In a very little while …

December 3, 2021
Friday of the First Week of Advent
Memorial of St. Francis Xavier

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we stand with Isaiah on the rim of hope. We wait, trusting that “in a very little while”, the Lord will make Creation whole.

It’s a precipitous place, this cliff called “Hope”. It requires that we risk ourselves solely on the promises of a God we cannot see. It invites us to leap into a mist we cannot control.

Or can we?


In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites the blind men to the cliff’s edge by asking them:

Do you believe that I can do this?

Well, that’s everything, isn’t it? If our answer is “No”, “Maybe”, or “Kinda’”, we might as well just lie down on this side of the Promise.

But if our answer is brave, like the Gospel blind ones, we too may have our vision cleared to see that there is no leap required. We already stand beside God.

When his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy;
they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Isaiah 29:23


Poetry:Hope – Lisel Mueller

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.


Music: Amazing Grace sung by Il Divo

That Little Seed

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
October 26, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Psalm 126, a song of hope fulfilled:

When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
    we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with rejoicing.

Then they said among the nations,
    “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
    we are glad indeed.

Psalm 126: 1-3

In our readings, we are called to be people of hope – to live in gratitude for hopes fulfilled, and to live in confidence of future blessing.


Paul blesses us with some of his most powerful words:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

Romans 8:18

How often, over the ensuing centuries, have these words uplifted and embravened a struggling heart! Paul reminds us of what he so passionately believed – that we are not here for this world alone; that we, with all Creation, are being transformed for eternal life in God.


Jesus too reminds us that our life in faith is so much bigger than we perceive. We see a tiny mustard seed, but God sees the whole tree of eternal life blossoming in us.  We see a fingertip of yeast, but God sees the whole Bread of Life rising in us.

Paul tells us to be People of Hope who do not yet expect to see the object of their hope but who, nonetheless, believe and love with all their hearts.

May we pray this today for ourselves, and for anyone burdened by suffering or hopelessness at this time in their lives.


Poetry: Hope – Czeslaw Milosz

Hope is with you when you believe
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
that sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all thing you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.
You cannot enter. But you're sure it's there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.
Some people say that we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
There are the ones who have no hope.
They think the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hand of thieves.

Music:  Living Hope – Phil Wickham

Resilient Hope

Friday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
September 25, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 43 whose heart reveals the nature of hope and its power to inspire praise.

Wait for God, whom I shall again praise,
my savior and my God.

Psalm 43 is really the completion of Psalm 42, and they form a masterful combination. 

According to biblical scholar Carroll Stuhmueller:

The three stanzas of Psalm 42-43 lead listeners and readers through depression, struggle, and hope. The refrain sung at the end of each stanza contains three parts that summarize the attitude of each:
Why are you cast down, O my soulDepression
and why are you disquieted within me?Struggle
Hope in God Whom I shall again praise,Hope
my Lord and my God.Praise
Stuhmueller: Spirituality of the Psalms

The psalm follows logically after today’s first reading in which the prophet Haggai challenges the people to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and get working on the restoration of the Temple. The prophet proclaims encouragement in God’s name:

For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts.
This is the pact that I made with you
when you came out of Egypt,
And my spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!

Haggai 2:5

Praying with these readings, we may reflect on our own current or past challenges in the light of faith and hope. God is with us now as God always has been, and will be. 

We are empowered by that promise to live courageous, generous lives. This is what hope looks like when it is alive in us.


Poetry: Hope – Czeslaw Milosz

Hope is with you when you believe
The earth is not a dream but living flesh,
that sight, touch, and hearing do not lie,
That all thing you have ever seen here
Are like a garden looked at from a gate.
You cannot enter. But you're sure it's there.
Could we but look more clearly and wisely
We might discover somewhere in the garden
A strange new flower and an unnamed star.
Some people say that we should not trust our eyes,
That there is nothing, just a seeming,
There are the ones who have no hope.
They think the moment we turn away,
The world, behind our backs, ceases to exist,
As if snatched up by the hand of thieves.

Music: Angel of Hope – Erik Berglund

Psalm 31: An Inextinguishable Light

Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

February 1, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31 which assures us that we can rest in God’s love if we will just hope.

Let your hearts take comfort,
all who hope in the Lord.

