Hard Oranges

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings remind me of hard oranges, difficult to squeeze juice from!

We have in this passage from Deuteronomy part of Joshua’s farewell speech before he dies. He has accomplished what Moses could not – Joshua has brought the people into the Promised Land. In these verses, he recounts God’s faithful presence to Israel through all the years of struggle.

The spiritual message of the segment is clear: God loves us specially and faithfully, and we should love God in the same way.

What makes the passage difficult are the enduring political and justice issues inherent in it. The Israelites gain this land by war and the displacement of resident people. They consider that success a sign of God’s favor.

Many passages in the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, reflect a similar process. The community looks back over its successes and failures, interpreting them in the light of God’s faithfulness.

In our spiritual journey, we too are called to be reflective and grateful as we look back at our lives. But we are also called to a further essential step not clearly reflected in today’s reading.

We are called to change our hearts, to become merciful, to welcome strangers, to lay down the “sword” of conflict. Jesus calls us to a whole new understanding of God’s fidelity and favor.

This dichotomy comes to its full expression with Jesus. He was expected to be the regal and militant deliverer. Instead, he comes as a Lamb – meek and humble of heart – who dies for our sins.

As redeemed Christians, then, when we look at our lives for God’s Presence, we should find it in circumstances such as those Jesus gave us in the Beatitudes: humility, compassion, meekness, right relationship, mercy, holy sincerity, peace, courageous fidelity, Christian witness.

Music: Mass in B minor, Agnes Dei – Bach

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Sophia-Wisdom

Monday, February 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  we begin a series of readings from the Book of Sirach. Today’s is particularly beautiful as it describes Wisdom – Sophia, a feminine principle of God’s nature.

sirach

The passage itself is poetically inspiring, and certainly doesn’t need my words to explain it. Each of us will draw our own inspiration from this reading. For me, this scripture stretches my perception of God’s nature, neither male nor female, but embodying and generating the beauty of both.

This thought provoking quote from theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, may enrich your reflection as it did mine.

God Language and Women

“What is the right way to speak about God in light of women’s reality? Ideas of God are cultural creatures related to the time and place in which they are conceived. We have traced one pattern of Christian feminist language arising from diverse experiences: the Spirit’s universal quickening and liberating presence, the living memory of Wisdom’s particular path in the history of Jesus, and inconceivable Holy Wisdom herself who brings forth and orients the universe. We have explored the ways in which these discourses coalesce into the symbol of the Trinity, a living communion of mutual and equal personal relations. Divine capacity for relation has led to speaking about Sophia-God’s participation in the suffering of the world that empowers the praxis of freedom, a discourse that takes place in the energizing matrix of the one God’s sheer liveliness named with the symbol SHE WHO IS. All of the above chapters are clues, starting points, commencements. This generation needs to keep faith with this question, creating, testing, reflecting, discarding, keeping. No language about God will ever be fully adequate to the burning mystery which it signifies. But a more inclusive way of speaking can come about that bears the ancient wisdom with a new justice.”

from her book She Who Is

Music: Sanctus  –  from the Mass of St. Cecilia  – Gounod (sung by Jessie Norman)

Pray

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.

Our First Glimpse of God

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/051318-seventh-sunday-easter.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings from John’s epistle and Gospel are replete with love – the Holy Love of God for us, and God’s hope for that love to be reflected in us. How fitting these readings are for Mother’s Day, when we honor the one who was a first source of love for us. A loving mother is our first glimpse into the face of God. Throughout our lives, she protects and prays for us, just as Jesus does for his disciples in today’s Gospel. Through her sacrificial love, she is our first teacher of what it means to live like Christ.

Let us pray today for all mothers, especially our own. Each one, no doubt, did the best she could to offer us life. For some, that was harder than for others – and some of us struggle with that reality throughout our lives. For others, our mother’s love has always been the unequivocal source of our strength and joy.

Today is a day to recognize that every mother has held the hope of loving us into the fullness of life. Let us bless our mother for that hope and for every bit of love she has given us.

1 John 4_Mothers Day

Song: A Mother’s Prayer – Celine Dion

God’s Indwelling Love

Monday, April 30, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/043018.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we are with Jesus as he continues to prepare his disciples for his departure. Jesus assures them that, if they keep his commandments, they will never be alone. Their faithfulness will allow the Presence of God to infuse their lives. We know when we have encountered someone whose life is filled with God. They don’t have to preach it – it pours out from them in kindness, peace and strength. May we welcome that Presence into our hearts by loving God and our neighbor.

Blushing a Little

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/042818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Philip kind of puts his foot in his mouth. He tells Jesus, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Oh, really? Is that all, Philip? It seems like that might be enough for just about anybody, don’t you think?

And Jesus sticks it to Philip a little, “Have I been so long with you and yet you do not know Me? The Father and I are one.”

We might hear Jesus’ question echo in our hearts. Has God been with us throughout our lives and we are still slow to recognize His Presence? Do we need to wake up like Philip in order to see the face of God in nature, in our loved ones, in the joys and sorrows of our life, in all Creation? Has God already shown us more than enough to help us love and believe in Him? Maybe, blushing a little like Philip, we just need to say, “Thank You!”

The Gift Already Given

Wednesday, April 18, 2018:

Readings: Acts 8:1-8; Ps. 66:1-6; John 6:25-40

Today, in Mercy, Jesus talks about hunger. But He doesn’t mean the longing for steak, or bread, or chocolate. Jesus is talking about that profound hunger to really live, to deeply love and be loved, to make a difference with our lives. These hungers can be satisfied only in that invisible, mysterious place where the soul is inextricably tied to God. This is the place of eternal life where, from the moment God breathed life into us, we were marked forever as God’s own. We can get so mixed up about our emptiness! We try to fill it with money, fame, material goods, sex and power. While the only Gift that can ever fill it has already been given! (For your quiet reflection, Boccherini”s Cello Concerto in D major, G. 479 – II. Adagio, by famed late cellist Mstoslav Rostropovich)