Memorial of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 111. Prayed in tandem with our first reading from 1 Timothy, the psalm directs our hearts to an awareness of the gifts we have received in faith.

We are all “gifted” by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes if someone tells us that we’re “gifted”, they are really referring to special talents we may have developed – like art, music, dance, writing etc.

But the gifts our readings highlight are those which are rooted in the Holy Spirit, and we receive them through our Baptism and Confirmation.


Paul tells Timothy not to neglect these gifts. And the psalmist suggests that the first step in such care is the practice of awe, wisdom and prudence.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
    prudent are all who live by it.
    His praise endures forever.

Psalm 111:10

We can’t just practice these gifts for an hour or two as we might practice piano!


The Holy Spirit’s gifts must be nurtured and tended daily, through all seasons of our lives,
allowing their roots to deepen and grow in us.
This was the advice that Paul gave Timothy.
We could all use it as well.


The prophet Isaiah was the first to list the Gifts of the Holy Spirit when he described the coming Messiah:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-3

We are baptized in the image of Christ. These same gifts flow, in a waterfall of grace, into our spirits. May we receive and respond!

Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manel Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Friday, June 11, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Isaiah for our Responsorial Psalm:

God indeed is my savior;
    I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
    who has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
    at the fountain of salvation.

Isaiah 12:2-3

This fountain of salvation is the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


I woke up before dawn today. Not really wanting to formally begin my day, I lingered on the pillows for my early morning prayer. Having always loved this feast, I began placing all my suffering loved ones into Jesus’s heart – one by one, asking for their strength and healing.

The list was long, because there are all kinds of suffering, and I love a lot of people – even ones I don’t know personally! Finally I said to Jesus, “You know, life is HARD!” 

And in my spirit, I heard this answer,
“I know. I lived it for the love of every one of you.”

To me, this is the meaning
of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
– that merciful companionship
which Infinity assumed for us
in the person of Jesus Christ.

That fountain of love and mercy continues to nourish our lives in the Eucharistic community of faith practicing the works of mercy. We are the threads which bind one other to God’s heart.


Paul knew this. That’s why he prayed this beautiful prayer for his beloved Ephesian community. Our second reading offers an example of Paul’s magnificent benedictions and doxologies. As he prays for the Ephesians, so he prays for us. These prayers are exalted, yet simple. They thrill the soul who prays them. They place us, in awe and thanksgiving, fully in the divinely generous, Sweet Heart of Christ.

Let’s pray for our beloveds today and for the world:

For this reason I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.


Music: Two songs today:

Threads – by David Leonard

We beseech the Sacred Heart today that all who suffer any kind of fragmentation may find tenderness, wholeness, and comfort in him.
(To hear the song, click on “Watch on YouTube” in the black clock below.)

This one is old school, but it still works for me:

Sacred Heart of Jesus – James Kilbane

Psalm 145:The Hint of God

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

December 10, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 145 in which the psalmist once again assures us that our God is 

The psalm extends the promises of our first reading from Isaiah:

The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

Isaiah 41:17

We need promises like those of Isaiah and our psalmist, especially in times when we feel tested, alone, frightened, desperate, or abandoned. Even a taste of these radical emotions is hard to bear without some glimmer of promise.

Faith tells us that the Promise is already fulfilled in the Gift of Jesus Christ. 


Advent is our annual liturgical practice in waiting … in the recommitment

  • to a faith that cannot yet see,
  • to a hope that waits yet believes,
  • to a trust that praises even in the predawn shadows.

Advent is our promise to lean
on an invisible God. 

Christmas is the astounding Divine response –
Jesus Christ – God made visible.

Poetry: Paul’s great poem from Colossians 1: 15-23

Christ is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.

For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.i

He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.

He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.

For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Music: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (1867) – Walter Chalmers Smith.
The original, beautiful final verses of this hymn have been lost in the English translation. Here they are, and worth their own meditation:

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.
All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

A New Heaven and Earth

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent

March 23, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, all I can think is, “This passage from Isaiah could not have come at a more perfect time!”

Is65_new heavens

Walter Brueggemann calls Isaiah 65 “a glorious artistic achievement”. Indeed, these images confirm his statement:

  • a new heavens and a new earth;
  • constant rejoicing and happiness
  • people will be a delight
  • no weeping or crying;
  • long life for all
  • everyone with a home
  • enough for all to eat

As we pray with this passage today, we may experience a longing for a return to our beautiful, safe world. During this pandemic, we all pray from a place of anxiety, loss, constrainment, or some degree of suffering. 

