Paid for in Advance!

Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

November 8, 2019

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already paid

Today, in Mercy, our readings are about spiritual wealth, stewardship and Godly generosity.

Paul starts us off by proclaiming that the wealth/riches of salvation belong to ALL humanity. He presents himself as a unique “steward “ of those riches to the Gentiles.

Our Gospel gives us a second interpretation of “stewardship” in the parable the wily steward. This fella’ gets called on the carpet for squandering his employer’s resources. Pink slip time! 

So the steward calls in some of the debtors and reduces their debt by the amount of his own commission. By doing this, he hopes to make some friends to support him in his impending unemployment.

Talbots

Many years ago, there was a Talbot’s outlet in the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philly (I know. Heaven, right?) You could get an amazing deal on the clearance items. But you got an even better deal if you went to a certain cashier for your checkout.

He was a tall, flamboyant and loudly funny guy. If a price tag was missing on an item, you got it virtually for free. He would make outlandish comments like, “Oh, honey, this isn’t your color so let’s discount it 50%.” If you bought two of the same item, he might announce,”Two for one today”, charging for only one. He was a living example of the Biblical steward! Over time, he developed a devoted buying community – those who had learned the secret of why people waited in his long line!

In today’s parable, Jesus isn’t advocating that we cheat our employers. The parable isn’t really about that at all. It is about the way he wants his disciples to be profligate in preaching the mercy of God.

Remember that this parable comes in between two blockbusters about Mercy- the Prodigal Son and Lazarus and the Rich Man. In a way, you might say Jesus is on a tear about the unbounded generosity of God in forgiveness and hope for us. He makes clear that the wealth of Divine Love is delivered to us by our unbounded Christian love for one another.

So today, maybe we can think about the Talbot’s guy. We have been abundantly blessed by God’s love for us. Let’s pay it forward over and over today… and every day. Let’s generously share the infinite discount of Mercy.

Music: Jesus Paid It All – Elvira M. Hall (1865) This rendition of the hymn by Kristian Stanfill (born 1983) is so interesting. Offered here with modern instrumentation, the words date back to the era of the US Civil War. Past and present meld in the ever eternal love God has for us.

Love or Hate? Huh?

Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

November 6, 2019

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Roman13_8 owe nothing

Today, in Mercy, Paul and Jesus seem to give us contradictory messages. Paul talks about love, and Jesus tells us what we must “hate” – a bit of a challenge to untangle the core message.

Here’s one way.

We don’t like Jesus telling us to hate anything, as in:

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,

and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.

Come on, Jesus! You don’t mean that do you – my sweet mom, my precious kids???

No, the scholars say, Jesus doesn’t mean “hate” the way we interpret it in modern English. He is using the common, hyperbolic language of the ancient East which, in this circumstance, would mean “love less”.

So what is Jesus really saying? 

This.

We love many people and things in our lives. But we must love God, and God’s dream for all people, above and within all things. 

And that’s not easy! Life is a maze of relationships and situations that can get us very confused about what is most important. That’s why Jesus uses such strong language to remind us that there is only one way through the maze: to love as God loves. This is the heartbeat of our life in God!

Paul says this too, indicating as well how to negotiate the maze by keeping Love’s commandments.

If we love with God’s love, of course we will love those we cherish. But we will love them selflessly, with an infinite generosity that always chooses their eternal good. And we will try always to love all Creatures in the same way. This is the kind of love Jesus taught us on the Cross. May God give us the courage to learn.

Music: Ubi Caritas performed by Stockholm University Choir (texts below)

Latin Text

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exsultemus, et in ipso jucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

English Translation
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice in Him and be glad.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love one.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time, therefore, are gathered into one:
Lest we be divided in mind, let us beware.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time we see that with the saints also,
Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the World without end. Amen.

With Honor, Prevent One Another

Tuesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

November 5, 2019

Readings: Click here for today’s readings

Today, in Mercy, Paul gives us one of his most heartfelt and beautiful passages, and Jesus offers us a puzzling parable about the kingdom.

