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Archive for January, 2017


1 John 5:14-21: Beloved

Tuesday, January 31, 2017beloved

When we worry that God does not hear us, we must remember John’s words.

We have courage in God’s presence, because we are sure that God hears us if we ask for anything that is according to God’s will. (GNT)

When we become anxious that our world makes less sense and feels more dangerous, we must return to John’s words.

And this is the boldness we have in God, that if we ask anything according to God’s will, God hears us. (NRSV)

When we are confronted with injustice in our homes and in our world, we must recall John’s words.

This is the confidence we have in God’s presence: if we ask anything that accords with God’s will, God hears us. (CJB)

When we believe that our world is moving away from God’s plan, we must rely on John’s words.

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in God’s presence, freely asking according to God’s will, sure that God is listening.  (MSG)

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we have less fear and we become less anxious. We also find the strength to remain in God’s presence rather than be drawn into the darkness of the world. And we will know quite well that are God’s beloved.

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Matthew 4:12-23: Going to Galilee

Sunday, January 29, 2017

www.bible-history.comMap of Ancient Israel

http://www.bible-history.com: Map of Ancient Israel

I am still reflecting on last Sunday’s Gospel to consider how it speaks to me today.

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.

We look at a map of the Palestine in ancient days to study how Jesus’ actions suggest a plan for our own lives.

We investigate the spiritual, civil and social characteristics of Galilee in Jesus’ time to understand the environment in which he worked, and prayed, and played and we find our question on a PBS Frontline  episode. “What kind of place was Galilee at the time of Jesus? Was it a quiet, rustic, peaceful little tranquil place? It looks that way, sure. But the region was known for being a hotbed of political activity and some of it violent . . . But in [an] historical context that region was always a contested region”.  We can read more if we want to go further but I realize, as I spend time all week uncovering my own emotions over the past few days, and I wonder . . . what might we do with this story?

www.bibleplaces.com: The Synagogue in Capernaum

http://www.bibleplaces.com: The Synagogue in Capernaum

When we look for information about Capernaum, we remember that the people of the town rejected Jesus and his miracles, so we go back to today’s Noontime verses.

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.

When we find ourselves in a hotbed of political activity, we do not run away. We hold firm quietly to meet threats with grace and love.

Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum . . .

When our friends and colleagues suffer persecution, and we know the hatchet is coming our way, we rely on the authority Jesus gives us. We remember that Jesus calls us to outrageous hope.

Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.

www.pbs.org: A portrait of Jesus' World

http://www.pbs.org: Galilee, A portrait of Jesus’ World

When we realize that we are in the middle of contested regions where lies replace certainties, we hold tightly to the truth, we listen to our persecutors and pray for them, and we ask that Jesus turn all hearts of stone to hearts of mercy and compassion.

Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum . . .

If we want to follow the Christ, we too must journey to Galilee and Capernaum and although we may flinch, we fire up our souls with the love of Christ . . . and we go.

To explore Galilee and Capernaum, click on the links and images for more information.

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Mark 3:22-30: Sawing Off Branches

Monday, January 30, 2017

From the Maestà of Duccio in Siena, Italy

From the Maestà of Duccio in Siena, Italy and private collections

Jesus is very clear: A constantly squabbling family disintegrates.

We might use these words in our individual and collective lives.

Jesus tells us: Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. 

We might take this warning to heart.

Jesus reminds us: There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.”

God says: I love you so intensely that I will do all that I must in order to have you near me; but if you persist in turning away my Spirit, you are creating a separation that you will not be able to bridge. I am always waiting for you, guiding you, protecting and advising you. Remain in me so that I might remain in you. Allow my Spirit to rest in you and to create a home in your heart. In this way, we will never be so far apart that you lose sight of me. Listen to my son, remain in my Spirit, and have hope always in me.

When we explore other translations of these verses, we open our understanding of God’s generosity, persistence and love.

For more on the Maestà of Duccio, click on the image above for two Khan Academy video lessons.

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Mark 4:21-25Seed Grows of Itself

Saturday, January 28, 2017lwsm__r4d8578_3814

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 9, 2008.

This is something we need to hear a great deal, and if we were to read this more often we would find ourselves worrying less.

There is much imagery in scripture referring to seed, sowing, reaping, harvesting.  And this makes perfect sense since agriculture was such an integral part of life during Old and New Testament times.  Usually we think of these images as we imagine God’s word or work being planted . . . to be harvested later.  Today however, we might think of Job, and others like him, who plant by giving something up, who sow . . . and later reap . . . because they relinquish self, they witness patiently and persistently, they speak to God from the heart, and they become willing sowers and reapers.

And so we pray.

english-garden-blue-flowersDear God,

Help us to see that all we need do when we are weary is to give over to you our aches and pains . . . you will know how to make a flowerbed from our struggles.

Help us to understand that all we need do when we are anxious is to hand over to you our worries and anxieties . . . you will know which seed grows best in the dark.

Help us believe that all we  need do when we feel too alone is call for you and tell you of our sorrow . . . you will know when to bring the warmth of the sun.

