Which Way to Turn?

The Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90 along with readings that are both beautiful and poignant.  

In our first passage, we drink from Wisdom’s sweet nectar. This book, written about fifty years before Christ’s birth, is the work of an unnamed Jewish poet and scholar. At points, as in today’s segment, the writer assumes the persona of Solomon, speaking in his name.


We know from the Book of Kings, chapter 3, that Solomon, as a young king, led a faithful and righteous life. Because of this, God offered Solomon “whatever you want me to give you.”

Think of the possibilities for this young man, just on the cusp of kingship! Power, wealth, longevity, peace, prosperity, political dominance – all the things we are inclined to covet in this world.

But Solomon prays instead for wisdom, as described in today’s reading:

Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.


Our Gospel tells of a young man offered an opportunity similar to Solomon’s. Already living a faithful life, he wants to go deeper into God’s heart. 

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,

“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me.” 

But this young man, unlike Solomon, cannot accept the invitation to this deep place of love and devotion. Instead, he goes away sad. It makes me sad, too, whenever I read these verses. I always wish that, after a few steps, he had turned around and shouted, “Yes! I will do what you ask. I love God that much. Help me!”


Like these young men, we have a deep desire to live within God’s love. But are we walking toward that love or away from it? Most of us don’t say an outright “No” to God’s invitation. Instead, we are distracted, lazy, or just not paying attention to the the whispers of grace.

Let’s pray today’s powerful Psalm 90 to open our minds and hearts to God’s hope for us.


Poetry: Based on Psalm 90 – Christine Robinson

We have come out of the Earth
and to the Earth we return
Our lives are but a flash in the light of Eternity.
We are like beautiful flowers which live only a day.
We might live 70 years—more if our strength holds.
So much work and hardship!
How quickly the time passes.

Teach us then, to value our days
to treat each one as a sacred trust.
Fill our hearts with wisdom.
and a love for our lives.
In spite of all the grief and suffering
May we be always glad of this precious gift
And hallow the good in each day.


Music: Fill Us With Your Love ~ Ephrem Feeley

Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90 whose selected verses for today present three brilliant images for our prayer.


The image of an eternal God, who spins time like the threads of a dream:

You turn us back to the dust and say,
“Go back, O child of earth.”
For a thousand years in your sight 
are like yesterday when it is past 
and like a watch in the night.
You sweep us away like a dream;
we fade away suddenly like the grass.

Psalm 90: 3-5

The image of us, ordering our days on the great abacus of Grace:

So teach us to number our days aright
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.
Return, O Lord; 
how long will you tarry?

Psalm 90:12-13

The image of God, each morning answering our prayer, and we weaving that delicate gift, like fine lace, into the handiwork of our lives

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper our fragile handiwork!

Psalm 90:14,17

These images converge to remind us that time, from our perspective, is brief. But, with God, there is no “time”. God has breathed us forth, a song without end, into an eternal melody of love and joy.

The psalmist prays to honor that indescribable gift of life by making something beautiful of it in the time allotted.

We pray for that too, and are  invited to reflect on Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians in our first reading. This prayer captures what Paul believes to be something beautiful for God:

Now may God our Creator, and our Lord Jesus
direct our way to you,
and may the Lord make you increase
and abound in love for one another and for all,
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts, 
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Creator
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

1 Thessalonians: 3:11-13

Prose: Something Beautiful for God – Mother Teresa

What I can do, you cannot. 
What you can do, I cannot. 
But together we can do 
something beautiful for God.
Yes, you must live life beautifully 
and not allow the spirit of the world 
that makes gods out of power, riches, and pleasure 
make you to forget that 
you have been created for greater things
 – to love and to be loved.

Music: Psalm 90 – Marty Goetz

Psalm 90: A Most Beautiful Prayer

Saturday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

February 13, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90, one of my favorites.

The psalm is so rich that it really needs no help to engage our prayer. But if you would like to pray with these, here are links to earlier reflections on Psalm 90.


Or, you might instead, wish to pray simply with the beautiful transliteration below and/or with one of these lovely pieces of music.

Poetry: Psalm 90 Life and Death - Christine Robinson
We have come out of the Earth
and to the Earth we return
Our lives are but a flash in the light of Eternity.
We are like beautiful flowers which live only a day.
We might live 70 years—more if our strength holds.
So much work and hardship!
How quickly the time passes.
Teach us then, to value our days
to treat each one as a sacred trust.
Fill our hearts with wisdom.
and a love for our lives.
In spite of all the grief and suffering
May we be always glad of this precious gift
And hallow the good in each day.

Music: Two selections today

  1. In Every Age: Janèt Sullivan Whitaker 
Long before the mountains came to be
And the land and sea and stars of the night,
Through the endless seasons of all time,
You have always been,
You will always be.
In ev'ry age, O God, you have been our refuge.
In ev'ry age, O God, you have been our hope.
Destiny is cast, and at your silent word
We return to dust and scatter to the wind.
A thousand years are like a single moment gone,
As the light that fades
At the end of day.
Teach us to make use of the time we have.
Teach us to be patient even as we wait.
Teach us to embrace our ev'ry joy and pain.
To sleep peacefully,
And to rise up strong.
You have been our refuge
You have been our hope.

