A Soul’s Evolution

January 12, 2022
Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings lead us through an evolution of grace from:

Revelation
to
Presence
to
Purpose 

How simply charming yet powerful is the wonderful story of Samuel’s call! We can picture the tousled-hair boy sleeping near the Ark of the Covenant, youthfully unaware of his awesome surroundings.

God’s voice insists into Samuel’s unawareness, finally capturing his attention after four tries.

Oil painting on canvas, The Calling of Samuel by Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (Plympton 1723 – London 1792), circa 1770-6. A half-length portrait of a young boy, turned to the left, gazing upwards, his right hand outstretched, wearing a loose brown cloak. Stormy sky.

Extraordinary Revelation 


From that moment, Samuel lives fully in the Presence of the Lord:

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba
came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the LORD.

1 Samuel 3: 19-20
The Prophet Samuel – Claude Vignon

Extraordinary Presence



Mark’s Gospel narrates another call for us – the emerging call of Jesus and his mentoring of his disciples to share his sacred ministry:

Rising very early before dawn, 
he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him
and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”
So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons 
throughout the whole of Galilee.

Mark 1: 35-39

Extraordinary Purpose


As we pray this reflection today, we may be just waking up as Samuel was. We may be slowly emerging from the desert of our sleep. Or we may be at a point in our spiritual lives where the Light is dawning on us for some other reason.

Wherever we are, let’s be aware that each “dawning” brings 

  • a new Revelation of grace
  • a deeper invitation to God’s Presence
  • a fresh call to engage God’s Purpose for our lives

Poetry: The Collar by George Herbert (1593 – 1633) a poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. Herbert is considered one of the great metaphysical poets.
In this poem, he writes about the evolution of his desire to fully answer God’s call, symbolized in the priestly collar that he wore. The final lines remind me of Samuel’s call.

I struck the board, and cried, “No more; 

                         I will abroad! 

What? shall I ever sigh and pine? 

My lines and life are free, free as the road, 

Loose as the wind, as large as store. 

          Shall I be still in suit? 

Have I no harvest but a thorn 

To let me blood, and not restore 

What I have lost with cordial fruit? 

          Sure there was wine 

Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn 

    Before my tears did drown it. 

      Is the year only lost to me? 

          Have I no bays to crown it, 

No flowers, no garlands gay? All blasted? 

                  All wasted? 

Not so, my heart; but there is fruit, 

            And thou hast hands. 

Recover all thy sigh-blown age 

On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute 

Of what is fit and not. Forsake thy cage, 

             Thy rope of sands, 

Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee 

Good cable, to enforce and draw, 

          And be thy law, 

While thou didst wink and wouldst not see. 

          Away! take heed; 

          I will abroad. 

Call in thy death’s-head there; tie up thy fears; 

          He that forbears 

         To suit and serve his need 

          Deserves his load.” 

But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild 

          At every word, 

Methought I heard one calling, Child! 

          And I replied My Lord. 


Music: God’s Calling – George Melendez

I wonder if George Herbert could have appreciated this rap song😀

Seeking and Waiting

October 19, 2021
Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,  we pray with Psalm 40 in which the psalmist prays for all who seek God and faithfully wait on God’s salvation:

May all who seek you
    exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
    say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”

Psalm 40:17

Luke’s Gospel describes the expectant fidelity God gives us and desires from us. In other words, God waits for us too!

The master of the house was away on a long journey. Likely he would have tried to return home in daylight, because the ancient roads were dark and menacing at night. Perhaps the evening meal was already prepared in anticipation of his arrival. But he does not appear over the distant rise where all the household’s eyes are trained.


You know how they waited. You’ve waited for loved ones coming home in bad weather. You’ve waited for beloved holiday guests when flights are delayed or traffic is snarled.

You watch for headlights cresting down the far road. You listen for the sound of a car door closing. Minutes seem like hours. The perfectly prepared meal cools, and your energy slackens as you pick at the olives and breadsticks.


