Ephesians 1:3-6: Entering In

Tuesday, December 6, 2022good-news

From THE MESSAGE version of today’s reading: Long, long ago God decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

I am wondering if we really believe this. At first glance the world seems to teem with evil plots and conniving deceit; with a second look we see differently. Family and friends tell me they cannot stay connected with world news because it is so frightening that it makes them anxious. So we go in search of good news. It is not difficult to find and, in fact, it surrounds us.

Average citizens refuse to back down from the extremism of terrorists, two men save a trapped American bald eagle, countless communities gather food and clothing for the poor, a professional American footballer and his daughter show incredible strength in the face of disease, activists work in cities and towns around the globe to create housing and support networks for those who have no homes, thousands work for new ways to bring water and electricity to the millions on the planet who live without it. Sites like, Upworthy, ABC and Huffington Post Good News remind us that humans are capable of conversion. Balance against evil and darkness can always be tipped in favor of goodness and light.

How blessed is God! And what a blessing God is! He is the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. 

good-news (1)To be made whole and holy by God’s love. Long before the foundation of the world was laid down. This is special indeed. To receive the gift of life and belonging. Long before our suffering began. This is miraculous and promising. To be sisters and brothers of Christ. Long before we ever conceived of the possibilities God has in mind for us. This is life worth entering into. This is news most worthy of announcing!

How blessed is God! How blessed are we! How promising is this season of holy coming! Let us fully and finally and completely enter in. For the price of turning away is far to great to imagine.

For more links to Good News sites, visit THE COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW at: http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/good_news_is_good_business_but.php

Images from: https://mvc.life/sharing-good-news/ and https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/entertainment-letterpress.html?pg=2

Isaiah 35:1-10: The Holy Road

Monday, December 5, 2022freephoto_feetwalking_pixabay

Daily headlines may lead us into thinking that we have no reason for hope in the future. Isaiah tells us that we would be mistaken. Isaiah gives us reason to enter into Advent hope, promise and joy.

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower . . .

All peoples and places where terror and pain rule will celebrate Christ’s healing rescue.

Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees. Tell fearful souls, “Courage! Take heart!

All injury and harm that is meant to destroy will transform sorrow into joy with the Spirit’s comforting presence.

God is here, right here, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs.

All evil and darkness that whips up angry and anxiety will become tools for transformation with God’s renewing power.

Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song.

Jesus healed hundreds and fed thousands when he walked among us; Christ continues to restore and sustain.

desert-flowerSprings of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain.

The Spirit brings about the impossible; the Creator fulfills all promise.

There will be a highway called the Holy Road. No one rude or rebellious is permitted on this road.

Jesus has shown us The Way in which we are to walk – with the marginalized rather than the powerful, with the abandoned rather than the famous and beautiful, with the abandoned rather than the familiar.

It’s impossible to get lost on this road. Not even fools can get lost on it. No lions on this road, no dangerous wild animals – nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.

temple_hera_roadThe Way is the Narrow Gate that stands before us. When we trust in God the door to this way opens to us. When we follow Christ the narrow gate opens wide. When we have faith in God the Holy Road opens at our feet . . . inviting us to move forward into a future full of hope, promise and joy.

The people God has ransomed will come back on this road. They’ll sing as they make their way home . . . welcomed with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

Reflect on the idea of repairing what we have rather than buying new. For an interesting perspective, read about why Patagonia ™ wanted its customers to stay away from its stores on Black Friday in the USA, a day dedicated to in-store and online shopping. Visit: http://www.patagonia.com/us/home OR http://www.techinsider.io/patagonias-well-worn-campaign-2015-11 OR http://fortune.com/2015/09/14/rose-marcario-patagonia/

For information on ancient Roman roads, visit: http://www.biblewalks.com/info/RomanRoads.html#Introduction

To visit an interesting blog, click on the desert flower image or go to: http://reverendmom.blogspot.com/2010/12/least-likely.html  

Images from: http://www.shalominthewilderness.com/2014_07_01_archive.html and http://reverendmom.blogspot.com/2010/12/least-likely.html

