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Acts 20:7-12: Absolute Claim
Easter Monday, April 22, 2019

Paul raises Eutychus

On Saturday we reflected on Christ making an absolute claim on his audience at the synagogue of Capernaum on the Sabbath as he combined teaching and miraculous actions of exorcism and healing.  Today we see the Apostle Paul give over to this absolute claim that Christ places on him when we read about the energy, the passion and determination with which Paul preaches the good news of liberation.  He is so much in the Spirit that he goes on for hours about The Word, and then is able to revive Eutychus from death.

I love this story.  We can picture Paul talking well into the night.  All the lamps are lit; everyone has shown up and packed into the upstairs room.  The crowd is so dense that Eutychus perches on a window sill, all the better to see and hear.  But as midnight approaches, this young man dozes off and tumbles to the ground three stories below.  This young man who fallen asleep while listening to Paul speak!

We can continue to imagine how everyone must have hurdled down the stairs to find Eutychus dead on the ground.  But just as Christ has made absolute claim on Paul to ask him to speak fully the Gospel, so too does he make this claim of Eutychus . . . whom he returns to life through the Apostle Paul.

And they took the boy away alive and were immeasurably comforted. 

I have always thought that Eutychus was changed irreparably from that day onward.  I like to think that he told and retold the story continually, each time realizing with more depth the importance of the event: Christ has absolute claim on each of us.  Christ calls . . . Eutychus answers this call to return to life to tell the wonderful story of the good news he has experienced.

This is a truth.  We are made.  We are loved.  We are sent forth to bear fruit, no matter our circumstances.  We are always the children of God, the sisters and brothers of Christ.

Have we dozed off listening to the Word being preached well into the night?  Have we perched ourselves dangerously on the windowsill where we tell ourselves we will be better able to see and hear?  When we tumble to hit the hard ground, will we respond to the absolute claim Christ has on us?  When we hear his Voice, will we answer the Call?  Will we gather round those who live again in the life to move back into this world immeasurably comforted . . . and immeasurably changed?

Lent is a time for tumbling, recovering and reviving.  It is a time for measuring, asking and hoping.  As we move through these last cold days of winter in anticipation of a warm breeze and clear skies, let us stand again as Eutychus did, and give over to Christ’s absolute claim on us.  Let us allow our friends to gather us up, let us allow ourselves to be touched by the healing hand of Christ, and let us give ourselves over to the one who has the only legitimate absolute claim on our body, mind and soul.

Let us be immeasurably comforted by the Christ.


A re-post written on March 4, 2009 and posted on March 7, 2012 as a Favorite . . .

Image from: http://www.mythfolklore.net/lahaye/239/index.html

Easter Prayer


Rubens: Christ Risen

Easter Prayer

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

Wishing each of you, your family and friends a blessed Easter.

May each of us be renewed in Christ,

Blessed by the Father,

and

Graced by the Holy Spirit. 

May we keep in mind that we are Easter people.

May we acknowledge and share the gifts with which we have been blessed.

And may we hold the story of Christ’s coming ever in our minds and hearts.

Amen.

The celebration of Easter last s for eight days, from Easter Sunday through the Second Sunday of Easter. The Easter season lasts for 50 days, ending with the celebration of Pentecost.  For special reflections that take us on a deeper journey, click on the image or visit: http://www.dualravens.com/spirituality/stations/oftheresurrection/introduction/


A re-post from April 8, 2012. 

Mark 2: Paralysis


Mark 2: Paralysis

Holy Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saint Anne de Beauprés church in Quebec, Canada: Wall of discarded crutches

It is in this second chapter of Mark that we see the power of freedom against the power of restraint.  Jesus arrives in the world as an expression of God’s love for us to transform our paralysis into movement and even action.  This is no easy model for us to follow as we see him in constant collision with the nearly overpowering influence of the Jewish church and social framework.  Jesus speaks truth and mercy to corruption, jealousy and greed every day.  He does not relent. In the end, he is crucified and thought dead and out of the way in what appears to be a bitter irony.  Yet the beautiful inversion and paradox of the story of Christ is that he triumphs over his enemies by dying for them, by loving them more than they love themselves.

It is easy to read these stories of a man who lived two thousand years ago and smile at the authority and courage with which he moved through the world in a brilliant flash of compassion and simplicity: Love one another as I have loved you . . . child, your sins are forgiven.

It is another matter to follow this man and repeat his actions endlessly knowing that obstacles will be thrown in our path which will be impossible to circumvent: Follow me.

The secret to following Christ is to give ourselves over to him and accept his offer of newness:  No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak . . . no one pours new wine into an old wine skin.

