A Grateful Spirit

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 13, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, two significant themes in our readings are gift-giving and gratitude.

In our first reading Naaman, a pretty hot-shot Syrian commander, is a leper. He takes the advice of a captured Israel slave girl who encourages Naaman to seek a cure from Elisa the prophet.

As Naaman approaches, Elisha sends word  to rinse in the Jordan. Naaman, who is obviously accustomed to personalized subservience, is not happy with Elisha’s absentee advice. Angry, Naaman sets out for home. But his servants encourage him to cool down and to act on Elisha’s instructions. 

Naaman receives the cure and he promises, half-heartedly, to from henceforth worship Yahweh. He then asks what he can pay for the gift of the cure. Elisha responds that there is no payment .

Notice: Naaman never says “Thank you”. Instead, he wants to pay, to owe nothing for the immense gift he has received. He doesn’t want to be beholden, even to God.

Elisha, in so many words, tells Naaman: What I was blessed to convey to you comes from God. The power is God’s. I am the instrument. You can’t buy or own it. I can’t sell it. It’s God’s – freely given.

2Tim2_9JPG

Paul repeats the theme to Timothy: the Word of God is not chained. God’s power, grace, and healing are given freely. We cannot earn them buy, them, control them, or ever thank God enough for them. But we should try.

In our Gospel, only one cured leper – a Samaritan – has the sense and humility to try to thank Jesus. Born of his faith, that gratitude saves him.

God is Infinite Gift. God’s love pours over us spontaneously and continually to bring us to wholeness. God can’t help loving us and hoping for our completeness in grace.

May we be delivered from any speck of entitlement, indifference, arrogance, or ingratitude in the face of such Goodness!

Music:  Thank You, Lord – Don Moen

Write It Down with Your Life!

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 6, 2019

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Today, in Mercy,  our readings combine to offer us a powerful message: we are the translators of God’s Word for our time. Our choices and actions for justice and mercy make the vision “readable” – visible for our sisters and brothers.

Hab2_2 vision

Habakkuk starts our challenge. He is in a bit of a struggle with God, asking repeatedly how long God is going to allow the people to suffer. ( I have had similar conversations with God, especially during these charged political times).

In so many words, God tells Habakkuk to look to his faith – his vision through God’s eyes. God sees that “the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” God tells him to “write the vision down”, to make it apparent in his own choices and actions for justice and mercy. In other words, Habakkuk, I’ve done what I am going to do. The rest is up to you, Buddy!

In a similar way, Paul reminds Timothy to “stir up the flame” – the gift of God given at his profession of faith. Paul reminds Timothy that, by grace, he knows what is right and just. He must not be chicken about living and speaking that Truth – to write the vision down by his choices and actions for justice and mercy.

In our Gospel, the disciples seem to want their faith increased because the commitment to witness is scary. They think they might feel a little better about it all if their faith consoled them more. But “writing the vision with our lives” takes guts, and the disciples seem a little lacking in today’s reading.

Jesus tells them to buck up. They are blessed to serve the Word of God by the witness of their lives. It won’t always feel good, safe or successful. Still they, and we, must unfailingly write the vision down by our choices and actions for justice and mercy, because even …

When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.

Jesus calls it like it is today. We are blessed to be God’s translators. We have an undeniable call to live God’s just and merciful vision. No excuses. Get it together. Keep the pencil sharp. No asking God when He’s going to make things better. The legible  (just and merciful) translation depends on us!

Music: The Vision – Patrick Love

Flee Toward Justice

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 29, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, our readings will challenge us in ways we might rather not hear.

In our first reading, feisty Amos lambastes the Israelites for their sumptuous lifestyle which is indifferent to the plight of those who are poor. He calls them “complacent”, “at ease” in their prosperous, privileged existence, a condition that has numbed them to the harrowing inequities from which others suffer.

In our second reading, Paul gives a final, impassioned charge to his dear protégé Timothy. He tells him not just to avoid, but to flee such complacency and the greedy materialism which feeds it. He outlines the elements of a Christian life, enjoining Timothy to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness”.


Paul gives Timothy the key to true Christian life:

Keep the commandment without stain or reproach …

…. “the commandment” being to love God above all, and love neighbor as self.


Dives
Dives and Lazarus by Bonifazio di Pitati The National Gallery – London

Our Gospel is, perhaps painfully, familiar to all of us – the story of Lazarus and Dives. It is a parable which puts the economic divide under the crystalline light of the Gospel, challenging us as to where we fit in it.

Most of us like comfort. We would rather be “haves” than “have nots”. But we struggle within our comfortable lives to discern our responsibility for others. We’re certainly not intentionally hard-hearted, “lying on ivory couches” and “drinking wine from bowls” while modern day Lazarus languishes right beside us.

We do try, in many ways, to respond to the call for charity and service. But don’t we still measure ourselves after hearing this Gospel? Don’t we still worry about any “Lazarus” unnoticed at our door?

Amos, Paul, and Jesus are charging us – just as they charged their immediate listeners – to live a life based in Biblical and Gospel justice. Justice seeks fullness of life for all the community. Jesus teaches us that “the community” is all Creation, and that how we treat the community is how we treat him.

Every day we might remind ourselves that, however hard we try, it is never enough. We must keep on peeling away any indifference or blindness we have to the injustices of our culture and times, our economic and political systems. And we too must flee them, running toward justice, righteousness, and mercy.

We must ask ourselves this hard question:

Does my “wealth”
– however large or small,
material or immaterial-
nourish the community or only consume it?

Music: Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus – Ralph Vaughn Williams’s beautiful interpretation of the folk song “Dives and Lazarus”.

