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e.John14.6Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Psalm 25 and John 14

God Shows the Way

Part II

While we pause in our journey with the prophet Jeremiah we rest in the knowledge that God accompanies us always. While we ponder Jeremiah’s circumstances and how he suffers innocently, we spend time with Psalm 25 and reflect on the beautiful way it foreshadows God’s physical presence among us in the person of Jesus. While we come to understand the magnitude and intensity of God’s love for us, we spend a bit of time considering the beauty of the Spirit who dwells within . . . and the healing, redemptive hand of the one who created us.

In her bio, Heather King remarks that when she was asked how she could become a convert in Los Angeles with its juxtaposition of abundance and scarcity she replied with a question – as Jesus so often does – How could she not?  Jeremiah may well have asked himself this question when found himself in the abused and imprisoned for speaking on God’s behalf. Today we ask ourselves this same question despite the pain of our journey . . . when we are called to follow Christ . . . how can we not?

When we find that we are in dark surroundings, we must not be afraid for God has come to us in human form to show us the way: Do not let your hearts be troubled.  (John 14:1) When we find ourselves surrounded by those who know only evil, we must follow the roadmap Jesus has left for us: You have faith in God; have faith also in me. (John 14:1)  When we find ourselves overcome with sorrow or loss, we have a path to follow: I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6) When we feel abandoned or betrayed, we have a guide to follow: I will come back and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. (John 14:3)  When we are alone and lost, there is a trail before us standing open and inviting.  Where I am going you also know the way.  Jesus is amazed at our fear: Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me? (John 14:9) Yet he loves us and is constantly making a way for us.  I am going to prepare a place for you.  (John 14:3)

The apostle John captures Jesus’ last discourse for us so beautifully that these words will not fail to sooth us when we suffer through our own Jeremiah times. It with these words that God shows us the way; and it is God’s Spirit that abides in us every inch of our journey.  With Christ as a brother, we are a part of the great human yearning for union with God.  Like homing birds we know the way . . . yet we too often allow the fears of the world to drown out the true voice that speaks to us in the quiet of our hearts.

I wait for you, O Lord, the psalmist sings, remember no more the sins of my youth, remember me only I the light of your love.  And God replies: Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Where I am you also may be.  Have faith in me. I am the way, the truth, and the life. 

God shows us the way . . . let us turn our eyes and ears to God . . . to take the loving hand that is offered.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 22, 2011.

To learn more about Heather King, visit her blog at: http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/ 


jesus-lightTuesday, September 30, 2014

Psalms 25

God Shows the Way – Part I

The Lord is good and upright. He shows the path to those who stray, he guides the humble in the right path; he teaches his way to the poor.

The humble, the poor, and those who stray. God tends to those who stumble along The Way Christ shows us.

My eyes are always on the Lord; for he rescues my feet from the snare. Turn to me for I am poor and lonely.

These words touch a chord within us and it may be for this reason that Psalm 25 is frequently used at funerals. We are sending a loved one off on a journey that each of us will take . . . and we are not always certain of the way we ought to go.

Psalm 25 is an acrostic with the first letter of each verse being a successive letter of the alphabet.  As we sing this song, “the palmist mixes ardent pleas (1-2, 16-22) with expressions of confidence in God who forgives and guides”.  (Senior 661)

John 14:1-12 is also often read at a funeral Mass because it brings us comfort to know that there really is no mystery about how to live our lives or what we are to do when we die.

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”

When we are able to find a pocket of calm from which to assess our lives, we know that in subtle ways, and sometimes not so subtle ways, God provides us with a map for our lives. And when we can trust God enough to relax into the goodness that God is, we also realize we are sent suggestions for our lives much like the directions we receive when we plug in a GPS (Global Positioning System). God constantly warns, guides, prods, encourages and finally shows us The Way we are to go. We have only to relax and follow.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT (315) Day by Day reflection by Heather King, a spiritual writer and a convert to Catholicism: This was a God who was with us in our darkest human moments, who had suffered every insult, humiliation, confusion, loneliness that we have.  I’d think, he knew what it is to yearn, to feel like a loser, a failure, and a misfit . . . I began to see that this God – who had the power to do anything; who commanded the sun and stars – had instead consented to empty himself and become the hardest thing in the universe it is possible to be: a mortal being.  He’s become human in order to enter into our daily lives, to be with us every waking and sleeping moment, to fulfill the deepest desire of the human heart: to not be so eternally, everlastingly alone.  In a way I was becoming a believer just because Christ did fulfill the deepest desire of the heart: isn’t it our greatest wish that God not be some faraway abstract entity, but somehow like us?  That God walks among us is so simple we refuse to believe it; it so fulfills our deepest yearning we’re blind to the fact that it actually has been fulfilled . . . Christ is [not] a fairy tale, or wishful thinking, or an illusion.  We can bring things into being only by believing them with the purest of hearts. We can bring into being only the true and the real – “I am the way the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) – what already exists in a sense.