We so often allow the familiar to govern our lives, even when it paralyzes us and prevents us from accepting what can be new about us.  We would rather dance with the devil we know than with the God we do not.  We prefer the dirge of a sadness known to us and reject the hope that the news we have heard from this God Among Us is true.  It is so strange to me that we would prefer our paralyzing fear and reject the freedom offered by the one who comes to forgive and heal: I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

When we are paralyzed by life, we must choose freedom offered by the Spirit.  When we are overcome by fear or sadness, we must give ourselves over to joy as we take the hand of the groom who comes to bring us to the feast: As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

During Lent we are accustomed to giving alms, making reparation and examining our motives and actions.  Perhaps this Lent we might begin to allow ourselves to dream of what we might do with the freedom we already possess . . . the freedom to allow ourselves to be healed of our paralysis and to follow Christ when he invites us into true and eternal union with God.

Imagine if we only had the courage and strength to . . . how do we want to finish this thought?  What chains do we yearn to throw off?

The possibilities are endless when we drop our crutches, when we put away our paralysis.


A re-post from March 6, 2012.

Image from: http://grandforet.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html 


Luke 16: Citizenship in the Kingdom

Good Friday, April 19, 2019

This a chapter in the story of Christ as told by Luke where we hear and see Jesus explaining mysteries; we also hear and see his followers trying to understand and to follow his instruction.  The chapter is book-ended by two parables: the Dishonest Servant – followed by an explication – and the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus – which is so clear it needs no further comment.  It only must be believed.

Sandwiched between these stories, Jesus speaks to the sneering Pharisees who are ardent followers of the Mosaic Law and the Prophets yet do not understand the concept of Jesus’ New Kingdom which the Prophet Isaiah has so clearly predicted.  In the heart of the chapter is are brief verses regarding marriage and divorce which are often held against those who must – for one reason or another – seek civil and church sanction to annul a bond thought to have been made in reverence.  We read these two simple verses in the context of Paul’s instruction on marriage in his letter to the Ephesians 5:21-32.  These words follow Paul’s thinking on our duty to live in the light in God’s kingdom.  They speak of mutual respect, mutual holiness, and mutual love.  They give us a view on reciprocated union as read differently in Colossians 3:18-25 where Paul writes about The Christian Family and Slaves and Masters.Here he speaks about the significance of obedience to one’s vocation; and they reflect the thinking found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-17 where he writes about holiness in sexual conduct, mutual charity, and hope for the Christian dead.  To the people of Colossae and of Thessalonica he speaks of the reciprocal character of all holy relationships, and the honor we bring to others, ourselves and our creator when we consider all relationships with the gravity they are due.  Jesus reiterates this idea.

When Moses gave permission for husbands to divorce their wives, he did so in order to prevent the murders which happened regularly when men grew tired of the women they had taken into homes and beds.  This sort of casual disregard for life and the lack of a mutually nurturing relationship is what Jesus addresses here in Luke and again in Matthew 5 and 19, and Mark 10.  He warns that flitting across the surface of our relationships will not prepare us properly for the life we are to live in this New Kingdom of which he speaks.

As we read this chapter, we might consider two thoughts here that will bring us to something new: perhaps the divorce which ends an abusive relationship is a saving moment of blessed grace, and perhaps each relationship into which we enter is as holy as a marriage in that it is meant to be nurtured in order to glorify God when the two parties strive to imitate God’s love rather than a superficial, self-serving demand on one another.

The lessons brought to us in this chapter of Luke remind us that kingdom work is constant; and it is present in every breath we take, every gesture we offer to one another.

During this time of introspection we might want to consider the times we have been called to be stewards of not only money but of our emotional and spiritual resources.  Have we allowed our physical, spiritual and psychological assets to drain dangerously low?

During this time of examination we might also want to consider the many divorces we have entered into in our lives.  Have we walked away from organizations, communities, families and friends without following every avenue open to us at the time for remediation in ourselves and others?

During this time of Lent, we might want to spend time reflecting on the Laws we obey, the Kingdoms for which we seek citizenship.  What do our gestures tell us about what we hold important?  What air do we long to breath?  What prophets do we read?  What master do we follow?

Are we people who are trustworthy in small things so that we might enter into great ones?  We will find the answers to these questions by examining the fruit we bear back to the one who created us.


A re-post from March 5, 2012.

Image from: http://www.lifemessenger.org/html/Ministries/


Sirach 14:20-27, 15:1-10: Terror and Wisdom

Holy Thursday, April 18, 2019

Happiness is found in the pursuit of our vocation as an integral part of God’s plan in God’s time.  Today’s reading tells us that we are to take individual responsibility for our actions, or lack of them.  We remind ourselves that so frequently we become targets of anger when we work in God’s vineyard.  We also remind ourselves that Wisdom serves a double function: it helps us in our search for our place in God’s plan, and she is also our bulwark in times of fear.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer: John 15:18,20: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  No slave is greater than his master”.  Disciples who follow Jesus faithfully must expect to follow him into dislike, ridicule, even persecution from those who find the Gospel threatening to their ways of thinking and acting.

