Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray in the power of the Gospel:

Ephphatha!  Be opened:

All minds to God’s omnipresence

All hearts to God’s infinite love

All spirits to God’s tender proposals

All eyes to God’s eternal vision 

All ears to God’s cry in the poor

All mouths to speak God’s Word in justice

All plans to the rhythm of God’s freedom

All dreams to God’s dream for all.

Be opened – especially in me today.
🙏 Amen!


Poetry: Be Opened! – Malcolm Guite

Be opened. Oh if only we might be!
Speak to a heart that’s closed in on itself:
‘Be opened and the truth will set you free’,
Speak to a world imprisoned in its wealth:
 
'Be opened! Learn to learn from poverty’,
 Speak to a church that closes and excludes,
And makes rejection its own litany:
‘Be opened, opened to the multitudes
 
For whom I died but whom you have dismissed
 Be opened, opened, opened,’ how you sigh
And still we do not hear you. We have missed
Both cry and crisis, we make no reply.
 
Take us aside, for we are deaf and dumb
Spit on us Lord and touch each tongue-tied tongue.

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

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Friday, August 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration, that moment when the Godly glory of Jesus shone in all its splendor before a few very blessed disciples.

On that blessed day, Peter, James and John went with Jesus to a “very high mountain”. Many scholars identify the site as Mt. Tabor, where the Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration is today.

Some theologians suggest that these three disciples were afforded this magnificent gift so that their faith would be sufficiently strengthened to endure the coming sufferings.

“Transfiguration” is a word without a true synonym. It is a unique experience for a being to be completely infused with the glory of God. When this happened to Jesus, something equally unique happened to Peter, James and John as well. They too became new beings, never the same after that glorious and -yes- shocking moment.

Once they descended that mountain, everything changed. In a sense, they too had been “transfigured”. They had seen Jesus clearly in the beauty of his Godliness, and they would now see everything else in that Light.


Sometimes in our lives, God gives us “mini-transfigurations”. Something we had seen only in ordinary terms suddenly becomes an insight into the sacred. It may be a person, a situation, a natural phenomenon. We see through the external trappings and find the glorious Face of God.


Jesus invites us to experience this kind of soul-change by loving God in the poor, sick, uneducated, displaced, suffering, stigmatized people of this world. He asks us to be with them, in word and deed, and to allow God’s light in them to change our hearts and souls.


Poetry: Transfigured – Malcolm Guite

For that one moment, ‘in and out of time’,
On that one mountain where all moments meet,
The daily veil that covers the sublime
In darkling glass fell dazzled at his feet.
There were no angels full of eyes and wings
Just living glory full of truth and grace.
The Love that dances at the heart of things
Shone out upon us from a human face
And to that light the light in us leaped up,
We felt it quicken somewhere deep within,
A sudden blaze of long-extinguished hope
Trembled and tingled through the tender skin.
Nor can this blackened sky, this darkened scar
Eclipse that glimpse of how things really are.

Music: Transfiguration/We Behold the Splendor of God – Carey Landry (Lyrics below)


[Chorus]

We behold the splendor of God shining on the face of Jesus.
We behold the splendor of God shining on the face of the Son.

[Verse1]

And oh, how his beauty transforms us, the wonder of presence abiding.
Transparent hearts give reflection of Tabor’s light within, of Tabor’s light within.

[Verse 2]

Jesus, Lord of Glory, Jesus, Beloved Son, oh, how good to be with you;
how good to share your light; how good to share your light

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, June 18, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, the familiar hymn of confidence, gratitude, and hope.

You, Lord, are my shepherd; 
I shall not be in want.
You make me lie down in green pastures 
and lead me beside still waters.
You revive my soul 
and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me
in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Praying this psalm, we are enfolded into the arms of a loving God.

This beautiful image, which is beloved to us even in our highly urbanized society, certainly held even greater meaning to the early Christians. They understood, from experience, the utter self-donation of a shepherd to his flock. The shepherd needs the sheep in order to live, just as they need the shepherd. Their lives were critically interdependent.

In a sense, the shepherd became one with the sheep. From sunrise to sunset, and even through the night, he led them to food, water, and rest. He protected them as they slept, by laying his own body across the sheep gate.


In our own time, a more familiar image might be that of a horse-whisperer, someone who through natural sensitivity and studious training, is able to understand and communicate with animals. Rather than “breaking” a horse, as seen in old westerns, the horse-whisperer leads them to trust by listening and responding to them through body-language.


