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Tissot: The Pharisees Question Jesus

Tissot: The Pharisees Question Jesus

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mark 12:18-27

Resurrection – Part II: Waiting 

Have you not read . . .?

Yesterday we explored the clash of movements into which Jesus steps and we can see why certain sectors of ancient society might oppose the teachings of Jesus.  He strikes at the root of power and influence.  If we all have access to the temple through our personal relationship with God in the person of Jesus, we have no need of hierarchy.  If we all have access to God through our deeds rather than through temple sacrifice, we have no need of priests.  If we all have access to forgiveness and justice through God as sisters and brothers of Christ, then we have no need of a power structure’s intercession on our behalf.  As siblings in one family, we are all called to intercede for one another.  As children of the living God, we all have access to new life and new beginnings.  This is, indeed, good news for us . . . but not for these Sadducees who challenge Jesus because they see in him an end of their hold on power, an end to their income, an end to life as they know it.  We can understand their fear, and we might dig deep within ourselves to see our clinging to authority and structure. How much of the Sadducee hides within our own heart? How willing are we to wait on God’s plan? How eager are we to live in the Spirit of discipleship that holds little comfort and even less prestige? How prepared are we to step into the vineyard to gather the fruit of God’s harvest rather than the fruit of our own plan?

God says:  I understand that the plans you make in my name are good and honest and that you see your ideas as an outflowing of my heart. I love the energy you spend on my work. I am enchanted by the care you take in the precision of your labor. I am in love with your goodness and mercy in my name. I also see much more than you can see. I understand far more than you can understand and this is as it should be. I created you. You do not create me. I love you and call you to goodness. This is all that I require: that you act in prudence, watch in hope, remain in faith and witness in love. You can give me no greater gift than the full and complete surrender of yourself to the work of my Kingdom.

Are we prepared to watch for the resurrection that in promised to each of us? Do we have waiting hearts and minds open ready to receive the gift of new life that comes to us without our asking?

Tomorrow, working . . . 

Adapted from a reflection written on November 22, 2008.

 


Tissot: Chief Priests Talking Together

Tissot: Chief Priests Talking Together

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mark 12:18-27

Resurrection – Part I: Watching

You are greatly misled.

In today’s citation Jesus attempts to instruct the Sadducees about resurrected life, telling them that they have missed the Mosaic message and promise. The Sadducees were members of a priestly family descended from one of David’s high priests, Zadok.  King Solomon gave this group supreme control over the Temple and they came to form one of the ruling parties of Judaism from the time of the Hasmonean Dynasty around 146 BCE to the destruction of the Temple in 70 ACE.  They stood on the religious authority presented in the first five books of the Bible, The Torah, and were highly conservative; yet despite this leaning, the Sadducees were open to the Greek culture and may have been willing to sacrifice their beliefs for wealth and power.  They took special exception to the belief in the existence of angels, resurrection, and life after death, beliefs held by the Pharisees, a religious reform movement that began in the century before Christ’s birth emphasizing fidelity to Jewish law through an elaborate system of oral laws that bolster the written Mosaic Law.  This movement found its base in the local synagogue where scriptures and traditions were studied, and a strong sense of piety was nurtured.  It is into this world of closely held ideas and tightly fought intellectual battles that Jesus comes to the poor and disenfranchised to turn the world order on its head.

For more on the similarities between the Pharisees and Sadducees, visit the Jewish Virtual Library at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/sadducees_pharisees_essenes.html

