On This Father’s Day

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061718.cfm

2 Cor 5_7 faith

Today, in Mercy, our Sunday readings are filled with the hope of new life, spoken out of the abyss of suffering.

Both Ezekiel’s and Paul’s communities were suffering under exile or persecution. In both cases, a powerful state has dehumanized and enslaved them – rendering them as “other”, unworthy of fraternal compassion.

These suffering communities hunger for the encouragement of their prophets, Ezekiel and Paul.

They long for Ezekiel’s majestic cedar, born from a single, hopeful branch – a life-giving tree where all can dwell in fullness and joy. It is a precursor of heaven, where they will be free and restored to honor.

They draw hope from Paul’s example of courage, believing with him that there is a new day coming where they will be known as precious and worthy in God’s sight.

What might these readings suggest to us, as we celebrate Father’s Day today?

As we contemplate the gift of fatherhood from the perspective of our own experience, let us be mindful of fathers and families experiencing exile and persecution similar to Ezekiel’s and Paul’s communities.

migrant fathers

The Bible tells us stories of our ancestors in faith, but it is also a living Word – speaking to our current experiences. Just this week, we have heard some in power positions use the Bible to justify the infliction of pain and hardship on other human beings. God must weep at such sinful arrogance!

Let us, instead, be inspired by these Scriptures to open our hearts in mercy. Let us pray for suffering migrant communities throughout the world, forced from their homes by war, crime, and greed. Let us pray for children torn from their families by blind, inhumane policies. 

Today, let us pray especially for these refugee fathers as their hopes are crushed and their families broken. And, where we can, let us do more than pray. Let us act for justice and mercy. Let us, at the very least, not rally behind a power that subverts the preciousness of human life and family.

Music: One Day When We All Get To Heaven written by Eliza Hewitt (1851-1920).

The Tangled Web

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061618.cfm

Why do we lie? It gets us so mixed up!

I vividly remember a quotation painted along the chalkboard border of my 6th grade classroom. It is from Sir Walter Scott’s poem Marmion:

“O what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive.”

Perhaps the quote impressed me so much because I was entangled in a juvenile drama over smoking in the girls’ bathroom. Some supposed friend had reported two of us to the principal, a tiny nun who kept an unused  (but nonetheless threatening) cat-o-nine tails in her desk drawer. When confronted, what was there to do but lie?

Mt 5_37 yes_no

But, oh the complexity of it! Would my partner in crime tell the same story? Would any slight discrepancy render us convicted? Would she instead take the part of the informant? Would my smoker parents be brought in as investigators of the behavior they had inspired? Where would the whole quagmire end!

Wouldn’t it have been so much simpler to just tell the truth? So why do we lie? Why do we swear to what is not true? Why do we boast of things we cannot claim? This is the same challenge Jesus puts to his followers in our Gospel passage.

In my young case, as in many others, we lie because our behavior has fractured us from the image of who we are expected to be. We want to be respected, loved, powerful and right. These are conditions that should be earned by the integrity of our behavior. But when our actions cheat, we often lie, pretend, avoid, distract or otherwise compromise the truth.

Our world is full of this kind of lying. Our politics are crippled with it; our leaders unashamedly expert at it. Our culture is so poisoned with a lack integrity, that it seeps into our own relationships and choices almost unnoticed. Lying becomes normalized.

And the situation is not new. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is warning his disciples to avoid just such corruption.

A remedy? Here’s what Jesus says:

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the Evil One.”

It sounds simple enough. But it requires the hard work of prayerful self-examination, loving mutual correction, forgiveness (even of ourselves), and a good old “firm purpose of amendment”. (Remember that one from the Act of Contrition?)

It was a heck of a lesson I was taught in sixth grade – and, like most great lessons – it wasn’t in any textbook! I only hope I learned it somewhat well.

Music: Tell the Truth ~ Eric Clapton (Get ready to jam! Lyrics below.)

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

There you sit there, looking so cool
While the whole show is passing you by.
You better come to terms with your fellow men soon, cause
The whole world is shaking now. Can’t you feel it?
A new dawn is breaking now. Can’t you see it?

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

It doesn’t matter just who you are,
Or where you’re going or been.
Open your eyes and look into your heart.

The whole world is shaking now. Can’t you feel it?
A new dawn is breaking now. Can’t you see it?
I said see it, yeah, can’t you see it?
Can’t you see it, yeah, can’t you see it?
I can see it, yeah.

