Decide Today

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, it is Joshua’s turn for a farewell speech. He counsels the Israelites:

If it does not please you to serve the LORD,

decide today whom you will serve,

the gods your fathers served beyond the River

or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.

Clearly, Joshua and his community have not yet rejected the concept of multiple gods. That might sound extremely primitive to us after millennia of Judea-Christian monotheism.

But then again, I wonder. Might we still not say today that people honor multiple gods? We just call them by different names: money, glamour, power, addictive dependencies, prejudices, self-promoting caste systems……. Really, where the rubber meets the road, whom/what do we serve?

So let’s listen to Joshua’s admonition to DECIDE which “god” we serve, because that is the one by which we will live and die.

May we have the spiritual insight and courage to always sing, as Joshua did:

“As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Music: As for Me and My House – John Waller

Lyrics below

Click here for music

I’m done
Building my own kingdom
No more
Seeking worthless idols
Like sheep we have all gone astray
We must choose this day
Whom we will serve
As for me and my house
We will serve the Lord
We will serve the Lord
Idols raised, tear them down
Cause we will serve the Lord
We will serve the Lord
To one king we bow down
As for me and my house
We will only serve the Lord
I’m done
With powerless religion
No more
Living in deception
Like sheep we have all gone astray
We must choose this day
Whom we will serve
As for me and my house
We will serve the Lord
We will serve the Lord
Idols raised, tear them down
We will serve the Lord
We will serve the Lord
To one king we bow down
As for me and my house
We will serve the Lord
We will cross over Jordan
We will claim what you promised
We will cross over Jordan
We will claim what you promised
As for me and my house
We will serve the Lord
We will serve the Lord
Idols raised, tear them down
Cause we will serve the Lord
We will serve the Lord
And we will not give our hearts to another
Will not give our hearts to another
We belong to the Lord
We will not give our hearts to another
Will not give our hearts to another
We will only serve the Lord
As for me and my house

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

Click here for music

In Every Age

Tuesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 13, 2019

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Dt32_7Jage to agePG

Today, in Mercy, our readings are peopled with individuals of all ages.

Deuteronomy gives us Moses at 120 years, when time forces him to admit:

“I am now one hundred and twenty years old
and am no longer able to move about freely;
besides, the LORD has told me that I shall not cross this Jordan.

We also have Joshua, vigorous and on the doorstep of his career:

Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel
said to him, “Be brave and steadfast,
for you must bring this people into the land
which the LORD swore to their fathers he would give them.

The Gospel brings us Jesus near the untimely end of his young life, and the disciples growing into their apostolic maturity.

And then we have the picture of the humble little child who is “the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven”.

Every one of them, young or old, is seeking God in the circumstances of their lives.

What about you, dear friends, how is the mystery of God unfolding in your life today?  As summer gently and slowly leans toward autumn, let the passing days teach us that each season brings its own graces.

Music: in Every Age – Janet Sullivan Whitaker

A New Day Awaits

Sunday, March 31, 2019

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1 Cor new creation

Today, in Mercy,  halfway through Lent, we see in our readings glimpses of new life.

The captivity in Egypt had been TOUGH on Israel. During those many decades, they had appeared to be abandoned and forgotten by God.  It was a harsh reckoning for them … hard to be forgotten. Even then, when they thought they had found freedom, they still wandered for forty years in the desert.

But now Israel stands at a new horizon.  Moses has died and Joshua has become Israel’s leader.  God tells him that it is a new day:

“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”

In our second reading, Paul tells us:

Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

And in our revered Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells us:

This beloved child of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
was lost, and has been found.

All of these passages speak to us in our Lenten journey, and in our Life journey.  We have experienced our own “Egypts”, times when we felt disconnected, even abandoned, by God.  We have sometimes felt we were journeying aimlessly toward an unknown goal. We have at times wandered, like the prodigal son, from the path of God’s love. We have darknesses in our memories that still long for Light.

