Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95. 

This psalm and our other readings today are filled with rocks. So that seems to be the symbol speaking to us today.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Psalm 95 is a summons to rejoice, but laced within it are stern reminders to remember and repent.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
    “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
    as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your forebearers tested me;
    they tested me though they had seen my works.”

Psalm 95: 8-9

The rock referred to in the psalm is the one Moses struck to release the waters. It is a contentious episode where the Israelites test God and Moses wavers in his faith.

These are the waters of Meribah,
where the children of Israel contended against the Lord,
and where the LORD’s sanctity was revealed among them.

Numbers 20:13

On the other hand, the rock in our Gospel passage refers to the strength and stability Peter receives and which will endure through the ages.

And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18
Latin inscription on dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome – ” Tu es Petrus — You are Peter and upon this rock…”

So the “rock”, like any symbol, takes its meaning and relevance from the circumstances which surround it. 

This is true as well  for the “rocks” we meet in our own lives. Some are sources of strength, some nearly insurmountable obstacles.  Some are a test, some a consolation.

Praying with today’s psalm and other readings, we might take the time to reflect on our current or past “rocks”. 

May we realize and gratefully remember how God gives life-giving water even from these seemingly unyielding sources.


Poetry: Sorrow – Renee Yann, RSM

You must be alone
    with sorrow
    before you can leave it,
    or it will crush you
    like a black, heavy rock.

    You must drive into
    the hollow of its face,
    under the ledges
    it projects against you.
    Feel its cold granite
    pressed to your grain.

    In time,
    it will allow your turning
    to rest your back
    within its curve.

    Only then,
    you will be free to leave it,
    walking lightly once again
    on yielding earth.

    When you return, it will be freely,
    on a pilgrimage,
    to touch the name you carved once
    with the anguish of your heart.

Music: Rock of Ages

“Rock of Ages” is a popular Christian hymn written by the Reformed Anglican minister, the Reverend Augustus Toplady, in 1763 and first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1775.

Traditionally, it is held that Toplady drew his inspiration from an incident in the gorge of Burrington Combe in the Mendip Hills in England. Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was traveling along the gorge when he was caught in a storm. Finding shelter in a gap in the gorge, he was struck by the title and scribbled down the initial lyrics. The fissure that is believed to have sheltered Toplady (51.3254°N 2.7532°W) is now marked as the “Rock of Ages”, both on the rock itself and on some maps.

Psalm 95: Image of God

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

March 11, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95, another frequent friend of our prayer.

Psalm 95 is an “enthronement psalm” which calls us to worship God as Ruler. Our verses today also use the images of Rock and Shepherd as images to help us understand the nature of God’s presence in our lives.

We can know God only through images. Most of us don’t have direct revelations. 😉 The images we choose and cultivate have a profound impact on our relationship with God and on how we live our lives in God’s image.

Psalm 95 offers us two pictures of God today. These two metaphors evoke some similar sentiments. They also contrast in other ways. Praying with ikons like these can be a beneficial way to come deeply into God’s Presence by touching into our deepest spiritual needs.


Poetry: Rainer Maria Rilke, Poems from the Book of Hours

You are the future, the great sunrise red
above the broad plains of eternity.
You are the cock-crow when time’s night has fled,
You are the dew, the matins, and the maid,
the stranger and the mother, you are death.
You are the changeful shape that out of Fate
rears up in everlasting solitude,
the unlamented and the unacclaimed,
beyond describing as some savage wood.
You are the deep epitome of things
that keeps its being’s secret with locked lip,
and shows itself to others otherwise:
to the ship, a haven — to the land, a ship.


Music: Made in the Image of God – We Are Messengers

Psalm 95: Listening Softly

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 31, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95, once again a call to a holy tenderheartedness – that mix of love, discernment, and generosity that magnetizes us into dynamic relationship with God.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
    “Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
    as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
    they tested me though they had seen my works.”

