Christ, the Crucified King

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

November 24, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. This feast was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI by his encyclical Quas Primas. The Pope was acutely aware of the secularization of society and culture. He wanted this feast and devotion to bring people a deep awareness that Christ is the center of all Creation.

The images, language and metaphors are ones that spoke to the people in the early 20th century. They may ring differently to us. Concepts of king”, “empire”, “dominion”, “subjection” tend to engender negative connotations for many of us.
(Unless, of course, we’re referring to the “King of Rock and Roll” – Elvis, of course. Or  for some younger among us, the “King of Pop” – Michael Jackson. Then we seem OK with it!)

Our readings today can direct us to a deeper understanding of the characteristics Pius sought to highlight, ones that may speak more clearly to us in our time.

Our first reading from Samuel presents the anointing of David as King of Israel. Anointed by those who were “his own bone and flesh”, David prefigured the Incarnate Christ who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, took our flesh to redeem us.


Col1_15 image

The magnificent passage from Colossians offers exultant praise to the Creator for 

…delivering us from the power of darkness
and transferring us to the kingdom of the beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption …


And our Gospel gives us our precious Jesus on the Cross, teaching us the paradoxical truth of what his “Kingdom” really means – not oppressive dominion, but rather a sacrificial love that gives everything for the life of the beloved.

van eyck
Van Eyck’s painting of Christ King and his follower Petrus Christus’s Christ Suffering (15th C.)

Many cannot recognize such “kingship”. They cannot see the holy power within Christ’s sacrifice. They are, as Pius XI recognized for his time, blinded by a secularized culture and a dispirited life.

Let us pray today with the “justly condemned”, but spiritually enlightened, man in our Gospel who asked his Crucified King,

“Lord Jesus,
remember me
when you come into Kingdom!”

Music: Jesus Remember Me

God’s Guts

Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

September 12, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have one of the most beautiful yet demanding readings in the Bible – Colossians 3:12-17.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.

Bear with each other and forgive one another
if any of you has a grievance against someone.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.


I remember our beloved Mother Mary Bernard recommending this passage to us when we were only novices – so unripe in our pursuit of spirituality. Since that treasured recommendation, I have prayed with this passage thousands of times. It never fails to reveal something new, deeper, and challenging.

A particularly pregnant verse is this:

Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion…

Gosh, the way it’s translated there makes it sound like a Valentine, doesn’t it?  


But take a look at the Douay-Rheims Version, the translation popular before the Jerusalem Bible of the 1960s:

Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy, and beloved,
the bowels of mercy…

The Greek word for “mercy” here is σπλάγχνα splagchnon or splancha. And it means “guts” – bowels. So there goes our Valentine! You wouldn’t want to get that picture on a greeting card!


What Paul is preaching is not a lovey-dovey sweet religiosity. He wants mercy, and all the accompanying virtues, to grab our guts and never let go until we love as radically as Jesus loves.

We all know what “splancha” feels like: 

  • It’s the way your heart twists with adrenaline when a truck runs the red light just hair in front of you.
  • It’s the way your stomach tosses when it’s your turn for your first public speaking foray.
  • It’s the way your throat catches when you have to speak the words of a beloved’s death.
  • It’s the tears that well up unbidden when you kiss your sleeping child.

Splancha is the place where we are tied to other human beings so deeply that it is visible only to God.

Jms Keenan copy

It is the place where our soul’s umbilical cord is knit with God’s womb, that sacred place where we are recreated again and again in the Holy Spirit by our acts of mercy and love for one another.

God wants us to have “splancha love” for every one of God’s Creatures. God wants us to make that love real in our acts of mercy and justice. Paul is telling us how to do it today.

Music: How He Loves Us – sung by Kim Walker Smith with Jesus Culture

This song was composed by John Mark McMillan. This beautiful video about his composition is a real witness story. I encourage you to take the time to watch it.

Remembering Our Way Home…

Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

September 11, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the world will remember the abomination of the 9/11 attacks when nearly 3000 innocent lives were sacrificed to hatred, vengeance, and cowardice.