Sometimes our prayer life feels like that. We do all the things necessary to welcome God’s grace, but instead we feel distant from the Divine Presence. We long for God’s warm blessing over the feast of our life, but God tarries somewhere at the other edge of our hope.  We feel like these Gospel servants who wait, exhausted, even into the early morning hours.

But we don’t give up. Our hope remains steadfast because God has promised. And it is in that fidelity that our eyes are opened to realize that God had been present all along — just not looking as we had expected.

It turns out that God is the One who had been waiting… waiting for us to see.


Poetry: Waiting by Leza Lowitz

You keep waiting for something to happen,
the thing that lifts you out of yourself,

catapults you into doing all the things you've put off
the great things you're meant to do in your life,

but somehow never quite get to.
You keep waiting for the planets to shift

the new moon to bring news,
the universe to align, something to give.

Meanwhile, the pile of papers, the laundry, the dishes, the job –
it all stacks up while you keep hoping

for some miracle to blast down upon you,
scattering the piles to the winds.

Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life.
Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking.

But all the while, life goes on in its messy way.
And then you turn forty. Or fifty. Or sixty...

and some part of you realizes you are not alone
and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom

when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over,
it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched,

and when caterpillar turns to butterfly
if the pupa is brushed, it will die –

and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg
it's because the thing is too small, too small,

and it needs to break out.
And midlife walks you into that wisdom

that this is what transformation looks like –
the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life,

the yearning and writhing and pushing,
until one day, one day

you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn

and the dusk of the body,
glistening, beautiful

just as you are.

Music: A country tune today, maybe overly simple. But I find some country music has a profound nugget of truth buried in the twang. I hope you can enjoy it.

He Was There All the Time ~ Gary S. Paxton

Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 40, and wow, do we need it after an astounding heartless first reading!

The Return of Jephthah
by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini
The Yorck Project ( Public Domain)

The story of Jephthah and his daughter is one of the most disturbing in the Bible! It contains so many flaws in faith and reason that it becomes almost unusable for prayer. Then again, maybe that’s the very reason we should pray with it.

Jephthah:

  • was so full of his own lust for victory that he made a promise to God which God would never want.
  • was so focused on himself that he ignored the maxim against human sacrifice
  • had such a distorted concept of God that he made an excuse to kill on God’s supposed behalf

The lesson for me? Don’t be like Jephthah.

We can use God, distort God, and manufacture what we believe to be God’s Will. Countless people have done so down through the centuries and are still doing it. Just shake a history book, and a thousand Jephthahs fall out wrapped in other inglorious names.

We constantly see religion manipulated into a tool for political and personal aggression. The world is full of people who purport to know God’s Will for the rest of us.


Psalm 40 blessedly contradicts this kind of idolatry. We must never attempt to create God in our own image, to satisfy our own agendas.

Psalm 40 lists those practices that will help us to sincere relationship with God and God’s power in our lives:

  • steadfast trust
  • unvarnished honesty
  • humble praise
  • prayerful obedience
  • responsiveness to grace

Happy are they who trust in the Lord!
they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.
Great things are they that you have done, O Lord my God! 
how great your wonders and your plans for us!
There is none who can be compared with you.
Oh, that I could make them known and tell them, 
but they are more than I can count.
In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure
(you have given me ears to hear you);
burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required.

Psalm 40:4-8

These virtues are powereded by a deeply prayerful and reflective life which roots God’s Goodness in our souls.

And so I said, “Behold, I come.
In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:
‘I love to do your will, O my God; 
your law is deep within my heart.’”

Psalm 40:

Poetry: I Know What You Want – a Psalm 40 prayer by Rev. Christine Robinson

I have trusted You, Holy One
  and waited for You.
When I was mired in misery
  you touched me with your spirit.
You pulled me out
  and set me on solid ground.
You put a song in my heart and work in my hands. 
  I praise you.
I know what you want from me,
  and where the meaning of my life lies—
Not in rituals, offerings, sacrifices, or creeds,
  just my heart; open to others, and open to You.
I try to live that way.
  I fail often but you nudge and beckon and I follow.
I pray that my words, my song, my life
  show forth your light and light others’ way.
May all who seek you find you.
Touch us with your spirit, that we may be glad.

