Psalm 96: The Lord’s Triumphant Coming

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

November 24, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, a royal psalm praising God as the King of all Creation.

The psalm’s first verses, not included in today’s passage, call us to sing and dance before the King.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.

Psalm 96: 1-3

We might pray this psalm with deep consciousness of our place in Creation, in the divine handiwork of this generous King. We have been given life alongside a panoply of beautiful creatures in order that we might, together, sing God’s song.

We sing in a choir of evening stars and morning sunrises, beside choristers of great redwoods and lofty mountains. We join in the prayerful music of the rainbow of animal and human voices rising to praise God.

A dear friend posted this yesterday. I thought it was delightful.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.

Psalm 96: 11-12

As we continue to draw down the curtain on the final days of this liturgical year, the daily readings draw our attention to the end of time – when all God’s created munificence will be finally gathered to the Eternal Presence.

Once, on a retreat with the Wernersville Jesuits, I went to their recreation room and played a 33 1⁄3 rpm record (yes, it was that long ago!). It was Wagner’s triumphant Ride of the Valkyries. You can listen to the music by clicking below.

The music engaged my spirit and no words were needed for my prayer. I imagined a Glorious Light rising over time’s darkness, a rider on the Dawn’s steed. 

I pictured us all coming to that Light in waves of praise, one order of creation after the other, over the hills of time and into a merciful, eternal Brilliance.

Each wave rose out of any darkness, pain, or death that might have  hindered them. They broke on to God’s merciful shore and were embraced in Light.

…. the meanest souls of history first, bowing repentant before God’s forgiveness. Then one wave after another, finally coming to the most innocent, the poor and the humble. These heroes of the Beatitudes marched triumphant, their places beside God already prepared, their faces already redeemed by God’s justice

The Lord comes to rule the earth.
to rule the world with justice 
and the peoples with constancy.

Psalm 96:13

The prayer of imagination can open the heart in a way far beyond words. It does take time to place ourselves in the quiet peace that welcomes such prayer. But I think it is so worth it. Our psalm might be inviting us to that kind of prayer today.


Reflective Reading: Prayer of Imagination for Anna the Prophetess
from Twelve Women of the Chalice – Leddy Hammock and Sue K. Riley

Now, in this moment I close my outer eyes 
and look within with my inner eyes.
I see a vision of wonder,
for I am the daughter of the vision of God,
of the tribe of the blessed ones,
a soul under grace.

I judge not by appearances.
I believe in God’s promises.
I fast from shadows and I live on light.
From my youth, I have served at the temple,
a vessel to a holy purpose.

Prayer is the temple where I dwell
Here I behold the image of the Lord.

I close my eyes and behold that image,
the eyes of the Infinite beholding me
all through the ages,
so tenderly gazing with love and compassion,
enfolding me.

Prayer is the temple where I dwell.
Here, I behold the image of the Lord.

The thoughts held in mind 
are mirrored in kind all around me,
reflecting through all that I see.

Now, I behold with inner vision
the wonders that will be in the fullness of time.
The dreams of all my days and nights
are incensed in the inner sanctum.

My thoughts of truth are flowers on the altar of light.
In the presence of the Holy of Holies,
I keep the high watch.
Gifted with the inner sight,
I see beyond the present.

I am an old, old soul, yet ageless in eternity.
Though outer eyes may seem to dim with time,
the inner eyes are crystal clear.

Though outer vision may seem obscured by time and place,
or clouded by the sorrows and the slavery of sense,
another world’s revealed so clear.
And what I see will be.

My thoughts are giving form,
And held in mind, shall reproduce in kind.
O Lord, I take a long loving look at the real.
I prophesy.

Christ is here.
I have seen the Lord, Thine image, 
and held that image to my own heart.
I am the Spirit of Imagination.
I am Anna, the prophetess, woman of power.

Psalm 128: Awesome Blessing!