As we pray with the image of the Good Shepherd today, we might imagine Jesus as our “Soul-Whisperer”. Jesus stands beside us in the vast, open loneliness of life, which sometimes tries to “break” us. But we are never alone. He is listening. As he opens our life before us, let us trust and follow him. He has made our welfare his own by becoming one of us.


Poetry: I Am the Door of the Sheepfold – Malcolm Guite

Not one that’s gently hinged or deftly hung,
Not like the ones you planed at Joseph’s place,
Not like the well-oiled openings that swung
So easily for Pilate’s practiced pace,

Not like the ones that closed in Mary’s face
From house to house in brimming Bethlehem,
Not like the one that no man may assail,
The dreadful curtain, The forbidding veil
That waits your breaking in Jerusalem.

Not one you made but one you have become:
Load-bearing, balancing, a weighted beam
To bridge the gap, to bring us within reach
Of your high pasture. Calling us by name,
You lay your body down across the breach,
Yourself the door that opens into home.

Music: The Lonely Shepherd – Leo Rojas

Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday May 29, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 19, full of beautiful words for us to pluck and relish. 

The sublime British writer and theologian C.S. Lewis says this about Psalm 19 and how the ancient Israelite may have appreciated it:

“Law” … must have shone with an extraordinary radiance. Sweeter than honey; or if that metaphor does not suit us who have not such a sweet tooth as all ancient peoples (partly because we have plenty of sugar), let us say like mountain water, like fresh air after a dungeon, like sanity after a nightmare. But, once again, the best image is in a Psalm, the 19th. I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world. Most readers will remember its structure; six verses about Nature, five about the Law, and four of personal prayer.

C.S. Lewis, Reflection on the Psalms

As we pray today with the verses about God’s Law, we may consider each word as a facet of the Holy Spirit’s gifts given at Pentecost and at our Confirmation:

The precepts of the Lord are:

perfect
refreshing
trustworthy
wise
right
joy giving
clear
enlightening
pure
enduring 
true
just
precious
sweet


Meditating on the virtues, wouldn’t we like to fill our days with their peace, beauty, and wisdom?

The writer of Sirach surely wanted to, whose simple and profound prayer is the perfect complement to our psalm.

I thank the LORD and I praise him;
    I bless the name of the LORD.
When I was young and innocent,
    I sought wisdom openly in my prayer
I prayed for her before the temple,
    and I will seek her until the end,
    and she flourished as a grape soon ripe.
My heart delighted in her,
My feet kept to the level path
    because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.

Sirach 51: 12-15

Praying with these readings
may lead us to be awed
by the Spirit’s power in our lives
and open us to
its transformative presence.

Poetry: Psalm 19: XXIX Caeli enarrant – Malcolm Guite

In that still place where earth and heaven meet
Under mysterious starlight, raise your head
and gaze up at their glory: ‘the complete

Consort dancing’ as one poet said
Of his own words. But these are all God’s words

A shining poem, waiting to be read

Afresh in every heart. Now look towards
The bright’ning east, and see the splendid sun
Rise and rejoice, the icon of his Lord’s

True Light. Be joyful with him, watch him run
His course, receive the treasure of his light
Pouring like honeyed gold till day is done.

As sweet and strong as all God’s laws, as right
As all his judgements and as clean and pure,
All given for your growth, and your delight!


Music: Psalm 19 – The Law is Perfect

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

May 13, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 47, one of seven enthronement psalms which celebrate a “coronation” of God.

All you peoples, clap your hands,
    shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
    is the great king over all the earth.

Psalm 47: 1

Used for the feast of the Ascension, the point of the psalm is much more than an exercise of pageantry. It is an act of faith and reverence to God, the Loving Omnipotence who chose to redeem us by assuming our humanity.

It is a confirmation that we believers do see the Supreme Being in the human Jesus we have come to love. This is what Paul prays for the Ephesians in our second reading:

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:18-21

The Great Commission, found in today’s Gospel, is the true gift of the Ascension.

Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

Mark 16:15

Jesus tells us that his time on earth is complete. The lesson of Love has been taught. We now are given the power to continue the message for all time. 

