This Cup Is Your Life

October 17, 2021
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 which

“proclaims the LORD as the one

in whom the righteous may place their trust and hope.”

James L. Mays: Psalms (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)

Upright is the word of the LORD,
    and all his works are trustworthy.
God loves justice and right;
    of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.

See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those in awe,
    upon those who hope for God’s kindness,
To deliver them from death
    and preserve them in spite of famine.

Psalm 33: 4-5; 18-19

This is a good psalm to be reminded of as we encounter readings from Isaiah and Mark which sound almost Lenten in tone. Our psalm reminds us that, despite adverse appearances, God abides with us and fosters our well-being.


Isaiah gives us the image of a broken Jesus, crushed by a “suffering that justifies many”.

Christ as the Man of Sorrows – Albert Durer

Mark recounts the story of the two rather oblivious disciples asking to sit in glory beside Jesus. They do not realize that the path to this glory is through Gethsemane and Calvary.

Jesus asks these disciples the same question he asks us throughout our lives:

“Can you drink the cup that I will drink?”

Each of our sufferings and sacrifices may be small or large in life. But when they are united with Christ in faith and hope, they all are redemptive.

We will be asked, as Jesus was, to lay down our life in love. 

  • It may be in the unselfish raising of a family, or the humble pastoring of a church community. 
  • It may be in the long-term care of an elderly parent or neighbor. 
  • It may be in a ministry of healing, teaching, or encouragement where another requires our labor, patience and mercy. 
  • It may be as a public servant who actually serves, or as a private nurse who tenderly nurses. 
  • It may be as a community member who builds life by respect, responsibility, and mutuality.

We will come to realize, as did the ambitious sons of Zebedee, that true discipleship is not flash and glam. It is the daily choice to quietly lift the cup we have been given, and raise it to the honor of God – in openness, trust, joy and delight that we are called to share in the life of Christ.


Poetry: Can you Drink the Cup – Scott Surrency, OFM.Cap

Can you drink the cup?
Drink, not survey or analyze,
ponder or scrutinize –
from a distance.
But drink – imbibe, ingest,
take into you so that it becomes a piece of your inmost self.
And not with cautious sips
that barely moisten your lips,
but with audacious drafts
that spill down your chin and onto your chest.
(Forget decorum – reserve would give offense.)

Can you drink the cup?
The cup of rejection and opposition,
betrayal and regret.
Like vinegar and gall,
pungent and tart,
making you wince and recoil.
But not only that – for the cup is deceptively deep –
there are hopes and joys in there, too,
like thrilling champagne with bubbles
that tickle your nose on New Year’s Eve,
and fleeting moments of almost – almost – sheer ecstasy
that last as long as an eye-blink, or a champagne bubble,
but mysteriously satisfy and sustain.

Can you drink the cup?
Yes, you — with your insecurities,
visible and invisible.
You with the doubts that nibble around the edges
and the ones that devour in one great big gulp.
You with your impetuous starts and youth-like bursts of love and devotion.
You with your giving up too soon – or too late – and being tyrannically hard on yourself.
You with your Yes, but’s and I’m sorry’s – again.
Yes, you – but with my grace.

Can you drink the cup?

Can I drink the cup?

Yes.


Music: The Cup of Salvation ~Shane & Shane (Lyrics below.)

I love the Lord for He heard my voice
And answered my cry for mercy
Because He listened to me
I will call upon Him as long as I live

CHORUS

What shall I render to the Giver of life and who all things are made
What shall I render to the One who paints the oceans blue
Jesus Christ

I will lift up a cup of salvation
Call on the Name of the Lord
How do I repay the life that You gave
I’ll call on the Name of the Lord
Lift up a cup, You have already poured

What kind of rendering is found in this taking
Found in this drinking of love
Love so abundant He meets me in depravity
With one thing to give

CHORUS

You have delivered my soul from death
My eyes from tears
My feet from stumbling
And I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living

CHORUS

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 in which the psalmist is clearly awestruck by both the power and the mercy of God. It is a prayer of radical awareness that God is Creator and we are creature.

