Midnight Miracle

Saturday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

November 16, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we are blessed with some of the most gloriously imaginative images in Scripture:

wis18_midnight

Although the passage is a poetic recounting of the Exodus experience, it always makes me think of Christmas. 

  • Midnight on a starry night
  • Peaceful stillness over the earth
  • The all-powerful Word transformed 
  • Appearing among us like a comet in our darkness
  • Hope renewed for an otherwise doomed land

Praying with the passage this morning, I realize that my “Christmas lens” on the reading is right on target.

The Christmas event begins our Exodus story, a story completed in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Just as the God of Moses reached into ancient Israel’s life to free them, transform them and make them God’s People, so God reaches into our lives. God does this not only on Christmas, but in every moment of our experience.

As our media and consumer culture bombards us, all too early, with all the secularized images of Christmas, let today’s verses bring us back to the true startling grace of our own Christ/Exodus stories:

We are not alone in the midnights of our lives.
Listen underneath all the distractions
to the, at first, softly emerging sound of Love
humming under all things.
Watch for the small lights of heaven
longing to break into our human darkness.
Give yourself to their Light.

No matter where we are in our lives right now,
no matter the joy or pain of our present circumstances,
God wants to use these realities to be with us
and to teach us Love.
Let us invite God
into our willingness
to learn that Love,

to become that Love.


Music: Winter Cold Night – John Foley, SJ

Lyrics below (yes, it is an Advent/ Christmas song. But it fits so perfectly. Please forgive me if I am rushing the season too.🤗)

Dark, dark, the winter cold night. Lu-lee-lay.
Hope is hard to come by. Lu-lee-lay.
Hard, hard, the journey tonight. Lu—lee-lay.
Star, guide, hope, hide our poor, winter cold night.

And on earth, peace, good will among men.

Lean, lean, the livin’ tonight. Lu-lee-lay.
Star seems darker sometimes. Lu-lee-lay.
Unto you is born this day a Savior.
Pain, yes, in the bornin’ tonight. Lu lee—lay.
Star, guide, hope, hide our poor, winter cold night.

Dwelling Place for God

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 1, 2019

Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, we finish our several weeks’ journey through Exodus. Like all great books, this one closes with a powerful final chapter – one that assures us that the story has not ended.

Have you ever read a book that you wish would never end? Of course, they all do – but bits of some live in us forever.

fav books

With sacred scripture, the Living Word remains with us by inspiring us to live out its spirit in our lives. That Holy Word bonds with the Spirit already dwelling within us through our Creation and Baptism.

Psalm 84_Ark

For the Exodus community, this Indwelling was given visible expression in the tabernacle Moses built. God chose to fill that tabernacle with Abiding Presence.

Each one of us, and every human being, is a dwelling place of God’s love and hope for us. We are tabernacles of God’s Spirit, breathed into us in an act of divine desire for us to be God’s eternal beloved.

Pretty overwhelming, isn’t it! 

So much so that, just as for the Israelites, our vision of God’s Presence is often clouded by the frenzy of our lives. It is only when we still our souls in worship that we recognize God living with and within us!

Music: This Alone – Tim Manion, SJ ( Photos are The Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel / Normandy, in the Manche department in France.)

Radical Joy

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

Ignatius
by Francisco de Zubarán (1598–1664)

July 31, 2019

Click here for readings


Today, in Mercy, Exodus tells us:

Exodus34_29 Radiant

Obviously, I haven’t met Moses personally. 😂 But I have met many wonderful human beings who have reflected a similar radiance.

It is a mirrored glory that comes from friendship with God. 

It glows in the innocence of children and the layered wisdom of the elderly. It blazes in those seeking social justice and in those silently, unwaveringly praying for it. It lights the hope of the living and the dying. It is that mysterious, unquenchable candle shining in both joy and sorrow. Its other holy names are Faith, Hope and Love.

 No one need tell us. We know when we are in the presence of such Light. It needs no words.

Rumi radiant

Today, let’s pray for the blessing of this Radiance all over our shadowed world. Let’s pray for it to shine within us.

Music: Radiant God – Hannah Ford

Unconditional Love

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 30, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we consider God’s unconditional love.

God and Moses and the People have been through it. The trail of complaints, the golden calf, the shattered tablets – these are relational dramas to the extreme! Exodus is definitely soap opera material! Does it feel a little bit like your life, or your family’s, or the families you read about in the news?

