Psalm 29: Holy Attire

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

February 16, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 29 which describes the settling of peace over an ended storm.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
    the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
    the voice of the LORD is majestic. 

Psalm 29:3

This gift of peace invites the psalmist to give glory to the Lord, and to do so in a celebratory manner:

Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
    adore the LORD in holy attire. 

Psalm 29:4

Reading this little verse this morning, I was reminded of my novitiate days.  What a profound joy and thrill it was for me to receive the habit of the Sisters of Mercy. I count myself fortunate to have entered just in time to wear the original habit – just for fourteen months before we adopted a modified style.

Each morning as we dressed, we said a specific prayer over each component of the habit. The prayers were beautiful and served to orient us to the duties and blessings of the day.


Psalm 29 reminds us to give thanks for our blessings – and our challenges – as we begin and end each day. But it specifically says that we should clothe ourselves in “holy attire” as we pray. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul describes such attire:

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, 
clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, 
Kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 
Bear with one another 
and forgive any complaint
you may have against another. 
Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. 
And over all these virtues put on love, 
which is the bond of perfect unity. 
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, 
for to this you were called as members of one body. 
And be thankful.

Colossians 3:12-15

Poem: She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron

May we walk, attired in the beauty of God’s Grace and peace.

She walks in beauty, like the night 
Of cloudless climes and starry skies; 
And all that’s best of dark and bright 
Meet in her aspect and her eyes; 
Thus mellowed to that tender light 
Which heaven to gaudy day denies. 

One shade the more, one ray the less, 
Had half impaired the nameless grace 
Which waves in every raven tress, 
Or softly lightens o’er her face; 
Where thoughts serenely sweet express, 
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place. 

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow, 
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, 
The smiles that win, the tints that glow, 
But tell of days in goodness spent, 
A mind at peace with all below, 
A heart whose love is innocent!

Music: Because You Are Chosen – John Michael Talbot

Because you are chosen
Called to be holy
Because you are the Lord’s beloved
You must clothe yourself with kindness
With heartfelt mercy
In the meekness of humility
So bear you now with one another
And forgive as the Lord’s forgiven you
Over all these virtues
Bind them all together
In the Love of our Lord Jesus
Over all these virtues
Bind them all together
In the Love of our Lord Jesus
Over all these virtues
Bind them all together
In the Love of our Lord Jesus.

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 145:The Hint of God

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

December 10, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145 in which the psalmist once again assures us that our God is 

The psalm extends the promises of our first reading from Isaiah:

The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

Isaiah 41:17

We need promises like those of Isaiah and our psalmist, especially in times when we feel tested, alone, frightened, desperate, or abandoned. Even a taste of these radical emotions is hard to bear without some glimmer of promise.

Faith tells us that the Promise is already fulfilled in the Gift of Jesus Christ. 


Advent is our annual liturgical practice in waiting … in the recommitment

  • to a faith that cannot yet see,
  • to a hope that waits yet believes,
  • to a trust that praises even in the predawn shadows.

Advent is our promise to lean
on an invisible God. 

Christmas is the astounding Divine response –
Jesus Christ – God made visible.

Poetry: Paul’s great poem from Colossians 1: 15-23

Christ 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.i

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
whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Music: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (1867) – Walter Chalmers Smith.
The original, beautiful final verses of this hymn have been lost in the English translation. Here they are, and worth their own meditation:

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.
All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

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

Click here for readings

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