Alleluia: God of the Storm

Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 2, 2022

Alleluia, alleluia.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080222.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we begin with a puzzling passage from Jeremiah. Verses 12-15 describe an Israel which, spiritually, is terminally ill.

For thus says the LORD:
Incurable is your wound,
grievous your injury;

There is none to plead your case,
no remedy for your running sore,
no healing for you.

Jeremiah 30: 12-14

The puzzling part comes with the dramatic shift at verses 16-17 when God seems to step out of Israel’s storm to cure her:

Yet all who devour you shall be devoured,
all your enemies shall go into exile.
All who plunder you shall become plunder,
all who pillage you I will hand over to be pillaged.l

For I will restore your health;
I will heal your injuries—oracle of the LORD.
“The outcast” they have called you,
“whom no one looks for.”

Jeremiah 30: 16-17

So what’s the point of the whole Jeremiah passage for us? Perhaps for today we can find that meaning in Matthew’s story of the stormy sea.

… the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.

It’s rather easy to find God on a clear, pleasant day. It’s not so easy when God walks toward us out of life’s storms. Jeremiah was challenging Israel to find God in a storm. Jesus is challenging Peter to trust and do the same.

God doesn’t send storms to test us. Life is just stormy some times — that’s just the way it is. Faith asks us to trust that God is with us at such times and can use even chaotic circumstances to bring us closer to God’s heart. Hananiah was afraid to believe that so he made up a lie. Peter was half-brave enough to try to believe, and Jesus helped him the rest of the way.

At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”

Oh boy, that first step into nothing but waves is a doozy, isn’t it! But with God’s help, we can pass through the storm holding God’s hand into even deeper faith and trust for the rest of life’s voyage.

But when Peter saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Poetry: Catastrophe Is Next to Godliness – Franny Choi

Lord, I confess I want the clarity of catastrophe but not the catastrophe.
Like everyone else, I want a storm I can dance in.
I want an excuse to change my life.
The day A. died, the sun was brighter than any sun.
I answered the phone, and a channel opened
between my stupid head and heaven, or what was left of it. The blankness
stared back; and I made sound after sound with my blood-wet gullet.
O unsayable—O tender and divine unsayable, I knew you then:
you line straight to the planet’s calamitous core; you moment moment moment;
you intimate abyss I called sister for a good reason.
When the Bad Thing happened, I saw every blade.
And every year I find out what they’ve done to us, I shed another skin.
I get closer to open air; true north.
Lord, if I say Bless the cold water you throw on my face,
does that make me a costume party. Am I greedy for comfort
if I ask you not to kill my friends; if I beg you to press
your heel against my throat—not enough to ruin me,
but just so—just so I can almost see your face—

Music: God of the Storm – The Freemans

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 107, a poem filled with images that hold secrets for our spiritual journey:

They who sailed the sea in ships,
    trading on the deep waters,
These saw the works of the LORD
    and God’s wonders in the abyss.

Psalm 107:23-24

Those who have the opportunity to see the ocean in its many moods will quickly understand the analogy. 

Life is an ocean, but we are not sailing it alone.

That’s what the Lord suggests to Job in our first reading, and what Jesus points out to the nervous disciples in our Gospel.

Psalm 107 tells us that when life distresses us we should do just what the disciples did:

They cried to the LORD in their distress;
    from their straits he rescued them,
God hushed the storm to a gentle breeze
    and the billows of the sea were stilled

Psalm 107: 28-29

It also suggests us that we can hope for this result:

They rejoiced that they were calmed,
    and  brought to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks fo the Lord’s kindness
    and  wondrous deeds to us all.

Psalm 107:30-31

The message of today’s readings for me is trust and hope
— in both calm and storm. Let’s pray for it.


Poetry: blessing of the boats – Lucille Clifton

                                    (at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that.


Music: Secret Ocean – Peter Kater

Psalm 119: The Truth

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 3, 2020

 

Today, in Mercy, we pray for a persevering faith. Sometimes, it is very late into our prayer that the unexpected answer comes to us. May we recognize it and welcome it out of the darkness. We pray especially for those who have endured long years of prayerful waiting: for those with chronic illnesses, for the elderly, for widows and widowers, for those who want to believe but can’t.

from 2016

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a return to Psalm 119. Set today between fascinating passages from both Jeremiah and Matthew, our psalm presents us with a particularly strong challenge:

Let my heart be perfect in your statutes,
that I be not put to shame.

In our first reading, the false prophet Hananiah tries to put Jeremiah to shame by preaching a rosy prophecy in contradiction to Jeremiah’s difficult but truthful “fire and brimstone” warnings. Hananiah eventually gets caught in his own lies.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter discovers another dimension of truth – that without faith, he cannot endure the storm


Psalm 119’s verses are a prayer to stay true to the Law, the Word, even in difficulty and storm. 

The psalmist recognizes our human propensity sometimes to create the world we want rather than face the one we have. We do it by lying to ourselves and others until, eventually, our alternative universe falls apart – just like Hananiah’s.

Because, like Peter, we focus on ourselves and our fears, we miss Jesus’s invitation to walk in faith over our life’s rough waters.


Our psalm today voices our prayer not to get twisted on life’s road, to have the courage to embrace the truth of ourselves, our environment, and our world. That truth is revealed when we love and live God’s Law by our justice and mercy toward all Creation.

From your ordinances I turn not away,
for you have instructed me.


Poetry: from Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,a
And that has made all the difference.

Music: Long and Winding Road – Beatles song sung by David Archuleta

What God Will You Give Your Life To?

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

April 1, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we see faith tested by fire.

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In our first reading, three young men stand convinced of God. Even the threat of a fiery death cannot shake them from that conviction.

And their faith is not a quid pro quo – a case where they say to God, “I’ll believe if you do ‘X’ for me.” No, their commitment is unqualified and complete:

If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are cast into the furnace, a fourth figure appears with them, an angel of God who delivers them safely through their trial.

fire


In our Gospel, even “the Jews who believed” in Jesus begin to quibble with him. They stand with him at the threshold of his Passion and Death, the great fire that will test them all. Like the three young men at the furnace, they face the ultimate choice:

Who do you really believe in?

What God will you give your life to?

Jesus challenges them to follow him into the fire that faces him:

Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you …
… if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.

Throughout our lives, our faith will be tested many times. That’s why it’s called “faith” and not “certainty ”. Our life circumstances will ask us, again and again, if our faith is strong enough to stand in the fire, to walk the Calvary road with Jesus.

Let the testimony of the ages inspire us with courage. We know the fire hid an angel. We know the road continued past the bloody hill and on to the Resurrection. We know that every storm will pass and leave us washed anew in grace if we make that ultimate choice to be faithful.

Music: Praise You in This Storm – Casting Crowns

Breath and Heartbeat of God!

Saturday, April 14, 2018: Today, in Mercy, Jesus walks across the stormy water to meet his frightened disciples. They are afraid of the wind, the night and the wonder of Jesus. As human beings, we harbor many fears even if we pretend to be very brave. We may be afraid of failure, loneliness, responsibility, insignificance, aging, dying or a thousand other things. Essentially, what we most fear is that we might be unloved or unlovable. Jesus comes to us through the night of any fear to prove that we are irrevocably loved. Even in darkness, we are the precious breath and heartbeat of God!

“Who would I be, and what power would be expressed in my life,
if I were not dominated by fear.” ~Paula D’Arcy~

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