2. Psalm 90: Marty Goetz

Psalm 90: A Thousand Years

Saturday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 26, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90. My daily readers may have noticed that I skipped to this psalm yesterday by mistake. Some mistakes are good ones, because this profound psalm about “a thousand years” deserves at least two days attention!😉


Today, Psalm 90 is set between two “downer” readings. The unknown author of Ecclesiastes is a phenomenal poet but definitely not a cheerleader. Telling the young man to “put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting…

The writer encourages the young man to enjoy life…

Before the silver cord is snapped
and the golden bowl is broken,
And the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the broken pulley falls into the well,
And the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.


As doleful as these images are, they rang a bell with me as I prayed. The long siege of this pandemic, its frightful toll in human life, the inexplicable resistance to controlling it, surely seem as doleful. Indeed, as Psalm 90 tells us

You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.


But what else,
what more important encouragement of hope,
does Psalm 90 offer us? 

I think this following passage is unbeatable, especially as transliterated by Stephen Mitchell in his book, A Book of Psalms.

Teach us how short our time is; 
let us know it in the depths of our souls. 
Show us that all things are transient, 
as insubstantial as dreams, 
and that after heaven and earth have vanished, 
there is only you.

Fill us in the morning with your wisdom; 
shine through us all our lives. 
Let our hearts soon grow transparent 
in the radiance of your love.

Show us how precious each day is; 
teach us to be fully here. 
And let the work of our hands prosper, 
for our little while.


Poetry: God by Khalil Gibran

In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying,
“Master, I am thy slave. 
Thy hidden will is my law
and I shall obey thee for ever more.”

But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest
passed away.

And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain
and again spoke unto God, saying,
“Creator, I am thy creation. 
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me
and to thee I owe mine all.”

And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings
passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain
and spoke unto God again, saying,
“Father, I am thy child. 
In mercy and love thou hast given me birth,
and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”

And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills
he passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying,
“My God, my aim and my fulfillment;
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow. 
I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky,
and together we grow before the face of the sun.”

Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me.
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there also.

Music: Psalm 90 by Charles Ives, performed by the Stamford Choir 

Psalm 90: So beautiful…

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time

September 25, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90 and the hopeful refrain:

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

For today, I am just going to stay with that verse and with this song that I love. I hope you find it as beautiful as I do.

Poetry: a prose poem I wrote a few years ago:

Each morning, every soul is called 
out of sleep into life, out of darkness into dawn.  
As surely as the flower is kissed by the sun, 
as gently as grass is refreshed by the rain, 
the sparrow is called from its nest; 
the fox from its hollow. 

From the Oriental Sunrise, all across the nations, 
the curtain is drawn back in revelation. 
Every country is slowly illuminated  
– across its seas and deserts, 
plains and mountains, 
wars and peace. 

Across your own soul, 
all your personal geographies awaken, 
lit one by one with the awareness of life. 

Each person whose breath has crossed your life 
– be they lover, friend, sister, 
or the shadow of a stranger 
momentarily passing on a distant afternoon 
– each one, this morning, will be struck like a candle 
by the Morning Spark, by the kindling of God. 
Will they catch fire with their lives? Will you?

We are ignited by God 
to live God’s sacred life in our time. 
We will each unfurl in a vital flame 
or smolder in the embers of our unawareness. 
From the depths of our poverty 
or the shallowness of our wealth, 
it makes no difference. 
It is the same Light. 
We will all be touched. 

What differs are the shadows 
each of us has wrapped about our hearts, 
those deceptive veils where we hide 
from the mercifully incisive brilliance of God. 

What veil might I lay aside today? 
Distraction, worry, vengeance, resentment, 
self-importance, laziness, 
a failure of intention in my choices, 
the enslavement of a toxic relationship?  

At this moment in time, what unveiling 
will allow me to embrace God’s amazing gift of life?

Will I look fully into God’s bright eyes today 
by facing my own heart? 
Will I let God look back at me 
through the hearts of those 
with whom I share this sunrise?   

Psalm 90: Where the Bees Hum

Tuesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

June 2,2020

Click here for readings

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90. As we re-enter Ordinary Time, I was so happy to see this beautiful psalm as the first in our new reflective approach!

Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is the only psalm attributed to Moses. Reading it, one can imagine him in his older years, considering his long relationship with God. As the story of his graced life unfolds in prayer, Moses prays too for the community with whom his years have been intwined.

Some of his same sentiments may fill our hearts as we pray for our own communities in the troubled times:

Relent, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Fill us at daybreak with your mercy,
that all our days we may sing for joy.


Sister Beatrice Brennan, RSCJ wrote an article entitled, Praying at 93”.  Sister reminded me of Moses when she wrote:

To live this long is an amazing grace. One of its unexpected joys is how alive one can feel spiritually as the slow dismantling of other human processes goes on.
The Bible speaks of “laughing in the latter day.” Prayer, for me, is like that at times. And always, a song of gratitude and joy.

I think Psalm 90 is that kind of prayer, one marinated in a long fidelity and trust. As Sister Beatrice goes on to say:

At a deeper, quieter level of consciousness runs an undefined awareness of God’s presence, similar, I think, to that union of old married couples who may rarely or never put love into words. It has become their life. So prayer becomes a steady underlying trust bearing me along.


Two poems that I hope will enrich your reflection:

IMG_3944

Now I Become Myself
Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before—”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!
~ May Sarton


 

IMG_3948

A Long Faith
This is the way of love, perhaps
near the late summer,
when the fruit is full
and the air is still and warm,
when the passion of lovers
no longer rests against
the easy trigger
of adolescent spring,
but lumbers in the drowsy silence
where the bees hum—
where it is enough
to reach across the grass
and touch each other’s hand.
~ Renee Yann, RSM


Music: Psalm 90 – Marty Goetz