The Summer day

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

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Gospel Reflection for July 5, 2020 -14th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Zechariah 9.9-10; Romans 8.9, 11-13; Matthew 11.25-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11.28
The Wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible personify our human capacity of knowing as Lady Wisdom, who is with God from the beginning and in whom God delights as a partner artist and artisan. Wisdom begins in awe, a sense of the holy in the diversity and beauty of creation, the experience of amazement at the observable order in days and nights, seasons, the growth of seeds, the cycles of rain. All creation is Wisdom’s home and school for revealing who God is.

Sunday’s gospel echoes the teacher Sirach, who describes the blessings of Wisdom, “Come to her with your soul, and keep her ways with all your might.  Search out and seek, and she will become known to you; and when you get hold of her, do not let her go” (Sirach 6.26-27).

Jesus speaks as wisdom’s prophet and teacher. Like Wisdom Jesus seeks to reveal God and the goodness of creation to all. He invites us all to Wisdom’s table, the simple and the wise, the weary, the burdened, the lowly and least. Jesus refers to his teachings, his new law, as a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. His teachings lighten, refresh, and restore our spirits; they give life. The rest Jesus promises is stopping to let indescribable beauty soak in. Rest is existing in right relationship with all that is, acknowledging ourselves and all that is as God’s gift, welcoming and blessing even the least among us.
Where do you find rest? What and who revives you? What is easy and unburdening about Jesus’ teachings? 

Hildegard of Bingen: Patron saint of green and growing

Hildegard was only five years old in 1098 when her parents brought her, their tenth child, to the monastery of St. Disibode. A holy woman named Jutta took the little girl in and taught her Latin and music so she could sing the psalms with the monks and nuns. Jutta also taught Hildegard everything she knew about herbal medicine. At age 15, Hildegard decided to follow the Benedictine way and become a nun. When Jutta died, Hildegard became the prioress of the community.

Hildegard was a mystic, a person who experiences extraordinary communion with God. Hildegard wrote down her understandings of God in vivid pictures. Many women were attracted to her teaching about God and came to join her monastery, which grew so large that Hildegard started another monastery near Bingen, a nearby city. She continued to write and teach. Here is one of her poems.

Again I am in turmoil.
Should I speak, or must I be silent?
I feel like a gnarled old tree, withered and crooked and flaky.
All the stories of the years are written on my branches.
The sap is gone, the voice is dead.

But I long to make again a sacred sound.
I want to sound out God
I want to be a young juicy, sap-running tree
So that I can sing God as God knows how.

O God, you gentle viridity
O Mary, honeycomb of life
O Jesus, hidden in sweetness as flowing honey,
Release my voice again.

I have sweetness to share.
I have stories to tell.
I have God to announce.
I have green life to celebrate.
I have rivers of fire to ignite.

Hildegard made up the word viridity. It means greening, the life power of God that is in everything. For Hildegard the Word of God is greening; it has the power to create Christians. A tree growing and branching out is greenness in motion. Love is green. Jesus is greenness incarnate. Sin is not green. Sin is drying up, losing one’s ability to create.

• Read the first two verses of the poem again. When have you felt your sap is gone, your voice dead? What or who helped you know you could sing again?

• Does Hildegard’s way of calling on God, on Mary, on Jesus resonate with you? Can you read the last verse of the poem as your own song?

If Hildegard were alive today, she would sing about God’s work in the unfolding of creation in evolution. “O Holy Spirit” she writes, “you make life alive, you move in all things, you are the root of all created being, you waken and reawaken everything that is.”

For her teaching, Pope Benedict named Hildegard a Doctor of the Church. This means she is one of the Catholic Church’s greatest teachers. There are four women Doctors—St. Hildegard, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux.

• Make a resolution to see the Holy Spirit greening the earth around you. Pray a thanksgiving prayer each day for one beautiful thing you see.

“I am a feather on the breath of God.”

