Gaudete! Rejoice!

Third Sunday of Advent

December 15, 2019

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Gaudete 2019

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, a name which comes from the first word of the Introit of today’s Mass:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

Our readings, too, counsel us to rejoice, and to do so with patience and honesty before God.


REJOICE:
Those whom the LORD has ransomed
…. will meet with joy and gladness (Isaiah 35:10)


BE PATIENT:
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:8)


SPEAK HONESTLY WITH GOD:
When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2)


As we pray with these verses, we might ask, similarly to John the Baptist:

  • Is the coming of the Lord really at hand?
  • Is our long wait to be complete in God really over?
  • Hasn’t this gone on for 2000 years with no Second Coming? 

Well, it all depends on how we look at it.

time

 

With our feet and our experiences firmly planted in a time-bound world, it is hard for us to enter God’s timeless view of our salvation.

 

With God there is no waiting. We already live in the fullness of God’s eternal life.

Our time-bound life is our chance to open ourselves to that Fullness by allowing our experiences to fashion us in the image of Christ.

Every moment, every encounter, every experience carries the invitation to this Complete Love. Continually answering this invitation brings us into an ever deeper transparency with God.

transparent

 

When we see and live our lives this way, joy captures us. Circumstances may not always leave us happy or satisfied (I mean, look at John, he was imprisoned). But they cannot claim our joy, because we see patiently through time’s veil to the eternity already within us.

This sacred insight is the gift of our Baptism in Christ.

Today, we draw closer to the celebration of his presence with us in history by his birth on Christmas. But the deeper celebration is Christ’s continual rebirth in our lives of joy, patience and honest relationship with God.

Music: Patience People – John Foley, SJ (Lyrics below)

Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
See the farmer await the yield of the soil.
He watches it in winter and in spring rain.

Patience, people,
for the Lord is coming. Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
You have seen the purpose of the Lord.
You know of His compassion and His mercy.

Patience, people,
for the Lord is coming. Patience, people, till the Lord is come.
Steady your hearts for the Lord is close at hand.
And do not grumble, one against the other.
Patience, people, for the Lord is coming.

A River of Joy

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

December 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah paints a poetic picture of the soul fully taught by God. He describes that sacred obedience, or heart’s listening to God, which leads to fullness of joy, peace and eternal life.

When looking for music to complement Isaiah’s passage, I found a hymn written in 1876 by Frances R. Havergal, an English Anglican poet and hymn writer.

Her hymn Like a River Glorious, although written in older style language, contains several beautiful metaphors, many reflective of today’s passage from Isaiah.

You might want to pray with one or two of these images today:

river
A river of grace – perfect, yet deepening

 

stand_anchor
Our hearts “stayed” upon God, anchored in faith

 

chick
Being hidden in the hollow of God’s hand

 

wind
“no blast of hurry” to disturb our peace (so appropriate to this busy season)

 

sundial
Our joys and sorrows falling like shadows across the sundial of our lives

 

I hope enjoy praying with this hymn, and the accompanying pictures, as much as I did.

Music: Like a River Glorious – Frances R. Havergal – 1876; performed here by the Parkview Mennonite Church. Follow the images and verses below.

river
A river of grace – perfect, yet deepening

 

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

 

stand_anchor
Our hearts “stayed” upon God, anchored in faith

 

Refrain:
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

 

 

chick
Being hidden in the hollow of God’s hand

 

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;

 

 

wind
“no blast of hurry” to disturb our peace (so appropriate to this busy season)

 

Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

 

 

 

sundial
Our joys and sorrows falling like shadows across the sundial of our lives

(Refrain then …)

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Comfort the Lost

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

December 10, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have the exquisite “Comfort” passage from Isaiah. Our Gospel gives us Jesus tenderly seeking the single lost lamb.

