The Faithful Remnant

December 14, 2021
Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
Memorial of St. John of the Cross

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34 and its tender verses. They remind us that God has a special love for those who suffer, who are poor, who are humble. That special love allows us to be joyful even in difficulty. It invites us to depend on God when things are roughest for us.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
    praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
    the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Psalm 34: 2-3

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
    and those who are crushed in spirit are saved.
The LORD redeems the lives who serve with love;
    no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in God.

Psalm 34: 19,23

In our first reading, the prophet Zephaniah reveals a key promise. After all is said and done, God will remain with those who keep faith. Scripture scholars refer to these faithful ones as “the remnant people” – those whose faith is so strong that it cannot be dislodged from God.

These “remnant people” are the ones who are found ready and waiting when the Savior is born. They are people like Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Anna and Simeon.

As we approach the Christmas Promise, may we be among the awaiting faithful too. May we look to the Lord for whom we waited and be “radiant with joy”!


Poetry: Radiant
from “In the Arms of the Beloved” by Rumi

Lose yourself,
Lose yourself in this love.
When you lose yourself in this love,
you will find everything.

Lose yourself,
Lose yourself.
Do not fear this loss,
For you will rise from the earth
and embrace the endless heavens.

Lose yourself,
Lose yourself.
Escape from this earthly form, 
For this body is a chain
and you are its prisoner.
Smash through the prison wall
and walk outside with the kings and princes.

Lose yourself,
Lose yourself at the foot of the Holy One.
When you lose yourself
before the Holy
you will become the holy.

Lose yourself,
Lose yourself.
Escape from the black cloud
that surrounds you.
Then you will see your own light
as radiant as the full moon.

Now enter that silence. 
This is the surest way
to lose yourself. . . .

What is your life about, anyway?—
Nothing but a struggle to be someone,
Nothing but a running from your own silence.


Music: Kaleidoscope – Tom Barabas

Zap?

October 23, 2021
Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 24 in which the psalmist expresses the heart’s deep longing for God:

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
    or who may stand in that holy place?
The one whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
    who desires not what is vain.
Who shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
    a reward from God the savior.
Such is the race that seeks for God,
    that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 24: 5-6

But achieving those sinless hands and clean heart is not always an easy task. It takes a life focused on faith and rooted in love.

Jesus talks about that focus in today’s Gospel.

Jesus gives us a parable which, at first, appears to say, “Get your act together fast, or God might zap you.” From Jesus’s words, we can assume that some public disasters have recently occurred. Those in the gathered crowd are unnerved by these events.

Jesus uses that nervousness to talk about repentance. He tells the people that tragedy can make us wake up to the fact that life is fragile and fleeting. That awareness should make us want to use our time on earth well, to give glory to God.

The repentance Jesus encourages is not just a contrition, or turning from sin. It is an opening of the soul’s eyes to see our lives and circumstances as God sees them.

Is God going to zap us if we don’t have that kind of repentance? No, I think not.

God is always Mercy …
always, always Mercy.

With the parable of the fruitless fig tree, Jesus assures us that God is with us, giving us every grace and opportunity to bear spiritual fruit. God is patient and nurturing. But, in every human life, there is a limit to the time we have to respond.


Poetry: The Facts of Life – Pádraig Ó Tuama

That you were born
and you will die.

That you will sometimes love enough
and sometimes not.

That you will lie
if only to yourself.

That you will get tired.

That you will learn most from the situations
you did not choose.

That there will be some things that move you
more than you can say.

That you will live
that you must be loved.

That you will avoid questions most urgently in need of
your attention.

That you began as the fusion of a sperm and an egg
of two people who once were strangers
and may well still be.

That life isn’t fair.
That life is sometimes good
and sometimes better than good.

That life is often not so good.

That life is real
and if you can survive it, well,
survive it well
with love
and art
and meaning given
where meaning’s scarce.

That you will learn to live with regret.
That you will learn to live with respect.

That the structures that constrict you
may not be permanently constricting.

That you will probably be okay.

That you must accept change
before you die
but you will die anyway.

So you might as well live
and you might as well love.
You might as well love.
You might as well love.