According to Walter Brueggemann,
Psalm 33 describes Yahweh
as the settled sovereign, securely in control,
who need only speak
to have the command fulfilled.

The psalm has two divisions. In part one, the community is called to praise God because God deserves it.

Rejoice, you righteous, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.

Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise.

Sing to God a new song;
skillfully play with joyful chant.

For the LORD’s word is upright;
and works are trustworthy.

Psalm 33: 1-4

In part two, that praise is articulated by recounting God’s caring intervention in the community’s experience.

From heaven the LORD looks down
and observes the children of Adam,

From that dwelling place surveying
all who dwell on earth.

The One who fashioned together their hearts
and who knows all their works.

Psalm 33: 13-15

Psalm 33 can be summarized in this way:

Because Yahweh rules with righteousness, justice, and unfailing love,
we must worship Yahweh with songs and praise
and by rejecting all false sources of salvation.

Lynn Jost, Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies – Tabor College, Kansas

Praying Psalm 33 reminds me that one can never demand mercy. We cannot require the other to hold us in continual compassion. We can only hope and be grateful.

Mercy is the gift of a heart moved beyond itself by love and tenderness. Such outpouring is the very nature of God in whose image we are created.

Thus for God, and for us, to be unmerciful is to be unnatural. In Psalm 33, we pray not only to receive mercy, but to become mercy.


Psalm 33 closes with a plea for our hearts to be deepened in their affinity to God, to mirror God by our patience, joy, hope, and mercy.

Our soul waits for the LORD,
Who is our help and shield.

For in God our hearts rejoice;
in God’s holy name we trust.

May your mercy, LORD, be upon us;
as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33: 20-22

Poetry: To Live in the Mercy of God BY DENISE LEVERTOV

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
               before ribs of shelter
                                           open!
To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.
And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
                      Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.
To float, upheld,
                as salt water
                would hold you,
                                        once you dared.
                  .
To live in the mercy of God.
To feel vibrate the enraptured
waterfall flinging itself
unabating down and down
                              to clenched fists of rock.
Swiftness of plunge,
hour after year after century,
                                                   O or Ah
uninterrupted, voice
many-stranded.
                              To breathe
spray. The smoke of it.
                              Arcs
of steelwhite foam, glissades
of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion—
rage or joy?
                              Thus, not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world. Vast
flood of mercy
                      flung on resistance.

Music: As you listen to David Arkenstone’s instrumental, you may want to remember Shakespeare’s famous description of mercy. See below the music.

Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Monday, June 21, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 in which the human family remembers and gives thanks for God’s creative omnipotence.

Following upon our reading from Genesis, our psalm moves past Eden to the practical world of the psalmist. It is a world where centuries have passed and human beings have progressively made a mark on Creation – for good or for ill.

God has watched the progression, blessing or redeeming it in Mercy:

The One who fashioned together their hearts
is the One who knows all their works.

Psalm 33:15

The psalmist reminds us that all Creation generates within God’s power. To cooperate with that infinite grace, we must wait, listen, trust, and deepen in holy understanding:

Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and shield.
For in God our hearts rejoice;
in God’s holy name we trust.
May your mercy, LORD, be upon us;
as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:20-22

We are not the actors. We are simply the instruments of God’s gracious unfolding in the symmetry of Creation – both in the cosmos and in the delicate blossom of our own hearts.

How is God growing in the world today within my life?


Poetry:The light shouts in your tree-top, and the face – Rilke

The light shouts in your tree-top, and the face
of all things becomes radiant and vain;
only at dusk do they find you again.
The twilight hour, the tenderness of space,
lays on a thousand heads a thousand hands,
and strangeness grows devout where they have lain.
With this gentlest of gestures you would hold
the world, thus only and not otherwise.
You lean from out its skies to capture earth,
and feel it underneath your mantle’s folds.
You have so mild a way of being.
……………………………………………They
who name you loudly when they come to pray
forget your nearness. From your hands that tower
above us, mountainously, lo, there soars,
to give the law whereby our senses live,
dark-browed, your wordless power.

