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Mark 9:1-7: Jesus Transfigured

Icon: The Transfiguration

Icon: The Transfiguration

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rather than ask for a sign of our worthiness or God’s presence, we might act on the opportunity we are given to witness to Christ’s transformation as did Peter, James and John.

When we pause in the rush of life to examine those around us . . .

When we listen for God’s voice and do as God bids us . . .

When we are loving in our approach to enemies . . .

When we are patient with ourselves, faithful to our covenant, hopeful that our impossible dreams will be realized . . .

We see miraculous conversions taking place around us constantly . . . and this is our sign.

We witness the transformation of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we discover that we ourselves are transfigured . . . and this is our sign.

We see the blessing of the gifts offered by the Holy Spirit . . . and thsi is our sign.

We keep vigil at the tomb to witness to the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of ourselves and so we begin to fully understand that it is through his own transfiguration that Christ transfigures each of us. And this surely and simply and certainly is our sign . . . that we are well and truly loved by God.

For more on icons, click on the image above or visit: https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/transfiguration-icon-the-event-and-the-process/ 

Adapted from a favorite written on March 22, 2008.


Mark 8:11-13: The Demand for a Sign1765_Jesus-Man-of-Sorrows-628x416

Friday, August 28, 2015

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

I am certain that Jesus sighs deeply in his spirit many times in a human day . . . and I am equally convinced that he smiles with our many little triumphs over self.  His humanness wants to celebrate with us.  His divinity wants to heal us.  Despite all of the evidence we have before us of God’s constancy and love, we still do not trust God . . . we still ask for signs.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

Luke 3:10-18 is a story of an encounter which John the Baptist had with the Jewish and pagan world.  He cautions the Jews that they must share what they have rather than hoard it for themselves.  He asks the tax collectors to cease cheating people.  And he reminds the soldiers that they ought to be content with the power they have and cease their grumbling. As Bishop Robert Morneau tells us in Daily Reflections for ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2009-2010 when he writes about this episode: Joy lies in perpetual gratitude.   The more we practice gratitude, the easier it is to live in trust and faith.  The more we live in trust and faith, the less need we have to ask for signs.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

In Matthew 21:23-27, Jesus is asked by the chief priests and elders by whose authority he speaks.  Jesus replies with a question – as he does frequently when he knows he is being baited.  He asks who gave his cousin, John, the authority to baptize.  He wants to know: Was it of heavenly or human origin?  When they refuse to commit themselves, Jesus declines to answer their question.  They had not really been looking for an answer.  Are we always asking for an answer when we question . . . or are we trying to control God in our lives?

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

We humans question God continually.  We want to know our next steps.  We want to know the reasons, the origins, the causes and the effects.   We are a bit afraid, or a bit too proud, to allow our sophisticated selves to experience wonder or mystery; and yet it is through the mystery of Christ’s presence in our lives each day that we are stirred to ask questions, to delve deep within, to step outside of ourselves.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit . . .

We imagine that Christ sighs a great deal as he accompanies us in our journey toward him.  We also imagine that he smiles a great deal . . . as we learn to capitulate ourselves into the safety of his hands.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 14, 2009.


Mark 6:1-6Jesus of Nazareth

Diego Velázquez: Christ Cricufied - The Prado Museum, Madrid

Diego Velázquez: Christ Crucified – The Prado Museum, Madrid

Thursday, August 27, 2015

“What is this wisdom that is given to him?  What mean such miracles wrought by his hands?” . . .  And Jesus marveled at their unbelief.  (Douay)

“Where did this man get all this?  What kind of wisdom has been given him?  What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands?”  . . .  He was amazed at their lack of faith.  (NAB)

“This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Jude and Simon?  His sisters, too, are they not here with us?”  And they would not accept him. . . .  He was amazed at their lack of faith.  (Jerusalem Bible)

“Where did he get the things he is teaching?” they said.  How can he perform such miracles?”  . . .  He was amazed at their unwillingness to believe.  (William Barclay translation)

When I reflect on the Crucifixion, call to mind the image created by Diego Velázquez that tells us – much like Marks’s Gospel – of the stark reality of the love Jesus, this God-man, has for each of us.  It seems to me that Velázquez has captured the unambiguous difference between the healing, merciful Christ and the Jesus of Nazareth who is disbelieved in his own town.  The mystical eeriness produced by the floating cross coupled with the universality of Jesus’ half-covered face allow us to personalize this image with our own version of the very human Christ.

