The Year of Mercy: A Pause

In this reflection on the three interdependent Calls in the celebration of the year of Mercy, a call to experience Mercy, a call to conversation & communion and a call to mission, I want to reflect briefly on the value of a pause for the process of communion and the ongoing conversion of life.

When we take time to pause and let God’s gaze come upon us lets us feel our connection to the world around us, helps us find a place in which our greatest desires unites to the world’s greatest needs.  A pause to spend a year reflecting on the Mercy of God, allows our very self to connect to our way of being to an invitation to union in God’s unconditional love for God’s people.  This connection, this pause allows us to seek the transformation of the world that we live in this particular time, this particular place and with these particular people. A pause with this focus helps us connect to the real needs of the people before us and let us be open to those needs.  When we pause and let God’s gaze come upon us, instead of spending the time running frantically everywhere, the embodiment of the union with God found in the pause pushes out of ourselves in the a mission uniting all humanity in the two aspects of the one act of God’s love.

So today, the church asks us to pause and reflect on God’s Mercy. In the pause, we not only reflect so we can notice and experience Mercy, where we are and where we are called to show mercy to others.  In this pause, we learn to receive and believe in the mercy of God rather than to act as if it all depends on us by running around and being busybodies.  There are times in our lives when we just do not take the time and yet, there are ways that stop us in our steps, not just the dramatic moments of illness and death, but also those not so dramatic moments of stress and anxiety. In these moments, the pause comes, calls us beyond ourselves, calls us to see the world and our relationship to it in a new ways, and transforms us. When we pause, we re-collect ourselves in order to be able to give of ourselves to God and to each other.

To be a Christian in this age, calls us to take notice of those silent still moments even those dramatic moments, which call us for a greater transformation.  To be a Christian in this age pushes us to challenge the noise of our head, hearts and the world around us keeping us distracted and to transform the interaction by paying attention, deeply listening and sitting still.  The western appreciation for efficiency and productivity keeps us from doing the other part of the work of the Christian that is, finding ourselves in union with God and letting God’s gaze come upon us. The Liturgy becomes another place of the Christian work, which is the place where we are to stay awake, to step back, hold still and let God’s gaze come upon us.   This is place that we come to recognize that bread does not come from nowhere, but it comes from everywhere, it is everything. The ordinary becomes extraordinarily ordinary for those who are awake enough to see the Body of Christ receive and give the Body of Christ so that they go forth to be the Body of Christ for the transformation of the world.

Look around your communities, pause and listen deeply, what are the stories, unspoken values?  What needs reconciliation and healing? How are you called to encounter and dialogue?

The Year of Mercy: A Call to Conversatio & Communion

In my first reflection on the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I noticed three interdependent calls for celebrating this year: A Call to Experience Mercy, A Call to Conversatio & Communion and a Call to Mission.  My last post reflected on the Call to Experience Mercy and today I would like to reflect briefly on the Call to Conversatio & Communion.

In the monastic tradition, Conversatio or the full phrase Conversatio Morum is commonly translated as the ongoing fidelity to a way of life or the ongoing conversion of life.  At the heart of this monastic phrase to conversion of life that is anchored by remaining faithful to a way of life through the vows of stability and obedience.  To make a lifelong commitment to a way of life is in fact a heroic way to live one’s life and this will cause the need for ongoing conversion in the way in which we lead that committed life.  A good reminder for us during this Year of Mercy, that the beginning of our Call to Conversatio is to find its context within our particular experience of God’s Mercy.

In living out a Call to Conversatio we must find ourselves attentive to “the other” in the journey. Knowing the journey in the year of mercy is not just prayer and reconciliation—but a re-membering and an ongoing encounter/experience with a particular person in a particular time in a particular place, Jesus.  Maintaining long-term relationships reminds us to learn to distinguish between what is essential and what is nonessential.  Conversatio calls us to let go, to go beyond where we are, to where we can be, it is an invitation not to cling to past works. Mercy is not just a social event but is it is a holy event.

Inside of each person is some inner loneliness, homelessness or some alienation that longs to be welcomed.  Merely being nice to people, showing up to and following the rules does not fulfill the deep requirements of mercy. The Holy Father calls us to experience God’s mercy and to have an encounter in a way that the other stirs us and moves us out of ourselves to make a connection.  Mercy, like hospitality, will extract a cost from us and it will move us into the realm of the personal and the social transformation needed in our world. Mercy puts an end to injustice; t is a spiritual practice that leads us to becoming more human and answer to today’s inner loneliness and homelessness.  This loneliness/homelessness at the center of each person is there to lead us to greater experience of communion with one another and ultimately with God.

Look around your communities deeply; what are the stories, the unspoken values? Where are you being called to encounter ‘the other’ and called to a deeper sense of communion? In light of this information, how do we create an authentic community—not one that serves our own particular needs, but challenges us to be connected to the past, while enlarging our circles and working for a future that is larger than myself and calls for fidelity to that way of life?