Music: Take, Lord, Receive – John Foley, SJ

This prayer is the Suscipe of St. Ignatius Loyola found in the final part of his book, “The Spiritual Exercises”.

Psalm 40: The Will to Love

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

March 25, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this feast of the Annunciation, we pray with Psalm 40. We hear Mary proclaiming its refrain which echoes down through the ages:

Psalm 40:8-9

We are all here to do God’s Will. That’s why God made us. But sometimes, we struggle so hard either to learn God’s Will or to avoid it.

Praying with Mary this morning, I thought this about “God’s Will” – It is not a plan we must discover, or that unfolds in surprises throughout our lives. It’s not a set of circumstances meant to test our faith. If we think of it this linearly, we cripple and diffuse its power.

Because God is Love, God’s Will is simply this: 

Love. 
Always love. 
Love always as God would love. 
Choose always what Love would choose.
Love.

That’s what Mary did.


Annunciation – Henry Ossawa Tanner

Poetry:  Aubade: The Annunciation – Thomas Merton
(An aubade is a poem or piece of music appropriate to the dawn or early morning.)


When the dim light, at Lauds, comes strike her window,
Bellsong falls out of Heaven with a sound of glass.
Prayers fly in the mind like larks,
Thoughts hide in the height like hawks:
And while the country churches tell their blessings to the
distance,
Her slow words move
(Like summer winds the wheat) her innocent love:
Desires glitter in her mind
Like morning stars:
Until her name is suddenly spoken
Like a meteor falling.
She can no longer hear shrill day
Sing in the east,
Nor see the lovely woods begin to toss their manes.
The rivers have begun to sing.
The little clouds shine in the sky like girls:
She has no eyes to see their faces.
Speech of an angel shines in the waters of her thought
like diamonds,
Rides like a sunburst on the hillsides of her heart.
And is brought home like harvests,
Hid in her house, and stored
Like the sweet summer's riches in our peaceful barns.
But in the world of March outside her dwelling,
The farmers and the planters
Fear to begin their sowing, and its lengthy labor,
Where, on the brown, bare furrows,
The winter wind still croons as dumb as pain.

Music: Ave Maria – performed by Daniela de Santos

Psalm 40: God’s Whisper

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 17, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 40, the prayer of one at home with God:

I delight to do your will, my God;
your law is in my inner being!

Psalm 40:9

We are reminded that we find this kind of peace by believing and listening to our experience:

Throughout our readings today, God leans over heaven’s edge to whisper into human experience.


Samuel’s Call by Joshua Reynolds

In our first reading, that whisper comes in a sacred call to a listening Samuel:

When Samuel went to sleep in his place,
the LORD came and revealed his presence,
calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3: 9-10

In our second reading, Paul reminds us that the
Whispering Spirit is already resident within us:


Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God, 
and that you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 6: 19

In our Gospel, Jesus – the Word, the Divine Whisper – invites us to come to him, to see his power with us in our ordinary lives.

The two disciples said to Jesus,
“Rabbi, where do you live?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

John 1: 39

Praying with Psalm 40 can turn our hearts
to listening for God’s voice
under and within our experiences. 

  • It can wake us up, as Samuel was awakened.
  • It can attune us to the melody deep within our hearts.
  • It can reiterate God’s invitation to live our lives so fully in the Beloved’s Presence that, even without a sound, we know each other’s thoughts.

Poetry: from Whispers of the Beloved by Rumi

Do you know what the music is saying?
“Come follow me and you will find the way.
Your mistakes can also lead you to the Truth.
When you ask, the answer will be given.”

Music: All Praise to Him – Sovereign Grace Music