Our gifted Mercy artist, Sister Judy Ward, has created greeting cards using some of my designs. This “Sunrise Tree” is one of them. If you would like to purchase any of Sister Judy’s beautiful work, you can connect with her here. She’s nice to talk with on the phone.


Music: Awaking Moment – Joe Bongiorno

Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

May 27, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33. It is a song of extravagant praise to the Creator of a universe which extends infinitely both within and without us.


Our readings call us to be aware – to see – this infinite power and generosity of God, and to order our life upon the abundance of that vision.

Our lyrical passage from Sirach includes this:

How beautiful are all God’s works!
    even to the spark and fleeting vision!
The universe lives and abides forever;
    to meet each need, each creature is preserved.
All of them differ, one from another,
    yet none of them has God made in vain,
For each in turn, as it comes, is good;
    can one ever see enough of their splendor?

Sirach 15:22-25

In Mark’s Gospel, a blind man – one who longs to see – cries out for Jesus:

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.
Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.”
Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:49-52

God is calling us too, as we pray Psalm 33, to be grateful, to trust, to SEE the wonders around and within us:

Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise.
Sing to God a new song;
skillfully play with joyful chant.
For the LORD’s word is upright,
and works are trustworthy.
God loves justice and right.
The earth is full of the mercy of the LORD.

Psalm 33:2-5

This kind of seeing is more than just looking.
It is letting go of prefabricated expectation.
It is waiting in trust for the Invisible
to capture our hearts.

Prose: from de Chardin

Seeing. One could say that the whole of life lies in seeing — if not ultimately, at least essentially. To be more is to be more united — and this sums up and is the very conclusion of the work to follow. But unity grows, and we will affirm this again, only if it is supported by an increase of consciousness, of vision. That is probably why the history of the living world can be reduced to the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes at the heart of a cosmos where it is always possible to discern more. Are not the perfection of an animal and the supremacy of the thinking being measured by the penetration and power of synthesis of their glance? To try to see more and to see better is not, therefore, just a fantasy, curiosity, or a luxury. See or perish. This is the situation imposed on every element of the universe by the mysterious gift of existence. And thus, to a higher degree, this is the human condition.”
(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: The Human Phenomenon, trans. Sarah Appleton-Weber, p. 3)

Music: Vision of Change by Back to Earth

Psalm 33: God’s Peace

Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

October 16, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33 which has been described as “a song of praise” and a call to worship. But as I pray with it this morning, I think of the psalm as much more. Within it is a profound call to social justice grounded in faith.

Maybe my attitude is the result of a commercial I keep thinking about. You may have seen it – the one for an organization called Wounded Warriors. Every time I see it, my soul splits. There is deep compassion, admiration and respect for the veterans depicted. But there is also the raging question “WHY!”.

How can we still allow, tout, and support the systemic atrocity of war in any form? How can we see these young men and women, bodies maimed and lives fractured, and not be outraged that war even exists!


I think that, thousands of years ago, the writer of Psalm 33 may have entertained similar questions. The psalmist realizes that it is not by the superiority of the nation state that a people gains righteousness and mercy.

The LORD foils the plan of nations,
frustrates the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever,
the designs of his heart through all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people chosen as his inheritance.

Psalm 33:10-12

It is instead by acknowledging God’s care for all peoples that a nation achieves the humility, understanding, and courage to help build universal peace.

From heaven the LORD looks down
and observes all the children of Adam,
From his dwelling place he surveys
all who dwell on earth.
The One who fashioned together their hearts
is the One who knows all their works.

Psalm 33:13-15

The challenge of global peace-making is daunting. We “children of Adam” have permitted ourselves to not only normalize, but to exalt war. Reversing the systems that depend on and lead to war will be a long, complex, and arduous pursuit.