St. Paul was a Pharisee who zealously defended the Jewish faith before becoming the feet of Christ to take the message of spiritual freedom into the world.  Both the Pharisees and Sadducees jealously guarded the influence they had with the occupiers of their land; but we see without much effort the dichotomy between priestly sect and lay people, between temple and synagogue, between strict conservatism that sees the path to God through the temple sacrifice conducted by priests and the lay movement seeking to invigorate faith through instruction and fidelity to the Law.  Both groups saw Jesus as a threat . . . for he came to set the faithful free from narrow constraints and corrupt hierarchies. Jesus reminds us repeatedly that there is indeed, a true path to God, but it is open to all.  It charges no Temple tax and it requires only that its followers work in God’s vineyard to build God’s kingdom. The Temple is now Christ who lives in each of us. The Law of Moses is now fulfilled by the Law of Love that Jesus brings. The only tax we need pay is our allegiance to a loving God who welcomes all to the feast. And we will miss all of this if we are not watching for the resurrection that lives with and for and in us each day. When we focus on self, we become protective of all that we have built up like the Sadducees who question Jesus. We miss the truth that God uses each of us in God’s way to build The Kingdom that heals and saves. We miss the truth that Christ reveal to and in each of us . . . and we find that we have become easily and greatly misled.

Tomorrow, waiting for the resurrection . . .

For insights into Luke’s story of how Jesus interacted with his accusers, click on the image above or go to: https://www.lds.org/manual/print/new-testament-student-manual/introduction-to-the-gospel-according-to-st-luke/chapter-20-luke-23-24?lang=eng 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.Glossary 433 and 436. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on November 22, 2008.

Burial


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

John 19:38-42

descent from the crossBurial

In this time of harvest when the northern hemisphere gives up her gifts of summer to prepare us for the cold darkness of winter, I cannot quite let go of the images and sounds of last week’s memorial Mass in which we celebrated the life of a young woman who died much too early. The gift of her life still rides with me as I journey back and forth to the school where she and I smiled at one another in the hallways and classroom. The wisdom of her youth still whispers to me as I greet and teach her grieving friends. The grace of her dying still accompanies me as I prepare lessons in the quiet evenings of the gathering autumn. Looking to meet the significance of this persistent presence, I go in search of a painting that soothes grief. As always, it reminds me of the wondrous sacrificial love that descends from the cross to offer itself when all else fails. And I come across this reflection written on September 25, 2008. I share it today with you.

Descent from the Cross

Detail frm Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

One of my favorite paintings is Van der Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross”.  It lives in the Prado museum in Madrid, and when I travel there I like to spend as much time with it as possible.  It hangs alone on a large, pale wall . . . where the downward movement from the cross moves through Jesus . . . through his fainting mother . . . past Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and John, the Beloved Apostle to whom Jesus commends his mother . . . lingering with the brokenhearted women . . . hesitating with the grieving men . . . off of the canvas . . . and out of the room. 

Detail from Roger Van Der Weyden: The Descent From the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

It is as if all of the sorrow of the world falls away from us and into the pale, dead body of the Christ.  We can sense his downward journey into hell for the redemption of souls.  We can anticipate his return. 

St. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 6:16: What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: “I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people”. 

St. John reminds us in 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

Through this Descent from the Cross we feel an abiding compassion that persists through the most difficult of circumstances.  We see an enduring passion that remains beyond all imaginings.  We experience a love that knows only intimate union through mercy and justice.  We sense that something will swing back through the red and blue and white of the canvas to leap out into us . . . to bring us in . . . to sweep us up into the arms now outstretched in death.  We gaze upon the hope that tells us we are redeemable and worth fighting for.

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The descent from the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

And with faith . . . we know with certainty that this saver of souls lives.  We know that he acts in us and through us.  We know that he has returned to complete his mission of bringing fire and love to consume the world.  We only need open our hearts . . . and trust him to act in our lives. 

Amen.

For more information about this masterpiece, visit: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/visit-the-museum/15-masterpieces/work-card/obra/descent-from-the-cross/ or http://hubpages.com/hub/Rogier-Van-Der-Weyden-Descent-From-The-Cross or http://hubpages.com/hub/Rogier-Van-Der-Weyden-Descent-From-The-Cross

 

To discover who is who in this painting and to learn about the symbolism used by the artist, visit: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/descent-from-the-cross-weyden.htm

To learn about the connection with Belgian crossbowmen, visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Descent_from_the_Cross_(van_der_Weyden) 

Tomorrow . . . Resurrection

Understanding


God-Loves-YouMonday, October 27, 2014

Mark 8:14-21

Understanding

In light of our passage through Jeremiah’s prophecy, it is good for us to know that even the apostles who lived with Jesus did not understand what he was really about.  When God calls, we struggle to hear . . . but we do not always discern.

