Time Passes

Memorial of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
November 21, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112122.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our first reading from Revelation describes what has come to be known in modern culture as “the Rapture”. It’s a concept probably more popularized by modern fiction than by our devotion to scripture.

Rev 4_1 rapture

Maybe you are one of the  60 million readers of the “Left Behind” books by Jenkins and LaHaye. This popular series captures our fascination with “the end times”. 

The writer of Revelation is doing the same thing. This highly imaginative ancient author – adept at symbols, allegory, and poetry – writes to awake and engage us in our own salvation.

Whether or not his visions predict facts is not the point. The point is that there will come an end time to every life. When it comes to us, we want to have already become God’s familiar and beloved friend.

A second point is that this world, as we know it, is passing. We should not make our heart’s investment here. Our lasting treasure lies in God’s realm which, while present here, is often rendered invisible by our human hungers and distractions.

Revelation enjoins us to wake up, see beyond the visible, and live a life worthy of eternity. 

How? The true and simple answer is in today’s Gospel:

“When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasure
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

This blessed widow, even in her impoverished circumstances, understood where her true treasure lay. She was already counted among the sainted  “hundred and forty-four thousand”.


Poetry: The Rapture – Mary Oliver

All summer
I wandered the fields
that were thickening 
every morning, 
every rainfall, 
with weeds and blossoms, 
with the long loops
of the shimmering, and the extravagant-
pale as flames they rose
and fell back, 
replete and beautiful-
that was all there was-
and I too
once or twice, at least, 
felt myself rising, 
my boots
touching suddenly the tops of the weeds, 
the blue and silky air-
listen, 
passion did it, 
called me forth, 
addled me, 
stripped me clean
then covered me with the cloth of happiness-
I think there is no other prize, 
only rapture the gleaming, 
rapture the illogical the weightless-
whether it be for the perfect shapeliness
of something you love-
like an old German song-
or of someone-
or the dark floss of the earth itself, 
heavy and electric.
At the edge of sweet sanity open 
such wild, blind wings. 

Music: When I read these apocalyptic passages, I like to imagine the scene by listening to compatible music. One of my favorite accompaniments is Richard Wagner: Ride of the Valkyries. Just imagine Jesus riding into our lives on these exalted melodies!

Turn Toward Grace

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
September 30, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/093022.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Jesus castigates the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and even his beloved Capernaum for their lack of faith.

In these Galilean villages, nearby to his own hometown, Jesus has performed many of his miracles and cures. These people have been the audience for his most memorable sermons. But now, Jesus begins to meet resistance and doubt as his disciples assume greater participation in his ministry. 

Lk10_13 Chorazin

Jesus is preparing for the time when he will no longer be here. He wants to see strong faith in his followers, but he is disappointed. He tells the crowds that they will regret their hard-heartedness, their slowness of conversion. They will be more harshly judged because they failed to respond to more abundant graces.


This passage is filled with spiritual lessons. We, too, have received so many blessings from God. How have we responded? 

It is a sad thing to look back on any part of our lives with regret – to say, “I wish I had…” or “I wish I hadn’t”. The only benefit of such sadness is to learn a lesson for our future.


Let’s pray today to live ever more intentional lives – giving ourselves time to recognize and respond to our blessings, to the needs of others, and to the deepening call of faith within our spirits.

May this prayer help us turn our spirits from any crippling self-interest and lukewarm faith to a dynamic, life-giving spirituality. As our responsorial psalm today encourages us: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”


Poetry: Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith by Mary Oliver

Every summer
I listen and look 
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear
anything, I can't see anything -- 
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green 
stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,
nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker -- 
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk. 
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing -- 
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves, 
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet -- 
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum. 
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear? 
One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

Music: I Can Hear Your Voice ~ Michael W. Smith

Alleluia: Heaven’s at Hand

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 6, 2022

Today’s Readings 

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/070622.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our first reading and Responsorial Psalm encourage us to seek God. 

Sow for yourselves justice,
reap the fruit of piety;
break up for yourselves a new field,
for it is time to seek the LORD …

And our Gospel proclaims that we have already found God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus sent out these Twelve
after instructing them thus,
…. “As you go, make this proclamation:
‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”


The word “seek” is one we don’t use frequently, except to describe games that hide things from us – “Seek and Find”, “Hide and Seek”. In these games, someone is trying to fool us or outwit us.

