A King in Servant’s Clothing

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent
December 22, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our O Antiphon beseeches God, Who is King of All Nations, Who unites Gentile and Jew, to deliver us. 

But from what? 

The answer lies in the closing phrase of the antiphon: “we whom you formed from the dust of the earth”. 

Deliver us from the artificial barriers we have created to separate from and dominate over one another – by nationality, ethnicity, color, gender, social or economic class. We each began as dust and will end that way.  May we be humble, mutual and compassionate in the time between.


Consider the holy humility of Hannah in our first reading today, and of Mary in our Gospel.  They are power figures in Salvation History.  But their power comes from their utter dependence on and honor to God, their only true King.

I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. 
Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD;
as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”

1 Samuel 1: 27-28

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
        my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
        for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
    From this day all generations will call me blessed:
        the Almighty has done great things for me,
        and holy is his Name.

Luke 1: 46-49

There was no fragmentation in the commitment of their entire lives to God. They understood all Creation to belong to the Divine.

King of Kings, deliver us from any such fragmentation. Make us all whole in You.

O King of all nations
and keystone of the Church:
come and save us,
whom you formed from the dust!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.


Poetry: A King Dressed as a Servant – Rumi

You may interpret Rumi, of course, as you wish. He is deeply mystical and his thoughts don’t always correspond to a logical path. But that’s the real beauty of his poetry. We can put ourselves in his poem and shape it to fit our experience of God. In this poem, Rumi says that we must wait, and be ready, for God’s Love to come to us. And when it does, it will be far beyond anything we expected.

A sweet voice calls out,
"The caravan from Egypt is here!"
A hundred camels with what amazing treasure!

Midnight, a candle and someone quietly
waking me, "Your friend has come."

I spring out of my body, put a ladder
to the roof, and climb up to see if
it's true.

Suddenly, there is a world within this world!
An ocean inside the water jar!
A king sitting with me wearing
the uniform of a servant!
A garden in the chest of the gardener!

I see how love has "thoughts,"
and that these thoughts are circulating
in conversation with majesty.
Let me keep opening this moment
like a dead body reviving.

My teacher saw the Placeless One
and from That, made a place.

Music: O Rex Gentium – Gregorian Chant ( this is a Latin rendering of the italicized prayer above.)

Blossoming Exultation!

January 11, 2022
Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time 2022:
The extraordinary reality is that we have been given the gift of life!
Each day we are given a new portion of grace to deepen in God!
Let us focus our reflections on the “hidden extraordinary”
– a word, thought, or challenge in each day’s readings
that we might otherwise have taken for granted.
May God give us the graceful appreciation to unwrap these gifts!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we awaken to extraordinary gifts revealed in three words from our readings:

Downcast – Amazed – Exultant

In our first reading, Hannah’s story continues to unfold. And we feel for her, don’t we? The woman is desperate to bear life! Not only does she long for her own sweet child; she longs as well for restored standing in her neighborhood and family as one who is fertile not barren. This meant everything in Hannah’s community as fertility defined a woman’s importance.

Have you ever prayed like Hannah prays in this chapter? Has any need in your life ever so demanded God’s mercy? These are times that ask for our complete vulnerability before God’s Omnipotence.

In her bitterness she prayed to the LORD, weeping copiously,
and she made a vow, promising: “O LORD of hosts,
if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid,
if you remember me and do not forget me,
if you give your handmaid a male child,
I will give him to the LORD for as long as he lives…

1 Samuel 1: 10-11
Vasili Petrovich Vereshchagin (1864)

Eli witnesses Hannah’s vulnerable prayer. He blesses her and hope cracks through her gloom:
She replied, “Think kindly of your maidservant,” and left.
She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband,
and no longer appeared downcast.

1 Samuel 1:18

Extraordinary Vulnerability!


Jesus Casts Out Demons – Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

In the Gospel reading, Jesus is still very early in his ministry. He has come to the synagogue to teach and people are “astonished” to hear the depth of his authority. But their astonishment grows even more when Jesus successfully commands the unclean spirit to leave the tortured man.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Mark 1:27

Can we let ourselves be constantly amazed at God’s Presence, Power, and Mercy in all Creation?


Extraordinary Holy Amazement!


Once again, our Responsorial Psalm offes a way to pray when our downcast desperation meets God’s amazing, transforming grace. It is the “Magnificat” of Hannah:

And Hannah prayed:

“My heart exults in the LORD,
my horn is exalted by my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in your victory.
There is no Holy One like the LORD;
there is no Rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2: 1-2

1 Samual 2: 1-2

Extraordinary Exultation!

Through our scripture-nourished prayer,
may we open the gifts of extraordinary vulnerability, extraordinary hope, and extraordinary exultation
wrapped in our own ordinary lives this day.

