Lent: Healing the Wounds

March 4, 2022
Friday after Ash Wednesday

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah cuts his listeners no slack — and, remember, we too are his listeners.

In this powerful passage, the prophet shatters the pretenses of those who make a show of religion. Speaking with God’s voice, Isaiah lambastes those who fast and pray but practice no works of justice and mercy.

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.

These “fake fasters” are left wondering why God doesn’t answer their prayers. The prophet tells them that God isn’t fooled by their pretenses:

Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?


Isaiah says that God’s not into sackcloth and ashes. God’s into good works of mercy and justice. These are the actions that change our hearts, opening us to deeper relationship with God.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.


Listen, dear friends. It can’t be clearer than that.

In a world full of “prosperity gospels”, false piety and pretend religion – used to justify all kinds of injustice – we may get mixed up sometimes about what pleases God.

Let’s really open our hearts to Isaiah’s message and try to rid our own lives of any pretense about these things.

Let’s confront such hypocrisy when we see it used to subtly oppress rather than to lift up others.

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.


Perhaps we might spend sometime today thinking about that “wound” we need healed. Might there be some harbored prejudice, indifference, fear, or ignorance that distances us from others who are different, vulnerable, or in need?

Isaiah cautions that until that wound is healed,
we will never hear God’s true answer to our prayers.


Poetry: from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

Then said a rich man, “Speak to us of Giving”.

And he answered:
“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard
for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring
to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand
as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?

And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have

and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire
makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life,
and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving,
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks,
and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

It is well to give when asked,
but it is better to give unasked, through understanding;
And to the open-handed
the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.

And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving
may be yours and not your inheritors’.

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights
is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life
deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be than that which lies
in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?

And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride,
that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver,
and an instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life –
while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

And you receivers – and you are all receivers –
assume no weight of gratitude,
lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives.
Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity
who has the free-hearted earth for mother, and God for father.

Music: Respond – Collin Campbell (Lyrics below)

Oh how long will you cry out
And never truly seek my face
You come to me with heavy hearts
But you ignore what makes mine break

I see your thoughts, I hear your words
And I have watched you as you’ve prayed
I’ve told you my desires
But you don’t follow all the way

Children, I’m crying out
Break the chains
Let the oppressed go free
Empty yourselves to those in need
Be my hands Be my feet
What you do unto them You do unto Me

Every day you lift your voice
And await my swift response
But I see only what’s inside
And it’s (what i see on the inside) an offering I don’t want

Children, I’m crying out
Break the chains
Let the oppressed go free
Empty yourselves to those in need
Be my hands Be my feet
What you do unto them You do unto Me

Then your Salvation will come like the dawn
And my glory will be your shield
When you call on My name I will not turn away
I am Your God And I am here
And your light it will shine from the dark
You will be like a free flowing stream
And when you call on My name I will not turn away
I am your God And I am here

Where Does God Live?

January 27, 2022
Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we might take this question to our prayer: where does God dwell for me?

In our reading from Samuel, David had received an oracle (divine message) through the prophet Nathan. (see 2 Samuel 7:1-17) The essence of the three-way conversation is this: David is putting on the trappings of his kingship, including some fancy housing. He decides that God deserves a great house too and that David is going to build it. God says something like, “Hold up, David! — I’m the Divine Architect and Builder.” David is forcefully reminded that everything he has depends on God. In today’s passage, David humbly acknowledges all this while begging God to stay true to the promise of Israel’s prosperity:

Who am I, Lord GOD,
and who are the members of my house,
that you have brought me to this point?
Yet even this you see as too little, Lord GOD;
you have also spoken of the house of your servant
for a long time to come:
this too you have shown to man, Lord GOD

You have established for yourself your people Israel
as yours forever, and you, LORD, have become their God.
And now, LORD God, confirm for all time
the prophecy you have made
concerning your servant and his house,
and do as you have promised.

2 Samuel 7:18; 24-25

While these chapters tell us the great story of emerging kingship and messianic hope in the Judeo-Christian tradition, they also offer us some simpler thoughts for our prayer this morning.

Through our Baptism, we have been made temples of the Holy Spirit. We are made so by the grace and power of God so that we can reflect God’s Presence in our times. We are not all that different from David (except maybe we’re an uncrowned mini-version!)

It’s crucial to remember Who it is that built my “house” or “temple”.
I have not built a house for God.
God has built a house for me,
crafted from Baptismal Grace,
Confirmational Hope and
Eucharistic Love.

As God promised David, so God promises me, within the community of faith, to faithfully answer my prayer which might echo David’s:

Your servant now finds the courage to make this prayer to you.
And now, Lord GOD, you are God and your words are truth;
you have made this generous promise to your servant.
Do, then, bless the house of your servant
that it may be before you forever;
for you, Lord GOD, have promised,
and by your blessing the house of your servant
shall be blessed forever.”