Psalm 95: 7-9

Our other Sunday readings, which Psalm 95 anchors, clarify the reason we seek this tenderheartedness. It is so that we might not only hear, but really listen and respond to the Truth of God in our lives.

Those who will not listen to my words
which a prophet speaks in my name,
I myself will make them answer for it.

Deuteronomy 18:18

In our first reading from Deuteronomy, the people were confused. They were passing into a new land with lots of rivaling religions and spiritualities. Moses was nearing the end of his life and leadership over them. They wanted to know who to listen to and how to behave in order to stay in God’s favor.

God promises that God’s voice will come through a prophet like Moses:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.

Deuteronomy 18: 19

In our Gospel, we see Jesus – the fulfillment of the Deuteronomic Promise. The people witnessing his power are amazed. They struggle with whether they can believe in him when he seems just one of them, a Nazarene, Joseph’s son.

But some could believe – readily. Some, like the disciples, discerned quickly the Truth Jesus was. They heard, listened, believed and obeyed the Word.

Our psalm suggests that such readiness, such tenderheartedness comes from the consistent practice of relationship with God through praise, witness, thanksgiving, prayer, worship, humility, and obedience.


To me, it boils down to this:

  • let your life unfold in God’s Presence
  • be silent under God’s loving gaze
  • thank God for all you have been given
  • realize you are nothing without God
  • listen to your life as God speaks it to you
  • act on what you hear
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
    let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving;
    let us joyfully sing psalms to the Lord.
R. If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
    let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For the Lord is our God,
    and we are the people God shepherds, the flock God guides.

Poetry: Rumi

I keep telling my heart,
“Go easy now.
I am submerged in golden treasure.”
It replies,
“Why should I be afraid of love?”

Music: Soften My Heart – by Music Meets Heaven

Psalm 95: Tender Your Heart

Thursday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

January 14, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95. It’s a very popular psalm and we have prayed with it several times.

Today, Paul quotes it in his letter to the Hebrews, following up with this warning:

Take care, brothers and sisters,
that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart,
so as to forsake the living God.

Hebrews 3:12

Our psalm suggests that God was pretty fed up with the hard-heartedness of the folks following Moses through the desert.

Forty years I was wearied of that generation;
    I said: “This people’s heart goes astray,
    they do not know my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my anger:
    “They shall never enter my rest.”

Psalm 95: 10-11

Praying with these thoughts, we might ask ourselves where our own hard-heartedness lies. Though some of my readers may be perfect 😉, I’m not – and there may be a few of you like me. I have been, and still am sometimes, a chilly heart, an indifferent heart, an arrogant heart, even a vengeful heart.

We are even, at times, resistant to God as God is revealed in our life challenges.

Our psalm invites us, as both Paul and the psalmist invited their people, to humbly trust God’s ability to soften our hearts – even through what we may perceive as a desert.

We are asked to yield to God and let God’s mysterious grace blossom in us.

Come, let us bow down in worship;
    let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For this is our God,
    and we are the people God shepherds and guides.

Psalm 95: 6-7

Poetry: Listen – Paul J. Willis

A lake lies all alone in its own shape. 
It’s not going anywhere. 
A lake can wait a long time 
for a hiker to come 
and camp on its shore. 
It will reflect the moonlight, 
give him a drink of pale silver. 
Toward dawn, the wind might ruffle 
it a little, and the water 
will have words with the granite. 
Once the hiker goes away 
through October meadows, 
the lake will sparkle by itself. 
You’ll never see it. There is
so much you will never see.

Music: Tender Hearted – Jeanne Cotter

Psalm 95: Advent’s Threshold

Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

November 28, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95. As we pray its laudatory verses, we are invited to stand on the very threshold of Advent.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into the Lord’s presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to our God.


Even though the pre-dawn sky seems essentially unchanged, we can sense the First Light waiting to spring over the horizon. And, oh, how we long for it! How we need it to illuminate the shadows of this pandemic year, to warm the long cold of separation and loss, to fill the stunned silence of our hearts with a new rising song!

