The Deeper Melody of Wisdom

Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

September 18, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Jesus speaks to us like a frustrated parent.

All of us have seen fussy children, needing a nap, twisting around noisily from toy to toy, satisfied only to swipe the toy another child is playing with.

Jesus compares his resistant listeners to such children. They were not convinced by the austere preaching of John the Baptist. They are not moved by the loving freedom of Christ’s message. They find in both teachings only theories to toy with and toss aside. Because their hearts are hardened by distraction, they cannot find the heart in the truth offered to them.

Oh my goodness! Are we not living in the midst of such hardening distractions? So much in our culture invites us to “play” rather than to relate with our environment, with our lives. Advertising tempts us to get as much as possible out of everything, but to give nothing back. Media thrives by convincing us that we are the center of the universe.

We make a lot of noise when we feel threatened by the quiet truth of our common creaturehood and its inherent demand that we live in reverence for one another and for the God who created us.

John preached a message of repentance from such sinful self-absorption. He lost his head over it. Jesus preached the Word of transcendent love and mutual service. He was crucified for it. Each was seen as a threat to the manipulated Law that had become the refuge of their hardened listeners.

We see the pattern repeated down the long corridors of history, filling its passage with martyrs. We see it in our own day wherever someone tells the truth about the demands of the Gospel.

In our own Church, we see Pope Francis persecuted – even by some of his own bishops – for his call for compassion, mercy, and reverence for every person, for all Creation.

Indeed, we still live in the frenzied marketplace where 

“We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
  We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.”

Ps107_wisdom well

Luke’s final cryptic verse may suggest our deliverance from such frenzy:

“But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

Our hearts recognize the Wisdom figures in our world. They have heard the true melody of God in their lives. By steady reflection and good works, they have gone beyond the din of a sinfully distracting culture. The result is inner peace, joy, and salvation, like that of John and Jesus —- and Pope Francis.

May we have the courage to go deep into Christ’s Word to embrace this Truth.

Music: Perfect Wisdom of Our God – Keith and Kristyn Getty

The Wisdom of God

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 8, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, the Church links three readings which, at first glance, seem unrelated.

  • Our first reading from Wisdom reminds us of God’s infinite wisdom, incomprehensible to our human minds.
  • Paul, in his letter to Philemon, begs for the loving inclusion of Onesimus, an enslaved person, into the Colossian community.
  • In today’s Gospel, Jesus  makes the harsh pronouncement:

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.

How might we interpret these disparate passages to find a message of wholeness for our prayer?

Wis9_13 gods mind

Let’s start with Jesus. In no uncertain terms, he challenges his disciples to move out of their small worlds into God’s big world. That Godly world is not defined by family, nor by any condition other than our common Creaturehood in God … not by:

word gram

Jesus says the sacred community is defined only by shared and irrevocable commitment to the Gospel of love and mercy.

Paul knows and loves Onesimus, the slave, as a brother in this community. In his letter, Paul encourages Philemon to do the same.

Sometimes as human beings, filled with all kinds of insecurities, we tend to build enclaves that make us feel safe. We like to be with “our kind”. We invent borders to filter out those whose differences we don’t understand. We allow fear to grow out of that lack of understanding. Within the enclosure of our self-protectionism, we eventually forget that we are all one, equal, precious, beautiful and beloved by God.

Such toxic attitudes are the soil for slavery, war, ethnic cleansing, racial supremacy,   human trafficking, destructive nationalism, and all the other sacrileges committed by humans against the human family.

Wisdom reminds us that only God can open the tight circle of our fears, judgments and isolations – only God whose infinite love encompasses all. Jesus tells us that we find that love only by lifting up the cross and following him.

Wisdom tells us to put it in God’s hands, and to respond to God’s challenge in the preaching of Jesus Christ.

Who can know your way of thinking, O God
… except you give us wisdom

 and send your Holy Spirit from on high
 thus stretching the hearts of those on earth

Today I pray, may God do this for me, and for all our tight, convoluted and troubled world.

Music: Who Has Known (an Advent hymn, but perfect I think for today’s readings)

Making Friends with Wisdom

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our readings weave together the themes of

Wisdom,
Law
and
Integrity.

Balanced in our soul, these offer the perfection of spiritual life.

Wisdom4_11

Sirach instructs us that the journey to this perfection is challenging but worthwhile.

Wisdom walks with us as a stranger
and at first she puts us to the test;
Fear and dread she brings upon us
and tries us with her discipline
until she try us by her laws and trust our souls.

How beautiful this passage is! Picture Wisdom-Sophia walking with you, through your life to your present days. As young people, many of us were challenged in learning spiritual discipline – the Law of Love. Many of us are challenged still at times. But wisdom walks with us, gently testing our resolve for goodness- forgiving, instructing, redeeming, encouraging us.

