Psalm 47: Imagining God

Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

January 23, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 47 which describes God as a King ascending to the throne amid shouts of joy.

God mounts the throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

Psalm 47: 6-7

This description reminds me of a pageant like the recent inauguration, where fanfare horns announce the President’s arrival. For the psalmist, the horn might have been a shofar.

It’s a beautiful and triumphant way to imagine what God might be like. But that’s all it is – an image, a product of human imagination. Like the psalmist, we all engage in that creative effort – we picture God. We draw God out of the media stored in our own hearts and spirits.


The freedom we have to imagine God can be both a blessing and a curse. As a blessing, it has allowed us to create tender, triumphant, and splendid constructs of an otherwise unimaginable Love. As a curse, it has given us the power to distort God’s image for our own selfish ends.


It is an awesome power. Even the great Saint Augustine struggled with it:

Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

What art Thou then, my God? 
Most highest, most good, 
most potent, most omnipotent; 
most merciful and most just; 
most hidden and most present; 
most beautiful and most strong, 
standing firm and elusive, 
unchangeable and all-changing; 
never new, never old; 
ever working, ever at rest; 
gathering in and [yet] lacking nothing; 
supporting, filling, and sheltering;
creating, nourishing, and maturing; 
seeking and [yet] having all things. 
And what have I now said,

my God, my life, my holy joy? 
or what says anyone who speaks of Thee? 
And woe to the one who keeps silent about you, 
since many babble on and say nothing.


Praying with Psalm 47, I consider my own “photo album” of the Holy One. I talk with God about those pictures. I ask to know and love God more clearly, so that, made in God’s image, I may more honestly reflect it.

God has given us the ultimate self-portrait in the Person of Jesus who is:

… the image of the unseen God,
the firstborn over all creation.

Colossians 1: 15

Poetry: from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 

Have among yourselves the same attitude
that is also yours in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2: 6-11

Music: Philippians Hymn – John Michael Talbot

Psalm 111: An Attitude of Gratitude

Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 30, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 111 set in complementarity with a beautiful reading from Philippians.

The heart of both these readings is holy gratitude, that powerful spiritual gift that can completely transform our lives.


Although I have been generously blessed for my whole life, I had to learn this virtue, and I’m still learning. Its lessons are infinite, as is the God from Whom we learn them. God’s generous mercy and our humble gratitude generate the dynamic energy of our spiritual life.

A lifetime may not be long enough
to attune ourselves fully
to the harmony of the universe.
But just to become aware
that we can resonate with it —
that alone can be like
waking up from a dream.

― Brother David Steindl-Rast

Sometimes we take a lot for granted. We don’t notice. We don’t realize. We don’t savor the gift right in front of us, be it clothed in blessing or challenge.


Our readings today teach us some of the steps toward that “waking up” that Brother David describes.

  1. Prayer for those we know and love, and a generous mutuality in a community of believers:

I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you,
praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,
because of your partnership for the Gospel
from the first day until now.

Philippians 1:3-5

2. Pausing to recognize that everything is God’s, and that God is bringing Creation to completion within each of our lives:

Majesty and glory are God’s work,
Whose justice endures forever.
God’s wondrous deeds have won renown;
gracious and merciful is the LORD.

Psalm 111:3-4

Certainly, it is easier to practice gratitude when we experience the fullness of God’s generosity. Eventually though, we can learn to be grateful even in times where God’s largesse may seem hidden, such as loss, change, or uncertainty. 

The continual practice of gratitude can help us find the sacred sweet point in every situation, discerning these questions

  • Where is God in this moment?
  • How is God offering me grace in this reality?

There are many other attitudes and habits that can school us in gratitude. One of the books that has changed my life is Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, where I learned about some of these practices. 


May we pray this for one another today:

“As we learn to give thanks for all of life and death, for all of this given world of ours, we find a deep joy. It is the joy of trust, the joy of faith in the faithfulness at the heart of all things. It is the joy of gratefulness in touch with the fullness of life.”

