Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 26, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Mary’s exquisite prayer, the Magnificat. This prayer is so rich that we can pray it in many ways. Today’s other readings suggest to me to pray it as a prayer of spirited possibility.

For you, my God,
have done great things for me,
and Holy is your Name.
Your Mercy is from age to age
for those wrapped in awe of you.


In our first reading, Abraham and Sarah are the prototypes of such holy awe. Recognizing something godly in his visitors, Abraham welcomes them extravagantly.

Sarah is so struck by their predictions that she turns giddy.

Sometimes when we are overawed by our circumstances, we dissemble rather than quiet ourselves in reverence. God calls Abraham and Sarah to be still within the holy moment by asking the divine rhetorical question:


In our Gospel, the centurion has his own holy moment. Already committed in faith, he hopes for more from Jesus because of his need. With profound trust and humility, the centurion  invites God’s Word to act completely and spontaneously in his life.


We may not have visible angels visiting our homes today, like Abraham and Sarah did.

We may not find Jesus walking into our local town like the centurion did.

Still, by faith, we trust that the Holy is present in every moment of our lives.


With Abraham and Sarah, may we open the tent of our lives to heavenly intervention.

With Mary, let us ask God to release the miracle of sacred possibility over our lives and over our world.

Your mercy reaches from age to age 
for those in awe of you.
You have shown strength with your arm; 
you have scattered the proud in their conceit; 
you have deposed the mighty from their thrones 
and raised the lowly to high places.
You have filled the hungry with good things, 
while you have sent the rich away empty. 
You have come to the aid of Israel your servant, 
mindful of your mercy―
the promise you made to our ancestors―
to Sarah and Abraham and their decendants forever.


Poem: SARAH’S LAUGHTER (GENESIS 18:1–15) by Irene Zimmerman, OSF

When Abraham had hurried back
to the three Strangers with bread
and meat, milk and curds,
Sarah, obediently hiding her faded
beauty behind the tent flaps,
watched them feasting beneath the oak.

From there the Strangers’ words
came winging to where she stood—
in shocked disbelief at first,
having grown old and used to
the sterile disfavor of Abraham’s God,
then exploding in peals of laughter
that ricocheted off the oaks of Mamre
and the stony hills of promise. 

“How many can you count, Sarah?”
Abraham asked as they held each other
beneath a blanket of stars.
“How many children will there be?”

The words set her off again,
and Abraham too,
with irrepressible mirth
till the hills whooped and hollered
and the stars blazed their Aha
in the pregnant desert night.

Music: Two songs today. One just to laugh! Enjoy the possibilities!🤗

  1. Sarah Laughed – Joe Buchanan
Miracles abound, In front of you and all around 
You and I, she and him, It’s a miracle that life begins 
Every time we think we’re lost for good 
The world keeps turning, just like it should 

And out of the darkness came let there be light 
And it’s a miracle we’re sharing space, here in this life 
The universe is a concert, everything moves in time 
Anything can happen when the moment is right 
And Sarah laughed… 

The day begins the same way each time 
The sun and moon and stars, they all know their lines 
Life has a heartbeat of its own, you know 
The only thing unpredictable… the human soul 

And out of the darkness came let there be light 
And it’s a miracle we’re sharing space, here in this life 
The universe is a concert, everything moves in time 
Anything can happen when the moment is right 
And Sarah laughed… 

And we’re the change in things 
The dreamers and the shapers, we’re the crafters and makers 
All building our lives 
And I try so hard to find G-d’s plan in mine 
But I’m a rocky start… maybe that’s by design 
And then I laugh, And Sarah laughed 

And out of the darkness came let there be light 
And it’s a miracle we’re sharing space, here in this life 
The universe is a concert, everything moves in time 
Everything can happen when the moment is right 
And Sarah laughed… 

2. Abraham and Sarah Had to Laugh – Bryan Sirchio

Abraham and Sarah were very old and gray
And angel of the LORD showed up and said to them one day
We know you’re very old and that you’ve never had a kid
But God says, “better find a baby crib!”
And they said…

(Chorus)
Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!
You can’t have a baby when you get this old
Abraham and Sarah had to laugh
O boy that’s a knee slapper!
Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!
But now Abraham and Sarah know
That nothing is too hard for God

Gaudete Sunday: Rejoice!

Third Sunday of Advent

December 13, 2020

The day takes its name from the Latin word Gaudete (“Rejoice”),
the first word of the Introit prayer for this day’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:
Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. 


