Fount of Love and Mercy

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus 

Friday, June 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart, a day of deep devotion and gratitude for God’s lavish mercy to us.

All of our readings today suggest the image of a good shepherd caring for his sheep. This metaphor, perhaps more meaningful for the agrarian society in which these scriptures were written, still retains for us the imagery of tenderness, attentive responsibility, strength, protection, and vigilant presence.

Ez34_15 shepherd

Our first reading comes from Ezekiel whose ministry occurred in Babylon during the second captivity there. God calls Ezekiel to prophesy against Israel’s leaders who have forgotten their defenseless sheep, who have fed themselves instead of their flock. Today’s particular verses have God speaking, taking over the shepherding duties, because the human “shepherds” (kings and priests) have so badly failed their sheep. 

The Lord makes clear who will be the beneficiaries of his tenderness:

The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

As I prayed with this passage, I was struck by the awareness of how some things never change. The parallels to our Church and society are painfully evident. Immorally self-indulgent “pastors” and self-serving, indifferent leaders still plague their “flocks”. The poor and weak are still abandoned by those they had depended on.

Our reading from Romans and Matthew raise before us the model of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who both renders us infinite compassion, and teaches us how to dispense it as his disciples. We are invited to become one with the sacred, compassionate Heart of Jesus, being healed ourselves to become healers.

Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart.

Our world aches for this healing. Let us pray together today for God to inspire and energize us to be Mercy for our world.

Music: Sweet Heart of Jesus – sung by the Irish soprano Maureen Hegarty

(I know this hymn is tinged with a bit of the old, sentimental spirituality. Still, I have loved it from my long-ago youth and it touches me deeply. I hope it will touch you as well.❤️ Lyrics below.)

Sweet Heart of Jesus!
Fount of love and mercy,
Today we come,
thy blessings to implore;
Oh touch our hearts, so
cold and so ungrateful,
And make them Lord,
Thine own for evermore.

Sweet Heart of Jesus!
We implore
Oh, make us love Thee
more and more.

Sweet Heart of Jesus!
Make us know and love thee.
Unfold to us
the treasures of thy grace.
That so our hearts, from
things of earth uplifted,
May long alone
to gaze upon Thy face.

Law or Love?

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings bring to mind the role of religion in our spiritual life.

take up mat 2

The dictionary defines religion as a particular system of faith and worship. The origin of the word “religion” is from the Latin “religare”: to bind.

In the magnificent passage from Ezekiel, we are given a metaphorical description of grace flowing from the Temple, the locus of faith for Israel. Ezekiel is led by a radiant vision to this source of abundant life symbolized by water. Slowly and incrementally, this abundance deepens for Ezekiel, until he is swimming in its grace. 

Ezekiel’s vision demonstrates what happens in us when religion, ritual and law enhance grace. The beauty, power and architectural symmetry of the Temple symbolize the great benefits of religious practice.

Our Gospel, on the other hand, shows us a Pharisaical religion built on empty practice and bereft of heart. When Jesus cures on the Sabbath, he moves beyond these skeletal boundaries to mercy, which is the reason for all religious practices.

take up mat
Jesus Cures on the Sabbath

Jesus shows us that when religion – and its ensuing ritual and law – bind grace, it needs to be set aside. His whole life was predicated on a faith which generated mercy, not sacrifice. The alleviation of suffering and need always supersede observance – even on the Sabbath.

When we see any so-called faith or religion which places law over mercy, we see an empty temple where the river of grace has run dry. Our culture is filled with fake holiness that measures, condemns and ostracizes others. We see religion distorted into political bullying. We see it redefined as an excuse for excessive wealth. We even see it used as legitimization for nationalism, violence, racism, and war.

Today’s readings tell us to be on guard. The forces which twist religion are very subtle and pervasive in our culture. They dress themselves in impressive words and practices, just like the Pharisees did, but their costumes hide an ugly hate and fear.

To the fearful and weak, these forces preach power – but it is a power over not for others.

Jesus has shown us what faithful practice looks like: mercy and love. It is vulnerable, courageous, inclusive, and humble. It sees the suffering of others and responds. It waters the Temple of our hearts to make them verdant with hope, joy and generosity.

Music: Come to the Water – John Foley, SJ and Matt Maher

Receive the Word

Friday, August 17, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings focus on the covenant between God and God’s People. 

1 Thess2 Word

Ezekiel recounts the infidelity of Israel which is met with the infinite fidelity of God. In our Gospel, Jesus parries with the Pharisees as they test him with questions about fidelity in marriage. Both readings reference “the word” which comes to us carrying truth and revelation. Today’s Alleluia Verse directs us to receive the Word of God with openness.

How will the Word of God come to us today? Will it be a single message, mysteriously hidden somewhere in the voluminous activities and distractions of the day?

No, instead it will be hidden in plain sight in ALL those activities and distractions. The Word of God is the abiding presence of Love which sustains our lives at every moment. It is the language that only a faithful heart can hear, a language throbbing in all Creation. We learn this language by silence, prayer and loving service of others.

May we be open to receive the Word of God as it comes to us, clothed in the lights and shadows of this day.

Music: Your Word ~ Hillsong Worship

The Scripture of Our Lives

Monday, August 13, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081318.cfm

Ez1 boing

Today, in Mercy,  in our first reading, Ezekiel signals that something really important has happened. He does this by means of a prophetic word formula – repeated and patterned phrases found throughout the Bible. 

One pattern that we’re accustomed to is, “Amen, Amen, I say to you..” Jesus used it to say, “Listen up! Important info to follow!”

Another pattern is the specific setting of time and place to mark an event as pivotal. One such beloved phrase: “It came to pass in those days, that Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

Ezekiel’s formulaic phrase is a marker in his spiritual life: 

On the fifth day of the fourth month of the fifth year,
that is, of King Jehoiachin’s exile,
The word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel…

If we look back over our own lives, we will remember moments when God clearly entered our experience. We may not have realized it until long after. We may be surprised to remember a point in time as the opportunity God took to embrace us. But through reflective prayer, we begin to see that God is with us, even in our darkest moments, bringing the revelation of God’s infinite Love and Mercy.

What if we filled in the blanks in Ezekiel’s formula with our own life markers? What if we thanked God for each of them, dark or light – asking for the grace to understand their revelation?

Each of our lives is its own scripture, telling the story of God’s love and presence. Spend time with yours today.

Music: God of All My Days ~ Casting Crowns