Which Way to Turn?

The Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 10, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 90 along with readings that 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.


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 wish that, after a few steps, he had 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.


Poetry: Based on Psalm 90 – Christine Robinson

We have come out of the Earth
and to the Earth we return
Our lives are but a flash in the light of Eternity.
We are like beautiful flowers which live only a day.
We might live 70 years—more if our strength holds.
So much work and hardship!
How quickly the time passes.

Teach us then, to value our days
to treat each one as a sacred trust.
Fill our hearts with wisdom.
and a love for our lives.
In spite of all the grief and suffering
May we be always glad of this precious gift
And hallow the good in each day.


Music: Fill Us With Your Love ~ Ephrem Feeley

Psalm 63: So Thirsty!

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 8, 2020

( A bit late today in publishing as I was distracted by the breaking U.S. election results! I would like to say one word on that before the reflection. Here is that word:

ALLELUIA!


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 63, a prayer of deep longing and faithful intimacy. 

The psalm is complemented by the lyrical passage from the Book of Wisdom which immediately reminded me of my favorite verse for the Christmas season:

For while gentle silence enveloped all things,
and night had now run half its swift course,
Wisdom’s all-powerful Word leapt down from heaven, 
from the royal throne,
into the midst of the shadowed land.

Wisdom 18: 14-15

Using delicate feminine images, our first reading from Wisdom describes the God for whom we long – a God who longs for us as eagerly:

Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire –


This reading forms a sort of dance with our Psalm – the first describing God’s desire, the second describing ours:

O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.


Our reading assures us that God readily meets our gaze:

Whoever watches for Wisdom at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for they shall find her sitting by their heart’s gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.


In our prayer today, let us open our deepest hearts to this Wisdom God who seeks us. Let our thirsty souls be satisfied in that loving Sacred Bliss.

Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.


Music: I Long for You, O Lord – The Dameans

I long for you, O Lord
With all my soul, I thirst for You.

God, my God, you I seek
for You my soul is thirsting,
Like a dry and weary land,
my spirit longs for You.

I have sought for Presence, Lord
to see your power and your glory.
Lord, your love means more than life.
I shall sing your praise.

Thus will I bless you while I live,
and I will call your name, O Lord.
As with the riches of a feast
shall my soul be satisfied.

Through the night, I remember You
for You have been my Savior.
In the shadow of your wings,
I will shout for joy.

Psalm 119:Acrostic Prayer

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 26, 2020


Today, in Mercy, we pray with young Solomon, as God asks him to carry the weight of leadership. Of all that Solomon might have asked from God, he requested only wisdom, which is described in James 3:17. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, teachable, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” We pray for wisdom for ourselves in the discharge of our responsibilities. We pray for this gift for all who hold power in our world.

from 2017 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 119, the longest psalm, and a meticulously constructed poem. It is one of about twelve acrostic poems in the Bible, employing the twenty-two characters of the Hebrew alphabet to teach a lesson about love of the Torah, the Law.

Acrostic poems have been popular throughout history because they let the reader examine a theme from multiple, memorable perspectives. Although often tricky to compose, they are simple to read, and sometimes so commonplace as to be transparent.

Here is an example of an acrostic poem from 19th century America


So why did the psalmist take the trouble to compose a complicated verse like Psalm 119? The answer seems apparent, I think. The love of the Law was that important to the writer. It was the one true treasure, and he wanted others to share the treasure.

The theme of “treasure” ties together all of our Sunday readings.

In our first reading, young Solomon could have asked God for anything. But Solomon already treasures the Wisdom of God:

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.


Our second reading confirms that those who love God, like Solomon did, are blessed with the treasure of confidence and peace:

We know that all things work for good
for those who love God.


Matthew’s Gospel tells us to seek that treasure buried in the field of our lives. When we find it, we should give everything to make it our own:

When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.


Praying Psalm 119 allows us to appreciate the treasure of God’s Law, God’s heartbeat, in our lives. It holds the Word up before us, facet by facet, the way we would lift a diamond to the Light. When we come to love Wisdom/Word/Law as Solomon did, we give everything to possess it fully.


Poetry: Last Hike Before Leaving Montana by Patricia Traxler.
In this poem, the poet is ostensibly talking about a bear, but listen a little deeper and she is talking about God.

