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

Prophecies and Dreams

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our scripture readings lay down before our prayer the long line of salvation history. It is a line that we can walk in wonder, winding from Isaiah’s prophecy, through the House of David, down to Joseph dreaming in the Nazarene night.

line

It is a story filled with words we love because, ever since our childhood, they have carried to us the fragrant scent of Christmas. These readings are the thrilling stuff of prophecies and dreams, all the more wonderful because we know them now fulfilled.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.
Isaiah 7:14


Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.

For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:20


O Emmanuel

This long wick of Promise, burning slowly through the biblical years, bursts into light with the birth of Jesus Christ, the Fire of God.

Through our faith, that Divine Light kindles us – we who now, through our Baptism, carry the sacred DNA of Jesus into our times.

On this final Sunday of Advent, when the world’s “crazy Xmas” tries to hijack our  souls, let us be very intentional about the true meaning of these days. Let us take the time to “go into our heart cave” and prepare for Jesus. (Heart Cave poem to follow in a second post)

Music: Emmanuel – Tim Manion (Lyrics below)

Baby born in a stall.
Long ago now and hard to recall
Cold wind, darkness and sin,
your welcoming from us all.

 How can it be true?
A world grown so old now, how can it be new?
Sorrow’s end, God send,
born now for me and you

Emanuel, Emanuel
What are we that You have loved us so well?
A song on high, a Savior’s high, angel hosts rejoice
Thy glory to tell

 Lord, lead us to know.
You lay like a beggar, so humble, so low;
no place for Your head and straw for a bed,
the glory of God to show.

 Babe on mother’s knee,
child so soon to be nailed to a tree;
all praise, till the end of our days;
O Lord, You have set us free

Rabbouni

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

Click here for readings.

Resurrection

The Upper Room on Holy Saturday evening: a place filled with sadness, silence and seeking. Jesus was dead. Jerusalem, scattered to their various houses to keep Shabbat, murmur their shocked questions under their shaky prayers.

We have all been in rooms like this. They enclose a special kind of agony – one teetering between hope and doubt, between loss and restoration. It may have been a surgical waiting room or the hallway outside the courtroom. Sometimes, such a space is not bricks and mortar.  It is the space between a sealed envelope and the news inside. It is the hesitant pause between a heartfelt request and the critical response. In each of these places, we exist as if in a held breath, hoping against hope for life, freedom, and wholeness.

It was from such a room that Mary Magdalene stole away in the wee hours. A woman unafraid of loneliness, she walked in tearful prayer along the path to Jesus’ tomb. Sweet memories washed over her: forgiving words, release from demons, an alabaster jar. Scent of jasmine rose up on the early morning mist. Hope rose with it that his vow to return might be true. Then she saw the gaping tomb, the alarm that thieves had stolen him to sabotage his promise. She ran to the emptiness seeking him. She was met by angels clothed in light and glory, but they were not enough to soothe her.

Turning from them, she bumped against a gardener whom she begged for word of Jesus, just so she might tend to him again. A single word revealed his glory, “Mary”. He spoke her name in love.

As we seek the assurance of God’s presence in our lives, we too may be unaware that God is already with us. The deep listening of our spirit, dulled with daily burdens, may not hear our name lovingly spoken in the circumstances of our lives. God is standing behind every moment. All we need do is turn to recognize him.

Turn anger into understanding. Turn vengeance into forgiveness. Turn entitlement into gratitude. Turn indifference into love. All we need do is turn to recognize our Easter God.

Music: Rimsky-Korsakov – Russian Easter Overture

Poem: The Anointing at Bethany

John 12_3 jar

Come close with Mary, Martha, Lazarus
so close the candles stir with their soft breath
and kindle heart and soul to flame within us,
lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
in quietness and intimate encounter.
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
is broken open for the world’s true Lover.

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
with all the yearning such a fragrance brings.
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
here at the very center of all things,
here at the meeting place of love and loss,
we all foresee, and see beyond the cross.