Rms12_10 honor

Paul’s exhortation to sincere holiness is a passage that warrants frequent reading. At any given point in our lives, one or another of its encouragements will seem to ring profoundly true with our circumstances.

One of the lines that I particularly cherish goes like this in the old Douay-Rheims version, which is where I first encountered it as a young girl:

Love one another with fraternal charity:
with honor preventing one another.

The bolded phrase fascinated me. I didn’t understand what it meant. From what were we to prevent one another?

It was not until I came to the convent that I begin to discern the power of this verse. At the time (during the Dark Ages, of course), the Sisters lived under the 1952 Constitutions of the Sisters of Mercy, an adaptation of the ancient Rule of St. Augustine. As postulants, we each received a 4×6, 128 page copy of the Rule. In direct and intentional language, it set the frame for our whole lives.

I nearly memorized it, especially Chapter 14 on Union and Charity. Right in the middle of the Chapter, I found this precious line:

They (the Sisters) shall sincerely respect one another. The young shall reverence the old and all shall unceasingly try in true humility to promote constant mutual cordiality and deference, “with honor preventing one another”.

Sister Inez, our dear early instructor, explained that this meant to anticipate the needs of our beloved sisters, especially the elderly; to do for them what might be difficult for them before they had to ask. In other words, to prevent their need. She said that this anticipatory charity should mark our service toward everyone, especially the poor, sick and ignorant whom we would vow to serve.

The more all of us can live together with this mutual love and respect, the closer we come to the kingdom of God, to the banquet table described in today’s Gospel. Jesus came to gather us all around this table. Pity on those who resist his invitation because their lives are entangled in self-interested endeavors. Their places are taken by “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” and all those on the margins of society.

As we join our sisters and brothers at the banquet of life, may we love and serve one another sincerely, always with honor preventing one another.

Music: a little motion mantra this morning. Maybe you might want to get up outta’ that chair and join in🤗

Pray for Priests

Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop

November 4, 2019

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Romans11_33 depth of wisdom

Today, in Mercy, we remember the life of a good priest, Charles Borromeo who refused the perks of status and wealth in preference for the poor. Praying with him today, we may include all the good priests who have kindled our faith throughout the years.

I unexpectedly encountered one such priest yesterday after a hiatus of nearly forty years. He had come to McAuley Convent, our health and retirement facility, to visit his longtime assistant. She is now a stately 96 years old, but living with the compromises of advanced years. Himself in his late eighties, he walked very slowly down the corridor toward me, and I paused to see if I could help.

Greeting him, I recognized something about his eyes, but could not really place him. He paused, catching some labored breaths, and studied my eyes. “Give me a minute,” he said, quickly following it with “Nathaniel”, my old religious name.

He had the advantage over me, so I just honestly requested, “Help me out with your name.” He simply replied, “Maginnis”. As a wealth of memory and understanding opened in my mind, I smiled and said, “How good to see you again, Maginnis, after all these years.”

You see, this was: Robert Patrick Maginnis, an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1996 to 2010. (Wikipedia)

But who I saw, as soon as he said his name, was a humble, good man who had served God’s people with generosity and grace. I hadn’t seen him face to face since he was simply “Father”- when I was green with youth and he was just a shade or two deeper! 

But I knew, the way a local Church knows its shepherds, that he had never abandoned his gentle simplicity for the exalted trappings of episcopacy. He had remained a man who fulfilled Pope Francis’s best hopes for priests:

“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to seek and save what was lost…

Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ, solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, other interests.”
(Pope Francis in a homily before the ordination of 16 priests during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 22, 2018)

And here “Maginnis” was last Saturday, having endured his own challenges with aging, making the effort necessary to visit his faithful friend. As I left them in the warm light by her window, my spirit was confirmed by a grace neither one of them realized they were continuing to give, so natural was their witness to Christian love and service.

Let’s pray for all our priests today. These troubled times have been so hard on good priests like this beloved bishop. May they be strengthened and confirmed in their desire to serve Christ through serving his People. May the aged among them realize how grateful we are for the gift they have given.