Psalm 31: 25

Hope can be a complex virtue to understand.
The Catholic Catechism describes Hope in this way:
Hope is the theological virtue
by which we desire the kingdom of heaven
and eternal life as our happiness,
placing our trust in Christ’s promises
and relying not on our own strength,
but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
(CCC 1817)


This definition offers an important key. The kind of hope we are praying about in our psalm is a “virtue”, not a feeling. And in particular, hope is one of the three theological virtues which, according to the brilliant Thomas Aquinas means this:

… these virtues are called theological virtues
“because they have God for their object,
both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him,
and because they are infused into our souls by God alone,
as also, finally, because we come to know of them
only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures”.



Now, you know, Thomas wasn’t probably that fun to talk with, given all that theological Latin. But, wow, he nailed this one.

What I think he meant, in other words, is that we are not talking about the feeling of hope, as when we put a soufflé in the oven and hope it doesn’t collapse. Or when we study like crazy and hope the right questions are on the exam. Or even when, more importantly, we make a life choice like marriage or religious life and hope it will bring us a fulfilling, lasting joy.

These kinds of “hopes” might be better defined as optimistic expectations. If they fail to be fulfilled, we might give up on them, perhaps even stop trying to achieve the kind of joy they promised. (That’s a whole other reflection! 🙂 )

Instead, the Hope we are praying about today is not a feeling. It is a gift, given by God and nurtured by our faithful practice of scriptural prayer.

Just like “Life” which is breathed into us by God without any cooperation of our own, the virtue of Hope – along with Faith and Love – is infused into our souls in God’s loving act of creation.

And just like the principle of life,
Faith, Hope, and Love
reside in us forever.


These theological realities can be hard to grasp. To make it easier, I turn them into images for my prayer. I picture Faith, Hope and Love as three small but inextinguishable candle flames deep in my spirit. God is the One who fires their light and warmth.

The circumstances of my life, chosen or imposed, can affect my ability to see and feel the power of these gifts. But circumstances cannot extinguish them because they belong to God not to me.

Once I said in my anguish,
    “I am cut off from your sight”;
Yet you heard the sound of my pleading
    when I cried out to you.

Psalm 31: 23

By prayer, and the faithful effort to be open to God’s Presence in my life, these virtues deepen in me. I can rest assured in their divine constancy. Their power and energy fuel my life both in the favorable and unfavorable “winds” of my circumstances.

Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
    The LORD keeps those who are constant,
    but more than requites those who act proudly.

Psalm 31: 24

I found this tender transliteration of Psalm 31 by Christine Robison helpful for my prayer:

I have come to you, O God, please, take me in.
Hear my prayers, be my rock, my stronghold, my castle.
Help me untangle myself from the web of confusions 
and self-deceptions that I’m stuck in.

I put my trust in you—I give you my life.
I have turned
from the temptation to trust the ten thousand things.
I have turned
from the temptation to despair of your love and help.

I have learned
to see you in my sorrows and afflictions
A lot of my life went by before I managed this,
which makes me sad.

Now, I practice trust and open-hearted acceptance
of my life as it is.
Now I practice trust and open-hearted acceptance
of You as You are.

Poetry: Hope – Lisel Mueller

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.
It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Music: Lavender Shadows – Michael Hoppé

Psalm 46: Building Hope

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome

Monday, November 9, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 46, a song of confidence, celebration, and joy.

The waters of the river gladden the city of God, 
the holy dwelling of the Most High!


A city gladdened! We know what it looks like. Just this week, we’ve seen it right here in my city, beloved Philadelphia – people dancing in the streets with those who are no longer strangers.

Perhaps people danced in the Roman plaza in 324 AD when Pope Sylvester dedicated the church. Not sure. But it is the power of a civic act, to give people a “place” wherein to claim renewed identity. ( The word “civic” comes from a Latin phrase describing an award given for a noble public deed.)


The dedication of St. John Lateran was such an act. The glorious building shouted out in its massive stones, “God lives among us, the Foundation of our lives.”

Or, as our psalmist puts it:

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in distress.
Therefore, we fear not, though the earth be shaken
and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.


Our faith, and the morality it sustains, live deep under the surface of our lives, like the unseen roots of a magnificent tree. The power of those hidden roots is attested to by generations of leaves and branches unfurling in the cycle of life.

Those acts of faith, be they in the construction of sacred buildings or the washing of a beggar’s feet, shout out our conviction that, “God lives among us, the Foundation of our lives.” 

There is a stream whose runlets gladden the city of God,
the holy dwelling of the Most High.
God is in its midst; it shall not be disturbed;
God will help it at the break of dawn.