Isaiah’s community prayed from the same place. All the beautiful images were a promise not yet realized. The prophetic poetry of Isaiah is a call to courageous hope, not a description of current circumstances.

upside

Faith invites us, even as we experience a bittersweet longing, to trust that God is with us, teaching us and leading us deeper into the Divine Understanding. Even as circumstances turn our world upside down, God will guide the falling pieces to a blessed place if we commit to find God in the tumbling.

I don’t think many of us would deny that the world before Corona needed fixing. The systems we have built have left many in deficit long before 2020, and we have failed to address the wound.

Corona has laid that failure bare.

Now that some of that deficit is universally shared, may we be opened to an irrevocable awareness of our common humanity and responsibility for one another.

Only by such an outcome will we move closer to Isaiah’s peaceful Kingdom. Only by our courage to embrace it, can God fulfill the Promise in us.

Music:  O Day of Peace – Carl P. Daw

A Cheat and a Gift

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

March 10, 2020

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soup

(I will be honest with you, dear readers – as I always am.  (So sorry, my Guam and Australia friends that I am so late.) The morning got away from me.  Ever had that happen? This is a re-run because Daylight Saving Time made me get up too late, and I had to make the most delicious soup ever before I wrote a reflection. You see, I live in a hungry community whom I love!

Recipe below as a means to ask your forgiveness. 🙂


But first:

Scarlett

Today, in Mercy, our readings are a study in contrasts
between sinfulness and righteousness.
Isaiah says even the forlorn sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah
could be saved if they live humbly
and do justice to the downtrodden.
Jesus says that the sin-blind Pharisees
can only be saved
by becoming servants of the needy.
The message is clear
that
 the path to holiness
is the humble service of our neighbor.
May we hear and respond.


Perhaps, responding to these readings,  we would like to give nourishing “soup” – material or spiritual – to our neighbor today. Let me know if you make it, or something similar.  Or have some great suggestions!

Music: Lovely video: White As Snow Maranatha Singers

Recipe

Prelude:
You have leftover mashed potatoes and a few extra sausages, ham or bacon. Hmm? What to do?

1.Make Your Own Broth

Toss a roughly chopped onion, 3 celery stalks, 3 carrots, a couple of cloves of garlic and a meat bone or chicken breast into a pot. I use celery leaves, unchewable asparagus stems and the like.  You won’t actually be eating these.  It’s just to get the nutrients and flavor.

I added a few pork bones today that  I had in the freezer. (Good to roast them first at 350 for 30 minutes if you have time.) You can use some ham or bacon or beef. Add favorite seasonings like salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf, and marjoram. Go gently with the add-ins.  You can’t take OUT but you can always ADD. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Then simmer for about 30 minutes. Pour through a strainer to keep liquid. Let cool. Remove surface fat. (It will rise if you place pot by cool window, or in fridge for a while.  I bought a fat separator and it works well too, but COOL first or your plastic separator will melt!)

      2. The Soup

Roughly clear your stock pot.  (Don’t worry about leaving some of the original spices there.) Add 2-3 tablespoon olive oil. Add chopped onion, celery, carrots, and garlic to pot. Depends on your taste. I use 2 big onions, 4 carrots, 4 celery, 2 garlic gloves. If I have a nice half cabbage, I gladly shower it in.  You’d be surprised how sweet it is! Gently brown as you consider God’s gentleness to you throughout your lifetime. If you want to live dangerously and deliciously, (and don’t have acid reflux), add 1/2 stick butter.

When veggies are transparent, coat with about two tablespoons of cornstarch – the way God sends unexpected grace over you. Stir until the white cornstarch disappears in the veggies. Add your beautiful broth while humming a hymn – preferably Amazing Grace or I Love Rock and Roll Music.  If you don’t have enough of your own broth, add some chicken stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Sit down and have a glass of wine.

    3. The Left-over Potatoes , Et Cetera

Mix the potatoes like this:  1 cup taters to a half cup flour. Add an egg, good salt and pepper. Combine.  Form balls a little smaller than golf balls.

Great to have some sautéed and drained sausage balls, shredded chicken, or bacon or ham.

Once soup is simmering nicely, drop in your extras – potatoes, sausage balls, etc.. Add a can of rinsed beans or a couple handfuls of little pasta things if you want some heft. Let cook gently for 15 or 20 minutes.

Honey, you’re gonna’ love it!  Let me know!

