Psalm 145: To Life!

Saturday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, September 5, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145, the only chapter of this Book which is specifically identified as a “psalm”, a hymn of praise.

I think of “praise” as gratitude steeped in awe, rising from our hearts when we are overwhelmed by God’s mercy, love, generosity or power.

Praise is a connection between God and us – so powerful that it is beyond words. It flows from us in song, dance, tears, and that profound silence which enfolds us in the Holy.


My whole family is filled with praise this week because, yesterday, we welcomed our second baby this week, precious Nathaniel.

Nathaniel joins his cousin Claire, born on Monday, both shining the beautiful Face of God on our family and the world! (And they join their treasured brother/cousins Robert and Ollie who must, of course, be mentioned in our praise🤗)


As we pray today, may each of us relish the sacred icons of Divine Life that God has given us. Sometimes these signs come in very surprising costumes. May we recognize them with the eyes of faith.


Poetry: Opening Heart – an interpretation of Psalm 145 by Christine Robinson

I exalt you, Holy One, and open my heart to you
by remembering your great love.
Your expansiveness made this beautiful world
in a universe too marvelous to understand.

Your desire created life, and you nurtured
that life with your spirit.
You cherish us all—and your prayer
in us is for our own flourishing.

You are gracious to us
slow to anger and full of kindness
You touch us with your love—speak to us
with your still, small voice, hold us when we fall.

You lift up those who are oppressed
by systems and circumstances.
You open your hand
and satisfy us.

You ask us to call on you—
and even when you seem far away, our
longings call us back to you.

Music: Forever Young – Joan Baez

Psalm 102: For the Generations

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest

August 4, 2020

The USCCB website (that you click for daily readings) has been beautifully updated. Make sure you take a look!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 102. Today’s chosen verses proclaim the psalmist’s confidence that the Covenant Promise will endure through the generations.


The psalm really rings a bell for me today. We are expecting two new babies in my family within the next month. The excitement and joy are building throughout the family branches, scattered over several states and hundreds of miles.

Due to Covid-19, I probably won’t be with these new “grands” for a long time. That’s why I am so grateful for FaceTime to help me feel a real part of their lives.


Psalm 102 is David’s FaceTime.
Through it, he looks into a future
physically distant from him.
He has confidence that that future
is already blessed by God
through the faith which it inherits.


Thinking about this, I realize that I am someone’s “future” – my parents, grandparents and all the long line of ancestors before them. They thought about me, hoped in me, prayed for me the way I am praying for these coming babies.

Those Elders passed on to me a strong faith, hard-earned on the soils of Ireland, hard-carried over immigrant waters, hard-kept in a highly secularized culture. Like David, they wanted God’s faithfulness to be remembered by all who came after them:

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let God’s future creatures praise the LORD …


When my Aunt Mary died last October, I became the oldest living member of our family. I take that role seriously. I pray for our entire family, by blood and law, every day.

Each day, I pick one who gets special prayers for blessing on his or her life. Sometimes I know they need it for a certain reason. Sometimes, they have no idea I am praying for them – or perhaps, if they are distant relatives, that I even know their names.


As we pray Psalm 119 today, let’s consider our place in the generations of faith, and our responsibility to give and receive the riches of that faith to one another.

The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD  and God’s praise
may be ever declared;
When the peoples gather together
and the families, to serve the LORD.


Poetry: Isaac’s Blessing by Janet Eigner whose adult daughter died young, leaving the freckled boy in this poem:

When Isaac, a small, freckled boy 
approaching seven, visits us for Family Camp, 
playing pirate with his rubber sword,

sometimes he slumps in grief, 
trudging along, his sacrifice and small violin 
in hand, his palm over his chest,

saying, Mother is here 
in my heart. Before he leaves for home, 
we ask if he’d like a Jewish blessing.