Psalm 31 tells us that sometimes In the face of all my foes I am a reproach, an object of scorn to my neighbors and of fear to my friends.  As my Dad used to say, You know who your friends are when it’s “stand up” time. 

Wisdom 2:12-14 Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord.  To us he is censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us. 

Jeremiah 6:25: Do not go out to the fields or walk on the roads, for the enemy has a sword, and there is terror on every side. 

As we know, so often when we are doing the work we are called to do we encounter huge opposition.  When we stand to witness, a wave of resistance greets us.  This is when we need to rest in Wisdom.

Mother-like she meets and embraces us.  She shelters us from the heat and dwells in our home.  We can lean upon her and not fall.  We can put our trust in her and not be shamed.  We will find joy and gladness and everlasting name in her. 

Where do we find Wisdom?

We pursue her like a scout, peep through her windows and listen at her doorways.  We encamp near her house and fasten our tent pegs near her walls.  We build nests in her leafage and lodge in her branches.

We learn from scripture that Wisdom comes from patient and active waiting on the word of God.  When we meditate on this word, we receive the answers we seek.  These answers will come in God’s time and in God’s way . . . but they will arrive.

So let us pray for those who would terrorize us.  Let us forgive those who wish us ill and bring them with us as we ask Wisdom to open her doors to us.

And let us pray.

Psalm 31As for me, I trust in you, Lord, I say: “You are my God.  My life is in your hands, deliver me from the hands of those who hate me”.

And grant us the Wisdom to see goodness in all things and all people, just as you see goodness in each of us.  Amen.


A re-post from March 4, 2012.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 11.3 (2009). Print.  

Image from: http://akshatrathi.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/the-happiness-paradox/


Mark 1:21-45: Self-Awareness

Holy Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The synagogue in Capernaum: where Jesus healed many

“The account of a single day’s ministry of Jesus on a sabbath in and outside the synagogue of Capernaum (21-31) combines teaching and miracles of exorcism and healing.  Mention is not made of the content of the teaching but on the effect of astonishment and alarm on the people.  Jesus’ teaching with authority, making an absolute claim on the hearer, was in the best tradition of the ancient prophets, not of the scribes”.  (Senior 69 cf. 1, 21-45)

I am thinking of these two words that appear in opposition to one another: astonishment and alarm.

Jesus comes to each of each day; but in this season of Lent he comes to us in a special way.  He urges us to come away from the temptation to be discouraged with our constant slipping into separation from him.  We are to not regard these times as failures, but rather as opportunities to be healed.  In a continual cycle of forgetting, regretting followed by an epiphany of self-awareness, we draw ever closer to the compassionate mercy with which we are loved by Christ.  In this way we receive God’s fullness.

From MAGNIFICAT this morning:  Receiving God’s word with a willing heart and returning it to him in prayer and praise is a work of Lenten transformation.  We indicate to God that we have heard his voice, heard the Christ, by thanking him, by witnessing for him as best we can, and by telling the good stories about all he has done for us.  This may be astonishing news to us.  It may also be alarming when we think of all this implies . . . that we are called to greatness, we are called to our divinity.  This is the promise of the season.

When we read this clipped and quick story by Mark, we might be tempted to run through these verses hurriedly; yet perhaps the impact of these words is all the sharper for their brevity.

The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority and not as the scribes.

This is wonderful news; yet it can be alarming.  If we are so loved by such a one . . . are we ready to live up to this promise?  This duality of amazement and apprehension pulls us into an intense and deep self-awareness, one into which we might not otherwise enter if it were not for this soul piercing encounter with God.  We err . . . and still we are loved.  In our astonishment and alarm, we move forward in hopeful expectation . . . just like the people of Capernaum two millennia ago.

From the MAGNIFICAT evening prayer: Answer us, Lord our God!

Your love is unfailing: may our trust in you not fail us.  Answer us, Lord our God!

Your mercy is boundless: may our hope in your forgiveness grow.  Answer us, Lord our God!

Your desire for our salvation knows no limit: may our willingness to repent and be converted deepen through this season.  Answer us, Lord our God!

When we call, the answer from our God is . . . as always . . . Yes!


A re-post from March 3, 2012. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.69. Print. 

For more information on the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus healed many, click on the image above or go to: http://www.davefarley.org/2009/03/28/capernaum/ 

Image from: http://www.davefarley.org/2009/03/28/capernaum/


1 Maccabees 4:1-35: Living and Dying Nobly

Holy Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Do not fear their numbers or be afraid . . .

Judas Maccabeus and his Jewish followers were steeped in the scripture and so the idea of placing one’s fear in God’s hands in order to live and die nobly was a familiar message to them.

God speaks to Abram in Genesis 15:1 saying: Do not be afraid. I am your shield, your very great reward. 