But God is not trying to hide from us. Our scriptures are about a whole different kind of seeking. We might think of it like this:

Have you ever opened a kitchen drawer looking for a particular utensil but been unable to find it? You might exclaim aloud, “Where’s that darn corkscrew???!!!”, just as your sister leans in and picks it out of the drawer for you.

It was right there in front of you all the time. You just couldn’t see it — couldn’t put your hand on it.

Jesus tells us it is like that with the Kingdom of Heaven. We may be seeking it with all our effort while all the while it is right at hand. We sometimes fail to see the “touchable grace” in our lives because we throw a camouflage of unawareness or ingratitude over it.

Alleluia, alleluia.
The Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent and believe in the Gospel.


The poet Mary Oliver offers the antidote to that kind of blindness:

Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Mary Oliver

Today, let’s pay attention to the wonder of our lives. Let’s seek God’s face in our ordinary circumstances. God is not hiding – we just have to look with the insightful eyes of faith, love, and hope.


Poetry: Rumi

Your task is not 
to seek for love, 
but merely 
to seek and find 
all the barriers 
within yourself 
that you have built 
against it. 

Music: Seek God’s Face – Jules Riding

How Long, O Lord?!

October 27, 2021
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 13, a powerful lesson in prayer.

The psalm is one of my favorites because it feels so “real”. The one who prays, presumably David, needs an answer to his prayer- and is not perceiving one. (emphasis on “perceiving”)

So the psalmist sounds a bit like someone desperately calling customer service to see why a life-saving order has not arrived😉:

How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
..
Look, answer me, O LORD, my God!
Give light to my eyes that I may not sleep in death

Psalm 13: 2, 4

But as the psalmist continues to pray, an evolution of grace and understanding occurs. There is a realization that the kind of answer expected is one according to human measurement … one that will make the pray-er look triumphant in the eyes of his enemies:

Answer me, Lord my God …
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.

Psalm 13: 4-5

But the depth of our relationship with God is not determined by what our enemies think … or even our friends. That sacred relationship is rooted in our grateful recognition and trusting immersion in God’s ever-present mercy and love for us:

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!

Psalm 13: 6-7

God always answers us. We may not have the capacity to perceive the answer because it is not the one we expected or wished for. But the truth is that through whatever “answer” unfolds to our prayer, God is leading us deeper into God’s heart.

Can we trust that? Can we yield to it? That is the “salvation” the psalmist ultimately prays for:


Sometimes we might hear a person say that they don’t know how to get started talking with God in prayer. They seem to feel it’s kind of like a blind date where you end up realizing you have nothing in common with each other.

Paul – in our reading from Romans says – no, wait a minute. God is already within you simply by the nature of your creaturehood. You are made of the very stuff of God. In fact, the Spirit of God deep within our souls is like the fiery magma from a volcano. It erupts from our love and prays for us to the Creator – if we will only let it.


Poetry: Praying by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Music: Spirit Seeking Light and Beauty – by Janet Erskine Stuart, interpreted here by the Daughters of St. Paul (Lyrics below)

Spirit seeking light and beauty,
Heart still longing for your rest
In your search for understanding,
Only thus can you be blest,

Through the vastness of creation,
Though your restless thought may roam,
God is all that you can long for,
God is all creation’s home.

Taste and see God, feel and hear God,
Hope and grasp the unseen hand;
Though the darkness seem to hide you,
Faith and love can understand.

Loving Wisdom, guiding Spirit,
All our hearts are made anew.
Lead us through the land of shadows
‘Til we come to rest in you.

A Free and Obedient Heart

October 20, 2021
Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we pray with Psalm 124, a dramatic psalm stretched between early desperation and ultimate freedom.

In the psalmist’s prayer, Israel is called to realize that it has narrowly escaped from a mortal danger, never specified, but only alluded to in phrases such as:

  • would have swallowed us alive
  • fury was inflamed against us
  • waters have overwhelmed us
  • torrent swept over us
  • swept over by the raging waters
  • not leave us a prey to their teeth

This is some serious trouble! And because of this blessed escape, the community is called to a life of freely given service and praise.


In our readings, Paul and Jesus both instruct and challenge their listeners and us to a similar response for all the graces we have received – especially being rescued from sin in the life-saving waters of Baptism.

Paul wants us to understand that, through our Baptism, we are living in a whole new power for goodness and grace. The world may look the same as it did before we belonged to Christ, but it isn’t. 