Our world is one of instant messaging in which we are always expecting immediate replies to our questions.  And we want these replies to make sense to us.  We know that God is always with us, speaking to us, asking us to follow; and we are made to respond to this call. Yet, we so often lack something so simple but essential: understanding.

As we read this story from Mark that we have heard many times, we wonder if perhaps the apostles lacked understanding – and we as well – because we do not trust God.  Are we second-guessing God?  Do we believe that we have misheard God’s word to us?  Do we want to believe that the universe is one big coincidence rather than think that there is an immensity to creation which we have only begun to mine?

Today Jesus reminds his friends of the times that he has sustained them out of nothing and then he asks: Do you still not understand?  We might have this conversation with God frequently, and we might believe that we have not heard or understood what it is that we are to do or not do, what we are to say or not say. Thinking that we have likely gotten something scrambled in our decoding, we re-question God and present our scrambled understanding.  This is the best that we can do.

Fortunately for all of us, God does not mind.  In that infinite patience and wisdom that characterizes God, we are asked an unlimited number of times: Do you still not understand? 

Beyond this simple question, God continues to call, continues to love.  What a great and glorious God have we . . . that God’s understanding is so immense that it encompasses and transforms all of our many misunderstandings.  And so we await again God’s words to us that always arrives with a smile: Do you still not understand?  As this beneficent face of a loving parent swims vaguely before us, let us focus on our own understanding of God’s plan for the Kingdom . . . rather than God’s apparent miss-understanding of us.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 9, 2009.

I am too young . . .


In ChristSunday, October 26, 2014

Jeremiah 1:1-10

I am too young . . .

This week we buried a young woman who was months away from her high school graduation. She was much too young to die. In our Noontime journey we have spent time with Jeremiah and today this reflection comes back to us. It was first written on September 26, 2008 and is adapted as a post today.

We just received word that the brother of one our ninth graders was killed in a car accident on his way to high school today.  He is a junior.  He is too young to go.

Looking for consolation we turn to scripture . . . the book opens to Jeremiah . . . and our eyes fall to see . . . I am too young.

We complain to God when he sends us or calls us that we are not the one to do this work with which he has tasked us.  We believe that we are not the proper servants.  We do not have the tools.  We do not know what to say or to do.  We are ill-equipped.  We are a constant Jeremiah.  And then events like today’s happen and all things come into perspective.

In a sense, each of us is too young.  None of us has the answers to the many questions we hear. We search for ways to solve the mystery before us . . . and we feel too young.

When the darkest hours hover, when the rain does not end, when the pain feels as though it is taking over, we can do only one thing.

Be still and know that I am God.

In sorrow and in silence my heart waits for you, O Lord.

Truly we are wonderfully made and you are our wondrous God.

We will call upon the Lord and we will be saved.

At dusk, dawn and noon we will complain.

And our prayer will be heard.

God in heaven be with us always.

And let perpetual light shine upon us.

Amen.

Silver and Gold


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Psalm 115

metal-texture-silver-gold-scratchedSilver and Gold

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

From footnotes, This is “a response to the enemy taunt, ‘Where is your God?’ . . . [I]t ridicules the lifeless idols of the nations, expresses a litany of trust of the various classes of the people in God, invokes God’s blessing  on them as they invoke the divine name, and concludes as it began with praise of God”.  (Senior 726)  True silver and gold are trust in the work of the Lord’s hands. There is no need to exact revenge.

Yesterday’s first reading at Mass was another look at the character of silver and gold.  In Wisdom 7:7-11 they are seen as useless as the lust for power and control because all truly good things come from God, and God values our prudence and humility above supremacy.  I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me.  I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches as nothing in comparison with her, nor did liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. 

