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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Friday of the 15th week in ordinary time

Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.

Jesus’ telling the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, “I desire mercy not sacrifice,” reminds me of a wonderful story from Sister Jessica Powers, a Carmelite nun from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who is famous for her books of spiritual poetry. In the late 1930s Jessica Powers lived in New York City. She recalls how she sat on a park bench arguing with an editor for over two hours as to whether truth or beauty was the greater attribute of God. The editor sided with truth; she, with beauty. Several months before she died, she said that perhaps both she and the editor were wrong. “In the end,” she said, “all we have is the mercy of God. That is God’s greatest attribute.”

Like the hungry apostles walking through a field of ripe grain, Sister Jessica knew to approach Jesus when she was most in need. She used poetry to express what ordinary words could not. Sister Jessica knew that our healing comes from the Lord, who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. He does not think less of us because we have fallen. He knows that the world of sin is too strong to resist on our own. What we need to do is to “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and timely help” (Hebrews 4:16).

Because poetry can say in a few words what it would take pages to write, I’ll conclude with a poem of Sister Jessica Powers that cuts right to the heart of the matter.

God sits on a chair of darkness in my soul.
He is God alone, supreme in His majesty.
I sit at His feet, a child in the dark beside Him;
my joy is aware of His glance and my sorrow is tempted
to rest on the thought that His face is turned from me.
He is clothed in the robes of His mercy, voluminous garments –
not velvet or silk and affable to the touch,
but fabric strong for a frantic hand to clutch,
and I hold to it fast with the fingers of my will.
Here is my cry of faith, my deep avowal
to the Divinity that I am dust.
Here is the loud profession of my trust.
I need not go abroad
to the hills of speech or the hinterlands of music
for a crier to walk in my soul where all is still.
I have this potent prayer through good or ill:
here in the dark I clutch the garments of God.

—From page 1 of Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers

Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.