Psalm 84: Dwell in God’s Heart

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

November 27, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 84, a praise and pilgrimage hymn. 

It is a perfect prayer for us if we have any small sense of alienation, loss, or confusion in our own pilgrimage.

And, honestly, who doesn’t!?

Even in the best of times, life can be a twist! And in pandemic times, politically charged times, economically shaky times??? Never a better time to say, “God help us!”


But Psalm 84 orients us. It announces what the journey is really about … the desire to find a resting place in God. Once we realize that, the road slowly straightens with the power of faith.

In Psalm 84, the pilgrim’s heart, hungry for God, sets out on the spiritual journey.

My soul yearns and pines 
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.

There can be a deep trust in our journeying heart because “even the sparrow” finds a home in God’s tender care.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!


The secret, though, is constancy.:

  • We pilgrims must stay with the essence of our journey – the deep desire for God.
  • We must listen to scripture’s “directions” about where God dwells – with the poor, humble, and merciful.
  • We must not let the flashy road signs of the “Me Culture” distract us.


“The Narcissism Epidemic,”
by psychologists Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell
studies the increase of narcissism or “me-ism” in our culture.
Here’s an excerpt:

Although these seem like a random collection of current trends, all are rooted in a single underlying shift in the American psychology: the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture. Not only are there more narcissists than ever, but non-narcissistic people are seduced by the increasing emphasis on material wealth, physical appearance, celebrity worship, and attention seeking. Standards have shifted, sucking otherwise humble people into the vortex of granite countertops, tricked-out MySpace pages, and plastic surgery. A popular dance track repeats the words “money, success, fame, glamour” over and over, declaring that all other values have “either been discredited or destroyed.”


Let’s pray today for “staying power”. We have been given the grace to seek God in our lives. Let’s dwell in that seeking, moving from strength to strength in any twists life tosses in front of us.

Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed are we whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength.


Poetry: The Journey – Tagore

The morning sea of silence broke into ripples of bird songs; 
and the flowers were all merry by the roadside;
and the wealth of gold was scattered through the rift of the clouds
while we busily went on our way and paid no heed.

We sang no glad songs nor played;
we went not to the village for barter;
we spoke not a word nor smiled;
we lingered not on the way.

We quickened our pace more and more as the time sped by.
The sun rose to the mid sky and doves cooed in the shade. 
Withered leaves danced and whirled in the hot air of noon.

The shepherd boy drowsed and dreamed in the shadow of the banyan tree, 
and I laid myself down by the water
and stretched my tired limbs on the grass.

My companions laughed at me in scorn;
they held their heads high and hurried on;
they never looked back nor rested;
they vanished in the distant blue haze.
They crossed many meadows and hills,
and passed through strange, far-away countries.

All honor to you, heroic host of the interminable path!
Mockery and reproach pricked me to rise, 
but found no response in me.

I gave myself up for lost
in the depth of a glad humiliation
—in the shadow of a dim delight.

The repose of the sun-embroidered green gloom 
slowly spread over my heart.
I forgot for what I had traveled,
and I surrendered my mind without struggle 
to the maze of shadows and songs.

At last, when I woke from my slumber and opened my eyes, 
I saw thee standing by me, flooding my sleep with thy smile. 
How I had feared that the path was long and wearisome, 
and the struggle to reach thee was hard!

Music: How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place – Jesuit Music

Our Beloved Communities

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, priest

May 26, 2020

Click here for readings

given me

Today, in Mercy, Paul gives the first part of his Ephesian farewell address which he will complete in tomorrow’s reading.

Paul really loved the Ephesian community. He lived with them for three years and poured his heart and soul into teaching them. He doesn’t say it outright, but like all ministers, he must have learned from them as well – from their faith, compassion, and openness to his teaching.

Now Paul begins the last journey back to Jerusalem, a passage which will mirror Christ’s own journey to that sacred city. But before he departs, Paul tells the Ephesians how much he loves and expects from them. And he blesses them.

In tomorrow’s continuation, Paul will say:

And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.

In our Gospel today, as Jesus commences his own final journey, he blesses his listeners as well:

Father, I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours


Today as we pray, whether we are at the beginning or late parts of our journey, we might take time to pray for the ones God “has given” us in our lives. Like Paul who shared life with the Ephesians, and like Jesus and his beloved disciples, God has given us communities to love and form us on our journey.

