Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we read from James who writes elegantly to his community. He reminds them and us that all gifts originate in our changeless, loving God Who breathed us into life from Infinite and Lavish Mercy.

Then James just so simply enjoins us:

  • So hear God’s Word of Love in your hearts
  • Be good by doing good for the afflicted

James says that doing this is
“religion pure and undefined”.

James 1:27

In our Gospel, Jesus reinforces this truth. The Pharisees want to condemn Jesus and the disciples for breaking a ritual hand-washing rule. Jesus says those human rules are lip-worship. What God wants is a loving and sincere heart proven by loving and sincere deeds.

On this last Sunday of August, let us rejoice in the gifts God has given us- life, faith, the ability to love and hope. Let us reach out by prayer and service to those who might be blessed by our sharing. 

That reach can be so simple: a smile, a phone call, a small courtesy, a solitary prayer. Or it can be huge: a long-delayed forgiveness, a turning from unhealthy or unholy behaviors, a commitment to faith and service. We ask the Creator of Lights to inspire us.


Poetry – excerpt from George MacDonald’s poem “Light”. I’ll post the entire poem separately today – long and very beautiful. Many of you may enjoy it.

Gentle winds through forests calling;
    Big waves on the sea-shore falling;
    Bright birds through the thick leaves glancing;
    Light boats on the big waves dancing;
    Children in the clear pool laving;
    Mountain streams glad music giving;
    Yellow corn and green grass waving;
    Long-haired, bright-eyed maidens living;
    Light on all things, even as now--
    God, our Father, it is Thou!
    Light, O Radiant! thou didst come abroad,
    To mediate 'twixt our ignorance and God;
    Forming ever without form;
    Showing, but thyself unseen;
    Pouring stillness on the storm;
    Making life where death had been!
    If thou, Light, didst cease to be,
    Death and Chaos soon were out,
    Weltering o'er the slimy sea,
    Riding on the whirlwind's rout;
    And if God did cease to be,
    O Beloved! where were we?
    
Father of Lights, pure and unspeakable,
    On whom no changing shadow ever fell!
    Thy light we know not, are content to see;
    And shall we doubt because we know not Thee?
    Or, when thy wisdom cannot be expressed,
    Fear lest dark vapors dwell within thy breast?
    Nay, nay, ye shadows on our souls descending!
    Ye bear good witness to the light on high,
    Sad shades of something 'twixt us and the sky!
    And this word, known and unknown radiant blending,
    Shall make us rest, like children in the night,--
    Word infinite in meaning: God is Light.
    We walk in mystery all the shining day
    Of light unfathomed that bestows our seeing,
    Unknown its source, unknown its ebb and flow:
    Thy living light's eternal fountain-play
    In ceaseless rainbow pulse bestows our being--
    Its motions, whence or whither, who shall know?
    O Light, if I had said all I could say
    Of thy essential glory and thy might,
    Something within my heart unsaid yet lay,
    And there for lack of words unsaid must stay:
    For God is Light.

Music: Every Good Gift ~ One:A Worship Collective

Every good gift flows from Your heart, O God.

Third Sunday of Easter

April 18, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 4 which describes the spiritual contentment of one who tries to respond faithfully to an ever-faithful God:

The psalmist’s faithful response is driven by a deep repentance – a conversion, a turning toward the Light.

Let your heart be awestruck by God’s steadfast love.
Sin no more;
Turn to God in the depth of your spirit.
Examine your heart in silence 
as you offer your evening prayer.

Psalm 4: 4-5

I think that, even in the most brilliant souls, there are still corners yearning for Light. Until we are transfigured by death, such is the human condition. This is the case with the people Peter addresses in our first reading, John in our second. Even the faithful disciples are called to greater Light in today’s Gospel.

Jesus said to them:
Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.

Luke 24:46-48

Today, as we pray, might there be a shadowed corner we would like to turn toward Grace? What places in our sometimes darkened world shall we plead before the Merciful Light?

Poetry: Light – Today’s poem by George Macdonald is long, but oh so worth the time and focus. I encourage you to revisit often, taking small excerpts to cherish.

George Macdonald (10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905) was a Scottish author, poet and Christian minister. He was a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll. In addition to his fairy tales, MacDonald wrote several works on Christian apologetics.

His writings have been cited as a major literary influence by many notable authors including W. H. Auden, J. M. Barrie, Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrlees, Robert E. Howard, L. Frank Baum, T.H. White, Lloyd Alexander, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit, Peter S. Beagle, Neil Gaiman and Madeleine L’Engle. 