Music: Who Has Known – John Foley, SJ ( Lyrics below)

O the depth of the riches of God;
and the breadth of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

For who has known the mind of God?
To God be glory forever.

A virgin will carry a child and give birth,
and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

For who has known the mind of God?
To God be glory forever.

The people in darkness have seen a great light; f
or a child has been born; his dominion is wide.

For who has known the mind of God?
To God be glory forever.

Let the Spirit Pray in Your Heart

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 30, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells us that our life is about getting to know God ever more intimately. Otherwise, when we come to our final moments, we may not be recognized by our Lord and Master.

Could this be possible? Could God not recognize the work of his own hands, the one made in God’s own image?

Probably not. But what I think the Gospel suggests is that if, throughout our whole lives, we have never prayed or drawn closer to God, God’s own image in us may be quite obscured after that disconnected lifetime.

Sometimes we might hear a person say that they don’t know how to get started talking with God in prayer. They seem to feel it’s kind of like a blind date where you end up realizing you have nothing in common with each other.

St. Paul says no, wait a minute. God is already within you simply by the nature of your creaturehood . You are made of the very stuff of God. In fact, the Spirit of God deep within our souls is like the fiery magma from a volcano. It erupts from our love and prays for us to the Creator – if we will only let it.

Rm8_26 groanings

Let us give the Spirit the space, time and invitation to rise up in our hearts, praying with us and through us. In the deep love of that relationship, we will know ourselves to be recognized and loved. We can trust that all things are working together for our good.

Music: Spirit Seeking Light and Beauty – by Janet Erskine Stuart, interpreted here by the Daughters of St. Paul (Lyrics below)

Spirit seeking light and beauty,
Heart still longing for your rest
In your search for understanding,
Only thus can you be blest,

Through the vastness of creation,
Though your restless thought may roam,
God is all that you can long for,
God is all creation’s home.

Taste and see God, feel and hear God,
Hope and grasp the unseen hand;
Though the darkness seem to hide you,
Faith and love can understand.

Loving Wisdom, guiding Spirit,
All our hearts are made anew.
Lead us through the land of shadows
‘Til we come to rest in you.

Hope

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

October 29, 2019

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102919.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Paul blesses us with some of his most powerful words:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

How often, over the ensuing centuries, have these words uplifted and embravened a struggling heart! Paul reminds us of what he so passionately believed – that we are not here for this world alone; that we, with all Creation, are being transformed for eternal life in God.

Jesus too reminds us that our life in faith is so much bigger than we perceive. We see a tiny mustard seed, but God sees the whole tree of eternal life blossoming in us.  We see a fingertip of yeast, but God sees the whole Bread of Life rising in us.

Rm8_24 Hope

Paul tells us to be People of Hope who do not yet expect to see the object of their hope but who, nonetheless, believe and love with all their hearts.

May we pray this today for ourselves, and for anyone burdened by suffering or hopelessness at this time in their lives.

Music:  Living Hope – Phil Wickham

Sinners Anonymous

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 25, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul sounds a lot like someone approaching the microphone at “Sinners Anonymous“:

I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.
The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the evil I do not want.

Paul basically attests to the fact that for human beings, even him, will and actions often don’t synch up. Sure, we want to be good people, but as Nike says, do we:

Do itJPG

Paul’s says no. The only way we do the good we will to do is by the grace of Jesus Christ.

In our Gospel, Jesus affirms the slowness of the human spirit to act on the realities around us. In some translations, Jesus uses a phrase which caught on with the architects of Vatican II: the signs of the times.

In our Gospel, Jesus is telling his listeners and us that we need to be alert to the circumstances of our world. It both weeps and rejoices. Where it weeps, we must be a source of mercy and healing. Where it rejoices, we must foster and celebrate the Presence of the Spirit.

In the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World), we read:

In every age, the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which people ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other. We must be aware of and understand the aspirations, the yearnings, and the often dramatic features of the world in which we live.

Although written in the 1960s, these powerful words hold true today. We are the Church of which the document speaks. We are the ones whom Jesus calls to respond with authentic justice and mercy to the signs of the times. Read the newspaper in that light today. Watch the news in that light. Meet your brothers and sisters in that light today.