Our grandson’s handsome face ignites; 
he chirps a rousing, yes, for a long life. 
We unfold the prayer shawl,

its Hebrew letters silvering the spring light, 
hold the white tallis above his head, 
recite the blessing in its ancient language

and then the English, adding, for a long life. 
Isaac complains, the tallis didn’t 
touch his head, so he didn’t feel the blessing.

We lower its silken ceiling 
to graze his dark hair, 
repeat the prayer.

Music: As for Me and My House – a prayer for our families for the generations 

Psalm 145: Through the Generations

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we again pray with Psalm 145 – different verses. The great tenderness in today’s other readings is reflected in the choice of these particular psalm lines.

Our first reading is God’s tender love song to Israel spoken through the prophet Hosea. Our Gospel recounts several acts of tenderness as Jesus ministers to the suffering people he meets.


Psalm 145 reminds us that if we look back over our lives, and even farther back over our ancestors’ lives, we too will discover God’s continual love and mercy to us.

Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.


Many ancestral blessings have been passed on to us – in skills, attitudes, physical strengths – but most importantly, in faith. We probably believe because someone before us taught us how.

There is no greater gift we can give to our children, and to all our beloveds, than to encourage their faith. Let’s take that to heart today as we pray. And let’s thank God for our own story and heritage of faith we have been given.


Poetry: Faith is the Pierless Bridge by Emily Dickinson, who appeared as more a dismissive critic of faith than a proponent. Yet, like many of us who bother to talk about a particular topic, she proved it to be more important to her than she professed.

Faith — is the Pierless Bridge
Supporting what We see
Unto the Scene that We do not —
Too slender for the eye
It bears the Soul as bold
As it were rocked in Steel
With Arms of Steel at either side —
It joins — behind the Veil
To what, could We presume
The Bridge would cease to be
To Our far, vacillating Feet
A first Necessity.

Music: In Every Age – Janèt Sullivan Whitaker

Our Beloved Communities

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, priest

May 26, 2020

Click here for readings

given me

Today, in Mercy, Paul gives the first part of his Ephesian farewell address which he will complete in tomorrow’s reading.

Paul really loved the Ephesian community. He lived with them for three years and poured his heart and soul into teaching them. He doesn’t say it outright, but like all ministers, he must have learned from them as well – from their faith, compassion, and openness to his teaching.

Now Paul begins the last journey back to Jerusalem, a passage which will mirror Christ’s own journey to that sacred city. But before he departs, Paul tells the Ephesians how much he loves and expects from them. And he blesses them.

In tomorrow’s continuation, Paul will say:

And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.

In our Gospel today, as Jesus commences his own final journey, he blesses his listeners as well:

Father, I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours


Today as we pray, whether we are at the beginning or late parts of our journey, we might take time to pray for the ones God “has given” us in our lives. Like Paul who shared life with the Ephesians, and like Jesus and his beloved disciples, God has given us communities to love and form us on our journey.

These extraordinary pandemic days have reminded us all of what’s most cherished in our lives. It’s such a perfect time to show our own beloved communities how much they mean to us. It doesn’t have to be a long address or a profound speech. My young nephew and his dear wife did it yesterday with a simple and delightfully surprising phone call just before they journeyed on a small vacation.

Just little phrases between us, passed over a thousand mile telephone signal, carried a much bigger message of love and gratitude:

  • just wanted to check on you
  • are you feeling well
  • do you have what you need
  • enjoy your time away
  • travel safely
  • thanks for thinking of me
  • I love you
  • God bless you

Today, as we read the orations of Jesus and Paul, we may not see the same exact phrases, but the message is the same. Jesus and Paul knew it was important to their communities to put that loving message into words. It’s important for our communities too.

familyThanks Jimmy and Kristin. Thank you all my dear family and friends. I am so blessed to have these kinds of conversations with all of you. I don’t ever want to take that for granted.

Like Paul,
I commend each one of you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.

On this, and all your life journeys, travel safely and know you are deeply loved.