For the LORD is a great God,
and a great king above all gods;
God holds the depths of the earth,
and the tops of the mountains
like jewels in a loving hand.
God made and owns the sea
and the dry land, forming them from the Divine Imagination!


We join the whole Church as we pray today’s psalm refrain:

We ask God to prepare Advent’s doors in our hearts and spirits. It is time to be renewed in faith, hope, and love. Over the coming season, God will guide us to that longed-for Light. 

So for this last pre-Advent day:

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us,
who is our God,
and we are the people Love shepherds, 
the flock Love guides.


Poetry: Advent Credo by Allan Boesak

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.

From Walking on Thorns, by Allan Boesak, Eerdmans, 2004.

Music: Threshold – Adam Hurst

Psalm 95:Hear the Voice

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 95, a favorite of liturgists, and one we have met several times before. What different light might it offer us today as we pray?

The psalm today serves as a bridge between powerful readings about neighborly love and fraternal correction. These readings tell us to listen for God’s heartbeat in our world and to enter its rhythm. 

They also tell us to love our neighbor enough that, if she or he is out of synch with God’s rhythm, we help align them by our counsel and example.

Have you ever tried to do that? It’s really tough!


First of all, we have to be so vigilant about the purity of our own intentions. We can’t instruct our friends in righteousness out of our own confusion. So often, our desire for others to “improve” grows out of our opinionated self-interest. You might remember what Jesus said about extracting the plank from our own eye before removing the splinter from our neighbor’s!


Next we really have to love our sister or brother and sincerely want their good. We have to forgive them any hurt they have caused us. We have to be bigger than most of us, speaking for myself, are inclined to be.

As the psalm tells us, we can’t have hard hearts. As we approach our sister or brother, our hearts must be softened by listening, patience, understanding, humility and hope. We have to be sure the “voice” we’re sharing comes from God not self.

Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.

And the flip of all this, of course, is that when we are the one out of rhythm, we receive loving correction in the same spirit of openness.

Lots of Grace is needed on both sides of this dance! May we learn and receive it!


Poetry: The Gift by Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

Music: Let Me Hear Your Voice – Francesca LaRose

Psalm 95: The Real Voice

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 20, 2020

From this liturgical date in 2016:  

Monday, July 18, 2016: Today, in Mercy, we pray to do as the prophet Micah says. As our intense political season begins, we pray that our leaders – and we citizens – may do right, show real goodness, and find the courage to be humble. May we have the insight to shun a democracy built on values opposite to these. May God bless and inspire all who would lead us and may God bless and heal our country.


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we will pray with Psalm 95, our Alleluia Verse. Today’s Responsorial is Psalm 50, which we have reflected on twice recently.

The verse from Psalm 95 is an often repeated one, and presents us with a clear ultimatum:

But how do we do that?
How do we hear God’s voice?
How do we avoid a hardened heart?


When I was a little girl, I loved to read the stories of the saints. I was particularly impressed by the life of the brave St. Joan of Arc, not only because she got to ride a horse, but because she heard heavenly voices. I thought it was very nice of God to tell Joan exactly what to do to be holy.

I waited a few years, probably from age six to nine, for God – or at least St. Michael, my parish patron – to speak to me. You know, just in case God had anything important for me to do, like take a small army over to New Jersey or something like that.

When I was 9 or 10, I fell in love with Jimmy Danvers and put my saint books in my bottom drawer. I still listened for God, but started not to expect an audible conversation.


What I failed to realize at that young age was that the conversation had already begun. I thought about God, prayed and tried to be a pretty good person. I went to Mass every day since 5th grade. I began to serve others in the way I thought Jesus would want to do it. With the help of my parents and teachers, I had made the choice to invite God’s heart into my heart.

Finally, I came to understand that God was speaking to me, and to everyone else, all the time. My job was to keep my heart’s ear open, softened, by my choices for Love.