I imagine that our own lack of faith proves a heavy obstacle to the performing of miracles and to the healing of bodies and souls . . . yet Jesus of Nazareth abides.  He still performs the impossible.

Let us invite this Jesus into our homes today and every day.  Let us open our hearts and minds to the wild possibilities he dares to dream with us.  Let us gather together as his resurrected body . . . to bring healing and hope to one another.

Use the scripture link above to explore other translations of these verses.

Adapted from a favorite written on June 8, 2008. 

 


Mark 3:20-35Jesus and his Family

Tissot: Jesus Teaching in the Temple

Tissot: Jesus Teaching in the Temple

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

He came home.  Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 

As I was growing up and moving into womanhood, my oldest brother – twelve years my senior – would come home from college, visit us when he had military leave, and then brought his family to visit from places across oceans.  When he did, the clan would gather to celebrate.  My sisters – both older than I but younger than this brother – came home often, and they brought their families from places nearby.  They believed that the celebrations for my brother were more enthusiastic than those for their own families.  Perhaps they were.  I do not remember seeing the difference.  My younger brother and I watched this curious mixture of disappointment and love, feeling that push and pull of family dynamics and understanding that this was how family functioned. A dichotomy of conflict and acceptance, worry and love. I suspect that each of us has similar family experiences.

In today’s Noontime we see Jesus return home from a pilgrimage of healing and transforming others, and so many gathered that it was impossible for them even to eat.  Jesus’ family, worried that he will come under scrutiny by the officials, declares that he is out of his mind.  The scribes, worried about losing influence with the people, decide that Jesus is possessed by the devil.  This is a confusing, jumbled juxtaposition of celebration and dangerous plotting.

Life is never a simple picture.  Reality is always a combination of highs and lows, positives and negatives, sorrows and joys.  Today’s Noontime, much like my own family memories, presents us with a picture of sadness mixed with delight, celebration with worry.  And this is as it should be.  For this is how families are.  And this family of Jesus that we read about today is very much like our own families.

All of this makes sense when we watch Jesus return home and we consider that he is, after all, our brother.

Adapted from a reflection written on August 31, 2010.

Tomorrow, Jesus of Nazareth.

Mark 1:3: The Voice


Mark 1:3The Voice

John the Baptist

John the Baptist

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness is often drowned out by the din of the world that clamors for its own comfort and pleasure.  Prophets and martyrs are derided and put aside, punished and even murdered because of their fidelity to the voice that speaks to them in the inmost heart.  Those who hear and respond to that voice in the wilderness are more often ridiculed than praised and more often silenced than thanked.  This is the struggle we experience daily.  How do we sort out the inner messages that tug at us?

Those who refuse to kowtow, who insist on speaking truth, and who ask tough questions also expect justice and mercy to overcome deception and evil.  John the Baptist was one of these clear-throated voices that pierced through the cacophony of the moment to burn so brightly that we remember him still today.  Most of us do not expect to live in such a momentous way . . . but our more quiet lives are no less important.

Satan Tempting Jesus

Satan Tempting Jesus

Matthew 4:8-10 is part of the Morning Prayer in MAGNIFICAT today and it tells the story of the conversation between Satan and Jesus at the moment when Christ begins his ministry.  In the meditation today entitled The Heart of True Wisdom, Dom Augustin Guillerand, O. Cart.  (a spiritual writer of the last century) tells us that when we hear the voice of darkness whispering in our ear, we will know how to react according to the measure of our love for God.  What is difficult here is to know whether the voice we hear speaks from good or from evil.  This is our constant struggle; yet we will know that the source is goodness when we hear it calling us to right wrongs against those among us who are the weakest.  We will know that the source is darkness when it encourages us to seek self-pleasure and comfort at the expense of the marginalized and forgotten.

hearing god's voiceIn the end, we act according to our understanding of the voice we hear and tend to best; even our most quiet activities are a demonstration of what we believe and what god or gods we worship.  So this is perhaps what we must say to ourselves – just as Jesus does: The Lord my God I shall worship.  Him alone will I serve. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 16.9 (2009). Print.  

A Favorite from September 16, 2009.

