Monday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Monday, August 30, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96. Following as it does on our first reading from Thessalonians, the psalm is an encouragement to trust God completely and to demonstrate that trust in unconditional praise.

The tone of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians suggests that, since his last visit, many of their community have died. The people are grieving, and they are unsure of what their new faith offers them.

Reading this passage today, I was taken back a few months to the first wave of COVID through our local Mercy community. Several of our sisters died. Their deaths came relentlessly, one after the other. There was a painful point at which we hated to hear the phone ring in the morning because it carried so many daily losses to us.

When, after weeks of bereavement, we were unlocked to visit one another again, there was a stunning emptiness in so many of the beloved spaces of our community!

We, who loved these sisters and the brave beauty of their generous lives, felt a grief reminiscent of the emotions in this plaintive song from Les Miserables.

That same kind of grief ripped though our nation this week with the murders of thirteen service members and nearly 200 Afghans at the Kabul airport as they sought freedom and peace.

from PBS.org

Death is cruel, and when it comes in a ravenous cluster, it is overwhelming. It was to such an overwhelmed community that Paul wrote these words:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
about those who have fallen asleep,
so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose,
so too will God, through Jesus,
bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessolonians 4:13-14

This remarkable hope, this blessed assurance, is the defining character of the Christian heart. It is the power that lifts us out of darkness and gives us the courage to praise God in all circumstances.

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.
Sing to the Lord and bless the divine name;
proclaim the good news of our salvation from day to day.
Declare the glory of the Lord among the nations 
and the wonders of God among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, 
more awesome than all other gods….

Psalm 96: 1-4

… “more awesome than all our gods”…

even the false gods of death and war …

We are a people called to believe the declaration of today’s Gospel, that Jesus Christ is among us to restore Creation to eternal life:

He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
        because he has anointed me
            to bring glad tidings to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
        and recovery of sight to the blind,
            to let the oppressed go free,
    and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll,
he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21

And it is fulfilled every day,
in our lights and even in our shadows,
if we but believe.

Bring us, O Lord, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven,
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginning, but one equal eternity;
in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end.

Prayer of John Donne

Poetry: John Donne (1572–1631)- Death Be Not Proud (Holy Sonnet X)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.

Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Music: Benedictus – 2Cellos

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, a song which dances with jubilation. It filled my prayer with images and music. No worded reflection … no Vatican documents. Just let the exuberant scriptures uplift you today.

That’s what I share with you today, beloveds❤️


Sing to the Lord! Toss away any old dirge trying to weigh your spirit down!


And sing anew because Jesus has given us this infinite gift.


Poetry: I Call You Beloved – Rabindranath Tagore

When You command me to sing, 
it seems that my heart would break with pride, 
and I look to your face, and tears come to my eyes.
All that is harsh and dissonant in my life 
melts into one sweet harmony—
and my adoration spreads wings 
like a glad bird on its flight across the sea.
I know You take pleasure in my singing. 
I know that only as a singer 
I come before your presence.
I touch, by the edge of the far-spreading wing of my song, 
Your feet, which I could never aspire to reach.
Drunk with the joy of singing, 
I forget myself and call you Beloved, who are my Lord.


Music: Two songs, one classical, one a little devilment, but I couldn’t help singing it.🤗

  1. For beauty: A New Song by James MacMillan

  1. For fun: Joy to the World – Three Dog Night

Psalm 96: There Are No Others

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

January 26, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, a call to witness God’s sovereignty over and faithfulness to the whole world.

The tone of Psalm 96 is slightly different from some other psalms which call for national rejoicing. It does not suggest that God loves Israel better than other nations, therefore taking their side in history. Psalm 96 simply encourages gratitude for and witness to God’s saving power:

Sing to the LORD a new song;
    sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
    among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.

Psalm 96: 1-3

Like Israel, we walk a fine line in discerning how God loves us, both individually and as a member of the many “tribes” with which we align ourselves. Does God love Americans more? Or white people? Or Black people? Or Italians? Or the Irish? Or straight people? Or Christians? Or the wealthy? Or Phillies fans? (Well, yeah, probably Phillies fans 🙂 )


Ramana Maharshi (1879 – 1950) was an Indian Hindu sage. He is regarded by many as an outstanding enlightened being. He was a charismatic person, and attracted many devotees,
some of whom saw him as an avatar and the embodiment of Shiva.

