Psalm 23: The Banquet

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 11, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 23, a familiar, comforting and beloved prayer.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

Psalm 23: 1-3

The psalm comes between readings that assure us of a waiting and sumptuous banquet to which we gain entrance by both mercy and grace.  


Isaiah describes the feast in the future tense:

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

Isaiah 25: 9

But Paul reminds us of the truth we often forget. The banquet is NOW!

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:20

In our Gospel, Jesus invites his guests to that feast with both an immediacy and a demand. The celebration of abundance is open to all. But we must at least make the effort to don a wedding garment – that reverent, grateful attitude which gives glory to the Source of our abundance. 


The edge of the white choir mantle is visible below the veils.

In ancient times – when I first came to religious life 🙂 – we would add a special garment to our habit to celebrate a great feast. The white choir mantle was a symbol of our awareness of a particularly sacred moment.


Miraculously, it is that reverent awareness that opens our eyes to the plentitude in our midst. It releases us to the freedom of a hope already realized, but hidden from those whose hearts refuse to be dressed in grace.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

Our readings invite us to live as not only invited and but saved people, completely convinced of God’s eternal welcome and protection.

Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23:6

What would the world be like if we lived out this conviction? 

How might the reproaches fear, competition, domination, selfishness,
and hoarding be removed from our midst?

How might the rush of generosity, forgiveness, and mercy
flow out of our confident hearts to wash the earth in God’s restful waters?


Poem: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Music: Abundant Life – written by Ruth Duck, sung by Marty Haugen

We cannot own the sunlit sky, 
the moon, the wild-flowers growing, 
For we are part of all that is 
within life’s river flowing.

With open hands receive and share 
the gifts of God’s creation, 
That all may have abundant life 
in every earthly nation.

When bodies shiver in the night 
and weary wait for morning,
When children have no bread but tears, 
and war horns sound their warning. 

God calls humanity to awake, 
to join in common labor,
That all may have abundant life, 
oneness with their neighbor.

God calls humanity to join as partners
in creating a future free
from want or fear.
Life’s goodness celebrating, 

that new world beckons from afar,
Invites our shared endeavor 
that all might have abundant life 
and peace endure forever.

Psalm 111: Make It Personal

Friday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

October 9, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 111, an elegant and simple hymn of praise to God.

Wikipedia says that the psalm praises God for a few specific things:

  • God’s great works v.2
  • God’s enduring Righteousness v.3
  • God’s grace and compassion v.4
  • God’d provision v.5
  • Truth and Justice v.7
  • Redemption for God’s people v.9
  • Granting of wisdom to those who revere God v.10

As I pray this psalm this morning, I will thank and praise God for these things. But I also want to be more personal in my gratitude, to thank God for the elegant Divine Presence in my life and in our world.

  • How blessed are we even to have been born, let alone loved, sanctified, and redeemed by God!
  • How blessed are we to know God and to seek the depths of God in our lives!
  • How blessed are we to share our moment in time with other beloveds of God who enrich and challenge us!
  • How blessed are we to be enlivened with the exquisite grace of God’s own life, and to know that our eternity will be the fulfillment of that grace!

Poem: Grace by Wendell Berry

Music: Arioso, Cantata 156 – Johann Sebastian Bach played by Susanne Beer

Isaiah Sings!

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr

August 14, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a passage from the poet-prophet Isaiah in which he calls the people to rejoice at their deliverance.

Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!


Isaiah 12 is one of a number of hymns found outside the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Other examples are Exodus 15:1-18, 21 and Amos 4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6 (Craddock, Hayes, Holliday, Tucker: Preaching through the Christian Year)

For an excellent graphic overview of these “songs”, click here. I enjoyed studying this chart.


Isaiah’s first eleven chapters center on God’s judgement for Israel’s infidelity. But Isaiah is never without hope. Chapter 12 is a joyful and grateful hymn celebrating that hope.

Isaiah’s hymn hit the right chord for me today. I think hope is a little hard to come by in these pandemic days, don’t you? 

Besides Covid, there are quite a few others “stabs” out there as we try to float the hope’s balloon – unemployment, business uncertainty, climate concerns, natural disasters, political irresponsibility, leadership failures just to reference a few. For some, these issues are so oppressive that they, “feel like it’s the end of the world”.


Isaiah is the guy when we feel even a little bit like this. Isaiah was profoundly convinced that God is with us in all our experiences and will ultimately resolve them for our good.

God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.


Poetry: To Go into the Dark by Wendell Berry

To go into the dark with a light
is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark,
go without sight.
And find
that the dark too
blooms and sings
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Music:  Winter Cold Night – John Foley, SJ

Yes, this is a Christmas song, but I think it carries the perfect feeling for today’s reflection. Indeed, Jesus Christ is our Hope. May his Light be born in us daily.

Dark, dark, the winter cold night. Lu-lee-lay.
Hope is hard to come by. Lu-lee-lay.
Hard, hard, the journey tonight. Lu—lee-lay.
Star, guide, hope, hide our poor, winter cold night.
And on earth, peace, good will among men.
Lean, lean, the livin' tonight. Lu-lee-lay.
Star seems darker sometimes. Lu-lee-lay.
Unto you is born this day a Savior.
Pain, yes, in the bornin' tonight. Lu lee—lay.
Star, guide, hope, hide our poor, winter cold night.