Isaiah40_1_11

The first and last words of these two readings – COMFORT, LOST – capture the whole intent of God’s message:
Life is a maze whose walls are heightened by our incivility to one another. Isaiah calls to be a leveler of walls, a straightener of twists, a bridge over deadly valleys; Jesus calls us to seek and carry the lost sheep. They call us to be Mercy.

The US southern border is one of the many places in our world crying out for these acts of mercy. Please listen to our Sister Anne Connolly describe the cry:

 


Music: Comfort Ye from Handel’s Messiah – sung by Jerry Hadley

As we pray this glorious music today, let us ask for the strength and courage to be Mercy for the world, to find the ways to comfort God’s people, close by and at life’s borders.

Choose Your Kingdom

Second Sunday of Advent

December 8, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Our readings counterbalance each with other peace and urgency.

HicksJPG
A Peaceable Kingdom by Edward Hicks

Isaiah, on the one hand, describes the Peaceable Kingdom where:

the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord
As water covers the sea.


Matthew, on the other hand, presents us with John the Baptist, who preached a fiery message. No doubt shocking in his camel hair tunic, a scrap of leather holding it in place, John railed at the pompous Pharisees for their deceitful, pretentious lives:

You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’

For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.

Mt3_10 ax

The message of this Second Sunday is clear for us. We may have lived a half-hearted faith at times in our lives and gotten away with it. Those times are over.

For the One is coming who will “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire”. 

“Fake” will not hold up against his mighty gaze.

So this Second Sunday is a time to test the sincerity of our faith as proven by our actions. It is a time to check what kind of fruit we bear for the world. As we pass through the circumstances of our lives, do we leave a trail of peace, wisdom, counsel,and all the other blessings Isaiah envisions?

We can do this only by uniting ourselves in prayer and actions to the One rising today from the Root of Jesse, the One to whom both Isaiah and John tied their souls in unquenchable hope.

Music: A song of peace (Charles Villiers Stanford, (30 September 1852 – 29 March 1924) an Irish composer, music teacher, and conductor.) Lyrics below

1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,
and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

2  And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;

3  And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,
neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

4  And with righteousness shall he judge the poor,
and reprove with equity the meek of the earth:
and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

5  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,
and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

6  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
and a little child shall lead them.

9  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea.

10  And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse,
which shall stand for an ensign unto the people;
and his rest shall be glorious.

The Promise of Wholeness

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Saturday, December 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah – in glorious prophecy – promises God’s People better times.

hope

Oh my, don’t we all long for the fulfillment of that promise! Sometimes, I can’t even watch the news anymore because the world is in such seemingly irreversible pain!


Perhaps we can use our prayer within these readings today to call on God for the healing they promise.

It is a healing that requires our cooperation. Isaiah says that we must name our pain to God – for ourselves and for all who suffer in our world:

The Lord will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as he hears he will answer you.

Is30_21 Walk

The prophet says that this crying out will change us. We will see the Lord with us in our suffering. God will lead us through that suffering by our acts of faith, hope, love, justice and mercy:

No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or to the left.


 

Christ_Healing_the_Mother_of_Simon_Peter’s_Wife_by_John_Bridges
Healing Peter’s mother-in-law by John Bridges, 19th century

Our Gospel tells us that we are called to be Christ’s disciples, and that disciples are healers. By letting our lives become sources of healing in the world, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled for our time.

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

How we do these wondrous deeds in the world is an ongoing revelation. When I was very young, I took the proclamation quite literally. I soon lost confidence that I would ever really “cure” someone of anything!

Life has blessed me with the realization that there are many degrees of healing. There  many ways in which living people are caught in deadly lives. There are all kinds of “lepers ” in our society, rendered so by the prejudices of others. Certainly, many of us carry all sorts of crippling demons.

Acknowledging the pain in ourselves and others, and trusting that God wants us to be healed and whole, is the work of true discipleship. Let’s keep our eyes on Isaiah’s promise to give us a generous, merciful courage for our call! Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus as he shows us the way.

Music: (Can you take a little hint of “country” this morning?)

Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus – written by Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961) and sung here by Alan Jackson, one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records.