Gospel Reflection for June 28, 2020 – 13th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: 2 Kings 4.8-11,14-16; Romans 6.3-4,8-11; Matthew 10.37-42

“Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life will find it. Whoever welcomes you welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” – Matthew 10.38-40

Sayings multiply because the comparisons and wordplay that make them memorable tend to generate additional versions. Sunday’s gospel applies the same point in several ways. Faith is a wholehearted entrusting of one’s self to whom or what one considers ultimate. The men and women who followed Jesus during his public life left their homes and walked with him. To believe in Jesus is a relationship so fundamental that it claims allegiance deeper than family ties. We choose self-giving as our way of life as it was for Jesus. It means taking up Jesus’ cross. Discipleship demands willingness to walk the walk Jesus did and trust God that one will find one’s life in giving it.

The hospitality sayings apply the principle of reciprocity. The way we welcome people to our homes is the way we welcome Jesus. When violent acts dominate the news the threat of violence can seem pervasive. Every stranger becomes a threat rather than potential friend. To rebuild community in our urban and suburban neighborhoods, we need to learn our neighbors’ names and those of their children. We need to exercise safe ways to welcome new people into our lives. Human and Christian community depend on hospitality. It is the means for gathering all into communion at God’s table.

What is an example of a relationship in which giving of yourself helped you find yourself? What strangers in your neighborhood do you fear? How might friends work together to welcome them in safe ways?

Gospel Reflection for June 21, 2020 – 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 20.10-13; Romans 5.12-15; Matthew 10.26-33

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10.29

In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus commissions his disciples to do what he has been doing—healing, teaching, and freeing people, bringing the kingdom of God into people’s lives. Jesus’ instructions to missionaries come to us as memorable sayings, such as “what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”

Jesus cautions that despair and death of spirit are worse than death itself and warns missionaries they cannot to expect their lives to be different from his. They may suffer rejection as he did, but they have reasons not to fear. God will care for them as God care for the most common and seemingly expendable of birds, the sparrow. To affirm the worth of sparrows in God’s hands affirms that God cares for every human person and all creation. Jesus’ message to love others as he has loved us is every Christians’ call to live out and hand on.

What deadens your spirit? What importance does ordinary people living the gospel have today?

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Don’t Miss Matthew!

The summer Sundays bring us Matthew’s best stories — the Syrophoenician woman who speaks up for her daughter, the fearful disciples who are afraid their boat will sink, the 5,000 who trust Jesus will feed them. You can have these and more in the summer and September issues of Sunday by Sunday.

You can read all 15 summer and September issues online at Or you may print them out to share with others. If you wish, you may make a donation to Good Ground Press to help cover our expenses in bringing these Sunday reflections to you. Call Lacy at 800-232-5533 and she’ll take your donation information or mail a check to the address below. May you have a blessed summer.

Our mailing address is:
Good Ground Press
1884 Randolph Ave
Saint Paul, MN 55105

Tiny Retreat: The Feast of Corpus Christi

In honor of the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, we offer you a tiny retreat based on the feast’s Gospel. This retreat is especially for those on our email list who do not get Sunday by Sunday. Please feel free to pass the retreat on to a friend.

To begin place yourself in the presence of Jesus. Jesus, this is ___________ .  I have been fed by you at the Eucharist for _______ years. This Sunday, June 14, is the day we celebrate your gift of the Eucharist. I begin by reading this story from Luke’s Gospel. 

Why don’t you give them something to eat?

Narrator:  Jesus spoke to the crowds of the reign of God, and he healed all who were in need of healing. As sunset approached, the twelve came to him.

Twelve:  Dismiss the crowd so that they can go into the villages and farms in the neighborhood and find themselves lodging and food, for this is certainly an out-of-the-way place.

Jesus:  Why don’t you give them something to eat yourselves?

Twelve:  We have nothing but five loaves and two fishes. Shall we go and buy food for all these people?

Narrator:  There were about five thousand men.Jesus:  Have them sit down in groups of fifty or so.

Narrator:  Jesus’ disciples followed his instructions and got the people all seated. Then taking the five loaves and the two fishes, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced a blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to his disciples for distribution to the crowd. They all ate until they had enough. What was left filled twelve baskets. – Luke 9.11-17    

Jesus, you feed people who follow you hungry for healing, hungry for the words you speak, and hungry because it has been a long day. You feel compassion for them and tell your followers to feed them. When they say they have only a little food and little money to buy more, you —

• Take the food they offer you,
• Bless it, acknowledging it is a gift from God,
• Break it into pieces,
• Give it to your followers to distribute to the people.