Jesus promises that our faith will:


overcome evil
-create new possibilities to preach the Gospel
-show courage against antagonism
-resist suppression
-heal and strengthen others to believe

These signs will accompany those who believe:

-in my name they will drive out demons,
-they will speak new languages.
-They will pick up serpents with their hands,
-drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.


If we believe and open our hearts to this message, indeed, it is a day for trumpet blasts! Here are a few from one of my favorite triumphal pieces! If the Apostles had only had trumpets, they might have played something like this for the Lord as He ascended 🙂

Poetry: Ascension Sonnet – Malcolm Guite

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.

We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,

Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,

His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed.

Music: Psalm 47 – Rory Cooney

Bright with Love

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

May 8, 2019

Click here for readings.

Today, in Mercy, the inevitable shadow falls over the early Christian community. Stephen is martyred – the first, the proto-martyr of many, down through the centuries, who will die for their faith.

Acts8_2 Stephen

This slaughter of innocence happened at the feet, and at the approbation, of Saul – yet untouched by the glorious grace of Christ.

How the community must have mourned beloved Stephen who, as our hymn describes him, was “bright with Love”:

  • Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5)
  • Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8)
  • All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen and saw that his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:15)
  • Stephen, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God  (Acts 7:8)
  • Stephen, as they were stoning him, called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. ( Acts 7:55)
  • What a treasure of a man! What a devastation to see his young, gracious life crushed by rejection, suffering and pain!

It is so hard to lose our prophets and saints!

I still remember, with great awe, the funeral of our Sister Mary Joanna Regan – one of the graced treasures of the Sisters of Mercy. Our Beloved Community was raw with her loss – as was the larger community of her love and influence.

Joanna’s dear friend, Father John Comey, SJ – now also of beloved memory – preached the sermon at her funeral liturgy. This was his first sentence:

How can such a woman die?

Dear Readers, haven’t we all felt that way in the face of some great loss? Whenever human frailty seems to bend to the powers of death, hatred, or oppression, our souls are crushed. We are astounded that life and goodness seem to yield. So was the early Christian Church when Stephen seemed to fall to hateful hands.

Nevertheless, they believed that there is an eternal life in God beyond that apparent yielding.  They persisted in the ardent work of building up the reign of Christ.

Now those who had been scattered
continued preaching the word. … and
there was great joy in that city.

And the witness of Stephen impelled not only them, but twenty centuries of committed Christians who find their fullness of life in Jesus Christ.

Certainly our Church, with its many recent fractures and falls, needs a resilient, faithful community to lift it up and carry it forward. Let’s pray to St. Stephen today that we may be that community!

(English and Latin canticle today, plus lovely poem after them)

Music:  Sancte Dei, Pretiose  – sung by the Benedictine Monks of St. Michael’s de Laudes

Latin Version
Sancte Dei, pretiose,
Protomartyr Stephane,
Qui virtute caritatis
Circumfulsus undique,
Dominum pro inimico
Exorasti populo
Et coronae qua nitescis
Almus sacri nominis,
Nos, qui tibi famulamur,
Fac consortes fieri :
Et expertes dirae mortis
In die Judicii.
Gloria et honor Deo
Qui te flora roseo
Coronavit et locavit
In throno sidereo :
Salvet reos, solvens eos
A mortis aculeo. Amen.

English Version
Saint of God, elect and precious,
Protomartyr Stephen, bright
With thy love of amplest measure,
Shining round thee like a light;
Who to God commendest, dying,
Them that did thee all despite.
Glitters now the crown above thee,
Figured in thy honored name:
O that we, who truly love thee.
May have portion in the same;
In the dreadful day of judgment
Fearing neither sin nor shame.
Laud to God, and might, and honor,
Who with flowers of rosy dye
Crowned thy forehead, and hath placed thee
In the starry throne on high:
He direct us, He protect us,
From death’s sting eternally.


Poem: St. Stephen by Malcolm Guite

Witness for Jesus, man of fruitful blood,
Your martyrdom begins and stands for all.
They saw the stones, you saw the face of God,
And sowed a seed that blossomed in St. Paul.
When Saul departed breathing threats and slaughter
He had to pass through that Damascus gate
Where he had held the coats and heard the laughter
As Christ, alive in you, forgave his hate,
And showed him the same light you saw from heaven
And taught him, through his blindness, how to see;
Christ did not ask ‘Why were you stoning Stephen?’
But ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
Each martyr after you adds to his story,
As clouds of witness shine through clouds of glory