2 Samuel 7:28-29

Poetry: Rabindranath Tagore

While God waits
for his temple
to be built of love,
men bring stones.

Music: Dwelling Place – John Foley

  1. I fall on my knees to the father of Jesus,
    The Lord who has shown us the glory of God.
  2. May he in his love give us strength for our living
    The strength of his spirit the glory of God.

Refrain
May Christ find a dwelling place of faith in our hearts.
May our lives be rooted in love, rooted in love.

  1. May grace and peace be yours in God our father
    and in his son (Refrain)
  2. I fall on my knees to the father of Jesus,
    The Lord who has shown us the glory of God (Refrain)

Lovers or Liars

January 6, 2022
Thursday after Epiphany

I know: the title sounds like a new TV series, doesn’t it?
But it’s not. It’s a story as old as time!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, John talks about liars. He made me really think.

Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!

When I was a kid going to weekly Saturday night confession (yes, remember a lot of us did that!) I really had to scrape to get a decent pile of sins. I mean, honestly, how much evil can one eight-year-old generate in a week?

  • But lying was always a good fallback to report on. You know the deal:
  • I told my teacher that I forgot my homework when I really hadn’t done it.
  • I told Petey Nicolo I could beat him up when I knew I couldn’t.
  • I told Chickie Schmidt I could ride a big bike like hers when I had actually just fallen on my face off a smaller one.
  • I told Sister I wasn’t smoking in the girls’ room when my very own cousin Joanie threw me under the bus!

As you can see, I was your normal childhood compulsive liar – pretending to be and do lots of things I only wished I could be or do. But that’s just part of growing up. Like most people, I got over it when I began to realize the power and necessity of growing confidently into one’s true self.


People depend on us to be who we really are, to be the real deal. The value of our work and contributions to the world hinges on this. The depth and endurance of our relationships rest on such transparency and authenticity. Even our ability to love ourselves is rooted in honest self-awareness.


So how do we deepen in that kind of truthfulness, especially in a modern culture that so often abuses it? John tells us that love is the way:

Beloved, we love God because
God first loved us.
If anyone says, “I love God,”
but hates their brother or sister , they are liars;
for whoever does not love the one they can see
cannot love God whom they have not seen.
This is the commandment we have from God:
Whoever loves God must also love their sister and brother.

1 John 4:19-21

Friends, we live in a culture drowning in lies. Some have come to believe that unless one lies, one cannot compete. Businesses lie to sell untested or worthless commodities. Manufacturers veil the danger of their drugs, tobacco and vaping products. Politicians lie to condemn their opponents and excuse themselves. Leaders lie to justify war. And criminals lie to hide their crimes.

These liars may never even consider that their tangled lives are related to the scriptures. But every one of these deceptions is fueled by a failure in reverence and love for our sisters and brothers, by a failure in courage to be responsible for and love one another.

We lie because we think our truth is not enough.
John tells us differently.
Our awesome Truth is that we all are God’s children!
And that is not only enough–it is EVERYTHING!


Our reading closes today with these words, so critical to the rebuilding of a truthful world:

In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey the commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep the commandments.
These are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

1 John 5:2-4

Let’s pray for one another’s courage, dear Friends,
to be and demand the Truth that Love requires.

Prose: from “Man’s Universe” by Rabindranath Tagore

On the surface of our being 
we have the ever-changing phases of the individual self,
but in the depth there dwells
the Eternal Spirit of human unity beyond our direct knowledge.
It very often contradicts the trivialities of our daily life
and upsets the arrangements made for securing our personal exclusiveness
behind the walls of individual habits and superficial conventions.
It inspires in us works that are the expressions of a Universal Spirit;
it invokes unexpectedly in the midst of a self-centered life a supreme sacrifice.
At its call, we hasten to dedicate our lives to the cause of truth and beauty,
to unrewarded service of others.

Music: True Heart – Oak Ridge Boys

Often, I use a popular song for prayer, allowing its words to speak to God for me.
You might like to try it with this song. No doubt intended as a human love song, it can be a divine love song too – and it’s sure a good wake up prayer 🙂

Making money they can hide away.
They never know what they’re working for.
All they think about is making more.
And every time the world spins round
There’s a few more hearts that can’t be found
‘Cause they never had nothing to hold on to
The way that I’m holding you.
All ever need is your true heart
Next to me when it’s cold and dark.
All I need to keep from falling apart
Is the beat of your true heart.
Some people spend day and night
Trying to love everybody in sight
They never know what love is for
All they think about is keeping the score.
And every time the world spins round
There’s a few more hearts that can’t be found
‘Cause they never had nothing to hold on to
The way that I’m holding you.
All ever need is your true heart
Next to me when it’s cold and dark.
All I need to keep from falling apart
Is the beat of your true heart.
Your true heart.
No they never had nothing to hold on to
The way that I’m holding you.
All ever need is your true heart
Next to me when it’s cold and dark.
All I need to keep from falling apart
Is the beat of your true heart.
All ever need is your true heart
Next to me when it’s cold and dark.
All I need to keep from falling apart
Is the beat of your true heart.
All ever need is your true heart
Next to me when it’s cold and dark.
All I need to keep from falling apart
Is the beat of your true heart.

Wednesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 28, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 99, one of the six “enthronement psalms” which celebrate God as King.

The psalm is filled with awestruck sentiment such as one might feel before a king:

From the pillar of cloud God spoke to them;
    they heard the decrees and the law God gave them.
Extol the LORD, our God,
    and worship at the holy mountain;
    for holy is the LORD, our God.

Psalm 99:6-9

The images evoked are similar to those of our first reading with Moses’ face shining from his meetings with God:

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands,
he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant
while he conversed with the LORD.

Exodus 34:29

The neat thing about all this glory is that a very tender human image nestles in the wording:

… worship at God’s footstool;
   for God is holy!

Psalm 99:5

Imagine the Beloved’s footstool – some precious place in the universe that invites you to God’s side. For someone it may be beside the ocean. For another it may be a quiet glen. It may be at your window listening to the sparrow’s morning song.

Wherever it is in the glorious universe, we are welcomed to rest with God at the peaceful footstool. We are free to speak as easily with God as Moses did in the little Sinai tent. And no doubt, we will receive a certain radiance, perhaps not so visible as Moses’. But we will be changed by such prayer.


Poetry: Here is Thy Footstool – Rabindranath Tagore 

HERE IS THY footstool and there rest thy feet 
where live the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
When I try to bow to thee, 
my obeisance cannot reach down to the depth 
where thy feet rest among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
Pride can never approach to where thou walkest 
in the clothes of the humble among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
My heart can never find its way 
to where thou keepest company with the companionless 
among the poorest, the lowliest, and the lost.


Music: Resting Place – Daphne Rademaker

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

May 6, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 96, a song which dances with jubilation. It filled my prayer with images and music. No worded reflection … no Vatican documents. Just let the exuberant scriptures uplift you today.

That’s what I share with you today, beloveds❤️


Sing to the Lord! Toss away any old dirge trying to weigh your spirit down!


And sing anew because Jesus has given us this infinite gift.


Poetry: I Call You Beloved – Rabindranath Tagore

When You command me to sing, 
it seems that my heart would break with pride, 
and I look to your face, and tears come to my eyes.
All that is harsh and dissonant in my life 
melts into one sweet harmony—
and my adoration spreads wings 
like a glad bird on its flight across the sea.
I know You take pleasure in my singing. 
I know that only as a singer 
I come before your presence.
I touch, by the edge of the far-spreading wing of my song, 
Your feet, which I could never aspire to reach.
Drunk with the joy of singing, 
I forget myself and call you Beloved, who are my Lord.


Music: Two songs, one classical, one a little devilment, but I couldn’t help singing it.🤗

  1. For beauty: A New Song by James MacMillan

  1. For fun: Joy to the World – Three Dog Night

Psalm 86: Lean to Me, Lord

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

February 20, 2021


INCLINE!

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 86, a very personal prayer. The kingdom, the nation, the people are not mentioned. It is a plea from one aching heart to its merciful God.

Each one of us has been that person on occasion. We may not have employed the exact words of Psalm 86, but we have prayed its sentiments in our own way.

HARKEN!

For me, that prayer is grounded in two powerful verbs, intimate requests made to a God Who might otherwise seem distant in our times of trouble.

Incline and Harken

Let’s just walk and talk with our listening God today. Feel God bend near to listen. Listen in return.


Poetry: Listen, can you hear it? by Rabindranath Tagore

Listen, can you hear it?
God’s bamboo flute speaks
the pure language of love.
The moon enlightens the trees,
the path, the sinuous River.

Oblivious of the jasmine's scent
I stagger around,
disheveled heart bereft of modesty,
eyes wet with angst and delight.

Tell me, dear friend, say it aloud:
is God not my own Dark Lord?
Is it not my name God’s flute pours
into the empty evening?

For eons I longed for God,
I yearned to know the Holy One.
That's why God has come to me now,
deep emerald Lord of my breath.

O Lord, whenever your faraway flute thrills
through the dark, I say your name,
only your name, and will my body to dissolve
in your luminous River.

Hear me, Lord, in this moment.
What's stopping you?
The earth drowns in sleep.
Let's go. I'll walk with you, talk with you.

