Advent Day 10: For Mercy’s Sake …

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
— Maya Angelou from Amazing Peace

 

Mercy & Love

I came across a quote from St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “The God who comes to us as an infant can only be mercy and love.” Every time we look at a Nativity scene, God reveals mercy and love. What happened on Christmas only shows us mercy and love.

This is the time to remember all of that. We remember how our God rejoices and delights in us. So much so that he didn’t want to remain hidden. God didn’t want to leave us alone in the struggles and doubts and questions of life. God came to us in person, in flesh and blood, to be found.
— Mark A. Villano from Time to Get Ready

 

Jesus Heals

There are more healings of lepers than any other kind of story in the four Gospels. Jesus is always healing lepers. Leprosy, in fact, in the New Testament is a broad term. It really doesn’t mean what we would call Hansen’s Disease today. “Lepers” were people who, for some reason, were told they were physically unacceptable. They were people who were considered taboo, contagious, disabled, dangerous or excluded for all kinds of reasons. The message seems to be: “You’re not doing it right” or “You are not acceptable as a member of society.” Every Society does this, and we do too, but just in different ways and by different criteria.

When Jesus receives the lepers, he always touches them, and often he then leads them or sends them to a new place. Invariably he reintroduces them to the community and realigns their social status and acceptability.  He pulls them back inside of social acceptability.  That is the healing!
— Richard Rohr from Preparing for Christmas

 

For Mercy’s Sake

But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless.
— Matthew 12:7

Jesus and his disciples were walking through a field of grain. The Pharisees became upset when the hungry disciples pulled off and ate some of the heads of grain because such activity was not permitted on the Sabbath. Jesus responded to their criticism by telling the Pharisees that he was not so concerned about the rules of the law (sacrifice) as he was about the way people related to one another (mercy).

I know Jesus’ words are true for me: I’d rather fast for a day anytime (sacrifice) than have to be kind and open to someone who has dealt me a low blow (mercy). I would rather choose my own daily sacrifices than have them come to me in the form of critical people, impatient drivers, grumbling friends and irritable coworkers. How much easier it is to give up a piece of candy or go to church on Sunday than to stay loving toward those who mess up my day. Sacrifices I choose seem easy compared to the continual kindness required by Jesus.

Merciful God,
I will accept the difficult people of my day.
May the sacrifices I choose be ones
filled with love and kindheartedness.

— Joyce Rupp from Inviting God In: Spiritual Reflections and Prayers Throughout the Year

 

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Advent Day 01: A Sacred Season …

Christmas is a swiftly moving season with few clear boundaries. The day after we’ve packed up our Halloween costumes, Hallmark Channel begins nearly two months of twenty-four-seven presentations of Christmas movies. Shortly thereafter, we are inundated with ads inviting us to shop early to get the best bargains. The holiday rush is in full swing by Thanksgiving with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales abounding, and People jostling one another to be 1st to purchase the latest must have Christmas presents. Radio stations begin playing Christmas songs on Thanksgiving Day.

In the fifty-five days from All Saints’ day to Christmas Day, we prepare for Christ coming through online shopping, bargain hunting, photos with Santa coma songs and carols, baking, drinking, and revelling. Despite wars and rumors of war, poverty, addiction, and homelessness, Christmas magic is in the air! That often in the magic we miss the sacredness of the season, the holy time and space of pregnancy, birth, and revelation. Continue reading “Advent Day 01: A Sacred Season …”

Advent Meditation: Finding God …

Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Whoever is without love does not know God,
for God is love.
— 1 John 4:7-8, 12.

 

We are made of the sky’s cloth
and every thing is soul and flowering!
I open and fill with love,
and what is not love evaporates.
— Rumi from The Soul of Rumi

 

The Universe Is Love

The people who know God well—mystics, hermits, prayerful people, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator.
— Richard Rohr from Everything Belongs

 

Mercy & Love

I came across a quote from St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “The God who comes to us as an infant can only be mercy and love.” Every time we look at a Nativity scene, God reveals mercy and love. What happened on Christmas only shows us mercy and love. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Finding God …”

Advent Meditation: Hope Anyway …

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness.
— Malachi 3:1–3

The prophet Malachi appeared at a time of discouragement for the chosen people. They had survived the exile under the Babylonians and were back in their homeland. In what should have been a time of gratitude and renewed fidelity to God’s law, Malachi saw the old patterns beginning again, the attitudes that had gotten the people in trouble in the past. The same old injustices, abuses, and indifference were creeping back into the culture … Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Hope Anyway …”

Advent Meditation: Without Love …

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
— 1 Cor 13:1-7

 

In Luke’s Gospel, it is the Jewish poor, the shepherds, who first see and recognise this birth as a manifestation of God in their midst. Perhaps this reflects the experience of Luke’s community and its emphasis on Jesus’ outreach to the marginal ones. In Mathew’s Gospel, it’s the Magi, these Gentile outsiders, who see a mysterious star and follow it. They recognise that the promises made to the chosen people are being fulfilled. How unlikely that they would be the ones to see and understand, while others who are much closer to the revelation are indifferent, or even hostile, to it. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Without Love …”

Advent Meditation: Love That Sees Us …

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
— James 5:7-8

We live in a certain tension. Where do we see it? What parts of ourselves do we wish weren’t there? In what failures, weaknesses, or wrongdoing do we feel cursed? These are the places where new insights can break through. We come to see that our vulnerability is a gift, or that a weakness can be a strength. We come to know that the only love that is meaningful is the love that sees us as we are and loves us as we are. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Love That Sees Us …”

Advent Meditation: Different Every Year …

Every year we hear the same stories. Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, foreigners – all on different journeys and all converging in Bethlehem. These stories, carols, church services, school plays: the same every year but also different. Different because we are different every year. Every year we bring ourselves to these stories, and we’re always changing. We’ve had different experiences, we’re asking different questions. We’ll see something new, hear a detail we never noticed. A word, a phrase, a meaning will come to our aid in a new way. Continue reading “Advent Meditation: Different Every Year …”