Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter: The Light

April 27, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we read about miracles and Light. These are good things, right? It would seem that we shouldn’t be slow to acknowledge the miracles around us, nor to open our eyes to the Light.

Well, let’s see….


In our reading from Acts, we read about a miracle:

The high priest rose up and all his companions,
that is, the party of the Sadducees,
and, filled with jealousy,
laid hands upon the Apostles and put them in the public jail.
But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison,
led them out, and said,
“Go and take your place in the temple area,
and tell the people everything about this life.”

Acts 5: 17-20

Still when the Temple guards and the High Priest discover God’s miraculous action, they re-arrest the disciples and try again to stop the spread of the Light!

When I read this I say, “Come on, guys! Take a hint! Maybe there is something to this preaching!”

But the truth is that it can be really hard to take that hint — to wake up, to acknowledge the miracles around us, and to choose Light over darkness. Why? Because miracles and Light get in the way of our agendas, our lazy choices, our indifference to others’ needs and our own excesses.

Most of us don’t want to live completely bereft of blessings and inspiration. We’d like a miracle now and again, but not enough to demand our deep conversion. We’d prefer a little shade and shadow, a little spiritual oblivion in our lives.

In our Gospel, John will have none of it! The Light demands our conversion to the fullness of the Gospel.

Listen to John’s astonishment that people choose darkness over Light.

And this is the verdict,
that the Light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.

John 3:19

And yet, we see it all the time, don’t we? Even, unfortunately, sometimes in ourselves?

Let’s pray today for the strength to always choose God’s stunning yet healing Light. Let’s pray that strength for our terribly shadowed world – that we may open our prisoned hearts to the miracle of Light God has planted in each one of us.

Poetry: The Uses of Sorrow | Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.


Music: Coulin – James Last

Lent: The Miracle of Transformation

March 21, 2022
Monday of the Third Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are about prophets and miracles, brought to us by Elisha and Jesus.

The core of the readings is this: some of us want the prophets’ miracles, but we don’t want their challenge to live in God’s freedom. We want their cures, only to return to lifestyles that make us spiritually sick or imprisoned.

Wanting to write about these themes, I decided to check with my favorite Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann to see if he had any wisdom on the story of Naaman.

Naaman
Naaman brings his retinue and gifts… from The Pictorial History of Palestine and the Holy Land (1844) by John Kitto

Well, Walter certainly did…. something so good and wise that I won’t water it down with my own words. The link is below. It’s a little long, but so worth your reading and meditation. I hope you’ll take the time.

Click here for Walter Brueggemann’s article


Music: some instrumental music to listen to while you’re reading

The Miracle is Love

January 4, 2022
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are full of surprises for Jesus’s new followers and for us.  

Jesus begins to reveal what his Presence among us is all about. The message is this: I am here for the poor, hungry, sick and abandoned:

The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor
and to proclaim liberty to captives.

Luke 4:18

And Jesus wants us to be like him.


In our first reading, John makes that sound so simple:

Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:8

Someone might read that line and think, “OK! I can do that! I love lots of people and things. I know how to love.” 

But then our Gospel suggests that maybe we, like the disciples, have a lot to learn about how God loves. Mark shows us that Jesus is living a new kind of love.


Imagine the situation. John the Baptist has been murdered. The new disciples are returning from their first “apostolic gig”. They, and probably Jesus, are shocked, saddened and tired. Jesus recognizes this and tells them:

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 

Multiplication of the Loaves – Michael Wolgemut

But instead the hungry crowds followed them, their needs intruding on the deserved and desired solitude. The disciples sound a little annoyed in their practicality:

By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already very late. 
Dismiss them so that they can go 
to the surrounding farms and villages
and buy themselves something to eat.” 

Mark 6: 35-36

But when Jesus saw the crowd, his response was not annoyance or practicality.

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd…

Mark 6:34

In the Greek translation, the word for “moved with pity” is “ἐσπλαγχνίσθη” (Esplanchnisthē) – “splancha”

“Splancha”, in my mind, says that the heart of Jesus ”rumbled with mercy”; that he was so shaken to his roots with compassion that he pulled heaven down in a miracle to feed these people who were hungry at every level of their being.

The crowds, and indeed the disciples, are surprised not just by the cataract of fish and bread. But they are even more deeply astounded at this astounding demonstration of how God loves – with impractical, unlimited, immediate, miraculous generosity!