 

Jeremiah tells us that God has a plan in mind for us, a plan for our joy and not our woe.  As we search for The Way, we humble ourselves . . . as God faithfully shows us The Way.

Tomorrow, how can we not follow? God shows the way, part two.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 22.5 (2011): 315. Print.  

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.661. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on May 22, 2011.

 

Seen and Unseen


fruit_of_vineMonday, September 29, 2014

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Seen and Unseen

If only we might remember Paul’s words when we are overwhelmed. If only we might trust in God’s plan for us.

We are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

If only we might recall that we are all souls that join in Christ’s body and that Christ is the vine while we are the branches. If only we might join God in outrageous hope by asking for the impossible.

For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen . . .

If only we might take a moment to pause and relax rather than launch into reaction before thinking. If only we might allow God’s wisdom to settle into our bones.

For what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.

If only we might hold on to the promise God places before us that redemption is eternal, that hope is infinite, and that God’s love knows no bounds. If only we might be open to God’s amazing grace.

Much of Jeremiah’s audience looked for all that was seen while only a few loyal followers saw the eternal meaning in God’s words as delivered by this prophet. Today we have the choice clearly before us. If only we might share with God all that is unseen each day in our lives.  If only . . .

Enter the words 2 Corinthians in the blog search bar to see what else St. Paul might tell us about what is seen and unseen.

Compare several versions of this citation by clicking on the scripture link above, or choose other versions from the drop down menus on the scripture site . . . and listen for God’s word to us that has previously gone unheard.

Time of Need


Sunday, September 28, 2014

psalm 32Psalm 32

Time of Need

I kept it secret and my frame was wasted.

I groaned all the day long for night and day your hand was heavy upon me.

Indeed my strength was dried up by the summer’s heat.

We do not know but we can imagine that the prophet Jeremiah prayed the psalms from his prison cell or from the bottom of the miry cistern. Chains alone did not stop him from speaking. Scorn and mockery could not hold back the words he knew he must deliver and the actions he knew he must take. If he intoned Psalm 32 it may have been bitterly for he could not put an end to his punishment by acknowledging his sin or by recanting an evil act; or it may have been joyfully for he also knew that God was his only place of safety. Jeremiah, the innocent, bemoaned his reality as he suffered at the hands of corrupt and unjust leaders; but Jeremiah, the prophet, understood the message of hope in this prayer.

So let every good man pray to you in the time of need.

The floods of water may reach high but him they shall not reach.

You are my hiding place, O Lord; you save me from distress.

You surround me with cries of deliverance.

In our moment of stress, God replies through the voice of the psalmist.

I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel and watch over you.

Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you.

In our time of need, God speaks to us today.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just; exult all you upright of heart.

When the weight of the world is too much to balance, let us give our burden of despair to God, and be glad in the hope, and grace and love of the Lord.

Visit the Overwhelmed By Grace post on this blog at: http://thenoontimes.com/2013/10/20/overwhelmed-by-grace/

Toiling


Saturday, September 27, 2014

1corinthians15_58notinvain1 Corinthians 15

Toiling

While kings and civil leaders deny problems that yawn before the nation, the remnant continue to move through their days. While priests set up and maintain hierarchies that God does not intend, the remnant live in fidelity with their Creator. While prophets are scorned and their words thrown back at them, the remnant toil in their smallness that is great in God’s eyes.

By the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace to me has not been ineffective.

Centuries after the fall of Israel and Judah the remnant still labor under corrupt leaders and priests, and the creator comes to walk among them . . . as one of them. Generations after their exile and return the remnant witness to the resurrection of Christ. Years after the restoration of a temple and city the remnant live out the promise of redemption.

By the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace to me has not been ineffective.

74249646.RrEVmmLE.QUEENSCUPCLINTONIAUNIFLORAP7120064In this year and in this hour the remnant still work in Christ to transform the reality in which they find themselves.

In this day and at this moment the remnant still labor in the Spirit to console a troubled world.

In this eternal time and in this infinite space the remnant still toil in God to bring forth the Kingdom.

This is a labor worth living for. This is work worth dying for. This is toiling that carries with it the gift of God’s grace. This is toiling that brings the immense and unimaginable gift of Christ’s love fully and truly given.