Tomorrow, Jesus and his family. 


Mark 1:14-45: The Mystery of Jesus – Fire and Water

Monday, August 24, 2015

Guercino: Jesus and the Woman at the Well

Guercino: Jesus and the Woman at the Well

The Good News of Mark draws for us the lightning bolt experience of God’s visit amid us in the form of Jesus the Christ.  He appears, pronounces, sets a model, calls, loves, exits, returns and abides, all in such a quick flash of time.  Today’s Noontime allows us to reflect on the blaze of light which Jesus can bring to us if we only respond to his call as his first apostles and disciples did.  We can also think about the image we heard in yesterday’s Gospel of John: Jesus arrives as a refreshing drink of cool, running water on an arid day.  This water satisfies for a lifetime, not only for a hot afternoon.  This running water of Jesus’ Word is not the warm water of the cistern with its temporary quenching.  This Living Water lasts forever.

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT reflection on the woman at the well reading from John is written by Fr. André Louf, O.C.S.P.: Everything speaks to Jesus; everything is a sign and a sacrament; all things sing of the glory and love of his Father:  this water, this well, the thirst which both of them feel, this desire to drink, even the unbearable thirst of the Samaritan woman.  It was a thirst she carried with her everywhere from man to man without being able to quench it, until she no longer knew who her true husband and what true love were . . .

Mark opens the window for us to see who and what Jesus is.  Mystery.  Light.  Trust. Truth.  Love.  Fire.  And water.  Mark gives us a quick-moving, rapid-eye version of the passion that Jesus ignites in the world.  We experience Jesus’ thirst for his people as he moves like a prairie fire through the towns and villages of Galilee: he calls, he cures, he heals, he cleanses.  He is the Living Water that slacks deep thirst.  And this is the picture which John paints in chapter 4 of his Good News.

jesuswellThe woman at the well in Chapter 4 of John’s Gospel also had a thirst for love, just as Jesus did; but she was dipping into the still water of the town’s cistern just as she was dipping into the lives of men without truly connecting, without pre-thought, without remorse for quick and superficial relationships.  She perhaps was hoping to quench her desire for authentic companionship with her string of relationships. We will never know. But what we do know is that she finds something new when she encounters Christ.  At first she diverts Jesus’ observations about the men in her life by moving to the topic of worship, but she cannot escape the truth. Jesus establishes trust, is patiently relentless, and once she lets him into her heart and her life – when she opens to his words – he changes her forever. She is never the same.

What are our thirsts?  For what do we hunger?  What worries might we allow Christ’s mystery and fire to consume?  What anxieties grip us that might be stilled by the Living Water?  What might we change?

Jesus is clearly calling each of us to work in his kingdom just as he called the apostles and the Samaritan woman. Perhaps we might also leave our empty water jar at the well and run to tell this Good News to all. Perhaps we might put aside our strings of temporary relationships and commitments.  Perhaps we might set fire to the dryness of our lives as Mark does in the opening of his Good News story.  And perhaps we might allow Jesus to both set us afire and quench our thirst for life and love.  Perhaps in so doing we will enter into, and find union with, the mystery that is Jesus the Christ.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 24.2 (2008). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written February 25, 2008.

Tomorrow, listening for the voice.

 

 


Mark 1:35-39: Jesus Leaves Capernaum

Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinsky: The Sermon at Capernaum

Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinsky: The Sermon at Capernaum

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The healing presence of Jesus is rejected when he walks among those who knew him from childhood; and so . . . rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. We might take comfort that even Jesus is turned away by those closest to him. Simon Peter says to Jesus when he searches for and finally finds him: Everyone is looking for you. But are they? Are we?

We seek Christ in the quiet of a stolen moment only to find him in the chaos of the world. Everyone is looking for you.

We enact Jesus in the ordered giving of our surplus only to be asked to give him from that which we were keeping to sustain us. Everyone is looking for you.

We promise Christ that we will follow when all is settled and once we have time to think and prepare only to discover that we follow Jesus most closely in the spur-of-the-moment acts that come through us from Christ’s universal heart. Everyone is looking for you.

Mark’s Gospel is brief and lightning quick, much like Jesus’ physical time on earth with humanity. Mark’s story is powerful and concise, much like the trajectory of Jesus public ministry. Mark’s good news is embracing in its scope and mysterious in its stark detail, much like the presence of the risen Christ among us.

