St. Luke

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist

Friday, October 18, 2019

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Jan Fossaert: Luke Painting the Virgin
Jan Fossaert: Luke Painting the Virgin

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of St. Luke who gave us so many inspiring stories and insights not in the other three Gospels. Here are just a few:

  • the Visitation
  • the Magnificat
  • Zechariah’s Canticle
  • the Christmas angels
  • Simeon and Anna
  • the Miraculous Fish Catch
  • the Anointing of Jesus’s Feet
  • Mary and Martha
  • Zaccheus in the Tree
  • the Emmaus story
  • and many other stories and teachings

When we examine these unique stories, we can see many reflections of Mary’s viewpoint on various incidents. Indeed, Luke, from the outset, sets Mary as first of disciples and a model for all who desire to follow Christ.

Today’s Gospel is one of those passages unique to Luke. It must have been a cherished memory of the disciples as they continued Jesus’s preaching after his Ascension. As they met challenges in their lives and ministries, these words could keep them focused.

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way…

Perhaps this, or another favorite passage from Luke, has encouragement to offer us today. Do you have favorite?

Music: my favorite – the Magnificat, the ultimate prayer of social justice sung here by the Daughters of Mary (Latin and English below)

Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum. 

Et exultávit spíritus meus: in Deo salutári meo. 

Quia respéxit humilitátem ancíllae suae: 

Ecce enim ex hoc beátam me dicent omnes generatiónes. 

Quia fécit mihi mágna qui pótens est: et sánctum nómen eius. 

Et misericórdia eius in progénies et progénies timéntibus eum. 

Fécit poténtiam in bráchio suo: dispérsit supérbos mente cordis sui. 

Depósuit poténtes de sede: et exaltávit húmiles. 

Esuriéntes implévit bonis: et dívites dimísit inánes. 

Suscépit Ísrael púerum suum: recordátus misericórdiae suae. 

Sicut locútus est ad patres nostros: Ábraham, et sémini eius in saecula. 

Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto, 

Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen.

My soul doth magnify the Lord. 

And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. 

Because He hath regarded the humility of His slave: 

For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 

Because He that is mighty hath done great things to me; and holy is His name. 

And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him. 

He hath shewed might in His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. 

He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. 

He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. 

He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy: 

As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. 

Glory be the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, 

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forever and ever, Amen.

Grace and Peace

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we begin about a month of readings from Paul’s letter to the Romans. We will also continue with Luke’s Gospel all the way up to Advent.

To help me in praying with Romans, I am using a book by Scott W. Hahn, Father Michael Scanlan Chair of Biblical Theology at Steubenville University. In his introduction, Hahn says this:

Hahn_Romans

Today’s reading offered me these elements to ponder and pray with:

  • Paul calls himself a “slave” of Jesus Christ
  • He invokes his call as an Apostle
  • He sets himself in the company of the prophets
  • He appeals to Jews who revere David
  • but proclaims Christ, through his Resurrection, as Messiah beyond human lineage
  • He proclaims his mission to the Gentiles
  • to bring about “the obedience of faith”

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve read or heard this passage maybe fifty times in my lifetime, and it has meant little or nothing to me. At best, it has sounded like a formal introduction such as those we hear from government “whereas” type decrees.

But I took Dr. Hahn’s advice, studying the passage, and reading it slowly and prayerfully. Here’s what I received:

  • Paul’s Apostolic call, to which he willingly enslaved his heart, was to preach the Good News of our redemption in Jesus Christ – to preach it to Jews, Romans, Gentiles, and all people.
  • It is an awesomely incredible message that can be received only through the gift of faith.
  • It is a message rooted in the scripture stories we love, and where we look to find a reflection of our own stories.
  • Learning from these realities will help us come to a faith which expresses itself in action and gives glory to God in our own time.

Luke gives us one such story today. Jesus reminds the crowd of two familiar passages – that of Jonah and the “Queen of the South” (the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10). He indicates that the people in these stories believed without a sign.