Spend some time today with 1 Corinthians 15 and reflect on its message for those who toil in unjust places under unjust leaders. If you want to spend time with a portion, consider: verses 1-11 The Gospel Teaching, verses 12-19 Results of Denial, verses 20-28 Christ the Firstfruits, verses 29-34 Practical Arguments, verses 35-58 The Resurrection Event. St Paul understand clearly both the frustration of living in world of turmoil, and the power of Christ’s love to mend, sustain and heal. He brings home to us today the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection for those who toil against injustice.

1 corinthians sunset

. . . You Are Remnant


nile mapFriday, September 26, 2014

Jeremiah 42

. . . You Are Remnant

 

If you remain quietly in this land I will build you up, and not tear you down . . .

We will know when we are closest to God when our hearts are broken.

I will plant you, not uproot you . . .

We will know that God is near when we hear the call to make reparation.

For I regret the evil I have done you . . .

When we most feel like abandoning a place or a relationship, we will know that restoration is at hand.

Then listen to the word of the Lord, remnant of Judah.

When we repent our own broken vows, when we remain rooted and bloom where we are planted . . .

The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. 

When we build bridges with our enemies . . .

The Lord has brought them back from the land of the north.

When we move forward into true union and intimacy with God . . .

The Lord will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child, they shall return as an immense throng. 

When we ask nothing more than to do God’s will . . . then we will know that we are remnant.

They departed in tears, and the Lord will console them and guide them; the virgins will make merry and dance, and young men and old as well.  

So let us sing with our remnant companions . . .

The Lord will turn their mourning into joy, the Lord will console and gladden them after their sorrows.

And let us call others to the dance . . .

Cease your tears of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes, the sorrow you have sown shall have its reward.

Let us recount how the Lord has rescued us . . .

There is hope for your future.

And let us remember that we are God’s beloved . . .

How long will you continue to stray o rebellious daughter?  

Let us tell others of the wonders of God’s love . . .

The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth.

Let us soften our hearts and unbend our stiff necks . . .

The Lord will place a new law within them, and write it upon their hearts.

Let us agree to be God’s people . . .

“I will be their God”, says the Lord, “and they will be my people”. 

For there is nothing more worthy than remaining faithful to God . . . there is nothing more worthy than becoming remnant.

Adapted from a reflection written on October 7, 2007.


Map of Israel and Judah

Map of Israel and Judah

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jeremiah 42

The Journey to Egypt . . .

If you remain quietly in this land I will build you up, and not tear you down . . .

Repeatedly in Scripture we are urged to move out of our comfort zones, and to put Christ into action. From the first words of Genesis (In the beginning when God created the heavens and earth . . .) to the last words of Revelation (Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.  Amen.), we are encouraged to take steps into wide and dark abysses, to take leaps of faith. We are inspired to commit acts of hope and to bring union with enemies through love.  Today’s reading is one of those quiet times when we hear the Lord our God tell us that it is time to remain planted, to listen, to persevere through the trouble, to be still, to be calm . . . for the Lord our God is with us.

I will plant you, not uproot you . . .

But so often in our lives we are tempted to sort out problems by changing our location rather than changing ourselves, we have likely packed our bags for Egypt where we will see no more of war, hear the trumpet alarm no longer, nor hunger for bread.  We convince ourselves that it makes a great deal of sense to pull up stakes and begin anew elsewhere when relationships or covenants have gone terribly, and seemingly irreparably, amiss. Frequently we believe it is time to move out or away from a place or a person and there are certainly situations in which our personal safety depends on our stepping away from danger; but in today’s reading we are challenged to make a spiritual change in our hearts rather than a physical change with our bodies. The prophets’s words rise to us and ask us how quickly we back away from God when our lives become difficult. When we consider the choice before Jeremiah to remain or stay, we see that much of who we are and what we do identifies us as remnant.  

For I regret the evil I have done you . . .

Jeremiah the prophet suffers greatly and deeply.  From 628 to 520 B.C.E. he speaks chiefly to the people of Judah and her capital Jerusalem.  Much like today, these are turbulent times.  The superpowers of the day, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia, are carving up the Middle East putting small states like Judah in constant danger.  The old Israel Kingdom divided in 930 B.C.E. and its northern portions were invaded, her people disappeared into exile.  The people of the southern kingdom of Judah constantly ask Jeremiah’s opinion, he speaks, and then they disagreed with him.  At turns, they ignore him, persecute him, they even imprison him.  Yet Jeremiah continues to speak when the people ask and when God calls.  His story may seem pointless and depressingly familiar; but through all of the abuse this prophet receives, he remains faithful to his own covenant with his creator.  And the message de delivers is a constant reminder that the change God asks us to make is a change in our hearts. Jeremiah also reminds us of three important concepts: God unfailingly calls us to repentance, we will suffer consequences when we break our covenant promises, and restoration is ours when we respond to God’s call.  Jeremiah reminds his people – and us today – that we are a faithful remnant to be gathered up by God.

