Fifth Sunday of Easter

May 2, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 22 which captures the message of all our readings this Sunday: how we receive, cherish, grow and share our faith.

When I read these passages this morning, an image came to my mind.

Sister Bernard Mary was a special, and rather unique Sister of Mercy. Born in 1917, and a true representative of “The Greatest Generation”, she served as a Navy nurse in WWII. Afterward she joined the Sisters of Mercy and lived a long life of expert care in our hospitals and other institutions. Among her many clinical talents, she was the supreme phlebotomist. She could stick even a difficult vein with you never ever noticing the pinch.


When Bernard died at the age of 91, a lone sailor stood in our community cemetery to bugle “Taps” over her flag-draped coffin. The melody captured all the singular simplicity of her dedicated and faithful ministry, sending it to heavens that welcomed her.

Bernard was one of those iconic sisters whose life was fully focused on her faith and ministry. She worked every day, all day and, as far as I could tell, had few other interests than a love of her family. 


But she had an orchid plant. And it was a doozy. Given the plant as a small gift, she had nurtured that flower like the practiced healer that she was. She understood it, spoke to it, listened to it, responded to it, providing it deeper roots as it grew to an impressive size.  Like any plant, it went through cycles. Bernard patiently accompanied and nourished it through every one.

As a result, the orchid was huge and astoundingly beautiful – to the point that each year, it would be entered in the Philadelphia Flower Show. At least on one occasion, it won first prize!

(The Philadelphia Flower Show is an annual event produced by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Said to be the “largest indoor flower show in the world”, it attracts more than a quarter million people annually.)


The image? That magnificent plant was a symbol – the visible expression of Bernard’s quiet but powerful faith.

Let’s consider our own faith. It’s a gift. It deserves our complete and loving attention. It must remain deeply rooted within us.  And it should be displayed for the benefit of others through our loving and merciful ministry to those in need.

Psalm 22 says so:

I will offer praise in the great assembly;
my vows I will fulfill before those who reverence the Lord.

The needy will eat their fill;
those who seek the LORD will offer praise.
May your hearts enjoy life forever!

Psalm 22: 26-27

The Acts of the Apostles says so:

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.
It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

Acts 9:31

John’s letter says so:

And God’s commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as commanded us.
Those who keep these commandments remain in himGod, and God in them,
and the way we know that God remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.


And our Gospel today says so:

Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.

John 15: 4-5

Dear Bernard, simple, faithful sister – you taught me so many things without your ever realizing it… thank you!


Poetry: Re-planting – Renee Yann,RSM

That afternoon,
winter framed sunlight
in the cold windows.

I watched you spread small greens
across a wooden table,
fingering their thready roots
like harp strings.

A song fell from that,
like quiet, nurturing rain.
Unable to sing,
I let the song seep quietly into me,
bathing my uprooted soul
in the warm silence between us.

There, in that comfort,
the small cutting at my core
sought earth,
sought healing.

Finally, I spoke
and laid the whole parched root
upon the table of your mercy. And
you, ever-tender gardener, lifted it
and blew the dust away, and
spitting gently in your hand,
massaged the feeble life it hid
before you stood it carefully in soil.

You said, “Life is like this sometimes.
Be gentle with it.  It will bloom again.” 

Music: With An Orchid – Yanni

Psalm 22: A Reverent Polity

Tuesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

November 3, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 22, and it’s perfect for our prayer today.

I know God has no partisan interest. God’s interest is for the wholeness and blessing of God’s Creation. God’s interest is for justice and mercy for the poor, sick and suffering. God’s interest is for peace in hearts, families and nations.

All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the LORD;
All the families of the nations
shall bow down before God.

For dominion is the LORD’s,
Who rules the nations.
To God alone shall bow down
all who sleep in the earth.

To God alone my soul shall live;
my descendants shall serve God.
Let the coming generation be told of the LORD
that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born
the justice God has shown.

Psalm 22

Still, let’s put it right out there. This is no ordinary Tuesday. Personally, I have been longing – no, agonizing – for this day since November 8, 2016. What about you?

I know there are many perspectives among my readers. Democrats and Republicans. Citizens of countries other than the USA. Still, I think all of us share some common hopes for today’s election because we care about all of God’s beloved Creation.

Here are some of my hopes.

I pray for, and believe that we must demand, a President and Congress who:

  • respect, reverence and legislate for life in all its stages, colors, genders, ethnicities, and religious and political affiliations.
  • do the hard work of building bridges, not walls, throughout the world
  • respect and care about those who are poor and marginalized
  • model American compassionate leadership rather than American isolationist primacy
  • generate unity and tolerance, not fear, division and hatred
  • choose others over self, truth over manipulation, leadership over greed
  • are thoughtful, brave statesmen and stateswomen not bullies and whiners

As we pray this psalm today, may we realize that to find these virtues in our leaders, we must first practice them ourselves. In the long run, we get what we deserve. Let’s humbly pray to live in a manner that propagates and deserves selfless moral leadership.

Poetry: LET US PRAY – Sister Joan Chittister 

Give us, O God,
leaders whose hearts are large enough
to match the breadth of our own souls
and give us souls strong enough
to follow leaders of vision and wisdom.
In seeking a leader, let us seek
more than development of ourselves—
though development we hope for,
more than security for our own land—
though security we need,
more than satisfaction for our wants—
though many things we desire.

Give us the hearts to choose the leader
who will work with other leaders
to bring safety
to the whole world.

Give us leaders
who lead this nation to virtue
without seeking to impose
our kind of virtue
on the virtue of others.

Give us a government
that provides for the advancement
of this country
without taking resources from others
to achieve it.

Give us insight enough ourselves
to choose as leaders those who can tell
strength from power,
growth from greed,
leadership from dominancy,
and real greatness from the trappings of grandiosity.

We trust you, Great God,
to open our hearts to learn from those
to whom you speak in different tongues
and to respect the life and words
of those to whom you entrusted
the good of other parts of this globe.

We beg you, Great God,
give us the vision as a people
to know where global leadership truly lies
to pursue it diligently,
to require it to protect human rights
for everyone everywhere.

We ask these things, Great God,
with minds open to your eternal care.

Joan Chittister, OSB

Music: America- rendered in true American Jazz by the inimitable Ray Charles

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife
Who more than self, their country loved
And mercy more than life
America, America may God thy gold refine
'Til all success be nobleness
And every gain divined

And you know when I was in school
We used to sing it something like this, listen here

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain

But now wait a minute, I'm talking about
America, sweet America
You know, God done shed his grace on thee
He crowned thy good, yes he did, in brotherhood
From sea to shining sea

You know, I wish I had somebody to help me sing this
(America, America, God shed his grace on thee)
America, I love you America, you see
My God he done shed his grace on thee
And you oughta love him for it
'Cause he, he, he, he crowned thy good
He told me he would, with brotherhood
(From sea to shining Sea)
Oh Lord, oh Lord, I thank you Lord
(Shining sea)