Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 91 from the readings for the Mass of the Guardian Angels – those magnificent beings who carry God’s Presence to us in every situation of our lives.
The Lord shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter and from the deadly pestilence. The wings of the Lord shall cover you, and you shall find refuge under them; the faithfulness of God shall be a shield and buckler.
Maybe the only angels we ever think about are chubby little cherubs on Christmas cards. The cultural tendency to represent angels in that way diminishes the real power of these mighty and loving beings to inspire and guide us. Today might be a day to rethink our relationship with our Guardian Angels – to talk with them and to listen to the good things they tell us even without words.
Poem: Touched by an Angel by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage, exiles from delight, live coiled in shells of loneliness until love leaves its high holy temple and comes into our sight to liberate us into life. Love arrives and in its train come ecstasies old memories of pleasure ancient histories of pain. Yet if we are bold, love strikes away the chains of fear from our souls. We are weaned from our timidity In the flush of love's light we dare be brave And suddenly we see that love costs all we are and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 78, a call to learn from experience and to teach its lessons to our posterity.
What we have heard and know, and what our parents have declared to us, we will declare to the generation to come The glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength.
Psalm 78: 3-4
And the teaching is this:
That they too may rise and declare to their progeny that they should put their hope in God, And not forget the deeds of God but keep God’s commands.
Psalm 78: 6-7
Though stern, the message seems obvious and simple, right?
But the last verses of our psalm today reveal a more complex historical reality:
And not be like their fathers, a generation wayward and rebellious, A generation that kept not its heart steadfast nor its spirit faithful toward God.
Psalm 78: 8
In later verses of Psalm 78, Israel’s rebellion finally becomes the last straw. God rejects Israel (the northern kingdom) and chooses the southern kingdom to carry on the Promise. It was BIG!
But they tested and rebelled against God Most High, whose decrees they did not observe. They turned disloyal, faithless like their ancestors; they proved false like a slack bow. They enraged God with their high places, and with their idols provoking God to jealous anger. God heard and grew angry; rejecting Israel completely.
Psalm 78: 56-59
Praying with the psalm today, my soul still swirling in our country’s current events, I ask myself a few questions:
how is God speaking in our political reality
what “forgetfulness” are we called to recognize
what role does acknowledgement and repentance have in redeeming our integrity
what has our experience taught us that we must safeguard for the future
how can we unite as a faith community to respond to grace
This commentary by Tom Roberts, former editor of the National Catholic Reporter, enlightened my prayer. I found it disturbing, compelling, and necessary to think on these things. I pray for the courage and discipline to act on them.
Poem: excerpt from “ON THE PULSE OF MORNING” by Maya Angelou Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, January 20, 1993. (It is a long, powerful poem. I will post it in a second posting for those who would like to read it in full.)
A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Facedown in ignorance,
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today,
You may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 97 which reminds us that, as Jesus begins his earthly ministry, he is accompanied by the unseen powers of heaven.
The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory. Let all his angels worship him.
Psalm 97: 6-7
The psalm is reflective of the glorious passage from our first reading describing the Divinity of Jesus:
The Son of God is… the refulgence of God’s glory, the very imprint of God’s being, who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Hebrews 1: 3-4
These seem perfect readings to begin a season described as “Ordinary Time” because they remind us that the power of Jesus Christ is far from ordinary.
And our days do not feel like ordinary times, do they? They are both fraught with threat and charged with hope.
They are times belabored by pandemic struggle, political vitriol, climate dissolution, global strife and systemic oppression.
But they are also times bristling with breakthrough discovery, civic renewal, social consciousness, communal courage and spiritual awakening.
Just as in our Gospel on this first day of “Ordinary Time”, Jesus asks his disciples to “Come”, dream extraordinary dreams with him, so he asks us.
– He asks us to believe that there are unseen angels attending us. – He asks us to remember that we, like him, are made in the refulgent image of God.
– He calls us, like Simon and Andrew, to believe that our “ordinary time” is actually the “time of fulfillment”:
Poetry: Maya Angelou – Touched by an Angel
We, unaccustomed to courage,
exiles from delight,
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
Music: Ordinary Time – Marie Bellet
There will come a day for quiet kitchen mornings
Lunches with the girls, book clubs in the afternoon
There will come a day for chintz flowers on my sofa
Just the perfect lipstick, matching purse and shoes.
There will come a day without constant interruption
Confusing all my senses, my reason and my rhyme
But for now I trip on the backpacks in the hallway
Scrub the crayon from the walls that mark this ordinary time.
There will come a day for uneventful dinners
When no one drops their fork or spills their milk upon the floor
There will come a day, I’ll be wiser, I’ll be thinner
I will finish conversations before running out the door.
Well, isn’t that the way it is for all those happy women
Who smile at me from magazines there in the checkout line?
What about the tired, the simple and forgotten?
Blessed be the ordinary here in ordinary time.
He said “Who will feed my sheep?
Who will heed their cry?”
I said “I am vain and weak
But surely I will try.
You know everything
And You know that I’m
Just an ordinary woman
here in ordinary time”.
There will come a day when everything is order
And I will be the queen of everything I see
But how my heart will leap to find one backpack in the hallway
With the promise of a face, and a story just for me.
So may I never yearn for those cocktail conversations
Clever observations made for fashionable minds
May I finally learn to be happy and have patience
With the constant changing rhythm of this ordinary time,
The constant changing rhythm of this ordinary time.
Today, in Mercy, God blesses Noah and his children with blessings of fertility, power, and sanctity of life. All these are given to them because they are made in the image of God. God then renews the covenant with Creation, giving a rainbow as its sign.
Rainbows still bless us, allowing us to know that natural storms are over. Maya Angelou says that people can be rainbows for each other in stormy times.
Let’s pray today for all those who have offered us a rainbow in hard times. Let’s try to be that rainbow for someone in need of encouragement or support. It’s a childlike prayer, but they are sometimes the most profound.
Music: God Put a Rainbow in the Sky ~ sung here by the great “Queen of Gospel”, Miss Mahalia Jackson
God put a rainbow in the sky A rainbow in the sky A rainbow in the sky God put a rainbow in the sky A rainbow in the sky A rainbow in the sky
It looked like the sun wasn’t gon’ shine no more Oh, God put a rainbow in the sky.
When God shut Noah in the grand ol’ ark God put a rainbow in the sky Oh, yes, the sun grew dim and the days was dark God put a rainbow in the sky.