Hard Oranges

Friday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 16, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings remind me of hard oranges, difficult to squeeze juice from!

We have in this passage from Deuteronomy part of Joshua’s farewell speech before he dies. He has accomplished what Moses could not – Joshua has brought the people into the Promised Land. In these verses, he recounts God’s faithful presence to Israel through all the years of struggle.

The spiritual message of the segment is clear: God loves us specially and faithfully, and we should love God in the same way.

What makes the passage difficult are the enduring political and justice issues inherent in it. The Israelites gain this land by war and the displacement of resident people. They consider that success a sign of God’s favor.

Many passages in the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, reflect a similar process. The community looks back over its successes and failures, interpreting them in the light of God’s faithfulness.

In our spiritual journey, we too are called to be reflective and grateful as we look back at our lives. But we are also called to a further essential step not clearly reflected in today’s reading.

We are called to change our hearts, to become merciful, to welcome strangers, to lay down the “sword” of conflict. Jesus calls us to a whole new understanding of God’s fidelity and favor.

This dichotomy comes to its full expression with Jesus. He was expected to be the regal and militant deliverer. Instead, he comes as a Lamb – meek and humble of heart – who dies for our sins.

As redeemed Christians, then, when we look at our lives for God’s Presence, we should find it in circumstances such as those Jesus gave us in the Beatitudes: humility, compassion, meekness, right relationship, mercy, holy sincerity, peace, courageous fidelity, Christian witness.

Music: Mass in B minor, Agnes Dei – Bach

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A Warning Sign

Thursday, March 21, 2019

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generous impulse

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us the disturbing parable of the rich man, sometimes called Dives, and Lazarus, a very poor man.

The story is disturbing because 

  • Lazarus suffers so desperately 
  • Dives is impervious to that suffering 
  • God won’t give Dives a break after his death
  • We fear being in either of these guys’ situations 

Probably, like most people, we’d rather be rich than poor. But would we rather be generous with that wealth or selfish? Do we ever find ourselves thinking thoughts like this, deciding we’re not responsible for the gap between rich and poor:

“I worked hard for what I have. Let everybody else do the same!”

That wealth gap cannot be mended simply by giving a dollar to a corner beggar nor by donating our wornout clothes to Goodwill. This kind of re-balancing requires a conversion of heart which touches our economic, political and moral understanding.

I was struck this morning by this headline from The Economist, a British weekly magazine.


How can today’s Gospel inspire and encourage us in a global culture that infcreasingly marginalizes persons who are poor, resourceless, and politically oppressed?

May the story of Lazarus and Dives influence us to use the powers we have to make just and generous decisions.

  • We can vote for just, generous and moral leaders. 
  • We can advocate for universally just policies. 
  • We can donate to compassionate causes. 
  • We can confront hateful speech and stereotyping. 
  • We can speak and act for justice, peace, inclusivity and mercy.

We just have to be courageous before, like Dives, it is too late for us.

Music:  Act Justly

To Life!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our passage from Hebrews is a strong encouragement for its readers to stay faithful to the hope that has been given us through our call.

eph1_17 call
from today’s Responsorial Psalm

Paul traces the evolution of that call by reminding his readers of Abraham who trusted God’s promise and patiently waited for its fulfillment. Paul says that God not only promised Abraham, God swore an oath to bless and multiply Abraham’s life.

This promise and oath of God’s faithful covenant is the root of our Christian hope, and the “anchor” of our life.

Green Rope

On this day, when the Church prays for the protection of unborn children, let us be conscious that the “right to life” extends beyond the womb, from “cradle to grave”.

Let us pray to honor and reverence all life and all Creation – those who are troubled, poor, sick, different from us, homeless and seeking refuge. Let us pray for political and economic systems that protect both unborn and born children, resident and refugee, privileged and marginalized … nourishing their right to life, freedom and the happiness of well-being.

Beloveds, let us give thanks for the life and faith we have been given, and let us share it generously.

Music: You Are Life ~ Hillsong Worship

Don’t Worry; Be God-like

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062318.cfm

lilies of the field

Today, in Mercy, Jesus once again blows all our human instincts to smithereens! He says don’t worry about what you’ll eat or wear. Seek God’s Kingdom and all your needs will be filled. Really?

We may be tempted to picture a hippie type, bird-watching and sun-bathing in a field of of flowers – all agog with the Kingdom, but not too swift with the world!

But that’s probably not what Jesus envisioned. After all, Jesus himself worked hard to secure the necessities his family needed in Nazareth. He worked hard at his ministry throughout the Holy Land, and cared deeply about the success of his message.

What He didn’t do was worry. 

Worry is what happens when we think it all depends on us. It’s what happens when it’s all about us. Worry is a windowless, doorless room where we run around aimlessly. Even God has a hard time getting in to reason with us.

To break out of that room, Jesus says seek God’s way of looking at things. Work hard and do your best – but make sure it’s for important stuff like love, honor, mercy, justice, charity, and peace. Make sure it’s not for “mammon” stuff like greed, selfishness, domination, prejudice and a host of other sins that love to worry us.

If we can make these distinctions in our life, we will have a freedom like the beautiful lilies and the unfettered sparrows. It will be an amazing liberty that the evil-hearted cannot understand or compromise.

Music: Consider the Lilies of the Field (Words below)

Consider the lilies of the field,
How they grow, how they grow.
Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sheep of His fold,
How they follow where He leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth.
The pains of all of them He carried
From the day of His birth.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

What Matters

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062018.cfm


Today, in Mercy, Jesus tells us how to pray and do good. He says that it is our deep-hearted intention that matters in these things. It is there, in the hidden heart, that God dwells with us and reads our love for its sincerity.

God is not impressed with any bling in our words or actions. Not impressed with the big, loud, or wow of what we do. God knows whether we truly love, and it is that which touches Him.

