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 1: Aligned to God

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

February 18, 2021


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 1, a familiar reminder of what a working relationship with God looks like:

Blessed the one who follows not
    the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
    and meditates on God’s law day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

The phrases in that little verse are so powerful! 

We have seen all too clearly what happens when people “follow the counsel of the wicked”. We know how easily we can be infected by the negativity of “the insolent”. There is a spiritual distemper in us when these fractious humors fill the atmosphere.

Instead, we seek the peace and delight of being right with God. We embrace God’s law as a support and inspiration to guide us.


When we think of God’s Law, we might rightly think of the Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Torah, the Gospel – those places where we find the Law codified in words.

But we might also think of God’s Law as that silent omnipotent force that lifts the sun from darkness and sets it down again, that holds the seas in their global bowl, that lights the night with fiery stars.

Affinity with God’s Law is that loving practice which, by intrinsic prayer and reflection, gives over every moment of our lives to God’s order. That alignment, rooting us in God’s “due season”, allows goodness to blossom in us like a fruitful tree – an unfading, abundant harvest …

Like a tree
    planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
    and whose leaves never fade,
    ever prospering.

Psalm 1:3

Poetry: Onto a Vast Plain – Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen.
You are not surprised at the force of the storm—
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit:
now it becomes a riddle again
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you know
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

Music: How Deep, How Simple – Kathryn Kaye

Psalm 29: Holy Splendor

The Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2021
We celebrate the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. The Christmas season, which celebrates the revelation of God through Christ, closes with this liturgy. Jesus’ Baptism begins his public ministry.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 29 in which the psalmist invites the pray-ers to find the power of God in the storm.

One can picture a small group huddled onshore as thunder ripples across the sea. The psalmist says not to focus on the storm itself, but:

  • to see the Power Who creates it
  • to find more than meteorological meaning in the experience
  • to be soaked not only in rain, but in grace.

Give to the LORD, you children of God,
give to the LORD glory and might;
Give to the LORD the glory due God’s name.
Bow down before the LORD’s holy splendor!

Psalm 29: 1-2

The psalmist invites the community to be sanctified by nature’s manifestation of God’s power.


As I wrote earlier this week, “This short post-Epiphany season is all about “manifestation” – how Jesus begins to show us the face of God-become-flesh.” Today’s Baptism of Jesus marks the glorious culmination of these manifestations.

I have always loved this feast. I imagine it as a moment in time when everything changes – when the Timeless Trinity steps through our human perceptions to fully reveal Itself in light, color, and sound. It is a quantum moment when, time suspended, Omnipotence speaks.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
    the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
    the voice of the LORD is majestic.

Psalm 29: 3-4

In an earlier blog, I offer a reflection on these thoughts. It contains a beautiful picture which I received the artist’s permission to share. I hope you can take time to read it again.


Our lives, too, are filled with potential manifestations of God’s power, with invitations to be bathed in God’s grace. As we pray today, let us allow our psalm to lower the barriers that keep us from hearing God’s voice in our own experiences.


Poetry: God Speaks by Rainer Marie Rilke

God speaks to each of us as God makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.

Music: “Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam” BWV 684 – “Christ our Lord came to the Jordan”) is a hymn by Martin Luther written in 1541. It has been set in many musical compositions, including cantatas and chorale preludes by Johann Sebastian Bach

Organist: Cecilia Yae-Jin Lee, Seoul Catholic Singers (On Youtube, there are several more prestigious organists playing this piece on magnificent organs. But I thought this young woman was extremely impressive rendering it on a rather simple instrument.)

Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam
Nach seines Vaters Willen,
Von Sanct Johann’s die Taufe nahm,
Sein Werk und Amt zu ‘rfüllen.
Da wollt’ er stiften uns ein Bad,
Zu waschen uns von Sünden,
Ersäufen auch den bittern Tod
Durch sein selbst Blut und Wunden,
Es galt ein neues Leben.

Christ our Lord came to the Jordan
in accordance with his father’s will,
he received baptism from Saint John,
to fulfil his work and ministry.
By this he wanted to establish for us a bath
to wash us from our sins,
to drown also bitter death
through his own blood and wounds.
This meant a new life.