C. S. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his “master”: “Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later”, said Lewis, “I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.” G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had “made a difference to my whole existence”.


Light 

First-born of the creating Voice!
Minister of God’s Spirit, who wast sent
Waiting upon him first, what time he went
Moving about mid the tumultuous noise
Of each unpiloted element
Upon the face of the void formless deep!
Thou who didst come unbodied and alone
Ere yet the sun was set his rule to keep,
Or ever the moon shone,
Or e’er the wandering star-flocks forth were driven!
Thou garment of the Invisible, whose skirt
Sweeps, glory-giving, over earth and heaven!
Thou comforter, be with me as thou wert
When first I longed for words, to be
A radiant garment for my thought, like thee!

We lay us down in sorrow,
Wrapt in the old mantle of our mother Night;
In vexing dreams we strive until the morrow;
Grief lifts our eyelids up-and Lo, the light!
The sunlight on the wall! And visions rise
Of shining leaves that make sweet melodies;
Of wind-borne waves with thee upon their crests;
Of rippled sands on which thou rainest down;
Of quiet lakes that smooth for thee their breasts;
Of clouds that show thy glory as their own;
O joy! O joy! the visions are gone by!
Light, gladness, motion, are reality!

Thou art the god of earth. The skylark springs
Far up to catch thy glory on his wings;
And thou dost bless him first that highest soars.
The bee comes forth to see thee; and the flowers
Worship thee all day long, and through the skies
Follow thy journey with their earnest eyes.
River of life, thou pourest on the woods,
And on thy waves float out the wakening buds;
The trees lean toward thee, and, in loving pain,
Keep turning still to see thee yet again;
South sides of pines, haunted all day by thee,
Bear violins that tremble humanly.
And nothing in thine eyes is mean or low:
Where’er thou art, on every side,
All things are glorified;
And where thou canst not come, there thou dost throw
Beautiful shadows, made out of the dark,
That else were shapeless; now it bears thy mark.

And men have worshipped thee.
The Persian, on his mountain-top,
Waits kneeling till thy sun go up,
God-like in his serenity.
All-giving, and none-gifted, he draws near,
And the wide earth waits till his face appear-
Longs patient. And the herald glory leaps
Along the ridges of the outlying clouds,
Climbing the heights of all their towering steeps.
Sudden, still multitudinous laughter crowds
The universal face: Lo, silently,
Up cometh he, the never-closing eye!
Symbol of Deity, men could not be
Farthest from truth when they were
kneeling unto thee!

Thou plaything of the child,
When from the water’s surface thou dost spring,
Thyself upon his chamber ceiling fling,
And there, in mazy dance and motion wild,
Disport thyself-etherial, undefiled.
Capricious, like the thinkings of the child!
I am a child again, to think of thee
In thy consummate glee.
How I would play with thee, athirst to climb
On sloping ladders of thy moted beams,
When through the gray dust darting in long streams!
How marvel at the dusky glimmering red,
With which my closed fingers thou hadst made
Like rainy clouds that curtain the sun’s bed!
And how I loved thee always in the moon!
But most about the harvest-time,
When corn and moonlight made a mellow tune,
And thou wast grave and tender as a cooing dove!
And then the stars that flashed cold, deathless love!
And the ghost-stars that shimmered in the tide!
And more mysterious earthly stars,
That shone from windows of the hill and glen-
Thee prisoned in with lattice-bars,
Mingling with household love and rest of weary men!
And still I am a child, thank God!-to spy
Thee starry stream from bit of broken glass
Upon the brown earth undescried,
Is a found thing to me, a gladness high,
A spark that lights joy’s altar-fire within,
A thought of hope to prophecy akin,
That from my spirit fruitless will not pass.

Thou art the joy of age:
Thy sun is dear when long the shadow falls.
Forth to its friendliness the old man crawls,
And, like the bird hung out in his poor cage
To gather song from radiance, in his chair
Sits by the door; and sitteth there
His soul within him, like a child that lies
Half dreaming, with half-open eyes,
At close of a long afternoon in summer-
High ruins round him, ancient ruins, where
The raven is almost the only comer-
Half dreams, half broods, in wonderment
At thy celestial ascent
Through rifted loop to light upon the gold
That waves its bloom in some high airy rent:
So dreams the old man’s soul, that is not old,
But sleepy mid the ruins that infold.

