Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 1, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98, an invitation to believe and rejoice in God’s Presence in our lives.

O Lord, You have made known the victory,
You have openly showed your righteousness
in the sight of the nations

Psalm 98: 2-3

In our first reading, as many Jews reject the invitation to Christian faith, the Apostles turn to the Gentiles with their evangelization:

The Gentiles were delighted when they heard this
and glorified the word of the Lord. 
All who were destined for eternal life came to believe,
and the word of the Lord continued to spread
through the whole region.

Acts 13: 48-49

But our Gospel passage reminds us that the exercise of faith demands an openness to God’s presence. Poor Philip seems to be missing the fact that Jesus – God – is right there with him!

Philip’s statement, “Show us the Father and it will be enough for us” translates like this for me: prove everything and then we can believe. I smile at Philip’s simplicity but then realize I am not that different from him. I often ask for proof of God’s Presence in my circumstances completely forgetting the fact that God is already and always there!


When thinking about faith, these two complementary passages both challenge and sustain me. I pray with them often:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

But hope that is seen is not hope.
Who hopes for what they already have?
But if we hope for what we do not yet have,
we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:24-25

This kind of Resurrection faith and hope allow us to receive and rejoice in the Good News the Apostles preach in Acts today, and to proclaim it as encouraged in our Psalm:

Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done marvellous things,
whose mighty hand and holy arm have won the victory.
O Lord, You remember your mercy and faithfulness toward us,
and all the ends of the earth have seen your victory, O God.
Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands;
lift up your voice, rejoice and sing.

Psalm 98: 1-4

Poetry: Flickering Mind – Denise Levertov 

Lord, not you
it is I who am absent.
At first
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away -- and back,
circling.

I have long since uttered your name
but now
I elude your presence.
I stop
to think about you, and my mind
at once
like a minnow darts away,
darts
into the shadows, into gleams that fret
unceasing over
the river's purling and passing.

Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
anywhere,
everywhere it can turn.  Not you,
it is I am absent.

You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow.
You the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.

How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?

Music: Prayer- From Moses in Egypt, an oratorio by Giaocchino Rossini

In the opera, Moses in Egypt, Moses leads the community in a prayer of hope before the crossing of the Red Sea.

I couldn’t find a suitable English translation, but the original Italian is below. As with many gorgeous operatic arias, I am just as happy not to translate. The music itself speaks and often the actual words pale in comparison. Hear what “speaks” particularly to you in this lovely music.

Dal tuo stellato soglio,
Signor, ti volgi a noi!
Pietà de’ figli tuoi!
Del popol tuo pietà!
Pietà de’ figli tuoi!
Del popol tuo pietà!
Se pronti al tuo potere
Sono elementi, e sfere,
Tu amico scampo addita
Al dubbio, errante piè!
Pietoso Dio! ne aìta’:
Noi non viviam, che in Te!
In questo cor dolente
deh, scendi, o Dio clemente,
e farmaco soave
tu sia di pace almen!
Il nostro cor che pena
deh! tu confronta almen!

A Reason for Hope

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 17, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Philip goes down to Samaria to preach, baptize and confirm. He found a ready audience:

With one accord, the crowds
paid attention to what Philip said.

I found that sentence remarkable. Having been a teacher and presenter for over fifty years, I was thrilled whenever I encountered such an immediately enthusiastic audience. But it wasn’t always the case. Some groups, especially larger “crowds”, had to be worked into a receptive mode. It could be quite challenging.

So what made Philip’s listeners so malleable? Acts tells us that his “signs” helped. But I wondered if there might be something else?

1024px-Angelika_Kauffmann_-_Christus_und_die_Samariterin_am_Brunnen_-1796
By Angelica Kauffman – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8988425

I wondered where the Samaritan woman of “Well” fame might have been during Philip’s visitation. You remember her from John 4. She was a singular audience for Jesus, and he had to work very hard to engage her good will. But once he did, the result was stunning:

Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

…. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him
because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything
I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged
him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because
of his words many more became believers.

So where was our “Well Woman” evangelist when Philip arrived? Hidden behind the later words of scripture, she deepened with Christ’s sacred memory. How had she continued to ignite the Word in the months since she first encountered Jesus?

As she listened to Philip on this post-Easter morning, how affirmed she must have felt for the complete faith she had given to a once-thirsty Jesus!


