Rejected

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

March 13, 2020

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Mt21_42rejected

Today, in Mercy, there is a great sadness in our readings.

The poignant opening line from Genesis immediately strikes us:

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons,
for he was the child of his old age

Joseph

We picture young Joseph in his beautiful rainbow coat and, under an olive tree’s shade, old Jacob(Israel) proudly, tenderly, watching him play.

As the story ensues to reveal the later betrayal of Joseph’s jealous brothers, we are left astounded. Such treachery, especially among brothers, sickens the heart.


Our Gospel picks up the sad theme because Joseph and his brothers are archetypes of Christ’s story with humankind.

800px-The_Wicked_Husbandman_(The_Parables_of_Our_Lord_and_Saviour_Jesus_Christ)_MET_DP835802
The Wicked Husbandman by John Everett Millais shows the owner’s murdered son

Jesus tells a parable in which he is actually the unnamed main character. He is the Son sent by a loving Father. He is the one rejected, beaten and killed by the treacherous tenants of his Father’s garden.

We know from our familiarity with Scripture that both these stories ultimately come to glorious conclusions. But today’s readings do not take us there. They leave us standing, mouths dropped open, at the dense meanness of the human heart, at the soul’s imperviousness to grace, at the profound sadness Jesus felt at this point in his ministry.

In our prayer today, let’s just be with Jesus, sharing his sadness for the meanness still hardening our world. Let us comfort him with our desire to be open to God’s Grace and Mercy.

Music:  Handel:Messiah – He was despised and rejected – Alfred Deller

No Shadow of Turning

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

February 18, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, James continues with his spiritual encouragements. 

For one thing, he makes it clear that God doesn’t tempt us. Some of us make the mistake of thinking that, saying things like, “God is testing me.”

James, outlining a perfect way to examine one’s conscience, says this:

No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”;
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and God himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his own desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.


 

I don’t really like to talk about sins; I’d probably much rather commit them!!!! So if we have some little labyrinths of temptation and sinful habits ensnaring us, we should listen to James. He encourages us to examine and check our own concupiscent  desires as they are the seeds of our spiritual undoing. 

In my experience, these desires are usually disguised, pretending to be beneficial for us at first sight. But underneath, they are rooted in selfishness and excess, deviating us from our center in God. Just think how some of the famous ones have masqueraded into our lives: Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust, Greed, Wrath (Vengeful Anger).


In the second part of this passage, James takes the tone up a notch. He reminds us that, once centered on God, we realize that only good things come from God.

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

I particularly love that last phrase, rendered in our hymn today like this:
James1_17 no shadow

It’s beautiful to see how James, as a real spiritual leader, is so aware of his flock’s human struggles. No doubt, he shares them. What a blessing that his wise and loving guidance has come down through the ages to us!

Music: Great Is Thy Faithfulness- Chris Rice

The Green-Eyed Monster

Thursday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

January 23, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, both David and Jesus deal with the effects of immense popularity.

jealous

In David’s case, Saul is so jealous and threatened by David’s military success that he plots to murder him. Saul’s son Jonathan, David’s dear friend intervenes to turn his father’s evil intention. Ultimately though, Saul remains a man destroyed by jealousy.


 

green eye

Jealousy is aptly characterized as the “Green-Eyed Monster”:

The phrase ‘green-eyed jealousy’ was used by, and possibly coined by, Shakespeare to denote jealousy, in The Merchant of Venice, 1596.

In Othello, 1604, Shakespeare refers explicitly to the ‘green-eyed monster’ as jealousy when treacherous Iago counsels Othello:

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;
But, O, what damned minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!


These powerful words capture what it is like to feel, or to be the object of, jealousy – a feeling which grows out of one’s own insecurity. But since it is a feeling, it is not a sin. It is when we act on our jealousy, as Saul planned to do, that we sin.

I think, at sometime in our lives, most of us have experienced jealousy- either as donor or recipient. How we responded either fortified or eroded our character. Sincere reflection on those responses can continue to help us grow in charity.

Thinking about that, I benefitted from reading this passage from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Jealousy is here taken to be synonymous with envy. It is defined to be a sorrow which one entertains at another’s well-being because of a view that one’s own excellence is in consequence lessened. Its distinctive malice comes from the opposition it implies to the supreme virtue of charity. The law of love constrains us to rejoice rather than to be distressed at the good fortune of our neighbor.

Our daily prayer and ever-deepening relationship with God can free us to face any “green-eyed monsters” we encounter, turning them into occasions of grace. Let’s pray for that!

Music:  Envy and Jealousy – Sweet Comfort Band (Lyrics below)

He Must Increase

Saturday after Epiphany

January 11, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, John talks a lot about sin. But I think he’s talking about more than the itemized laundry list of mistakes we sometimes reckon as sin.

Catholic-Sin300

It all seemed so simple when we were in grade school, didn’t it?
Well, dealing with sinfulness in the world
is a lot more than milk bottles!



