Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117. We do so in the spirit of Thomas, who now offers his unquestioning faith to our patient and forgiving Jesus.
Praise the LORD, all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples! For steadfast is his kindness for us, and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever
Psalm 117: 1-2
Faith is not a commodity or an achievement. Faith is relationship and a journey.
It is a gift and an exercise of grace. Never stretched, it withers like a brittle ligament.
It ebbs and flows with our personal and communal dramas. It deepens with prayer, silent reaching, and a listening obedience to our lives. It shallows with our demands, like Thomas’s, only to see and to touch.
It is fed by the Lavish Mercy of God Who never cuts its flow to our souls if we but take down the seawall around our heart.
On this day when we celebrate the power of tested and proven faith, may we bring our needs into the circle gathered in that Upper Room.
Standing beside Thomas today in our prayer, may we place our trust in the glorified wounds of Christ.
A video today for our prayer: Blessed Are They That Have Not Seen
Music: Healing Touch – Deuter
As we reach out in faith with Thomas to touch Christ’s wounds, let us open our hearts to receive the returning touch of God’s Lavish Mercy.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117, a psalm used for the feast of an Apostle, reflecting his/her role to:
Luke tells us how Jesus summarized the “Good News”:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19
As we celebrate St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, Psalm 117 gives voice to the indescribable gratitude we feel for the call we share with the Apostles to live and witness to the “Good News”.
Praise the LORD, all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples! For steadfast is God’s Mercy toward us, and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever.
Psalm 117: 1
Praying with Psalm 117, and with Saint Paul today, we may find inspiration in Paul’s self-description as an Apostle – a “servant”:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 1: 1-4
Poetry: A Thanksgiving -John Henry Newman (1801-1890) I think this poem by Newman expresses sentiments similar to some of Paul’s thoughts on his life and vocation as found in his letters and in Acts.
LORD , in this dust Thy sovereign voice
First quicken’d love divine;
I am all Thine,–Thy care and choice,
My very praise is Thine.
I praise Thee, while Thy providence
In childhood frail I trace,
For blessings given, ere dawning sense
Could seek or scan Thy grace;
Blessings in boyhood’s marvelling hour,
Bright dreams, and fancyings strange;
Blessings, when reason’s awful power
Gave thought a bolder range;
Blessings of friends, which to my door
Unask’d, unhoped, have come;
And, choicer still, a countless store
Of eager smiles at home.
Yet, LORD , in memory’s fondest place
I shrine those seasons sad,
When, looking up, I saw Thy face
In kind austereness clad.
I would not miss one sigh or tear,
Heart-pang, or throbbing brow;
Sweet was the chastisement severe,
And sweet its memory now.
Yes! let the fragrant scars abide,
Love-tokens in Thy stead,
Faint shadows of the spear-pierced side
And thorn-encompass’d head.
And such Thy tender force be still,
When self would swerve or stray,
Shaping to truth the froward will
Along Thy narrow way.
Deny me wealth; far, far remove
The lure of power or name;
Hope thrives in straits, in weakness love,
And faith in this world’s shame
Music: Saul’s Transformation – one of many lovely pieces from the film, Paul Apostle of Christ by Jan A. P. Kaczmarek
For today, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, we may wish to focus on that venerable prayer which had its origins in the very early Church. In fact, those early versions of a rosary are connected to the Psalms:
Prayers with beads like the rosary may have begun as a practice by the laity to imitate the Christian monasticism of the Liturgy of the Hours during the course of which the monastics prayed the 150 Psalms daily. As many of the laity could not read, they substituted 150 repetitions of the Our Father for the Psalms, sometimes using a cord with knots on it to keep an accurate count. (The Catholic Encyclopedia)
The shape of the rosary as we pray it today emerged more clearly in the 13th century as Marian devotion blossomed in the Church. The tendency of that devotion was to place Mary, and other saints, between us and God. They, having already gained heaven, were deemed to have intercessory power we lacked. So praying the rosary became an “asking prayer” rather than a meditation on the whole of Christ’s life. In many ways, our relationship with Mary also took on a sentimentalism which lessened her true and unique power as witness and companion in the Communion of Saints.
Today, Marian theology, as well as rosary devotion, looks to a clearer understanding of Mary’s role as participant in the continuing redemptive act of Jesus. Praying with her, in any form, is an opportunity to experience Jesus from her perspective and to apply that grace to our own life and world.
“Remembering Mary as a friend of God and prophet in the communion of saints, a woman who is truly sister to our strivings, allows the power of her life to play in the religious consciousness of the church, encouraging ever-deeper relationship with the living God in whom our spirits rejoice, and allying us with God’s redemptive designs for the hungry, the lowly, and all those who suffer, including in an unforgettable way women with their children in situations of poverty, prejudice, and violence.”
Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ – Truly Our Sister
I try, as I pray the rosary, to imagine Mary within each particular mystery or circumstance of Christ’s life. What did she experience? How did she grow in grace? What is she guiding me toward in my relationship with God?
I also ask Mary to allow those graces and insights to bless and heal not only my life but the life of the world, particularly where there is great pain or suffering for women and children.
In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being ~ Denise Levertov (Reading this poem, we may think of our prayer as a “breathing” enveloped in the Presence of God. The “holy ones”, like Mary, easily ride that breath of prayer. When we pray with them, as in the Rosary, they “rock” us into the silent rhythm of God.)
Birds afloat in air's current,
sacred breath? No, not breath of God,
it seems, but God
the air enveloping the whole
globe of being.
It's we who breathe, in, out, in, in the sacred,
leaves astir, our wings
rising, ruffled -- but only the saints
take flight. We cower
in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly
on branches close to the nest. The wind
marks the passage of holy ones riding
that ocean of air. Slowly their wake
reaches us, rocks us.
But storms or still,
numb or poised in attention,
we inhale, exhale, inhale,
Music: Beneath Your Compassion (Sub Tuum Praesidium) performed here in Russian by the PaTRAM Institute Singers
The oldest known devotion to Mary can be found in the words of a hymn that is documented to have existed and been sung before the middle of the 3rd century.
Beneath your compassion, We take refuge, O Theotokos: do not despise our petitions in time of trouble; but rescue us from dangers, only pure, only blessed one.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 117 which is the shortest of all the Psalms. But 117, also called the Laudate Dominum, still packs a huge spiritual punch.
The psalm is called a “doxology” which simply means it is a short prayer of praise, the type we often add at the end of longer prayers. We are very familiar with the following doxology:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
Psalm 117 follows the same pattern in that it has two complementary parts.
The first invites us to praise God: Praise the LORD, all you nations; glorify God, all you peoples!
The second tells us why God deserves our praise: For steadfast is God’s kindness for us, and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
Notable about Psalm 117 is the fact that this Old Testament invitation to praise goes out “to ALL nations”. Scholars interpret this as pointing to the fulfillment, in Jesus, of God’s promise that Abraham would be the father in faith of many nations. Psalm 117 is a treasured and often repeated prayer throughout the Judea-Christian traditions.
Practicing this pattern of prayer can enrich our personal prayer life as well. I like to pray like this as soon as I wake each morning. Glancing out my window, I might say,
“I praise You in the sunrise, my Beautiful Creator. Thank you for the gift of my life.”
Beginning the day with our own “doxology” gives us a head start on living joyfully and gratefully in the Presence of God for our next circuit of the sun.
Poetry: Morning Poem – Mary Oliver
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches—
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
And if your spirit
carries within it
that is heavier than lead—
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging—
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted—
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray
Music: Laudate Dominum – Mozart, sung by Barbara Hendricks