Some will remember in anger; some in forgiveness. Some will remember in grief; some in triumph. Some will remember with a will to seek peace; some with a drive to wreak endless retribution. Some with unquenchable sorrow; some with a false and self-destructive pride.

Some, too jaded by the years of savagery since then, will remember the day with despair.

Some, too young to remember at all, will simply try to grow up in the fragmented world it has left them.

Tragically, some throughout the world are so devastated by their own sufferings that there is no energy to remember. Some have endured war and oppression for so long that there is no peace to remember.

We in the human family were not created to live like this. 

Col3_4 christ appears

Paul tells us that we …

… were raised with Christ, so seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Jesus tells us that when that glory comes, it will be these who appear with him..

Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.

On this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and on every day of our lives, we have a choice of how we will see the world, of how we will love or hate, embrace or exclude our sisters and brothers. Every day, we have choices to make about how we will allow, ignore, or stand against hate, division, oppression and indifference to human suffering.

We may think our power is small to change the world. But it is the only power we have or need. With those graced and intentional choices we…

… have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its Creator.

Today, as we remember, let us also be excruciatingly aware of those who continue to suffer … at the world’s hard borders, in the Bahamas, Syria, Yemen, Rakhine, and in every place where abusive domination and greedy indifference crushes innocent life.

Music: When We Go Home, We Go Together- Pure Heart Ensemble 

Walk in Him

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

September 10, 2019

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Today in Mercy, Beloveds, our first reading allowed the reflection to almost write itself. Savor the sweet words. They are all we need today.

Col2_6 Walk

Walk in Him.

Trust in Him.

Hope in Him.

Delight in Him.

Risk in Him.

Act in Him.

Love in Him.

Rest in Him.

Believe in Him.

Walk in Him. (Hold hands.)

Music: Just a Closer Walk with Thee – anonymous composition from the 1800s, sung here by the great Patsy Cline and the inimitable Willie Nelson
Lyrics below

1 I am weak but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Refrain:
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

2 Thro’ this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee. [Refrain]

3 When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore. [Refrain]

All That Is Withered

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest

September 9, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul and Jesus share a similar situation.

Paul is imprisoned in Rome. Visited by Epaphras, a citizen of Colossae, Paul seizes the chance to write to these Christians whom he has never seen in person. Paul tells the Colossians that his singular intention is to preach the truth of the Gospel so that they, and all the world, may be transformed in Christ.

to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.

That “mystery” is the nature of God as Love, only fleetingly accessible before its full revelation in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Luke6_10 withered hand

Jesus too, in today’s Gospel, is in a sort of prison. The prison consists of the entrenched resistance of people like the Pharisees. They are so entangled in the deceitful and self- serving interpretation of Law that they are blind to the revelation before them. They wait to pounce on Jesus if, contrary to the laws of the Sabbath, he heals a man’s withered hand.

Jesus tries logic in today’s account:

Then Jesus said to them,
“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”

Unable to resist the logic, the Pharisees retreat to anger. They begin to plot the removal of this Truth they cannot counter. The saddest part of these resistances is that they estrange the resisters from their own good, from their own freedom, from their own salvation.

In our world, we see so many places closed off to the Mystery of Love.  We see people imprisoning themselves in their own resistance and hate while they plot to build barriers against others. We see it in our geo-political world, in our Church, in our workplaces, in ourselves.

It takes courage to recognize and turn from such self-destructive fixations. We must be alert and brave to cooperate with our own transformation in grace.

This is why Paul writes of …

the great struggle I am having for you
and for those in Laodicea
and all who have not seen me face to face,
that their hearts may be encouraged
as they are brought together in love,
to have all the richness of assured understanding,
for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ,
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

This is why God continues to offer grace in the gift of Jesus Christ, healing all that is “withered” in us when we lift it up in faith.

Music: God Will Make a Way – Dan Moen

God is a Sliding Board!

Saturday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

September 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  Paul references some pretty mean-spirited Colossians:

You once were alienated and hostile in mind
because of evil deeds.