 

Leap … and Be Held

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

February 29, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah continues his advice begun in yesterday’s reading. When he finishes the list of things we should and should not do, Isaiah tells us how God will respond:

Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
God will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up ~

Oh, who can resist these glorious Isaiahan lines. It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? To imagine it offers us great encouragement as we lumber through Lent and out of the doldrums of February.

deer

How fitting that this should be our reading on “Leap Day”, a 24-hour period that many of us consider an extra gift.


Here’s a thought I wrote several years ago that I hope you will find beneficial:

Mitch Albom, the author who wrote “Tuesdays with Morrie”, wrote another book entitled “Just One More Day”.

It is an appropriate title to think about in this week in Leap Year when we will actually have “just one more day” than normal.

How often have we wished that phrase, perhaps near the end of a great vacation, or before an important project is due? Or maybe as Mitch Albom uses it: to have just one more day with someone who has passed from our lives.

With God, we always have one more day. God is Infinite Possibility and Eternal Generosity. Saturday – February 29 – is a good day to stretch our faith and ask what God would have us do with “just one more day” to witness to Divine Abundance in our lives.

Leap2020

Will it be one more day to love, to work, to be thankful, to be competitive, to take advantage or to give it?  The way we use that “one more day” will tell us a lot about how we are using all our days. Maybe we could consider a question that one of our older Sisters is famous for: “Wouldn’t it be sad to come to the last day of our lives – (no more days) —  and realize that we had missed the whole point?”


May all your “leaps” take you to blessed places, dear Friends.
Let go. Take the leap into God’s way, as Isaiah counsels. And just be held.

Music: Just Be Held – Casting Crown 

Lent: The Wound

Friday after Ash Wednesday

February 28, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, Isaiah cuts his listeners no slack — and we too are his listeners.

Is58_7_10

In this powerful passage, the prophet shatters the pretenses of those who make a show of religion. Speaking with God’s voice, Isaiah lambastes those who fast and pray but practice no works of justice and mercy.

“Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.”

These “fake fasters” are left wondering why God doesn’t answer their prayers. The prophet tells them that God isn’t fooled by their pretenses:

Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?

Isaiah says that God’s not into sackcloth and ashes. God’s into good works of mercy and justice. These are the actions that change our hearts, opening us to deeper relationship with God.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.


Listen, dear friends. It can’t be clearer than that.

priscilla-du-preez-FOsina4f7qM-unsplash
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

In a world full of prosperity gospels, false piety and pretend religion – used to justify all kinds of injustice – we may get mixed up sometimes about what pleases God.

Let’s really open our hearts to Isaiah’s message and try to rid our own lives of any pretense about these things.

Let’s confront such hypocrisy when we see it used to subtly oppress rather than to lift up others.


Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.

Perhaps we might spend sometime today thinking about that “wound” we need healed. Might there be some harbored prejudice, indifference, fear, or ignorance that distances us from others who are different, vulnerable, or in need?

Isaiah cautions that until that wound is healed, we will never hear God’s true answer to our prayers.

Music:  Respond – Collin Campbell (Lyrics below)

 

Oh how long will you cry out
And never truly seek my face
You come to me with heavy hearts
But you ignore what makes mine break

I see your thoughts, I hear your words
And I have watched you as you’ve prayed
I’ve told you my desires
But you don’t follow all the way

Children, I’m crying out
Break the chains
Let the oppressed go free
Empty yourselves to those in need
Be my hands Be my feet
What you do unto them You do unto Me

Every day you lift your voice
And await my swift response
But I see only what’s inside
And it’s (what i see on the inside) an offering I don’t want

Children, I’m crying out
Break the chains
Let the oppressed go free
Empty yourselves to those in need
Be my hands Be my feet
What you do unto them You do unto Me

Then your Salvation will come like the dawn
And my glory will be your shield
When you call on My name I will not turn away
I am Your God And I am here
And your light it will shine from the dark
You will be like a free flowing stream
And when you call on My name I will not turn away
I am your God And I am here

Shine!

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 9, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our readings are threaded on a theme of light, justice, and healing.

Is58_8wound

Isaiah writes to a formerly exiled community trying to restore itself after returning to Jerusalem. Tensions, meanness, and dissatisfactions tear at the community. Focus on religious rituals becomes excessive while communitarian practices are ignored.

It is a sad and fractious time for Israel.

Isaiah tells them they are missing the whole point.  The path to healing their national soul is not through empty religious words and practices.

If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.


In our second reading, Paul writes to the Corinthian community similarly disturbed. He reminds the Corinthians that he came to build Christian community among them humbly and open to the Holy Spirit. Like Isaiah in the first reading, Paul now reminds his community not to miss the point:

I came to you in weakness …
so that your faith might rest
not on human wisdom

but on the power of God.