The lesson for us? Just as the disciples were commissioned to distribute the basketsful of miracles, we are charged to carry God’s mercy in our time.

Through the grace of Baptism, we have it within us to be the agent of miracles – the power to let God love through us. As John encourages us:

Beloved, let us love one another,
    because love is of God;
    everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.

1 John 4:7

Poetry: Miracles by Robert William Service

Each time that I switch on the light
A Miracle it seems to me
That I should rediscover sight
And banish dark so utterly.
One moment I am bleakly blind,
The next–exultant life I find.
Below the sable of the sky
My eyelids double darkness make.
Sleep is divine, yet oh how I
Am glad with wonder to awake!
To welcome, glimmery and wan
The mighty Miracle of Dawn.
For I’ve mad moments when I seem,
With all the marvel of a child,
To dwell within a world of dream,
To sober fact unreconciled.
Each simple act has struck me thus–
Incredibly miraculous.
When everything I see and do
So magical can seem to me,
How vain it is to seek the True,
The riddle of Reality . . .
So let me with joy lyrical
Proclaim all Life a Miracle.


Music: Beloved, Let Us Love One Another – a perky encouragement for your prayer 🙂

Just the Miracle, Please.

Monday of the Third Week of Lent

March 16, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings are about prophets and miracles, brought to us by Elisha and Jesus.

The core of the readings is this: some of us want the prophets’ miracles, but we don’t want their challenge to live in God’s freedom. We want their cures, only to return to lifestyles that make us spiritually sick or imprisoned.

Wanting to write about these themes, I decided to check with my favorite Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann to see if he had any wisdom on the story of Naaman.

Naaman
Naaman brings his retinue and gifts… from The Pictorial History of Palestine and the Holy Land (1844) by John Kitto

Well, Walter certainly did…. something so good and wise that I won’t water it down with my own words. The link is below. It’s a little long, but so worth your reading and meditation. I hope you’ll take the time.

Click here for Walter Brueggemann’s article

Music: some instrumental music to listen to while you’re reading🙏😇

Be the “Possible” That God Imagines!

Tuesday after Epiphany

January 7, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings empower us for unbounded possibility!

John’s letter tells us why:

In this is love:
not that we have loved God,
but that God loved us…

God has loved me!

There is nothing more I need to be whole — if I will only believe it, absorb it, and live from it!

There is nothing more I need to become a force for love in the world.


Mk6_4 loaves

Jesus demonstrates this powerful love in our Gospel reading.

It has been a long day of teaching, and the disciples see that the crowds are hungry and tired. They know the solution, which Jesus has apparently overlooked : let them go home and get something to eat!

But Jesus very simply responds, “Feed them yourselves!

He invites his disciples to realize the power released within them by God’s supernatural love. He challenges them to envision a way to respond to their challenges other than the tired, limited solutions we anxiously depend on.

Jesus calls them to imagine the world as God imagines it – transformed by an Unconditional Love which refuses the measurements of fear, control, and self- preservation.


loaves and fishes

Can you just visualize the scene that afternoon as the five loaves and two fish miraculously multiplied over the crowd of five thousand!

Can you see the expressions on the disciples’ faces as they allowed themselves to believe that, because of God’s Love, they were the vehicle of miracles!

We are too! There is no good we are incapable of if we will just believe in the power of Divine Love within us. Our miracles may not be as dramatic as the multiplication of the loaves. But they will be no less important.

They will be the miracles God planned for us to work in God’s name – for our circumstances, our challenges. They will be the way we carry God’s unimaginable grace to the tired hungers of our times.

Picture yourself starting out today, carrying that basket with just two fish and five loaves into the famished world. Imagine what happens when you open your heart to God grasping the basket with you!

Music: Imagine – John Lennon – I love this song in which Lennon imagines a world free of all the human constructs by which we limit it – a world as God might see it.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Monday, February 11, 2019

Click here for Readings

Tota Pulchra

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the lovely feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, commemorating Mary’s appearance to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, and her subsequent presence in the life of the faithful through devotion and miracles.

Therefore, today’s feast raises before us two important elements of our faith: our devotion to Mary, and our understanding of miracles.

