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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Isaiah 10:1-9

The Rule of Emmanuel

Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah: Israel Museum in Jerusalem

We offer this reflection in preparation for Advent. As we so often do when we find ourselves in deep darkness, we turn to the hope of the prophet Isaiah.

Wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord . . .

The closing line of the Meditation in today’s MAGNIFICAT is from St. John of the Cross: A man must advance to union with God’s wisdom by unknowing rather than by knowing. 

It is always about inversion. We see when we are blind. We hear when we are deaf. We are doing our best work when we feel most afflicted. We heal when are wounded. Wisdom comes in union with God, after emptying self.

Not by appearance shall he judge . . .

Our deeds tell us who we are.

Not by hearsay shall he judge . . .

Our words and our thoughts are our expression of God.

He shall judge the poor with justice . . .

Our gestures bring God’s hope.

The lamb, the leopard, the kid, the calf, the lion, the cow, the bear, the ox, the cobra . . . and the child . . . all will be neighbors.

What do we gain if we seek wisdom and power and might within ourselves and not seek God?

What do we gain by taking God’s counsel and doing as he asks?

What do we learn when we wade into our problems with God’s understanding rather than our own?

What do we enact when we gently rebuke with God’s compassion rather than deny, ignore or seek revenge?

Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness upon his hips.

What do we gain by not running away and hiding? What do we gain by abiding and remaining in covenant – through and despite the turmoil? We find God’s faithful serenity. We find Christ’s hopeful peace. We find the Holy Spirit’s abiding love. We find the holy mountain.

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea. Amen.


Visit the Israel Museum in Jerusalem at: https://www.imj.org.il/en

Image from: http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/dss_video

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 14, 2007.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 14 December 2007. Print.


Friday, November 27, 2020

Judges 13-16

Light Overcomes the Darkness

We know the story of Samson and Delilah well. He the child whose birth an angel announces to a barren woman and who is reared with devotion. She a Philistine woman with the power to bewitch and who uses any means to achieve her goal. When we read this familiar story slowly, we will find many twists and turns left out of the abbreviated version we usually hear, and these turnings will give us the opportunity to reflect on the parts of our own lives that might mirror the fortunes and failures of this complicated story.

We see Samson as the clever solver of riddles who visits harlots, a warrior of incredible strength who wishes to marry outside of his tribe. We see him rise to fame and power and we also see him stumble and fall into a mockery of his former self.

We watch Delilah enter into Samson’s confidence to exact his secret for a price, using any trick or deception to gain the tightly held information. In her campaign to learn about his power, Delilah says to Samson, How can you say that you love me when you do not confide in me?  She chooses her words well because Samson took her completely into his confidence and told her. 

There is a part in each of us that identifies with both Samson and Delilah.  There is betrayal, deception, anger and revenge. And there is also a strength and light that persists despite the darkness.

As we approach the Advent season, a time of year when we celebrate the arrival of a new light into a world of darkness, we will want to prepare ourselves for the gift of truth and openness that Christ brings. With the dawning of this great awakening, let us examine our way of living and resolve to put away any darkness that leads us away from God, and let us welcome the light that is Christ.

Let us petition God for greater fidelity to our covenant promise to walk with Christ.

Let us petition God for deeper courage to remain steadfast in Christ.

Let us petition God for Samson-like strength to choose life that unites and enlightens rather than death that divides and scatters.

Let us petition God for the light that we know will overcome all darkness, no matter how deep, no matter how intense.

And let us remain in this light of Christ always, for it is the only power that overcomes the dark.   


Adapted from a reflection written on November 25, 2009.

Image from: https://www.wga.hu/html_m/s/stom/samson.html


Thanksgiving Day, U.S.A

November 26, 2020

Jesus Healing the Centurion's Servant

Paolo Veronese: Jesus Healing the Centurion’s Servant

Matthew 8:5-13

As we gather in the U.S. to give thanks for all that we are and all that we have, we remember that we are all . . . 

Under the Centurion’s Roof

This story has long held our fascination – a Roman centurion approaches the very un-pagan Jesus on behalf of his servant. This story raises questions for us – who is the servant who merits so much devotion on the part of his master; and what has caused the paralysis? A fall? A disease? A battle wound? This story is repeated by many as part of the Communion Rite – Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, say but the word and my soul shall be healed. This story invites us to step into the household of this Roman centurion to discover why he has such faith, and it invites us to examine our own sense of thanksgiving for all that we have.

My servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully . . . how do we ask for God’s help when those who serve us suffer?

I will come and cure him . . . countless times each day we benefit from God’s blessing and intervention. How do we thank God?

Lord, I am not worthy . . . only say the word . . . how do we respond to the signs of God’s intervention we see all around us?

As you have believed, let it be done for you . . . how do we tell the world about the goodness of God’s love for us?

A Centurion was a person of power and influence who rose through military ranks using his skills as a soldier and leader. If he paid homage to any god or creed, it would have been in keeping with the pagan beliefs held by his contemporaries; yet he comes to Jesus.

Jesus is willing to enter under any roof to heal all suffering and to bind up all wounds. If we find our ourselves hesitating to invite the master into our hearts, let us take a lesson from the powerful and compassionate soldier. Let us go to God with our needs and hopes. Let us speak plainly to the Lord about our feelings and circumstances. And let us give thanks to God for God’s great goodness and love.

Phyllis Tickle offers us a prayer of Thanksgiving that we might share with others as we gather under the Centurion’s roof.

“O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called me to stand in this house, and to serve at this work. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that by my life and teaching I may set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my faith. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in conversation, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your Holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen”.  (Tickle 255)


Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR AUTUMN AND WINTERTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Print.

To learn more about a centurion and his place in Roman society, go to: http://christianity.about.com/od/glossary/a/Centurion.htm

Image from: https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-healing-servant-Centurion-Veronese/dp/B07CSSNKSJ


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

gratitude_26[1]Colossians 3:16

Origin and Purpose

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

The world around us is crafty at convincing us to take credit for all that we are and all we have done yet it is God who creates our brains, our aptitudes and our gifts. In God’s time and in God’s space we are each created as God’s children with varying talents, capacities and dreams.

God says: I love you each for your own special place in my heart. I love you all as you come together in my son’s mystical body. I have created you and I have also created a world in which you are free to live. It is true that you do not possess equal skills or intellect. Some of you run quickly with the wind to scout out distant lands and ideas. Others of you see far horizons and are able to mesh complex ideas. Yet some of you have narrow vision and are full of fear while others have grave disabilities and intense anxiety and sadness. But each of you is singular, distinctive and extraordinary in your own way.  Try to see what I see when you become impatient with others. Even in the worst of you there are wonderful ideas. Try to hear what I hear when I listen to the pleas from your heart. Even in the most spiteful of you there is a place for goodness to grow. Try to feel what I feel when I clasp all of you to my heart. Even in the most callous of you there is a heart that yearns for union. Be grateful. Give thanks. Always.

Let us teach and admonish one another that from our small perspective it is impossible to take in the complexity and beauty of God’s creation. Let us encourage one another to be grateful on this day for the gifts we hold in this moment and in this place. And let us sing hymns and songs of thanksgiving for these gifts to God, the origin and the purpose of all.


For some interesting posts on finding God in the midst of life, click on the image above or go to: http://godinthemidst.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Psalm 18

 A Favorite Noontime first written on October 24, 2008. and posted today as we prepare for the holiday of Thanksgiving in the U.S.A.0707160038521psalm_18_28b_niv[1]Thanksgiving for God’s Help

I have a list of petitions I take to God each dawn . . . that I reprise in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, and when I go to bed. On those nights when I wake during the wee hours I ask again. Scattered among the petitions are my Thank yous for prayers answered . . . I like to think of many big and little miracles with which I and my loved ones, and my enemies, have been graced. This list brings me peace. It reminds me of who I am, the Petitioner. It reminds me that I was formed by God, the Creator. It keeps the reality fresh that I have a purpose which is important and special. It reminds me that I have a mission, even though I am often in a cloud of unknowing about what that mission is. It renews for me the fact that I am child, that God is parent, and that my humility, fidelity and mercy are what my God requires of me. In all of this reminding I settle fully into the knowing that my blessings far outweigh my sorrows, and for this I am continually thankful.

Psalm 18 29[1]My days go best when they are a constant, unceasing prayer. My nights are happiest when I enter them with God. My enemies touch me not when I step into the protective pillar of fire and smoke and pulsing prayer. The lures of the other world melt away from the light of this guiding and protecting pillar.