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 15, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 128 which is used this Sunday to connect a series of readings about “fruitfulness” and its eternal endurance.


Our readings today intensify a tone evident in recent weeks – a theme I call “end of the line warnings”. Just two weeks out from Advent, and the end of the 2020 Liturgical Year, we have our annual confrontation with “The End Times”.

I have never enjoyed these readings. They actually scared me as a child, and they don’t make me too carefree even now. The only thing that makes them tolerable is that they herald the coming of Advent, a favorite time for hope-filled readings. 


  • But to get to those Advent scriptural delights, we have to face:
  • sudden disaster like labor pains
  • darkness like a thief in the night
  • alert and sober sleeplessness
  • and, if we’re not vigilant, a potential toss into the darkness outside where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

In the midst of these terror-producing readings, Psalm 128 can be like a calming cup of camomile tea. It reminds us – serenely, yet directly – of enduring blessings and how we secure them.

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in the Lord’s ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.


Today’s readings are sprinkled with two usually contrasting words: fear and blessing. However, our prayer may lead us to realize that these actions can be complementary from a spiritual perspective.

When we live in awe, or holy fear,  before God’s Presence and Power, our life is blessed with fruitful – just and merciful – relationships with all Creation, including an anticipated joy in our eternal home. As Christine Robinson transliterates Psalm 128:

You are blessed, who know God’s grace
and who follow the Way of Life.
Happiness and contentment are yours.
Your home is a place of growth and love.
Your city a better place for your life in it.
Your life of faithful work, prayerful reflection,and shared love
blesses those around you with life and peace.

…and you can look forward with joy to your continuing eternal life with God and God’s beloved family.


Poetry: To Heaven by Ben Johnson who is among the best-known writers and theorists of English Renaissance literature, second in reputation only to Shakespeare. A prolific dramatist and a man of letters highly learned in the classics, he profoundly influenced the Augustan age through his emphasis on the precepts of Horace, Aristotle, and other classical Greek and Latin thinkers.

Good and great God, can I not think of thee 
But it must straight my melancholy be? 
Is it interpreted in me disease 
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease? 
Oh be thou witness, that the reins dost know 
And hearts of all, if I be sad for show, 
And judge me after; if I dare pretend 
To ought but grace or aim at other end. 
As thou art all, so be thou all to me, 
First, midst, and last, converted one, and three; 
My faith, my hope, my love; and in this state 
My judge, my witness, and my advocate. 
Where have I been this while exil'd from thee? 
And whither rap'd, now thou but stoop'st to me? 
Dwell, dwell here still. O, being everywhere, 
How can I doubt to find thee ever here? 
I know my state, both full of shame and scorn, 
Conceiv'd in sin, and unto labour borne, 
Standing with fear, and must with horror fall, 
And destin'd unto judgment, after all. 
I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground 
Upon my flesh t' inflict another wound. 
Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death 
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath 
Of discontent; or that these prayers be 
For weariness of life, not love of thee. 

Music: Benedictus – Karl Jenkins

Who Will Stand in the End?

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 17, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings carry the full flavor of the “end times” warnings, those repeated annually as we move closer to Advent ( which is only two weeks away!)

Malachi is very direct:

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
 when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble…

Wow! Really? Our reaction might range from “Good! Go get ‘em, God!” to “Oh, dear God, I hope it’s not me!!!”.

But Paul resets us on the right track. He says something like this:

Listen! You must imitate your teachers in Christ.
Live with integrity, justice and generous mercy.
Navigate the world with these as your compass.
Then you will welcome the end times.


Lk21_19 perseverance

In our world, we see the opposing forces of good and evil clearly pulling against one another. In our decisions and attitudes, we are confronted with the choice between sin and selflessness.

The “elephant in the room” this week for many of us is the impeachment hearings. How do we view this event as people of Gospel faith? How do we respond?

elephant

While some of us believe strongly in separation of Church and State, still we acknowledge that our FAITH is exercised in a political world. We pursue our full conversion in Christ through “polity“:  our just and compassionate interactions with all Creation.