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we prayerfully rejoice with Mary’s courageous and hopeful song:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed.

Today is a break day midway through a season which is otherwise of a penitential character, and signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming. On Gaudete Sunday, the Church is no longer inviting us to adore merely “The Lord who is to come”, but calling upon us to worship and hail with joy “The Lord who is now nigh and close at hand“.


While the whole Church is called this Sunday to rejoice in the approach of the Christ-event,  Mary’s Magnificat calls us to celebrate a specific “nearness” – God’s preferential affinity for those who are poor:

The Lord has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
remembering the promise of mercy.

The Gaudete message is not about a cheap and frenzied Christmas celebration. It is a profound reminder that Divine Joy seeks its home in a holy emptiness – in a heart space that has been reflectively cleared of spiritual arrogance.

His mercy is from age to age
to those who bow in awe.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

Luke 150-51

How do we become, like Mary,
poor and humble before our God,
open to the Awesome Joy who is Christ?

We can pray according to Paul’s blessing to the Thessalonians in our second reading:

May the God of peace make us perfectly holy
and may we entirely, spirit, soul, and body,
be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The One who calls us is faithful,
and will also accomplish it.


Poem: Heart Cave – Geoffrey Brown

I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And sweep it clean, make it warm, with fire on the hearth
And candles in their niches
The pictures on the walls glowing with quiet lights
I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And make the bed with the quilt from home
Strew rushes on the floor
And hang lavender and sage from the corners
I must remember to go down to the heart cave
And be there when you come.

Music: Gaudete – Steeleye Span 

This British folk rock group had a hit in 1973 (No. 14, UK singles chart) with an a cappella recording of the song. Guitarist Bob Johnson heard the song when he attended a folk-carol service with his father-in-law. 
This single is one of only three top 50 British hits to be sung fully in Latin (the others were both recordings of “Pie Jesu” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s
Requiem)

Psalm 98: Mary’s Echo

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 8, 2020


Sing to the LORD a new song,
Who has done wondrous deeds;
Whose right hand has won victory,
God’s holy arm.

Psalm 98:1

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we pray with Psalm 98, a song foreshadowing Mary’s prophetic Magnificat.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has looked with favor on His humble servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, describes the Mary’s Magnificat like this:

… in the line of the great biblical singers Miriam, Moses, Deborah and Hannah, Mary launches into divine praise. Her spirit rejoices in God her Savior, for poor and common woman though she may be, the powerful, living, holy God is doing great things to her. Not to her only but to all the poor, bringing the mighty down from their thrones, exalting the lowly, filling the hungry with good things, sending the unrepentant rich away empty all of this in fulfillment of the ancient promise. In her very being this is happening, for she embodies the nonentities on whom God is lavishing rescue. This great prayer, a revolutionary song of salvation, places Mary in solidarity with the project of the coming reign of God whose intent is to heal, redeem and liberate.


Psalm 98 focuses us on the point that our prayer today with Mary is about God’s power for the poor, the lowly, the hungry, the bereaved, frightened, lost, lonely and sorrowing — all the beloved aching children of God.

Mary says there is a Power much greater than the one that oppresses any of us. Look to that Power with hope. Draw strength from that Promise.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his mercy and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.

Psalm 98: 2-3

Mary and Psalm 98 invite us to a “new song”
in a world that seems to have forgotten how to sing.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

Psalm 98: 3-4

Poem: Segments of a poem “A New Magnificat” by Hillary Watson, Pastor of Shalom Community Church, Ann  Arbor, MI.

And why should I not be smiling,
knowing what I know now
about what comes after all this
when all the evil falls down,
when justice bursts like a sweet flood through the streets
and all the pennies thrown into all wishing wells
rise up like miracles?

Let me tell you the Good News:
There is Good News.
That’s it:
goodness, somewhere, rushing toward us
in the place where future meets present tense.
Hope unwinds across the fragile world
and whispers its nightmares away.

There is a good day coming, I can see it,
when the walls built up between countries
crumble back into the earth they rose from
and all the people run free where they want
like every contour of every nation was shaped by the same God,

there’s a day coming when bullets freeze themselves
in the policeman’s guns, when all the Border Patrol cars
stall out in one breath, their guns and tasers
melt into plows and paintbrushes,

and the children trapped in desert camps
sing down the walls that hold them,
they sing back the road to their mothers and their fathers.

Music: The Magnificat- sung by the Daughters of Mary

Psalm 13: Mary’s Trust

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on our Blessed Mother’s birthday, we pray with the beautiful final verses of Psalm 13.

