Monday of the Second Week of Easter

April 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 2 which poses an eternally recurring question:

Yesterday I read that it was the 21st anniversary of The Belfast Agreement. This is also known as the Good Friday Agreement, because it was reached on Good Friday, 10 April 1998. It was an agreement between the British and Irish governments, and most of the political parties in Northern Ireland, on how Northern Ireland should be governed. The talks leading to the Agreement addressed issues which had caused conflict during previous decades. The aim was establish a new, “devolved government” for Northern Ireland in which unionists and nationalists would share power.


But at the same time I also read another current article:

For nearly a week, crowds of Protestant and Catholic youth have provoked one another through the gaps in the wall, video footage from journalists at the scene shows. Stemming from decades-old tensions referred to as “the troubles,” the reignited violence has been, in part, caused by Britain’s exit from the European Union.


On any given day, we could take these stories and substitute the names of other countries, each struggling through cycles of strife, attempts at peace, and recurrence of violence.

The psalmist’s question echoes and the answer, over the ages, remains the same.

Why do the nations rage? They rage from the abuse of power, money, and human dignity.


What is the antidote to this recurring rage? Our psalm tells us it is simple – not easy – but simple. We must take refuge in God, govern our lives by God’s desire for good for every person, every creature.

Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil. Let us not remain mired in theoretical discussions, but touch the wounded flesh of the victims. Let us look once more at all those civilians whose killing was considered “collateral damage”. Let us ask the victims themselves. Let us think of the refugees and displaced, those who suffered the effects of atomic radiation or chemical attacks, the mothers who lost their children, and the boys and girls maimed or deprived of their childhood. Let us hear the true stories of these victims of violence, look at reality through their eyes, and listen with an open heart to the stories they tell. In this way, we will be able to grasp the abyss of evil at the heart of war. Nor will it trouble us to be deemed naive for choosing peace.

Pope Francis: Fratelli Tutti #261

Poetry: Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The sea of faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Psalm 144: War and Peace

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 29, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 144, a royal psalm of David in which he celebrates victory and its ensuing peace.

Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war.

Psalm 144:1

While, at first blush, the psalm seems to extol war as a means to achieve power, its message is really quite the opposite. 

It is only through reliance on God and faithfulness to God’s law that we find right-balance and peace – in our world, our community, and ourselves 

My mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I trust …

Psalm 144:2

Historically, our world religions have had a vexing relationship with war, often espousing it to advance questionable agendas. Only now is the Catholic Church beginning to re-evaluate what is referred to as the “Just War Theory”.

For a good explanation of this theory, click on the link below


However, in Fratelli Titti, Pope Francis declares:

War can easily be chosen by invoking all sorts of allegedly humanitarian, defensive or precautionary excuses, and even resorting to the manipulation of information. In recent decades, every single war has been ostensibly “justified”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the possibility of legitimate defence by means of military force, which involves demonstrating that certain “rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy” have been met. Yet it is easy to fall into an overly broad interpretation of this potential right. In this way, some would also wrongly justify even “preventive” attacks or acts of war that can hardly avoid entailing “evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”. At issue is whether the development of nuclear, chemical and have granted war an uncontrollable destructive power over great numbers of innocent civilians. The truth is that “never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely”. We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits. In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a “just war”. Never again war!

As we pray with this psalm today, we might echo its last verse and pray a prayer like this for all people, for our fratelli tutti…:

May there be no breach in the walls,
no exile, no outcry in our streets.
Blessed the people so fortunate;
blessed the people whose God is the LORD.

Psalm 144:14-15

Poem: Misnomer by Denise Levertov

They speak of the art of war,
but the arts 
draw their light from the soul’s well, 
and warfare 
dries up the soul and draws its power 
from a dark and burning wasteland. 
When Leonardo 
set his genius to devising 
machines of destruction he was not 
acting in the service of art, 
he was suspending 
the life of art 
over an abyss, 
as if one were to hold 
a living child out of an airplane window 
at thirty thousand feet.

Music: Where Have All the Flowers Gone

Psalm 33: God’s Peace

Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 16, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 which has been described as “a song of praise” and a call to worship. But as I pray with it this morning, I think of the psalm as much more. Within it is a profound call to social justice grounded in faith.

Maybe my attitude is the result of a commercial I keep thinking about. You may have seen it – the one for an organization called Wounded Warriors. Every time I see it, my soul splits. There is deep compassion, admiration and respect for the veterans depicted. But there is also the raging question “WHY!”.