Music: The Lord Bless You and Keep You – John Rutter

Holy Family – 2019

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Click here for readings

December 29,2019

(I published this reflection on last year’s feast. It seemed to touch people deeply, so I thought it bore another look. God bless you all, dear readers, and God bless your families here and in heaven.)


Holy-Family

Today, in Mercy, our prayer is turned to the Holy Family, that unique configuration of love which nurtured the developing life of Jesus. Can you imagine how tenderly the Father shaped this triad, this nesting place of love for God’s own Word?

We look to the Holy Family so that we might be strengthened in the virtues that will help us build our own families: sacrificial love, reverence, courage, unfailing support, committed presence, shared faith, gentle honesty, unconditional acceptance.

“Family” is the primordial place where we learn who we are. The lessons it teaches us about ourselves – for better or worse — remain with us forever. 

Not everyone is blessed by their family. Family can ground us in confidence or undermine us with self-doubt. It can free us from fear or cripple us with reservation. It can release either possibility or perpetual hesitation within us.

Some families are so dysfunctional that we spend the rest of our lives trying to recover from them. But some, like the Holy Family, allow God’s dream to be nurtured in us and to spread to new families, both of blood and spirit.

The challenge today is to thank God for whatever type of family bore us. Lessons can be learned from both lights and shadows. Let us spend time this morning looking  at our own families with love, gratitude, forgiveness, understanding. Where there are wounds to be healed, let us face them. Where there are belated thanks to be offered, let us give them. Where there are negligence and oversights to confess, let us use them as bridges to a new devotion.

For some, it may seem too late to heal or bless our family. Time may have swallowed some of our possibilities. But it is never too late to deepen relationships through prayer, both for and to our ancestors.

May this feast strengthen us for the families who need us today.

Music: God Bless My Family ~ Anne Hampton Calloway (Lyrics below)

GOD BLESS MY FAMILY
Words and music – By Ann Hampton Callaway
1. It’s Christmas time
Outside the snow is falling
Like a million stars
Like a million dreams
All dressed up in white
I’m writing Christmas cards
A joy that’s tinged with sadness
As I think of friends
Some are here and some are gone
But our love goes on and on
Like the snow tonight
CHORUS
And oh, what a family
My life has given me
From the corners of the earth
To the reaches of the sky
We touch eternally
And though my heart aches ev’ry day
This Christmas I will find a way
To let each face I’ve ever loved
Shine out in me
God bless my family
2. As years go by
The carols we sang as children
Gather memories
What was just a song
Now feels like a pray’r
Welcoming us home
To fathers, mothers
Sisters, brothers ev’rywhere
Some we’ve lost and some we’ve found
As love circles us around
In the songs we share
CHORUS
So fly, angels of my heart
We’ll never be apart
Tonight I say a pray’r
For loved ones ev’rywhere
CHORUS/CODA
You’re a part of my family
That life has given me
From the corners of the earth
To the reaches of the sky
We touch eternally
And though my heart aches ev’ryday
This Christmas I will find a way
To let each face I’ve ever loved
Shine out in me
God bless my family
You’ll always live in me
God bless my family

(Thanks)Giving

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

November 27, 2019

Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, in our reading from Daniel, King Belshazzar sees “the handwriting on the wall”. We all know how that feels! It’s a feeling that tells us to pay attention to our lives.

As Thanksgiving comes closer, I hope this reflection will help us all pay attention to what is most precious in our lives, and to give thanks.


TY families

Thanksgiving is a most heart-warming time. While culture seems to have eroded Christmas into a holiday of “presents”, Thanksgiving remains a time of “presence” – a day simply to gather family and friends in fellowship and love.  It is a day full of remembering, ritual, hope and encouragement.  It is a time when we are brought back to our true selves by the people who know us best and share our memories.