MIRACLES
Scripture and tradition are replete with miracles, occurrences when some extraordinary reality points us clearly to God. Michael O’Neill in his book, Exploring the Miracles, writes this:

“No matter how strong we think our faith is or want it to be, we always want to know that God is there for us, and miracles are that sort of element that bridges the gap between our faith and our connection with God.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia offers an extensive and erudite definition of miracles for those interested. But, leaving a theological discussion of miracles aside, I would offer this quote for our consideration:

“There are only two ways to live your life:
as though nothing is a miracle,
or as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein 

MARY
As we pray with Mary today, specifically in her role as loving intercessor for us, we reflect on Mary’s total openness to grace. Free from the “original sin” that limits all humanity, Mary possessed a faith without shadow of doubt, a hope without burden of uncertainty, a love without taint of self-interest. She was the means through which Divine Breath was restored to us in Jesus Christ.

Some of you may be familiar with the book “The Reed of God” described on Amazon this way:
Caryll Houselander’s beautiful and profound mediation, The Reed of God, depicts the intimately human side of Mary, Mother of God, as an empty reed waiting for God’s music to be played through her. Houselander shares her insightful and beautiful vision of Mary on earth, Mary among us, Mary as a confused but trusting teenager whose holiness flowered with her eternal “Yes”.

Houselander says this about Mary, and it seems to capture perfectly Mary’s appearance to the world at Lourdes:


In the world as it is, torn with agonies and dissensions, we need some direction for our souls which is never away from us; which, without enslaving us or narrowing our vision, enters into every detail of our life. Everyone longs for some such inward rule, a universal rule as big as the immeasurable law of love, yet as little as the narrowness of our daily routine. It must be so truly part of us all that it makes us all one, and yet to each one the secret of his own life with God.

To this need, the imitation of Our Lady is the answer; in contemplating her we find intimacy with God, the law which is the lovely yoke of the one irresistible love.” 


Music: Tota Pulchra Es is an ancient Catholic prayer, written in the fourth century. The title means “You are completely beautiful” (referring to the Virgin Mary). It speaks of her immaculate conception. It takes some text from the book of Judith and other text from Song of Songs. (Latin and English lyrics below.)

Tota pulchra Es
Tota pulchra es, Maria.
Et macula originalis non est in Te.
Tu gloria Ierusalem.
Tu laetitia Israel.
Tu honorificentia populi nostri.
Tu advocata peccatorum.
O Maria, O Maria.
Virgo prudentissima.
Mater clementissima.
Ora pro nobis.
Intercede pro nobis.
Ad Dominum Iesum Christum. 

You are all beautiful, Mary,
and the original stain of sin is not in you.
You are the glory of Jerusalem,
you are the joy of Israel,
you give honour to our people.
You are an advocate of sinners.
O Mary,
Virgin most prudent,
Mother most merciful.
Pray for us,
Plead for us,
To the Lord Jesus Christ. 

There is No Wine

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012019.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we read about Jesus’s first public miracle at Cana. It is a story that has always fascinated me, mostly because of what is left unsaid – what is written between the lines.

jn2_1 can

The Gospel begins by telling of a wedding and “the mother of Jesus was there”. The suggestion is that Mary had been staying at the wedding site and that she had a special role in the preparations. Perhaps she was the aunt or good friend of the bride or groom. Whatever the case, Mary seems to have had some unique responsibility for the ceremony’s success.

This responsibility motivates her to solicit Jesus’s help when she notices the wine is running out. Did she expect a miracle in return for her remark? We don’t know. Perhaps she just wanted Jesus and his young friends to run down to the local wine store for replenishments.

It was Jesus who decided to turn the request into an occasion for a miracle. Why? It seems like a frivolous miracle when there were sick to be cured and dead to be raised!

The final lines of this pericope might help answer that question

Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

Jesus decided to first reveal his glory at a wedding feast, a party, an ordinary celebration of life and love. The dramatic, life-saving miracles would come – demons grabbing pigs and diving headlong into the sea.

But this first one, the one his closest family and friends would especially remember, was all about joy, dancing, music, friendship – the divine strength of our shared and graced humanity.

Probably most of us don’t expect to encounter a really eye-popping miracle in our lives. But maybe in our challenges we, like Mary, could walk up behind Jesus and whisper, “This situation needs your touch”.

Oh, how Jesus might surprise us!

Music: Everyday Miracles ~ Sara Groves