Ask to See

Friday of the First Week of Advent

December 6, 2019

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Today, in 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.

Is29_18 blindJPG

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.

faint

 

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

Music: Amazing Grace sung by Il Divo

Sing with God

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

December 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah promises the people that they will sing a song in the land of Judah.  It will be a song that celebrates confidence in God, justice, enduring faith, peace and trust.

Is26_1 strong city

Do you ever sing to God when your heart is filled like that? I don’t mean Church-singing or words somebody else wrote. 

I mean that sweet, indecipherable whisper a mother breathes over her child, or the mix of a hundred half-remembered melodies we hum when we are lost in the fullness of our lives.

Madonna-Child-Sassoferrato-L

And I don’t just mean the happy songs.

I mean the songs of loss and longing, awe and wonderment at life’s astounding turns. I mean even the sounds of silence when the refrain within us cannot be spoken.

When your heart is really stuck, unable to find the words to express the depth of your joy, longing or sorrow, try singing to God like that. So many times, I have done this while out on a solitary walk, or sitting by the water’s edge, or even driving on an open road. Sometimes, God even sings back!😉

(In a second post today, I will share a lovely poem which reminds me of a special prayer time in nature.)


Isaiah’s people were able to sing their song because they held on to faith and acted in justice. In our Gospel, Jesus tells us that this must be the way of our prayer too. He says that simply saying, “Lord, Lord” won’t cut it!

Real prayer is not just words. It is a life given to hearing God’s Word and acting on it. Real prayer is about always singing our lives in rhythm with the infinite, merciful melody of God.

Music: Bless the Lord, My Soul – Matt Redman

.

The Banquet

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

December 4, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings take us to the Lord’s banquet. It is a rich image that threads through scripture and helps us understand what characterizes the perfect reign of God.

The readings, coming just on the heels of Thanksgiving, present familiar images to us. You may have been part of the preparation of the feast for your family and friends. Maybe you’re the master carver, or brought sides of old family recipes. Or you might be the table decorator or, most important, the clean-up guru!

Or maybe you were the one who steered the conversation so that all felt welcomed and included in the gathering. Maybe you were the one who took someone aside if they needed an extra portion of care. Maybe you were the one who invited someone with no other place to go.

That Thanksgiving meal, and every meal, can be a symbol of the heavenly banquet.


 

Isaiah25_7

Isaiah’s banquet is all elegance and fullness. He describes an end-time when, despite a path through suffering, all is brought to perfection in God:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.


IMG_1628Jesus’s feast in more “now”, and more rustic. He takes the ordinary stuff of present life and transforms it to satisfy the needs of those gathered. With sparse and simple ingredients, Jesus creates the “miracle meal” for the poor and hungry.

He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied. 

Christ’s presence with us in the Eucharist is both kinds of meal.

IMG_1625

  • It points us to the perfection of heaven, where the “web” will be lifted from our eyes and we will see ourselves as one in Christ.
  • It calls us to be Christ for one another in this world – creating miracles of love and mercy so that all are adequately fed, in body and soul, for the journey we share.

Music:  Banquet- Graham Kendrick (Lyrics below)

There’s no banquet so rich
As the bread and the wine
No table more holy
No welcome so kind
There’s no mercy so wide
As the arms of the cross
Come and taste, come and see
Come find and be found

There’s no banquet so rich
For what feast could compare
With the body of Jesus
Blessed, broken and shared?
Here is grace to forgive
Here is blood that atoned
Come and taste, come and see
Come know and be known

Take the bread, drink the wine
And remember His sacrifice
There’s no banquet so rich
As the feast we will share
When God gathers the nations
And dines with us here
When death’s shadow is gone
Every tear wiped away
Come and eat, come and drink
Come welcome that day

There’s no banquet so rich
For our Saviour we find
Present here in the mystery
Of these humble signs
Cleansed, renewed, reconciled
Let us go out as one
Live in love, and proclaim
His death till he comes

Let the Vision Inspire!