To use a phrase from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

If we see with the new eyes of grace, we will be able to respond to Jesus’s challenge:

Stay awake!
For you do not know
when the Son of Man will come.

Stay awake. See the world and life as they truly are  – places where God awaits us in every moment. This is the amazing power we have received through our Baptism!

So let’s open our hearts to listen lovingly to the sound of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That freed and obedient heart is precious to God, and is the catalyst to a transformed life!


Poetry: Song for Autumn – Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Music:  Speak, O Lord – Kristyn Getty

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 78 which calls on the community to remember God’s constant gifts to us. Those gifts are symbolized in bread, manna from Heaven.


Thinking about the symbol of bread, this wonderful poem by Mary Oliver captured my prayer today. I leave it with you without additional comment to find your own place within it.


As I prayed with the poem, I began drawing a mandala … but it turned into an icon! (Who knew!😀) Each segment holds a memory or awareness of a particular gift God has given me.

Icons, like poems, allow the receiver a certain amount of interpretation. For example, is the figure here God, an Angel, me – or someone else? It’s up to you … enjoy the sacred play.


I hope this poem will offer you a doorway to your prayer as well.

Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper
Oh let me, for a while longer, enter the two
Beautiful bodies of your lungs…

The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for your eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of a single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life–just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
still another…

We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we
change.
Congratulations, if
you have changed.

Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some
fabulous reason?
And, if you have not been enchanted by this adventure–
your life–
what would do for you?

What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
though with difficulty.
I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out; I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment
somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.


Music: Break Thou the Bread of Life by Mary A. Lathbury (1877), and sung beautifully here by Acapeldridge

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 146, a lilting song of praise, remembrance, hope, trust, gratitude, and joy.

Praying with this inclusive translation, I let my life story unfold in the Presence of the Beloved, turning each petal over and over in the Light of God’s incomprehensible grace and mercy. No words … just the grateful turning. And I listened…listened to the silence.

Psalm 146

Alleluia
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.

Happy are they who look to God for their help! 
For their hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps promises for ever;

who gives justice when we are oppressed,
food when we hunger
freedom when we are entrapped.

The Lord breaks through our blindness
The Lord lifts us up wthe we have been bowed.
and loves our desire for good.

I remember how the Lord cares for us
when we are brokenhearted,
but frustrates the way of the faithless. 
I know the Lord shall reign for ever.
Alleluia!

Poetry: “I Happened To Be Standing” by Mary Oliver

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t pursuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

Music: Praise You – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Lord I come to you today,
With a simple prayer to pray.
In everything I do,
Let my life O Lord praise you.

Praise you, praise you, praise you
Let my life, praise you
Praise you, praise you, praise you
Let my life, O lord praise you

Lord you formed me out of clay,
And for your glory I was made.
Use this vessel as you choose.
Let my life O Lord praise you

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

May 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 148, one of the “Laudate Psalms”.


The Laudate Psalms are the psalms numbered 148, 149, and 150, traditionally sung all together as one psalm in the canonical hours, most particularly the hour of Lauds, also called “Morning Prayer”, which derives its name from these psalms.

from Wikipedia

I’ve always loved the morning with its radiant possibility spilling over the horizon. Morning comes like a rainbow pantone, speaking not only to the weather outside but within our own spirits.

Praise the name of the LORD,
    for this name alone is exalted;
The Lord’s majesty is above earth and heaven.

Psalm 148: 13

Waking each morning, I wait for the day to speak to me. It finds itself in the sun or clouds, the warmth or cold. And then it finds me in whatever weather my heart might rest.

Prayer begins after that discovery, inviting the transforming and comforting power of God into whatever the day offers. Essentially, it is always a prayer of thanksgiving that I am alive and given another day to, by the power of God’s grace, know and be Love in the world:

Praise the LORD from the heavens;
    praise God in the heights.
Praise God, all you angels;
    praise God, all you hosts.

Psalm 138: 1-2

As we wait for the Holy Spirit on the great feast of Pentecost, let us trust Jesus’s Gospel words in today’s Gospel. Let us find each morning, and each day, full of promise!

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when the Spirit comes, the Spirit of truth,
you will be guided to all truth.

John 16:12-13

Poetry: Morning Poem – Mary Oliver

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches–
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead–
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging–

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted–

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

Music- Morning Has Broken – Cat Stevens

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 57, a prayer of fervent praise to our awesome God.