The rocking of my world reduces to a gentle sway when I turn to God. The darkness and thick thunder clouds dispel when I remember God. The depths of despair evaporate when I call on God. The harsh buffets of life become a gentle breeze when I sing with God.

The psalmist today reminds us that God gives us the swift feet and the sharp mind with which we avoid trouble. God gives us God’s self as armor against the cruelties of the world. God is our rock. God is our breath. God is our life. Praise God.

Dear gracious and good God, You have shown us mercy. We thank you.  ou have shown us the way. We thank you. You have borne us up. We thank you. You have carried us away. We thank you. You have eased our burden. We thank you. You have created us. We thank you. You have loved us well. We thank you.

We thank you when we come to you at dawn, in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, in the night.

We thank you when we make our life a constant prayer. 

We thank you.  Amen. 


Images from: http://www.photosbyjanine.com/-/photosbyjanine/gallery.asp?photoID=4210731&cat=57731 and http://beelieve-ahealthierme.blogspot.com/2011/01/my-quest-for-healthier-me.html


Monday, November 23, 2020

images[3]Psalm 92

A Hymn of Thanksgiving for God’s Fidelity

Fidelity: faithfulness, loyalty, patience, understanding, questioning and answering, dialog, forbearance, union, love.

From St. Joseph Edition of The Psalms notes: This is a didactic psalm, that is, both a praise of the Lord and an instruction of the faithful. The psalmist meditates on God’s way of acting.  His love and faithfulness are reflected in everything he does, but they must be comprehended. Ultimately the happiness of the wicked will fade like seasonal grass, whereas the lot of the righteous will be like the great trees whose roots are planted on solid ground. For the latter, new seasons are promised in the courts of God. God’s joy is like a new spring in the life of believers.

Again our theme of renewal. Again the idea that a righteous life is more difficult to live than a wicked one, but that true serenity and joy is found by struggling to live a life of justice.

I like the point in the citation above that God’s acts are a demonstration of his love and fidelity and that we must strive to comprehend this idea . . . an idea which is so difficult for so many humans . . . because fidelity is such a demanding quality . . . and we humans appear to be much too fickle and willful to comprehend its depth and true meaning.

Each day as we go through each hour, how do we as God’s creatures express God’s fidelity? How do we express God’s love? Are we faithful when it is convenient or when we have the time or energy? Do we love those who please us most? We recall Paul’s words to Timothy: I remember you constantly in prayers, night and day.  I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith . . .  (2 Timothy 1:3-4) This is the same letter in which Paul states that he is already poured out like a libation and there are times when we feel this pouring out rather than gratitude. But when we look at verse 3 of this psalm we see again the idea of loving God faithfully by praying day and night. And when we are spent . . . we might at least raise eyes and hands to heaven to thank God, and to ask that God lighten our load.

Prayer and petition are important as we near and enter into Advent, even when we feel spent. When we come to the end of an exhausting day, we can light one small candle in the darkness which comes so quickly at this time of year in our northern hemisphere, and we can repeat the antiphon we find as part of the Liturgy of the Hours Night Prayer: Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace, alleluia.

With this simple act and prayer we might remain faithful . . . even though we are spent. And so we pray . . .

We know that you watch over us, O Lord.  Grace us with the patience and perseverance to keep hopeful watch with you . . . as faithfully as you keep wonder-filled watch with us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit. Amen.


THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 243. Print.

Image from: http://brotherdismas.blogspot.com/2011/05/saturday-of-4th-week-in-easter.html

Adapted from a reflection written on December 4, 2007.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

stteresaofavila[1]Matthew 5:17-20

A Manual for Living

Matthew creates a bridge between Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and his many teachings which describe how we might understand, embrace and then enact this new Law of Love now that we have heard it. As people who have spent some time with both the Old and New Testaments, we will recognize these teachings and this new attitude before the Law as the fulfillment of the old law. We will see Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people – the promise he foretold through his prophets – that he will save, that we can do nothing on our own, and that there is only one force in the universe that makes the impossible possible, God’s Love . . . as shown to us in the person of Jesus.

This portion of Matthew’s Gospel serve as a manual for living. Jesus puts into plain words how his followers will deal with communal and conjugal relationship, with anger, hate and revenge. Jesus explains the importance of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. He tells us why we must refrain from judging, from cheapening ourselves, from believing false prophets. He reminds us of God’s providence.