Hope

In our second reading, Peter enjoins us to live a faith like this holy woman, a witness transformed by the touch of Christ:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…

We have often waited by the well of our prayer for the voice and touch of Jesus. And we have known it and cherished it. 

Our readings today remind us to be like that Samaritan woman who now had her faith confirmed in the preaching of Philip —to share that faith, to witness it by our hope, to proclaim it by our merciful love.

(Look for a couple of lovely poems on Hope coming in a later post today. We could all use a few doses of hope, I think.  Enjoy!)

Music: Christ Our Hope in Life and Death – Keith and Kristyn Getty

The Power of the Name

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

May 9, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Paul and Barnabas make a final grand effort to speak to the hearts of the Jews in Antioch. The outcome is both bad news and good news.

The Jewish community resists the Word. But the Gentiles receive it with an open heart and the Gospel ignites “through the whole region”. The catechesis was so successful that resisters mounted the persecution and expulsion of the disciples from the neighborhood.

Then reminiscent of Jesus’s advice in Matthew 10:14:

dust

So they shook the dust from their feet
in protest against them
and went to Iconium.
The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.


acts3_6 Name_Original

In our Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples that He and the Father are one:

“If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”


Philip
Philip, like Thomas in yesterday’s Gospel, says he needs a little more to go on than that simple statement:

“Master, show us the Father,
and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus once again patiently reminds Philip and the others that all that they have experienced in Him is a revelation of the Father. He further tells them that they themselves are to be that ongoing revelation for the world:

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”


As Christians, we believe that we too are commissioned in the Name of Christ to be his Presence in the world. Jesus tells us that whatever we ask in his Name will be accomplished.

That doesn’t mean that the name of Jesus is a magic formula to get what we want.

Instead, within the Holy Name, we come to trust the mercy, love, and abiding accompaniment of God. Such trust allows us to see the slow working of God’s loving Will in all things – just as Jesus did through his faithful life, heartbreaking death, and ultimately triumphant Resurrection.

Let us gently repeat that beloved Name in our prayer, asking that its sweet grace enlighten and transform us.

Music: In the Name of the Lord – Gloria Gaithersburg, Phil McHugh, and Sandi Patti

Unless Someone Show Me

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

April 30, 2020

Click here for readings

philip

Today, in Mercy, in our reading from Acts, we meet the Ethiopian eunuch who served the country’s Queen. The man was sitting in a chariot reading the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” Philip’s instruction results in this faith-filled man’s Baptism.unless

It’s a bible story I’ve loved since I was a novice and read the excellent book by Alexander Jones, “Unless Some Man Show Me”.  That long-ago era in my life was a time when Vatican II opened up to the faithful the power and beauty of scriptural study and prayer.

The 1960s were a wonderful time to be committing myself to a life-long spiritual journey. Over the next few years, I devoured the published documents of Vatican II which included the one on sacred scripture, the “Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation” (“Dei Verbum”).

 


For an excellent summary of the document, click here.


Before Vatican II, like many Catholics, I had had limited experience with scripture. Mainly, we had it read to us at Mass. We had a Bible in my childhood home, but we used it mainly to record familial births and deaths inside the front cover.

Part of the reason for this scriptural vacuum was the long-held belief that most Christians were not theologically astute enough to interpret scripture on their own. Vatican II initiated a blessed change in that perception.


JB

In 1966, the same Alexander Jones, in the company of 27 colleagues, edited the magnificent Jerusalem Bible. My parents gave me this revered book as a gift for my Religious Profession and it has accompanied my prayer for more than a half-century. 

Reading the phrase in Acts today, “unless someone show me”, brought the whole sacred journey back to me. 

I offer this brief reminiscence to confirm how precious and important it is to build our prayer life on scripture. It is also important to educate ourselves continually by reading good commentary and spirituality. Such thinkers are like Philip in today’s passage. They are the ones who will “show” us, opening to us new understandings for our prayer.


Some of my favorite guides over the years have been:
(I’ll just list ten. There could be a whole other ten if I did this tomorrow🤗)

  1. Walter Brueggemann 
  2. Elizabeth Johnson
  3. Thelma Hall
  4. Macrina Wiederkehr 
  5. Raymond Brown
  6. Brother David Steindl-Rast 
  7. Sandra Schneiders
  8. Margaret Farley
  9. Matthew Fox
  10. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I would love for some of you
(even though you are a shy audience 😉 
to list some of your biblical and spiritual guides
in the comment section, if you feel so inclined.


Music:  Thy Word – Amy Grant