Right in front of us this week, we have seen  amazing displays of courage and morality standing against venal self-interests. How does what we see align with our own living of justice and mercy?

Political scientist Harold Lasswell defined politics as “who gets what, when, and how“. If this isn’t the same challenge tackled in the Gospel, I don’t know what is! Jesus said that the poor and disenfranchised should be the first to “get” – through peace, love and mercy. Making that happen is our Christian call.

However, it is likely impossible to communicate God’s vision for the world in the language of politics.  Walter Brueggemann says this:

The prophet’s task is to imagine the world as though Yahweh, the God of Israel and the creator of heaven and earth, were a real character and a lively agent in the life of the world.  I believe that such a claim, then and now, has to be articulated poetically in order not to be co-opted by political absolutism or theological orthodoxy.
~Walter Brueggemann 

Our readings today give us this poetic vision and challenge. Read them with great longing to hear God’s voice for our times. The world so sorely needs the answer that will grow in our souls.

Music:  Let Justice Roll

Vultures Forecasted!

Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

November 15, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our scripture message is blunt. If yesterday’s sweet words from Wisdom were like “rich toffee for the spirit”, today’s are more like a double shot of bourbon for the mind.

toffeebourbon

Basically our first reading says “Yes”- creation is magnificent, but not as magnificent as its Creator! You, learned humans, how could you have gotten stuck only half-way to that truth? How did you end up making gods from the very things that were supposed to show you the one true God?

In our Gospel, Jesus speaks even more starkly. He describes the “end times” when “one will be taken and the other left”. That reading  always scared me as a child and, to be honest, still scares me a little. The popular “rapture literature” has monopolized on that fear. Nobody likes the idea of their buddy, sitting right beside them eating ice cream, suddenly disappearing, right?

vultureAnd I guess Jesus actually was trying to strike a little healthy fear into his listeners too. He told them the vultures were already gathering. It’s late in the game. Get your act together.

Early Christians thought a lot about the end times. They expected them to come quickly after the Resurrection. Well, 2000 years later, our obsession may have cooled somewhat. 

Nevertheless, an end will come to this life as we know it. And wouldn’t it be a shame if we had spent our precious worship on false and distracting gods like money, fame, power, luxury and self-aggrandizement?

“Wouldn’t it be a shame”, as one of our dear Sisters once said, “to come to the end of your life and realize you had missed the whole point?”

 Music: One True God – Mark Harris

God, Face to Face

Saturday, December 1, 2018

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turin
Section of the Shroud of Turin

Today, in Mercy, we come to the end of our readings from Revelation.  They have been challenging, to say the least.

The passage from Luke’s Gospel today is just as confronting.  These are not easy times.

Our prayer over these past few days has led us to deeper understanding of this hard truth: life as we know it will be transformed and we will be judged at the transformation.

But hopefully our reflections have also assured us that the Master and Judge of Life is the same merciful God who forgave and healed the sinful and suffering.

By our faithfulness to this merciful God, we will be redeemed. Revelation puts it this way:

The servants of God
will look upon his face,
and his name
will be on their foreheads.

When a person is filled with goodness (or evil), we often say it is “written all over her face”.  So it is with those who love and long for God and for God’s peaceable kingdom.

God will recognize us at the judgment because our hope and desire for God are written all over our face. And God’s love for us will be written all over that Divine Countenance.

Music: The Face of God – Karen Drucker

The Fiery Wine Press

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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Rev 14_19 furyJPG

Today, in Mercy, we are struck with Revelation’s images of the end time!

  • a crowned Christ wielding a sharp sickle
  • angels commanding the final harvest of the earth

and perhaps the most powerful

  • the earth’s vintage thrown into the great winepress of God’s fury!

This author could write! We can almost imagine the scene, filmed with all the pyro-technics of today’s computer age.