If you might be interested in the original song – a great example of folk art: Sung here by Maddy Prior (Lyrics below)

as it fell out upon one day
rich Diverus he made a feast
and he invited all his friends
and gentry of the best
then Lazarus laid him down and down
even down at Diverus’ door
some meat, some drink, brother Diverus
do bestow upon the poor
thou art none of mine, brother Lazarus
that lies begging at my door
no meat, no drink I’ll give to thee
nor bestow upon the poor

then Lazarus laid him down and down
even down at Diverus’ wall
some meat, some drink, brother Diverus
or with hunger starve I shall
thou art none of mine, brother Lazarus
that lies begging at my wall
no meat, no drink I’ll give to thee
but with hunger starve you shall

then Lazarus laid him down and down
even down at Diverus’ gate
some meat, some drink, brother Diverus
for Jesus Christ His sake
thou art none of mine, brother Lazarus
that lies begging at my gate
no meat, no drink I’ll give to you
for Jesus Christ His sake

then Diverus sent out his serving men
to whip poor Lazarus away
they had no power to whip one whip
and they threw their whips away
then Diverus sent out his hungry dogs
to worry poor Lazarus away
but they had no power to bite one bite
and they licked his sores away

as it fell out upon one day
poor Lazarus sickened and died
there came two angels out of Heaven
his soul thereto to guide
rise up, rise up brother Lazarus
come along with me
there’s a place for you in Heaven
sitting on an angel’s knee

as it fell out all on one day
Diverus sickened and died
there came two serpents out of Hell
his soul thereto to guide
rise up, rise up brother Diverus
come along with me
there is a place for you in Hell
sitting on a serpent’s knee

Diverus lifted up his eyes
and he saw poor Lazarus blessed
a drop of water brother Lazarus
for to quench my flaming thirst
if I had as many years to live
as there are blades of grass
I would make it in my will secure
that the Devil should have no power
Hell is dark, Hell is deep
Hell is full of mice
it’s a pity that any poor sinful soul
should be barred from our saviour Christ

Lay Hold of Eternal Life

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

Friday, September 20, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the feast of the Korean Martyrs. Their astounding faith stood against excruciating suffering but did not waver.

Korean_martyrs
Vatican [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)
A brief, inspiring story of the Korean Church is available here.


Today’s readings carry a common theme of resources, both material and spiritual, and how we use them.

Paul tells Timothy:

we brought nothing into the world,
just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.

Still…

the love of money is the root of all evils,
and some people in their desire for it
have strayed from the faith

and have pierced themselves with many pains.

Our Psalm tells us that those who are poor in spirit realize that they possess nothing, that all they have is a gift from God. This realization is the source of their blessing.

Luke’s Gospel lists several women who supported Jesus’s ministry out of their resources. They, and no doubt the men depending them, had been touched and changed by Jesus.

1 Tim6_12 call

Each of our readings reminds us that deepened relationship with God releases in us those God given gifts of our Creation – the gifts of which Paul reminds Timothy:

But you, beloved of God,
… pursue righteousness, devotion,

faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life,
to which you were called
when you made the noble profession of faith

in the presence of many witnesses.

By the inspiration of the Korean Martyrs, may we hear and respond.

Music: a real foot tapper today – Hear the Call of the Kingdom – Kristyn Getty

Fan the Love into Flame

SATURDAY, JANUARY 26, 2019

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Today, in Mercy, we have the beautiful letter from Paul to Timothy, filled with tenderness, encouragement, hope and the sweet suggestion of loving memories.

2 tim1_6 fan to flame

When we travel life’s road, what an indescribable blessing to have even one companion who loves us the way Paul loved Timothy — to care for our whole life,  our whole soul, and our whole “forever”.

In his letter, Paul reveals that Timothy has been immensely blessed with such love.  Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois have already – for many years –  tendered Timothy in the faith.

In this lovely letter, Paul notes that he prays for Timothy daily.

Do we pray for those who have blessed us and loved us in our lives? Do we tell them so, if they are living? Do we thank and remember them if they have gone home to God?

Paul closes this part of his letter with such beautiful words to Timothy:

For this reason,
I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have
through the laying on of my hands.

Many people have rested their hands on your spirit, on your heart.  Be filled with love and gratitude for them today and everyday. For those who have done otherwise, forgive them and let them go.

I remember in a special way today my mother who died on this date thirty-one years ago.  In a separate email, I share a poem I wrote after Mom’s death.  It is a little sad in tone, but it may touch and help some of you, my readers, who are experiencing grief.

Stay with your grief, beloveds, long enough to find the blessing within it.

Some meditative music: for your remembering prayerJames Last – Coulin

Prayer for Our Beloveds

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060618.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we have the first of a few readings from Timothy, Paul’s beloved protégé in the faith.  Timothy had the blessing of not only Paul’s mentorship, but also of his own mother and grandmother who were devout Christian converts.

Lois and Timothy

Rembrandt’s Timothy and Lois

Today, we might give thanks for all those who have nurtured us in faith and love. We might also consider those who depend on us for the example and encouragement which leads them closer to God and to their best selves.

We might also pray for those desperate families and children seeking refuge at the US border. They also belong to us in Christ. May our prayer and advocacy help them to avoid harm.

It is our duty, in gratitude and mercy, to keep all these beloveds in our constant prayer, as Paul did Timothy in today’s tender reading.

Music: The Prayer

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Remind us where you are.

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

A world where pain and
sorrow will be ended
And every heart that’s
broken will be mended
And we’ll remember we
are all God’s children
Reaching out to touch you
Reaching to the sky.

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love.

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child.
Needs to find a place
Guide us with your grace.
Give us faith so we’ll be safe