Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

May 28, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 149 exhorting us to praise God out loud. And we can do that. We’ve all been part of that kind of glorious praise with the help of our wonderful choirs, musicians, and praise dancers.


However, the psalm today is set between two intriguing readings that may cause us to think more deeply about our “praise”.

Sirach offers a cryptic description of who might be remembered as a godly person, ultimately saying it is the one whose virtues are unforgettable.

So the practice of virtue is presented as the most important act of praise.

Yet these also were godly persons
    whose virtues have not been forgotten;
Their wealth remains in their families,
    their heritage with their descendants;

Sirach 14: 10-11

In our Gospel, we meet what at first might appear as a moody, frustrated Jesus. Hungry one morning, he curses a figless fig tree. We might be inclined to focus on the poor zapped tree, but that would be to miss the point. 

The leafy yet fruitless tree is a symbol of a wordy “faith” without accompanying works. It describes people who, like the Pharisees in the Temple, shout praise without practicing charity and mercy.


Together, the readings help us see true praise in a clear light – as beautiful waving leaves on a tree full of sweet, loving fruitful actions.


Poetry: Judgement Day – R.S. Thomas

Yes, that’s how I was,
I know that face,
That bony figure
Without grace
Of flesh or limb;
In health happy,
Careless of the claim
Of the world’s sick
Or the world’s poor;
In pain craven –
Lord, breathe once more
On that sad mirror,
Let me be lost
In mist for ever
Rather than own
Such bleak reflections,
Let me go back
On my two knees
Slowly to undo
The knot of life
That was tied there.

Music: Good Fruit – Katy Bowser 

Have fun with this, my friends! 🤗

Psalm 145: Praise Under the Figs

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

August 24, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this Feast of St. Bartholomew, we pray with Psalm 145. And what a perfect choice!

Your friends make known, O Lord, 
the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.

As our Gospel today indicates, many believe that Bartholomew is the same person as Nathaniel – in fact Nathaniel bar Talmai, (Talmai meaning “farmer”, or “son of the furrows”).

Praying with Psalm 145, I picture Nathaniel leaning back into his ancient fig tree, his fingers burrowing into the fertile earth around him. What might have been his deep thoughts as he dissolved into the fig tree’s generous shade?

Knowing Psalm 145 by heart, perhaps Nathaniel prayed it in his own very personal words:

Make me your loyal friend, O Lord.
I see your glory in all Creation.
Let me help others see that glory,
see themselves as a precious part of You.

Maybe Nathaniel had retreated to that tree because the noise around him didn’t hold an answer to his longing. He needed silence to remember that God will always find a way to bring our holy desires to fruition – just like the nearly sweet, unripe figs dancing just over Nathaniel’s pondering head:

The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.

Psalm 145:17

Nathaniel found his truth, his answer that day. It walked right up to him in the form of his buddy Philip:

Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

John 1:45

Nathaniel, perhaps his head and belly still full of figs, takes a little while to get the full picture. But when he does, he gets it completely, unreservedly, and forever:

Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel….

John1:49

You are the One we pray for in our psalms. 
You are the One we have waited for.


The beautiful thing for Nathaniel is that Jesus was waiting for him too.

Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.

John 1:48

We’re all under some kind of shadow at times, longing to hear the invitation of God. The story of Nathaniel assures us that the call will come through our hopeful prayer and deep desire for God’s glory.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.


Poetry:  Joy and Peace in Believing by William Cowper, an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside.

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing on His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God's salvation,
And find it ever new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
E'en let the unknown to-morrow
Bring with it what it may!

It can bring with it nothing,
But He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing,
Will clothe His people too;
Beneath the spreading heavens
No creature but is fed;
And He who feeds the ravens
Will give His children bread.
Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit shall bear,

Though all the field should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there:
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For, while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

Music: Yet Will I Praise Thee – Kent Henry

Zap Time?

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 26, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel takes on some difficult themes.

lightening

Jesus gives a parable which, at first, appears to say, “Get your act together fast, or God might zap you.” From Jesus’s words, we can assume that some public disasters have recently occurred. The gathered crowd are unnerved by these events.