If Today you hear God’s Voice harden not your hearts…Year of Mercy

During this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I talked about there being three distinct, yet mutual and interdependent movements in the calling for in this year of Mercy.

  1. A Call to Experience Mercy
  2. A Call to Conversatio & Communion
  3. A Call to Mission in the World

For today, I just want to take a brief look at the call to experience Mercy.  In Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis asks us to “let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and repeating that he love us and wants to share his love with us.” So how do we experience Mercy? How do we let God surprise us?

Remind ourselves that as a human we are capable of having a real encounter with a personal God.  We are created for community, we are social by nature and we exist in a particular time and in a particular place.  Our first encounter with God is a dynamic relationship where we first begin to understand the “i-thou” relationship of the whole person and God.  Our second encounter with God comes when we become conscious of our experience. Therefore, there is a role for memory, ritual and imagination.  When reflect back on an encounter to become more conscious of the experience so that we can go forward in new ways. It reveals to us ways in which God might be working, anchors us in a tradition and sends us forward with new inspiration and vision to see God.

So think back on your life when you had your first experience of being loved, even when you felt unlovable.  Just sit with this experience and let God’s gaze come upon you……

How are you in the experience (What is your immediacy and intensity with the experience? How did this experience speak to who you are and who you are to be?)

Now think of the particularity of the experience itself…it is this particularity that speak of an expression of the incarnation and this experience can be uncommon and moving or a common and related experience.

Where there self-imposing consequences?  Did your encounter with being loved, even when you felt unlovable move you to be more loving?  We cannot give what we do not have….If we have received an experience of Mercy, we enter more deeply into the kingdom of God’s mercy by making it more available to all.  At this moment, where do you need mercy? Can you ask for it?  At this moment, where can you show mercy? Can you give it?

Pope Francis call us to an experience of Mercy, not only are we called to remind our own experience of Mercy, but to share that experience and to re-enter more deeply into that experience of Mercy rendering the world more merciful.

The Year of Mercy….a return to blogging

HolyYearOfMercyIn this Year of Mercy, it is my hope to return to the process of blogging. A lot has changed since my last post, so hopefully this year I will post more regularly.  In my return to blogging, comes at a request from some folks asking me to return to writing reflections and thoughts, so I have begun with my reflections from the workshops/retreats and classes as part of my work to give back.

So here we sit on the eve before the opening of Extraordinary Year of Mercy, December 7th– a day that will live on in infamy– and all I can think of is in light of all that is going on in the world today, we could stand to experience a little Mercy in our hearts, homes and in our world.  Today, want to look ahead for the Jubilee year of Mercy. For me, the way in which I understand the focus of the year of Mercy is through the Papal Bull, Misericordiae Vultus that established the Extraordinary year of Mercy.

In that document, the Holy Father invites us to “contemplate the mystery of Mercy.”[1] Pope Francis reminds us that Mercy is “a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace.”[2]

  • “Our Salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. (communion) Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. (mission) Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”[3}

Pope Francis reminds us that purpose for this year is that we must take the time “gaze more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives….A time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.”[4]

I like how this year is summed up in paragraph 25:

“I present, therefore, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and of repeating that he loves us and wants to share his love with us. The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God’s mercy. Her life is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy. She knows that her primary task, especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ. The Church is called above all to be a credible witness to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ. From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends. The profundity of the mystery surrounding it is as inexhaustible as the richness which springs up from it.”[5]

So when I thought about reflecting on the Year of Mercy for today, I see three distinct, yet mutual and interdependent movements in the Calling of the Year of Mercy:

  1. A Call to Experience Mercy
  2. A Call to Conversatio & Communion
  3. A Call to Mission in the World

In my upcoming posts, I will reflect on these three callings in the Year of Mercy.


[1, 2, 3, 4, 5] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus: Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Vatican, April 2015. Paragraphs 2., 2, 3, 25


Feed my Lambs and Follow Me–Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Easter

Last Supper. Russian icon

Last Supper. Russian icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In today’s Gospel we meet resurrected Lord who gives the disciples some instructions.  “Cast your net””bring some fish” “come and eat” “Feed my lambs” “Tend my sheep” “Follow me”


It is interesting to note that the Gospels call out two disciples in particular, Simon Peter, who denied knowing Jesus and Thomas, who doubted the seeing the Lord. In today’s Gospel we get a picture of disciples instructions on taking care of the people who follow the Lord and the role of the disciples.  So too, we find for ourselves as disciples today the same instructions.


“Cast your net.”  Have you reached out to the deep to bring others to the Lord.  How wide have you put out your net?


“Bring some fish.” While we each bring to the table of the Lord our very selves, we should also bring others to the table, after all, it is a table of abundance and not a table of scarcity. In this Easter Season, have you reached out to those who are newly Baptized or joined the Church at Easter to welcome them?


