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Exodus 40:1-31: Liturgy


Exodus 40:1-31Liturgy

Thursday, February 21, 2019

I smile as I read about selvages, alternating bells and pomegranates, gold beaten into fibers that are then threaded through fabric, ring fasteners, and even the situating of the breastplate at the proper point in relation to the belt . . . and all of this by God’s command.  There must be fashion in heaven, and it must be important!

I have taken an interest in vestments lately with the arrival of our new pastor – who is tall and slender and carries flowing robes well.  His stature is so different from the former pastor who was short and round.  This new priest brings with him an understanding of liturgy and how it helps to both call and form us.  He knows that it is so much more than ritual.  He understands that as we participate we prepare ourselves for a greater, deeper, and more intense relationship with God.  Liturgy prepares us for heaven.

As I re-read this description I am recalling something I read in the November MAGNIFICAT (the 19th) written by Father Simon Tugwell, O.P., and it is entitled: The Temple is for Liturgy.

Liturgy is essentially something given, and in this expresses a fundamental feature of all prayer.  Its sublime lack of of concern for our personal moods is a forcible reminder that when we come to God, it is not to force our moods or our interests on to him, but to receive his interests and to let him, in a sense, share his moods with us . . . It is far more central to prayer that we should let ourselves become involved in God, in his great enterprise of giving himself, and all the various interests and concerns that form part of this.  It is therefore a positive advantage that the liturgy does not just reflect our own concerns and interests, but confronts us with definite moods of its own . . . The liturgy, faithfully celebrated, should be a long-term course in heart-expansion, making us more and more capable of the totality of love that there is in the heart of Christ.  It is not the immediate feeling that is important; that may or may not come.  What matters is that we should be, slowly and quietly, molded by this rehearsal for and anticipation of the worship of heaven.  It is a schooling for paradise.

We have reflected on Nehemiah’s re-building of Jerusalem and the temple as his participation in the greatest enterprise of all – God’s enterprise.  Today we read the description of the temple vestments and pause to reflect on the importance of worship in our lives.  Liturgy is more than merely gathering to pray together.  It is more than dressing up or dressing down, arriving early or arriving late.  It is more than recitation, singing, spontaneous praying.  It is, as Father Tugwell so well writes . . . an education, a discipline for our ultimate relationship with God.  As we gather our moods, our concerns and ourselves in a holy and sacred place, so do we also practice and refine our role in God’s great enterprise.


A favorite posted on November 29, 2011.  

Images from: http://www.ourladylovesyou.org/communities/southtexas/blogger/2009_10_01_archive.html

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 19 November 2010: 273. Print.


Mark 1 -3A Reason to Believe

Tuesday, February 20, 2019

Today we return to the Gospel of Mark and when we study these opening Chapters we discover that they provide the perfect resource for us when we have had a bad day, an awful week, a cataclysmic month, or a horrendous span in our lives.  In these simple stories we will find the courage to continue an arduous journey; we will find hope that will impel us forward through tragedy.  We will even find the strength to help others who journey alongside us. Mark shows us a typical series of days in the life of Jesus in such a way that we might see ourselves putting aside our worldly worries to follow him.  Mark, with his quick-moving, thriller Gospel, gives us a reason to believe.

John the Baptist serves as a precursor or herald for the Messiah who follows him.  Our troubles and woes often announce themselves as well.  We feel a frisson of fear, a foreshadowing of something not fully revealed.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these forebodings are not our ultimate end.  Our end is rescue and redemption.  John baptizes the one who saves us all and Jesus unites with us in our own baptism.

The Spirit drives Jesus into the desert for forty days where he lives among wild beasts, is tempted by Satan and is ministered to by angels.  We too are driven into the barren wastes where we also met with devils and angels.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these dead places are not our last stop – even though they may seem to be at the time.  Jesus relies on the Father and unites with us in our own sufferings and temptations.