Ex34_9 Life

Life is indeed a drama! And our relationship with God is highlighted and shadowed with its twists and turns. For that reason, today’s passage offers us so much comfort and confidence. Even after all that has happened, God reveals himself to Moses like this:

The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity,
continuing his kindness for a thousand generations.

Moses is so moved by this new knowledge of God’s unconditional love, that he welcomes God as part of their community:

If I find favor with you, O LORD,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people;
yet pardon our wickedness and sins,

and receive us as your own.

We are invited by this reading to open ourselves to that same unconditional love, to thank God for journeying with us through life’s convolutions. Stiff-necked at times, repentant at others, we are always God’s beloved.

As we negotiate the intricacies of our life today, we might trustingly say like Moses:

Lord, do come along in my company.

Music: Outrageous Grace – Godfrey Birtill

Our Story is God’s Story

Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 27, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Exodus reading describes momentous events in Israel’s life.

tabletsJPG

God has just invited Moses and several others up the mountain for a Divine conflab.  Moses returns to the people to announce “all the words and ordinances of the Lord”.The People receive these words wholeheartedly:

“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”

Thus, a community of persons is formed with God at its heart.

Moses then engages the community in a series of formal rituals to highlight the significance and permanence of this deeper step in relationship with God.


The passage contains multiple points for our prayerful consideration.

The community of Israel is not unlike our own faith communities, those that gather in specific religious houses, or those we share in the universal community of all Creation. We are Catholics, Lutherans, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs sharing a story of God in our particular religious traditions. We are also all children of the same God sharing that experience in our Common Home of Creation.

Just as with the ancient Israelites, God communicates and relates with us through the experiences of our lives. In our communities, that Divine Word is interpreted, codified, ritualized, and responded to. These actions create a story which is alive, deepening with each new generation, and still always rooted in the long history of promise and grace.

Today’s reading contains many elements of story and ritual which we can recognize in our own faith practice: written and announced word, altar or worship place, sacrifice or offering to God, acts of covenant, and celebratory meals.

Exodus24_3 sinai

These are the human ways in which we access relationship with God. These are the ways in which we keep our faith vital. We strengthen our faith by one another’s stories of love, mercy and hope. We commit to a shared law of love, not legalism – a heart-law which calls us to be life for one another, just as God is Life for us. In community, we reveal the face of God within ourselves.

For those of us who share the practice of a Eucharistic faith, the parallels in today’s reading call us to deeper awareness of how God becomes present in our lives.

May all of us – of whatever spirituality – who share life in God’s continuing Creation, obediently hear the command to cherish every human being as a revelation of God, as a critical and precious part of my own faith story – a part for whom I share the responsibility for life.

Music: Song of the Body of Christ – David Haas (Lyrics below)

Song of the Body of Christ
Refrain: We come to share our story. We come to break the bread.
We come to know our rising from the dead.
1. We come as your people. We come as your own.
United with each other, love finds a home.
2. We are called to heal the broken, to be hope for the poor.
We are called to feed the hungry at our door.
3. Bread of life and cup of promise, In this meal we all are one.
In our dying and our rising, may your kingdom come.
4. You will lead and we shall follow.
ou will be the breath of life; living water, we are thirsting for your light.

It’s Raining Bread!

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 24, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings are all about food in the many forms and senses of that word.

Exodus16_4

The Israelites have been in the desert for a while.  The burden of travel is beginning to weigh upon them.  Food is short, tempers even shorter.  Things seem so bad that, in a fit of stupendous forgetfulness, they tell Moses they were better off as slaves in Egypt.

Moses asks God to intervene, which God does with the gifts of manna and quail.

The folks in today’s reading remind me a lot of people I know — even myself.  Haven’t we all heard, and maybe uttered, the complaint that things were so much better in “the old days”.  Haven’t we critiqued a challenging situation with the unhelpful assessment, “Well, it’s not like it used to be!”

But the God of Exodus is so patient, as is Moses.  God doesn’t become angry with the complainers. Instead God promises to take care of them and to stay with them forever on their journey. God makes good on this word by initiating the naturally occurring phenomena of morning manna and migrating quail so that the community is fed.

Some areas to focus on as we pray with this passage:

God does not deliver the Israelites immediately to their destination. Life is a journey, not an arrival.

God intervenes to meet their needs, but through ordinary occurrences rather than miracles. God uses manna and quail, surprising but nonetheless naturally occurring events in the Sinai desert.

God expects the Israelites to interact with grace, to recognize that God is about the continuing work of Creation and Covenant, even within the natural circumstances of our lives.