When there is conflict and confusion, chapters 5 through 7 of Matthew bring tranquility and clarity. They lay out a clear path which leads to a narrow gate. We need fear no thing and no one when we apply this code to our lives for as we are reminded in Paul’s letter to the Romans (8), there is always life in the Spirit through Christ.

Teresa of Avila’s words are so true: Anyone who perseveres in seeking God’s friendship is amply rewarded . . . Place yourself in the presence of God, and do not exhaust yourself searching for reasons for understanding what lies beyond your reach. Do not lay blame on your soul, for the good of your soul consists not in thinking much, but in loving much. (Let Nothing Disturb You)

This, then, is the New Law as explained in this new Manual for Living: We are not called to exhaust ourselves with worry or with work; rather, we are to place ourselves within the bounds of this new Law of Love, for this alone saves.


http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/74226.Teresa_of_vila 

Image from: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/stteresaofavila.htm

Adapted from a reflection written on June 24, 2009.

Enter the words Manual for Living into the blog search bar and continue to reflect.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

matthew7_1[1]Matthew 7

Lessons in Serenity

As Matthew closes this section of his Gospel he records Jesus as speaking plainly and simply to his followers. There really is no mystery here. What must we do to gain serenity?

Jesus tells us clearly.

Stop judging others and tend to your own progress. The criticisms we level at others are a good place to begin with our own self-development. We critique in others what we dislike most in ourselves. Let us recall the negative comments we have made about others and let us lay them out neatly. We will find an apt and accurate map of the journey we must take.

Matthew-7[1]You are pearls of great price so there is no need to claw your way over those you perceive to be in your path. Once we see where our journey must take us we will want to relax into the great gift God has for us. All of our striving and fixing and arranging may, in fact, be counter to the work we must do on ourselves. Let us learn to bear good fruit in due season.

Ask the creator for all the desires of your heart. Who knows us better than the hand that carved us out of nothing? Fashioned us in God’s image, we do not have to search long or far to discover why we are here or where we are going. Who leads us better than our human and divine brother Jesus? He understands the dichotomy we hold in our hands, the tug from two directions, the calling of two diverging worlds. Who abides with us more faithfully than the Spirit? God’s wisdom and grace dwell within us to guide, protect and console.

matthew_7_13_14_by_phoenixoftheopera-d4247gw[1]Discipleship is difficult and the way to peace is narrow. Quick fixes, easy solutions, pat answers, immediate satisfaction, and feelings of control and power must be put aside in favor of process, dialog, reflection, shared decisions, forgiveness and redemption.

Expect false leaders. And work to be honest followers. Integrity, honesty, courage and persistence are wells from which we must draw. We must learn to rebuke gently, to walk humbly, to accompany without judging, to pray ceaselessly.

You have a choice to make; build on sand or rock. We are free to choose. Stand on solid ground where everyone is open and honest, or allow ourselves to slide into the shifting world of denial, obfuscation and illusion.

The way is clear. The path is open. The winding is narrow but there are signs along the way. These are lessons in serenity.

And so we pray.

Matthew7_24sm[1]Patient and loving father and mother, help us to refrain from judging lest we lose ourselves in the trial. Remind us that we are well loved and well protected. Repeat to us often that we are to knock, ask and seek. Support us as we sift through true and false teachers and leaders. Lead us out of the boggy quicksand of a life lived with the only goal of personal comfort. Steer us away from all that is alluring. Lift us to stand on the rock that is both fortress and refuge. Guide us always back to you. We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Reflect on the past week’s posts and determine what lessons for serenity you hope to learn in the coming season of Advent.

Images from: http://joanmedinanisnisan.wordpress.com/tag/joan-medina-nisnisan/


Friday, November 20, 2020

images[7]Matthew 7:24-25

Two Foundations

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 

And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel.  (Isaiah 30:29)

The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.

And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.  (Genesis 7:7)

But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. 

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  (Psalm 18:2)

And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.

At the king’s command they removed from the quarry large blocks of quality stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple. (1 Kings 5:17)

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like the wise one who built a house on rock . . . and weathered the storm.

Two foundations.  Rock or sand.  Let us spend some time today with these verses.


Image from: http://jtbarts.com/2011/08/the-house-built-on-the-rock/

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