No matter how many years pass, on Thanksgiving morning we can remember our mother’s kitchen – the early morning bustle of chopping, peeling and mixing; the aroma of roasting turkey rising steadily through the day. For some, the memory is of the gathering of cousins for a football game, or the community of aunts for the pie-baking marathon. Always, it is a memory of togetherness and comfortable acceptance.

For me, a precious memory rests with the turkey heart. Both Dad and I loved this rare treat. But, alas, the turkey has only one heart! So we created a ritual of “alternative years” where I got the heart one year, Dad the next. Somehow, every year, Dad said he had had it last year – until I grew old enough to recognize his generous ploy. Then, as the years passed, I grew up. I realized it was my turn – and my joy – to always say that I “had the heart last year, Dad.”

Often, for this feast, we emphasize the aspect of “thanks”, because we are so blessed and have so much to be grateful for. But perhaps a more powerful part of the celebration is “giving”. This blessed day is a time to renew ourselves in giving – and forgiving.  Our giving may be expressed in many forms:

  • I love you
  • I thank you
  • I am proud of you
  • I will help you
  • I understand, or perhaps just something like this:

I had the heart last year.

Such words bless us, dear family and friends, beyond the years. May you and your loved ones hear them from one another on this Thanksgiving Day.

Music: Thanksgiving Song – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Let the Light In

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 9, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we have the first of a few readings from the Book of Deuteronomy. In today’s passage, Moses gives the first of three speeches to the community. These speeches are a sort of manifesto a family patriarch might give before he dies, framing the family history and code to direct coming generations.

Ps77 crack


Dad

 

The reading falls on a most appropriate day for me.
Today would be my Dad’s 104th birthday.
The occasion invites me to recount all the blessings
given to him, me, and our family.

 


When we, as people of faith, step back from our lives in reverence, we realize God’s immense goodness to us. Moses encourages his people to do just such stepping back:

Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?

We might ask ourselves the same thing. 

  • How has God been with me and my family through our lifetimes, and through the generations that preceded us?
  • In both our lights and darknesses, how has God continually called us to relationship?
  • How have we revealed God’s voice to one another by our love, honesty, support, patient accompaniment, generous correction and forgiveness?
  • How have these gifts to one another allowed us to become gifts to the larger world?
  • What am I passing on to the next generation of the fidelity and sacrifice which has blessed me?

When I think of my Dad, there are so many symbols that show how he answered those questions with his life. They aren’t big manifestos like those of Moses. Instead: 

  • a frayed prayer book that I watched him finger daily
  • an old receipt for my bicycle bought in incremental payments he could barely afford
  • his sincere distress one Assumption Day when he had forgotten to go to Mass
  • his steadfast attempt to work even when illness weakened him and his humble trust in God when that weakness appeared to triumph
  • a treasured conversation about his hope for heaven
  • the appreciation now, in my maturity, of his thousand quiet acts of faith and love

All of us might spend some time in gratitude for the legacy of faith and love we have received. No family is perfect, and the grace may come to us in clarity or in disguise. But it comes. 

There are fractures and tears in every family. There were some even in Moses’ “family” and Moses himself! And we cannot magically heal them all. But God asks us to remember that God abides with us even in any fragmentation. Just as the poet Leonard Cohen sings:

There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

Click here to listen to Cohen’s moving song

If what we remember in our family history are weaknesses, how have they made us stronger? If what we remember are strengths, how have they made us more generous? In either case, how have we heard God’s voice in our story? How have we let the Light in?

As Moses tells his people:

This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart,
that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,

and that there is no other.

Music: As for Me and My House – Promise Keepers

Honor Those Who Bore You Life

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary

July 26, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Exodus reading coincides perfectly with today’s Memorial Feast for Anne and Joachim, grandparents of Jesus.

Exodus20_5

In the passage, we have one of many Old Testament formulations of the Ten Commandments. We learned these codes as children, and perhaps have always interpreted them as laws which, when broken, marked us as sinners.