Jesus tells the people gathered around him  to learn from this. The crowd demands a sign, but Jesus says the sign is right in front of you – it is only your open heart that is lacking.

In his introduction, Paul prays for such open hearts in the Romans:

Rm1_grace_peace

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

By that same grace, may we receive faith’s blessing as well.

Music: Grace and Peace – Fernando Ortega

Joys and Sorrows Mingled

Saturday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 28, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we begin a few weeks of readings from the minor prophets – Zechariah being today’s writer.  We also continue with Luke’s Gospel which will take us through to the season of Advent.

The combination of readings today brought to my mind a treasured and bittersweet quote from our beloved founder:

catherine_joys

Zechariah writes for a community with a foot in both worlds – joys and sorrows. They are freed from captivity but burdened with its harsh memory. They have committed in hope to the rebuilding of the temple, but they are filled with doubts about their ability to deliver. They have a plan for their restoration, but realize that God’s plan is beyond their imagination. They see a protected, walled-in future. God sees a “Jerusalem” without walls, circled only by the fire of God’s love.

Zechariah tells them to let go and fall into God’s Imagination, no matter how scary that might be for them:

People will live in Jerusalem as though in open country,
because of the multitude of men and beasts in her midst.
But I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the LORD,
and I will be the glory in her midst.

In our Gospel, Jesus has begun to gently hint that the disciples’ future may not be as they would like to imagine. At this point in the Gospel story, joys are running pretty high- lots of miracles, crowds growing, the awesomeness of the Transfiguration still lighting up their dreams.

But Jesus drops a little reality, a little sorrow into the mix:

Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.

The disciples don’t fully comprehend the warning. It is too much for them to take. We understand, don’t we? Is there anything harder to swallow than sorrow, loss, the crash of a bright dream?

Remembering Zechariah ‘s words may strengthen us when the mix of sorrow seems too much for us:

But I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the LORD,
and I will be the glory in her midst. …
Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.

Music: Where Joy and Sorrow Meet – Ultimate Tracks

Big Prayers

Thursday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

September 5, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus and Paul teach us how to pray for one another.

I like to call it “gifting prayer” because it is, indeed, a generous offering we give to others.


Little Prayers

little prayers

I sometimes pray for simple things – that a family member wins the lottery, or it doesn’t rain on a friend’s wedding.

And I pray for consequential things – improved health for a neighbor, safety for travelers, deliverance from disaster.

These prayers are rooted in the wish for material improvement. But there is a deeper kind of prayer that we can offer.


The Big Prayer

Gifting Prayer is a wide halo of love and hope we generate
by our desire for someone else’s eternal good – for their holiness.

This kind of prayer is much bigger than the small prayers we say for others. 

Paul describes what such prayer should ask for – that our beloved:

  • be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
  • gain all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • be fully pleasing, in every good work 
  • bear fruit and grow in the knowledge of God,
  • be strengthened with all endurance and patience,
  • and give thanks, with joy, to the Father for the gift of faith

Now THAT’S a prayer!


Gospel Clues

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, gives us a clue about how to pray such a prayer. He says that it’s kind of like catching fish. The Gospel fishermen have labored all night with no results. Sometimes our prayer feels like that, doesn’t it?

Lk5_4 nets

Jesus says no matter. Keep on fishing – keep on praying. Shift perspective a little bit “to the other side of the boat” – to God’s way of seeing good for those we pray for.

Ask for God to do what God deems best. This attitude in prayer opens us to divine possibilities. It hopefully brings unimagined resolutions to those we pray for.

Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch…
…When they had done this, they caught so great a number of fish
that their nets were bursting.

Let God burst the tight net by which we might define our prayer. Let’s be amazed by all that God desires to give us beyond our small wishes.

Music: Trust His Heart – Babbie Mason

Is Scrooge My Hero?

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious

June 21, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus puts the whole spiritual life in a nutshell:

Luke heart treasure

When I was a kid (and maybe even now), one of my favorite cartoon characters was Uncle Scrooge McDuck.