Prayer is the communication of the soul with God. 
God is love, and love is goodness giving itself away. 
It is a fullness of being 
that does not want to remain enclosed in itself, 
but rather to share itself with others.

Saint Edith Stein

When we do this, each day brings us deeper and deeper into the Silent Word Who breathes forth the story of our lives. That sacred breath takes as many forms as there are creatures. Joan of Arc was one holy form. So am I. So are you.


Literature:  from Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw

Charles VII:  Oh, your voices, your voices. Why don’t the voices come to me? I am king, not you!

Joan: They do come to you, but you do not hear them. You have not sat in the field in the evening listening for them. When the angelus rings, you cross yourself and have done with it. But if you prayed from your heart and listened to the thrilling of the bells in the air after they stopped ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do.


Music: Holy Ground – John Michael Talbot

Verse 1
This is holy ground
We’re standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy
This is holy ground
We’re standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy

Verse 2
These are holy hands
He’s given us holy hands
He works through these hands
And so these hands are holy
These are holy hands
He’s given us holy hands
He works through these hands
And so these hands are holy

Verse 3
These are holy lips
He’s given us holy lips
He speaks through these lips
And so these lips are holy
These are holy lips
He’s given us holy lips
He speaks through these lips
And so these lips are holy

Play Ball!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings tell us to LISTEN!

opening day

Looking at my graphic for today, you may wonder how I’m going to connect that command to baseball’s Opening Day. Watch! 😊⚾️

There’s no better feeling than an “opening day” feeling. No matter how bad you were last year, you have a clean slate for the new season. You’ve had a chance to assess your weaknesses and rehab them. You’ve been able to add some strengths you needed but had neglected. You’ve got another carte blanche chance to be everything you were born to be! Now you’re standing in the batter’s box just listening for that thrilling phrase, “Play ball!”

Guess what! You’ve been doing all the same things throughout Lent. You’ve taken a look at your life and straightened a few things out. You’ve dusted off the plate, so to speak, and you’re ready to start fresh as Easter approaches.

Today’s readings are telling us to tune in, listen, for God’s coaching in our lives. The game of life plays out for us in ways we could never imagine. But God imagines- and will guide us through to home plate if we just “hear God’s voice and harden not our hearts”.

So, “Play ball”, friends! 

Music: The Voice of God – 4HIM


Soften That Stony Heart!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Click here for readings

psalm 95 copy

Today, in Mercy, our first reading quotes at length from Psalm 95, and the message is reprised in the Responsorial Psalm.

Harden not your hearts.

We all know what it feels like to harden our hearts. We do it out of anger, fear, exhaustion, frustration and so many other reasons. We feel like the only way to protect ourselves and our space is –yes– to build a wall! Put up those bricks made out of our stony faces, curt words, numbing silence, distancing indifference – our hardened hearts.

Today’s reading tells us that is never God’s way.

The way to freedom, peace, self-respect, joy and fullness of life is always found in relationship – in building bridges.

Jesus builds a bridge in today’s Gospel by connecting with the leper. This leper has been walled off from society by illness and disfigurement. Most people’s hearts are hardened against him, but Jesus is “moved by pity” at the leper’s isolation.

The leper, too, has built a bridge by reaching through his own hardened heart in faith and trust. Surely all the years of mistreatment had made him wary of trust, had immobilized him in self-protection. But he allows himself a courageous plea to Jesus, and he is heard.

It is no easy challenge to soften a hardened heart. Some of our walls are very high, some of our bricks very heavy. But, one by one, we can choose opportunities for forgiveness, kindness, understanding, patience, encouragement, listening and companionship – even, and especially, toward those estranged in any way from us or from themselves. And even toward ourselves when we have become hardened to our own beauty and goodness.

To begin might take only a smile, a prayer, a phone call, a small kindness, an invitation, a moment of ordinary conversation…. just these might start to crumble a wall, to soften a heart.

Music: Soften My Heart, Lord (and adding a second song, just because I think you’ll like it.)