Psalm 1: Don’t Sit There!

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

March 4, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1. We’ve prayed with it several times, but today a particular word and verse struck me.

“Insolent” — I’ll bet it’s a word you seldom, if ever, said out loud. The last time I think I heard it  was when my sixth grade teacher caught me smoking in the girls’ lav. I didn’t know what the word meant, but I knew it wasn’t good.

Even etymologists are uncertain of the origin of the word, but it has come to define one who is contemptuous of rightful authority.


Despite its current infrequent use, the Bible likes the word and uses it at least 23 times to instruct our spiritual life.

Psalm 1 declares that even hobnobbing with the insolent is a bad idea. Insolence rubs off on us if we’re not careful. You know, “birds of a feather” and all that.


And isn’t it true? Haven’t you run into one or two cliques of contemptuous, snidely belligerent people in your lifetime who feed on one another’s insolence?

Those are the kind of folks Psalm 1 is talking about. We meet them everywhere – school, church, work, socially. They are the ones gossiping, passing judgment, stereotyping, slandering … Perhaps we’ve even joined them at times 🥲

In their worst form, they are the ones in the white hoods, carrying the burning torches, pushing kids into cages. We should pray for them because, as our psalmist suggests, they have been emptied of their souls:


… they are like chaff which the wind drives away.

Psalm 1:4


It’s been a long time since sixth grade and, even if I still don’t know the etymology of the word, I’ve come to understand what severe insolence does to a soul.

I don’t want to harbor even an ounce of it. Reflecting on Psalm 1 today, that is my heartfelt prayer.


Poetry: Know Yourself –   Meister Eckert

A human being has so many skins inside, 
covering the depths of the heart. 
We know so many things, 
but we don’t know ourselves! 
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, 
as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, 
cover the soul. 
Go into your own ground 
and learn to know yourself there.

Music: Grace Is – Paul Avgerinos 

Psalm 1: Aligned to God

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

February 18, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1, a familiar reminder of what a working relationship with God looks like:

Blessed the one who follows not
    the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
    and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

The phrases in that little verse are so powerful! 

We have seen all too clearly what happens when people “follow the counsel of the wicked”. We know how easily we can be infected by the negativity of “the insolent”. There is a spiritual distemper in us when these fractious humors fill the atmosphere.

Instead, we seek the peace and delight of being right with God. We embrace God’s law as a support and inspiration to guide us.


When we think of God’s Law, we might rightly think of the Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Torah, the Gospel – those places where we find the Law codified in words.

But we might also think of God’s Law as that silent omnipotent force that lifts the sun from darkness and sets it down again, that holds the seas in their global bowl, that lights the night with fiery stars.

Affinity with God’s Law is that loving practice which, by intrinsic prayer and reflection, gives over every moment of our lives to God’s order. That alignment, rooting us in God’s “due season”, allows goodness to blossom in us like a fruitful tree – an unfading, abundant harvest …

Like a tree
    planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
    and whose leaves never fade,
    ever prospering.

Psalm 1:3

Poetry: Onto a Vast Plain – Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen.
You are not surprised at the force of the storm—
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit:
now it becomes a riddle again
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you know
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

Music: How Deep, How Simple – Kathryn Kaye

Psalm 1: Trust the Light

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

December 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 and its confident responsorial verse.

Last night we watched a public television Christmas special, “Rick Steves’s European Christmas“. From its many beautiful scenes, one in particular remained with me: a little group of friends tobogganing down a snow covered hill at night. Their only lights came from the small lanterns they held and the full moon’s generous luster against the white snow.

My first reaction to the scene was to wonder, “What if their light goes out?”. Then I realized that there was a light beyond them which would guide their way.


There are times in our lives when the light, if it doesn’t go out, at least flickers. I wrote about that awareness in this story a few years ago: 

She had arranged to visit with an old college friend. They had been separated too long by the distancing choices that life often demands. She wanted to reconnect to that rare experience of shared transparency found just once or twice in a lifetime – the gift of a real friend.

They sat on a porch overlooking a gentle pond. The day was bright, the coffee hot, the chairs comfortable. But the magic was gone.  Only half her friend had arrived for the cherished conversation. The other half – joy, adventure and the excess of youthful hope – had been lost. Somewhere in the intervening years, the light had gone out. Her friend had suffered a wound she did not share. This one afternoon would be too short a time to give that wound a name.