Brother David Steindl-Rast

Music: Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart – Dan Moen

Psalm 25: God’s Will?

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 27, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 25, set perfectly in the midst of a few readings that speak to us about, among other things , “the Father’s Will”.

I think there is no greater spiritual mystery than the meaning of  “God’s Will”, (and not wanting to show up Thomas Aquinas, I’ll resist explaining it here. 😂🧐)

But we’ve all heard attempts at explaining it, haven’t we, especially as it relates to suffering— as in:

  • everything that happens is God’s Will, so we must accept it
  • God wills our suffering to test us
  • if God wills that we suffer, He will give us the strength to endure it

I just don’t think so … not the God I love and Who loves me.

But these attempts to explain suffering are understandable because we want to rationalize the things we fear. Most of us, I think, struggle with the problem of evil and suffering in the world. We want to know what to do when, as Rabbi Kushner wrote, “… Bad Things Happen to Good People”.


Our first reading from Ezekiel shows us that even the ancient peoples met this struggle. The prophet seems to suggest that if you’re bad, you’ll suffer. If you repent, you won’t. Well, we all know that’s not quite the reality! But nice try, Ezekiel.

Our psalm gently leads to another way of facing suffering as the psalmist prays for wisdom, compassion and divine guidance. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus himself prayed like this as he confronted his impending suffering.


In our second reading, Paul places before us the example of Jesus who, in the face of suffering, was transformed by love:

Praying with these readings, each one of us must come to our own peace with the mystery of suffering. What we can be sure of is this: God’s Will is always for our wholeness and joy as so simply taught to us when we were little children:

God made me to know, love, and serve God, 
and to be happy with God in this world and forever.

Our Gospel tells us that such happiness comes through faith and loving service, through responding to “the Father’s Will”.  May we have the insight, the love and the courage!


Poetry: Of Being by Denise Levertov 

I know this happiness
is provisional:

       the looming presences—
       great suffering, great fear—

       withdraw only
       into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel:

       this mystery:

Music: To You, O Lord (Psalm 25) Graham Kendrick

By your Holy Cross, O Lord…

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we turn our hearts to the mystery of the Holy Cross.

Let’s face it. Most of us would prefer a life without ANY suffering. So how does the Cross help us understand that we will never have that kind of life?

The mystery of suffering is integral to all life and transformation. The ability to live and deepen with that mystery doesn’t happen in the mind. It happens in the soul.

The desert Israelites in our first reading don’t get it. They think an angry God is fed up with their complaining and so sends snakes to bite them and cause them suffering.

Not really.

Indeed, snakes have bitten them. But a loving God tells them: Hold up a symbol of my love. It will strengthen you to pass through your suffering because I am always in relationship with you.

cross_mcauley
The deep love of the Holy Cross was the sacred gift of Catherine McAuley to her Mercy Family. Let us listen to her counsel.

Paul, in the powerful passage from Philippians, takes us much deeper into the heart of this mystery. He tells us how Jesus put on human suffering to show us how suffering is transformed by the love it attempts to overcome.

Paul says that by becoming obedient – by listening – to the deep mystery of suffering and death in his life, Jesus shows us how to hear the whisper within it … the whisper of eternal life that can only be found when we pass through that awesome mystery in transcendent and enduring faith.

John suggests to us that, in some way that we cannot here understand, the mystery of suffering reveals something of the nature of God. It is an overwhelming, incomprehensible revelation that the Father could convey to us only in the visible gift of Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him. 

Praying with these deep considerations, we are invited to enter “the mind of Jesus”. May we wholeheartedly respond with today’s Alleluia verse:

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
because by your Cross you have redeemed the world.