Tell the truth.
Tell me who’s been fooling you?
Tell the truth.
Who’s been fooling who?

Hear what I say, ’cause every word is true.
You know I wouldn’t tell you no lies.
Your time’s coming, gonna be soon, boy.
It doesn’t matter just who you are,
Or where you’re going or been.
Open your eyes and look into your heart.

Songwriters: Bobby Whitlock / Eric Patrick Clapton / Robert S. WhitlockTell the Truth lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Music Sales Corporation

Whispers of God

Friday, June 15, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061518.cfm

Whisper 6_15_18

Today, in Mercy, our first reading continues to follow the journey of Elijah, one wild and crazy guy – with a holy obsession for God.  Elijah is so frustrated with the hard-heartedness of the Israelites, that he whines constantly to God about it. God calls Elijah to Mt. Horeb (the same place where He first chatted with Moses) to talk the situation over. Elijah tries to find God’s voice there in a howling wind, an earthquake and a huge fire. No dice!

Elijah is so like us in this! Don’t we call on God in our troubled times, asking Him to fix things in a flash and glam? It is one of the ways we try to deal with the presence of evil in the world. We would love the security of a “Superman” God Who dramatically intervenes to reverse reality according to our comfort.

But how rare are such miracles! Instead, God abides quietly and steadily in the unfolding of our life, both in sorrow and joy. God whispers the directions to eternal life, deep under the noise of our human challenges – even evil, even death.

God’s word did come to Elijah eventually, not in the fiery demonstration he expected. It came in the gentle breeze of mercy, patience, fidelity and hope which most truly reflects the omnipotent nature of God.

Divinity is so quietly vibrant in all life. We must become equally quiet in our prayer and awareness to hear God’s whispers for us.

Music:  The Whispers of God ~ Marilyn Baker

Fired by Love

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061318.cfm

Ps 25 6_13_18

Today, in Mercy, when reading the passage about Elijah and the prophets of Baal, I was reminded of the Irving Berlin song, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”. In the reading, Elijah tests and even taunts Baal’s 450 prophets in a contest to prove whose God is true. Of course, Elijah wins in a stunning blast of fire. It is a religious exercise of “eradicate and supplant”.

The Gospel reading carries a similar theme.  Jesus’ followers seem to conclude that, because he is teaching something new, he is nullifying the customary Hebrew teachings. But Jesus says that, to the contrary, He is here to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it.

Religion, like any entrenched practice, tends over time to suffer the ill effects of institutionalization. Our rituals and devotions may become lifeless; our scriptures become rote. The power of our sacraments may be carelessly invoked and distractedly attended. A chasm grows between what we profess and what we live. We may become frozen. Sometimes, it might seem best to set the whole thing aflame and start all over again, like Elijah.

But Jesus challenges to us to go deeper than “practice”. Mere practice can easily become empty. Jesus shows us in his life what a fulfilled faith looks like. It is a faith expressed in service, sacrifice and inclusive mercy. It is a faith that, when brought to the pulpit and altar, carries the lives of those we love and serve. It is a faith, like the Psalmist’s, that listens for God’s direction deep in the experiences of life. It is a faith, not in contradiction to Law, but beyond it. It is a faith fired – transformed – by Love.

Music: Living Spirit, Holy Fire ~ David Haas


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052618.cfm

James 5_pray

Today, in Mercy, in our first reading, James tells us to pray. In the Gospel, Jesus gives us a wonderful clue about how to pray – with the innocence and openness of a child. Throughout our lives, as we deepen in our spiritual life, prayer becomes simpler. More often it is silence rather than words; presence rather than petition; quiet trust rather than expectation.

As with all relationships, the more comfortable we are with our companion, the fewer words are necessary. It is enough to sit quietly with someone we love to savor each other’s presence. So it is with prayer.  It is in this sense that St. Paul tells us to “pray always”. We are always in the loving presence of God Who delights in us and wills our good.

It is in this sense, as well, that our prayers are always answered. Our prayers are not requests or demands. They are the opening of our experience to the Presence of God so that God pervades our life with grace and holy understanding.

Because wordless music is a good analogy for prayer, please enjoy this rich orchestral rendition of Bach’s Arioso from Cantata 156, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, renowned conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra in the early and mid-1900s.