John is describing the drenching atmosphere of darkness that falls over a soul turned in on its own gratification. Pope Francis’s quote referenced yesterday captures this atmosphere:

“Jesus, at the Last Supper, does not ask the Father to remove the disciples from the world, but to protect them from the spirit of the world, which is the opposite.” The Holy Father emphasized, that it is, “even worse than committing a sin. It is an atmosphere that renders you unconscious, leads you to a point that you do not know how to recognize good from evil”.

John likens this atmosphere to idol worship:

Children, be on your guard against idols.

Most of us are beyond worshipping golden calves, but we may still be allowing ourselves to be distracted from the centrality of God in our lives.

calf

What are some potential idols that could desensitize our souls to the ravages of evil? Greed, lust, and narcissism rise to the top of the list. Caught in the grasp of these idols, human beings become oblivious to astounding evils such as war, slavery, economic oppression, sexual exploitation, corporate dishonesty, technological dehumanization, and all the other rampant abuses befuddled human beings foist on one another. 

When you see the effects of such evils reported on the evening news, do you sometimes ask yourselves, “How could a person do such things to another human being?” 

What we are seeing is evidence of souls who have died to God’s Presence within their hearts. They are indifferent to the effect of their choices on anyone but themselves.

Jesus came to open our eyes and to free us from the bonds of such sin. As the Presence of God grows in us, so does our awareness of all that is dissonant with that Presence.


We pray with John the Baptist today that we may grow in God and diminish in any selfishness that blinds us to the difference between good and evil in our lives.

Pope Francis tweeted today:

In worship, we learn to reject what should not be worshiped: the god of money, the god of consumerism, the god of pleasure, the god of success, the god of self.


Music:  I Must Decrease – Andrew and Saskia Smith ( Words below.)

God has a sovereign plan for our lives.
We won’t find it within ourselves.
But in seeking His will, His cross,
“Lose your life for My sake,” Jesus says.
Allowing ourselves to be poured out in service for Him,
first we decrease, He must increase.

I must decrease, He must increase.
I must decrease, He must increase.

The whole earth is His footstool. Who am I?
Shall the thing formed say to its Maker,
“Why hast thou made me thus?”
I must decrease, He must increase.

God has a sovereign plan for our lives.
We won’t find it within ourselves.
But in seeking His will, His cross,
“Lose your life for My sake,” Jesus says.
Allowing ourselves to be poured out in service for Him,
first we decrease, He must increase.

Lord, I exist to worship You.
Lord, I exist to worship You.

The whole earth is Your footstool.
I am thine, Lord. I exist to worship You.
The whole earth is Your footstool.
I am thine, Lord. I exist to worship You.

Lord, I exist to worship You.
Lord, I exist to worship You.
Oh yes, Lord, I exist to worship You.

A Sacrifice of Praise

Monday, July 2, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070218.cfm

sacrifice of praise

Today, in Mercy,  our readings are harsh. We don’t want to think about our sinfulness, do we? We’re doing the best we can. Right?

Well, maybe not. 

Our Old Testament brethren thought they were doing fine, too. But today’s reading from Amos lashes out at the societal sins of Israel: slavery, prostitution, systemic oppression of the poor, obstinate immorality, and idolatry. Beloved Israel – the nation that God had delivered from Egypt – had lost its way! 

The prophet Amos demands that the people look in a mirror to see what they have become. He tells them that they are not doing OK, that they are a selfish mess, that they face the crushing wrath of God!

Today’s psalm reinforces the dire warning:

~  You use religion to justify your misdeeds
~  You deal with thieves and adulterers
~  You lie and provoke violence by your words
~  You slander and spread rumors in order to keep power over others
Remember this, you who never think of God!

Sounds kind of familiar, maybe? Describes our 21st century reality too, doesn’t it? 

Many of us read these passages and think, “Thank God I’m not doing any of this terrible stuff!” But that’s not enough. What we must ask ourselves is how we passively contribute to any of these societal sins by a myopic faith, plastic morality, prejudiced politics, and unexamined cultural choices. 

Do we approve, or at least stay silent, when religion is used to ostracize people? When political power crushes the rights of those we disagree with? When our entertainment relies on violence and dehumanization of people? 

It is painful and difficult to do this deep examination of conscience. We might all find ourselves complicit, in some way, with the evils we hate and fear. 

Let the closing words of today’s psalm encourage us:

“Consider this, you who forget God,
lest I rend you and there be no one to rescue you.
The one who offers a sacrifice of praise glorifies me;
and to the one that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God.”

Music: Sacrifice of Praise ~ Alvin Slaughter

Lord I lift a song of worship
For Your glory and Your grace
Let my heart reveal all my words fail to say
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise

On the mountain in the valley
As I wait in my secret place
I will trust trust in the name of the Lord
Now receive this sacrifice of praise
Now receive this sacrifice of praise

You’re my shield. You’re my shelter
From the storm and from the rain
Cover me beneath the shadow of Your wings
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise

Hallelujah hallelujah
Hallelujah to Your name

For all You’ve done
You are and evermore will be
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise
Lord receive this sacrifice of praise