Hebrews 1:1-4: Sisters and Brothers of Christ

Second Sunday of Advent, December 4, 2022c3bcnity

This is really so simple; yet so difficult to see. God’s plan of revelation to us has and is an on-going process. We must always be open to the words and ideas that come to us from God. The prophets foretold of the coming of the saving shepherd who will leave the ninety nine to find the one lost sheep. In Christ, we have this shepherd. From the time of creation described in Genesis we have known that we are created because of and out of God’s love. Through the Old Testament we see how God acts to bring us home to him, always allowing us to choose between the spirits of good and evil. The sapiential books give us practical advice, animate us when we grieve, accompany us when we rejoice. The prophets remind us of our covenant promise with God. The New Testament tells the story of the incarnation and in-dwelling of God’s word to us. Christ is here. Christ is present. God walks among us . . . God’s chosen beings.

Advent is a time when we anticipate this coming. We light candles, decorate our homes and hearts, make ready banquets and gifts. We are the bride preparing for the coming of the groom.

In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe . . .

We are the adopted sisters and brothers of this son. We are co-heirs, co-redeemers, co-actors in this universe. What an awesome gift. What a sacred blessing. The immensity of this truth is almost impossible to take in.

A Favorite from Friday, December 12, 2008.

Image from: https://resurrectedinhim.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/rest-like-the-dove/

Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6: Resting in the Promise

Saturday, December 3, 2022147975.hebrews (1)

You have become sluggish in hearing . . .

Notes from the NAB, page 1328: Rather than allow the slow to become content in their slowness, Paul exhorts them to even higher levels of spirituality. He is not lenient. And as for those who have fallen away completely, he does not even address these apostates. If all we need is energy to progress in our spiritual journey, we can turn to Christ for he tells us through Matthew (10:28-30), my yoke is easy, my burden light. Christ himself exhorts us, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sometimes we are not so much sluggish as afraid. We know that the task lying before us is laden with tricky passages, dark corners, deceitful paving stones that look firm and yet sink into quicksand. On these occasions we must also turn to Christ, trusting him when he says take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. Disobedience is not an option for an apostle.

Paul tells us that Christ’s promise is immutable, and he uses the long story of the covenant promise between Yahweh and Abraham as ample proof. Did not the elderly couple – Sarah and Abraham – begin a kingdom of millions? Did this new way of seeking God not travel to all peoples of all nations? Do we not know even today the story of this Abraham, Sarah, and the high priest Melchizedek? Paul reminds us that it is impossible for God to lie; God’s very goodness and honesty force God to keep God’s covenant with God’s people.

So when we feel weary or afraid, we might turn to Paul for a reminder of the words we can never hear too often. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil [into the Holy of Holies], where Jesus has entered as forerunner . . .

We must rest in this promise that when all is dark, when all appears to be lost, when all is more difficult or more terrifying than we can bear, we must be still so that we might hear again . . .

Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . .

A Favorite from December 11, 2008.

Image from: https://faithgateway.com/blogs/christian-books/hope-anchor-soul

Luke 21:12-19: Giving Testimonytestimony

Friday, December 2, 2022

They will seize and persecute you . . .

Not one of us asks for loss of freedom.

They will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons . . .

None of us wants public scandal or shame.

They will lead you before kings and governors in my name . . .

We do not like to think that politics or social pressure might suborn our thinking.

It wtestimony1ill lead to your testimony . . .

So when we suffer in Christ’s name we must respond in fidelity.

Remember . . . you are not to prepare your defense beforehand . . .

There is no defense against the world’s corruption and power.

I myself will give you wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute . . .

There is only one true wisdom that preserves and protects.

You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends . . .

we are the testimonyThere is only one powerful truth that guides and transforms.

They will put some of you to death . . .

There is only one life that is eternal.

You will be hated because of my name . . .

There is only one Spirit that brings life and light and love that are everlasting.

But not a hair on your head will be destroyed . . .

There is only one Christ Jesus who returns from death to heal, redeem and renew.

By your perseverance you will secure your lives . . .

There is only one God who is and was and will always be. Let us give our faithful testimony today. Amen.


