Matthew: Called By Name

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Matthew, the Apostle
by Anthony Van Dyke

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, we are blessed with a deeply  inspiring reading from Ephesians. 

… live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace…

Ephesians 4: 1-3

We are reminded that each of us is called in God according to our particular gifts. Paul encourages us to live “in a manner worthy of the call we have received” in our Baptism.

… grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

… some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4: 7, 11-12

For most of us, it has been quite a while since we were washed in the waters of our Baptism. A lot of other waters have passed under the bridge since then. We may, or may not, have recognized and responded to our call, continually carried to us on those life waters.

Each moment, each choice, each act and decision asks us once again to choose Christ – over sin, over self, over meaninglessness. Each life opportunity calls us closer to Jesus, to the pattern of his Cross, to the witness of his Resurrection.


Matthew heard such a call as he sat, perhaps dulled by the unconscious disengagement of his life, by the failure to live with intention and openness to grace. As He passed by Matthew, Jesus reached into that ennui, calling Matthew to evangelize all the future generations by his Gospel.

Jesus calls us to be evangelists too – every moment, every day. Our “Yes” to our particular call writes its own Gospel, telling the Good News through our faith, hope and love.

Pope Francis says this:

Poetry: Isaiah 43:1-2 (Isaiah is actually my favorite poet!)

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Music: When You Call My Name ~ Brian Doerksen & Steve Mitchinson

Psalm 40: God’s Whisper

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 17, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 40, the prayer of one at home with God:

I delight to do your will, my God;
your law is in my inner being!

Psalm 40:9

We are reminded that we find this kind of peace by believing and listening to our experience:

Throughout our readings today, God leans over heaven’s edge to whisper into human experience.


Samuel’s Call by Joshua Reynolds

In our first reading, that whisper comes in a sacred call to a listening Samuel:

When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3: 9-10

In our second reading, Paul reminds us that the
Whispering Spirit is already resident within us:


Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, 
and that you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 6: 19

In our Gospel, Jesus – the Word, the Divine Whisper – invites us to come to him, to see his power with us in our ordinary lives.

The two disciples said to Jesus,
“Rabbi, where do you live?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

John 1: 39

Praying with Psalm 40 can turn our hearts
to listening for God’s voice
under and within our experiences. 

  • It can wake us up, as Samuel was awakened.
  • It can attune us to the melody deep within our hearts.
  • It can reiterate God’s invitation to live our lives so fully in the Beloved’s Presence that, even without a sound, we know each other’s thoughts.

Poetry: from Whispers of the Beloved by Rumi

Do you know what the music is saying?
“Come follow me and you will find the way.
Your mistakes can also lead you to the Truth.
When you ask, the answer will be given.”

Music: All Praise to Him – Sovereign Grace Music

David, God’s Servant

Memorial of Saint Agnes, virgin and martyr

January 21, 2020

Click here for readings

Ps89_David

Today, in Mercy, we meet David, whose thrilling and passionate story unfolds and echoes throughout the rest of biblical history.

In today’s passage, David is called in from the fields to receive, quite unexpectedly, Samuel’s anointing:

David
Michaelangelo’s David

 

“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold
and making a splendid appearance.

 

 
Now, the passage doesn’t indicate which field David was in. But maybe he was out in proverbial “left field”, the place from which many human beings are called to do important things, to respond in courageous ways.

 

Most of us, like David, are just living our ordinary daily lives –relatively oblivious to grace – when the life-changing moments come. Those moments may not be as momentous as David’s, but they are big deals for us. 

  • We get a college acceptance (or rejection) letter.
  • We get a job offer (or we get laid off).
  • We get elected to a position (or we don’t)

Someone asks us:

  • Want to go steady?
  • Will you marry me?
  • Have you ever considered religious life?

Young people, like young David, seem to meet a lot of these obvious directional points in their unfolding lives. But, in reality, we continue to meet them as we move to full maturity. Until the day we die, God is always calling to become deeper, more honest, more loving, more gracefully beautiful, more fully in God’s image.

Where have the pivotal calls and turning points come in your life? What are the junctures at which everything would have been different had you made another choice?What made young, innocent David ready when his first, and ensuing, calls came? 

Here’s why:
David had an exquisite love and constant relationship with God.
And God loved him back, just like God loves us.

Every critical point in our life’s journey is charged with the power of God’s love. That power comes disguised in routine circumstances, like a parent calling his shepherd son home for dinner. But if our hearts are tuned to God, we hear the call deep within those ordinary appearances and we receive the moment’s anointing.