This poem from Mary Oliver might capture the feeling for us:

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~ Mary Oliver ~

In today’s readings, God is reminding us that the Light awaits us. Forgiveness, reconciliation, new energy and grace are the gifts of Easter – the gifts where we must keep our eyes focused as we journey.

So let us do as e.e.cummings encourages us in this poem:

Let It Go – e.e. cummings

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love


Music: Remember Not the Things of the Past – Bob Hurd
(Lyrics below)

Remember not the things of the past;
now I do something new,
do you not see it?
Now I do something new, says the Lord.

In our distress God has grasped us by the hand,
opened a path in the sea, and we shall pass over,
we shall pass over, free at last.

In our parched land of hypocrisy and hate,
God makes a river spring forth,
a river of mercy, truth and compassion; come and drink.

And who among us is sinless in God’s sight?
Then who will cast the first stone, when he who was sinless
carried our failings to the cross?

Pressing ahead, letting go what lies behind,
may we be found in the Lord, and sharing his dying,
share in his rising from the dead.

Jealous for My Sake?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

                       Readings:  Click here.

Today, in Mercy, our reading from the Book of Numbers reveals a very human moment between Joshua and Moses.

Moses is getting older. He realizes that the time is approaching for him to hand over the leadership of his people. God seems to realize that too.

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Joshua, ever since his youth, has been aide to Moses. Moses is his hero – the one, who having spoken with God, led the People out of Egypt. Now Joshua sees other ordinary guys assuming some of Moses’s roles. Joshua feels his own security and comfort shifting beneath him, hints of a spiritual earthquake.

Number 11_29 Jealous for my sake

An outraged Joshua alerts Moses, begging him to stop these supposed imposters. But Moses assures Joshua with words no hero-worshipper ever wants to hear:

Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!

What a powerful question Moses poses. It searches Joshua’s heart:


Are you jealous for my sake? 

Are you fearful, biased, closed-hearted,
and self-protective because you fear
that you and I will lose position and power?


Surely Moses senses Joshua emerging as the next leader of Israel — even though Joshua might not share that awareness yet. Moses wants him to see that it is the Spirit of God Who leads the People through any human means She wishes.

When we presume to control the Spirit, or think to invest Her power only in our own particular “heroes”, we close ourselves to the amazing, surprising power of God. This Divine Power cannot be controlled and, like wildflowers through concrete, will bloom where She chooses.

We see the fruits of such presumption all over our histories: the falsely assumed superiority of men over women, whiteness over color, wealth over labor, age over youth, or any form of dominance over mutuality. These assumptions become concretized in our culture, hardening us to the movements of the Spirit.

If we have any hold on privilege in our lives, we might be inclined to profit by these assumptions. It is just such an inclination that Moses nips in Joshua in this powerful exchange between revered teacher and apprentice.

Music: An oldie, but goodie. Always brings me a deep peace.  I hope it does the same for you, dear reader.

Come Holy Ghost – The Singing Nuns

Fish, or Cut Bait!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our Sunday readings present us with spiritual ultimatums.

Jn6_67 Chhose

In our first reading, sensing his impending death, Joshua gathers the tribes on the Great Plains of Shechem – the land of their father Abraham. Joshua requires a commitment from the people:

“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve …
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

In other words, “fish or cut bait” – you’re either with God, or you’re not. And your lives should reflect the choice.

In our Gospel, Jesus too feels death’s approach. His teachings have become more intense and direct, particularly regarding the Eucharist. This intensity has caused some of his listeners to waver. They’re not sure they can accept his words. Some drift away.

Jesus challenges the Twelve, those on whom he depends to carry his message after his death.

“Do you also want to leave?

( As for the unfortunate and contested second reading from Ephesians, this long but superb article from Elizabeth Johnson is worth your time.

Click here for Johnson article. )

Music:  I Will Choose Christ – Tom Booth