These verses embody an immense shift in form from the psalm’s early lines. Early on, the psalmist cries out four times, “How long, O Lord?”.

How long: 

  • Will you forget me?
  • Will you hide your face from me?
  • Must I carry sorrow in my soul?
  • Will my enemy triumph over me?

Referring to these early verses reminds us that Mary’s life was full of sorrow as well as joy. On a feast like today, we think of Mary in her heavenly glory. But in her lifetime, Mary suffered many sorrows. She was an unwed mother, a refugee, and a widow. She was the mother of an executed “criminal” and a leader of his persecuted band.

The Julian of Norwich, “Her Showing of Love”

What was it that allowed Mary to transcend sorrow and claim joy? Our psalm verses today help us to understand. They show the psalmist turning to heartfelt prayer., trusting God’s abiding protection.

Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God!
Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death,
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.


That deep trust ultimately yields not only peace,
but joy.
Mary, singer of the Magnificat,
is the quintessence of that holy joy.


But I trust in your mercy.
Grant my heart joy in your salvation,
I will sing to the LORD,
Who has dealt bountifully with me!

Today, in our prayer, we ask Mary to love and guide us through the challenges of our lives.


Poetry: Three Days – Madeleine L’Engle

Friday:
When you agree to be the mother of God
you make no conditions, no stipulations.
You flinch before neither cruel thorn nor rod.
You accept the tears; you endure the tribulations.
But, my God, I didn't know it would be like this.
I didn't ask for a child so different from others.
I wanted only the ordinary bliss,
to be the most mundane of mothers.

Saturday:
When I first saw the mystery of the Word
made flesh I never thought that in his side
I'd see the callous wound of Roman sword
piercing my heart on the hill where he died.
How can the Word be silenced? Where has it gone?
Where are the angel voices that sang at his birth?
My frail heart falters. I need the light of the Son.
What is this darkness over the face of the earth?
Sunday:
Dear God, He has come, the Word has come again.
There is no terror left in silence, in clouds, in gloom.
He has conquered the hate; he has overcome the pain.
Where, days ago, was death lies only an empty tomb.
The secret should have come to me with his birth,
when glory shone through darkness, peace through strife.
For every birth follows a kind of death, and only after pain comes life.

Music: Magnificat – Daughters of Mary

(To see Latin and English verses, click the little arrowhead just below the picture on the right.)

Psalm 89: Mary’s Echo

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

June 20, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 89, as the Church celebrates the blessed humanity of Mary.

Yesterday and today, these beautiful “heart” feasts follow one upon the other, reminding us that both Jesus and Mary loved with human hearts like ours – Jesus as God, and Mary as God’s transformed Mirror.

As we pray with Mary today. Psalm 89 offers us a perfect context. The psalm was likely composed during a difficult time, when Israel began to doubt Yahweh’s enduring promise to care for them – some say during the Babylonian Captivity.

The psalm reminds the People of the Covenant and the Promise:

I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.

Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.
I will make his posterity endure forever
and his throne as the days of heaven.


Mary, born of the House of David, is the ultimate deliverer of that Promise in the person of her son, Jesus Christ. When, just before Jesus’ birth, Mary prays the Magnificat, we can hear echoes of Psalm 89:

And Mary said, 
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior….

He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly….

He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.


An extra song for Mary today, written in 1961 for a Firemen’s Choir

In our own times of trouble, or when a long endurance is required of us, our faith in God’s promises might waver too. Mary is a good one to talk to in such times. Her faith was refined from all need to place stipulations on God’s timing. She believed. Period.

And she wants to nurture that gift in us.


Poetry: I think Mary and psalmist would have liked this poem by Kahlil Gibran. I hope you do too. For me, it speaks of how faith deepens, as Mary’s did.

God
In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, 
“Master, I am thy servant.  Thy hidden will 
is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.”
 
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying, “Creator, I am thy creation.  
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.”
 
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed
away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain 
and spoke unto God again, saying, “Father, I am thy child.  
In pity and love thou hast given me birth, 
and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”
 
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant
hills he passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain 
and again spoke unto God, saying, “My God, my aim and my fulfillment; 
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow.  
I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, 
and together we grow before the face of the sun.”
 
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to
her, God enfolded me.
 
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there
also.

Music: Psalm 89: Forever I Will Sing the Goodness of the Lord – Brian J. Nelson; cantor David Adams

Let Mary Be Mary

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(December 9th this year because the 8th fell on the Second Sunday of Advent)

Click here for readings

Today, in. Mercy, we celebrate one of the many feasts honoring Mary, Mother of Jesus.