Help us to hope that all we need do when we are at our most fragile is look for you in the arid desert . . . you will know when to send the rain. 

vegetablesHelp us to know the cycle of harvest . . . for you already know when we are ready to go into the field.

Amen.

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Sirach 46In Praise of Ancestors

Friday, January 27, 2017familyroots

 A Favorite from January 25, 2010.

In this Noontime we find ourselves in the chapters of the Book of Sirach in which the writer spends time praising the Hebrew ancestors for their openness to God’s message and for their fidelity in following God.  In this particular chapter, we relive the Hebrew transition from nomadic tribe to settled people.  Joshua and Caleb, two leaders who have always been loyal to Yahweh and who have followed Moses from the beginning of their journey out of Egypt, now lead the people into the place of promise – the territory God secured for his people.   The Judges are the leaders who continued to shepherd the Twelve Tribes until the time of the Davidic Kingdom.  Samuel is the last of these and we may read more about this federation at the following site if we are looking for more information.  http://www.jcpa.org/dje/articles/judges.htm

Notes will tell us that Joshua’s name means: The Lord is savior and this is apt since it is through Joshua’s wisdom and leadership that the Hebrew people are able to conquer enemies and receive their inheritance.  The Book of Joshua will give us the details of this story.  Caleb, whose name means wholehearted faith and devotion, is also appropriately named.  Here is a site with a synopsis of the interesting story these men share.  If you like espionage and are intrigued by the seamy parts of life, read about how these two friends who were able to secure a legacy for a people through some very unusual means.  http://www.bible-knowledge.com/Joshua-and-Caleb.html

Samuel’s story is well known and the books named for him will remind us of the story read out to us on Sundays during particular times of the liturgical year.  We will remember that his mother Hannah prayed for children and was rewarded for her fidelity with the birth of this child and others.  We will remember how as a boy he ran to Eli in the temple, thinking that the priest was calling him in the night when all the while it was the voice of God he was hearing.  Eli tells him to respond to this voice by replying:  Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.  Samuel serves God as a prophet, and he becomes the final judge of Israel who ushers in the kingdom by first anointing Saul and later David – all at God’s bidding.

What do these stories mean to us and for us?  They tell us about our spiritual roots.  They remind us of how and why we are created.  They are our link to a past which brings us to this present.  They are an opportunity to re-investigate who we are and what we mean.

These stories also bring another opportunity.  They are the chance to think about our own immediate ancestors – who they were and what they mean to our own lives.  Our forbears may have had a great influence on our spiritual life – either because of their dedication and fidelity to God, or perhaps because of their lack of any spiritual direction.  In either case, our predecessors are the flesh from whom we come, they have given to us the habits and gestures we have inherited.  Theirs may well be the message that we continue.  As we reflect on our roots, we will want to think about whom we praise . . . and why.

Let us take a few moments sometime during this hectic day to reflect on the stories we have heard about the people in our family tree.  What message does the story of their lives leave for us?  And what part of their story do we wish to pass on as part of the great Story of the World?  What or who will our own lives praise?

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Isaiah 10: Social Injustice

Thursday, January 26, 2017 social-injustice

As we conclude our look at God’s inverted kingdom, we consider a Favorite from June 10, 2009, and we reflect on how Jesus might deal with the social injustice we find in our societies.

Isaiah 10 is book-ended by words that we hear so often during the Advent season: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.  These words remind us that someone is coming great enough to take all of us in . . . and indeed, this one is already among us.  Today’s Noontime reminds us of what pulls us away from God and it draws clear imagery with Assyria and Sennacherib as vehicles not only of pain and loss, but ultimate transformation . . . if we but follow the Light, the Christ.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

Isaiah tells us clearly that when we trust the Lord we need not tremble before overwhelming odds.  If we move out of the darkness to stand in the light and obey the voice within, we have nothing to fear.  Do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you. 

Isaiah reminds us that though we are small, we are also mighty . . . when we place our fear where it is best handled, in God’s capable hands.  The tall of stature are felled, and the lofty ones brought low; the forest thickets are felled with the ax. 

Isaiah repeats a theme often heard with the prophets: those who can remain faithful through the holocaust will be standing when all others have blown away like chaff in the wind.  The remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no more lean upon him who struck them; but they will lean upon the Lord . . . a remnant will return . . . only a remnant will return.

Allowing injustice to happen without speaking or witnessing is the broad path taken by many; but it is not the marrow path taken by the remnant.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew (7:3) and Luke (13:24), most of us will succumb to a system that allows injustice for many the sake of the comfort of a few.  This remnant that remains in God will have to bend before the force of the storm, but all of this bending will be worthwhile.  This is the message that Isaiah brings to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

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John 15:12-17: The Inverted Kingdom – Part XV

Wednesday, January 25, 2017loa-logo_heart-small-e1457054980226

Over the last few days, we have seen how Jesus lives his life in an inverted way.

My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. (GNT)

All the days of our lives, Jesus asks us to a live in a way that turns the world on its head.

This is my command: that you keep on loving each other just as I have loved you. (CJB)

Jesus calls us to a life of inversion with patience and mercy.