What soul-like changes, evanescent moods,
Upon the face of the still passive earth,
Its hills, and fields, and woods,
Thou with thy seasons and thy hours art ever calling forth!
Even like a lord of music bent
Over his instrument,
Giving to carol, now to tempest birth!
When, clear as holiness, the morning ray
Casts the rock’s dewy darkness at its feet,
Mottling with shadows all the mountain gray;
When, at the hour of sovereign noon,
Infinite silent cataracts sheet
Shadowless through the air of thunder-breeding June;
When now a yellower glory slanting passes
‘Twixt longer shadows o’er the meadow grasses;
And now the moon lifts up her shining shield,
High on the peak of a cloud-hill revealed;
Now crescent, low, wandering sun-dazed away,
Unconscious of her own star-mingled ray,
Her still face seeming more to think than see,
Makes the pale world lie dreaming dreams of thee!
No mood, eternal or ephemeral,
But wakes obedient at thy silent call!

Of operative single power,
And simple unity the one emblem,
Yet all the colours that our passionate eyes devour,
In rainbow, moonbow, or in opal gem,
Are the melodious descant of divided thee.
Lo thee in yellow sands! Lo thee
In the blue air and sea!
In the green corn, with scarlet poppies lit,
Thy half-souls parted, patient thou dost sit.
Lo thee in dying triumphs of the west!
Lo thee in dew-drop’s tiny breast!
Thee on the vast white cloud that floats away,
Bearing upon its skirt a brown moon-ray!
Gold-regent, thou dost spendthrift throw
Thy hoardless wealth of gleam and glow!
The thousand hues and shades upon the flowers
Are all the pastime of thy leisure hours;
The jewelled ores in mines that hidden be,
Are dead till touched by thee.

Everywhere,
Thou art lancing through the air!
Every atom from another
Takes thee, gives thee to his brother;
Continually,
Thou art wetting the wet sea,
Bathing its sluggish woods below,
Making the salt flowers bud and blow;
Silently,
Workest thou, and ardently,
Waking from the night of nought
Into being and to thought;

Influences
Every beam of thine dispenses,
Potent, subtle, reaching far,
Shooting different from each star.
Not an iron rod can lie
In circle of thy beamy eye,
But its look doth change it so
That it cannot choose but show
Thou, the worker, hast been there;
Yea, sometimes, on substance rare,
Thou dost leave thy ghostly mark
Even in what men call the dark.
Ever doing, ever showing,
Thou dost set our hearts a glowing-
Universal something sent
To shadow forth the Excellent!

When the firstborn affections-
Those winged seekers of the world within,
That search about in all directions,
Some bright thing for themselves to win-
Through pathless woods, through home-bred fogs,
Through stony plains, through treacherous bogs,
Long, long, have followed faces fair,
Fair soul-less faces, vanished into air,
And darkness is around them and above,
Desolate of aught to love,
And through the gloom on every side,
Strange dismal forms are dim descried,
And the air is as the breath
From the lips of void-eyed Death,
And the knees are bowed in prayer
To the Stronger than despair-
Then the ever-lifted cry,
Give us light, or we shall die,
Cometh to the Father’s ears,
And he hearkens, and he hears:-

As some slow sun would glimmer forth
From sunless winter of the north,
We, hardly trusting hopeful eyes,
Discern and doubt the opening skies.
From a misty gray that lies on
Our dim future’s far horizon,
It grows a fresh aurora, sent
Up the spirit’s firmament,
Telling, through the vapours dun,
Of the coming, coming sun!
Tis Truth awaking in the soul!
His Righteousness to make us whole!
And what shall we, this Truth receiving,
Though with but a faint believing,
Call it but eternal Light?
‘Tis the morning, ’twas the night!

All things most excellent
Are likened unto thee, excellent thing!
Yea, he who from the Father forth was sent,
Came like a lamp, to bring,
Across the winds and wastes of night,
The everlasting light.
Hail, Word of God, the telling of his thought!
Hail, Light of God, the making-visible!
Hail, far-transcending glory brought
In human form with man to dwell-
Thy dazzling gone; thy power not less
To show, irradiate, and bless;
The gathering of the primal rays divine
Informing chaos, to a pure sunshine!

Dull horrid pools no motion making!
No bubble on the surface breaking!
The dead air lies, without a sound,
Heavy and moveless on the marshy ground.