Jesus begins his ministry.  He cures many.  He gathers a following.  He chooses steadfast friends from the countless who follow him.  He is hounded by those who envy his relationship with God and the people.  We too step into the world to reveal our gifts and to allow God to act through us.  We too encounter obstacles to the Call we feel.  We too are harassed by those who cannot abide our closeness with God.  When we follow Jesus we know that there is no one, no idea, no thought, no thing that can separate us from God.  God never strays; it is we who have the choice to abandon or to abide.  Just as Jesus turns always to the Father so do we.  Jesus unites with us in the struggle.

Jesus steps into dangerous territory and his family and friends caution him, they even question his work.  We have seen the look of disappointment on the faces of others who misunderstand our steadfastness, who feel betrayed by our fidelity to the Gospel.  We know the sensation of rejection when those we love can no longer abide with us in the Spirit.  Jesus invites us to be one with him in the sacrifice we make in our own Gospel journey.  Jesus bonds with us as his sisters and brothers; he holds us close.  Jesus becomes one with us and takes up our too-heavy cross.

These opening stories in the Gospel of Mark draw us into Jesus’ story just as a good cinematographer hooks us in the opening shots of a film.  Jesus moves from friend to foe, from those who love him to those to hate him; and he always keeps his eye on the Father.  Jesus accompanies us in our own story; and he helps us to be mindful of the Spirit.

As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, we do well to read these opening Chapters of the Gospel of Mark for he tells us all and he tells us quickly.  Mark celebrates Jesus even as he foretells his awful end.  Mark holds no punches, sweetens no madness, and obscures no ugliness.  Mark shows us all.  Mark’s story gives us hope when tragedy strikes.  Mark’s story gives us courage when cataclysm hits.  Mark’s story helps us to prepare for the journey.  Mark’s story gives us a reason to believe this amazing Christ.


A re-post from February 20, 2012.

Image from: http://www.atotheword.com/2011/04/05/jesus-man-born-blind-for-works-of-god-to-manifest-in-him/

For more on the Gospel of Mark, see the Mark – “I Am” page on this blog. 


Mark 1The Mystery of Jesus

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

We visited this portion of Mark’s Gospel a few years ago when we reflected on the divergent images of fire and water – the fire of the Spirit within and the cleanness of the water that purifies.  Jesus is both human and divine; he is a vessel that holds – what seems to be – two contrary natures.  Jesus comes to tell us that we too, as his adopted sisters and brothers, have this potential to hold two opposing forces.  He comes to tells us that the impossible is possible when we live in him.  He comes to tell us that the Mystery of Christ is also the Mystery of our own origin.

Mark writes his Gospel with amazing clarity and precision.  We see a lightning view of Jesus’ meteoric rise and then what appears to be a fading into darkness . . . but we know better.  When circumstances are darkest, hope is strongest.  When the light seems the most dim . . . clarity arrives within.  This is the Mystery we understand from our brother Jesus.

Mark’s original story ends at 16:8: Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment.  They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Sometime later the final stories of the Resurrection and Ascension were added.  Some believe that the final portion of the original was lost (Senior 94).  There is speculation about who added which ending and when – but there is no doubt about the veracity of the story.  The fervor here cannot be denied.  Just as Jesus cannot be denied, despite all of our efforts to put ourselves first and Christ last.

We are human.  We are divine.  When it is dark, it is bright.  Where there is fire, it does not consume but feeds us.  Where there is water, it purifies and cleanses rather than drowns.  We need not fuss and fidget with the details of this story.  We do not need to look for inconsistencies or to point at events we think cannot have taken place.  All we need do is trust and believe.  All we need do is relax into the mystery . . . and enjoy its wonder and beauty.


A re-post from February 19, 2012.

Image from: https://hdqwalls.com/fire-water-heart-art-wallpaper 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.94. Print.   