These extraordinary pandemic days have reminded us all of what’s most cherished in our lives. It’s such a perfect time to show our own beloved communities how much they mean to us. It doesn’t have to be a long address or a profound speech. My young nephew and his dear wife did it yesterday with a simple and delightfully surprising phone call just before they journeyed on a small vacation.

Just little phrases between us, passed over a thousand mile telephone signal, carried a much bigger message of love and gratitude:

  • just wanted to check on you
  • are you feeling well
  • do you have what you need
  • enjoy your time away
  • travel safely
  • thanks for thinking of me
  • I love you
  • God bless you

Today, as we read the orations of Jesus and Paul, we may not see the same exact phrases, but the message is the same. Jesus and Paul knew it was important to their communities to put that loving message into words. It’s important for our communities too.

familyThanks Jimmy and Kristin. Thank you all my dear family and friends. I am so blessed to have these kinds of conversations with all of you. I don’t ever want to take that for granted.

Like Paul,
I commend each one of you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.

On this, and all your life journeys, travel safely and know you are deeply loved.

Music: The Lord Bless You and Keep You – John Rutter

Got Baggage?

Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs

February 6, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, “journey” is a central theme. David takes his final journey after commissioning his son Solomon as his successor. In our Gospel, Jesus commissions the disciples for their first missionary journey.

Each of these journeys has its own “baggage requirements”.


David’s situation is easy and can be stated in a phrase we are all familiar with:

“You can’t take it with you.”

The writer of Job expresses the same sentiment:

chick-154490_960_720And Job said,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I return.
The LORD gave,
and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Job 1:2

 


It’s a lesson we seem to have a hard time learning. Whenever I pack for a trip, the challenge resurfaces.

baggage
For anyone wondering, yes this is actually me at the airport, except for the heels! 🙂

Back in my early days of flying, when there were no baggage fees, some passengers took everything but the kitchen sink on their journeys. I have a clear picture of petite women hauling suitcases bigger than themselves over to the check-in counter.

Often in life we carry a lot of baggage we don’t need. Some of it is good stuff we just can’t part with, and some of it is junk we should have tossed long ago. The point is that it’s all weight we don’t need if we want to reach our desired destination easily.


 

Mk6_8journey
Jesus drives that point home to his disciples in today’s Gospel:

He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick
– no food, no sack, no money in their belts.


Now that’s a pretty stringent packing list! So what might it mean for our spiritual journey?

Let’s ask ourselves this:

  • What weighs me down from being a loving, generous, just and merciful person?
  • Are there things I won’t let go of because I am fearful, insecure, or selfish?

When the disciples heeded Jesus’s advice, their ensuing freedom made them capable of miracles. Might such courage do the same thing for us?


Music: Have a little fun this morning with this great old country song. Apologies to all grammarians who will spot the blatant contradiction in the title!
I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now – Goodman Revival

Refrain:
Well, I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now
Gotta make it to Heaven somehow
Though the devil tempt me and he tried to turn me around
He’s offered everything that’s got a name
All the wealth I want and worldly fame
If I could still I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now

Well, I started out travellin’ for the Lord many years ago
I’ve had a lot of heartache and I met a lot of grief and woe
But when I would stumble then I would humble down
And there I’d say, I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now

Oh, there’s nothin’ in this world that’ll ever take the place of God’s love
All the silver and gold wouldn’t buy a touch from above
When the soul needs healin’ and I begin to feelin’ His power
Then I can say, thank the Lord, I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now

Oh, I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now
Gotta make it to Heaven somehow
Though the devil tempts me and he tried to turn me around
He’s offered everything that’s got a name
All the wealth I want and worldly fame
If I could still I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now.

The Way – Amy Lowell

(When I read this poem, I see Jesus beginning his life’s journey in joyous hope, then meeting the reality of his Passion, Death and Resurrection. I see my own journey too, in its different phases of light and darkness – of hope, sorrow and joy.  Read the whole, but then take time with the pregnant phrases. One will capture you where your are standing today. Stand there with Jesus.)

path

At first a mere thread of a footpath half blotted out by the grasses
Sweeping triumphant across it, it wound between hedges of roses
Whose blossoms were poised above leaves as pond lilies float on the water,
While hidden by bloom in a hawthorn a bird filled the morning with singing.