Rushing winds and snow-like drift,
Forceful, formless, fierce, and swift!
Hair-like vapours madly riven!
Waters smitten into dust!
Lightning through the turmoil driven,
Aimless, useless, yet it must!

Gentle winds through forests calling!
Bright birds through the thick leaves glancing!
Solemn waves on sea-shores falling!
White sails on blue waters dancing!
Mountain streams glad music giving!
Children in the clear pool laving!
Yellow corn and green grass waving!
Long-haired, bright-eyed maidens living!
Light, O radiant, it is thou!
Light!-we know our Father now!

Forming ever without form;
Showing, but thyself unseen;
Pouring stillness on the storm;
Breathing life where death had been!
If thy light thou didst draw in,
Death and Chaos soon were out,
Weltering o’er the slimy sea,
Riding on the whirlwind’s rout,
In wild unmaking energy!
God, be round us and within,
Fighting darkness, slaying sin.

Father of Lights, high-lost, unspeakable,
On whom no changing shadow ever fell!
Thy light we know not, are content to see;
Thee we know not, and are content to be!-
Nay, nay! until we know thee, not content are we!
But, when thy wisdom cannot be expressed,
Shall we imagine darkness in thy breast?
Our hearts awake and witness loud for thee!
The very shadows on our souls that lie,
Good witness to the light supernal bear;
The something ‘twixt us and the sky
Could cast no shadow if light were not there!
If children tremble in the night,
It is because their God is light!
The shining of the common day
Is mystery still, howe’er it ebb and flow-
Behind the seeing orb, the secret lies:
Thy living light’s eternal play,
Its motions, whence or whither, who shall know?-
Behind the life itself, its fountains rise!
In thee, the Light, the darkness hath no place;
And we have seen thee in the Saviour’s face.

Enlighten me, O Light!-why art thou such?
Why art thou awful to our eyes, and sweet?
Cherished as love, and slaying with a touch?
Why in thee do the known and unknown meet?
Why swift and tender, strong and delicate?
Simple as truth, yet manifold in might?
Why does one love thee, and another hate?
Why cleave my words to the portals of my speech
When I a goodly matter would indite?
Why mounts my thought of thee beyond my reach?
-In vain to follow thee, I thee beseech,
For God is light.

Music: Heaven’s Window – Peter Kater

Psalm 1: Trust the Light

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

December 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 and its confident responsorial verse.

Last night we watched a public television Christmas special, “Rick Steves’s European Christmas“. From its many beautiful scenes, one in particular remained with me: a little group of friends tobogganing down a snow covered hill at night. Their only lights came from the small lanterns they held and the full moon’s generous luster against the white snow.

My first reaction to the scene was to wonder, “What if their light goes out?”. Then I realized that there was a light beyond them which would guide their way.


There are times in our lives when the light, if it doesn’t go out, at least flickers. I wrote about that awareness in this story a few years ago: 

She had arranged to visit with an old college friend. They had been separated too long by the distancing choices that life often demands. She wanted to reconnect to that rare experience of shared transparency found just once or twice in a lifetime – the gift of a real friend.

They sat on a porch overlooking a gentle pond. The day was bright, the coffee hot, the chairs comfortable. But the magic was gone.  Only half her friend had arrived for the cherished conversation. The other half – joy, adventure and the excess of youthful hope – had been lost. Somewhere in the intervening years, the light had gone out. Her friend had suffered a wound she did not share. This one afternoon would be too short a time to give that wound a name.

During our Advent journey, God is waiting in the seeming darkness to guide us. God already knows the wounds we carry. God sees where our heart’s light has dimmed. Holding our half-heartedness next to the Divine Heart, God yearns to rekindle us.


Today’s psalm reminds us that there is a always Light waiting beyond us to guide our way.

Blessed the one follows not
the counsel of darkness
nor walks in it ways,
nor remains in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on its Light day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Poetry: from Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Music: Christ, Be Our Light – Bernadette Farrell

Open to the Light

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Click here for readings

May 15, 2019

Today, in Mercy, Jesus calls himself the Light.

Jn12_46_Light

Surely he came to bring us out of darkness which is light’s polar opposite. Most of us receive that deliverance with gratitude, understanding it to be our redemption from sin and separation from God.

