Psalm 102: Joys and Sorrows

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Tuesday, March 23, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 102, the prayer of someone in the midst of suffering. The psalm is introduced with stark honesty:

The prayer of one afflicted and wasting away 
whose anguish is poured out before the LORD.

Psalm 102: 1

Psalm 102 speaks to those places in life’s journey where we experience intense, perhaps overwhelming suffering.

In our first reading, the Israelites suffer through what seems like a never-ending journey of homelessness. In our Gospel, Jesus begins his final journey toward his Passion and Death. These both were journeys with suffering as a constant companion

No one avoids suffering in some way. It is part of being human. Even our beloved Catherine McAuley left us this succinct maxim:

This is your life, joys and sorrow mingled,
one succeeding the other.

Letter to Frances Warde (May 28, 1841)

The psalmist, in the midst of his suffering, calls out to God for a return of the promised joy.

O LORD, hear my prayer,
    and let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
    in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
in the day when I call, answer me speedily.  


This prayer attests to the psalmist’s undaunted faith and to God’s unwavering fidelity.

This mutual faithfulness is where we all must stand in sorrow so that we may come, as Jesus did, to the fullness of Resurrection grace.

As we come closer to the profound mysteries of Holy Week, let us not only reverence our own joys and sorrows. Let us ask to enter more deeply into the experience of Jesus in this final unfolding of his life. May we deepen in the understanding that the suffering of Jesus is one with the suffering of our sisters and brothers.


Poetry: On Another’s Sorrow – William Blake 

Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no!  never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear --

And not sit beside the next,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
Oh no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give his joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

Oh He gives to us his joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled an gone
He doth sit by us and moan

Music: You Raise Me Up – Josh Grogan

Psalm 102: For the Generations

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest

August 4, 2020

The USCCB website (that you click for daily readings) has been beautifully updated. Make sure you take a look!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 102. Today’s chosen verses proclaim the psalmist’s confidence that the Covenant Promise will endure through the generations.


The psalm really rings a bell for me today. We are expecting two new babies in my family within the next month. The excitement and joy are building throughout the family branches, scattered over several states and hundreds of miles.

Due to Covid-19, I probably won’t be with these new “grands” for a long time. That’s why I am so grateful for FaceTime to help me feel a real part of their lives.


Psalm 102 is David’s FaceTime.
Through it, he looks into a future
physically distant from him.
He has confidence that that future
is already blessed by God
through the faith which it inherits.


Thinking about this, I realize that I am someone’s “future” – my parents, grandparents and all the long line of ancestors before them. They thought about me, hoped in me, prayed for me the way I am praying for these coming babies.

Those Elders passed on to me a strong faith, hard-earned on the soils of Ireland, hard-carried over immigrant waters, hard-kept in a highly secularized culture. Like David, they wanted God’s faithfulness to be remembered by all who came after them:

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let God’s future creatures praise the LORD …


When my Aunt Mary died last October, I became the oldest living member of our family. I take that role seriously. I pray for our entire family, by blood and law, every day.

Each day, I pick one who gets special prayers for blessing on his or her life. Sometimes I know they need it for a certain reason. Sometimes, they have no idea I am praying for them – or perhaps, if they are distant relatives, that I even know their names.


As we pray Psalm 119 today, let’s consider our place in the generations of faith, and our responsibility to give and receive the riches of that faith to one another.

The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD  and God’s praise
may be ever declared;
When the peoples gather together
and the families, to serve the LORD.


Poetry: Isaac’s Blessing by Janet Eigner whose adult daughter died young, leaving the freckled boy in this poem:

When Isaac, a small, freckled boy 
approaching seven, visits us for Family Camp, 
playing pirate with his rubber sword,

sometimes he slumps in grief, 
trudging along, his sacrifice and small violin 
in hand, his palm over his chest,

saying, Mother is here 
in my heart. Before he leaves for home, 
we ask if he’d like a Jewish blessing.

Our grandson’s handsome face ignites; 
he chirps a rousing, yes, for a long life. 
We unfold the prayer shawl,

its Hebrew letters silvering the spring light, 
hold the white tallis above his head, 
recite the blessing in its ancient language

and then the English, adding, for a long life. 
Isaac complains, the tallis didn’t 
touch his head, so he didn’t feel the blessing.

We lower its silken ceiling 
to graze his dark hair, 
repeat the prayer.

Music: As for Me and My House – a prayer for our families for the generations 

Psalm 102: God’s Time

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 16, 2020

From 2018: Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 102, one of the seven penitential psalms. It is introduced as “the prayer of the afflicted”.

Yet, I find our verses today full of hope. They look with confidence to a better future.

You, O LORD, abide forever,
and your name through all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion,
for it is time to pity her.

That last line, “for it is time to pity her”, is particularly touching as the psalmist nudges God to move forward with healing. Don’t we  pray like that sometimes?

  • Dear God, I’ve had all I can take! Please fix this — now!
  • Lord, I’ve learned my lesson. Please relent and rescue me.
  • Jesus, please let this trial be over and let us survive.
  • Lord, it is time for this to be over!

The bedrock of this prayer is the psalmist’s deep trust that God will act as God has promised:

The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.


You may find your heart filled with a prayer like this today. Surely, our whole human community voices a longing for the pandemic sufferings to be over. Or there may be other afflictions you carry that are testing the limits of your endurance.

Psalm 94 holds out encouragement and hope. Reach for it and let it strengthen you.

But you are forever the same, Lord, 
without beginning or end, 
infinite in your compassion, 
fathomless in your love. 
You rebuild the desolate city; 
you bring the exiles back home. 
You grant the poor your abundance; 
you guide the nations toward peace.
You hear the cry of the destitute 
and the sobbing of the oppressed. 
You soothe the pain of the captive; 
you set the prisoner free. 
Come to me too in your mercy 
and set my soul at peace.
from A Book of Psalms by Stephen Mitchell

Poetry: from Burnt Norton – T.S. Eliot

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future, 
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction 
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been 
Point to one end, which is always present. 
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take 
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. 
My words echo 
Thus, in your mind.

Music: On Time God – Deborah Kline Iantorno