During our Advent journey, God is waiting in the seeming darkness to guide us. God already knows the wounds we carry. God sees where our heart’s light has dimmed. Holding our half-heartedness next to the Divine Heart, God yearns to rekindle us.


Today’s psalm reminds us that there is a always Light waiting beyond us to guide our way.

Blessed the one follows not
the counsel of darkness
nor walks in it ways,
nor remains in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on its Light day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

Poetry: from Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Music: Christ, Be Our Light – Bernadette Farrell

Psalm 1: Our Great Trees

Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

November 16, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 which tells us that a vigorous spiritual life roots us firmly in God.

One who delights in the law of the LORD,
and meditates on God’s law day and night
is like a tree planted near running water.

That rootedness steadies us even in life’s fierce winds, unlike the fate of the spiritually lifeless.

… they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the faithless vanishes.

We all can think of Saints,
living and dead, in our lives
who are like these deeply rooted trees.
Gratefully recognizing them helps us
to grow and deepen our own faith.

I think of my parents who were ordinary people, not scripture scholars or recognized prophets. They simply prayed every day, and tried to do good for and with the people in their lives. Their energy was focused on God and others, not themselves. They were honest, humble, grateful people. They never realized how holy they really were.

They were like those trees planted near running streams, feeding on the waters of generosity not greed. They were strong in life’s winds, which were many and sometimes ferocious. Theirs was a quiet and unassuming faith, but immovable as rock.

My brother and I were blessed to grow up in the shade of those trees, a blessing which made us want to be like them. 


  • Today:
  • Let’s pray for continuing grace to deepen our roots in God.
  • Let’s pray for a faith that nurtures and encourages those God has placed under our branches.
  • Let’s stretch the reach of our tree’s caring shade to all our sisters and brothers, especially those scorched by pain and poverty.
  • Let’s drink deeply of the life-giving waters God offers us.

Poetry: I learned that her name was Proverb by Denise Levertov

And the secret names
of all we meet who lead us deeper
into our labyrinth
of valleys and mountains, twisting valleys
and steeper mountains—
their hidden names are always,
like Proverb, promises.
Rune, Omen, Fable, Parable,
those we meet for only
one crucial moment, gaze to gaze,
or for years know and don’t recognize
but of whom later a word
sings back to us
as if from high among leaves,
still near but beyond sight
drawing us from tree to tree
towards the time and the unknown place
where we shall know
what it is to arrive.

Music: Tree Song by Evie Karlsson
If you have young ones in your life, you may want to listen to this song together. A very simply expressed, yet profound, message.

Psalm 1: Play Nice Together

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 26, 2020

2018 Reflection on the Bent-Over Woman

Click here ^


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1 which, together with our first reading from Ephesians, gives us a complete outline for moral behavior.

There are days when I feel like the world’s not doing too bad responding to that outline. But, to be honest, there are more days when I think we’re a pretty big mess. 

It may sound simplistic, I know, but why can’t we all just follow Paul’s advice and be kind?

Brothers and sisters:
Be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Ephesians 4:32

I think Pope Francis feels pretty much the same way as I do. Our reading from Ephesians could easily serve as a summary statement for Fratelli Tutti. Praying with this profound document, we can see the hope and agony of the world open before God’s Mercy, begging for healing.

(You may realize that I frequently refer to Fratelli Tutti. I believe this ground-breaking encyclical to be critically important for the future of our world. If you share my belief, you will be interested in this superb analysis written in Commonweal magazine by Austen Ivereigh.)


Psalm 1 gives us the peaceful picture of a person – and a world – centered on God’s loving law, the “plumb line” for holy balance in our lives. It is that same plumb line which Pope Francis drops for us in Fratelli Tutti.

Blessed the one who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.

Psalm 1

Poetry: A thought from Confucius:

If there is righteousness in the heart, 
there will be beauty in the character.

If there is beauty in the character, 
there will be harmony in the home.

If there is harmony in the home, 
there will be order in the nations.

When there is order in the nations, 
there will peace in the world.

