flickers. I wrote about that awareness in this story a few years ago: 

She had arranged to visit with an old college friend. They had been separated too long by the distancing choices that life often demands. She wanted to reconnect to that rare experience of shared transparency found just once or twice in a lifetime – the gift of a real friend.

They sat on a porch overlooking a gentle pond. The day was bright, the coffee hot, the chairs comfortable. But the magic was gone.  Only half her friend had arrived for the cherished conversation. The other half – joy, adventure and the excess of youthful hope – had been lost. Somewhere in the intervening years, the light had gone out. Her friend had suffered a wound she did not share. This one afternoon would be too short a time to give that wound a name.

During our Advent journey, God is waiting in the seeming darkness to guide us. God already knows the wounds we carry. God sees where our heart’s light has dimmed. Holding our half-heartedness next to the Divine Heart, God yearns to rekindle us.


Today’s psalm reminds us that there is a always Light waiting beyond us to guide our way.

Blessed the one follows not
the counsel of darkness
nor walks in it ways,
nor remains in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on its Light day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Poetry: from Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Music: Christ, Be Our Light – Bernadette Farrell

Alleluia: Fed by the Word

Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 9, 2022

Today’s Readings 

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080922.cfm

Alleluia, alleluia.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings offer us key lessons about truth, simplicity and sacred obedience.

Let’s start with Ezekiel. In one of his technicolor visions, God tells him to eat a scroll inscribed with the scary words, “Lamentation and wailing and woe!” A little nightmarish, isn’t it. One might be tempted to tell God, “Thanks anyway, but I’ve already eaten!”

Source: gallica.bnf.fr Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 16744, fol. 81r.

But Ezekiel listens and obeys, only to be surprised by the sweetness of the Word once consumed.

The Lord said to me: Creature of Earth, eat what is before you;
eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.
So I opened my mouth and was given the scroll to eat.
Creator of Earth, the Lord then said to me,
feed your belly and fill your stomach
with this scroll I am giving you.
I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.
The Lord said: Go now to the house of Israel,
and speak my words to them.

Ezekiel 3:1-4

Our Responsorial Psalm expatiates on that sweetness. The psalmist too sees that the Word, once embraced, brings unexpected delight.


In our Gospel, Jesus centers his teaching on the innocence and simplicity of a child. A child’s openness, trust, and readiness to love show us how we should respond to God’s Word.

As we “grow up”, and our lives become complicated with the world’s expectations, the Word can be hard to swallow. It demands honesty in a culture that often manipulates with lies. It asks for selflessness in a world full of “me first”. It asks us to listen, in sacred obedience, for the whisper of grace in a cacophony of violence.

The truth of God’s Word is demanding. It doesn’t bend to worldly expectations. And, certainly, this can bring a certain “lamentation and wailing and woe” to the practitioner of God’s just and merciful message.

Jesus tells us to take up that challenge, to trust the Word, to consume the it and be consumed by it, just as little children are consumed by mystery, hope, and delight.

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:3-4

Poetry: Where Is God? – Mark Nepo

It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.
It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.


Music: Word of God – Bernadette Farrell

Word of God, renew your people,
make us now your living sign.
Recreate us for your purpose
in this place and in this time.

Word of hope and word of healing…
Word of peace and word of justice …
With your cross of love upon us …
God alone the power we trust in …
By our name you call us onward
Cross of Jesus freely chosen
Cross of Jesus, all-embracing …
By your Cross, restored, forgiven…
Through the Cross of Christ our Savior …
To the waters lead your people …
Risen Savior with us always …
Holy Spirit, raise your people >>>

Psalm 1: Trust the Light

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

December 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 and its confident responsorial verse.

Last night we watched a public television Christmas special, “Rick Steves’s European Christmas“. From its many beautiful scenes, one in particular remained with me: a little group of friends tobogganing down a snow covered hill at night. Their only lights came from the small lanterns they held and the full moon’s generous luster against the white snow.

My first reaction to the scene was to wonder, “What if their light goes out?”. Then I realized that there was a light beyond them which would guide their way.