Jesus uses that nervousness to talk about repentance. He tells the people that tragedy can make us wake up to the fact that life is fragile and fleeting. That awareness should make us want to use our time on earth well, to give glory to God.

The repentance Jesus encourages is not just a contrition, or turning from sin. It is an opening of the soul’s eyes to see our lives and circumstances as God sees them.

Is God going to zap us if we don’t have that kind of repentance? No.

With the parable of the fruitless fig tree, Jesus assures us that God is with us, giving us every grace and opportunity to bear spiritual fruit. God is patient and nurturing. But, in every human life, there is a limit to the time we have to respond.

Music: Calm the Soul – Poor Clares Galway

How Do You Know Me?

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Apostle Bartholomew, thought by some to be the same man as our Gospel’s Nathaniel. This Nathaniel has been my prayer companion since 1964 when I received his name at my Religious Reception.

Tissot
Nathaniel Under the Fig Tree by James Tissot (1836-1902)

At first we were surface friends. I imagined what he might have been doing under the fig tree. I was a little shocked at his easy banter with Jesus. I thought about his skepticism, trying to discern how it could eventually yield his sanctity. I wondered if he ever achieved that vision of “angels of God ascending and descending ...”

But as the years passed, and I prayed beside him more often, we came to understand each other better. Nathaniel began to teach me about Jesus and, with that, Jesus began to teach me through Nathaniel.

It was all about being honest with God and opening my perspective to God’s vision.

You see, we are all under various “fig trees” at points in our lives, those small but confining perimeters of shadow which veil God. Sometimes the shadow consists of an event or experience that makes us says, “How can God possibly be in this?” Sometimes the shadow comes from all the obstacles we have placed in Light’s way. Sometimes it is simply the waning energy required by faith’s long journey.

Whatever its source, the shadow captures us in its incarcerating grasp, isolating us from the outrageous hope and possibility of God awaiting us in every circumstance.

Then a voice – our particular “Philip” – suggests we just step away from the umbra.  A person, a book, a memory, a prayerful insight – A GRACE – invites us to “Come and see” more deeply, to let go of all that we thought secured us, to yield to hope, trust, and an incredible new vision.

Jn1_51 NathanielJPG

It is an irreversible moment of unconditional love. It is the moment we make our own proclamation, not unlike Nathaniel’s:

Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.

Nathaniel’s guileless, faith-filled surrender to Jesus opens the way for his transformation. Jesus tells him, “You will see greater things…”. In other words,

God is so much bigger than you think at this moment.
Open your heart and soul to that Infinity!
Your life in Christ is all about going deeper,

(as the Angel invites us in our first reading from Revelation).

We don’t hear much about Nathaniel after that day. Like many of the other Apostles, he lived out his ministry beyond written records. But we can trust that this man “without duplicity” deepened in his honest dialogue with the God he met and embraced on that amazing Judean afternoon.

Music: Touch of Heaven- Hillsong Worship

Oh, Fig!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings are not reassuring. They basically tell us that it’s a tough world out there, and it might get us – body and/or soul. They tell us to straighten up and live right before it’s too late!

Lk 13_7 fig tree

I don’t really like the “in your face” readings, but they certainly are clear and effective. Just picture that poor fig tree, trying like crazy – for three years – to bear fruit! I know that I’ve been trying my whole life to overcomes some of my fruitlessness. I certainly hope God continues to be patient with me!

Nevertheless, the message of today’s Gospel is clear. Don’t take that patience for granted.Repent of any small godlessness you’re clinging to.

  • Forgive the recent and long ago hurts you’ve locked up inside.
  • Make amends for any meannesses you can remember.
  • “Show and Tell” your love to the people who love you.
  • Show and Tell your blessing to the people who don’t.
  • Be Mercy every time you get a chance.

Paul says it like this: Live the truth in love.

Let’s do it while we can.

Music: Amazing Grace ~ sung by Sean Clive