Let the words of Jesus today take you to that inner heart-room where God knows and loves you like no one else can. In that precious quiet, enter the silence of prayer. Listen to God with the soul’s ear that needs no sound. Speak to God with the humble love that needs no words.

Music:  Yo Yo Ma playing Meditation from Thaïs by Jules Massenet


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061418.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Jesus expounds on what a true, faithful life looks like. He uses the word “righteousness”, a word that occurs frequently throughout the Bible. 

“Righteousness” describes the perfect, balanced goodness of the heart of God. It is a balance in which Mercy and Justice complement and infuse each other; a balance of Love so exquisite that it generates the Eternal Life of the Trinity.

Righteousness 6_14_18

Jesus says that we must pattern our lives on that Divine Balance, not on a proud self-righteousness like that of the scribes and Pharisees. If our faith and religious practice do not generate reverence, love, mercy, justice and peace for ourselves and others, then we are skewed in our relationship with God.

Jesus says it is not enough to obey the letter of Law, and certainly not enough to boast about it. We must respond generously to the spirit of the Law which brings the soul into reconciliation with itself and all Creation. This is the new law of love …the true righteousness of a humble, faithful heart.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, it does nothing.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

Music: Lead Me Lord ~ Samuel Wesley (1861) A lovely old hymn that can serve as a mantra for prayer throughout your day.  Just let your heart sing it gently.

Finding Christ at the Ice Cream Freezer

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060718.cfm

Today, in Mercy, Paul continues to instruct Timothy on how to deepen his life in Christ.  He says,

“If we die with Christ, we shall also live with Him.”

Some of us, when we pray that verse, will picture ourselves on Calvary, literally dying beside Christ. But I think that our actual path to new life in Christ comes to us in much less dramatic ways. It comes to us in opportunities for selflessness, no matter how small.

I was at the supermarket one day, submerged in the ice cream freezer, looking for Turkey Hill Pineapple Sherbet. It is a rare find. 

pineapple sherbet

An elegant, older gentleman joined me, looking for the same thing.  I told him the sherbet had been recommended to me and that I would like to try it.  He confirmed the recommendation, saying it was his favorite.

We found only one carton. He turned to me and said, “You take it, because you’ve never had it before.  I have.” It may have seemed a small kindness, but it was much more.

That man’s selflessness has stayed with me many long years after the ice cream. Whether or not he was a Christian, he had died to himself.  The practice of openness to others’ needs – even a stranger’s – had become customary for him.

Our death to self and new life in Christ will be evident to others in our ordinary acts of selflessness and service.  It will become the customary way we find joy in life, and the way we give witness to a redeemed heart.

Music: Keep In Mind ~ Lucien Deiss

Corpus Christi

Sunday, June 3, 2018 ~ Corpus Christi

Readings:  http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060318.cfm

Pange 6_3_18


Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. We just called it “Corpus Christi” when we were young. And I still do. Many of us, of a “certain age”, will remember the extravagant processions through our childhood neighborhoods, the garmented priest carrying the monstrance. Little children and adults accompanied the journeying Christ who blessed our neighbors, families, businesses and playgrounds.

Certainly, our neighborhoods today could use such a blessing. But the practice has become outdated in most parishes. Instead, it is we – the People of God and living Body of Christ – who must carry Christ’s Presence to our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and commonplaces. How will you be Corpus Christi for the world today?

Music: Pange Lingua written by St. Thomas Aquinas


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052618.cfm

James 5_pray

Today, in Mercy, in our first reading, James tells us to pray. In the Gospel, Jesus gives us a wonderful clue about how to pray – with the innocence and openness of a child. Throughout our lives, as we deepen in our spiritual life, prayer becomes simpler. More often it is silence rather than words; presence rather than petition; quiet trust rather than expectation.

As with all relationships, the more comfortable we are with our companion, the fewer words are necessary. It is enough to sit quietly with someone we love to savor each other’s presence. So it is with prayer.  It is in this sense that St. Paul tells us to “pray always”. We are always in the loving presence of God Who delights in us and wills our good.

It is in this sense, as well, that our prayers are always answered. Our prayers are not requests or demands. They are the opening of our experience to the Presence of God so that God pervades our life with grace and holy understanding.

Because wordless music is a good analogy for prayer, please enjoy this rich orchestral rendition of Bach’s Arioso from Cantata 156, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, renowned conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra in the early and mid-1900s.

Come, Holy Spirit!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/052018-mass-during-day.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit comes to us to remain with us forever. May we open our hearts and souls to this infinite power of God within us!


The Pentecost Sequence is so beautiful.  You might like to find the phrase within the Sequence that most touches your heart and soul at this particular time in your life. Let that phrase bless you with the Holy Spirit’s Love.

May this be our prayer for today and the days to come:
Come, O Holy Spirit, come!
From Your bright and blissful Home
Rays of healing light impart. 

Come, Father of the poor,
Source of gifts that will endure
Light of ev’ry human heart. 

You of all consolers best,
Of the soul most kindly Guest,
Quick’ning courage do bestow. 

In hard labor You are rest,
In the heat You refresh best,
And solace give in our woe. 

O most blessed Light divine,
Let Your radiance in us shine,
And our inmost being fill. 

Nothing good by man is thought,
Nothing right by him is wrought,
When he spurns Your gracious Will. 

Cleanse our souls from sinful stain,
Lave our dryness with Your rain,
Heal our wounds and mend our way. 

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray. 

On the faithful who in You,
Trust with childlike piety,
Deign Your sevenfold gift to send. 

Give them virtue’s rich increase,
Saving grace to die in peace,
Give them joys that never end. 

Amen. Alleluia.

Music: The Pentecost Sequence in beautiful Gregorian Chant