Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 84 – one of the loveliest.

My soul yearns and pines 
    for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
    cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest
    in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
    my king and my God!

Psalm 84: 3-6

The image of God’s dwelling places raises so many possibilities for prayer:

  • Mary, the dwelling of Jesus as he completed incarnation 
  • Eucharist, Christ’s continuing dwelling with us
  • Ourselves and all creatures as dwelling places of God’s spirit

Thinking of a dwelling place, many characteristics come to mind. Foremost for me is hospitality. We must be welcomed into a place in order to dwell there. We must be comfortable, cared about, and appreciated. We must feel at home.

We’ve all been in homes that make us feel this way, and hopefully our own home offers such hospitality to us and others. I think this morning of three old friends now at home with God. They were the sisters of a beloved pastor with whom I worked. We got to know them well at the time of his death and continued our friendship until they too died.

We often visited their old but perfectly appointed little home. And their hospitality took very evident forms: a prepared pitcher of Manhattans in the fridge, little snacks that we might have mentioned we liked, lively conversation, and the sharing of life-making stories – with a few secrets sprinkled in between.

I think that’s the same kind of hospitable home Mary, Martha, and Lazarus offered Jesus – a tasty meal, some good wine, and the sharing of life, laughter, and tears.


When we open our hearts to be dwelling places for God, we too can share the bread of life, the wine of experience, and the certainty of love with our infinitely hospitable Creator.

What immeasurable gifts! Having received them from God, may we offer them to others especially those who find them nowhere else.


Poetry: Dwelling Place – Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) who was a Welsh metaphysical poet, illustrator, translator, and physician

John 1:38-39 

What happy secret fountain, 
Fair shade or mountain, 
Whose undiscovered virgin glory 
Boasts it this day, though not in story, 
Was then thy dwelling? Did some cloud, 
Fixed to a tent, descend a shroud 
My distressed Lord? Or did a star, 
Beckoned by Thee, though high and far, 
In sparkling smiles haste gladly down 
To lodge light and increase her own? 
My dear, dear God! I do not know 
What lodged Thee then, nor where, nor how; 
But I am sure Thou dost now come 
Oft to a narrow, homely room, 
Where Thou too hast but the least part: 
My God, I mean my sinful heart.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ

(If the video says “Unavailable”, click on “Watch on YouTube” to get it.

Psalm 84: Dwell in God’s Heart

Friday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

November 27, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 84, a praise and pilgrimage hymn. 

It is a perfect prayer for us if we have any small sense of alienation, loss, or confusion in our own pilgrimage.

And, honestly, who doesn’t!?

Even in the best of times, life can be a twist! And in pandemic times, politically charged times, economically shaky times??? Never a better time to say, “God help us!”


But Psalm 84 orients us. It announces what the journey is really about … the desire to find a resting place in God. Once we realize that, the road slowly straightens with the power of faith.

In Psalm 84, the pilgrim’s heart, hungry for God, sets out on the spiritual journey.

My soul yearns and pines 
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.

There can be a deep trust in our journeying heart because “even the sparrow” finds a home in God’s tender care.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!


The secret, though, is constancy.:

  • We pilgrims must stay with the essence of our journey – the deep desire for God.
  • We must listen to scripture’s “directions” about where God dwells – with the poor, humble, and merciful.
  • We must not let the flashy road signs of the “Me Culture” distract us.


“The Narcissism Epidemic,”
by psychologists Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell
studies the increase of narcissism or “me-ism” in our culture.
Here’s an excerpt:

Although these seem like a random collection of current trends, all are rooted in a single underlying shift in the American psychology: the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture. Not only are there more narcissists than ever, but non-narcissistic people are seduced by the increasing emphasis on material wealth, physical appearance, celebrity worship, and attention seeking. Standards have shifted, sucking otherwise humble people into the vortex of granite countertops, tricked-out MySpace pages, and plastic surgery. A popular dance track repeats the words “money, success, fame, glamour” over and over, declaring that all other values have “either been discredited or destroyed.”


Let’s pray today for “staying power”. We have been given the grace to seek God in our lives. Let’s dwell in that seeking, moving from strength to strength in any twists life tosses in front of us.

Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed are we whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength.


Poetry: The Journey – Tagore

The morning sea of silence broke into ripples of bird songs; 
and the flowers were all merry by the roadside;
and the wealth of gold was scattered through the rift of the clouds
while we busily went on our way and paid no heed.

We sang no glad songs nor played;
we went not to the village for barter;
we spoke not a word nor smiled;
we lingered not on the way.

We quickened our pace more and more as the time sped by.
The sun rose to the mid sky and doves cooed in the shade. 
Withered leaves danced and whirled in the hot air of noon.

The shepherd boy drowsed and dreamed in the shadow of the banyan tree, 
and I laid myself down by the water
and stretched my tired limbs on the grass.

My companions laughed at me in scorn;
they held their heads high and hurried on;
they never looked back nor rested;
they vanished in the distant blue haze.
They crossed many meadows and hills,
and passed through strange, far-away countries.

All honor to you, heroic host of the interminable path!
Mockery and reproach pricked me to rise, 
but found no response in me.

I gave myself up for lost
in the depth of a glad humiliation
—in the shadow of a dim delight.

The repose of the sun-embroidered green gloom 
slowly spread over my heart.
I forgot for what I had traveled,
and I surrendered my mind without struggle 
to the maze of shadows and songs.

At last, when I woke from my slumber and opened my eyes, 
I saw thee standing by me, flooding my sleep with thy smile. 
How I had feared that the path was long and wearisome, 
and the struggle to reach thee was hard!

Music: How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place – Jesuit Music

Psalm 84: The Presence

Friday, September 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 84 in which the psalmist expresses great love and longing to dwell in God’s protection.

My soul yearns and pines 
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.


The psalm, while it alludes to the Temple as God’s house, offers a broader and deeper understanding of that sacred dwelling place. Psalm 84 describes an abiding so universal that it welcomes even the sparrow into its embrace.

Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your sanctuaries, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!


Praying today with this lovely psalm, I focus on my desire to be completely embraced by God – to feel that unquestioning faith, trust, hope and love in all circumstances of my life . This kind of confidence doesn’t come from any temple, building, or church. It comes from the Presence we find WITHIN our “temples”. If that Presence is gone, the “temple”is simply a pile of bricks.


An image rose in my mind of my niece Katelyn when she was about 18 months old. My mother had just died. When my brother and family arrived at Mom’s house shortly after, little Katelyn scurried quickly to the kitchen, my mother’s usual habitat. She wanted that irreplaceable hug from Grandmom. But the kitchen chair was empty. Katelyn touched the chair and, still pre-verbal, looked up at me wondering and confused – much like I was. The kitchen had become a temple without a presence. Neither she nor I were sure where to touch the love that had once been there.

Katelyn’s glance is burned on my memory even now, over 30 years later. I have seen it in so many eyes since then, where lives have been struck with a sadness or tragedy that takes their heart away.


Psalm 84 reminds us that the healing of such bereavements happens in the Heart of God, the immutable Presence holding all our “temples” in its palm.

Blessed they who dwell in Your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed they whose strength you are!
their hearts are set faithfully upon life’s journey.


We experience all kinds of death, loss, darkness and emptiness in our lives. In those times, how do we touch God’s abiding love? How do we find Light?

Psalm 84 encourages us to be honest with God, to express our longing, to believe God wants our good, and to be sincere in our desire for God’s Presence in our lives.

For a sun and a shield is the LORD God;
grace and glory bestowing;
The LORD withholds no good thing
from those who walk in sincerity. 


Poetry: To Be Held – Linda Hogan

To be held
by the light
was what I wanted,
to be a tree drinking the rain,
no longer parched in this hot land.
To be roots in a tunnel growing
but also to be sheltering the inborn leaves
and the green slide of mineral
down the immense distances
into infinite comfort
and the land here, only clay,
still contains and consumes
the thirsty need
the way a tree always shelters the unborn life
waiting for the healing
after the storm
which has been our life.

Music: Heinrich Schütz set Psalm 84 in the German translation by Martin Luther as part of his Op.2, Psalmen Davids sampt etlichen Moteten und Concerten.