May it be so, until we meet the Beloved Face to face.

Music: Anoint Me, Lord – written by Vickie Yohe, sung by Jonathan Matthews

Can You Hear Me Now?

Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 15, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we read about God’s call of Samuel, Hannah’s son.

New things are about to happen in Israel. The People have lived under the questionable leadership of a series of Judges. But now, threats from inside and outside loom. So God chooses to move in a new way among the community.

1Sam speak Lord

Samuel is going to be God’s bridge to that new way. In today’s reading and subsequent verses, he hears God’s call, listens, receives a vision, and prophesies to Eli.


In our reading from Mark, Jesus is the Divine Bridge to a new reality. Early now in his ministry, his call is blossoming in his heart, as he realizes that he must go all over Israel preaching and healing.

When Simon told Jesus the local villagers were looking for him, Jesus told them,

“Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues,
preaching and driving out demons

throughout the whole of Galilee.”

Jesus continues his healing and enlightening mission through all who call themselves Christian. He calls each of us in different ways to be a “Bridge” with him to the Reign of God.

How are you hearing and listening to your particular call every day? Maybe, like Samuel, by the time God calls us three times, we may understand!😉

Music: Since I mentioned “bridge”, I can’t help including one of my favorite songs, Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. It’s not really a religious song, but their popular song actually was inspired by a great Gospel song,  Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep and its one freely interpreted verse very near the end: “I’ll be your bridge over deep water/If you trust in my name.’ 

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

 

Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep (Lyrics below, but they are VERY liberally interpreted by these wonderful Gospel singers.)

Lord, I’m singing . . . (solo)
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep. (group)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (solo)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (group)
Listen, Mary, (solo)
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep. (group)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (solo)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (group)
Pharaoh’s army, (solo)
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep. (group)
They got drownded in the sea, (solo)
Drowned in the Red Sea. (group)
Jesus said, Mary, (solo)
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep. (group)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (solo)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (group)
Can’t you hear me singing, Mary? (solo)
Oh, Mary don’t you weep. (group)
I want you to know, Martha don’t have to mourn. (solo)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (group)
Oh, listen, Mary, (solo)
Oh, Mary don’t you weep. (group)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (solo)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (group)
Pharaoh’s army, (solo)
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep, (group)
They got drownded in the sea, (solo)
Drowned in the Red Sea. (group)
Jesus said, Mary, (solo)
Oh, Mary don’t you weep, (group)
Tell Martha not to mourn, (solo)
Tell Martha not to mourn, (group)
Lord, and if I could tonight, (solo)
If I could, (group)
I want to tell you I surely would right now. (solo)
Surely would, (group)
I would stand on the rock. (solo)
Stand on the rock, (group)
Right on the rock where Moses stood. (solo)
Moses stood, (group)
Pharaoh’s army, (solo)
Oh, Mary don’t you weep (group)
They got drownded in the sea, (solo)
Drowned in the Red Sea. (group)
Jesus say, Mary, (solo)
Oh, Mary don’t you weep. group)
He said Mary . . . (solo)
Oh, Mary don’t you weep .(group)
Oh, Mary . . . (solo)
Oh, Mary, don’t you weep. group)
Tell Martha not to mourn. (solo)
Tell Martha not to mourn. group)

Follow Me

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 13, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we re-enter Ordinary Time. (I’ll be posting a second reflection today on the topic of “ordinary time”.)

Today we begin a journey with Mark the Evangelist which carries us all the way to Lent. This journey will allow us to walk right beside Jesus as he preaches, cures, and calls people to full life in God.

Somewhere on Peter’s missionary journeys after Christ’s Ascension, he encountered Mark and took him as travel companion and interpreter. Mark then wrote down Peter’s sermons, thus composing the Gospel according to Mark (According to the historian Eusebius: Eccl. Hist. 15–16). So, in a very real sense, when we pray with Mark, we are also praying with Peter and with Peter’s memories of life with Jesus.

Today’s Gospel is a great example of that first-hand experience — the call of the first disciples.

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
esus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they left their nets and followed him.


I like to think of Peter talking to young Mark about this moment in his life.  He states it so simply. One can almost hear Peter say, ”It started so ordinarily.  We were just cleaning our nets, when He came out of nowhere and picked us!”