I began thinking about this reflection last night after President-Elect Biden’s acceptance speech. To me, the world felt lighter than it had in four years. It had begun to breathe again. Hope was returning to its perch in our hearts. This after the terrible fear that it might have died or gotten lost in a long migration into darkness.



I think it is the greatest of sins to kill hope,
especially for those who have only hope to cling to.
Because, indeed, as Joe Biden assured us last night,
when we share hope, we can do anything
in the God who strengthens us.


Hope is its own great “basilica”, built from the stones of mutual charity, reverence, and trust which God fires in our hearts:

The LORD of hosts is with us;
our stronghold is the God of Jacob.
Come! behold the deeds of the LORD,
the astounding things God has wrought on earth.

As we pray Psalm 42 today, let us ask for the continuing grace to exercise hope for and with one another.

Poetry: Hope Restored by Craig A. Roberts, a New Zealand poet. I thought this was a beautiful poem-prayer. His book of poetry can be found here.

Discouraging events, 
entangling thoughts,
melancholic tsunamis form
in quick time, devastating my soul,
destroying the joyful breath of life.
Surges of futility, rejection
and self pity breach the dykes.
I churn and tumble in dark sucking swells.

I call to Him who loves me in abundance.
Swiftly He comes,
plucks me out of dark waters.
He is here now.
He whispers of promises never broken,
reminds me of my calling,
my inward journey,
my vocation.

He reassures my heart,
He restores my poise.
He sends me to wander by the waters edge, 
immersed in His creative wonder
Christ breathes afresh into my created being.

O what joy. Bathed in His steadfast love
I trust all to Christ,
false illusions destroyed,
hope restored,
possibilities unfold,
His kingdom comes.

Music: On Eagle’s Wings – sung by Josh Groban 

Get Back in the Game!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Click here for Readings

hebres10_36endurance

Today, in Mercy, Paul reminds his listeners of all the sufferings they endured when they first embraced the Christian faith. He goes on to encourage them to persevere, even in the midst of ongoing challenges:

… do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.

It’s a speech with all the overtones of a great pep talk. At first it reminded me of our old coach Miss Weed (seriously), back in the days when I played basketball. She never gave up; never gave in.

cast

During one game, I called time out because I was pretty sure I had just broken my finger blocking a shot. Miss Weed unsympathetically told me, “No time outs! No broken bones! Get back in and finish the game!” Later, waiting to get my hand casted at the clinic, I reflected on what I had learned.

Maybe that’s the way Paul’s community felt as they read this passage. “Time out, Coach! This Christian stuff is tough!”

But Paul had an amazing caveat that Miss Weed didn’t have. Paul held up before his audience the promise of eternal life. Things comparable to broken fingers pale in that Light!

So today, let’s get back in the game with all our hearts – living our life in Christ with gusto and joy. Often it is not easy. But always look to the Light. And …

… do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.

Music: We’ve Got This Hope – Ellie Holcomb (Lyrics below)

We’ve got this hope
We’ve got a future
We’ve got the power of the resurrection living within
We’ve got this hope
We got a promise
That we are held up and protected in the palm of His hand
And even when our hearts are breaking
Even when our souls are shaking

Oh, we’ve got this hope

Even when the tears are falling
Even when the night is calling

Oh, we’ve got this hope

And we’re not alone
Our God is with us
We can approach the throne with confidence
Cause He made a way
When troubles comes
He’ll be our fortress
We know that those who place their hope in Him will not be ashamed

And even when our hearts are breaking
Even when our souls are shaking

Oh, we’ve got this hope

Even when the tears are falling
Even when the night is calling

Oh, we’ve got this hope

Our hope is grounded in an empty grave
Our hope is founded on the promise that He made

Let the Leaves Fall

Tuesday, April 17, 2018: Today, in Mercy, we again pray with Stephen, who echoes the forgiving voice of Jesus as he gives up his life. How could Stephen, how could Jesus, forgive their murderers? In their dying, how could they turn their spirits toward God in love and hope? Jesus and Steven had already given their lives completely to God – throughout all their joyful and sorrowful seasons. When the time came for the leaves to finally fall, their spirits were convinced that God’s life in them would abide.

We face many small deaths in our lives before our final hour. As we learn to let the leaves fall into God’s renewing love and Mercy, we grow more like Jesus. We are filled with the power of God’s freedom and Light. ( The song is not my favorite genre, but it is very powerful, I think.)

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