Psalm 27: Can We Love Like This?

Wednesday after Epiphany

January 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, as we once again pray with Psalm 27, we do so in the light of our seminal first reading from John:

God is love, 
and when we remain in love 
we remain in God 
and God in us.

1 John 4:16

How can we love like that?

Psalm 27 tells us how God does it:

For the Lord rescues the poor who cry out,
and the afflicted who have no other help.
The Lord has pity for the lowly and the poor;
and saves the lives of the poor.

Psalm 27: 12-13

Our psalm gives us the measure for love in our lives. Who are the suffering ones in the circle of our experience? How are we widening that circle to offer loving mercy with greater energy and fidelity?


The Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy can be our guide as we seek to stretch our love in ever-widening circles.

The Corporal Works of Mercy

To feed the hungry
To give water to the thirsty
To clothe the naked
To shelter the homeless
To visit the sick
To visit the imprisoned, and ransom the captive
To bury the dead


The Spiritual Works of Mercy

To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To admonish sinners.
To bear patiently those who wrong us.
To forgive offenses.
To comfort the afflicted.
To pray for the living and the dead.


Poetry: Widening Circles – Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Music: The Mercy Song – Paul Alexander

Psalm 15: Camping with the Beloved

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious

November 17, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 15 which often is called an ‘entrance liturgy’, where a worshipper asks the conditions of entering the worship place and a priest answers.

The psalm’s first line, not included in today’s verses, asks that question of the Lord:

LORD, who may abide in your tent?
Who may dwell on your holy mountain?

Psalm 15:1

Reading this line immediately reminded me of Jesus’s first encounter with his chosen twelve. Upon meeting Jesus, and obviously struck with his unique charisma, the disciples ask, “Lord, where do you live?”. They want to be with him, to learn about him. We do too.


It’s a gift to be invited to someone’s home – to see where and how they live, to share their dailyness. It is a first portal to the intimacy of friendship, a gift beyond price when it proves mutual and true.

In today’s Gospel, in a sort of reverse proposal, Jesus invites himself to dinner at Zaccheus’s home. Throughout all the Gospels, we often see Jesus inviting and accepting invitations which prove to be conversions and calls for his followers.

by Plautilla Nelli, an Italian nun who is said to have taught herself to paint in the 16th century. This is a section of her “Last Supper,” painted around 1568, and now newly installed in the old refectory of the Santa Maria Novella Museum. Of course, it shows Jesus with the “beloved” disciple.

In the reading from Revelation, the invitation takes an apocalyptic and corrective tone, but its heart is the same. In essence, God invites us to an intimacy of which we are capable only under certain conditions, i.e. “if you hear my voice“:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If you hear my voice and open the door,
then I will enter and dine with you,
and you with me.
I will give the victor the right 
to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory
and sit with my Father on his throne.


Today’s segment from Psalm 15 tells us what some of those conditions look like. It says to be someone who:

  • walks blamelessly and does justice 
  • thinks the truth in your heart
  • slanders not with your tongue.
  • harms not your fellow human beings,
  • takes up no reproach against your neighbor
  • despises not the reprobate
  • honors those who fear the LORD
  • lends not your money at usury
  • accepts no bribe against the innocent

Our challenge from the psalm is to meditate on that list to see what such behavior looks like in modern terms. Beneath the psalmist’s ancient language, we might discover our attitudes and examine our conscience toward issues like:

  • criminal justice
  • capital punishment
  • war
  • poverty
  • immigration policy
  • refugee resettlement
  • propagandist media
  • economic equity
  • felon rehabilitation
  • respect for other religions
  • political oppression
  •  – just to suggest a few.

Psalm 15 tells us, and our other readings affirm, that the one who gets these things right not only gets invited, but gets to remain in God’s house, God’s “tent”.

The one who does these things
shall never be disturbed.

I know that’s Who I want to go eternally camping with! How about you?


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

You, neighbor God, if sometimes in the night
I rouse you with loud knocking, I do so
only because I seldom hear you breathe
and know: you are alone.
And should you need a drink, no one is there
to reach it to you, groping in the dark.
Always I hearken. Give but a small sign.
I am quite near.