Music: Philippians Canticle- John Michael Talbot (Lyrics below)

And if there be therefore any consolation
And if there be therefore any comfort in his love
And if there be therefore any fellowship in spirit
If any tender mercies and compassion

We will fulfill His joy
And we will be like-minded
We will fulfill His joy
We can dwell in one accord
And nothing will be done
Through striving or vainglory
We will esteem all others better than ourselves

This is the mind of Jesus
This is the mind of Our Lord
And if we follow Him
Then we must be like-minded
In all humility
We will offer up our love

Though in the form of God
He required no reputation
Though in the form of God
He required nothing but to serve
And in the form of God
He required only to be human
And worthy to receive
Required only to give

This is the mind of Jesus
This is the mind of Our Lord
And if we follow Him
Then we must be like-minded
In all humility
We will offer up our love
In all humility
We will offer up our love

This is the Mind of Jesus

Friday, September 14, 2018

     Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, on this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, our readings include the sublime Philippians Canticle.

Phil2_6 Cross

To me, this is the most beautiful passage in the Bible – so beautiful that nothing else needs to be said about it.

As we read it lovingly and prayerfully today, may we take all the suffering of the world to Christ’s outstretched arms – even our own small or large heartaches and longings.

Music: Philippians Canticle ~ John Michael Talbot

And if there be therefore any consolation
And if there be therefore any comfort in his love
And if there be therefore any fellowship in spirit
If any tender mercies and compassion

We will fulfill His joy
And we will be like-minded
We will fulfill His joy
We can dwell in one accord
And nothing will be done
Through striving or vainglory
We will esteem all others better than ourselves

This is the mind of Jesus
This is the mind of Our Lord
And if we follow Him
Then we must be like-minded
In all humility
We will offer up our love

Though in the form of God
He required no reputation
Though in the form of God
He required nothing but to serve
And in the form of God
He required only to be human
And worthy to receive
Required only to give

Pray for Priests

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we hear again about John the Baptist, the greatest prophet and preacher of all time, other than Jesus. John was so powerful that Herod thought he had come back from the dead to punish Herod’s sins.

John Vianney

Today is also the feast of St. John Vianney, popularly known as the “Curé d’Ars”. John was a simple and vibrantly devout parish priest in 19th century France. His humble holiness so transformed souls that he is considered the model and patron saint of all priests. St. John Vianney not only said, but lived, this statement:

“The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.
When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

God knows we need the influence of this saintly man today in the Catholic Church. It is a time when many have lost faith in the priesthood because of the heinous sins of some. That loss of faith is inevitably tied to our sacramental life. It is a tragic and profound bereavement.

Our society suffers a similar foundational trauma in so many other areas. When people of my age were young, we could trust our priests, our doctors, our police officers, our bankers, our government to safeguard our good. That trust has eroded in this time of exposure of deep-rooted, extensive corruption in once trusted institutions.

How do we restore our faith in the Church and other service institutions we have loved? We have already begun some of the work in the Church, but there is still much to be done. The work may serve as a model for other institutions:

  • Name and confront the corruption 
  • Remove the structures, myths and attitudes which allow corruption to thrive
  • Declericalize and humanize the priesthood – flatten the “power tower”
  • Support the full participation of women in all societal roles.
  • Redefine “priest” as simply one in the community of believers.
  • Pray for the many good priests who are suffering from the stigma of their errant peers and support them by our vital commitment to true Christian community.

Today, let’s pray together the prayer of St. John Vianney:

God, please give to your Church today
many more priests after your own heart.
May they be worthy representatives of Christ the Good Shepherd.
May they wholeheartedly devote themselves to prayer and penance;
be examples of humility and poverty;
shining models of holiness;
tireless and powerful preachers of the Word of God;
zealous dispensers of your grace in the sacraments.
May their loving devotion to your Son Jesus in the Eucharist
and to Mary his Mother
be the twin fountains of fruitfulness for their ministry.
Amen.

Music: Philippians Canticle ~ John Michael Talbot
This hymn reflects the true nature of the priesthood of Jesus Christ