Images from: http://www.fansshare.com/celebrities/testimony/ and https://livelyscribes14.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/the-testimony-of-jesus-the-life-of-testimony/ and https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/jesus-changed-everything-women/

Mark 6:45-52: Stepping Into Surprise


Ivan Aivazovsky: Jesus Walks on Water

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Yesterday we reflected with Matthew on our willingness to step out of the little boat of our lives when Jesus approaches us across the water. Today we visit Mark, who tells his story in clipped, precise sentences, but curiously includes this verse: He meant to pass them by. What might Mark be asking us to consider with these simple words?

When we find ourselves in turmoil we may feel as though Jesus has us passed by. When we cannot find our way out of darkness, we might believe that God has chosen to ignore us. When we look for healing that never comes, we may wonder where the Spirit has chosen to settle. In all of these feelings of abandonment we will be mistaken for God is always with us.

Seeing the apostles’ distress, Jesus climbs into the boat with them and says: Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid! Then Mark reminds us that even though they had witnessed his division of the loaves and fish for thousands of people: They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened. Jesus does not condemn his closest friends and apostles when he sees they do not understand; but rather he steps into the boat to calm their fears.

Matthew (14:22-33) begins his recollection of this event by borrowing from Mark and then adds one of his special stories about Peter, the man who becomes the cornerstone of the church. Matthew affords us the opportunity to – like Peter – step out of the boat to walk toward the shimmering vision. He offers us the chance to step out of safety into the turbulent sea of life. He reminds us that when the waters begin to swamp the vessel, we may want to do the surprising . . . step into the uproar rather than hide quaking in the gunwales of the ship.

Advent is a time of praying, reflecting, preparing to step out into the turmoil. It is a time to put aside fears to tend to the truly eternal: time spent in pondering The Word in the form of scripture, thanksgiving shown for miracles already received and yet to be received; fidelity and constancy as the foundation of our lives, courage and fidelity leading us to serenity and trust in God. When we feel our boat rocking, rather than allowing our fear to take us over, we are heartened when we truly hear today’s story.

So let us pray: Advent is a time of wonder. Advent is a time of surprises. Advent is a time of being open to newness and outrageous possibilities. Advent is a time to step out of the boat in faith to walk – unbelievably and impossibly – on a surface which ought not support us.  Let us walk away from fear . . . toward the one who does not let us fall. 

During the storms, Jesus is really quite near, moved with compassion when he sees our suffering. Rather than cry out anxiously from our hiding place, let us step out of our little craft and out of our old habits. Let us step into something new, a freedom of complete trust in the hand of our maker, the hand that is always extended to meet us. Let us step into the surprise.

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 6, 2008.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_walking_on_water

Matthew 14:22-33Stepping out of the Boat

Wednesday, November 30, 2022jesus_walks_on_water3

Yesterday we spent time with John 6:16-21 in which the Beloved Apostle describes the appearance of Jesus on the water; we focused on how our lives pull us into so much activity that we easily forget to ponder the mystery through and by which we live. At that time we spent some moments meditating on a painting by Henry Tanner and with the words: It is I, do not be afraid. We thought again about how time is not truly linear, about how we miss so much by not being open to possibility, by thinking that all the work that lies before must be done quickly and well. And we also thought about the fear through which we operate rather than love: fear that work may not be accomplished, children may not be fed, laundry and lunches will go undone, papers will not be tended to. God not tended to. Today we reflect on the surprise Jesus invites us to enjoy, just when we least expect it. And we reflect on how we spend our time: time in kindness offering hospitality, time in joy believing in hope, time with self and others pondering the goodness of God, time in thanksgiving for gifts already given and yet to give.

Advent is a time of waiting, hoping, renewing. Let us gather in Advent hope.

Advent is a time to put aside our cares in order to tend to the truly important. Let us gather in Advent love.

Advent is a time to have the courage to step out of the predictable order of our lives. Let us gather in Advent fidelity and prepare for Christ’s Advent of surprise.

Tomorrow, stepping into surprise . . . 

Adapted from a reflection written on December 6, 2008.

Image from: https://www.christianity.com/wiki/jesus-christ/meaning-and-significance-of-jesus-walking-on-water.html

John 6:16-21: Walking on Water

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water

I am thinking of a painting by Henry Tanner in which the waters are calm, one of the apostles stands toward the front of the boat, and Jesus approaches from the left.