Mark 3: Unhardened Hearts

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus healing a man with a withered hand and he is immediately criticized for working on the sabbath.  The Pharisees have, in fact, been watching Jesus; they are waiting for him to slip up, to break one of the many rules the old law has laid upon the people.  They watched him closely to see if he would cure [the man] on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.  Jesus not only heals the man, he delivers a quick homily with both his actions and words: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save the life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand”.  Jesus does not allow his fear or anger to overtake him.  He chooses instead to speak and act with compassion.  He does what is good despite the evil that would prevent him.

When we read this story carefully we understand why Jesus then withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.  We live in a world of easily hardened hearts and for that reason we understand why a large number of people [followed Jesus] from Galilee and from Judea.  We also understand why Jesus warns those he has healed not to make him known.  He knows that he has come to soften hardened hearts.  He understands the Father’s plan and bows to it.  He heals, he counsels, he goes about his work knowing that he embodies a loving God . . . and knowing that his presence stirs up envy and hate.  He knows that his actions ripple into the darkness and disturb those whose hearts are stony.

Jesus appoints the Twelve and charges them with delivering the story of good news and in so doing he sends a wave of his own love into the world to soften the hardness he sees.  He appoints each of us as well.  He returns home where the streets are so crowded that his relatives are so fearful of the hardened Pharisees and scribes that they proclaim: He is out of his mind.   But Jesus moves forward and calls out those who accuse him of drawing his power from the devil himself.  He presents a simple yet effective response and then he warns all that they are in danger of committing a most egregious offense against the Spirit.  His accusers blunder on, hardening their hearts still more; Jesus moves forward as well, calling them to redemption.

When we place ourselves in the thick of these intense stories from Mark’s Gospel, we see that our own lives echo the events on the written page.  We too have been accused unjustly.  We too have been the unjust accusers.   We have both hardened our own hearts and watched with sadness as others harden themselves against us.

In our search for comfort and joy we fall prey to darkness from time to time on our journey.  We succumb to anxiety, impatience, anger, fear and sorrow.  We may let these experiences harden our hearts . . . or we may expect God’s ransom and healing.  We may look for desolation . . . or we may anticipate God’s love.  Psalm 95 is the perfect prayer for us when we feel a certain coldness begin to settle into our hearts.  And for that reason we pray . . .

Just and gentle God, send us the patience we need to hear your word and act in it.  Fortify us in your love.

Good and gracious God, guide us with the wisdom we seek and hope for in you.  Counsel us in your fidelity.

Compassionate and wonderful God, forgive us our endless errors and wanderings.  Call us back to you.


A re-post from February 18, 2012.

For a beautiful music video of Psalm 95 click here, or go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7IryEV4F2c&feature=related

Images of hearts in nature are from: http://www.funzug.com/index.php/nature/awesome-hearts-by-the-nature.html


John 4: The Samaritan Woman and the Official with the Ailing Son

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Henry Siemiradski: Christ and the Samaritan Woman

There is so much about these stories to interest us.  There is so much here that Jesus teaches us.  There is so much for us to experience and pass on . . . if we only take the time to look.

The Samaritan Woman in today’s Noontime comes alone at mid-day to Jacob’s Well in the town of Sychar.  Her delayed arrival indicates that she is a late riser and therefore does not live like other women in the community.  Perhaps she is shunned by the other orthodox, early rising women.  We do not know.

What we do know is that this woman approaches a man, Jesus, resting by the well and they speak.  Jesus tells her more than anyone passing through town can know. The woman recognizes that he is special, she believes him to be a prophet, and she slips easily into a redemptive conversation.  After Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah – something he rarely does in the Gospels – and sends her back to her life as a changed woman, she converts others to such an extent that at the town’s request he remains with them for two days.  The result is that far more believed because of his word.

Jan Vermeyen: Wedding Feast at Cana

This second part of this chapter is the story of the official whose son who is cured without Jesus physically touching him. The miracle takes place in Cana, the town where, according to this Gospel, Jesus began his public ministry at the wedding feast where he changed jars of water for ritual cleansing into jars of superb wine. Perhaps this official knew about Jesus from the stories circulating after the miracle at the wedding feast.  Perhaps this is why the official sought out this healing man in search of a cure for his ailing son.  Again, we do not know.