It widened a highway, majestic, stretching ever to distant horizons,
Where shadows of tree-branches wavered, vague outlines invaded by sunshine;
No sound but the wind as it whispered the secrets of earth to the flowers,
And the hum of the yellow bees, honey-laden and dusty with pollen.

And Summer said, “Come, follow onward, with no thought save the longing to wander,
The wind, and the bees, and the flowers, all singing the great song of Nature,
Are minstrels of change and of promise, they herald the joy of the Future.”

Later the solitude vanished, confused and distracted the road
Where many were seeking and jostling. Left behind were the trees and the flowers,
The half-realized beauty of quiet, the sacred unconscious communing.

And now he is come to a river, a line of gray, sullen water,
Not blue and splashing, but dark, rolling somberly on to the ocean.
But on the far side is a city whose windows flame gold in the sunset.

It lies fair and shining before him, a gem set betwixt sky and water,
And spanning the river a bridge, frail promise to longing desire,
Flung by man in his infinite courage, across the stern force of the water;

And he looks at the river and fears, the bridge is so slight, yet he ventures
His life to its fragile keeping, if it fails the waves will engulf him.
O Arches! be strong to uphold him, and bear him across to the city,
The beautiful city whose spires still glow with the fires of sunset!

Music: from the album Traveler’s Prayer –  John Redbourn

 

 

 

Enduring Journey

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 5, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we have the first of a few readings from the Book of Numbers. Numbers is basically about two themes: journeying and maturing as a community of faith.

roots

 

Numbers is the fourth book of the Bible, part of the five which comprise the Pentateuch, or Hebrew Torah. We can think of these books as a kind of Jewish “Roots”, for those who are familiar with the Alex Haley classic.

 

In the Pentateuch, both Jews and Christian find the foundational bedrock of their faith story. Today’s chapter focuses on two realities of faith and community: leadership and fidelity.

The People are having trouble staying committed to the journey. They are tired, hungry and walking around in circles. They are hungry for something besides manna, the way we become hungry for more than our dailyness.

Numbers11_4 complain

Like most frustrated groups, they start busting on their leader – Moses. Moses, unwilling to carry their burdens alone, starts busting on God. Watch any TV drama for a similar plot/theme. As a matter of fact, let’s examine our lives for it.

Enduring commitment is hard, especially when it is tested. When our commitment seems meaningless, or ignored, or misinterpreted, or otherwise futile, what do we do? How do we re-examine and re-define the fundamental relationship of faith which informs that commitment.

This re-examination and deeper re-commitment is what the Israelites experience through their desert journey, until they are ready to pass into the Promised Land as God’s People.

It is what we experience as a person of faith and as a faith community. Commitment is never static. In life’s test chamber, it either grows or diminishes. Praying with these passages from the Sacred Scripture may help us to grow deeper in our faith and trust. They may help us find the center if we feel a little hungry and lost in the desert too.

Music: Guide Me, Thou, O Great Redeemer

This hymn is the English version of a melody written by the Welshman John Hughes in 1909. The text was composed in 1745 by William Williams, considered Wales’ most famous hymnist. As a writer of poetry and prose,he is also considered today as one of the great literary figures of Wales. For an interesting history of the hymn, click here.

Clash

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052218.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we officially re-enter the Church’s Ordinary Time, those large time frames in the liturgical year which fall outside the major seasons. We have just left the glorious cycle of Lent, Passion and Eastertide. And now we get to show how all those special graces will impact our ordinary lives. It’s rather like coming back from free-floating outer space and landing in the gravity-laden ocean where we have to be rescued.

In our readings today, James and Mark are our rescuers. And they’re tough on us! Both point out that the clash of good and evil in our lives is rooted in our pride and unruly passions. In other words, we tend to focus on protecting and promoting our own interests in this life, sometimes to the point of stepping on others.

Our readings challenge us to place our well-being in the hands of God; to humbly turn our attention outward; to find our wealth and security in service to God’s most needy ones – because that is where God dwells.

It may be called Ordinary Time, but it is by no means ordinary. It is the glorious and dangerous daily journey into the heart of God. Travel in grace, my friends!

Music: Strength for the Journey ~ Michael John Poirier