Music: Calm the Soul – Poor Clares Galway

Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34 once again. With its two accompanying readings, the psalm hits me right between the eyes with this awareness:

Those of us trying to live in God’s presence, the world isn’t going to help us. We will be in contradiction to many, if not most, popular values. Our choices may be questioned, if not ridiculed. Our values may be explained away. Our integrity may be challenged. 

What’s it like to live a faith-based life in today’s culture? The image that comes to my mind is that of trying to play soccer with a square ball! 

Paul felt the dissonance:

But the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
So I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ …


Jesus put the contradiction in a nutshell for us:

No one can serve two masters.
You will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.


So we need to figure out our “mammon” and vanquish it. We need to make the choice that Paul, the psalmist, and Jesus made. Let’s pray on it today.


Poetry: Contraband – Denise Levertov

The tree of knowledge was the tree of reason.
That’s why the taste of it
drove us from Eden. That fruit
was meant to be dried and milled to a fine powder
for use a pinch at a time, a condiment.
God had probably planned to tell us later
about this new pleasure.
                                   We stuffed our mouths full of it,
gorged on but and if and how and again
but, knowing no better.
It’s toxic in large quantities; fumes
swirled in our heads and around us
to form a dense cloud that hardened to steel,
a wall between us and God, Who was Paradise.
Not that God is unreasonable – but reason
in such excess was tyranny
and locked us into its own limits, a polished cell
reflecting our own faces. God lives
on the other side of that mirror,
but through the slit where the barrier doesn’t
quite touch ground, manages still
to squeeze in – as filtered light,
splinters of fire, a strain of music heard
then lost, then heard again.


Music: I Choose You Now – Rend Collective

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

June 18, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34 which carries forward the thread of sage advice running through all of our readings


I’m going to state the obvious here: distress is not a pretty thing. 


We all have stress in our lives and, guess what, it can be a good thing. Stress is a reaction in us when a situation calls for our response. If such reactions never occurred, we would be living in isolation from our environment or community. We would not grow as persons.

This positive stress can be called “eustress”. Distress, on the other hand, occurs when we cannot respond effectively to our experiences or situation. We become overwhelmed, fearful, or anxious.


Paul, in our first reading, has a lot of opportunity to grow from stress! Maybe too much. It sounds like Paul’s experiences had certainly bordered on “distress”.

So did our psalmist’s experiences. In later verses of the psalm, we get a hint of that. The writer is broken-hearted, crushed in spirit, and under physical threat — just like Paul:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted,
saves those whose spirit is crushed.
Many are the troubles of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers us from them all.
God watches over all our bones;
not one of them shall be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
those who hate the righteous are condemned.
But the  LORD redeems the faithful servant
and none are condemned who take refuge in God.

Psalm 34:19-23

Jesus has a word for us about dealing with distress:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy,
and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys,
nor thieves break in and steal.


So it all depends on what we treasure, on what we allow to become most important in our lives. If wealth, reputation, power, and self-aggrandizement are our treasures, we’re going to live in distress all our lives trying to protect these trophies.

If charity, hope, faith, and merciful justice are our treasures, it doesn’t mean we will never have stress or pain. But we will understand the prayer of Psalm 34:

Glorify the LORD with me,
    let us together extol God’s name.
I sought the LORD who answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears. 
From all their distress God rescues the just.
Look to God that you may be radiant with joy,
    and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
    and was delivered from all distress.

Psalm 34:4-7

Poetry: Do not be troubled, God, though they say “mine” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Do not be troubled, God, though they say “mine”
of all things that permit it patiently.
they are like wind that lightly strokes the boughs
and says: MY tree.
They hardly see
how all things glow that their hands seize upon,
so that they cannot touch
even the utmost fringe and not be singed.
They will say “mine” as one will sometimes call
the prince his friend in speech with villagers,
this prince being very great — and far away.
They call strange walls “mine,” knowing not at all
who is the master of the house indeed.
They still say “mine,” and claim possession, though
each thing, as they approach, withdraws and closes;
a silly charlatan perhaps thus poses
as owner of the lightning and the sun.
And so they say: my life, my wife, my child,
my dog, well knowing all that they have styled
their own: life, wife, child, dog, remain
shapes foreign and unknown,
that blindly groping they must stumble on.
This truth, be sure, only the great discern,
who long for eyes. The others WILL not learn
that in the beggary of their wandering
they cannot claim a bond with any thing,
but, driven from possessions they have prized,
not by their own belongings recognized,
they can OWN wives no more than they own flowers,
whose life is alien and apart from ours.
God, do not lose your equilibrium.
Even he who loves you and discerns your face
in darkness, when he trembles like a light
you breathe upon, — he cannot own you quite.
And if at night one holds you closely pressed,
locked in his prayers so you cannot stray,
…..you are the guest
…..who comes, but not to stay.
God, who can hold you? To yourself alone
belonging, by no owner’s hand disturbed,
you are like unripened wine that unperturbed
grows ever sweeter and is all alone.