Over the coming days we will also leave the known world that we have created for ourselves to examine more closely a number of aspects of Mark’s story . . . as we too search for Christ . . . as we too create our own evocative and significant story of leaving Capernaum.

Today, we use the scripture link above to compare different versions of these verses , and to open our comfort zone to the possibilities of our own public ministry.  

Tomorrow, Jesus calls his followers.

For more on the town of Capernaum, visit: http://bibleatlas.org/capernaum.htm 

Isaiah 22: Euphoria


Isaiah 22Euphoria

Louvre Museum: Sennacherib relief

Louvre Museum: Sennacherib relief

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Favorite from July 4, 2009.

For the third day in a row we find ourselves in Isaiah’s prophecy and today we conclude the oracles against the pagan nations.  Interestingly, Isaiah includes Jerusalem in this litany.

Commentary tells us that here Isaiah warns against false hope – against relying on self rather than God.  Around the year 700 B.C.E. Sennacherib and the Assyrian invasion forces have been turned back from the city.  The people have mounted various defenses against the enemy and now they react with euphoria to the good turn of events.  Yet rather than rejoice in God’s loving providence that rescues and heals them for eternity, they celebrate their own skill which will not, in the end, save them from their own corruption and decadence.  They believe that their own planning, proficiency and leadership have saved them this day.  The leader Shebna is revealed for who he is: one who thinks of his own legacy and comfort at the expense of those he leads.  Eliakim is named as a loyal servant of God, a peg in a sure spot upon whom the glory of his family hangs.  Yet even this peg fixed in a sure spot shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with; for the Lord has spoken.

wooden peg

Even the sure peg in the sure spot will give way, break off and fall . . .

When we survive disaster and come out the other side of a calamity intact and even renewed, we are to be joy-filled, we are to celebrate.  But today the prophet Isaiah cautions us to place our joy properly in God who saves rather than in ourselves.  We must never forget who it is who forms order out of chaos.  We must always be mindful that everything God creates is good, that God will convert harm to transformation, and that he rescues us because he loves us . . . not because he expects something from us.

We are creatures already set free, already liberated from the shackles we imagine.  When we find ourselves in bad times or with bad people, we seek intercession from God.  When we find ourselves in happy circumstances with wonderful people, we thank God who loves us beyond measure.  We return even our euphoria to the one who transforms.


Isaiah 40: Beyond Self

Michaelangelo: The Creation of Adam

Michaelangelo: The Creation of Adam – detail

Friday, August 21, 2015

Isaiah again today, and it is the chapter which begins the second half of the prophecy – often referred to as the Book of Consolation.  The words remind us also of chapters 38 through 42 of Job when God speaks to his loyal yet questioning servant.

Like Job, we also may have questions for the creator of the universe, questions about his plan for us, his plan for others, questions about how God expects so many diverse elements can possibly come together in peaceful union.  Today’s citation tells us that we need not fret about how God’s plan will be accomplished.  It tells us that if we place our hope in God, all that is inscrutable will be made plain to us.  Isaiah asks:  Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Was it not foretold you form the beginning?  Have you not understood? 

Our spirit is captured in human vessels, struggling to break free, to soar above the ugly parts of this life; and yet in all of our struggle for release we forget that we have already been ransomed, as we spent time reflecting yesterday.  Do you not know or have you not heard?  The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth.  Today’s words are a reminder that we are not meant to struggle alone.

When we present to God daily our list of petitions that beg for miracles . . . God does not faint or grow weary.

When we are confounded by the duplicity and complexity if darkness . . . God’s knowledge is beyond scrutiny.

In all of our turmoil, all of our tears, all of our anxiety . . . God gives strength to the fainting.

In the darkest hours, in the deepest mourning, in the depths of despair . . . God makes vigor abound.

Wherever we are wrung out, exhausted, at wit’s end, beyond recovery and when we stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. 

There is always joy beyond our imaginings.  There is always strength beyond our human power.  This is what makes us divine . . . in that we acknowledge this divinity . . . and allow ourselves to be drawn to it.  Once we step out of self, empty self, and allow God in . . . then we too have knowledge beyond scrutiny, strength beyond fainting, and joy beyond tears.

A Favorite from July 3, 2009.

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