Music: Blessed Be the Tie – Sara Groves remasters an enduring hymn on Ephesians 4:32. The original was written in 1782 by Baptist theologian John Fawcett

You for a father’s throne
We pour our art in prayer
Our fears and hopes are one
Out comforts and our cares

Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love
We share each other’s walls
Our common burdens bear
And love for each other
The sympathizing tear

Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love
Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love
Oh, kindred heart

It’s like heaven above
It’s like heaven
Oh, kindred heart
It’s like heaven above
It’s like heaven

Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love, oh
Blessed be the tie
That binds our hearts
In Christian love

Psalm 1: The First Word

Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 14, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1.

Patrick D. Miller, Hebrew Scriptures scholar, suggests that Psalm 1 “sets the agenda for the Psalter through its identification of the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked as well as their respective fates” along with “its emphasis on the Torah, the joy of studying it and its positive benefits for those who do“.

Blessed the one who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

What does it really mean to “meditate on God’s law day and night”? Become a monk? Read the Bible all day? Never sleep?

Of course not. I think it means to live in the firm belief that God is in everything, and to train our hearts to see and respond to that Omnipresent Love.

We all know people who, no matter the circumstances, are focused on good and radiate a joyful confidence. There is a light within them and a peace around them. The living of their ordinary lives is a meditation on God’s order in all things.

Such a person …

… is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever that faithful one does, prospers.

Psalm 1:3

It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges … even protests, righteous anger, sadness and pain. Think of Jesus as he overturned the Temple tables!

It means rather that the focus is never lost because …
Creation’s sacred order is our Light;
and God’s law has taught ours hearts 
to find our joy in its Beauty.

my transliteration of Psalm 1:2

Let’s be that tree near
the running water of Grace!🙏


Poem: On Beauty by Khalil Gibran

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
     And he answered:
     Where shall you seek beauty, and how
shall you find her unless she herself be your
way and your guide?
     And how shall you speak of her except
she be the weaver of your speech?
    
The aggrieved and the injured say,
“Beauty is kind and gentle.
     Like a young mother half-shy of her
own glory she walks among us.”
     And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is
a thing of might and dread.
     Like the tempest she shakes the earth
beneath us and the sky above us.”
    
The tired and the weary say, “Beauty is
of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
     Her voice yields to our silences like a faint
light that quivers in fear of the shadow.”
     But the restless say, “We have heard her
shouting among the mountains,
     And with her cries came the sound of
hoofs, and the beating of wings and
the roaring of lions.”
    
At night the watchmen of the city say,
“Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the
east.”
     And at noontide the toilers and 
the wayfarers say, 
“We have seen her leaning over
the earth from the windows of the sunset.”
    
In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall
come with the spring leaping upon the hills.”
     And in the summer heat the reapers say,
“We have seen her dancing with the autumn
leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.”
     All these things have you said of beauty,
     Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of
needs unsatisfied,
     And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
     It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty
hand stretched forth,
     But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
     It is not the image you would see nor the
song you would hear,
     But rather an image you see though you
close your eyes and a song you hear though
you shut your ears.
     It is not the sap within the furrowed bark,
nor a wing attached to a claw,
     But rather a garden for ever in bloom and
a flock of angels for ever in flight.
    
People of Orphalese, beauty is life when
life unveils her holy face.
     But you are life and you are the veil.
     Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.


Music: I Delight in You, Lord – David Baroni

Rely on the Lord

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Sirach advises us to rely on the Lord and nothing else – not our own strength, not endless forgiveness for our poor choices, not deceitful wealth. These, the reading admonishes, will not help when we are judged.

Sirach5_trust

Our Psalm confirms that we should place our reliance – our HOPE – in God:

Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
They are like trees
planted near running water,
That yield fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever they do prospers.

Mark describes what happens to those who choose a merciful life, and to those who don’t!

Neither of these readings spares any harsh words. They are so confronting that we may be tempted to “read over them”, not really engaging their message to our lives. 

Do we have any hard choices to make about 

  • where we place our confidence?
  • the integrity of our choices?
  • how we use our wealth and resources?
  • how we respond to others’ needs?
  • the example we are offering for those who depend on us?

I know I want to do all I can to avoid any millstones around my neck! Right? 

Let’s take a deep look at our hearts today for any trace of merciless choices or sinful self-reliance, thinking we might even know better than God! Sometimes, when we are frightened or unsure, we forget to lay it all down before the Lord. But we can trust God completely, and doing so will bless us. What we have to learn is that God may take us, by a different route, to our joy.

Music:  Trust in the Lord