For us, the profound reminder that God accompanies us in drought and abundance, in joy and sorrow, in wilderness and stability; that God is listening under our hungers; that God is sustaining us in graces we may be slow to recognize.

Music: Panis Angelicus – Luciano Pavarotti

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus, et humilis. 

Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.
Amen.

Bread of Angels,
made the bread of men;
The Bread of heaven
puts an end to all symbols:
A thing wonderful!
The Lord becomes our food:
poor, a servant, and humble.

We beseech Thee,
Godhead One in Three
That Thou wilt visit us,
as we worship Thee,
lead us through Thy ways,
We who wish to reach the light
in which Thou dwellest.
Amen.

Exultet!

Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 23, 2019

Click here for readings

Ex15_1chariots

Today, in Mercy, we read that triumphant Exodus passage in which the Israelites pass through the walled-up waters of the Red Sea. The images and exultations abound!

Here are the obvious ones:

  • Sea (the agent of delivery/salvation)
  • Wind (the grace of change)
  • Chariots (the inevitable challenges/obstacles)
  • Night (the mystery in which faith operates)
  • Fiery Cloud/The Lord’s Glance (God’s intervention)
  • Song (humble acknowledgement and thanksgiving)

Just as the newborn is carried through the birth canal on the waters of life, so too God’s neonate people finally begin the fullness of life promised to Abraham. God accomplishes this great “delivery” by a masterful intertwining of omnipotence, human choices, and natural phenomena. The result is breathtaking!

Just as it is in our lives!

Like any great Bible story, this one invites us to find ourselves somewhere within it. At the least, we are all making a sometimes treacherous passage through life. And at particular times, maybe even now, the threats may be intense.


At times, we stand at the edge of intimidating seas, wondering how we will make it to the other side. But if we reflect on our history, we must acknowledge that – with prayer and patience – the parting wind does come. Those “chariots” at our heels become mired in our resilience, hope and trust in God. Even through the dark night of faith, the Bright Mystery speaks to us. In moments of astounding though quiet grace, we catch the glance of God. And we sing in thanksgiving.


The glory of this magnificent reading is captured in the Exultet, sung at the Easter Vigil. You may wish to pray with it today. (sung Latin version in interesting article below)

English text

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,

exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,

let the trumpet of salvation

sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,

ablaze with light from her eternal King,

let all corners of the earth be glad,

knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,

arrayed with the lightning of his glory,

let this holy building shake with joy,

filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,

standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,

invoke with me, I ask you,

the mercy of God almighty,

that he, who has been pleased to number me,

though unworthy, among the Levites,

may pour into me his light unshadowed,

that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).

(Deacon: The Lord be with you.

People: And with your spirit.)

Deacon: Lift up your hearts.

People: We lift them up to the Lord.

Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People: It is right and just. 

It is truly right and just,

with ardent love of mind and heart

and with devoted service of our voice,

to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,

and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,

and, pouring out his own dear Blood,

wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,

in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,

whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,

when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,

from slavery in Egypt

and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night

that with a pillar of fire

banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night

that even now throughout the world,

sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices

and from the gloom of sin,

leading them to grace

and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night

when Christ broke the prison-bars of death

and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,

had we not been redeemed.

O wonder of your humble care for us!

O love, O charity beyond all telling,

to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,

destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O Happy Fault

that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,

worthy alone to know the time and hour

when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night

of which it is written:

The night shall be as bright as day,

dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night

dispels wickedness, washes faults away,

restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,

drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,

accept this candle, a solemn offering,

the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,

an evening sacrifice of praise,

this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,

which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,

a fire into many flames divided,

yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,

for it is fed by melting wax,

drawn out by mother bees

to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,

when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,

and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,

we pray you that this candle,

hallowed to the honour of your name,

may persevere undimmed,

to overcome the darkness of this night.

Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,

and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.

May this flame be found still burning

by the Morning Star:

the one Morning Star who never sets,

Christ your Son,

who, coming back from death’s domain,

has shed his peaceful light on humanity,

and lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

Click here for Latin version and article

Vigil

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 20, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we keep vigil with the “Children of Israel” as they begin the great Exodus.

Ex12_42 Vigil

Even the youngest of us understands what it means to “keep vigil”. Toddlers, on Christmas Eve, keep vigil for the sound of Santa’s footsteps on the roof.

