Catch the Word!

October 29, 2021
Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147 which calls upon Israel to praise God for gifts received.

God has not done for others what has been done for you;
the Divine Way God has not made known to them. Alleluia.

Psalm 147: 20

The psalm gives us deeper insight into our reading from Romans. In Romans, chapters 9-11, Paul focuses on Israel’s quintessential place in the unfolding of salvation history.

In today’s passage, Paul laments the recalcitrance of some of his kin to open their hearts to the Gospel:

I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. 
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my own people,
my kindred according to the flesh. 
They are children of Israel…

Romans 9: 2-3

Paul’s lament is not a condemnation. Rather he mourns the fact that his fellow Israelites, who are uniquely blessed by God, choose not to accept the new and transformative Gift offered them in the person of Jesus Christ.


The lesson for us when praying with this psalm and reading? Perhaps this:

God is always doing something new and wonderful in us and in Creation. God is always inviting us deeper into the relationship of love and mercy.

The path to that sacred depth is laid out for us in the Gospel where we learn to imitate Christ.


Sometimes we too are recalcitrant. We like things to be ordered and controlled, just like today’s Gospel Pharisees liked to control the Sabbath.

But the God of the Sabbath is not to be controlled by our fears, demands, or securities. That God will continue to challenge, invite, surprise, and love us into deeper relationship.

Our work is to stay open and responsive to this dynamic God Whose graces are “new every morning” – in fact, every moment…

Who sends forth the command to the earth;
Whose Word runs swiftly!

Psalm 147: 15

Poetry: He Comes Ever Again – Rowan Williams

He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

Music: Blue Dream – Fiona Jay Hawkins

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, August 9, 2021

The Dance

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147, an invitation to praise God. It is one of the last five psalms in the Book of Psalms and, like the others in this group, begins and ends in Hebrew with the word “Hallelujah” (“Praise God”).

The psalm’s first line tells us that it is good for the soul to offer praise. A heart that sings praise is positive, joyful, and free. It has the right attitude toward life based on its sound relationship with its Creator.

Hallelujah!
How good to sing praise to our God;
how pleasant to give fitting praise.

Psalm 147: 1

Praying with this thought this morning, I think of my five-year old grandnephew, a child full of joy and life. Through a family move, his mother (my niece) recently acquired my very old 45 rpm rock & roll records plus their vintage player. And most of you know you can’t beat that music for lively joy!

Last night, his Mom flipped on Chuck Berry singing “Rock and Roll Music”. She sent me a delightful video of little Ollie skipping all over the living room exclaiming, “I can’t stop dancing!”


When we open our spirit
to hear God’s music
humming throughout Creation,
we feel the same way.

And, like our first reading from Deuteronomy, Psalm 147 offers us ample reasons to praise. It directs our attention to what matters in our lives.

God:

  • strengthens us
  • blesses us
  • grants us peace
  • sustains us
  • gives us a fruitful earth
  • teaches us
  • loves us faithfully

If we can focus our hearts on these gifts as we begin our day, we will rise in joy and praise. And no matter what heaviness might seep into our day, our spirits will be able to say, “I can’t stop dancing!”


Poetry: I Praise The Dance – George Goetsch

I praise the dance,
for it frees people from the heaviness of matter
and binds the isolated to community.
I praise the dance, which demands everything:
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.
Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people,
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain,
will, or feeling.
Dancing demands a whole person,
one who is firmly anchored in the center of life,
who is not obsessed by lust for people and things
and the demon of isolation in one’s own ego
Dancing demands a freed person,
one who vibrates with the equipoise of all one’s powers.
I praise the dance.
O Creature, learn to dance,
else the angels in heaven will not know
what to do with you.

Music: Dancing with God – words of Mechthild of Magdeburg conveyed in music by Briege O’Hare, OSC in her album Woman’s Song of God

Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207 – 1282), a Beguine, was a Christian medieval mystic, whose book Das fließende Licht der Gottheit (The Flowing Light of Divinity) is a compendium of visions, prayers, dialogues and mystical accounts.


Lyrics:

I cannot dance, O Lord, unless you lead me
And if you want me to leap for joy,
Then you must be the first to dance and sing
And I will follow you, in your echo I will ring.
Then, only then,
Then, only then,
Then, only then, will I leap for joy!

I Cannot sing, O Lord, unless you lead me
And you want me to sing for joy,
Then You must be the first to sing out your song
And I will follow You and sing right along.Then, only then,
Then, only then,
Then, only then, I will sing for joy!

Lead me, Lord, in joyful dancing
I will follow in your dance of life.
Then all my living will be true to You,
My Loving God.

Psalm 147: Brokenhearted?

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 7, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147 which invites us to:

Praise the LORD, for he is good;
    sing praise to our God, Who is gracious;
    Whom it is fitting to praise.

It is a psalm for the left-brained who, like Job in our first reading, might need some explanation about just why we should praise when life seems so unpraiseworthy at times!