Between us there is but a narrow wall,
and by sheer chance; for it would take
merely a call from your lips or from mine
to break it down,
and that without a sound.

The wall is builded of your images.

They stand before you hiding you like names.
And when the light within me blazes high
that in my inmost soul I know you by,
the radiance is squandered on their frames.

And then my senses, which too soon grow lame,
exiled from you, must go their homeless ways.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley, SJ

Psalm 24: God’s Face

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 23, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 24 which has been described as “an entrance psalm” for the Temple liturgies.

Praying Psalm 24 invites us to consider how we enter and meet God in the Holy Space of our lives. 

That space, first of all, belongs to God Who created all things. We do not create it. God opens it.

The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For the Lord founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

Psalm 24: 1-2

Everything within us and around us — that “fullness” of life — belongs to God. When we acknowledge this truth in humble faith and loving awareness, we realize that we already exist within God’s sanctuary:

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
The one whose hands are sinless, whose heart  is clean,
who desires not what is vain.

Psalm 24: 3-4

The journey of the spiritual life is about finding that still point in our souls where we see God’s Face in all things. That sacred stillness holds us in God’s Presence until we let go of ourselves within that Love. The Lord blesses that letting go with a “reward”:

That person shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God the savior.
Such is the race that seeks the Lord,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Psalm 24: 5-6

The psalm doesn’t clearly state what that “reward” is, but I think it might be the grace, insight, passion, and courage to live as Paul describes in our first reading:

to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit
through the bond of peace;  
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

Poem: The light shouts in your tree-top, and the face
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Poems from the Book of Hours

The light shouts in your tree-top, and the face
of all things becomes radiant and vain;
only at dusk do they find you again.
The twilight hour, the tenderness of space,
lays on a thousand heads a thousand hands,
and strangeness grows devout where they have lain.
With this gentlest of gestures you would hold
the world, thus only and not otherwise.
You lean from out its skies to capture earth,
and feel it underneath your mantle’s folds.
You have so mild a way of being.
……………………………………………They
who name you loudly when they come to pray
forget your nearness. From your hands that tower
above us, mountainously, lo, there soars,
to give the law whereby our senses live,
dark-browed, your wordless power.

Music: I Have Loved You – Michael Joncas 

I Have Loved You

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine;
I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.
Seek the face of the Lord and long for him: He will bring you his light and his peace.

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine;
I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.
Seek the face of the Lord and long for him: He will bring you his joy and his hope.

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine;
I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.
Seek the face of the Lord and long for him: He will bring you his care and his love.

I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine;
I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you and you are mine.

Jeremiah: An Ancient Love

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 5, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a beautiful pastoral segment from Jeremiah. This Responsorial Psalm follows on the first reading, both passages affirming God’s everlasting love for us.

Jeremiah wrote at a time of great suffering and confusion for Israel. The Kingdom was falling apart, having been beset by overwhelming enemies. Near the end of Jeremiah’s life, the nation falls into the Babylonian Captivity. Much of the Book of Jeremiah prophesies, judges, and laments these troubles.

But today’s verses come from Chapters 30 – 33, part ofJeremiah often referred to as the “Book of Comfort” or “Little Book of Consolation.” These are the brighter and more hopeful chapters of an otherwise heavy set of writings.

Moreover, these three chapters speak to a significant shift in understanding God’s relationship with Israel. The original covenant with Abraham is stated in conditional terms- “You will be my People and I will be your God”. I hate to use the now sullied term, but it was sort of a “quid pro quo”.

The renewed covenant described in Jeremiah is an unconditional relationship sustained, despite Israel’s weaknesses, by a Divine and Everlasting Love, by the Good Shepherd:

As Israel comes forward to be given his rest,
the LORD appears to him from afar:
With age-old love I have loved you;
so I have kept my mercy toward you.


As we look over our lives past and present, we can pray in gratitude that we are embraced by the same Ancient and Everlasting Love.

Probably each of us has had a few personal little “Babylons”. We may even have had some of our personal “temples” destroyed. You know, those self-absorbed campaigns and petty addictions that distract us from the sacred essence of our life that:

We are God’s Love made flesh,
called to live in that Truth.