In Joel 2:21 the prophet exhorts all of creation to take heart.

Nearly a dozen times the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel we are told that we need not be afraid because God is with us.

Zechariah tells us: Do not be afraid but let your hands be strong. (8:13)

In Psalm 21 the psalmist asks why we fear when we have the Lord as our rock and protector.

In Psalms 56 and 118 the writer reminds all of us to trust in God when we become fearful.

In Proverbs 3:24 we are encouraged to rest in God alone so that we do not fear.

When we allow assurance in our relationship with God to become part of our fiber, fear oozes away in the warmth of God’s light.  The soldiers in today’s reading do this and their enemy is amazed when they see their courage.

Lysias saw how ready they were to either live or die nobly . . .

Judas Maccabeus

We too, might be ready to live or die nobly if we only allow the Spirit to saturate us.  Perhaps we can make this a Lenten pledge: When fear threatens to overtake us, we will turn to Christ who will remind us . . . Do not fear their numbers or be afraid . . . I am with you. 


A re-post from March 2, 2012.

Images from: http://apoloblogology.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_archive.html and http://phillchida.blogspot.com/2011/06/love-letter-to-my-heavenly-father.html and 


Acts 19:1-5: The Holy Spirit

Holy Monday, April 15, 2019

We tend to focus on God the Father and God the Son more often than God the Holy Spirit; yet it is this Spirit which takes up residence within when we prepare ourselves for the reception of God’s love.  I like to think of this Spirit as feminine . . . as nurturing, saving, sustaining, abiding.  I like to think of nestling into the soft feathers of this mother bird who welcomes her brood home.

As a child, one of my chores was to feed and care for our family’s chickens and I used to love to see the peeps run under the out-spread fullness of the mother hen when they were frightened or cold.  This is how I picture the Spirit: a warm and safe haven for those of us who find the world a bit too frightening.  The mothering bird allows her chicks to face the world . . . she gives them a safe harbor from which they can turn and face the world . . . and return to it for one more day.

We are taught that the Holy Spirit brings us seven gifts.  They are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord We are to take on these gifts as our armor when we dare to move out of the protecting wings of the Holy Spirit and into the world.

It is our willingness to face fear that ennobles us.

It is out readiness to examine our motives and actions that enriches us.

It is our humility before all that God is and does for us that glorifies us.

It is our love for all – including our enemies – that defines us.

It is our trust in God that strengthens us.

It is our hope in goodness that emboldens us.

It is our Spirit which desires union.  It is our Holy Spirit that calls us into bloom, to then bear fruit in order that we might carry into the world God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

These are God’s gifts to the world . . . and through us, they come to fruition.  Let us bring them boldly, hold them tenderly, carry them wisely, and return them humbly to our God.


A re-post from March 1, 2012.

Image from: http://netsbridalnotes.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html


Matthew 21: Clarification

Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Fig Tree

A re-post from February 28, 2012. On this Palm Sunday, we look for clarification and transformation. 

The parables and narrative in this chapter give us a perspective of Jesus’ life and works alongside those of Israel.  We see him enter Jerusalem – the Old Jerusalem which is to be replaced by the New – we see him cleanse the temple – the Old Temple which is to be replaced by the New – we see his authority questioned – as it is at the Second Coming – and we read parables and stories of vineyards, workers and fig trees that depict the unfaithful nation of Israel – the Old Israel which is now . . . us.

The content of this chapter is a microcosm of Jesus’ life: parables and action, identification as King, identification as sacrificial victim.  The juxtaposition of the various elements in this chapter further emphasize for us that we have a clear choice before us: to live by the principles declared and here clarified by Christ or to choose our own way, to be faithful to the principles demonstrated by Christ or to live a life if infidelity.  We are always free to choose.

In this chapter of Jesus’ life he seeks to clarify for us how we might live.  We may be a lazy and unproductive fig tree, cursed by its creator.  We may be a bountiful vineyard yielding fruit for the harvest.  We may be envious neighbors who murder the owner’s son in the hopes of taking that which is not ours.  We may be unscrupulous in our daily shepherding of resources.  We may demonstrate peaceful resistance to all that colludes and deceives.  We many choose to make a profit from the sacred acts of others.  We may join Christ in rebuking those who sell what God gives as gift.  We may be the learned who plot against truth because it takes away our power to manipulate.  We may be life.  We may be conduit of goodness.  We may rage or conspire against the kingdom.  We may join in the work of building kingdom.

The choice is clear; and Jesus makes this choice even clearer in the event that we have doubted his authenticity.  If we ask for clarification we have only to turn to this chapter to see what is before us.  Do we hide and conspire or do we reveal and build?

We see Jesus declare and clarify himself today in these stories and in these actions.  What do our stories and gestures declare and clarify about us?


Image from: http://remnantbride.com/blog/?p=508 

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