Late winter, almost spring. It's like finding a diamond;
now I don't want to leave. I sit in the dirt and put my hands
in your tracks. For the first time in a long time I don't
doubt. Now I know I always knew you were here. You
are the beginning of disclosure, the long-felt presence

Suddenly incarnate. Behind me my friend warns, If we
see the bear, get into a fetal position. No problem,
I tell her, I'm always in a fetal position—I was born
in a fetal position. Did you know, she says, the body
of a shaved bear looks exactly like a human man?
I skip a stone, feel a sudden bloat of grief, then laugh.
I ask her, Who would shave a bear? We climb

Farther up Rattlesnake Creek, watch winter sun glitter
off dark water. No matter how high we go I look higher.
Sometimes absence can prove presence. That's not exactly
faith, I know. All day, everywhere, I feel you near at hand.
There's so much to understand, and everything to prove.
Up high the air is thin and hard, roars in the ears like love.

Music: Lord, You Are More Precious Than Silver – Divine Hymns

Midnight Miracle

Saturday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

November 16, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we are blessed with some of the most gloriously imaginative images in Scripture:

wis18_midnight

Although the passage is a poetic recounting of the Exodus experience, it always makes me think of Christmas. 

  • Midnight on a starry night
  • Peaceful stillness over the earth
  • The all-powerful Word transformed 
  • Appearing among us like a comet in our darkness
  • Hope renewed for an otherwise doomed land

Praying with the passage this morning, I realize that my “Christmas lens” on the reading is right on target.

The Christmas event begins our Exodus story, a story completed in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Just as the God of Moses reached into ancient Israel’s life to free them, transform them and make them God’s People, so God reaches into our lives. God does this not only on Christmas, but in every moment of our experience.

As our media and consumer culture bombards us, all too early, with all the secularized images of Christmas, let today’s verses bring us back to the true startling grace of our own Christ/Exodus stories:

We are not alone in the midnights of our lives.
Listen underneath all the distractions
to the, at first, softly emerging sound of Love
humming under all things.
Watch for the small lights of heaven
longing to break into our human darkness.
Give yourself to their Light.

No matter where we are in our lives right now,
no matter the joy or pain of our present circumstances,
God wants to use these realities to be with us
and to teach us Love.
Let us invite God
into our willingness
to learn that Love,

to become that Love.


Music: Winter Cold Night – John Foley, SJ

Lyrics below (yes, it is an Advent/ Christmas song. But it fits so perfectly. Please forgive me if I am rushing the season too.🤗)

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.

Vultures Forecasted!

Friday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

November 15, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, our scripture message is blunt. If yesterday’s sweet words from Wisdom were like “rich toffee for the spirit”, today’s are more like a double shot of bourbon for the mind.

toffeebourbon

Basically our first reading says “Yes”- creation is magnificent, but not as magnificent as its Creator! You, learned humans, how could you have gotten stuck only half-way to that truth? How did you end up making gods from the very things that were supposed to show you the one true God?

In our Gospel, Jesus speaks even more starkly. He describes the “end times” when “one will be taken and the other left”. That reading  always scared me as a child and, to be honest, still scares me a little. The popular “rapture literature” has monopolized on that fear. Nobody likes the idea of their buddy, sitting right beside them eating ice cream, suddenly disappearing, right?

vultureAnd I guess Jesus actually was trying to strike a little healthy fear into his listeners too. He told them the vultures were already gathering. It’s late in the game. Get your act together.

Early Christians thought a lot about the end times. They expected them to come quickly after the Resurrection. Well, 2000 years later, our obsession may have cooled somewhat. 

Nevertheless, an end will come to this life as we know it. And wouldn’t it be a shame if we had spent our precious worship on false and distracting gods like money, fame, power, luxury and self-aggrandizement?

“Wouldn’t it be a shame”, as one of our dear Sisters once said, “to come to the end of your life and realize you had missed the whole point?”

 Music: One True God – Mark Harris

The Beauty of Wisdom

Thursday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/111419.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our beautiful reading from Wisdom requires no further words from me. I highly recommend that we savor each of its elegant words, turning them over in our hearts and souls – like a rich toffee for our hungry spirits.

Instrumental Music: Serenade by Secret Garden

In Wisdom is a spirit
intelligent, holy, unique,
Manifold, subtle, agile,
clear, unstained, certain,
Not baneful, loving the good, keen,
unhampered, beneficent, kindly,
Firm, secure, tranquil,
all-powerful, all-seeing,
And pervading all spirits,
though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.

For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion,
and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.
For she is an aura of the might of God
and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.

For she is the refulgence of eternal light,
the spotless mirror of the power of God,
the image of his goodness.
And she, who is one, can do all things,
and renews everything while herself perduring;
And passing into holy souls from age to age,
she produces friends of God and prophets.

For there is nought God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.
For she is fairer than the sun
and surpasses every constellation of the stars.
Compared to light, she takes precedence;
for that, indeed, night supplants,
but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom.
Indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily
and governs all things well.