Today’s feast can be confusing to people. It is sometimes mixed up with the Virgin Birth – the moment when Jesus was born. What we celebrate today, however, is the moment Mary was conceived by her parents, Anna and Joachim.

275px-Santi_gioacchino_e_anna

From a young age, I have had a tender devotion to Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Some of my local readers will be familiar with the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Established in 1915, the Shrine promotes this devotion through its well-known novena and other means.

medal

My Mom and Dad said that novena every day. Most Monday evenings, Mom and I would walk to our parish church where the community gathered to pray the novena together, celebrate Benediction, and sing the rousing hymn to Mary entitled, “O Mary, Conceived Without Sin”. ( I know some of my old friends are humming the tune right now🤗) When I received my First Communion, I was given my first Miraculous Medal which I treasured.

( A little reminiscence about that coming later today. Hope you enjoy it.)


These remembered devotions were the foundation on which the legacy of faith was planted in our young hearts. But as with any good foundation, a rich garden of understanding has grown from that early soil. Over the intervening years, many graced theologians have helped me grow in understanding of, and relationship with Mary.

One powerful impetus for this growth has come from Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph and Professor Emerita at Fordham University. Her magnificent work Truly Our Sister opens with this sentence:

“ This book proposes that one fruitful approach to the theology of Mary, historically the mother of Jesus, called in faith the Theotokos or God-bearer, is to envision her as a concrete woman of our history who walked with the Spirit.”

Tanner Annunciation
Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Reading Johnson and others has let me see Mary more fully, allowing Mary to move from an isolated perfectionism to a womanly humanity transformed by the Holy Spirit. Johnson says:

“ I am proposing that one fruitful way to work out a liberating feminist theology of Mary is to locate her in the communion of saints and there to remember her, dangerously and consolingly, as a woman with her own particular history among her contemporaries and before God. At first glance placing Mary in the company of the saints may seem strange to those accustomed to more traditional Catholic practice, even though the title ‘Saint Mary’ adorns many churches, schools, and other institutions. It may even seem a diminishment of the honor that is her due as the Theotokos, or bearer of God. But at root it grants her the greatest honor the Christian tradition acknowledges for a human being, namely, the core dignity of being created in the divine image and likeness and gifted, in community with others, with a graced relationship to the living God.”

Today, as we pray with our many images, devotions and understandings of Mary, may we open our hearts to be inspired by her singular witness to God’s desire to be among us.

Music: The Magnificat – Mary’s radical prayer for justice and mercy, sung here in Latin by the Daughters of Mary (English below)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their seat s
and has exalted the humble and meek.
He has filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he has sent empty away.
Remembering his mercy, he has helped his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his posterity forever. 

A Women’s Feast?

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

May 31, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, when a newly-pregnant Mary travels to be with her shockingly pregnant older cousin, Elizabeth. Although a universal feast, it is certainly a feast for women to treasure.

Visitation
The Carmignano Visitation, a unique masterpiece by one of sixteenth-century Italy’s greatest painters, Jacopo da Pontormo (1494-1557)

The Gospel is replete with the quiet but powerful understandings women share with one another:

  • the haste to support one another
  • the blessing and bolstering of each other’s faith
  • the shared joy to cause a baby’s leap in the womb
  • the desire for mercy and justice for the suffering
  • the “staying with” until need’s end

Of course, men too experience many of these holy sensibilities, but today most certainly invites women to celebrate the gifts of God within their bodies, minds and spirits.

Perhaps we might pray on these things while watching this movie clip of the imagined scene:


Music: Two selections for this wonderful Feastday:

Ave Maria (Schubert) sung in German, as Schubert wrote it, by the incomparable Marian Anderson


Magnificat (Bach) Imagine composing this powerful first movement based on only a single word: “Magnificat”

Magnificat

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/053118.cfm

Visitation

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that sacred act of hospitality to Elizabeth and to all of us who long for the coming of Christ in our lives. In this Gospel, Mary offers the most lyrical masterpiece of theology ever delivered – the Magnificat. For our prayer today, we might simply savor these words, replete with meaning and challenge. 

The Magnificat, a song of hope and encouragement for those who are poor and disenfranchised, is considered a sacramental prayer among Nicaraguans. Let’s pray for them today as their country once again experiences tremendous political turmoil.

Music: Latin Magnificat sung by the Daughters of Mary

 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.