But for God’s sake, and our own, we must do it!
Our soul waits for the LORD,
he is our help and shield.
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
May your mercy, LORD, be upon us;
as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 33: 20-21

Reading: from
In Truth, Peace
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE
1 JANUARY 2006

The theme chosen for this year’s reflection—In truth, peace — expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, promulgated forty years ago at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, stated that humankind will not succeed in ”building a truly more human world for everyone, everywhere on earth, unless all people are renewed in spirit and converted to the truth of peace”. 

But what do those words, ”the truth of peace”, really mean? To respond adequately to this question, we must realize that peace cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as ”the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder”, an order ”which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice”. As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds ”to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us”.


Music: Let There Be Peace on Earth sung by the magnificent Wintley Phipps

Psalm 33: Convinced!

Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with verses from Psalm 33, the whole of which is the steadfast prayer of a person convinced of God!

As we read through Psalm 33, there is no hem and haw, no grey! It’s about God as the center of the psalmist’s, and the nation’s, life:

Know that the LORD is God;
Who made us, Whose we are;
God’s people, the flock God tends.


Our first reading grows from a similar conviction. Paul tells the Corinthians that our rootedness in God is not about spiritual eloquence, knowledge or holy detachment. He allows that it’s a little bit about faith and hope. But, over all things, it’s about love.


Lesson: We can’t be like the Gospel’s marketplace children. There should be but one song in our hearts – the same one Love sang as Love created each one of us in Her image.

For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.


Poetry: Great Heart of God – (Nicholas) Vachel Lindsay (1879 – 1931), an American poet who is considered a founder of modern singing poetry, as he referred to it, in which verses are meant to be sung or chanted.

O great heart of God, 

Once vague and lost to me, 
Why do I throb with your throb to-night, 
In this land, eternity? 

O little heart of God, 
Sweet intruding stranger, 
You are laughing in my human breast, 
A Christ-child in a manger. 

Heart, dear heart of God, 
Beside you now I kneel, 
Strong heart of faith. O heart not mine, 
Where God has set His seal. 

Wild thundering heart of God 
Out of my doubt I come, 
And my foolish feet with prophets' feet, 
March with the prophets' drum. 

Music: Coulin – James Last – just a lovely instrumental to pray with today. ❤️

Psalm 33: Fashioned by God

Wednesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, September 2, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 33, this time with one different verse from a few days ago:

From heaven’s fixed throne God beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
God Who fashions each heart
and knows all its works.

Think of that: God fashions each heart.

The phrase has special meaning for me today because, yesterday, we welcomed a precious new baby girl into our family.

I look at her newborn innocence and realize that she is the freshest, most hopeful breath of God, still so wrapped in the heavenly air from Whom we all receive life.


We all received that Breath once and it lives eternally within us. Every one of us has received a heart fashioned in God’s own image.

Sometimes that reality is hard to believe about ourselves and others, as it seems to have been for the Corinthians in today’s first reading. Sometimes we make a real mess of the gift we have been given!

Nevertheless, the gift is true and remains true despite our worst efforts!😉


Reflecting on today’s Gospel, there may be “various diseases” and dysfunctions that we wish to bring to the healing hands of Jesus today – for ourselves and for our world. We ask God to restore our innocence and hope throughout our lives and world.

In order to remember and live within the sacred truth that God breathed us into being, we might repeat today’s psalm refrain throughout our day:

Blessed are we, chosen to be God’s own.


Poetry: Two poems today to bless our dear new child Claire:

Songs of Innocence - William Blake
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee; 
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name, 
For He calls Himself a Lamb 
He is meek, and He is mild, 
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb, 
We are called by His name. 
Little Lamb, God bless thee! 
Little Lamb, God bless thee!


Christina Rossetti - Holy Innocents
Sleep, little baby, sleep;
The holy Angels love thee,
And guard thy bed, and keep
A blessed watch above thee.
No spirit can come near
Nor evil beast to harm thee:
Sleep, sweet, devoid of fear
Where nothing need alarm thee.
The love which doth not sleep,
The eternal Arms around thee:
The shepherd of the sheep
In perfect love hath found thee.
Sleep through the holy night,
Christ-kept from snare and sorrow,
Until thou wake to light
And love and warmth to-morrow.