God Willing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052318.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we read from the epistle of James. There are multiple, unresolvable theories about who this “James” was, as three are mentioned in the Gospel. All I can say is that when I read this particular passage, I think that my Irish Great-Grandmother was the reincarnation of this writer, whichever one he was!

Each night, when we would innocently say, “Goodnight, Nana, see you in the morning”, Nana would ominously respond, “God willing.” I would creep up to bed convinced in my 3-year-old mind that God might be waiting to snatch me in my sleep. Upon awakening the next morning, I was glad God was “willing” to let me have another day.

Nana didn’t know the turmoil she created in me, but James’s warning is intended to disturb. Through his entire letter, he weaves the themes of humility over pride, grace over concupiscence, a holy integrity in face of evil. There is an urgency for holiness in James which can inspire us all. As our hymn says:

Our life as a dream, our time as a stream

Glide swiftly away,

And the fugitive moment refuses to stay.

Now is the time to “do the right thing.” (James 4: 17)

Music: Come, Let Us Anew ~ written by Charles Wesley in the 1700s. Sung here by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ( The slide show appears to have been prepared by a Christian Jew)

What About the Other Guy?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051918.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we walk with the Risen Jesus and his dearest disciples along the seashore.  Jesus has just cooked breakfast for the fellas.  He then tells Peter that he is to take Jesus’ place as “shepherd of the lambs and sheep”. Jesus tells Peter that he is to follow in the way of Jesus.  That’s a pretty profound command! Peter knows full well what happened to Jesus.

And dear, earthy, impulsive Peter, turns aside distractedly and notices John.  Peter says, “What about him?” You can almost see Jesus take hold of Peter’s face, turn his eyes directly into Jesus’ own eyes and say, ”Pay attention.  I’m talking to YOU – not him.”

We can love Peter because we’ve all been like him numerous times in our lives.  God is calling, or giving us a message and we distract ourselves from its power by worrying about things that are unimportant or none of our business. We start asking a million questions when there is only one answer: respond with trust.

Jesus’ final words to Peter are ones we might ponder: ”You follow me.”  The implication is that, if we do, then God will take care of the other guy – and everything else.

John 21_21

Music: Follow Me  by Casting Crowns

In this song, you will hear echoes of Jesus’ call to many people throughout the Gospel: the first disciples, the woman taken in adultery, the good thief and, perhaps, even to us.

Do You Love Me?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Readings http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus extracts a pledge from Peter with the question, “Do you love me?” This is a brave question on Jesus’ part. What if Peter’s answer is half-hearted?  But the full-spirited Peter does not disappoint. “Of course, I love You,” he avows. But then, Jesus ups the ante with some “prove it” clauses: “Feed my lambs and my sheep.”

This passage always reminds me of a wonderful scene from Fiddler on the Roof.


What about us? Do we really love Jesus? Pope Gregory the Great says this:

The proof of love is in the works.
Where love exists, it works great things.
But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.

Music: If You Love Me ~ Cyprian Consiglio, OSB

We Are God’s Gifts

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, in John 17, we are folded into the prayer of Jesus as He talks to the Father about us. We are the humble, silent listeners to a Divine Conversation. Jesus prays that we may be part of His unity with the Father. He calls us His gifts and asks to keep us with Him in eternal life. He asks to live within us through the gift of the Father’s love. These are awesome prayers that may be too much for us to comprehend.

But picture this: a loving parent embracing a frightened or injured child. The parent looks up to heaven, asking God to keep this child safe; to never let them be lost; to fill them with love, joy and life. The praying parent promises to always protect and guide their cherished child like a precious gift and to hold them securely in times of trouble.

This is the way Jesus prays for us. Awesome, indeed!


Music: He Will Hold Me Fast ~ Keith and Kristyn Getty

Not A Piece of Cake

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050518.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we listen first to the great Apostle Paul’s experience of trying to do the work of God as He sails through the Mediterranean world. He is frustrated in trying to take the Word into Asia. Even the Holy Spirit holds him back. In the Gospel, Jesus tells it straight: You will be persecuted just like I was. This living the Gospel thing is not a piece of cake! That is why it is so important that we help, rather than block one another. Most people are trying to do the best they can. If they make a mistake, let’s give them a helping hand rather than a condemning tongue. It’s easy to bury somebody, but it takes a real Christian to give them new life. (PS: Got a pick for the Kentucky Derby? I’m going for “My Boy Jack”.)