Video Poem: Three Poems from Rilke’s Book of Hours

Music: This Ancient Love – Carolyn McDade

Psalm 105: Seek God’s Face

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 8, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 105:2-7, a hymn to God’s omnipotent fidelity. The same hymn, with minor variations, appears in the First Book of Chronicles where it is attributed to David after the Ark of the Covenant, which had been lost during battle, was brought home to the tabernacle.


Psalm 105 is also a companion piece to Psalm 106, the first recounting God’s wondrous mercies; the second lamenting Israel’s ungrateful response.

Our passage today is really a call to remember God’s goodness to us and to our communities.

Look to the LORD who is Strength;
seek to serve God constantly.
Remember the wondrous deeds God has wrought,
the signs, and the judgments God has spoken.

The second line here is very important. If we do remember, we will “seek to serve”, to respond by being at one (obedient) to God’s hope for us.


As we pray today, we might want to take a walk down memory lane with God, noticing all the blessings of our lives.  We might pay particular attention to the things we once resisted which eventually proved to be disguised benedictions.

Our psalm response today reminds us that God is in everything, even those dark places where God waits to lead us through. We pray for the spiritual insight to look for God in all things.


Poetry: The light shouts in your tree-top, and the face – Rainer Maria Rilke

The light shouts in your tree-top, and the face
of all things becomes radiant and vain;
only at dusk do they find you again.
The twilight hour, the tenderness of space,
lays on a thousand heads a thousand hands,
and strangeness grows devout where they have lain.
With this gentlest of gestures you would hold
the world, thus only and not otherwise.
You lean from out its skies to capture earth,
and feel it underneath your mantle’s folds.
You have so mild a way of being.
They
who name you loudly when they come to pray
forget your nearness. From your hands that tower
above us, mountainously, lo, there soars,
to give the law whereby our senses live,
dark-browed, your wordless power.

Music: Remember Mercy – The Many

The Raising of Lazarus

800px-Raising-of-Lazarus
from wiki commons

Evidently, this was needed. Because people need
to be screamed at with proof.
But Jesus knew his friends. Before they were,
he knew them; and they knew
that he would never leave them
desolate here. So he let his exhausted eyes close
at first glimpse of the village.
And immediately he seemed
to be standing in their midst.
Here was Martha, the dead boy’s sister.
He knew he would always find her
at his right hand, and beside her
Mary. They were all here.
Yet opening his eyes it was not so.
He was standing apart,
even the two women
slowly backing away,
as if from concern for their good name.

Then he began to hear voices
muttering under their breath
quite distinctly; or thinking,
Lord, if you had been here
our friend might not have died
.
(At that, he seemed to reach out
to touch someone’s face
with infinite gentleness,
and silently wept.) He asked them the way
to the grave. And he followed
behind them, preparing
to do what is not done
to that green silent place
where life and death are one. 

Merely to walk down this road
had started to feel like a test,
or a poorly prepared-for performance
with actors unsure of their lines,
or which play they were supposed to be in;
a feverish outrage rising inside him
at the glib ease with which words like “living”
and “being dead” rolled off their tongues.
And awe flooded his body
when he hoarsely cried,
“Move the stone!”

“By now he must stink,”
somebody helpfully shouted.
(And it was true, the body
had been lying in the tomb
four days.) But he was far away,
too far away inside himself
to hear it, beginning
to fill with that gesture
which rose through him:
no hand this heavy
had ever been raised, no human hand
had ever reached this height
shining an instant in air, then
all at once clenching into itself
at the thought all the dead might return
from that tomb where
the enormous cocoon
of the corpse was beginning to stir.

In the end, though, nobody stood
there at its entrance
but the young man
who had freed his right arm
and was pulling at his face,
at small strips of grave wrappings.
Peter looked across at Jesus
with an expression that seemed to say
You did it, or What have you done? And all
saw how their vague and inaccurate
life made room for him once more.

~ by Franz Wright from a fragment by Rainer Maria Rilke ~

Music: Franz Schubert – The Raising of Lazarus ( For more info on music, click here )