As we grow deeper in our spiritual life, we may realize that there are many degrees of opposition to the Light. We may not find ourselves in the deep darkness of habitual sin, but rather on those tantalizing edges of spiritual laziness that can halt our soul’s growth:

  • the fog of faithless religious practice
  • the clouds of unresolved hurts and failures in forgiveness
  • the shadows of our religious prejudices
  • the dusk of our early energy for charity and community
  • the eclipse of hope and confidence in God

May God give us the grace to see that Light, too, comes in many forms, beaming through the smallest openings in our spirit. Every act, every choice, every silent prayer made for the sake of Love allows that Light to grow. You may like to pray with that thought while appreciating this poem of Denise Levertov:

Bearing the Light

Rain-diamonds, this winter morning, 
embellish the tangle of unpruned pear-tree twigs; 
each solitaire, placed, it appears, with considered judgement, 
bears the light beneath the rifted clouds – 
the indivisible shared out in endless abundance.

Music: some beautiful instrumental music from Kathryn Kaye for your prayer time.

Be Light!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Click here for readings

Jn5_35 light

Today, in Mercy, the Gospel gives us Jesus claiming his throne. He is setting his disciples straight before he is no longer with them. He drives home each of the pillars of his Messiahship, like so many stakes in the ground:

  • I have testimony greater than John’s.
  • The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.
  • The Father has testified on my behalf.
  • I came in the name of my Father.

Jesus is saying these things to his persecutors, but he says them for the benefit of his surrounding disciples. He wants them to remember these things to sustain them in the dark times to come.

In this passage, Jesus also pays a glorious compliment to John the Baptist:

He was a burning and shining lamp.

Now Jesus wants his followers, fired by their faith, to burn with an even greater light. He wants us to do the same, to burn with a flame steadied by Christ’s assurances, by the stunning testimony of his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Music:  But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming – Handel

But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.

Light in Our Darkness

Thursday, December 13, 2018: 

Click here for Readings

Is45_8 LucyJPG

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Lucy, patroness of the blind. Lucy was a brave young woman, martyred during the persecutions. 

Her name meaning “Light”, she has been venerated for millennia as one who can bring clarity and insight to places of darkness. 

Today’s first reading shows us what our Radiant God can do for those who live in darkness, destitution and fear.

As the year moves closer to its time of deepest darkness, may we know God’s brightness in our hearts. May we sense God lighting, once again, the dark places in our lives and in our world.

We all have painful situations, unanswered hopes, lingering fears.  Let us bring them out of the shadows today with the help of St. Lucy and our Brilliant God who made the stars to give us hope.

Music:  Hail, Gladdening Light – Etcetera: the Civil Service Choir

Where Is Your Treasure?

Friday, June 22, 2018

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062218.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus continues to teach us how to live a truly Gospel life. He does it with two small sermons and closes each with a blockbuster statement.

Mt6_19_23

Have you ever sat in church, suffering through a rambling sermon that never got to the point? Then you can understand the beauty and effectiveness of these statements of Jesus:

Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

If the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.

The first statement leaves us to ponder what really matters to us. Where do we spend our time, talent and treasure? If we say we love God and God’s vulnerable ones, do our “investments” prove it?

The second statement challenges us to be profoundly honest, to stop naming as “good” only that which is self-serving. We see blatant examples of this in our political life: policies and tactics tied to greedy, prejudiced outcomes – outcomes fed by the suffering and oppression of vulnerable human beings. These tactics challenge us to look at our own heart and test what we proclaim as “light”.

.

Live from Your Abundance

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061218.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we read the wonderful story of Elijah and the Widow. Both were in “drought and darkness” situations, but they did not lose hope. Trusting in the Lord, they chose to live out of their abundance rather than their scarcity. And their small, shared abundance sustained them.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus encourages us to live from and to share our abundance, whatever that might be. Sometimes we may feel that we don’t have much to offer to the world. Our personal difficulties may thwart our spiritual energy. But we are children of God, filled with Divine potential. Life will always break through if we live with faith, hope and love. It just may look different from what we had planned or expected.

Light 6_12_18

There is a modern school of “abundance vs. scarcity” thinking, a self-improvement practice presented by the late Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Whether or not he intended it, Mr. Covey delivers scriptural truths in secular language:

“ An abundance mentality springs from internal security, not from external rankings, comparisons, opinions, possessions, or associations.”

“ People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.”

Bottom line from 1 Kings, Matthew 5, Covey? Trust, and live generously. Be light. Be salt. Doing so will open the space for God’s abundance.

Music: A New Age piece that may be helpful if some negativity is blocking our Light.

I Am Light ~ India Arie