Music: O Lord, Hear My Prayer – Taize

Psalm 80: Advent Turns Us Toward God

The First Sunday of Advent
November 29,2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 80, an urgent call to a God from whom the psalmist has turned away.

How do we get to the point that we are turned away from God? And how do we correct that? Well, that’s what Advent is all about, and our psalm today gives us some hints about a remedy.


First: Disconnection 

Sometimes with God, as with any relationship, we simply get disconnected. It’s as if the the phone lines go down and we don’t bother to fix them.

We pray less – well, you know, because we’re busy, right?

We lose the “holy intention” in our lives to always be with God and for God, even in our choices and actions.

Advent helps us remember that such “holy intention” can only be charged by our connection to God. Advent turns us to call that Power into our lives.

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.


Second: Confusion 

Other times, we are confused about our soul’s intimate relationship with God. We haven’t forgotten it. Actually, we work very hard to be what we think God wants. We, like a satisfied Pharisee, think our “holiness” is the fruit of our own efforts. But our life in God withers, like a once beautiful plant that languishes, overwatered and scorched. For all our efforts, our souls feel empty.

Advent helps us realize that it is God who enlivens the vine and gives the blossom, not us. Advent turns us to a humble, hopeful waiting for grace as God desires to give it.

Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.


Third: Withdrawal 

Our psalm recognizes that, at times, we withdraw from God. Perhaps we tire of working at our spiritual life. Or we weary when our works of mercy go unappreciated. Or we fail to find God’s Presence in a prayer that seems unanswered.

Advent helps us see that God is never the one who withdraws from the work of love. We do.

Advent turns us to new life by the simple calling of the Name that never fails to answer.

May your help be with the creature of your right hand,
with the beloved whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

As we begin this Advent journey
that can so deepen us in grace and love,
let us humbly place in God’s hands
anything in our lives that needs “turning”.

Lord, make us turn to you;
let us see your face and we shall be saved.


Poetry: Tagore – THE INFINITY OF YOUR LOVE

Stand before my eyes, 
and let Your glance touch my songs into a flame.

Stand among Your stars, 
and let me find kindled in their lights my own fire of worship.

The earth is waiting at the world’s wayside.
Stand upon the green mantle she has flung upon Your path, 
and let me in her grass and meadow flowers spread my own salutation.

Stand in my lonely evening where my heart watches alone; 
fill her cup of solitude, 
and let me turn my heart toward the infinity of Your love.

Music: Turn Around, Look at Me

Psalm 50: God Doesn’t Do “Fake”

Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 1, 2020

I don’t have a past reflection on today’s readings. But here is a good one from Joe Zaborowski at Creighton University.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 50 which is set up like a court proceeding in which God is both prosecutor and judge of the Israelite community.

Hear, my people, and I will speak;
Israel, I will testify against you;
God, your God, am I.

Today’s section, one of two orations, explains God’s dissatisfaction with the display of sacrifices empty of any real commitment to God’s service. In other words, God tells the people that all their fiery and bloody rituals are fake and useless to him.

One might picture the high priests standing dumbfounded at this announcement. 


What! I worked hard on this sacrifice… made sure it was perfect. All the bells and whistles! And You’re still not satisfied??? What do You want from me then?


It reminds me of a married couple. One cooks a beautiful meal for the other but the love between them has faded. As they eat, there is no caring conversation and no joy in each other. They finish perfunctorily in a fog of empty words. They retreat to their separate distractions, waiting to repeat the charade the next day.

In Psalm 50, God says he doesn’t want to be loved like that.
So what does God want then?

Our reading from Amos today offers the thread of an answer which is woven through the rest of Psalm 50:

But if you would offer me burnt offerings,
then let justice surge like water,
and goodness like an unfailing stream.

God wants our sincere love expressed in goodness and actions for justice.

Just like that beautiful dinner, rituals have meaning only as celebrations of faithful and demonstrated love. Sounds like 1 Corinthians 13, doesn’t it?

The parallels to our own lives are obvious and don’t need my elucidation. Let’s just think about how God might answer us if we ask in prayer, “What is it that You really want from me?”.

Poetry: Rabindranath Tagore, from Gitanjali

I am only waiting for Love 
to give myself up at last into his hands.

That is why it is so late 
and why I have been guilty of such omissions.
They come with their laws and their codes to bind me fast; 
but I evade them ever, 

for I am only waiting for Love 
to give myself up at last into his hands.

People blame me and call me heedless; 
I doubt not they are right in their blame.
The market day is over 
and work is all done for the busy. 
Those who came to call me in vain 
have gone back in anger. 

I am only waiting for Love 
to give myself up at last into his hands.

Music: Proof of Your Love – King and Country