The image is ethereal, with wisping stokes that evoke the spiritual experience these men are having. They have witnessed the miraculous multiplication of bread yet do not see. They will hear the explication of this miracle but will not fully understand. They are fishing alone when the storm rises and they fear for their lives. Then they see Jesus walking toward them.

It is I. Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of pulling us into a vortex of activity without suggesting to us that we ought to reflect on our actions. Storms rise suddenly, our little fishing boats are swamped, and a figure fluoresces just outside the periphery of our vision. We turn to focus on it but we cannot see anything which we can readily identify so we go back to bailing. I am wondering what might happen if we calm our fears and linger a bit with that fluorescence. Would it come into a crisp image that might register on the retina long enough for us to believe?

It is I. Do not be afraid.

Life has a way of making us feel as though everything is urgent, must be done by Friday, Monday, Tuesday. Deadlines loom, our agenda overflows yet something beckons just off behind our shoulder. We pause to listen to the faint humming, to wonder what it might be. We hear nothing that the ear recognizes, and so we go back to phone calls, emails and other messages that pile up on the desk.

It is I. Do not be afraid.

We are afraid that the work will not be done, that the children will not be fed, that the gift will not be bought, the laundry not washed and dried, the household tasks not completed. We have an idea that time is linear, finite and within our control.

It is I. Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows no time. Jesus is. Jesus was. Jesus will be. In the midst of our bailing, our counting, our working we must pause to look and listen. We want to have ears that truly hear, eyes that truly see because . . .

It is I. Do not be afraid.

For more of Tanner’s work, visit: http://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/online/tanner/tanner_main.html

Adapted from a reflection written on May 23, 2008.

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_Ossawa_Tanner,_The_Disciples_See_Christ_Walking_on_the_Water,_c._1907.jpg


Galatians: Watchful Fidelity

Monday, November 28, 2022galatians-mclellan

A Favorite from November 30, 2008.

This epistle, along with Romans and 2 Corinthians, was written to re-state the Gospel story which had been perverted by Pharisaic emissaries to their communities.  The Galatians were most likely descendents of Celts who had invaded western and central Asia Minor in the third century B.C.E. near modern Ankara, Turkey today.  (Senior 293)

After reading these verses, we understand the importance of fidelity, for it is faithfulness that gives birth to true Christian charity, love that is so enduring it is extended to our enemies. It is this love that brings us true spiritual liberation, a freedom that makes it possible for us to be truly and totally open to Christ. This is the invitation we all receive at our baptism, and it is this invitation that continues to be open to us.

Paul is exasperated with his friends. Oh stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was publicly crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you have heard? Are you so stupid?  (3:1-2)  He may well be exasperated with us today.

steadfastness-vs-instability-5-728Paul asks these converts to remain steadfast in their belief and to turn aside from those ideas which subvert the truth. Realize then that it is those who have faith who are the children of Abraham.  (3:7) Paul knows how easy it is for us to be turned by old customs and long-held beliefs. He asks that we take these beliefs and magnify them in the way we have been taught by Christ.

You were running well; who hindered you from following the truth? (5:7) We might ask ourselves this question when family, friends or associates try to convince us with logic and “group think” of something we know to be counter to Christ. We might also ask ourselves this question when formal structures refuse to listen to an idea which blooms from the heart. We will want to read this letter when our faith in the risen Christ is challenged. This is when we will need to hear again . . .

Fruits of the SpiritThe fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit let us allow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.

Spiritual freedom comes when we are faithful and watchful. As we begin the Advent season this week, let us resolve to put aside behaviors that inhibit a free and open union with Christ. Let us decide to watch for his coming. And let us allow ourselves to be transformed by the living Christ. The reward for all of this patience and endurance is beyond imagining. For when we empty self to allow Christ in, when we give up all to obey, we do not lose ourselves, we gain something far greater. True Life. Eternal Life. Life with and in Christ.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.293. Print. http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Galatians&ch=

For another post on the Book of Galatians, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/galatians-magnanimity/

Images from: http://www.slideshare.net/toprank414/steadfastness-vs-instability and http://sincerelysarad.com/july-memory-verse-fruits-spirit/

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