But here is something that we do know . . . in one long elliptical circling journey of physical and spiritual healing, Jesus shows us two stories that speak of the good news of the Messiah’s coming.  Through his words and actions Jesus retells the story of creation, and foreshadows the cycle of redemption and healing in our own lives. In one powerful, long, sweeping arc Jesus moves from north to south to north again; and in his path he leaves a wake of people whose spirits and bodies are touched, healed and transformed. The central episode of the calling and conversion of the Samaritan woman takes place at a well, not a cistern of stagnant water. It happens in the full light of day rather than in the crepuscular light of dawn or dusk, so that all can be revealed to her – and to us – through Christ. All is healed when she commits an act of faith and returns to her people to tell them of this unusual man. This outcast and unorthodox woman becomes an immediate apostle for Christ as she calls the townspeople to this well of now living water, Jesus himself.  And together they create an immediate temple around him, a place of nourishment, cleansing, healing and redemption.

Detail: Christ and the Samaritan Woman

Like the woman at the well, the official realizes that his son was healed at the exact moment Jesus spoke the curing words: So he and all his household believed. The official makes an act of faith in the moment he realizes that he and his son have been touched by something wonderfully special and different, and so he too, becomes an apostle for Christ.

These stories tell us about how Jesus brings both the powerful official and the outcast woman into the temple.  These stories offer us a window into our own lives.  These stories are our own story of call and answer, conversion and healing, rescue and ransom.  They are stories of our own resurrection.

We watch Jesus in this chapter reap these unbelieving souls, convert them, and send them back into the world to continue the harvest. For there is much to gather and the workers are scarce. And just as these diverse followers of Christ make huge, risky changes in their lives, just as they go abroad to tell the good news, so too can we reap the message from our lives and then use it to bring life to others . . . if we only take the time to look.


A re-post from February 15, 2012. 

Images from: http://www.catholicjournal.us/monsignorialmusings/tag/reconciliation and http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.1.Mary_of_Nazareth.htm

Titus: Slaves for Christ


TitusSlaves for Christ

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Today’s Noontime offering is a personal reflection on Paul’s Letter to Titus, a brief epistle in which we find valuable advice on bringing disparate voices together.  It was this letter that united many in the formation of churches for Christ in the first century.  If we savor the wisdom we find here, we may still find unity through this short letter two thousand years after its writing.

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Paul speaks of rebuking fellow Christians and I believe that when Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers (Matthew 21, Mark 11 and John 2) he was acting in this way of rebuking those who refuse to hear.  Jesus extends that advice to his apostles whom he sends like sheep among wolves in Matthew 10, Mark 6 and Luke 9 when he says that when they enter a town where the people do not return the peace they are offered, these disciples are to shake the very dust of the town from their feet.  We also hear Jesus lament the fact that he is rejected by his hometown of Capernaum in Matthew 11 and in Luke 10 he laments the lack of faith displayed by the inhabitants Bethsaida and Chorazin, saying that the Sodomites will fare better than these people in God’s eye.  Scary stuff . . . and for this reason I am reluctant to separate myself from those who demonstrate a lack of faith . . . with me, hope dies slowly.

And so we pray that our acts of hope and our endless intercessory prayers for these reluctant travelers will reach God’s ears.  We must constantly communicate with God – and always with a smile – that a plan that does not allow for the conversion of sinners will be a plan with holes in it.  We must be as persistent as the widow in Luke 18 who rails against the unfair judge when it comes to those who distort God’s love in a perverse homage to self rather than to the will of God.  We understand that we must keep ourselves safe from this kind of corruption . . . but we do not give up . . . we continue to ask for transformation . . . our own as well as that of those who choose to do harm to us, ourselves and others.  We cannot abandon someone with whom we have spent a portion of our journey . . . even though that person demonstrates clearly that they wish to take a fork in the road that puts distance between us.  So these people we will continue to hold in prayer . . . in the expectation that God’s will – and not ours – be done.

