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🙏😇

The Prophet is Never Welcome

Friday, August 3, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080318.cfm

ordinary miracles

Today, in Mercy,  Jesus returns to his hometown to speak with his neighbors in the synagogue.  We can imagine the scene – maybe a few buddies who grew up with Jesus, kicking a ball around the dusty streets of Nazareth. Maybe there were neighbor ladies who went to the well daily with Mary., or a few older guys who had exchanged the secrets of woodworking with Joseph.

They might have come to the synagogue expecting little but to hear the old scriptures interpreted in the old way. They could live with that.  They had become entrenched in their ordinary lives and, despite its drudgeries, it was comfortable for them.

We can understand these people. In many ways, we might be like them.  We might go to church on Sunday and pray everyday, but we don’t want our faith to get too mixed up in our lives. We certainly don’t want some preacher telling us we have to change our comfortable ways because “the Kingdom of God is at hand”.

But that’s what Jesus did that Sabbath in the hometown synagogue.

You see their reaction. “Who the heck is this guy to tell us what to do? Isn’t he merely one of us?”

Their defenses and prejudices bar them from hearing the liberating word of Jesus.  He asks them to break open their ordinary lives to find the call to grace hidden within. He doesn’t want them to abandon their lives. He wants them to transform their lives by recognizing the presence of God in the everyday miracles of human life, love, mercy and forgiveness. He challenges them to welcome the same miracles in the poor, the stranger, even the enemy. Now wait a minute!!!!

There may have been some who heard and responded to him that day. But their voices were drowned out by those whose souls had atrophied with comfort, selfishness, ignorance and fear.

We don’t have to go too far to find such scenes today.  It may be at a church, a political event, a family conversation, an exchange among friends. These situations may confront us with the stark difference, in ourselves and in others, between truth and opinion, between faith and religion, between justice and law. 

In these common situations of our lives, can we find the miracles God is offering us? Can we listen beyond the words with a faith-filled heart and hear God’s Word? Can we allow our thinking to be transformed by the challenging graces of our ordinary lives? Can we ask ourselves sincerely, “If Jesus were here for this moment, what would he want to happen in my heart and actions?”

Music: Word of God Speak by MercyMe

The Times They Are A-Changin’

July 24, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we pray with a passage from the prophet Micah, the last of three over the past few days of readings. Micah, who composed about 700 years before Christ, is considered a “minor prophet”. We hear from him only these three times in our liturgical readings. Yet, some of the loveliest and most moving lines come from the pen of this country poet.

Micah

Micah gave us this gem:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
~ Micah 6:8

He also foretold the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
   though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
   one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
   from ancient times.~ Micah 5:2

Micah was a poor farmer with a rich gift of poetry and grace. In powerful images, he confronted the corporate sinfulness of his times – economic and social injustices institutionalized in the Jerusalem political power structure. He was like a folk singer whose simple words cut to the truth, mourned the sad state of current affairs, and offered lyrical hope to his listeners. Micah teaches us that God’s justice will always prevail. Still, he assures us that this divine justice will be delivered with Mercy.

One can profit from reading Micah prayerfully while considering our current political reality. Like all good poetry, his words still have meaning for us. Our “Jerusalem” may be Washington or Moscow or Beijing. Our “Babylon” maybe economic, environmental, or moral destruction. 

Micah calls us to recognize injustice, especially toward the poor, orphans, and refugees. He enjoins us to mourn the sad reality that surrounds us. And then he encourages us to hope – and act – because God is with us in our vulnerability and will bring us Mercy.

Music: The Times They Are A-Changin’- written by Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, sung here by Bruce Springsteen when Dylan received the Kennedy Honors.( Lyrics below.)

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Called to Be Prophets

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our readings bring us the great prophets Ezekiel, Paul, and the Ultimate prophet, Jesus.

How did they become prophets? When they were little guys, how did they answer the perennial question, “What do you want to be when you grow up”? Unlikely that they responded, “A prophet, of course!” Probably it was something like a camel rider, a carpenter, or a farmer. So what changed them?

All three, by heritage and practice, were steeped in the traditions of the Hebrew Scriptures. As they grew up into the oppressive, idolatrous worlds of their particular time, the scriptural promises gave each of them hope. They developed, as the theologian Walter Brueggemann describes it, “the capacity to imagine the world seen through the eyes of … God.”

HOPE

This kind of vision is not unknown to our times. A few years ago, it was very popular to ask, “WWJD? – What would Jesus do?” Some people even wore bracelets and medallions of the letters to remind them to look at life through Jesus’ eyes.

Although a bit simplistic, it’s still a good visual reminder. What is less evident is the implied thought that we must KNOW Jesus well enough to UNDERSTAND what He would do. A casual acquaintance won’t do the trick here. Prophets are intimate with God through prayer and the works of mercy. Over years of faithful practice, they have come truly to see the world as God sees it. They beat with God’s heart.

A prophet is profoundly realistic about the world’s ills, heartbroken for those who suffer, but nonetheless convinced that God will make something amazingly beautiful for God’s People. This conviction impels them to live, speak and act  for this Godly vision.

We too are called to live with this kind of prophetic hope. It is not easy in our fractured world. But it is possible. Let today’s three Great Ones inspire and teach us.

Music: A Hymn to Hope from “The Secret Garden”