When we feel ourselves struggling to gain an upper hand or to mercilessly wield authority that has been vested in us, we must give God thanks for the goodness we have seen; and we must turn to songs like this one that remind us of our proper place in the universe: The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth is given to us . . . It is we who bless the Lord. Hallelujah! 

Amen. 

A reflection written on October 12, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.726. Print.   

The Messiah Promise


Friday, October 24, 2014

Jeremiah 23:1-4

promisesThe Messiah Promise

We become so occupied with news of the day and the obstacles we see in our lives that we struggle to find a half hour to be still with God. Sometimes we look for little pockets of silence in the tumult of schedules and appointments. When we arrive at the end of our day, we may sleep more easily if we set time aside to commune with the Lord. The book of Jeremiah still lies open before us. If we turn to Chapter 23 we see the gift of promise almost hidden in this prophecy of doom; we find hope in the darkest of places. Destructive pastors and restorative pastors. Which are we?

Each of us is called as “pastors over God’s sheep that they shall feed them,” and to the extent that we are able, we hope to shepherd those placed in our care with integrity, authenticity, truth, wisdom, fidelity, mercy and compassion. As much as we are able, we are likewise called to bring comfort to the troubled stranger, to offer peace to the enemy, to bring God’s presence everywhere we go and to all whom we meet.

In this way, may we all move toward forward in restoration in Christ. In this way . . . we become an integral part of the Messiah promise.

Enter the word promise into the blog search bar and explore ways in which we might bring hope to our troubled world.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 4, 2007.

Purposes for Good


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Jeremiah 15:10-21

The-Goodness-of-God-Blog-BannerPurposes for Good

Surely I will set you free for purposes of good . . .

Before we leave the prophecy of Jeremiah, let us remember his help when we feel separate or alone, exiled or forgotten.

Before we forget the words of Jeremiah, let us remember his hope when we are discouraged or overwhelmed, empty or lost.

Before we move into the tomorrow God promises, let us remember our potential for worth, the joy of our work, and the purpose of God’s goodness.

Before we step into the gift God plants in us, let us remember that God wants nothing more than our love, nothing more than our fidelity . . . and nothing less than eternal, intimate union with us.

Adapted from a reflection first written on April 17, 2007.

Worthiness


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

colossians worthyColossians 1:9-12

Worthiness

We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please God in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to God’s glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and[ patience; joyously giving thanks to the Creator, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

It is a simple task to search a Bible Concordance to look for the verses that reference the quality of worth. Both Old and New Testaments give us insight; the letters of Paul alone serve as a springboard for understanding. We might search dictionaries or leaf through entries in a thesaurus to arrive at a better appreciation of what it means to be worthy of God; multiple connotations referencing financial, personal and social worth give us a great deal to ponder.

As we go through our busy days to rest weary heads on tired pillows, we may often wonder about the concept of worth. If we are stressed in our workplace or neighborhood we may feel undervalued or over-used. If we struggle with family difficulty we might speculate about the worth of demanding relationships. In all of this tussling and turmoil there is one sacred place in which we can find rest . . . and St. Paul reminds us of this today.

We have not ceased to pray for you . . . and so we pray for one another.

Be filled with the knowledge of God’s will . . . and so we rest in the knowledge that God sees and understands all that we experience.

Spiritual wisdom and understanding . . . and so we spend time each day asking God for guidance and protection.

Bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God . . . and so we witness to the Gospel and look for clarity.

Strengthened with all power . . .  and so we look to God for courage.

Attaining steadfastness and patience . . . and so we ask for fidelity and wisdom.

Joyously giving thanks to the Creator . . . and so we thank God for the love placed in us.

We who share in the inheritance of the saints in light . . . and so we thank God for the worthiness engendered in us.

Use the scripture link above to compare various versions of these verses, and ponder the value of worthiness. 

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