This is what happens at our Eucharist today. We offer the bread and wine that is our lives. It becomes your body and blood to nourish us. As in your time, when we have all eaten there is plenty left over, plenty to share.

How does celebrating Eucharist nourish me? How does Eucharist lead me to become nourishment for others?

A friend’s mother told her that if she didn’t stop eating so many chocolate-chip cookies, she was going to turn into one. The mother exaggerated about the cookies, but her example holds true for the Eucharist. When we gather at Eucharist, we remember how Jesus gave his whole self to us. We find the strength and courage to try this kind of self-giving ourselves. Because we gather together over and over, we remember over and over. We become more and more like Jesus. We become his real presence to our world.

When have I experienced myself as Christ present in the world? How has God acted in me and through me for nourish others?

To conclude make a prayer of thanks and praise for the many times you have received the Body of Christ. Remember the people who prepared you for this sacrament and those you have shared Eucharist with all these years. Conclude your retreat with the Alleluia verse from the feast day liturgy.

Alleluia, Alleluia! I am the living bread that come down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever (John 6.51). Alleluia!


Now is the time to order small note cards with envelopes for only $1.50 each. Two Sister of St. Joseph artists—Ansgar Holmberg and Joanne Emmer—have created images of life, light, and beauty for you. Go to to choose the cards you need. 

Gospel Reflection for Sunday, June 7, 2020 – Trinity Sunday

Sunday Readings: Exodus 34.4-6, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 13.11-13; John 3.16-18

“Yes, God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him”. – John 3.16-17

Some theologians today have reclaimed the Greek word perichoresis, which earlier theologians used to describe the Trinity interrelating dynamically as three persons in one love. English speakers know the prefix peri, for example in the word perimeter, meaning all around, near.

We know the meaning of chores from doing them every day, making our rounds. We feed our animals, take out the trash. In Greek chor means to dance around. A chorus is a joyful round dance, circling, intertwining. In musicals a chorus sings and dances, creates joyous music and motion. In any chorus sings intertwine their voices in both harmony and unity.

The early Greek theologians use the word perichoresis in imaging the Trinity as persons-in-communion, who exist in a kind of divine round dance in which no one person is superior or inferior to the other. The three persons together form one source of our being, which like theirs is being-in-relation.

In the image of making rounds, God is a dynamic community, and a community of equals becomes our human ideal. The perichoresis image eliminates the subordination implicit in patriarchal order: the Father first, the Son and Spirit subordinate. It counters the easy assumption when making the Sign of the Cross that the Father is first, then Son, the Spirit in an hierarchical order. Using the circle image of the Trinity allows us to reflect on God as the shared life at the heart of the universe.

It is this image of three persons in God sharing life, rather than the image of the monarch on the throne, that is the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. In the Trinity an irrepressible loving, creative communion of persons animates the communion of life that is our created existence.

When we use language to describe the mystery of God, we are using metaphor. When we call God father, we are saying God is like fathers we know. In the scriptures we also call God mother, friend, shepherd, lover, fortress, whirlwind. It is important to describe God as richly and fully as we can.

Share names or images of God that have meaning for you. In her book She Who Is, Elizabeth Johnson asks, if we have the choice between “an isolated, static, ruling monarch and a relational, dynamic, tripersonal mystery of love—who wouldn’t opt for the latter”? Which do you favor?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection, please visit the Sunday By Sunday page to order a subscription or to view sample issues. Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Reflect with St. Francis about God, Earth, and your own heart.

Living Like Francis Today invites both individuals and small groups to explore six Franciscan themes — living simply, humbly, prayerfully, lovingly, with care for creation, and at peace.

This small 60-page book combines the teaching and prayers of St. Francis with gospel stories and reflection suggestions. A bargain at just $5.50. Read a sample chapter. Order online at or call Lacy at 800-232-5533.

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