Music: Me and Bobby McGee written and sung by Kris Kristofferson

I don’t know if you will appreciate this song, but I thought I’d give it a try. 
I have always identified today’s Gospel with a verse in the song:
Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.
Nothin’, it ain’t nothin’ honey, if it ain’t free
I have never fully spiritually plumbed that verse, but I love to explore it every time I hear this song.

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, June 7, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34, filled with lovely images assuring us of God’s abiding mercy. This mercy moves the psalmist to promise perpetual praise – that means “no matter what”!

I will bless the LORD at all times;
    praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
    the lowly will hear me and be glad.

Psalm 34:2-3

By telling about God’s loving intervention in our lives, the psalmist invites everyone to join in praise:

Glorify the LORD with me,
    let us together extol God’s name.
I sought the LORD who answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 34:4-5

I’m not so sure it’s an easy thing to rejoice in another’s blessing when we ourselves are feeling overlooked by God. But that’s the whole point of the psalm. It is WE who feel overlooked, not God who is overlooking. 

It is as if we have turned our back to a brilliant sun and complained how cloudy it is. The psalmist says, “Stop that … turn your self around.

Look to God that you may be radiant with joy,
    and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the suffering one called out, the LORD heard,
    and from all distress was saved. 

Psalm 34:6-7

Notice that they were not saved from suffering but from distress. Such salvation rests in the confidence that, even in suffering, we are never alone; that when we take refuge in God, palpable blessing ensues.

The angel of the LORD encamps
    around those who reverence God, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
    blessed the one who takes refuge in God’s embrace.

Psalm 34:8-9

Surely Psalm 34 calls us
to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes
which we can savor in today’s Gospel.

Poetry: Safe Harbor by Robert B. Shaw


Music: Two songs suggested themselves today. Here are both🤗 Enjoy!

Multiplied by needtobreathe
(notice the radiant diamonds)

Psalm 34 – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

I sought the Lord
And He answered me
And delivered me
From every fear
Those who look on Him
Are radiant
They'll never be ashamed
They'll never be ashamed

This poor man cried
And the Lord heard me
And saved me from
My enemies
The Son of God
Surrounds His saints
He will deliver them
He will deliver them

Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Oh taste and see
That the Lord is good
Oh blessed is he
Who hides in Him
Oh fear the Lord
Oh all you saints
He'll give you everything
He'll give you everything

Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever

Let us bless the Lord
Every day and night
Never ending praise
May our incense rise

Let us bless the Lord
Every day and night
Never ending praise
May our incense rise

Let us bless the Lord
Every day and night
Never ending praise
May our incense rise
Every day and night
Never ending praise
May our incense rise

Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Magnify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name together
Glorify the Lord with me
Come exalt His name forever
Oh taste and see
That the Lord is good
He'll give you everything
He'll give you everything

Psalm 34: Together

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

February 23, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34, thought to be a young David’s thanksgiving prayer after God saved him from one of his many dangerous escapades.

In telling his deliverance story, David invites his friends to celebrate with him and to learn the faith-lesson he has learned:

Glorify the LORD with me,
    let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears. 


I picture myself sitting in David’s audience, absorbing the words of his prayer. This line strikes me:

The LORD has eyes for the just,
    and ears for their cry.

Ah, the Lord has eyes for me….for ME! It conjures up sounds of The Flamingos, doesn’t it? (Sorry for the transcriber’s misspelling 😀)

Most of us want to think that we are individually special to God. This desire is at the core of the Protestant Evangelical model, “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. But for some, this model has become confused with a prosperity gospel that is quite misleading.