How can we still allow, tout, and support the systemic atrocity of war in any form? How can we see these young men and women, bodies maimed and lives fractured, and not be outraged that war even exists!


I think that, thousands of years ago, the writer of Psalm 33 may have entertained similar questions. The psalmist realizes that it is not by the superiority of the nation state that a people gains righteousness and mercy.

The LORD foils the plan of nations,
frustrates the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever,
the designs of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people chosen as his inheritance.

Psalm 33:10-12

It is instead by acknowledging God’s care for all peoples that a nation achieves the humility, understanding, and courage to help build universal peace.

From heaven the LORD looks down
and observes all the children of Adam,
From his dwelling place he surveys
all who dwell on earth.
The One who fashioned together their hearts
is the One who knows all their works.

Psalm 33:13-15

The challenge of global peace-making is daunting. We “children of Adam” have permitted ourselves to not only normalize, but to exalt war. Reversing the systems that depend on and lead to war will be a long, complex, and arduous pursuit.

But for God’s sake, and our own, we must do it!
Our soul waits for the LORD,
he is our help and shield.
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
May your mercy, LORD, be upon us;
as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33: 20-21

Reading: from
In Truth, Peace
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE
1 JANUARY 2006

The theme chosen for this year’s reflection—In truth, peace — expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, promulgated forty years ago at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, stated that humankind will not succeed in ”building a truly more human world for everyone, everywhere on earth, unless all people are renewed in spirit and converted to the truth of peace”. 

But what do those words, ”the truth of peace”, really mean? To respond adequately to this question, we must realize that peace cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as ”the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder”, an order ”which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice”. As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds ”to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us”.


Music: Let There Be Peace on Earth sung by the magnificent Wintley Phipps

Everything!

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 11, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Acts recounts some of the challenges Paul and Barnabas met as they continued spreading the Gospel. With such a reading, we see the beginnings of theological arguments in the unfolding teaching of the Church.

One might wonder what turned yesterday’s Jewish and Gentile listeners into a stone-throwing mob. One wonders it today regarding some of the acrimonious factions within the Church.

It is one thing to receive the Gospel with one’s heart and spirit. It is another thing to receive it with one’s mind. As human beings, we resist mystery; we long for logic. We are more comfortable with a problem we can solve than with a Truth beyond our comprehension. Rather than Infinite Surprise, I think most of us prefer predictability and control.


 

Jn14_26 Everything

The Gospel can be fearsome. It asks that we let go of our limited human “geometry”; that we entrust everything to the Inclusive Love who is Jesus Christ. It asks us to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit who, ultimately, will “teach us EVERYTHING”.


question

In our recent readings, we’ve seen Thomas, Philip, and today, Jude trying to reach this level of spiritual trust. It’s hard because such trust is more than human. It is a trust bred of the Holy Spirit within us. It is a trust born of living fully in Peace with that Presence.

 


It is a trust described like this in tomorrow’s Gospel reading:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

Let us pray for trust and peace in ourselves, our Church, and world.


Music:  Wonderful Peace – an old Gospel song by Warren Cornell and William Cooper (1899), sung here by Don Moen 

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

Ah, soul! are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your Friend ere the shadows grow dark;
O accept of this peace so sublime!

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace,
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!

And I think when I rise to that city of peace,
Where the Anchor of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!

Hard Oranges

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 16, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings remind me of hard oranges, difficult to squeeze juice from!

We have in this passage from Deuteronomy part of Joshua’s farewell speech before he dies. He has accomplished what Moses could not – Joshua has brought the people into the Promised Land. In these verses, he recounts God’s faithful presence to Israel through all the years of struggle.

The spiritual message of the segment is clear: God loves us specially and faithfully, and we should love God in the same way.

What makes the passage difficult are the enduring political and justice issues inherent in it. The Israelites gain this land by war and the displacement of resident people. They consider that success a sign of God’s favor.

Many passages in the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, reflect a similar process. The community looks back over its successes and failures, interpreting them in the light of God’s faithfulness.

In our spiritual journey, we too are called to be reflective and grateful as we look back at our lives. But we are also called to a further essential step not clearly reflected in today’s reading.

We are called to change our hearts, to become merciful, to welcome strangers, to lay down the “sword” of conflict. Jesus calls us to a whole new understanding of God’s fidelity and favor.