What Peter doesn’t say, but what might be inferred from the story, is that he and his brother Andrew were READY for the call. It didn’t take them a moment to drop those nets and follow. 

And, oh my, what a journey Peter made from that first moment to where he sat telling Mark the story decades later somewhere in Asia Minor.

Maybe other fishermen along that coastline might have scoffed or been bewildered at an invitation to become “Fishers of Men”. But Jesus knew the right ones to call.  He knew the hearts that would respond to the extraordinary clothed in the ordinary.

Mk1_17 follow

As we follow Mark’s Gospel over these next weeks, let’s look for the call it carries to us in our “ordinary time”.  Let’s be ready when Jesus asks us to tag along with him. We might, like Peter, be surprised at the graces waiting for us when we drop the “nets” entwining us and just follow!

Music: Follow Me – Casting Crowns

In this song, we hear Jesus invite several people to follow him: the disciples, the woman caught in adultery, the Good Thief … even us.

As the Shadows Lengthen…

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious

January 4, 2020

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CoverImage_Behold_the_Lamb_of_God

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel invites us to stand chatting with John the Baptist and a couple of his disciples. Jesus passes by us, on his way home for the day. John points to him and says to his two friends, “He’s the Guy…don’t miss this chance to learn from him.”


When I picture myself in this passage, it is the late afternoon. The shadows, even my own, have begun to lengthen across the landscape. There is a sense that time, and with it opportunity, may be passing by. 

It is a time of day like that described by Emily Dickinson:

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –


We, like these disciples, are not neophytes. We have our lives; we’ve made our choices. Is it possible a New Call could come so far into the day? Is it imaginable that God could walk fresh right across the shadows falling around us, just as he did for the brave Elizabeth Seton?

Blog-Say-Yes-to-Splits-300x200

Our Gospel says Yes! Yes! Yes! Every single day – Yes!

Let’s go and stay with Jesus a while in prayer to see, like Peter, what new name he might call us today, even as the shadows lengthen.

Prayers and love to you, dear Friends!

Music: Shadowlands Suite – George Fenton

This glorious music video contains slides of the great movies for which Fenton has written scores. I fear they may be a bit of a distraction from prayer, but I couldn’t resist. You may want to watch some in the New Year. (Highly recommend Shadowlands with a box of tissues.)

The Burning Bush

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 17, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we read about a “theophany” – a visible manifestation to humankind of God. Not your everyday occurrence, right? Well, let’s think about that.

Ex3_4 bush

In today’s passage from Exodus, Moses, self-exiled from Egypt because he murdered an abusive slave master, is shepherding his father-in-law’s flock through the desert. (Good practice for what will face him for the next forty years!) He’s basically out in the middle of nowhere, mindlessly daydreaming as the sheep dogs do most of the work.

All of a sudden, in the still, quiet spaciousness, a lonely bush combusts right in front of him! Theophany! God wants his attention.


For most of us, there are no burning bushes.
So what does God do when God wants our attention?


Just this morning, another Sister and I were praying in our quiet living room. In the stillness, I heard her very softly say, “Praise God”. She had noticed the clear, blue sky and gently swaying leaves outside our window. She had become instantly aware of how blessed she was by such beauty and life.

A theophany? I think so. And there are scores of them flowing past us daily if we can just open the inner heart to see them; if we can just pause to be grateful within their presence; if we can just acknowledge them by a simple prayer and wait to hear their message.

Some “theophanies” come gently like my friend’s this morning. Some come in an unexpected, and perhaps unwanted, explosion that disrupts our lives. But in each of their guises, they carry a God Who wants to speak with us. May we listen.

Music: jazzing it up today
Echoes from the Burning Bush – The Cathedral Singers

Moses stood on holy ground
Far from God descended down
Set the roadside bush on fire (bush on fire)

Then the Lord did there explain
Through His servant should remain
All the echoes from the bush on fire (the bush on fire)

Oh the echoes from the bush (I hear those lovely echoes from the burning bush)
How they thrill my soul (how they thrill my soul)
Oh the echoes from the bush (I hear those thrilling echoes from the burning bush)
Point me to the Lord (point me to the Lord)

I no more am doubting, but with joy I’m shouting
With no thought of shame to blush (no shame to blush)
This my song shall ever be, words that are so sweet to me
Echoes from the burning bush (the burning bush)

God sent down His only Son
Just to ransom everyone
By the echoes from the fire (from the fire)

God of every earthly land
Would not pick nor choose a man
For His blood will save us from the fire (eternal fire)

Well, Will You?

Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we have the rather charming passage in Genesis where Abraham nickels and dimes God. We might dismiss it as childlike lore if we hadn’t tried it with God ourselves a hundred times. 😂

At least I know I bargain with God? Don’t you? When I really want life to go in a way I don’t expect it to, I might try to make a deal with God. It goes something like this:

Dear God, if you only please do “X”, I promise that I will do “Y”.

Or it might go like this:

Dear God, I know You can’t possibly want this suffering to be happening.
Won’t You please fix it? I promise to be grateful!

Even now, when faith has brought me to a deeper understanding of God’s presence in my life, these little bargains still creep through.

follow me

But, if I wait, Grace teaches. God is not the Omnipotent Fixer. God is rather the Omnipresent Mercy bearing our blessings and sorrows with us. God is the Infinite Revelation, leading us in both light and darkness into the depth of a Love we will never fully comprehend:

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is God’s mercy
toward those who live within its awe.

(today’s responsorial Pslam 103)

Sometimes when I feel, like Abraham, that God may have turned and walked away from my pleading prayer, I hear God’s fading footsteps calling me to follow into an unexpected depth.

It is a radical call, like the one in Matthew’s Gospel, to follow and know the Face of God hidden in life’s suffering.

“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
Another of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But Jesus answered him, “Follow me,
and let the dead bury their dead.”

It is not easy to put the following of Christ above all our human considerations, but this is our invitation and call. May we be gifted with the grace to respond.

Music: Will You Come and Follow Me? – John Bell

Drop Everything for Christ

Thursday, September 6, 2018

       Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings lead us to consider our call.

Lk5_11 leftJPG

The call to discipleship comes to us within the other calls of our life: the call to be a good parent, spouse, sibling, child. It comes in the call to be a moral, values-driven employer; an honest, hard-working employee; a supportive, engaged co-worker. Christ asks us to mirror him as neighbor, friend, colleague, and citizen.

In whatever skill or profession we practice, Christ asks us to exercise it as he would – to choose, judge and behave as he would.

In our Gospel, the first disciples are astonished at the miracle of the fishes. Like a lightening bolt, that astonishment transforms their world view. They now see Christ as the Center of their lives. They drop their nets on the seashore. They leave everything to follow him.

What is it that we must leave to make Christ the center of our lives? What nets are we caught in that keep us from freeing the call within us?

We are challenged by a world filled with the entanglements of greed, destructive power, aggression, bigotry, lies, and political & social pretense. How much have these infected the purity of our desire to follow Jesus?

Music: Lord, You Have Come to the Seashore- Caesareo Gabarain

Lord, You have come to the seashore
Neither searching for…the rich nor the wise,…
desiring only…that I should follow
Refrain:
O Lord, with your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling, you have spoken my name;
all I longed for I have found by the water.
At your side, I will seek other shores.

Lord, see my goods, my possessions;
in my boat you find…no power, no wealth…
Will you accept then…my nets and labor?

Lord,…take my hands and direct them
Help me spend myself in seeking the lost,…
returning love for…the love you gave me.

Lord,…as I drift on the waters…
be the resting place…of my restless heart,…
my life’s companion,…my friend and refuge.

Christ Depends on Us

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

       Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090518.cfm

Today, in Mercy, both Paul and Luke talk about ministry – our loving and merciful service to one another through prayer, word, and action.

LK4_18 good news

Paul says this ministry must be humble and mutual. This is because all the good that any of us does comes from God, not from us.

Jesus shows us that our ministry must be immediate and practical, responding to the present needs of our sisters and brothers. You wouldn’t think Jesus had time to pay attention to Peter’s mother-in-law, but he did. Her need drew his ministry out of him.

You will meet your own “Peter’s mother-in-law” today – someone whose apparent need touches your goodness. They may need a smile, an encouragement, an invitation or a gentle correction from you. They may come to you from a distance, in a request for service or funding. They may come in news story crying out for your prayers or civic action.

People can be poor in many ways.  Even the apparently free can be held captive by hidden burdens. Sometimes these burdens hide under a false bravado, impudence, indifference, or pride that make it difficult to pity their bearers. 

We will meet these people in our families, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods. 

Our response should reflect the humble and spontaneous Mercy and Love of Jesus who was always honest, respectful and kind. This is the ministry of every Christian because…

Music: Christ Has No Body Now But Yours ~ David Ogden