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
    Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
    a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
    and troubled nights have been allotted to me.

Job 7: 1-4

Job, like many of us when we suffer, feels crushed under life’s burdens. However, an extended reading of the Book of Job reveals that humility and repentance allow Job to “see God”, and to rediscover the richness and flavor of his life.

Calling us to the same kind of awareness, Psalm 147 presents a series of reasons for praising God, including God’s continual attention to the city of Jerusalem, to brokenhearted and injured individuals, to the cosmos, and to nature.

For me, the most moving of these reasons comes in verse 3:

The Lord heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
The Lord tells the number of the stars;
    calling each by name.


This is a beautiful picture of our infinitely compassionate God who is able to recognize our broken-heartedness. 

This loving God, who knows the stars by name, knows us as well. We, like Job, begin to heal within the divine lullaby God patiently sings over our broken hearts.

Jesus is that Healing Song, the Word hummed over the world by the merciful Creator. In today’s Gospel, we see that Melody poured out over the suffering:

When it was evening, after sunset,
they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.
The whole town was gathered at the door.
He cured many who were sick with various diseases,
and he drove out many demons,
not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Mark 1: 32-34

As we pray today,

let us hear God’s song of mercy
being sung over all Creation.
Let us rest our own brokenness
there in its compassionate chords.
Let us bring the world’s pain to our prayer.

Poetry: A Cure Of Souls by Denise Levertov

The pastor
of grief and dreams
guides his flock towards
the next field
with all his care.
He has heard
the bell tolling
but the sheep
are hungry and need
the grass, today and
every day. Beautiful
his patience, his long
shadow, the rippling
sound of the flocks moving
along the valley.

Music: God Heals My Broken Heart – Patty Felker

If Job were singing his sadness today, it might sound like this song.

Psalm 147: Lightning Strike

Friday after Epiphany

January 8, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147.

I began my prayer this morning still unsettled by the events at the U.S. Capitol building. Then I considered that it was still the Octave of the Epiphany, and realized that some epiphanies come by stormy lightning and not by starlight.


My first attempts at prayer seemed to bounce off the psalm’s formulaic words like sleet off a tin roof. The psalm did not yield to my need for naming and healing my anger and pain – the lightning’s wounds.

Asking to find God’s voice in the psalm, I finally came to see it as Israel’s prayer once it had been healed – just like I needed to be healed, just like our country needed to be.


The psalm revealed the steps to such healing …
the steps I, and we as a nation, might take to wholeness.
We heal:

by acknowledging God in humility and praise:
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
    praise your God, O Zion.


by strengthening an inclusive community:
For God has strengthened the bars of your gates;


by reverencing every family and neighbor:
God has blessed your children within you.


by building an infrastructure of peace:
God has granted peace in your borders


by assuring life’s basic needs for all:
With the best of wheat God fills you


by cherishing the Earth we share:
God sends forth the command to the earth;
    swiftly runs God’s word!

We heal, ultimately,
by acknowledging the unique gift
of God’s loving relationship
with us and every other creature.

If we truly live within that acknowledgment,
we become people of truth and mercy –
People of God.


Poetry: from A Book of Psalms – Stephen Mitchell closes Psalm 147 with this transliteration:

You rejoice in a pure heart 
and in those who let you shine through them...
You send your wisdom to their minds; 
your light runs faster than a thought.
Above all others they are blessed, 
because they can hear you speak
(though your love speaks in all people, 
in the silence of every heart).

Music: Heal Our Nation – Heartbeat

Psalm 147: Jesus- God’s Lullaby

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

December 5, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 147 coming after the consoling passage from Isaiah:

O my people,
no more will you weep;
I will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as I hear you, I will answer.

Isaiah 30:19

Our readings today assure us that God sees and cares about our suffering. Like a mother who sings to a crying child, God wants to comfort us.

God heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
God tells the number of the stars;
calling each by name.

Psalm 147: 3-4

God’s lullaby is Jesus Christ. In Jesus, our Creator sings over us the melody of Infinite Love and Mercy. All we need do is calm ourselves and listen. 

Jesus is the Divine Song.
He sings God’s Mercy over all who suffer.

At the sight of the crowds,
Jesus’s heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned.

Matthew 9:36

All of us, at some time in our lives, stand amidst the troubled crowd. Our friends and family members too stand there at times.

Today, as we pray Psalm 147, let us place all our troubles, and theirs, in the loving embrace of God who sings the lullaby of Jesus over us.


Poetry: from Rumi

Every midwife knows
that not until a mother's womb
softens from the pain of labour
will a way unfold
and the infant find that opening to be born.
 
Oh friend! 
There is treasure in your heart, 
it is heavy with child.

Listen.

All the awakened ones, 
like trusted midwives are saying, 
'welcome this pain.'
It opens the dark passage of Grace.

Music: Quietly – Jay Stocker