Jesus tells his disciples to let that power of God shine in them by virtue of their good deeds — the very same deeds Isaiah recommends to his listeners:

Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.


In sum, our readings caution us that failures in charity and mercy wound us, both as individuals and as a community. Meanness kills – not only its object, but its subject as well.

When we remove all meanness from our actions, the Light shines, healing all our wounds.

Music:  Let Your Light Shine – Mike Balhoff and Darryl Ducote

The Unexpected within The Ordinary

The Epiphany of the Lord

January 5, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, we travel with Isaiah, Paul, Matthew and the Three Kings into the revealed glory of the Lord!

Is60_1 splendor

It’s not always easy to find that glory though, is it?

Have you ever heard a troubled friend say, “I feel as if God has abandoned me! I can’t find God in my life!”? Well, I’d like to tell you a little story about that.

ducksOne spring morning, two country kids were walking to school across their local railroad tracks.  They had been drilled in the three essential steps before crossing: STOP, LOOK and LISTEN! On this particular morning, as they diligently executed these steps, they heard an unexpected, barely-audible sound.  Four tiny orphaned ducklings had taken refuge in a gully under one of the nearby ties.  What an epiphany!


Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany.  The word means much more than just “discovery”.  It means an unexpected revelation of divine grace within our ordinary circumstances.  The Unexpected within the Ordinary.

kings_gifts

When the Three Kings experienced the Epiphany, it was not simply “dumb luck”.  They had prepared for that moment throughout their entire lives, just never imagining where they would find it —  hidden in a cold stable.  Through study, prayer and living good lives, they had perfected the all-important practice:  STOP, LOOK and LISTEN to your ordinary life; to what is happening just underneath the surface, underneath appearances, underneath the silence. Allow yourself to follow the star and be surprised by God!

It is in the life underneath that God waits to be revealed to us everyday.  The revelation doesn’t come like a loud, anticipated train.  It comes in the unexpected whisper we would have missed had we not stopped, looked and listened to our lives.  It comes in the otherwise unspoken need of a friend, in the finally recognized destructive practice or relationship we must change, in the belated act of forgiveness, in the long over-due and grateful acknowledgement of our life as the blessing that it is.

Before we go too far in this New Year, think about this practice.  When we feel as if God or the Spirit is not part of our lives, we may not be looking in the right places.  Each morning and/or evening, give yourself at least fifteen quiet minutes to breathe.  Point a telescope to your day, and ask yourself “Where is God hidden in these moments?”  If we really STOP, LOOK and LISTEN, eventually, the Star of the Epiphany will rise for us!

Music:  Star of Wonder – lyrics and the music written by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. circa 1857; sung here by Jennifer Avalon

 

Prophecies and Dreams

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our scripture readings lay down before our prayer the long line of salvation history. It is a line that we can walk in wonder, winding from Isaiah’s prophecy, through the House of David, down to Joseph dreaming in the Nazarene night.

line

It is a story filled with words we love because, ever since our childhood, they have carried to us the fragrant scent of Christmas. These readings are the thrilling stuff of prophecies and dreams, all the more wonderful because we know them now fulfilled.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.
Isaiah 7:14


Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.

For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:20


O Emmanuel

This long wick of Promise, burning slowly through the biblical years, bursts into light with the birth of Jesus Christ, the Fire of God.

Through our faith, that Divine Light kindles us – we who now, through our Baptism, carry the sacred DNA of Jesus into our times.

On this final Sunday of Advent, when the world’s “crazy Xmas” tries to hijack our  souls, let us be very intentional about the true meaning of these days. Let us take the time to “go into our heart cave” and prepare for Jesus. (Heart Cave poem to follow in a second post)

Music: Emmanuel – Tim Manion (Lyrics below)

Baby born in a stall.
Long ago now and hard to recall
Cold wind, darkness and sin,
your welcoming from us all.

 How can it be true?
A world grown so old now, how can it be new?
Sorrow’s end, God send,
born now for me and you

Emanuel, Emanuel
What are we that You have loved us so well?
A song on high, a Savior’s high, angel hosts rejoice
Thy glory to tell

 Lord, lead us to know.
You lay like a beggar, so humble, so low;
no place for Your head and straw for a bed,
the glory of God to show.

 Babe on mother’s knee,
child so soon to be nailed to a tree;
all praise, till the end of our days;
O Lord, You have set us free