He was once asked,
“How should we treat others?”
He replied,
“There are no others.”


It seems that we have some innate need to compare ourselves favorably against “others”. That need, unchecked and fed by fear, is at the root of any oppressive nationalism, such as the white Christian nationalism we saw displayed in the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Jason Meyer, Pastor for Preaching and Vision in Minneapolis, writes this:
” We must always reject any attempt to fuse together one’s national/political identity with one’s Christian identity in a way that equates or conflates allegiance to country with allegiance to God.”


In an excellent article from Sojourners, Walter Brueggemann elucidates the prophet’s role in contradicting the forces that enshrine the totalism which leads to idolatries like distorted nationalism.
(totalism: the practice of a dictatorial one-party state that regulates every form of life such as that which existed under King Solomon in ancient Israel)


Psalm 96 gives us another view of what really made Israel “chosen” – their example to all nations to praise our shared Creator as the Source of all stability and equity.

Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
    give to the LORD glory and praise;
    give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R.    Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
Who made the world firm, not to be moved;
    who governs the peoples with equity.

Psalm 96: 7-8

Poetry: For Whom the Bell Tolls – John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Music: Imagine – John Lennon

Psalm 96: Let the Whole Earth Sing

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

December 29, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, an exuberant song of praise and an imperative to radical hope.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless the Holy Name.

In the scriptures, hope is both a spiritual and political act. Hope stands up in the midst of pressing contradictions and declares, “God is with us. We give praise because of this conviction”.


Walter Brueggemann defines these elements in true praise:

  • First, praise is an act of imagination, not description. It sees the world through the lens of faith and dares to line out a world engaged in dialogical transactions between Creator and Creation.
  • Second, hymns of praise are acts of devotion with political and polemical overtones. Their work is to engage in “world making.” The very act of praise itself envisions a new world, a different world, a world alternative to the one in front of us.
  • Third, the Psalms voice and are embedded in a larger narrative in which YHWH (God) is the key character and lively agent.
  • Fourth, doxology (praise) is the exuberant abandonment of self over to God. In singing praise, all claims for the self are given up as the self is ceded over to God.
  • And fifth, such songs do not passively accommodate to an economic, political, and psychological status quo. They run the risks of being disruptive for the sake of another world 

—- a “Christed” world in which God is intimately engaged with our lives.


Thus we can rejoice in the closing verses of this dynamic psalm:

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;g
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them.
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice
before the LORD who comes,
who comes to govern the earth,
To govern the world with justice
and the peoples with faithfulness.

Psalm 96: 12-14

As the new week unfolds, and we move lingeringly away from Christmas comforts, we may forget what we have just commemorated…

Emmanuel- God With Us

As we re-enter a world still in frightening shadows, we must believe in the Light. As we slowly re-robe in the clothing of our daily responsibilities, we must not forget the Garment of Salvation we have just celebrated and received. 

Our Psalm calls us to be a daily witness to the Love we have been given:

Announce the Lord’s salvation, day after day.
Tell the Lord’s glory among the nations;
among all peoples, God’s wondrous deeds.

Psalm 96:2-3

Poetry: Hope by Philip Booth

Old spirit, in and beyond me,
keep and extend me. Amid strangers
friends, great trees and big seas breaking,
let love move me. Let me hear the whole music,
see clear, reach deep. Open me to find due words,
that I may shape them to ploughshares of my own making.
After such luck, however late, give me to give to
the oldest dance… Then to good sleep,
and - if it happens - glad waking.

Music: Sing a New Song – J.P. Putnam, sung here by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

I wanna sing a new song
Shout it out louder than before
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
Yeah yeah
Oh-oh-oh...

