A Free and Obedient Heart

October 20, 2021
Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we pray with Psalm 124, a dramatic psalm stretched between early desperation and ultimate freedom.

In the psalmist’s prayer, Israel is called to realize that it has narrowly escaped from a mortal danger, never specified, but only alluded to in phrases such as:

  • would have swallowed us alive
  • fury was inflamed against us
  • waters have overwhelmed us
  • torrent swept over us
  • swept over by the raging waters
  • not leave us a prey to their teeth

This is some serious trouble! And because of this blessed escape, the community is called to a life of freely given service and praise.


In our readings, Paul and Jesus both instruct and challenge their listeners and us to a similar response for all the graces we have received – especially being rescued from sin in the life-saving waters of Baptism.

Paul wants us to understand that, through our Baptism, we are living in a whole new power for goodness and grace. The world may look the same as it did before we belonged to Christ, but it isn’t. 

To use a phrase from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

If we see with the new eyes of grace, we will be able to respond to Jesus’s challenge:

Stay awake!
For you do not know
when the Son of Man will come.

Stay awake. See the world and life as they truly are  – places where God awaits us in every moment. This is the amazing power we have received through our Baptism!

So let’s open our hearts to listen lovingly to the sound of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That freed and obedient heart is precious to God, and is the catalyst to a transformed life!


Poetry: Song for Autumn – Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Music:  Speak, O Lord – Kristyn Getty

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, July 12, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 124 which is a raw remembering of how bad things could have been without God’s help.

The psalm opens with these lines:

Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say,
Had not the LORD been with us,
when all rose against us,
Then we would have been swallowed alive,
for fury blazed against us.

Psalm 124: 1-3

Have you been there? What flares up to swallow your life, your hope, can wear many disguises: 

 

or the many forms of hunger and dying.


The psalm calls us to remember these things for two reasons:

  1. so that we don’t get caught again
  2. and that if – sadly – we do, we remember who freed us

We were rescued like a bird 
    from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare, 
    and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124: 7-8

The release from such snares
does not return us to the way things were.
There will be
wounds and wisdom
to change us.
It depends on us which we choose to cherish.

“Re-membering” ourselves, pulling our new selves together in God, releases us to fuller, deeper life.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.

… so surely that Omnipotent God can heal and remake us.

Remember, this and a few other of my images have been set beautifully into cards by Sister Judy Ward, RSM.
You can contact her at

Poetry: The Fowler by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1868-1962)

A wild bird filled the morning air 
With dewy-hearted song; 
I took it in a golden snare 
Of meshes close and strong. 
But where is now the song I heard? 
For all my cunning art, 
I who would house a singing bird 
Have caged a broken heart.

Music: Peter Kater – Wings

Psalm 124: Care! Be “Snare-Breakers”

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

December 28, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, remembering the Holy Innocents, we pray with Psalm 124.

Had not the LORD been with us—
When they rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.

Psalm 124: 2-3

The story of the Holy Innocents is shocking and gruesome. It is almost unbelievable— but for the fact that history has confirmed the capacity for perfidy in human hearts.

Herod’s consuming hunger for power swallowed everything in its path. And that kind of outrageous hunger has been replicated down through the ages in wars, genocides, slavery, mass incarcerations —- every manipulation of the vulnerable for the sake of the powerful.

These abominations would not be possible without the dehumanization of the other. This is the intrinsic atrocity of the massacre of the Holy Innocents. And it continues to be the core sin tempting every soul – to advance myself, apathetic to the cost of another.

We pray today for all in the human family overwhelmed and swept into desperation by the forces of cruel indifference:

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept the raging waters.

Psalm 124: 4-5

We pray for the grace to become ever more just and merciful in our own choices; to be, in the name of the Lord, snare breakers for our sisters and brothers

Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 124: 7-8

Poetry: As Kingfishers Catch Fire – Gerard Manley Hopkins 

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Music: Salvete Flores Martyrum from Quicumque Christum Quærtis

This hymn is a cento from the twelfth and last poem in the Cathemerinon of Prudentius, and in its full form it contains 208 lines. First line of complete hymn: Quicumque Christum quaeritis. Four beautiful centos from this hymn were included in the Breviary by Pius V (1568)

The earliest and most beautiful cento is the Salvete flores martyrum, which is found in the St. Gall manuscript, No. 413, of the 11th century, in a 12th century manuscript in the British Museum

Salvete Flores Martyrum

Salvete flores Martyrum
Quo lucis ipso in limine
Christi in secutur sustulit
Ceu turbo nascentes rosas.
Vos prima Christi victima
Grex immolatorum tener
Aram ante ipsam simplices
Palma et coronatis luditis.
Jesu tibi sit Gloria
Qui natus es de Virgine
Cum Patre et almo Spiritu
In sempiterna saecula

All hail, ye little Martyr flowers,
Sweet rosebuds cut in dawning hours!
When Herod sought the Christ to find
Ye fell as bloom before the wind.
First victims of the Martyr bands,
With crowns and palms in tender hands,
Around the very altar, gay
And innocent, ye seem to play.
All honour, laud, and glory be,
O Jesu, Virgin-born to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet
To Father and to Paraclete.