Poetry: Bare Tree – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Already I have shed the leaves of youth,
stripped by the wind of time down to the truth
of winter branches. Linear and alone
I stand, a lens for lives beyond my own,
a frame through which another's fire may glow,
a harp on which another's passion, blow.
The pattern of my boughs, an open chart
spread on the sky, to others may impart
its leafless mysteries that I once prized,
before bare roots and branches equalized,
tendrils that tap the rain or twigs the sun
are all the same, shadow and substance one.
Now that my vulnerable leaves are cast aside,
there's nothing left to shield, nothing to hide.
Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone,
so fragile and so fearless have I grown!


Music: Listen to the Trees

Extraordinary!

January 10, 2022
Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time


Introduction to “Extraordinary” Time


Today, we freshly begin a new cycle in our spiritual lives - the liturgical season of Ordinary Time 2022.
It is a perfect moment to wake ourselves to the truth that nothing is “ordinary” about being alive in God.
The extraordinary reality is that we have been given the gift of life!
Each day we are given a new portion of grace to deepen in God!

So let’s decide not to get used to:
  • to waking up in the morning
  • to the people in our lives
  • to the work we have to do
Each one of these “extraordinary” gifts holds a particular secret for us to be enriched by God’s lavish mercy and love. May we never fail to appreciate that every moment is a new invitation to love.

Our daily scriptural prayer offers us a good way to unwrap these gifts by drawing on the revelation of God.

For this “Ordinary Time 2022”, I hope to focus our reflections on the “hidden extraordinary” - a word, thought, or challenge in each day’s readings that we might otherwise have taken for granted.

May God give us the graceful appreciation to unwrap these gifts!

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we awaken to these extraordinary gifts revealed in our readings:

Love – Welcome – Gratitude


On this first “ordinary” Monday, we begin a month of readings from the Books of Samuel. These are wonderful stories with memorable characters and life-changing choices!

In our first reading today, we meet Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel. Other than in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, she is never again mentioned in the Bible. Yet she is also considered to be a prophet, and her song of thanksgiving a foreshadowing of the Magnificat.

In today’s reading, Hannah is given “a double portion” of good because she is so loved by her husband.

When the day came for Elkanah to offer sacrifice, he used to give a portion each to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters, but a double portion to Hannah because he loved her, though the LORD had made her barren.

1 Samuel 1:4-5

Extraordinary love!


In our Gospel, Jesus invites the curious disciples to share his life, just as He invites us:

Jesus said to them,“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Mark 1: 14

Extraordinary welcome!


And our beautiful Responsorial Psalm offers us a way to pray our thanks for these immeasurable gifts:

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116: 12-13

Extraordinary gratitude!


Through our scripture-nourished prayer, may we open the gifts of extraordinary love, extraordinary welcome, and extraordinary gratitude wrapped in our own ordinary lives this day.


Poetry: NO ONE KNOWS HIS NAME – Francis of Assisi (The “extraordinary” often may be hidden from us!)

No one knows his name
— a man who lives on the streets
and walks around in rags.
Once I saw that man in a dream.
He and God were constructing
an extraordinary temple.

Music: Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it “music”, rather kind of a rap… but the words are perfect.

Exult in God’s Power

Tuesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

January 14, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings demonstrate God’s power to change human lives.

hannah
The Travail of Hannah

Our first reading from the Book of Samuel completes the story of Hannah, Samuel’s mother. Hannah, one of the two wives of Elkanah, was childless. In today’s passage, Hannah takes her grief to the Temple and places it before the Lord. God hears her prayer and she conceives her son.

When the story is summarized, as I have just done, it seems like a cookie-cutter miracle story. A skeptic might wonder, had she waited long enough, would Hannah have conceived – Temple or not.

That’s because the summary has drained out all the human angst, emotional roller-coastering, denial, and frustration that finally brought Hannah to God’s arms. It could have taken her so many others places. Unrelieved pain often does. It takes some into unresolved anger, depression, addiction, even suicide.

The miracle of this story is Hannah’s faith and the power of God’s love in her. It just so happens that there was also Samuel.

1Sam2_1 exult


Mark, in these early chapters of his Gospel, presents Jesus as the personification of that Divine Power. Both Christ’s “astonishing “ teaching and his stunning authority over evil convince us of this power.

With Jesus, the believer’s reality is transformed by faith and grace. Divine life blossoms even in formerly barren circumstances. Wholeness emerges even from that which had seemed fragmented.

This is the miracle: there is Divine Life inside that we had not seen until we looked, by faith, with the God’s eyes.

Music: Everyday Miracles – Sarah Grove