Eventually, there is between us and Wisdom, as with cherished old friends, a comfort and understanding which allows us to know each other’s thoughts and completely trust each other’s good will. An integrity of goodness grows within us.

Our Psalm 119 summarizes this blessed relationship:

O Lord, great peace have they
who love your law.

In the short pericope from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus drives home to his disciples that the grace of the Holy Spirit – the power for goodness – is not confined by our restrictive definitions, expectations,, or role assignments. All hearts at one with the Law of Wisdom and Love give glory to God.

In my prayer today, I remembered with grateful love the many guides who have taught me Wisdom in my life. I rested in quiet gratitude with Wisdom, my old friend.

My prayer led me to include this quote from one of my all-time favorite books:

(P.S. What five books would you take with you if stranded on an island for the rest of your life? I’d include this one.)

Every truth is a reflection; behind the reflection and giving it value, is the Light. Every being is a witness; every fact is a divine secret; beyond them is the object of the revelation, the Wisdom witnessed to. Everything true stands out against the Infinite as against its background; is related to it; belongs to it. A particular truth may indeed occupy the stage, but there are boundless immensities beyond. One might say a particular truth is only a symbol, a symbol that is real, a sacrament of the Absolute.
~ Antonio Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life

Music: The Perfect Wisdom Of Our God – Keith & Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend

Sophia-Wisdom

Monday, February 25, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy,  we begin a series of readings from the Book of Sirach. Today’s is particularly beautiful as it describes Wisdom – Sophia, a feminine principle of God’s nature.

sirach

The passage itself is poetically inspiring, and certainly doesn’t need my words to explain it. Each of us will draw our own inspiration from this reading. For me, this scripture stretches my perception of God’s nature, neither male nor female, but embodying and generating the beauty of both.

This thought provoking quote from theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, may enrich your reflection as it did mine.

God Language and Women

“What is the right way to speak about God in light of women’s reality? Ideas of God are cultural creatures related to the time and place in which they are conceived. We have traced one pattern of Christian feminist language arising from diverse experiences: the Spirit’s universal quickening and liberating presence, the living memory of Wisdom’s particular path in the history of Jesus, and inconceivable Holy Wisdom herself who brings forth and orients the universe. We have explored the ways in which these discourses coalesce into the symbol of the Trinity, a living communion of mutual and equal personal relations. Divine capacity for relation has led to speaking about Sophia-God’s participation in the suffering of the world that empowers the praxis of freedom, a discourse that takes place in the energizing matrix of the one God’s sheer liveliness named with the symbol SHE WHO IS. All of the above chapters are clues, starting points, commencements. This generation needs to keep faith with this question, creating, testing, reflecting, discarding, keeping. No language about God will ever be fully adequate to the burning mystery which it signifies. But a more inclusive way of speaking can come about that bears the ancient wisdom with a new justice.”

from her book She Who Is

Music: Sanctus  –  from the Mass of St. Cecilia  – Gounod (sung by Jessie Norman)

Wisdom and Love

Sunday, October 14, 2018

       Readings:  Click here.

Today in Mercy, our readings are both beautiful and poignant.  

In our first passage, we drink from Wisdom’s sweet nectar. This book, written about fifty years before Christ’s birth, is the work of an unnamed Jewish poet and scholar. At points, as in today’s segment, the writer assumes the persona of Solomon, speaking in his name.

Ps90_fill us

We know from the Book of Kings, chapter 3, that Solomon, as a young king, led a faithful and righteous life. Because of this, God offered Solomon “whatever you want me to give you.”

Think of the possibilities for this young man, just on the cusp of kingship! Power, wealth, longevity, peace, prosperity, political dominance – all the things we are inclined to covet in this world.

But Solomon prays instead for wisdom, as described in today’s reading:

Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.

Our Gospel tells of a young man offered an opportunity similar to Solomon’s. Already living a faithful life, he wants to go deeper into God’s heart. 

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,

“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven;
then come, follow me.” 

But this young man, unlike Solomon, cannot accept the invitation to this deep place of love and devotion. Instead, he goes away sad. It makes me sad, too, whenever I read these verses. I always hope that, after a few steps, he turned around and shouted, “Yes! I will do what you ask. I love God that much. Help me!”

Like these young men,we have a deep desire to live within God’s love. But are we walking toward that love or away from it? Most of us don’t say an outright “No” to God’s invitation. Instead, we are distracted, lazy, or just not paying attention to the the whispers of grace.

Let’s pray today’s powerful Psalm 90 to open our minds and hearts to God’s hope for us.

Music: Fill Us With Your Love ~Ephrem Feeley