This dichotomy comes to its full expression with Jesus. He was expected to be the regal and militant deliverer. Instead, he comes as a Lamb – meek and humble of heart – who dies for our sins.

As redeemed Christians, then, when we look at our lives for God’s Presence, we should find it in circumstances such as those Jesus gave us in the Beatitudes: humility, compassion, meekness, right relationship, mercy, holy sincerity, peace, courageous fidelity, Christian witness.

Music: Mass in B minor, Agnes Dei – Bach

Click here for music

Finding Peace

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 21, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel offers us a profound message: what does it mean to live in the peace of God?

jn14_28 peace

So many things, from the monumental to the trivial, can make us unpeaceful. If we made a list, we might tire before we completed it! This lack of peace takes many forms in us – worry, anxiety, second guessing, distraction, self-doubt and myriad other forms of inner fragmentation.

For some of us, gaining inner peace is more difficult than for others. So much depends on the trust we have felt in our lives. For those who have felt betrayed by family, friends, or God, the journey to a peaceful heart can be a tortuous one.

But Jesus says we can do it because he showed us how.

Don’t you think he might have been confused and bewildered at times by what the Father was asking of him? Don’t you think he was disillusioned at times by the wavering faith of his disciples? Don’t you think he was frightened by the kind of death he faced?

So just how did Jesus grow to such a fullness of peace that he was able to bequeath it to us as our inheritance?

He said:

Not as the world gives peace do I give it to you.

The world gives peace by removing or dominating challenges. God gives peace by accompanying us through challenges.

Jesus came to the point, in his very human life, where he chose not to let his heart be troubled because he had found this accompaniment.

The willingness of Jesus to live, suffer, and die according to the Father’s Will gives us the pattern on which to build our peace.

Throughout the ages, many saints have found and lived this peace according to their own call from God. One of the many who inspire me is Julian of Norwich.  Julian was an English anchorite of the Middle Ages.  She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.

Julian was worried about the presence of sin in the world. It seems she wondered, like many of us might, why God didn’t just fix that!


“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.

But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’

These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.”


This also is a lovely quote from Julian to pray with:

“From the time these things were first revealed I had often wanted to know what was our Lord’s meaning. It was more than fifteen years after that I was answered in my spirit’s understanding. ‘You would know our Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well. Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Hold on to this and you will know and understand love more and more. But you will not know or learn anything else — ever.”

Music: Meg Barnhouse’s modern interpretation of Julian’s writing, which Meg has obviously studied.

 

No More War

Friday, December 7, 2018

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Dec 7 _2

Today, in Mercy, we pray for the gift of hope for ourselves, and for all who desperately need it today. Hope is the steely confidence that no matter how dire our condition, God abides with us and is lifting us toward Light. Hoping, unlike wishing, changes us not our circumstances. That is its magic, its power and its mystery.

Some will remember December 7, 1941. Some will still feel its imprint on their families although they were born years later.

No doubt, every American adult will have some sense of the enormity of war, whether it be WWII, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or all the other endless operations of war.

Let us pray together today for an end to war, and to all the immoral pursuits that lead to it. Even though it is difficult, let us hope and believe that humankind,  through the grace of God, is capable of more.

Music:  Where Have All the Flowers Gone – by the great Pete Seeger, prolific folk song writer and political activist.  On this recording, Pete is an old man singing with his grandson.

A Sacred Peace

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050118.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus continues his loving assurance that He is with us always. He promises his followers peace, but not “peace” according to our human understanding. Instead, it is an immutable trust born of deep union with God and dependence on God’s protection. It endures and survives storms and darkness. Its gaze is focused on eternity. It is the peace that Jesus has demonstrated in His own life. How do we attain it? By imitating Jesus in the ordinary routines of our days – faith, trust and above all, love.

The Road to Conversion

Friday, April 20, 2018:

Readings: Acts 9:1-20, Psalm 117:1-2; John 6:52-59

Today, in Mercy, we ride with Paul on the road to Damascus. His soul is struck by grace and he realizes his sinfulness – that he has failed to see the presence of God in all people. He turns from his persecution to actually become a Christian himself. Conversion!

One wonders what that same road might look like today – the countryside and its people devastated by the continuing Syrian War. War would be impossible if we truly could see the face of God in one another. Let’s pray today for a conversion of hearts in leaders, in all those who profit from war, and in ourselves. Let’s pray especially for the people devastated by war and the exercise of irresponsible power.