There is a place
We can seek his face
Changed in his presence
Touched by his grace

There is a sound
I hear it all around
Worship is rising
And people crying out

I wanna sing a new song
Shout it out louder than before
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing

It's a song of praise
A song for all of the redeem
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing

Never the same
He's taken my chains
There's freedom in Jesus
Power to save
There is a name
Like no other name (like no other name)
There's freedom in Jesus

(Come on, let's shout it)
Shout out his name
I wanna sing a new song
Shout it out louder than before
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
It's a song of praise
A song for all of the redeemed

Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I wanna sing a new song
Shout it out louder than before
Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
It's a song of praise
A song for all of the redeem

Let the whole earth sing
The whole earth sing
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Oh yes, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah say
(Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah)

One more time sing
(Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah)
Somebody say God, you're glorious
(God, you are glorious)
God, you are glorious
(God, you are glorious)

Psalm 96: The Lord’s Triumphant Coming

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs

November 24, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, a royal psalm praising God as the King of all Creation.

The psalm’s first verses, not included in today’s passage, call us to sing and dance before the King.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.

Psalm 96: 1-3

We might pray this psalm with deep consciousness of our place in Creation, in the divine handiwork of this generous King. We have been given life alongside a panoply of beautiful creatures in order that we might, together, sing God’s song.

We sing in a choir of evening stars and morning sunrises, beside choristers of great redwoods and lofty mountains. We join in the prayerful music of the rainbow of animal and human voices rising to praise God.

A dear friend posted this yesterday. I thought it was delightful.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.

Psalm 96: 11-12

As we continue to draw down the curtain on the final days of this liturgical year, the daily readings draw our attention to the end of time – when all God’s created munificence will be finally gathered to the Eternal Presence.

Once, on a retreat with the Wernersville Jesuits, I went to their recreation room and played a 33 1⁄3 rpm record (yes, it was that long ago!). It was Wagner’s triumphant Ride of the Valkyries. You can listen to the music by clicking below.

The music engaged my spirit and no words were needed for my prayer. I imagined a Glorious Light rising over time’s darkness, a rider on the Dawn’s steed. 

I pictured us all coming to that Light in waves of praise, one order of creation after the other, over the hills of time and into a merciful, eternal Brilliance.

Each wave rose out of any darkness, pain, or death that might have  hindered them. They broke on to God’s merciful shore and were embraced in Light.

…. the meanest souls of history first, bowing repentant before God’s forgiveness. Then one wave after another, finally coming to the most innocent, the poor and the humble. These heroes of the Beatitudes marched triumphant, their places beside God already prepared, their faces already redeemed by God’s justice

The Lord comes to rule the earth.
to rule the world with justice 
and the peoples with constancy.

Psalm 96:13

The prayer of imagination can open the heart in a way far beyond words. It does take time to place ourselves in the quiet peace that welcomes such prayer. But I think it is so worth it. Our psalm might be inviting us to that kind of prayer today.


Reflective Reading: Prayer of Imagination for Anna the Prophetess
from Twelve Women of the Chalice – Leddy Hammock and Sue K. Riley

Now, in this moment I close my outer eyes 
and look within with my inner eyes.
I see a vision of wonder,
for I am the daughter of the vision of God,
of the tribe of the blessed ones,
a soul under grace.

I judge not by appearances.
I believe in God’s promises.
I fast from shadows and I live on light.
From my youth, I have served at the temple,
a vessel to a holy purpose.

Prayer is the temple where I dwell
Here I behold the image of the Lord.

I close my eyes and behold that image,
the eyes of the Infinite beholding me
all through the ages,
so tenderly gazing with love and compassion,
enfolding me.

Prayer is the temple where I dwell.
Here, I behold the image of the Lord.

The thoughts held in mind 
are mirrored in kind all around me,
reflecting through all that I see.

Now, I behold with inner vision
the wonders that will be in the fullness of time.
The dreams of all my days and nights
are incensed in the inner sanctum.

My thoughts of truth are flowers on the altar of light.
In the presence of the Holy of Holies,
I keep the high watch.
Gifted with the inner sight,
I see beyond the present.

I am an old, old soul, yet ageless in eternity.
Though outer eyes may seem to dim with time,
the inner eyes are crystal clear.

Though outer vision may seem obscured by time and place,
or clouded by the sorrows and the slavery of sense,
another world’s revealed so clear.
And what I see will be.

My thoughts are giving form,
And held in mind, shall reproduce in kind.
O Lord, I take a long loving look at the real.
I prophesy.