I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. (MSG)

God says: The call to inversion asks you to put aside all power, wealth, fame, status and glory that you have amassed for yourselves. This call asks you to look at world from the bottom rather than from the top. When you put your feet into the shoes of the homeless and abandoned, your priorities change, and these changes will bring about your transformation. When you see with your ears and speak with your eyes, you come to understand the inversion that actually lives in you. My Spirit nurtures a desire in you to tend to those who are broken and lost. Listen to the Spirit. My Spirit sustains your desire to show mercy and tempers your urges to seek revenge. Allow the Spirit to govern you. When you move toward the marginalized, you move into an inverted life. When you follow this one commandment that Jesus gives you, you move into the deepest part of my heart.

As we consider how to live an inverted life well, we remember the lessons of old stories and people, we recall the prophets and their words, and we rest in the Beatitudes and their embodiment in the person of Christ Jesus.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we feel the power of this inverted way of living.

 

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Jeremiah 52: The Inverted Kingdom – Part XIV

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Elamiat captives and Assyrian officer. Relief from Ashurpanibal palace Nineveh, Iraq

Elamiat captives and Assyrian officer. Relief from Ashurpanibal Palace in Nineveh, Iraq

Capture

Thus was Judah exiled from her land . . .

On January 15, 588 B.C.E. (Senior 1016) Jerusalem falls and the people of Judah are captured.  History tells us that this people later returns to Jerusalem to restore the Temple and the city – and history also tells us all will be lost again.  The human way is cyclical with valleys and peaks.  It is an inconsistent wandering of the soul in search of what it already has.  The Way that Isaiah announces, The Way we might live each day, is the constant journey of singing and rejoicing in the presence of God, a presence that is already with us.

When the enemy threatens, a highway will be there.

When capture is imminent, a holy way will be there.

When all seems lost, no lion will be there.

When darkness falls, no beast of prey will be there.

When it appears that there is no hope, there is a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.

When we know that we have strayed from The Way, all we need do is be open to change, and we will find that . . .

A highway will be there, called the holy way . . . No lion will be there . . . nor beast of prey . . . It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk . . . and they will be singing, crowned with everlasting joy . . . they will meet with joy and gladness . . . sorrow and mourning will flee. (Isaiah 35:2-10)

Let us join hearts and hands and souls to journey together along The Way.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1016. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on June 4, 2011.

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Jeremiah 52: The Inverted Kingdom – Part XIII

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jewish captives with camel and baggage on their way into exile. Detail of the Assyrian conquest of the Jewish fortified town of Lachish (battle 701 BCE) Part of a relief from the palace of Sennacherib at Niniveh, Mesopotamia (Iraq)

Jewish captives with camel and baggage on their way into exile. Detail of the Assyrian conquest of the Jewish fortified town of Lachish (battle 701 BCE) Part of a relief from the palace of Sennacherib at Niniveh, Mesopotamia (Iraq)

Capture

Thus was Judah exiled from her land . . .

In this last Chapter of Jeremiah’s prophecy, we see the capture of mind, soul and body that results from enduring neglect and refusal to do what God asks of us.  And we understand that we cannot sustain life when we practice this kind of internal death. We may want to renew ourselves with solutions we think palatable and we may believe that we know the best way to bring goodness out of evil, but we are children playing at being grown up when we prefer our ways to God’s.

Yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer included a canticle from Isaiah (35:2-4, 8-10):  [The faithful] will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.  Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!  Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.  A highway will be there, called the holy way; no one unclean may pass over it.  No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met on it.  It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.  Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.

We have a simple lesson here about how to live in a world that constantly runs counter to what the Lord asks of us.  The people of Judah are vanquished, their leaders captured, their possessions taken.  They become disenfranchised from all that identifies them.  They are slaves to another culture.  This capture is seen as something bleak and stark, a life without promise; but Isaiah reminds them that – as with all things involving the Living God – what appears to be loss is gain, and what seems to be gain is loss.  It is precisely when all that we have and know is taken from us that we are given the opportunity to turn to the font of life.  When we are and have little or nothing, there is only God.

Isaiah tells us that in this new life into which we have stepped  there is not darkness but rather light.  God will announce himself with reversals; and a Way will open up before us that we will only see once we have replaced our pride with humility and our desire to be independent from God with a desire to be one with him.  Nothing can threaten us when we walk along this Way for it is holy, and once we throw off the values that the darkness of the world has to offer, we will be holy, too.  Our step will be quick, our burden light for we will be carried by God.  We will also understand that we have a journey to make, a journey of redemption itself.

We, the ransomed, travel not toward the very one who has ransomed us . . . but with him.  During Advent and the Christmastide we heard Isaiah’s prophecy read out in which the prophet announces The One who is The Way.  We have revisited the results of capture and the road beyond that imprisonment. Today we Christ followers know our savior’s name as Jesus.  The ancient Judeans could only dream about Christ’s coming.  How fortunate are we to travel this highway with him.

Tomorrow, beyond the highway of capture.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 4, 2011.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.6 (2011). Print.

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