The only prosperity we should seek from God is the gift of grace because:

Yahweh’s peculiar inclinations are with the broken-hearted and the ones with crushed spirit. That is, Yahweh’s solidarity is not with the ones who go from success to success, but the ones denied success.

Walter Brueggemann The Message of the Psalms A Theological Commentary Ausberg Publishing House 1984

Still, such a personal relationship is not alien to a full and complete faith:

Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us.

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 2009

(Look for an extra prayer about “The Eye of God” in another post today.)


However, our psalm alerts us that this deeply personal dimension is only part of relationship with God.

When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
    and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
   and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

To be seen and heard by God, one must be part of the just community. To be close to God, one must feel the brokenheartedness of the poor. We come to the psalmist’s exuberant praise only by walking with suffering, either in our own lives, or beside others who bear distress.

From all their distress
God rescues the just.

Psalm 34 teaches us that our personal relationship with God is interdependent with our relationship with the whole community. David calls his community to share in his praise-song because they- together -recognize God’s mercy and share it in concern for one another.

The LORD has eyes for the just,
    and ears for their cry.


Our Gospel today confirms that a personal love for God thrives only within a communal love. The prayer Jesus shares is not “My Father”. It is “Our Father”. We come to the depths of God’s merciful heart with our sisters and brothers.


Poetry: An Inclusive Lord’s Prayer – Author unknown

Loving God, 
in whom is heaven, 
may Your name be honored everywhere.
May Your Mercy reign.
May the desire of Your heart for the world 
be done, 
in us, by us and through us.
Give us each and all
the bread we need for the day.
Forgive us.
Free us to forgive others.
Keep us from all anxiety, fear, and selfishness.
For You reign in the power that comes from love 
which is Your glory
forever and ever.
Amen.

Music: Our Father – Joe Wise

Psalm 34: The Reason

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

December 15, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 34.

When I read its refrain, my mind was triggered into a kind of “Jeopardy-like” exchange with God:

Answer: This is the reason God sent his Son,
and continues to redeem the world in us.

Question : What is “The Lord hears the cry of the poor”.

Psalm 34 reiterates a fundamental fact so often overshadowed by our highly secularized “Christmas unconsciousness”. The psalm refocuses us by consistently using words like this:

  • Let my soul glory in the LORD;
    the lowly will hear me and be glad.
  • When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
    and from all his distress he saved him.
  • When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
    and from all their distress he rescues them.
  • The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
    and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.

Christmas is God’s response to the unrelenting cry of the poor. If we want to truly honor and celebrate Christmas, we must allow that merciful and healing response to flow through us.

How and where do I hear the cry of the poor?
How do I respond?

Poetry: Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit Alice Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an American novelist, story writer, poet and social activist. In 1982, she wrote the novel The Color Purple for which she won the National Book Award hardcover fiction, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Did you ever understand this? 
If my spirit was poor, how could I enter heaven? 
Was I depressed? 
Understanding editing,
I see how a comma, removed or inserted
with careful plan,
can change everything.
I was reminded of this
when a poor young man
in Tunisia
desperate to live
and humiliated for trying
set himself ablaze; 
I felt uncomfortably warm
as if scalded by his shame.
I do not have to sell vegetables from a cart as he did
or live in narrow rooms too small for spacious thought; 
and, at this late date,
I do not worry that someone will
remove every single opportunity
for me to thrive.
Still, I am connected to, inseparable from,
this young man.
Blessed are the poor, in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus. (Commas restored) .
Jesus was as usual talking about solidarity: about how we join with others
and, in spirit, feel the world, and suffering, the same as them.
This is the kingdom of owning the other as self, the self as other; 
that transforms grief into
peace and delight.
I, and you, might enter the heaven
of right here
through this door.
In this spirit, knowing we are blessed,
we might remain poor 

Music: The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor – John Foley, SJ

So Close to the Brokenhearted

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

March 27, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our reading from the Book of Wisdom clearly describes the machinations and motivations of an evil heart. We see fear, jealousy, control, and greed all strangling the described plotters.