The Persistent Widow

How do we maintain this kind of dichotomy?  We turn back to Paul who offers Titus . . . and us . . . the solution.  He says that we are to tell the people that . . . They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone.  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful of ourselves and hating one another.  Eventually we will all put aside this hateful world to choose the peaceable kingdom which God offers so patiently each day.

Like Paul, let us all be slaves to Christ, slaves to this Law of Love which keeps vigil, which hopes for good, and which sends endless petitions rising to God like incense for the transformation of the world, the transformation of others as well as for ourselves . . . that we all may one day find union with one another and with Christ.


Images from: http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20060313JJ.shtml and http://www.free-stories.net/children-bible-stories/new-testament-stories/parable-of-the-persistent-widow.html

For more on Paul’s Letter to Titus, see the Titus – Church as Community page on this blog.

For a wonderful way to experience the cities Jesus and Paul knew, visit:  www.bibleplaces.com

A re-post from February 16, 2019. 

Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, February 15, 2019

Too many times the innocent suffer.  Too often the blameless stand accused unjustly.  What do we do when this happens?  What wisdom supports us?  What hope sustains us?  What love overcomes the insurmountable object that blocks the path?

God does not listen to lies . . . God rejects the obstinate in heart . . . even when we lie to ourselves.

God does not defend the wicked . . . God preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . God withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed . . . even when we arrive at a place of hopelessness.

God always listens to the broken hearted . . . God saves the unfortunate through their affliction, and instructs them through distress . . . even though we do not feel his presence . . . God is there.

Behold, God is sublime in his power . . . God is great beyond our knowledge . . .

God is miniscule . . . God holds in check the water drops that filter in rain through mists.

God is vast . . . God nourishes the nations and gives them sustenance.

God is powerful . . . In God’s hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . God spreads the clouds in layers as the carpets of his tent.

In our innocence we stand before this awesome God.

In our innocence we are vindicated in our faith in God.

In our innocence we are saved by our hope in God.

In our innocence we are justified by our love for God.

In our innocence we are redeemed by our patient waiting on God.

Be still and know that God is God . . .


A re-post from Fenruary 15, 2019.

Image from: http://jesus-photos-pictures.blogspot.com/2010/11/god-holding-world-in-his-hands-photos.html 

Genesis 47: Willingness


Genesis 47Willingness

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Konstantin Flavitsky: Brothers Sell Joseph into Slavery

In Genesis 45:5-8 we hear the beautiful words of forgiveness which Joseph speaks to his brothers who colluded to exterminate him . . . do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here.  It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me ahead of you . . . for you are a remnant on earth and to save your lives is an extraordinary deliverance.  So it was not really you but God who had me come here . . . Joseph understands how God’s plan arrives at benefit for all through the suffering of some.  He believes – because he has witnessed it in his own life – that God turns harm to good, envy to love.  Today we reflect on his action of interceding with Pharaoh on behalf of his brothers who sold him into slavery.  This is a message of willing obedience . . . open readiness . . . faith in goodness . . . hope in the outrageous . . . and love for the unlovable.  It is a story of fidelity in its truest sense.  Fidelity to God, to the remnant people, to self.  Joseph lives up to his true potential, to God’s best hope for and in him.

I love this story of a joy-filled child who invokes envy in his siblings, of a handsome youth who innocently stirs lust in his mistress, of a young man who continues to believe in his God despite his apparent ill luck.  I am moved by the willingness in which he lives.  I am encouraged by the honesty with which he treats not only others but himself.  I am inspired by the magnitude of his gestures, the purity of his thinking.  Joseph carries no rancor.  He is not bitter.  He refuses to be discouraged.  He rejects complicity and deception.  He is cautious and prudent; yet giving and tender.  Joseph is one of my favorite figures of Scripture.  His story is a good one; and it is one to which we ought to refer when we find ourselves in endless turmoil or deep grief.

Joseph knows how to mourn.  He knows that when he waits in God, goodness will follow on the heels of evil.  He knows how to sacrifice in honest willingness.

Joseph knows how to keep his word.  He knows how to abide in patient loving, just as God has abided with him.  He knows how to wait for fruition and fulfillment.

Joseph Bourgeois: Joseph Recognized by his Brothers

Joseph knows how to share.  He knows with a keen understanding that his success is sweetest when given back to God.  He knows that God is the source and summit of all that is good and that to hoard this goodness for himself is counter to the action of God’s mercy which he himself has experienced.

Joseph knows how to celebrate.  He knows that he cannot take credit for the goodness he experiences.  He knows that humility conquers pride and that littleness is greatness, for he sees this in the actions of God in his own life.

Joseph knows how to praise God.  He knows that even when success finally arrives, he must continue to follow God’s lead.  He knows that all that he has and all that he is belong to God alone.

Joseph waits, he witnesses, and then he acts out of his own salvation.  He allows his own conversion in God to convert others . . . and so in this way he allows his willingness to save more than himself.  He helps to save the very people who would have seen his destruction.

We might want to sit with the story of Joseph for a bit today to ponder our own willingness to enter into God’s plan . . . to examine our own willingness to intercede with Pharaoh for those who would have eliminated us, but who have begun their own conversion.


A re-post from February 14, 2012.

Images from: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/josephs_dreams.htm and http://www.biblical-art.com/biblicalsubject.asp?id_biblicalsubject=92&pagenum=1


Joshua 21:43-45Completion

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In Genesis Chapter 15 God promises many descendants to Abram who is childless, a land of goodness and plenty to his descendants when he is a nomad, and renown that will reach to all corners of the earth when there is nothing to declare him as special other than his abiding love for this one true God.  God also warns that Abram’s descendants will live as slaves in alien lands before this promise is fulfilled.  Today we read about the completion of this promise.  We might want to pause to think about promises we have made, oaths we have sworn . . . pledges and vows we have fulfilled or left empty.

Psalm 51 reminds us that we are all prone to err, forget and omit.  It also asks God for mercy and forgiveness.  We know these qualities to be infinite – both our propensity to sin, and God’s willingness to forgive.

From MAGNIFICAT: The most difficult part of ongoing conversion is admitting that we really are sinners and allowing God to see and forgive us as we are, with all our faults unmended and all our flaws showing, especially the ones over which we seem to have no control. 

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer: I John 1:8-10If we say, “We are without sin”, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.  If we say, “We have not sinned”, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 

We humans are always struggling to be complete, whole and perfect.  This is unreasonable since, by nature, we are meant to be wandering people in constant process and conversion, in search of that which heals and cures both self and companions.  We are built for conflict; yet not the kind of conflict in which we put ourselves.  We are meant for big promises, big struggles . . . not the petty quarrels in which we enmesh ourselves.  We are created for conversion, for promise, for love.

When we meditate on the oaths we have taken . . . kept and not kept . . . we might want to reflect on our capacity to forgive, to endure, to be vulnerable, to be honest . . . to love.  We might want to think about the promise God has created in us for the world.  What are we meant to accomplish in his name?  What are we meant to complete in his name?  What and whom are we meant to love in his name?

Only conversation with God will clarify for us our own oaths made . . . vows kept . . . pledges left undone . . . promises completed.

We all seek completion.  We all number promises.  We all ask the question, When, O Lord, will you answer my call . . .

Let us today begin with ourselves as we ponder . . . vows . . . oaths . . . omissions . . . commissions . . . promises . . . completion . . . fidelity to self and to others.


A re-post from February 13, 2012.

Image from http://phoenixrescuemission.org/2009/05/07/mays-free-book/

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Morning Prayer.” MAGNIFICAT. 13 February 20o8. Print.

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