Music: Innocence – Roberto Cacciapaglia

Psalm 33: Unfailing Trust

Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist

August 29, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray again with Psalm 33. Today’s verses console us with the reminder that God is watching over us, as individuals and as communities.

Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people chosen for God’s own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
seeing all humanity.

You know, sometimes I wonder! How can God see some of the things going on in the world and not intervene? How can God let innocence suffer? The psalm seems to promise that intervention, but does it really?

But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear God,
upon those who hope for God’s kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.

That last line is the zinger. It doesn’t say there will be no famine. It simply says that the God-fearing will be preserved despite the famine.


Hasn’t your life taught you that? We’ve all been through lots of things that we asked God to take away – pain, sadness, fear, loss. Probably most, if not all, of those burdens remained with us until we worked through them. 

By faith and God’s Grace, we came through the other side stronger, deeper, more faithful. If we can trust God, “wait on the Lord”, the way comes to us – a way that leads us more deeply into God’s freedom and joy.

Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in God our hearts rejoice;
in God’s holy name we trust.

Let’s pray for that kind of faith and trust for ourselves and for our beloveds. Let’s pray for the courage to learn it by unfailing prayer and practice.


Poetry: In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 54
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Oh, yet we trust that somehow good 
         Will be the final end of ill, 
         To pangs of nature, sins of will, 
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood; 

That nothing walks with aimless feet; 
         That not one life shall be destroy'd, 
         Or cast as rubbish to the void, 
When God hath made the pile complete; 

That not a worm is cloven in vain; 
         That not a moth with vain desire 
         Is shrivell'd in a fruitless fire, 
Or but subserves another's gain. 

Behold, we know not anything; 
         I can but trust that good shall fall 
         At last—far off—at last, to all, 
And every winter change to spring. 

So runs my dream: but what am I? 
         An infant crying in the night: 
         An infant crying for the light: 
And with no language but a cry. 

Music: The Passion of John – Johann Sebastian Bach

This piece is not about John the Baptist. It is an excerpt from two hour meditation of the Passion narrative in John the Evangelist’s Gospel.

However, this beautiful excerpt fits so well with today’s reflection.

Psalm 33:Love’s Design

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

August 28, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 33, a song of praise calling the people to rejoice in God’s justice and kindness.

In its attitude of trust and freedom, the Psalm might remind us of Robert Browning’s verse:

God’s in his heaven. All’s right with the world.

But neither in the psalmist’s time, nor in Browning’s, was everything really “all right” with the world. Things are never really “all right” with the world. There is always war, crime, hunger, disease, natural disasters, and a slew of other troubles brewing somewhere.

So how can the psalmist or any other preacher invite us to trust, believe, and rejoice like this?

Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.


Keywords in this verse give us a clue: those who are just and upright will see the pattern of God’s mercy which lies deeper than the troubles of this world. They will trust and be comforted by God’s transcendent faithfulness to us in all things. Their faith and joy in the face of suffering will confound the faithless.


Calling us to the full meaning of Christ’s sacrificial love, Paul reiterates this mysteriously contradictory truth in our first reading :

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

For Christians, the Cross is the ultimate symbol of this profound wisdom and strength. It is a mystery too deep for our understanding, but by faith we may slowly become immersed in its Truth.


The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, 
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 18

As we pray with Psalm 33 today, let us be aware of the cause of our joy – a holy joy deeply rooted in God, trusting God’s Will for our salvation in the pattern of Jesus Christ.


For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all God’s works are trustworthy.
The LORD loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.


Poetry: Primary Wonder – Denise Levertov

Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber
along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
                                                        And then
once more the quiet mystery
is present to me, the throng’s clamor
recedes: the mystery
that there is anything, anything at all,
let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,
rather than void: and that, O Lord,
Creator, Hallowed One, You still,
hour by hour sustain it.

Music: Your Cross Changes Everything – Matt Redman