There are times in our lives when the light, if it doesn’t go out, at least flickers. I wrote about that awareness in this story a few years ago: 

She had arranged to visit with an old college friend. They had been separated too long by the distancing choices that life often demands. She wanted to reconnect to that rare experience of shared transparency found just once or twice in a lifetime – the gift of a real friend.

They sat on a porch overlooking a gentle pond. The day was bright, the coffee hot, the chairs comfortable. But the magic was gone.  Only half her friend had arrived for the cherished conversation. The other half – joy, adventure and the excess of youthful hope – had been lost. Somewhere in the intervening years, the light had gone out. Her friend had suffered a wound she did not share. This one afternoon would be too short a time to give that wound a name.

During our Advent journey, God is waiting in the seeming darkness to guide us. God already knows the wounds we carry. God sees where our heart’s light has dimmed. Holding our half-heartedness next to the Divine Heart, God yearns to rekindle us.


Today’s psalm reminds us that there is a always Light waiting beyond us to guide our way.

Blessed the one follows not
the counsel of darkness
nor walks in it ways,
nor remains in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on its Light day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Poetry: from Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Music: Christ, Be Our Light – Bernadette Farrell

Psalm 139: Lord, You Know Me

Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 139, such a deeply personal and beautiful meditation. It is all we need for our prayer today.


Psalm 139
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 
For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 
How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

O God, You Search Me and You Know Me- Bernadette Farrell

Being Ourselves with God

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Click here for readings.

Today, in Mercy, our readings invite us to spiritual honesty with its accompanying transparency.

husksJPG
In a fabulous metaphor, Sirach tells us that under stress, the measure of our honesty will be evident:

When the sieve is shaken,
the husks appear.

Don’t we try to hide our weaknesses, fears, worries, and doubts? Sometimes we even hide them from ourselves! And God! But under stress, these “husks” rise to the surface and affect our behavior and interactions. Sometimes we create a life-long attitude that attempts to conceal these negativities but causes people – even ourselves – to wonder why we’re so mean, aloof, distracted or angry all the time.

Luke likens this concealment to a “plank”in our inner eye, a blindness which will not let us see ourselves as we are before God – beautiful, beloved and whole. We myopically see instead all our own and other’s annoying fragmentations.

Corinthians tells us that this kind of negative thinking is death-dealing; that it is a product of living only by law and not by spirit. Paul says:

The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ

Lk6_43 fruit

These readings help us to deepen our understanding that only when we open our lives to God will we fully be open to ourselves. Then, as our Psalm explains:

The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall they grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

Music: O God, You search Me and You Know Me By Bernadette Farrell

Let’s Blow the Lid Off!

Friday, January 18, 2010

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells of a memorable event – so memorable that it is described in detail.

Jesus preaches from a neighborhood living room. Every access point to the house is blocked with excited listeners and miracle-seekers. Jesus has been corralled by the enthusiastic faithful.

roof

Then some latecomers arrive carrying their paralyzed friend. It is easy to imagine that these are young guys, because Jesus later calls the paralytic “Child”. Perhaps their friend was injured in a soccer game or diving accident in which they all had participated. Perhaps, as well as carrying him, they are carrying the burden of “survivor guilt”.

Whatever the situation, these friends are determined that the young man shall see Jesus. Confronted with the barricading crowd, they climb up on the roof, opening the turf plates to make an entry point. Jesus had to laugh as he saw to rooftop disappearing above him!

Would that we had such a wild desire to be in God’s Presence – to know God face to face, and heart to heart!

Can we peel away the many barricades to such relationship? We have only our limited human images of God. While these can help us pray, they can also box God.

Faulty theology and exaggerated ritual can, believe or not, put a lid on God’s power!

It is important to read, listen, and grow within good theology. One measure of that value is the degree of limitation any “theology” puts on God. A theology that limits God to male, white, Catholic (or whatever religion)- that kind of false theology limits us as well. 

A theology that is used as validation for political, economic, or moral domination distorts God, making God an idol of our own greed and selfishness. Such ”theologies” have, for centuries, made excuses for slavery, apartheid, pogroms, wars and holocausts. 

Let’s try to “take the roof off” our theology today. Let’s be sure our tightly held perceptions and beliefs are really leading us to the absolute freedom of a God Who cherishes all Beings, all Creation.

Music: God Beyond All Names ~ Bernadette Farrell