Vow

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, the Book of Judges offers us the story of Jephthat and his daughter – and it is a doozy!

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The Daughter of Jephthat – Edgar Degas

Again, in a nutshell, Jephthat is recruited to lead an army against the Ammonites. He makes an obviously unconsidered vow that, if he is victorious, he will make a burnt offering to God of “whatever comes first out of his door” upon his return. Unfortunately, the first thing out his door is his only daughter. After giving his daughter the time she requests to “mourn her virginity”, Jephthat fulfills his vow.

Treatises have been written about how to interpret this troublesome passage – from St. John Chrysostom, to St. Ambrose, to modern Biblical scholars. No clear, single answer emerges. And for the purpose of prayer, it needn’t.

One thing the passage does make clear is that vows are critically important and have consequences.

Danielle-signing-vows
Sisters of Mercy – Perpetual Profession of Vows

We make all kinds of “vows” in our lives. Some are foolish ones, like Jephthat’s, where we promise God something simply to get our way. We glorify such promises by calling them vows. They are really one-sided bargains we make to fuel our self-interested goals.

A true vow is the tying of our heart and soul to a Love, Truth, and Hope beyond ourselves.  It is the binding of our life and future to a power we will understand only with the long fidelity of time and shared experience. It is a giving that, even if rescinded, still will change our character forever. It is a giving that, if sustained, will transform us into the very Love, Truth, and Hope which first embraced us.

Our Gospel makes clear that God takes our vows seriously.  They are our invitations to the banquet, whether they come in the form of Baptismal vows, marriage vows, religious vows, or others forms of commitment to love and service.  Once we have engaged these vows, we need to respond and to enflesh the Spirit of God within them. If we don’t, if we ignore the holy invitation within our life circumstances, we will end up in a “darkness” outside of God’s hope for us.

But if, as God hopes, we fully embrace the spirit and depth of God’s invitation, we become whole in God, “the chosen”, the beloved.


I have always loved this poem by Alice Meynell, “ The Neophyte”. It fills me with a holy awe and exuberant joy at the mysterious power of being in love with God

The Neophyte – Alice Meynell

Who knows what days I answer for to-day?
   Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
   This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.

 Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
   Give one repose to pain I know not now,
   One check to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.

 O rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
   I fold to-day at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat
   I seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
   And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.


(Appropriately, as we talk about faithfulness to vows, this date marks the anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in Philadelphia in 1861 – our Philadelphia Foundation Day. In a later post today, I will share a brief reflection of thanksgiving and challenge for this anniversary.)

Music: Center of My Life – Paul Inwood

More? A Resounding “Yes” for These Five!

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter 

June 7, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Jesus asks the quintessential question of Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”

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The setting is by the morning-dappled sea. Jesus has just cooked his disciples breakfast. Ordinary enough, right?

What is extraordinary is that Jesus has already died, risen from the dead, and is sitting with his buddies once again by their old fishing boats!

In other words, these disciples now know clearly what the love of God means. They have seen, firsthand, what that kind of love does to a life! Mercy, Passion, Death and Resurrection lived out in everyday human experiences.

So Jesus’s question to Peter might really be asking:

After all you’ve seen,
after all is said and done,
do you have the “more”
that it will take to follow me?

Our spiritual life is all about growing to the “more” that will let us live and love in God.

This Saturday, in our Merion chapel, four young women make their perpetual profession of vows as Sisters of Mercy. On July 13th, a fifth woman will make her final profession in the Mid-West Community.

2019 profession

We rejoice that these women have chosen to find their “more” as Sisters of Mercy. Will you join us in prayers of thanksgiving and benediction for them as they take this sacred step?

Let us too have the courage, as we pray today, to listen to Jesus ask us about our love. Let us answer sincerely, and ask for all we need to give the “more” in whatever way God asks of us.

Music: Love Like Jesus – Pawn Shop Kings (This one will wake you up!😀)