Feast of Saint Lawrence

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 112, particularly chosen for the Feast of St. Lawrence

Blessed the one who fears the LORD,
    who greatly delights in God’s commands.
That one’s posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
    the upright generation shall be blessed.
Well for the one who is gracious and lends,
    who conducts all affairs with justice;
That person shall never be moved;
    the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.

After the martyrdom of Pope Sixtus II in 258 AD, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. St. Ambrose is the earliest source for the narrative that Lawrence asked for three days to gather the wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the indigent as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to deliver the treasures of the Church he presented the indigent, the crippled, the blind, and the suffering, and declared that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.” This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom.

Wikipedia

There are many lessons for us in the life of St. Lawrence. The most striking for me is his gift for seeing the most vulnerable people as the Church’s greatest treasures.

Praying Psalm 112 today, we might ask God to deepen that gift of sublime generosity which imitates God’s own Mercy to us:

Lavishly they give to the poor, 
    Their generosity shall endure forever;
    Their name shall be exalted in glory.


Poetry: Khalil Gibran- On Giving

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. 
For what are your possessions but things you keep 
and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?

And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring 
to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand 
as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?

And what is fear of need but need itself? 
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, 
the thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have–
and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire 
makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, 
and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, 
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

Through the hands of such as these God speaks, 
and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
It is well to give when asked, 
but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;

And to the open-handed 
the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.
And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving 
may be yours and not your inheritors’.

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, 
is worthy of all else from you.

And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life 
deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, 
than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, 
nay the charity, of receiving?

And who are you that the poor should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, 
that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.

For in truth it is life that gives unto life 
while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers… and you are all receivers… 
assume no weight of gratitude, 
lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity 
who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.

Music: God Loves a Cheerful Giver – Steve Green has fun with the kids. I hope you do too!🤗

Psalm 90: A Thousand Years

Saturday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 26, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90. My daily readers may have noticed that I skipped to this psalm yesterday by mistake. Some mistakes are good ones, because this profound psalm about “a thousand years” deserves at least two days attention!😉


Today, Psalm 90 is set between two “downer” readings. The unknown author of Ecclesiastes is a phenomenal poet but definitely not a cheerleader. Telling the young man to “put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting…

The writer encourages the young man to enjoy life…

Before the silver cord is snapped
and the golden bowl is broken,
And the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the broken pulley falls into the well,
And the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.


As doleful as these images are, they rang a bell with me as I prayed. The long siege of this pandemic, its frightful toll in human life, the inexplicable resistance to controlling it, surely seem as doleful. Indeed, as Psalm 90 tells us

You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.


But what else,
what more important encouragement of hope,
does Psalm 90 offer us? 

I think this following passage is unbeatable, especially as transliterated by Stephen Mitchell in his book, A Book of Psalms.

Teach us how short our time is; 
let us know it in the depths of our souls. 
Show us that all things are transient, 
as insubstantial as dreams, 
and that after heaven and earth have vanished, 
there is only you.

Fill us in the morning with your wisdom; 
shine through us all our lives. 
Let our hearts soon grow transparent 
in the radiance of your love.

Show us how precious each day is; 
teach us to be fully here. 
And let the work of our hands prosper, 
for our little while.


Poetry: God by Khalil Gibran

In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying,
“Master, I am thy slave. 
Thy hidden will is my law
and I shall obey thee for ever more.”

But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest
passed away.

And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain
and again spoke unto God, saying,
“Creator, I am thy creation. 
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me
and to thee I owe mine all.”

And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings
passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain
and spoke unto God again, saying,
“Father, I am thy child. 
In mercy and love thou hast given me birth,
and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”

And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills
he passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying,
“My God, my aim and my fulfillment;
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow. 
I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky,
and together we grow before the face of the sun.”

Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me.
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there also.

Music: Psalm 90 by Charles Ives, performed by the Stamford Choir 

Psalm 89: Mary’s Echo

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

June 20, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 89, as the Church celebrates the blessed humanity of Mary.

Yesterday and today, these beautiful “heart” feasts follow one upon the other, reminding us that both Jesus and Mary loved with human hearts like ours – Jesus as God, and Mary as God’s transformed Mirror.

As we pray with Mary today. Psalm 89 offers us a perfect context. The psalm was likely composed during a difficult time, when Israel began to doubt Yahweh’s enduring promise to care for them – some say during the Babylonian Captivity.

The psalm reminds the People of the Covenant and the Promise:

I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.

Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.
I will make his posterity endure forever
and his throne as the days of heaven.


Mary, born of the House of David, is the ultimate deliverer of that Promise in the person of her son, Jesus Christ. When, just before Jesus’ birth, Mary prays the Magnificat, we can hear echoes of Psalm 89:

And Mary said, 
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior….

He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly….

He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.


An extra song for Mary today, written in 1961 for a Firemen’s Choir

In our own times of trouble, or when a long endurance is required of us, our faith in God’s promises might waver too. Mary is a good one to talk to in such times. Her faith was refined from all need to place stipulations on God’s timing. She believed. Period.

And she wants to nurture that gift in us.


Poetry: I think Mary and psalmist would have liked this poem by Kahlil Gibran. I hope you do too. For me, it speaks of how faith deepens, as Mary’s did.

God
In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, 
“Master, I am thy servant.  Thy hidden will 
is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.”
 
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying, “Creator, I am thy creation.  
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.”
 
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed
away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain 
and spoke unto God again, saying, “Father, I am thy child.  
In pity and love thou hast given me birth, 
and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”
 
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant
hills he passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain 
and again spoke unto God, saying, “My God, my aim and my fulfillment; 
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow.  
I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, 
and together we grow before the face of the sun.”
 
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to
her, God enfolded me.
 
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there
also.

Music: Psalm 89: Forever I Will Sing the Goodness of the Lord – Brian J. Nelson; cantor David Adams