But besides the amazing imagery, what does the passage say to our hearts?

In Biblical symbolism, the winepress almost always stands for judgment. The passage reminds us that we all will be judged.  The divine winepress will compress the sinful gaps that plague our human existence.  In the end time, there will be no “other” — no judgmental spaces separating us from one another.  We will all be one, like wine mingled.

We will be judged on how we lived that oneness in this life, on where we have stood in the gap between the:

  • rich and poor
  • well and sick
  • citizen and refugee
  • abled and disabled
  • powerful and vulnerable

Do we live in ignorance or indifference to those who suffer on the other side of the human scale? Have we been impervious to the imbalances of justice and charity in this world?

And how do we respond? The passage suggests that we do some weeding of our spiritual gardens before the harvest of our souls. The intention of this fiery writer is to tell us that we still have a little time.

Music:  The Day Is Surely Drawing Near – written by the prolific 16th century Lutheran hymnist Bartholomaüs Ringwaldt. This piece is a majestic instrumental rendering, but if you would like to see the words, they are below. 

1 The day is surely drawing near
When Jesus, God’s anointed,
In all His power shall appear
As judge whom God appointed.
Then fright shall banish idle mirth,
And flames on flames shall ravage earth
As Scripture long has warned us.

2 The final trumpet then shall sound
And all the earth be shaken,
And all who rest beneath the ground
Shall from their sleep awaken.
But all who live will in that hour,
By God’s almighty, boundless pow’r,
Be changed at His commanding.

3 The books are opened then to all,
A record truly telling
What each has done, both great and small,
When he on earth was dwelling,
And ev’ry heart be clearly seen,
And all be known as they have been
In thoughts and words and actions.

4 Then woe to those who scorned the Lord
And sought but carnal pleasures,
Who here despised His precious Word
And loved their earthly treasures!
With shame and trembling they will stand
And at the judge’s stern command
To Satan be delivered.

5 My Savior paid the debt I owe
And for my sin was smitten;
Within the Book of Life I know
My name has now been written.
I will not doubt, for I am free,
And Satan cannot threaten me;
There is no condemnation!

6 May Christ our intercessor be
And through His blood and merit
Read from His book that we are free
With all who life inherit.
Then we shall see Him face to face,
With all His saints in that blest place
Which He has purchased for us. 

7 O Jesus Christ, do not delay,
But hasten our salvation;
We often tremble on our way
In fear and tribulation.
O hear and grant our fervent plea;
Come, mighty judge, and make us free
From death and ev’ry evil.

The Rapture

Monday, November 26, 2018

Click here for readings.

Today, in Mercy, our first reading from Revelation describes what has come to be known in modern culture as “the Rapture”. It’s a concept probably more popularized by modern fiction than by our devotion to scripture.

Rev 4_1 rapture

Maybe you are one of the  60 million readers of the “Left Behind” books by Jenkins and LaHaye. This popular series captures our fascination with “the end times”. 

The writer of Revelation is doing the same thing. This highly imaginative ancient author -adept at symbols, allegory, and poetry – writes to awake and engage us in our own salvation.

Whether or not his visions predict facts is not the point. The point is that there will come an end time to every life. When it comes to us, we want to have already become God’s familiar and beloved friend.

A second point is that this world, as we know it, is passing. We should not make our heart’s investment here. Our lasting treasure lies in God’s realm which, while present here, is often rendered invisible by our human hungers and distractions.

Revelation enjoins us to wake up, see beyond the visible, and live a life worthy of eternity. 

How? The true and simple answer is in today’s Gospel:

“When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasure
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

This blessed widow, even in her impoverished circumstances, understood where her true treasure lay. She was already counted among the sainted  “hundred and forty-four thousand”.

Music: When I read these apocalyptic passages, I like to imagine the scene by listening to compatible music. One of my favorite accompaniments is Richard Wagner: Ride of the Valkyries. Just imagine Jesus riding into our lives on these exalted melodies!