How Long, O Lord?!

October 27, 2021
Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 13, a powerful lesson in prayer.

The psalm is one of my favorites because it feels so “real”. The one who prays, presumably David, needs an answer to his prayer- and is not perceiving one. (emphasis on “perceiving”)

So the psalmist sounds a bit like someone desperately calling customer service to see why a life-saving order has not arrived😉:

How long, LORD? Will you utterly forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
..
Look, answer me, O LORD, my God!
Give light to my eyes that I may not sleep in death

Psalm 13: 2, 4

But as the psalmist continues to pray, an evolution of grace and understanding occurs. There is a realization that the kind of answer expected is one according to human measurement … one that will make the pray-er look triumphant in the eyes of his enemies:

Answer me, Lord my God …
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.

Psalm 13: 4-5

But the depth of our relationship with God is not determined by what our enemies think … or even our friends. That sacred relationship is rooted in our grateful recognition and trusting immersion in God’s ever-present mercy and love for us:

But I trust in your mercy.
Grant my heart joy in your salvation,
I will sing to the LORD,
Who has dealt bountifully with me!

Psalm 13: 6-7

God always answers us. We may not have the capacity to perceive the answer because it is not the one we expected or wished for. But the truth is that through whatever “answer” unfolds to our prayer, God is leading us deeper into God’s heart.

Can we trust that? Can we yield to it? That is the “salvation” the psalmist ultimately prays for:


Sometimes we might hear a person say that they don’t know how to get started talking with God in prayer. They seem to feel it’s kind of like a blind date where you end up realizing you have nothing in common with each other.

Paul – in our reading from Romans says – no, wait a minute. God is already within you simply by the nature of your creaturehood. You are made of the very stuff of God. In fact, the Spirit of God deep within our souls is like the fiery magma from a volcano. It erupts from our love and prays for us to the Creator – if we will only let it.


Poetry: Praying by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Music: Spirit Seeking Light and Beauty – by Janet Erskine Stuart, interpreted here by the Daughters of St. Paul (Lyrics below)

Spirit seeking light and beauty,
Heart still longing for your rest
In your search for understanding,
Only thus can you be blest,

Through the vastness of creation,
Though your restless thought may roam,
God is all that you can long for,
God is all creation’s home.

Taste and see God, feel and hear God,
Hope and grasp the unseen hand;
Though the darkness seem to hide you,
Faith and love can understand.

Loving Wisdom, guiding Spirit,
All our hearts are made anew.
Lead us through the land of shadows
‘Til we come to rest in you.

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 13. We can imagine it being sung in Mary’s voice as we celebrate her birth.

Though I trusted in your mercy,
    let my heart rejoice in your salvation.
Let me sing of the LORD 
    Who has been good to me.

Psalm 13:6

These psalm verses can bring us deeply into Mary’s generous, prophetic soul. She is, even before the Annunciation, a holy young woman, at peace and unity with God ….

I have trusted in your mercy


But when she is invited to donate her solitary peace to the infinite self-giving of God, Mary says, “Yes!”.

Let my heart rejoice in your salvation


With her “Yes”,
Mary’s sacred peace
no longer belongs to herself.
She has given it
in order to become
an agent in our salvation.


Mary realizes that the moment Israel has longed for has dawned in her little room, her little cottage, in little Nazareth. And her faith is large enough to believe that God could do such a thing!

Annunciation – Henry Osawa Tanner

Mary calls us to make our dream of salvation larger than ourselves – to allow God to release the power of mercy, astoundingly, from our small and simple lives.


In this great fiat of the little girl Mary, the strength and foundation of our life of contemplation is grounded, for it means absolute trust in God, trust which will not set us free from suffering but will set us free from anxiety, hesitation, and above all from the fear of suffering. Trust which makes us willing to be what God wants us to be, however great or however little that may prove. Trust which accepts God as illimitable Love.

Caryll Houselander – The Reed of God

Poetry: After the Annunciation- Madeleine L’Engle

This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.

From A Cry Like a Bell:Poems 


Music: Hail Mary – Boyce and Stanley

Psalm 13: Mary’s Trust

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on our Blessed Mother’s birthday, we pray with the beautiful final verses of Psalm 13.

These verses embody an immense shift in form from the psalm’s early lines. Early on, the psalmist cries out four times, “How long, O Lord?”.

How long: 

  • Will you forget me?
  • Will you hide your face from me?
  • Must I carry sorrow in my soul?
  • Will my enemy triumph over me?

Referring to these early verses reminds us that Mary’s life was full of sorrow as well as joy. On a feast like today, we think of Mary in her heavenly glory. But in her lifetime, Mary suffered many sorrows. She was an unwed mother, a refugee, and a widow. She was the mother of an executed “criminal” and a leader of his persecuted band.

The Julian of Norwich, “Her Showing of Love”

What was it that allowed Mary to transcend sorrow and claim joy? Our psalm verses today help us to understand. They show the psalmist turning to heartfelt prayer., trusting God’s abiding protection.

Look upon me, answer me, LORD, my God!
Give light to my eyes lest I sleep in death,
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”
lest my foes rejoice at my downfall.


That deep trust ultimately yields not only peace,
but joy.
Mary, singer of the Magnificat,
is the quintessence of that holy joy.


But I trust in your mercy.
Grant my heart joy in your salvation,
I will sing to the LORD,
Who has dealt bountifully with me!

Today, in our prayer, we ask Mary to love and guide us through the challenges of our lives.


Poetry: Three Days – Madeleine L’Engle

Friday:
When you agree to be the mother of God
you make no conditions, no stipulations.
You flinch before neither cruel thorn nor rod.
You accept the tears; you endure the tribulations.
But, my God, I didn't know it would be like this.
I didn't ask for a child so different from others.
I wanted only the ordinary bliss,
to be the most mundane of mothers.

Saturday:
When I first saw the mystery of the Word
made flesh I never thought that in his side
I'd see the callous wound of Roman sword
piercing my heart on the hill where he died.
How can the Word be silenced? Where has it gone?
Where are the angel voices that sang at his birth?
My frail heart falters. I need the light of the Son.
What is this darkness over the face of the earth?
Sunday:
Dear God, He has come, the Word has come again.
There is no terror left in silence, in clouds, in gloom.
He has conquered the hate; he has overcome the pain.
Where, days ago, was death lies only an empty tomb.
The secret should have come to me with his birth,
when glory shone through darkness, peace through strife.
For every birth follows a kind of death, and only after pain comes life.

Music: Magnificat – Daughters of Mary

(To see Latin and English verses, click the little arrowhead just below the picture on the right.)