Psalm 85: The Kiss

Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

July 4, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85, a testament to hope for the future. Couldn’t we all use a dose of the right now?

Glancing through Twitter last night, I came across a tweet asking for prayers because the writer had “begun to lose hope in the future”. I thought of and prayed for that person this morning when I read Psalm 85, a song of unmitigated hope and trust.


Despite the destruction of the Temple and their exile into Babylonian captivity, the Israelites remained convinced that God had promised them a future of blessedness.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people.

Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.

Trusting in God’s fidelity, they are freed to imagine and wait for that future’s slow and mysterious fulfillment. Note the future tense of the verbs in these verses:

Mercy and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Early 16th C. depiction of the Four Daughters of God: Mercy, Truth, Justice, and Peace (Angel in the middle)

The Israelites trusted God’s desire and will for their good. They so strongly believed in a blessed future that they were able to access it even in the midst of a disappointing present.

By faith, we too enter the timelessness of God’s love, finding – even in life’s challenges – the path to joy and peace. The “shalls” in the above verse are achieved through our belief in, and action for them. This is the power of the covenant between God and us.


Our faithful lives invite: 

  • God’s kiss of justice and peace
  • God’s springing forth in truth
  • God’s gaze of justice and mercy over Creation

God and we walk beside one another on the way to a sacred future where the journey is also the destination.

The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.


May we be given
the grace to believe
that we already live
within the wholeness of God.
May our life be
a hopeful and joyful witness
to that wholeness.


Poetry: Grace – Wendell Berry

Even though written as an autumn poem, these verses fit today’s reflection. Wendell Berry’s thoughts grace evoke a sense of hope and patience.

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

Music:  Mercy Like Rain, written by Rory Cooney, sung here by Alma deRojas

Let me taste your mercy like rain on my face;
here in my life, show me your peace.
Let us see with our own eyes your day breaking bright.
Come, O Morning; come, O Light!
 
What God has spoken I will declare:
Peace to the people of God everywhere.
God's saving presence is close at hand:
glory as near as our land!
 
Here faithful love and truth will embrace;
here peace and justice will come face to face.
God's truth shall water the earth like a spring,
while  justice will bend down and sing.
 
God will keep the promise indeed;
our land will yield the food that we need.
Justice shall walk before you that day,
clearing a path, preparing your way.
 
Let me taste your mercy like rain on my face;
here in my life,  show me your peace.
Let us see with our own eyes your day breaking bright.
Come, O Morning; come, O Light!

Psalm 60: Punch Drunk with Troubles

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 22, 2020


It has been suggested that I make it easier to find previous reflections on the readings for the day, just in case you would like to pray with the First Reading or Gospel. I’ll try to remember to do that.


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 60, and it’s a doozy. It is a hard Psalm to pray with because it contains many layers of meaning. But, in the end, I think it is worth the effort.

The Psalm emerges from a time filled with violence. David struggles to keep control both within and outside his kingdom. His own son and nephew turn against him. His nephew wreaks unspeakable mayhem in Israel’s name. Everything in David’s world is in violent disarray. He actually whines to God about the mess:

  • O God, you have rejected us and broken our defenses …
  • You have rocked the country and split it open …
  • You have made your people feel hardships …
  • You have given us stupefying wine…

Like many of you, I read these verses in the wake of another divisive political rally, in a country riven by fearful hatred, racism, biased brutality, political corruption, and poisonous propaganda. I am so tempted to immediately tie Psalm 60 to these current realities.

But I think that, when we pray the psalms, we must let them first teach us about ourselves. Once that conversion or enlightenment occurs, it may then be possible to apply their wisdom to our world.


King David by Matthias Stom

What is it that makes Psalm 60 a prayer and not a political manifesto? We find the answer in verse 7:

Help us with your right hand, O Lord, and answer us.

David realizes that he is completely out of whack. He has just put all the responsibility for his chaos in God’s lap when it is really David’s own self-serving choices that have caused the problem. 

David’s selfish, short-sighted, and sinful decisions have blinded him like “stupefying wine”. One might say he has drunk his own kool-aid. He needs God’s justice to detoxify him … that divine “right hand” which created a perfectly balanced world.

Each of David’s previously mentioned “whines” is completed with a sincere and contrite plea:

  • rally us!
  • repair the cracks in the country
  • give us aid against the foe

Once we realize, like David:

  • that the “country” is our own heart,
  • that the “foe” is any residue there of injustice, 
  • and that the “rally” must be of our own merciful love,

… only then might we be ready to pray for our fractured country and our broken, weeping world.


Poetry: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front – Wendell Berry’s inspired poem about conversion and recovery of the soul in a soul-killing culture.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready-made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head. 
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
 
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you 
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something 
that won't compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor. 
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. 
Say that your main crop is the forest 
that you did not plant, 
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. 
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees 
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear 
close, and hear the faint chattering 
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful 
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child? 
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 

Go with your love to the fields. 
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn't go.

Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction. 
Practice resurrection.

Music: Be Still My Soul – Exultate Singers