Whoa! Where did these meanies come from amid all the blessed populace?
They must have been nice to be around!

All of us have been in the presence of such off-kilter people. They seem all twisted in their own negativity and judgmentalism. There is no joy in them, no warmth, no kindness. Unhappily, we may even have such a person at times.

Paul is clear on the cure for such ill-temper:

  • Reconciliation through a persevering faith
  • Stability in hope, grounded the Gospel

If you have ever used a GPS device while driving, you have probably had the same experience as I have. At least five annoying times per journey, the gal is my dashboard shouts:

Recalculating route!

Paul says that with our reconciliation through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, there is no need to recalculate. As our Responsorial Psalm tells us:

I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.

Once again in our Gospel, the Pharisees try to distract from the clarity of Jesus’ message. They worry about the tiniest grains rather than the Radiant Truth in their midst. They keep trying to recalculate a route through their circuitous laws rather than opening their hearts to the Way.

It’s easy to get infected with such running around in circles. The bigness of God can be scary. We sometimes make up useless curves to avoid God’s awesomeness.

Jn14_6slide

Indeed, God is a sliding board with no handrails! But, Paul assures us that we are riding it in Christ’s arms.

Music: I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life – Bob Hurd

All Things Hold Together

Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

September 6, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings challenge us to see things differently- to see with God’s eyes.

Col1_15 image of God

Paul invites us first with the glorious Colossians Hymn. No words can enhance it. Let us savor it in itself:

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the Body, the Church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the Blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.


 

wineskin
Ancient wineskins were not like the fancy botas we see today. They were formed from the entire skin of the animal. As the new wine fermented inside, the skin expanded with the fermentation. It ultimately stretched beyond further use. – thus the necessity for new skins for new wine.

 

Jesus, in our Gospel, tells us we must become new wineskins in order to hold the vibrant gift of new life in Christ. He says the old ways, stiffened by pharisaical pretensions, have lost the elasticity of grace. He warns us to avoid the accretions of showy religious practice which may bury and inhibit sincere faith.

 

 

 

 


 

Jesus is the new wine of love and mercy, and our hearts must become his new wineskins.

As we pray, this poetic musical piece may inspire us. … in Him, all things hold together …

Music: The Christ Hymn – Alana Levandoski

Big Prayers

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

September 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus and Paul teach us how to pray for one another.

I like to call it “gifting prayer” because it is, indeed, a generous offering we give to others.


Little Prayers

little prayers

I sometimes pray for simple things – that a family member wins the lottery, or it doesn’t rain on a friend’s wedding.

And I pray for consequential things – improved health for a neighbor, safety for travelers, deliverance from disaster.

These prayers are rooted in the wish for material improvement. But there is a deeper kind of prayer that we can offer.


The Big Prayer

Gifting Prayer is a wide halo of love and hope we generate
by our desire for someone else’s eternal good – for their holiness.

This kind of prayer is much bigger than the small prayers we say for others. 

Paul describes what such prayer should ask for – that our beloved:

  • be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
  • gain all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • be fully pleasing, in every good work 
  • bear fruit and grow in the knowledge of God,
  • be strengthened with all endurance and patience,
  • and give thanks, with joy, to the Father for the gift of faith

Now THAT’S a prayer!


Gospel Clues

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, gives us a clue about how to pray such a prayer. He says that it’s kind of like catching fish. The Gospel fishermen have labored all night with no results. Sometimes our prayer feels like that, doesn’t it?

Lk5_4 nets

Jesus says no matter. Keep on fishing – keep on praying. Shift perspective a little bit “to the other side of the boat” – to God’s way of seeing good for those we pray for.

Ask for God to do what God deems best. This attitude in prayer opens us to divine possibilities. It hopefully brings unimagined resolutions to those we pray for.

Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch…
…When they had done this, they caught so great a number of fish
that their nets were bursting.

Let God burst the tight net by which we might define our prayer. Let’s be amazed by all that God desires to give us beyond our small wishes.