The Hearings

Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Virgin

November 13, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, as the first public impeachment hearings begin, our readings seem eerily in synch with current events.

First of all, the hearings begin on the date we celebrate Frances Xavier Cabrini, first naturalized citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. 

As I write about her, the US Supreme Court opens the DACA hearings, testing three cases against the Trump administration’s decision in 2017 to end deportation protections for so-called Dreamers. The Court will decide whether the decision to end the program was based on legally sound reasons.
(The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants deferral from deportation and work permits to nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children.)

Col3_14 put on love

Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom is crystal clear about the moral responsibilities of leaders to act with justice tempered by mercy, and always to exhibit special concern for the poor and marginalized.

Using these scripture verses, Pope Leo XIII wrote two of his many compelling encyclicals. His writings, and the entire legacy of Catholic Social teaching, guide us as we discern who, how, and why to use our voting power to advance justice for all people.

The following excerpts, though a little long, are well worth our attention to provide a foundation for our prayer during these strained partisan times. Perhaps we might pray them in short doses over the course of these hearings.

from: Encyclical Letter Immortale Dei, Pope Leo XIII

immortale

They, therefore, who rule should rule
with evenhanded justice, not as masters,
but rather as parents,
for the rule of God over humanity is most just,
and is tempered always with a parent’s kindness.

Government should, moreover, be administered
for the well-being of the citizens,
because they who govern others possess authority
solely for the welfare of the State.
Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to
the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons,
inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all. 

But, if those who are in authority rule unjustly,
if they govern overbearingly or arrogantly,
and if their measures prove hurtful to the people,
they must remember that the Almighty
will one day bring them to account,
the more strictly in proportion to the sacredness of their office
and preeminence of their dignity.


Diurturnum

from: Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII, Diuturnum

But in order that justice may be retained in government,
it is of the highest importance that those who rule States
should understand that political power
was not created for the advantage of any private individual;
and that the administration of the State
must be carried on to the profit of those
who have been committed to their care,
not to the profit of those to whom it has been committed. 

On this account
they are warned in the oracles of the sacred Scriptures,
that they will have themselves some day to render an account
to the King of kings and Lord of lords;
if they shall fail in their duty,
that it will not be possible for them in any way
to escape the severity of God:
“The Most High will examine your work
and search out your thoughts:
because being ministers of his kingdom
you have not judged rightly…
Horribly and speedily will he appear to you,
for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule…
For God will not accept any man’s person,
neither will he stand in awe of any man’s greatness;
for he made the little and the great,
and he hath equally care of all.
But a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty”


Music: O Lord, the Clouds Are Gathering – Graham Kendrick

Want to Shine?

Memorial of Saint Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr

November 12, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, as we remember St. Josephat, our readings instruct us on what it means to be God’s faithful servant.

Josephat was. 

A 17th century saint born in Lithuania, Josephat was a humble and self-sacrificing Bishop. But his life was embroiled in the social and religious unrest subsequent to the Union of Brest.

(The Union of Brest, was the 1595-96 decision of the Ruthenian Orthodox Church eparchies (dioceses) in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to break relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church and to enter into communion with, and place itself under the authority of, the Roman Catholic Pope. – Wikipedia)

To a much greater degree than it would today, such a decision carried immense political import, creating the deadly oppositions to which Josephat ultimately lost his life.

Read Josephat’s story here.


Our first reading today, which is so familiar from the funerals we’ve attended, reminds us that all our lives will eventually return to God (hopefully not so dramatically as Josephat’s did).

Our Gospel too enjoins us to live humble, grateful lives of service, recognizing that everything we have and are belongs to God:

Is the Master grateful to that servant
because he did what was commanded?

So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
“We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.”

If we do this, we shall be blessed as described in Wisdom:

Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

Wisdom3_7 sparksJPG


These are sobering but necessary thoughts. As I write today (on November 11th), I think of the humble servant Catherine McAuley who died on this date in 1841. She has certainly sent sparks through the stubble. On this Veterans’ Day, I think of all who have died in war. I think of our Sister-veterans, Sister Bernard Mary Buggelein and Sister Dorothy Hillenbrand who served in WWII and now rest in our community cemetery. All of their lives have been called into the great embrace of our Eternal God. May all our lives inspire one another to humble service and praise.


Music: The Souls of the Righteous – Geraint Lewis, sung by Jesus Choir- Cambridge

The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God,
and the pain of death shall not touch them.
To the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to perish,
but they are in peace.

Wisdom 3:1-3

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)