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, both Jesus and Isaiah offer us comforting visions.

Is11_1 stump of JesseJPG

Jesus talks about the innocence of children and the childlike. He blesses their ability to see things that our “adult” preoccupations often block from us.

I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.


Reading this, we might be reminded of verses from Clement Clarke Moore’s beloved poem, The Night Before Christmas:

sugar plums

 

 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…

 

 

 


Jesus and Isaiah invite us to allow their hope-filled visions to dance in our heads. They call us to be in a state of innocent anticipation for the glorious Kingdom to reveal itself in our lives.

Read and relish Isaiah’s powerful description of the Lord of this Kingdom!

The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Open your hearts to receive the revelation Jesus wants to give us:

Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,

and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

Unlike Clement Moore’s sugar plums, these holy promises are not about tomorrow. Even though we re-enact our waiting in the season of Advent, Christ is already born in us through our Baptism. We already live in the Kingdom described by Jesus and Isaiah.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Hard to see it for all the worldly upset blocking our sight, for all the Culture of Death around us?

That’s where the sacred vision comes in. Even in the midst of frenetic contradiction, we are called to find, proclaim and practice the redeeming reign of God!

Go deep with Jesus and Isaiah today. Find the inner well your Baptism has planted in your soul. Ask for the grace of boundless, childlike faith. Then joyfully live your life knowing the Kingdom is already within you!

Music: There Blooms a Rose in Bethlehem – Sovereign Grace Music 

Catching Hope!

Monday of the First Week of Advent

December 2, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our first reading sets us out on nearly two weeks of passages from Isaiah. The passionate hope of Isaiah’s writing, as well as its literary elegance, can reach into our hearts and powerfully renew us.

Is4_6 glory

For these reasons, “Isaiah’s Vision” is among the most beloved and influential books of the Bible. The book has so influenced Christianity that it often is referred to as “The Fifth Gospel”.

We begin today with a passage that captures Isaiah’s prophecy for the restoration of Israel after the Assyrian and Babylonian decimation. You might think, “So what! That was ancient history and my life is now. What can Isaiah say to me?”

But that is the magic of Isaiah! He is a prophet and a magnificent poet. What he says for “then” can be lifted out of time and wrapped in “now”. In the transformation of prayer, Isaiah can be laid in revelation over our world, our times … my life.

On this second day of Advent, as we faithfully seek to find God in our deep-heart, what do today’s lines say to us:

  • Is there a “branch” of hope in us that we pray will blossom?
  • Is there a holy confidence we may have lost for a while that we hunger to have returned?
  • Is there a barren field in our world or our lives that longs to be brought to life?
  • Do we pray for the graceful restoration of our Church, our world, our country, our families, our own hearts?
  • Do we long for signs of God’s Presence in our lives – not smoking clouds and flaming fire necessarily – but the joyful peace and freedom that would bless and comfort us?

Isaiah today is about assuring us in these longings. He says:

For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from the storm and rain.

In our Advent prayer,
we open our spirits to that Promise!

Music: Beautiful Zion- sung by Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Lyrics

1. Beautiful Zion, built above;
Beautiful city that I love;
Beautiful gates of pearly white;
Beautiful temple—God its light;
He who was slain on Calvary
Opens those pearly gates for me.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

2. Beautiful heav’n, where all is light;
Beautiful angels clothed in white;
Beautiful strains that never tire;
Beautiful harps thru all the choir;
There shall I join the chorus sweet,
Worshiping at the Savior’s feet.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Zion, city of our God!

3. Beautiful crowns on ev’ry brow;
Beautiful palms the conq’rors show;
Beautiful robes the ransomed wear;
Beautiful all who enter there;
Thither I press with eager feet;
There shall my rest be long and sweet.

Zion, Zion, lovely Zion;
Beautiful Zion;
Text: George Gill, 1820–1880
Music: Joseph G. Fones, 1828–1906