Throughout our lives, the kinds of vigils we keep deepen in meaning. Any given night holds an array of vigil-keepers:

  • A nervous student pulls an all-nighter before a big exam.
  • An anxious parent watches over a feverish child.
  • A faith-filled soul sits in pre-dawn prayer.
  • A vigilant elder prays quietly at the death bed of a long-beloved.

As families and communities, we wait together for each other’s lives.

  • Together, we expect the births of each generation’s babies.
  • We wait and hope for college acceptances and new jobs.
  • We wait for test results of all kinds.
  • We wait to listen to one another’s stories of success or disappointment.
  • We wait and prepare for the dawning of great feasts like Christmas and Easter

When we keep vigil, we live in expectation of something or someone coming to us. But there is another important aspect to every vigil.

As we wait, something is also happening within us.
In the deep quiet of our waiting, we are transformed.

Thomas Merton, monk of Gethsemane, was assigned to keep a particular type of vigil at the abbey. It was called “fire watch”, a night-long lookout to ensure that no fire erupted in the old wooden buildings as the other monks slept.  Merton writes about that watch at the end of his book The Sign of Jonas:

The fire watch is an examination of conscience in which your task as watchman suddenly appears in its true light:  a pretext devised by God to isolate you, and to search your soul with lamps and questions, in the heart of darkness.
“Fire Watch, July 4, 1952”

Today, as we pray with Israel’s Passover vigil, let us consider our own vigils – current or past. Beyond their apparent meaning, to what secret transformation might God be inviting us? What is happening deep in our soul as we watch far out to the horizon of our hope?

Music: Firewatch – Chris Remo

The Bloody Lintel

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 19, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we begin a series of texts about the Passover. These readings are so richly symbolic, not only for our personal prayer, but also for our sacramental understanding. Today’s passage addresses the acquisition and sacrifice of the Passover lamb.

plague
Scenes from Exodus. Full-page miniature, upper register: the tenth plague: the death of the first-born including Pharaoh’s son, lower register: the Israelites leaving Egypt. From the Haggadah for Passover (14thC.)

Maybe for you, as for me, this is one of first Bible stories you recall from childhood. I remember how the drama built as my teacher read this story – all these wide-eyed kindergarteners hanging on her every word.

God was done with Pharaoh who had already ignored nine – yes NINE – plagues! Now the Egyptians’ first-born would be taken from them in a heavenly massacre! It was terrible to imagine. But even worse to consider was how the innocent Israelites would be spared from the dreaded visitation!

Even as a little pre-schooler, I already knew that we sometimes get in situations that only God can get us out of.  What I have begun to learn in my maturity is that – rather than get us out of such circumstances –  God chooses to pass through these life experiences WITH us.

An image we might consider in our prayer today:  these lintels were marked in BLOOD. The visiting angel could have as easily read a charcoal mark on the door, or a colored slab of paint. But the deliverance was secured by blood.

lintel

When devastating loss, sorrow or confusion comes to our door, how does our faith deliver us to the Promise of joy and peace? 

It cannot be by some hastily obtained symbol or sign, or borrowed prayer. Our faith must already be rooted deep down in our veins, our arteries, our heart, our blood. That rooting shall not be moved, no matter the circumstance. That rooting ties us to the God of Life. That rooting allows us to discover God even in our chaos.

As we pray today, under the lintel post of our faith, let us be mindful that these magnificent passages prefigure the Holy Lamb of God, Jesus, who saves us from every kind of death. May we ask for the grace to deepen our Eucharistic and Paschal faith so that we may fully trust God in our own Passovers.

Music: Agnis Dei – Michael Hoppé

The Name

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 18, 2010

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, God reveals God’s Name to Moses.

Ex3_14

Names are so important, aren’t they? Parents among you will remember how you labored over a name for each of your unborn children. Names carry roots to our history and hopes for our future. They suggest a shape for us to grow into and a way for us to be in the world.

In relationships, the giving of our name is a gift and an invitation. It is the first step in a mutual journey that may stop at the end of the encounter, or grow and blossom for years to come.

When God gives God’s name to Moses, it is all these things plus a Promise to abide forever in relationship. God hands Moses the key to call on God’s faithfulness forever. And God risks the hope that Moses will respond with fidelity and courage.

In prayer, and in our acts of mercy over a lifetime, God ever more deeply reveals the Holy Name to us. God promises to abide through our life with us and asks us to abide with Him. God risks that we will love, reverence, and respond to that amazing invitation with each successive moment and into eternity.

Today, in prayer, let us just rest in the Names we love to call God. Let us listen to the Love with which God names us.

Music:  Names of God – Laurell Hubick