Photo credit: Neil Rosenstech @neilrst

The act of prayerful praise can be hard to understand . The concept of human praise can get in our way. 

Prayerful praise in not flattery, or compliments, or the giving of deserved admiration to a distant God. Rather, as Psalm 57 shows us, it is an outpouring of reverent gratitude before Unimaginable Love.

Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
    above all the earth be your glory!

Psalm 57:12

Such a prayer rises
from our heart’s awestruck silence
not only to be in the Presence of,
but to be loved by
such Divine Wonder.


We may not be able to stand before a majestic mountain today to image God’s magnificence as we pray. But we can bow our hearts before the abundant evidence of God’s love for us. God created us and holds us in love with every breath we take.

Today, we may simply want to breathe our praise.


Poetry:Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Music: Be Exalted – John Michael Talbot

Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 25, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 118.

 “This psalm is centered on God, in a movement that expresses gratitude, admiration, joy and praise. In the King James Version, the Lord is mentioned in almost every verse.” (Wikipedia)

Give thanks to the LORD who is good,
    whose mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in princes.

Psalm 118: 1, 8-9

Following our first reading today, the psalm focuses me on God’s Name – often “Lord”, as in the psalm – but also so many other Names of God from the riches of scripture and tradition.

… in the Name of Jesus, this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
    which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.

Acts 4: 10-12

The fact that we have so many names for God reminds me of how accommodating God is to my need as I pray. 

One day I need “My Rock”.

Another day I delight in “My Dayspring”.

As I wake up each morning and allow the day to embrace me, I often greet God with a special name, depending on the mood and circumstances of my heart:

  • Good morning, Beautiful Light. Take any darkness from our world this day.
  • I greet You, Sweet Lord. Thank you for the delicious gift of life.
  • Cloudy God, you have been hiding from me. Bring me into your Sunshine today.
  • God, my Strong Shoulder, stand by me today.
  • Chilly God, seeming to ignore my prayer, unfreeze my spirit to hear your answer.

Jesus invites us to pray with images that speak to our hearts. In our Gospel, He names himself a Shepherd, an image so accessible to his agrarian listeners, and which said it all without the need for theology!

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11

As we pray today, within what image is God coming to us? May we let the Holy One speak a sanctifying and special Name over us in our prayer. May it free us just as it freed the man healed in today’s passage from Acts.


Poetry: Six Recognitions of the Lord – Mary Oliver

1.

I know a lot of fancy words.

I tear them from my heart and my tongue.

Then I pray…..

3
I lounge on the grass, that’s all. So
simple. Then I lie back until I am
inside the cloud that is just above me
but very high, and shaped like a fish.
Or, perhaps not. Then I enter the place
of not-thinking, not-remembering, not-
wanting. When the blue jay cries out his
riddle, in his carping voice, I return.
But I go back, the threshold is always
near. Over and back, over and back. Then
I rise. Maybe I rub my face as though I
have been asleep. But I have not been
asleep. I have been, as I say, inside
the cloud, or, perhaps, the lily floating
on the water. Then I go back to town
to my own house, my own life, which has
now become brighter and simpler, some-where I have never been before….

4.

Of course I have always known you

Are present in the clouds, and the

Black oak I especially adore, and the

Wings of birds. But you are present

Too in the body, listening to the body,

Teaching it to live, instead of all

That touching, with disembodied joy.

We do not do this easily….



6.

Every summer the lilies rise
and open their white hands until they almost
cover the black waters of the pond. And I give
thanks but it does not seem like adequate thanks,
it doesn’t seem
festive enough or constant enough, nor does the
name of the Lord or the words of thanksgiving come
into it often enough Everywhere I go I am
treated like royalty, which I am not. I thirst and
am given water. My eyes thirst and I am given
the white lilies on the black water. My heart
sings but the apparatus of singing doesn’t convey
half what it feels and means. In spring there’s hope,
in fall the exquisite, necessary diminishing, in
winter I am as sleepy as any beast in its
leafy cave, but in summer there is
everywhere the luminous sprawl of gifts,
the hospitality of the Lord and my
inadequate answers as I row my beautiful, temporary body
through this water-lily world.


Music: Two Songs for today

Kyrie – Michael Hoppé

Kyrie Eleison
Lord, have Mercy


For those who might want to take it up a notch:
Kyrie – Mr. Mister