Wisdom also shows us the characteristics of the good heart: justice, holy knowledge, purity, gentleness, patience, strength and perseverance.

The struggle between these two dimensions has defined human interactions ever since Eden.

Ps34 brokenhearted

Our Gospel tells us that these forces met their ultimate contest in the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. And the Victor has been revealed in the triumph of the Resurrection.

These beliefs are the foundation of our faith, bedrocks we can live by when life’s circumstances test our resolve and courage.


We face such a test right now. Some people ask if God is punishing us, or has God abandoned us. Some people wonder if there is really a God at all who could let this happen to his people.

Today’s readings might help us rebalance our faith and dig deeper into its mysteries – because faith is a relationship, not a handbook. No matter how hard we search, pat answers don’t exist … just the daily learning to which the Gospel invites us.

In the life of Jesus, the Father neither caused evil nor removed it. The Father simply remained one with Jesus – living, loving, suffering with him. God does that with us too.

So when we pray, do we pray for miracles? Sure we do! Some miracles would be really great right now. Even Jesus prayed for that kind of intervention in Gethsemane:

Father, if you will, take this cup from me.

But when that didn’t happen, Jesus stayed the faithful course, trusting that he was already safe in his Father, no matter what swirled around him.

We may want to pray our poignant Responsorial Psalm today, asking God to help us faithfully abide in its promise. Here is a beautiful translation by Steven Mitchell from his book, A Book of Psalms:Reflections Adapted from the Hebrew (Available on Amazon – C)lick here for Amazon

I will bless the Lord at all times;
my lips will sing out his praise.
I will thank him for the love he has shown me
and the clarity that gladdens my heart. 

Sing out with me and thank him;
be grateful for all his gifts.
Turn to him; let your soul feel his presence;
oh taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who trust him. 

You who desire true life
and wish to walk on God’s path:
Depart from evil; do good;
seek peace with all your soul. 

The Lord cares for the righteous
and watches over the merciful.
He is near when their hearts are broken;
when their spirits are crushed, he is with them.
And though they may undergo hardships,
he fills them with blessings in the end.

Music:  The Poor Man Cries – Marty Goetz (Lyrics below)

Lyrics

The Lord On High is very near
To all who call on Him
This poor man cries and He hears
And delivers him from all his fears

For the Lord is nigh to them that fear Him
The contrite will have light never dim
The righteous cry and He hears
And delivers them from all their fears
From all their fears

“Gad-lu l’Adonai ee’ti,
Oon’ ram’ma sh’mo yach-dau”
I will bless Him all my days
His praise shall continually be in my mouth
To the King I sing with pride

And the humble hear
And the sad, are glad in Him
His angels fly ’round those near
If you ever listen close you might hear
You just might hear
“Gad-lu l’Adonai ee’ti,
Oon’ ram’ma sh’mo yach-dau”
I will bless Him all my days

His praise shall continually be in my mouth
He brings good things so I know
He’s always here
Never denied I’m supplied by Him
For He has his eyes on those He holds dear
And He delivers them from all their fears
From all their fears
This Poor Man Cries, and He hears
And delivers him from all his fears, from all his fears

Taste and See!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081918.cfm

Ps34_Honey

Today, in Mercy, in the beautiful first reading from Proverbs, Wisdom builds her house and invites us to turn in to her welcoming door. Picture a lovely cottage, set in a varied garden. You are coming off a long road through the darkness. But Light shines from Wisdom’s doorway, carrying the invitation for refreshment and rest.

But there is a caveat before you partake:

Let whoever is simple turn in here …
she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;advance in the way of understanding.

Are we simple enough to become wise? Do we have a heart sincere enough to trust that there is an Infinity beyond our understanding Who loves and invites us from the depth of It’s Mystery?

In our Gospel, Jesus clarifies that He is the door by which we enter into the fullness of Wisdom. When we meet Him in Eucharist, in the deepest simplicity of faith, we pass through the door to Eternal Wisdom – to the sweet, infinite simplicity of God.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm offers us a refrain to thread through our prayer today:

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

This is Wisdom’s invitation offered to us in each experience of our day. May we be simple enough to hear it.

Music: Psalm 34 ~ The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir