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

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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

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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.)