Scrooge

I was amazed to think that someone could accumulate all that money, and fascinated to see that all he wanted to do was sit on it!

Both Uncle Scrooge and Jesus pose some deep questions to us today.

  • How much do we really need to make us happy?
  • Will having it actually make us happy in the long run?
  • Where does our happiness come from, if we have happiness at all?

We have seen the theme in a hundred books and movies – poor little rich boy or girl starving for love. We all seem to realize that true wealth comes from love. But do we live and choose by that understanding?

Possessions can distract us from what is truly essential for our soul. Greed and selfishness can kill the Spirit within us.

Our coöptation by materialism and greediness doesn’t have to rise to the level of Scrooge’s mounted millions. So often a miserly heart is crippled by things much more complex than money. We can be sinfully stingy with:

  • our attention to those deemed unimportant
  • our kindness to those struggling with life
  • our forgiveness to the unappreciative 
  • our presuppositions about what belongs to whom

The following parable has always shaken me down at the root of my assumed entitlements:

A young woman was waiting to catch a flight in the boarding area of the airport. Given that her wait was going to be several hours she decided to buy a book to read along with a packet of cookies to enjoy. She sat down in an armchair in the VIP room of the airport to relax and read her book in peace. 

Beside the armchair where the packet of cookies lay, a man was seated next to her reading his magazine.  When the woman reached into the packet of cookies to take the first cookie, the man next to her also took one. She was irritated but said nothing. “What nerve this man has!” she thought.  For each cookie she took the man also took a cookie. 

She was infuriated but didn’t want to cause a scene. When only one cookie remained she thought to herself, “what will this horrible man do now?” The man reached down and broke the cookie into even halves and handed one half to her. It was more than she could handle!  She grabbed her things in a huff, refused the half, and stormed off to the boarding area.  

When she got onto her seat on the plane she reached into her purse to get her reading glasses and, to her surprise, her packet of cookies was sitting there untouched and unopened.

We might wish to spend some prayer time considering the application of this story to our own attitudes.

Music: Where Your Treasure Is – Marty Haugen

Got Troubles? Try These!

Sunday, February  17, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, hidden in our readings, are three challenges.

Where do we put our

faith

and

hope

How do we

love

?


In our Jeremiah reading, an unfortunate person has placed faith in an untrustworthy “friend”, and the results – typical of Jeremiah – are dire. But the prophet goes on to say that the one who puts trust and faith in the Lord will flourish like a tree near running water.

Jer17_7 tree

In the reading from Corinthians, Paul has some strong words about hope:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.

That sentence is powerful! It can be a life-long meditation.

In other words, where is our hope focused? Do we hope for comfort, success, healing, peace only for this earthly life? If so, we are missing the point, Paul says. Our one true hope is to be united with God in eternal life and our choices should lead to that fulfillment.

In our Gospel, Jesus shows us how to love by placing before us the “least ones” whom he loves best. We too are to love and comfort those who are poor, hungry, bereaved and despised by the heartless.

Today’s readings invite us to look at our life. Is it blossoming with joy, grace and spiritual vitality? Or are we struggling with all the doubts, worries, dramas and depression that come from a self-absorbed life?

Maybe, like me, you sometimes look at a person carrying great difficulty in their lives and wonder at their joy. How can they maintain that trust and joy in the midst of their challenges? These readings offer an answer. They have put their faith and hope in the right place. They have learned to love like God.

Music: Faith, Hope and Love ~ David Ogden ( Lyrics below.)

Faith, hope, and love: let these remain among you.
Faith, hope, and love: the greatest of these is love.

The love of Christ has gathered us together; let us rejoice and be glad in him.
Let us fear and love the living God, and love each other from the depths of the heart.

When we are together, we should not be divided in mind;
Let there be an end to bitterness and quarrels, and in our midst be Christ our God.

In company with the blessed, may we see your face in glory,
pure and unbounded joy for ever and ever.

I give you a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.
Faith, hope, and love, let these remain among you.
Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love.