(Malcolm Guite: The Anointing at Bethany)

The Harlot’s Hair

Thursday, September 20, 2018

      Click here for readings.

Can you see her? 

She is known throughout the town for the woman she is – no ordinary, unknown panderer of her body’s wares. She is a true “madam”, and a few of her customers already sit, silent and furtive, at the Pharisee’s table.

Lk7_37 jar

She wears an elegant robe, for her fees are steep. Gem-encrusted bracelets encircle her wrists and ankles. But it is her hair that crowns her beauty. Flowing like a sable river, it is wound in deep waves around her lovely face and shoulders. It is scented with a small bit of the precious ointment she now carries in her alabaster jar.

Among her many assets, it is her hair that sets her apart. Some women see it through green eyes; some men through black hearts. But she, even in the confusion of her choices, has always known it to be a gift. 

How to use the gift has been her life long challenge. Ultimately, would it prove to be her salvation or her damnation?  Is it not so with every special gift, with every leverage that makes us singular among our peers? 

These gifts may take the form of possessions, power, position, favor or myriad other shapes. They may reside in a clever wit, and incisive mind, and agile body, a profound spirit. They may rest in a dogged perseverance, an adhesive memory or a dynamic imagination. Whatever our unique power, it is the key to our self-definition. It speaks our particular presence in the world.

At some point in her soul’s journey, this gorgeous gospel woman decided that her superior beauty would serve Jesus. What might have caused that dramatic conversion in her life?

Some versions of the story say that seven devils were once cast from her by Jesus’s merciful hand. Whatever the moment might have been, we can see from today’s Gospel scene that it was profound, intimate, and complete.

Her luxuriant hair has become a sacrament of healing, offered on this night to a friend about to suffer death for the sake of Love. Because her own love is so great, she understands this suffering in Jesus long before his other followers.

This reading leaves us with so much to consider about our own gifts and how we use them; about the depth of our relationship with Jesus and how we show him our love; about what is in our alabaster jar and where we choose to pour its treasure.

Music: Pour My Love on You – Philips, Craig, and Dean

Mary, Mother of the Church

Monday, May 21, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052118.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. It is a day to honor Mary for giving life to Jesus for the sake of all humanity. It is day to beg her intercession for a world so desperately in need of Christ’s continued revelation.

Mary is the door through which Heaven visited earth to heal it from sinful fragmentation. May she continue to carry her beautiful grace to broken hearts and even to the twisted souls who broke them. Through her, may we all find healing.

Mary, Mother of Mercy, intercede for all Creation that we may embrace the love your Son taught us.

( Friends, I began my annual retreat on Pentecost evening. All of you, dear followers, will be very much in my prayers. Please pray for me too. ❤️)

Music: Ave Maria ~ Michael Hoppè

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SLoaDz1af0M

The “Scriptures of Our Lives”

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Readings: Acts 13:13-25; Psalm 89; John 13:16-20

Today, in Mercy, our readings continue to extol the blessings of salvation history as it culminates in the Resurrection. In Acts, Paul recounts God’s presence throughout the Jewish Scriptures . In John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about the fulfillment of these scriptures in Himself. Psalm 89 allows us to offer thanks for God’s presence throughout the “scriptures of our lives.” Are there times in your life when you remember God’s presence most gratefully? Are there times God has carried you through to salvation? Mary sang her thanks so beautifully that I thought our prayer would be blessed by a song about her.

Divine Lightning

Monday, April 9, 2018: Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation and Incarnation (because Palm Sunday fell on the normal date 3/25.) At the angel’s Word, Mary opened her being fully to the transforming power of God. Within her “Yes”, divinity and humanity became one. In each generation, God’s transformation of Creation continues in us. A holy “yes”, given to God’s revolutionary invitation, still has the power of Divine Lightning! Nothing is wilder than grace! Nothing more free than God’s imagination for us!

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