Music: The Times They Are A’changin’ – Bob Dylan whose songs in the 50s and 60sbecame anthems for the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied popular music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture. (Wikipedia) (Ah, it was a good time to be young!)

The Swedish Academy awarded Dylan the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.

Be Life in a Culture of Death

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 24, 2019

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Rm6_21 death

Today, in Mercy,  Jesus says he has come to set fire on the earth! He says that, because of him, there will not be peace but division, setting households against one another. It’s not a comforting Gospel.

And guess what, we don’t live in a comforting world do we? We see human beings set against each other in war, political corruption, economic despoiling, human trafficking, ecological crime and other deeply ingrained systemic abuses.

Pope John Paul II in his encyclical EVANGELIUM VITAE refers to these realities as a “culture of death”.

Some threats come from nature itself, but they are made worse by the culpable indifference and negligence of those who could in some cases remedy them. Others are the result of situations of violence, hatred and conflicting interests, which lead people to attack others through murder, war, slaughter and genocide.

And how can we fail to consider the violence against life done to millions of human beings, especially children, who are forced into poverty, malnutrition and hunger because of an unjust distribution of resources between peoples and between social classes? And what of the violence inherent not only in wars as such but in the scandalous arms trade, which spawns the many armed conflicts which stain our world with blood? What of the spreading of death caused by reckless tampering with the world’s ecological balance, by the criminal spread of drugs, or by the promotion of certain kinds of sexual activity which, besides being morally unacceptable, also involve grave risks to life? It is impossible to catalogue completely the vast array of threats to human life, so many are the forms, whether explicit or hidden, in which they appear today! 

Paul says that, through our Baptism, we are called and strengthened to bear witness against such a culture:

But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

poor child

Every day, each one of us has the opportunity to stand up for mercy and justice by the choices we make, by the attitudes we affirm, by the values we stand for. But sometimes it’s hard, because it can set us against some of the people around and close to us. That’s when the rubber meets the road!

Music:  We Are Called – David Haas

An Obedient Heart

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 23, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul and Jesus both instruct and challenge their listeners and us.

Rm6_17 obedient heart

Paul wants us to understand that, through our Baptism, we are living in a whole new power for goodness and grace. The world may look the same as it did before we belonged to Christ, but it isn’t. 

To use a phrase from the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins,

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

If we see with the new eyes of grace, we will be able to respond to Jesus’s challenge:

Stay awake!
For you do not know when the Son of Man will come.

Stay awake. See the world and your life as they truly are  – places where God awaits you in every moment. Give your heart to listen lovingly to the sound of the Holy Spirit in your life. That obedient heart is precious to God!

Music:  Speak, O Lord – Kristyn Getty

Living Parables

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

October 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, Paul contrasts the sin of “Adam” to the gift of Jesus, demonstrating the specifics of Christ’s redemptive act.

Adam

A key phrase for our prayer might be the following. The concupiscence of human nature will always make the sinful choice a possibility. But we can gain courage and strength from this powerful line from Paul:

Where sin increased,
grace overflowed all the more….

Jesus teaches a lesson about perseverance in the spiritual life. He says if we stick with it, God will welcome us the way a generous master thanks and embraces a loyal servant. He adds a comforting thought for those of us of “a certain age”.

And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.

Yesterday, I attended a 95th birthday party for my Mistress of Novices. Fifty plus years ago, she guided a gaggle of hopeful and naive young nuns toward the depths of the spiritual life. She didn’t do it by words alone. She did it by faithful, humble, steadfast and joyful living in the Presence of God. Now, in the third watch, she is still doing the same thing – and she has done it for all the years in between…indeed, a blessed servant!

Catherine Rawley
Sister Catherine Rawley, RSM Happy 95th Birthday

This is what Jesus is talking about today. Look around you and see the parables alive in your own life, your own history, your own heart.

Music: Song of a Faithful Servant

(A simple, childlike song. Please excuse the spelling. There’s no way for me to fix it although I desperately want to)