Music: Trust His Heart – Babbie Mason

Who Do You See in the Mirror?

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 4, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings focus on “vanity” – its threats and remedies.

Often, we think of vanity as a physical emotion – that Narcissistic self-absorption that keeps us in front of a mirror for inordinate amounts of time. Our culture promotes this kind of vanity by working endlessly to convince us that without certain products we are “not enough” on our own. 

mirror statue

Historically, this kind of rhetoric was directed primarily toward women, spawning a nearly $500 billion global cosmetic market! But men are catching up! The men’s market is forecasted to reach nearly $30 billion by 2023.

Several years ago, while flying home from a business trip, I was seated across from two young women. As we approached home, the one nearest me, began to prepare for landing. She initiated an elaborate cosmetic ritual that involved no fewer than ten brushes plus an array of tubes and compacts. At first, it struck me really funny. Then I realized how very sad it was.

This maturing child was no more than eighteen. She was naturally beautiful with the vigor of youth. But she had obviously spent a lot of money and time not believing in her natural beauty.

Society considers vanity as a kind of pride and pomposity. I think just the opposite. I think vanity is really fear, self-dissatisfaction, anxiety and pain because something has convinced us that we are inadequate.

Vanity damages souls as well as bodies. It makes us behave in greedy, self-absorbed and careless ways toward our neighbors. It makes us pretend we are more than we think we are. It saps us of the strength to be generous, trusting and hopeful.

Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, tells us to get over this kind of vanity:

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another,

since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator. 

Col3_10 new image

What if that sweet girl on Flight 419 had been able to look in her mirror and see the image of her Creator? What if we could all do that? How might we spend our time and money differently if we were convinced of how beautiful we are to God?

Music: How Could Anyone Ever Tell You – Shaina Nell

I have added two versions of this beautiful song. Let God sing it to you in your prayer today.

 

 

Promise

 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are all about making and keeping promises.

Our first reading refers to Genesis and God’s promise to Abraham of land and posterity. Through his hospitality to three disguised angels, Abraham secures God’s promise to bless Sara and him with a child.

Luke8_15 promise

In today’s second reading from Colossians, Paul assures us that God has brought that promise to its full completion in the gift of Jesus Christ living in us.

…the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past
has now been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory
of this mystery among the Gentiles;
it is Christ in you, the hope for glory. 

In our Gospel, Jesus encourages Martha to give her attention to the presence of this promise revealed in her life. Mary sees the promise fulfilled in Jesus, the living presence of God. She gives her full heart to it. Martha, maybe like us sometimes, is preoccupied by other distractions.


Our readings invite us to rejoice in God’s promise to us
of “land” and “posterity”.

In Jesus, we are brought home to God.
In Jesus, the fruitfulness of our life is eternally secured.


We make promises to God too.

vowsAs I think about my vows today, I am so aware of the recent deaths of two of our Sisters. At all of our funerals, our vows rest near us for our wakes – a profound symbol of promises given and promises fulfilled. God bless you, Margaret and Mary Ellen! Thank you for your witness among us!
Today, as we pray about God’s faithful promises to us, we might want to reflect on and deepen the commitments of our Baptism, our religious profession, our marriage, our covenants to communities of faith and service.

Like Martha, we might hear Jesus encourage us to give our fullest heart to that which is most important.

Music: God’s Promise – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir  (Lyrics below)

God’s Promise

Chorus:
Everything He said
In His word
He will do it for you.
Every prophecy He gave
Every promise he made

He will do it for you.
If you only trust Him
And let Him have his way
He’ll work things out for you.

If you only believe and
You will see
That He will do it
For you.

(Repeated several times)

He’ll do it
He will do it/
My God is a faithful God
He will do it

And He’s always there
To answer every payer
He will do it.
He’ll do it.

No matter what you’re going through.
He’ll do it.
Remember His word is true.
He’ll do it.

Cause He understands
He’ll do it.
You can always trust and lean on Him
My God will do it
For you….