“Come and Eat.”  Christ continue to be made known to the disciples through the sharing of a meal, in our welcoming of others into Communion, have we also opened our homes and hearts to them in welcome?


These are just some practical ways in which we can spend this season of Easter in celebrating the Paschal Lamb where by we “Feed my sheep” and “Tend my Lambs” and in the communion shared by those people newly gathered together we begin to learn a new reality of what is could mean for us to do what Jesus asks of us “Follow me.”


Christ is Risen!! Alleluia!




Did you hear? Untie him and let him go free. Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Lent

Icon of Lazarus Saturday

Icon of Lazarus Saturday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What must it have been like to stand at the tomb of Lazarus and hear Jesus say roll away the stone and call to Lazarus to come out and then everyone who witnessed to be told to untie and let him go free?  What would if you were Lazarus and you laid in the cold tomb in death for four days and you heard the Lord call your name?  You awake from your slumber and arise from your sleep and you make your way out of the tomb.  The community assists you with untying your bandages and you are set free.  Where do you go first?  What do you say?  Who do you go and visit?




Like Lazarus, Lent is a time of slumber as we await the Easter joy of God calling our name and untying our bandages.   When was the last time you heard God call your name? What are the areas of our own lives that we have kept bandaged up? Who do we need to seek to help untie them? Where is God already at work in leading you back to a renewed life?






In honor of what would be today’s Feast Day if Sunday did not take precedence.

Neal Obstat Theological Opining

I received several emails chiding me for not posting a St. Patrick post yesterday. ♧ I will re-post, for time’s sake.

From slavery you escaped to freedom in Christ’s service: He sent you to deliver Ireland from the devil’s bondage. You planted the Word of the Gospel in pagan hearts. In your journeys and hardships you rivaled the Apostle Paul! Having received the reward for your labors in heaven, never cease to pray for the flock you have gathered on earth, Holy bishop Patrick!            — Orthodox antiphon for the Feast

St. Patrick’s call to evangelize the Irish is a wild and absolutely unique story. Born in Britain, he was captured as a young man by Celtic pirates, enslaved as a shepherd in Ireland and, after having risked his life to regain his freedom, said “yes” to a divine call to return to his captors in…

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My Son, You Are Here With Me Always

I have been away giving a day of recollection and writing, so with the time change I found my time cut short, so i share this reflection from Biltrix for this Sunday. This week please continue to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance for the Cardinals as they enter into Conclave Tuesday.


Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday) Gospel Reflection

Perspective — Maybe you’re looking at it the wrong way

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What do you seek? Reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Lent

samaritan-woman-at-the-well-jruchi-gospels-ii-mss-georgia-12th-cenThis year, I celebrate my 20th year of my journey of being Catholic.  I came to the Church during my teen years, being raised in a Protestant family, the world of the Catholic Church was quite foreign to me as an “outsider.” However, I was seeking?  Quite honestly, during that time in my life, I’m not quite sure what I was seeking. I knew I wanted a deeper relationship with God and I knew that many of my friends were Catholic.  So during those early days it is tough to distinguish between what I really seeking, inclusion in the household of God or greater inclusion with my friends.  In either case, one leads to the other.

This week’s readings for those places that celebrate the Scrutinies, hear the story of the Samaritan women at the well and Jesus asking for a drink.  In this reading we hear of Jesus talking both of giving the water, the life-giving water that brings new life, and that you will thirst no more and food so that you can do the will of the One who sent me. I have had the privilege to journey with several communities of people who are also o their journey to the Catholic Church this year and in my journey with them, I am renewed and reminded of “What I seek?”  Life in the community of Christ, is also the life-giving water that can lead you to “thirst no more.”  One of the striking differences I have seen in my spiritual journey, is the role and life of the community.  It is the community that teaches us about life in God and it is our reflection on the life of God, especially when reflecting on the life of the Trinity, that teaches us about what it means to be community. While the water that we drink is the life of the community, this water only leads us deeper into desiring the life-giving water of life in God.  The prayer of Exorcism for the First Scrutiny reminds us the interdependence of life in the community and life in God.

“God of power, you sent your Son to be our Savior. Grant that these catechumens, who, like the woman of Samaria, thirst for living water, may turn to the Lord as they hear his word and acknowledge the sins and weaknesses that weigh them down. Protect them from vain reliance on self and defend them from the power of Satan. Free them from the spirit of deceit, so that, admitting the wrong they have done, they may attain purity of heart and advance on the way to salvation. We ask this through Christ our Lord.”–from the Rite of Christian Initiation, First Scrutiny.

This prayer so powerfully reminds us that our life in community and especially our life in Christ moves us from our ‘vain reliance on self’ and advances us ‘on the way to salvation.’  So today, we pray for those catechumens throughout the world who continue their journey to the Paschal Feast of Easter, yet at the same time we must continue to ask ourselves “What do we seek?” in this season of Lent  “vain reliance on self” masked in various Lenten practices or “purity of heart and advance on the way to salvation.”  May you have a blessed week!