While this is one approach, a more mature and life-giving one is offered by the Biblical scholar Terence E. Fretheim:

The focus (of these directives) is on
protecting the health of the community,

to which end the individual plays such an important role.
Exodus: Interpretation: A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching

The command to honor one’s father and mother clearly demonstrates this approach. It is a command not only for children to be docile and obedient. Rather it denotes a life-long responsibility to care for parents and other  nurturers of our lives. The command also suggests the responsibility of these nurturers to live honorably so that their children may respond to their example with equal honor.

Today is a day to pray for our own families and for all families, for the young and the elderly, and for those walking the tenuous bridge in between.  It is a day to assess how well we carry our responsibilities to honor, obey, bless and foster life for one another.

It is a day to be deeply grateful for the love of family which we are blessed to experience; a day to pray for healing for those not equally blessed. Let us pray for families distressed by the necessity to migrate, and further burdened by nations’ failures to keep the commandment of neighborly love.

Like Mary, may we embrace the elders in our lives who love and need us, be these parents, mentors, community members, or neighbors. Scripture promises us that, in doing so, we shall have “mercy bestowed on us down to the thousandth generation.”

Music: Love Remains – Hillary Scott

That Family Reunion!

Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 12, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we read about a family reunion of biblical proportions!  After many years, Joseph – long-thought dead- is reunited with his grieving father, deceitful half-siblings, and beloved younger brother. Wow!

For better or worse, “Family” is a powerful force in every one of our lives. It both nurtures and siphons us; both exalts and critiques us; frees us and binds us.

Genesis46_30 family reunion

In many ways, family makes us who we are – by blood and genes – but more importantly by the hope and promise it places in us.  This was the case with Joseph, the great hope of his father Jacob and the misunderstood threat to his jealous brothers.

Today’s reading shows us a family who has made it through their devastating conflicts, not by their own effort, but by the abiding promise of God.

So many fractured families wish they could tell the same story of redeeming wholeness! What were the openings in this family’s brokenness that allowed God to enter and heal?

As so often in our human story, God comes dressed in ordinary clothes.  God wears the garments of our grief, repentance, forgiveness, hope and longing. He is disguised in our memories, cherished or painful. He peeks through our unresolved regrets, and dances in our acts of kindness, patience, and understanding.

We reach through to touch this God of Hope by our smallest mercy, our offered reconciling word, our tendered apology for a slight grown bigger with the years. And sometimes, we must simply let go of that which is unreconcilable, of those human hurts that can’t be healed because of time’s passage or unreachable hearts.

We let this God of Promise live in our families by honestly loving one another, supporting one another, thanking one another, and anticipating one another’s needs.

Being a strong family takes courage and sacrifice – something Joseph’s brothers were lucky to learn, however late. Let us pray in hope and thanksgiving for our own families – and for all families —  that God may give us that kind of self-sacrificing courage. Let us pray especially for young families, in today’s very inhospitable world, that they may grow strong in God’s and each other’s love.

Music: Family Prayer Song – The Promise Keepers

They Are ALL Our Own

This was a day of blessed, evident love, spiritual pleading and mutual anxiety for my dear family.  God was so good to us in blessing our dear Oliver with a successful open heart surgery. Thank you all for your prayers and generous thoughts.

Reflecting on all of this later in the day, this prayer poem came to me.

I share it for those who might wish to consider it in their own prayer


Oh, how we love our children,
Daughters, sons,
Grans, great-grands and God’s.
They bring us life, renewed,
And joy unparalleled.

They promise us that God
Is still about the work
Of hopeful Creation.

These dear children,
They are a promise,
A hope, a joy, a gift
A treasure that reminds us
Of God’s innocent and
Loving eyes.

How we must reverence them,
Our own, and those far
From our own, because,
Oh, my dear sisters, brothers,
They are all our own.

181228-bixby-border-tease_b4yvg2
Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo died in federal custody after they fled to the US from Guatemala.

A Mother’s Prayer


A Prayer for My Son