Christ is here.
I have seen the Lord, Thine image, 
and held that image to my own heart.
I am the Spirit of Imagination.
I am Anna, the prophetess, woman of power.

Psalm 96: A New Song

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 18, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, one of the “royal psalms” praising God as King.

Bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness.
Tremble before God, all the earth;
declare among the nations: The LORD is King.
The world will surely stand fast, 
never to be shaken.
The Lord rules the peoples with fairness.
The Lord rules the peoples with fairness.

Psalm 96: 9-10

Our psalm today forms a link between two readings about two different kinds of human kings.

In our first reading, we hear about King Cyrus, an “anointed” one:

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
subduing nations before him …

Isaiah 45;1

In fact, Cyrus the Great respected the customs and religions of the lands he conquered. This became a very successful model for centralized administration and establishing a government working to the advantage and profit of its subjects. Israel thrived under Cyrus and found no barriers to their own religious practices


In our Gospel, however, the Pharisees try to trap Jesus by testing him about their current political leadership, which is not so kindly inclined to the people:

Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

Matthew 22:17

Jesus’s answer pretty much tells to Pharisees to obey the legitimate law. But that answer is secondary to his real challenge to them:

Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?


Our psalm is the praise song of a people who do not “test” God; who receive both the blessings and trials of life with faith and hope, and seek the path to God within those circumstances.

A “Cyrus” builds up that holy courage in the people. A “Caesar” only builds up himself.


In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul shows himself to be such an “anointed” leader, praying for and encouraging the Church in the journey of faith:

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
before our God and Father …


Today, there’s a lot of politics swirling in the wind – a lot of discerning about leadership and our own brand of “kings”. The current sufferings of our time cause our hearts to long for “a new song”.

The readings today remind me that the only way our spirits can …

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Tell God’s glory among the nations;
among all peoples, God’s wondrous deeds

… is by living Paul’s formula – “to live our lives as a work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.


:Sing a New Song – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Psalm 96: Singing in the Rain

 Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

August 25, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96 which calls the people to praise God in music and dance because they have been chosen and confirmed as God’s People. 

The psalm may have been composed by David to mark the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. At that time, Israel had a sense of great victory, restoration, and security as David assumed kingship at God’s command.

But today’s particular verses have an eschatological tone. They turn the attention of the praise singer to the overarching fact that God is infinitely larger than any present small victory. They imply that the only true victory and restoration are found in complete abandonment to God’s power in our lives no matter our situation.

Say among the nations: The Lord is king.
God has made the world firm, not to be moved;
God governs the peoples with equity.


That Divine Power is easy enough to sing about when things go well for us, as they were for Israel at that time. But can we still praise God’s dominion and power when things seem bleak, when we don’t feel in control of our reality?

Psalm 96 invites us to that deep abandonment of self into God’s unfailing Mercy, no matter our life’s weather.

Declare among the nations: The LORD is king.
The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken.
God rules the peoples with fairness.

When we struggle to find that kind of holy equanimity, Psalm 96 suggests we look to nature, and to its persistent return to Divine Balance, even after upheaval. So too will any unbalance in us be restored within the infinite arc of God’s abiding love. And that is the real reason to always sing God’s praise!

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.

Before the Lord Who comes;
Who comes to rule the earth.
God shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with constancy.

Poetry: To Him Who Is Feared by Eleazar Ben Kalir
Translated by Lady Katie Magnus
from the Liturgy for Rosh Hashana

To Him who is feared a Crown will I bring.
Thrice Holy each day acclaim Him my King;
At altars, ye mighty, proclaim loud His praise,
And multitudes too may whisper His lays.
Ye angels, ye men, whose good deeds He records—
Sing, He is One, His is good, our yoke is the Lord’s!
Praise Him trembling to-day, His mercy is wide—
Ye who fear for His wrath—it doth not abide!
Ye seraphim, high above storm clouds may sing;
Men and angels make music, th’ All-seeing is king. 
As ye open your lips, at His Name they shall cease—
Transgression and sin—in their place shall be peace;
And thrice shall the Shophar re-echo your song
On mountain and altar to whom both belong. 

Music: O Sing Unto the Lord – Handel