Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 18 which is a detailed poetic account of David’s jubilation at his victory as reported in 2 Samuel 22:

David sang to the Lord the words of this song
when the Lord delivered him
from the hand of all his enemies
and from the hand of Saul. 

2 Samuel 22:1

I’m not a fan of modern “action movies”. When I see their trailers on TV, I feel overwhelmed by their “Bang! Bang!”, “Blow ‘em Up” special effects. And I felt a little bit like that when I read all of Psalm 18. 

The scenes described in both Samuel and Psalms are tumultuous! David has had one heck of a time trying to be king!


But reflecting on his deliverance from those times causes David to exclaim, “I love You, Lord, my God.”


As you read Psalm 18, notice that a significant word is missing: BECAUSE.

David never says that he loves God BECAUSE of all the magnificent things God has done for him.


David simply loves God.
And loving God,
David see all experience
as held in God’s hand.


Love, for God or for God’s creatures, isn’t a barometer. It doesn’t rise or fall according to life’s pressures.

Love is a magnet. It is a pulling into the life of the other which gives balance to my own being. Without that balance, it isn’t love.


We see this beautiful balance in David’s relationship with God:

He knows God through deep and constant relationship

I love you, Lord, my strength


He stays faithful throughout his trials.

… my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!


He gives glory to God, not himself.

Praised be the Lord, I exclaim
Extolled be God, my savior!


He asks God’s continued blessing on those for whom he is responsible.

You have shown kindness to me and my posterity forever.


Poetry: A Rondeau for Leonard Cohen – Malcolm Guite wrote this poem thinking of Leonard Cohen as a modern day David. Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death and romantic relationships. He is the composer of the very popular song “Hallelujah”.

Like David’s psalm you named our pain,
And left us. But the songs remain
To search our wounds and bring us balm,
Till every song becomes a psalm,
And your restraint is our refrain;

Between the stained-glass and the stain,
The dark heart and the open vein,
Between the heart-storm and the harm,
Like David’s psalm.I see you by the windowpane,
Alive within your own domain,
The light is strong, the seas are calm,
You chant again the telling charm,
That names, and naming, heals our pain,
Like David’s psalm.


Music: If It Be Your Will – Leonard Cohen

Psalm 37: The Problem of Evil

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

January 29, 2021


from today’s first reading

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 37 which some interpret as a response to the problem of evil. The Hebrew scriptures often express this problem as a question: why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer? 

The valiant one whose steps are guided by the LORD,
who will delight in his way,
May stumble, but he will never fall,
for the LORD holds his hand.

Psalm 37: 23-24

I think many of us see the evil in the world and are saddened, stunned, and confused by it. We share the disillusionment posed in Rabbi Harold Kushner’s classic book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”.

I don’t know about you, but I even have gotten angry with God over the question. When I ministered as hospice chaplain, there were many nights I spent in tearful, protesting astonishment at God’s so-called “Will”.

I have a dear and abundantly faithful friend who swears she will tell God off when she gets to heaven. Ever been like her?😉

Over the years I’ve come to understand that, well actually, we just don’t understand. I have also come to trust that God mysteriously abides with us in our suffering, drawing us ever deeper into that ineffable mystery.

Psalm 37 encourages that trust, and its ensuant behavior, within our own lives:

Trust in the LORD and do good,
    that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
    and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
Commit to the LORD your way;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
    bright as the noonday shall be your vindication. 

Psalm 37: 3-6

Psalm 37 acknowledges that, though we trust, our trust is often tested by what we see in the world.

The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
    who is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
    the Lord delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in God.

Psalm 37: 39-40

Perhaps for our prayer today, we would like to test our hearts against this trust, given the circumstances and awarenesses of our own lives. Where is it that we “take refuge” when “bad things happen”?


Poetry: “Talking to Grief” by Denise Levertov

Ah, grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.

I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.

You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog.

Music: You Want It Darker – by Leonard Cohen who was a Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death and romantic relationships. Many will be familiar with his highly popularized and beautifully haunting song


Cohen invokes in the song what seem to be phrases from the story of the “binding of Isaac” in Genesis 22, when God commanded Abraham to slaughter his beloved son, Isaac. The Hebrew word Hineni, which means “Here I am,” is repeated thrice in the “You Want It Darker” song and in Genesis 22 (vs. 1, 7, 11). …

“Hineni” resonates with obedient readiness. It is what a faithful Jew says to God when summoned and called, even in the face of the “valley of the shadow of death.” But Cohen is not so willing to embrace this word in the face of such deep darkness. Indeed, he “wants out” if thus is how the Dealer deals. He will not simply submit without protest against death, without shouting out from within the dark mystery that enfolds humanity.

Dr. Tom Neal – Academic Dean and Professor of Spiritual Theology, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans, LA

Let the Light In

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 9, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we have the first of a few readings from the Book of Deuteronomy. In today’s passage, Moses gives the first of three speeches to the community. These speeches are a sort of manifesto a family patriarch might give before he dies, framing the family history and code to direct coming generations.

Ps77 crack


Dad

 

The reading falls on a most appropriate day for me.
Today would be my Dad’s 104th birthday.
The occasion invites me to recount all the blessings
given to him, me, and our family.

 


When we, as people of faith, step back from our lives in reverence, we realize God’s immense goodness to us. Moses encourages his people to do just such stepping back:

Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?

We might ask ourselves the same thing. 

  • How has God been with me and my family through our lifetimes, and through the generations that preceded us?
  • In both our lights and darknesses, how has God continually called us to relationship?
  • How have we revealed God’s voice to one another by our love, honesty, support, patient accompaniment, generous correction and forgiveness?
  • How have these gifts to one another allowed us to become gifts to the larger world?
  • What am I passing on to the next generation of the fidelity and sacrifice which has blessed me?

When I think of my Dad, there are so many symbols that show how he answered those questions with his life. They aren’t big manifestos like those of Moses. Instead: 

  • a frayed prayer book that I watched him finger daily
  • an old receipt for my bicycle bought in incremental payments he could barely afford
  • his sincere distress one Assumption Day when he had forgotten to go to Mass
  • his steadfast attempt to work even when illness weakened him and his humble trust in God when that weakness appeared to triumph
  • a treasured conversation about his hope for heaven
  • the appreciation now, in my maturity, of his thousand quiet acts of faith and love

All of us might spend some time in gratitude for the legacy of faith and love we have received. No family is perfect, and the grace may come to us in clarity or in disguise. But it comes. 

There are fractures and tears in every family. There were some even in Moses’ “family” and Moses himself! And we cannot magically heal them all. But God asks us to remember that God abides with us even in any fragmentation. Just as the poet Leonard Cohen sings:

There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

Click here to listen to Cohen’s moving song

If what we remember in our family history are weaknesses, how have they made us stronger? If what we remember are strengths, how have they made us more generous? In either case, how have we heard God’s voice in our story? How have we let the Light in?

As Moses tells his people:

This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart,
that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,

and that there is no other.

Music: As for Me and My House – Promise Keepers