Then listen to the word of the Lord, remnant of Judah.

Tomorrow . . . be still and know that you are Remnant.

Adapted from a reflection written on October 7, 2007.

Points of View


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

mizpah

Ruins of Mizpah

Jeremiah 40

Points of View

More intrigue follows as the Babylonians establish their control over the city and her people.

“The Judeans who remained in Palestine rallied around Gedaliah, who ass governor stood for a policy of obedience to Babylon, and prospered. But their prospects were undermined by his assassination. Especially because Babylonian soldiers were among those slain, this act had the appearance of rebellion. It caused consternation among the survivors because of the reaction they expected from the Babylonians.

“What motivated the assassination? The perpetrator, Ishmael, was a member of the Judean royal house and during the war had been a freedom fighter . . . Thus, it is possible that this act was a last gasp of the old party struggle. Given the magnitude of Judah’s defeat in 587, this was less likely am attempt to assume leadership than an act of revenge. From one point of view, Gedaliah, like Jeremiah, could be considered a traitor”. (Mays 573)

It is likely that each of us has lived through an overthrow of some kind. A takeover may have occurred in our workplace, with our family, or perhaps in our civil community. No matter the size of the revolution or occupation, a traitor and hero may be one in the same person; collaborators and companions may be difficult to discern. In the end, our point of view will determine how we record an event and how we react afterward.

As Jesus walks among us he constantly asks that we consider the other point of view, listen to the other voice, make room for the other perspective. God’s kingdom is inclusive of all – even those we believe to be our enemies. So as we go about our daily life, let us consider the point of view in which we have planted ourselves. And let us be open to the Gedeliahs and the Ishmaels in our midst.

For more on the murder of Gedaliah, visit: http://professorwillis.blogspot.com/2011/07/ishmael-and-ammonites-murder-gedaliah.html 

For more on Gedaliah, a little known figure, click on the image of Mizpah above, or visit: http://obscurecharacters.com/2013/11/11/gedaliah-nebuchadnezzars-governor/ 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 573. Print.

Our Lives as Booty


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

heart life not dullJeremiah 39

Our Lives as Booty

Jerusalem is invaded and destroyed, the enemy chases down and captures the king, the princes are murdered before the father’s eyes, and the poor are left behind to tend the farms and vineyards.  Jeremiah is released from the guard house where he had been detained for his words.  He conveys the words of the Lord’ assurance to his Egyptian rescuer, Ebed-melech: Behold, I am now fulfilling the words I spoke against this city, for evil and not for good; and this before your very eyes.  But on that day I will rescue you, says the Lord, you shall not be handed over to the men of whom you are afraid.  I will make certain that you escape and do not fall by the sword.  Your life shall be spared as booty, because you trusted in me, says the Lord.

“Jeremiah’s behavior illustrates how to survive.  By submitting to Babylon, he has escaped with his life as the prize of war and returned home.  The Eded-melech sequel lends strength to this interpretation.  Although the fate of the city is sealed, Ebed-melech will escape with his life as a prize of war because he trusted in YHWH.  It is that confidence that most exiles emulate, and they too will gain a future.  The many themes of these narratives unite in this rhetorical effort to persuade the exiles to submit to Babylon as the only avenue forward”. (Barton, and Muddiman 520)

All of this sets us to thinking about God’s justice.

From the mini-reflection in today’s MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer: The concept of God’s justice can seem frightening.  We are aware of our own sin and fear retribution.  However, God’s justice is not about him getting back at those who offended him.  God’s justice sets things aright . . . [so] we should not dread God’s justice.  Rather we should rejoice in right order returned to his creation.

And so we pray . . .

Just, yet merciful God who sees and knows all, we return our lives to you.  We, who are created by your hand, turn back to you all that we have managed to enact in our lives in your name.  We, who have known the protection of your power, fly home to live in you.  We, who have been saved by your love, gather all that we are as booty to be taken in by you.  In your mercy, guide us.  In your kindness, guard us.  And in your great love, give us the hope, the grace and the endurance we will need to live in joyful hope for you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 520. Print.

A Favorite from February 5, 2011.

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